Maybe I’ve had it all wrong my whole life (no big surprise there)

vlad-bagacian-634061-unsplashPhoto by Vlad Bagacian on Unsplash

I’ve been reading Love, Medicine, and Miracles by Bernie Siegel, which is about how our perceptions, beliefs, and hope effects our healing and health. I started thinking about how God calls us to have faith—and I found myself questioning beliefs I hadn’t even put into words before…

Maybe I’ve had it all wrong my whole life. Maybe faith isn’t like a currency. God doesn’t ask us to have faith because he wants to make sure we’re doing our part. It’s not like we better have enough faith or he won’t do anything for us. He’s not sitting up there irritated because we can’t get it together enough to trust him.

In my church background, faith meant standing firm, holding on to what you want with everything you’ve got. You want to get physically, emotionally, or mentally healed? Then don’t settle for anything less. Healing is your birthright. Faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains, so if that mountain staring you in the face doesn’t move, you must not have a seed’s worth.

jachan-devol-525036-unsplashPhoto by Jachan DeVol on Unsplash

But maybe faith is being okay with not getting healed. Maybe it’s leaning in to God and crying because you have to let another dream, another friendship, another person go. But you have faith that he has still made your life worth living.

Maybe it’s more like how he told us to rest. He didn’t do that to give himself another reason to punish us when we fail to take our Sabbath. He did it because he knows we need rest. He knows we will work ourselves to death in fear and greed and workaholic-ism. He knows he needs to tell us to slow down, to rest like he did for at least one day each week.

Maybe he tells us to have faith because he wants to partner with us in our healing. Maybe it’s a gentle voice that puts his mighty hand on our back and says, “It’s okay, I’ve got this. We will get through this together.” Maybe he knows that we need the peace faith brings in order to have enough hope to get healing.

Maybe faith has a lot more to do with hope than I ever realized. Maybe faith isn’t something you strive for. It’s just hope mixed with trust.

ron-smith-372792-unsplashPhoto by Ron Smith on Unsplash

I’m beginning to realize why faith, hope, and love are so inseparable in the Bible. They are all, in essence, facets of the same thing. I guess that makes sense, since they are all part of God’s nature, and he is one.

So with that, may you have hope in your brokenness today.

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Look Out the Window!

It seems like the more I fly, the more nervous I get. It’s like my panic sensors know that my odds of crashing are going up each time I launch into the air. Still, even with my mind screaming that I’m going to fall to my death every time the plane’s engine changes pitch, I love staring out the window. So, when I flew from Minnesota to Texas to visit my husband’s family, I was super excited to find out I’d scored window seats for both flights.

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I’m pretty sure I am an anomaly in this. When I looked around the plane, almost everyone had the shades slid down to block the sun. They plugged in headphones and stared at screens as the earth shrank beneath us.

Now, it’s not like I’m a technophobe or an unplugged saint. I admit I took advantage of the in-flight entertainment to finally watch Ant Man and the Wasp. But I also took time to stare out the window.

There’s a strange wonder in it—mini houses, cars like insects glinting in the sun, roads curling around frozen lakes, human life shrunk to snow-globe size. Then the landscape of clouds, layers of ocean waves and mountains in brilliant white. It reminds me how small I am, how small all my worries and plans are, even how small this span of history is that we live in.

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Photo by Jeremy Ricketts on Unsplash

 

My writing teacher used to talk about how important it is to stop and pay attention. “Don’t hydroplane through life,” she’d tell us over and over. I think she was right. Paying attention to the view out that airplane window reminded me how small we all are. How small all my worries and plans are. Even how small this span of history is that we live in.

It’s a healthy reminder.

Down on the ground, everything is always coming at us, reminding us how messed up the world is, how much there is to fear. The media is always shouting that the end is here, disaster is upon us. Suspended in a metal tube thousands of feet above our planet, the noise can seem just a little quieter. But only if I pay attention.

So do one thing today.

Stop. Notice. Whatever the small and beautiful things around you are trying to say, listen.

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Photo by Ksenia Makagonova on Unsplash

Version 2

Rust

Here is the final draft (as if I can ever say a piece of writing is actually finished) of the poem I wrote a few weeks ago (I Didn’t Realize what a Strange Childhood I Had) As you can see, it changed a lot!

My Mother

cried as she drove up the driveway past the rusting hulls

of trucks, the blue sawmill devoured

by raspberry bushes, the log piles shedding their bark. She told me

marriage is the worst kind of loneliness. She watched

the ever-growing string of tractors in the muddy field,

felt the strain of engines pulling against hungry earth

as my brother and I waded up to our chins in the front pond,

a cathedral of cattails above, stagnant water singing with frogs and here

and there a dead, stringy form beneath.

 

 

I Didn’t Realize what a Strange Childhood I Had

There probably comes a time for all of us when we realize that we had a really weird childhood in one way or another. This is my tribute to the weirdness of my own childhood, although this poem doesn’t begin to cover it really.

P.S. This is a first draft, so be kind to it, poor thing

I Didn’t Realize I had a Strange Childhood

 

Turkey barn shot through with the clack-clack-clack of nail guns,

frame warped and wrapped in sawdust.

 

The wet-dog smell of cottonwood—pallet veneer Dad always said.

 

Mud sucking tires and axles into itself, an ever-growing string

of tractors in the field, the strain of engines pulling against hungry earth.

 

Wading up to our chins in the front pond with nets

made of clementine mesh, cathedral of cattails above

stagnant water singing with frogs,

here and there a dead, stringy form beneath.

 

Down the driveway, rusting hulls of abandoned trucks,

the blue sawmill devoured by raspberry bushes,

log piles flanking gravel—to our minds

a desert island, Robin Hood’s hideaway.

 

Riding in the Mac’s sleeper: the sound of engine brake,

shudder and bounce of gears shifting, Dasani bottle filled

with urine in the cubby (“a man’s gotta do

what a man’s gotta do” from the driver’s seat), straps coiled in a heap

on the floor, stickiness of powdered sugar doughnuts, grease, and sawdust.

 

Picking barefoot through snow-swollen wetland, trying not

to imagine wet creatures slithering and biting off toes,

papery scent of decaying grass. When

was the last time?

 

Photo by Mat Reding on Unsplash

Breathe

I am driving when anxiety stirs in my stomach. It is small at first, and I think that it is just one of those random spurts that come and choke my heart for a second and then pass. But it grows. As the wipers swish away the rain, I find myself unable to breathe. Suddenly, I am terrified that my husband is going to die. He’s going die and I will be shredded into tiny bloody pieces by the force of his loss. I will never be able to tell him about my day again. I will never recover. Panic claws at my throat, and my chest aches like someone is sitting on it. My head feels like it’s floating, unbound from my body. There’s not enough oxygen.

A panic attack. I haven’t had one in a while, not since my doctor doubled my dose of antidepressant. God, don’t take him from me. Please don’t take him from me. I force myself to breathe—in four, hold five, out seven.

He will cover Josh with his feathers, and under his wings Josh will find refuge. We will not fear the terror by night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness.

There was a time I didn’t know what the terms “general anxiety disorder” and “panic attack” meant. I just called the times when life got too much to handle “freaking out.” Several times. . . okay, many times I left class completely and utterly overwhelmed. I would practically run to a secluded spot outside and collapse to my knees in the dirt, hyperventilating, heart pounding, vision swimming because of a single homework assignment. I didn’t understand what was going on. . .  and neither did the people around me.

Once, a few months after I received my anxiety diagnosis, my RD sat me down with a cup of tea to challenge me to get ahold of my life. “You’re causing your friends to worry about you,” she said. “What can you do to manage your stress level?”

“I’m doing everything I can to manage my anxiety, but sometimes it just gets so intense it needs to come out. So I go somewhere by myself and freak out for a little.”

“But you shouldn’t ever need to freak out.” Those were her words.

Apparently, I should just decide to not have a panic attack. I should never be out of control. I should rewire my brain chemistry and hormones with a snap of my fingers.

If only it was that easy.

Four years later, I force my fingers to relax their grip on the steering wheel. Electricity is zapping through my ribcage, my head is faint, and my chest aches worse than ever, but I keep breathing. I am okay. The fear is not the truth. I am able to stay in the part of my brain that knows this. I have kept this attack from blowing out of control. This is not because I told myself I “shouldn’t need to freak out.” It’s because I educated myself about anxiety disorders and panic attacks. It’s because I told myself it was okay—I am not a bad person for not being able to stay under control. The anxiety, the panic attacks. . . they are not me.

But they are part of what has made me me. Whether I wanted them to or not.

So, as the rain coats the pavement, I don’t get angry at myself or discouraged that it happened again, I just breathe.

 

 

 

 

Ten Inspirational Quotes

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  1. “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” Oscar Wilde
  2. “You cannot find peace by avoiding life.” Michael Cunningham
  3. “The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.” Abigail Van Buren
  4. “A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.” George Bernard Shaw
  5. “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road’ll take you there.” George Harrison
  6. “Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
  7. “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” Dr. Seuss
  8. “It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not.” Andre Gide
  9. “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” Douglas Adams
  10. “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Albert Einstein