Miracles (Part 3)

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I am a skeptic. I was raised in America where skepticism is clothed in the intellectual pursuit of knowledge.  The traditional church doesn’t seek out miracles due to the belief that they were only needed when the church was being formed and the Bible was being written.  The non-traditional church believes that healing happens every time, as long as you have enough faith.  I have walked both these paths. I have seen healing happen. I have also sat in hospitals and begged for healing that never came…at least not in the way I expected it to.  I wanted the supernatural-get-up-and-walk-out-completely-healed type of healing as I sat in the chemo chair.  I wanted the no-question-God-just-did-a-miracle experience when my husband had a brain injury. You know, take up your mat and walk.  Instead, I concluded there are many ways God heals, and sometimes he doesn’t at all.  He CAN heal, but he sometimes chooses not to.  It is what I have witnessed in my faith journey.  But just when I have come to some to peace with this healing question, he challenges me again by doing a miracle…the kind I have been asking to see.

IMG_1583In Romania behind a gate, a woman tells us she has trouble hearing us.  A scripture comes into my mind…faith comes by hearing.  I begin repeating it in my heart.  Faith comes by hearing.  Faith comes by hearing.  Over and over I pray it. The woman’s daughter tells the story to us.  Her mom had a bad ear infection.  They had gone to many doctors, but none of them could fix it.  It just kept coming back.  One doctor decided to go in and clean out her ear, which resulted in a punctured ear drum and permanent damage to her ear. Her head scarf covered her right ear.  A Racer on our team is bold enough to ask the woman if he can pray for her ear so she can hear. He asks her to remove the scarf and gauze from her ear.  He has seen miracles, and therefore knows they exist.  I, on the other hand, would not have been bold enough to even ask, because ‘what if’? What if it doesn’t happen?  What if she thinks we are crazy?  What if God looks bad? Fortunately, none of those questions had to be asked because after praying for her twice, her ear opened up and she could hear.  We offered a song and she gladly accepted the opportunity to hear a guitar and a chorus of Amazing Grace.

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Still amazed by this event, we continued our day with Kid’s Club.  It was a typical VBS type format, songs, bible story, and games.  Children followed us down the dirt road to our meeting place.  They arrived in all manner of clothing. Some with only underwear, some barefoot, some in clothes too big, all covered with a layer of dirt from the walking.  I was struck by the absence of shame or embarrassment as well as the innocence. During the story of Daniel and the Lion’s Den, the reader asked, “Have you ever been scared like Daniel?”  There was a loud and unanimous “NO!” from the group of mostly boys. When the story was over, we were starting to make the transition to games, when one boy said he needed God in his life so he would not be afraid.  The other boys watched carefully as he sincerely prayed for Jesus to come and help him in his life to not be fearful.  Two more also wanted to pray, and though these childlike prayers were not dramatic on the outside, it occurred to me they were miracles nonetheless.  A broken heart made whole is no less significant than ears than can hear.

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Later in the evening when all the teams were reviewing the day, another story was shared by another self-proclaimed skeptic.  The mom of a Racer told the story.  They were conversing with a woman who was blind, when her Racer daughter simply asked the woman if she could pray for her eyes.  The woman agreed. They gathered around the woman to pray and afterwards, she said she could see a little.  The Racer prayed again, because she wanted to woman to see a lot!  Soon the woman was dancing, running around, and kissing everyone she SAW, because she SAW them. Her eyes were healed!  As the mom relayed the story, she said, “I am usually a skeptic, but what I felt as we were praying was like nothing I have felt before. What I saw I have never seen before.  It was real, and the woman could see.”  For the skeptics among us it was a gate-opening experience.  The places in our hearts that were sealed off to the possibility of dramatic miracles were swung wide open.  The King of Glory came in and showed us all what happens when we open the gates of our hearts for him to come in.  Once again, he used miracles to get attention for something much deeper than physically seeing or hearing, but rather to open hearts to SEE and to HEAR his heartbeat for everyone to be loved and whole.  The gates of Romania and the hearts which visit there are opening.  Maybe not ALL the way, maybe things are tentative, but they are opening nonetheless. They are a representation of all the ways we close ourselves away.  All the ways we divide ourselves and forget to look up to the one who can…open ALL the gates.

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Stories of the Gates (part 2)

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After the World Racers and their parents have been reunited with many tears and much joy, the mission begins. Over the next few days our hosts create plans for how we can help them in their mission to love their people well. It is pretty straight forward, feed the poor, care for the widows and orphans, open they eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf. It is really not complicated.  Love people. Many are without food and so we are sent in teams to homes of those in need, to offer food and prayer.  Walking down the streets of Draganesti with my team, I am again drawn to the gates.  As we walk out of the small town to the smaller backroads, we go from pavement to dirt yet, the walls and gates remain the same. Every house is walled off and closed to the street outside. It strikes me that the people we pass along our way are also closed off with faces which express no emotion. Segmented.  Divided.  Shut away. Without our local interpreters, there is little chance we would be welcomed.  However, because we are with people they know and trust, the gates swing open to us, and inside we learn the stories.

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Our first gate is wooden planks that are roughly put together. No paint, no frills, just boards hammered together. On either side of the gate stands a cinderblock wall that spans the property. We are invited inside by a young girl of 14 with big brown eyes, who knows our Romanian interpreter. Inside are two block houses, which are more like single rooms, and a shed for the animals. The family transportation is an old red bike leaned against the wall. The first house within the compound is painted blue, with red trim windows which have no panes, but are covered with sheets.  The girl’s father is shy at first, standing behind a curtain which serves as his front door.  He passes out anything from inside that might be used for a chair. Every person with our team is offered a place to sit, be it a chair, stool, or crate.  There are numerous family members all in one compound and our interpreter explains that the man’s wife died a few weeks ago from a sudden brain aneurism.

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To show us the customary veil of grief over his home, the man comes out and points to a black cloth draped and tacked on the side of his house. His eyes tear up as he tells the story of his wife. He is overwhelmed by grief and what he will do to raise his daughter. He is roughly put together, just like his gate. He seems rickety in his sorrow. He points to his heart and rests his hand on his chest, which needs no interpretation.  We offer condolences and gather around them with our prayers. The food we leave is appreciated, and I find that within the walls and behind the gates the normally stoic people become open, passionate, and vulnerable.  They quickly go to the deep and painful places in their lives as if sharing their hearts is the most natural thing in the world. It is another Romanian contrast…indifferent on the outside, hospitable and tender on the inside.

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The next gate is made from tin. It is neatly cut and pieced together in three parts from bottom to top.  Its wall looks to be a rough stucco, or concrete of some kind. Once again, we are welcomed inside.  An older woman takes ladles of water and throws them on the ground to settle the dusty floors for our entrance.  That way our feet will not get dusty, and since there is no grass, this is the way to care for the yard. A man and his son, who knows our interpreter, begin the offering of chairs.  They redirect us into the shade of a tree in the front of the house and give us the best seats where we are most protected from the glaring sun. Again, there is more than one house and though it is unclear to us how they are related, we know each person within the walls are family.  Once they have brought every possible chair, we are seated. One of our team has a mosquito bite which is bleeding, and a middle-aged woman notices. She sends her son to get water and a cloth, along with medicine.  She kneels in the dirt to tend to the wound putting the needs of her guests as her highest priority.

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Soon after, she begins her story. Her mother died recently, and she explains that is why she still wears the black scarf of grief around her head.  She is full of emotion as she tells her story and at times, tears flow freely.  A man on our team tells her that his father just died recently also and they share tears of sorrow.  She cared for her mother for some years before her death and now she misses her.  She is hurting because her mother was too sick to make the customary trip to be baptized before she died, and it weighs on her heart.  A girl in our group paints a picture of her mother’s new healthy body being baptized by Jesus in heaven. We gather around the family for prayer and the woman looks us each in the eyes with gratitude.  They ask us to take a photo to remember them by so we can continue to pray for them. They are grateful for the food and for our visit, but not half as thankful as we are that she blessed us with her story. It is carefully crafted together from the cut pieces of her life, from bottom to top, just like the gate.

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Gate number 3 is a tall and strong gate.  It appears to be made from iron or some other kind of metal.  It was not ornate, but sturdy.  We were invited inside by a little girl of about 4 who was wearing only underwear and a smile.  Her face lit up like the sun and she ran to greet our interpreter, and pulled her into the gate.  This family compound had three four homes inside, all cinderblock. None were painted.  Rather than bring the chairs to us, this time the man brought us to the chairs, inside his home.  It was the only room we saw all day which had a door. The walls were barren in the small blue room, which barely fit a couch and a loveseat.  We each took our seats as directed by the man.  Soon he was surrounded by his daughter, and granddaughter and other children from the family because the door stayed open, and we were a source of curiosity.  He told us his story.  Drinking too much and how he realized it would kill him and so he stopped.  Now he works hard and he told us of his children and his 10 grandchildren.  His family are migrant workers who go to other countries to find work since in Romania the jobs do not pay enough to survive.  His sons live in Spain with their families because work is abundant there in the vineyards. He is proud of his home and the way he has cared for his family. He tells us of his hard work to pay for his compound.  He believes that many local people who say there is no work are simply lazy and are not willing to do what it takes. He tells us all of his children are hard-working and that they all work together as a team to provide all that they have.  He tells us that from Adam to Noah all men were from the same family.  At the tower of Babel is where we first spoke different languages and spread out, but under our differences we are all still the same family.  We are brothers and sisters.  We pray for blessings on his house and leave toys for the children. This strong and sturdy man does not need food for his family because he earns it.

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These are the stories of the gates.  Three of them.  Each one I pass on our way back to town I wonder, how many more stories of heartache and pain?  How many more are without hope?  How can they survive within the gates and doors that lock them away from others?  Authoritarian government from years past lingers over the people still.  Fear and mistrust hang in the air and yet, the gates are beginning to open. The stories are being told and hearts are opening up. Psalm 24 comes to my mind and I pray it as I pass each gate.  Lift up your heads, O gates of Romania, be lifted up, O ancient doors which try to close people off.  Allow the King of Glory to come in to bring hope and love.  Who is this King of Glory?  The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle, who will fight for you. He will fight for your family. He will fight for your life and your heart.  You are not alone behind your walls.  He is the Lord of hope who will make it safe to open your gates and doors.  Who is this King of Glory?  The Lord of hosts, he is the King of Glory. Precious people of Romania, you are not forgotten or abandoned.  You are not alone, the King of Glory sits upon your walls, he hovers over the gates and doors waiting for them to open.  Lift your heads O you gates and doors.  Lift your heads to hope.

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Romania (Part 1)

IMG_1629Outside my window there is a cacophony of noise, roosters crow, dogs bark, and pigeons coo.  Horse drawn carts clop, clop along and cars rev their engines and honk their horns.  The sky is baby blue with cotton ball clouds. Someone is sweeping down below and the sound of the broom echoes up into my 4th floor window, along with sounds of lively conversation in a foreign tongue of which I am beginning to become familiar.  After rain earlier in the week, there is a chill in the air, the first sign seasons will be changing soon.  Pigeons sit on the scalloped terracotta shingles; their feet make the sounds of tiny tap dancers above my head.  The gray concrete building contrasts with the tattered roof tops creating an old-world feel. In the distance, I hear a rooster crow and the birds outside my window seem to reply.  I do not understand the language of the birds here like I do at home, but I gather that they are joyful that the sun is shining. Some things are the same despite language and species barriers.

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Romania is a land of contrasts.  There are colorful signs in the modern cities which proclaim any number of products, sitting right next to buildings that have stood for centuries. The alleyways twist and turn in narrow branches which seem to have no pattern to my foreign eyes. Some buildings are skeletons of their former selves and others are shimmering with new sleek designs.  Cafes are hidden amongst the twisted maze of streets and behind the gates. If you stumble into one of the nondescript buildings you find laughter and good food abound within courtyard walls.  Just outside, markets from a bygone era boast with local produce. Drivers talk of old times, during communism when power came and went along with heat, but “It wasn’t so bad.” He tells us the fall came quickly, but the transition is very slow ‘in the minds’ because there are many who still think in the old ways.  The younger generation has their own vision, but it has not come to pass yet. We cannot tell if he himself has a preference.

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In the train station his words ring true, as I look into the faces of the Romanian people. The older women wear head scarves, printed dresses with aprons.  Their faces are kissed and leathered by the sun and hardened without a glimmer of a smile.  In stark contrast, the younger women are dressed in modern clothes. Old and young alike have eyes that tell a story of hard work and fending for themselves.  Old men with hats and talk to one another as if they are solving the problems of the world.  They are animated in their discussions revealing a passion you cannot see just by looking.  Aboard the train, chatter is happening all around and much of it contains the word Americani. We are easily identifiable among the local people. Soon we settle in for our 2-hour ride.  A baby cries nearby, and the mother works diligently to get her to sleep.

Outside the big glass window, the city fades into farmland.  Fields of corn and open skies trick me into thinking I am in the Midwestern US, until I see the fields upon fields of sunflowers.  Their heads are hanging down at the end of their season, but I can imagine the breathtaking scene it would be when they are in full bloom.  The farms roll on and on with villages in between. Patchwork rectangular fields create a quilt with dirt the color of chocolate, tall green grass, and swatches of golden stalks of corn at the finish of the harvest. Houses are surrounded with fences and gates, some beautiful, some bedraggled.  Most every house has some chickens wandering nearby. Within the many of the walls are gardens of flowers, fruit trees, and vegetables.  Roses and zinnias are lovingly cared for among many flowering plants which are unknown to my eye. On the streets, the older women sit on stools or benches beside produce that looks freshly picked from the garden behind the fence. In the heat of the non-air-conditioned train car, people doze on their journey to far away cities.  The occasional ring of a cell phone interrupts the feeling of being in another time period.

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The clouds outside the window have transitioned from white to gray and the sun has gone into hiding.  By the time we reach our stop the rain is beginning.  We hop from the train directly onto the track and wrestle our luggage over gravel and tracks.  We attempt to roll it down the stairs where we will wait for our ride.  The stray dogs greet us, hoping for a morsel of food.  It is clear that feeding one would start a frenzy from the others nearby who turn their heads our way, and so we resist the urge. After some time in the rain, we make our way under the overhang of a nearby building to wait for our ride who arrives shortly. We are travel-weary and wet while we wait, but once we are snuggly in the van, we drive past more gates of all kinds and colors.  They each tell their own story, and I have to quench the desire to stop and ask them for more details.  There will be time for that later.  We arrive at the church, the only gate that is open, and we are welcomed by our hosts with open arms and hearts.  I am intrigued by this country of contrasts and I look forward to having my curiosity satisfied in the days ahead.

Faith vs. Surrender

desertSince I wrote the middle-of-the-night-scare-your-family-and-friends blog titled I Wish, I have been thinking about it quite a bit.  Somehow it was extremely freeing to write from the depths of my soul like that.  I think to open up and let the hard stuff be seen was a big step for me.  I typically hold it all in and “just deal with it.”  I wrestle in silence. I hold on by my fingernails to my faith in which God is always working and things always work out.  But as I reread the blog, I am drawn to the last couple sentences, “Light always follows darkness.  I simply have to hold on until it does, but this time I am not holding on…I am letting go.”  These two sentences are the ones that caused my husband to jokingly rename this my suicide blog.

As I look at it again, I see how it caused many to think I was in that kind of desperate place, but I assure you suicide wasn’t on my mind.  It was surrender that was in my heart that night.  Holding on vs. letting go.  You see, I have held on for a long time.  That is what we are supposed to do as people of faith, right?  Hold on to God.  Hold on to his promises.  Have faith. Believe things will get better.  Say all the scriptures to remind myself of what I believe. However, in the wee hours of that morning it all seemed like a cop out.  A pretending. Not a genuine heartfelt belief, but a façade.  Just words I say to make myself feel better.  The essence of the blog was the wrestling between having faith and learning to surrender.

Sur =over    render=to give back.    Sur + render = to give back over.

The difference struck me so, that I had a conversation with God about it.

I will never leave or forsake you.

I feel forsaken.

I know you do.  That’s a lie.

I cannot drum up any faith that says otherwise.

It is not up to you to drum up faith.  It is a gift I give.

Do you take it back? It feels like you have taken my faith from me.

No, I don’t take it back, but it can go dormant for a season.

To me faith seems like an easy answer, a cop out.  Just have faith that things will be alright. But it doesn’t look to me like things will be alright at the moment.

It is one way to look for faith.  But there is another way…look at reality.  Not all the churchy answers, but the real-life problems.  They are hard and so many get stuck between the hard stuff and their beliefs.

Doesn’t faith ask me to deny what I feel?

Not true faith.  True faith rises up despite what you feel.  It is not manufactured by you.

Have I been manufacturing all these years?  Through all the trauma?

No.  You have been holding on, and now you have let go.  There is a difference.

Which way is better?

Neither.  There are seasons of both.  Holding on is trust in me.  Letting go is surrender.  Both are equally needed.  One feeds the other.  Faith is when you know that you know that you know.  Surrender is when you recognize you know nothing.  You stop trying to figure it all out.  Your mind disengages and you fall on your face.  You wait for me to do it, because you realize you cannot.

I know that much. I cannot go forward.  I don’t know anything.  But I don’t want to hold it against you anymore.  Forgive me for my tantrum?

Forgiven.  Of course, forgiven. Always forgiven.

Please show me.  I don’t even know what I need to know or see…I only know that you are the way to find it and that you will open it to me in time.

Now, after this dialogue with God, I find myself back in the Valley of Dry Bones…one of my favorite passages. Ezekiel 37:1-14.  I can so relate to those bones, just lying there dry with no life in them.  But this time, in the passage I see something new I haven’t noticed before.  Ezekiel has faith that whatever God says will come to pass. He might not even believe it himself “Oh Lord God, you know.”  I find it interesting he didn’t say, I know…yet he had the faith to hold onto God’s words and to speak them.  He had belief whatever he was told would come to pass.  A picture of holding on.

Then, there are the bones.  They lie there.  It is all they can do. No breath.  No way to stand.  Just dry desert, and sunbaked bones.  They are submitted to whatever happens because they have no ability in themselves to do anything differently.  A picture of letting go.  Surrender. To give yourself over.  To give up.   To cease resistance to an opponent and submit to their authority.  It is kind of hard to think of God as my opponent, but I resist his authority so often that I make him into one.  It is when I lie on my face in surrender that he can work most effectively in my life.  I give up my rights…to be angry…to be hurt…to be in charge…to defend myself.  All of it. He is much better at defending me than I am anyway.  I become a dry, lifeless, bone.  I wait for his breath, because I cannot even breathe without him, and until whispers over me, “Breathe, so you may live,” I am stuck.

I am in a season of surrender.  Face down, flat on the floor surrender.  I do not know anything about anything.  I do not know the future.  I do not know if I will be rescued or I if I will remain in the desert floor.   I do not know if I will lie here for a day or a year. It is entirely up to him.  All I know is I am here until he breathes on me, because I cannot breathe on my own.  I long for these words. “Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your grave, O My daughter, and brought you up from your grave. I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own place. Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it,” says the Lord.’”

Until I hear his voice calling to me….I let go.  I give up.  I surrender.

Guest Blog: Hope is a Four-letter Word

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As told by Bill Gunnin

Hope is a four-letter word.  Most people think of it as a positive word, a word that looks forward.  For me, with my head injury, it is a word that makes me sick.  A tormenting word, which never works out for me.  Most of the time the feeling I have is one of being heartsick.  Inside, I have so many thoughts and so many things I want to do.  I am about to explode with things I have to give, but I have nowhere to give them.  I am a unique person and I have talents and so much inside of me, but there seems to be no outlet for them.  People say these things to me, have words for me, and tell me how there are plenty of places for me to use my gifts. I gain so much hope because it stirs inside of me.  I am a visionary, but then nothing comes to pass and there is not fulfillment, so I get heartsick. It is a terrible cycle to live with over and over and over again.

I feel like God is calling me to great things but it feels impossible, because I don’t know what to do to get there. I see ahead, but the steps are invisible to me.  I have these limitations, which I am just now beginning to recognize.  I am limited.  I know God’s not limited, but I am.  It’s like wanting to be the president of a company right out of school.  I see the big things that need to be done, but I have no experience or ability to do them.  What I have to give is distinctive…there is no one else like me.  There is not someone I can follow.  What I see is unique and no one has gone there before.  So, I feel on my own to figure it out.  In order to get where I want to go you have to have experience, background, or education, in order for doors to open.  I feel I am 30 years too late.  I am finally trying to do what I should have done 30 years ago.  Find a career path, follow it to do something I want to do, but the last thirty years do not open the doors of where I want to go now.  On paper, I don’t look very good.  And there is frustration that most people don’t even understand me.  I don’t feel like I get any credit for any of my hard work in the jobs I have had.  It didn’t matter how hard I worked, or how productive I was, I was skipped over for advancement time and time again.  Part of my frustration is that I am unnoticed and I have a fear that I have left no impact where I have been.  So, I can’t help but second guess everything I have done in my past.  I have some regrets and I feel I have blown it and missed opportunities.  It makes it hard to see the opportunities that are available.  I still feel all alone in it.  Heartsick.

Everybody knows the verse in Proverbs 13:12. I have the first half of this verse memorized, but now I am looking at the second part that most people do not remember.  “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”  Hope and desire are linked.  Hope is related to what you desire, being accomplished.  The totality of man’s inner nature…the heart..is where the deepest innermost feelings reside. Different translations say it differently. The message says, “Unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick, but a sudden good break can turn life around.”  Or a longing fulfilled.  All I know is that there is no longing fulfilled and it seems there are very few good breaks that come my way regarding what I want to do.

What I do know is this…Hope deferred afflicts my soul…my heart.

So here I am again.  Looking for a job again, for what feels like the millionth time. It’s like now I am seeing things as brand new.  In some ways, I feel like a kid right out of college, with the world at my feet and so many directions. I can start fresh and begin again. Yet I have trouble with making decisions and finding directions…and I have this hope that has never been fulfilled, so I have trouble hoping. Hope is a bad word to me.  So instead of hoping, I feel like crying.  I have a desire, even, to cry it all out to release the burden of it.

Every single time, I get stirred up inside in my spirit man and a gift of faith or calling from deep within rises up.  But with the excitement, there is a shadow over it that knows this desire is strong, but I will go nowhere with it.  Hope feels like a trap to me.  It’s different from the wall that I cannot get over…instead it feels more like something hanging over me…like a roof or ceiling where the real me cannot be seen.  I am hidden under a cloud preventing others from seeing me and what I have that is good.

The one place I feel freedom is in worship.  Music lets me be myself…all broken, but with no limits. I love to worship.  But even in worship, especially in worship, I feel things rise up in me.  I hear songs, and I see what could be.  Good worship gives me no desire to be leading it…but I do have a desire to come along side and help others to develop and grow.  I have something to impart to others and I would love to help them move out in worship and songs.  I don’t want to be the one leading on the stage, I want to be the one supporting the one on the stage, and helping them find their gifts and move in them in order to draw people into the presence of God.  There are songs in me, but they can’t come out without others, and there are songs in them that cannot come out if they are alone.  It is a corporate thing. You have to feed the spirit, but all the other stuff in life sucks it out of me and leaves me feeling the desire, but hopeless to accomplish it.

 

Enchanted Moment

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It was an enchanted moment…a gift.  And I nearly missed it.

My brand-new husband peeked out of the curtains of our honeymoon suite. “Shell, get up and come look at this. It’s a gift!”

I was snuggled deep into the covers. My eyes were shuttered closed and happy to be that way. After months of wedding planning and finally being officially man and wife, I was in need of a lazy morning to sleep in.

I mumbled, in my best new-wife-but-leave-me-alone voice, “What is it?”

“Just come look!” came the reply.

“Can’t you just tell me?”

“No.  You have to see it to believe it!”  Then he whisked the curtains open and blinding light shined into the room.  Shielding my eyes, I sat up and took in the view of a snow-covered mountain, just outside our window.

I sat straight up in the bed, “What?  Snow!? How in the world?”

“I told you, it’s a gift!” his excitement was barely contained.  “Get up.  Let’s go!”

Less than a week prior, we stood in Frost Chapel at Berry College in Georgia taking our wedding vows.  To say the temperature was sweltering is an understatement.  It was 1986 and it was one of the hottest July’s on record with the longest number of consecutive days without rainfall.  When planning a wedding in the winter I thought of heat, seeing as the chapel didn’t have air conditioning, but I figured a stone chapel would cool down by 7:30 in the evening.  I was wrong.  The triple digit temperature only served to turn the chapel into an oven.  This sparked a last-minute effort to create funeral fans with our names and wedding date on them to hand out to our guests, who were dripping wet before they even walked up the hill to the venue.

My dream had always been to marry in February and have a ski trip honeymoon, but I was a teacher.  I could take 3 personal days during the school year for a trip, or have the whole summer.  We chose the summer…in the 1980s…when long sleeved, high necked, old fashioned, Victorian wedding gowns were all the rage.  People still tell me that our wedding was the hottest they have ever been in their lives.  I tell them, no one was hotter that day than me!  Hair falling.  Make up melting. I have pictures of me and my attendants standing over fans, dresses unzipped and off the shoulders, trying not to get sweat rings under our arms!

Bill and I couldn’t get to the Canadian Rockies fast enough. Though skiing was out of the question, we knew it would be cooler there.  I packed my bridal trousseau of cotton slacks, summer sweaters, and canvas espadrilles, ready for a 70-degree honeymoon.  Awaking to snow was not in the plan, however, being southern born and bred we couldn’t pass up the chance to go out and play!  We went to the gift shop to buy sweatshirts and layered our thin windbreakers over them. Off we went, following a directional sign that said Mirror Lake.   I don’t think there where many other southerners at Lake Louise that day, because we had the trail to ourselves. Maybe they were just smarter than we were, but we didn’t care.  Young, in love, and surprised with the gift of snow in July, we embraced the moment fully. The flakes were coming down hard and thick.  They created a magical world unlike anything we had ever seen. Delicate masterpieces caught on my eyelashes.  We turned our faces upwards to catch them on our tongues. The pine branches bent with the weight of white wet fluff.  The mountainous views were in every direction as we climbed. It was breathtaking.

We arrived to discover how it came to be called Mirror Lake.  The reflection was stunning. It was an exact replica both right side up and upside down.  The heavy snowfall simply made it more like a postcard from another world.  What joy filled our hearts!  Just to be a witness to such beauty was beyond anything we could have imagined.  Then we saw another sign which said, Tea House with an arrow pointing to a continuation of the trail.  By this time, we were cold.  Our clothes even with the sweatshirts, were ill equipped for hiking in the snow.  My “cute” shoes were soaked through and without socks it became a problem, unless we kept moving.  We had no gloves, so our hands were in pockets.  The hoods of our windbreakers were up, but since they were not waterproof our hair was soaked as well.  The thought of a Tea House, some warm liquid enticed us to continue our climb.  Never mind that the sign had no mileage listed, or that we hadn’t seen another soul thus far.  It wasn’t long before we began to question our choice to continue, but each time we would wonder what was just around the next curve.  Each twist and turn brought us even more beautiful views.

When I wanted to turn back, Bill said “Just one more turn, then we’ll go back.”

Then, when he was ready to give it up I would say, “But we might be almost there. It can’t be much further.”

The sound of a waterfall in the distance gave us fuel to keep going.  The snow had stopped, and even if we never found the Tea House, the sight of a waterfall in such a majestic place would only make it more astonishing.  So, we climbed. As the rushing of the water increased so did our pace, mainly because we were cold, tired and wet.  We wanted to see it before we turned back.  When we saw the falls, we were once again overwhelmed with the gift of a snowy day.

In just a few more steps, the house came into view.  It was a thrill to almost be there.  It was still a bit of a climb, but the end was in sight…but so was the closed sign!  We were heartbroken. All that way, as beautiful as it was, and there was no hot tea waiting for us.  It dawned on us that we might actually be in trouble, as cold as we were.  We had depended on making it to a place to warm up, the sudden realization that we had to hike another 4.5 miles back down the trail without a rest was enough to bring tears to my eyes.  Bill wanted to continue to go up to the porch, look in the windows, and sit for a bit to overlook the glacier-fed Lake Agnes, which was the clearest water I had ever seen.  I made the case for turning back immediately, because to sit down when we were wet in the cold would not be wise.  He told me to stay put for a minute and he ran ahead to peek in the cabin perched on the lake between the mountains.  Much to his surprise when he looked inside there were people, who waved him in.

He cracked the door and said, “Can we come in just to warm up even though you are closed? We are cold.”

The man laughed and said, “I forgot to turn the sign around. We’re open.”

In minutes, our we shed our outer layers and put them by the stove.  We ordered hot tea, along with sandwiches on fresh baked still-warm bread.  I think it was the best meal I have ever had in my life.  Since we were totally unprepared for our hike, we were thirsty, and asked for water.  We were given a ladle to go down the to the lake and fill our cups with the clearest, best tasting water ever. We sat there looking out over the lake and snow-covered mountains amazed.  We were together, warm, dry, full of love for each other and grateful for our gift day.

Hannah at tea house

This week, our oldest is having a camping adventure through the Canadian Rockies.  She sent us this picture which is what triggered this blog.  Who would have thought 31 years ago, that our offspring would return to the same Tea House we stumbled into? In the pictures she sent us, she sits enjoying the food, the company of friends, and soaking in the same views we saw all those years ago at Lake Agnes.  It has served as a reminder of our beginnings and a snowy July day in an enchanted forest…that was a gift.

lake agnesfood at tea house

tea househannah in the mountians

The Brick Wall

brick wall

This is another in a series of guest blogs from my husband about what it is like to live with a Traumatic Brain Injury. (TBI)  I saw the sentence in bold written on a notepad.  I asked him to tell me more about it and this is what he said to me.  

The Brick Wall

As told by Bill Gunnin

“Often there are days I wake up and feel like I am standing in front of a very tall brick wall that extends across the horizon, and there is no way to scale it.” –Bill 

For some reason, it was a familiar feeling to think of this image.  I had an inspiration-ah-ha kind of moment where I was thinking about things more than normal.  I guess part of what brought clarity was I knew there was something I needed to do that day.  The pile of issues, job, ticket, money, getting with people about jobs, my dad, all the stuff going on right now in our lives, etc.… I had an overload moment.  I hit a wall.  Suddenly, I had this image of a long brick wall in my mind and the picture was so clear to me.  I have a wall in front of me, always.  In stressful situations it gets even worse, or seems bigger. I have to go somewhere, but I don’t know how.  I have a loss of confidence. The picture was clear of the wall, but other than that, I had no understanding of what it meant exactly.  It was broad general feelings.

There is nothing specific that made me feel this way I don’t think.  It is helplessness.  There is a sense I can’t go anywhere, because there’s nowhere to go to.  It’s an obstacle I can’t do anything about, and there is no way around it.  It doesn’t even occur to me there might be another path.  There is anger and frustration because there is nothing I can do about it. Put yourself in a situation where there is nothing you can do. You are helpless to help yourself.   Like in the movie we watched, where the pilot went down in the ocean but couldn’t get out of the plane.  It was over…there was nothing he could do. He kept trying, but there was no option for him, the only thing that could help him was something outside of himself.  He was powerless to his circumstances through no fault of his own.  For me, it translates to I can’t think.  I can’t develop a plan. There are no options for me.  I get angry and frustrated at myself.  The ideal me says, “How stupid, you have options. You are so stupid! Just do something!”  But then I don’t, I can’t. I get mad at myself, and hate it.  The wall is such that it doesn’t occur to me to climb it or go around it.  It is insurmountable.  That’s a very bad feeling.  It feels impossible.

Often when you talk about emotional things…the challenge, is in getting specific. It is hard.  Emotions are layered and general.  The emotions I am conscious of in the moment, are often not the root of the issue I am feeling.  They are a blurry thing.  Brain scientists say that emotions hinder higher level functions like logic, and analytical thinking.  When I am picking things apart or self-debriefing, becoming self-aware…such a hard thing for me, it is something I have had to work on over and over again…clear concrete facts are hard because the feelings that go with them are tricky.  Coming to conclusions about my feelings is hard to do without assistance.

Sitting at the table that morning, I wrote the sentence down about the wall.  It was the first time I recognized the feelings I have all the time, as something descriptive.  I’m having emotions and I cannot communicate them, but that image is worth 1000 words to me. It communicates them all.  It expresses the feelings I am unable to say with words.

It’s was a step.  I was just feeling frustrated, because our circumstances cannot remain the way they are.  I can’t just sit here.  I was thinking about letting you down, letting my family down.  How embarrassed I am.  How humiliating it is as to what my image of a man is…always working on things, finishing things, drive to succeed.  I should have that drive…and I do…but I can’t. I do want to, but sitting there that day in the kitchen, I couldn’t bring myself to make calls or do anything.  I am disgusted with myself.  If any of my children or people I know saw me like that…I would be so embarrassed.  I feel like everyone is going to find out the truth that I am a lazy butt.  What is my damn problem?

I hear everyone is self-critical sometimes.  I know that the thoughts I have go against what I believe.  I am loved by God.  I am forgiven.  I am a son, not a slave, etc…  But at the same time, I cannot be irresponsible.  I’m hurting, frustrated, anxious and then I think ‘How dare I even be this way?’ and yet I was submitting to it.  I cannot do what I want to do. Like that scripture says.  I guess maybe seeing that wall, extending across the horizon gave a visual to all the feelings I was having that day and all the other days.  We all interpret things according to our own background so, your wall and mine are different.  I finally saw it and it put a picture to how I feel.  It is not uncommon for me to have this bad self-talk,  and inability to process steps I need to take, it happens a lot.  I am conflicted internally most of the time.  In some ways when I saw that picture it relieved some of that pressure. Like a pressure valve released.  This wall is not something I contributed to and it is outside myself…but it is still there and an obstacle. I have to admit that I haven’t realized this, until this minute, as we are talking.   That picture of the wall took some pressure off.  I only wish I could remember the relief and hold onto it, because tomorrow it will start all over again.

A Word About Vulnerability

love

A word about vulnerability.  This word has been popping up in my comment threads recently as I have written about the hard place we are currently walking. (Thanks for the comments, btw.  It is nice to know people are reading and my words are not floating into a black hole somewhere. 🙂  )  Because of the frequency of the word showing itself, I decided to study its origins. The word vulnerable comes from the Latin root vulnerare which means “to wound.” Ability is simply defined as the “means to do something.”

Vulnerability = giving someone the means to wound you.

 Yikes, is it any wonder we avoid being vulnerable? It doesn’t sound too fun, and I can tell you from personal experience it isn’t, but it is necessary. Being seen, truly seen, is scary.  It is opening up the places inside yourself that even you avoid.  So much of what we do as humans is avoidance of letting others in.  There is fear we will not be loved or accepted.  There is shame that somehow, we don’t meet up.  Fear and shame partner together and feed our fears of rejection.  Our deepest need is to belong and be loved despite our shortcomings, and it seems life conspires against us in sharing that need. We keep hidden.  Our deepest fears thrive in the shadows.  Darkness conceals our shame, even to ourselves.  We self-protect in so many ways, using defenses to reduce the dissonance between who we are on the outside to the world and who we perceive ourselves to be on the inside. Hiding from ourselves and others reduces anxiety from the possibility of being wounded, but it does not assist us in meeting the deepest need for acceptance.  So, we wander around in life longing for acceptance, but at the same time pushing away the very thing that will bring us that connection.

Vulnerability.

Instead we opt for defense mechanisms like projection (blaming others), repression (denying our pain), regression (acting childlike), compartmentalization (pushing negative parts away), rationalization (defending our behavior), intellectualization (hiding behind logic), or any other number of defenses.  We are unaware that we are doing these things because they are deeply embedded in our subconscious, but they are the basis for much of our behavior and reactions to stressful situations. I have used all of these and more, and not in healthy ways either.

The one I use most is spiritualization (using spiritual things to deny reality).  I’m not sure that one is recognized in books or not, but I know how it works.  I hide behind the truth.  When something bad happens I say, ‘God is good all the time,’ even when I don’t think it’s true. Or I say ‘God always finishes what he starts,’ when I don’t see the end in sight.  Or ‘God is faithful,’ when it seems he is anything but.  My life verse says, “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I hide behind it every time something harmful happens to me.

I can feel you squirming as you read, but bear with me.  There is a difference between hiding behind the truth and holding onto it.  One is a defense mechanism, the other is being authentic.  One is a cover up, the other is simple faith.  Holding onto truth trusts that if I am honest and admit my doubts and fears, God is big enough to handle it. Here’s the thing, If I am not vulnerable with God, who can I be vulnerable with?  I have realized that I am using the shield of faith to protect myself from God.  I don’t let him past my scriptures and clichés, and if I don’t, he will not have the opportunity to heal my broken heart. I have to put down my shield, because in the intimate spaces with him I don’t need armor.  Armor is for battle against my enemy, not for the secret place with the lover of my soul.

I have to be vulnerable. I have to say, ‘I don’t get it. I don’t feel it.  I don’t believe you are for me right now.  Help my unbelief.’  I have to be real with my tears, and my confusion.  Sometimes I am not even sure he is safe and that’s about as honest as it gets.  However, I am willing to hold onto what I know in my head is true, even as I whisper to him what is in my heart. I have to be willing to let him show me himself, instead of projecting what I want him to be. Sharing deep things with God is risky, but here’s the rub, what if don’t share?  What if sharing the deep things, being my authentic real self, is the way to healing?

If that is true, then vulnerability is the path with God and with others.  Opening myself up and saying ‘I am not okay’ instead of ‘I am fine,’ is a huge step, but it makes people uncomfortable.  Sharing the dark places is not smiled upon in our culture.  We are expected to stand strong, push through, trust God, and have faith during our trials.  Vulnerability requires me to let go of those façades and be real.  Real is scary because of the possibility that rejection will follow.  The probability is high it will.  It is the risk of opening up and honestly saying what you feel when you are confused.  It is something that cannot be fixed with a few words from the Bible or an inspirational meme.  It requires time to find the courage to put down my armor in the presence of God and let him see me…the real me, unprotected and scared.

As I put these things down, and refuse to pretend all is well, I am finding some freedom.  A burden is lifted. I am not quite to hopeful yet, but there might be a spark beginning to glow.  As we revisit brain injury and look at how it affects us now, we are feeling relief of being known.  Each tiny step we take is beginning to crack the armor we have been carrying for years.  We are not hiding anymore.  Not from God.  Not from people.  We are finding the path of vulnerability to be narrow and overgrown, like walking through the jungle with a machete. Some days it is too thick to make much progress.  Others it seems to open up in front of us and invites us forward.  There is quicksand that bogs us down, and there are clear paths which seem straight, until they’re not.  We are walking through a journey and a process which, we are sharing as we go, in hopes of finding connection and belonging in the deep places… of vulnerability.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Blog

17191794_10211972892381522_696044197707358754_oToday I have an important guest blogger, my husband Bill.  He has a story to tell that is important.  In fact, it is one of the things that has been swept under the rug at our house for years, as we have been in survival mode. It is where so much of our lives together have been formed. In this current season of unraveling and looking back to go forward, we have started to dissect some things from the past. We have decided not to suffer in silence any longer.  I cannot tell you how proud I am of this man, and how much love I have for him.  He is amazing and I thought it appropriate to share this first part of his perspective of how brain injury affects him, on our 31st anniversary.  This is taken from conversations we have had together while hiking, or sitting over coffee, or driving in the car.  It is the tip of the iceberg. We are thinking of compiling our experiences for a book, at some point in the future.  It is kind of random and raw at this point while we are processing.  He shares and I write it down for him so he can concentrate on expressing his experiences.  I can tell you this, marriage with a TBI has been a hard road, still is, but I have a heart bond with this man.  Most couples do not survive TBI, we understand why, but we also are deeply committed to be one of the couples who does.  If I had known 31 years ago on our wedding day, what was in store in a year’s time, I still would have married this man I love.  Happy Anniversary!  

 My Hidden Permanent Disability

as told by Bill Gunnin

How do you overcome a disability you cannot see? I wonder how many of my perceived character flaws are really a symptom of my TBI?  It’s been so long ago, but they say TBI is forever. What if my character is not flawed as I think it is, but my TBI has redefined my life? It is like a living nightmare to be unable to do things, but to have no idea why I cannot do them.  An invisible force prevents me, and it is as if I am boxing an unseen enemy who I cannot identify, and I cannot defeat.  It has the advantage over me because not only is it hidden to others, who only see outward appearances, it is imperceptible to me, from inside myself.

There is a long list of symptoms and I have many of them, but I don’t always know. I have to have someone else tell me. There used to be more, but these are the ones I still have trouble with sometimes:  Impulse control, memory, ability to attend, focus, brain hyperarousal, agitation, irritability, egocentrism, denial, selective obsession, depression, lack of motivation, social immaturity, social dependency, inability to make decisions, logorrhea (excessive talking), panic, anxiety, frustration, mental fatigue, impatience, being hypercritical, hopelessness, decrease of social interactions, disinhibition (loss of filter), intolerance, inflexibility, setting priorities, word retrieval, and decision making.

It’s embarrassing.  People think I am one way because they cannot see the injury.  I want to be the person they think I am, instead of who I actually am.  I am embarrassed of myself, within myself. When I talk about my deficits and a possible job, I think ‘who would want to hire someone who has all these deficits.’  I don’t want to talk about it.  I know I can do the job, at least I think I can, so why talk about possible limitations? But I may not be able to do what I think I can do.  I don’t know if I can or not, so should I say something and risk not getting the job at all?  It’s discouraging and depressing.  I have trouble making decisions.  I can’t direct myself to what needs to be done now and what needs to be done later, because of that sometimes I can’t do anything.

I’ve been told of deficits and I’ve read about them.  I am more aware of the ones that affect me, after they happen than when they are happening, any recognition I have about myself is all in retrospect. Just now, I realized something, but then I went to get paper to write it down and forgot it. I want to just be me, but I feel I am not acceptable as I am.

Impulse control. Delayed gratification. I cannot delay wanting something.  If I want a milkshake, I go get it.  In the early days after the accident, this happened in outbursts of anger or other feelings. I could not control my temper, or my tears.  I felt things and they just came out.  You don’t realize how much your brain helps you to be socially acceptable with your feelings by allowing you to hold them in or let them out appropriately.  It is not as much controlling emotions now for me, only when I am tired or overwhelmed, but I can hold them back better.  For me, it is more external things for comfort that I cannot seem to stop.  I guess it is what some people would call will power.  I lack that in some areas. For example, impulse control in conversation…I can’t hold back my thoughts, so I interrupt constantly, and even go in different directions in the conversation. I don’t know it though, not at the time. It requires review after the fact for me to see it. It frustrates my family, or people I am talking to for me to do it, but because I don’t say everything that comes into my head (believe it or not) I think I am doing well.  I don’t always see the frustration on someone’s face or pick up on social cues, so I just keep talking.  My kids will tell me, or my wife will nudge me under the table, but I don’t see it myself really.  So I think I have more control than I do.  Like right now, the music that is playing is bothering me while we are talking. I don’t want to hear a song where I recognize the melody, because it pulls my attention away from trying to talk about this with you. I just jumped off topic because of my external environment and my inability to filter it out. If I am in a loud place, like a crowded restaurant it is overwhelming to me. I will stop talking because I cannot keep up with all the stuff going on in there and carry on a conversation too.  It also tires me out, so when I leave there I need to go rest so my brain can calm down again.

Memories are a tricky thing. I don’t trust that I am remembering it correctly.  When I try to analyze things I can’t, especially under stress.  I get agitated when I have to deal with external stressors.  A lot of regret about not handling things well…after the fact. Or not being able to remember things that I know I should know.

Symptoms are sporadic and sometimes I can do things…other times I cannot.  I hate these problems.  They have no solutions.  It’s not clear cut…like needing hearing aids, or my knee is hurt, so I cannot walk. Those are direct and easy to understand at least. For me, sometimes I know the issues, and sometimes I can’t see them.  So much of it depends on external circumstances that are beyond my control, and it prevents me from showing what I can do.  For example, I had a job interview recently.  I was in the lobby filling out some short answer type questions where I had to write.  There was a baby in the room and there was some confusion as to who was keeping the baby between the two adults there, so one of them could leave. I couldn’t concentrate on what I was writing because of the distraction, but also because I was worried about the baby and the situation even long after they had solved the issue. It’s like it got stuck in my brain. They came and got me for my interview but my questions were not finished, which made me feel like I did something wrong. Employers don’t have any idea what it means to me to say, you can finish it later.  I went from the lobby, and my unfinished questions with my feelings of being inadequate, directly into a room with a panel of people asking me about how I would handle made up scenarios.  I thought the interview went great, but now looking back at it I can see I totally messed it up and my answers were not good because I could not think clearly. I talked too much, because I do that when I am stressed. When I interview they probably think I can’t handle stress.  They think about how those little things, like a baby in a room while writing affects them, not me.  I can handle a job, but I never get the chance to show it.

This transfers to other areas, it is easy for me to be critical of other people, but impossible for me to understand what pain they have from their own experiences.  People who are discriminated against for color, or religion, no one truly knows what they have been through in their lives.  I have the same type issue with my hidden disability…no one knows.  It’s invisible. Saying you understand is different than my gut level experiences with rejection.

I have compassion for people who are having trouble, like the elderly, or disabled people. My limitations have taught me patience and given me empathy. I like for the elderly to feel their own autonomy in the small things, like which trash bags they want or other things when they are shopping.  I could just pick some things, but I want them to feel they have some control over their lives still. Sometimes they are like children with an intellect.  I understand how that feels. I can guide while still letting people feel they are in control. I want to be someone who comes from where they are.  No assumptions on my part, instead I want to show empathy.  If they are angry and cranky, they don’t have evil intent, they are just frustrated.  Cranky old people are misunderstood, the problem is they are losing themselves and it makes them unhappy. I get that.  I say let them be who they are.  Interesting people.  I want someone to let me be who I am, too.   Nothing I can do can change what older people think or feel, and just because they are old, people nod and smile and understand them, give them patience.  I want people to give me that same kind of understanding.

The New Normal

humility“You will find a new normal.”  I have heard the phrase many times, and in fact, I have said it to others in trying circumstances. The new normal seems like a goal, a hidden place where all things line up once again.  However, what no one talks about is the strong longing for the old normal…before.  Before my arms ached for a baby who was alive.  Before my husband changed to a different person.  Before the scars from cancer marred my body. We all have our befores. Before death. Before disease. Before dysfunction. They are right, you do adapt to the new normal and learn to cope with losses.  With each loss, I learn to deal with a different reality than I previously had to consider.  But that doesn’t stop me from grieving the old normal.  I know people who have endured unimaginable losses.  Many of them have sent me notes as my last two raw blogs were published.  Some are dealing with diseases and the limitations they bring.  Some have lost children and have gaping holes in their hearts the size of the Grand Canyon.  Some have walked through divorce and are facing single parenthood, alone and scared.  Some have lost friendships that have ruptured their souls.  Others have loved ones who have died, or children who have turned their backs. Dysfunction has claimed families to the point there is no reconciliation.  Abusive behavior of a spouse, a sibling, or a parent has caused self-doubt and condemnation to rise up. And still, people say, “You will get used to the new normal.”

I want to spit on that phrase because it denies the truth of the loss.  It says, ‘just get used to it’ or the other common phrase ‘just get over it,’ as if it is ME who is the problem, not the circumstance.  The root of the finding the new normal is acceptance of whatever the loss is.  I have never been one to blindly accept things until have understanding, until I work through what a monumental loss means to me.  I used to ask why, but I long ago realized that is the wrong question, because it leads nowhere and has no answer.  It leads me around in circles, taunting me in my attempts to sleep and it puts all the reasons for calamity firmly in my court.  I didn’t DO something right.  If I had been better this horrible thing wouldn’t have happened to me.

Instead of why, a better question is what now?  What do I do now that my life is no longer normal?   I am an optimist…or I try to be.  I look for the silver lining because there always is one.  But sometimes I wonder in trying to look on the bright side all the time if I sweep too much under the rug.  In my effort to avoid being a victim of my circumstances, have I pushed the perceived pain away, or I have I simply denied it exists? The problem with burying the hard stuff is that it doesn’t really go away.  You end up, in a place like I am in now, where the rug is mountainous thus preventing movement. It is time to pull it back and examine the pieces I have swept under there so I can be truly rid of them rather than just pretending they aren’t there.

It is times like these where I can relate to the Children of Israel in the desert.  Going in circles is tiring.  It brings out the worst attitudes.  We look at the provision of God for them and think, ‘How could they not see God’s hand protecting and providing for them?  How could they complain against him in the midst of the miracle of manna? What whiners they were!’  Now I am the one in the desert who cannot see the promised land.  Now, I get it.  How long will I wander?  How long will the promises be withheld from me?  I gather manna daily.  I have for nearly 30 years.  I watch the cloud, the hand of God, cover me and I see the pillar of fire light my steps. I depend on him for everything because I have no other choice.  I worship him in the desert, but I also do not understand why I must stay here.  If I were Moses I would have beat the rock to death out of frustration.  I can so relate to why he didn’t do what God told him to do. I am sure it felt good to hit that stone, and once he got started he just couldn’t help himself.  Meanwhile, the cynicism of the people grew to the point that once they got to the land, the giants loomed larger than God. The daily hardships overshadowed the promise.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, it also clouds the eyes.  Hope becomes an enemy who never keeps a promise. The other shoe always drops, and the light just goes out internally as a means of self-protection. It hurts too badly to hope for a different normal.  The longing for milk and honey is overwhelming.  The loss of dreams never to be fulfilled is painful.  The dichotomy of those two is unbearable.  Instead, I find a “new normal” which denies my hurting heart expression.  I adapt.  I cope.  All while the mess under the rug gets bigger and bigger, until one day I am trapped in a room with a mountain that blocks my way out.  A day like today.  A day when life has to take a backseat to healing and where wholeness becomes a priority above all else.  A day when I decide to go retrieve hope from the old normal and bring it into the new.