Tag Archive | Mindfulness

NO MATTER WHAT WE FACE TODAY, WE CAN SEE BEAUTY

dead tree lying downIn 1943, at age 29, Etty Hillesum was sent with her family to the gas chambers at Auschwitz. Like Anne Frank, Etty kept a diary. In it, she writes about the beauty she sees and the compassion she feels for humanity.

 

I like to hold in my mind an image of Etty as she describes herself “standing in some corner of the camp, my feet planted on earth, my eyes raised towards heaven, tears running down my face, tears of deep emotion and gratitude.”

 

Gratitude! This young woman is living in a death camp and expressing gratitude for the beauty she sees.

 

In my mind’s eye, I try to picture young Etty–malnourished, perhaps abused and bruised–and yet appreciating the goodness and beauty of life. In my imagination, I stand by her side, and I wonder: What might she be appreciating in the moment? Is it something in nature? Does she see a purple wildflower pushing its way through parched soil? Has she spotted a deer in the distance? Has she heard the lilting call of a bird to its mate? Might the formation of clouds in the sky above offer a lovely sight to behold? Or, might a happy memory be uplifting her?

 

Any or all of those things, at times, may have stirred gratitude and joy in Etty’s heart. However, I sense in her a capacity and a commitment to seeing beauty, and expressing beauty, no matter what. In fact, she also wrote, “I know what may lie in wait for us…And yet I find life beautiful and meaningful.”

 

Etty’s perspective leads me to think: “Surely, no matter what I face today, I too can find life beautiful.”

 

                (From TOUCHSTONES: STORIES FOR LIVING THE TWELVE GIFTS)

  

FAITH: MAY YOU BELIEVE

Have you ever received a touching letter that literally fell apart because you read it so many times?

 

I got such a letter from my daughter, Krista, back in 1987, when she was a junior in high school.

  

My husband, our two daughters, and I had caught the first plane out from western New York that would get us to New Jersey, where my mom had been hospitalized after experiencing a stroke.

  

When we arrived at the hospital, I asked about my mom’s prognosis. Her doctor shook his head and lowered his eyes, avoiding mine.

  

“What are you telling me, doctor?” I asked.

 

“It was massive,” he said. “You should prepare yourself.”

 

But my mom survived that night. And another. And another. And, it started to look like it might not yet be my mom’s time to die. Her chances for a meaningful recovery were minimal, however, according to the medical team.

 

Nevertheless, after a few more days, my husband and daughters planned to fly home and return to work and school, while I planned to stay with my mom and be at her side as much as the hospital permitted.

 

It was then, before my family left for Newark Airport, that Krista presented me with a letter, hand-written on a sheet of loose-leaf paper.

 

In among her encouraging words, she had woven three scriptural verses. I wish I still had that letter. But between my tear drops, the oil from my fingers, and the many openings and re-foldings, the paper on which the letter was written simply fell apart.

 

However, the thoughts, the love, and the faith poured into it–they became a permanent part of my mind, heart, and soul, as did those verses.

 

In fact, I have been reading them every day since then. When the paper began to tear, I copied the verses Krista had chosen to quote for me.

 

I’ve read them so many times–close to 10,000 now–and through so many times, including when I faced a form of cancer for which I was told, “There is no cure,” that these quotes, along with the memory of daughter’s letter, are among my most valued touchstones for building inner strength.

 

I share the verses here because I want to encourage others, as my daughter did for me, to remain mindful of faith, and all of life’s gifts, in the midst of all things, especially when circumstances seem dismal. (Over theyears, I modified the third quote, as led by my heart.)

 

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” – Heb 11:1

 

“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.” – Heb 10:35

 

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, with hope and joy and gratitude, present all your issues, dreams and desires to God.” – Phil 4:6

 

By the way, my mom pulled through. As time passed, her healing progressed. In less than two years, she recovered fully. In fact, in many ways she was more healthy and active than she had been before the stroke.

 

Faith: May you believe.