Tag Archives: pain

I Dream of Spring

I dream of spring with shafts of light

Shot through clouds with hope-giving sight;

I walk the freeze of January’s night,

But I dream of spring….

 

I dream of spring with pale, pink flowers

Lilacs awakened in their scented bowers;

I listen to the shrieking of winter’s powers,

But I dream of spring….

 

I dream of spring with greening fields

Red suns dying over promised yields;

I trudge through passions that January wields,

But I dream of spring….

 

I dream of spring with blades of grass,

Meadow-sweet winds that through it pass;

I embrace the pain of winter’s blast,

But I dream of spring….

-January 2013

 

I must give an explanation for this poem, since right now I am in no place where I wish the winter were over. Here, our winter consists of cool nights and sunny days, and even though the houses do get chilly because of tile floors and no heat when it hits the 50s, I hate to see every bit of winter leave as February rolls around. 

I came across this poem tonight in some of the ones I had filed away and it brought back so many memories, that I felt like I had to print it, and I realized that many of my readers might be able to resonate. 

The background behind this poem is what makes it such a special one for me. In the spring of 2012, just after a difficult, weary winter in which I was teaching school, I needed to go to school to print off some things one Saturday evening in May, just before the term ended. The sun was setting in the west over a greening wheat field. Spring was glorious that year and the rains we had gotten greened and grew the wheat fields more than normal. I remember standing there, worshiping, watching the sunset over the wheat, and feeling the stress and tension of the past year slipping from my shoulders. My throat still gets a lump when I think of the way that God healed me and grew me that summer, even though it was a painful one in some ways. 

The next winter of 2013 found me again teaching school. It was another challenging year and my mind and heart often went back to that moment I so clearly remember of standing out behind the school, looking over Paul Nisly’s wheat field, watching the sunset and the green and the glory all together. I longed to go back to that point, not just because of the spring, but because of the feeling of having passed one of the most challenging years of my life. January and February 2013 weren’t easy months either, and spring came late that year. I wrote this poem in January of 2013 and even though it is a simple one, for me it always brings back those colors and feelings vividly. 

That is why I am posting about longing for spring from a tropical country. 🙂

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Truth Spoken

Who you are and what you say and what you believe does not change who I am:

I am a child of God.

When my heart is raw and overwhelmed, even then I know:

I am a child of God.

He has set my feet on dry ground. He sings songs of deliverance around me:

I am a child of God.

Even when people who call themselves by God’s name dishonor Him, no matter:

I am a child of God.

Jesus died for me. His blood still covers me:

I am a child of God.

He believes this, and she believes that, and they believe this. Yet:

I am a child of God.

The world hurts and the world cries and I wonder why, why, why? Still:

I am a child of God.

They say “where is your God,” and I cannot answer, but I know inside:

I am a child of God.

I fall down. I fall down. I fall down, again and again. But I know:

I am a child of God.

 

Who you are and what you say and what you believe does not change who I am:

I am a child of God.

Confessions of a Feeler

One of the hardest things about being someone who processes through writing is when the words simply don’t come. Last evening, as I sat beside the pond at the university I study at, I begin journaling, trying desperately to put into words what I was feeling. But it felt impossible.

This is what I wrote.

“There are moments these days when I find myself supremely happy, almost delirious with joy at the way the clouds pile up over the mountain at sunset and the way the light shafts over the ragged edges of the clouds and the way the birds soar high in the face of the sunset. Or when I find myself walking through the market in the evening when the cool of the day is beginning to set in and I listen to the traditional Thai songs playing over the loudspeakers and greet friends I happen to meet there.

“And then there are moments these days when I am sick to my stomach with a heaviness and sadness, loneliness carving at my soul, curling up deep inside my stomach somewhere. Unexplainable, yes, but still there, something deep and aching inside of me that simply won’t go away that brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. And after the tears, the heaviness remains, and a fragile exhaustion.

“And then there are times when those moments of happiness, loneliness and deep, deep sadness all collide together in one lump inside of me.

“It’s not that I am not happy. I sometimes feel like this is one of the happiest times of my life? How could I be unhappy with the God I love, the family I have, the rich diversity of friendships I can claim, and the joy I feel of being alive in this world?

“It’s just that I am so sad, too.

“For a while, pain and sadness and loneliness can be embraced, and almost welcomed. It’s going to leave you a better person, you know. But after a while the challenge leaves and you simply hurt. And it’s exhausting.

“What is it actually? Some kind of mixture of homesickness and missing all the people that make home home. It’s loneliness when I see a man and woman sitting at the picnic table, talking and laughing in an intimate conversation. Some of it is a longing for something deeper and more, something beyond this world that nothing here can satisfy. But mostly, I am starting to think that it is the burden of a feeler that “catches” the sorrow and sadness that coats this world like a fog.”

That’s what I journaled last night as I sat beside the pond and cried and wished I could somehow turn it all into a poem because if I can express myself, I can find relief. But no relief came. I wracked my brain, trying to think what I ate that could trigger that effect, and wondering what kind of chemicals were at work in my brain.

Does it sound weird? Catching other people’s feelings?

The cloud hung over me today as I journaled and prayed this morning, and as I listened to scripture recordings and baked pizza dough for tomorrow. It stayed over me while I baked some cupcakes and stirred together pizza sauce and swept and mopped the breezeway. Only tonight as I begin to talk with some of the others about their day, and left the house for the market, and talked with some friends I met on the way, did I begin to feel it lifting. Its going left a relief not unlike the relief you get after a nagging headache begins to lift once you take some painkillers. And only now am I able to begin putting it into words, even though this feeling still sits in my stomach, not as heavy as before, but still tugging at my tears every now and then.

I’ve felt this before, but lately, it’s been harder. It’s been harder to remember who I am really am, and sift through these feelings of what belongs to me and what I am experiencing from the environment around me. Sometimes I can keep on going on the outside as if nothing is going on on the inside. Other times I simply need to get away, yet I have realized that I need to be careful not to simply be alone too long, because sometimes it can also increase the depression, if I don’t have answers yet on how to deal with it.

I’m only now expressing it, but I’ve felt it often, sometimes in crowds of people like the night market, when I watch the hundreds of people walking and begin to feel an inexpressible sadness. I felt it as a teacher of a student with deep anger and pain issues. I found myself crying after school, deep in pain myself. Thinking back, I’ve experienced it more times than I can count.

Being a feeler, or an empathizer, means that you can easily see someone else’s viewpoint, enter into their pain with them, feel what they are feeling. This is a gift, this ability. It lets you walk beside others and have a window into their world.

It’s also dangerous.

I talk with someone who is cynical against my faith and the core values I embrace. I begin to feel cynical.

I read a book about someone who doubts everything he grew up thinking and believing. I begin to doubt.

I wash back and forth between two opinions, unable to decide on just one of them because I can too clearly understand and feel the pros and cons of both.

A friend is struggling and I am plunged into a gray mood, like a cloud is on top of me and some kind of giant tongue depressor is on top of the cloud.

For a long time, I didn’t write about it. Mostly because I didn’t understand it, or because it sounded weird and witchlike.

Sometimes I realize that it is a call to prayer for a certain person. But sometimes it takes a while for me to catch on who I am supposed to pray for.

I am still wrestling through it, trying to figure out what it is that I am feeling. But simply knowing that I have a tendency to do this has helped me tremendously in being able to stand in the presence of books and people with whom I don’t agree, instead of slinking away for fear that I will be swayed with cynicism or doubt. I can differentiate better what I am feeling and yet, what I still believe. I can also realize that sometimes I feel a certain way through no fault of my own.

Does any of this sound familiar? I have researched it some, and found some answers, however, not much.

I’m curious. What do you think? Have you ever felt this way? Have you ever felt like you overfeel everything?

words

they are

locked and no one

gives me the key

 

they have lived there for a thousand years

(as old as my soul feels)

pulsating, alive, fluid

 

they are wild and lonely

words

of mountain summits,

love,

somehow light–

and

dusk

 

life and death

so close together

when life rises glimmering,

knowing

death comes

 

I will die

if I do not have

them

 

but though they live,

burning inside me

I do not

understand them

 

and somehow death comes

again, and again.

 

words,

oh these words!

 

light slips through my fingers

 

*author’s note: sometimes I write things that I barely understand myself. But if I really could understand this, it would never have been written.

Voiceless

Words burn within me

To tell all the others

The beauty I saw today.

The mountain’s high crest

The forest’s red haze

The foam of the river’s spray

 

A piercing of light

A wind tossed swallow

The mist of a mountain’s shroud

The boldness of color

The caress of a breeze

The wisps of a wind scattered cloud

 

But the deepest things

That are caught in my soul

In muted aching cry

Are the flash of a smile

The gleam of teeth

The light in a villager’s eye

 

A faint shy smile

A word exchanged

And laughter quick and keen

These are the treasures

That I long to share

From all that today I have seen.

 

Originally written in February of 2017, this poem came to mind after my day today.

The Rats in Our Lives

One of my housemates gives them names. The other one can’t bring herself to kill one if she has the chance. I throw water bottles at them.

They’re a constant problem at our house, these rats and mice. One morning a little over a year ago, I woke up at 3 in the morning. In my groggy, half-awakened state, I heard an odd rhythm, the scraping sound of furniture moving, belongings being shuffled around rather frantically, and a methodic thumping. I lay there for a good 3 minutes, trying to gather up enough mental energy to make a conclusion of what was happening. Finally, it dawned on me and I croaked as loudly as my 3 AM voice would allow.

“Brit, are you killing rats?”

A weak answer floated back, “Yes.”

When I got there, her room looked like a war zone. Everything was on the bed that could possibly be there and whatever couldn’t be was arranged in a path to channel the said mouse (not actually a rat this time) into a trap. The sad part was she couldn’t bring herself to kill it, so she handed me the broom.

At that time of the morning, you say odd things. I am told that I said, “I can’t kill them unless I’m really mad at them” and then went ahead and savagely killed it.

We’ve had them long enough that we’ve become calloused to them. They create material for good stories to freak out moms and sisters at home. Like the time one of them ate a snack on the drying rack and had the audacity to leave shreds of mango on my newly washed underwear. Or the time I heard one in my closet and as I was hunting for it, I leaned my hand against some blankets and it came squirming out from underneath them. Or the time they chewed up an entire cloth runner since butter had melted on it and they craved the flavor.

We’ve found ways of coping with them. They come in from the kitchen, so we close the door to the rest of the house so they can’t get in there. That doesn’t actually work since they can climb through the open window that goes from kitchen to the hallway. We’ve learned to cover up or put in the cupboard any food that is edible, even if it’s in a plastic bag because plastic bags are barely barriers to chew through. Lately I’ve started to put out poison. We found the smelly results under the couch a few days later.

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About a year ago, some friends of mine were here. The guys in the group had pity on us and went out and bought some dry cement and filled up the holes in the kitchen so the rats couldn’t come through again. It worked!

For a while. Then they learned that they could come up the washer drain. And the dry cement began crumbling and a little hole appeared large enough for them to come through again. Now at night we hear skitterings and crashings and all sorts of noises coming from our kitchen. And in the gutter, we can hear dreadful squeakings and shriekings. For some time I was sure there was one in the agonies of death, either that giving birth to another generation of unprincipled rodents. (Do rats have labor pains? I wonder.)

Every time another episode in the rat saga occurs, we look at each and shake our heads and say, “Guys, we really need to do something about these rats!”

But no one does anything. We get used to them. We work from Monday to Fridays in slightly stressful jobs and no one has the energy to do anything about them when we get home. They are a nuisance, but not a constant pain. And most of all, we don’t really know what to do about them. How do you fully plug up those holes anyway? We helplessly ignore them and secretly hope that eventually they will go away. Either that we’ll do something about them tomorrow.

But they don’t go away.

In a way, each of us has rats in our lives too. Rats of a different ilk.

It’s that niggling feeling that you get when talking with someone else and you’re not sure exactly what is niggling. It’s that sense of dread that comes over you when you’re listening to a sermon or reading a book and something is said that suddenly takes you in a deep, downward spiral. It’s that feeling of inadequacy. Shame. Anger. Bitterness. Fear. Or a feeling you can’t even name.

Sometimes the feelings are so quick and passing that we don’t even realize they exist. We rush on through our day, intent on doing our job right, so intent on getting to the next thing that when we have time to sit and reflect on what happened, it’s burrowed itself down deep enough we don’t feel it anymore and it takes too much digging to get it up again and deal with it. Or we forget that it even happened or we don’t have the energy to deal with it.

Sometimes it’s more obvious than that. Sometimes it overshadows whatever we do and we struggle to put one foot ahead of the other, because of this feeling of dread that hangs over us, but we feel helpless and overwhelmed when we even think about doing something about it

Usually these rats come stealing in at our lowest points, when we stretched thin, when we’re facing stress in our daily lives, when we’re dealing with raw pain, or when we’re  lonely.

And what do we do with them? Sometimes we put up walls. We put everything edible into cupboards so the rats can’t reach them. Or we only close the kitchen door to certain parts of our lives so they can’t enter into the living room. In reality we are saying, I will only be bitter about this part of my life, but I won’t let it affect the rest of my life. But eventually it does affect that part.

Sometimes we put out poison for the rats. This works to some degree, and there’s a need for this. But after a while we get tired of cleaning up the smelly mess and always dealing with new ones coming in again.

We need to plug up the holes. As long as the holes are there, rats will come in. And we will need to deal with them.

Those rats, those ugly thoughts and feelings that come twisting out of the woodwork when we’re not looking, aren’t really the problem. The problem is the holes in our lives.

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Most of those holes were created when we were very young, between the ages of 0 and 8. These are the formative years of a child’s life. Forgive me if this sounds cliché. Sometimes I myself get tired of people harping that you have to dig into your childhood to find the roots of all the problems that are present in your life currently.

But often the most cliché things are cliché because they actually are true. The painful things that happened when you and I were young and the way we reacted then becomes a pattern for how we twistedly deal with life presently on a daily basis.

That’s why if we don’t deal with that point of paint that happened when we were six, it becomes a building block for future patterns of “fixed” thinking.

Recently I heard it explained in this way. Painful or traumatic things that happen to us in our lives are like hooks that are thrust into our hearts. As long as we don’t forgive or don’t deal with that pain or issue, we provide a hook for future events to hang on to.

We can clean up the mess from the rats every morning (and believe me, they leave a mess). But until we plug up those holes and remove those hooks from our hearts, the rats won’t go away.

The rat analogy can only go so far. In truth, we shouldn’t stop short of just plugging up the holes. In a perfect world, we should go outside and kill all the rats in the field behind us. But anyone who’s lived in Southeast Asia realizes the futility of that. And we don’t live in a perfect world. (Duh.)

Here are a few thoughts that might help with the finding and plugging up of some of those holes.

  1. Find out what you are feeling! This is easier said than done. Our souls are intricate and our emotions a mess. Sometimes we don’t even know we are feeling something when in reality we are feeling it deeply. Ask God to help you become aware of emotions you feel daily. Sometimes He will give you a little push to help you see what you’re feeling, and it can hurt. Be prepared to be hurt. When we open our hearts to actually feeling, it is astounding how painful something can be.
  2. Write down what you’re feeling and find out where it comes from. The writing down part doesn’t have to happen—that depends on what your best way is of processing things. But for me, writing brings clarity and a new viewpoint. And most importantly, it helps you remember. But however you do it, keep track of what you’re feeling and when you feel it. Become aware of the world that goes on inside of you.
  3. Take it to God. Ask Him to show you where these feelings are coming from. Why do I feel inadequate when someone else can do a job better than me, even if I do it well? Why do I get angry so easily when one of my students disobeys me? Why do I feel like hiding in the bathroom when I have to be a part of a large group of people that I don’t know?
  4. Talk with someone about it. There are several reasons for this. Talking with others about it can bring clarity. Recently I emailed someone about an issue I was facing that I couldn’t quite lay my finger on. After the email, I felt like I was able to see the problem from a different angle and much more clearly. But even more importantly, talking about it brings healing, especially when done face to face. Recently I was a part of a group that spent time together talking about issues we were facing and walking through those issues with each other. There is something terrible and humbling in discussing our core pain with each other, but something freeing and healing as well. God can bring deep healing through true interaction with brothers and sisters. Like someone in the group said, “I didn’t know God can kick you in the butt and give you a hug at the same time.”
  5. Remember that it’s not a onetime fix all. I know, technically once you get those holes plugged up, and once you get those hooks out of your heart, it’s supposed to fix it all. But we live in a fallen world. And analogies can only go so far. Even though we do rid ourselves of the hooks, sometimes our old ways of living life, our old patterns of expressing still want to shine through. They are habits. It’s like someone whose been in the hospital and been on morphine for a long time. Once the pain of the health issue is no longer there, the craving for the morphine still exists. In the same way, we sometimes crave for our old patterns even though we have found something much better.

This is by no means an exhaustive look at rats in our lives. In fact, it’s only the tip of the iceberg. I’d like to hear from you. What kind of experience have you had with rats in your life? How have you dealt with them?

Of Ambivalence, Hope and Hatpins

Two words have been on my mind lately.

Hope and ambivalence.

According to dictionary.com, the definition of ambivalence is this:

1.uncertainty or fluctuation, especially when caused by inability to make a choice or by a   simultaneous desire to say or do two opposite or conflicting things.

When I read the definition, I thought to myself, “It feels so good that at least the dictionary understands the story of my life.”

There are times when I know exactly what I want. If I would sit down and count them, I could probably count them on one hand.

Whether it’s ordering off a menu, or deciding on a career, I feel like Philippa Gordon in Anne of the Island, who was struck with such indecisiveness that when faced with the decision of which hat to wear, she would put them on the bed, close her eyes and jab them with a hatpin.

Sometimes I do it too. I can’t decide what to wear so I go “eenie meenie minie moe.” And sometimes I have to do it several times before I get to the point where I can be happy with the results. I know, it’s weird.

But what do ambivalence and hatpins have to do with hope?

Because hope is such a strange thing. It’s what keeps us alive, yet it’s also what keeps us in pain. It’s such an enigma, oxymoron, puzzle, whatever you want to call it. We love it, we call it, we lure it, but when we have it, it hurts. So we shelve it, we box it, we draw boundaries around it, we sit on it, we smother it, we numb its beauty with the narcotic of fantasy. And yet, we live on it. We can’t live without it. An old, old book says, “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick.” Yet, wouldn’t it be better not to hope at all, rather than to hope and have it deferred? A Thai friend of mine has this saying on his Line (a popular messaging app in Asia)profile picture. “Mai wang, mai pit wang.” Meaning, “If you don’t hope, you won’t be disappointed.”

I know that’s a lie. But the ambivalence inside of me rages. If I hope, I will be disappointed. If I don’t hope, I will die. Hope is what keeps me alive, yet sometimes that life feels like death.

To hope or not to hope?

This ambivalence is what keeps us standing on the edge of the river, dipping only a toe into the water when we could jump in. It keeps us wavering at the counter of McDonalds, keeps us paralyzed and unable to make long term commitments because of all the “what if’s”, and it keeps us jabbing hatpins at hats on the bed.

I wish I had some kind of profound way to end this post. Some deep, wise thought that seals it up and leaves a good, satisfying taste in my mouth and lets me finally go to bed, feeling like I’ve got it figured out and that I’ve left a wise impression on my readers.  But that’s not what hope is like. This elusive, ethereal, yet powerful thing. It’s an emotion, yet not an emotion.

Perhaps, perhaps there’s something that lies in the choice. The act of choosing. Not the jabbing of the hatpin, but the deliberate choice to hope. And maybe it has something to do with faith.

Perhaps. I really don’t know.

What do you say?

Soul Cry

I cannot.

Sometimes there are no words

To plumb the aching depths

Of this well

To hurl these cries to the heights

Where You are; and carry my call

To where You dwell.

 

I give up.

All fails me now to put to words

All this, this, inside of me and bridge

These miles apart

Between You and I, God; I cannot.

Tongue-tied, I sit. Oh, God, come down!

And listen to my heart!