Straining for the Light

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For a long time the threat of a new year brought with it an onslaught of more darkness, more enervating melancholy, more long, gray days ahead to suffer through. It was nothing to celebrate.

At the end of one of those especially difficult years I met Alece Ronzino online. She too had experienced a year (or more!) like that, punctuated by loss and betrayal and hopelessness. In 2009 she decided to find one word to focus on in the new year, instead of a list of resolutions that were quickly and quietly abandoned. One Word 365was born.

One word can change everything. Forget New Year’s Resolutions. Scrap the long list of goals that you won’t remember three weeks from now anyway. Choose just one word. One word that sums up who you want to be or how you want to live or what you want to achieve by the end of 2016. One word. 365 days. A changed life. ~Alece Ronzino

The last four years I’ve participated brought some incredible changes to my life. I became more focused, more hopeful, more inspired to hold fast, keep going, and expect good things. I’ve been challenged to be fearless. I have committed to believing. I have thrown myself into creativity. Most recently, I have spent a year contemplating possibility and what that looks like fleshed out in real life, and right now it looks like The Mudroom. I doubted it was possible a year ago, yet giving space for possibility to bloom made it a reality.

I’ve been brought low and robbed of energy by chronic pain. I’ve spiraled into dark depression. Anxiety has left me dizzy and breathless. I’ve been facing childhood sexual abuse head on and I have the bruises and scars to show for it. I’ve been humbled by my own darkness, my secret sins that cast a shadow over my heart and steal the light from my eyes. I’ve staggered under the weight of loneliness and grief and fear and despaired of ever feeling strong again.

My One Word for 2016 is restore.

rsz_onewordcollage2016

The locusts have ravaged me, leaving me bereft. I hardly know what plenty, abundance, fullness feels like. I find myself returning to that field of devastation, the locusts leaving nothing of worth behind. But there is a promise and I am claiming it.

Joel 2:25-32 (ESV)
25 I will restore to you the years
that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
my great army, which I sent among you.
26 “You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
and praise the name of the Lord your God,
who has dealt wondrously with you.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.
27 You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,
and that I am the Lord your God and there is none else.

In these verses God is not telling his people to buck up, man up, cowgirl up, grow up, deal with it, get over it, or pull yourself together. He is acknowledging that this is a straight-up disaster, a full-on calamity. He sees and validates the wreckage and the ruin that has devastated his people, who have been left desolate. He tells them that it was his great army, obeying his command, meting out justice, which caused this cataclysm.

But God.

God is a God of restoration, redemption, healing, and deliverance. He is a God of double portions and spacious places. He removes shame and exchanges it for radiance.

Jeremiah 30:17
For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, declares the Lord
Isaiah 61:7
Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion
Hosea 6:1
“Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.”

He will not leave us as orphans. He will not treat us as our sins deserve. He will not ignore our cries for mercy. There is no shadow of turning in him.

In Life Together, Dietrich Bohoeffer penned a paragraph that all of us should write on our mirrors. He was referring to the morning, but I have replaced day with year.

For Christians the beginning of the [year] should not be burdened and oppressed by besetting concerns for the [year’s] work. At the threshold of the new [year] stands the Lord who made it. All the darkness and distraction of the dreams of night retreat before the clear light of Jesus Christ and his wakening Word. All unrest, all impurity, all care and anxiety flee before him. Therefore, at the beginning of the [year] let all distraction and empty talk be silenced and let the first thought and the first word belong to him whom our whole life belongs.

My proclamation for 2016 is to not be oppressed by the besetting concerns for this year’s work, but to face it with excitement and expectation. I will remember that God stands at the threshold of this year, like a sentry, offering protection but also reminding me that every day is a battle, but one I don’t fight in vain or alone. Darkness and distraction are no match for the light of Jesus and his wakening Word. Restlessness, impurity, worry, and fear have no place in this year. My first thought and first word of this year, and every morning in it, belong to God who has “destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”

The onset of a new year isn’t a threat to me anymore. It doesn’t hold the same bleakness and grim prospects as it did previously. I’m determined to wrestle until I’m limping. I’m done with ashes and mourning and shadows and death. I’ve had enough of despondency and gloom. I’m aching for the light.

Who’s aching with me?

Tammy Perlmutter

Writer at Raggle-Taggle
Tammy Perlmutter writes about unabridged life, fragmented faith, and investing in the mess at her blogRaggle-Taggle. She founded The Mudroom to make room in the mess and create a space for people to beheard. Tammy guest posts a bit, writes flash memoir, personal essay, and poetry, leads writing groups, and preaches on occasion. She is also an advocate for women and mental health, an alum of the Voices and Faces Project testimonial writing workshop, The Stories We Tell, for survivors of sexual assault, abuse, and trafficking, as well as the Social Media Director for Threads of Compassion, an organization offering comfort to recent victims of sexual trauma. She will have an essay included in the book Soul Bare: Raw Reflections on Human Redemption, being published by InterVarsity Press in 2016.
 . . . reblogged from Mudroom

My creaturehood

For the days and times when we so experience our woundedness and faults and wonder how God can still love us:

God likes me covered with my creaturehood
and with my limits spread across His face.
He likes to see me lifting to His eyes
even the wretchedness that dropped His grace.

~Jessica Powers (from “Creature of God”)

A bit of wisdom from Fr. Brown

“According to St. Thomas Aquinas, in its effect on us, despair, the abandonment of hope, is the gravest of sins.  It is the devil’s chief weapon of attack.  As Chesterton’s Father Brown says to Arnold Aylmer when he receives a deaththreat: ‘These devils always try to make us helpless by making us hopeless.'” (John Saward)

Look at yourself through His eyes

This is for all of you who struggle with a positive image of yourselves, finding it hard to believe that God could love you.

When you have an inferiority complex–and who of us hasn’t–you say things like, “I just don’t believe that what God made is good.  Look at me.  I’m a louse.”  Don’t dare to challenge God like this.  Everything he made is good, including yourself.  Don’t listen to that serpent who is giving you apples that look red on the outside and are full of inferiority complexes on the inside.  Don’t eat that apple, or else you are going to go down into a pit prepared by Satan for you for your whole life.

How can you have a wrong image of something or someone that God touched?  God touched you and he created you.  You passed through his mind and you were begotten.  Anyone of us that passes through God’s mind, anyone of us that God touched, cannot be this horrible person we think we are.  No!  Each one of us is beautiful–we’re beautiful because he touched us.

Sometimes this is very difficult for us to accept.  We look at ourselves and say, “He made us in his image, equal to himself in a manner of speaking, heir to his Son?  This just can’t be.  He hasn’t looked into my heart.  he doesn’t know what I’m made of!”  We say those silly things because our evaluation of ourselves is very poor.  We haven’t looked at ourselves with the merciful, tender, compassionate eyes of God.  So we walk in despair half the time.  As a result, the ability to realize that God is both in our midst and in us–a realization that is the fruit of faith–fades and disappears.

This is the main reason, it seems to me, why the Father sent his Son to us, why the Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us as one of us.  The Father, having given us the fantastic gift of faith, wanted to help us accept this awesome gift.  He sent his Son Jesus Christ so that we, unbelieving, might believe.  We are like children; we need to touch.

Every human being is a mystery.  The mystery of man enters into the mystery of God, and bursting forth with great joy, comes faith and understanding.  When faith is there, all is clear, and a love relation with God enters into your heart.  When you have faith, it is such a simple thing to accept his love, even if you do not understand why he loves you.  (Catherine de Hueck Doherty)

Praying for you that you have faith in His love for you.

“In the midst of brokenness”

Pointing you over to A Holy Experience today:

copyright Ann Voskamp
copyright Ann Voskamp

He points a finger at me, shakes it like a wand, like a prayer, like shaking me awake.

“I need to talk with you.”

Gordon’s on his tiptoes, looking for me through the lunch crowd, punctuating each word high in the air with his left pointer finger. “I’ve got a question for you.” He’s stabbing the air. I feel poked in the chest, pushed up against the back of my chair. I reach for water, something to wet a thick, scratchy throat.

A question? What kind of question? Why ask me a question? How can he ask anything of me — and think he’d get anything worthwhile?

I live in the curve of questions, sheltered under and arch of mystery, all my declarative periods couched with a questioning mark. 

I know little and answers elude me and my world is wide expanses of wondering andseeking is the way I find my way. Gordon’s scanning to see if there’s an empty chair at my table.

He’s carrying his plate high, his lunch, a green salad, a pulled pork sandwich, baked beans. I lay down my fork, all those tines.

“But…” Can he hear me over this din? “I won’t have answers.”

You can read the rest here.

Call out to Mary

“O you, whoever you are, who feel that in the tidal wave of this world you are nearer to being tossed about among the squalls and gales than treading on dry land, if you do not want to founder in the tempest, do not avert your eyes from the brightness of this star.  When the wind of temptation blows up within you, when you strike upon the rock of temptation, gaze up at this star, call out to Mary.  Whether you are being tossed about by the waves of pride or ambition or slander or jealousy, gaze up at this star, call out to Mary.  When rage or greed or fleshly desires are battering the skiff of your soul, gaze up at Mary.  When the immensity of your sins weighs you down and you are bewildered by the loathsomeness of your conscience, when the terrifying thought of judgment appalls you and you begin to founder in the gulf of sadness and despair, think of Mary.  In dangers, in hardships, in every doubt, think of Mary, call out to Mary.  Keep her in your mouth, keep her in your heart. Follow the example of her life and you will obtain the favor of her prayer.  Following her, you will never go astray.  Asking her help, you will never despair.  Keeping her in your thoughts, you will never wander away.  With your hand in hers, you will never stumble.  With her protecting you, you will not be afraid.  With her leading you, you will never tire.  Her kindness will see you through.” (Bernard of Clairvaux}

 

You are a zero

One of the Lenten quotes hanging on the walls in our convent:

“Cast away that despair produced by the realization of your weakness.  It’s true: financially you are a zero, and socially another zero, and another in virtue, and another in talent . . . But to the left of these zeros is Christ . . . and what an immeasurable figure it turns out to be.”  (St. Josemaría Escrivá)

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Some things I have learned to do

Reblogged from Mary Ann Morgan:

It was one of those days. I never saw the ledge, but I surely stepped off and fell right into the darkness. I am surprised by these dark days and I am grateful that they are more the exception and not the rule anymore. For a brief period of my life, they were my normal. For a season — an awful season — I found myself swirling, spiraling into the blackness every day.

If this is something you know well, I am so sorry. Here are some things I have learned to do when these days come.

1. Rest. Sometimes I just need to pull back from the stresses of life and rest. Giving myself permission to take a nap or a walk instead of working incessantly can do wonders for me.

2. Remember. This is just a day. This will not last forever. I remember God’s goodness in my life and ask for his perspective. Mine is obviously skewed and I need to know things from his point of view. Counting gifts does wonders for the heart.

3. Reach out. When I am feeling this way, the last thing I want to do is reach out to my friends. I don’t know why we are like this. Maybe pride? Fear? I have to remind myself of the times others have reached out to me in need and how it endeared them to me. We love to help others. Why would I deny someone the joy of being my friend when I need them?

It’s days like this I miss my daddy most. I just want to call him and hear his voice again. “Hey Mary Babe” he would always say. He was always so glad to hear my voice. I loved chatting with him about the flowers. He was a gardener and we shared a love for planting things. He would always tell me what was coming up in his yard. The tulips I planted for him are coming up around my birdhouse now. I just want to tell him about them, “Dad, I planted Tulips for you. They are red, your favorite color.”

I miss my dad, and it’s okay to cry about it. I think I can finally do that.

If you have had a hard day, or a bad week, my heart aches for you. I think we  go through things sometimes just so we can be a better friend to others. Compassion sews threads of kindness into the lives of others. We cannot have it if we have not experienced pain of some sort in our own lives. Know this: God is with you and he loves you dearly. He is present with you and he will give you just what you need. You are not alone. Ever.

Psalm 34:4-7 ~

“I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me.
    He freed me from all my fears.
 Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy;
    no shadow of shame will darken their faces.
 In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened;
    he saved me from all my troubles.
 For the angel of the Lord is a guard;
    he surrounds and defends all who fear him.”