Friday, December 19, 2014

Building Dreams


My aunt Susan, a U.S. expat,
worked tirelessly over the last ten 
months chairing her London village's 
gigantic Christmas festival, a fete 
whose profits not only light the 
village for the holiday season, but 
also contribute to many 
worthy causes.

This year, the chosen charity was 
a local theatre company that brings
together children, teens and adults
of all backgrounds and abilities, to
make theatre participation accessible 
and inclusive to all, even those with
physical disabilities.

If the festival donation enables
even one child or adult to become 
part of a production, and that sparks
either a life-long passion or a feeling
of self-esteem, who knows how many
others might be inspired by that
individual, too.

As I've written before, good works
ripple farther than most of us 
ever realize.

A few days after the festival, I was
marveling at the ceiling of a magnificent
cathedral, the voice of our tour guide 
echoing in my mind:

The Cathedral took over 200 years
to build.  Several generations
worked on it, their entire lives.

Imagine, I thought to myself, working
on something your whole life that you 
most likely would never see completed.

This thought simmered in my brain
long after we'd left the Cathedral, left 
England and were back home
in the States.

I couldn't shake the thought that
I had seen the culmination of an
architect's dream and the life's work
of so many builders,

but they never did.

I still find it incredible.

Several years ago, I received a very
moving email that compared
parenthood to cathedral building:

Your name will not be 
engraved upon it.

Your sacrifices ~ the times you showed
up when you weren't feeling well, the 
little details you took care of behind 
the scenes, the love and care that went
into your work, will never 
be documented.

And, you won't live to see how your
labor impacts future generations.

Like cathedral builders, parents 
are simply

building dreams.

After visiting Yorkminster, that fantastic 
cathedral in England, I began to see 
cathedral builders everywhere, and
to envision souls touched by hands
they will never know.

Like the hands of my aunt, whose
work on the festival could continue
affecting lives long after she and 
my uncle move back to the U.S.

Or the woman in line at the post
office, sending a package overseas for 
Operation Christmas Child.  For some 
kids, this is the first gift they'll ever
receive--a gesture that might alter
their world view, forever.

Maybe it's the alumnus, contributing 
to a scholarship program that will
bring another's aspirations one step 
closer to becoming reality.

Perhaps it's the animal shelter volunteer,
keeping one furry soul alive long enough
to connect with a human being whose own 
life will be changed in a meaningful
way by the adoption.  And the adopter's
experience might encourage others to
rescue a pet, influencing more lives.

Even the man putting bird seed out in 
the winter for his winged friends can 
impact their survival ~ leading to more
nests in the spring, to new life, to an
extra song or two in the trees.

Building dreams.

I recall my dear friend Kathleen,
organizing her pantry with the help
of her mom, just weeks before she died.  

Like the cathedral builder who knew his
career was nearing an end, wanting to lay
one more brick, to carve one more bird or
leaf or cross, she hoped to leave the touch
of her caring hands behind for her husband
and children in any way that she could.

I love to envision the workers who built the 
grand cathedrals, pondering the future lives
they would impact and how the exquisite building 
would make happy occasions even more joyous,
and give comfort to sad days with it's solidity
and beauty.

We don't need to be stone cutters, carpenters, 
heavy lifters or stain glass artists to be
cathedral builders.

We just need to have their faith that even 
the smallest gift from our hands 
or heart matter.

This way, like those majestic cathedrals and 
their builders, we reach boldly for the sky, 
leaving our handprints on the future.

We were here.

Wishing you a blessed holiday season and
an abundance of joy in the coming year.


{all photos my own}


Joyti said...

thank you for sharing this. I often feeling a sort of searing heart-aching loneliness. Your words give me comfort that things take time and there are beautiful, wonderful people out there - like you!

Kathleen T. Jaeger said...

What a wonderful reminder about those cathedral builders as a comparison to parenting -- what wonderful photos to go with your thoughts. So many things need faith to see the end even though we may not see it in this life. I'm glad I stopped by today.--Kathleen

Joanna said...

Beautiful writing, stunning photographs and spot-on perception of our time here on Earth.

With love to you,

ps next time you're in London it'd be fun to catch up over a cup of tea :)

Dianna said...

Oh Suzanne...and the way long after you've gone your words that you've left behind will bring joy and encouragement to others. Such a beautifully written post. Thank you, my friend. May you have the happiest of Christmases. xo Dianna

Terra said...

Suzanne, I love the comparison of parenting and cathedral building and the long term effects, long after we are gone. I had not thought about how many people work on a majestic cathedral and do not see it completed since in the case you describe it took 200 years. Beautiful post, and Merry Christmas.

Blondie's Journal said...

Thank you so much for your thoughtful visit, my friend. That always alerts me that you are on your computer and have a brilliant post. This is just beautiful, the photography extraordinary. Your words really touched me. Especially about how we, as parents, will not live long enough to see, in my words, the fruits of our labor. Sad but very encouraging that our love and work created the lives of those to go on.

Love to you and a very Merry Christmas to you and your precious family.

Jane xx

Just a little something from Judy said...

Profound thoughts that you shared on this post! It is so true, that there are so many ways we leave our marks on the span of our lives. I never thought about those who worked and did not see the fruits of their labors. That is one of the reasons why I feel that it is so important to let those in our lives, know how much their contributions mean to us.
I appreciate what this thought provoking post did for me. Thank you!

Maritimer said...

What a beautiful and thought-provoking post. THANK YOU.

The enchanted home said...

WOW just WOW!!! This was AMAZING and an inspiring post as i start my day. Thank you so much for this poignant message, your sister is incredible and inspiring and the connection of your story to parenthood made me tear are so so right but faith is the one commonality that we can all grip onto.

Beautiful Suzanne, I know when I stop by for a visit I am going to read something though provoking and powerful but this was simply brilliant.

Merry Christmas and all the very bet to you in 2015!

SuzyMcQ said...

All the best to you and yours, Suzanne. As always, your words inspire and challenge me to pause and reflect. Thank you so much for sharing your ever-profound words and thoughts with each of us.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful post! You have, again, so eloquently expressed what our minds "know" but our hearts may not be able to express. You, with your writing, photography and sharing of your heart, will never fully know or realize the dreams your are building in the hearts of your readers. Thank you for sharing your gifts.


Linda @ Itsy Bits And Pieces said...

This is such a thoughtful, beautiful post, Suzanne. I have often thought that much of what we do in our lives is a foundation, for others to build upon. We can only hope we have left a good foundation, or have built upon a good foundation others left for us. I always love the way you give me food for thought...and your photos are always so lovely, too. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas full of love and memory-making, my friend...xoxo

Anonymous said...

As always...beautiful.

I remember that cathedral email, too--and my word for 2014 has been ripples--so I am so right there with you, my friend.

We visited Crazy Horse in SD a few years ago, and that struck me much like the work of the cathedral builders--it is generations in the making. And in this day and age of huge skyscrapers seemingly taking shape in months, it is a lovely reminder that there are indeed things to dedicate one's life to that do not offer instant gratification. That ripple through time.

Of course, your mention of Kathleen...fills my heart with sweet remembrances.

Have a lovely and merry Christmas, my friend!

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Have you read 'The Pillars Of The Earth' by Follet? A long book, but worth the time - covering the life of building a cathedral (supposedly had the cathedral in Salisbury in mind when he wrote it). Loved it!

Also, construction on Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona began in 1882, and they are STILL building it! Without a single right angle, it is magnificently bizarre and crazy creative.

Merry Christmas and the happiest of New Years ahead! Write on :)

Low Tide High Style said...

What a lovely post Suzanne, and so very true! We visited the York Minster a few years ago, it was the last time I was with my dear friend Dan before he passed. It will always hold a special place in my heart!

Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year!

xo Kat

Charm Bracelet Diva {at Home} said...

God I just love the comparison of parenting to cathedral building! So true, all of it! Your aunt is awesome, and it's great that you got to go and see first hand what she does. I'm jealous of your transformative experience in England. What a blessing. Once again thanks for the things to ponder. Here's to a most blessed holiday for you and yours.

michele said...

what an important message to share, and you have shared it so eloquently, suzanne. i am going to drift to sleep in just a few minutes with thoughts of cathedral building dancing in my head. thank you for collecting these pieces of lovely in your life and threading them together with such delicate hope and love. such a wise and honorable pursuit of what it means to be fully human. peace.

Seawashed Living said...

Just so beautiful. The Cathedral, the temple, the sanctuary speak deeply to my heart as well. There are layers and layers of love to be understand. Being an artist I am able to undertand a layer. Having a carpenter husband and son and another son studying Architecture I get to understand those layers through their work. We are all builders of the unseen. Merry Christmas to you and your precious family.

Julie said...

*Hugging you and joy coming to you from Iowa...***!!!! But soon...soon...NC again . Thank you for another moving and beautiful post. The spoken word...the written words, are gifts also , to many. When they inspire...give hope...bring a smile, or even just remind. You are doing this. MERRY CHRISTMAS my precious Minnesota sister. God bless.... xoxoxo ♡♡♡♡

Palomasea said...

You have such a gift, dear Suzanne...
Thank you for bringing to light such profound thoughts.
It's been a while, but I want you to know that I think of you often, and wish you a very Merry Christmas, filled with love, warmth, joy, and hope.

~ Irina

Susan Shull said...

Suzanne- I love this post. Thank you for reminding me to keep on keeping on. My job is to be obedient. The results are in God's hands. Great big hug to you!

lisaroyhandbags said...

What a lovely message. Merry Christmas to you and all the best for a wonderful 2015 filled with joy, prosperity and good health. xo

Life with Kaishon said...

I love this so much.
Absolutely amazing.
Thank you for the reminder.


This post reminds me of how much I love being a parent and now a grandparent. Watching my daughter pour into her little one is a joy.

Your writing is a joy, too.


Elizabeth@ Pine Cones and Acorns said...


You are all of these things to so many people, your beautiful images, heartfelt words and thought felt comments are a comfort to many, myself included.

Your blog is a 'sanctuary" of life and I LOVE VISITING HERE. I have so often wished that I lived closer to you so that we could meet in person because I would love to meet the kind, gentle soul that writes like an angel.

Happy New Year to you. I hope that your holidays were surrounded with the love of your beautiful family!

Hugs to you...I needed to read your beautiful words today,


Leslie said...

Wonderful message you've shared here today Suzanne. Labor of love:) When I run into friends that decided never to have children or had much extended family, I find them sadly missing something. Despite the sometimes challenging (emotional, physical, and financial) moments of raising children, I would do it all again. It's just something that's really hard to explain. My 23 year old and I had this conversation last weekend. ..the pain of birth, how it impacts your marriage and YOU personally, etc.. but really what I emphasized was just how important the process is ;) Hope your 2015 is off to a great start!

pve design said...

Thank-you for your encouraging and uplifting words and ways of inspiring each of us. For Christmas, I received the most wonderful card from my daughter. She wrote with her own words how much she loves me. I have it next to my bedside and on days where my ripple feels more like a wrinkle in time - I keep tossing out the pebbles and casting out my love.
Happy and blessed 2015.

Estate Lore said...

"Cathedral builders" now hold a new meaning for me after reading this. This post actually moved me to tears, it called forth many different emotions. When I read the part about Kathleen organizing her pantry, it called forth a similar memory. Dear family friends' sister/daughter, Kathy, did the same thing shortly before she died. Thank you for another beautiful post.