Tag Archives: vulnerability

Comfort & the Kindness of Strangers

I begin this post with a heartfelt apology. To those who followed my blog for years and who were left wondering what happened to me after my cancer diagnosis, I sincerely apologize that I’ve not been more forthcoming on this site. While I shared some of my story on Facebook, I felt compelled to focus primarily on treatment and recovery, and to carry my brokenness–of which there was much–to the Cross. I’m sorry if the last 2+ years of blogging silence caused confusion to others as I embarked on this very personal journey.

Plenty of people openly share when they face trials, challenges, sickness, devastation and loss. I’ve even been one of them, at least prior to the cancer episode when I felt the Spirit whisper to me this time will be different. For better or for worse, I would not experience this round of suffering in the public eye as I had in the past.  If you’re familiar with this blog site, you know of my recovery from PTSD related to my home break-in, my struggles and ultimate healing from a brain injury following my car accident, the toll taken on my heart during the Waldo Canyon Fire, my challenges as a single mom. You shared in my despairing journey with my dear mother through her cancer battle. But my own medical story would be written in private as Cancer became an intense introduction to a deeper intimacy with my Creator than I’ve ever known.

When persons I expected to walk closely with me through the valley instead walked away, the pain was too crushing to write about. In retrospect, I understand how even their actions proved instrumental in turning my eyes and heart to Jesus. This was our journey. He wanted my full attention. And He got it.

Please don’t get me wrong. Journaling, blogging, speaking publicly are reasonable outlets for processing grief and suffering. I hold tremendous respect for those who invite the public into their pain. Their vulnerability speaks to their courage and often serves as a source of encouragement.  I personally benefited from such vulnerability over the past 30 months, especially when most tempted to feel sorry for myself in my cancer battle. Comfort seeped through cracks in my heart each time I read Biblical encouragement poured out from a soul-shattered friend as brain cancer ravaged her young child. More comfort blanketed me as another dear friend boldly proclaimed God’s Goodness even through agony of grieving a son killed in Afghanistan. And in the thick of my battle, letters from my warrior Paratrooper son, serving our country from a Middle Eastern sandbox, pleaded with me to fight bravely in his absence. I’m profoundly grateful for fierce testimonies from individuals defiant in the face of enemy forces seeking to crush them, both figuratively and literally.

Even as God reintroduced me to total emotional and spiritual dependency on him, He often brought random humans for immediate physical support, including a friend I met years ago on the East Coast who flew out to spend a week in prayer over me. And multiple strangers. A single woman I barely knew came bearing casserole, cards and comfort. Neighbors shoveled snow from my driveway – ridiculously steep in our Colorado foothills. An elderly couple at a supermarket followed me through a checkout line, then loaded groceries into my car. (They said I looked pale and weak and God told them to help me.) A UPS driver discovered me in my car passed out from radiaton exhaustion and made sure I got home okay. Three unknown teenagers helped me when I lost balance and fell in a parking lot. Coworkers brought food and hugs.  Former students made my home festive with Christmas decorations and music. So much “kindness of strangers”. And so Good Father. I embraced Comfort in unexpected ways that only our Heavenly Daddy could orchestrate. And orchestrate He did…through grueling months of treatment and into my recovery, He sent angels to minister to me in practical ways while family, friends, even clients and literally hundreds of people I’d never met in person bathed me in phone prayers and cards.

In January, the Lord gave me a word for 2019…COMFORT.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.  II Corinthians 1:3-5 NIV

Indeed…as we share abundantly in the suffering of Christ, so also our comfort abounds. Now in Remission and restored to health again, I’m called to COMFORT others. What could be more fitting?

 

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Throwing Away the Remote: A Lesson in Courage

Flipping the page on my Alaska Wildlife calendar to a new month I’m reminded of an encroaching anniversary. 

I’ve lost track of how many years passed since my home break-in but even without a calendar on the wall I internally sense its date.  My first clue?  Something in my spirit hungers for more control.  From serving eight years as a volunteer for women’s crisis centers I learned that need to control is a common denominator among survivors of violence.  Not surprising when you consider that during the commission of many violent episodes/crimes, victims are generally at the mercy of the perpetrator. 

During my home break-in, I didn’t know for hours if I would live or die.  Wickedness taking the form of a human held me prisoner at gunpoint, my only recourse to endure his abuse or perish.  In those dark hours, control stripped from me, helplessness assailed me.  Even for weeks following I was not in control.  Fear gripped me, preventing me from living my life.  Every noise startled me.  I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep without nightmares, couldn’t step outside the shelter of a friend’s home without trembling, couldn’t look people in the eye without crying, couldn’t watch tv newscasts without feeling sick.  Aftermath of violence rendered me helplesss in nearly every aspect of life.

A lie took root:  Absence of Control equals Helplessness.   The remedy appeared obvious.  The more I control my world the less helplessness I experience.   In a misdirected attempt to avoid soul agony of helplessness & vulnerability, I convinced myself I must always be in control.  Some control proved helpful like planning where I ventured out to and for how long, making sure to return home before dark.  Other decisions seem random.  I controlled the length of my hair, lopping it boy short for the first time in my life.  I wore unattractive colors & frumpy clothing.  I isolated myself from everyone, including friends.  Many nights when insomnia owned me, I took refuge in television, not for my viewing pleasure but mechanically pressing a remote control every few minutes for hours until I drifted off exhausted.  It seems so ridiculous now but at the time, I felt powerful with control literally at my fingertips.

Problem is my controlling spiraled out of control, ruining relationships, isolating me from people who love me.  Control cost opportunities, rendered me a slave to lists and self-imposed rules of how life must be structured for my protection.   Need to control narrowed my world, prohibiting me from venturing too far beyond the familiar and manageable.  It chained me to routines, limited my circle of support, prevented me from trusting, robbed me of freedom, cheated me of JOY in living and loving.  Ultimately, control consumed me.

What I needed wasn’t control but courage.  Friends told me how brave I was for living through a violent attack.  There’s nothing courageous about being a victim. Courage can only be found in choosing to move from victim to survivor, choosing to FULLY LIVE as a Survivor.  Control is the antithesis of courage.  Despite my best efforts to appear brave, I realized bravery cannot emerge as long as I control everything because control roots and thrives in fear. 

As long as I knew exact outcomes, hid behind routines, averted vulnerability by limiting my friendships, as long as I buried my heart and surfed through meaningless relationships like channel surfing with a remote control, true courage evaded me.  I was, in fact, cowardly hiding behind a thin veil of false bravado destined to unravel in ugly ways.

True bravery emanates from staring down our fears, especially the fear of losing control.  Courage emerges when everything in me shouts “RUN! HIDE!” but I chose not to, when outcomes are shaky & threatening and I risk anyway, moving forward even in uncertainty but with resolve to conquer.  “Courage”, as my dear friend Marshele Carter Waddell puts it, “is running up to the dark and taking one more step.” 

The truth is, the more I tried to control the more I became controlled.  If I honestly believed in the Sovereignty of God, I had to surrender control to Him.  Surely the God who numbers the hairs on my head and watches over lowly sparrows cares about my struggles, right? {Matthew 10:29-30}  But surrender seemed like giving up, admitting defeat, weakness.  I fought until I nearly destroyed myself.  The longer I avoided raising the white flag, the deeper fears bored into my soul and the emptier I became.  No 12-step program delivered me, no magic formula to follow…just a simple prayer of relinquishment, a commitment to reach out to others for love & support and a long journey of intentionality to trust my Creator with details of my life every moment, every breath, every heartbeat.

As I glance again at the calendar on my wall I commit the date August 3rd to the Lord.  I won’t be controlled by fears in this season.  My heart beats a little faster when I think of that night but I recognize fear sooner when it attempts to slip through cracks of my brokenness.   I’m quicker to declare I will not let fear rule, not let it constrain me anew to channel-surfing-type control.  Instead I choose to throw away the remote.  I risk more.  I forgive quicker.  I laugh louder.  I love deeper.  I live freer… I live courageously

{A woman’s magazine invited me to contribute an article about my recovery from violent crime.  I submitted this & it’s now under review by the editor.  I’ll let my readers know if it they accept for publication.  At the risk of sounding self-serving, it probably wouldn’t hurt to get a lot of clicks on this link so please FEEL FREE to share.  Thanks!}