What if God’s purposes are bigger than your answered prayers?


The title of this blog was taken from a Facebook status posted by the associate pastor of our church. He and his wife are currently experiencing a heartbreaking situation, as she is pregnant with a baby who is not expected to survive more than a few hours after birth. What is in their minds and hearts? I can only guess. Thousands of prayers are being offered for them, for their baby. What are they expecting to happen? I don’t know.I can only imagine.

But I understand the sentiment of this statement, what if God’s purposes are bigger than your answered prayers? I understand it because when I was diagnosed with breast cancer there were people who wanted to (and did) pray for a miraculous healing. But I knew in my heart that was not to be. I knew that this was a journey I had to take, for whatever reasons, for whatever purposes. Maybe it is for myself, to learn, to grow, to become the person I am supposed to become. Will cancer weaken me, or will it strengthen me? Who knows, I might end up competing in the Tour de France after it’s over! Or I might just be in my own individual spiritual Tour de France. Maybe it will touch other people’s lives. My children’s, for certain. I have seen this already in a few ways, for better, or for worse which will end up better, if you know what I mean. Maybe there is one stranger out there whose life I can end up touching through this. Who knows?

But this I know, we were not promised a rose garden. Bad things happen, even to good people. Life is hard sometimes. God has works to perform in our lives and in our hearts, and like the works of a surgeon or an oncologist, those works are not always pleasant in the moment. But they are for good, for a purpose beyond what others may see.

We can see it, though, if we are honest. We may not understand it, but we can sense it. We know when God is moving in our lives, because even though we may not like what is happening, even when we might sometimes have sleepless nights, tears, even a panic attack, behind even those things there is a sense of peace.

I am afraid of what I am about to do, it is true. I’m not sure where I am going or where I will end up. But behind it all, there really is that sense of peace. I have had a whole lot of practice in resting in that peace while toiling through the deepest, darkest places in this world, as most of you know. This is just another thing.


Notes from the wilderness

imageHello world. I have left my nest of pillows and blankets on the couch and I am sitting at the kitchen table. It’s kind of cold here, shivery. But it feels a little more human like. I’m getting tired of recovery from surgery. No, a lot tired of it. It’s kind of depressing actually.

And perhaps this is part of why I am where I am spiritually, which is in the Wilderness. There have been times in my life when I can read the Bible, and say amen, when I can find passages that feel like God is speaking right to me and it sets my heart alight. There have been times when I talked to God, and he seems present, and answers. Now I read the Bible and say, “Eh?” I pray and it isn’t necessarily that I feel God isn’t there, but he is sitting on a hard chair across the room and not answering.

Maybe I feel like he doesn’t like me that much.

It has never been my in my thoughts that if God loves you, bad things don’t happen to you. In fact, quite the opposite has been my thought: that if God loves you, he allows into your life the experiences you need to grow and become the person you came to this life to be, and to contribute to the world the special gifts you have to contribute. That is what I believe.

Emotions are a funny thing, however, and especially so for me. I have had so many emotions that have tried to kill me I have learned to bury them, and I have come to have a hard time dealing with them on a surface level. Even now, how do I feel? Honestly, I know I am scared. I am scared to have a PET scan because so far every place they have looked for cancer, they have found it. I have the American Cancer Association figures in my head. Stage III breast cancer has a 72 percent five-year survival rate. Not bad. But if it shows up anywhere else, it would become Stage IV, and that has a 22 percent five year survival rate. Numbers dancing in my head, although as long as the number is greater than zero I intend to be part of the survivors.

And I’m at a loss as to how this happened, and happened so quickly. It’s not as though I never had mammograms!

But I don’t feel afraid, if that makes sense. There are tears that sometimes leak out but I’m not sure where they come from, or where they are going.

Right now I just think life will be better when I get rid of these drains and bandages, when I can get shower and get dressed and leave the house, when I can do things for myself instead of having to ask for help with stupid little things. As long as I am stuck in the house, I think perhaps the rain and storms we have had have been a little bit comforting, but my heart will feel lighter when the sun shines again, and when leaving my nest on the couch doesn’t cause me to shiver.

Life would also be better if I felt a little less alone spiritually, if God was not sitting silent on that hard chair across the room, if I read the Bible, or anything, and felt it speak to me, although truth to tell reading at all has been kind of difficult since surgery. I stopped taking the percocet during the day because the words were muddling themselves up when I tried to read or write, but there still seems to be a bit of a drag in the mental functions. I am just plain tired.

Time, time, time. That is what it will take here. Time to heal. Time to move on. Time.

Tuesday is Michaela’s birthday. I was looking at my calendar the other day trying to figure out when my next doctor’s appointment is. I saw a dot on the 24th and thought, no, I don’t have an appointment that early in the week. I had to open it up in order to see that it is Michaela’s birthday. How could that have ever slipped my mind?

My heart breaks.




Unstuck in time

imageI was babysitting my four month old grandson yesterday, and he was intently observing me eat a scone. I told him, not long now and you will be able to eat scones, too. But when I said that, I realized something. He has no concept of ever being able to eat a scone himself.

To little Theo, life is static. What is now is forever. He has no concept of the fact that he will one day be able to sit unassisted, that he will learn to crawl and then walk, to eat and drink. He has no idea that he is destined to become one of us, a grown up. As far as he is concerned, he is just going to be this cute little lump that desires to do so much but whose strength and coordination aren’t quite up to the task yet.

This, of course, made me think of us. Or of me, anyway. I have recognized my own tendency to get stuck in time for ages now. How things are is how they will always be. But in fact, life is ever changing, and tomorrow we might be something, somewhere, that we would never have imagined. The one thing we can count on is that we won’t be exactly where we are today. We change. The world changes around us. With some intention, we can, should, always be moving forward, upward.

We forget that too often. I forget that. Just because I can only crawl today, that doesn’t mean that tomorrow I won’t be walking, or running, leaping, jumping, dancing.

Oh Lord, I hope so.




Still ’round the corner there may wait a new road or secret gate
And though I oft have passed them by
The day will come at last when I
Will take the hidden paths that run
West of the moon, east of the sun

JRR Tolkien

For those who don’t know, I am in the habit of having JRR Tolkien quotes tattooed on me. I got my first one shortly after my 60th birthday, “Deep roots are not reached by the frost.” This, of course, was a reference to age, and my presumed/desired/hoped for ability to escape the less desirable aspects of it. My second Tolkien quote is pictured above, “Not all who wander are lost.” For the Tolkien purists, yes, I know that the word “those” is left out of the quote. This quote accompanies an already existing tattoo of a cross on my arm, the very first tattoo I ever got. Of course, it refers to my wandering soul, and also to the fact that God always brings me back to the path. Now, the quote above is speaking to me, about the new road, the secret gate, and I am trying to figure out if there is a place on my body I can put it.

What is important, though, is not that I am thinking about getting a tattoo. What is important is that this quote is speaking to me because lately I have felt abso-frickin-lutely stuck. Paralyzed even.

I have been diagnosed with PTSD enough times by enough different professionals that I am beginning to accept the diagnosis. The PTSD stems from my daughter’s still unresolved kidnapping 27 years ago, but also from some other things in my life that I might talk about one day but don’t want to right now. I think spending 27 years wondering if my daughter is dead or alive, and trying to reach out to her just in case it is the latter, is probably sufficient for anybody to understand. The thing is, I can’t completely understand it myself. And that is the crux of the problem.

I have realized recently that my imagination has been turned off. I read somewhere that anxiety is a misuse of imagination, and that makes sense. That is the initial thing that occurred to me, because goodness knows I have suffered from enough anxiety in my life. Turn off imagination, turn off anxiety, right? It took a little longer for me to see the real truth of the matter, though. Of course it did, because it always takes longer to see something to which you have closed your eyes. And that is the dark, dark place my imagination wanders to when I think about my daughter. From that first horrendous night after she was taken up to today, what might have happened to her, what might be happening to her, how might she be suffering. Nobody kidnaps a nine-year old girl to be adopted by a nice, childless family. They only kidnap them for nefarious purposes of one sort of another.

There is nothing worse in the world than for your child to be suffering, and to be unable to do anything about it. In my imagination, this lives every day, has lived every day for the last 27 years, 4 months, and 17 days. Of course this had to be turned off, or I would not have had PTSD. I would have been a complete, drooling basket case. If I had known the truth, if I had known she was no longer alive, I would have been able to imagine the terrible things she had endured, I would be able to imagine that she was no longer suffering in the present, that she was at peace, and maybe, just maybe, I would have been able to be at peace also. Maybe. But that’s not the case, and unless I close my eyes and squeeze them tight, a whole entire lifetime of suffering for my child fills my head and my heart. It is not something I could survive. And this, or course, is totally apart from the fact that her case is still active, that we will get leads, that things still happen … often with the speed of molasses flowing uphill. This has happened several times just in the last few years, and it is probably what caused the final shut down, because the months I have spent waiting for resolution of these leads, with my imagination sparking around its edges, were just plain torture.

With my imagination, my creativity has taken a nose dive. You know those coloring books for adults, the ones that are supposed to help calm you and bring you peace? Yeah, I can’t do those. I tried, and I got so stressed out over what dang colors to put where, it made me feel as though I was going to crawl out of my skin. Then I wanted to draw something, so I got a book of drawing paper and some pencils. The book is still blank. I got a journaling Bible, with room in the margins to write or draw. I write.

But it’s all gone beyond that now. Now I have come to feel paralyzed. My roots have gone so deep, maybe the frost can’t reach them, but neither can the light. Dozens of intentions pass through my head, things to do, from the smallest to the greatest, but nothing gets done. Things just seem too difficult, from picking up the phone to make an appointment, to going to the store. I have dozens of books here that I want to read, but I have trouble getting them read because I can’t decide which one to pick up.

There is a concept that has been part of me since college at least, and probably before, and that is the Road of Life. Just keep moving, keep on the road, and you will get to your destination (your destiny), that place that you are meant to reach, where you can become the best you that you can be, can accomplish what you came into the world to accomplish. It is the Road cycle of poems in Tolkien that calls to me. Life as a journey. Life is a journey. How could I be so far along it now, and still be wandering in the wilderness?

I am not going anywhere. I am sitting here, paralyzed. I feel the cement in my limbs that keeps me from moving, from stepping forward, from reaching out. And time is just passing by. Soon another day has ended. I have done nothing. I have gone nowhere. I have not put one foot in front of the other. I am no closer to the end of the wilderness.

And that is not what I want, not what I have ever wanted. I want to shake myself by the shoulders and say, “Hey! New road! Secret gate! Hidden paths! Get moving!”

Except for my mother, who died in her seventies of emphysema, all the women on both sides of my family have lived into their nineties. I have a long way to go yet, if I don’t allow this paralysis to kill me, literally or figuratively, either of which is a real possibility. I have not accomplished what I want to accomplish. I have got to break free.

If you would like to read more about my missing daughter, please visit my website at http://www.dearmichaela.com. 

Thanks always, for your prayers.