Month: January 2015

The Art of Living

There is a book that I read every year. It was written by Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl and is called, Man’s Search For Meaning. I first read it when I was in college, and let me tell you, I was an idiot. I read it because it was required. I highlighted the pertinent information, like Victor’s birth date and his age at the time of captivity – the things I expected to show up on the test. I missed the point entirely. When I read it again several years later, it shattered my entire belief system. It challenged my humanity when I read it the next year. And the next year it stopped me in my tracks so often it took more than a month to read the 164 pages. Eventually more sentences were highlighted than weren’t and I had to buy a new book.

Main Gate Of Auschwitz
“Work will set you free”

This week the world celebrated the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. I looked through the pictures that could not convey enough horror. I was struck by the eerily beautiful and artistic main gate and was reminded of Victor and how he states that art should be pursued in all circumstances. Something I’ve been working on this last year is what he calls, “mastering the art of living.” We are the artist, and our life is the canvas. We create with our choices. He says that everything can be taken away from anyone except one thing: the ability to choose the attitude you will adopt regarding what has happened. He says this a spiritual freedom given to all people – to decide what will become of oneself mentally and spiritually no matter the circumstances. This spiritual freedom that cannot be taken away is what makes our life meaningful and purposeful. We can choose to treat it trivially or to use it to create something of beauty. Even the worst of circumstances, like Victor’s, can be an opportunity to master the art of living. The worst of my days, nothing in comparison to his, add color and vibrance to the art that is life.

As Victor says, “What you have experienced, no power on earth can take from you.”

Might as well make it all matter.

Praying In My Sleep

I woke up in the dead of night to the sound of my own voice. It took me awhile to realize that I was praying. Waking up in prayer sounds holy and pious except that the words coming from my mouth were all about my bed. I was talking about my flannel sheets and thanking God they were so soft. I thanked the Lord for my warm bed, and I told Jesus I felt like I was in the middle of a cloud. Not super holy after all.

It’s just that crossthere are times when life swipes my feet out from under me and the hours of the day are like waves, pummeling endlessly, each one full of worry and stress that no amount of planning can cancel out.  Those are the times I do not write about because the words are too heavy for a digital screen. Those words are too heavy even to be spoken aloud. They must be whispered, crouched in my foxhole, over my shoulder to the person whose back is pressed against mine. And the whispering does not alleviate the burden but, instead, makes it more solid and therefore more powerful.

Then, after the day has thrown all of its hours at me, I fall, spent, into bed, and that soft, temporary relief does seem like a miracle. And I am reminded that character is forged of iron and fire, not dust and dreams. The cross, after all, is rugged.

And I send my thanks to Heaven for miracles such as soft sheets, sleep, and, mostly, those few whom I find crouched next to me – the pillars who have my back and help carry the weight of the words. Alone we are martyrs; together we are an army.

Digits For My Dog

Arrow looking outWhen my dog is not outside, he is wishing to be outside. We don’t have a fence, and he breaks leashes. That combination has led to his disappearance on numerous occasions. One time he was missing for two days, and I finally found him listed in the lost pet section of Craigslist. Since our phone number is on his collar, I’ve gotten calls to pick him up from the horse farm behind our house, the gas station, the old man at the end of a gravel road, and the post office. The canine campus a few miles from here nicknamed him Lunchbox because he knows to show up there around noon.

But I have out-smarted him now. I have procured for him a collar that tracks his location by means of GPS. I can use my phone to see just where that rascally dog has gotten to, and I can go pick him up thereby avoiding the embarrassing phone calls. What I didn’t understand when I began this GPS solution, was that the collar needed an active SIM card, the type you use in a cell phone, to be useful.

So my dog has a phone number. I have his contact information in my address book. I text him occasionally. He texts back saying things like, “Set up okay,” and, “GPS reset.”

So, I’m not sure, after all, which one of us has been out-smarted. Again.

Field Trip With The Grands

“Grandpa, are you sure you can walk all the way down that long hallway to the front door,” I asked as I helped him put his coat on.

“Well,” he answered, “it’s better than you driving the car right here to me.”

I felt like a herder of rabbits as Grandpa leaned into his speed walk meandering his way down the hall and Grandma darted to and fro to gaze at left over Christmas decorations. When we arrived at the doctor’s office, I valet parked the car and insisted Grandpa sit in a wheelchair.

“What are we here for?” Grandpa asked as we sat in what should be called the eternal waiting room.

“You’re here for a check up,” Grandma said as she pulled a pair of socks out of her purse.

“I guess that’s better than a check down,” Grandpa answered just before telling me, “Sharla, I have to go to the bathroom right now.” And he meant it because by the time I asked the location of the bathroom and wheeled him through the maze of hallways, it was too late.

“Grandpa, that was my fault,” I told him. “I’m not fast at the art of wheelchair and I didn’t find the bathroom quick enough. Also, I should have reminded you to go before we left the apartment.” I placed him next to Grandma who was pulling an entire newspaper out of her purse and spreading it around the waiting room.

“You have bruises on your arm,” the doctor said when we finally saw her. “Did you fall down?”

“Nope,” Grandpa answered as Grandma said, “Yes, he fell down.”

“Have you had these bruises long?” the doctor continued, undaunted.

“They showed up just now,” Grandpa answered as Grandma said, “He’s had them for a year.” The doctor looked closer at his hands and arms as Grandma pulled a zip lock bag of dentures out of her purse and handed me a toothbrush.

Grandma kisses Grandpa on the cheek“I’m going to need you to take off your clothes so I can see if you have bruises anywhere else,” the doctor said.

“I need to take off all my clothes?” Grandpa asked. “Do you have any idea how long that takes?”

“I can tell you really care about your grandparents,” the doctor said after everything got settled and we prepared to leave. “They are lucky to have you.”

“No,” I said as I thought about the elaborate stories Grandpa used to me when I was little and how Grandma made me hot chocolate and covered the floor with pillows in case I fell out of the bed when I spent the night at her house, “I am the lucky one.”