Alive at 80, an absolute surprise! September 3 is my birthday and neither Jim nor I ever imagined we’d be celebrating such a major milestone. While experiencing three bouts of aggressive breast cancer and harsh medical treatments, I live with wonder and gratitude at such unexpected grace. So I’ve been pondering, “what has been helpful in thriving during this life journey?” Obviously, tangible kind support from family and friends, and innovative oncology and naturopathic treatments for 25 years have been life-giving.
But I’m also aware of the immense intangible gifts of language. Thought-provoking quotes and lyrics from writers in literature, sacred texts, and music infuse our interior spirits. It’s almost like they become timely friends and offer us vision, wisdom, courage, and peace. At our wedding, the ancient Irish hymn Be Thou My Vision was sung and the lyrics remain a touchstone for our 52 years of marriage. You can read about the 6th-century monk and poet St. Forgaill’s that tradition says became blind in mid-life. His words, Be thou my vision, whatever befalls, then take on new meaning, as they did for us after our daughter Krista’s death. For more background and to hear a lively Irish group perform, check it out by clicking this website.
We all live with two truths: Life is beautiful; life is difficult. As a character in
a novel writes, “Existence can be fierce, she did know that. A storm can blow up out of a quiet day, the wind that takes your life out of your hands, your soul out of your body.” For you and citizens around the world, our unprecedented pandemic has upended the world as we’ve known it. Added to this is the sorrow of living in a deeply divided and troubled nation.
This has thrust us into liminal space, that threshold time where uncertainty,
anxiety, and vulnerability abound. What is past will never return the same and our future is unknown. But this is not all bad. Our lives are shaped by the questions we ask, and restlessness can actually be a gift. As a nation and as individuals, we are more inclined in such times to re-envision our lives, to ask, “how now shall we live?”
As I think of each of you living within this unprecedented pandemic, it seems likely you are also drawing on your interior life for daily strength. Here are some of the voices from friends, literature, Krista Colleagues, and musicians whose words have been encouraging companions informing my own life’s vision.
Twelve Soul-Shaping Wisdom Voices
“Though one can not always choose the experiences life gives, we do have the power to choose one’s attitude, to choose one’s way in any given circumstance.” Viktor Frankl, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor from Man’s Search for Meaning.
“Ring the bells that still can ring,
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”
Leonard Cohen, Canadian singer, and songwriter.
“The questions which one asks oneself begin, at last, to illuminate the world.”
James Baldwin, American essayist, novelist, and activist
“My heart has taken me places my mind never imagined I’d go.”
Tupou Ana, Krista Colleague
Howard Thurman, a prominent early civil rights leader, theologian, and author.
His card sits on my desk.
“I came to realize that my passions were planted by God.
God wove into my heart all the things that made it
skip, swell, ache, and beat. Following my innermost desires
is not a betrayal of faith, but rather a germinating
expression of the person God designed me to be.”
Sarah Wanless Zwickle, Krista Colleague in Global Citizen Journal article “Service Compost.”
“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.
The moment one definitely commits oneself,
then Providence moves too.”
Attributed to Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, German playwright
“Everyone needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.”
Environmentalist John Muir
Mount Rainier Photo Credit: Craig Goodwin
All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes.
Title of Maya Angelou memoir
“It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.”
Irish Poet, Padraig O Tuama
Simple gifts of love and care keep the light of Christ burning.
Artistic friend Marianne Frase‘s
hand-designed Christmas card also kept on my desk.
Former Secretary-General of the United Nations Dag Hammarskjöld from his spiritual memoir Markings.
His quote is on the door to my home office.
We’ve learned that in the shadow of illness, one can still live with irrepressible joy! One of the hidden gifts of a cancer diagnosis is that one never takes a single day for granted again. During these twenty-five years, we have known deep joy in being alive for our children’s weddings, the birth of five grandchildren, the deepening of friendships, the emergence of the Krista Foundation for Global Citizenship, the writing of books and national speaking tours, and the stimulation of teaching university classes. We live with sheer gratitude for the abundance of these unexpected years!
I’d love to hear of any of your own favorite wisdom voices and writings that give your interior life strength and peace.You can email me below.
The Gardener. A fascinating story of Frank Cabot’s passionate development of Les Quatre Vents, an enchanting world-class garden in Quebec. Jim and I loved his reflections on the meaning of gardens and their impact on our lives. This movie/documentary is included with Amazon Prime.
SHIMMERING SUMMER FRUIT RECIPE
Plum Blackberry Torte
¾ cup sugar (I use ½ sugar and ¼ Stevia)
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup unbleached flour
1 tsp baking powder; pinch of salt
5 plums sliced in half inches; any color
Sugar, fresh lemon juice and cinnamon for topping
Cream sugar and butter. Add flour, baking powder, salt and eggs. Beat well. Spoon the batter into a springform pan or 8-9 inch dish. Design with plums slices and berries. Sprinkle topping. Bake at 350 for approximately 40 minutes. Cool and serve with whipped cream or ice cream. Delicious use of summer fruits!
Thinking of you, with special thoughts for parents, teachers, administrators and students this September!
Stay safe and strong in courage and creativity during these liminal days.