Category Archives: chronic illness

God Is Not Threatened When We Leave the Church

{An Abstraction on Lipstick}

 

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It happened standing in Wal-Mart with my daughters. I was buying a lipstick and rubbed the pretty coral color that I fell in love with onto my lips. I didn’t notice the brand–that smell. That’s when the memories came flooding in. Memories of being the focus of ridicule at a school in a whole new state, the memories of the poems left on my desk that said “She wears socks with her clogs in winter. She’s in a bubble and thinks no one can reach her, because her Daddy’s a preacher,” and they giggled at me as I turned red and crumbled up the loose-leaf paper taken from one of their cute binders. But there are darker ones.

Dark memories of a 21 year old youth pastor, who came into the sanctuary when I was playing piano and put his lips on me, held me from behind. He befriended my father, came over to the house, and when we went downstairs to play ping-pong, he forced me to sit on his lap.

And the hits seemed to keep coming. I became chronically ill after having my fourth child. And there were people in the church who wanted to pray for me one Sunday. I made it known that I didn’t want it, that I felt uncomfortable with such a spotlight on me. They assured me it was fine, and it was in the midst of this prayer circle that I was told there wasn’t grace for this sickness, this depression, this anxiety, and that God was asking me to please come back home, to come back to where grace abounded for me.

I recoiled at this. Because I knew that God had not left me and I had not left him and the last thing I needed was for someone in the church to tell me that my illness was because I had done something wrong. The insinuation was that it was a direct result of my having left God. But I knew then, and I know now– that none can pluck me from His hand. It’s not possible.

I did feel very far away from God, and what I needed at that moment in my life was for someone to gently remind me that God was still with me and loved me beyond imagination.

That day left me aching, a hole wide-open in my soul, cold bitter wind blowing through. It left me confused about prayer, and unable to utter any words toward heaven. Prayer had been a means, as far as I could see, to hurt others. And I became bitter and maybe I let my words sting, too, because all I could see was people who wanted to hurt me.

I could tell you more stories–I have lots of them. I could tell you about a time my husband and I were asked by the pastor to be elders  because he was leaving and the church needed someone to help run things in his absence. We hesitated, but we loved our pastor, so we agreed. A short time later, we found out that the leadership of the church had sorely treated our pastor, and was the cause of him leaving. Our hearts were broken. We resigned, left the church, and never looked back. But we won’t talk more of that.

What I want to tell you is that because of a lifetime of those memories, my husband and I have chosen to take a time for healing……

{to read the rest of this post, please come on over to Outside the City Gate— I’m over there today, and I have more to share with you….}

{concrete words link-up is below}

 

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Photo credit: Church and steeple: Cindee Snider Re 

Holding hands: Kelli Woodford

Okay, time for #concretewords! ***Will you do this with me, friends? Let’s explore the practice of Awakening to God–this still ties into listening–writing out our story with words that show, not just tell. We’ll connect on twitter and facebook with the hashtag, #concretewords,  #listeningtoyourlife and also #awakeningtoGod if you like. Do me a favor and use these on social media and share with friends–invite them? Writing alone is no fun–but writing in community? Well, THAT is the stuff!

What this link-up is about: We “write out spirit” by practicing writing about the invisible using concrete words. In case you are going “what in the world is a concrete word?!“–this just means (using the prompt to inspire) write out what’s around us–concrete words make the senses come alive, gives place. In every story, there is always an above and beneath, a beside, something tucked away, aromas in the air, something calling in the trees or from the street, notes in our pocket, rocks in our shoes, sand between our toes. Go here to see Amber’s take on this. It was very helpful to me–I think it will be beneficial for you, too.


                                                         A few simple guidelines:

1. Be sure you link up the  URL to your                                                                       Concrete Words post and not just your                                                                      blog home page URL.
2. Put a link to this post on your blog so                                                                    that others can find their way back here.
3. Try to visit one or two others and                                                                               encourage their efforts.
4. If you don’t know how to do these steps,

please email me for help.

 

Today’s prompt is lipstick. GO!


{**Since I’m posting this mid-week, this link-up will run until next Monday afternoon 2 pm CST, giving you plenty of time to write and link up. Sometime between now and then, I will read your stories and try to highlight one of them on social media! Next week, the prompt will be balloon .}

 

 

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In the Trenches {& 15 Best Links of the Week & A Fun Weekend Challenge}

I stay up too late, trying to catch some quiet, relished moments, and then need extra sleep in the morning because my body can’t function on little rest.

When I walk in and face the children, it feels like they have one over on me, like I just can’t keep up.

Always running to keep up and I’m so weary. Chronic illness for three and a half years, and the battle is getting harder, just when I thought I could see the top of the mountain, hoping I could start climbing down the other side. It was only a thick cloud hiding the ever-towering mountain from my weary eyes.

I don’t feel very brave. But some say being brave is about getting in the fight, and not sitting on the sidelines. Some say it’s not brave unless you’re afraid.

And I’m very afraid. I think of their precious faces, and I pray will all my heart that He would heal this illness so that I can wake each morning feeling like a conqueror.

I heard someone say recently, that if we felt like conquerors, if there were no battle to keep us in the trenches, we would never learn humility.

I guess the bravest of us really are in the trenches, learning the ropes that are ever-changing, climbing high with all our might, just to get to the top and realize there is a long way to go.

And with God, He sees all that lies ahead, and He keeps us going when we feel like giving up the race, and falling to the sidelines, becoming a spectator.

I feel His thrumming in my chest, when I lie awake, when all the house is quiet, and He says, stay in it, child. Don’t give up, beloved. There is work to be done yet. Until then, rest. But don’t ever give up or give in.

Keep going, put one foot in front of the other and do the next good thing.

**On Fridays I join Lisa-Jo and the #FiveMinuteFriday Community. We write for five minutes flat, with no extreme editing, no worrying about perfect grammar, no worrying if our words sound just right. “Unscripted. Unedited. Real.”–Lisa-Jo Baker

The one-word prompt this week: BRAVE.

 Five Minute Friday

Now for #concretewords highlight of the week! The writer I’m highlighting this week for #concretewords is:

Janel Andrews for Piano #1–in Poetic Form —I absolutely loved reading this. Gorgeous. Janel is totally new to Concrete Words–let’s encourage her!

*********
Some lovely reading, some creativity, some beauty for the weekend?

All the best links for me this week: {And stay tuned or scroll down for your weekend challenge!! FUN!}

This story–only Amber Haines can say the words caddywhompus, webbernets, and talk about flowers and Kingdom come in a way that makes me want to know God like a child again all in one post. This girl is amazing. 
This post by Lisa-Jo. Seriously. If you’re a mother, you need this one. This weekend. Read this and breathe. 
THIS by Seth Haines–if you read one thing on this list–this. I believe in God the Father, Almighty maker of heaven, maker of earth. Beautiful video at the end of Rich Mullins. 
This one by Deidra Riggs–yes, yes, yes.  
This video based on one of Lisa-Jo’s post. All of us mothers need to watch this a couple times, y’all. At least. 
This post by Ann Voskamp— this blessed me, got down under my skin in all the right ways… for the days when life is unbearably moving too fast, and you aren’t sure how to hold on…. just remember a sheen of grace covers everything…
This post by my friend, Holly, at A Lifetime of Days— absolutely glorious. For when you need a change, and things are stale. 
Some beauty to capture and open the brain to possibility…beautiful places all over the world 
Some creativity for the weekend–a wall that happily heralds summer… I will definitely be doing this… I’ll get some white frames on the cheap… This is so easy–just some leaves and spray-paint!
This video on making tiny gardens is interesting and may inspire a hobby this summer? I would recycle things around the house for my own tiny garden–broken clay pots & pieces, stones & rocks to make paths, marbles for garden globes….

For the Writers:
This post from Margaret Feinberg :things we all need to know, whether we write on a blog, or writing a book
Laura Boggess writes an informative post to help us avoid the snags of bad style
Mary Demuth’s 25 Very Best Blog Practices–this helped me. Some of it I already knew–but it’s good to have it re-confirmed. My guess is it will be beneficial to you, too. 
Your weekend challenge from Moi: Go out into your swampy, snowy, icicle-y yard {whichever applies to your region} and find some beauty–take your camera with you and snap something. I’m doing this, too! Just for kicks: Link pics in comments here all weekend.  The rest of your challenge is below…. Happy weekend, friends! 
Tell me in the comments: What were your favorite links this week? How do you struggle to be brave? 

A Woman of Grit and Glory::Calling the Art and the Music Forth {An Abstraction on the Piano}

I can see the piano gleaming in sunlight coming through the window off to the right and one just to the left, the old air conditioning unit jutting out of it’s breezy opening.

Her little house was so old, the tiles in the bathroom looked ancient to me. In my fuzzy memory, they were a faded color of pepto-bismol pink, and the carpet, an old brown color, trodden on by work boots and cowboy boots many a day. There were old frames holding family pictures hanging up above the couch, and newer ones of grandchildren. There were dusty photo albums and magazines, a very simple table with a vinyl tablecloth in the kitchen. It was a small, cozy house, windows just in spots to let lots of light in.

Every time I visited her, I was so drawn to that piano, the keys and old hymns calling to me, a part of my ancestry. I felt the history that was in my bones when I sat on that bench and was brave enough to let my fingers land on the white and black.

She would come and sit beside me. She had probably been knitting something, reading a magazine, or cleaning up the dishes. But she would drop that for music, and she was a born teacher.

Which is no surprise, given that she travelled around, doing tent revivals, preaching God’s word. This is where I come from; this is in my bones.

She laid her hands on top of my hands, showed me how to touch the keys, how to find the music.

Music was in our blood.

Music and God, and the art of letting Him make us.

She was a woman with much illness and grief in her life. If she could be here now, she’d tell you that her life was a hard road, but God saw her through. God never forsook her.

And no matter what she went through, no matter the mental illness that plagued and made the days hard, no matter the young three- year-old that died in her arms, no matter the man that was hard to live with**, she kept going. She just kept moving forward.

I would think all of that would break a woman, and I’m sure there were broken places she never told anyone about. It was a whisper she prayed to God in the shower, complained to Him as she cooked, as she worked, as she scrubbed, broken whispers, words coming out fragmented, like so much worship.

I know it would have broken me.

But she worked in the garden mercilessly, and she canned food to provide for her family during winter, and she stayed up late in the night with a teenage son who had a lot of questions about relationships and women and life. And she got up early with a smile and a Rise and shine and give God the glory!, and she never faltered, never fainted.

She. just. kept. going.

I only knew the music of her life as a small child, and only through very small windows of time, and oh, I have often wished mightily that I could have witnessed, watched intently, listened to the song of her everyday life, her rise and her fall.

I have often thought of her on bad days, when the depression gets the best of me, wondered what she would tell me if she were here. Wondered if she would pat my knee, tell me it’s all going to be just fine, just. keep. going.

Just keep trusting and leaning in. Keep making music with my life.

I remember her beautiful voice, how she knew the notes to the familiar hymns so well, and to hear her sing them was breathtaking, because you knew when you heard her sing, that it was gospel to her, it was truth, and she believed. Nothing could take that away.

I want to have that kind of grit and glory in my life. What a strong woman. I only pray the memory of her makes me half the woman she was.

She battled pancreatic cancer for years and years, but for a long time, the doctors didn’t know what her symptoms meant. When they found the cancer, it was too late, and all they could do was let it eat away at her body.

It did eat away at the song of her; she no longer had the vibrancy she once did.

She also had a stroke, and she grew thin, and she shuffled when she walked.

I remember her coming down to the house one day, shuffling up to my door. She had come to see her great grand-kids, and I was shampooing carpets. My couch was blocking the doorway. She asked for a picture of them, which I quickly got and handed to her.

My insides churn and I cringe that I didn’t stubbornly move that heft of couch out of the way for this woman whittling away, that I didn’t pour sweet tea and stop my scrubbing, my cleaning.

That’s a memory I’d like to forget–put out of my mind forever.

We could get lost in the grief of regret, or we can let God turn our regrets into redemption, our grief into growth and change.

I was there to see her final breaths, the rise and fall of her, and I recall how my father said what an awful thing cancer was because it stole the beautiful glow from his mother’s face. It took the vibrant red glow from her cheeks, her skin ashen, her once plump figure now just a hollowed-out reminder, and it was difficult to recognize her without her music.

The joy and beauty in her face, her smile, the way she always fixed her hair, and the way she loved–she made art with her life, she made music. It was a pleasant sound in God’s ear.

We all stood around her bed in the hospital room with its shiny, cold linoleum and bare, stark walls and with a huge lump in my throat, we sang the old hymns. She was so frail beneath the white sheets.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.

That saved a wretch like me.

The piano, her piano, sits now in my foyer with the morning sun shining in on it, and my girls have learned to play notes on it. Notes I taught them. I see the little artist budding in them, and I hear the thrumming of God’s heartbeat, saying Don’t squelch it; honor it, nurture it, teach them to glorify me.

For years, I didn’t touch it. Maybe because it reminded me of all of the man-made, man-centered worship, and how something so holy as the inner sanctuary can be desecrated right in God’s sight as his children gather together. I didn’t know how to reconcile this, and my fingers couldn’t remember how to make the music.

I forgot how to be brave, how to be a woman of grit and glory.

But all of the music that’s in my bones, all the art that’s stirring in my blood, all of the morning song that I’ve stuffed down deep–He’s calling it forth.

Every time I walk by the piano and glimpse the hymnal book, I feel Him calling me to worship. And every time I gather enough courage to sit on that bench, and play a song, I can feel her there. And I hear the chorus rising, of long-ago tent revivals when people cried out desperately for God’s touch, and I hear the music played in a grandmother’s living room on a golden afternoon, the light slanted, her hands showing me the way.

**Important**Please read** By sharing this story, I am not advocating the idea that a wife should stay in an abusive, or unhappy marriage. I am sharing a story of one woman who did the best she could, in a time when divorce was unacceptable in her society. Today, women have better choices. I support women’s liberation from abuse, sex slavery, sexual harassment, etc.  
**If you are in an abusive situation, please seek the help of a professional


Friends, I appreciate you helping me get the word out–be sure to use the hashtag #concretewords. 

What this link-up is about: In the lovely Amber Haines’ words, we “write out spirit” by practicing writing about the invisible using concrete words. In case you are going “what in the world is a concrete word?!“–this just means (using the prompt to inspire) write out what’s around us–concrete words make the senses come alive, gives place: fire smoke in the air, an old, tattered wooden swing, black rich dirt underneath bare feet, a woodpecker hammering at a birch. Go here to learn more of what Amber meant for us to do with concrete words when this all began. This will help your writing–I promise! 

A few simple guidelines:  1. Be sure you link up the URL to your Concrete Words
                                             post and not just your blog home page URL.
                                         2. Put a link to this post on your blog so that others 
                                             can find their way back here.
                                         3. Try to visit one or two others and encourage their efforts
                                         4. Please write along with us, using concrete words–
                                             Please no entries with how-to’s, advertising, or 
                                             sponsored posts 
                                         5. Consider sharing via social media to help get word out!
                                         6. Please leave a comment–I love getting to know you!
**Today’s prompt is the Piano


Next week, our Concrete Words prompt is the Road. {I’ll highlight a beautiful post on Friday (and announce it on social media), so come back here to see whose post is highlighted and encourage them!

**Because of what I shared * here,I sometimes have to take social media breaks. However, I am committed to answering comments and visiting those who link up here! I hope you feel a sense of community and right at home when you are here. But sometimes, just a quiet place to reflect, pray, dream is what we need. So if you’re quietly reading, that’s great. If you would like to un-lurk, and leave me a comment, I would love to meet you!! . 


I cherish your words, and the beautiful soul God made you. I am nodding my head, teary-eyed, as I read your hearts here. If you are here, know you are loved, and you’re the seasonin’ in my soup. 


{This post shared with AnnJen, Laura, Heather, and Jennifer for #TellHisStory}

Let’s have some fun with concrete words! (You can join in anytime this week until the linky is closed!) **When linking, please check out the one-word prompt first! Thanks!** 

Quieted By Her Love {Five Minute Friday}

She runs with me through the woods, our hair flying, stopping for one another when we’ve lost our breath.

We never leave one another behind. We always walk beside.

She cups my face when life throws it’s worst curve balls, she looks in my eyes, her eyes reflecting my storm in them, and grieving with me, she prays.

She doesn’t give advice while my shoulders shudder and the tears pour.

She aches to hold me.

She can stand in my kitchen with me and giggle as we pour rum into fruity drinks.

She sends a card in the mail that says I was just thinking of you, and I’m not sure why you’re silent, but I want you to know, my loyalty and my love has never wavered.

When I confess I have felt jealousy because I feel beneath, and I have railed against the bitter cup of chronic illness God’s given, and I plead for her forgiveness, she just says, my dear, there is nothing to forgive.

You have my heart always. You have my heart.

She tells me before we get to Nebraska that even if I misbehave, she will still be my friend.

She stills all my quaking, calms all my fears with her grace.

The inner voice, the lion seeking to squelch and kill, it is quieted by her love.

It is quieted by her love.

**On Fridays I join Lisa-Jo and the Five-Minute Friday Community. Here are Lisa-Jo’s words:

 “We write for five minutes flat. All on the same prompt that I post here at 1 minute past midnight EST every Friday.

And we connect on Twitter with the hashtag #FiveMinuteFriday

No extreme editing; no worrying about perfect grammar, font, or punctuation.

Unscripted. Unedited. Real.”

The one-word prompt this week was FRIEND.

Five Minute Friday

Now it’s time for the #concretewords highlight of the week! WOOT! {Kimberly Coyle hosted this week for me while I was out of town, and we had some technical stuff go haywire–I only ended up with one entry because the linky didn’t work–thanks for hanging with us!}

IF YOU ARE READING THIS AND YOU WOULD STILL LIKE TO ADD YOUR LINK–LEAVE IT IN THE COMMENTS AND I’LL ADD IT HERE AND ALSO ANNOUNCE IT ON FACEBOOK AND TWITTER! 

Ruth Povey, for The Sink. Ruth writes beautiful and brave here–captivating and evocative.