Have you ever experienced an immense trial, and found you managed to bear through it? You knew that you had a good reason to loose the plot, however, you found a supernatural place of calm amidst the storm. Have you gone through some of the most troubling ordeals and not been shaken, in faith or character, by them? I believe I have, once or twice.
I like this . . .
This is a quote I ran across while researching a completely different topic. Still, I felt it an appropriate word of caution, especially given our socio-political climate today.
"Hating the sin while claiming to love the sinner too easily spreads hate in the world, because I am convinced that hate is just too strong a human emotion for us to keep under control.
Far be it from me to suggest that I may have been out of touch with my own self in the past several months, but let me suggest just that. I have been sorely out of touch with myself in the past few months. Although I prayed every day, I also felt as if I was out of touch with God. No matter what spiritual books I read, saying a hearty “Amen” to what I read, or what practices I tried to employ to get me over the hump, I remained absolutely stuck. Stuck rhymes with another work…and it was that, too. Yes, it stunk! (I trust you to get what rhymes with stuck.)
Gosh darn it all to heck, a once ongoing issue had me scared and traumatized to the point where I could no longer write. I was completely afraid to write for fear of some unforeseen backlash. Being totally afraid to write left me in a place where my soul got sucked dry. Each day I prayed to God to help me deal with the fear and the trauma, and to bless whatever might be the source of my fear.
Some things are like the interest on credit cards, or a saving account. I needed do nothing, but they were compounded daily, or annually, and now I even sort of know what that means, because I am no financial genius. You can trust me on that. It means that even things I ignored added up, and even as I kept ignoring them, they continued to add up, then one day God came down and froze my assets and then what did I do? Well, I prayed harder. I also may have gotten depressed quite a lot.
There I sat. My assets frozen, and I could not move because of, or from, fear. Suddenly, the deficits started to pile up. First, my own perceived deficits, and I found that they piled up quickly, with no interest whatsoever. Some deficits I acquired rightfully…I judged, I spoke ill of someone, I felt compassion at times, and anger at others. Other deficits were old issues, long gone, but back again for a visit, and I let them in, gave them tea, and a place to stay. Fear lived in my home, and faith and fear do not cohabit well together.
What was I afraid of, you ask? It makes no matter at this point in time. What mattered then was that my fear was based in pride, and the resurrection of old trauma. It took me a long time to figure that out, and even when I *knew* it as plain as the nose on my face, it would not disappear. Still, I continued to pray every day. I did not pray only for me, but for the source of my fear. For some softening—for an end to hate and an opening to love. I have been praying for that for a year and a half and nothing, but I am no quitter!
There are times when God tests us, and He does so not just by trials, but by a feeling of dryness in our faith. Lord knows, (Oh, yes, He does!) just how stale I felt. As a Montana gal, I do not give easily, so while I faltered many times, I did not give up, and then the grace of God descended upon me in the form of something so gracious, loving, and humble, that my weak faith never thought it would appear. Ah, but it did, because God is good, and I am one persistent woman, for the good, or the bad. God has given me the biggest prayer of my heart, and the fear is gone. Today, I can write. Hallelujah, today, I can write.
As is often the case, I write with tears streaming down my cheeks, and so much joy in my heart. I pray that this is the start of a reconciliation of sorts—of a new beginning. Today is the first day of spring and I welcome the thought of an end to the cold, and renewal, and new beginnings, and while there are still many unknowns in my life at this moments, I can feel the coming of sunshine, and warmth, and love. All of this come thanks to a season of trial, and the glorious grace of God. Hope, like this new season, springs eternal, and my gratitude is too large to fill this page. May that grace find all of you, too.
Yes, I survived the great blizzard of 2013! If you want to have people coming out of the woodwork to fret over you, just live somewhere where blizzards are rare, and have a lot of friends who have never been through a blizzard. It is true. Heck, even my children, who never worry about me–much—were worried. It was crazy, and unsettling, and sweet all, at the same time.
What many people forget is that I am not from Maine. I was born and raised in Montana. I cut my baby teeth on icicles, and learned to walk, talk, and drive, in blizzards. In all of my growing up years, we had one snow day, and it was really an early dismissal day for what was termed a “Killer storm.” I was in high school and could not drive yet. In a stunning turn of events, I missed the bus home. I never did that. I called my Mom and she told me to walk home, so I did. I am still alive, obviously, and that was quite a long time ago.
I tried to explain to my 8-year-old son what a blizzard was like. It was Friday, and it was snowing quite a lot, and he had a snow day. I kept telling him that the real fun was yet to come. Of course, being The Queen of Storm Prep, I had been taken out well in advance to get food, water, and wood products. I spent three days gathering downed wood around my place, and sawing it up, and piling it up. I had water bottles filled, candles, an oil lamp, and I made sure there were fresh batteries in my combo weather radio/LED flashlight/siren thing. I had called the neighbors, who have a generator, to see if their offer of lodging if we ever needed it was still open. It was. I also found out that my landlords, who do the plowing, were in Mexico, and that my neighbors had arranged for plowing down the luge run. I was quite grateful. They have just gotten back two days prior from a month in South Carolina.
By midday Friday, it looked like this:
The lad and I took a walk outside. It was calm and idyllic, aside from the 10 degree temperatures.
It was completely gorgeous. The world around us sparkled and shined.
Such beauty everywhere, and in our own backyard, too!
I knew it was not going to last, so we had a nice dinner, watched a movie, and I bathed the child, ran the vacuum, and the dishwasher, and handed the child his own mini LED flashlight to put by his bed. I filled the bathtub, and put extra logs on the fire, and I prayed. I told the little man that if he woke up and the nightlight in the stairway was off, then we had lost power. I begged him not to freak out, but to simply reach down, grab his flashlight, point it towards my bed, and make his way over. I woke up many times during the night–darned night sweats– and the nightlight shone on. The sun came up around 7 a.m., and the light shone on. I muttered a small “Hallelujah!” The little man crawled in bed with me and said, “This doesn’t seem so bad. I don’t see any snow. Oh, wait! The snow is going so fast I can’t see it! Now I get it!”
Once the sun came up, it looked like this, not even 24 hours later.
This is the snowed in screened porch door.
Miss Kitty, our cat, was beside herself, when she was not sleeping. She likes to do her dirty work outside. Her disdain for her litter box was evident. She was going nowhere as far as I was concerened. By late afternoon, we decided to start to dig out.
We were truly blessed! We never lost power. We had plenty of wood. Our road was plowed well before Sunday morning, and we got out yesterday, even if it was for me to clean a house. The little man is back to school today. We were truly blessed!
I have a theory, and it has worked well for me so far. If you bust your rear end preparing for the worst, then the worst never happens. If you take no time to prepare, then you will find yourself up a creek without a paddle, because you would have a paddle if you had prepared! I am not superstitious, either, but on Saturday, no matter how many times people asked if we still had power, or in how many different ways, I never mentioned the word “power” until midday yesterday. We never lost power. Just sayin’ and feeling very grateful and waiting for spring! I am also praising Jesus quite a lot!
Russ Towne (russtowne.com) who pens the glorious "A Grateful Man" was prompted by a friend to respond to a question that grabbed my attention. "What do you know for sure?" His responses were pure Russ, written with candor and beauty, simplicity and reflection. And I began asking myself the same question - and would submit that it's a reasonable query to pose to ourselves from time to time.
Where have I been, you ask? Maybe you have not asked, but I sure have. I am right here, waving at all of you! This has been the month where it has seemed as though nothing has gone right, and I am still recovering. Actually, it began before Christmas, but who is counting, anyway? I haven’t written in many weeks and yes, as much as I have been dying to do so, it feels as if there is just so much emotion that has been trapped inside of me I am afraid I just might blow to bits, or cry. It will likely be the latter, so you can all relax now a bit. I still have not entirely pinpointed what caused this disturbance in its entirety, but that is probably because it was just a myriad of “one thing after another.”
Prior to, and during the Christmas holidays, every plan that took me weeks to construct seemed to fall apart within a minute’s time, and need to be reconstructed in even less time. Visitation schedules were confused. When you are working to two former spouses, and seven kids, it is hard to begin with to get everyone in one place at one time. Things just kept changing and changing and changing, and while I am so much better now at rolling with the punches than I used to be, I felt as if I were rolling, and ducking, and jumping, and side stepping, and having to give up a lot in the process.
Many things simply did not happen, or if they did happen, I had to let a lot go just to get it done. As much as I loved having all of my kids home, and as much as many, many good things did happen, like my younger daughter getting engaged on Christmas Day, and wedding dress shopping with my two girls the day after, I was dizzy from all of the rolling and I felt that everything was helter skelter. I felt that I had lost control…the control that I wanted, anyway. I could not find my joy. Looking back, I think that I had lost it somewhere even prior to all of the going with the flow. I still feel sad looking back, as if I missed an event that I had attended.
After New Year’s, my little man returned to school for a couple of days and I looked forward to life returning to normal, whatever that is around here. The following Monday, he came home with a bad sore throat and by Thursday night, I had fallen ill. This was no ordinary cold. Nope, this was an honest to goodness siege of influenza that had befallen us, causing him to miss more than a week of school, and causing me to miss more that a week of work. No work, no money. No money, no way to pay the rent or bills. We had suddenly become like lepers trapped in our own little germ filled colony. No one wanted to be anywhere near us, and I do not blame them. I didn’t really want to be anywhere near us, either. I totally lost whatever good humor I had and I was a less than delightful person to be around. As is so often the case, the little man was starting to feel better just when I was at my worst. Visitations with his Dad were cancelled, ah, but we finally made it back to school and work, only to have me relapse with a bronchitis/asthma thing.
Add to all of this snow, and bitter cold, and school holiday, and teacher work days, and a car misbehaving, gastroenteritis this past weekend, and more missed visitation, my computer broken down for over a week, and finally on Monday, my car broke down. That is what it has been like day after day and it has been hard and draining and then some. Every day, I would pray, and every day I would try to find my gratitude–to count my blessings, but my blessings felt limp in my hands. I knew that I had so much to be grateful for, but trying to hold onto the gratitude was like trying to get a tight grip on a handful of Jello. I felt awful for not feeling grateful. I felt lonely, too, as well as sleepy, dopey, and grumpy.
Today, I am not working because my road is an ice slick. I will work tomorrow and I dearly needed this day to find perspective. At no point during any of this was I ever truly alone. I have God, my family, and my wonderful friends. My rent did not magically pay itself. My rent got paid because of many kind, wonderful, and generous friends around the world. I have never met most of them in person. One of my son’s took care of my electric bill. My first ex-husband got us an Omaha steak gift pack at Christmas that gave us a lovely New Years dinner and many breaks from pasta. My beloved probation officer and friend has put me in touch with a woman who runs a counseling service and she is pursuing me for a job as a case worker, working with people with substance abuse issues, and coming out of incarceration situations. It is a dream job if it works out, and as my P.O. said, “You know, I don’t just do this kind of thing for just anyone.” Oh, yes, I DO know that!
When my car broke down on Monday, a friend was a phone call away and there to pick me up in 10 minutes. I had AAA within the hour, and my car was towed home within two. A friend is coming over to fix it this weekend, and my son fixed my computer. I am loved. I am so well-loved that it is crazy and now tears of joy and gratitude are rolling down my face. I do not know why I could not see this, or feel it sooner, but I think it has a lot to do with not being able to write.
I get my footing back when I write. I find my hidden emotions and bring them out into the light when I write. Something overtakes me, and the blur of life totally disappears and it is just me and God when I write, and when I write, even if my hands may tremble, and my eyes may cloud over with tears, obscuring my earthy vision, I see much better when I write. I may have to stop at times to let out a long-held sob, pain mixed with joy and hope, but I find release when I write. I find hope, and joy, and gratitude when I write.
I need always to write.
Run through midnight dunes with sparklers
or lie down on the dark shore and let life wash over you?
Here it is again, giving up season. No, I'm not talking about Lent. I'm talking about one of those phases in which we feel defeated by the overwhelming requirements of life. It's when you find yourself constantly giving up what makes you hop out of bed in the morning in order to fulfill pressing and unavoidable obligations.