Archive of ‘Poetry’ category

If I Leave? Why I’m Going Away

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I’m sitting here in bed with a blinking cursor pushing me to keep adding words to this sentence, this paragraph and this post. I have six windows open on my laptop. My email, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and WordPress are all places I share community. They are good. The relationships I’ve made and sustained on the web keep me from feeling isolated in my mostly home bound life. I connect with beautiful TRUTH here. I learn your stories. I watch your lives unfold for the glory of God. I share in your pain and struggles, and I pray for you. I celebrate your victories and accomplishments. I also channel my online life into real life with paper to pen, care packages and, if you live close enough, by inviting you to rest awhile on my yellow sofa to know and be known by me. I schedule phone dates with far away friends and even strangers who need pieces of my story to take the next step in their own. When I am not doing these things I am managing my own health care, wrestling with insurance and debt collectors and getting treatment. These things fill my days until my children and husband come home. I try to pour into them what I have left which is often the least of me. Every night I swallow five crazy pills supposed to slow down my brain and my body enough to rest, but I fall into bed with a racing mind and bursting heart. I make lists in my head or on scratch paper on my nightstand in the dark. I am overwhelmed by all the people I need to pray for. I am wanting to remember your birthday or send you a note of encouragement, because it might be the only real mail you get in your hard this week. My life is full because of this screen. I am grateful for it. I also know it is time to step away.

Something bred out of this culture of continuous sharing is the absolute inability to believe the world can and will go on without our input. We don’t know how to do real retreat. We don’t know how to stop the whispering or the shouting long enough to decide who and what we really are without it. I see this as blatantly in the Christian community as I do in secular media. Those of us who write are particularly prone to feeling we must keep our words out here. Isn’t that why God gave us the gift? I have been blogging since 2008, and it has been one of the most beautiful and challenging things I’ve done in my life. I’ve told truth here I would have never been brave enough to bare in any other place. This has wrecked me and healed me. The hundreds of people from around the globe who joined our Team Danica journey encouraged me to know people are hungry for community, and we are all more the same than we are different. My blog and social media gathered an army of prayer warriors for us. It became a place we humbly made our great need known and where God chose to meet much of it. I am grateful for it. I also know it is time to step away.

My heart aches to have been writing and submitting a book for publication before all this. I wish I could tell my story, birth it and give it away. No build up. No platform. No marketing plan or commerce. Just a year and a half of heart work poured onto pages. God, do with them what you will. Take my name off. He is the author. I am merely a character in this narrative of redemption. I’ve been told I am naive. I’ve been asked if this desire is driven by fear of failure. I’ve been asked if I want to be a writer or if I just have this one amazing miraculous tale to tell. Publishers don’t just want one good book. They want to know if you have another and are worth the investment they make in you. I wrestle with the deep threads of faith in my book making it a book only Christians will buy. Do I really want to shine my light into an already lit room. If not, do I pull a few golden stitches out and hope the Jesus shines through the strength of the story itself? I’m asked to focus on my target audience. Is it people who have suffered and are suffering? Is it my ever growing community of EDS and Chiari people who hurt exactly like I do? Or is this a story about finding gifts no matter what your gauntlet making it a book for almost anyone, because none of us are immune to the struggle?

If you’ve been reading here you know I had my twentieth surgery and seventh neurosurgery on June 24th. I never wanted this “new” blog to be focused on my continued pain, treatment or disability and especially not about our ever growing need for support. This is why I’ve been very quiet. Here’s the rub. This is my life. I spent the first eight weeks of my recovery without words. It scared me. I cried more than I have ever cried in my life, sometimes hours at a time. The loss of range of motion in my neck and the new normal I was facing terrified me. The pain from having skin and muscle and nerve cut down my head and spine for the third time in the same place was driving me into despair. I wanted to quit, and I felt the story I’ve labored over was a farce, because I couldn’t see a gift anywhere. At the bottom of the valley I had my finger on “delete.” God stopped me.

I cannot answer many of the questions I’ve asked above. I do know God is asking me to be quiet, pull away from ALL this here and focus completely on what I know for sure He called me to do. This means saying no to people in all kinds of ways. This means my children and husband will lose even more of me as I set my jaw like flint to finish this work. This means I have to believe my presence in your life on this screen is not necessary for a period of time and trust God to bring you other encouragement. This means I’m asking you to respect the absence but promise me you will be here when I return, because I will miss you all, and I need you too.

I remember a poem written by L.L. Barkat in her precious book “God in the Yard.” I found it quickly tonight as I pulled my well worn copy from the shelf. I had forgotten she wrote it for Ann Voskamp. I wondered if Ann was feeling these same struggles as she poured herself into her first book. I will leave you with it tonight.

Stayed: for Ann Voskamp

Why do we not
leave home.
Is it really for fear
of what lies
beyond, or rather
for fear that the
roof will abscond
with the doors
and the shutters
we’ve always known.
And who would they
blame if it happened
just so, if the whole
curtained place simply
picked up its stakes,
disappeared on the wind
in our absence. What
are we really afraid
of, why do we not
leave home.

I will be gone literally as much as figuratively over the next two months. I leave a week from today for a trip to Maryland for a scan and fusion check up with my neurosurgeon. I plan to head further south to the Virginia valley I love between the Blue Ridge to see my Angie after this. God has provided for me to take an overnight trip with dear girlfriends, a very long weekend at the beach with one of my most faithful five and an entire week of writing on Lake Michigan as I finish out my thirty-ninth year of life. Will you please pray for me physically as I continue to heal and learn how to live once again with new challenges? Will you please pray for the decisions I have to make about further PANDAS/AE treatment? I have decided not to continue chemo or add long term steroids, the next suggested steps from my physician, until my symptoms become unbearable and dangerous again. Will you please pray for God to provide for our family as He always has and for us to live this manna life with great joy. Will you pray over the words I am committing to write as I finish “Gauntlet with a Gift” and for God to make clear the path where it should land for His glory? I humbly thank you for taking these things to our God who already knows what we need and still beautifully invites us to enter in by asking.

(I will continue to publish Thursday’s Gauntlet Story Feast here, because your stories are important and are one of the main reasons the book was conceived. I have made commitments to several author friends to help launch and promote their own soul work, and I will be showing up, because their books are changing me, and I want you to read them and be changed too. Besides these things I will be quiet. If you truly need me I will check email and messenger daily.)

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Worthy. Gauntlet Story Feast

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CindeeFlower

This week’s Story is an achingly beautiful poem about what it feels like to live with chronic illness when you are young, single, childless, unable to finish a degree, barely able to eat enough to keep you alive, body wracked with pain and mind and soul buried beneath the ultimate question, “What am I worth?”

Worthy
By Tessa Rice

My stomach is smooth, besides the loose skin refusing to leave. No sign of the map-like markings that tell a story of a child being born.
My flimsy body lays alone and empty on the couch, the space next to me reserved for the imaginary hero that doesn’t exist.
No wife. No mother. No matter.

Irrelevant stacks of papers and writings, books and ideas, clustered in disheveled piles of dreams lost.
Mirrors down, covered head, hidden in the darkest corner of an unlit room for one.
Haunted by visions and yearning of what I never was, what I became, what I am.
No career. No acceptance. No matter.

Twisting, pulling, panting, pleading, the clock reaches time of now. My Breath becomes labored as labor becomes wanting, as wanting becomes night. Endless.
Morning comes with the cruel roll of the dice, anointing me with sweat for remembrance of the dusk.
No health. No life. No matter.

My joy plucked and used away, for a Saturday, many years ago. A Thursday once was nice, but forgotten as disappearing moments once only drizzled away. Now a Broken dam. Flooded days. Memories lost. The shell of me imploding with fragility.
No happiness. No laughter. No Matter.

They look at me with a shade of pity, a touch of curiosity, and a wealth of resentment. Turning heads of society, justifiable only by practice.
Fighting, begging, scratching for the path that is mine. One that I know. One that I want.
Ripping blank pages from my unwritten story, my voice trembles as I speak
My hope. My fight. I matter.

Tessa

About Tessa in her own words:

I was diagnosed last year with EDS type 3 after 12 years of declining health that led me to be unable to walk, and with a horrible movement disorder called dystonia. In the last year I have had two neurosurgeries, including brain decompression and spinal fusion, as well as a tethered cord operation, and have battled gastroparesis and MCAD relentlessly. Despite these things, I still love music, singing, nature, and the ocean, as I spent many years surfing. I love to write, specifically poetry, love science and psychology, and have a deep desire to help others and animals. My 13 year old pitbull named Stella is my best friend and has helped me through everything. I continue to fight and push through always with the memory of my mother in my heart, choosing to not give up in her honor.

You can connect with her on Facebook here. You can donate towards her two most recent neurosurgeries here.

If you are walking a Gauntlet or are close to someone who is and would like to contribute to our Thursday community please email me at mkayesnyder@gmail.com, and I will send you the instructions for submitting. Share with anyone you know who might like to join our Gauntlet Story Feast. (Please use the hash tag #GauntletStoryFeast when sharing so we can find and follow one another.) Our Hope remains.

Photography by Cindee Snider Re. Used with permission.

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Recapture My Heart

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I wish your care was always easy, predictable, safe—
a cool drink
a soft pillow—
but you are too wise,
too loving,
too committed to your work of
transforming grace.
So your gracious care comes to me
in uncomfortable forms:
the redeeming care of
disappointment,
the unexpected
trial,
suffering, loss,
These things don’t tell me you’re
cold-hearted,
absent,
uninvolved.
No, each is a sign of
zealous grace,
redeeming love.
I struggle to grasp how much you
care,
so I struggle to rest in that
care.
You care enough to give me what I
need,
not what I want.
You care enough to break my bones
in order
to recapture my heart.

By Paul David Tripp

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A Quote. A Poem. A Song. On Hope

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HOPErock

“The difference between shallow happiness and a deep, sustaining joy is sorrow. Happiness lives where sorrow is not. When sorrow arrives, happiness dies. It can’t stand pain. Joy, on the other hand, rises from sorrow and therefore can withstand all grief. Joy, by the grace of God, is the transfiguration of suffering into endurance, and of endurance into character, and of character into hope–and the hope that has become our joy does not (as happiness must for those who depend up on it) disappoint us.” ― Walter Wangerin Jr., Reliving the Passion: Meditations on the Suffering, Death, and the Resurrection of Jesus as Recorded in Mark

I wanted to write today, but my head hurts so badly I cannot form complete sentences. I need to take some pills and crawl into bed. Dan will leave work early to help with the girls. I do it rarely, but we both know when it hits like this I have to clock out.

On the way to my cool, dark room I got on my knees at my prayer bench. I couldn’t even muster a guttural plea. Not even a “Dear God, Please.” Nothing. Numbness. I held my favorite heavy gray stone in my shaking hands. It is engraved with my life word. HOPE. I thought of a song I’ve claimed as “mine” for eight long years. How do the lyrics go? I came back to my computer to find my folder on hope. It’s a digital scrapbook of anything I’ve ever read, watched or listened to on the subject. Next to the download of Natalie Grant and Christa Well’s song, “Our Hope Endures,” the above quote is saved in a text file. I listened to the song. I read the words, and I wrote this. It is only the second poem I’ve written since my early twenties. I’m going to lie down and soak my pillow now.

Pain.
I call him Sorrow,
Because there are no new words.
I’m crying out,
“How long, Oh Lord?”
Does He hear?

Happiness.
I miscarried her early on.
I don’t visit the grave.
I won’t miss someone I don’t know, but
She didn’t deserve to die.
Should I believe this?

Joy.
Born of suffering.
Endurance was the doula’s name.
Her mother was Hope.
I held her wet with vernix.
Would I clip the cord?

Grace.
The place we live together now.
Adoption is true religion.
Character is the swaddling cloth.
Suffering is transfigured.
Could this ever disappoint?

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The Peace of Wild Things

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I know many of you are waiting for a health update after so much prayer and love over the past few weeks. I am slowly recovering and trying to write. Today was the first truly beautiful day this spring. Despite my exhaustion from driving myself to the doctor, waiting, having blood drawn, having a mast cell reaction to the receptionist’s hand lotion, grabbing a few things we needed at the store and driving home in time to pick up Danica at car rider, I felt this deep need to meet God outside. Instead of coming straight home and falling into bed I pushed my body and surprised Danica with a drive to Quail Hollow State Park. I brought my camera. I breathed deep and long, and my heart slowed for the first time in a long time. This is how I feel in the woods, on the trail and by the pond. This is how I feel walking the labyrinth in prayer. This is how I feel with the breeze in my hair and the sun in my face. This is how I feel when I quiet the noise and listen to His voice. I find Peace in these wild things.

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.–Wendell Berry

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Taking up My Cross in the Valley of Vision

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When I was young I was completely infatuated with my dad’s library of Banner of Truth books. One of my favorite books he owned was The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions. He has a beautiful leather bound copy now, and I own his tattered and worn copy published November 1, 1975, the month and year of my birth. The top, bottom and side pages are stamped with his name in elegant script. All his books were marked in this way. The Valley of Vision was my first introduction to prayer as poetry which has become a very important part of my spiritual walk. I now have an entire shelf of books that are written prayers. Many of my personal journal entries and very old blog posts end with my own heart cries. Even during the years I spent far from God I kept this book with me. Imagine the prodigal daughter moving from place to place with whatever I could fit in my powder blue, two door, 1992 Chevy Cavalier with dancing bears on the back windshield and a pack of Camels in the center console. In a milk crate of books on the passenger side, in between Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar and Elizabeth Wurtzel’s Prozac Nation, was this touchstone of faith. After the Bible it is the single most influential book in my life.

On Ash Wednesday I began my Lenten journey by reading the prayer titled “The Grace of the Cross” from page 172. I copied it and put it in my Bible to pray through daily during these 40 days. Monday I didn’t look at it at all as I forced my way through the motions of devotions and prayer. Yesterday I didn’t even open my Bible. This morning, after my family left for work and school, I sat here in my nest chair with my coffee and reached for the photocopy sticking out of my Bible. I only had words of lament in my mind and heart, but I knew it was time for this prayer:

O MY SAVIOUR,

I thank thee from the depths of my being
for thy wondrous grace and love
in bearing my sin in thine own body on the tree.
May thy cross be to me
as the tree that sweetens my bitter Marahs,
as the rod that blossoms with life and beauty,
as the brazen serpent that calls forth
the look of faith.
By thy cross crucify my every sin;
Use it to increase my intimacy with thyself;
Make it the ground of all my comfort,
the liveliness of all my duties,
the sum of all thy gospel promises,
the comfort of all my afflictions,
the vigour of my love, thankfulness, graces,
the very essence of my religion;
And by it give me that rest without rest,
the rest of ceaseless praise.

O MY LORD AND SAVIOUR,

Thou hast also appointed a cross for me
to take up and carry,
a cross before thou givest me a crown.
Thou hast appointed it to be my portion,
but self-love hates it,
carnal reason is unreconciled to it;
without the grace of patience I cannot bear it,
walk with it, profit by it.
O blessed cross, what mercies dost thou bring with thee!
Thou art only esteemed hateful by my rebel will,
heavy because I shirk thy load.
Teach me, gracious Lord and Saviour,
that with my cross thou sendest promised grace
so that I may bear it patiently,
that my cross is thy yoke which is easy,
and thy burden which is light.

The past two days I have been buried in the self love and the carnal reason. I have turned my mind and heart away from the Grace that brings the patience to bear this pain, walk this pain and even profit from this pain again. Knowing what He suffered for me how can I shirk this load?

Today I am taking up my cross, my appointed portion in this life, and carrying it through His amazing love and sacrifice for me. This is easy. This is light. This is GRACE. This is the essence of my “religion.”

May I rest in ceaseless praise for the minutes, the hours, the days and even weeks God gave me a higher view, a healing view, a hopeful view of where I’d been living.

May I rest in ceaseless praise for this return to the “Valley of Vision.”

(If you’ve never heard Sovereign Grace’s album of songs taken from this book you must find time to download it and add it to your playlists. This is the beautiful song taken from the title prayer. It is on repeat today.)

Photography by Cindee Snider Re. Used with permission.

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Renewal of Vows in Tucson

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My heart is nearly bursting. There is much to write as I sift through the free flowing scrawls in my pen to paper journal during this precious time away. I want to share a photo of Dan and I on Valentine’s evening before our dinner date. It speaks volumes about the time we have been gifted here and the change in our bodies, minds, hearts and spirits.

Renewal

When I travel I always buy a new book of poetry to bring along. The Singing Bowl by Malcolm Guite was my choice before this trip. It is rich with word-art. I have read through each poem several times now, and have begun to make notes on certain passages that particularly speak to me. The following poem titled “A Renewal of Vows” explains what is happening in Dan and I’s marriage through this precious time away.

So, open up the treasure-casket, love,
the treasure is still there, the hidden things
that love contains. Old words, like wedding rings,
surround their mysteries, they live and move
as breath renews them, burnished as the gold
around our fingers, glowing as we make
the vows that make us new again: I take,
protect, and comfort, cherish, have and hold.
The same old words, that cannot stay the same,
for they have grown, as we have, more than old.
They change and deepen like all things that live,
they compass more and still have more to give:
All that I have is yours, all that I am
I give again, with all I will become.

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Calvary Love. A Month of If

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heart book

Three years ago, while I was recovering from my brain decompression and fusion at a friend’s beautiful lake house, I had the blessing of entertaining angels. In May, 2010, a girl across the world reached out to our family. She became one of the most faithful to love and pray for us on this journey. We became friends in a way that I never thought possible without meeting face to face. She and her mum traveled here from Australia to get her settled so she could begin her call to seminary. That snowy January night we shared a meal together. After dinner we moved to the living room and sat across from one another in front of the crackling fire. The fellowship was sweet. I found myself bearing my heart to them with an ease I rarely feel because of my pride. We wept. They prayed with me. They asked things of God for me that I have never really been brave enough to ask for myself. The time slipped away, and it was very late when we headed to our beds. I loved having a place for them to stay. My particular gift of overnight hospitality had been buried because of circumstances, and it meant so much to be able to offer them such a pleasant place to sleep even though it wasn’t my own home. In the morning dear Bethany came down and gave me a gift. It was a little blue hardback book. I gasped when I saw the two gold letters imprinted on the binding.

IF

When I was a little girl I found my mother’s copy of this book by Amy Carmichael. I didn’t know much about Calvary love then, but I was drawn to the simple paragraphs and the pressing of the heart. I was drawn to the white space left on each page as if to say,

“STOP HERE.
YOU CAN ONLY ABSORB THIS TODAY.
MEDITATE.
PRAY.
LIVE THIS BEFORE YOU MOVE ON.”

In the short time we had together Bethany reminded me how powerful words are, and how my words here on the screen had changed her. It was God once again speaking to me about how this journey is definitely not just about us. He is working in ways we may never know until eternity. He was asking me to keep telling the truth and pointing to Him. He was asking me to suffer awhile longer because He suffered for me.

I keep the beautiful vintage copy of Amy’s book on my prayer bench. I return to it over and over again.

She writes this in the opening of her soul searching book:

There are times when something comes into our lives which is charged with love in such a way that it seems to open the Eternal to us for a moment, or at least some of the Eternal Things, and the greatest of these is love.

It may be a small and intimate touch upon us or our affairs, light as the touch of the dawn wind on the leaves of the tree, something not to be captured and told to another in words. But we know that it is our Lord. And then perhaps the room where we are, with its furniture and books and flowers, seems less “present” than His Presence, and the heart is drawn into that sweetness of which the old hymn sings.

The love of Jesus, what it is – None but His loved ones know.

Or it is the dear human love about us that bathes us as in summer seas and rests us through and through. Can we ever cease to wonder at the love of our companions? And then suddenly we recognize our Lord in them. It is His love that they lavish on us. O Love of God made manifest in Thy lovers, we worship Thee.

Or (not often, perhaps, for dimness seems to be more wholesome for us here, but sometimes, because our Lord is very merciful) it is given to us to look up through the blue air and see the love of God. And yet, after all, how little we see! “That ye may be able to comprehend what is the breadth and length and depth and height and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge” – the words are too great for us. What do we comprehend, what do we know? Confounded and abased, we enter into the Rock and hide us in the dust before the glory of the Majesty of love – the love whose symbol is the Cross.

And a question pierces then: What do I know of Calvary love?

The entire month of February I will be posting If questions from this powerful little book. I invite to you follow along this journey. I pray you will be drawn to Calvary love.

I am giving away a copy of this book every Sunday this month. To enter please share one of the daily “If” posts on social media (facebook or twitter) and comment here on the blog post you share. Let’s meet at the foot of the cross together.

Photography by Cindee Snider Re. Used with permission.

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Gorgeous Possibilities

by

worth

I’ve been quiet about the results of my latest plasmapheresis treatment for many reasons. I posted a small update on my gofundme account, but I have been holding much of my progress close. There are moments and sometimes hours of certain days when I feel completely well. I’m afraid to even speak of these for fear they will vanish into thin air.

This was my third round of treatments in a year. If I weigh the good days with the bad they still lose in numbers, but they win in every other way.

Today I received my statement for the treatments in December. The above is just the hospital portion. It is staggering. God found a doctor and hospital willing to take this chance on me. Part of the deal was I would be responsible for the difference between the contracted rate with an in network provider and their rate which is much higher. When you consider my shunt revision in February, the first round of pheresis that was inpatient for twelve days, the IVIG at home, the Meningitis and more hospitalization, the second round of pheresis, the fusion surgery in October and then pheresis again it seems impossible to say 2014 was a “good” year. But it was.

Living with EDS and all means makes for a kind of bipolar existence. The depths are incredibly dark and desperately painful. During these times you doubt the fight is even the right thing to do. It is the heights that convince you every better day might turn into a best. You hope no matter what the cost.

I’ve had some of these days lately. I’m floating in ordinary I count as pure miracle. I cry at the craziest times. The things bringing me the most joy are completely counter intuitive. If you are annoyed by it or dread it I’ve probably been longing for it.

A woman from Alaska who read Team Danica for years panicked when the site went dead. (I’m truly sorry I was not savvy at all about my switch to this site. I’m finding out many I never knew were reading and praying, and I left the story abruptly. Forgive me.) She eventually found us here and contacted me. She was waiting for the right time to reach out. Her gift was a year membership to our local YMCA. This is something we never would have given ourselves, but it has become this beautiful way for all of us to venture outside these walls and grab at something called wellness. Dan is able to continue his fitness which has been a lifeline for him. The girls can swim which is the closest thing to vacation they’ve had in a long time. I can walk. My puffy flesh and crumbling bones are remembering how to move. My veins are pushing blood to my head and heart. I breathe in and out with a mantra, “Thank You. Thank You. Thank You.” When I think we’ve seen every possible kindness someone appears like an angel and finds a new way to remind us we are not alone.

I’m picking my girls up from school faithfully. Every time I see Danica in the car rider line and Delaney breeze out of door one I tear up. I’m there. I’m waiting with a smile and love. Delaney used to say she would anxiously approach our front door every afternoon when my mom would drop them off. They would ring the bell, and I would appear in the sidelight. She said she could tell how much pain I was in by the expression on my face. Do you see how life altering these normal everyday things are to us?

I’m out of bed when Dan gets home. I’m doing little things around the house to ease his load. I’m able to control the insane OCD behavior that was always my downfall before and find gentle ways to reclaim my home. We are falling in love again. Every time I come out of the dark Dan is waiting there. He never forgets the person I am. Underneath the train wreck eighteen surgeries has made of my body and the wasteland this kind of suffering inevitably has made of my mind and heart he believes in me. He finds me again and again.

I’m meeting people face to face. Oh how I’ve needed this. I’m inviting others to come sit on my yellow couch and remind me how to do relationship outside a screen or a phone. I’ve met friends for coffee, had brunch, gone to the movies, prayed holding hands and hugged them all. Yes, if you touch me I will cry. I’m convinced sick people need to be touched to be healed. Failure to thrive is a real thing. I made a new rule in our house that every hug has to last at least thirty seconds. We count it out. If two of us are hugging and someone sees us they pile on. I don’t yelp in pain when someone touches me. I’m less prickly, and this makes all the difference.

I have doubted what my breath is worth when held up beside the ledger of debt and the great emotional cost to those who love me. It is in these days when the sun burns through the clouds I know for sure I must press on and save the life I can. My God wrote this story before I was a human thought, an act of love and a stirring in my mother’s womb. This relief, however long, is a miracle.

Christa Wells wrote this awhile ago on her blog, and I hold it close as I continue to tip toe through what I believe about beauty from ashes. I can still smell the burning. I know for sure He will ask me to walk through the fire again, but today all I see is redemption, restoration and renewal. All I see is Jesus paid it all. All I see are the gorgeous possibilities giving me healing and life.

My Hope remains.

When something life-giving falls from us who are riddled with want.
A word of kindness or sympathy.
An inconvenient act of generosity.
Isn’t it a miracle?

If something touched by our trembling fingers grows gold and winged, soars . . . finds entrance to another human soul. Isn’t it a miracle?

When a child looks you in your tired eyes and reaches a small hand, adoring.
Isn’t it miraculous?

When a friend hears the pained confession,
And stays.

When we find ourselves swept off our seats in laughter, even though.
Is it not the most welcome kind of miracle?

When work comes along, finally.
When the work is completed.

When an improbable friendship is born.

When we find a fragile opening to forgiveness.

When something lost is found.
Something broken healed.
Something caged released.

When one creature carries and nurtures another in the caverns of its own body.
When the crocus smiles from snowy earth,
And strangers share a meal.

When brothers and sisters pave new ways.

When suffering sweeps over and still we see light and truth and love and hope.

When the artist creates.
When the creator loves.
When the lover saves.
And the Savior lives!

May we be moved to see the marvels of things in motion here.
The miraculous, gorgeous possibilities which rise from the ashes of ”reality”
Providing what is needed for life.

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Ephesian 3:20

What ordinary miracles are you celebrating this week? What gorgeous possibility are you hoping and praying for?

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Star Song

by

Dali

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,
rounding,
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!
Toll,
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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