Suzanne’s Tattoo

I had no idea, last year, when I scrawled  I Want to Live Alive  in my journal, that it would become Suzanne’s life theme and mantra. She cherished the words and set out to make them true. She set out to live her last days fully alive. 389f6f01c8011417c02cc55e05b4ecfa

 While cancer loomed, she chose to push it aside, even when discomfort became a constant reminder. She was determined to enjoy the chapter she had left- and she made it her mission to teach others to do the same.

In her effort to live alive, Suzanne approached her days methodically. She simply did the next thing- whether mundane, like organizational tasks, cleaning and laundry – or more purposeful things – like having healing conversations, and orchestrating intentional time with family and friends. She did it all with excellence and with all senses engaged.

She also threw herself into her Bible reading and gathered strength and perspective to face the rugged terrain ahead. All the while, she looked for ways to serve others, and nudge them to live more fully alive.

In the end, with her beloved husband and family at her side, Suzanne faced forward and did the last thing on her list. She crossed to the other side as a representative of faith, love and grace. While we say goodbye to her physical presence and loving care, we will never be without her tattoo –  her firm instructions to us: We are we to celebrate her life, but we must also celebrate our own. Live Alive! Rest in peace, beautiful woman. Your life has been a lesson to cherish.

If you would like to read the original blog post which was an inspiration to Suzanne in the last year of her life, follow this link:  I Want To Live Alive

A Tour of Yad Vashem

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Photo and caption taken from the Yad Vashem website

 

The Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial and Museum looks like a long pod. Visitors begin the journey at one end — pre-Hitler — then work their way to the other end —
through volumes of devastation.

Our tour begins in an open theatre;
Floor to ceiling moving pictures set to music;
Depictions of happy times for the Jewish people;
children playing — as children do.

Through window panes, we spied fine clocks and furnishings,
families enjoying tea
and music,
and mothers smiling — as mothers do.

Along the bottom of the screen,
a tiny, plump bird hopped along, pecking at seed in the snow.
A small representation of sweetness and life.

As we moved down the hall of the museum, we came forward in history,
through pictures, video testimonies, and artistic expressions,
depicting the eventual crushing of the Jewish culture.
The humiliation,
the torture,
and the murder
of six million Jewish people,

Six million,
not counting those not counted.

The fragile little bird disappeared.
The most profoundly simple,
stolen away.

There was an immense pile of old, worn shoes…
the shoes of the dead.

Movies recorded the faces of the men who had joined together
to burn books written by Jewish authors.
While there was no sound,
the message was still loud.
Men jeered and laughed, self-righteously.
Others worked as if on a critical mission — as if they were doing community service.
They could have been any men.
Their faces were not unusual.
They were sure and proud and cruel.

Hitler planted small ideas, full of hate,
and men allowed them to grow.
They fed the ideas their agreement,
and the most evil thing in history happened.

The Nazis lined naked women and children along the edge of a pit, to shoot them, and watch them fall.

The ground was filled with the bones of suffering.
Shoes and gold teeth, and rings, and wares, were piled in great heaps —
Now on display,
as a testimony of grief.

Further inside, 3D models of the gas chambers and stories of the smoke stacks.

But, we know that ashes make the ground fertile,
And even in this horror,
the enemy did not prevail.

Yad Vashem provides not only a historical tour, a place to remember,
and to honor the dead,
but it also paints a portrait of what hatred
looks like on the face of the mocking mobs,
and how dangerous it can be, left to grow unchecked.
The Holocaust provides us with the most graphic example of all time.

All hatred is leveled opposition to God Almighty;
and there is none that is a special breed.
Never a more justified pill than hatred gets swallowed.

Isaiah 58
“If you do away with (or stop, or fast from), the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, (stop condemning and shaming others),  and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your
night will become like the noonday.
… But he accepted the shame as if it were nothing because of the joy that God put before him…”

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On, January 27, 2016, Holocaust Memorial Day,  this post was pulled from a journal entry I wrote while visiting Israel in 2007, with Dr. Susan Watson of John 17 Ministries. While in Israel, Dr. Susan revealed the contrast between the men who adopted Nazi hatred- which led to death and destruction, and Jesus, who by staying focused on God’s will, poured out healing and transforming love, even in the face of ridicule, shame, and abuse. The greatest love and the greatest hate,  played out on the stage, which is Israel, starring the beloved Jewish people.
John chapter 17

I want to live alive…

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Yesterday, I smuggled a four pack of Cabernet, a dark, salty chocolate bar, and a couple of wine glasses into the hospital to visit my friend, who is battling cancer. She was delighted that I actually did the brazen thing she suggested, and we proceeded to spent the cold, drizzly afternoon in her private room, talking about the past, the present and the future.

As we sat sipping wine and nibbling chocolate, we shared some painful things and asked some big questions, which neither of us have the answers for. She has decided to stop the chemo treatments — unless the next specialist tells her that a significant amount of time will be added to her life, if she will endure another round.  She hasn’t given up — she just wants to trust God for the outcome.

She doesn’t want to live sick. She wants to live alive.
She is making plans for whatever time is left — who to see and what to do — whether there are many days and years left— or few.

She is brave and new. Her hair is maybe a 1/4 inch long all over her head and she sits bold and braless, laughing out loud in her hospital bed. She is forced to stay there until she is safe to move, for fear of dislodging a huge blood clot looming just under her rib cage. She is as human as a human can be, there is no pretense — and she is gorgeous.

Her face is all I can see today — our hearts are connected and I am in constant prayer. I find myself looking over the landscape of my life. How would I spend my last days? I want to live alive.

I would make my last days lovely for my family
I would light all the candles and bring all the flowers in.
I would saturate the air with beautiful music.

I would stop.
I would stop and listen.

I would wear expressions that penetrate the skin and make their way to the soul.
I would look long into the eyes of those I love and they would experience acceptance.
They would remember and know how they are valued and treasured.
I would give meaningful hugs — like the one I got when I left the hospital yesterday.

I would eat food around the table, laughing with those I love.
I would know that sharing a meal together is sacred.
I would not rush away.

I would understand that things are things.
They are only precious when they are a part of our traditions.

I would savor.
I would not gulp.
My actions and activities would have meaning.

My bed would be luscious.
I would have very few clothes in my closet.
I would not worry about what I look like —
I would worry more that I might miss moments pretending to be pretty,
and neat,
and all put together.

I would learn to breathe what is.
I would not to dwell on what isn’t.

I would forgive.
I would ask forgiveness of those I have hurt and rejected.
I would forgive those that have hurt and rejected me.
I would see the pain that motivates the walking wounded.
I would look through all the contorted manifestations,
and I would find the wounds,
and touch them with God’s love.

But.
In my last days, would I forgive myself?
Would I go to the pain that motivates me?
Would I look with grace upon my own contorted manifestations?
Would I allow God’s love to permeate and heal what hurts deep inside?
Would I do that in my last days?

Could I do that today?

 

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Photo by: Eugene Nikiforov

It’s always been you…

 

I’m still perplexed,
in awe, really,
that you would long for me so.
That after all my failings,
you would still wish,
more than anything,
for my time and attention to be yours.
All yours.

Now, as my smooth places are not as sleek,
and my buttery, soft skin, not as supple…
Now, when pretty flirtations don’t light up my dark brown eyes,
How is it that that you still pursue me with such desire?

How is it that I can often be satisfied to find your naked toes in the sheets,
but that you always burn to find every inch of me.
You.
You prefer our place under the covers to any high place on earth.
You would clear away any obstacle just to whisper to me quietly.

You.
How you work tirelessly to meet my every need.
How, for all these years, you will deny yourself anything,
to be sure that I have everything.
How you sweat, and fix, and conquer, for the small favor of my high regard.

How can the world send young women to chase after sleek imitations,
with hair and whiskers disarranged just sexily so,
When there’s you?
Girls chasing dreams of fictitious enigmas, which they compare to the bleak, unfulfilling every day.
The bleak, wondrous love I enjoy
every day.

You.
Are there more like you?

You, in the end,
When all the rugged chase is over.
You are my dream come true.
With all your faults and shortcomings, pressed closely against all my finally revealed self…

You.
The faithful warmer in my bed.
You.
The one who has never left my side.
You.
The one who knows just how to lay, so I can wrap my arm around to tuck my hand just so.

You, my dream come true.
The one who loves me,
one step down from God.

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Photo credit: Days Gone By

 

Keep me quiet…

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I have risen early. Far in the distance, a faint glow paints the horizon. Dawn is coming, gently and full of prayer. I step quietly from my bed, alive to the silences around me. This is the quiet time, the time of innocence and soft thoughts, the childhood of the day. Now is the moment when I must pause and life my heart – now, before the day fragments and my consciousness shatters into a thousand pieces. For this is the moment when the senses are most alive, when a thought, a touch, a piece of music can shape the spirit and color of the day. But if I am not careful – if I rise, frantic, from my bed, full of small concerns- the mystical flow of the imagination at rest will be broken, the past and the future will rush in to claim my mind, and I will be swept up into life’s petty details and myriad obligations. Gone will be the openness that comes only to the waking heart, and with it, the chance to focus the spirit and consecrate the day. What is needed is only a passing of the heart so the spirit can take wing and be lifted toward the infinite. I walk silently toward the window. The darkness is lifting. A thin shaft of lavender has creased the horizon, setting the edges of the trees on fire with morning light. I pause and bow my head…

Kent Nerburn, Small Grace: The Quiet Gifts of Everyday Life

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Thank you David Kanigan at Live and Learn for sharing this beautiful piece (via Make Believe Boutique).
Image: Touch Contagious

The key…

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Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.
Phillipians 2:1-4

Pure love, pure motive.

Don’t give in to the temptation to manipulate, positioning myself over or ahead of anyone else.
Don’t try to own it all and don’t try to take what belongs to someone else.

Listen for the whispers that instruct me and boldly take steps in the direction I am being led.
Cultivate my soil.
 That is the key to joy and contentment.

Nothing will be withheld from me.

Encourage others to own what they have been given.
Build up, cheer and affirm — wherever possible.

Understand that some rival because they are afraid.
Understand that sometimes — that might be me.

We weren’t made to self glory — we were made to reflect glory. 

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Photo art: kingabritschgi via Slowly Drifting

Growing Season

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There are four cars in the driveway now — if I get too close to the edge as I pull in, my tires inevitably slip off and sink deeply into the mud. The slimy ruts fill with water.
Action item:
• Haul in stone to extend driveway.

The grass is greening and the birds have grown loud, as they always do in the Spring.
As I look out the window of the hearth room, I catch a glimpse of a bluebird darting in to build it’s nest in the box on the back porch.

I scan the changing landscape and wonder when it will be dry enough to till.
Never it seems.
Spring always comes in with a soaking that lasts for weeks.
We’ll have to watch for the one weekend that comes — there’s only one.
On that weekend, the ground will be dry enough to till.
Miss it and lose.
Of course, last year, and the year before, and the one before that, and so on,
we were watching soccer games on that one dry weekend.
Hm. Not this year.
No spring soccer for the boy.

I dig into the cold dirt in one of my garden boxes- it’s full of worms, and I smile.
There is a constant rhythm — I believe I hear the beat.
It’s time for another growing season.

Time for my son to graduate.

One day soon, he will leave and take his contagious laughter with him.
He will pack up his crazy shrieks and silly songs and the kisses he plants on the top of my head.
Gone will be the thud of his giant, plodding feet.
My cupboards will no longer suffer the wrath of his vacuum powered appetite.

The halls will grow quiet and hollow with the lack of him.

It’s Saturday and he’s in Nicaragua. He will return and bring with him the final countdown.
And while he’s not leaving immediately, it seems the whole world is about to change.

But for today, it’s time to plant seeds,
for in spite of the mud and the muck, and the fact that I can’t till —
the ground is warming and it’s time for another growing season.
The grass is greening and the birds are growing louder,
and the ruts along my driveway are full of water.