My Illness

My malady is a breakdown of spirit

when all that is in me cries out to my God

that I am nothing more than my disability,

nothing less than my recovery.

In my relapse I cry, “Please forgive me!”,

but I know my affliction is a life sentence.

My ailment is humanity.

My convalescence comes only upon my reliance

on the physician of mercy, Jesus Christ.


poetry/photo RDS (c) 10/30/19

Pain and Promises

We call 2014 – The Year of Pain.  It is also the year we decided to be baptized. Isn’t everything supposed to be glorious when you decide to come back to God? I never expected death and devastation, trauma and pain to be a part of my pathway back. Yet there it was overwhelming me with pain and promising everything in return.

We started attending in December 2012. By December of the next year we were ready to move toward solidifying our relationship with God within a church community.  We had been attending regularly and had just joined a small group that I was asked to lead.  It was a privilege and an honor to be asked but we were told that since it was a couple’s group we were both required to be baptized and my husband had not been at an age of understanding.  We were ready for this and looked forward to it. Then the year changed to 2014 and the world began collapsing.

In January one of my daughters, then 22, had to be hospitalized for something that can only be explained as a nervous breakdown. In February my sister, only 48 years old (two years younger than I am), passed away unexpectedly. In March our 23 year old son (my step-son), a recovering addict, began stealing and pawning valuables from our home and cashing thousands of dollars on our stolen checks. Our business took a nosedive and it was then I began grappling with depression.

My husband began to be absorbed by his son’s day-to-day life and that took it’s toll on us.  In April we started writing our baptism script; the words that tell those baptizing you that you understand what you are doing and for what reason. I realized then that I was not completely over my frustrations with Christianity. It may have been due to the bouts of depression. As my husband finished his script I began arguing with someone about my own. By May I had decided to wait to be baptized, thus causing my husband to pull back, and we turned over the small group to someone else. Probably a wise decision in retrospect.

Holidays were horrible that year.  Each one more uncomfortable than the last. On Fathers Day our son nodded off in addiction, in the middle of his dinner plate and I watched my husband go pale. This was destroying the family.  I was in a major confusion funk. I doubted my life purpose, my ability to be a good parent, a solid wife, a practicing Christian, and an inspired business owner. I was expected to help others suffering with horrible life-choices but all I could see were the ones in my own home now.

My oldest son decided to marry his sweetheart that month.  They lived on the other side of the states from us so travel would not be easy. The truth is I couldn’t do it; financially or emotionally.  I thought my oldest son, always so understanding, and his fiance would understand.  They did not. My son took it as a sign that I didn’t approve of his decision and they became bitter.

In July my step-son finally entered rehab but quickly came home when he was able.  Much too quickly.  He started up again almost immediately. At that point I wasn’t sure how much more the marriage could take either. In September he asked to spend the night.  The next morning we found him on the bathroom floor. After performing CPR, following him to the hospital and sitting with him for 2 days he passed away and my depression became full blown.

All I could wonder is if people younger than me could die what in the world was the use of the rest of my life? Then I began to doubt how much of it I had left and determined there wasn’t enough time to care about anything anymore. My husband, dealing with his own sorrow and grief, struggled for normalcy. Our business, which had started to thrive, suddenly became difficult to keep up with. We were both exhausted, both trying to recover, and we both began making dumb mistakes and bad decisions.

I was not emotionally ready for either the news in October that ISIS was killing children or that I had a long-lost brother who insisted on getting to know me.  It was a tight-rope every day. Breaking up dog fights between our huge German Shepherd and our son’s Pitt-Bull was also not an event we needed.

Needless to say, ending the year with the holidays, minus two very important people you love, has got to be the hardest way to say goodbye to the most difficult year of our lives.  It felt like all the promises had been forgotten and only pain remained.

And yet, reviewing this horrible year I noted a very important thing; God had not forgotten us.

If it were not for the small group we joined, regardless of the direction it took, we would not have had the support we needed through the most turbulent year anyone could imagine.  With our son’s tragedy came clarity in dealing with clients we could never have otherwise understood. His death unexpectedly brought our family closer too. We began to hold tightly to those things we appreciated about each other and to be more patient with the grief of loss we recognized.

And what about my questions and frustrations with Christianity? I am convinced that it was a very necessary part of my own personal growth. I believe if I had not been dealing with so many other things I might have glossed over this discomfort and pain and missed the very things that would bring me comfort and strengthen my faith at the end of that year.

God is good even when life is bad and He has a plan.  Always easier to see in retrospect, we must learn to focus our eyes on the Father rather than on the events and people around us. We must first have faith that He can do all things, and then we must believe that he will do what is best for us.

Who Else Wants to Be Known?

It is one of the most joyful and lonely feelings I’ve ever had. I was one person in the sea of hundreds and though we were all focused on Jesus we were strangers lost in our own thoughts and personal salvation. The music begins, and all the voices raise, along with the hands. At once you are transported to the first rock concert you attended and your heart swells with the sound.

When I first attended North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia I was overwhelmed. If you have not attended a megachurch you may have never felt that sense of awe that seizes you the moment all of the lights, voices, and music blend into a cacophony of stimulation. I loved being present in this exciting mass of attendance, but my remote feeling didn’t go away until we joined a small group.

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Our small group became more like our church than the church itself.  That is not a criticism but is exactly what our Pastor, Andy Stanley, encourages us to focus on; circles rather than rows. We met once a week and when I was too tired to go my husband was always ready and vice-versa. This helped with the needling that came from a discouraged spirit or spiritual warfare, whichever was more prevalent on that night.

A few months later our world shifted in a series of blows; one of my daughters had a breakdown that put her in the hospital, my younger sister died, our business took a financial hit and then it became more apparent that our son was not able to fight the addiction he had been battling for almost 5 years.

When our son lay in the hospital, our pastor’s duties of running thousands precluded a personal visit to the hospital. The leader of our group and his wife, however, sat for hours with us. Group members brought us food and visited the waiting room holding our hands and praying with us. When he passed away a few days later they were the ones who stood closest to us those next few months, let us talk about what happened until we were sure there was nothing more we could have done.

Our small group stayed together for a little over 3 years.  In that period a few couples left and a few joined and still, it was wonderful giving and learning from each of them. We would never forget that first experience with a small group, but now we could welcome in others who felt isolated by the awe-inspiring size of the church. We could do our part to build the bridge between mass devotion and personal worship, help others feel less unnoticed.20161205_010920801_iOS

The last time our group got together was right before 2017 ended. Many said they would be busy, moving to another group, or not sure of their plans so we ended the group with promises of getting together for one last meeting, but it never happened. The holidays came, someone had surgery, someone else had family emergencies and in general, life happened.

My husband was the one who had surgery.  In March, after seeing him look bored because going out was not a real option, I reached out to the group by email. It was an open invitation for game night, no plans, no real agenda, just a night together. We invited fourteen but planned for three or four because we knew everyone was so busy now.  Twelve showed up and every one of those was from the small group that split up before the holidays!

IMG_1715We had a wonderful hyggelig evening and learned something. We had mistakenly thought that everyone decided to go separate ways because the group had reached its logical end.  What we found that evening was that we missed being together. We missed the spiritual part of the group true, but more than that we missed the solidarity; the harmony of being with others we had walked through the fire and swam the oceans with. We missed being truly known.

Many say that attendance in a church is not necessary for personal salvation. I agree with this. However, being with others, being a part of something together, is a good recipe for having deeper relationships with others and I know this is something I want.  Church is not a place and it never was intended to be. Church was envisioned as a community of souls who lean together into the moment, celebrate the small wins, comfort each other in the big losses and reach out to welcome in others lost from the comfort of being known. Being known and being loved because you are known (rather than despite it), is what God had in mind for all of us. It’s the way He loves us.

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Romans 12:9-16 Love must be sincere. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another.

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