Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Still, Small Voice

God was not in the mighty wind; He was not in the earthquake, and He was also not in the fire.  When it was quiet, He spoke in a still, small voice.  In a gentle whisper.

Writing out those three things, I feel as if we have faced those this year.  A powerful wind that blew things around.  An earthquake that shook what seemed stable and changed the ground we stand on.   A fire that burnt.

But God waited.  Then in the quietness, He spoke in a gentle whisper.

Now, with my heart quietening before God, I am beginning to hear that gentle whisper, that quiet, still voice that I know is God speaking.

Let me listen and then I will share some of what I am learning.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Quietly Busy

I'm still here.  Doing ok, actually.  I'm sitting here giggling at the thought of writing a post titled "God is not a man", but am trying to talk myself out of that.  Don't want to inadvertently offend men - there are some good ones out there, you know!

But you know how sometimes you just want to say how you feel?  Just to say it.  And what does any man in earshot want to do?  Yup, fix it.  I do not want to be fixed, tinkered with, repaired, set straight, adjusted, or in any other way shape or form mucked with!  I just want to be heard.

God obviously is not a man.  He hasn't attempted to fix me yet.

And I am learning the simple truth: God can be trusted with my complete, unabridged, unbeautified honesty.  He's big enough to handle it and not go into a snivel fit or attempt to defend Himself.

If He can be trusted with that, then perhaps He can be trusted.  He is not moved or shaken by what shakes me.  I still don't understand everything, but I am returning to trust with a quieter heart.

Then, I am also quiet because I am busy.  In the middle of setting up for a team retreat of sorts, I got a call.  Where I work with old people - well, they had a crisis.  Within hours several people caught something and it went from normal to awful in the space of six hours.  I worked double shifts and then went back for more.  Here the medical system is not the same as back home, and we are missing some of the basic equipment I would have wanted for such an event.  We had no suction machines, no beds that can turn to proper positioning, few O2 machines...  I sat there watching one lady who I have grown to love go bad so fast I could hardly believe it.  Finally we worried that she would go.  She could not cough and she had aspirated.  Her chest gurgled with every breath and her pulse soared and fever increased.

I decided to fight for her, and positioned her so I could do chest therapy.  When she gathered her feeble strength to cough, I wrapped myself around her and helped her by squeezing with each cough.  I don't even know if I was doing what was right or normal, but I did what I could in the absence of much else.  I stayed with her, looking her in her eyes when they were open, assuring her that I was there and I was going to be with her.  After working for several hours, her O2 sats began to slowly climb.  By the next morning, she was resting, still sick, but no longer mottling that odd color that tells me death waits outside the door.

We worked for several days in a row, and I think now that the worst is over.  My ears hurt from wearing a mask so long, and my body aches from being on my feet so many hours.  But it was a good weekend, if tough.  Comforting the confused is as important as caring for the sick, and it can be challenging when they do not remember that they are to stay in their rooms or to keep those O2 prongs in.  Endless bed changes when they cough so hard that they gag. 

I'm ok.  I'm just tired.  If only I had not just decided to push myself and run a mile right before I got that first urgent call!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Almost, But Not Quite

I was working at the old people's home yesterday evening, and had almost finished changing a lady's diaper when her phone rang.  I answered it and it was her son.  She was all clean, but not quite tucked in properly.  She would be fine on her own for a few minutes, so I handed her the phone and went on to clean up my area.

I heard her half of the conversation, and could imagine his side.  She answered first, "Oh, hi, nice to hear from you."

"I'm fine."

Then came this, "Well, they were just in the middle of..." and she paused and wrinkled her brow... "...of.... well... I was going to say a sex change... but that doesn't seem like the right word."

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Things They Say - Rewriting History

My son was commenting on the new colors that people seem to be wearing and said that maybe they want to be hippies.

My daughter asked what a hippie was.  While I was trying to figure out how to answer that one, she asked, "Isn't a hippie like a person that says not to do something, but they do it themselves?"

Sorting It All Out

 There are two things that have helped in my sorting this whole event out.  The first was our pastor's comment.  That really helped me, strange as it may seem.

You see, I have had two responses to what has happened:  People either sided with me - "that is awful" - or people sided with those who hurt me - "Well, you need to see it from their point of view." -  Our pastor here did something so simple.  He made a statement of values and of fact.  "That was wrong.  A marriage relationship needs to be above ministry needs and needs to be protected."  He said it with a deep sadness, but without anger or harshness.

That simple statement, as annoyingly simple as it was, really helped.  I can deal with being wronged, but I needed to hear that I was not being demanding - the values are simple.... marriages, then ministry.  Perhaps it carried more weight since it was said by one of those in authority over us and one who is also in ministry.

The other thing that is slowly settling in the dust of the pain is the simple quiet presence of God.  I noticed it yesterday on my way to work.  God is still here with me.  I might have kicked and stormed and said that I doubt His ability or desire to care for me right now... which you are not supposed to say...  but He is still here.

That has given me a deep sense of comfort.  He isn't defending the actions that hurt me nor demanding that I change my attitude.  He's just there.  Waiting for me to quiet down.

I quietly rested in that fact all last night and today.  Then in trying to express myself in how that felt, I began to write.  I said what is comforting to me is that I haven't been struck with lightening. 

I have not been struck by lightening. I just got hurt, got upset, threw a fit and told God He is not doing a good job of taking care of me and that I am hurting.  I am not being nice about it and not sugar coating it or even telling Him in a quiet respectful tone.  I just am telling what I feel - I feel abandoned, uncared for, unimportant to God and to others.  I feel upset that He does not correct people who hurt me.  I feel angry.  And you know what?  I haven't been struck by lightening.  He's not saying, "Hey you!  If you can't behave better than that, I'll leave you on your own and see how you like it!"  Nothing.  No slap across the head, no being walked out on, nothing.  Silence.  Not the silence of "ok, you are all alone", but the silence of "all done?  I'm still sitting here."

It tells me that God loves me enough to let me express my hurt.  To not walk away if I don't keep pretending to be perfect.  Even if I am honest.

Because I was hurt.  It really hurt.  I don't understand it and it cut deep when I was already vulnerable and hurting.

I can't just keep pretending it didn't and pretending I am ok.

Perhaps I still need to learn how to communicate more respectfully, but most importantly right now, I needed to be heard.

And God is not striking me with lightening.  Even though I was pretty angry at Him.  He just sat quietly, not contradicting how I was feeling.  So quietly last night, I told Him, "What happened at those meetings really messed with my ability to trust You."  And just as quietly, He said, "I know."

That was a huge relief - not to be judged for my doubt, but to be heard.

So our pastor helped with a simple truth:  It was wrong.

And God let me say another truth without judgment for it:  It hurt me.

Two things - It was wrong and it hurt me.

I can deal with those.  Isn't life a lot about dealing with those two statements?  But I can't deal with them covered up anymore.

I'm quieter now.  Then later on today as I began to write these things out, then came another thought.  God didn't strike me with lightening when I got angry and yelled at Him.  hmm.. He also didn't strike them with lightening that day when they got angry and yelled at me.

Can't have too many fried bodies lying around.... singed flesh really smells bad....

It has me asking what I want of God.... I want to be protected... but I also don't want to be disciplined harshly...  ah, if only we didn't live in communities, I could have both...  but if I hurt someone, I want to be gently corrected later on.... not zapped with lightening... but I want people who hurt me to be hit with perhaps a taser at least...

I still want God to hold them accountable at some point and it would mean something to me if this was ever corrected.  But... it may not be.  Some people just don't listen well.  I can't base God's actions on other people's compliance.  I'd hate to be judged on what I can get my kids to do.  I could force them to apologize for something, but it will not come across as genuine.

But right now, I am calmer, quieter.  Not having been struck by lightening has helped.  If I am loved enough to be allowed to throw a fit and not be walked away from... hmm..

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Sorting through the mess left behind after the trauma..... dusting off some treasures and setting them in a place of remembrance...... but what about the things that are not treasures?

I've come to the interesting conclusion that (for me, not speaking for all involved here), the recovery was almost more painful than the trauma.  I know that sounds really strange, a little odd.... but it is true.  It is not the events of this spring's adventure that keep me awake at night, that cause my heart to hurt and me to feel alone and bewildered in this place.  It is the events of the recovery.... in the first weeks after and even until today.

I think I could have recovered from the initial events well enough with the littlest bit of care - a few nights to sleep, someone to listen, and a gentle re-entry to normal life along with someone to continue listening as I needed to talk.  I think I would have been just fine.... this was not a trauma that took me totally by surprise, but one we had prepared for all along, a consequence we knew could happen.

What I never expected in my wildest dreams were the responses we got in the "recovery phase".  I lost something there and I have not found it again.  I lost a large part of my joy.  I've never really laughed without pain since then.  I've lost most of my trust - trust that was hard to learn in the first place.  I don't know that I am even looking for that right now.  I lost my confidence... nothing that should have been dependable was able to be depended on.  I've lost loyalty.... used to think we were with a great group.  Last week someone sat in our living room asking what mission we think they should look at.  I could not recommend ours - world-wide, yes, perhaps... here in this country - no.

But I've lost some of who I was.  I feel bewilderingly lost.  People don't even know it - among my friends here, even, I doubt anyone knows it.  I have friends that are not in missions - how do I talk to them about it?  If I was to tell them what actually happened in the "recovery and debriefing", I don't think they could really believe it.  What would the consequences of telling them be?

But I continue to feel lost.  I don't trust enough to bring up the subject with anyone within our group.  No one ever listened to me - never really did.  In "debriefing", there was no time for my story... there just never was.  A week and no time to listen.  In team debriefing, the very people who left me alone without a visit or a call during the crisis jumped all over me for not doing enough to reassure them in the first days together.  It got so bad that they all began yelling at me, ignoring the fact that I was head down sobbing, unable to even speak.

In the weeks after the so-called debriefings, we got accused of all sorts of odd things - making up stories, not obeying authority, being lazy, not telling the truth.  The accusations came from primarily one place, and they were difficult, but what was harder was the silence of the majority who knew the truth but did not step in.

Then in the months after the chaos in the beginning, there came nothing.  No one ever listened.  No one ever said, "hey, how are you really doing?  Do you need a chance to talk?"  People moved on.  I can understand outsiders who moved on - the event wasn't that horrible.... it was pretty bad, but it ended so well.  They didn't know the trauma of the first two weeks of "recovery".  But people inside our circle who knew what had happened, who had seen it or heard of it, also never asked if we were ok.  Months went by with no time to listen.

Now months later, when I think I am possibly brave enough to clean out the mess that I just threw in a jumbled up heap into a closet and shut the door on, I still struggle with this - both being attacked when I was down and being completely abandoned by my mission, my coworkers, and my close friends.  That deep feeling of being abandoned still lingers.  And as bad as the abandonment is the deep wounding by people we work with.  By people who have been charged with our care.

So, as I pull this out again to see if I can make sense of it and go on, I sit here still confused and in tears.  I feel bewildered and numb.  Deep, gut-wrenching pain over the simple fact that no one had the time or the care to ask if I needed to talk.  What I feel about that, strangely, more than any other emotion is a deep sense of shame.... why shame, I can not explain.  I feel.... not worth anything, perhaps... that no one thought I was worth hearing....  Or perhaps, because from the first week, even to now, no one inside or connected to our group has ever been able to listen to my story without feeling the great need to correct me.  "No, you should not feel alone even though we did not come or phone, because we really did care."  "No, you should not feel like we were intruding on your first night with your husband - you actually had an obligation to meet our need for reassurance before you met your own needs for rest."  "No, you should not feel that we did not care because we were too busy, you should know we do by now."  "No, you should not think....."  It goes on.

Shame.  Because apparently, I did not heal the "right" way.

Bewildered.  Because I just am not sure who I can trust anymore or if I even want to trust anyone.

Numb.  Because I am still stunned.  It wasn't until this last week or two that I sat down and finally told someone - someone far away that I could walk away from if she did not listen - what actually happened in those "recovery" meetings.  I'm still stunned, not really able to feel, hurting from it.

Last week, I told my pastor a small thing from those team meetings - about the calls at midnight on my first night with my husband, my first night to sleep in five nights... about the person who wanted us to put his needs above our own at almost midnight, about the anger later when I said that a lesson we could learn for next time would be to let those who have gone through trauma rest for one or two days first.  I just told my pastor the tip of the iceberg - only now, nine months later.  I thanked him for a message that helped me in a little way begin to deal with it.

He sighed and shook his head, "People need to understand that a marriage relationship is to be guarded and comes before work, before ministry, and that it is important to protect that."

Do you know what?  That was the first time since it happened that someone had said anything like that.  That anyone had validated what I had said.  I began to cry, just a little bit at first, last Sunday... today, I cried all the way to work, actually crying with tears running down my face.  Just that little sentence felt so wonderful... lifted some of the shame I've been feeling for not doing this healing thing right.  It was ok to hurt about that.

I am still bewildered and numb from the pain of the "recovery".  I likely could go through the trauma again with flying colors - it did not phase me as much... I could see God' hand in it, in protecting, in providing, in rescuing.  But not in the "recovery".  That was the time where God's people ripped me apart, and I'm still bruised.

I lost something there.  I don't know if I will ever be the same again.  That, honestly, is how I feel today.

They are all coming again soon - time for some team meetings. I will find my smile and cook and manage logistics.  I will be polite.  But my heart hurts - from attacks, from not being defended from attacks, from just being set aside and never listened to.  I no longer truly believe people who say they care.  I just don't.  I believe what I see - people's actions and not their words.

I feel a deep sense of shame, similar perhaps what one would feel who has been left at an orphanage.... "What is wrong with me?  Even my own do not want me." 

That keeps me quiet, hushed...  because, really, if I honestly told my home church and friends what went down during those weeks of recovery, their mouths would hang open in shock.

And I didn't want to tell them... they had worked so hard with us... they had prayed for days, they had given financially to make the debriefing trip a possibility, they had fasted and prayed through the night a few nights in a row - why steal their joy?  I wanted them to have what I did not get to have - a few days of absolute delight in the miracle God sent to resolve this in the way He did.

Sorting through this mess, there is the good.  I want to keep that, to put it in a place to remember, to cherish.  There is the bad - that is the crisis itself.  It is something that we can handle.  Then there is the ugly -  I don't honestly know how to deal with no more than the day it all happened.

Now, in a few days, I have to face all these people again.  They will all be smiling, hugging each other, having great fellowship.  I will paste my smile on in the morning with my lipstick, but my eyeshadow will not cover the pain in my eyes, and I will serve them.  But I have lost something...  I no longer trust.  I don't even know if I want to try again.

I should not admit to this since I am a missionary - but hey, I seem to do a lot of things that I should not do anyway :) - but I really struggle to see where God was during those times... why didn't He stop some of what happened - when His people attacked the wounded?  I am really struggling with trusting God since then.

I wanted to be defended, to be cared for.  No one did.

I'm this close to just wanting to go home and quit.  To walk away.  Not from the pain of working among difficult people - from the pain of working with difficult people!

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Things They Say - Misinformation

Number three is a tiny little guy.  He is always in motion, always talking, and rarely eats.  Today I made him finish his plate since we were going swimming, and he would need the energy.  He grumbled and grumbled about it.

Number Two tried to comfort him?  Possibly?  Or annoy him?  He held up his fist and told Number Three, "Remember, your stomach is only this big."

Number Three moaned his little annoying whine.  "How will I ever fit this in then?"

I snorted and said, "Yeah, so was my uterus, but it fit a baby this big in it.  you can eat your food!"  (I had a hysterectomy, so I actually got to see my uterus - quite an interesting looking thing.)

Well, that might not have been the smartest thing to say.  Number Three was immediately asking, "What is a uterus?"

I told him that it is just the place where babies grow.  "You mean they don't just live in your tummy?!"

"No, that would be awkward.  They grow in a special place that is designed to take care of them."

He was amazed.  "I thought they just swam around in your tummy eating the food you eat and then pooping what they don't want, and then when they get big and poop too much, it makes you sick so you throw up and the baby just comes out with the throw up."

Ok, besides the totally horrific thought of poop in my tummy and the impossibility of throwing up and "the baby just coming out", WHAT DOES THAT KID THINK??!!  At least he had thought about it and come up with potential answers to the main questions, but um, yeah... NO!

My daughter knew better.  She said, "I thought they were just in your tummy, too, but I know that they come out down there, I think..."  I told her she was correct on the exit strategy, but that babies do not live in tummies - that would be a mess every way that you look at it.

Then I said it is time to get your swimming things.  Nothing like swimming to take their minds off odd questions! :)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Treasures to be Kept

I've wondered at times what to share from my walk through the trauma... trying this time to do what never got done before - sort out what happen and pack it away in a manner that I can live with.  It sort of got jumbled like a picnic thrown in the car when the clouds overhead burst open - hurriedly, without care, a jumbled mess.  Left there, it did not grow any prettier.

Now I am sorting it all out, much like my games cupboard.  There are a lot of things in this mess - some useful and some which need to be ditched - but in among them are some treasures.  Right now, I am washing those off and setting them where I can see them.

One of the most precious, one of those which I hold most dear was a little flagged message on my facebook.  I will admit to being pretty puzzled when I saw the name.  Her?  I haven't really heard from her or talked to her in thirteen years.  We barely know each other anymore.  I only added her last year because her husband was killed in a traumatic event leaving her with four little kids the same ages as mine.  I wanted to send my condolences.

So when her name popped up on a message, I was puzzled.  I was not putting much on my facebook, just simple posts that did not mean much, "Waiting for news this morning, and there is none."  "Sitting here watching the lone snowflakes fall.  It's pretty cold."  People who knew the situation were getting the news; those who didn't might have thought I was down or bored.  Why was she writing?

I opened up her letter.  It was simple.  "Girl, you are freaking me out. What is going on?"  I messaged her back, "Send me your phone number."  It occurred to me that she might be just the person I needed to talk to late on that second evening.  It was difficult to talk with people - they kept saying, "I can't imagine how you are feeling."  or "Poor you."  Honestly, that was not helpful right then.  I needed to find strength - the knowledge of how to go on.  So I phoned her.  Brief greetings after 13 years, and I told her the situation.

"Oh, girl, I am so sorry!" came her voice on the other end.  Tears filled my eyes and I drew a deep breath and blew it out.  We talked for a few more minutes... and then I remembered... I had totally forgotten to give her my sympathy about her husband's death... how could I be so selfish and uncaring?!

I stopped in the middle of what we were saying and exclaimed, 'Oh honey, I forgot to tell you how sorry I am that he was killed!  I'm so sorry!"

I heard a deep chuckle over the line, louder than my horrified exclamation, "Girl, I know you are sorry!  But right now is not about him, it is about what you need!"

We talked that night.  The very fact of her existence, of her voice sounding strong, filled with sympathy and humor,  gave me strength.  No matter what path I would be asked to walk, it was a path that was possible to walk and survive.  We talked about the kids, and she shared with me how to deal with kids in grief.  She reminded me, in the middle of all that was going on, to give them time to be kids, to laugh, to cuddle, to have joy - not to set the joy down in the middle of grief.  (That gave me the strength to go to church the next day and stand and sing like always and not give up.)

Then, as our conversation wound to an end, she said, "Girl, I know what else you need.  You need to laugh, too.  Here, let me help you...." and she proceeded to tell me a very embarrassing story about her daughter's first friend that was a boy coming over to "go over homework together", and she had just been out working in the yard, so she popped in for a quick shower before he arrived.  When she finished, she realized that there were no towels in the bathroom, but heard her daughter in the hall, so stepped out of the bathroom to ask her to grab her a towel... yup, and ran smack into this boy that was coming over!  She ended it saying, "Yup, I bet that scarred him for life!"

We sat on our kitchen floors half a world away and laughed until tears ran out of our eyes.  I told her about the attack of the cockroaches that had me run out of a guest house bathroom in my birthday suit hollering for my husband.  We howled and held our sides as we giggled.

I needed that.  She knew what I needed; and with her, I felt no guilt about laughing... no one would think I was dishonoring my husband or making light of the situation.  She knew that I also just needed to laugh - so I did not forget how.

When my husband was free, she was one of the first to rejoice with me - with complete joy.  Tears pooled again in my eyes as I watched her joy in me having what she does not have.

I wrote her later and told her that if I ever have to walk her road, I can only hope I will do it with as much grace and strength that she has.  She still is an inspiration to me.

And somewhere, buried in there with my admiration for this friend... is another lingering question.  How did this woman with whom I have not exchanged one word with since our first babies learned to crawl together know that I needed her that minute?  She doesn't even know me enough to know that something was really, really off.  And even if she thought something was strange, what prompted her to message me then?  We hadn't talked in 13 years!


When those who should have responded did not, God was not caught without people He could send in - even a young widow half a world away who I haven't talked to in thirteen years!

That is one of the jewels in the sorting out that I have dusted off and put in a place of remembrance - not only of God's abilities, but of the amazing compassion and great sense of humor of a good friend who reached out of her sorrow to be with me and then rejoiced with such unbridled joy in the miracle that returned my husband.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Gratitude for the Simplest Things

I think one of the things that stuck out to me in walking through what happened this spring is the detailed care I was given by some.  My mission, my home office, and people you'd think would care did not do so well, but I've learned that God is not limited by the failure of His people.  God still cared for me - just from some of the most interesting places.

We all wonder when someone has something bad happen, "What can I do?"  "How can I really show that I care?"

I found that those who helped me the most were some of the people who did the simplest things.  Those meant the most.

A friend walking in with a box full of kid type snacks.  She didn't stay long, but just put it on my counter, gave me a hug, and said, "These are so you don't have to think when your kids get home hungry and want a snack."

I hadn't even thought about hungry kids yet.  I didn't have to.  Someone else did.

A tap on my shoulder at church.  A mom whose kids go to the same school leaned over.  "Don't worry about lunches this week.  Just send your kids to school.  I'll send their lunches with my kids and my kids can bring back the containers and all.  Then you don't have to think about it."

I hadn't even thought that far ahead to kids needing school lunches the next day.  I didn't have to. Someone else did.

Then came a mom who stopped me and directly asked, "I am not busy today.  Is there anything you need help with at the house?"  I stopped, thought, and asked, "Would you mind cleaning my house?"  I was leaving and my mom was flying in and the place was trashed.  She did.

It was the little things - things that I didn't even think about.  Things that were just offered, but their very offer meant that I did not have to think.  Those things meant the most to me.

That is care. 

Next time you wonder what to do when you see someone suffering, don't think about big gestures - think small.

It is the little things that show the most love.  It is those little things that cause my eyes to moisten with tears when I remember them.

Bedbug Theology

We were planning for some guests over here, and I grabbed an old notebook to take notes on who needs to be put where and what meals need done.  I flipped through the pages - it is a few years old, and there are some notes from some meetings we went to.

Then I found this.  I must have written it four years ago when I had run into bedbugs and was miserable.  I read it today and laughed.

Bedbug Theology

Bedbugs believe in community.  They eat in groups.  Scattered bites do not make as much of an impact as clusters of bites.

  Bedbugs believe in traveling teams.  They bite on the go in some areas leaving a clear line of bites behind them on the trail.

Bedbugs believe in seizing the moment.  They do not wait until they are in a strategic location.  They begin to bite wherever they first contact and bite as if that moment may be their last opportunity.

Bedbugs believe in active pursuit of opportunities.  They do not wait to be invited.  They take the initiative against opposition.  Some people may never be bitten at all if they waited for an invitation.

Bedbugs believe in working undercover.  They do not make their presence obvious.  They effectively hide in a ready location.  They are even careful to inject and analgesic so that the bitten do not know they are being bitten until it is too late.

Bedbugs are not discouraged by their small size.  They believe in small things having great impact.  Despite their small size, they ensure that their bites will be long-lasting and make their presence known long after they themselves may be kicked out.

Monday, January 3, 2011


No - not going back home! :)

I think, tomorrow, we are going to be well enough to attempt re-entry.  The only one still questionable is my husband - he still looks bad.

The rest of us still have a nasty sounding cough, but I think that is just our lungs clearing up what is left in there.  Fevers are gone.  People are eating again.  No one has thrown up today.  I think we can manage it.

This was a rough flu this year!  One coworker's daughter caught it, and she spread it to the whole team at our early Christmas party.  The whole crew has been down through the holidays.

We laughed about missing so much - maybe we'll just celebrate New Years at the end of January all over again!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Coloring Inside the Lines

I even loved the smell of them - a fresh coloring book and a pack of new crayons.  Not a dent in the tips, not a mark on the page.  Rougher than normal paper.  Kitty cats or princesses outlined in dark black lines.


Do you remember those thick black lines?  The ones that made it easy to color?  When your crayon hit the edge, those black lines helped keep it contained.  Coloring inside the lines.  You could do the same thing yourself if you drew a picture in black crayon, carefully outlining it before you colored it in.

What used to frighten you most as a child?  I had a list: dogs, spiders, toilets flushing, scorpions, gunshots in the night, fire....

But what frightened me the most was the unknown.  As bad as a dog or a spider was, they were a known enemy.

What about a noise in the night?  A nightmare that woke you up but you can't quite remember?  A scratch on the window? It is those unknowns that bring the most fear.  Whatever that noise is, it would be better if you just knew!

Ever tried hiding under the covers?  Maybe in the closet?  Closing your eyes and putting your hands over your ears?  Did that still the pounding of your heart?

Trauma is like fear, I've discovered.  I've tried hiding from it.  I've tried pretending it isn't there.  I've blocked out the sound of it and closed my eyes.

But it lurked like a bogeyman in the dark, filling my imagination, making my heart pound at the slightest memory.

The unknown.

Trauma, much like a bogeyman, is more threatening in the dark, in the unknown.  Do remember how that monster in the corner shrunk down to size (and was likely just your backpack on a pile of toys) once you turned on the light?


Much like that coloring book.  Clearly defined lines outlining the picture.

When I close my eyes and try to hide from trauma, it grows.  The unknown aspects of it frighten me.  The events pile up and grow in my thoughts.

It's scary.

As frightening as it all is, if I can turn on the light, it begins to shrink.  I've learned that being able to talk about traumatic events is much like outlining them in black crayon.  It doesn't change their size, but it contains them.  This, here, is what it is.  It is no bigger than this.  As awful as it is, it is here - contained.

It takes listening.  Good listening.  The permission to speak what is on your mind without condemnation or judgment.  Listening that is not even attempting to get you to see another side.  Just to hear what you heard or saw.

That takes time.  Time and patience.

Few have it.  Maybe more have it than we think, but we don't ask.  Maybe we aren't able to ask.  Not knowing exactly what we need.  Maybe not thinking we are really worth someone taking that time.  Maybe it is too late.  Maybe we want someone to take initiative, to show that they care.  It is hard to open our hearts to someone who doesn't care.  Maybe people are simply too busy to notice.

But having someone listen is like outlining in black crayon.  And there is a certain satisfaction in bringing that line back around to the beginning.  Sitting back and saying, "That is it."  "That is what happened."

It is defined.  As bad as it was, it is defined.  No longer the bogeyman.  No longer unspoken.

It is defined.  Somehow when it is defined, it becomes outside of me.  No longer the unknown under the bed. 

Outlined in thick, black lines.  Manageable.

What can you do to help your friend through trauma?  Listen.

Not just the, "I'm here if you want to talk" type of listening.

Intentional.  "I want to hear the whole story."

Purposeful.  "Do you want to tell me now?"

Without correction or judgement.  Asking questions to clarify or asking for expanding on something is fine, but avoid attempting to change the feeling expressed.

Just listen.

Your job - to help outline the bogeyman.  We'll deal with him later, but first we need to turn on the lights and grab a new box of crayons.

To my new coloring partner - thank-you!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Flu that Hit Hard

It snuck in before Christmas and took out the two oldest of our boys, but they bounced back. 

Christmas evening was on its way out while it made its appearance again and hit the only two in this house who wear pink.  The men carefully cared for us, and we perked up... but on Sunday what had been mild went awful.

The second last night of the year, we spent in a hospital bed, side by side, squished into one bed since the  hospital was full, and well, I needed to be with her anyway.  In the ER late at night, my poor baby got a good view of exactly what drinking and fighting will do to a human body, but count it all up to a good learning experience.  We've been given inhalers, but even those do not seem to be loosening the vise grip on our chests.

On this, the last night of the old year and the first morning of the new, the flu has hit again, and my husband is struggling with his breathing.  One of the original sick boys is back to feeling bad.

I still breathe best when sitting up and even sitting up gets me out of breath.  We're tired.

Only my cheerful third son is completely healthy still.

But - Happy New Year!

I sit here and think, "It can't be as bad as last year!", but it could.  We are waiting today for news from two friends, and praying.  The situation is not looking good, and we wait with bated breath... well, with whatever breath we have.... and we pray.  Will you pray with us?

I am thankful that we go into this new year with God ever with us.  I am also thankful that He does not tell us ahead of time the path He is putting in front of us.  At times our hearts would fail us if we knew the way ahead.  What we do know is that His promises to be there with us, to walk through it with us, and to give us the strength in every situation (not beforehand!) to continue to follow Him are as sure today as they were last New Years, and as they have been since the world began.

So, into this New Year, let's go together, together with each other and with God whose promises are found faithful - in life and, yes, even in death.  Nothing can separate us from His love.