Saturday, April 4, 2015

Easter: The Spring of Hope



Easter: The Spring of Hope
c2015 Susan Noyes Anderson

Come, celebrate the joys of spring,
bright days of reawakening,
when spirits rise from winter long
to soar on wings of sweet birdsong.

The season is awash in light--
blue skies enhanced by clouds of white
and colors flung across rich earth
to flood the world with signs of birth.

As daffodils wake from their rest,
a feathered mother builds her nest.
The ebb of life renews again
from sunlit field to wooded glen.

What better time to set our hearts
on gifts and blessings God imparts--
the greatest of them Jesus Christ,
who saved us with His sacrifice.

May every thought be turned to Him
in whom our hope need never dim;
and may His swift, surpassing peace
grant every wayward soul release.

HAPPY EASTER!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Easter: The Gift of Christ

©2015 Susan Noyes Anderson

Image by Heinrich Hofmann

©2015 Susan Noyes Anderson

When all about me seems to dim
and colors change to muted gray,
I turn my mind and heart to Him
who carries worldly woes away.

In life, He blessed and healed and fed;
no soul in need sought Him in vain.
In death, He lifted us from dread
and taught us how to live again.

He rose and conquered, made us whole;
our broken bodies He would mend.
But dearer still, each broken soul
would find in Him a lasting friend.

No grief would pass away unknown,
for He had borne it on His knees.
Christ bled, forsaken and alone,
His suffering the price of peace.

How precious are the gifts He gave,
how sacred every drop He spilled.
The Lord loves us enough to save.
In Him, our purpose is fulfilled.

And when my darkness seeks His light,
the dawn is never far away.
His grace sets all the world aright
and shines in me a brighter day.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Do Not Speak a Word


Not One Word
©2015 Susan Noyes Anderson

Do not speak a word; I tell you.
Utter not one word.
These days your every phrase strikes me
as patently absurd.

The syllables that leave your lips
bedevil me no end.
If you keep blathering, I fear
I shall not call you friend.

So do not breathe a word, not one.
No wanton, witless word.
Your dialogue is best, I find,
entirely unheard.

∞§∞

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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Miracles DO Happen

 Melina Eloise

Alcide David

Can't think of a better day to share with all of you that my daughter Karin and her husband Bob have made us grandparents once again. Well, actually, twice again, with these beautiful new "twins." (I will explain the quotation marks around the word "twins" later.) At any rate, Sunday is the perfect time to celebrate this long-hoped-for miracle, for we are well aware that God is the One who made it possible. To be sure, medical technology had something to do with it; but to our way of thinking, technology is nothing but a tool that allows us, sometimes, to usher in His blessings. And we just managed to usher in two of the best blessings any of us have ever received.

Many of you old-timers around here know that Karin has struggled with infertility for years. She is the proud owner of a double uterus, and apparently that makes getting (and staying) pregnant a bit trickier. After two rounds of failed IVF, Karin went to a new fertility doctor who helped her conceive at last. Because of her history of non-implantation, he made the decision to implant one embryo in each of her two uteruses, hoping against hope that one of them would take. I guess you can see what happened! In a very rare occurrence, both of the babies-to-be implanted. Suddenly, she and Bob were expecting twins.

We were, of course, both delighted and nervous. How wonderful it would be to get two babies at once; how frightened we were that carrying two would be too crowded for her smaller-than-normal-sized uteri. There are very few records of people who have succeeded at carrying a baby in each of two wombs to term, so the little bit of information we could find online did not dismiss our very real concerns. And the fact that she had a large bleed at 13 weeks and a smaller one at 15 weeks didn't boost our confidence either. Nonetheless, because the pregnancies themselves were clearly an answer to prayer, we decided to put our faith in the Lord, trusting that it was His intent for Karin to birth these babies safely. 

Well, on February 12th, she did. And while she had to get a C-section 5 1/2 weeks early due to preeclampsia, they came out weighing 5 lb. 1 oz. and 5 lb. 7 oz. Melina had a little breathing difficulty for the first hour or so, but both babies are now doing well. I think you can imagine how thrilled all of us are, but I'm not sure anyone can possibly imagine the exhilaration I feel looking at my beautiful daughter as she holds these babies in her arms. Her face glows with the purest joy I have ever seen, and I know to Whom I owe the debt of gratitude I feel. Of course, I have always owed Him a debt of gratitude for every blessing in my life, but this is one of the rarest and most treasured. I will be thanking Him every day for the rest of my days. (And then I hope to do it in person!) ;)

Welcome to the world, Little Alcide and Melina. You are loved.
And a very happy Valentine's Day  
❤ ❤ 
from Grandma and Grandpa A.

PS. I said I would explain the word "twins." Technically, our babies are NOT twins, because they were fertilized separately by IVF and transferred to separate uteri. Furthermore, one is actually 4-5 days older than the other, because he (yes, it's Alcide) implanted sooner. Karin had them remove him first so he will be older in both birth and implantation. (And she also wanted Melina to have a "big brother.") The doctors still call them twins, for want of a better word, and so will we.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Keep Fighting Black


Keep Fighting Black
©2015 Susan Noyes Anderson

When trouble steals the blood that flows
beneath my rosy cheek––
when ashes gather round my eyes
and lips refuse to speak––
I let the sorrow carry me
on silvered wings––so high
that even in the darkness
I return as butterfly.

∞§∞

Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all the darkness.
–Desmond Tutu

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Saturday, January 10, 2015

Happy Is As Happy Does


Happy Is As Happy Does
©2015 Susan Noyes Anderson

Happy is as happy does.
The focus rests on you.
When things go south, you make or break
your chosen point of view.

Don't get me wrong; feelings run strong,
and sorrow tends to breed.
But most times, you can turn the tide.
You own the mood you feed.

Your arms may reach for sky and find
your heart is still earthbound.
But looking up to find the sun
beats searching underground.

Bad things will come to everyone;
of that, there is no doubt.
But those who stand upright and fight
won't fall for down-and-out.

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Thursday, January 1, 2015

Glad, Gladder, Gladdest


EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN


Dave and I have decided that we're glad 2014 is over, gladder that 2015 is here, and gladdest that two new family members (namely, Karin's twins) will be with us when we enjoy 2016 in the not-so-distant future. Or at least, it will seem not-so-distant when it comes. Can you believe how quickly time passes these days? I could swear we just welcomed in a new year last month…or at the very least, in the early fall!

In fact, everything old gets new again so quickly that we can hardly catch our collective breath. (Or maybe we are just out of shape??) Either way, it feels like time is getting away from us, and our New Year's resolution is to make even our mundane moments more meaningful...not just by using alliteration to talk about them (though I do love me some alliteration), but by using inspiration to magnify, maximize, and memorialize them. The poem is written to myself as a reminder:


©2015 Susan Noyes Anderson

Every day is worth its weight.
The years pass on, and soon or late
your fields will grow up gold and tall
or fade away to naught at all.

The scenery depends on you;
your way of living yields the view.
An hour embraced bears rich reward,
but what befalls the hour ignored?

Don't skitter through the days too fast.
The moments matter; make them last
or pay a price that costs you dear.
Time lost is loath to reappear.

Sow every hour in rows of gold.
Raise fields of glory to behold.

image © do trong hop

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Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas Story: Gifts of the Magi


This post has been a long time coming, hasn't it? Needless to say, I've been busy with my parents, health issues, family needs, funerals, Thanksgiving and now Christmas, but I couldn't miss this chance to wish those who remain faithful to this unreliable blog a happy holiday season. And the way I usually do that is to share one of the Christmas Eve stories I write for my family.

This year we have much to be grateful for, because my daughter Karin, after years of trying, is finally pregnant…with twins, a boy and a girl. I hope you will join us in our prayers that she will carry her babies as close to their March 22nd birthdate as possible. Hers is a high risk pregnancy, but we feel the Lord blessing her daily.

As for this story, it was written with our beautiful Karin as the inspiration, because she had just begun her first series of IVF treatments. It took her three rounds to get her miracle, and we are so grateful that she did. Of course, this is not Karin's literal story, the only part I took from her experience is the in vitro fertilization that was so much on our minds back in 2012 at the time of its writing.

Merry Christmas to you!

Gifts of the Magi
©2012 Susan Noyes Anderson

Gold, frankincense and myrrh. The real thing, in a gilded box. She’d bought it on a whim one morning, more years ago than she cared to remember, for her Christmas baby. It had seemed the perfect gift for a newborn…a sacred offering, of sorts. Maybe even a blessing. Lord knows, they’d needed it.

Megan’s eyes glistened. She’d been a dreamer back then, a believer, but somehow she’d lost it. Not all at once, but by threads…sheer, gossamer ones that glittered as they fell like burnished gold. Inconsequential, they had seemed, and not quite worth the time to pick them up. There were plenty more where those came from, right? And sometimes, you just had to let things go.

Like her baby. She’d had to let her go, and no amount of idealism could have saved her.  A mother is a mother is a mother, even when she isn’t old enough to buy cigarettes. Reality does set in, eventually. Diapers and formula cost money, and that was only the beginning. Her little girl deserved safety and security, party dresses and piano lessons, two grown-up parents to love her.

By the seventh month, she’d known she couldn’t keep her. Or maybe she knew from the first kick, when what had been a beautiful idea first introduced herself as a real person. Megan smiled. Her little Merry, she had called her. M-E-R-R-Y. For Christmas. And for the joy she would bring…but not to her. Not to her birth mother. Instead, she would light up another mother’s eyes. A mother who could give her what she needed. Everything she needed.

The old, familiar pain engulfed her heart. How could it still hurt so much after all these years? And why on earth had she clicked so quickly last week on the site that was offering Gifts of the Magi for sale…genuine gold, frankincense, and myrrh in a wooden box? Did she really need this sad replica of something she had given to her newborn daughter 18 years ago? Talk about pouring salt on the wound. Even the smell of it reminded her of the child she had lost…and of what she stood to lose, too. She didn’t want to jinx anything, just when she’d started to hope again.

A slip of parchment paper attached to the box caught her eye, and she began to read.

“The magi of old were learned men or kings who studied the skies to predict the weather and, perhaps, foretell the future. Legend has it that the imminent birth of One destined to become a king among kings, the Christ child, was made known to them in the months leading up to that event by means of a change in the stars. Forsaking other duties and concerns, they made their way across many miles, guided by a brilliant new star and bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to honor the babe. These gifts, of considerable worth in the marketplace, were also believed to have powers of healing both physical and spiritual. Their value was beyond price, a powerful symbol of the bearers’ esteem and good will.”

Megan flushed with satisfaction. Hers really had been the perfect gift for a birth mother to give at parting: “a powerful symbol of the bearer’s esteem and good will.” The serendipitous words comforted Megan, and so did the double meaning they conveyed to her mind. She had been a bearer twice over…first of little Merry and then of the gifts of love, tangible and otherwise, she had sent with her. At least I managed to get something right back then, she thought. Maybe a few things. And Merry had deserved them all.

Shaking her head firmly, Megan stood up. She was due at the hospital, and her rounds wouldn’t wait. Christmas was a hard time for her, and she frequently took extra shifts so others could be with their families. Not that she and Craig weren’t a family, too. They were, but the kids they were hoping for hadn’t arrived. She always deferred to parents during the holidays. The corners of her mouth lifted slightly. With any luck, soon she’d be one of them.

Her pulse settled into a hopeful rhythm as she stepped outside and joined the holiday crowds. The department stores downtown opened at 8 AM the entire week before Christmas, and plenty of people took advantage of that before their workdays began. Megan couldn’t help but smile at the brightly lit windows, decked in garlands and bedazzled with toys, trains, and movable Santas. She even grinned at the Salvation Army man as a wave of nostalgia prompted her to open her purse and drop a donation in his bucket. What was it about the bells those people rang, anyway? If their steady cadence didn’t call forth the spirit of Christmas, nothing did. It was downright difficult not to get into the mix of things this year, and maybe she would just embrace it, all of it. Every time she thought of the nine embryos her IVF had yielded, a little bit of that believer she used to be came back to her. Perhaps she hadn’t so much lost that part of herself as put it away for a while…or channeled it into her patients. Were mothering energy and doctoring energy really so different?

Her boots crunched the snow, a pleasing sound that ended with a rush of warm air swooping her through the hospital’s revolving door. St. Mary’s had been good to Megan. Over the years, she’d made a kind of home there, for herself and for others. Maybe she could do the same for one or two of those little embryos. Maybe she would have another chance. Maybe this was…

As often happened, the head nurse cut her off in mid-thought. “How’s my favorite doc?” she asked with blustery good cheer. “Did your remember we need to get our kids into the rec room early for the carols and crèche party today? The boys’ choir from St. Joseph’s will be here at 11, and those cool bell ringers from last year are due about the same time. Then we’ll have Father Tim say a few words and serve lunch. What d’ya think? Are you on target for that??”

“You bet I am, Becky,” Megan shot back, hoping that all of her patients would be well enough to join the fun. Pediatric cancer patients needed all the fun they could get, and she wanted to see them have it.

A couple of hours rushed by as the good doctor flew from room to room, dispensing the loving care that made sick patients feel better and worried parents hold themselves together. It was a tall order, but Megan filled it in a hurry, updated a few charts, and got herself down to the rec room to enjoy the festivities.

The boys had already begun to sing, their childish voices reminiscent of the angels they celebrated so sweetly. The First Noel was her favorite carol, and she listened with special interest for the second verse, which had been running through her head of late. “They look-ed up and saw a star, shining in the east beyond them far…and to the earth it gave great light, and so it continued both day and night. Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel. Born is the King of Israel.”

Almost like a reflex, Megan’s eyes searched the high-beamed ceiling. The wise men had taken a leap of faith and followed that star, day in and day out, to wherever it took them. Hope was their vanguard…and their beacon. They did not let fears and uncertainty encumber them; they did not carry with them their burdens of shame and loss. Rather, they bore gifts…priceless gifts, beyond valuation. Gold, frankincense, and myrrh…the gifts she had instinctively given her own daughter, with all they symbolized. In a flash of clarity, Megan knew she would follow her dream of motherhood to its completion, wherever it took her, whatever it cost. For she would come bearing gifts as well… to any child. She always had. It was her nature.

With a sense of peace, she focused her attention on Father Tim, who was reciting the words to an old English lullaby. Not surprisingly, it touched her heart…a mother’s heart.

Low in a manger, dear little stranger,
Jesus the wonderful Savior was born;
None to receive Him, none to believe Him,
None but the angels watching that morn.

Dear little stranger, slept in a manger,
No downy pillow under his head;
But with the poor, he slumbered secure,
Dear little babe in his bed.

Angels descending, over him bending,
Chanted a tender and silent refrain,
Wonderful story of his glory
Unto the shepherds on Bethlehem’s plain.

Dear little stranger, born in a manger,
Maker and Monarch and Savior of all.
Love thee forever; Grieve thee, no, never;
Thou didst for me make thy bed in a stall.

Dear Little Stranger, Megan thought fondly. Like Mary of old, she had borne a Christmas child, a dear little stranger whose destiny was to bless the lives of others. The Baby Jesus had not belonged to His earthly mother; He had belonged to God…and to the world. In a sense, wasn’t the same true of every child? Even her little Merry? Megan had carried her for nine months and given her life. And maybe, just maybe, that was enough.

Father Tim concluded the Christmas crèche as he always did, with those well-loved verses from the gospel of Luke. Hearing them, Megan’s spirit resonated with every joy and sorrow the season offered her…from grief to gratitude…from empty cradle to newborn king. And this year, from empty womb to nine, potentially viable embryos. The miracle of Christmas was alive and well:

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.) And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Arriving at her door in the dark of early evening, Megan nearly tripped over the last of her Black Friday purchases. Why did those deliverymen always leave her packages in full view of the street? That UPS guy dropped it right on the doormat, every time. Realizing she sounded like the Grinch and wanting to hold on to the Christmas spirit she’d been feeling all the way home, Meg took a deep breath. With conscious intent, she savored the aroma of snow-covered evergreens and wood smoke that characterized her neighborhood in December, allowing what was probably misplaced tension to melt away like snowflakes. Reaching down to retrieve the box, Megan arrived at grateful. She’d been worrying that her sister’s watch wasn’t going to arrive in time for Christmas, wishing she’d upgraded the shipping. Now she could just wrap the thing up and relax!

Turning on the light to survey her prize, she felt puzzled, then uneasy. There was a note attached, and the first line made her glad Craig was on his way home.

“I’ve been following you around the hospital for almost a week now, feeling closer to you every day. I haven’t had the nerve to speak to you, but I’ve wanted to…more times than you can imagine. Watching your beautiful face as you smile at the children makes me want you to smile at me, too. I feel like I’ve been waiting to meet you forever.

I know this is the perfect time to make myself known. But I want to respect your wishes as well, which is why I have left this little gift at your door. If it makes you happy, call me at the number listed below. I will be close by, waiting.

PS. My mom always reminds me that I am a Christmas baby. I turned 18 yesterday, so I didn’t really need her permission to come. She knows I’m here, though. When she first gave me the box, she told me the story of the Magi and their gifts and promised I could follow my own star to find you one day. Merry Christmas.”

The warming scent of frankincense was strong in the air when Merry’s birth mother raised the faded lid, worn smooth from the touch of her daughter’s hands. Megan’s own fingers trembled with wonder as she drew its familiar treasures close to her heart. Gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The real thing, in a gilded box.

But anyone could see that the old box wasn’t gilded at all. It was gold, pure gold.

~ the end ~

No two people travel the same road in life. All of us take our convoluted journeys, with twists and turns that are hard to navigate. Sometimes we don’t understand the directions our lives are taking, and it can be difficult to see the top of the next hill, let alone the distant horizon. It takes faith and hope to press on.

The wise men had faith and hope that if they followed the brightest star in the heavens they would find their way to Jesus, and their faith was rewarded.

We need hope and faith to reach our destinations, too. Some of them are shorter trips, like finishing school, getting married, finding a new job, or having a baby. But the long-haul destination is the same for all of us. We are headed home…back to where we came from…and we all have what it takes to get there.

Christmas reminds us why we all have what it takes to get there, because of the birth, life, and atonement of Jesus Christ, His greatest gift to us.

What other gifts has He given to you this year?

What gift will you give to Him in the year to come?

(As you can see, at the close of this story I included our circletime question from Christmas Eve. I wanted you to catch a glimpse of how we do our celebration, in case you are interested in trying out our favorite tradition. First, I read the story, then ask the question. Each family member, in turn, responds. It is a beautiful way to spend the night before Christmas!)

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Sunday, November 9, 2014

No Empty Chairs

©2014 Susan Noyes Anderson

In this life, some men stand so tall
that others rise up, too.
We look to their example, reaching
for their point of view.

We know, through them, the Savior's love
and see in them His grace.
Joe Barton was this kind of man.
The sun shone from his face.

He looked on us with gentle eyes,
clear windows of compassion.
His smile was bright and blessed with light
none but the Lord could fashion.

His countenance held warmth and wisdom;
laughter marked it well.
Joe was and is the best of us;
his story's ours to tell.

And we will tell it gladly, even
as we say good-bye, 
sustained by sacred knowledge that
he lives and loves on high.

And humbled as we understand
another needs him more.
Their sweet reunion heals our hearts,
reminds us what's in store.

For one day we will meet again
when earthly work is done,
and there will be no empty chairs.
The victory will be won.

For Joseph Henry Barton, in love and memory.



My brother-in-law Joe with his sweetheart, Mary... 

then

and

 more recently...

for time and all eternity.

Friday, October 24, 2014

What's Wrong with the World



Lately I find myself almost unwilling to turn on the news. When I overcome this aversion and flip it on anyway, I often end up wishing I had not. Negativity reigns, and one story after another delivers enough bad joss to leave me asking myself two questions: (1) What's wrong with the world? and (2) When on earth is it going to get back on track? Even worse, the list of "wrong" things is growing so fast that I am increasingly convinced the answer to question #2 may be "Never."

No wonder my blood pressure is on the rise! Ebola, ISIS, health care crisis, Congress run amok, war, lame duck (getting lamer all the time)…and no immigration reform or budget balancing in sight. What's a concerned citizen to do?

Well, one thing we should not do (though the prospect sorely tempts me at times) is throw up our hands in dismay and surrender to the prevailing tide. As Americans, we still have a voice, and we need to use it. With elections in sight, we should speak our minds by voting our conscience. This means knowing enough about the candidates and issues to ensure that we have a conscience to vote! Knee-jerk voting along party lines can no longer suffice; we must analyze each person and proposition closely in order to make the best possible judgments––informed judgmentsand not just informed by a biased news station or celebrity, but by our own research. When no candidate or proposal satisfies, we can identify and support the lesser of two evils, using the next two or four years to keep track of how frequently he or she represents us well and how frequently we are let down. If we are let down too often, we can react by letting our representatives down when the next election rolls around.

Of course, it's not ideal when the field of candidates makes us want to run full speed in the other direction. Election reform is definitely called for, reform that makes it possible for people to be elected to public office without having to sell their souls to the highest bidder or pretend to be someone they're not in order to get financing. Some civility in campaigning would be nice too, so that decent and relatively "normal" people might actually be willing to step up to the plate and lend us their talents. Equally appealing, what if opponents quit trying to label and villainize each other (because we, the citizens, refused to be distracted by that) and focused on the issues at hand? What if we did the same?

Enough said. I know there's no magic bullet; there rarely is. But I also know that hard times are probably here to stay. If we don't rise to the challenge, we will keep falling––and failing to live up to our legacy as a nation. We are better than this. We have to be. So when we ask ourselves "What's wrong with the world?", let's make sure we are more of the solution and less of the problem. And let's remind ourselves that it all begins with one person…You. Me. (us)

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