{ A New Normal (DAY 484) }

IMG_9384Some of you may or may not know that when I was 16 1/2 I got very very sick.  So sick in fact that I ended up spending the better part of four years in bed.  To this day we still don’t know exactly what happened and I have some residual challenges.  I’ve chosen not to talk about this on my blog for various reasons.  The main reason being that I’m just not ready.  I started writing a book about it but into chapter 5 I just had to stop.  Yet today I want to let you in and tell you something that I’ve wrestled with for years by myself until recently.  Talking with other friends I’ve realized I’m not the only one that has gone/is going through this.  That shouldn’t be a big surprise to me but when you go through grief you can feel very isolated.   I want to talk about the aftermath of trauma today because it’s more important than I could have imagined.

“How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart, you begin to understand, there is no going back? There are some things that time cannot mend. Some hurts that go too deep…that have taken hold.” J.R.R. Tolkien

 No one tells you how to pull the pieces of your shattered and broken life back together. There isn’t a manual and you really can’t just go back to where you started and work from there. You have to find a new way of living when everyone has moved on. It’s an in between zone that’s tricky to navigate and sometimes down right exhausting. The reality was that my sickness had changed me.  Trauma has changed my friends too.  I hear the desperation in my friend’s text when she writes me about living with intense and chronic pain and how now that she’s feeling a bit better she doesn’t know how to carry on a normal conversation anymore.  I hear her telling me that she’s not sure what normal should look like now.  All I can do is tell her I know exactly how she feels.  That I’ve been there and that some days I’m still there.

Yesterday at church I was discussing all of this with another friend.  She knows grief in a way I can’t even imagine.  When she was just a teenager her mother passed away.  Loosing someone has to be one of the worst possible forms of grief.  There are no words for that type of trauma.  Her insight into this conversation was so enlightening.  She told me how she has to figure out normal in every season that comes along.  Figuring out a new normal months after her mother passed away was not the new normal she had to learn to live with during her wedding season.  In the future she knows she’ll have to adjust to another normal when she has children and her mother isn’t around for that.  My heart rips in two when I hear these stories.  Pain is so darn personal.  Yet while my new normal is different than what my friends have experienced we are bound by the common fight of it all.

I see it on Instagram with the people that I follow and the stories I hear.  People who have lost babies and parents and I watch as they try to figure out how to live in this world without loved ones.  There is no manual for living life after intense pain whether it be emotional or physical.  Just because you’ve had you’re life turned upside down doesn’t mean the earth stops spinning.  No, life keeps right on living.  My mom sent me an article today that expressed so well this conversation I’ve been having.  The woman, Julie Lowe, had watched her house burn to the ground.  Since she sums up what I’ve been feeling perfectly I will share some of her words below but please read the rest here.

“We were simply hurting. What did we need? What does processing loss look like? We needed to find the ability to grieve and find comfort in the Lord. To shed tears and still trust. To be confused but know our hope was sure. To hold onto both sadness and belief. This, I believe, is the complexity of living with loss. Sorrow couched in hope.

We needed people to understand, to help us think clearly when we were incapable, and not to judge us unfaithful when we struggled—and we did struggle.  This reminded me that God calls each of us to empathize with other sufferers—those who have lost a child, a spouse, survived a tragic experience, lived through a war or genocide. As believers and biblical counselors, we must walk alongside and offer ourselves as sufferers process and heal. It takes time to understand, to listen, and to help survivors find comfort and hope. Tragic losses aren’t overcome in a few weeks, or even a few months. With each new life event or season, the loss is experienced at a new level. This has definitely been my experience.” Julie Lowe

If you’ve read this far thank you.  Thank you for taking the time to listen to my heart.  As I wrestle with my own process and try to comfort friends in the midst of this I’ve come to realize just how important it is to just be with people.  Let them know you care.  It’s important to know that there are no quick fixes.  It’s important to realize that some things change people forever and while painful it isn’t all bad.  There is always hope.  For me I wouldn’t change a single thing I’ve gone through but I speak only for myself in this.  If you have experienced trauma and loss my heart goes out to you.  Please know you are not alone.  Please don’t beat yourself up because you don’t know what life should look like as you try to thrive and not just survive.  Dear ones there is still meaning and joy in life.  There is still purpose and light.  Your life matters even if doesn’t fit in a mold.  It’s going to be okay.

If you don’t have the hope of heaven I pray that you will know it soon for there lies great peace and comfort knowing that in the end if our trust is in Jesus all wrong shall be made right.

Posted on August 26, 2014 by | Comments { 4 }

{ Just Listen (DAY 483) }

IMG_2695Over the past two years I’ve wanted to write this post but timing was never right.  Now it is.  So here goes.

One day I was sitting talking with a friend when she opened up and shared something very important to her.  Maybe it was the fact that she was moving away that allowed her to be so open but regardless of what prompted the conversation I will forever be indebted to her for what I learned and took away from that time.  Our talk on the subject lasted for hours over two tea times.  We disagreed.  Yes, as in quite a bit it seemed.  Even though we didn’t hold the same position I left energized from that conversation and grateful and so did she.  It was amazing and so beautiful.  We both commented on it.

Since then I’ve had other really challenging conversations with different people but rarely have they gone so well as that first one did.  It made me stop and wonder what was different.  You’re bound to disagree with people throughout life if you’re not a pushover so why do some situations end up being damaging while others leave you grateful and grown?

I observed some interesting things that occurred from my time with that sweet friend who let me in (even though I believe she was hesitant about what I would say).  The first thing that happened is that we listened, both of us.  We genuinely cared about the other person and so while we didn’t seem to have the same view on the topic we took the time to really hear one another.  We humbly shared and asked good questions in non threatening tones.  We tried to see it from the other person’s view.  We talked about terms and words so that we were on the same page.

Guess what happened.  Even though we both still didn’t fully agree we found that we both actually agreed a lot more than we imagined.  I got closer to her side of the topic and she to mine.  We both felt challenged and thoughtful and it was incredible.  It was because we took the time to consider what the other one had said.  Yes, we did advocate for our views but we didn’t jump to defend our positions in a this-is-the-only-way type of way.

Some people just wont take the time to listen and have a conversation about differences but when they do, if you’ll listen, you might grow in profound ways.  Being challenged about your ideals and path for life and ways of doing things is never ever easy or pleasant but it can yield a depth of character and learning that you won’t find elsewhere.  I have so much to learn and apply still from that first conversation from two years ago with that lovely lady but I’m so thankful for how it has affected my life.  How I pray that I may be humble enough to listen to hard words from others and may I lovingly be willing to start a conversation about things that aren’t always easy to say but can cause a blossoming of character.  Neither side is fun to be on but if you both choose to look at both angles you may gain perspective that you never had or even new beliefs.

A year after those coffee dates I wrote this to her: After some interesting conversations I’ve been reflecting on the ones we had before you left. A simple thank you is not enough. You punctuated a valuable lesson for me. That regardless of whether or not we believed the same things we can still be humble enough to listen to other people. Our talks and your willingness to be genuine and open were a gift. While I may not agree with everyone, hearing their side and reasons for them is still important. Taking the time to consider another persons thoughts and positions can be rewarding either way. So thank you for being humble enough to listen to me and for sharing your perspective. Thank you for letting me in. I’m grateful for how you handled yourself and for how you let me be myself too.

Listen and you shall hear.  You may be changed too, in a good way.

Posted on August 19, 2014 by | Comments { 2 }

{ The Duck (DAY 482) }

photo(61)My life this summer has felt like a movie.  Both magical and weird combined.  Last week when I wrote about “time machines” I had no idea I would find one so unexpectedly.  One warm perfect summer afternoon I strolled down the sidewalk towards my destination taking it all in when a bold “Hello” startled me.  I said hi back and kept on walking.  When I returned the same way a while later I stopped at that gate though.

There sat a woman with her snow white fine cotton candy hair spun into a tiny rosette at the back of her head holding a duck.  “What’s your duck’s name?” “Alex, with an X.”  I asked her how she got the duck which led to her telling me about her husband.  They had been married 61 years when he passed away.  Elizabeth is 84 but remembers perfectly how she met him.  His brother brought him over to meet her and while she ran upstairs to grab something he perused her book shelf.  At that point she interjected that, “You can tell a lot about a person by their books.” I wanted to give a hearty amen because I knew I liked her the minute she admonished me on that point.  Eventually she invited me in. So there I sat perched in my dress on her front porch with her and the duck all the while clutching my bag on my knees and soaking everything in.  I pestered her with questions and she kindly obliged by answering.

She had wonderful things to tell me.  Things like how she was married to her husband three months after meeting him because she was madly in love with him.  She told me about how her mother had great legs and when I chuckled she said, “Oh no, I mean it! My mother used to model hosiery.”  We talked about anything and everything it seemed.  Not many people remember the bombing of Pearl Harbor, but she does.  She was born during the Great Depression and remembers that she was 11 when America entered WWII.  While she was sitting there we both said hello to everyone that passed us and it tickled me pink to see the astonished and amused looks we received.  We were quite a pair.

At one point she asked me if I was religious and I smiled back and said I loved Jesus and had a personal relationship with him.  She doesn’t believe in God.  We discussed this and I asked her, “What if there is a God?”  Our conversation was food for thought.

Eventually I had to leave those steps where we had sat under the leaves and walk back into the real world but I was so thankful for Elizabeth and her willingness to share with me.  I walked by a stranger but after sitting with her under the leafy canopy with the summer breeze drifting by I made a new friend.  I hope I have many more times of sitting on strangers porches where time passes and you don’t know it because you traveled back in time with them.  Stop and say “hello” since you never know what exciting people you might meet outside your door.

Posted on August 14, 2014 by | Comments { 0 }

{ Time Machines (DAY 481) }

IMG_8120One thought pulled me in and repulsed me at the same moment much like magnets.  Two sides of the same can attract you and show you beauty while also shocking you with the gravity of it.

Maybe it was the perfect storm of circumstances.  I’ve lived in this house for over three years and just across the street lies a house that seemed empty.  I wish I had discovered sooner that it held someone quite valuable.  I never met her.  That woman passed away yesterday though at the age of 98.  Now that house actually is empty.

Today while reading Dandelion Wine that fact pierced my heart.   For the young boys in the story realize their town held a time machine of the best kind.  A person.  What stories did my neighbor have to tell of when she was my age?  For just as surely as she lived at 98 there was a time when she was 26 and living out what I now know as history.

What makes me keep wanting to cry though is this thought.  That some day when I am 53, if I should live that long, those that are 98 will only be forty-five years older than me and any history before that will only be spoken by words and maybe retold by lips but never by someone’s eyes.  Not that far away look of one who’s been there.

By 80 I’ll be the time machine.  I’m not afraid of becoming one but I am afraid of what will be lost when those that are my “time machines” are gone.  It’s like a punch in the stomach. My time machines are shrinking.  So many, including all my grandparents, have already passed into rest.

Cherish the older ones around you.  They’ve lived through things you will only ever read about…

(This photo is a picture that hangs on my wall and was drawn by my grandpa.  He was an incredible artist!  I just wish I could have heard about this place from his own lips…that and more stories from WWII and his life.)

Posted on August 7, 2014 by | Comments { 2 }

{ From India – Part 2 (DAY 480) }

IMG_2763Several weeks ago I mentioned that one of my dear friends is IN INDIA! I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to get her to share some of her thoughts with us so she’ll be guest blogging this week and sharing some of her pictures.  When we talked about this following aspect of her trip Ansley was both shocked and uncomfortable with the superior treatment she has received.  Ansley thank you so much for sharing what you’re seeing and feeling on this trip with all of us.  Much, much love to you!

The word for white folks here translates as into “white lords” (for centuries Indians were servants to white masters). Still today, the Indians see white people as “higher” than them. We are also perceived as being closer to God. A stream of villagers tried to sneak in so Americans could pray for them. They asked for healing, rain, or education, and some asked us to pray for oil to anoint their sheep who all had a sickness. Once when I was praying, a lady told me to pray for the oil that she would put in water to dump on her buffalo so it would produce much milk. After I prayed for the oil to have healing powers, I dumped the whole jar of oil in the water. It was made very clear to me that this was not what she had intended. A drop would have been sufficient . . . oops.

We went to church with the villagers and were obliged to sit up front in chairs facing the audience, having been warned in advance that we would be called on to pray over the congregation, share a sermon, or participate in whatever way we were asked. Again, we were treated as literally lords, superior.

As we were walking around the village praying for the villagers in Saravaram, and they truly believed I could heal them- I began believing it as well. If I have the same Holy Spirit that the apostles had who healed the sick, why couldn’t God heal someone through me? I earnestly wanted to see the sick healed, but was it for their good- or selfishly did I want the power?

Lord help me to pray fervently for these people even when I don’t have the words. May I speak your word with boldness. I believe that you can heal them.

“Speak your word with boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus. And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken and they were filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.” Acts 3:29-31

Posted on July 31, 2014 by | Comments { 0 }

{ From India (DAY 479) }

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Several weeks ago I mentioned that one of my dear friends is IN INDIA! I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to get her to share some of her thoughts with us so she’ll be guest blogging this week and sharing some of her pictures.  I love seeing a snippet into my kiddos lives from someone who’s experiencing them for the first time.  (Also please note that CCH is the on the ground organization that we partner with.)  Ansley thank you so much for sharing what you’re seeing and feeling on this trip with all of us.  Much, much love to you!

We arrived today around 11:45am. The boys greeted us with flowers and were all in a line with smiling faces, dressed in crisp school uniforms. We were escorted into their brightly painted concrete home to their most comfortable chairs. The handsome, dark boys sat in a circle and shared the stories of how they came to CCH though each had experienced the death of one or both parents; the boys were all glowing when they spoke of their new home with CCH. They spoke of provision for daily needs, English education, love in the family, and their relationship with Jesus.  Some boys spoke of working in the fields before CCH; some spoke of little or no education before CCH. One little boy had difficulty sharing. His father was dead and his mother is mentally ill. We reassured him that emotions are good, and that he is loved deeply. At a beautifully set table they served lunch: chicken (which is a luxury in rural India), with the most delicious lemon rice you could ever imagine and fruit (no fruit sellers in sight for 20km). We were served food past the point of fullness.

As I created a friendship with these boys over the few days we were there I realized the beauty of this home. The boys were given a place of refuge to call home. A place where the foundation would not fall, meals three times a day, a pastor and pastor-ma that truly loved and cared for them, and a safety net of 10 brothers. They taught us all the Indian games they play, we went to the park, had ice cream, and loved just sharing life with them for a few short days. The boys thrive on playing hard and also worshiping hard. Dancing til’ they cannot dance anymore should be their motto, and singing at the top of their lungs. Being with these boys increased my faith. They love the Lord so much, much more than I. Jesus is truly their everything. It is so beautiful to see boys who may have been working in fields their whole life, or enslaved to a debt, possibly making 200 rupees a days (not near enough to feed, clothe, educate, and shelter one person, much less a family) now having potential.  Now they will be educated, hear the word of God every day, and potentially make a difference in their family, village or generation.

Posted on July 29, 2014 by | Comments { 0 }

{ Escaping Creative Ruts (DAY 478) }

photo 1(6)I was wondering what I should write about today because really I’d rather just sit down and have a chat with you instead. I’d tell you how it poured buckets and I got drenched running from the car to the house a mere 6 steps.  Or how sometimes the beauty around me makes me literally feel like I will fly to pieces.  Truth be told I wondered what I should write at all.  And then the clouds parted and the sun came waltzing into my room all radiant and lit on fire an idea in my mind.  Racing into the next room I snatched my paints and brushes, ripped paper, and thanked the Lord that all of my art supplies were no longer packed away.  With only 10 minutes to catch the laughing sun as she danced to bed I had to go be decisive.  Strokes came sure and fast and I didn’t have time to rethink anything.  It didn’t have to be perfect but I needed something for a post.  Feathers formed under the whispy brush hairs and when I was done I grabbed the last rays winking through the trees to illuminate it.  And I liked it.  I know exactly what I’m going to write on it and what pages it will get tucked between.

So what did this little endeavor teach me?  Well if you’re stuck in a creative rut find something else creative to do.  If you love to write but can’t craft words at the moment go swish paint on a canvas.  If you are building a table and it’s not what you envisioned go take a picture.  No matter what your creative “thing” is if it feels dead go find something else to enliven it.  The brilliant thing about creativity is that there isn’t a set of rules.  Feel free to paint outside the lines.  Whatever you do please don’t stop creating.  Find a new outlet for a while if you need to.  In the end the sun always comes back out.

Posted on July 24, 2014 by | Comments { 0 }

{ Life lately (DAY 477) }

“What other new crazy stuff you got in there?”
“I’m alive.”
“Heck, that’s old!”
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Thinking about it, noticing it, is new.  You do things and don’t watch.  Then all of a sudden you look and see what you’re doing and it’s the first time, really.  I’m going to divide the summer up in two parts.  First part of this tablet is titled: RITES AND CEREMONIES.  The first root beer pop of the year.  The first time running barefoot in the grass of the year.  First time almost drowning in the lake of the year.  First water-melon.  First mosquito.  First harvest of dandelions.  Those are the things we do over and over and over and never think.  Now here in back, like I said, is DISCOVERIES AND REVELATIONS or maybe ILLUMINATIONS, that’s a swell word, or INTUITIONS, okay?  In other words you do an old familiar thing, like bottling dandelion wine, and you put that under RITES AND CEREMONIES.  And then you think about it, and what you think, crazy or not, you put under DISCOVERIES AND REVELATIONS.  Here’s what I got on the wine: Every time you bottle it, you got a whole chunk of 1928 put away, safe.  How do you like that, Tom?”

“I got lost a mile back somewhere.” ~Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

IMG_0189 IMG_0137 IMG_0097As you may or may not have noticed I was MIA last week.  It was a very full yet wonderful two weeks for me and I just needed to live in the moment.  But don’t worry, I took a ridiculous amount of pictures so I have a few to share.  Since so much happened I’ll just list a few of the things that come to mind.

Got to go on a date with Andrew Garfield.  No, not the famous one….my amazing brother one! ;)  It was so fun having him and my sister in law in town.

I ate my first waffle ice cream cone. EVER.  You better believe I enjoyed every minute of it.  Also ice cream cones can be messy.  I think it adds to the fun.

We went thrifting.  I don’t mean a few stores.  When I say thrifting I mean that my brother had a list (a list! he’s so organized) of all the thrift stores they wanted to see.  We had a grand time and found some treasures.  No adventure is complete without treasure ya know. ;)

My niece and nephew had a darling lemonade stand complete with organic lemonade and polka dot straws…and homemade cookies.

We ate.  And ate.  AND ATE.  I don’t know why that’s a vacation thing but it is.

One day we went on a scenic drive and discovered a lavender field…and some alpacas not too far from that.  Alpacas are funny looking creatures and when they are sheared they are truly hilarious to see.  God totally has a sense of humor.

Most nights we stayed up wayyyyy too late watching The Lord of the Rings series…the extended version.  Those are some of my favorite movies and I hadn’t watched them in a while so it was fun to get into that story again.

There was a wonderful sale on ice cream.  We bought a lot.  Did I mention we ate heaps these past few weeks?!  Hopefully that round of miniature golf helped keep us trim. ;)

All in all though the best part was just having my whole family in one place for so many days.  It wasn’t long enough but we made the most of it and I can’t wait for next time.

What parts of summer are you enjoying most? :)  I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Posted on July 22, 2014 by | Comments { 0 }

{ Hands & Tales (DAY 476) }

IMG_9726A little background about this one…  I met this beautiful young woman a few weeks ago through some friends of mine.  She was staying at their house during her epic trip from Australia (where she lives) throughout Canada and America.  Due to schedules I only got to see her a few times but we clicked really easily.  While walking around the track on the last evening I saw her I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to do a Hands & Tales post with her.  All I had was my iphone but we made it work. ;)  Hope you enjoy her answers as much as I did and if you’re not familiar with why I do these posts you can read about it here.

Who has touched your life and why?  Beyond my parents, who are some of the most gracious people in the world, a significant influence has been a close friend from my church community. She has touched my life by loving me & investing in me, even when her life has been busy & she’s been anxious. She’s met with me, cared for me & helped me work out what life is as my 20-something brain battles through the understanding of my selfishness & the world’s ‘bigness’, which often seem contradictory.

What was one of the happiest days of your life?  One of the happiest days of my life was just recently – I have been traveling & I met up with a group of my good friends from home. It was so great to spend the day experiencing new things together. A day for history :)

What’s your greatest struggle right now?  My greatest struggle is knowing how to look to the future. I know I have an infinitely small impact on the world, although YOU [elaini] have shown me that one person can impact others greatly, but how do we just continue to move forward into unknowness? It scares & excites me, but beyond those feelings I know there is a God who loves this world & it’s people, and He knows the answers to this question. Trusting Him with that has been one of the hardest, yet most freeing parts of my Christian faith.
Posted on July 10, 2014 by | Comments { 0 }

{ A little sister (DAY 475) }

IMG_9356Sometimes you don’t know you have a hole in your heart until it is filled.  There’s that moment when you simultaneously realize you were broken and now it’s fixed.  Or that something, more importantly someone, is missing from your life and then you “get” them back in a way that defies convention.  I love that God is a healer.  All the little bits of me and tears and hurts and gashes he wants to make new.  One more thing healed in me yesterday.  A healing I didn’t even know needed to happen.

Yesterday on July 1st this happened quite unexpectedly.  I read a blog post by Kristen Morris over at The Family Morris and something inside me shook.  She wrote about her miscarrying her second son Ryan Day Morris.  Towards the end the shaking did its work and the dam in my heart broke open.  Tears, yes.

Just days before while getting my wisdom teeth out the assistant had turned to my mother (who kindly came in when I was done) and asked how many children she had.  “Four” my mother replied.  Her words surprised me.  I always think of being one of three.  There has always been my older sister and brother and me.  Three.

I know my mother still birthed at almost 6 months.  I’ve known that all my life but we rarely talk about it.

You see I’ve always wanted a little sibling.  I’ve especially wanted a little sister.  The times I’ve longed for that are countless.  Yesterday I received the most precious gift while reading that blog post.  I got my little sister back.  Lydia exists.  Lydia exists and she’s my little sister.  Again there are tears as I write.  I didn’t realize just how much I need Lydia to be.  At age 26 I’m finally realizing just a tiny bit.  We would have been close, not just in age, but in heart.  She is two years younger than I am.  I’m a big sister! Words don’t do justice to how that makes me feel.

Lydia means worshiper of God.  I know that’s exactly what she’s doing right now and it’s beautiful.  I’ve always been the only one in my immediate family that is musical but now I know that Lydia is the best of us all at this moment.  True I wish I was playing the piano and singing with her instead of writing this but since I can’t I know our hearts sing to the Lord whom we both love.  Mine is the less complicated melody and hers the harmony I can’t quite yet understand.  We sing to the One who gave us both life.  Her life is even more real and abundant than mine is on this earth because she is with Life himself all the time without the veil to see him through as I do. 

I wonder what you would be like Lydia.  Would you look like dad or mom or be a funny combination of both like me.  Would you have been adventurous?  What does your laugh sound like?  What would you teach me?  What crazy things would we have done?  What foods would you like?  I want to ask you a million + questions….

Dear little sister I know we would have fought like all siblings do but I also know there would be a love between us that couldn’t be broken.  I know that because I love you fiercely.  I can’t wait to sing and dance with you little sis.  I miss you but I’m thankful that another piece of my heart is in heaven with you.  I’m so thankful that Jesus already had answered my prayers for a little sister before I even prayed them.

Posted on July 8, 2014 by | Comments { 9 }