“…He will wipe away every tear…”

One day…

For those of us who live with some sort of chronic, or recurring pain, some days it is hard to smile. Especially when we try to push through without relying on medication. Stretches, or a warm and jetted tub, salves and massages, and essential oils are where many of us turn for relief. There are so many ways to deal with chronic and recurring pain. And laying the pain at the foot of the cross is a huge way to gain perspective on pain.

Not many people spend time contemplating the foot of the cross. I had a dream once, and a friend actually drew me a picture of what I had seen (which I found in a box and promised myself I will frame) as I gazed up at the feet of Christ, impaled on the Cross. In my dream, I heard swooshing and loud winds. There were large drops of rain falling and splashing all around me. I could only look up, and I could not move side-to-side, nor could I turn my head. I could only see the feet of Christ. And then I felt a warm dribbling liquid surrounding me, and I immediately felt comforted, loved, embraced, and free. I could look around me and realized I was a pebble; really just a small stone; and I was holding the Cross upright, along with a myriad of other small stones. We were a part of the dirt the Cross was embedded into. And the thought came to me: “Even the dirt surrounding the Cross was sanctified by His sacrifice.” The earth was renewed by the sacrificial Blood of Christ.

This dream has been with me since my children were small. And at the time, we only had two children. Not even teens, yet. And this dream is every bit as vivid today as it was more than 20 years ago when it happened to me. The feelings return and the sounds are especially poignant. I do believe Christ was speaking to me, helping me realize that I was part of His story. I may only be an insignificant pebble, but I am part of it. And each of us plays our part in the Story of Redemption.

Redemption through the Cross of Christ

Many years ago, I was introduced to the concept of “offer it up.” And it was applied to pretty much anything. My father-in-law used to tell his kids when they were slightly hurt, “Rub some dirt on it.” We, in turn, told our kids the same thing. Ha-Ha. And the idea of offering something up is to apply it to all we do. What are we offering it up to? The redemptive act of Christ on the Cross. There is no way I can ever repay Him for what He has done for me. But I can offer my toils and my pains to Him in a small way of reparation, and of joining to His suffering.

It is not something most protestants and other religious ideologies embrace. It is a Catholic thing; an eastern thing. We follow the steps of Christ every Lenten observance. We entwine our lives within the context of sacrifice and service. And we participate in the redemptive action of the Cross when we unite ourselves to Christ. Our actions towards our daily lives and the issues that cause our bumpy ride, as well as how we interact with others, can all be offered to Christ in reparation for His act for us. Fasting – from foods, from language, from TV, from things that do not bring us closer to Him are all acts having redemptive value. We join our meager sufferings to His. And it is a powerful process – each Lent and each Apostles’ Fast, we can join in the redemptive action of the Cross.

Chronic, aching, back…

I am so much like my paternal grandmother. And I strive to be like her in how I treat others and how I lovingly care for others. But physically, it’s more like I am her daughter. I have her hands and feet. I am a larger woman, which she struggled with her entire life, and which plagues me daily. I am even beginning to have her white hair – which I always loved and am rather pleased about. Grandma injured her back in a vehicle accident as a young woman and had back issues the rest of her life. A little more than a year ago, I lifted a 9-foot leather couch in order to vacuum under it, thinking I was 40 years old instead of 60+ years of age. I tore my right shoulder (which I had stem cell replacement for) and ruptured 5 discs in my spine, starting at C-3 and working its way down to my lumbar area. I have had injections in all the sites. The doctor told me I would get a year or more relief from the injections and we are coming up to 2 years. I think my relief is over. Or at the very least, severely waning.

I was doing so well I began water aerobics. Ouch. And then I rested and it was better. This past weekend I was climbing into my husband’s truck on the start of a camping journey and I wrenched my back. It’s been non-stop pain since. I spent most of the weekend propped under a tarp (it was raining) with pillows, a blanket, and Tylenol. Ugh.

And I am desperately working on my mindset. How I can align this constant nagging pain with the redemptive act of Christ. Every time He was whipped or beaten, that was because of my sins. Each cut or wound on His body, every bruise, every nail – all from my actions. How can I ameliorate His pain and use mine for something besides complaining?

There is a wonderful prayer I recite when I need solace:

Anima Christi Prayer

I learned a slightly different wording, but this is the prayer. My favorite part is, “Within thy wounds hide me. Never let me be separated from thee. From the wicked enemy defend me, and at the hour of death call me, that I might come to thee and with thy saints I might praise thee for ever and ever. Amen”. Okay. So that is most of the prayer. Ha-Ha. But I always imagined myself hiding within His wounds, peeking out from where the soldier stabbed Him in the side, all safe and warm. Nothing morbid or gross or bloody and fleshy. Just safely hidden in the side of Christ, protected from the wickedness and snares of the devil. (A sentence from another prayer I love). And when I imagine myself safe within Him, the pain eases somehow. I feel warm, and protected, and loved. And when you have all those things, back aches are not as onerous and life-impacting. I can accomplish all the duties of my station in life, aching as I go, but smiling from within the Wounds of Christ. Does that sound weird? Yeah, it does a little bit. But being a visual person who conjures scenes using words, it works for me. And as I sit here, the pain is less, just talking about it. Yes, my knees are propped up on my recliner and I am sitting in a position to ease the cramping pain, but my heart is at rest as well.

My peace I give to you…

“and guard you from the evil one.”

snowfall-4465Today is one of those days when it’s great to get out of the house, but then, it’s even better to be indoors!  It’s in the 18-19 degree range, with blowing snow and ice.  My youngest son is on day one of an Arctic Survival Camping trip about 200 miles north of us.  Up there, they are expecting in the 10″ – 20″ range of snow.  At our neck of the woods, we expect in the 1″ – 2″ range! So I was thinking about him as our glass door banged against the front door as the wind battered it.  I sure would not want to be in a tent in this! Of course, I am nowhere near 15 years old and filled with excitement of living off the land, male bonding, and all that sort of thing.  If I camp, I need a camper or trailer; better yet, a hotel room…no more tents for this grandma!

Anyway, I have been mulling over a bunch of thoughts in my head and they all sort of relate.  Which is weird, but cool at the same time, because I know God has a lesson in there for me.  A friend was given a baby boy to foster this week.  He is so adorable, I just wanted to cuddle him and kiss and hug him. He has the cutest smile, ever.  And he reminded me of my grand daughter, as they are just a couple of weeks apart in age.  He was removed from his birth home because of abuse.  As I l gazed on him in the Church Hall during coffee hour on Sunday, I had tears running down my face, and I grabbed the sides of his car seat and gave that little man my best smiles and coos, because I was weeping for so many reasons. (1) His age is so close to my grand daughter and I have to admit, I have a serious love affair with that little baby girl going on.  Grandma fell hard for her.  (2) I hurt because of his situation and then (3) I got so angry at his situation that it made me cry more.  I just hugged my friend and told her how happy I was he found a home where he will be cuddled and loved on 24/7!  And (5) I was taken back, in my mind, to a horrible time in my life, a few years ago.  So many things were going on.  But to sum it up, we were going through a short-sale on our house, my husband was out of work, our youngest son was having difficulty in school (as in a totally, and completely, untenable situation), my work situation was not good (governmental layoffs), and I got selected to be on a felony child abuse jury.  It was a long case. It was an ugly case. I tried, and tried, during jury selection to get myself out of it, but for some reason, both sides wanted me on that jury. (One main reason is that I was a government employee at that time, and as such, I get paid full salary regardless of where I show up to work.  Jury duty for government employees is considered another day at the office. Ugh.)  I was instantly taken back to those horrible photos and testimonies.  I was instantly feeling my stomach just clench in anger and frustration. Another aspect that made it so horrible for me is that the child who was “feloniously” abused looked exactly, as in “could be related to,” my  youngest son.  I would go home at night, unable to talk about it, and just weep.  My husband would hold me and I would just cry my eyes out, only to fall into a fitful sleep, and be required to get up and repeat it for another day (for weeks on end).  I thought I had put it behind me.  But meeting that precious little boy yesterday brought the memories swooping in, and I found myself unable to stop thinking about it.  And I am obviously still thinking about it.

jesus-with-children-0408“Keep me safe, LORD, from the hands of the wicked; protect me from the violent..” Psalm 140:4.

This morning my daughter-in-law asked me to go to breakfast, and since I am home alone this week, I jumped at the chance.  Off we went to iHop.  I had some amazing crepes, buckets of coffee (daylight savings time is just so stupid…) and sat across from her sitting with my two grandies, and me, just watching it all and loving every moment.  She and I talked about my memories, and about my friend who took in this little baby.  We both got teary-eyed at the thought of someone hurting such a little guy.  And as I gazed at my grandies, I got such a fierce sense of protectiveness.  I don’t know what I would do if anyone hurt any of them, in any way.

God calls us to protect those who cannot protect themselves.  And He also calls us to love our enemies.  As I sat on that jury, looking at a father who had abused his child so severely, I tried to love him; I really did.  And I prayed to God to help me handle that situation.  What draws a parent to harm their child?  I know kids and crying are no fun, but I just could not ever abuse a child.  I’d put myself in a time-out before I could hurt a child. And as I tried to love this abuser, I knew “beyond a shadow of a doubt” he was guilty and voted to convict. I could not help him any more but by putting him where he could no longer harm anyone else.

After this trial, things disintegrated in my life to such a degree I found myself taking anti-depressants and took a leave of absence from my job.  I drove my middle son to college and drove home (across 4 states over about 18 hours) listening to a Mercy Me CD a friend had given me (thank you, Raghada) and just prayed. I prayed about my life, about the situation of my son and his schooling, my job, our living situation (by this time we had to vacate our home and move to a rental, but my husband had a new job – a bright spot).  I spent those hours with the windows all down, singing at the top of my lungs (trust me, it was good I was alone and in the vast desert for that part of it) and I realized that my life was disordered.  That was it – I was in disarray in so many areas.  And a calm clarity came to me, as I stared at my Jerusalem cross hanging from the rear-view window.  God needed me at home. My son needed me at home. My husband wanted me at home. My brief foray into the working world had come to a close.

“People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.”  (Mark 10: 13-16)

I needed to focus on a childlike approach to God, as well as to not hinder my children and keep them from God.  For my youngest son, the same one who is off on an Arctic Survival adventure this week, I needed to bring him home and help him myself.  My first duty is to be a faithful child of God; my second is to be a wife and mother.  Both my husband, and my sons, needed me at home.  My husband liked my paycheck, but he hated me working. Our lives run so much smoother with me at home.  And so I went back into homeschooling (we are now doing HS!!!) and keeping the home fires burning.  And as a stay-at-home wife and mother, I have a real sensitivity to protecting these helpless little ones.  They can be infants, they can be 10, they can be teenagers, but we need to bring our children to a safe haven and to “hinder them not” in their discovery of their faith.

Elder SiluanI still struggle with seeing little children abused and my anger about their situation and the adults who perpetrate these crimes against children is something I wrestle with (as became so obvious to me yesterday).  But I do know that we are all here to bring our children to God.  We are here to be sure they are safe.  We are here to give them a firm place, a foundation, to grow into healthy, Christian adults.  We are perhaps not here to tame this world, but to work out some of the kinks and make it not such a horribly rough place to be, and to raise the next generation, who can work at softening the edges of the evil one, who definitely holds sway over so many.  I know I feel protective of these little ones I see in the arm of friends who put themselves out there for them, and I love that there are families willing to share with the hurting children in our world.  But I also know I am here to keep an eye on my own family, my own children and grandchildren, making sure they are safe and free to grow up and love the God I know is here, protecting me.

“I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.” (John 17:15)

Infant Baptism