Lessons from the sick room

Sidelined. Alone. Fogged. Weak. Wanting. In the days and nights that ran into weeks, then months, as my body grew weaker instead of stronger, when no amount of trying would produce an alert mind to use “down time” for writing, it would have been easy to entertain self-pity. To give up. Or blame God. Wasn’t he listening? Didn’t he care?

When nothing else could stir my body or stimulate my brain, he woke me to pray for a warrior in danger on the other side of the world, or a single mother struggling to provide love and nourishment for her sons, or a young woman who lost her child to a brutal death, or for the one who wanted so desperately to mother a child. I prayed for friends whose mates suffered from physical or mental ailments, and whose hope was close to evaporating in the morning light. For struggling families, and for those alone. For widows, those who lost loved ones, young ones waiting for forever families, and for adoptive families climbing mountains.

As I lay in bed and prayed, following the urgency, I entered a rarely trod pathway of heart ache that held me with the Peace that passes understanding.

Odd, unexplainable, I often felt the pain of the one pictured before me. I agonized with that person and prayed as I felt encouraged to do. Then, as the compelling to pray lifted, I knew peace was restored to the one I was interceding for, that my work, for now, was done.

And I, too, was wrapped in that peace.

Phil 4 7
So, when friends wrote or called to encourage me from discouragement I was often surprised.

Somehow, not being physically healed was okay.

Sometimes we have work to do that does not involve mind and body. No hands. No feet.

Simply a willingness to listen and pray. Sometimes for minutes, at times hours. One session continued almost non-stop for a week, as I felt a dear life hung in the balance.

Certainly I missed participating in activities with my family and friends, and was sorry to have to pull back from church, leading Bible studies, from writer’s groups and social events.

But I was not alone.


And the more I responded to the call to pray for others, the more my room filled with a holy presence, with sustaining grace.

It runs in the face of the Western way of life, especially for Americans. We must be active, work hard, try harder.

Some even see unrelenting illness as a sign of sin or lack of faith.

But, I’m sure if you go to Christian refuges from Syria or to persecuted Christians in Pakistan or Cambodia, they will tell you a different story.

This world is not our home.

We were created for eternity with God.

And anything in our lives that drives our hearts to Him is worth it.

Any. Thing.

Now that some functionality has been restored, every time I hear this song, I have to stop and listen.
Take it in.
And remember.

What has driven you closer to God?

From a place of grief, anguish and joy

The last few weeks I’ve generally dropped from cyberspace. The days leading to the first anniversary of my mother’s death brought quietness and introspection, tons of emotion billowing over and surprising me. Since last fall I’d avoided the memorial website my daughter Tracey had set up. When she asked about continuing it, I spent several hours there, and cried.

With no recollection of what I had said, I watched my extemporaneous talk at the reception after Mom’s requiem. Right now so many are walking through the shadow of death themselves, or with others, I’d like to offer my little glimpse of peace that day as a gift of light.

It’s an amateur video, (and yes, cruel French teacher, I do swallow my vowels) but I hope you can make out the words and it blesses you.

My season of mourning and memories transitioned into several weeks of urgent intercession for a dear family pierced and torn up with the murder and untimely death (to us on earth) of a toddler. Personal pain from my little brother’s death, many years ago, intensified my desire to hold this family up.

To pray against the darkness.

Sometimes the pressure to intercede woke me, and kept me awake for hours at night. During the day I often felt drawn to pray amidst regular activities. At times it was so weighty I felt physical pain, and a complete energy drain.

One of my precious grandsons came for a week of Grammi Camp. His joy and the opportunity to love on him helped to balance me.

Pure, holy gift.

How can I mourn when he’s flying like a falcon?)

Falcon from Wild Kratts
Falcon from Wild Kratts

or spinning a web?

spider from Wild Kratts
spider from Wild Kratts

or looking for alligators?

spotting an alligator
spotting an alligator

or learning to body surf with Lily?


By the time I was called to help our son and his family move, the pressure to intercede constantly had lifted somewhat.

Last things in "Old house"
Last things in “Old house”
packed and in the car
packed and in the car
craft time
craft time

I cared for my precious granddaughters for eight days, with the little one sick from the second night on. If you have endured an earache, or a child with one, you know the the agony for all involved.

We had moments of tranquility.

Temporary relief in the tub
Temporary relief in the tub

Mostly, she was only relieved by being held. Struggling to eat zucchini spirals with only a fork reminded me of all the one-handed meals I ate while holding her father.

It also reminded me of the fact that faith and prayer do not guarantee happiness, healing, or even safety here on earth.

I circle back round to the truth.

The only guarantee on this side of the veil is that His grace is enough, heaven reaching down to us.

And we will be held.

Have you endured a season of deep pain, or been called to pray for another’s agony?

                                            (Photos from my cell phone.)

What do you do with a troubled heart?

Why do I wake in the morning and expect this day to go as planned, “normal?” I suppose for sanity we have to assume some things will go on, the sun will rise, my heart will beat, my family will live and thrive. To think otherwise every morning would lead to madness, or at least extreme anxiety. When something abruptly changes the rhythm of things, especially when a life is ended, we are brought up short by the small part we play in making this world go around, for the day to proceed, for the breath we take. And our hearts churn.

This week I ran across a text I sent last year, confirming activities in August so I could plan my mother’s 93rd birthday celebration. I had no way of knowing that only days later she would begin her journey home, and instead, celebrate that day in eternity. As the dates approached, I entered into the memories of last year, my mother’s fall and treatment in the E.R., her admission to the hospital, then the transfer the next day to hospice, and the vigil that followed until she died the following Monday.

Mom lived a rich, complex life, much of it blessed. She was long past ready to go to Jesus, and she left behind a rich legacy and memories that I will never finish replaying. Still, her absence in my world is a black hole, sucking my energy with a jab of emotion whenever something triggers a scene or her voice. But my sadness is limited now.

And it is balanced by my awareness of the pain of others. How can I take up residence in my own emotions when so many others need prayer, love and support?

A few days ago, I stopped to talk with my next store neighbor as he entered his driveway after walking his dogs. Only the location and dogs identified the scarecrow who was a hefty and active man only months ago. Cancer and something unknown is sipping away his life.

A good friend comes to church alone, the husband she anticipated growing old with in glory, instead lying in darkness in his bed, resisting her efforts to socialize.

An exhausted daughter tries desperately to calm her mother, terrorized by drugs and dementia, and learns her brother has died.

A child is torn from his mother, brutally sent to Jesus too soon. Her grief is set to destroy her.

My heart aches for these and others I know, or am asked to pray for, as well as for those I read about in the paper and hear on the news, lives abruptly changed by violence or accident or disease.

And yet, the Jesus who wept at his friend’s grave says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

I’ve tumbled that over in my mind all weekend, my heart so troubled that sometimes I could barely walk. Lifting the ones whose burdens weighed on me to the only one who has the power to change anything, I interceded through out the day. Even during the night I woke and prayed.

Still, my heart ached.

This morning I read from my favorite prophet, Isaiah. “I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song.”

The pieces slipped into place. Like so many others, the command from Jesus not to let my heart be troubled is one I can’t obey on my own. I need his strength. And for me, his strength comes in song, whether singing out loud, or responding to every little thing in my life as a gift, in a song of internal thanksgiving.

Once I began turning my heart toward Jesus, thanking him for the cardinals and finches playing out front, the dishwasher humming again after DH fixed it, the softness of my pillow, all the events in the lives of my children and grandchildren . . . once I started, the naming of thanks went on unassisted.

And though I am still praying for those in pain, my heart is no longer troubled.

Are you burdened, “heavy laden” as the old text reads?

Or are you the burden-bearer, bending under the weight of it?

Unforced rhythms of grace