Category Archives: Grieving

The Power of Prayer

The second workshop I’ll report on was Hearing the Voice of the Lordtaught by Charlotte Varble, from the Whole Person Preparedness Conference recently in Utah. FYI, I hear it will be in Idaho in May – here’s the LINK. The content was quite simple but the results for me were profound.

She taught two activities to bring us closer to God:

Write a letter to God and His imagined response back to you. Pour out your feelings to the Lord, your thoughts and your prayers. Write them down in letter format and sign it. Then write a letter back to yourself with what you think God would answer. Remember His perspective is different than ours:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways,
and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Keep a Prayer Journal for 30 Days. This involves three steps:

  1. Write down your prayer requests each morning. I pray first and then write them down, as I’m often inspired what to ask during my prayers. Plus it makes the actual prayer more important than the writing and my own thoughts.
  2. Watch for impressions, answers, guidance, and comfort throughout the day. There are a number of ways we receive these:
    * Direct Promptings of the Holy Spirit – a strong, recurring feeling or idea.
    * “Strokes of Intelligence” – ideas that come swiftly and powerfully, bringing clarity.
    * A “burning in the bosom” – goosebumps, a literal fiery feeling of enthusiasm.
    But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me
    if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your 
    bosom shall burn within you;
    therefore, you shall 
    feel that it is right. 
    (LDS Doctrine & Covenants (9:8)
    * A “stupor of thought” is a No answer:
    But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; . . . (Doctrine & Covenants 9:9)
    Dreams or waking visions – those compelling dreams may be answers.
    * Peace that brings comfort even when other answers and solutions may not appear.
  3. Write down your answers and spiritual experiences each night, returning and reporting to the Lord. Keep either a handwritten notebook or use a computer, as I do. Just the act of writing makes me reflect more deeply.

In less than two weeks, I’ve had some powerful experiences:

  1. By focusing my spiritual attention on just this current day, I pulled back from an excessive focus on the future and on more nebulous ideas. I actually felt like I was shrinking within.
  2. On about the third day, I started feeling sad for a couple of hours, late afternoon. I think my focus on the future and more general topics was a shield protecting me from experiencing grief about how my adult life has unfolded and the effect it’s had on the people I love most. Each day this period intensified and lengthened into the evening. It culminated after about five days with a spell of anger towards God. How could He let all this happen? Am I so much less worthy and lovable than all the happy, successful people around me? After I “flushed my emotional toilet,” I felt better and I apologized to Him the next morning for my lack of faith. I felt no condemnation, only calm acceptance and love.
  3. Then I had an epiphany about the next three months of my life – how to reorganize, streamline, and then be ready for whatever might come this summer. I’ve rented a much larger storage unit and can fill it systematically as I sort and purge.

Wow – all this in less than two weeks – what a payday! I invite you all to try these ideas, although your answers and experiences will necessarily be different from mine, possibly very different. But it will unleash God’s love and power in your life, if you just let it flow.

From The Virgin of the Rocks, Leonardo da Vinci The National Gallery, London, public domain image

From The Virgin of the Rocks, Leonardo da Vinci
The National Gallery, London, public domain image

The Prayer of Relinquishment

Yesterday I heard an interesting story/allegory in church:

A woman dreamed for many years of going to Italy. She studied guide books, learned some Italian phrases, even ate authentic Italian food. Finally the day came when she actually went, nervous and excited at the same time. When the plane landed, she was greeted by the words, “Welcome to Holland.” Stunned, she asked the stewardess what happened and was told, “Your destination has changed. You are in Holland.” No explanation and clearly no way to change course.

Over time, the woman discovered many great things about Holland: windmills, canals, tulips and, of course, wonderful art by Rembrandt. Periodically, she met people either going to or returning from Italy with exciting stories of their time there, which brought back her long-denied dream with sharp pain. Somehow she knew she would eventually get there too, but she just had no idea how or when.

Don’t we all have hopes and dreams that have been derailed along the unexpected roads life brings us? What do we do with those dreams? Let them shrivel up into dry piles of hopelessness? Keep them alive, but do nothing to help them come true? Or worse, turn bitter and destructive to self and others?

I’ve had a life-long dream of establishing a home with a loving, committed husband on a solid financial footing – a safe nest for my children and grandchildren and a springboard for lasting happiness. I’ve worked to become the kind of partner I want to find. I’ve been steadily employed as a secretary, teacher, and finally realtor my whole adult life, but those two blessings have eluded me. My family are all doing well, but I still sorrow for what we’ve missed, even as I rejoice in what we’ve had.

Over the years, I’ve asked the Lord politely for these blessings. I’ve cried my sorrows out to Him, I’ve pleaded, I’ve tried to bargain, I’ve gotten mad, and none of it has produced anything but the continued whisperings of the Spirit to keep moving forward and keep hope alive. I’ve had many spiritual assurances that those blessings are still coming to me, just not when.

This week I read a story by Catherine Marshall in the January issue of Guideposts magazine, originally published in 1960. She was married to the famous Presbyterian minister, Peter Marshall, and had a small son when she was diagnosed with a non-communicable form of tuberculosis. She remained bedridden for many months, rest being the only cure. She went through the same sequence of spiritual gymnastics I have, seeking healing and a return to normal life. Nothing worked. Finally, she read a story about “a missionary who had been an invalid for eight years. She had prayed that God would make her well, so that she might do his work. Finally, worn out with futile petition, she prayed, All right. I give up. If you want me to be an invalid, that’s your business. Anyway, I want you even more than I want health. You decide. In two weeks the woman was out of bed, completely well.” Catherine tried the same thing, the Prayer of Relinquishment, sincerely. From that day her recovery began.

I decided to try it too. So with trepidation, I told the Lord that if He wanted me to continue to bump along with my small emergency fund and no husband, I’d accept it and do my best to serve Him with what I did have. It wasn’t easy giving up the last crumb of my will, but I looked inside and not only did I want God more than my own desires, I finally could trust that what He wanted really would turn out to be best for me and my family in the long run, not just those I might serve.

Well, I’ve had a great week putting together a class presentation, Healthy Food vs Test Tube Food, totally focused, not worried about the future, and feeling more peace than I can remember. Oh, and a neighbor stopped by to discuss listing her town home for sale. I knew I could help her have a good result, building on our long-standing rapport over feeding the birds and our mutual love of gardening. Not wealth, but a nice addition to my emergency fund in the offing, while also doing some good.

Someone once told me that the choirs of angels in heaven singing praises to God are actually expressing their boundless gratitude for the trials they experienced in mortal life, the same trials that refined them and brought them back to God’s presence. True or not, I can now imagine it.

Then I saw the move, The Saratov Approach, a true story of two Mormon missionaries kidnapped in Russia and how they responded when faced with a life-or-death challenge to their faith in God. It’s available on Netflix and elsewhere. Well worth viewing: TRAILER.

The Saratov Approach Courtesy

The Saratov Approach, Courtesy

The Prayer of Relinquishment doesn’t always give us the result we seek. Some people do stay invalids, stay single, live perpetually on tight budgets, or even die violent deaths after they give their will over to God. But even when it does bring our desired blessing, we don’t know why it worked. Either way, it always, always brings peace. And we do know that someday, somehow, He will make up all our losses one hundred-fold:

And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more. (LDS Doctrine & Covenants 78:19; see also Job 42:12)

I believe the “all things” part includes the unwelcome ones: adversities, losses, griefs, frights. I’m a whiner and a coward, so I have a lot of work to do here. But I was richly repaid for my small sacrifice this week and that adds to my hope.


Coming Into Port

A further insight on my last post:  By letting my emotions flow freely, even through intense pain, they kept on flowing completely out of me, as long as I avoided the shoals of self-pity. The pain was gone more surely than any amount of stuffing it back into my subconscious could achieve. It felt like gliding into port and stepping on solid ground again.

Then I was prompted to reread Elizabeth Gilbert‘s famous book, Eat, Pray, Love. I just finished it this morning (actually in the middle of the night when I do a lot of my reading) and I was struck by several thoughts. First, I’m not nearly the emotional basket case she is, or at least I don’t live “as large” as she does.

Second, I was reminded of the vast array of spiritual practices in the world and how they bring multitudes to the throne of grace. I had explored many of them, back in my hippie days searching for God: Practicing stillness, auto suggestion, chanting. I remember hearing of an ancient Native American practice of sending depressed people to walk along the banks of a moving river until their own emotions came unstuck and could flow into healing pathways. I had walked along the banks of the Iowa River one summer wrestling with the growing conviction that I couldn’t stay in Iowa to raise my two children under the protective wing of my family; I would have to go to Utah and face those challenges alone where my higher spiritual path beckoned. The process worked, I tuned into the quiet flow of the natural world and God spoke to me through it.

Sometime later, I came across a religious cartoon, showing two movie theater marquees across the street from each other. The billing on one read ABOUT GOD with a long line of people stretching around the block, while the other read GOD with only a few patrons straggling in! I think many of us are afraid of actually experiencing God so we substitute listening to other mortals’ ideas of God, a lesser experience. But all true religion begins and ends with an actual connection with the divine. I propose that comes in many ways, not all of them filled with spiritual sunbeams and lollipops.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s book is an account of her journey out of a once vital marriage, through an ugly complicated divorce, devastating to her self-esteem and life path. She goes on a year-long quest to find answers and peace – first pleasure (eating in Italy), then purity (meditation and yoga in India), and finally a balance of the two in Indonesia where she actually finds it, along with real love.

At the end of the book she returns with her new-found mate to an island where she had retreated two years before just as she hit her lowest point. The first time, she spent 10 days in solitude and silence flushing out all “her sorrows and her shames,” letting them flow through and out of her. So this island acted like bookends punctuating the beginning and end of her odyssey. An inspiring read, even if it’s a little edgier than my comfort level. She ended up making a patchwork life now married to the lovely Brazilian man she found in Bali, where their lives take them all over the world, separately and together. Most importantly, it’s a much higher level of creative achievement and personal happiness for them both.

A third similarity: She was wrenched away from the comfort of her first marriage by her own insistent creative growth. A life force much bigger than her tossed her about until she came out the other side, all rearranged and new. And I’ve been a vagabond in my own life, never completely fitting into any one “port” – Midwestern schoolgirl, New England hippie, nor Utah Mormon – but with a bone-deep connection to all of them. Trying to synthesize these into something coherent has been more than tough. Under my own power, it’s been impossible. But the Lord has led me on an amazing creative and spiritual journey into a higher level of me-ness, not in a selfish way but in a growth way. Just as I described in one of my earliest posts, The Gems Within (ironically sparked by a television interview with Elizabeth Gilbert), the life force has pushed to live even more intensely through me, as it will in all of us, if we let it.

This morning a memory flashed through my mind: of me at age 17 or 18 standing on the footbridge by the University of Iowa Student Union at night watching a couple of otters cavorting on the bank of the Iowa River, silently and powerfully gliding beneath them. Their fur glistened in the darkness as they darted in and out of the water, their long, sleek bodies moving like quicksilver. I realized that if I would deepen my trust in the life force that wants to live through me, I could eventually be like them, moving in total harmony with the universe, in utter joy and abandon – but also doing good and being good.

That’s a homecoming I’ll gladly welcome, even after a terrifying storm. I hope you can also trust your “sorrows and shames” to the Master of us all to guide you into port.

Boat Safe on Shore Courtesy

Boat Safe on Shore

The Heart of Darkness

We’ve all heard of “the ugly cry,” right?  When some deeply repressed pain finally floats up, it usually takes us by complete surprise, and we blubber, bawl and wail!

I remember an obscure movie, The Pumpkin Eater, in which Ann Bancroft plays a 1950’s style housewife, self-sacrificing and taken for granted in the extreme by her husband and children. All looks good on the surface until one day she melts down in a department store, sinking to the floor in uncontrollable sobbing. While I think we’re usually much better now at recognizing our feelings, these moments come at one time or another.

I was horrified when my marriage of six years fell apart, mostly at the six years spent building a relationship and lifestyle that came to an abrupt and irrevocable end. I vowed not to take such a big life detour again, especially since it affected two adorable children even more than myself. While I’ve always wanted to remarry, psychological patterns from my childhood stood in the way of creating a healthy relationship, one with less chance of sudden implosion. All these years, the Lord has promised me the blessing of an eternal companion, so I’ve trudged my way through personal transformation while raising my darlings and navigating the work world. It was a slow process, requiring “sucking up” my feelings most of the time, but while I am getting closer, a lot of years have passed!

This last month I hit the wall, the dam broke, and I decided to just let those repressed, raw feelings flow and see where they took me. My two rules: I couldn’t sink into self-pity and I couldn’t take out my frustration on others.

As I wondered why I seemed to be stuck in spiritual and relationship limbo, I thought of a woman I worked with long ago. She was single and nearing age 40, but bitter and angry at life. In spite of our shared Christian beliefs, I failed to lift her faith. Sitting on the bus in downtown Salt Lake after work one December night, I saw her staring wistfully at a store window displaying a child’s doll house. I knew she was imagining the daughter she didn’t have playing with it, and I felt so bad for her. She’s never married and I’ve wondered why not. After all, she was worthy in every way to receive God’s blessing.

Years later, I found a possible answer in the LDS Bible Dictionary under Prayer:

As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are His children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part (Matt. 7:7–11). Many of the so-called difficulties about prayer arise from forgetting this relationship. Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them. Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings. [emphasis added]

I realized that I could be too self-sacrificing and fail to more actively ask for my promised blessings. I saw that part of what held me back was an unwillingness to fully feel my own pain. Stuffing it isn’t faith, and it certainly isn’t courage. Perhaps it was better to face it, feel it, and then actively pray for greater inspiration and blessings.

No great revelation or change has yet appeared, but as I stay open and sometimes on the edge of tears, I also feel an unexplained increase in hope. There is a light glimmering in my dark place, I feel I’m on the right track, and how appropriate for the season in which we celebrate the light Christ brings to the world.

I hope that light richly blesses each of you this Christmastime!

A Candle in the Darkness Courtesy

A Candle in the Darkness

The Cycle of Life and Death

Recently I visited with a friend at church who’s going through the “empty-nest syndrome” since her two oldest children went off to college this fall. Her pain was palpable. I tried to console her with prospects of her girls’ future achievements out in the world and grandchildren to come, but I came away feeling that I hadn’t been very successful.

Sitting in my living room last night looking at the twilight landscape, I saw nothing left but dead leaves hanging dejectedly from the “wall of green” shrubbery that I’d enjoyed all summer. I grieved for that lush, living companion that’s now deader “than a door nail”! (Anyone know where that saying came from?) I remembered how much I miss my own children when they were little, making up original songs and building elaborate structures from Lego’s. I miss my grandkids saying cute three-year-old things now that they’re teenagers. I miss Iowa. I miss New Hampshire. I miss my relatives who’ve gone to their eternal reward.

Death and loss seem to be ever present. This time of year, it can seem pretty bleak – cold rain, gray days, waning energy as winter comes to claim her own. In a book I love, Father Fox’s Penny Rhymes, the mother fox stands gazing out at the relentless rain while her many children whine and cry around her. She moans:

The rain falls down
The wind blows up:
I’ve spent all the pennies
In my old tin cup.

Father Fox's Pennyrhymes  By Clyde Watson Courtesy

Father Fox’s Pennyrhymes
By Clyde Watson

I know just how she felt. Don’t we all have those hopeless moments? I decided my friend just needed her feelings acknowledged and understood. They’ll evolve in their own time, just as mine always do.

As I sat and reflected, suddenly the moon rose behind those stark branches, full and luminous – promising a new perspective and new life. I know my friend will find her own comfort, and I do enjoy each stage of life with my children and grandchildren. I wouldn’t really want them to stand still.

This full moon is a magical reminder that life is not all loss, that new horizons and new birth are around the corner for all of us.

Fall Moon by the Author

Fall Moon by the Author

Dealing With Loss

Yesterday I expect we all revisited the horror and sadness of of September 11, 2001. I was teaching in a suburban high school at the time. During first period, my students and I watched in disbelief as the second plane hit the World Trade Center. It was a day of shock, tears, and sober reflection. Where were you that day? I expect you remember it as vividly as I do.

It’s a short step to remembering other losses: my grandparents, aunts and uncles, and finally my own parents. There were other, less obvious losses: leaving my hometown, moving away from my beloved New England, seeing my children grow up and fly the coop. I miss teaching and the energy of adolescence, designing some of my best lessons while walking to the front of the classroom! I am certainly mourning some aspects of my lost youth with its fullness of health and vitality.

How have I dealt with each loss? Sometimes less well. For a long time, I just tried to stuff my grief after moving from New Hampshire to Utah. That simply didn’t work, caused a mild depression, and stopped me from discovering the very real opportunities for happiness and fun all around me, until I realized what I was doing, and stopped living in the past.

A friend once told me about two people in a family who’d lost someone close to them. One avoided grieving and had emotional and physical health problems for a long time, as a result. The other, while almost hysterical in her grief, worked through it much more quickly, emerging on the other side with a balanced focus on good memories.

So I’ve learned to feel my feelings and work through them, no matter how ugly, and I agree it’s a better way. When my elderly mother was dying of cancer in 2004, she was given no hope of recovery, but we had the gift of being able to say goodbye over six months. I took every opportunity to spend time with her.  One long August weekend, I was the only visitor. We watched old movies, reminisced, and addressed a difficult dynamic between us. She gave me my grandmother’s china and boxes of books from her shelves. I cried pretty hard on the drive home, but when the funeral came in early January, I could fully celebrate her life and achievements with our large family, a true memorial.

Finally, I have the perspective of eternity grounded in my Christian faith. I recently participated in sealing some ancestors in eternal marriage and children to their parents in the Boise LDS Temple (their choice to accept or not). It’s like a window above my head opened, and I could see the grand vistas of blessing and opportunity that await all of us in the next life. We have the firm hope of reunion with those who’ve gone before us and the promises that we can keep progressing indefinitely. I take a great deal of comfort in that, as well great anticipation.

What will it be like hearing meeting with my Great Aunt Ella who married Judge Henry Shute? She lived in Davenport, Iowa, and he was from Exeter, New Hampshire, a widower with two children. I can’t wait to hear how they met and what their life there was like. He was a judge in the local police court for many years, finally turning to writing fiction about the many boys who came before him. The best known is The Real Diary of a Real Boy (available for free on Kindle). He had many short stories published in magazines like the Saturday Evening Post and was called the Mark Twain of Exeter.

We all have amazing stories behind us and those unfolding before us. That is my focus and ultimate comfort. I hope it is yours as well.

Polstead Church, Suffolk, England  Courtesy Image 362353

Polstead Church, Suffolk, England
Courtesy Image 362353



The Blessings of Healing and Forgiveness

Today was the first really cool morning in several weeks. As I came home from my morning walk, I decided it was the perfect time to trim my three day lily plants – all the flower stalks were dead and the ends of the leaves were brown. I snipped the dead stalks with my rose cutters and trimmed the leaves quite drastically with my kitchen scissors. It was tedious work but it looked and felt great when I was done.

I find that tending my soul is a lot like tending a garden. This week, I’m coming to the end of processing a difficult social situation in which I was unfairly judged, then talked about, and finally the butt of some nonverbal rejection – all without my knowing what prompted it – hurtful in the extreme! I went through a series of reactions:

  1. Lord, was it me?  No. But it took a couple of weeks for me to believe it even though God took away my initial pain very quickly.
  2. Lord, how did this happen? I heard a voice in my head of the person and their original words that lit the flame of gossip.
  3. The Lord prompted me to share my experience discreetly with a few of my friends, without naming names. They had neither heard nor participated in the loose talk, and their support was quite healing.
  4. I felt a surge of confidence, and began looking people squarely in the eye.
  5. I met with our group’s leader. We came to a mutual understanding and a changed role for me.
  6. Then, for about a week, I felt righteous indignation and mentally said the words, You trashed my good name – I want it back! It felt very cleansing to acknowledge what happened and it’s effect on me, even if only privately.
  7. Monday, all of a sudden, it didn’t feel good to be indignant. I felt myself cross a line into bitterness and petty accusation, so I decided to create a more forgiving frame of mind. I doubt those involved realized the extent of what they did.
  8. Now I’m planning to initiate a visit with the two people who I know began this and deliver a calm “I Message” of how much this hurt me and our whole group. I’ll urge them to repent and get right with the Lord, then assure them of my well wishes. I’ll practice the wording and feelings of charity so I can speak with the right spirit.

It was painful weeding out my budding feelings of resentment and growing animosity but the peace that followed was worth it. Then I remembered The Nine Steps of Forgiveness and Healing From Abuse from my files:

  1. Accept reality, come out of denial, acknowledge and condemn sin [but not the sinner]. BLESSING: A fullness of joy
  2. Protect yourself from further harm. [You have a stewardship to care for yourself.] BLESSING: Justice and safety
  3. Pray for your offender, with specifics.
    BLESSING: Your heart is softened.
  4. Honest grief over loss and pain.
    BLESSING: Freedom to receive real healing [not just stuffed feelings]
  5. Resist bitterness and animosity.
    BLESSING: Humility
  6. Be accountable for your own reaction to abuse.
    BLESSING: Control and personal power
  7. Receive the Atonement of Christ, face our own weakness and give it to Him.
    BLESSING: Your burden is lifted.
  8. Let go of anger, pain, blame and shame/guilt.
    BLESSING: Restoration of personal dignity
  9. Offer compassion and understanding [this is not approval of abuse].
    BLESSING: Empowerment, fullness of joy (full circle back to Step 1)

My process didn’t follow this sequence in order, but I’ve covered the bases and am working on the final steps. This week, I looked Step 7 squarely in the eye and didn’t like how I was feeling. It wasn’t worthy of a Christian, so I told my ego to “take a hike”! I’m preparing to tackle Step 9 and am asking the Lord to give me the words, the compassion, and the confidence to undertake this in the proper spirit.

I think forgiveness is one of the hardest challenges we face, but it’s also one of the most liberating. It sets us free from the past, and it also sets those who hurt us free – to change or not. Then it’s between them and their maker, not between them and us!

If you’re feeling burdened by the past, please let the Master Healer help release you.

Peace at the Heart of the Rose Courtesy

Peace at the Heart of the Rose
Courtesy Image 270729

The Field Lies Fallow

I’ve been struggling to put my thoughts on paper this week and they hadn’t come together by yesterday when I decided – duh! – to finally pray about it.  Immediately the title “The Field Lies Fallow” sprang to mind. Perhaps there was a reason I suddenly felt blah, creatively.

Looking to the past, I realized that I was completing a personal “40 years in the wilderness” this month.  In May of 1974, I decisively put my foot on the path of a Christian, having received my first answer to prayer and making a real change in lifestyle. Those 40 years were spent reconciling my three identities:  Iowa school girl, New England hippie, and Utah Mormon. It’s been a long trek, punctuated with many blessings, certainly, but also almost constant adversity. Just as the ancient Israelites had to leave Egypt and wander 40 years in the desert of Sinai, to lose its worldly ways, I had to learn to live by Christian principles through the things I experienced.

Looking to the future, I sense new directions on the horizon. I’ve just completed a massive reorganization of my home. I doubled, maybe tripled my energy level by using St. John’s Wort for seasonal fatigue and probiotics for improved digestion. I was excited to expand my writing online, find new real estate clients, and return to family history research.

Coincidentally, my Sunday School lesson last week was about Joshua as Moses’ successor and how he prepared the 12 tribes of Israel for the new challenge of entering, then conquering the Promised Land of Canaan. If they would study and ponder the ancient scriptures, rededicate themselves spiritually, then exercise faith and courage, the Lord promised Joshua and all Israel:

“As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.(Joshua 1:5)

His first challenge soon appeared. Joshua and the Priesthood of Israel had to hold back the waters of the Jordan River for the Israelites to cross over on dry ground, then they conquered Jericho, not through human strength but by obeying instructions from the Lord that must have seemed crazy (walk around the city blowing a trumpet for six days, then seven times on the seventh day, finally giving a loud shout), from Joshua 6.  The Israelites had prepared inwardly and then triumphed outwardly as the walls of Jericho all fell down at their shout.

What are the odds that I would be assigned this particular lesson that so closely mirrored my own path? I felt deeply touched and reassured I would have God’s support in whatever lay ahead. How often are we all faced with a new chapter or challenge in our lives, must “gird up our loins” with greater faith, and step into darkness with courage? I think that Joshua’s promise holds true for all people who sincerely seek after what’s good and true.

Finally, I remembered a lovely book, The Faithful Gardener by Clarissa Pinkola Estés. (See my review under Books.) Her opening quote says:

New seed is faithful. It roots deepest in the places that are most empty.

I realized that I wasn’t giving myself time to become empty or “lie fallow” so I could mediate, rededicate, and renew myself. I will slow down in the coming weeks and let the future creep up on me the way plants come back after a forest fire or grass emerges each spring.

Whether your journey changes course through a happy change or through fiery adversity, good can always arise from those ashes.  Ms. Estés concludes with A Prayer:

Refuse to fall down.
If you cannot refuse to fall down,
refuse to stay down.
If you cannot refuse to stay down,
lift your heart towards heaven,
and like a hungry beggar,
ask that it be filled,
And it will be filled.
You may be pushed down.
You may be kept from rising.
But no one can keep you
from lifting your heart
toward heaven –
only you.
It is in the middle of misery
that so much becomes clear.
The one who says nothing good
came of this,
is not yet listening.

Fallow Field Courtesy Image 140589

The Field Lies Fallow
Courtesy Image 140589

Speaking My Truth in Love

I recently had the opportunity to revisit old emotional patterns by reconnecting with someone from my past. Good memories surfaced along with anxiety about being misunderstood. I was also worried that I would revert to my childhood ways, fearfully holding back my inner self until, in frustration, I would express myself either harshly or in tears.

During my years in education, I learned that losing emotional control causes a loss of personal power. The person who stays calm and rational can prevent an ugly argument and open pathways of understanding. As I applied this in my own life, I made steady progress in self-control. It was disheartening now to see myself go backward.

Needing a break from my worries and normal Saturday morning chores, I found a wonderful documentary on PBS, E Haku Inoa – To Weave a Name, about a daughter reconnecting with her Hawaiian mother, separated from childhood. It was a rocky road for both, with healing and forgiveness only coming from honest sharing over an extended period of time. The daughter finally learned the meaning of her Hawaiian name and reconnected with her lost heritage in the process.

It was poetic and the island rhythms gently unlocked my own feelings. Without warning, they overflowed into cleansing tears. My anxiety washed away and confidence returned. I was stunned at the “tender mercies of the Lord” in bringing these lovely people into my living room just at the moment I needed them.

 Hawaiian Beach Courtesy

Hawaiian Beach

I remembered the following scripture:

That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together . . .  maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:14-16)

That’s what I think we all want, being “fitly joined together” in understanding and harmony, edified about each other in love. I also believe we each occupy a sacred space in the universe, and we must define and protect it. Speaking truthfully, but lovingly, is how we do that. Besides, holding that truth inside without expression creates a gulf between people and condemns us to loneliness and isolation. We can’t really connect without revealing who we are.

It’s scary to open up the tender places within and put them out there for others to affirm, ignore, or reject, because we often don’t know which it will be. But I believe that the increased closeness that comes is ample reward for exercising just a little courage and tact. It’s worked for me in the past, and I’m hopeful it will continue to do so now.

Perhaps you should try not suffering in silence but with inspiration and gentleness, “speak your own truth in love.”