pain of healing

Forged in the fire, no pain, no gain, that which does not kill me makes me stronger…

I have watched husky-mix Lily closely these couple of weeks as she has recovered from her surgery. She did not do any of the things I prepared for– lick her stitches so avoided the “cone of shame”, cry out, object to the physical therapies I have done to keep her leg limber and exercised. At least not at first.

Her pain has been recent. When I take my other rescue dog, Lulu out for a short walk Lily is left behind. She is feeling better. She doesn’t understand why I am still holding her back from racing to the door if the doorbell rings, bounding down the porch steps to go outside, checking the backyard before bed to ward off the possum that sleeps in one of our trees. Maybe it isn’t painful for her, but for me. I feel badly that I can’t yet allow her to be herself.

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I think we all become complacent sometimes. Then something blindsides us or something we saw coming but hoped wouldn’t, happened. Or we lose someone, in some way– death, divorce, argument –and we are hurting. We sort through what happened and face some truths, which can hurt more than the thing that happened. But that hurt is the beginning of the healing. We are free when we face the realities of it. You can see it for what it is, put it in perspective. Lies hold us in bondage both to the lie as long as we persist in believing it, and the truth that we won’t yet face.

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Years ago I read several books by Dr. Frederick Buechner, a favorite of mine, Telling Secrets. This book illustrated well for me that our secrets are lives we live that no one else sees, and we may fabricate a life that we present to others that we believe is more presentable. But it’s in our secrets that we unlock who we truly are….

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Lately Lily’s resistance to my helping her stretch and exercise her leg has become stronger. This is frustrating for me, likely for her, too. This is to be done 3-5 times each day and as she heals and becomes stronger it’s gone to more like maybe 3 times a day. Thankfully her stitches will be removed this week and I really hope her vet tells me she can be freer in her walking and movement. She has helped me see, though, how it must be when my Father, God, wants to do something for me or through me and I struggle, disobey, assert my own will.

I need to get out of His way and wait for Him. I guess it’s good I have a lifetime to work on this.

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blossom

When I was married and my (now ex) husband got a job in Tennessee I was, for the first time, at sea. Fortunately I did not know this. My method then IMG_0109.JPGof adaptation was to flounder comically until I found footing. Others were distracted because I was good at making people laugh by laughing at myself.

One kind person did take me under her wing (briefly) to help with altar guild at the church we attended (briefly). Before she finally gave up realizing I was not detail oriented she told me to “bloom where I was planted.” This was wisdom I’d never before heard because I’d bloomed well wherever I’d been, just not there. And I have not forgotten what she said and it has been helpful at times over the now very many years.

No matter where I have alit in life I have made a friend or two and gratefully we have kept in touch. I learned that people are basically the same –good– wherever I am, no matter their manner or customs.

After rescue dogs Lily and Lulu and I have taken our pre-dawn morning walk I set out to take a longer walk, more for exercise than sniff for messages. One recent morning I came upon a plant that somehow I’d not seen before. This thing is called a blue agave or century plant since it blooms once every hundred years. And here this thing had sent up its inflourescence (flower). I thought it was a yucca but their flowers are very difIMG_0104.JPGferent and nowhere near as tall as that. The blooms are ivory-colored and branch singly off the flower stalk. They do not appear to have branches like a small tree.

I marveled at this plant! Here is something on the outer back corner of a drug store that looks like it was planted as more of an afterthought. It has grown here happily in nutrient-poor sandy soil and bright, full scorching sun since and now shows itself in all its glory. I wondered if anyone else saw the flower. It’s really important because, after this plant flowers it dies! It sends out what are called pups or little plantlets, offshoots, but the original one’s life is over. I don’t think this plant has been here for 100 years. I suppose it’s possible but the subdividing and development that is going on in this town lends itself more to plants being put in the landscape when buildings are built. I somehow doubt construction would have protected this single plant when the store was being built.

I could be wrong.

IMG_0124.JPGThis is another one in the landscape of a subdivision near the one that is blooming

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This is a baby one I have. They grow very slowly. And though they are the plant from which culinary agave nectar or tequila are made I do not know how to do this and I bought this plant more for decorative landscape purposes than imbibing. If what I learned about it is true I likely will not live long enough to see it bloom. Though I have seen an aloe bloom, in Florida. It has a tall stalk with pretty orange and yellow flowers.

So while Lily and Lulu have no problem making themselves right at home, wherever they find themselves

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it may take some of us longer to bloom.

“But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”    2 Peter 3:8

 

 

 

reflections

Probably the last hold-out for a smart phone, I caved and visited the phone store this week. I was early but not the first person so was placed on the digital line. Kind of like those coasters they give you at restaurants when you have to wait, instead of flashing lights my phone would beep. I wandered from one display to anotunnamed.jpgher comparing prices and functions. I knew a phone that had basic functions– calling and text –was what I was looking for, but also thought gps, wifi and better camera capability would be nice.

So as I looked at the offerings I overheard a lady explaining how difficult it was for her to adapt to change… she was worried about a new phone and her ability to use it.

I moved to another display of fitbits. Curious I started reading about them. A few feet away I heard a gentleman who had come in to have his phone screen repaired since it had gotten cracked.

My turn came and I explained what I was looking for, asked about 2 or 3 model phones, prices, function. We looked at them and I decided on one. While the salesperson activated the phone I stood quietly watching how easy this was for him, hoping I could adjust quickly. A lady came in briskly asking where a specific employee was, she had her card. Another salesman said she was off that day, could he help. The lady went on to say she was unhappy with something she’d purchased 2 weeks prior, why would they stock something like that? An unanswerable question, the salesman explained the warranty and the lady responded she’d been in Europe for 2 weeks. My salesperson continued to be very focused on my phone and I watched him, diligently. A sharp remark from the lady jerked my head up momentarily, I quickly looked away again. She stalked out. The person who had attempted to help her shook his head, muttering something about being yelled at. Mollified, I commented ” Some people just cannot be happy no matter what you do”. He perked a bit at that and I suddenly realized I was each of those people I’d noticed in that store.

At some point in my life I’d been impatient, demanding, frustrated, angry. A phase I mercifully grew out of. Or prayed my way out. Occasionally I encounter a situation or a new process in life that requires risk or change and I am briefly uncomfortable until I begin to understand it. And I have had many accidents in my life where I have broken things.

So, armed with this new device, a screen protector and insurance I have fortified myself as best I can to use this new little phone and protect it.

It is hard to see ourselves as others see us! Sometimes we exaggerate the good, other times the not so good. But that day I was given a gift of seeing where I had been and realized how patient others were.

Sometimes it’s important to see the kindness of others through others’ eyes, or behaviors.

13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— ”   Ephesians 4:13-15

 

 

 

writing

I doubt I would have even gone to college at all if my parents had not insisted on it. I really did not know what to study. My first choice of college was a school one of my (I thought) best friends attended. They were not happy about my grades. So another classmate suggested I apply to her choice. It made sense– at the time I was a New Jersey transplant and she was headed to North Carolina, my home state. As it happened my application was swept up because 100% of applicants were accepted to keep the little Quaker school afloat. And it is still floating.

Not surprising my freshman roommate did not make it past first semester. Had the school offered majors in marijuana and live-in boyfriends she’d have aced. So my second semester I went from endless nights sleeping on the commons area sofa to a single room.

But I digress.

Having no clear idea what I wanted to do with my life I declared an English major. For a reader it made sense. The critical thinking part I had to tweak a bit.

Likely the most difficult class was Modern Lit– D. H. Lawrence, James Joyce and Virginia Woolf. Pretty sure I didn’t read more than a chapter or 2 of Ulysses. Probably the most senseless novel I read. Ever. Not only no punctuation but pages with nothing but doodles… Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man was also completely lost on me. Somehow I managed to write coherent papers on these “works” but I’d have liked to’ve been a fly on the wall in my professor’s office just to see her try to make sense of my words. Especially with Woolf’s To the Lighthouse or Mrs. Dalloway. None of these books made a lasting impression on me. Certainly not like C. G. Jung’s Man’s Search for Meaning did freshman year.

Meaning? Seriously? I’d been raised to see the world completely differently, from the perspective of what I had to offer, not what it owed me. I guess my professors could see I was thinking just not as they intended.

C. S. Lewis (someone who makes infinitely more sense to me) in Christian Reflections said:  “Great authors are innovators, pioneers, explorers; bad authors bunch in schools and follow models.”

Well, these authors noted certainly did break all the molds which was why they were called modern I suppose. They broke free from the late 19th-20th century to be… themselves??

A few years after my divorce life started bunching up. Bills, behavior, responsibilities, jobs, all the obligations and processes single parenthood requires, in my case with little to no support. So realizing I would not benefit from any sort of therapy I bought a small electric typewriter and reams of paper and I wrote.

It was as if I tapped whatever the emotional lobe of the brain is and the words just ran. I filled pages and pages until I had 5 binders’ full of raw emotion. I am amazed they did not spontaneously combust in their box I had so much anger poured into them

Annoyance at the musty stigma of divorce, single parenting, lack of family support, a woman in what was then still largely a man’s world. I never blamed anything or anyone but first I had to establish the parameters of what I was up against before I could methodically, systematically start to tackle whatever blocked my way.

And I started to see those complaints, emotions, thoughts, anger, whatever, were all cries for help. Help that I would never find from people but did from God. So those words became prayers. And everything that I had begun to hide from, close myself to, strike out at fell away.

My perspective changed. My focus was no longer on my life, problems, dead ends but Someone else. Someone who made sense. Someone who could, and did, help.

Lewis goes on to say “…. authors are always ‘breaking fetters’ and ‘breaking bonds’. They have personality, they ‘are themselves’….”

I have not had the nerve to go back and read those journals since I packed them away, but I probably had better. At least to decide if I really want them around for someone else to find.

They came from the heart.

Picture0318181122_1.jpg“The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”    Zephaniah 3:17

favorite quotes: Day 2 of 3

3-day Quote Challenge, continued

“To thine own self be true….. ”      –Hamlet, Act 1 Scene 3: William Shakespeare

I don’t think there is much of anything more basic than this. I know my growing-up years were complete turbulence. I was the first-born of 3, the screw-up, not a mistake so much as mistake-maker. I learned everything the hard way. Sometimes those lessons took more than one pass. Eventually I learned in order to not keep everybody mad I could do and say funny stuff. Make them laugh, usually at me. This worked as long as I didn’t look too hard on the inside. Because people pleasers sometimes make others happy, or avert the argument or throw the barbs off. But even if we do, our lives, while doing all this performing are so hollow inside.

So this was my truth for years. My valley of darkness. It became such a conditioned activity I had no idea that it was within my power to stop. But just like Dorothy I had the power all along.

Just stop. I didn’t even need those ruby slippers to get back “home”.

It made a lot of people angry. I was called all sorts of horrid things– cold, selfish, thoughtless. And those words hurt. But then I remembered they were as much talking about themselves as they were about me.

It took practice. My valley of darkness became a valley of decision…. up until then I did my best at second-guessing, perceiving feelings, fortune-telling outcomes. I doubted, restructured, doubted again.
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Basically unanchored, so other-focused I had no perspective of my own.

“But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:6 NKJV)

And here I began to find my real truth. For someone who’d become so strong-willed, independent, self-reliant it took a long time and many losses. A marriage ended, parents passed away, yet one Constant helped me, each day, each moment become stronger,th.jpg more discerning, more faithful. He has never disappointed me. He always hears  my prayers. He has proven Himself true over and over. And I know without doubt that He is the only way, truth, life. (John 14:6)

I am nowhere close to finished. But without losing compassion, empathy or kindness my perspective has strengthened and become more realistic, more self-controlled. I take more time to listen. Life is less frenetic. Yes, I am much older now but wisdom is far more valuable.And thankfully more available. Or at least wisdom’s voice is clearer.

 

eventually, life

We’ve had a few false starts to spring this year. More than once I’ve been fooled into running to the garden centers to see their latest flats of bedding plants, herbs and vegetables. And when I put them outside sure enough there’s a cold snap, even a couple of nights of late frost burning the tender edges of the leaves.

There are many plants that come up year after year bravely through the snow. Crocus, daffodil. This year I had a periwinkle that bloomed.

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Some of the little flowers seem so fragile, delicate and tender it amazes me that they are completely unaffected by such a forbidding chill

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The bracken fern emerge very gradually, at first tight-fisted, their little fiddleheads clenched against the cold

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gradually then the sun’s warmth unfurling those little green fronds that grip so closely to stay alive

Picture0324181348_1.jpg (rescue dog Lulu patiently waiting to the right of the fern)

When I was little Sundays and church were a big part of my week. I looked forward to the friendliness and warmth, the bustle of families drifting into their respective Sunday school classes.

Children generally accept most things and question very little but I tended to be distracted easily so I can clearly remember some time after a particular lesson wondering why my teacher told us about somebody wandering around in the desert. Only later did I realize he meant Jesus’ 40 days being tempted by the devil.

And that was about the time I also realized that the ecumenical calendar was the same year after year. We spoke the same prayers, celebrated the same events of Pentecost, Christmas, Easter and the years were not flat, repetitive. It is an upward spiral.

The truth of those lessons and prayers reflecting the life and love of Jesus becomes clearer. I  paid attention. I hear His admonitions, His instructions, the meaning of taking up my own cross. The cross of humility, of selflessness, of love.

I hope one day those prayers take precedence over whatever smallness remains in me. Eventually.

“When they had brought their boats to land they left everything, and followed Him.”             —-  Luke 5:11

Recap, going forward

Sometimes a little introspection helps before stepping ahead. I have not been hearing much in the way of resolution-making.  It seems more of a collective sigh the end of this year rather than gathering steam for plunging into the beginning of a new year.

I have heard more of One Word. Picking a word to carry into the new year. In emails, a book I recently started reading, blog posts– oddly each of these has brought up the one word concept instead of making a to-do list for the new year.

So I am going to try this. It took me a few days to decide, but my word is patience. I have none. Or very little. And to make it interesting I am making this word an acronym.

P- prayer. This is where I stop talking (rare for me), get still, find a place to be alone. I focus on breathing (ok, so maybe prayer for me is more like meditation but it works). I get focused. Obviously this is not going to work when I am sitting at a red light that turns green and no one moves. Or I am in bumper-to-bumper traffic all lanes moving 10 miles under the speed limit and I am 5 minutes late. No, that would be where I breathe deeply, force a smile on my face or start singing. A form of prayer. Maybe. Depends what I am singing.

A- Adapt. I have never been one to be aggressive or selfish. Nor have I ever demanded everything is done my way, not even when I had a business. The best way to lead a team is let each member realize their own importance and combine ideas and efforts. So adapting… I will be resilient. Like at that traffic light. Find reasons to not be impatient.

T- trust. This is probably the biggest one. I question everything, everyone. I doubt. I counter. I take opposing sides just to prove to myself the side I believe in works. So trust. I mostly will have to learn to trust myself. Have faith. Confidence. But humbly.

I- Initiative. I cannot allow inertia to win anymore. So maybe yes, it is comfortable to curl up with a great book and hide from the world. I can’t do this (not all the time anyway). If opportunities come my way I need to consider them, take advantage of some, realize which make sense, when to stop taking initiative.

E- Effort. I am lazy! I love doing things the easy way, or encouraging others to do what I could do. Put more into little and big things. Whatever committees I am on put everything into my part. Even housework. Don’t skip dusting.

N- Nurture. Not just everyone else but me, too. Take a little time to rest, recreate. Allow responses to form rather than spouting off replies impulsively. Be considerate, thoughtful. Allow myself time. And family. Be there for them even when they are not there for me.

C- Careful. I don’t mean this in a fearful way. Taking care with what I say, how I respond, feelings that burst forth before I have understood a situation. So I want to be careful of others’ feelings, careful of the words I use. Restraint. Careful of my facial expressions. And listen. Much more listening.

E- Endurance. I have to stop running away. Away from feelings, confrontation, sparring for a purpose, values, beliefs. I have to begin to stand. For what I believe,  for what is right. And sometimes that means waiting.

So this is my word for 2018. Patience. And all that I see within it. It seems an awful lot right now… my Dad always said it’s not that you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, you just don’t have enough time to chew it.

One year. I have a whole year, 365 days. I can do this.

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”  —Ephesians 6:13

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HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!