Pushing Through The Pain

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A while ago, one of my lifelong friends and I were discussing how we go through many times in our lives that are incredibly challenging, to say the least.  There are days when getting out of bed is a struggle and when even a smile is painful. These are times where breathing is difficult and the tears will come no matter how you try to stem them.

We talked about what helps us through it: music, books, exercising, spending time with loved ones, movies and more.  Then I brought up the point that, at times, nothing seems to help.  That’s when she said something that has stayed with me. “Some days you just have to push through the pain.”

She was right.  There are times where hope is diminishing and you seem to see no end to the trial that you endure.  Logically, you know there probably will be an end either through others, a miraculous intervention or yourself making the necessary changes. But until that happens, it seems at times as if there is no way out.

But you are strong.  You were made strong.  Even when you think you can’t endure another day, there is a tenacious will buried somewhere inside of you that won’t let you give up completely.

Laughter and joy will enter your life again. It may not come for a while, but it WILL come.  I’ve said this before, but I’m saying it again. Healing comes, laughter and smiles come, joy comes again.  Until such time, hold onto the thought that by being strong enough to push through the pain, you come out a better person.

 

You

I have known you all my life hands
Though we have never met
From my first fears as a young girl
You were my fierce protector

When I faced another lonely weekend
While others kept each other warm
Your words caressed my dreams
And softened the cutting cold

When solitary sadness
Would seep into my soul
You were my comfort
My retreat and my sanctuary

And as the years passed
With broken hearts and empty hands
When tears wet my pillow
You were close by
Reminding me gently
That you are still out there…
Somewhere

My cherished one
I feel the fog of the years lifting
And I’m beginning to
See your face.
My hand is reaching out…
Take it
And let’s end this lonely journey
Together.

Trusting the Bigger Picture

young-women-in-the-window-of-the-bus-at-night-black-and-white-photoOver the course of the past few weeks, I have learned a very important lesson about trusting God and His knowledge of the bigger picture.

In April of this year, I left for England with cautious hopes.  Since it had been my dream to live and work there, I decided after several months of pros and cons lists (and what felt like a lot of prompting from the universe) that I would give it another try.  I had found a free room in exchange for some voluntary care and with few bills to pay for and freelance writing gigs popping up, I felt that I could survive quite nicely.  I also was investigating the possibility of acquiring a volunteer visa which would allow me to stay up to 2 years in England.

For approximately 3 weeks, all seemed to go along perfectly: my new flatmate and I were getting along well, my friends and I were reuniting with plans for a fun and exciting summer, and England seemed to be welcoming me with open arms.

Then everything changed dramatically. Due to having a tourist visa, I found out that I couldn’t legally live with the woman I was caring for and was told that I had 4 days to move out and find a new situation.  (I still don’t completely understand what happened there.) I sat there staring at the letter I’d received and felt the tears pouring down my face.  I laid my head on my arms and silently cried.  I had little money and I was about to become homeless.  I had a return plane ticket to Utah, but I hadn’t come to England to return so quickly!  What happened over the course of the next two weeks was a desperate journey to find a new situation with almost alarming results.

After spending almost a week with a kind church member, I found what I thought would be the ideal situation.  I would be managing a house that was rented out on a daily/weekly basis in exchange for a free room.  This house was attached to a business that was also owned by the landlord.  After he met me, this man (whom we shall call Ahmed), seemed impressed enough that he wanted to offer me some work with his company.  And that’s when the problems began.

Ahmed and I met to discuss what kind of duties my job would have.  All was going well until he asked me to join him in the conference room for a private discussion.  I figured he wanted to discuss salary, but after briefly discussing it, he launched into an hour long discussion of how his marriage was falling apart.  At first, I thought he was asking for relationship advice (which I thought was a little strange) and then he told me he was separating and would be staying in one of the rooms in the house.  It then began to dawn on me that he was making a pass.  I mentally rolled my eyes and told him I would think about the situation.

Obviously this wasn’t going to work for me, as I was not going to share living quarters with a man who was supposed to be my boss. I told him shortly thereafter that I would find my own place.  I was still without an income and little money, but thought I could afford a place for a week and then use what he paid me to find something better.  I made arrangements for a hostel that looked decent in the photos.  When I arrived with all my luggage in tow, I found something completely different.  After ascending 4 floors, I realized I was in nothing more than a drug/prostitute house.  I stood in the room with my two suitcases and knew I quickly had to find somewhere else to go.  I texted my boss and asked if I could lock my luggage in the office while I figured out what else to do.  He agreed.

After 3 bus rides, I finally dragged all my luggage into the office and collapsed on the nearest office chair.  Knowing that I was exhausted, Ahmed offered me the couch in his rental house for that night.  Grateful that I was in a “safe” place, I slept on the couch the next two nights.  By this point, I was so tired that I no longer cared about anything and told Ahmed I would take the situation of managing his house.

Ahmed then approached me and told me he didn’t feel I should stay on the couch as it was supposed to be for the use of the other guests.  So he offered me the room that he had been sleeping in and said he would go back to his other home for the time being until my new room would open up.  I agreed, but felt distinctly uncomfortable.  He said he would remove his things when he had a chance.

That night, as I lay in his bed surrounded by his things, the discomfort turned to fear.  A man who had already made a pass at me once, not only had keys to the house, but also to this bedroom.  I tried to reason with myself and shoo the feeling away, but it persisted. Then the thought popped into my head “How long before things turned worse?”

The next day at church, I suddenly felt tired and overwhelmed and couldn’t stop the tears. For the next three hours, they came off and on in a torrent.  After church, I spoke with the bishop of this new branch and told him my story.  He kindly listened, but I could see the expression on his face turn to one of concern.  He then said he felt that he needed to warn me to leave the house that day.  He spoke of another woman he had known in the same situation and she had not left when she had been warned.  It had gone badly wrong for her.

I knew he was right and sighed, knowing I would have to find another place to stay before nightfall.  As I returned home, Ahmed was waiting for me and seemed upset that I had not returned earlier (even though he wasn’t supposed to be there as it was Sunday).  He took a picture of my passport on his cell phone giving me a strange excuse for the reason and then quickly left. My mind began to jump around to different stories I’d heard and I knew the bishop was right in telling me to leave.

Unfortunately, most of my belongings were still locked in his office, but trusting my instincts and knowing I needed to leave that day, I left with little but a carry-on suitcase and a few clothes.  As I sat on the train taking me to my friend’s house, I thought about all those over the years who had to flee different situations for their safety.  I still didn’t see myself in that same category as I had nothing but a spiritual warning and gut instinct to go on, but for me that was enough.

I wrote a polite letter telling him that the living and working situation wouldn’t work for me and wished his company the best.  His response were several very angry and unreasonable texts which confirmed my suspicions that all wasn’t right with him.  I spent the next few nights with another friend and finally decided to go home.  I didn’t understand why everything had come crashing down the way it had, but I was exhausted mentally, emotionally and physically.  I no longer cared why and just wanted to be safe and still.

I did question many things on the return plane flight, such as why did I feel I should go in the first place?  Was I over-reacting and being too dramatic?  But since my return home, I have come to discover that I was justified in my feelings. Through conversations with other people and answers to prayer, I believe I was spared from more than just one frightening  and dangerous situation.

Sometimes, even though it seems as if our dreams are falling to pieces, we just have to let go and trust that God knows better than we do. He sees the bigger picture and understands the end from the beginning.  Though it is still a struggle for me to trust Him sometimes, I am repeatedly shown that He does indeed know best.

 

 

 

 

The Shell

Rough bark hewn from the tree

seashell_alone_on_beach_doormat-r77201b4f8030415e989e8e9a36f7affe_jftbl_1024

Is not unlike your surface

Making you appear unwanted

Old, alone on the expanse of sand.

Darkly-colored lines and peach furrows

Scar your surface.

Nothing to attract you to me…

Nothing to make me turn you over…

To see the metallic luster of pearls

Shining like the copper pot on my kitchen shelf

To see the seam smooth as glass

Showing us you were torn from your better half.

Nothing to make me pick you up…

And hold you tightly in the palm of my hand.

A Call to Arms…

On Saturday night, I was privileged to attend a beautiful women’s conference.  It was focused on reaching out to serve others, especially the 60 plus million refugees in the world today.  It sunk deep into my heart.

I am a woman who has been greatly blessed in her life.  I have seen many amazing places in the world.  I’ve always had people who loved me and whom I loved.  I have never known intense poverty.  I’ve always had shelter, food and clothing.  I might have been poor by American standards, but not by other countries in the world.  I have always had enough.

Andrés Vanegas Canosa
Andrés Vanegas Canosa http://www.andyvc.com/exploitation-of-children/

My family was never forced to flee for our religious beliefs. I’ve never had to watch someone I love be killed because they chose to believe in a different God. I’ve never had to walk hundreds of miles just to find a safe place to call home. I don’t know what it’s like to watch your world torn apart as you become an orphan at a young age and must flee the horrors of war.

A young migrant's hair becomes stuck whiAFP PHOTO / ATTILA KISBENEDEKATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP/Getty Images

kurdish-child-refugee(Photo courtesy of The International Business Times)

Yet I understand pain, sorrow, grief and tears.  I understand the shock that comes from having to start over again and feeling overwhelmed.  I have witnessed disaster, intense poverty, fear, hunger, deep grief, tragedy, violence and death. But I have also witnessed relief, compassion, unconditional love,  kindness, charity, and so much more.

As I strike out to go forth in the world on another adventure, this time I plan on giving back.  I see the tears of the children and adults and my heart aches for them. I have so much love in my heart to give, why can’t I give back to those who have so little?

And this is why I call this post “A Call to Arms”…it is time for all of us to give back a little more.  My situation is unusual as I will be able to travel to another country and do it there, but you can find grief, pain, fear and more right in your own backyard.  The best way to resolve some of your own problems is to get outside of yourself and serve others!

The lyrics and song below are my own call to arms.  Read and listen…let it sink into your soul…then PLEASE go out and help in any way you can…even if it’s just an extra smile and hug.  Together we can all bring more light and love into this dark world and just maybe, make a real difference in the lives of those who are hurting.  Let’s give back hope together.  “Can you hear the pleas of the refugees for safe harbors of the heart?”

Safe Harbors – Michael McLean14th_Dhananjay-_14_2546825e

“There are refugees among us
That are not from foreign shores;
And the battles they are waging
Are from very private wars.
And there are no correspondents
Documenting all their grief,
But these refugees among us all
Are yearning for relief.

There are refugees among us.image
They don’t carry flags or signs.
They are standing right beside us
In the market check out lines;
And the war they’ve been fighting
It will not be televised,
But the story of their need for love
Is written in their eyes.

FAITH LEADERS REFUGEES
A boy touches his crying father (CNS photo/Georgi Licovski, EPA) Nov. 20, 2015.

This is a call to arms,
To reach out and to hold
The evacuees from the dark.
This is a call to arms,
To lead anguished souls
To safe harbors of the heart.”

 

If you wish to find a place to start helping, the site below is a great place to start!

https://www.ldscharities.org/?lang=eng

 

Why I Love Les Miserables

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(A note to why I rewrote this. I felt that my words sounded more like a literary summary instead of what I was truly feeling, so I rewrote it.)

Dedicated to my father, Robert, who loves this story as much as I do and who is the most unselfish, loving, and kind a man I know.

​I write this entry in dedication to one of my favorite musical/operas of all time: Les Miserables. I am but one of millions of fans (maybe even billions) around the world who have enjoyed the phenomenon that is “Les Mis”. If you have seen the story and heard the music, you will understand what I’m about to say.

There is a spiritual quality to this story that is hard to describe, but you can feel it. When I first heard the music more than 20 years ago, I fell in love almost instantly. It was almost as if I’d known the story and the music before, but not with my mortal ears.

Yet it wasn’t until recently why I understood that this story and the music struck my soul so powerfully. I realized it’s because it is a story of selflessness, humility, love and the ultimate sacrifice. There are many dramatic characters in the story, but it is Eponine and Jean Valjean that move me the most.

These characters have touched me throughout my life in personal and unforgettable ways. With Eponine, I understood all too well what it was like to feel the misery of unrequited love. Even now, my heart still aches at times for the woman who died in the arms of the man who was blind to her love.  Only in the last bittersweet moments of her life could she reveal the depth of her feeling.  But it was her love that, in many ways, saved Marius so he could live and marry Cosette.  It was the greatest act of love she could offer.

eponine

But I think it is the story of Jean Valjean that stays with me the most.  Here is a man who has had the cruelest of injustices placed upon him as he spends more than 20 years in jail for stealing a loaf of bread.  As he finally gets to leave, he is met with disdain everywhere and just at the moment when he is about to give up, the compassion and kindness of a priest change everything convincing Jean Valjean to turn his life over to God.

To me, the most powerful and poignant moment of the show is when  Jean Valjean sings “Bring Him Home” (See link and note below).  It is the culmination of all that Jean Valjean has learned through living a selfless life.  And maybe this is why it holds me mesmerized every time I watch it or listen to it.  It’s a prayer that is sung with the most intense sincerity and humility someone can utter…to offer their life in exchange for another.  It is the ultimate sacrifice and the ultimate gift of love. How appropriate that this post comes at Easter time reminding us of another who gave His all for us.

Jean valjean

Maybe that is why the story of “Les Miserables” has stood the test of time and why it seems more important now than ever before.  In this world today, where wars, terrorism, and hardened people spew out so much hatred, the unconditional love shown in this story is a hopeful reminder that kindness, mercy and humanity will ultimately win.

But I don’t believe anything I say will fully express what the music and story mean to me. Sometimes there just aren’t words to describe something that touches you to the core of your being. It’s so beautiful that it’s as if a small part of heaven reaches down and brushes across your soul.  For a moment, the veil lifts…and you remember what heaven feels like.

(A note on this version of “Bring Him Home” which is linked below. Alfie Boe sang this with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir only days after the Sandy Hook tragedy where the lives of so many young innocent children were lost.  It is said in rehearsal, he couldn’t even get through the song.  Look at the tears in his eyes and you will see the emotion in them as he sings for the children who were lost that day.)

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Elusive

 

kiss

Like the emerald green flash

That appears for but a sweet moment

Across a jaded ocean…

As taunting and fragile

As a snowflake in spring

Disappearing in the air…

Like the fading memory

Of a perfect dream

Waking to a gray morning…

As brief as the heated glance

Of desire when your fingers

Callously brushed mine…

As fleeting as your last phantom kiss

On my lips

Wet with salty tears…

And as transitory as the shifting ground

Upon which your vows

Were declared…

So was the immortal love

You falsely swore would be mine…

Forever.