A Quick Poem, As Tech Week has Stolen my Brain

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I am in a play this week, which has swallowed up my life and my mind. As this was written before the advent of Tech Week, I am fairly confident it will be coherent. Here’s hoping…

All to Jesus I surrender,
All to Thee I freely give…
(Ah, that dear old hymn, how apropos!)

Surrender like this:
Trust
Give in
Release
Drop
Fall…

Down, down
Free fall!
Scooped up, pulled close
Your chin on my head,
Your breath ruffles my
hair, surrounds me…

I gulp You in
Weep
Weary
Love force presses out
All fear
“How can I doubt wh
Your love is surrounding me?”
(Ah, that dear old Matthew Ward song!)

I giggle, amazed — stunned
Joyful —
Because all fear is gone, somehow
Absorbed by You, dissipated in
Lion of Judah’s gentle growl
Purring pure
Strength and
Leoa inhales, exhales
Rising in humble,
Holy power.

 

Take Back the Day Part 2: I’m Struggling Today

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Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God.
~ Psalm 42:11

Today’s blog, coupled with Monday’s, should at least lend credence to my bi-polar diagnosis. Let’s be real, shall we? I’m not going to sugar-coat this day. My experience of this day is that it’s creating negative atmospheric pressure. In the common vernacular — it sucks. Today I am struggling with a variety of things, and no solution is presenting itself yet. I think you understand.

Today (Tuesday) began meteorologically the same as yesterday, though the temperature is climbing a bit. Same rain, rain, rain, same dullness to the day. Same, yet so different.

Today I awoke already exhausted. My mood stabilizer medication, the stuff I take at bedtime, sometimes has the unfortunate side effect of making me… restless. I’m asleep but I’m struggling with all manner of situations, some real, most an exaggerated version of whatever I was thinking about as I went to sleep. Last night I was thinking of a dance I need to learn for the play I’m in, which opens next week. So all night long I’m thinking: I need to rehearse, I need to get it down… which morphed into trying to teach a whole group of people a dance I didn’t even know myself. Added to this the irrational feature of a cast member hitting on me, which I know wouldn’t happen in real life. But as I dream in Technicolor 4-D imagery, it was certainly real to me.

I began to awaken before dawn, awake enough to realize the fight was on to solve the multi-dimensional dream problem while simultaneously fighting to set it aside and slide into a satisfying, restful sleep. I finally gave up and dragged out of bed, awake enough to pour a cup of coffee, but not enough to carry on a polite conversation with my Mom (or anyone else — please, please, go away, I can’t adult yet!). Awake enough to taste in my coffee that the half-gallon of half-and-half I bought yesterday was already a bit off (seriously? the expiration date is DECEMBER 11th). Sheesh.

Pondering all of this and the fact that my truck’s dashboard was beginning to sparkle,  warning lights one-by-one popping up as I drove home from play practice last night. And the fact that arriving home I rolled to a stop, a dead battery shutting off those lights in one fatal blink.

Thus began today. On top of that, while nursing my off-coffee, I peered inside to see my emotions: a dark, roiling mess. Now this isn’t unusual for me. I have bi-polar disorder, so my insides often don’t know which way to go on a given morning. I often have to spend the first part of every day sorting them into piles and dealing with them on a bit-by-bit basis. Today, though, it felt like too much. Added to that, a dear friend pointed out that my many vehicle frustrations likely stem from unresolved relationship issues with my husband. And I need to shake the sand off my ostrich head and face them. And there’s more, so many unresolved, amorphous issues pressed down by busyness, popping up like submerged beach balls.

So what did I do with this lovely mash-up? Yep, I grabbed my mug, trudged back upstairs, plopped on the bed, pressed my little owl plushie to my chest and cried. I curled up in Daddy God’s lap and just turned on the tear faucet full-blast, ugly crying, emptying out.

And I decided to (wo)man my laptop, following up my happy Monday Pollyanna-ish blog with this very real, raw, sucky day blog. Because some days are like that. Today I just want to scream, all the possible negatives sticking to me like the black blobs on Mr. Incredible.

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I don’t want to face any of the stuff of this day. I want to curl up in a blanket fort, but I don’t want to bother building it. I want to hide in a Netflix binge-fest. I want to self-medicate and push it all away.  I wish I could push it all away forever. To somehow live as a perpetually carefree four year-old, nothing on my mind but my dolls and my funny made-up stories, my toys and yummy snacks.

But I know that even with a necessary break I’ll have to face all the stuff. All of it. What can I do to face it in a healthy way? Jesus, how did you face all your crap-hitting-the-fan days?

All at once I see You in a darkened grove, just You alone among the olive trees, just You crying out your heart with our Daddy. I see You shaking Your fist at the destroyed, toxic chaos Adam and Eve unleashed on Your perfect world, the horror and futility of it all. I see you raw and real, crying out, saying, ” Father if You don’t do something about this, if You don’t help, if You don’t go back out into that mess with me, I will fall apart! I can’t do this — I just can’t!”

And I see gentle hands stretch from the clouds, light beams spiking through, illuminating dark spaces. I see our Dad reach down and scoop You up. Scoop me up. I see Him, face intent, his eyes knowing it all, empathy a cloud around us — such tender love! I hear deep, soothing tones, “My child, I know. I see you, I see your pain. I see your slumped shoulders, your eyes misty, forlorn. I see discouragement radiate from you. Ah, my child You know something? I never meant for you to do any of this alone. It IS too much for you to face. Lean into me, let go, drop into Me. You are enough for all of this because of one thing:

I am enough, little one. I AM enough. And I live in you. You never go anywhere, face anything, without Me.”

And I feel hope trickle in. I don’t have to have all the answers right now.  But I know His record. I remember sitting hopeless  four and a half years ago in a prison cell, my charges screaming death, hopelessness, futility to me. I remember light spears spiking all around me, showing me what I could only see with eyes bigger than mine. Showing me that somehow I had to hang on, that if it would get better it had to be God’s intervention. Nothing more, nothing less. In a moment I see the ribbon of my life, spots caught in flashes of Him coming through for me, again and again.

I still feel trembly confusion today, tears so close to the surface, unnamed, as-yet unknown pain turbulent in my belly. But I turn my chin up, look into my sweet Father’s face, Lion of Judah arrayed in light and love, all-sufficient, all-love. I know beyond knowledge He really is enough. And I take the next breath, do the next thing. It will work out. I know deep below all the chaos, the Truth, my Jesus, holds me close. He is my shield, my wisdom, my It’s gonna be ok.

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And in my tears I find I’m smiling, if only a little. On days like this, when the best case scenario is slogging through, I remember I have strong hip boots, I have sunlight on my face, a light-pierced cloud above my head, while the cold rain still pours all around.

It’s gonna be all right. It really is. Deep down I know it’s true. And it’s okay if my emotions take a while to get there.

 

Take Back the Day

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It’s raining again. Steady, penetrating, cold, continuous. A beautiful day! Wait, what?

Back when my girls were little, before the Boy entered our lives… no matter what the weather was like I’d do the same thing. Every morning, I’d walk into their room, push open their pink and pastel hearts curtains and say a variation of It’s a beautiful day!

It’s a beautiful sunny day!
It’s a beautiful cloudy morning!
Look — snow!!!
It’s a beautiful — rainyful — day!

I’d especially get excited about the most miserable mornings, a kind of reverse psychology I hoped would work on all of us. Because I used to be so jerked about by weather conditions…

Atmospheric pressure = sinus headache = irritability.
Cloudy = where’s the sun? = annoyance.
Sunny = glaring light = pull the shades.
Cold and rainy = the worst = pull the covers over my head, let me sleep some more. Except I couldn’t because two little girls and a baby don’t allow for such extravagances.

One morning, while it was still dark (when I could have time with the Lord, uninterrupted by the cacophony of tiny female voices, their insatiable activity) I reflected a bit on my brief stint as a temp in the work world. Every week was the same:  Monday we’d slog in. Misery reigned as the general consensus seemed to be “just get me to Friday.” Tuesday was filled with “tomorrow’s Hump Day.” Wednesday was — well — Hump Day itself, but small talk often featured “two days to go.” Thursday was  “tomorrow’s Friday.” Friday featured a countdown of hours till Happy Hour. And other planned and unplanned weekend extravagances.

Sipping tea and thinking of this, I remembered what those weekends were like for me, a 20-something English major working full-time during the summers, part-time the rest of the year, putting myself through college. Weekends were wonderful, for the most part — except for catching up on all the laundry and other cleaning shunted to the side during the week. And yes, Sunday evening had me frowning over the coming week’s landscape… Another week of drudgery slated for temps: making endless copies, helping someone or other reconfigure her workspace (actually that was kind of fun, but I digress), and — eventually — my daily heap of credit disputes to enter into the system.

And I saw that I had, at least in part, succumbed to the temptation to only live for what, two days out of seven? Realizing this with the proverbial slap in the face one day at work was a wake-up call. On my crawling commute home through Wilmington rush-hour traffic that afternoon I asked the Lord to change me. Thus began a complete mindset shift. I would (with the Lord’s help) find delight in each day. I would (God helping me) enjoy every day as much as humanly possible.

I initially found myself a bit of an enthusiastic, upbeat oddity in the office. But over the next month or so (before I went back to college), I discovered some comrades, a few who found plenty to laugh at and ways to inject delight into the usual tedium of working in a credit company cubicle farm. I marveled as I rode the elevator alone on my last day — I was actually sad to leave.

Sipping the dregs of my tea as that mom of three little sweeties, I decided that dark morning to impart a love of every day — regardless of its proximity to the weekend or lack of sunny skies — to my three little treasures. And, eventually, to my sweet son. It’s been an ongoing project for almost 16 years now. And I’m still amazed at the delight I feel, a steady gratitude for every day. And their (mostly) unflagging optimism going into their own days. A hard-won, God-given gift.

Every day a delight. Even this cold, rainy one. Especially this one. Thanks, Daddy God. From the bottom of my astounded, joyful heart.

photo of woman wearing white long sleeved shirt and blue jeans holding black umbrella

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The Reveal

 

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Hungry for who You really
are — beyond understanding,
beyond my dreams, bigger than
The universe, yet infinitely
Gentle…
You know me so well!
I don’t trust my own mind or
My gut to perceive You, for
I am flawed, my knowledge inside
And out — so small!
I don’t even know myself
Unless You remove the layers:
of denial
self-protection
of I think this, I believe this,
I am right.
And when I see tiny me beside
You, so helpless, so frail!
I jump into Your arms, for this
World is too big for me.
And You — who are you, really?
Some amorphous Being, floating
All-powerful Amoeba?
On the day You spoke,
“Let us make man in our image,”
The being You formed in Your hands,
Into whom You breathed life — had
arms and legs
a body, a face,
eyes;
Adam saw You first, before gazing
around agog — a face like his, for
You look like us, an Image
so pure, to look on glorious
Heavenly You would kill us —
So You wore flesh and became
A man who’d get lost in
the crowd except for
those eyes
that smile,
this love.
I gaze agog, eyes unmasked,
Knowing beyond knowledge
Who You are —
In the reveal, where
You laughed
You healed,
You taught,
You died and rose again
Among us.
I’m accepted, adopted!
Big Brother pulls me into
Trinity’s endless embrace,
Emerge from behind the curtain —
To amazed applause.

Suffering: Next-Level Training?

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Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. ~ Romans 8:17

I hesitate to even broach the subject. It’s not exactly party fodder, or even the usual banter of close friends.

“Hey, what’s up? How’re you doing?  Yeah, I’ve been suffering quite a bit lately, and… Wait, where are you going?”

This being a blog post, and my not being a Theologian (or an -ogian of any sort whatsoever), I am not planning to go too long or deep into this. At least not yet. But a quick plunge, given recent events, is in order.

So here goes.

Ka’en and I were finally out on Saturday, celebrating our near-twinness. We were both born in August, but my birth came two years and 13 days before hers. The last couple of years we’ve tried to have a birthday celebration close to our birthdays, at least in August. But this August was insane, September was even crazier, and finally we settled on October 27 as our Daylong Birthday Bash. She planned the first part of the day (a secret to me), I planned the second part of the day (a secret to her), and in the middle we’d have lunch at a local Indian restaurant.

So after Ladies’ Self-Defense class, off we went for Part 1, which I discovered was a mani-pedi (my first ever). It was lovely. Then off to the Indian restaurant for the best curry I’d had in forever. Throughout the meal, Ka’en was grimacing, clutching her right side, and breathing heavily. Hmmm… after watching this for a bit I began to make alternate plans. We finished lunch, paid, and I began striding out to the truck. Glancing behind me I saw Ka’en, barely able to walk, which clinched it. Into the truck and off to Plan B:  Christiana Hospital.

Into the E.R., much heavy breathing and side-clutching, brief stint in the waiting room, pulled out for vitals check (elevated blood pressure, temp and oxygen normal), placed in a side room, the usual waiting, etc., Percocet and a stint in the hallway, off to another room, waiting for doctors. Meanwhile the pain was getting worse, steadily, a clenching agonizing squeezing. Hours passed. Ka’en furrowing her brow, heavy breathing, more side clutching. Various tests:  EKG, imaging… and I’m carrying her stuff and mine from place to place, while medical personnel try to figure what’s up with all this pain.

And I’m listening to Father God, aka Dad. How should I pray? Mostly my prayers were inarticulate: heartache for my friend, sad thoughts, feeling at a loss. How can I help? I asked for a pillow, let the nurse know even the morphine wasn’t helping, tried to get Ka’en to smile but not laugh.

Then the weirdest thought entered my mind. Maybe this suffering was part of her training. Ummmm…what?? I knew it wasn’t from me. I was mama bear/ fiercely protective best friend; I wanted to make the pain yelp away, its tail between its legs. But the thought persisted, and I remembered the show I once saw about the Army’s version of Navy SEALS, guys who were already in Special Forces, who wanted to go to the next level and become Combat Divers. Preparing for that level required a lot of suffering, hard training for their bodies but especially their minds. Many dropped out along the way. But the ones who endured to the end achieved what few in the world could.

I’ve heard it said, “God doesn’t want people to suffer. What kind of parent would do that to their kids?” I have prayed for healing, remembering Isaiah’s “the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Verses abound in all four Gospels about Jesus curing everyone who came to Him for healing. And I believe in healing. My own progressive lung condition –which presented as emphysema — was healed in 2010. But what about suffering?  Does suffering (mental, physical, emotional) serve a purpose in maturing believers? I believe it does.

Didn’t Jesus’ followers suffer? Don’t His people suffer in various parts of the world today? Why? Oh, this topic has filled hundreds of books, each hundreds of pages long. How can a blog hope to even touch on this?

So I will offer a tiny taste of what I’ve learned:

Suffering produces perseverance and grit. Seeing Ka’en set her jaw and breathe through the pain without losing it, seeing her for the first time ever not experience a panic attack in excruciating pain — the worst she had ever experienced — was incredible. She simply asked for help and looked to Jesus for strength. Sure the medical community helped but they never diagnosed her problem. After several hours the pain ebbed and they sent her home.

Suffering narrows our focus to the only One who, ultimately, can do anything to help. Two years ago I experienced the worst pain of my life. Ever-increasing sciatica, till my body was in white-hot pain. Waiting for my mom to come back from taking the kids to school I was finally able to scream it all out, knowing I wouldn’t freak the kids out, and do you know what I said? JESUS CHRIST IS LORD OF MY LIFE, HE IS LORD OF MY DEATH! HE IS LORD OF THIS RIGHT HERE, JESUS I PRAISE YOU! The words just wailed out of me. Then the most amazing thing happened.

I suddenly saw Jesus beside me, bloody on the cross, barely able to breathe. I was hanging next to Him, on my own cross. He smiled understanding through His tears and the blood and I saw in His wide-open white-hot pain-filled eyes: compassion, a deep knowing. And in that moment I shared in His suffering. I felt love surge through me as never before, His love pouring into me as a gift. A gift I wouldn’t have had otherwise. It was an honor to be there, to be in this pain with Him.

My mom returned and I couldn’t walk without a crutch. Every step shot screaming through my whole body. The whole ER visit was a kind of blur till the concentrated Motrin injection started to kick in. I asked Jesus How did you do it? How did you transcend the pain on the cross and actually pray for your accusers, your enemies, the horde that put you there? And He didn’t tell me — He gave me the answer. I suddenly had a love that shut out the pain. Yes the pain was still there, but suddenly all I cared about were the other people in that place, the others scared in the ER, not knowing what would happen next. All I cared about was praying for them. And I shared in the love, through my pain — transcending my pain — with the Jesus who suffered more than any of us.

Holding Ka’en’s hand in the ER on Saturday as she hurt beyond my ability to help,  I was once again in a place of immense, intense honor.

I stroked her head, roaring into the dark. I beheld the glory of our God, blazing through her eyes. And the Lion of Judah roared above us both, His purpose in this beyond us. I suspect someday it will be revealed. For He never allows His children to suffer without reason. And this training, while excruciating, will produce whatever He had in mind as we submit to it — and to Him.

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