Susan's Thursday morning note September 6, 2007 (prayer) and August 30, 2007 (circumstances changing us...Relationship analogy to pot of soup) Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust
Hi everybody! I’ve already downed two cups of coffee with an absolutely perfect filler/coffee combination, so think I can organize what I’d like to write for you and have it make sense! This week I was given an incredible book called Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust by Immaculee Ilibagiza. I had seen this beautiful woman interviewed a few months ago on 60 minutes, and she had left an impression on me that was hard to shake. The setting is 1994 (I am shamed by my lack of interest at that time (and now?) in world events. I would have been teaching 6th graders in Fayetteville, Arkansas when this nightmare was taking place in Africa.
Immaculee survived the genocide in her country by hiding in a tiny bathroom with seven other starving women for 91 days. She was a physics student at a university, 22 years old. I can’t write better than a review on the back of the book that states, “Her description of the evil that was perpetrated, including the murders of her family members, is soul-numbingly devastating, yet the story of her unquenchable faith and connection to God throughout the ordeal uplifts and inspires…This book tries to make sense of humankind’s seemingly bottomless depravity and counterbalancing hope in an all powerful, loving God.”
Now for my thoughts (smile!). In the front of the book the following statement stands alone on a page:
“When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.” Viktor E. Frankl M.D., Ph.D., WWII holocaust survivor.
That sentence has played itself in my head all week. This winter I had a thought about change in ourselves and others that you may like to ponder this week. We are all constantly changing. Circumstances, births, deaths, aging, time. We become different people than we were in our youth. It is tempting to say about those we have relationships with (friends, family, co-workers) – they changed, then desiring the person we used to have a close relationship with back. But I believe I also have changed. If someone that knew me 20 years ago saw me now – they would see the same exterior (well, close to the same!), but they would never realize how much my thoughts and person have changed. I was then thinking that changes in relationships could be compared to a pot of soup. Over time the soup on the stove, as it simmers and cooks, changes in flavor. With the change can come staleness, or the chef could continually add small doses of this and that with spices to keep the flavors rich and interesting. If there is effort put into the soup as it changes over the course of time on the stove, then the mixture of the ingredients, though constantly changing, continue to work together to still create a dish with distinct, interesting, and great flavors. There is no way that the soup will keep the same flavor over time if just left to simmer. That doesn’t mean it’s not the same pot of soup. The make-up over time just has changed. So the master chef must continually work on the brew. This is the same with us. We can realize that our circumstances are changing around us – those around us are changing with their own set of circumstances. We must then make a decision. Do we “throw out” relationships, with bitterness? Or do we realize the importance of the people in the “pot” and begin changing the “person” – changing ourselves for the better. Realizing that there is no way for us all to stay the same, nor would we want to. But with whatever is thrown our way are we willing to take the extra step (takes effort!) to constantly add what it takes to make the people in your lives still work in relationships? Regardless of what circumstances out of your control are thrown into your story.
Goodness, I hope that made sense! It’s hard to put into words for you what I am thinking! Life is our song. Let’s not stop when the minor notes hit. Let’s just keep playing. Life has such beauty in the details. The “fall” weather this morning is worth being alive for in itself! Keep reading! I will order a case of this book today – I highly recommend it to all of you. The thought processes of this woman are inspiring – to trust God, to look to the future, to forgive. We must continually look up to the hills – where our hope comes from! Thank you so much for your notes, for your special orders, and for your business! I just love having the store for you & can’t wait to keep putting money from your business back into the store for even more selections for your family. Go take on your day! Keep adding the spices you need – don’t let yourself become stale. Try to enjoy the crickets – they are overriding the sounds of the birds this morning!!! Susan
Susan's Thursday note September 6, 2007 Left to Tell by Immacul Ilibagiza Locked Rooms & Open Doors: Diaries and Letters of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, 1933-1935
Hi everyone! It’s past lunch and I still haven’t gotten my thoughts on paper for all of you yet. I can’t decide which book to write for you out of, for I finished my Rwandan book a few nights ago and also am into another of Anne Lindbergh’s diaries. Instead of narrowing it down, I’m going to just go ahead and type for you my favorite thoughts of theirs that I underlined. Thoughts that helped refine me as Susan. I am amazed at how another author can state exactly what I thought or felt, yet didn’t realize I thought or felt that way until seeing “me” in print. Here is what encouraged me this last week. I hope that you will find thoughts worth your treasuring in your hearts also.Left to Tell by Immacul Ilibagiza (Rwandan survivor) was absolutely incredible. On her 60th day (of 90) of her hiding (in a bathroom with 7 other women), the author began studying the English language after listening to the U.N. report on the other side of the bathroom door. She was so determined to keep her head while in confinement – prayer along with studying English. Here are several entries that burrowed into my mind…* Even a few minutes not spent in prayer or contemplation of God became an invitation for Satan to stab me with his double-edged knife of doubt and self-pity. Prayer became my armor, and I wrapped it tightly around my heart.
* I needed to cleanse my mind with God’s beautiful words.
* But I didn’t feel like an orphan at all. I’d been praying continually for weeks, and my relationship with God was deeper than I’d ever imagined possible. I felt like the daughter of the kindest, most powerful king the world had ever known. I surrendered my thoughts to God every day when I retreated to that special place in my heart to communicate with Him. That place was like a little slice of heaven.
* I was certain that God had a greater purpose for me, and I prayed every day for Him to reveal it to me. I came to learn that God never shows us something we aren’t ready to understand. Instead, He lets us see what we need to see, when we need to see it. He’ll wait until our eyes and hearts are open to Him, and then when we’re ready, He will plant our feet on the path that’s best for us…but it’s up to us to do the walking.
* Everyone I loved in this world has been taken away. I’m putting my life in your hands, Jesus…keep your promise and take care of me. I will keep my promise – I will be your faithful daughter.
It’s impossible to predict how long it will take a broken heart to heal…But while I healed, I lived a quiet, reflective life.
Anne Lindbergh – Journal 1933-1934 Locked Rooms & Open Doors:
…I wanted to get through with this as quickly and painlessly as possible – a feeling of impatience for a real life, not realizing that this is real life. Do you remember Proust’s wonderful saying about the future’s not being a cake that was handed to you in one piece but something that you were nibbling into all the time? It’s that, of course. And is dreadful to waste it. (Sounds like Bess Streeter Aldrich…”and the years glide by”, doesn’t it?)…It does seem to me more and more that love has no value in itself or by itself (except perhaps first love, to the young). People talk about love as though it were something you could give, like an armful of flowers. And a lot of people give love like that – just dump it down on top of you, a useless strong-scented burden. I don’t think it is anything that you can give, or if you can, it is valueless. Love is a force in you that enables you to give other things. It is the motivating power. It enables you to give strength and power and freedom and peace to another person. It is not a result; it is a cause. It is not a product; it produces. It is a power, like money or steam or electricity. It is valueless unless you can give something else by means of it. It has taken me a long time to learn. I hope it will stay learned and that I can practice it.
Work cited: Ilibagiza, Immacul, and Steve Erwin. Left to Tell : One Woman’s Story of Surviving the Rwandan Holocaust. New York: Hay House, Incorporated, 2007. Lindberg, Anne. Locked Rooms and Open Doors: Diaries and Letters of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, 1933-1935. New York. Mariner Books. 1993.