Category: Healing

First (The Christmas Card I Wanted To Write)

“[S]eek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” (Matthew 6:33)

God reveals the beauty in us.

Pieta, The C.1498 Buonarroti, Michelangelo (1475-1564 Italian) Marble Sculpture St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City

First, it hurts. Like warm water on frozen fingers. Like Michelangelo chipping away at a block of marble because he knows the Pieta or David is within. Chip. chip. Chip. God is plying his little hammer and chisel. First, it hurts.

Then I remember that first, my parents gave me to God in baptism and entrusted me to His care.

And first, I chose to risk my life on the belief that He really meant, “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” If that promise is a lie, then all the other firsts are meaningless.

And first, He has always made it possible for me to withstand the chiseling and so I remain and let Him work. He loves me. I know that. There is no why. I’m not worthy. There is only love.

And first, there are my friends who share in community I hoped for but could never really imagine. They’re the biggest surprise. They wait with me as God warms my frozen flesh and brings me back to life. They wait as He chisels away. They wait in expectation even when I can’t turn my eyes in hope that there is something glorious in me that He is releasing. They wait even when I can’t find words to say “thank you” for loving me. So I will wait with them. I will have faith in their faith.

First, it’s a glorious new year.

*****************************

On Friday (and occasionally Saturday if Friday is filled with an excess of other activities),100s of bloggers set a timer, write for 5 minutes, and then post the results over at Kate Motaung’s blog, Heading Home. She provides the prompt on Thursday evening. We don’t edit or concern ourselves with whether our writing is flawless or worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished thoughts and words to each other and our readers and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

Weary: Five Minute Friday

I believe that I shall see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living!
Wait for the LORD;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
yea, wait for the LORD! (Psalm 27: 13-14)

weary (1)Once upon a time, I read Psalm 27 many times each day. It calmed my weary soul until I reached verse 14. Then anxiety and desperation would flare up and weariness returned; I was weary of waiting. Eventually, I decided “wait” means ‘No.’ And though I was even more weary of facing ‘No’ after ‘No’ after ‘No,’ what does one do when god says, ‘No.’ He’s God after all. So I prayed to accept ‘No’; I was never very good at it and I was still so weary.

Then I met a friend who was as crazy as me. Then I met a whole slew of friends who cared for me as if I was a family member. And then I discovered my friends love me even when I’m cranky and silly and capricious. Finally, I realized I love them even when they fail to live up to my expectations. Now I’m no longer weary of waiting, weary of the hole in my heart. Now I not only believe but know that seeking first the Kingdom of God leads to all the other things being provided in surprising and unexpected ways. And God is so much more than I ever imagined because He knows better than I how to heal the holes and free me of being weary.

*****************************

On Friday (and occasionally Saturday if Friday is filled with an excess of other activities),100s of bloggers set a timer, write for 5 minutes, and then post the results over at Kate Motaung’s blog, Heading Home. She provides the prompt on Thursday evening. We don’t edit or concern ourselves with whether our writing is flawless or worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished thoughts and words to each other and our readers and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

Image source: http://dict.space.4goo.net/dict?q=weary

Yes! – Five Minute Friday

Let-Your-Light-ShineBeloved,

I want to say “Yes!” to you every day, every moment, every time You call me to follow You. At times I don’t. I don’t when I feel I’m being inspected, weighed in the balance, and found wanting. I don’t when I feel I’m being improved, molded. Like Bertie Wooster, “I don’t want to be molded! I’m not a jelly.” There may be good reason for my reluctance and fear but reluctance and fear are never reason enough not to say “Yes!” to You. I would face anything for You.

But this is one of those things I can’t do myself. I keep trying and failing. I fill my time with distractions when I could be finishing my book, studying, vocalizing, engaging in activities You’ve given me, activities I really want to do. A huge, solid block of fear bars my way, pins my wings so that I cannot soar. I don’t know how to move it. And just telling myself to write or study or anything else anyway isn’t working. This is one of those things I need You to do.

Just as You made it possible for me to forgive the unforgivable, You can make me able to write about what You have done for me. You can give me the strength to let the light you’ve given me shine. You can work what ever must be worked in me so that I get past the block or even discover that block is nothing more than an ephemeral mist, not worthy of my concern. So whatever I need and whatever it takes, work it in me so that I may give You my unreserved “Yes!” I’m not asking You to make it feel good. I only ask to do Your will – I don’t think hiding is Your will. Let me say “Yes!” in thought word and deed. Let my life be the song of “Yes!” The dance of “Yes!” A total “Yes!”

Image Source: http://embracingbeauty.com/2013/04/20/letting-our-light-shine-by-donating-w-champions-for-kids-mobilizingmillions-cbias/

Alone – Five Minute Friday

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 16:24-25)

aloneSome things are easier when I am alone. Singing is easier when there’s either no one to hear me or someone who sings along with me. (I’ve joined the choir at church.) Though I’ve trained to sing opera, worked with a vocal coach, and have a powerful voice, I actually sing off key in a soft breathy voice if I’m singing in the presence of someone who’s not singing and who’s not really an audience.

Writing is easier when I’m alone. So is speaking. Sewing and drawing and embroidery and all sorts of other accomplishments are also easier. If I’m working with others or alone, I excel at so many things. When I feel someone is watching, I choke, shy away, fumble; I naturally give way to others, do what they are doing, follow their lead.

Yet I’m in a time of learning to excel when I’m not alone, even if others are not participating. It’s part of denying myself that Jesus talks about. It’s scary. But since He has brought me this far, I’m convinced He will continue to take me where He wants me to go and, with His help, I’ll marshal through. Let’s see where He has taken me this time next year.

*****************************

On Friday,100s of bloggers set a timer, write for 5 minutes, and then post the results over at Kate Motaung’s blog, Heading Home. She provides the prompt on Thursday evening. We don’t edit or concern ourselves with whether our writing is flawless or worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished thoughts and words to each other and our readers and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

Image source: http://thespiritualsoldier.blogspot.com

It’s My Job – Five Photos, Five Stories

its my jobAbend ist’s, die Sonne ist verschwunden,” I sang softly to myself as I trailed my hand along the textured wall covering.

“Why do you have to touch everything?” a voice behind me demanded.

Shaking my head, I stopped and recognized the assistant supervisor. “I like the texture,” I told him.

“You’re such a little girl!” he insisted.

“I’m seventeen.” My voice was a soft breathiness.

“How were you ever hired?” he harrumphed.

My forehead crinkled, “Because I love math and understand financial statements.” Doesn’t he remember that? I inquired of my Friend. Everyday he gives me a pile of financials to summarize and add to the spreadsheet.

The case manager passed us and caught my attention, “I could use your help.”

“Sure,” I replied.

“Don’t worry about him,” she told me as we walked to her office. “You’re my little stalwart. I know when I give you a project it will be done quickly and competently.”

My face broke into a big smile. Mentally, I hugged myself.

Five years later, I had completed the last two years of my undergraduate degree and was a case manager. Surrounded by documents, I meted out assignments, provided quality control, located lost documents, and kept track of the various aspects of my cases. When on major litigation, which was most of the time, I worked 100 to 120 hours each week. I weeded out applicants interviewing for a spot on my team by telling each one, “There are 168 hour in each week. If you plan your time well, you can work 100 hours and still have four hours for recreation.” I didn’t mention that they must limit sleep to four hours per night. Many applicants walked away at that point. The few who remained were offered a three-month probationary position assuming they could read, write, and think. Many dropped out or were fired during probation. A partner once joked that I fired more paralegals in one month than the firm did in a year. He was right.

I wanted co-workers who were like me. I wanted them to take their jobs seriously, to notice patterns, to catch mistakes, to improve on my work, on the work of the attorneys. Senior members of my team ought to be able to manage a privilege review, prepare trail exhibits, and not just remember smoking guns and key documents but find new ones and present to the partners who could vaguely recall a letter, fax, or email. Repeatedly, I was disappointed. Repeatedly, I encountered team members whose work was inept. By the mid-90s, I was so exhausted I took a break to work in not-for-profit and then in fashion.

By summer 2001, the economy took a downturn and Liz Claiborne let me and my boss go. During that summer, I supplemented fashion consulting with short contract jobs in law. After September 11, there was little available in fashion but law was burgeoning. I took a job as a case manager specifically to correct errors on litigation that was headed to trial. I loved to solve knotty puzzles others had created.

Post 9/11, teams were considerably smaller. often I was expected to be both case manager and paralegal. Tasks that had previously been assigned to a junior paralegal fell to me. I was deeply offended. Such tasks weren’t my job. My job was to resolve kinks, to untie knots. My job was to make an impossible case ready for trial. The firm ought to provide someone else for low-level tasks. They did assign me a part-time clerk but it wasn’t enough. I was indignant and being indignant began to take a toll.

At about that time, I began having serious problems with my health. I needed to take sick days that I’d not yet accrued. The department supervisor graciously approved them. As I became sicker and sicker, those I worked with went out of their way to make my job easier. It frequently struck me that I had not earned such kindness. I knew I was very, very fortunate indeed.

One afternoon, a partner called and asked me to digest (summarize) a transcript. Digesting had been replaced by software but some older partners prefer a summary; they fear the technology. My shoulders grew tight and painful during the conversation. As I hung up the receiver, I demanded of God, “Why doesn’t he have a junior paralegal do that? He knows it’s not my job.”

“They are paying you.” Each word sounded in my head and heart; I knew the Voice only to well. I heard the words again and again, “They are paying you.”

Suddenly I laughed. “You’re right,” I told my Friend. “They are paying me. And as long as they pay me, it’s my job to do what they ask of me.” I thought for a second as I pulled the transcript up, “As long as they don’t ask me to do something that’s wrong, it’s my job to do whatever I can to help no matter my job title.” As I began preparing the summary, the voice of my first case manager arose in my memory, “You’re my little stalwart. I know when I give you a project it will be done quickly and competently.”

* Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/nsw_risg/2549640610/

Hope – Five Minute Friday

When everything falls apart,
Your arms hold me together.
When everything falls apart,
You’re the only hope for this heart.
When everything falls apart and my strength is gone,
I find You mighty and strong.
You keep holding on.
You keep holding on. (Fee, Everything Falls)

Beloved,

It’s amazing to me that You kept hope alive in me for so long. You fought despair in me. Part of me wants to ask, ‘How?’ Part of me want to cry. Part of me wants to go down on my knees and simply remain mute in silent joy and gratitude. Retrospect reveals just how desperate I was and how mighty You are.

So many have asked me, ‘Why don’t we see miracles like the ones in the Bible?’ We do. We just don’t know where or how to look for them. We want healing on our terms. Jesus healed the actual wounds and sickness in body and soul; we don’t much want the soul part, not when it requires huge changes. So why should we expect to see miracles when we’ve already decided what healing will look like. Control is just another form of despair: if it’s not healed my way no healing is possible. We refuse to admit that we are desperate for we know not what, that we are pleading with neither words nor understanding and can only say, ‘I hurt.’

hope (1)But hope is reason to hope. I had no reason to expect that things would get worse and worse. In fact, they did. But You kept me hoping, You kept me fighting. You kept some spark alive in me, didn’t allow me to give up. You kept me reaching for the miracle and that very reaching was a continuing miracle. A spiritual director used to tell me that sometimes it’s better to hope than to receive. When hope keeps us alive, keeps us fighting until we are humble enough to be healed, hope is the very best thing there is.

*****************************

Every Friday,100s of bloggers set a timer, write for 5 minutes, and then post the results over at Kate Motaung’s blog, Heading Home. She provides the prompt on Thursday evening. We don’t edit or concern ourselves with whether our writing is flawless or worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished thoughts and words to each other and our readers and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

World – Five Minute Friday

I’ve lived on three continents and seen more of the world than most. Living in other parts of the world provides an education one doesn’t get when everything is familiar. I’ve often shaken my head at wonder that many don’t know that that black and white are only two of many ethnic possibilities, that in some places, class (a/k/a money and deportment) trumps skin colour every time, that in many parts of the world, those with darker skin are considered less desirable but in some, those of lighter skin are less beautiful.

worldStill, there is that which can never be learned traveling the world. The family is the ideal place to lean that when life is just too much, when everything ought to work but fails, when I feel I’m a total disappointment and a burden, those who love me will pick me up, dry my tears and say, ‘I’m here for you. I’m happy to have you in my life. Believe me, it will work out.” Family is where having a meltdown and being weak are opportunities for more love, not less.

But sometimes family isn’t available. Real Christian community can provide the same love. Christian community is not being nice on Sunday and at church events before we go off to our own separate existences. It’s not just asking, ‘How are you?’ and saying, ‘I’ll pray for you,’ when we hear that things are tough. Sometimes tough consists of the endless days of isolation and loneliness punctuated by Church attendance. Sometimes tough consists of never having the opportunity to give to others. Sometimes tough is not what I need you to give me but what I hunger to give you.

In a moment, I’ll go and transplant my house mate’s herbs — we’re trying to protect the basil by planting it next to some spicy hot oregano. The joy of doing something for a friend is excruciatingly painful — warm water on frozen fingers. It’s not something the world can give me. It’s a people thing. It’s an Acts of the Apostles thing. It’s the place where I can trust enough to reveal myself, including the parts I’ve always hidden because being brave and tough and strong were necessary. It’s the place where I can just relax and be human.

*****************************

Every Friday,100s of bloggers set a timer, write for 5 minutes, and then post the results over at Kate Motaung’s blog, Heading Home. She provides the prompt on Thursday evening. We don’t edit or concern ourselves with whether our writing is flawless or worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished thoughts and words to each other and our readers and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

Blue – Five Minute Friday

blue ridge mountainsThe blue sky against the deeper blue mountain as the sun rose on the second morning of the drive signaled the end of the low-level dis-ease that had haunted me for nearly five years. Those wide open spaces of Houston, so beloved by so many, had been a never-ending, current that shocked me each time I went out. New York City, though chock-full of tall buildings, only required me to avoid looking up. There was no hiding from the wide open spaces of Houston. They went on forever and ever and ever with no amen, no selah, and, except for a few neighbourhoods where I rarely had reason to go, not even the slightest diminuendo. Those endless distances wore me down, heightened my agoraphobia, intensified my sense of isolation, kept me inside far more than was healthy.

But now, the painful current had stopped. I felt my shoulders relax, realized how tense they had been, how painful the uneasiness had become; I could not begin to feel it until it was gone.

Today, I sit on Bridgett’s mid-century modern sofa in her living room that is smaller than my bedroom in Houston and gaze at the dark blue, glass pitcher that lives atop her kitchen cupboard. Another friend from Houston texts to ask me if I am settling in.

“Still settling,” I reply. “But it’s very good to be here. Last night, I slept well for the first time; feeling more and more at home.”

Suddenly tears have pooled in the corners of my eyes. They threaten to spill over. Those words, “at home,” dissolve some barrier in my heart. I’ve needed to be at home for so long, since Marmar and Papa died, since before I was five. How have I lived all this time without home? Only now can I begin to hear the message the blue pitcher tells me: ‘Your hunger, starvation, dis-ease has always been valid. You always knew it, you needed home.’

*****************************

Every Friday,100s of bloggers set a timer, write for 5 minutes, and then post the results. We don’t edit or concern ourselves with whether our writing is flawless or worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished thoughts and words to each other and our readers. Kate Motaung at  Heading Home provides the prompt on Thursday evening. We all link our posts there and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

Follow – Five Minute Friday

I’ve wanted to make “Loved As If” my magnum opus and answer all those who are amazed that I follow Christ even though my life has often been “solitary, poore, nasty, [and] brutish.”

Among other things, I’m a student of literature and especially of the stories we call myth and legend. Originally, they were simply the stories one generation handed down to another. Until fairly recently, humans weren’t interested in empirical proof of the facts. We wanted to pass on truth. Aesop and Gilgamesh pass on immense truths that have been part of what it means to be human since the beginning.

“The Epic of Gilgamesh” is one of my all time favourite pieces of literature. It’s also one of the oldest known to man. I’ve always been struck by Gilgamesh’s lament when he first realizes he will die. He prays to the god Shamash because he sees the bodies floating in the river; and realizes this too will be his lot. All that is left is to make a great name for himself. He and his dear friend, Enkidu, undergo many trials and adventures and win great renown. Then Enkidu dies and Gilgamesh loses himself. Death can do that to us.

jesus-and-child-10When I lost my parents, I lost myself. I did not know who I was or to whom I belonged. Knowing that I didn’t belong to the minister, that I gained no identity from him gave me a bit of information about who I was not but none about who I was. That knowledge came from my Friend, from Christ. He condescended to follow me and lead me through the horrifying labyrinth of my childhood. But eventually, I had to choose if I would follow Him. It made me cranky that I had to choose. Then I understood, Christ could not be a beloved magical teddy bear to comfort me, perform miracles when needed, and provide wisdom. He had to be my God as well as my Friend. I had to be willing to follow Him even if my life never became the image I had conjured in my mind and contained more heartache and pain.

He has always been so gracious to me. He has always been there. And I want to follow because of His graciousness and generosity but also because in Him, I know who I am; Christ gives me identity. It doesn’t matter if the identity I have now is the one I would have had my life had been different. This is me. It is the Lord’s doing and it is astoundingly marvelous in my eyes.

*****************************

Every Friday,100s of bloggers set a timer, write for 5 minutes, and then post the results. We don’t edit or concern ourselves with whether our writing is flawless or worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished thoughts and words to each other and our readers. Kate Motaung at  Heading Home provides the prompt on Thursday evening. We all link our posts there and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

Y is for You Said You Weren’t Talking To Me

“Good morning God,” I sleepily greeted Him as I silenced the alarm. After a good stretch, I rolled out of bed and padded over to my closet. “What I should wear today?” I asked Him. “I’ve got that appointment before work, dance classes, and dinner.”

No image came to mind. No small inner whisper filled my heart. My forehead quickly crinkled and then relaxed. I shrugged and made my way into the bathroom to prepare for work. Half an hour later, I pulled garments from my closet, donned an outfit, decided I didn’t like it, tried something else, changed it for yet other garments, and finally slumped on my bed wondering what would be the best thing to wear on a day that included so many different activities.

“Why aren’t You helping me?” I inquired.

The inner silence continued.

“You always help me,” I reminded Him. “You’ve helped me since I was a child.”

Still silence. Sighing, I went to rummage through my closet.

“Please help me,” I pleaded in a small voice when half an hour had passed and I had found nothing suitable. “I’ll be late.”

“You said you weren’t talking to me any more,” the voice spoke clearly in the silence.

angry-womanMy mind flashed back to the threat I had tossed out the night before as I fitfully tried to sleep, “If You don’t let me go home, I won’t talk to You anymore.” The previous day had been filled with thwarted hopes. By bedtime, I was embroiled in a temper tantrum demanding He give me what I knew I needed and deserved.

My head lowered, “I forgot.” My voice was that of a very young child caught doing something she suddenly remembers is wrong. Then I looked up, “I’ll always forget. You know that. I can’t help but forget.”

Silence again.

“I shouldn’t have said it,” I confessed. “I was just angry and scared and so tired.” I pondered for a moment, “Maybe there’s another way I can let You know without threatening to stop talking to You?”

A tear started in my eye as the warm tingle of His embrace held me for a moment. The image of my black skirt, black ballet flats, and green striped white blouse filled my mind. “I thought that blouse was dirty,” I told God as I looked into my closet. My eyes lit up, I had hung it in the wrong section. Quickly I dressed and rushed off to the subway.

%d bloggers like this: