Monday, November 28, 2016

Thirty-Three Years Connected

Several weeks ago, I indulged in a piece of deliciously moist chocolate cake while sipping decaf coffee. A savory cherry topping melted into each bite, making me very glad my brother requests the homemade cake for his birthday every year.

After initially requesting only a small piece, the guest at the table asked for seconds. No one blamed him. Especially when he explained that American desserts trump those he's savored in his homeland of Germany.

However, while Florian claims the US has an edge on decadent sugar displays, his mother grew up with a view of the Alps that once stirred my soul more than chocolate cake ever will.





Thirty-three years ago, my family traveled through Europe. Toward the end of our second week, we happened upon the Eitzenberger's Bed & Breakfast in Garmisch Partenkirchen

The charming lodge offered a spectacular view of the Alps. And as we got to know the family during our hearty bread and cheese breakfasts, Dad insisted we sing a few barbershop tunes. In return, Mrs. Eitzenberger and her daughter yodeled for us. Connected by a love of family and music, my dad and the proprietors exchanged Christmas cards for many, many years.

Fast forward thirty-three summers, and before Florian left to spend a semester abroad at Georgia Tech this fall, his grandmother (the elder Mrs. Eitzenberger) encouraged him to look up my dad. The two connected and Florian even shared a traditional Thanksgiving meal with us last week. 

As our small world's collided, I valued the unusual sense of unity.



Florian made visiting easy. Almost too easy. My sister even referred to him as "Nathan's German twin" because he looked and acted a lot like my oldest son.


Nathan and Florian
As turkey and stuffing led to apple and pumpkin pie, we discussed everything from Toledo, Ohio to the recent political climate. Florian absorbed our use of colloquialisms with ease, and then occasionally used them against us. 

It was great fun.

Nathan, brother Mark, Florian, me, Dad, Mom

Resurrecting thirty-three year old memories added a flavor to our Thanksgiving that felt similar to the cherry topping that covered that moist chocolate cake. The cake would've sufficed. But the cherry topping enhanced the memorable experience even more. 

Bottom line, you just never know when a connection will fire, then sizzle for years, and eventually ignite into something new.

Call it destiny, fate, or a keen sense of déjà vu, visiting with Florian felt surreal and reminded me that crossing cultural divides is meant to enhance our lives. Not to mention that sending yearly Christmas cards may in fact have a purpose and lead to sweet moments far down the road.

It's easy to curl up and stay safe on our side of the street. Oh so very easy. But the world is calling. So let's do this thing. 

You may be surprised in just thirty-three years.



All photos (except for the family photos) courtesy of pixabay.com

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Sweetening the Melancholy

I thought about grabbing a Starbucks coffee on the way. Definitely should've swallowed some Advil. Because without pain relief or a little pick-me-up, my stitch removal turned into a dicey encounter with a surgeon, a small knife, and about 18 stitches a little too embedded in my skin.

The ensuing pain surprised me because I've been relatively pain free since about 10 days after the surgery. That was not the case last spring. So I was hoping the doctor was going to release me from my no-weight bearing status, allowing me ditch the knee-scooter during my midnight potty runs. On the contrary, he replied with a resounding, "No!"

"We broke that bone," he explained. "We sawed through your first metatarsal and then put it back together. You need more rest."



These photos are from my right foot surgery. 
But the left foot x-rays look exactly the same.




The bruising in my arch, combined with the reality of three procedures and incisions (of which I only shared one), forced me to face the need for more healing. 

Still, I left a little disappointed. Melancholy even.

I want to decorate for Christmas. Make an apple pie for Thanksgiving. I want to be out and about, but too much movement causes severe pain in my hips and right arm.

So I sit. Nap. And thank God for family that provides entertainment and car rides to sweeten the melancholy.

Just Sunday night, a small group of us gathered for a painting class in honor of Courtney's birthday. I helped arrange the event and made sure we had kettle corn to share. But once there, Courtney took over, ensuring I had whatever I needed.

The end result was worth the added effort.


A few hours ago I spent thirty minutes teaching an eight-year-old how to play Jingle Bells. The arrangement is in G position instead of C position, demanding she process all new notes. It's a challenging choice for her but she made good progress today. 

The simple feat felt solid.



Later, two high school students ate pizza and hung out as we practiced Christmas music for our December recital. While that may seem sacrilegious to some (since we haven't eaten turkey and mashed potatoes yet this week), a certain calm overtakes me when we dive into holiday tunes that proclaim peace on earth and joy for all.

It's a bit serendipitous. Unrealistic even. Cause this world serves up more hard than we can process.

But it's worth the time out. A holiday time out. Even if they stir up some melancholy that needs a little sweetening. 



You may be thrilled by upcoming events or you may be a little underwhelmed like me. But no matter what this week or the next month holds, seek the sweetness. And I don't mean the sugar hidden in the pumpkin or pecan pie.

Look for the moments that have meaning. Even the painfully ordinary or just simply boring ones you might have formerly ignored. 

Value your family even if they annoy you. Hug the relative that cancelled your vote. Savor the taste of flavorful food, even if it isn't gluten free. And live in the body you've been given... no matter how slow or fast you move.

That's my plan. We were made for a purpose. To make whatever big or small difference we can make. So don't skip out.

Sweeten someone's melancholy and then have a Happy Thanksgiving!



Photos courtesy of pixabay.com

Monday, November 14, 2016

Chasing the Moon

I just returned from an adventure. Makayla, Olivia, Makenzie and I chased the moon. When we caught it rather close to a Starbucks, I considered indulging in a late night decaf coffee binge. But we were too wound up. Yogli Mogli with toppings sufficed instead.

It all started last night when I saw the moon as we drove to a service downtown. The sighting reminded me that I'd read something about a super moon appearing this week. A Google search confirmed my suspicion and the desire to watch a much larger-than-normal-moon-rise churned inside.

But church distracted me.

However, after the evening service, Don and I chatted with Makayla and Olivia. And right before we left, Makayla blurted, "We need to get together."

Since their mom and I were good friends, and I felt their loss when she died two years ago, my answer came swift.

"I know," I started, "Let's watch the moon rise tomorrow night. Are you free?"

"Yeah!" they both agreed.

"Do you know that neighborhood, The Summit, near Publix?" Makayla asked.

Unsure, I listened close as she explained the directions. Familiar with the place, we agreed to touch base this morning. And before noon, we had a plan.

When I got a text that they were running late, I headed up the summit alone. The ritzy neighborhood road led me up a small mountain I didn't even know existed. Half-way up, I looked to the west, enthralled by the wide-open view. 

At the highest point, I discovered an unfinished home with an unfinished lookout. A couple stood where I longed to go but couldn't dare on a knee-scooter. Soon however, a black SUV drove up and the driver informed us she was about to lock a gate further down. 

Disappointment seeped in. But after pulling out my iphone compass and realizing that the panoramic view looked south rather than east, we devised another plan.

Makayla, Olivia, and Olivia's friend, Makenzie, drove back down the steep incline in search of a view of the eastern sky, to no avail. 

So when I caught up with them, I led the charge, "Follow me," I commanded. "We'll head to The Avenue."

And they did.

They followed me in traffic as I watched minutes tick by on my car clock. They stayed close after I turned onto the four-lane highway and later headed into an unfinished strip mall. 

When we still could't find the moon, they followed me back onto the main drag, through an elevated Kroger parking lot that leads to a small strip mall and beside a Mexican restaurant. From there we turned right and then left back onto the main highway again. 

It was then that I began to wonder if my timing was off. Or if the moon was lost. Or if all had been for naught.

But just a few minutes later, it finally happened. I caught my first glimpse of the reddish moon and pulled over into a bank parking lot not far from a Target.

It was far from the picturesque scene I'd envisioned. Street lights and tail lights permeated the dark. But we'd chased the moon and finally found it.




Three giggling girls piled out of their car, unloaded my scooter, and then joined me as we made our way toward the moon for a few photos. 















A few weeks ago, a Facebook friend with a very rare autoimmune disease (that both of her young children also battle) wrote about how she felt convicted to try something new every day for thirty days. 

Limitations often suffocate those of us whose fragile bodies demand rest. So making plans and sticking to them feels unrealistic. 

In Linda's case, she made plans to have lunch with a friend one day, only to wake up with a very sick child. Her "something new" for that day was to simply to stick with her lunch plans instead of waiting for the doctor's call, and to leave her child with her husband even though her worried heart wanted to stay close. 

Inflamed lungs would've slow my step. But she maintained her stride that day and broke a little free.




Her determination has stirred something in me as I heal. Instead of focusing on my limits, I keep trying to do something different. Just a little different. Like chasing the moon with Makayla, Olivia, and Makenzie.

As we savored our yogurt in a slight outdoor chill, hearts opened and stories were shared. Chasing the moon had been fun. But communicating heart to heart added a richness to the evening even the biggest moon couldn't touch. 

We held hands and prayed before going our separate ways and I looked Makenzie in the eye and said, "You are the one Jesus loves."

It's a thing at our church these days. A statement our pastor recently made from the pulpit before asking us how comfortable we were with the idea. (If you don't believe me, listen to the sermon posted at the very end.)

Way back in September he asked if we could say it. Believe it. And even live it.

Try it. Say, "I am the one Jesus loves."

Does it make you nervous? Doubtful? Afraid of becoming self- centered?

Don't be.

When our awareness of His love is rooted in the reality of our brokenness, it grabs hold in a way that makes it easy to then say, "You are the one Jesus loves."

Our church is currently partnering with another downtown, so I'm trying out a new t-shirt design and all the proceeds will go to Hope Chapel.

So check them out below. Think Christmas. And go chase the moon.

Because you are the one Jesus loves.

Both designs are available at this link: Susan's Teespring Store






Romans: Part 4 from Sanctuary on Vimeo.

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Throne Is Established

On Wednesday morning, we will sip coffee and ponder the reality of a new president... unless chads cause a stir again.

Assuming we will not repeat the Bush/Gore prolonged election count, some will celebrate. Others will reach for antacids.

But not God.

This election doesn't scare The Almighty one bit.

All through the Old Testament and New (meaning all through the history of the world) people like you and me have faced political turmoil, the rise and fall of nations, and the fear that accompanies both.

What we're going through is nothing new. It's not fun. But it's nothing new.

"He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and it's people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in. He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing" (Isaiah 40: 22-24 NIV).


We are called to live by faith, yet wake in a world of uncertainty. We are called to stand against all odds, yet our legs grow weak.

At least mine do.

So I've made a decision. No matter who wins tomorrow night, I will hold my hands high and yell with proper abandon:

"The Lord has established his throne in heaven and his kingdom rules over all" (Psalm 103: 19 NIV).

 Image purchased from Ted Larson

Will you join me?

You see, when my boys were very little, their dad taught them big words. After they could pronounce "diplodocus" to some degree, he then moved on to larger portions of scripture. The result? Sam was a few months shy of three and Nathan just over four when our little family could quote all of Psalm 91 by heart.

The whole thing.

No joke.

As my boys grew, I continued the tradition. We tackled new portions of scripture about once a year. And somewhere along the line, we memorized Psalm 103.

"Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits - who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases" (Psalm 103: 1-3 NIV).

I won't quote the entire passage. But I'll link to it again in case you're curious... Psalm 103.

The sacred words unfold as a detailed reminder of who our God is: Healer. Forgiver. Redeemer. Satisfier. Compassionate. Gracious. Slow to anger. Abounding in love.

Thus, half way through declaring the passage, my soul would ignite, melting layers of fear. And I often needed cleansing at day's end when we quoted the words at bedtime.

We would start off in a normal tone of voice, but two thirds of the way through, mine intensified.

"As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children. With those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts" (Psalm 103: 15-18 NIV).

And then came this declaration. The one that summed it all up and brought it home...

"The Lord has established his throne in heaven and his kingdom rules over all" (Psalm 103: 19 NIV).


Purchased from Ted Larson

The Psalmist closed his thoughts with three more verses of sheer praise. And tomorrow, no matter who wins, I want to dwell in that place with King David. I want to remember his life. The highs and lows. The victories and failures. The rise and fall. And then shout the words aloud:

"The Lord has established his throne in heaven and his kingdom rules over all" (Psalm 103: 19 NIV).

Then, I plan to smile, lay my head on a pillow, and thank God for His goodness and mercy and grace. All of which are undeserved.

Seriously, will you join me? Can we choose peace over fear? Confidence over distress? Victory over defeat?

It's a constant, daily choice.





Top photo courtesy pixabay.com

Monday, October 31, 2016

20 Halloweens Later

Every morning for the past week, my mom has delivered coffee to my bed, which is actually my dad's side of their bed. While I feel a bit overly cared for, the less I move around, the less I hurt.

So on this 20th anniversary of the day I was told my husband was officially dying and I should sign up for hospice - aka Halloween - I'm watching NCIS reruns and recovering from my 8th orthopedic surgery.

Hmmm...

I've played more solitaire this week than I like. In fact, I haven't opened my Bible even though it's here, in my computer bag, next to the bed. It took me a few days to remember where it was and by then drugs hampered my normal state of mind.

However, I eventually gave up narcotics after suffering through a night of with flailing limbs due to drug-induced muscle spasms. Since hydrocodone makes me itch and slows my breathing, I'd asked for something new. As a result, I now know that demerol gives me night terrors. I breathe fine and the pain was controlled. But all through the night, the drugs caused my limbs to jump around like helpless ragdolls.

It was not fun.

So no more drugs.


So now as Trick-or-Treaters run rampant, I sit in a dark house, withdrawn from the societal norm. And it isn't the first time.

Halloween baffled me for a while. Since Jason, my first husband, died three days after the holiday, the end of the month sent me into a tunnel of darkness that led back to light by mid-November. Underground I felt removed. Withdrawn. Like I walked around in a glass box and lived in the same world but separated.

Like now, except the glass box is the four walls of my parents bedroom.



On the one hand Facebook keeps me connected. On the other hand, it reminds me of how much living I miss.

Even now I've switched to Dancing with the Stars and my body wants to move. To dance. To jive along with the music.

And I can't.



So let me get on to what I did do today.

Since the 20th anniversary of the day Jason died is fast approaching, I decided to do something to honor him. Rick Parker, a graphic design friend of his, put this together, using Jason's artwork. My children and their cousins offered opinions, so we went with the larger text option.

Jason loved fish and drew and painted them often. This is one few have seen but I've always liked.

Jason Schreer April 7 1966   November 3 1966 Smoke Gray T-Shirt Front

Check out all the options at:

I ordered a mito fundraising t-shirt last summer through teespring.com. And it turned out to be my favorite t-shirt ever. The material was incredibly soft and the fit perfect.

There are many style options available. Short sleeves. Long sleeves. V-neck. Crew neck. So just check out the link, and know that 100% of the proceeds will go to the Foundation for Mitochondrial Medicine.

The sale period ends in ten days. So if interested, get your order in.


I just paused to talk to Don and he told me about a conversation he had with someone today. The kind where the person simply says, "I've given up on God."

Hearing the confession third person startled me.

Giving up on God? Really? Now?

Ironically, it gave me what I needed to draw my thoughts to a close.

I've played more solitaire than I like this week. And I've felt more sad than normal. But in three days, we will honor twenty years since my first husband died. A lot of stuff has happened since then, and not once have I wanted to give up on God.

So 20 Halloweens later, I'll celebrate that simple victory and even pull out my Bible.

"See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame" (Romans 9: 33 NIV).

Monday, October 24, 2016

Today, October 24th

You know the routine: "No food or drink after midnight the day of surgery."

So it's almost noon, a slight headache dulls my senses, and all of my coffee cups are neatly stacked on a shelf, untouched. 

Not partaking hasn't turned out as bad as I thought, but it doesn't help the overwhelming sense of heaviness I'm fighting.

Cause I don't want to have foot surgery today. And I don't want to spend the next six weeks on a knee scooter.

I want to LIVE LARGE.

Roller skate.
Ice skate.
Hike under colored leaves.
Walk on a beach unencumbered.
Try out for a musical.
Sing on a worship team.

The list goes on but only adds to my sadness.

What to do?

"I love you, Lord, and you love me. I love you, Lord, and you love me. I love you, Lord, and you love me."

I've been saying it all morning.

"But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved" (Hebrews 10: 39 NIV).

"For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power, of love, and of self-discipline" (2 Timothy 1: 7 NIV).

"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us" (Romans 8: 18 NIV).

So will you pray for me today? And this week? I read the news and know there are so many deep needs around the world that trump mine. But it's still the hard place I must walk and it just feels a little heavier than normal.

Surgery is scheduled for 4pm EST. Thanks for standing with me.



Monday, October 17, 2016

Feed Your Peace

My phone buzzed, alerting me to text greetings long before I crawled out of bed last Tuesday morning. As coffee brought the world into clarity, an avalanche of birthday greetings began to fill my Facebook page. 

While there's much to debate about the evils of our social media crazed society, by days end, I sure enjoyed being connected to so many. Sweet posts colored my day in a week of medical information overload.

I had three doctor appointments last week. Two on the far side of town. As I mentally prepped, I initially felt sorry for myself. In fact, I even decided that I would be famous by now if I didn't have to spend so much time being a professional patient.  



Between the bronchitis, right foot stress fracture, and droopy mouth episode, I've spent countless time and energy seeking answers for several months now. 

For instance, two weeks after the droopy mouth episode, my primary care doctor read the brain MRI report and told me the white matter spots were benign, not to worry. Days later, I met with a neurologist who suggested they resulted from mini-strokes and suggested I swallow an aspirin a day and go on a statin drug to lower my bad cholesterol that hangs at 118 (which isn't really bad). 

Startled, I fought panic until I realized it made no sense. 




I visited with a genetic doctor two days ago who emphasized that while the radiology report suggested the white matter spots could have resulted from a demyelinating disease (like MS) or vascular issues, it was all speculation, meaning nothing definitive could be ascertained from the report. 

No more statin drug.

I could continue and tell you about the rheumatologist I saw two weeks ago who said I had a "normal" exam. Yet when I stood to walk to my car, my legs were weak and wobbly. I could also tell you that the genetics doctor just said I have "hyper-mobility syndrome" which a rheumatologist should treat. 

It makes my head spin.

So many doctors. So many opinions. One very odd body. 


Kind of like the election.




What to do?

Pause and feed your peace. 





However, to feed it, we must first connect to the reality that the peace that passes understanding is meant to be ours.

Every day. 

No joke.

So after feeling sorry for myself over a week ago, I decided to act like my professional patient status counted for something after all. I'm still not sure what that something is. And I sank some just yesterday and had to swim my way through internal muck. 

But after spending the afternoon with my daughter-in-law, Courtney, and listening as Don and Sam built a work-out box in the basement, the peace was mine again. 

Indulging in marked down steaks, grapefruit LaCroix, mini key lime pies, and left-over birthday cake helped. But the company mattered most. Time with family mattered most.


So as the world continues to churn and bawdy election banter grieves our souls, feed your peace. 

Be intentional. Slow down. Let sunshine warm your frame. 




"For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of son-ship. And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father.' The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are God's children, then we are heirs - heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory" (Romans 8: 15 - 17 NIV).

So guess what? 

No matter what doctors say or who's elected president, this truth remains...

"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us" (Romans 8: 18 NIV).

And with that, our souls can rest. 



All photos courtesy of pixabay.com