Well hello there blogging world…I am indeed alive. 🙂 I haven’t been writing as much recently for a variety of reasons and realized that I should at least check in.
In the past my blogging breaks have come when I am navigating a particularly rough emotional season. That is not the case here and I have appreciated the off line messages from friends making sure everything is good. And honestly it really is. Sometimes surprisingly so. I’m just exhausted. I have been trying to go back to work more full time and my energy at the end of the day is gone…especially when it comes to writing.
I had a surprising feeling last Monday morning.
Something I honestly haven’t felt in a while.
I woke up…HAPPY.
It caught me off guard and you know there has to be some divine influence for that to happen on a Monday Morning getting ready for work. 🙂 It was surreal, I paused for a moment, said a prayer of thanksgiving and thought…I didn’t believe this could happen…I’m HEALING. My circumstances haven’t changed and there are still many things I would like to be different but apparently that doesn’t matter.
This moment encouraged me that things truly wont always be so hard. That things are moving. That my heart is healing and God is transforming the pain into something life giving. I have spent many hours and journal pages writing about healing…physical healing…emotional healing…spiritual healing. It is an amazing process. I will write more on the blog when I get back to my storm survival posts. But even with all my writing/processing the idea of healing is still a great mystery to me and one that I have had to absolutely trust God with. I can’t even count the number of times I wrote this in my various journals over the last 2 years:
Jesus, I know you see the pain in my heart…it hurts. I know that I can’t heal it on my own. I need you. I trust you alone to heal me. I trust you to work all this out for my good and your glory.
I have trusted this in my core for the last 2 years and I will admit that sometimes it is extremely difficult to keep trusting…day after never ending day when it feels like nothing is happening. There were seasons when life seemed to be getting worse rather than better. Things aren’t working out on my timeline. But I keep (attempting to) wake up trusting and I have learned that God’s healing is never superficial. The moments when things felt like they were getting worse he was cutting cancer out of my life and scrubbing old wounds with antiseptic. I still have no idea how my life will work out practically but I am able to live with more freedom and love than I ever have in the past. And I wouldn’t give that back for anything.
Two steps forward. One step back. Spin to the left. Spin to the right. Hop step…Two steps forward. One step back…
Just following the melody of the music. Just dancing to the unforced rhythm of grace.
This blog has been a bit quiet recently partly because it’s summer (finally) and partly because I have been navigating another wave of sadness as birthdays, summer holidays and anniversaries pass. I can’t control it. I never know when it will hit. I’m learning not to judge it. I’m trying to just roll with it. It is not easy.
I am a linear thinker. I like to have a goal, develop a plan and then execute. This healing journey has been anything BUT linear. I feel like I have a goal but the path forward seems more like an obscure maze than a straightforward plan.
What can I do? Try not to fight so hard and just let it pass. Learn to trust more deeply that God knows what I need and WILL be faithful to provide. But it is hard and there are times when I feel like I am learning the same lesson over and over. Some days I feel like I can see progress…others I feel like I am going backward. I don’t like going backward. I’m attempting to see those moments as not actually going “backward” but taking one more step in this dance of healing. Someday I will reach my goal. Someday I will be able to look back on the big picture…on the beautiful dance God choreographed. But for now it’s just:
Two steps forward. One step back. Spin to the left. Spin to the right. Hop step….
I’ve decided that the next few “Storm Survival” posts will center around my experience with healing wounds…both physical and emotional. These difficult seasons often involve wounds. Wounds we have from the past, wounds we have given ourselves, wounds others have given us, wounds from circumstances. This past year I have been on the receiving end of some pretty deep blows which brought me to a very raw place. The type of rawness/hurt that made me want to take my heart, tuck it away in a locked box and throw away the key. It will be safe there. But healing doesn’t happen in the box. Healing happens when we allow the “healing process” that I wrote about on Monday. Which means keeping our hearts exposed and accessible…this can be vulnerable…scary and down right hard. I think the fear of the pain and uncertainty involved is what can keep people from engaging the process and true healing. It is easier/safer to choose the box and protect our hearts from further hurts.
If you follow this blog you will know about my recent physical wound which is teaching me so much about healing. After the accident I knew I would need stitches and my colleague took me to a local general doctor or “Huisarts”. From my experience they don’t actually DO much except act as a gate keeper for the rest of the medical system. Typically, I show up for a 10 minute appointment…they ask me some questions to determine the nature of the problem…and then if they decide it is severe enough they will refer me on to a specialist. I was fully expecting to have the cut evaluated and then be sent to a hospital to have the stitches put in.
WELL after the doctor evaluated the wound, and gave me the “You’re very lucky” speech, he reached for his suture kit to clean it and put the stitches in.
WAIT! Hold up…YOU are going to do this? Now?! My brain was racing. I wasn’t quite mentally prepared and nowhere in his kit did I see any anesthetic. YOU are going to put stitches in WITHOUT giving me any pain medicine?! Ummmm. I have had stitches before and they numbed the area so well that I couldn’t feel it for another 6 hours. Now, NOTHING!! Crap, this is going to hurt. This is going to hurt A LOT! Immediately, the fear of the pain gripped me. OK, deep breath…I don’t have much of a choice. Another deep breath and I closed my eyes…it should be over quickly.
And you know what? It wasn’t nearly as bad as I had built it up in my head. My imagination was so much worse and the FEAR of the unknown and “what could be” ran away with me. It wasn’t nice. And, yes, it hurt but I needed it for healing and apparently I didn’t need anything to numb the pain.
It made me think of all the things I can allow FEAR to build up in my head. And how often I think I NEED something I don’t. I am not saying that healing deep emotional wounds is the same as getting stitches. There are things that can and probably will really hurt…but for me the healing on the other side is worth it. And we don’t do it alone. I’m learning to trust more and more that God really is who He says He is. He wants nothing more than to heal our wounds. Honestly, it can sometimes be hard for me to know how to relate to an invisible God ESPECIALLY in a crisis. But He has been faithful over and over. Part of my healing this year has come from learning how to trust Him completely and learning that He really will keep me from going down. He really will! He loves me more than I can imagine and has spent the last year and a half showing me what that looks/feels like. It’s been incredible. And as difficult as this season has been I wouldn’t want to go back. I LIKE the person I am…and THAT is freedom.
It is tough to give REAL practical tips for this that don’t sound cliche but I’ll give it a shot:
- Don’t do this alone. Find friends or a community to surround you. If you have some deep pain/heart ache try working with a counselor. We’ve all got wounds and we can’t heal on our own. We need community.
- Pray A LOT. He will be faithful to answer just don’t be surprised if it is not how you expect
- Read the bible – learn the promises it has for you. My favorite this year:
Don’t Panic. I’m with you.
There’s no need for fear for I’m your God.
I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you.
I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.
The poor and homeless are desperate for water,
their tongues parched and no water to be found.
But I’M there to be found, I’M there for them,
and I, God of Israel, will not leave them thirsty.
Isaiah 41:10, 17 (The Message)
I have often heard “Time heals all wounds”. But does it really? Is it time or something more that heals wounds? I have become fascinated with how our body heals since cancer and especially since my accident in the lab 10 days ago. As this physical wound heals, I can see many parallels to the process of healing emotional wounds. But, no, time does not heal wounds. Allowing time for the “healing process” to take place is what heals wounds. These might look like the same thing on the outside but are very different in practice.
I am normally more of a physics girl and only tolerated the biological sciences when they were necessary for my degree. Recently, I have been more curious about what is happening “behind the scenes” in my body. Cancer was a wake up call that our physiology doesn’t always work the way it is supposed to and natural processes in our body can go haywire. Our bodies are extremely complex and the more I learn the more I am surprised that things don’t go wrong more often.
When we are physically wounded (wound: an injury to living tissue caused by a cut, blow or other impact – typically where the skin is broken) it kicks off a chain reaction of healing processes as our body’s defense systems turn on. I’m not going to go into it deeply but will give a brief description of each stage. If you are more interested this was a very straightforward explanation…plus a
boring and informative helpful Youtube video here. There are 4 primary phases of wound healing:
- Hemostasis: (within minutes of the initial injury) Constricts blood vessels and stimulates clotting to stop the bleeding
- Inflammation: (typically up to 4 days) Redness, swelling, warmth, and pain are typical symptoms as the first responding white blood cells clean out debris and stop infection
- Proliferative/Granulation: (4-21 days) Establishes the frame work for new tissue and repairing the various damage (skin layers, other tissue, blood vessels, and capillaries)
- Remodeling/Maturation: (up to 2 years) Increasing the strength of the new tissue
2 years!! This is longer than I expected when I started researching. It has only been 10 days and the cut on my wrist is dramatically improved. It blows my mind that my body will keep working on the fragile new tissue to make it stronger for the months to come.
My body is not passively allowing time to pass but is moving through the healing stages by actively fighting bacteria, rebuilding new tissue and repairing damage. Healing starts with the first 2 intense and painful stages…follows with creating something new but fragile…and finishes with a strengthening stage. I believe we go through similar stages with emotional wounds and time does help in reducing the pain…but without some work in cleaning and removing bacteria we are at risk of an infection and will never be able to build something new and strong.
I will leave my rambling Monday thoughts there but will write more in the days to come.
I am often encouraged by music and the latest Mumford and Sons album Babel (released September 2012) came at a perfect time for me. I enjoy this band with their folksy banjo riffs and indie rock vibe. The song I keep coming back to is “I will wait”. They are not a “Christian” band (Honestly, what is that anyway??) but their lyrics are deep, spiritual and often bring tears to my eyes. When I listen to this song I think of redemption and restoration…and it inspires me to wait for Jesus and his timing.
There is a lot I could say (and honestly probably will 🙂 ) but here are some of my favorite lyrics.
Well I came home like a stone
And I fell heavy into your arms
These days of dust which we’ve known
Will blow away with this new sun
I can physically feel these words. You know those days when you are so exhausted it takes all the energy you can manage just to collapse on the couch? I imagine my body feeling like that and my heart/spirit heavy like a rock…barely able to take tiny steps forward…then I imagine using my last bit of strength and collapsing…not onto a couch but into God’s arms. There is strength and protection there. I picture the cares and concerns weighing me down blowing away like dust in the wind…sometimes the “blowing” is more like a sandstorm but eventually the sun comes out and reveals the new life underneath. I love this image.
And I’ll kneel down wait for now
And I’ll kneel down know my ground
I don’t know if you are a “kneeler”. 🙂 I am at times. I find it to be a posture of humility and recognition that everything I have in my life is a gift. It is a peaceful posture. It is vulnerable. You aren’t going to be moving anywhere quickly. Sometimes it hurts a little but somehow praying on my knees helps me to recognize more deeply how desperately I need Jesus. I love the next line about knowing your ground. It is easier to wait when you know what or who you are waiting for. It is also easier when you know what or who holds you up during the process. What is the foundation beneath your knees? What do you rest on while you are waiting? Is it solid? Is it quicksand? Do you know it? My ground was remembering who God is…and becoming more familiar with his works and promises. Knowing my ground. He has been faithful through the generations…He loves me more than I can hope to comprehend…He promises to heal and redeem me. His character is constant and doesn’t change with me or my circumstances. I can kneel and wait on a firm foundation…my rock.
So I’ll be bold as well as strong
And use my head alongside my heart
So tame my flesh and fix my eyes
A tethered mind free from the lies
When I find myself “waiting” I can be very reactionary. Most of the time I am waiting because I am not able to have something I want. Sometimes I know the timeline…most times I don’t. And when I don’t know the timeline I can grab onto the first thing that may move me closer to what I want. Often that is not the best idea. So using my head AND my heart really resonates with me. When you just react it is mostly emotional. Also, the image of taming and tethering makes me think of a young horse in the process of being broken and trained. It is initially wild and out of control…fighting for its own way against the will of the trainer…slowly, with time and discipline it submits and allows itself to follow commands. It lives a much more peaceful life without the intense struggle. We can be like that horse and fight very hard for our own way. But ultimately we fight against God because we have wrapped ourselves in lies. Lies of entitlement. Lies of idols. Lies of identity. Lies of value. As those lies are broken and we begin to see the truth and fix our eyes on Jesus…our lives will become more peaceful and free…and it also becomes easier (Note I said easIER…not easy 🙂 ) to wait and trust.
Here is a simplified overview of the story the lyrics tell…it’s basically a Psalm. My spirit is heavy and weak…I fall into your arms and need you to transform my life…I remember your faithfulness and trust you as I wait..I will remember everything I have been forgiven….as I kneel and seek you I will be transformed more and more into your likeness and freed from the lies of this world. My hands will be raised and my spirit will be gold.
What are wounds? When most of us think about them we probably think of physical wounds. We think of the time we fell off our bike and scraped our knee or cut our hand while cooking. Wounds HURT. They compromise the integrity of our skin defense and allow bacteria in. They typically require action on our part to clean them and bandage them to prevent infection…but sometimes they become infected despite our best efforts.
Emotional wounds are harder to recognize and even harder to treat. We all have them. Some have more than others. They are the product of hearts interacting in an imperfect world. We can wound people even when we don’t mean to. We can especially wound people when we mean to. We can have wounds from our childhood and family or previous relationships…we can inflict them on ourselves with our choices. They can be caused by an action or a lack of action. A harsh word or a lack of love and acceptance. They are painful places in our heart that can drive choices without realizing it. They ache. They allow us to believe lies about ourselves and look for quick fixes. Our wounds might tell us we will never be loved and therefore we will seek out unfullfilling relationships to fill a void. Our wounds might tell us we will never be good enough and therefore we are always striving for perfection or not trying at all. Our wounds might tell us we will never succeed and therefore we never try accomplish anything because we are afraid of failing. Wounds feed addictions and insecurities. They can cause us to react in ways we don’t recognize.
The danger with emotional wounds is when you don’t know you have them. They have a lot less power when you can name them, treat them and actively fight against them. I have an insecurity every time I push the publish button on this blog. What if people don’t like what I write? What if it’s not good enough? I have a wound around perfection = acceptance. And I counter those questions with…Do I like what I wrote? Yes. Is it perfect? No. Am I happy with it? Meh..Yes? Good enough…PUBLISH. In the end who cares if no one likes it. Of course affirmation is nice but it shouldn’t drive my choices. I have to choose to be myself regardless. If i didn’t realize that wound existed I may never have started this blog because I was paralyzed by what people thought. Aren’t you guys lucky? 😉 Guys? You there? Just Kidding.
God tells us he is the healer of the broken hearted and wounded. When we are insecure in ourselves we can be secure in Him. Quick fixes wont work. But God promises he will heal us if we only ask…not always in the way we expect but always in the way that we need.