“The reason one writes isn’t the fact he wants to say something. He writes because he has something to say.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald


"But how could you live and have no story to tell?" ~ Fyodor Dostoyevsky


"Beauty can be seen in all things, seeing and composing the beauty is what separates the snapshot from the photograph" ~Matt Hardy


“A mother keeps a garden of the heart, planting the seeds of faith and character that give her children hope and purpose for the years ahead.” ~Anonymous


“If your story is never told, it becomes something else...forgotten.” ~Anonymous

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Revisiting Auschwitz

One memory lodged forever in my mind and heart is from the summer of 1987. Our only child at the time, our son, was 5 months old.  We, along with other leaders, had taken a group of about 35 college-age young people on a missions trip to eastern Europe.  Their weeks were filled with adapting and understanding new cultures, sharing in churches, street-evangelism and drama. But mainly by removing themselves from the comforts of their soft and cushy American life, their eyes were opened to see a world beyond themselves.  It was life-changing for many.

We visited many sites which brought history alive and colorful to hungry students.  Sadly, one such place was only grey and black.  We entered with much angst and left, utterly somber and heavy in heart.  Nothing could have prepared us for what we saw. As the sun tried to peek out of hovering clouds we made our way through the village of Oswiecim, in southwest Poland, which sits on the border of the Nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz (German pronunciation of Oswiecim).   This camp was a huge extermination and slave labor complex run by the SS featuring three main camps and 36 sub-camps.  Auschwitz I, the original camp, was established in 1939 to hold Polish political prisoners. By October 1941, Auschwitz II (Birkenau) was opened nearby and became the main killing center during the "Final Solution to the Jewish Problem" in which the Nazis attempted to exterminate the entire Jewish population of Europe. An estimated 1.6 million persons were killed at Auschwitz, including 1.3 million Jews and 300,000 Soviet POWs, Polish Catholics and Gypsies. (The History Place )

TODAY, marks the 70th anniversary of the Soviet troops liberating Auschwitz and is also Holocaust Remembrance Day.  In our busy and constantly changing world, this day could go by without a notice, but as I listened to the news and perused sites relating to its history, a scene kept playing through my mind.  We were being led through the barracks and buildings of Auschwitz.  Every ear listening, with a heaviness so noticeable we couldn't help but be silent.  As we entered one desolate and cold building, our son, Andrew, began to whimper and cry.  Before a minute or so passed, he was into a full-fledged wailing.  I knew he felt well, had napped and been fed and changed.  It was so unexplainable and loud, that my husband was forced to leave our group and take Andrew outside where he walked with him for the next hour.   I went on with our group.  

Later, as we rejoined my husband and son, in shock I told him, "The building we were in when Andrew began to scream, they told us was where they housed the young children before they took them away to be gassed."  My husband then shared he had to hold Andrew close to his chest and he had begun to sing praises to God over his little body.  As he sang and prayed, our son began to calm down and gradually fell asleep.  

I have memories of the buildings, the gas chambers, displays of torn clothing, shoes and emaciated human beings, and the horrors of history we witnessed that day.  But the most overriding one was of a little baby reacting to something spiritually that we all find hard to define or explain.  His innocent little spirit picked up on the evil that took root and was played out in the Holocaust in that area of the world, in those buildings and in the hearts of men.  

Photos: Poland National Archives

 We sat in the bus in the shadow of a death camp, and joined together in prayer, song and relying on a a God that is bigger than the evil we witnessed.  We prayed for forgiveness, healing in the hearts of survivors, and that this evil might never be repeated.  We prayed for healing in the land of Poland and in Germany.  We prayed over the Jewish people.  And we praised a God that still loves mankind. 

As difficult it is to imagine, even today with the reports we hear of genocide and terror attacks all over the world, God still loves mankind.  I cannot fathom this when I see horror, but it is true.  GOD STILL LOVES US IN ALL OUR MESS.

I guess my heart today is saying still, "God forgive us for the evil that men give into.  Forgive us for not valuing human life.  Forgive us for not doing anything when we have the power to do something."   The Holocaust is yesterday and should not be forgotten.  Today there's human trafficking on a world-wide scale and there are many organizations and ministries working to rescue the women and children entrapped.  There is genocide in Africa and organizations reaching out to help.  There is still so much we can do to help those who cannot help themselves.  

In remembering Auschwitz and the Holocaust, let's let it lead us to the future....point us to making a difference - Proverbs 24:11 "Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter."

A couple of links to check out: 

Not For Sale

A Stay At Home Mom Making A Difference  If a stay at home mom can do this, you can too!

Freedom 61

Maybe a little baby's cry can awaken us.  Bringing awareness to evil and how with God's help and direction, we can make a difference today.  

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tidbits from Tuesday

Sometimes you come across a recipe, a book, or a tidbit from life you just have to share.  Today is one of those "sometimes".  Here are a few of tidbits crossing my path...

Each Wednesday our ministry team comes together to share, pray and just be together.  I love these people, some of them I have had the privilege of being in ministry with for nearly 40 years.  (oooh, that dates us!)  We come together over the Word, national events, shared interests, a time of prayer and always, a table full of goodies.  We meet at half-past nine in the morning, so the trays of delectables usually are morning fare.  But these are team mates from Slavic backgrounds and if you have ever eaten in a Slavic home (think Russian, Polish, Czech...etc....)you know how delicious that can be!  Somehow, with several of us ladies contributing, we always seem to have the perfect match of savoury and sweet.  These "breakfast cookies" are from Shauna Niequist and they are healthy and the perfect excuse to eat a cookie for breakfast.  Healthy oats, almond meal, unsweetened coconut, coconut oil, mini-chocolate chips (okay, that is a reach to give it that chocolate-chip-cookie-look; but they are semi-sweet!) .

These are my contribution this week :)

I waited until winter to try a soup I have wanted to make forever....Zuppa Toscana  It was amazing and extremely difficult not to have a second whole bowlful.

And lastly, as most people find themselves in January, we are trying to eat healthier (by the way, I used a non-dairy milk substitute in the above soup instead of the heavy cream and it tasted just as good :)   So, this salad was in the latest issue of Food Network magazine and it had all the ingredients I love Ina Garten's Quinoa Tabbouleh with Feta

Photo: Courtesy Food Network Magazine
January/February 2015 page 34

Someday, I just want to visit Ina at her home on Long Island and have her cook for me like she does for her husband - that would be a holiday! And probably will not happen :)

I came across a Scripture the other day where it was talking about "eating and drinking in the presence of the Lord."  The context was beautiful, talked about celebrating.  For the life of me, I cannot find the Scripture now that I want to write it down.  I am sure I already did, but alas, cannot find it :(  However, in sharing these tidbits today, it goes beyond just recipes.  Our hands taking simple ingredients, being inspired by a photo or a description and creating something good and sharing that with those we love.  We've been talking about "community" so much in our church these days and a piece of community is eating, drinking and spending time around the table with those we care about.  In the presence of the Lord. 

Grab a favorite recipe...or even new one...or one of the above and spend some time creating and then sharing.  Life is meant to be shared.  (If you need some great reading material about this, try this (I have recommended it before when it first came out and it is still one of my favorite reads!)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

FORWARD into 2015

It's halfway through January already!   Not sure where these 15 days went, probably same place the last 12 months traveled off to....the land of memories.  They say the older you get, the time seems to go by much quicker.  I am beginning to actually believe that.  I packed up Christmas last week, sorted through most of the paperwork of 2014 to begin organizing for taxes :(  bought a new pack of pens and a new journal, managed to exercise 4 times a week so far and began writing again!  The suspense of a new year ahead!

I love new things...new pens and journals, new calendars just waiting to be marked up with special times with friends and family, meetings and events to unfold.  There's an anticipation as we put away the old and await the new.  It has taken me a couple of weeks though to get to this point of fresh awaiting.  Concerns, burdens, prayer needs all occupied each waking moment, along with the ever pressing demand of getting the house back in order to get some semblance of normal life again.  2014 was not an easy year, although the delight of planning and celebrating the wedding and marriage of our youngest daughter and new son-in-love overrode everything! And we got a new family in the package!!  So enjoying having them be a part of our lives!  What a fun memory which we will relive each and every time I look at one of the dozens of wedding photos that now adorn my walls!  

However, the nest became empty in every sense of the word as the last two young ones moved out, one marrying and the other to pursue his career and education as a firefighter.  All within an hour's drive, thankfully, but it is way too quiet in this house!  Something I am learning to deal with.  It's interesting, lots of books out there on getting married, parenthood, careers, all sorts of resources and books out there for the seasons of a woman's life.  Where is the help for the woman who suddenly finds her nest empty and learning to cope?  It is a bittersweet time....loving the season of your adult children's lives, but sadly missing them all the same.  Perhaps fodder for the writing....stocking my pond with material to fish out when the time is right (or write as is the case).

In all honesty, I love a new year, but I am not crazy about January.  I am usually so tired from the holidays the first week and all the cleanup, take down of tree and decorations occupies those first days.  January is cold of which I am not a fan.  I adore looking out the window at snowflakes softly falling (when we have it which is rare...we usually have grey rainy damp cold), a fire in the grate, candles burning.  I love hot tea, soups and hunkering down with a good book.  But I don't like being cold.  Playing in the snow is something I enjoy watching.  I loved it when the kids were small, but now days, give me a camera and me on the other side of the window in the warm house and I will do just fine!  

January is the month before it all begins....there are no major holiday fun days or events (sorry MLK, no offense intended and I honor the day and all it means, but it doesn't involve chocolate or a bbq). It is wedged in there between December and February waiting to be discovered.  The rest of the months seem to hold a celebration of sorts for me tucked amongst their weeks...

February - Valentine's Day (chocolate!!)
March - our anniversary and spring begins!!!
April - springtime, flowers, Easter (best holiday!)  and two birthdays!
May - Mother's Day and flowers, trees budding, color!!
June - school's out, and summer begins...warm weather ahead!
July - summer!!  Fourth of July! Birthday, Bbq's, camping, vacations, sunshine!
August - birthdays, sunshine, and now another wedding anniversary!
September - birthday, beautiful colors, the chill of autumn, Pumpkin lattes!
October - birthdays, my favorite season of leaves, candles and smells
November - Thanksgiving, one of my all time favorite holidays
December - Christmas season, peppermint lattes and I absolutely love this season of remembering and celebrating Jesus' birth, twinkling lights, giving and family...another birthday!

For some reason, January doesn't hold a candle to the above months.  But in all fairness, it is a new beginning.  I read somewhere in the last weeks about the idea of instead of a new year's resolution, decide on ONE WORD to focus on in the new year.  A word to strive towards, live by, be challenged and energized by.  I liked that.  (It's hard enough by February to keep that "lose 10 pounds" on the front burner, especially if lasagna is cooking right beneath it :)  So, one word I can handle.  Simple.  Precise.  Hopeful.  As I prayed for revelation to pick "my word", I kept getting three words.  Everywhere I went I would see these words.  But I wanted just one.  So I have tucked two of them in my heart as they will be a foundation I build upon for my one word.  And the word to move me into 2015 is 

I plan to move FORWARD this year.  Not staying in the same place.  One step at a time to arrive at a different place come January 1, 2016.  Spiritually.  Physically.  Emotionally.  Mentally.  Using my gifts.  Awakening my heart.  I plan to move forward :)  

So, even though January is not my favorite month, it is a special time as we reflect on past memories, and unpack a new twelve months, beginning with January!  Bring it on!