June 28, 2007 Newsletter – Excerpt from Susan (after reading Anne Lindbergh’s journals)
Now, go drink your coffee, listen to our birds singing for us, and know – we have to keep feeling, to keep breathing. If you’re in your “Hour of Gold” – ENJOY! If you’re in your “Hour of Lead” – keep breathing. Never think you won’t feel again. You will. Just start with listening to the birds. They sing for you.
January 10, 2008 Excerpt from Susan’s writings…
I read a beautiful quote this week from a Lebanese poet/artist from the late 1800’s. I then went to a great web site of quotes that you may want to save under your favorites (http://quotes.zaadz.com/quotes), then to the author Kahlil Gibran to read more of his thoughts.
Sadness is the wall between two gardens.
I haven’t been able to shake this image. What I continue to learn about any sadness, hurt, pain, or grief is that I must continually make choices. The easiest choice is to withdraw, to dread anything else that may cause me grief or pain. But that is shutting myself off from life. From open doors (as Anne Lindbergh wrote). We do not know what is beyond the open doors – beautiful gardens. I can see that quote as being the story of any of you with a terminal illness. This is your time of sadness – the actual sickness, the dreading of the good-byes. But – oh, you get the best garden – heaven! My mom stated when dad died, “If God can create Hawaii – I can’t even imagine the beauty of what your dad entered in heaven!” His garden. For those with heartache & grief – we can be at the wall. I like the fact he makes that an actual place. A wall we can sit on and cry. A wall we can sit beside and have lunch (I love sitting in the graveyard with lunches now!) A wall we can sit at and talk with friends. A wall we can sit at for an hour or for a few years. But then, those of us that desire another garden have to have guts. We have to step away from the wall and enter our new scene. Takes energy. Takes risk of loss again. Takes risk of hurt (if your sadness is loss of relationships). But we need to not close off LIFE. We may be just one measure from a new movement in our song.
January 17, 2008 Newsletter
Captivating : Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul by John & Stasi Eldredge
And – one more book that I read out of this week, Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul by John & Stasi Eldredge. Staci writes this beautiful paragraph on grief…
Part of the reason women are so tired is because we are spending so much energy trying to “keep it together”. So much energy devoted to suppressing the pain and keeping a good appearance. “I’m gonna harden my heart”…sang Rindy Ross. “I’m gonna swallow my tears.” A terrible, costly way to live your life. Part of this is driven by fear that the pain will overwhelm us. That we will be consumed by our sorrow. It’s an understandable fear – but it is no more true than the fear we had of the dark as children. Grief, dear sisters, is good. Grief helps to heal our hearts. Why, Jesus himself was “Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Is 53:3)
Let the tears come. Get alone, get to your car or your bedroom or the shower and let the tears come. Let the tears come. It is the only kind thing to do for your woundedness. Allow yourself to feel again. And feel you will – many things. Anger. That’s okay. Anger’s not a sin. Remorse. Of course you feel remorse and regret for so many lost years. Fear. Yes, that makes sense. Jesus can handle the fear as well. In fact, there is no emotion you can bring up that Jesus can’t handle. (Look at the psalms – they are a raging sea of emotions.) Let it all out. As Augustine wrote in his Confessions, “The tears…streamed down, and I let them flow as freely as they would, making of them a pillow for my heart. On them it rested.” Grief is a form of validation: it says the wound mattered. It mattered. You mattered. That’s not the way life was supposed to go. There are unwept tears down in there – the tears of a little girl who is lost and frightened. The tears of a teenage girl who’s been rejected and has no place to turn. The tears of a woman whose life has been hard and lonely and nothing close to her dreams. Let the tears come.
Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss
March 8, 2008 Newsletter (her young son had died)
I got up jaded and depressed, almost ready to faint under the burden of life and dreading to meet Helen, who is doubly sad on these anniversaries…How things do flash into one’s mind! These words suddenly came to mine, as we sat so gloomily at the table God had spread for us & the little four young faces around it – Why should the children of a King Go mourning all their days? Why indeed? Children of a King! I felt grieved that I was so intent on my own sorrows as to lose sight of my relationship to Him…
Yes, I am happy …I have my sorrows…My happiness rests on something higher and deeper than Ernest and the children… What is that? The will of God, the sweet will of God. If He should take them all away, I might still possess a peace which would flow on forever. I know this partly from my own experience and partly from that of others. Oh, how can I fret at anything which is the will of God? Let Him take all beside, He has given me Himself, I love, I praise Him every moment. (response from sister-in-law…Yes, I can imagine people as saying such things in moments of excitement; but afterwards, they have hours of terrible agony.” response – They have “hours of terrible agony,” of course. God’s grace does not harden our hearts and make them proof against suffering like coats of mail. They can all say, “Out of the depths have I cried unto Thee” (Psalm 13:1); and it is they alone who have been down into the depths and had rich experience of what God could be to His children there who can utter such testimonials to His honor as those have just repeated. (response – Katy, Do you always submit to God’s will thus?) In great things I do. What grieves me is that I am constantly forgetting to recognize God’s hand in the little, everyday trials of life, and instead of receiving them as from Him, find fault with the instruments by which He sends them. I can give up my child, my only brother, my darling mother without a word; but to receive every tiresome visitor as sent expressly and directly to weary me by the Master Himself; to meet every negligence on the part of the servants as His choice for me at the moment; to be satisfied and patient when Ernest gets particularly absorbed in his books, because my Father sees that little discipline suitable for me at the time; all this I have not fully learned.
Her picturing her child singing that had died when she talks about a woman she loved that just died)… – Only those who have suffered thus can appreciate the heart soreness through which, no matter how outwardly cheerful I may be, I am always passing. And just as I was writing these very words, my canary burst forth with a song so joyous that a song was put also in my mouth. Something seemed to say this captive sings in his cage because it has never known liberty and cannot regret a lost freedom. So the soul of my child (that had died) limited by the restrictions of a feeble body, never having known the gladness of exuberant health, may now sing songs that will enliven and cheer.
* Achieving Peace of Heart by Rev. Narciso Irala
April 17, 2008 Newsletter
One other picture that he wrote on dealing with death that I thought was comforting (oh, the hope we have knowing that we have an eternal perspective…) This was told to a woman whose son had died. I explained to her, “You were going along in one ship across the stormy sea of life, and your son in another. All of a sudden a friendly wind and a friendly hand brought your son to the safe harbor of salvation while you go on, tossed about by the storms of life.” I couldn’t get that picture out of my mind all last night. Life is a struggle for every one of us. Life is beautiful for every one of us. Those that die early are given the absolute beauty of being in God’s presence. The beauty of heaven (we cannot imagine the beauty, as my mom said, “If God created Hawaii, can you imagine what he has created heaven to look like?”). The beautiful hand that brought their ship into the presence of God. The peace we can have that they have “made it to shore safely in the storm” – now for us to tackle the storm and be proud of the way we handle our winds and waves. Does that make sense? Oh, this is not to say we do not deeply desire the smile and the presence of who we so loved, or desire the life we thought we “deserved” but didn’t get…each of you have a different pain or desire or loss… but we can live knowing that we are in a boat…how will we handle the craft? And I love the thought of when we hear on our radios that our friends, family, loved ones have already made it to shore – that is one peaceful call… let us have the deep deep peace knowing that those we miss have made it! We still have stories to add to our “time at sea” novels!
* June 12, 2008 excerpt from newsletter.
…I hope that you will read some of these books. They will truly help us to keep our perspective, and to let others that have gone through experiences help us in knowing how to be friends to each other. Anne Lindbergh made a comment on why she was publishing her journal entries during the search for her baby. She wrote that all grief is individual and lonely, dealt differently for each of us going through loss of any sort (even loss of changes in ages, children growing up, etc.). But she went on to write that we all also share similarities in our grief – and that we can find comfort in reading and meeting others that have been there. As I quoted a few weeks ago from Brave Heart: Magus de Unamuno says in Tragic Sense of Life: Great love is born of sorrow. It is then that we know one another and feel one another an feel with one another in common anguish, and so thus we pity one another and love one another. For to love is to pity; and if bodies are united by pleasure, souls are united by pain. To love with the spirit is to pity, and who pities most loves most.” I hope that you can live today with expectation of what today can bring to you and what you can do to truly live in the present. Not with fear of tomorrow or what you are thinking about from your past. Go take on your day! Take care of what is in your control and pray to get through what is not. Susan
* Susie VanRyn in Mistaken Identity (by VanRyn and Cerak)
June 12, 2008 Newsletter
Susie VanRyn, on the day that she found out the her daughter was not the one she had been nursing in the hospital, but had already been buried, wrote in her journal…
I do not know what to say!
God, you are my refuge – please protect me.
You are my strength – I am entirely weak.
You will give me peace and comfort – please see me through the days ahead.
On a day when she could barely cope with her grief. Getting out of bed had been enough of an accomplishment. She had to go through the motions of the day…face the day. She looked down at her Bible, but the letters on the page all ran together into one, long, incomprehensible word. She looked harder and could make out the words to one verse that seemed to jump off the page, “Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy.” (Proverbs 14:10). Bitterness and joy mixed together, that’s what I feel. Oh, God, how? Oh, God, why? Why does life keep going on when I want it to stop? Why does it keep going forward when I can’t move. She took a deep breath. Just keep moving, she said to herself, just keep moving. She knew she had to keep moving, but that didn’t mean rushing back to life the way it had been before the accident…Oh, God, help me, she prayed. I am so weak…but you are my strength.
May 8, 2008 Newsletter on “Book Lovers Companion”
Feelings back after numbness from an event in life:
I was reading, accidentally, Marmontel’s Memoirs, and came to the passage which relates his father’s death, the distressed position of the family, and the sudden inspiration which he, then a mere boy, felt and made them feel that he would be everything to them – would supply the place of all that they had lost. A vivid conception of this scene and its feelings came over me, and I was moved to tears. From this moment my burden grew lighter. The oppression of the thought that all feeling was dead within me, was gone…I was not a stock or a stone…Relieved from my ever present sense of irremediable wretchedness, I gradually found that the ordinary incidents of life could again give me some pleasure; that I could again find enjoyment, not intense, but sufficient for cheerfulness, in sunshine and sky, in books, in conversation, in public affairs. (John Stuart Mill. Autobiography. 1873.)
April 10, 2008 Newsletter – Thoughts from Susan
Good miserable, overcast, gloomy, rainy morning! If that sun doesn’t pop out soon our morel mushrooms don’t stand a chance. Rain rain go away, Come again another day! I have been thinking this week about a short Chinese fable I read last year. Some of you may have already seen this, but I know you’ll like to read it again if you have. This is about good that may come of a bad situation. Reminds me of the quote from a previous e-mail, Barns burnt down, now I can see the moon. You know your personal compositions of your own songs. If you are in a minor movement right now, keep on playing…for there may be a beautiful movement on the next page, in the next chapter of your life. And maybe some of the beauty that you can not foresee is only possible because of your pain. Specific friends that you will intimately know, learning the reality of what peace from God is, realizing the strength you didn’t know you had and then the courage you will have for your next unforeseen chapter. Anne Lindberg wrote in one of her diaries the deepest pain she felt was when she thought she lost her faith (after the murder of her child). So the peace that came when she realized how deep her faith was, after she knew the reality of God’s presence in her life, that was a gift from her pain – she realized the treasure of her God never forsaking her…Have a week where you let your mind rest. Write down each day what you need to do, write down (and then shred if you want to) what your exact emotions are. Then take on your day. Make yourself proud of your actions. My short morning prayer is, Lord, use my hands, that they touch with gentleness; use my words that they bring comfort, joy, kindness; use my mind that what I think about is pure and edifying. Use my life today to do what you need me to do. Such an easy prayer, but when I remember to pray those words, the day is no longer out of my control. For the basics I have taken the time to remember. Fall to your knees. Peace is waiting for you. Look up to the heavens. God is there.
November 15, 2007 Newsletter from Return to the Sea by Anne Johnson (Reflections on Anne Lindberg’s Gift From the Sea)
– I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness, and the willingness to remain vulnerable…
– … Did you know that birds have two songs? That song we are hearing is the song of survival. It’s very different from the exuberant, joyful song of spring, when the bird knows the world will be warm again…I uncovered a deep source of joy – the pearl – that lives in the heart of every child before she begins to close herself off in response to pain…now I am able to perceive difficult times as “angels of annunciation”: the song of survival sung in the stillness before the joyful song-of-life returning can be released in all its splendor from deep within my heart…when our minds are open, they are powerful instruments for reaching and grasping new dreams, new ideas… It is true, I think, that understanding is the only thing that frees one.