Monday, January 22, 2024

The Metamorphosis

I've been visiting a new church. The tangible example of change (aka "repentance") in yesterday's message was the caterpillar who is reduced to mush inside the chrysalis. (I do believe I've already survived the mush stage...) In the case of the caterpillar, once the metamorphosis is complete and the butterfly emerges from the chrysalis, there is no going back. There is no more caterpillar. The caterpillar is gone. It is, in other words, dead. At least dead to being a caterpillar. It was never meant remain a caterpillar, but to die to it's original life in order to gain something new. The to butterfly was never intended to remain on the ground. It was destined for the sky.

The church I'm visiting is different from any of the churches I've been to in the past, and yet much the same as well. I am appreciative of fresh perspectives, new insight, and renewed hope. Holding onto faith has been difficult the past eight years, and it is in this vein that I am ever so grateful for a God who holds His children when we are not strong enough to hold on ourselves. (Perhaps it is true that we are never strong enough... ) I am hopeful that I will soon read scripture without the tinted glasses that clouded my vision for so long, and that it will be, maybe for the first time, unimaginably clear. The stories will not be new, but perhaps seen with new eyes and deeper meaning. 

The butterfly can't go back and I can't go back either. I was meant for something more.

I hope you don't mind metaphors, to go along with the metamorphosis taking place in me. I feel a little bit like a Methuselah generation butterfly because I felt like mush forever. (I'm sure they spend at least a week or two longer inside their chrysalis because I had one hanging on my swing set for a little over three weeks once. here and here) My wings might not be completely dry but I haven't dropped to the floor yet either. Here's hoping my wings are straight and strong.

Monday, January 15, 2024

Windows to the Soul

It was just an old family album full of photographs from days long gone and I suppose everyone has a few gawky childhood photos that they would rather not remember. My worst school picture was the one taken in the seventh grade when I was five months shy of my thirteenth birthday. A blemished complexion, long, greasy hair, and the nervous expression of a child entering junior high and puberty at the same time. Perhaps somewhere along the way my mother complied with my wishes to destroy the pictures because I did not run across them last night. Instead I ran across others.

Two high school photos; one taken in the fall of 1979 when I was a sophomore, and the next the following autumn, early in my junior year. It isn't as though I didn't see the swollen eyes previous to last evening. They would have been quite literally impossible to miss, yet last night the contrast between the two images struck me in a new way. I never did drugs in high school. I didn't smoke or drink, yet there in the second photo, all over my face, is pain. Deep, searing, mental and emotional pain... One picture full of hope and expectation, the next apprehension and despair. The hopes and dreams I'd carried for the previous seven years had been dashed to pieces and destroyed forever. I wasn't pregnant yet, but it wouldn't be long. I was caught in the trap of feeling no longer worthy of the one I'd loved since childhood (Joey), desperate to hold onto the one with whom I'd lost my virginity (James), and barely more than a child.

It was the eyes that caught my attention last night. These are the eyes I struggle with today, the upper lids swollen and droopy, hanging like curtains. Thirty years ago allergy injections relieved the swelling and my eyes opened up again, allowing others to once again see into my soul, but time and tears have rendered them perpetually puffy and me searching for a way to relieve the swelling. I'm trying a saline nasal spray along with a nasal steroid in hopes of clearing passages and reducing swelling. I have an appointment for a routine eye exam in another week. I know repressed (or is it suppressed?) emotions can wreak havoc on our bodies, leaving us susceptible to unexplainable chronic pain and disease, but can it also affect our eyes?

Sunday, January 07, 2024

Twice in a Row

 I stayed overnight at my son's apartment last night. Nate is playing guitar in his church worship band on a fill-in basis and needed to be there early this morning. Since fun didn't sound like getting up at 5 o'clock in the morning to brush snow off my car, I decided to pack a bag and take my pillow for a Saturday night "Pa-Grandma Party" instead. (I forgot my pajamas... Go figure.) Nate made pancakes and scrambled eggs for dinner and we watched a movie. 

This morning I got the kids ready. I fed them breakfast, and they picked cereal and milk so that was easy peasy. Nate had left clothes out for them. Only Lyla needed help so that was easy peasy too. Then we made sure teeth were brushed, hair combed, and faced washed. The van was buried by last night's "winter storm" so brushing the snow off was the next task. 

Getting the vehicle clean and everyone into their seats didn't take near as long as I'd imagined and we ended up having way too much time before church so I did the only thing a sane grandmother would and I took them to Dunkin for a box of 25 Munchkins. We had no trouble devouring them and I took them to church all sugared up. Ha ha!

Church attendance two weeks in a row. Two churches I've never attended two weeks in a row. Communion two weeks in a row. I took some cute pictures of Nate and the kids on their way back to the car.

Monday, January 01, 2024

Time Marches On

Looking backward is not advised, and yet each morning I look back over my Facebook memories, pour through the pictures and find myself amazed at how fast life moves along and what has transpired. Past moments on the farm very often catch me by surprise, bringing with them all the feels of yesteryear; bittersweet, poignant reminders of another life...

Materially speaking the farm was everything I'd ever wanted but had never dreamed would be mine. Simply stepping out the back door took my breath away. Three barns and a house surrounded by apple orchards, three and a half acres of land on a country road, and a wood burning stove. The kitchen was spacious, the living room big enough to hold our ever expanding family whenever special occasions arose. We spent countless hours outside in the yard, on the back porch, or gathered in the living room. Picnics, parties, holidays, we did them all...  And then the bomb dropped and the bottom fell out of my world. 

Grief is complicated and complex with threads of varying thicknesses and colors, twisted and wound into a multitude of indistinguishable knots. For months I picked numbly at knotted, outer layers, terrified of what lay beneath the surface, often setting the entire mess aside. I did all I could to live a normal life in a world that had suddenly shattered. Death leaves a visible gaping hole. Abuse leaves an unseen, shredding of the soul. Outsiders witness the abused gasping for breath, but they do not see the wound. The gasping renders others clueless. Rather than come alongside the breathless, they offer empty platitudes or avoid getting involved altogether... 

The best way to untangle a knot is to follow one colored strand, tediously and methodically unwinding it from the others. Eight years. I've been untangling threads, cords and strands for over eight years. It's a wearisome task.

(And here my thoughts were interrupted by someone I love. My phone was ringing and on the other end someone who intricately understands the complexity of grief, abuse, and knotted threads. If only (another fruitless hope)... If only I could wind the hands of time backward, to erase at least of portion the heartache to which my not-knowing-better has contributed. Today I know something different. Today I would give different advice.)

Can I untie the tangled, haphazard knots in this string of life? Can all the pain of yesterday be woven into hope and beauty? This is my earnest prayer.