Category: Uncategorized

G is for Grieving

“How are you feeling?” Dr. Vogwall asked.

Tissot, James Jacques Joseph (1836-1902): Healing of the woman with the issue of blood

Tissot, James Jacques Joseph (1836-1902): Healing of the woman with the issue of blood

A cough sent pain through my chest and back. “Better,” I replied wincing.

“That cough still sounds bad,” he said.

Nodding, I winced again then held my head still until the pain subsided, “It is.” Then blurted, “I’m not contagious any longer. If I’m up to it, I’ll return to work on Monday.”

Dr. Vogwall smiled, “I’m not so concerned about you being contagious. You do need to take it easy until you’re better.”

“I will. I’ve been through this before.” I told him. “This is a bad bout,” I mused.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“I’ve had strep every year — sometimes twice a year — since I was about five or six,” I said. “I get sick three times every year.”

He furrowed his brow, “Every year?”

“Yes,” I gently lowered my head in a brief nod. “Usually in May, I get strep but sometimes at Christmas too. Conjunctivitis near my birthday. If I don’t get strep near Christmas, I usually have flu, an ear infection, or bronchitis. Once in a great while, the strep becomes bronchitis, like this time.”

“Doesn’t your doctor suggest any long term strategies? Tonsil removal? Ways to bolster your immune system or nutrition?”

“He’s done all that. I’m often anemic. I have some markers for autoimmune disease but nothing specific.” I shrugged, “I just get sick.”

“And always at the same times every year?”

“Yes.” The tone of my voice rose so that it was sibilant squeak.

“Why those times?” he asked.

I shrugged, “I’m not sure.”

“Do you recall being sick when you were a young child?”

A smile spread from my mouth down into my body. My shoulders relaxed, “It was almost Christmas. My throat was terribly sore; my body hurt. Papa wrapped me in a duvet and carried me into the lounge. He was decorating the Christmas tree and placed a shivery, silver ornament on the palm of my hand. ‘Gently. Gently.’ he told me. It was of some sort of glass fiber like a star.”

“You look happy,” Dr. Vogwall said.

“I was,” I replied.

“What about your birthday?”

“I ate his sausages and toast. And I went to see Marmar and ate sausages and toast from her breakfast tray.” A tear threatened to escape my eye. I blinked it away.

“And May?”

My head gave a gentle shake. I winced.

“What comes to mind?” he asked.

Fog descended about me. Tears threatened a downpour. In a small voice I said “Maraschino cherries. I made a picture of maraschino cherries.”

“That’s when they sent you away.”

“Yes.”

“Your birthday, Christmas, when your parents sent you away. Does that mean anything to you?”

Again in the small voice, “Important times.”

Dr. Vogwall laughed, “To a young child, very important.”

I blinked at him. My lips pulled themselves into a small pout.

“I think you’re grieving,” he told me.

“Grieving?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“I’m sick, not sad.”

“You’re sad all the time. You just don’t realize it.” He continued, “When you’re as sad as you are and don’t grieve, your body will do the grieving for you.”

A small laugh broke through, “Are you saying I’m sick because I have a broken heart?”

“Pretty much,” he replied.

“But I can’t just stop my heart from breaking,” the shrillness edged my voice.

“But you can grieve,” he said.

Wide-eyed, I stared at him. The pout reshaped my mouth. “How?” The word burst forth of its own volition.

“That’s what you need to learn.”

Image source.

Weary – Five Minute Friday

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)

Rev 21It must be very difficult to believe that God will really make a new heaven and a new earth, that He will wipe away every tear, that He will dwell with His people, that He Himself will be with us. Difficult, at least, for those who don’t believe in Him and even for some who do. Life goes along pretty much as it always has. Nothing changes very much, at least not dramatically. There may be an unexpected illness or a catastrophe, but then, we get back to normal; there is life, there is death.

But we can dwell with God. Right here. Right now. We can discover Him remaking us and our lives each day. We can experience His power in immense ways: Being healed when life shreds our hearts, having the strength to go on when it’s the last thing we want, discovering community and friendship and family where there was none, clinging to God even when He keeps saying ‘No’ only to discover that holding fast to Him, dwelling with Him was the important thing in the first place.

Cling to Him. Dwell with Him. Trust that He dwells with us. See God’s new heaven and new earth taking shape today.

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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

Bacon – Five Minute Friday

baconThis week, the WHO placed bacon on it’s list of carcinogens. I was shocked and a bit frightened until I discovered that most food is listed as an actual or probable carcinogen. The only way to avoid cancer and, perhaps, live forever is to starve oneself or, at the very least, forego delicious food. It’s a glum world and I have better things to do.

So I’ll eat bacon and chocolate and eggs and cream and all sorts of other goodies that may hurt me. Everyone’s life comes with an unsurprising surprise, death. And death, for those who follow Christ, is a doorway from the initial experience of eternal life that begins in this world to the never ending experience of eternal life that will be filled with bacon and so many other joys.

I doubt heaven will the pig of Eden. Then again, Homer may be onto something here:

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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://www.fwweekly.com/2013/02/11/bacon-enough-already/

Joy: Five Minute Friday

I know I’m a good writer but…

I’ve doubted myself. And then I began the University of Iowa course, “How Writers Write Fiction,” and learned that I’m a better writer than I thought. It’s a scary bit of knowledge. A bit of knowledge full of joy. I never thought I’d be able to commit all that goes on inside to paper so that it makes sense.

in the oceanThe surface of my life is only a tiny part of reality. I’m like that line in A Horse With No Name: “The ocean is a desert with it’s life underground and the perfect disguise above.” We see all that water but don’t recognize that there is a huge ecosystem we can’t live in. There’s so much more under the visible surface.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll share some of my completed assignments. It would be sheer joy to have my readers’ comments.

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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://www.shutterstock.com/video/clip-6171821-stock-footage-ocean-underwater-scene-with-sunlight-coral-and-fish-scuba-diving.html

Trust – Five Minute Friday (a day late again)

Flanner O'Connor stampI’m participating in the University of Iowa MOOC, How Writer’s Write Fiction. MOOC, is an acronym for “massive open online course.” Many, such as this one, are free. Flannery O’Connor (whose picture will be on a stamp) studied writing at the University of Iowa’s Writing Workshop and I’m honoured to be in such great company. My hope is that the course will help me develop the complexity of characters and situations in my work-in-progress-but-nearing-completion book, Loved As If.

I went into the course with a great deal of fear and dread. How can I trust my work, which proceeds from a solid Christian worldview, to those who have little or no grounding in Christianity? How do I trust that what I write will even speak to those whose initial points of reference are so antithetical to mine? For some time, anxiety has buzzed just below the surface: What is God expecting of me? How can I possibly deliver? Won’t this be like university where I had to find ways to write about faith without mentioning any actual experience of faith?

I find God is only expecting me to do my best. Thus far, the instructors, mentors, and other writers perceive my work not as religious but as writing. Some may get it, others not. But they respond to well-written characters and situations. Two weeks in and I’ve already discovered that I can express a character’s anxiety or joy or anger without using adverbs (anxiously) or telegraphing action (she felt joy rise within her and said…) or being the narrative voice that explains what the characters are doing (“I hate you!,” she screamed in anger.) What matters is that I can trust God even when He sends me into hostile territory.

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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://aleteia.org/2015/05/28/flannery-oconnor-to-be-honored-with-us-postage-stamp/

Find – Five Minute Friday

“How do you walk through it?” Her unlined forehead furrowed softly. “I mean when you find yourself in that powdery desert?”

Her boss’s face resolved into puzzlement as he searched for the word.

“There is no how,” I replied after a time. “You just do it.” Her boss nodded. “If you waste your time worrying about how…”

“You’ll die,” her boss completed my thought. Our eyes met for an instant. Though we had different experiences, we both understood finding our way through the desert.

find desertBut so many I know don’t understand what to do if they find themselves in the desert. So many have never been told that it’s not an intellectual exercise; there’s often little time to plan. Mostly, one just begins and prays for strength to continue walking while continuing to walk. Mostly, the “how” has been implanted in our hearts by the day to day work of self-sacrifice and faith. Mostly, it’s just the ongoing work to find ourselves or be found. Beyond that, there is only placing one foot in front of the other.

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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.

Here – Five Minute Friday

here cozy libraryWere I able to have anything I want, here would always be a cozy, halcyon place. (I used to nag God about when my halcyon days would come.) Here would be a place where visitors could select a good book, get a cup of tea or coffee, and sink back in a deep, cozy chair. Here they could find space to stretch, paths for walking, an adventure or two, and always back in time for a delicious dinner, a happy evening, and a good night’s rest in a comfy bed. All would know that God is always be here and all would be happy.

But the here in which I actually live is not a halcyon place. (I stopped nagging God when I realized earth is not heaven.) Here I live with an excruciating past and have been given the job of translating those horrors into some sort of readable shape that is honest while not being a platter of horrors. God holds all of my here, including the excruciating past, in His hands. What He will do with the outcome of my writing, I don’t know. All I know is that while here is not as comfortable and halcyon as I’d like it to be, here is real. Here is rich with God and many, many adventures.

The halcyon days were a fantasy. Reality is where I find God. Given my choice, I’d run to God every time. With Him there is endless joy and adventure; there is so much more than I can imagine. God isn’t limited to the boundaries of my imagination and here, with Him, neither am I.

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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: https://www.pinterest.com/domienova/home-library-ideas/

Fantasy – Five Photos, Five Stories – 2

fantasy prison A story beckoned and my imagination cast me as the main character: Cinderella, Bernadette Soubirous, Sara Crewe, Pipi Longstocking. Sometimes, I was Julie Andre in my version of Daddy Long Legs or Jo Stockton in Funny Face or one of many, many other characters from books or from one of the few films or television programs I was allowed to watch (or watched without permission when the adults failed to guard the living room). My imagination took me away from the girl who was abused and neglected, the girl who had to keep so many secrets, the girl who was not even allowed to reveal that she remembered the before time.

Somehow the fantasies always became wound up with that first rape. At first, the prince rescued me from the molesting step mother, the brutalizing step children. But by the time I became an adult, there was no prince; my fantasies became darker and increasingly abusive. My imagination created scenes that I knew, even as they played themselves out in my mind, I never wanted to live. Anxiety – good or bad – triggered fantasy and fantasy became a prison. It was beyond my control. Somewhat pleasurable, dark horrors arose in my mind: What if I had been sold as a sacrifice? What if I had been sold as a slave? What if I had innocently wandered into a relationship only to find myself trapped, brutalized, and murdered by someone who took pleasure in hurting me because he could?

Intellectually, I knew that I was reliving the horrors I had experienced as a young child. I was trying to rework them, make them, somehow, okay. But I also knew that nothing in my power could ever make them okay. I held the gaping wounds up to God and begged Him to heal me. I ended fantasy after fantasy confused, unable to fathom how the creeping darkness would dissipate. How could I be healed? How could I ever stop fantasizing? How could I be free? Therapy hadn’t helped. I had never trusted my therapists enough to tell them much about my fantasies anyway. And I had assumed that finding my family would cure all my ills. But my family was dead and I couldn’t hope for healing that way.

Finally, I was freed from prison in a totally unexpected way. A friend who knew about my past scandalized me. For a year I suffered from flashbacks and fantasy had no appeal. Wide-eyed joy eventually blossomed: “There must be something innocent in me,” I told God. “Otherwise, I couldn’t have been scandalized.” I find more and more innocence in me. Learning that abuse had caused me to be confused elicited more joy and fantasy still had no appeal. Another round of flashbacks which another friend triggered cauterized my soul – I couldn’t even imagine wanting fantasy.

These days, I experience rare temptation to lose myself in fantasy; life hasn’t become exactly easy. But fantasy still has no appeal. Fantasy limits me to my own imagination. And though I have an immense imagination, it’s not much next to what God does. He brought me along, healed me bit by bit, and, when I was strong enough, reset my default from fantasy, when I’m anxious, to prayer, exercise, chatting with a friend, singing, all sorts of activities that lead me into the light.

Real life continues to be filled with the hard work of living but it’s good work, like the work I’ve been doing to strengthen my knees and correct an imbalance in my leg muscles. Today, for the first time in a long, long time, I climbed and descended several sets of stairs with a minimum of pain. I’ve still got a ways to go but my knees and leg muscles are getting stronger. Living the moments of my life without escaping into a world of my own creation is becoming easier. I still have plenty of dreams but remind myself that with work and help from God, some of those dreams can come true, just as they have in the past. Fantasy is ephemeral. It’s like eating whipped cream all day. It can be pleasant but it’s nothing real, nothing sustaining. I do better with real food.

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