Words set free…..

In the eye of the storm…………


We know a lot about storms where I live. Judsonia, Arkansas was “blown away”, as we locals describe it, on March 21, 1952. I was not quite 2 years old at the time and living in Indiana, so I obviously have no personal recollection of the tornado. However, the family I married into lived through and lost their eldest son in the process. They are all indelibly marked by this event.

Judsonia is a town of underground storm shelters and “safe rooms”. I recently was blessed to hear Ryan Stevenson’s rendition of the Christian praise song, “Eye of the Storm”. It made me think about how life is a passage of “weathering” various storms. What storm have you been through? What storm are you going through? Are you surviving? Is the storm defeating you? What is the answer to weathering the storm victoriously? The answer to a “life storm” cannot be found in a storm shelter or safe room or retreat from life. Stevenson sings it to us in the lyrics of the above mentioned recording. I highly recommend it.

I began to think about the various storms I have survived. Divorce. Miscarriage. Loss of a son to suicide. Completing nursing degrees (Bachelor’s and Master’s) while supporting and caring for children as a single parent. Career choices and challenges and confrontations. Financial issues. Physical ailments. Depression. Caring for elderly parents. Estrangement from siblings, some resolved and some not. A child suffering from alcohol addiction and mental illness (she is surviving, thank God). Sharing the pain of the patients I help care for as they are confronted with life-changing health events and, for some, the ultimate passage, death. Experiencing the ups and downs of life in a church family made up of believers who still have human qualities–no, congregational life is not always united and sublime. I have worried about these all of things, and, often, tried to “fix” things within my own capabilities, generally unsucessfully.

Because I do not have all the answers. God does. And, in my humanity, I forget to yield to his solutions, thinking arrogantly that I could do it better? Really?

What storms are you facing? Depression? Anxiety? Addiction (in all its forms–alcohol, illicit drugs, prescription drugs, nicotine)? Maybe it’s an eating disorder–obesity, bulemia, anorexia. Perhaps you have been tormented by thoughts of suicide.

Perhaps you and your family have been challenged by war–a family member serving in the military as we speak. Or perhaps one lost to you forever in war’s vicious violence. Or perhaps one disfigured, maimed, angry, traumatized, suicidal because of the horrors witnessed.

Maybe your family is dysfunctional. Maybe you have been the victim of abuse. Maybe you are raising grandchildren or great-grandchildren because their parents cannot parent. Maybe you are a victim of domestic violence.

You might be just overwhelmed by the multiplicity of stressors you are experiencing daily. For some, like me, that might mean relegating your creativity and dreams and self-expression to some deep, dark place, (your “storm shelter”) where they have waited, dusty and neglected, longing to be once more brought into the light.

Perhaps burned-out describes your work performance. Perhaps cynical describes your outlook. Perhaps for you the glass is always half-empty, never half-full, and you do realize it falls on you to wash that darn glass. Perhaps you have let the fire of your faith burn down to cold ashes and do not know how to rekindle it.

Step 1: Listen to Stevenson’s song. It has a really nice beat, folks! It will lift your spirits and refresh your soul.

Step 2: Get out the Good Book (you, know, the Holy Bible) and take a look. Some of my faves: Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7     And Jesus’s words: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” John 14:1      So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  Isaiah 41: 10    “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:14     And, finally, Psalm 46:10a: “Be still and know that I am God.”     (All from NIV) The Bible is a treasure chest full of guidance, peace, comfort, encouragement, courage.

Step 3: Open the window of your heart to let God’s peace come in. Open your ears to hear His whisper of hope and encouragement. Open your voice in thanksgiving and praise. And open your very self to a life of faithful perseverance, not in your strength, but in His. Open your mind to the thought that you can fulfill God’s calling and plan for your life, even through the storms.

That’s what I’ve chosen to do, by setting my words free.







My rope …………

photo             I am obviously NOT an artist. However, the crude little drawing depicts in a very deliberate sense how I’ve been feeling. A good friend of mine often quotes a phrase that describes the survival skill illustrated by the drawing. When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.—Franklin D. Roosevelt I really didn’t know the quote could be attributed to anyone famous until I read a motivational piece in a nursing journal recently. It spoke of resilience and flexibility and focus and adaptation as techniques to conquer burnout. Recently those qualities have been lacking in my life. My friend also says that stress is the daily reminder we have that we are still alive. Alive I surely must be. However, I was beginning to doubt my ability to survive. This week I have been reminded of some truths. They have touched my heart and enlightened my mind and strengthened my will to persevere.They have inspired me to not only hang on to that rope, but maybe to start climbing up it to higher ground. Because the ground of giving up the fight and giving in to despair is quicksand that will only suck me down further into a dark prison of defeat. What are the truths?

  • There is more to life than just the struggle here on earth. I have a Savior, Jesus Christ, and a perfect, joyful, eternal home awaits me when this life is over. Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:1)
  • God has a plan for my life, and He says in Jeremiah 29:11 that it is a “plan to prosper me and not to harm me”, a plan to “give me a hope and a future.” Furthermore, He says in Romans 8:28 that “all things work to the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Yes, I may not enjoy the storms of this life, but I can know that, as long as I “keep the faith”, they are growing me into a better person.
  • Even more encouraging is the truth that, even when I am too distraught, confused, or weak to articulate my hurts and needs, God hears my plea. Romans 8:26 reminds that, when I do not even know what to pray for or what the answer is, “the Spirit himself intercedes for me with groans that words cannot express.” And even Jesus himself prayed for me as recorded in John 17:20 when He says, “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their (the disciples’ and early church’s) message.”
  • I can do this! Not in my own strength, but in His strength. “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13) Not in my own strength, but through the blessing of loving friends and family who are constantly lifting us up in prayer as we face the challenges of these days.

My challenge now is to keep these truths fresh in my heart and to never forget the immeasurable goodness of God’s grace, love and mercy. I pray for each of you the same assurance.

I am the pencil?

“I am like a little pencil in God’s hand. He does the writing. The pencil has nothing to do with it.” Mother Teresa

Many times in my life I have been keenly aware of God’s direction–the rather remarkable circumstances through which I entered nursing school (and my profession/life of the past 36 years), the miraculous discovery of the one physician who could salvage my daughter’s life, the indelible influence that my Christian collaborating physician and his beautiful wife have had on my life, and a text message a short while ago from my granddaughter, a beautiful, intelligent young woman of whom I am very proud. She wrote that she has been working on a blog for some time now, but has been timid about sharing the link with anyone. Guess what, dear–your Nana has heretofore been very selective in sharing her link, too! As a matter of fact, my first post pretty much details my ugly fears and uncertainties. I was rather depressed for about a week prior to clicking “Publish”, but, surprise! I have been inordinately happy since doing it. My mind is full of ideas, phrases, analogies–all just struggling to make it to the printed page. And, I am happy. Don’t take that the wrong way. It’s not that I feel important or particularly gifted. I know my blog is not literary genius or food for the intellectual. But it is my soapbox, my stage, and, if any readers show up, my audience.

You see, it is easy to feel that one has little of importance to say. But, perhaps, in God’s eyes, the least of these thoughts timidly recorded is a very big deal. I have often pondered Mother Teresa’s words quoted above. I don’t think the pencil analogy has to do with just words, although words are very important. As a nurse, I think of the words and phrases that evoke such vivid images to us and capture so succinctly the patient situation we are describing. We say, “just fan him with a big white hat,” to mean that there is nothing specific we can do to help that particular complaint, but that the white hat, representative of the good cowboy saving the day, might somehow send good karma his way. Or what about the phrase “she’s crashing and burning”, which inspires in our gut the same adrenalin rush that seeing a plane’s fiery demise might? Although it has fallen out of favor, in my young nurse days the words “he’s low sick” described a patient in the valley of illness with multiple issues and declining vital signs and a grim prognosis. Today “she’s a hot mess” might be heard in the clinical setting to describe the same patient. For me that phrase brings to mind a steaming hot pile of whatever turns you off–a big mess that has to be cleaned up, and the cleaning made all the more difficult because it is, indeed, hot! The patient that breathes the thought, “I want to go home,” and you know he’s talking about a better home than his home here on earth, can inspire a particularly keen watchful wait in the nurse. And then, there is the all-important “just tie a knot and hang on”, because even when the rope is slipping through your hands and you are about to fall to your fate, the proverbial knot will give you a handhold to cling to.

Words do indeed speak volumes and are tremendously important, especially to a writer, but actions are important, too. Sometimes the action of clicking “Publish” is more important than we know. For too long I have been afraid of failure. Mother Teresa also said, “God didn’t call us to be successful, just faithful.” If I am, indeed, His pencil, every word typed and published is His to use as He chooses. Perhaps those words might offer inspiration, encouragement, or comfort. It is my job to trust and just do it. What about you? Are you His pencil? How are you fulfilling that challenge? I hope with confidence and with the best effort that is in you.

And that you, dear, dear granddaughter, will go forth boldly to share your knowledge, creativity, sensitivity–so many gifts in one beautiful package! Go ahead, sweetie, blog and broadcast it to the world!