Archive of ‘A repost’ category

Holding On. Letting It Go. And a giveaway



The messages are mixed.
Hold on for dear life.
Loosen your grip and let it go.
What’s a girl to do?

Since finding out I need neurosurgery again I’ve been vacillating between hope and despair. It’s always the same process.

It’s just a flare.
What if they can’t find a reason for this pain?
I’m not crazy.
It’s too much for too long.
How much more can my family and I endure?

Acceptance and maybe even hope are supposed to come next.

I’m stuck in the ache right now. I am not holding on or letting it go. I’m wedged in between irrational suffering and the lie this is somehow proof God has turned His back on me and peace that can only come from believing this is Grace, and He is working it for my good and His glory.

My friend Christin Ditchfield’s beautiful book What Women Should Know About Letting It Go: Breaking Free from the Power of Guilt, Discouragement, and Defeat was just published.

I’ve been sitting with her words.
Page flagging.
Marinating my mind and heart.

Christin was a stranger to me until a Holy Spirit filled night at Laity Lodge in November. After a group of women prayed circles around me she pulled me aside. Shining with Jesus she shared Isaiah 38. At the beginning of the chapter it says King Hezekiah was “ill to the point of death.” God told him to get his house in order because he would die. He would not recover. I’m pretty sure if God sent me a real life prophet that said I was going to die I would make some funeral plans, hug my husband and girls and submit to it as God’s will. Hezekiah did something different. He turned his face toward the wall and as he wept bitterly he prayed, “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.”

Guess what? His prayer changed God’s mind. Here’s that tricky sovereignty thing again. If Hezekiah hadn’t prayed this prayer would God have taken his life then? Did God plan for this prayer to open Hezekiah’s eyes all along so He would get the glory?

Listen to these beautiful words penned by Hezekiah himself after his illness and recovery:

I said, “In the prime of my life
must I go through the gates of death
and be robbed of the rest of my years?”
I said, “I will not again see the Lord himself
in the land of the living;
no longer will I look on my fellow man,
or be with those who now dwell in this world.
Like a shepherd’s tent my house
has been pulled down and taken from me.
Like a weaver I have rolled up my life,
and he has cut me off from the loom;
day and night you made an end of me.
I waited patiently till dawn,
but like a lion he broke all my bones;
day and night you made an end of me.
I cried like a swift or thrush,
I moaned like a mourning dove.
My eyes grew weak as I looked to the heavens.
I am being threatened; Lord, come to my aid!”
But what can I say?
He has spoken to me, and he himself has done this.
I will walk humbly all my years
because of this anguish of my soul.
Lord, by such things people live;
and my spirit finds life in them too.
You restored me to health
and let me live.
Surely it was for my benefit
that I suffered such anguish.
In your love you kept me
from the pit of destruction;
you have put all my sins
behind your back.

For the grave cannot praise you,
death cannot sing your praise;
those who go down to the pit
cannot hope for your faithfulness.
The living, the living—they praise you,
as I am doing today;
parents tell their children
about your faithfulness.
The Lord will save me,
and we will sing with stringed instruments
all the days of our lives
in the temple of the Lord.

Since I’ve been back from Maryland I have been trying to force some kind of illusion of control over what’s coming next. I have forgotten the rich treasure of knowing for sure even this is for my benefit. In one of my favorite chapter’s in Letting It Go Christin writes, “We’ve got to learn to trust Him and His leadership. Trust Him and His power. Trust Him and His wisdom. Trust Him and His love. It’s because we trust Him–trust that He is in control–that we can let go.” By this I live.

The mountains I face are very real.
The physical.
The emotional.
The spiritual.
The relational.
The financial.
None of those need moved today.

Instead I will pray with my Jesus, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, Your will be done.”

I am holding on to hope and letting the rest go.

What are you trying to control in your own life? What mountains are you facing? What truth reminds you to let it go and rest in Jesus? I am giving away a copy of Christin Ditchfield’s book What Women Should Know About Letting It Go: Breaking Free from the Power of Guilt, Discouragement, and Defeat. Comment here to be entered into a random drawing Sunday morning, May 10th. Share on social media for an extra entry and please use the hashtag #LettingItGo.

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Come Home


Big Great Wall

For the first time in my life I might know a teeny bit how it felt.

My parents are a world away. A cryptic email came this morning mentioning “great difficulty.” There is no way to really get to them. I could call and call and call their phones, but they would not answer. I do not know where they are sleeping tonight. If I needed them I could only send a message into cyberspace and hope they would read it. If they wanted to come home today they could not.

I remember years of my life when my parents could not get to me. I was wounded and broken. I withdrew from a prestigious woman’s college where I had an elite scholarship, because I couldn’t move anymore. An avalanche of life had begun crushing anything and everything I believed about God. This began with huge life changes like two brothers adopted from Romania, old pain from my parents younger selves being revealed, an ugly church split, my older sister who slept on my floor every night getting married and moving away, isolation from all the people I had known most of my life and my parents and siblings moving to Ohio. Trauma was the tipping point in a seventeen year old girl living on her own and completely alone. I was a sophomore in college, working two jobs, a Young Republican, active in Right to Life, active in the college’s Baptist Student Union. It’s true one storm can blow everything away. The younger you are and the more sheltered and naïve the worse the damage will be. I was decimated.

The story of the almost year between when my world blew up and when I called my parents to tell them is too graphic for this heart to retell. I know on their side they were thinking maybe I had simply changed my mind about schools. I did transfer to a larger state school the next semester. They were dealing with new jobs, special needs kids and making a new life. I had managed to keep working and paying my rent in my basement apartment. There wasn’t really anyone left in my life to be accountable to so my slipping away was easy to hide. When we did talk I know I told them what they wanted to hear to make it easier on them. Still, they would call some nights, and I did not answer. They did not know where I was sleeping or if I was really okay.

When I finally told them, because my sexual assault counselor told me I had to, I know it was horrific for them. Can you imagine the guilt a parent has when circumstances spiral to one of your worst fears being realized for your daughter? My dad got in his car and drove all the way to our home town. We met at an Econo Lodge. We got down on our knees, and he prayed with me. Then he asked me to come home. There was nothing in my heart that even moved toward making that kind of decision. Ohio wasn’t home. I wasn’t Monica anymore. I told him I couldn’t. I hugged him and said “goodbye” and “I love you” and went back to my dorm room to cry myself to sleep. I was a sophomore in college. I was a binge drunk. I was a whore. I was a blasphemer. I was eating with the pigs. I changed my major to sociology. I became a feminist, a humanist and a liberal. Still, when I was alone at night and could not numb myself any longer I could hear my Father calling my name.

Today I know what it must have felt like.

I just want them to come home.

I want to say “I’m sorry” for the million ways I hurt them. I want to forgive them for the million ways they thought they were doing what was best that hurt me. I want to show them grace. I want to honor them for their faith and courage and service. I am like them in many ways. I can hear my girls on the phone someday saying I was too involved in other’s lives, praying too much for people we don’t really even know, giving to people when we don’t have “enough” ourselves. I’ve faulted my parents for these things before.

I am so much like my father. I see the world through a theological lens I will never be able to leave behind. I hope it’s not theology. I think it is Jesus. I will always be digging and searching and maybe too serious. I will always need to retreat from social situations and need time to be alone to be okay. He is a lover of Grace and truth seeker. He is a writer, an early riser to seek the face of God and carries the lives of hundreds of families in his heart.

I am like my mother. I will learn of a friend of a friend who is hurting, and I will pray and ask you to pray. It is annoying to most and endearing only to those who know how sincere we are. I am sometimes an optimist like her. I used to call her house a glass castle. I understand over these last years it is a coping mechanism for making it through really hard things and also a ruthless trust in a good God no matter what. She is a journal keeper, early riser to seek the face of God and carries the lives of hundreds of families in her heart.

I want them to come home.

I want them to know after thirty-seven years an email from a far away land healed more in me than all the therapy I’ve ever been through.

I love you dad and mom.

Come home.

Father, bring them home.

(This is a repost from June 11, 2013. My dad is heading for China today. Won’t you please join me in praying for his safety and the Kingdom work he is doing there. Thank you.)

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What Can I Bring to Your Fire?


Janet and I

This blog post was originally published on August 18th, 2013. Friday was Janet’s birthday. I can barely remember what the landscape of my life looked like before knowing and being known by her. I celebrate her every day.

I have seen them in cities, and in my own neighborhood,
nor could I touch them with the magic that they crave
to be unbroken. Then, I myself, lonely,
said hello to good fortune. Someone
came along and lingered and little by little
became everything that makes the difference.
Oh, I wish such good luck
to everyone. How beautiful it is to be unbroken.
–Mary Oliver

It’s a quiet morning here because Dan has taken the girls to church. I woke up locked in my room. My neck doesn’t move at first when my eyes open. I remember I had surgery, and I need to heal today. This is what Sunday looks like for me. Healing is my one job. I call out to have Dan bring me coffee. Normally I would go out to my nest chair and drink it while everyone else comes to life around me. Twix will crawl into my lap for snuggles and then Danica takes a turn. Today I can’t seem to move. I call Dan again to please come and get out certain pills for me to take that may raise my cortisol level, help with pain and also loosen up my poor neck. He seems annoyed. He doesn’t ask me how I slept, although I ask him, and he doesn’t ask me if I need something to eat or nibble on before I swallow six super strong pills on an empty stomach. It doesn’t even cross his mind. I don’t ask. Since I’ve been home it is much like other surgeries. I am put into my room with the door shut. I think my family looks at it as doing me a favor. The kids jiggle the bed which hurts my neck. They are loud and silly. Mostly because of the pain and meds too much input sets me off. Still, I have missed them incredibly and being alone hurts in the worst way. As they all leave for church the attitude is negative. I asked Delaney to read me Psalm 37 out loud. It’s one of my favorites. All I can feel is this rope of bad energy tightening around me. The house is a mess. As soon as they leave I cry for ten minutes straight. You know the kind of sobbing where you are just gross snot pillow soaked blotchy face and chest heaving crying? I am given a week in Maryland and that is it. I have to be better. Tomorrow Dan will go to work. I will be here alone with my girls. Delaney starts school Tuesday. Wednesday Danica has kindergarten preview and Thursday they will both be back full time. In between here I am supposed to just be mom. I’m supposed to lift up this neck and do all the things people say are stupid and careless to do following this surgery but there is no one else to do them. I am not supposed to move my neck in flexion or extension for a month. In other words, hold very still. Aside from the surgery where I went away to heal at the lake house this is how it has been. My family can barely scrape together enough time off and energy to do the mom is in the hospital thing. When my ride dropped me off yesterday my dad was waiting with his keys to leave. I asked him to please wait until Dan got home. I haven’t heard from my mom at all. I just can’t be alone yet. Dan does not function without me. He is angry at this situation. I get this. It’s maddening. But I wonder if anyone is thinking about what it must feel like to be in this body and mind and soul. Do you know what incredible shame I feel to be causing all this over and over again? He cannot come and sit with me and talk to me about how I am feeling. Even in the hospital he sat there the entire day after my surgery saying nothing. I felt so insanely alone and guilty and wanting to just let him off the hook for all of this. I always want to say to him, “You can run. It’s okay. I would totally understand.” This surgery is huge. It’s a big deal. For me, even more than the physical, it’s a mental and spiritual choice I made to try to be better. I did this only four weeks after a major abdominal and pelvic surgery. I made this choice because my husband has been given an opportunity to perhaps take on a larger role at work, my girls start school this week and last year I was completely bedridden when school began with another surgery and then another and it hurt Danica’s adjustment greatly, and my mom is completely unavailable in every way this time of year. Her family is the 600+ students entering those doors Tuesday and my dad is preparing to go to China and India for a month and good grief, how much longer can things keep being about me?

Why after all these years of blogging am I saying these things now?

Because something changed me.

Ninety nine out of one hundred of you may feel like this comes across as ungrateful, but if you know me you understand my spirit is only full to overflowing for every ounce of love and support from every corner of the universe, especially the sacrifices my parents have made. Still, what was given to me this time was something I have needed since I was a child. There has been a deep longing for a mother to care for me. Someone to just focus on me and build relationship. I have needed it so badly it is actually part of my sickness. I know this.

There she was.

An angel.

A woman I didn’t know personally until two weeks ago made this crazy offer. I didn’t really even think she was serious at first. She offered to come after my surgery and get me since Dan needed so desperately to work. Everyone who heard of this felt it was very strange. She bravely drove with her own physical limitations from Ohio to Maryland. She fed me. She took me on a hilarious trip around the beltway for prescriptions. She rubbed my neck and shoulders. I don’t think anyone had offered to touch me like that in months. Did you know you need human touch to be okay? I have been like an orphan tied to a crib. Failure to thrive. I need to be touched. She listened to me. I listened to her. Her daughter is sick with the same conditions I have. I think perhaps the windows into one another’s roles in all this was one of the greatest gifts. We talked for hours and hours and only scratched the surface of what our souls could share. I would fall asleep mid sentence and then wake and begin where we left off. She would quietly slip off as if knowing I needed space and then appear just when I was needing her. Gift. Gift. Gift. When everything else falls away WE are gift.

Before Danica’s major surgery in Cincinnati I wrote this post with a link to a song by Christa Wells that is truly my life song. I am amazed when one of the “thousand things” shows up. Christa’s new CD “Feed Your Soul” was released on Tuesday, the day after my surgery. I downloaded all the songs first thing that morning, and they played over and over in my alone time in the hospital. The song Come Close Now describes what Janet did for me.

God, every single step of this arduous journey You have given me Dayenu. It would have been enough. This present of knowing and being known makes me healed in places I thought would be broken until heaven. Even in my sadness today I understand I can only meet people where they are in their own journey. All the rest You will care for perfectly as I burn. Thank you for giving me someone to walk into my fire and just feel the heat of all this without shrinking back.

Do you know someone who is sitting in the burn today? Go close. Sing. Hold them. Be there in the fire. It will make all the difference.

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Star Song



Salvador Dali 1969 Lithograph from the BIBLIA SACRA 33 – SANCTUS RAPHAEL ET TOBIAS

We have been having
epiphanies like stars
all this year long.
And now, at its close,
when the planets
are shining through frost,
light runs like music
in the bones,
and the heart keeps rising
at the sound of any song.
An old magic flows
at the silver calling
of a bell,
high and clear.
Falling. Falling.
Sounding the death knell
of our old year,
telling the new appearing
of Christ, our Morning Star.

Now, burst,
all our bell throats!
every clapper tongue!
Stun the still night.
Jesus himself gleams through
our high heart notes
(it is no fable).
It is he whose light
glistens in each song sung,
and in the true
coming together again
to the stable
of all of us: shepherds,
sages, his women and men,
common and faithful,
or wealthy and wise,
with carillon hearts,
and, suddenly, stars in our eyes.–Luci Shaw

If you’ve read here long or at my old blog you know I love Advent more than any other time of the year. The order of the liturgical season leading up to celebrating Christ’s birth keeps my heart in a circle of never forgetting. It reminds my soul continually how the plan for Redemption was THE only plan. Throughout the Old Testament there are the hints and guesses that grow into clear signs of who would come to save us. I love spending an entire month so mindful of the miracle. Christmas is a big reflection of what God asks us to do with our lives all year long. He wants us to watch and wait. He wants us to draw near to the simple and humble and the human so we can really finally understand what a sacrifice God becoming man was and is. It’s Grace in slow motion, step by step to Bethlehem.

Growing up in Staunton, Virginia our amazing public library had large reproduction art pieces that were framed, and you could check them out to hang in your home for awhile. I was obsessed with decorating and design since I was a young child. I was always wanting to make my space inspiring and beautiful. My mom would let me check out the art from time to time. My favorite was one of irises printed on a grass cloth type canvas framed in gold. We didn’t grow up with much actual art in our home. There were cross stitch samplers of Bible verses and one big watercolor painting of my sister on a carousel hung over our couch. That’s about it. I didn’t have exposure to art through museums or my schoolwork either. It was just something that felt important to me like a good thread count and the right lighting. It was something I was born hungry for like poetry and architecture. It is something we all need and want at some level if we are honest with ourselves. In many ways the place I grew up became the canvas I studied. Watching the seasons change year after year in the Shenandoah Valley shapes your soul for beauty. All art is born from the master artist, our Creator, and I was blessed to live in the bowels of one of His special studios for many years.

Thanksgiving and the month of December are a time for looking backward and forward. As I play this long year in my mind one of my deepest blessings has been a friendship that came out of a strange and unexpected place. It has grown into part of my healing so deeply I don’t know if one would have been possible without the other. We are different in many ways and kindred in just as many. This creates an honesty and perfect iron sharpening iron way of communicating that is rare. We found out early on we both have a love for all kinds of art and need beauty around us in our day to day to be okay. Besides a whimsical collection from an Ohio watercolor artist Dan and I bought at the beach in North Carolina in 2006, which we have refused to part with during all our losses, we don’t own much meaningful art anymore. In our one year lived in and cherished home we have large walls with just empty space which is okay with us and especially me. I don’t want to hang things just to have something there. Everything in my life now really should reflect meaning and sometimes the empty space is just good. It’s part of the waiting for restoration and healing.

Not long after my hardware removal surgery, the second of three major surgeries in a row this fall, my new friend showed up on my doorstep holding a large piece of framed art to borrow. She had been in my room and even spent time lying in bed with me when I was too sick to get up. She could see I spent most of my hours turned on my left side facing a large blank wall. This particular piece of art had been in her bedroom and brought her encouragement through pain. It’s a stunningly painted forest with the richest colors creating a depth you have to trudge through. You have to explore it layer by layer until you reach this little patch of yellow, yes, light, at the very end of your journey. She brought it on a day I felt so hopeless, so sick, so lost in the woods I could not imagine making it through. She left the painting here for me to borrow. We hung it on the big empty wall I face when I am in bed the sickest. No matter what I could see the light. I could move towards the light. The painting changes depending on the day and the mood and yes, the light, and it has never looked exactly the same twice. I am still caught off guard when I stop to consider it. I still cry when I tell the story of how a little block of the purest shade of yellow somehow helps me believe it is going to be okay.

Several weeks later my friend showed up with a religious piece to borrow. It is in our living room over the mantel. Dan and I sat enjoying our coffee this morning discussing this particular piece. Beyond the literal meaning we have our own interpretations. The angel and light overshadow the struggle below of man. It is a hopeful piece. It came from an artist whose friend knew he was agnostic so he asked him to study Scripture and paint a series of work depicting Biblical stories in prayer of stirring his heart to come to see the truths he held dear. I think I will need to return this piece after the holidays before I become too attached, but it has illuminated our simple holiday decorating and speaks to the spiritual journey we are on this and every Christmas season.

Pulled by the tinsel and things and expectation of things I see the angel speaking to us glad tidings of great joy. Sit down. Be still. Listen to how this aching and hurting and waiting will unfold now. I know there were days and weeks and even months without a sign. You thought I had left you here without a Savior. Your suffering and your broken bodies and hearts will be healed by His stripes. A baby born of a virgin is just the beginning of the miracle. You will be saved! Do you believe? Can Redemption happen so slowly it begins as a shoot from a stump? Can it be as simple as a scene in a manger?

Light a candle tonight.

Take one step.

He is coming.

We have stars in our eyes.

(This is a repost from my blog last December with some personal narrative removed. Glynn Young wrote on his blog, Faith, Fiction, Friends, about the importance of art in his life. It sent me back to read this entry. The Dali is returned now and a Marc Chagall is my newest piece on loan. The sun is shining. I’m exhausted, and my treatment has been delayed until 3:30pm today. My dear friend and art benefactor will take me. Since I returned from the hospital this morning for blood draws I’ve been staring straight into the light. I’d rather go blind than look away.)

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