Why I Stopped Writing

For four years I wrote.

Cried.

Bled my heart out in red-inked words handwritten on pads of pristine white-lined paper.

Searched for my story as I fingered letters on my keyboard, and prayed a melody would emerge from the chaos of my life.

I wrestled with my story, my words, myself.

I fought. I faltered. I failed.

“All writing is prayer,” said the wise and witty Anne Lamott.20121206_155310

For years I felt my prayers went unanswered.

The pain. Would not. Go away.

Then ever so slowly, it began to ebb. I kept writing, but no instant miracle came. It was one agonizingly plodding word after another—like climbing the very last, steepest section of a mountain. Exhausted, barely breathing in the thin air, and only able to focus on the ground beneath my feet . . .

When I started to catch glimpses of healing, I became more afraid of the life that lay ahead than the pain I was living in. I knew my pain so well, and found a deep intimacy with my creator within the pain. As crazy as it sounds, I struggled to embrace the healing changes.

But I couldn’t stop what I had put in motion. What started as a desire to find some validation for my insecure, “I’m never good enough” writer self became, sometime in the process, less about a story for others to read and more about writing for the redemption of the deepest, most holy, and sacred sufferings of my life.

Words that flowed like a flood for years gradually ebbed over time to become puddles of less and less tears.

One day in my writing the sun came out. Full in my face sun. Sun that woke me to the beauty of what my life could be beyond the pain, and beyond my writing about it.

I stopped writing and went outside in the sun to play. And I’ve had no pain for the last six months.

NO. PAIN.

I honestly never imagined in those four years of agony that it would be possible.

Sometimes miracles happen in slow-motion.

In slow, very slow, writing. In slow tears, slow prayers, and slow-to-come joys.

Now, every day, I’m slowly living again.

Sacred, holy, beautiful, joyful, messy, imperfect, failure-filled, redemptive, miraculous living. Authored by the one who took all the words I wrote and rewrote each and every one–in red–redemption red.

With slow dripping . . . His lifeblood, poured out–A greater love had no one than this. 

Now your drink offering (Phil 2:14!) sacrificed to be set free,

and to set free those captive with you,

bound in this covenant to the One whose red words cover, purify and save.

The world,

Drawn to communion,  by His radiant red life,

Bright and bonded, pooling spirit, split and covenanted, dead to all else,

and held within this terrible beauty,

Of his holy blood.

Dear beautiful friend, fellow story-liver, slow writer, tear puddler, pain and shame sufferer, and messy, joyful, abundant life seeker —

Please write your story. Even if no one ever reads it.

Because who you really are—healed and whole-hearted and living in the sacred space of you—must be given to you.

Sometimes it’s a slow, holy process, but exploring the darkness to discover the light is so worth it.

Coloring Life Beautiful on PInterest“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
― Brené Brown

Dare, brave ones. I’m praying for you–for the courage to own your story, to embrace slow writing and slow healing as you allow every word of your beautiful, messy, imperfectly perfect, painful yet glorious, story to be rewritten. In red.

I can’t begin to tell you how beautiful life becomes in the slowly dawning light.  🙂

Linda Crawford

hike
My first mountain hike in 4 years with a dear friend this past spring.

(The beautiful poem above was a gift of words given to me in the midst of my suffering by my friend, writing coach, and fellow holy wonderer, Mick Silva)

Opening Closed Eyes

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. 

-Marcel Proust

My eyes cried tears of joy (not pain) last week–for the first time in years.

I’m better. I’m healing. I’m returning to life and life is returning to me.

I can walk, dance a little, play golf and laugh more. A whole lot more.

After years of pain tears . . . I don’t want to cry them anymore. I want to turn the page, start a new chapter, and read only forward. I want to close my eyes to my story of pain, and live only in the joy of my story of healing.

But you . . . you force open my closed eyes.

You who hurt. You who still suffer and shed pain tears that stream down your face and flood your life with fear, hopelessness, and despair.

I have chosen to sit with you, to share hope for healing, to make it my life’s purpose to serve you and help you in your healing journey as best I can.

You who hurt–you who open my closed eyes–you inspired me to cry again today. To read backwards and remember. To cry for me, and you, and all who suffer and hurt.

I can give you my knowledge, my skill, my training, and my hope. But that will never be enough–without giving you my heart.

I know you hurt. I’ve hurt too.

Exactly one year ago today I wrote this:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

On Scrubbing and Swearing and Succumbing

I’m down on my knees scrubbing the soap scum in the tub, praying it won’t hurt this time. But it does, it always does.

My foot is taped up and my back is cinched together with a belt. So I can walk. Until it hurts; it always does.

I’m at the doctor/physical therapist/massage office again. Because I hurt. I always do.

My recent self-portrait.  A much younger, happier me!
My recent self-portrait–a much younger, happier me!

 

I’ve had surgery, needles, medicine, and treatments that were supposed to help. Two have disabled me, another one almost killed me. My healing becomes more complicated and elusive, and counting time behind or ahead only confuses me now. Pain and fatigue are constant companions, bad friends. There are days I battle them with all my might, days they relent and give me peace, and days I just lay down in the middle of the ring and quit.

On stormy days swear words want to scream out of the frustration in my belly…so people will hear, really hear, the reality of my struggle.

But I know—only one really hears, only one really knows.

I remember running, I remember the breeze against my face riding a bike along the river trail, sweat dripping into my eyes after a boot-camp workout.

I want to run. I want to dance. I want to climb my mountain, stand on the summit, and proclaim victory over the defeat that has tried to consume me. I want it to echo across the valley, bounce off the other mountaintops and return to me. So I too, can hear it.

These pains, this suffering, should be called out on strikes, ruled unfair, and banished to the out-of-bounds of my life. I was in the game, I played well. The other players beat me up—didn’t listen or care for me like I deserved, failed in their oaths to “do no harm.”

But none of that matters, here on my knees.

Why the pain, who caused the pain, when I will be relieved from pain.

Only Jesus matters.

He’s scrubbing away the scum.

Polishing, always polishing, the glory He desires to reveal.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

You who hurt–thank you for opening the eyes of my heart.

I give you the tears of my heart and my prayers for your healing.

Hold on. Hold on. 

Your story is still being written. Your beauty polished.

And I believe with all my being, with all my heart, with all my suffering and all my joy . . . there is.

There is. There is . . . healing in the pain.

You who hurt–I cry today in awe of your courage.

~ Linda 

BPS Integrated TherapyI have recently returned to work as an occupational therapist, exclusively treating people in chronic pain. To find out more about my unique treatment approach visit me at BPSTherapy.com

How Art Class Messed Up My Life

Thirty-six years ago, as a senior in High School, I took my first (and only) art class.

Sure, I’d made art in elementary school, but my “art” was never notable and nobody told me I showed any particular display of talent. I was a color-inside-the-lines sort of kid.

Life somehow felt safer that way.

I’d put off taking the college-prep required art class until the very last semester of charcoal drawingHigh School. I preferred science and literature, but truthfully,  I was secretly looking forward to turning eighteen so I could drink – legally, that is – and anticipated breaking out of my small town good-girl, smart-girl reputation. I had, after all, been voted “class brain” for the yearbook. Only because, in relationship to the rest of the 130 or so members of my graduating class,  I studied more than I partied.

Yes, I dreaded the required art class more than any other. More than the Spanish class taught by a mumbling French-Canadian, more than reading The Illiad in Latin, and more than Trigonometry with the wrestling coach.

Suddenly, instead of textbooks, I had pencils of all different numbers, drawing pads, special ink pens, paints in little metal tubes and brushes with real wooden handles. On the first day of class, a vase and an apple were set up before us on a sheet-covered stool.

DRAW, the teacher said.

I only knew how to color inside lines other people drew for me.

That was true in art, and in life.

But my art teacher was tough and talented, and she ignored my protests and shame-filled whimperings.: “I don’t know how, I’ve never taken an art class before.”leaves

My guts torqued every time I looked at the other student’s creations. They “got it,” they loved it, and they were always better than me. I knew it, but she didn’t care. She was a visionary –a true artist who always saw what could be created, not what was.

And mysteriously, despite my woefully inadequate beginner attempts, she BELIEVED in me.

So I kept trying . . .

And one day, I picked up my pens and pencils and drew wild and messy and brave like she told me to.

bowl

And I liked it.

I discovered something beyond where life was just a set of equations waiting to be solved.

I experienced deep breaths, and beauty, and the reckless pursuit of creative expression.

Like an addiction, it beckoned me to drink of it, then drink even more.wine bottle

It all felt so out of control, so wrong and self-centered, that I convinced myself that’s all it was – an addiction that had no purpose – other than to turn my orderly, safe, inside-the-lines life on its head.

So when my art teacher asked for a meeting near the end of class one day, I knew what she was going to say . . .

(“Nice try Linda. I wish you the best in your future career in science.”)

I kept my head down as she started to talk, focusing on my broken fingernails.

“I think it’s a shame that you never had an art class before now.”

Yeah, whatever.

“I think you have a natural talent that’s never had a chance to be developed.”

What????? You’ve got to be kidding me! I look up and directly into her blue eyes looking intently into my green.

“In fact, I believe in you so much that I would be willing to work with you for free all summer to help you prepare a portfolio to apply to art school.”

Who was she talking about? It wasn’t the me I knew. Couldn’t she see the real me in my eyes? I was going to college to study CHEMISTRY!

And that’s what I told her. Chemistry is my future, not art.drawer pull

And it was, for one semester of college. Until I discovered a hatred for Calculus and Organic Chemistry, and found my sorry self taking pottery class and eating hamburgers and fries instead of studying my second semester. And then I ran away with my boyfriend, of course, because that’s what you did back then when you were 19 and you didn’t want to be who you were. When you didn’t know who you were. Or who God was.

I picked up my pens and pencils just a few times after that art class. The pictures here are the only history that somehow survived my purging, twenty-some years ago, of my broken mess of a past. I”m grateful my brother found them a few months ago. They help me remember.

That class, that teacher, tried to mess up my life.

If only I’d been willing to get messy.

But I’m willing now.colored pencil box

It’s time to get messy. To learn to breathe in and out, inside the creative being God made me to be.

It’s time to be BRAVE. To dare to finally embrace the joy of living outside my boundary lines of fear.

It’s time to dare to be a beginner. Again. And love myself, instead of curse myself for the mistakes and wobbly lines and imperfect mess of it all.

It’s time. It’s about time.

So I tell my 18 year-old, fraidy-cat self,  “Linda, wake up, look up, and see what God’s eyes see. Love yourself enough to let yourself be who He sees.

I am not who I thought I was.

And I can become who He created me to be.

Life is Beautiful.  It deserves all the messy, imperfect, joy-filled-coloring-outside-the-lines I can praise it with.

Every blog post I write this year will have some piece of art I create with it. It will be awkward, possibly awful, but I also know it will always be beautiful to my Daddy’s eyes. And in His eyes alone, I am found.

Won’t you join me? Let’s take our abandoned creative selves out of the closet, dust ourselves off and give ourselves permission to get messy, crazy, in love with the beauty of life!

Praying for you, and your creative, messy-in-love-with-Jesus self. Be brave in His love!

(This is my soon-to-be creative space. Lots of work to do!)my soon to be creative space

Linda Crawford

A Prayer for the Suffering

A scripture and prayer for you who are afflicted today:

“Lord, hear my prayer! Listen to my plea! Don’t turn away from me in my time of distress. Bend down to listen, and answer me quickly when I call to you. For my days disappear like smoke, and my bones burn like red-hot coals. My heart is sick, withered like grass, and I have lost my appetite. Because of my groaning, I am reduced to skin and bones. I am like an owl in the desert, like a little owl in a far-off wilderness. I lie awake, lonely as a solitary bird on the roof.”    Psalm 102:1-7 NLT

The Lord hears your cries. The spoken and unspoken cries of your suffering.

adversity sufferingMay He restore your joy and your strength. May He feed you with the bread of life and the living water to restore your health and revive your heart.

Comfort this one I pray for Lord, this lonely owl in the desert, and lead them to the oasis of your love.

Though life may feel like a desert during difficult times, You alone God, are able to bring water forth from rocks and rain down bread from heaven for food.

May you drink and eat today, and know that God will never leave you in your time of distress. In the wilderness of life–He is there.

desert prayer

In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Linda Crawford

be BRAVE

This week I’m working on being BRAVE!

On Saturday I speak to a group of women for the first time in a year, and THIS is an important part of the message my heart is bursting to share:
be BRAVEHow fun it was making this graphic illustration! (I need to add CREATE to the message)

You can be BRAVE this week too!

Share your story. Dance. Wear red shoes. Love messy. Color life beautiful. Create.

Live open-hearted.

Praying for you, BRAVE one.

Linda Crawford

Love in a Basket

If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch you must first invent the universe.  -Carl Sagan

pie basket

I have the pie basket.

I rescued it the night before the garage sale, horrified that my mother and her sisters would discard such a sacred family object.

“We couldn’t agree on who should get it so we thought it would be better to just sell it.”

“What?” I wanted to scream in all capitals, in bold, and really, really BIG.

“That’s not happening,” is what I really said.

Every Thanksgiving of my memory (except for the last two years of her nineties) my grandmother would make the pies—pumpkin, apple, and the occasional mincemeat, and transport them to our house safely nestled in towels inside the pie basket. We would gather around as she unhooked the tiny latch and lifted the top, to behold the first glimpse and get the first mouth-watering whiff of the beauty of them.

Perfection, that’s what her apple pie was, and we anticipated it more than any other Thanksgiving treat (Although her cranberry and pumpkin breads were a close second).

She would start with homemade pie crust, rolled thin, which always turned out golden and flaky–never burnt, never tough, never soggy, never blah. She tried many times to teach me how to replicate her crust, but impatience was always my downfall. For her, it was an act of artistry and love to gently mold it to the perfect shape to fit the pie tin. For me, it was just a ball of obstinate dough that refused to become what I willed.

Much like the obstinate blob I must be in the Master’s hands, impatient in my suffering as I’m shaped by His love and molded by His artistry:

 Jesus leads us into a place of radical grace where we are able to celebrate the hope of experiencing God’s glory. And that’s not all. We also celebrate in seasons of suffering because we know that when we suffer we develop endurance, which shapes our characters. When our characters are refined, we learn what it means to hope and anticipate God’s goodness.  Romans 5:2-4 VOICE

Refined, that’s what Gramma’s pie was. Macintosh apples, fresh from the orchard, were the only kind she would use. Hand peeling and coring each one, she would ever so carefully slice them into thin slivers.  This part alone would take her at least an hour, perhaps two. These seemingly hundreds of paper-thin slices would then be meticulously layered in the crust, dotted with butter, and sprinkled with a touch of flour, sugar, cinnamon, and lemon juice and then the second crust would be finger-crimped to the first, in wavy ruffles of equal size and shape.

Oh how we loved that pie. And oh how that pie loved us. The pie basket brought us the perfect LOVE pie every Thanksgiving.

It’s been empty of pie for many years, but it will never be empty of my Grandmother’s love—warm, sweet, bubbly, a little tart, and so satisfyingly wonderful and delicious.

This Thanksgiving I’m pulling the pie basket off the shelf and giving thanks for all the apple pies of my Gramma’s love.

They feed me still.

Linda Crawford

Writing to Reveal the Unraveling Stitch

Rewritten in RedI’m writing on my memoir this week, praying I write honestly of what the world has been to me in the dark and light places and that my words will help reveal the stitch that unravels hidden fear. And hidden SHAME.

Writing my story is how God is setting me free of fear and shame. Because telling our story is how we overcome the author of shame, the one who accuses us relentlessly of never being “enough.”

For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who relentlessly accuses them day and night before our God, has been cast down and silenced.

By the blood of the Lamb and the word of their witnesses, they have become victorious over him.

Revelation 12:10-11 VOICE

unashamedYes, by his RED blood, and the word of our testimony, we overcome the accuser.

You have a story too. Praying for you to share it–unashamed!

Linda Crawford

Why I’m Choosing to Live Open-Wounded–Because Life Hurts and Healing is Never Perfect

“I can see you’re still not healed.”

“You’re not ready yet. You need more healing.”

Thanks people of the world, for noticing and confirming that I’m still a broken, wounded mess. No thanks for the box of shame I feel your words put me in.

The box of the Un-Healed.

It’s the place where I’m told I’m not qualified to handle life yet, that I shouldn’t show my wounds because they’re too messy for people to see, that anything less than perfect isn’t good enough, and that I can’t dare to speak, do, or be anything outside the confines of the walls of the box of Un-Healed.

I’m supposed to heal up here in this box, because only “healed” people qualify to live outside this box–at least that’s the message I’m led to believe.

The “Healed” give me “steps” and absolute answers that are supposed to be the keys to my healing.. They tell me to pray and read my Bible more.

“Go ahead,” they say, “apply these answers to your wounds yourself. It’s what you need to do to be healed.”

They may even call this compassion.

But it’s not.

Compassion, the real key to releasing the healing balm we need for our wounds, doesn’t come from perfect prescriptions from the “healed.”

love heart keyCompassion can only dispensed by the open-wounded. By those who put away their measuring sticks of perfection and revive, empower, and champion rather than rival, empale, and compare.

Connected, compassionate people create nets of healing to catch the falling, the failing, and the ones bleeding too much to ask for help. Because they know:

brutal beautiful

I know I’m not the only one suffocating, suffering, and yes, even occasionally swearing when I feel I’ve been shamed into the box of the Un-healed. I’ve found some of you there and we’ve started talking about our pain and our shame, and we’ve discovered that compassion is the key. Together, we’ve found the courage to punch our fists through the walls of the box, tearing the labels “unworthy,” “broken,” “too wounded,” and “not healed enough” that were plastered on the outside.

We know we can’t live and we can’t heal in here, in the shame of the Un-healed box. Hidden, silent, separate suffering does not heal.

A covered up wound may look better from the outside, but it always digs deeper into the flesh. It always gets worse.

Only open wounds can heal.

Open wounds are messy to look at and messy to deal with. They bleed on our white t-shirts of I-hope-you-only-see-that-I-have-it-all-together. We get stained by each other’s pain.

His blood stains us too. Our wounds became His.

And we. . .

We. Are. Him.

The Body. His Body on earth.

Open-wounded, we are able to love like He does. Bleeding together, we connect our suffering to His, our healing to His

There is no shame in living open-wounded. No. Shame. Anymore.

Yes, I’m Un-Healed. My complete and perfect healing will come the day He calls me to my perfect home. Until then, I’m going to live open-wounded.

So now, to the people of the world who see my wounds and say:

“I see you are not healed yet.”

I say, “HURRAY!”

I’m glad you see it, and I hope you always do. Because I want to invite you into my house that is a mess, with dishes in the sink and mold growing on the leftovers in the back of my refrigerator.

Compassion--the key to healing heartsSee the real me—Imperfect. Wounded. Sit down and let’s talk about the messiness of life. Let’s let the wounds hurt here and have no answers, no measuring sticks of perfection, no formulas for healing. I’ll serve you love offered on the used and abused chipped plate of my heart. It’s what I have to give.

Compassion is the only key that unlocks my healing.

Life hurts and healing is never perfect, so I’m choosing to live open-wounded. To dare to use the brutal to color life beautiful.

We can do this thing called true compassion.

We can put down the measuring sticks of our brokenness, and

pick up the healing keys of HOLY HEALING HEARTS.

Imperfect, open-wounded loving.

Brutal into beautiful.

Let’s dare to live–and LOVE–open-wounded to the hurting ones in our lives today.

Linda

Making the Whole of Life Beautiful

Make the Whole BeautifulI’m in the third year of writing my memoir. It’s a project that can’t be hurried along, even though many days I feel like I’m running late for the school bus and need a good shove on my bottom to get moving.

I long to get through the schooling in the brokenness of my own humanity, and on to the grown-up life of the promised happy ending. But patient endurance must finish its work.

Over and over I must keep going back. Back to study brokenness, back to study pain. Back to study who I was, who I became, and who truly I wanted to be. It’s like picking up shards of a broken mirror, each reflecting a fragment of me, and trying to piece it back together.

Trying to make the pieces, and me, WHOLE again.

I can’t go back and make some of those pieces pretty.

But I am moving forward, and with God’s help, the whole is becoming beautiful!

The book of my life will be colored by beauty, and not by shame and pain. Because:

God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes. Psalm 18:24 MSG

Praying for God to help you make the whole of your life beautiful too.

Linda