“Susan and Peter’s house burned to the ground last night.” 

It was a text I received on my last morning in Uganda. I knew exactly who they were referring to. Peter and Susan Stoltzfus Halliday. 

This was one of those times that you’d have to ask, “Why, God?!? Really??????”

I’d known Susan for the entire time I’d served in Mooresville, all 17 years. I’d sat, prayed, and even cried with her through countless surgeries as she battled cancer of various types (five different kinds total in her life). 

Now her house burned to the ground? It just seemed unfair. Could life not cut Susan a break?

I’d already learned some powerful lessons from Susan about life, fear, and grief. Little did I know I was about to learn a powerful lesson about things.

Each time Susan would receive a new diagnosis, it would ultimately result in significant hospital time. During her lengthy stay at Baptism during her bout with intestinal cancer, she said, “I get to choose how I let this affect me. So I’ve decided that I am not going to let it get the best of me. I allow myself 15 minutes every day to think about it, to feel like this stinks, and to be sad, bitter, angry, whatever I am feeling. But then, after 15 minutes are up, I stop thinking negatively. I will not allow myself to go back to that negative space for the rest of the day.” 

I knew that would be a deal-maker in how Susan experienced her recovery. Our bodies hear what we think. 

Later that day Susan and I connected on the phone. I again was struck by her perseverance and strength. 

“Andrea, we are fine. It’s just stuff. It really is just some things. The only thing that matters is that we are all ok. Everything else can be replaced.” 

Inwardly I was questioning the truth of the last sentence because there are some things that can’t be replaced . . . wedding dresses, pictures, momentos, etc. I should have known Susan would have a healthy perspective on even those things because she continued . . . 

“And the things that can’t be replaced, I have my memories. Fire can’t touch my memories.” 

Susan had a complete freedom from the power of things. 

May this Christmas we remember to focus our attention not on getting or giving “things” but making memories. Memories based on a love that permeates all things. 

 

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