The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.
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.
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.
I 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
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.
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.
In Jesus name I pray, Amen.
If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch you must first invent the universe. -Carl Sagan
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.
“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.”
Compassion 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:
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.
See 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.
It was a rough week of suffering with physical issues and lack of sleep and I stopped writing on my memoir. I told my writer’s group friends it would be a miracle if I wrote anything this week . . . but they wouldn’t let me off the hook. I got this (and more) in response:
“I’ve often wondered how the most depressed and pained people can survive as writers. Now I think, they couldn’t have survived any other way.
We close off from life and suffer the consequences. We lose our ability to value what we have, the stories we contain that need to be expressed. There is no greater agony than holding a story inside that longs for expression.”
Thank God for real friends who aren’t afraid to confront you with the truth. I changed my writing goals to these:
1. Write no matter what, even if it’s crap.
2. Write some more, no matter what, even if it’s worse crap.
3. Write even more, look at the words and see their beauty.
4. Be grateful for stupid friends who pray and believe for you and speak the words of life you need to hear.
5. Pray for stupid friends and write even more because you know they’ll be back praying for you and being stupid if you don’t.
Later that night, when I still couldn’t sleep, I wrote. Then shared it with my stupid friends (a term of utmost endearment in our group).
Now I share it with you. Because it’s true–“there is no greater agony than holding a story inside that longs for expression.”
This just might become the opening to my memoir:
One morning, probably a cold one, in darkness just before sunrise, the misty dew froze along the ruffled edges of a hundred pink and yellow rose petals. Then . . . light, and the frosty aspirations of the dark quickly melted. The stems took a nourishing sip of life.
After living in my house for almost 5 years, I finally counted them—we had 50 rose bushes. Every fall they would defy the forward marching of the seasons and gift us with a second glorious blooming, bravely enduring morning after morning as the frosty fingers of upcoming winter attempted to bully their beauty into a final surrender. . . to the cold, to dark days, to deadness.
Though I don’t remember well the exact weather of the day I almost surrendered, my memory thinks it was cold, with the filtered sunlight of a sun traveling south for the winter. Probably because I felt much the same—cold, filtered, headed south.
I had hit middle age, recently endured a season of loss and tragedy, and my sanity was fading. My petals felt frosted every morning, and the cold of it was frightening. But there was no one to tell about my fears, or about the demons of my memories, because I was determined to conquer them on my own. After all, I had always survived before, stuffing fear and trauma down with hidden boxes of chocolate chip cookies, and when those were gone, bags of just chips.
Sticky handfuls of semi-sweetness numbed the pain and unscrewed the unrelenting torsion of fear and pain in my gut—except they didn’t. Instead, it became an act of hating myself. For my fears, my failures, my insecurities, my grief, and my shame. I feared fear and pain, and so became captive to them. I kept my outside looking happy, but on the inside I loathed my imprisoned, weak, and tormented self.
On this cold day of frosted rose petals, my mind was losing the battle for control of the happy outside and the broken inside, and I knew it. I was beyond cookies. I had to tell my story of horror, the one I was convinced no one would believe . . . or die.
It would be the first of many stories I would have to tell.
I discovered later that yellow roses mean friendship, jealousy, infidelity, apology, a broken heart, intense emotion, undying love, and extreme betrayal.
Pink roses mean: GRACE
God always plants pink roses in with the yellow in life.
Today, I went and clipped two pink roses that survived the cold of a light frost last night. Ten minutes later my daughter sent me a recording she had just made singing Amazing Grace in six part harmony.
My story longs for expression. So I will live.
Perhaps yours does to.
Write. No. Matter. What.
My “stupid” incredibly talented and loving friends are part of Your Writers Group http://www.yourwritersgroup.com/. If you are a writer and could use some friends like mine, come and join us. We’ll love you and pray for you and push you too. 🙂
To love beauty is to see light. -Victor Hugo
Some may say there’s no beauty to be seen in the dark . . .
perhaps believe that darkness is the absence of light . . .
or preach that only dark things happen in the dark.
But not me.
I’ve found a secret place in the dark…where sorrows, pain, and grief burst forth in a melody of tears that only God hears.