Comfortable in my nakedness

Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. (Revelation 14:12)
We are the tree shaken loose from the snow to feel the warmth with her branches. We meet another, hurting under her burden of the winter of discontent, torn from her moorings and grafted into this field of a loveless church. I see her pain, bathe in it, remember the cold she feels. It is hard work, to enter back through that crooked door, to open eyes to see the crooked roots that can't grow in the rocky soil. I shake her tree with truth, and the snow scatters. The first breath of winter air is painful, burning the lungs. For a moment, we both wish we were still insulated from this brutal air frozen by falsehood and stagnant with intrigue. But then we move those branches, stretch our needles to the heavens, and we feel God's sun warming this quiet field that has grow deafeningly silent from the shunning as we stand naked in the sun. You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free (John 8:32). There is no denying it is still winter. But we will never bury our branches again.

We will be the salt-and-pepper shakers


It grows in black and white, this wild hair I'm graced with. It's a surprise. I still picture myself somewhere between nutmeg and dark brown, not this "old lady" spike. My friends say they can't see it, the white flecks, but my family, they see it and say it - "your hair looks old, Mama". Little do they know that old is cool. Every birthday a special celebration since cancer hit in 2008. In the waiting hours as I look forward to news about my cancer scan and tumor markers on February 1st, I look in the mirror and I exalt. I've made it to old lady hair.

"A thing of beauty is a joy forever. Its loveliness increases; it will never/Pass into nothingness; but still will keep A bower quiet for us, and a sleep/Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing." (John Keats)
My father in law runs his fingers through his wife's thick mane, a crown of beauty for her, a Grandma, a beautiful one. How I pray I see my children's children, that this present suffering is soon a thing of the past, a distant nightmare weathered. For grandchildren are the crowning glory of old age (Proverbs 17:6a) and oh, how I long to be crowned with them! Wisdom refined like gold, dross skimmed off, love proffered with open arms and cuddles in the morning, standing firm and shaking up the world. I want to be the salt-and-pepper shaker.

Feeling after Him

It has been well said that the true measure of any man's spirituality is the degree to which he can detect God in the most simple events around him. It is no mere spiritual phraseology when Scripture declares, "They should seek the Lord, if they might feel after Him, and find Him, though He is not far from every one of us; for in Him we live, and move, and have our being. (Acts 17:27-28) ~from Phillip Keller's A Layman's Look at the Lord's Prayer

The sun gleaming through the gray glimmers off their shiny winter jackets as they bend to build a man from the snow. Later that evening, the moon is setting golden over the snowy hills, the frost catching the last reflected spark of sunlight. The moon looks for all the world like a black coin dipped in gold, the sunlight reflecting all along it's rim, the north star fixed just above it. I feel God in the whisper of the pines, the dancing crystals lifted into the air by the breathe of wind, the cats huddled on the porch rail as if to worship in this last light of evening. Feel after Him. What a turn of phrase that is, as if we are groping after a warm presence in the dark, feeling our way through the velvet night towards our reunion with Christ.


In his little manifesto on the Lord's prayer, Phillip Keller states that "In every situation of life, no matter how unusual or adverse, there comes that quiet assurance to my heart that I am His, and He is mine." I recall the somber words of our last pastors, warning us that because our situation was so out of the ordinary, God was not necessarily with us on the path of suffering. Yet I had that feeling, as I groped in the dark for answers, that He was there, ever-present and ever-loving, in the blackness with me. 
Like a sparrow flitting, like a swallow flying, a curse that is causeless does not alight. (Proverbs 26:2)
We are on a grand adventure here on this earth. Our time is short, and it is filled chock-full with God's many small blessings: the wonder of His creation that dawns new every morning and is hidden in every blade of grass and every snowflake falling; the situations of life that affirm our faith and confirm His presence in our daily lives; in the love of His saints that surrounds us in our time of need; in the comfort we receive from His word, the assurance that knowledge and understanding bring through our minds and into our hearts. Our God is an awesome God, who reigns from heaven above, with mercy, power and love! Our God is an awesome God!



Penance

The key that fits the lock is always discovered in the least expected moment. I sat on the therapist's couch, sitting on my hands, huddled in my jacket, unable to name what I had been feeling last week. I knew it was a feeling, in the visceral way you recognize the rhythms of your soul, but I couldn't understand where it came from. It was the fist closing around my throat, the lump in my chest, the sweat beading up on my forehead. I felt my eyes widen, but I couldn't say why.

It was fear. Admitting fear is so difficult for me. The recognition of that fear, especially when it is someone else who sees it in me, threatens to undo all the work I've done to hide my fear so that no one will know that something is wrong with me. And deep within, I am horribly afraid that there is something wrong with me. As my therapist has continued to hone in on certain sensitive moments of my childhood, has asked questions about my siblings, my parents, I have harbored a secret fear that she will find something in my family of origin that will point to my current problems - disassociating, blunting my emotions, turning to self-harm. I desperately did not want my family to be at blame. And so I have run from that fear, stuffed it down into that tight lump in my chest, and gingerly regarded it as something very dangerous to my way of life, my beliefs, my way of thinking.

Today, I found an answer. And it isn't how my parents raised me, or what kind of discipline I was brought up with, or my own reprehensible original sin. I've struggled for years to find an answer, because I couldn't imagine how I got to where I am now with what I started with at age seven. You know yourself, the deeps that lie hidden to all the world, and yes, it is blacker to you than to anyone. But you also know when that hidden river of sinful thought has not buoyed you along in your wrong ways of thinking. 

Somewhere along the line, I picked up the idea that by suffering abuse in secret, I was protecting my family, not just physically, but socially - the family persona or image that might be destroyed if word got out. In a very human and childish way, I developed my own system of penance to purge out the ugliness that I attached to myself, blaming myself in small ways for big things. In this way, I could get rid of the big things by doing something in my own control - hurting my body and torturing my own mind. This developed into a knee-jerk reaction, and as an adult, I faced a similar catastrophic situation when I was blamed for the circumstances that led to my entire family vaunting from a church. Just like I did when I was seven, I meted out my penance in private: a slit to the skin, letting my personality disappear into the gray nothingness with each drop of blood shed. 

Again, this winter and fall, as my therapist edged ever closer to the epicenter of my pain, and I saw it was not the actions of my abuser, but rather something to do with my family...I wielded weapon against self to get rid of the haunting fear that, if I let it get out, even in the privacy of the counselor's office, I would be hurting my family. What I didn't realize is that by trying to protect my family's image, I was entering a vicious cycle. 

The light turns on as quick as you flip the switch, turning on your lamp. The light dawns into the dark corners of my mind, and the word penance comes up, and I feel shame. Penance to me means pride, thinking that something I can do, something I can control, can wash away my sin. It hurts the very Jesus who died on the cross, telling him I regard his sacrifice as incomplete, not worthy to pay for my sin. As if the darkness of that sin somehow negates the overwhelming, overflowing love and grace of the cross.

Katy helps lead Tally to surgery at the vet yesterday.
I know why my eight-year-old's pain sears my very soul. Because I am afraid for her. I am afraid she will think she has to protect her family. I am afraid she shoulders burdens too heavy for her frame...because of me, my inadequacy as a mother and a person. I have fought tooth and nail against the inherent fear of imperfection that fuels perfectionism. It is why it took years for me to come to my peace with my messy house, our messy lives.


I have to constantly remind myself that this heavy mother-guilt is much heavier than I was ever intended to bear. Mothers with depression, after all, have probably been happening since the beginning of time. Learning to cook a simple breakfast and helping put away laundry are normal tasks to ask of an eight-year-old.

One of the simplest verses of the New Testament has proven very difficult for me throughout my lifetime: Cast all your cares upon Him, for He careth for you. (I Peter 5:7) I humbly go to Christ, who did offer himself for me, for my whole family, generations upon generations of sinners, and ask Him to help me learn this simple thing. Help me shake loose from fear (for isn't that the whole story of the Bible? That love is greater than fear?) and break the shackles of guilt and live free as He intended.








Home again, home again...

Last year's homecoming
Absence truly makes the heart grow fonder! Last evening, the joyful reunion after five days of separation, the kids all piled on me, the sweetness of their caresses and lilt of their excited voices. Aaron's bass booming underneath. Today, a busy day of appointments for me and my cancer-ridden black lab. Thank you for all your prayers - another two weeks before I get results from my scan and blood test.


Still counting...
1457: peace in the afternoon sunlight after taking my radioactive iodine
1460: riotous laughter
1469: water soothes my throat
1482: naps
1486: bathroom trips done
1497: night at my mama's
1501: my aunt and uncle's home sweet home
1506: children to cuddle again



The waiting morning

It's five o'clock, and I am restlessly awake. My full body scan is scheduled for 9 a.m. Even though I won't know the results for a week, the scan looms large. An hour of images taken, the slow slide underneath the counter, just inches from my nose. The gray little woman who always brings me back to the hot room where the equipment whirs and I must lie still for that whole hour.

Just as He knows every hair on my aching head, knows the painful places sickened by the radiation and the shots that reverse my thyroid hormones, He knows the results already of this scan day. He knows whether I will get that magical pronouncement, "no visible metastasis". He knows. I can rest in the waiting, because He already knows.
...the exhortation was a vital part of a passage dealing with Christians who were suffering (I Peter 4:12-19). Peter referred to those who suffer according to the will of God (4:19). The sovereign God had allowed severe trials to come to those believers in accordance with His own wise and perfect will. Therefore, they were urged to commit the keeping of their souls to him. That means they could entrust the safety and security of their souls to God, their faithful Creator. When we come to verse 7 of chapter 5, it is apparent that their suffering was causing them some anxiety. They were beginning to worry. The word care in Greek is merimna, meaning anxiety, or a fearful and painful uneasiness of the mind. It is the crippling sin of worry that our Lord said chokes the Word so that it becomes unfruitful (Matthew 13:22). In my crisis hour, I certainly did not want to cut off the message and ministry of God's Word. That would have brought me a shameful defeat. Paul had used the same word in its verb form when he wrote, Be careful for nothing (Philippians 4:6). He tells us not to worry about anything, for anxiety comes from not trusting God. Like Martha, at times we are careful and troubled about many things (Luke 10:41) when we should be anxious for nothing. Nothing means not even one thing! Peter told us what we are to do with all of our anxieties. We are to cast them upon our Lord. Casting all your care upon Him. The Greek word for cast is ballo, which means to deposit with or to commit. While it is not the same word translated commit in 1 Peter 4:19, it does contain the same thought. We are to take our painful anxieties and hurl them--all of them--on the Lord. (Lehmann Strauss)

Dreadlocks for earbuds


I recently joined Pinterest, and my favorite "pin" so far is this idea for a cord detangling solution for earbuds. There wasn't a tutorial online for the Chinese staircase, or spiral knot, technique - think friendships bracelets from junior high - so I'm posting one here. It does take an hour or so, and lots of embroidery floss, but it is well worth it to have snag-free cords every time you plug in to your device.


You will need floss about 3 times as long as the cord (including headphones).
Tie a simple knot with three strands of cord on the plug-in end of the cord.
To make the first knot in your ladder, time a half-hitch knot.
To begin, cross the thread under the cord and the other colored threads.


Next, cross the thread over the cord.


Next, cross the floss under the first loop.


Pull the thread tight. Every so often, push all the knots upward on the cord
to eliminate gaps. 

For a more complete visual, check out this video on friendship bracelets.



And so it goes


The little lead pot with the electric blue pill (this time a pretty cobalt instead of the usual neon) was delivered to me (finally) at noon today. They had forgotten to schedule my requisite pregnancy test prior to the dose, so I had to get that out of the way first. The photo above is the carrier on wheels that delivers the radioactive iodine to the dosing room. It is shielded with lead and has a geiger counter built in. Out of curiosity I googled geiger counters and lo and behold - you can own a portable model for just over $300 - less than an iPhone. Now if only Apple would come up with an "app for that"...

Some "radioactive headphones" I just had to have
After lunch with my mom, I settled in to a friend's peaceful home for an evening of movies and, apparently, some serious exorcism of the red-hot demon called radiation that had landed in my belly. It might be my imagination, but it seems like the side effects get worse every time I have to do this. Taste and smell vanished in the first 10 minutes as usual. Coupled with a wicked winter wind blowing snow devils up and down the street, and the whole world felt surreal and sterile by this afternoon. I have sores on my eyelids, lips, gums, tongue, throat, and stomach so far and I'm sure they will appear lower in my digestive tract tomorrow. My tears dried up and I have that familiar sandpaper feeling in my throat and my eyes now. Someone remind me to stick to bland foods after I take this pill next time! Without the sense of taste, I always go for something exotic and I end up regretting it after the 10th trip to the bathroom that evening.


Today is a down day. Friday will bring my scan. Yes, I get passed through a donut and get to watch a crosssection of my radioactive self on the screen (being careful not to twist my neck too far, of course - as soon as the tech catches on, she turns the screen away).

Thank you all for the prayers. I am so thankful I only have to do one cycle of this annually. I feel so much empathy for cancer patients who get weekly or biweekly radiation and/or chemotherapy. To feel like this for more than a few weeks would be so painful.

Anxious thoughts

If I take the wings of the morning


and dwell in the farthest part of the sea


Even there thy hand will guide me,
and thy right hand will hold me.

Image credit Horia Varlan
Search me, oh God, and know my heart,
try me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there be any hurtful way in me
and lead me in the everlasting way.
Psalm 139:9

Radioactive iodine to be swallowed at nine. I am worn out, but I feel ready. If nothing shows up on my Friday scan, this will be the last one for a while. After this, if there is no visible cancer, next year will bring Thyrogen injections (to reverse my thyroid hormone) and tumor marker labs every 6 months. I am praying this will happen - please join me!

Take this cup

He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. (Luke 22:41-44)

Just days before, Jesus was teaching the twelve, knowing this time was coming. He spoke of death, trials, great suffering. ...unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life shall lose it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say, 'Father, save me from this hour'? But for this purpose I have come to this hour: 'Father, glorify your name.' (John 12: 24, 25, 27, 28)

He willingly took the cup His Father had chosen for Him. He knew it was imperative that He obey. Yet His "spirit was troubled", and He pleaded that the death that loomed before Him would not come to pass. If ever a human being had eternal perspective, it was Christ. If ever a human being held their life loosely, willing to see the grave instead of old age, it was Jesus. But this did not stop Him from praying earnestly, from sweating blood. He knew the purpose of His death, yet He sincerely wished it did not have to be.

So I feel as cancer scans approach. I know they are necessary, but I am undone regardless. I know their purpose, and still pray that I might not have to receive the iodine again. I pray in the spirit of willingness, I do not demand my own will be done. But, oh, how I wish it!

Willfulness is a part of my character that I have not yet rooted out. With it's roots in my childhood, when I would take any double-dog dare, even eating worm sandwiches and drinking from a bucket with a dead mouse floating in it, willfulness has been part of my story for a long time. In college, it took on a different shape: I fought doctors for freedom, I battled through nursing curriculum that maxed out my energy. Lately, I have fought this urge again as I face self-harm temptation and depression that is immobilizing.

I pray God conquers this unwilling spirit that possesses me sometimes. I pray that I can really mean it when I say, "Not my will but thine be done." Willfulness sprouts where fear and hopelessness abound. I pray with the Psalmist, "Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me." (51:12)


Approach this any way you like. Write about how you're feeling today. Write about different theories of human emotion - some people use a list of 12 or 20 basic emotions. How many do you think there are? How many do you feel at once?


Blog about it, tweet your thoughts, or write a new status. Make sure to come back here, grab the button code and link up so we can read each other's stories! 












This hour comes

Truly, truly I say unto you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life shall lose it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say, 'Father, save me from this hour'? But for this purpose I have come to this hour: 'Father, glorify your name.' (John 12: 24, 25, 27, 28)

The weekend is full of events, heavy with expectations. We celebrate our brother's engagement, surrounded by his young friends, his beautiful fiancee. A chalkboard proclaims I Corinthians 13.



Sunday comes and goes, a sermon on 19th century spirituals and Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream speech. We sing "We Shall Overcome", joining our voices to those of the marchers that fateful day in 1968 as civil rights activists marched on Washington. Naps heavy and silent fill the house. Then a rowdy party, the football playoff game blaring and kids rambunctious.

This morning dawns early, in the dark late hours of the night, 4 a.m. devotions with my husband, eyelids still heavy and off to work. It is the day of my first injection, preparation for my radioactive iodine scan. I cannot comprehend that it is already upon me again, this next leavetaking from home. I pile up dirty laundry to wash, think about what warm blankets to pack.

While I join with Jesus as He wept at Gethsemane, I have to also own in His rhetorical question at the feasting table at Lazarus' home: shall I say, 'Father, save me from this hour'? But for this purpose I have come to this hour, 'Father, glorify thy name.'


1373: Engagement party for Nick and Kathy
1377: Aunts watching children
1390: Sunday sermon
1392: Thyrogen

Lament for the eldest


Every one says you look like me. I am afraid you feel like me, too. You are the oldest, and you take responsibility for things that aren't your fault. When I feel sad and huddle in my bedroom, you think it is because of something you did, or didn't do right. You are a little Mama to your brother and your sisters. You make a killer breakfast already, do my laundry, clean the kitchen up several times a day. You who are just learning long division, you are already a multiplier of love. I see the fear in your eyes, fear that you're not smart enough, or self-disciplined enough, to deserve my love.

I made a lot of mistakes when it came to raising you, my firstborn. I taught you stoicism and now I am trying to undo that. I take you along to my counselor, and she asks you how you feel about my depression. You answer that you don't know. There is this disconnect between events and emotions that I wish I could repair. I have hope for you in ways that I don't have hope for myself...that we got out of it soon enough, before you were scarred beyond repair - that you will be able to change the way your brain works, and learn about feelings before it is too late.

I wish I could lift the burden of "peacemaker" off your small eight-year-old shoulders. I wish, simultaneously, that you could feel less and feel more. That emotions would wear their grooves into your heart, yet you wouldn't take everything to heart.

Did I catch you early enough? Did I recognize the road signs? Did the church already traumatize you beyond help? I am at the Throne early every morning, like it says in Lamentations 2, Arise, cry out in the night, as the watches of the night begin; pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord. Lift up your hands to him for the lives of your children. I pray for your healing when you bury your thick head of hair into my shoulder and I can feel the sobs welling up inside you but they never are birthed to breathe the air of this world. I wish I had a key to unlock your sorrows so they could be purged and mopped up. Instead you are like a glass jar with a tight lid. Nowhere for the pressure to go. I pray you don't bury it in your own bones.


Written on the prompt "Awake" for 5 Minute Friday

Unfolding the day


The world is under blankets of new snow, hushed and howling at the same time this morning. I sleep in, deep sleep, wrapped in down with my warm little son. I wake up to kids already crying, sugar crashing off their Oreo breakfast, dressed in swimsuits (don't ask!) and shivering in the 60 degree house. My eldest is outside, walking our dog in the drifts, the peacemaker absent and chaos breaking loose through the house. We found out yesterday our 9 year old dog has cancer, and she is taking it hardest at 8 years old. She can't remember a time without this black dog who disappears in the dark and still snorts around the snowbanks like a puppy.

Noon comes and goes. The kids snack on chocolate grahams and bananas, and I share coffee with my sister  from next door. The snow flakes are still falling, so infinitesimally tiny it is hard to imagine each is a unique crystal with six sides. The furnace burns hot to heat the house to 64 degrees, and the kids get back in their swimsuits to have a "diving" competition off the queen bed in the warmer air.

The days unpack themselves like a string of small gifts, the ribbons cut, the paper crinkled. The dog sits warm in her corner, stuffed with treats borne of the children's grief. My husband calls from the heart cath lab, on call today, the shovelers already crowding the ER. He'll be late getting home. My first day alone with my children, and it promises to be a long one.

I sit in the middle of my messy bedroom, look out the door at the messy dining room. There isn't a clean corner in the house. Three years into cancer, one full of depression, and I don't see messes anymore. I see piles of discarded delight - the art corner strewn with drawings and paintings, crayons and safety scissors. The living room full of Christmas still. Laundry clean and folded, piled in the baskets. Dishes dirtied attest to our wealth of food.


Awake my soul to live this moment
Awake my soul,
give thanks and hold it dear now
God is here now
Awake my soul

Hush away the hurry
Put to rest the worry
Come to quell and quiet me 
In this moment given 
Slow and fully live it 
Drink up all the passing peace
~Shaun Groves, Awake My Soul~




Love > Fear


I sat still, my legs drawn up under me, against the purple wall in my mother's living room. I remember heaviness coiled tense in my chest, up through my neck and aching behind my eyes. In my limbs, a happy buzzy sensation, like I feel when I'm deeply thankful. My niece and son came running over and clambered up, my husband busy taking photos, with the white of the flash bouncing off the glittery ceiling. My lips pulled back tight over my teeth, my eyes slowly trying to take in the chaotic scene of family and gift opening frenzy, a heavy compote of Christmas scents from the buffet filling the air.


Perhaps it is the many years of training and practice that makes me think of emotions as a linear thing. After all, the FACES scale for pain, the one we use in children, runs a spectrum from joy to extreme sadness, as if the two never coexist in our chests, in our hearts, behind our eyes.


What if half of your face can say something, and the other half another? I scan through a list of emotion words, trying to capture those feelings of the cool, coiled snake in my chest and the sweet joy of those children on my lap. Happiness and satisfaction. Words that describe love. Nervousness and apprehension. Words that describe fear.

Does that explain the lineless half smile, pulled tight over my lips, the widened eyes, the stilled forehead?

I have a sticker on my van that says "Love > Fear". The two emotions I felt most intensely throughout the holiday celebrations with family this year. Perhaps what kept me going through the holidays is this very principle, which stands out so clearly from The Message:
God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we're free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ's. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love. (I John 4:17-18 The Message)


Emotions on Tuesdays

I was 32 years old and trapped on an inpatient mental health unit before I learned their names. The six basic human emotions. I was used to feeling a general sense of "ick" when I was emotional. I tried to run to rationalism and avoid the emotion at all costs, because it felt awful to feel it, live it. I remember sitting in an abuse recovery group, staring at a page full of emotion words, struggling to come up with any that fit my mood at that moment. I usually turned to words like "blank", "detached", "isolated". Non-feeling feeling words.

Tuesdays are a day it's always hard for me to write. There are no prompts, no one else in the blogging world who gives me a topic, an idea, to start the creative wheels turning. So, on Tuesdays, I'm going to write about emotions. I hope you'll join me. Last time I hosted a blog hop not a single soul linked up to me. I'm committing to this until the end of March, just to see what happens.


So, today, scanning Christmas pictures, I try to capture what I was feeling. I look up a list of those six basic human emotions:

  • Anger
  • Love
  • Fear
  • Joy
  • Sadness
  • Surprise
Nothing like "overwhelmed", "out of my element", "uncertain"? Aren't those emotions? I read through a list of Parrot's (2001) basic human emotions - a whole list of words to describe what I was feeling. I find my feelings there, under "Love" and "Fear". A twisted coexistence that sent me running for a quiet space whenever there was free time on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.




Approach this any way you like. Write about how you're feeling today. Write about different theories of human emotion - some people use a list of 12 or 20 basic emotions. How many do you think there are? How many do you feel at once?

Blog about it, tweet your thoughts, or write a new status. Make sure to come back here, grab the button code and link up so we can read each other's stories!








The best way to start a week


It is my first good dream in months and months. I wake up to a sky just turning turquoise, and it is as vivid as the morning sky.

We are all at Maggie's house, a reunion of soul sisters from the internet, and it is a beautiful thing. Ashleigh is in labor, in a pool in the front room. A water birth. Elizabeth and I are on the couch, giggling uncontrollably as we fill our vintage tea cups from a bottle of wine we found on the counter. Abby and Maggie keep offering Ashleigh soothing herbal tea, and she is swearing at them, "Can't you see I'm busy??!! Get out of my face!" Sara Sophia is stressing out in the kitchen, trying to tend to the dishes, which are piled as high as the cupboards on the counter. Our kids are running pell mell, covered in glue and jelly, with no interest in the intricate craft Maggie prepared to keep them busy. Joy is trying to keep everyone off the vintage sofa, and sends a look at Elizabeth and I, wishing she were joining in the wine guzzling instead. Emily is in the bathroom, gargling and choking on her laughter over the thought of bodily fluids we #sss were just roaring over. It is beautiful chaos, and the warmth of friendship glows through the house like a bonfire that can't be contained. I wake up laughing in my sleep, tears rolling down my cheeks, happy and filled with peace.

He lights our way with diamonds scattered, dreams sent to cheer our souls in sleep, while He brushes the world with His glory and transforms the landscape with glittering silver.


Wherever you find His joy, with whomever you feel His presence, soak it up! Let the dried out sponge of your soul get all squooshy with His bliss, His blessing. I am filled this morning, and adding this good dream to my list of thousands of His gifts.

From left: Emily, Sara Sophia, Abby, Ashleigh, me, Maggie, Elizabeth & Joy

1316: Frost on Christmas morning, a world scatter with diamonds
1321: Christmas photos with my whole family
1325: The bliss of naps
1336: Skating on a lake, turquoise bubbles beneath our feet
1342: Home
1344: Peanut butter and jelly (jelly)
1355: Rest in the hospital
1359: A good dream to start my day


Breathing

Beams of God's radiance glint off the plastic footboard of the hospital bed and send a rainbow of prismatic gold over the bleached white sheets I have pulled up to my chin. The window is cold and the draft sneaks under the blankets and cools my toes. Across the room, a roommate snores off her hangover and overdose. I stare up at the pock-marked Styrofoam ceiling tiles, lost in time.

The odd paradox of melancholy and joy has lived in my breast for a year now. I learn to name the constant ebb and wash of emotions with words like "disgust" for the acid burning, "shame" for the head-bent-low grief, "joy" for the sparkling champagne of the soul. 

The days are long and quiet here, punctuated with an all too brief hour of Eminem and painting in the middle, meals like clockwork arriving cold from the bowels of the hospital. The first day, my brain races double time through the silence of my hospital room. By the second day, everything has slowed with a deep hollow bass tone, and I start to uncurl from the fetal position I've been stuck in, glued to the plastic mattress with a cold sweat of anxiety and the cheeks flushing with shame. Third day, I laugh for the first time, again. Day four, the doctor says I can go home. Home I go, chauffeured by beautiful country blond, to the house mourning the last days of a holiday studded with pain, to the children buoyant with the homecoming of Mama.

I sleep under the moon and the down comforter, sandwiched between my two men, husband and child. I wake up breathing slower than I have in a long time, to the sunrise and the wind whispering through the rattling leaves of the woods, the spring-like air, the owls hooting their last night songs across the valley. I am thankful for this week of rest, vacation from mental hypervigilance against darkness, a blank slate of mind that has been so busy fighting through December's bog.

Tabula rasa. I start again with a clean slate. Benigno numine. By the favor of the heavens. Bendictus que venit. Blessed is she who comes in the Lord's name. Dabit Deus his quoque finem. God will bring an end to this. Deo adjuvante non timedum. With God's help, nothing should be feared.

Cruce, dum spiro, fido.
While I breathe, I will trust the Cross.

God is looking for people through whom He can do the impossible. What a pity when we plan only the things we can do by ourselves.” -A.W. Tozer

A set-back


I just arrived home from a 4-day stay at the hospital for continued treatment of depression and other mental health issues. I am feeling better than I was Tuesday, when I was admitted. I would appreciate prayers for the coming week and a half with my family prior to my next separation from them for a cancer scan on January 18. Thank you, dear friends!

Making a ladder out of counted gifts


Another year opens with snowflakes falling silent, racuous children in the small space of the van, wild hilarity opening white elephant gifts, gold wine sparkling in glasses, a shared bottle of champagne - moment of romance after the children fall asleep after midnight - the long kiss for the new year. This 2012 will find me continuing to count blessings as they fall as silent, stealthy from the hand of the Father.

1478: $180 Patagonia coat on my daughter, $3 at Saver's
1490: cat's eyes catching sun's gold
1495: hair growing in black and white, salt and pepper spiky
1501: sounds and smells of hockey
1504: gliding through pain to joy
1513: mama reading devotions to me on a depressed day
1519: sunshine and sunshine (vitamin D3) in a bottle
1522: animal cracker and nutella