The healing power of a few kind words

theemptyplace

Her words were simple, and they hit me in a place where only God could have known I needed them.

Lisa, when you write…angels sing and dance and when I read your written words so do I! 

I haven’t thought too much of my writing lately. Of my ability to write at all, if I’m completely honest.

I’ve spent the past few days in a recovery period of sorts. I’m not sure where it was along the way that I lost my equilibrium, but over the past week or so I’ve begun to realize just how much I needed to stop. be still. rest.

And when I finally broke and gave into that rest, I saw how broken I really was.

All I could manage to utter was, “I can’t do it. I just can’t do it.” What “it” was, I’m not even sure I could articulate, but I knew I couldn’t keep going like before.

I’ve spent the past fifteen months pouring my heart and soul into a ministry and a community of women who need hope. I don’t regret a moment of that pouring, because I know it was God-ordained. It was right. And through that ministry many friendships were forged that I will carry with me throughout my life. I will always be grateful for that.

Ministry weighs heavily on the shoulders of the strongest and most whole. Stick it on the back of someone who has soul wounds of her own and there’s a knee-fall in the future, no question.

But isn’t that how we help others–by showing them our own scars mostly healed and extending a hand to cup a chin quivering from too much to bear at once much like where we ourselves have been? Aren’t we just reaching into the mirror when we reach out to help someone else?

God has peculiar ways of showing us it’s time to shift direction. Peculiar to us, of course, because His ways are higher than ours. I don’t pretend to understand His whys, especially considering I do well to understand what I’m doing at any given moment and I have just me and my little realm to deal with.

It’s been empty and lonely since I broke. And maybe it’s supposed to be. In the quiet I hear God whispering again. I’ve missed that.

Still, I’m struggling a bit with the silence in some respects. I’m not even sure what it is I want to hear, but silence is deafening. My mind takes it places it shouldn’t, hard as I try not to let that happen. But I am fighting it. I am.

So today, when my beautiful friend gifted me those words it brought me to tears, grateful that she took the time to hold out such a treasure from her heart to mine. It’s like God custom ordered a present He knew would be perfect.

Because if me writing makes angels sing and dance, how could I give up on it?

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He quotes the Song of Solomon, and I don’t mind

WebHeartOnce again I’ve been stirred to response by another blog post. I hesitate to link to it because I don’t want this to come across as combative or a one-up. I just felt like I couldn’t not respond to the idea that the Song of Solomon isn’t an ideal to which we as wives should aspire. My comment on the post looked a bit like a blog post of its own, so in that spirit I share it here. A few details have been added since I posted it as a comment.

I think sometimes I’m just too simplistic. Meaning I don’t see the benefit of digging our heels into the scar tissue of old abuses and refusing to see past them. I was molested as a child. I was date-pressured into sex at 15 and lost my virginity in the back of a Pinto station wagon. I was 16 and pregnant before it was cool enough for a reality show.

By God’s grace I have moved on and refuse to allow myself to remain bogged down in the Roach Motel of anger and bitterness and revenge. I refuse to allow that painful past to rob me of seeing myself as beautiful to my husband, who calls me “smoking hot” all the time without offending me because I know his heart and it is for me.

Interestingly, in a conversation with my 17YO daughter about whether Song of Solomon is worthy of emulation, her response was, “I see every book of the Bible as having been put there by God for a purpose, and I don’t believe any book is one God hopes we just kind of overlook.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

If we are going to start dismissing entire books of the Bible (or even large portions of it) because it doesn’t fit with where we are in our healing process, we may as well toss out everything David said or did that can be used for our good. It’s easy to see how that could get out of hand quickly. To dismiss Solomon’s words entirely would be a great loss to us all.

Do I feel for women still deep in the healing process, who don’t see themselves as “smoking hot” (maybe can’t even imagine themselves ever feeling like that)? Absolutely. That was me, but that was then and I’m glad I didn’t stay there. I’m glad I didn’t dismiss the notion of ever reaching this place of healing where my husband can quote SoS to me and have it warm my heart (and my cheeks).

Please hear my heart–I don’t mean to offend. I simply implore anyone sharing on this topic to invite women to heal beyond that place of stagnation, that place where we can’t see ourselves blushing at being told our breasts are are like twin fawns of a gazelle. By the grace of God we CAN heal to that place where we joy in “I am my beloved’s, and he is mine”.

I believe it is God’s desire for us as wives to hold onto hope, to refuse to dig into our past as a place of permanent pain. I see His heart for us as refusing to let the Enemy steal that beauty and joy from us, from our husbands, from our marriage.

He makes all things new.

Dear God, it’s lonely out here on the porch

porchDear God,

I’m trying hard not to be ungrateful. You bless me so much, you have given so much for me, you are always there for me. I don’t mean to complain, but it’s lonely out here on the porch.

It isn’t like I’m angry that there’s a party going on inside. I’m glad for the faces I see as I peer through the window when they forget and leave the blinds open. I see their smiles and hear their laughter, smell the delicious food and hear strains of beautiful music now and then. I really am happy for them.

Every few weeks someone slips a note under the door that says, “Your time will come.” The first time it happened, I was beside myself with joy. I clutched it to my chest and danced around and nearly knocked over a planter in my happy-dance. I stood close to the door for days afterward, because it couldn’t be too much longer. Right?

After a while I moved back over to the porch swing to rest.

Sometimes a new guest arrives, and as she opens the door to go inside, I try to steal a glimpse into the brightly-lit interior, breathe deeply the aroma of home-cooked food. The door soon closes and the aroma dissipates and the music fades back to muffled and I hold their soft, velvety coats. And I wait.

I’ve grown progressively less excited over the notes under the door. They’ve become pieces of paper filled with empty words. I’m glad I can’t see who is sending them, because I don’t believe her any more.

I’ve been waiting here for a long time now, God. I was so sure I’m supposed to be here. Could it be the wrong porch? Could I have gotten the address wrong? I was just so sure.

I think maybe I’m starting to get it. “Your time will come” really means “Your time is not now.” And I’m going to have to be okay with that.

There’s a small pile of notes just outside the door, but the March wind will soon blow them away. I don’t read them any more.

I have something much more valuable than scribbled scraps of paper. The Letter you gave me never leaves my side, and it will go with me when I make my way bravely down the porch steps and out into the yard and down the dusty country lane. I carry you with me, because with you, it is always my time. Your Words are never hollow.

One day my journey will lead me down another drive to another porch where the door is open and arms are welcoming and the music spills outside and the aromas waft on the breeze through open windows and fluttering curtains.

It is a spectacular party, and I am invited. Your Letter reminds me of these things, and I am grateful. Your Words give me hope.

I must say Amen now. I have some walking to do.

 

______________

A Write Where It Hurts column post

When deep inside beats the heart of an artist

TAJbeartracking3-unfinishedI recently pushed myself out of my comfort zone and started an art journal. This is big for a girl who has spent most of her life telling herself she “can’t do art”.

As a writer, I’ve always considered myself an artist in a broad sense. At any mention of it, however, I would always say something like, “My medium is words. My canvas has lines!”

I’ve created pictorial art before, but it was never good enough in my own eyes to give myself any credit. For years I doodled in my journal margins, depicting myself with goofy expressions and speech bubbles.

In 1990 when the death of our baby daughter rocked our world, I longed to sketch a picture of my husband in Heaven holding Heather in his arms. It wasn’t something I could commission anyone else to do; I couldn’t explain their expressions and the joy I was imagining. So I took out a pencil and a half-sheet of paper and sketched it myself. It fell far short of what I envisioned, but it was from my heart and by my own hand and on a sunny Father’s Day afternoon he cried over my gift.

Nearly twenty-three years later, it remains tucked between the pages of his Bible.

Writing comes easy to me. Not that I fancy myself that great at it, but it’s natural, like breathing. My heartbeat picks up when I write because it jazzes me. My heartbeat picks up when I sketch or paint, too, but it’s because I feel nervous. Scared. Inadequate.

Somewhere in me there has always lived a longing to create pictures. Something else in me has kept that longing from seeing daylight, and I’m not even sure why. I just know that a few months ago, God opened my eyes.

A friend invited me to a painting class where the students all follow an instructor step-by-step and create a painting. I could feel my heart pounding in my ears with those first brushes of acrylic across white. With each stroke I grew more excited as colors took the shape of a tree. The end result was a real painting, and it was my own work. I didn’t care that someone had walked me through it like a baby—it was mine!

In recent weeks I have joined an active art journaling community and started a small one of my own. I’ve begun to discover color and texture and techniques I’d never encountered before. I’m finding ways to express myself that go right to the core of the visual learner in me.

The visual learner in me. I’ve been a visual learner my whole life, so why did it take me nearly 50 years to allow myself this form of expression?

At this point I don’t even care why it took me so long. I only care that I’m no longer afraid to share my story in pictures.

My friend, what are you denying yourself that could bring your story to life?

 

 

____________

A Write Where It Hurts column post

Girl, you need to love your mama

loveyourmamaIt came in my email, and I stopped to read. I don’t always have time to do that, but today I did. What I read made me want to laugh and weep at once, a mingling of joy and crushing grief.

But mostly hope, and here’s why.

What I read about was a friend who is moving with her family back to her home town, and the delight of giving the news to her mother—on her birthday.

Tears pooled in my eyes thinking about the last birthday I spent with my mother, how there is little I wouldn’t give for just a few minutes sitting at her bedside again to tell her all the things I’ve needed to tell her over the past seven years.

Some girls think of their mothers and don’t have that longing. We humans are sadly broken deep down and the disease that pocked us since the Garden poisons our lives and robs us of what should have been. Sometimes that should-have-been is a relationship with Mama.

I’m simple, but not so simple-minded as to think it’s always as easy as just picking up the phone or showing up on a porch and choking that hard “I’m sorry” and hugging close with Hans Zimmer music swelling in the background. Sometimes the pain is deep and years-long and bridges take some time to build.

What I’m asking of you isn’t that you make jiffy-pop peace. What I’m asking is that you love her.

I am a girl standing on the other side of her mother’s life, and I can tell you that one way or another you are going to have regrets when she’s gone. You will, no matter how great your relationship. You can’t always make up for lost time. You can’t always fix what is busted.

But you can love. You can say those words and mean them, even if the reality is that a close relationship just can’t happen. It’s hard living in this skin, wrapped up in choices others have made and choices we have made and tragedies where life hit us broadside.

Ours is not to change everything. Ours is to love, and it has to be God’s love because our own isn’t deep enough, isn’t strong enough, isn’t resilient enough to shoulder all those hurts and abuses and sins and pieces of memory that haunt us in the night–and still hold up.

We were never meant to love without Him, and we don’t have to look far to see the pitiable result of trying to, the façade of human love that shatters like meringue without His heart holding it all together.

Tell her you love her, and mean it. If she’s already gone, then love her in your heart. You can do that, not because she deserves it or she was perfect or everything was grand but because she was your mother. You will walk forward with far less pain.

Love your mama, sweet girl, and heal.

________

A Write Where It Hurts column post

When you remember your bullies by name

bulliesI remember the names of my bullies. All of them. First and last, for the meanest. Their faces are etched on my memory in dark red ink.

I was bullied for my small size, for my intelligence, for being “teacher’s pet” because I worked hard in school. I tried not to stray too far from the teachers; on days when they weren’t around I paid a price that left me spitting dirt and blood and wishing just once I could muster the courage to fight back.

But deep down I didn’t want to hurt them back. I just wanted them to leave me alone.

The ordinary daily bullying wasn’t the worst of it, though. My worst beatings came as a result of me sticking up for someone else. I stepped between a mean girl and Little Robin once, and was beaten unconscious. The mean girl was so scared she had killed me she carried me home and begged her mother for help. She then took me home and tearfully told my dad what she had done and said she was sorry. That was more than could be said of my daily bullies. I would like to think maybe she wasn’t so mean after that.

I’d like to be able to say that I was never a bully, but it wouldn’t be true. Something snaps in the mind after years of being punched, pushed, kicked, and tormented and some of us just aren’t strong enough to fight off the temptation to take all that out on someone else. Thankfully my brand of meanness wasn’t very physical, owing to my small size.

But I know what a lot of other people know: Words can be worse than whippings.

I lived in two worlds for a while in junior high, mouthing off enough to keep people thinking I could back it up so I could stay safe, and championing the underdog by befriending the girls no one else liked. Two powerful pieces of me warred—walking wounded struggling to be tough enough to survive, and hero to the outcast.

By high school I had left it behind—both being bullied and being Miss Tough Girl. I guess those opposing sides of me finally made their peace.

I prayed nobody remembered me as a bully by name.

I grew up to be hypersensitive to anyone in need, anyone in crisis, anyone needing a hug, a smile, a shoulder, a friend. I grew up to love like I wanted to be loved all along.

I grew up with a longing to lead a life of love and light and grace and hope, and to do whatever I can to help others lead one, too. Through the years I’ve gained a deeper understanding of what makes their hearts beat, both the bully and the bullied.

I’m no hero, but I know what it means to live under fist and taunt. If I can help even one person to live fewer moments of abuse, I’d like to try. Imagine what could happen if all of us who remember our bullies by name turned those memories into empathy and healing for the walking wounded we once were.

_________________

A Write Where It Hurts column post

How our words can kill or heal

fistHe stood there in the grocery aisle, husband and food cart driver, staring into space. I noticed him partly because of the precariously-balanced load he was pushing, but mostly because of his empty expression. The empathy in my heart registered numbness.

I picked up a pound of my favorite coffee and noticed the aisle was getting a little crowded. That’s about when I noticed his wife, but within seconds everyone in the aisle noticed her. She began scolding him in a harsh-toned Spanglish, and by her hand gestures and the few words I understood she was saying something to the effect of, “I told you not to bring the cart down this aisle! Why didn’t you stay out in the main aisle like I told you to? You are so stupid!”

He never raised his head, just pushed the cart slowly out into the main aisle. She never stopped berating him, and as soon as they were out of the way of other shoppers, she lit into him full-force. I loosely gathered that she was bringing up all manner of other issues and mixing them in with his cart faux pas.

What struck me was how he never even looked up. Never said a word. Never even really acknowledged her shrieking, her contorted expression, her biting words. The rest of us noticed, and as another shopper walked past me down the aisle we exchanged a quick “Yikes!” expression before she hurried away.

What makes a woman treat her husband this way? What brokenness lives in her heart that she must attack and beat down and destroy another human heart—specifically one joined to hers (presumably) in holy matrimony?

I couldn’t help but feel a deep sense of loss, of regret, of sadness at what their life together must be like. I hadn’t moved very far from that spot when my sweet Steve came around the corner and found me near tears. Swallowing past the lump in my throat I briefly explained what I’d witnessed in hushed tones lest she still be within earshot. He put his arm around me and we moved on in search of Cheerios.

I haven’t been able to shake that feeling of loss, and it has left me with a burning question in my spirit.

What if we could all feel what another is feeling when receiving our words?

What if picturing the likely response made our words breathe healing and repair and hope instead of inflicting pain and reducing others to a puddle of shame and defeat?

What if we just took a moment to think before we speak—or write?

Have you ever treated anyone the way that wife treated her husband? Maybe your own husband, or your child, or a friend, or a neighbor? Maybe it was a store clerk or your dry cleaner or a parent.

Might you join me, dear friend, in resolving to think before we speak, to love and speak life with our words?

 

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

 

A Write Where It Hurts column post

Twenty-three {NaPoWriMo 18}

heatherrose23Twenty-three birthdays and none with you here
I keep thinking maybe it’ll be easier next year
It really doesn’t get much better, this ache
There’s only so much a heart can take
So every year is hello, goodbye
Busy makes it easier not to cry
I’ll hold you again when all things are made new
Happy birthday, beautiful, from your mama to you

Almost {NaPoWriMo 17}

anxiousdriverI almost called you today
Sobbing down a narrow highway
My heart torn clean in two
Surprised that in that moment I wanted you
I almost slid
But caught myself before I did
Poured it out to God instead
From a part of me I think is dead
There is no friend I trust me to
Not even you

In Your Mind {NaPoWriMo 10}

Would you cheer up? You’re just depressed.
It’s been three days since you got dressed.
Just pray it through and you’ll be fine.
It won’t fix anything to whine.
No, really, I don’t mean to pry,
But you’d be well if you’d just try.
How could you ask for one thing more?
You’ve so much to be thankful for.
So chin up, girl! Snap out of it!
Your downcast gaze just doesn’t fit.
I hope you don’t think me unkind,
But this is all just in your mind.

And so we hide for our own good
To fight what is misunderstood.