NORMAL (Part II): Paint on the Paintbrush

Are we brave enough? Are we willing enough?

Leaning forward,

arm extending at an upward angle,

breath inhaling,

an artist sits before a blank canvas with paint on the paintbrush.

And, if this artist is anything like me, there is a slight hesitation before that first brush stroke, before the paint on the paintbrush meets the white of the canvas, changing it’s look entirely.

Am I brave enough to put that color down? Am I willing enough to take the risk?

Yes. These are the questions I am asking today while we come closer to the new-normal, post Covid-19.

An artist relies on past experiences; brilliant creations alongside failed creations. It’s all in the learning to know what works and what does not.

So, all metaphorical visuals aside, let me ask you this:

What are you learning while in-the-battle,

enduring the stress,

the changes,

the uncomfortableness,

and the losses that dictate the days,

right now, during this pandemic?

(PAUSE)

What is most missed by you?

What is most important to you?

What are you glad to be without?

(PAUSE)

Now.

Lower your arm and let the color fill the white of your canvas. Go ahead, take the risk and put the color down.

Are you brave enough? Are you willing enough?

My brush stroke creates the image of everyone I love, sitting close enough to hug, on a day dappled with sunshine beneath the large maple tree in my yard. My painting would have this image repeated and repeated and repeated, ad infinitum – capturing the essence of time filled with the closeness of the people I love.

Would your color stroke depict something similar?

I think, and I guess, maybe so – and I know why.

We all are created as relational beings. We were made to crave companionship, physical contact, and love.

The greatest Artist that ever existed is the One who created you in the womb; in the womb you were known – the first relationship initiated, it is written in the DNA of all humans. I am not talking about your mother, she came second in your relationships. I am talking about God. From the beginning, God knew we humans need the companionship of other humans in order to thrive in the best way; the horizontal line of relationship one to another.

This is why I am not surprised at what I imagine to be the most common thing missed during this time of pandemic-induced social distancing:

Family,

loved ones,

people/community,

and all the similes from there.

So,

am I… (?),

are you… (?),

brave enough to demand that your new-normal includes an increase of time spent with loved ones? Are we willing enough to allow it to be the forefront of our paintings and push to the background, the busy-ness and non-relational demands? Can we urge authorities to be more mindful of this most important and basic need of humanity as they decide what to dictate to us about “returning to normal?” I believe the old-normal forgot this along the way.

What if…

… family time was more important than homework,

more important than overtime,

than the economic recovery (what do we need to recover to anyway – who decides that mark)?

What if school days were shorter,

work days were shorter,

and naps and vacations more plentiful?

What if we listened more, cared more, invested more into the lives around us?

Would these changes actually make us better and healthier people, students, workers, communities, and thrust us into a more abundant economy simply because we are living a more loving, refreshed life?

The canvas is white!

The paintbrush is in my hand, your hand, individually and collectively….

are we brave enough, willing enough to create a new-normal that is better than the normal we had before?

 

Stay tuned:

NORMAL (Part III): The Unchanging Changer

 

 

 

NORMAL(Part I): It’s Gone Forever

Let’s face it….

The NORMAL we once knew is gone forever. This is how I know.

I birthed a stillborn baby.

I had cancer.

I had a son who died of an overdose.

After each one of these traumatic events in my life, NORMAL was altered forever. And this is just how it is; No one escapes the long term affects of hardships and traumas. The experiences of Covid-19 will render the same. Normal: it’s gone forever.

I do not aim to be a Debbie-downer, but let’s face it… this is reality.

Grace was my fifth pregnancy, and I thought all things would be normal. As she lay lifeless in my arms after twelve hours of induced labor, my outlook  upon life changed. Cognizant, I was face to face with the sovereignty of God: He is the opener and closer of wombs, He is the giver and taker of life, He does what He wants for His purposes. I did not take pregnancies or the creation of life for granted as I may have.  And, God blessed me with five more children.

Stage 3A cancer blasted me from normal life into a year of hellish treatments and surgeries that teetered me on the edge of life and death.  I survived, yet normal life as it was, is gone. There are scars: caustic treatments destroyed my digestive system and I now, must constantly watch what goes into my mouth so that I am not in pain or tied to the bathroom for hours. This is a new normal for me; Tedious and not pleasant, yet I am glad to be alive and often praise God for my breath – inhale/exhale, each day a gift.

Despite all my efforts, love, and prayers… my son died of a sudden, accidental, overdose. Caleb was plagued with common mental issues and he succumbed to addiction, detoxed, was clean, relapsed, then died; that is the short story. The two year anniversary date comes up in just twenty nine days and it will be emotionally hard, again – but honestly, everyday is still hard; family-normal is gone forever as well. Sudden loss, too soon, in our human thinking changes life and how I think.  Some things just do not fit in our brains; we cannot comprehend what does not make sense to us. And yet, again, I am sustained and I am blessed each day I live, by a loving God.

Changed, I am: mentally, physically, and spiritually. I currently live what I call a new-normal life – even still, that is about to be altered, again.

The fall out from Covid-19, no matter how each of us is affected, is ushering in a new-normal, to be revealed very soon.

Yes, the old Normal: It is gone forever.

Grieve it.

It’s okay.

The logical news is this:

A NEW NORMAL will present itself, and by the mercy of God, we will meander into the unfolding with increased grace and compassion.

My advice?

Don’t fight it, it’s not a battle that can be won. I urge you to embrace it.

Some of the new-normal will be dictated upon us by governments and authorities over us, yet some things in the new-normal will be dictated by what we each have learned. That new-normal is up to us as individuals and as the collective community of America; Great opportunity is before us to create a better new-normal!

The question is: are we brave enough? Are we willing enough?

Stay tuned…

NORMAL (Part II): Paint on the Paintbrush

NORMAL (Part III): The Unchanging Changer

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Sons’ Death was a Springboard: Part One

My sons’ death was a springboard into the deeper understanding of three important things:

  1. The human condition
  2. The power of relationship
  3. The gift of a day

Today, I share #1 with you…

Open my eyes, to see people as you see them. This was a daily prayer of mine… little did I know that my sons’ death would precipitate God answering that prayer for me.  Until my son died of a drug overdose in May of 2018, I believe I was living in somewhat of a naïve, idealistic bubble in quasi-pursuit of living the American dream: the, have-jobs-got-house-got-car-got church-got-kids-and-the-proverbial-golden-dog mode where only the really bad stuff happens to those “other people.” My circle of influence and camaraderie was with like-minded folk. After my sons death, I was catapulted into another circle, the wider circle of people who suffer, struggle, and who have been broken by circumstances of life and I could never have been able to see them, unless I was first broken myself. You know the childish sassy-come-back of, “it takes one to know one”… well that’s true, I’d say, it takes being broken to be able to truly see the broken, with your heart.

Broken, is the human condition. Broken, is what God sees and it’s the entire reason why Jesus was born in the manger and nailed to a cross.  The beginning to seeing how God sees, means seeing the brokenness of the human condition.

Truth is, we are all broken in some way – so be gentle with each other and take the time to really see people underneath their brokenness.

Ephesians 4:2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Whole of Merry Christmas in Just 4 Words

“Merry Christmas”… what does that mean anyway?

‘Tis the season to be jolly, fa-la-la-la-la-la, etc….

Happy Holidays. 

Peace on Earth, Goodwill toward men.

… And all the other typical quoted quotes pervade the songs, the cards, and the movies.

But, I can tell you the whole Christmas deal in just 4 words.

Born.

Died.

Rose.

Coming Back.

That’s the whole of Merry Christmas from beginning to end, and the why.

First, Christmas is a celebration of the baby-Jesus being born in the manger; the scene is sung about, depicted on cards, and given subtle due credit in seasonal movies.  But, why celebrate this particular birth?

Second, what happens to that oh-so-sweet-baby-lying-in-that manger? He dies; His was no peaceful passing.  He dies after being stripped, beaten til bloody, spit upon, and nailed alive, to a cross, for all to see.

Third: When death takes his last breath away, this baby-from-the-manger-grown-up is buried just like all the other dead of the day – in a tomb. Yet, when three ladies go, to pay their respects, the tomb was found empty – this grown man walked about as alive as ever and then rose up into the sky and entered heaven; this grown-man simultaneously was God, is God – this is how He could ascend. He sits there even now, with his Father, and gives full rest and peace to my son, Caleb, who has been in His presence since May 27, 2018.

Lastly, just wait.

Wait, because one day, this same Jesus will come back to get all of us who believe on Him and love Him. Everyone will see this, no eye left closed, and this will be the end.

This is the whole of Merry Christmas.  It is the full story of why we celebrate.  Jesus, and all He embodies in promise and love for us, is our peace on earth and our happy in the holidays; ‘Tis the season to be Jolly…. merry measure clothes us when we size it all up against these 4 words that tell it all.

Born.

Died.

Rose.

Coming Back.

So dear friends and readers – I extend to you all with my words and my art – Merry Christmas to you all. May you understand the whole story and find no excuse not to be Jolly!

See you in the New Year!

 

 

 

Holidays: Not a Time of Cheer for Everyone

Expecting one, who has lost their legs in an accident, to get up and walk like they use to, is ridiculous. They cannot do it – even with all the best wishing in the world – because life for them has been altered forever.

The same is true for every.single.person. who has suffered a tragedy, no matter what it was, or when it was; time makes no difference. Loss from disease or accident, expected or sudden – it does not matter – it’s all the same terrible.

For me, my tragedy is the sudden, unexpected death of my son to an overdose, eighteen months ago. I am altered for life – not just for a time, or a season; Life for me will never be the same. I walk around with a weight that bears down and a hole that has blown through my heart.

The trouble with holidays is that the expectation for everyone to be of good cheer, be happy, and enjoy the season is rampant.

And for some, it is very hard to embrace the holidays where “family all together” carving turkey at the proverbial Norman Rockwell table is thrown in our faces by ads, movies, and the general chatter of the holiday season.

While I am blessed to have a large, living family still gathered around, my momma’s heart weighs heavy… there is still one empty chair, one forever missing in the “family” photo, and one less child eating the traditional Christmas cookies – specifically, the butterscotch ones.

WHAT. TO. DO……?

That’s a question with a two-fold answer.

What to do if you are the friend, or family member, of someone who is not full of cheer and suffers with a broken heart this holiday season: 

  1. Be patient and do not judge when they do not want to attend a christmas tea, or the cookie swap, or even put up a tree.
  2. Extend the offer of conversation, a listening ear, and willingness to just be there alongside; try to understand; allow their feelings to just be.
  3. Do a practical help if possible – doing life is hard under normal day-to-day circumstances when a heart is broken – even more difficult during the holiday season, getting out of bed, some days, might be the total accomplishment for the day.

What to do if you are the one suffering from a tragedy, the same or different, as me:

  1. Have faith, God knows your pain and heartbreak; Trust He will provide all you need.
  2. There’s no way around the holidays – we just have to go through them;  even if you have nothing but tears – let yourself feel what you feel – be true to yourself, but be kind to those around you – it’s no ones fault.
  3. Don’t turn away from well intentioned acts of love; allow God to work in you, as well as in the well intentioned.

 God has not forgotten me, nor has he forgotten you;

“God is close to the brokenhearted.” Psalm 34:18a

So yeh – Holidays: not a time of cheer for everyone – but I tell you the truth, there is something even better than good cheer, it is knowing that you are loved by God with an everlasting love, no matter what…and in that, there is  HOPE – there for the taking, for everyone.

Be authentic in this season of holidays, Jesus loves, you just as you are.

Are you suffering with grief of one sort or another?

Are you local to the Pioneer Valley?

If so, I invite you to “SONGS for the NIGHT”

(click above, on Songs for the Night, for details)

 

My calendar is marked, is yours?