For anyone who is going through a stressful situation, I heartily recommend knitting. Not only can you stab away at the stitches when you want to, after the stress has leveled out there is something both calming and therapeutic about pulling loops through loops. It's not about making anything specific or beautiful. It's simply about providing a resting place for tension while the hands are busy and the mind resolves.
The weather has turned cold. Yesterday, I ignored most everything and spent the day curled up on the studio couch knitting and thinking about many of the thoughts in today's posting. It's not at all about sewing and contains spiritual content and might - I'm sorry - be considered preachy but these are some things that I feel strongly about so if non sewing, spiritual, and possibly preachy is not your thing, please take a minute to admire my adorable grandson before clicking away. See, he's sitting on the quilt that Grandma made from the refashioned quilt originally made for his Mom. VERY fun.
Every morning I go to Starbucks to study, journal, and pray on paper. I'm there for about an hour and spend half of that time focused on studying creativity and half on spirituality. I've worked my way through a variety of books and have been amazed and grateful at how God has provided answers in advance to questions I didn't know I was going to ask. When life went topsy turvy a few weeks ago, my study shifted to match at exactly that time and when I finished the study, the next one, which I'd already purchased, was exactly what I needed.
I'm reading When God Doesn't Make Sense by Dr. James Dobson, a man of integrity who I greatly admire. I bought the book without previewing it simply because it caught my eye and he was the author. It's about knowing that God can do that thing that we wish he would do only he isn't and why. Is it me? Doesn't he love me? Aren't I worthy? Doesn't he care? Dr. Dobson refers to this as the betrayal barrier and says it's the point at which many people abandon their faith because they have a false impression of God and what he can and what he will do.
The part I read yesterday contained a quote by scientist Stephen Hawking - If you are disabled, you should pour your energies into those areas where you are not handicapped. You should concentrate on what you can do well, and not mourn over what you cannot do. And it is very important not to give in to self-pity. If you're disabled and you feel sorry for yourself, then no one is going to have much to do with you. A physically handicapped person certainly cannot afford to be psychologically handicapped as well.
While most of us are not disabled like Stephen is, it occurred to me that we are all disabled in some way - that there are things in our lives that happen, that feel imposed on us, that we would really rather not deal with, and yet we have no choice. Those things are in essence our disability and looked at from that perspective, Stephen's advice makes excellent sense. Our choices are to focus on what we don't have and can't do and risk slipping into a wallowing pity party no one wants to attend or to focus on what we do have and can do and make our own lives richer.
The painting above is of a friend and I and was painted by her daughter for my birthday. This particular friend is going through a very difficult time dealing with the differing - and not complimentary in any way - illnesses of her aging parents. She's a mess and I'm very concerned about her and have spent as much time as she's able to take away from them to go for coffee, have her over for dinner, and talk. And as I told her, it's not that I want her to be going through this experience but I am thankful to be able to invest my energy in supporting and encouraging her and to focus less on feeling sorry for myself. As perky and annoying as that advice can be, it is true that we can often help ourselves by helping someone else.
We're instructed to help carry one another's burdens. I've been thinking a lot about what does that mean in reality as opposed to theory and had the opportunity to discuss it with one of the ministers - Dave - from our church the other day. I asked him to tell me what that looked like and he answered with the giving of requests and when I said no, tell me about the answering of requests, he struggled and offered things like making a meal or giving money. Practical. Easy. Things that are quickly over and done with.
These things do not go unappreciated but what about the less practical tasks like sitting with and through a hard situation, over a long, extended and emotional period, and then picking up the fragile pieces and helping to put them back together? The subjective, emotional, messy tasks where there are no easy answers. Ah, he said. In my opinion - and he agreed - being too busy, having poor money management, and an unwillingness to ask the hard questions and do the tough stuff are fabulous devil tools that are preventing the church - as in those who believe - from being as amazing as it can be.
I haven't gone to church - the building - in eighteen months. I got tired of walking in and out when it didn't matter whether I was there or not. There is nothing worse than being lonely in a crowd, especially in a church. That no one has phoned since substantiates my point and the odd time that I've run into someone from church, they say something along the lines of haven't seen you lately but they do not ask WHY haven't I seen you lately. I wonder are they making an observation or asking a question? Why is the important question. It's the one that makes mattering.
Not everyone is like me and inclined to study for an hour a day or if they are, not everyone has the option to do so and not everyone has a "church" in their friends who will continue to support them building or not. In that way, I am lucky and even so - in my opinion - there are many hurt souls who have abandoned or are desperately trying to hang on to their faith in the face of this not mattering. We've become such a shallow culture that even the church is becoming all surface and no depth.
Dave - the minister - told me that he'd thought of me several times over the past eighteen months but hadn't phoned. I asked him if I was a hard person - as in hard to deal with - and he said no but you're intense and then apologized as if intense was a bad thing. When I asked him if I was intimidating, he said yes, but that that was not about me, it was about him to which I replied yes, but those are my consequences. When he allows himself to be intimidated by whatever it is in me that he feels is lacking in him, to the point that he cannot make the call that God is prompting him to make, it's not him that loses. It's me who didn't get the call, me who didn't feel seen, me who wasn't missed, me who didn't matter, me who wasn't encouraged. That might sound like self-pity. It's not. I'm simply using myself as an example because I'm not alone. That's the reality for many people and it is not at all what God had in mind. When he puts someone on our mind, he wants us to make the call.
My friend and I were comparing her situation with her parents to mine. There are similarities and we have a great deal of empathy for what each other is going through. We agreed that it's like you are drowning and there is a crowd of people on the shore of which a huge portion have turned away and are not paying attention. A few are talking out of the sides of their partially covered mouths while pointing. A few others are throwing life preservers your way only they fall short of the mark and you're left still drowning because these are not actually life preservers; they are cover my butt and now I can run in the opposite direction statements like you're so strong, you can handle this... or I'm praying for you and some good souls are but most don't mean it or... God never gives us more than we can handle so you'll be okay. Let me tell you from experience that NO ONE going through a tough situation wants to hear that verse and just to clarify, that's not actually what it says. It says we will go through tough situations, we will not be able to handle them, and we will need to turn to God. And guess what? We who are listening to his voice are God's hands and feet on earth. If someone is on your mind, there's a reason.
A hurting person wants to be seen and acknowledged. They don't want to be alone and abandoned. They want someone to hug them, tell them yes this hurts, and yes it's shitty, and I'm sorry and even I don't know what to say, and then just sit and be still. They do not want a gazillion solutions shoveled their way. This is not the time for solutions. This is the time for sympathy and hopefully empathy. If the problem could be solved easily in two minutes flat, the hurting individual would have thought about it by now. They didn't suddenly turn stupid.
AND... we are to do something when God asks us to do something.
When my husband was first ill years ago, one of his friends came to visit and as he was leaving he asked me to let him know if I needed anything. Poor man. His timing was off. I was exhausted. My husband was just about to go to a very expensive, private clinic in the United States and I did not know if he'd be coming back alive. I was staying home for months, alone with those worries and three young children, a lot of responsibilities, and no income and this friend wanted me to call him. I said no.
I said don't ask me to be responsible for you helping me. Don't ask me to be the vulnerable one and have to ask when you might say no. If you are paying your bills and you think about me. God is telling you I have bills. If you are buying groceries and you think about me, God is telling you I need groceries. If your kids are going to an event that costs money and you think about me, God is telling you that my kids are going to the same event and it's going to cost me money. I told him it's your responsibility to listen and do what God is asking you to do and not mine to have to ask. He was taken aback but he thought about what I was saying and then he replied that I was right and went on to help me in surprising and thoughtful ways I will never forget over the next few months.
Some times it is our job to ask but mostly it's our job to listen. All of us - me included - have ignored a niggling. We've been too busy or afraid or we didn't want to do that task or the emotions seemed too much or whatever our response was but the bottom line is that when God puts a need on our mind, we are meant to pick up the phone, write the email, pay the bill, buy the groceries, babysit the child, hug the wounded, sit with the lonely, do the task. That tangible action is supporting and encouraging; it is bearing one another's burdens and it gives a completely different message than telling someone I was thinking about you but didn't have time to call or I was thinking about you but didn't have time to write.
If you're going through a difficult time and want a sad laugh, track those didn't do messages and hopefully you'll be encouraged by the many hearts God knocked on to meet your need. Don't be a didn't do. Life is about relationships - with God, with yourself, with others. Part of life's journey is supporting and encouraging one another. Make the call.
And this ends my little sermon, climbing down off my soap box, thanks for listening
Talk soon - Myrna
Grateful - love and support