Monday, August 15, 2016

Thoroughly Alive

When the bench was placed, probably sapplings were all that stood in front of it. Now, the trees are about forty feet tall. The view is to the left or right of them.

The evening cool has come after a long hot day. The breeze displaces my hair and I like it. Messy hair is a sign of high fashion or exertion.

The effort to walk to this bench from the car is not my legs or breath. Notwithstanding the way my ribs hurt from puking a bad piece of pizza and the rest of the day's consumption for three hours, two nights ago, my body can go the distance. Only my left arm and shoulder hurt from needing to downsize to a single toed cane from a tri.  The effort comes from the decision to become strong enough to walk around the whole lake like I used to be able to do.

The goal is to walk freestanding. My gluts and quads need to be quite a bit stronger to accomplish that. Walking is primary to achieving that milestone. Using a cane, having downgraded from a walker to a four toed and now the tri, is progress. It forces the weaker leg, the new leg, to remember how to bear weight and create balance with the other leg; to stride.

I look at the people using wheelchairs and remind myself the worst did not happen.

Taking a risk on that surgery was the scariest risk I've taken in ages. All I knew was, in the natural things seemed to be lining up. I had to let everyone else hold the supernatural in their hearts and hands.

The surgical team is arrogantly smug with the success of  their work. Well they should be! I have a new leg, a new body. A new life.

So I keep coming to Greenlake and attempting, step by step, to recover the acuity to walk around it. When this was our family neighborhood,  I could lap it, all 2.8 miles,  in 45 minutes. This evening I have walked the requisite five minutes in one direction. On this bench I rest a bit before heading out in the other direction.  Since I found that easy this time out, I am to add one more minute next time. Then another, then another. Gradually, I will be able to turn around and face the aqua theatre to return to the car without having to rest.
When I can do that thirty minutes in one direction and then turn around and return to the car, I will know I can do the lake again. I'm figuring the first time will feel like being set free.

This morning Facebook brought up a 'memory'. It was about making the most of adversity. You know what I like about adversity? The best way to go through it is thoroughly alive. There's this new popularity about paying attention to your breathing and it relaxes you. It's true. If you pay attention during adversity, big or small, someone cuts you off while you're driving, or those terrible rainstorms in the South right now, you begin to acquire the skills that deepen typical, non adverse living.

While I was first recovering from doctors opening up a seven inch spot in my thigh, holding all my soft tissue aside and cutting away diseased broken down bones in order to put in a titanium prosthetic with a pretty pink ceramic ball, I was on a light dosage of oxycodon and heavy duty tylenol - insert little trademark thingy please. Two weeks into it, switching to just Percocet. I expected that the pills would do what ibuprofen does;take away the pain. Not so. They just made me not care about the pain. It was such a foreign experience for me. I discovered I had to will myself to wean from them before I developed a habit of not caring about pain. It was an attractive idea, that of not having to pay attention to pain. I understood a whole segment of the population I had not before comprehended.

Since 1984, I have been committed to being fully alive. I had a moment. I said out loud to God, "I will do anything to not have to live like this anymore." It is not a lifestyle American pop culture indulges or cares for. No little lies, no speeding forward unconsciously, no external definition of self. I lost a lot of people who were afraid of my decision. They were not interested in anything deep or confronting their pain. I was very very sad when they left. I got through my sorrow by committing more deeply to 'thoroughly alive'.

Whether or not you choose to be thoroughly alive IS a choice. Deeply alive, rigorously, assiduously, methodically, comprehensively alive. It is the decision to be alive in the natural, AND be alive in the eternal, the sphere beyond us and all around us we do not see. It is the decision to live incarnationally in both the now and the not yet, or the big picture we can't physically see.

Dealing with pain and moving beyond it requires existence that has a wider perspective, a deeper meaning. It is a trial and error process of discovery.

The first step is to say it. Commit to it. "I want to be thoroughly alive".  OK. You're out of the car. Now figure out and take the second step. Take a deep breath, exhale, and pick up your feet.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Of Hips and Walking and Unknown Days Ahead...

Whew! A week of miracles happened the second week of April 2016. If God had drawn a line on my timeline marked "BB" and "AB", signifying the division of my days into those filled with obstacles that seemed insurmountable and those that involved breathtaking new opportunities of happiness and ease, it would be that week.

Four days in a row, events occurred freeing me from shackles of opposition to living each day using my full potential of gifts and talents and wisdom.

Day one- a surgeon agreed to operate on me, giving me a new hip and repairing damage that was 55 years old. My mobility would be improved 200%.
Day two - a transcript was freed that had been used to keep me from proving I had taken a certain set of classes that endorsed my professional credentials.
Day three- I was accepted into a degree program to study music composition and English.
Day Four-I signed with an agent to represent a portion of my body of work, out in the world.

I was breathless. I knew how Joseph felt when he was placed in the palace after decades of wrongful imprisonment.

Sixteen weeks later, I am leaning into the execution of my days with these new parameters. With not a clue as to how to live in this new way, with these new freedoms, I  take it second by second. A minute, an hour, a day, is too large a chunk of time.

What would you do if a chronic obstacle was removed? What would you do if four obstacles were removed?

What do you do with sudden freedom?

All of my life habits had to change. Previously arranged around compensating for the obstacles,now, daily disciplines need to support the new freedoms.

With a hip that now works and is strong, I learn to stand tall, and walk on my leg in a new, more trusting way.

No longer discredited as someone who is unqualified, it is on me to display the education for which I worked so hard, so many years ago.

What once was just a dream, full development of my love of music and becoming a better writer, is now an item requiring the scheduling of office visits, and classes. and arrangement of time to do justice to the learning process.

The opportunity for my words to reach a wider audience, offer more encouragement to more people, presents a to-do list and a willingness to order my life such that I could engage more relationships with more readers. It made my efforts to do so a collaborative effort where I need to rein in my 'Lone Ranger' and allow myself to have someone else speak for me and my work. Surrender and trust to the nth degree and days filled with hard deadlines and new requests for my highest and best are now de rigueur. Do you notice the shift in tense? The change was immediate. Overnight.

Before the surgery, the doctors were concerned that I had been disabled for so long, unable to walk properly, I would not be able to wrap my brain around walking again. My prehab included accepting immediate change. Indeed, the first words I heard clearly in recovery were 'She's weight bearing'.
Five hours after surgery I stood tall with my feet on the floor and walked fifteen steps. They wrote the number down on the whiteboard. "Fifteen steps". Green marker, as I recall.

After years of professing belief in a God who loved me and wanted the best for me, with no natural circumstances to give evidence of that, I was now in the middle of four different stories, examples, of situations that could only be explained by the existence of a profoundly loving God who had my best at heart. My faith was put to the test, not to get me through, but to move forward in blessing, because it apparently was true. What I believed was true. God loved me, wanted the best for me and had 'plans for good and not for evil.'.

The story of Jacob is about his hip reminding him Who is in charge. I have that. Joseph, after decades of imprisonment, was vindicated regarding unjust accusations because someone noticed he had a gift. Check the next box off. And the last two items, the remaining miraculous opportunities, present me with,once again, as I had in the desert, walking in blind faith that I will be able to hear the Spirit instruct me in the ways of swimming in a larger pond, in a stronger actualization of my gifts and talents than I have ever imagined.

Blessings. We all pray for blessings. But how do you live with blessings? How do you steward blessings?
Gonna be another steep learning curve. "B" stands for breakthrough.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Duck and Goose

The Still Small Voice, which the original Hebrew translates as The Thin Silence, has been guiding people since time began. God talks to people all the time. Maybe they're listening. Maybe they're not. Maybe they don't recognize it. They call it, intuition, or a nudge, or a feeling.

For me it is sometimes an audible voice, sometimes a phrase that will not leave my brain, sometimes a quiet certainty. This time, the later was drawing me to the StoryVision Weekend Retreat sponsored by the Northwest Christian Writers Association and lead by Mick Silva. Shaky finances, newly booted out of my writing office for 'overusing the building', and blown head gaskets that needed repairing threatened my ability to obey the impulse to attend. But I stayed the course. I have learned about pushing through opposition. If I don't do it, I miss a blessing.

In the world of Christian Faith, moments when God's goodness simply overrides any evil to introduce pure love and destiny in the clearest way possible, are called Kairos moments. I knew down to my toes that this weekend was such a moment.

And there they were, a flock of women readily able to peel back the layers of their hearts and narratives, in a setting where the focus was, as a friend of mine once described 'opening up a vein and pouring the blood into words on a page".

Confirmation for a path upon which one is on is frequently meted out by the kinship of others. So it was that weekend. 
Out in the world, a discussion of feelings or reflections on the narrative of one's journey from the inside out is viewed as TMI. Definitely too much information. Castigation for seeming boundrilessness comes in the form of grimaces and a slow retreat to another part of the room. Here, in this place of serenity and beauty, we took turns sharing that which was shaping us as people, as women, and the challenges of putting those words down on paper. 

Steady on, I began to tell myself. Keep going. Deeper. Wider. More intense. No stepping back, but rather, peering into even more darkness and bringing it into the light. I saw the arc of my story as a writer stretch across a sky I had not lifted my head to see before.

Laughter around a campfire. Sharing in the bright light of a well windowed living room. Sleep, with the sounds of others moving through their night rhythms, all drew me into my own calling. I became more at ease with those words I had already written and more eager to discover the ones yet to find their life in my sentences.

On the last afternoon, we sat gazing at the water while Mick gave us his final and best encouragements. My eyes found pleasure in watching the odd coupling of a white duck and a Canadian goose on the dock stretching out beyond us. They seemed friends. They sat contentedly side by side. What an odd pairing I thought to myself. 

Unexpectedly, the Goose rose to slip in the water. That's when I saw his left leg clearly injured, crippled, useless. As he hopped his way into the water, the white duck followed , his companion. 

That's us, I thought. Us writers all try to get to the water with one leg injured at some time or another. In the water, we can glide as others do, but the trek from dock to water needs companionship. Because we are all so different as writers, we look like odd pairings as we cajole and urge each other on to do the difficult to get to that which creates ease or pleasure for others. 

How like God to take my obedience to the impulse of the Holy Spirit and bless me with new colleagues, new understanding, and one terrific metaphor for the days when I type up in isolation the deepest parts of my heart.

Monday, November 16, 2015

A New Thing

According to the Youtube description, I'm listening to ten  hours of waves crashing. It's the noise in my ears that helps me focus when I'm letting words come to me, or making choices about which ones to use.

This isn't the life I'd planned. I'm supposed to be happily celebrating about my thirty something year of marriage and taking care of my three grandchildren while I work my last couple of years in the church as a pastor who enjoys creating music. Instead I am a houseguest of friends who are supportive of me carving out a new life. Three of my children are alienated from me and two of them are involved in benignly, but effectively toxic situations that keep them from the truth of their stories. My husband left me for another woman and left me with nothing but the furniture. My youngest daughter, the only one I got to raise alone, remains in my life working towards her dreams and goals, steady as she goes.

How did all that happen?

At the end of my thirties I prayed a prayer God took very seriously. In the beginning of my forties I asked some questions and set some limits. All hell broke loose. I lost about everything and ended up with virtually no family or career but a 'yes' answer to my prayer. I told God I wanted Jesus to be so real to me I could feel his hand in mine. I forgot to say, 'If you can do all that without it costing me anything, I surely would appreciate it.'. Pruning hurts. Separating the wheat from the chaff, well, chafes. Purifying like the gold/dross thingy causes third degree burns.

But I was given a column in a newspaper. All the while I wandered around the enclosed paddock in which God had me, literally surrounded by water on all sides and absolutely no doors of escape opening, Surrounded by people who were very wounded -- let me underscore that-- VERY wounded, who took as license my presence to be an opportunity to torture, I was subjected to ' planned aggression'.

"Anybody can love a friend", it says in scripture. But these people were so wounded they could lie more easily and often than they told the truth.

God gave me no out. There was no escape. I had only one choice. I was going to have to rely on my faith and I was going to have to learn to let myself be loved and cared for. Letting myself be poured into was not easy. Mainly because I didn't need this amount

I needed this
I was devoid of every last ounce of resources... except my faith.
I had to learn to get spit on, and defamed and shunned and discredited and keep a soft heart and refrain from retaliation. 
Most importantly, I had to learn to listen for, to and follow the Holy Spirit. Eventually, every path was cut off to me save one. In a most daring moment of faith, I utterly trusted in God. I put everything in storage, rented an office where I could work a lot and slept  in my car. 

Everything broke loose for the good. 
In the days after this, in many ways and formats, I will be telling the story of The Grand Adventure. For now, let me suggest it is an option to seek something beyond this world and find in it, in that Love, life and fullness of time; days that are not just spent but lived. I am so happy God seriously answered yes with the creation of a whole new thing. What happens when your heart is broken will decide if you rerun the previous situation or move on to something else.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Anatomy of Hate

She wandered down the aisle and said in her condescending voice, "You know, Debby. We love you." And I , for the first of many times to come, drew myself up into my inner strength and said, "No, I was sent to teach you love."

And that was the beginning of twenty years of hell living in a place where the most wounded of the most wounded lived. God was teaching me the 'why' of the  message of God's love. Why did people need to hear they were loved unconditionally without any effort or merit on their part? Because they were filled with shame and remorse and guilt and sorrow and despair and fear and hopelessness.

Take the woman, for example. Later, I was told by the son of the lover, how this woman's husband had carried on an affair with his assistant for fifteen years. Now, in her eighties, her remark at one gathering that the woman she most admired was a neighbor who use to babysit for her husbands love child while he and his lover went on tristes, eluded me.

But I had lead a church into truth telling and a desire for repentance, an old fashioned word that means "I don't wanna do that stuff that's hurting me anymore'. She was fearful, although the entire community knew about it, that she would be publicly shamed. I simply HAD to be removed.

So she, and the treasurer who was having an affair with a treasurer from another church and had been embezzling money got together to get a phone campaign rolling, and a year and a half later, they successfully maneuvered themselves into a win. The church had been growing in leaps and bounds and people were just at the point of joining when the whole thing was dragged sideways.

In the midst of all that, there was much more woundedness revealed.

In shock and disbelief that such evil could win, I wandered for twenty years destitute and couch surfing or going from one bad rental to another as the hate campaign continued and I lacked the resources to leave. Ironically the further excuse for abuse came from a fledgling Domestic Violence agency which had stumbled it's way into affluence and favourtism where it circled around the unhealed histories of those involved.

It was a lot to endure. And yet, God was faithful which is why this telling is recorded on my 'faith' page.

Countering the bad, I met amazingly kind and loving people who were eager and willing to live from the center of their lives out, and again and again came along beside me with physical resources and comfort and aid and encouragement and faith and joy and blessings and cheer and wisdom and networking and love.

Do you see how much longer that list is than 'they booted me out without anything in the middle of winter with just me and my birth children right after my husband left me and I lost two adopted kids to their birthmothers and the husband who abused me.'?

The hate that was extended to me came from a place inside those people that included almost everything listed in the first descriptor I offered of why people need to hear they are unconditionally loved. It comes to a place where the heart has been squeezed so tightly blood and love cannot flow. In it's place enmeshment and codependency and dependency and a willingness to denigrate and defile filled the veins like electricity.

What is flowing through you? For me, it was the ultimate test. How was I going to respond to hate. That is the topic for another essay. But it is the question I must ask myself everyday. The hate continues. See haters aren't set right by the truth. They are only set right by repentance,  that indicates some degree of engaging with base behavior or attitudes or thoughts and turning around into another direction.

In a tale that is wonderful to tell, I did make the choice to repeatedly forgive and God richly blessed me because of it, not with riches but with faith and opportunities for positive influence. It wasn't easy and I wasn't always willing , only willing to be willing. My circumstances did not improve much. From the outside my life looked pathetic. But inside, where it counts, I had joy and peace and hope, lots of hope.
More later, when I speak of the power of love

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

A Tale of Two 'Whys'

The big heat is lessening. Life is not about moving from shady or air conditioned place to place. My thinking seems to be more straightforward again.

This new lifestyle affords a lot of time thinking about things. That's good for a writer, a musician, a theologian, and woman, an artist, a differently- abled person.  I've been thinking about how I got here , to this place, not only locale but this spiritual place.

Stuck in a little village for twenty years there is so much to forgive. I used to forgive so easily. My ex husband used to say I had the heart of David. Then, like Job's story, it seemed that life on earth said, 'Oh yea? Well forgive THIS!" and then threw every arrow conceivable through my heart, piercing it, trying to draw blood.

For me now, it isn't that I don't still forgive constantly and fairly easily by just human standards, it's that I get stuck on wanting to know why. Where I stay entangled, though not enmeshed thank God, is trying to understand the 'why' of someone else's hurtful behavior or decision to not choose a life giving activity.Image result for question marks

Why - does someone find their self esteem and self worth through affluence and possessions?
Why - does someone hurt so badly inside they can't face it and project out their pain on others?
Why- does someone do things that hurt themselves and, in doing so, hurt me?
Why- does someone prefer a lie to the truth or The Truth?
Why- does someone keep their distance from the pain of loss.

The list is endless. I have arrived at this. I cannot understand someone else's 'why' unless they tell me or someone who knows their 'why' tells me. For example, years ago there was an old geezer who just wanted me out of a position of leadership. He worked very hard to have me removed. When the end of my tenure was coming, a man came to me and told me his mother was the man's assistant and for fifteen years the man forced her into an affair she did not want. That was the days when women didn't know they couldn't be forced into things. She had even fled to another state to get away from him.

He and his wife, who knew of the affair and chose to look the other way back in the day when women didn't know they didn't have to put up with affairs unless they wanted to, were very fearful of a new trend in the organization for people to tell their true stories.  Their 'why' was a fear of facing their own story.

After I knew that, everything made sense and I let go of a rope in a game of tug of war I could not win.

There was another man in the same organization. During a particular ritual of healing, he stepped forward to me and whispered, "I want to be a better husband to my wife". I knew it took every ounce of courage in his being to say those words to me. I gave him the biggest smile of affirmation and said words to the effect of 'you already are'.

When I get stuck and I think the behavior of others is incomprehensible, I ask the Lord to take me back to the list in my own life. When was self esteem and self worth found in something other than God's Love for me? When was I frozen and out of touch with my pain? When did I hurt myself by binge eating? When did I come to love The Truth? When did I keep my distance from my loss and cry only sixteen tears when necessary?

I just have to remember my journey. Then I understand why. It's never fails to connect me appropriately with understanding. Image result for hearts

Monday, June 29, 2015

Making Lists

So this is it...this is the day to which the culmination of twenty plus years of obedience to the Spirit has lead. I have a new life, a fresh start. All of the enmeshed experiences I gave myself and lead myself into and said yes to because of the circumstances of my childhood, have pretty much been dismantled...

I begin, like I always begin... I make lists. I get organized. I try to get a mental handle on the picture of my life, the constructs, the paradigms, the overarching themes...I grasp at what I can and hold more than I should.

Everything my heart desires is about surrendering and releasing and receiving, and yet that is not the operative mode of my comfort level....

So I make lists. They are lists I rarely check off. Today I went through a few from the past and found myself surprised that there were three of them that actually had lines crossing out indicating accomplishment. That's a lot.

Usually I just transfer the items to another list or wait until the items are no longer timely or relevant.

But if I am to truly step into the unknown, truly live one moment at a time, I have to see the making of lists and discarding of them as a careful modification of surrender. And I ask myself the question, 'what is the practical experience of trusting the Spirit?" Or a second question,"Is following the Spirit too disorganized?"

How can I step out of my comfort level on a daily level and still keep my wits about me, still stay grounded?
Is it all mutually exclusive?

I know that when I look back at these days from a distance, I will have the answers to my questions.

What I know from looking back at previous days now is that I didn't even ask the right questions...
I'm OK with that. Maybe I just need to feel like I'm hanging on. Maybe that's the way I move through things at the behest of the Spirit....trying to make the intangible concrete....

I'm watching will I do this new, creative life? How will I take all I've been given and , in obedience, create what I am lead to create?  So different than the life of service I have lead....
More later...