Tag Archives: pain

Surely There’s a Saltine Somewhere

Have you ever had something so painful or traumatic happen to you that you are afraid of revisiting it? I’ve recently been wrestling with just such a thing and I quietly asked God about it. “Should I even open that drawer?” And the silent whisper in my spirit that was not me, answered back, “Yes, and not only open that drawer but make a list of what you are thankful for that is in there.” I wish everyone could have seen my shocked and incredulous face at even that thought. I find that idea just distasteful which is, again, how I know it was not my idea.

We are in the season of gratitude. My friends are posting on social media their sweet points of gratitude. I love this because it helps me to be grateful for things I might not have thought of on my own.

Lately, I’ve been reading about techniques for surviving adversity and a strange recurring theme keeps popping up. It is gratitude. Making a small thankful list at the end of each day has seen some people through some huge difficulties. Sheryl Sandberg in her book, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy, about the sudden death of her husband says that is the one thing that saved her in the midst of that momentous loss. She says it is a “practice”; something you have to train yourself to do. I agree.

I’d add a couple of other thankful thoughts to that one.

Zoom In. Sometimes, especially when life is really hard, you have to zoom in on the very small things to be grateful. In Texas, in this season, that is akin to looking at a pile of Texas brown leaves and finding the one sort of red or gold one to marvel at. You have to go small sometimes to find your gratitude. I have a friend going through some really rough chemo right now. She told me she found herself giving God thanks for a saltine cracker. No matter what is happening to us, there’s a saltine in there somewhere. Find it and give thanks for it.

Give thanks for what you are without. Sometimes it is the absence of something hard that we can be grateful for. Since I got off my cancer medication, I no longer have joint and foot pain with each step. I’m grateful for what is missing.

If you’ve lost something or someone you love, give thanks for what you had. It is a miracle that we cross paths with anyone at all, much less those who have enhanced our lives in some way. Give thanks that you met; knew each other, had fun, shared life, shared a journey or a season. Thank God that you had that job or your health or those children in your home while it lasted.

 See the funny. There is always something funny. Have you noticed how some of the best funerals are filled with laughter? I’ve laughed with people on their death beds or who have been through great tragedy. Laughter is grace.  Yesterday, my husband was taking a very deep Sunday afternoon nap on the couch. He was sleeping so long and hard, I feared he was about to miss something so I went to gently wake him up. Instead,  I tripped on his shoes and fell, with my whole self, onto his face. This is funny enough but then he didn’t even wake up at which point I panicked and started waking him up in a far less gentle way. He woke up to me shaking him violently and screaming, “I fell on you and you’re still sleeping!”  This is hilarious to me because he always sleeps harder than a human should and I always fall. But, both of those things don’t usually happen at the same time. I cannot quit laughing about this. See the funny. Give thanks for it.  It is grace in this hard life.

Give thanks in advance for what will be. In life, there are always hidden sweet surprises around every corner. You don’t know what they are. You can’t know. Most, we can’t even imagine. Maybe it will be a saltine, a red leaf, a memory, a new friend, laughter through tears. You don’t know what it is, only that it will be. Thank God now for the sweet surprises to come.

 

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Breaking News

This weekend was another happy college football weekend for our family, if you don’t count the outcome of the game. It was especially delicious for us because all our children were there, our son-in-law, our grandson, other relatives and lots of friends, old and new.

Football weekends are always very busy and loud with cannons, fireworks, lots of yelling, singing, music, fly overs, marching bands and such. In the midst of all that noise this weekend, my daughter confided that she definitely felt the baby move this week.

I have written and spoken about this phenomenon before. It’s called quickening. If women wrote more theology I’m sure this would be classified as an “official” theological concept because I’m not sure there is any other more God-filled idea than this..

In the noise of life, in the busyness and movement of all things, something flutters, quickens. It is new life unfolding in a dark and hidden place.

When my daughter mentioned this, I felt like we should stop everything and make a giant announcement about it including taking over all the news channels and social media. Breaking news: we’ve got a flutter here, a quickening, something new.

Right now in our world and in our news feeds there is so much muck, darkness, accusation and trouble. The same is true in our people circles, at least in mine. People you and I love are facing hard and challenging things.

That’s why quickening is breaking news. I believe God is absolutely faithful with the quickening. Whatever we are facing, if we are just still long enough, there is a flutter of new life. We don’t know the form it will take, but it is there.

For those facing disease and pain, there is a flutter of health and relief trying to win in your body. Grieving? Look for a flicker of light or laughter to come back, even for a second. Facing something hard? An addiction, a difficult relationship, a financial burden,  a job decision? Somewhere in all that God is at work, knitting something new that is going to flutter past you or make itself evident in a conversation, a dream or a prayer. It will be subtle because that’s how these things go. You might miss if it you aren’t still enough or perceptive enough.

God is absolutely faithful in the quickening. God is a masterful  Creator when it comes to  at new life. And, I think God enjoys the surprise of it too. Just when you thought all was lost, it’s not. Just when you believed you’d never feel again, you do. When all seems dead, a flutter.

Emily Dickinson perceived it when she wrote, “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.”

Pregnant women say quickening feels like that, hope with feathers…like a butterfly’s wings or a tiny hummingbird moving inside. God’s faithful quickening in us, in our too real, messy, sometimes sad and loud lives is actually the best breaking news of the day.

 

No Words: Just Prayers

So many things to feel right now. Last week (was that only last week?) began with an eclipse in North American that captured our attention for a while. That pleasantly distracted us from the difficulties and horror of Charlottesville before that. Then, seemingly out of nowhere Hurricane Harvey ripped into Texas and is still planted here, devastating communities and uprooting thousands and thousands of people.

For me, personally, the rest of life kept happening too. A son off to college and seeing him again after an intense 10 day boot camp environment. An empty nest that grieved me and freaked me out too. Officiating a beautiful wedding of people I cherish. Friends going through deep losses and more than difficult life situations.

Our daughter, son-in-law and baby grandson live 30 minutes from the coast of Texas. Their town, Dickinson, has been on the national news since Saturday. It is now under mandatory evacuation. It is still raining there.

My nest is no longer empty. We’ve added a couple of adults, a baby and 2 big dogs to the household. Seeing the devastation and upheaval on the news is one thing. When it is people and places you know, it is excruciating. Our daughter’s best friend is a nurse. She actually kayaked to work a few days ago. The hospital is understaffed, over full, rationing food. The staff is working back to back shifts with little sleep, no showers, all while not knowing about the status of their own homes.

If you think too long about the damage of the floods to the infrastructure, economy and health of this huge area, it is more than overwhelming.

One time, when I was in the midst of a health crisis, I had a nightmare that I was swimming in the deep of the ocean in the middle of the night. I could not see shore. The water was black around me. In the dream, I felt sharks bumping me. I woke up terrified and gasping for air. From deep in my heart came a scripture that I must have memorized along the way. I did not think of it. It just rose up inside me. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.” Isaiah 43:2 Those words brought immediate peace and relief to me.

Today, I have so many feelings but not too many good words. Today, this scripture is a prayer in my heart for all who are touched by this hurricane or of pain and terrors of other types. God, send the comfort and reassurance of your Holy Spirit and give us peace. Amen     

It’s Springtime, But…

Anne Lamott is one of my favorite writers.  She just posted a new blog. It came to me as a lovely Monday morning gift, echoing what I was already feeling today.  Her words, “So life. It’s the whole deal. Mixed grille all the way, gorgeous and sad things all mixed up.  Us, at our best and worst, in it together; life death, rebirth, and life again.”

Isn’t that the truth?  Just like today here in Texas, the sun is shining brightly. The sky is this amazing blue color. It rained all weekend so spring is just bursting forth before our eyes.  And, yet in our world, from politics to terror; from lack of food and water to other injustices, so much is not right.  I can’t hold lovely springtime and my newsfeed in my heart and spirit at the same time. It’s just reality. Bitter plus sweet equals life.

How do we manage the sad and real weaving its way through the beautiful and tender parts of life? We hold it all lightly. We lift it all up to God’s healing light.  We offer up our mixed feelings, relationships and irritations to God’s tender care; not to mention of deepest angers, hurts, resentments, pains and losses.  We make it by praying, crying, laughing and letting go; by holding onto each other and being kind.

Oh yes, and by washing all of it, regularly, with buckets and buckets of God’s grace. I’m pretty sure that’s the only way forward, just dripping in grace and tracking it everywhere.