Friday, November 30, 2012

pain, hurt, life - Part 2

Sometime in the middle of all the ignoring of pain I had embarked on,
our tight family of 5 moved to an idyllic mountain home nestled in a storybook town.
We planted roots.
We were intentional.
We grew.
I buried stubborn desires and lingering embarrassment beneath the blossoming branches of my boys.
I ignored pain a little longer, determined to
"laugh at the days to come" with flinty resolve and applied rebuke to myself liberally.
After all, who was I to complain?, I demanded of my own heart.
I condemned myself as ungrateful, ridiculous, exasperating. Here I was with 3 healthy children...and still my heart would not be silenced.

Gently, God recklessly lifted my bedraggled wishes
giving them flight only long enough to patch their wings...
and that's all it took.

As I sang my broken songs to Jesus, confiding my raging tears to my husband
 I found that instead of relentless grief and bottomless liability
the ship's rudder turned hard and we sailed a new direction altogether.

I expected hurt's smoke to consume me.
Instead, it faded.
In its' shadow something brave bloomed.

That spring, thousands of miles away, across an ocean,
an African woman became pregnant with the daughter she loved
and the daughter I hadn't know I was allowed to hope for.

Before the calendar year ended my daughter was born.
Within two months, her mother had died.
Imperceptibly and miraculously the details aligned to connect all of the myriad dots
until my daughter was placed in my own arms.

The pain of my traumatized body was not forgotten,
the scars still present and the stored boxes of weighty burdens still to be emptied and sorted
but the hurt magically dispersed.

My fists, first pried open with skepticism
were now the widely splayed hands of gratitude.
The pain I had endured -
the shame of inadequacy, the whispers of failure, the huntedness of victimization  -
I could appreciate their profitability.
I needed the memory of the pain to grasp the revival of life.

"Okay, Esty. That's great.", you are saying. 
"You had some minor trauma in childbearing years and you got yourself a daughter at the end of it, that's a real nice story but it's not like you've experienced actual loss. Not like I have. And where is God? 
Why didn't He stop my pain if He's as you claim and He's fixed your situation so speedily? 
Where is my alternate ending?
How dare you stake a claim like: 'this is how God is' 
when you don't know what I have been through, what I have done?"

Because, dear reader, this is How Life Goes.
Tell me of life that hasn't been birthed from pain.
I dare you:
Show me a tree whose seed hasn't first been split wide open before sprouting.
Show me a spring without a frozen winter preceding.
Show me a squalling, wrinkled newborn without a spent and wasted mother.
Show me a marriage ripened to admiration without first enduring fire.
Show me a job accoladed without treacherous energy perfecting it first.
Show me a diamond shimmering without heat, pressure and stamina.
Show me life without precedent pain.

Luke, Graham, Ethan, Rissa...they are the best picture I know to illustrate
Isaiah 66:9
"'I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born', says the Lord."

Just think.
Pain in your life - hurt and pain...abuse, trauma, dashed hopes and dreams, scars and wounds...
has something new been born from this?

Can you find even a sparkling shard amidst the smoldering rubble?

Do you want to?

Have you seen iron butterflies forged from the melted cocoons of disasters?

Can you picture a world where we didn't naturally expect beauty to rise from ashes?
What if the shiny, mylar balloons which arrived at my hospital room
while I was grieving the shaky birth of a premature son instead of brightly shouting congratulations had gloomily declared:
"So sorry for all that hateful pain."
"Try to bury it now."
"You never have to think of all that unpleasantness again."

How doomed my marriage if the agreements we made and shook on
when faced with confessions and forgivenesses
as all marriages are had been:
"We'll ignore this."
"We shall make a pact to lock this all away."
"I won't call you out on your mess if you will turn a blind eye towards mine."

What if Mary hadn't birthed the Messiah, only carried a scandalous pregnancy while her reputation and relationships deteriorated? What if He hadn't actually gotten born? Or what if Jesus showed up and hadn't lived His destiny, even His painful final act on the cross of Calvary? What if His life wasn't Isaiah 66:9 made tangible, His pain bringing LIFE for all who recognized this truth?
How can we live this life on earth and NOT affirm that whether it is palatable or not?...

pain* births* life*

We can't will sweetness to soar from scorched earth.
We can't predict how faith climbs a ladder out of desolation or
how it will look when we are miles from the pain, watching it recede in the rear view mirror.
But we can apply Isaiah 66:9
first as a lifeboat, when a storm capsizes
then as an anchor, when we are off course,
finally as a sail, when a minty, bracing wind sweeps us on.

This verse has been MY lifeboat, MY anchor, MY sail the last few months
when I have needed to be reminded that pain's solar flares
inflame hurt to barely tolerable levels.
I am always tempted to turn tail and book it,
the child of abuse still terrified that My Greatest Fear
something precious to me will be wrenched away
will be realized
my default to shield myself from pain so that I am not devoured by hurt.

My children are walking reminders that there is a purpose for pain.
My husband's presence a memento that surrender creates wonder.
My destiny assured that pain, hurt and life are strangely linked...but since they are
I needn't fear, for when pain arrives NEW LIFE is never far behind.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

pain, hurt, life - Part 1

The problem with pain is that it hurts.

And we are all so very, very scared of hurt. 
Hurt is the smoke beneath which there can be found the smoldering debris of pain.
Pain jolts us to reality.
Pain unites us in fear.
 Pain exposes and weakens and equalizes us.
Most of my life as a survivor of sexual abuse
 has been one long odyssey in avoiding pain. 
When you have tasted pain as a child
your nature becomes bent towards identifying its' misty shape while it's still so far off, 
your senses always tuned to recognize pain's approach, 
your knee-jerk reaction scarcely makes allotment to even consider fight-or-flight...
by then you are already light years away. 

Pain recalls and reminds and reverberates like a tuning fork that will not be stilled.

Each of us has our own reasons for ducking pain, abuse survivor or not. 
My aversion to pain is specific to me and has tailored me a unique way
 just as your pain has shaped you to run for the hills at your own speed.
My pain crafted me into a fairy tale architect,  reimagining reality to cope.
Your pain may have sculpted you into an overcompensator or a resister or a rejector,
offering highways of survival.

Whatever we have allowed pain to do to us, 
there is yet a reason it exists. 

All my life I had wanted to birth lots of babies. 
As a little girl my heartfelt aspirations to be a mommy 
were among the anecdotes used to regale my parents' friends.
When I was 25 years old I became pregnant with my eldest child, my Luke.
Right at the very first stages of that very first pregnancy events which were completely unknown to me
were taking place inside my body and Luke's which would set the course of my childbearing
and (it's not over-stating to add) ultimately even my destiny. 
29 weeks into my pregnancy with Luke I was found to be acutely sick with 
preeclampsia or, dangerously high blood pressure. 
Life changed immediately. 
I was suddenly ordered to bed rest, first at home and then in the hospital.
For three weeks I languished feeling hot, swollen, annoyed, ridiculous, headachey, heavy, and whiney.
Our doctors pumped Luke's body with steroids via my pin-cushioned body, 
coaxing his fetal growth along.
People came to visit my hospital room bringing smiles and balloons to buoy my spirits 
but my body was betraying me even then, 
rejecting my pleas to chill out, 
oblivious to my obedience to Doctor's Orders, 
insistent on changing the course of my life.
One morning I woke up and learned my body had rebelliously decided we were to deliver Luke, 
all 3lbs of him
a full 8 weeks too early.
I could not run from the pain.
Shame swelled as my failure spread out before me 
like the blue surgical cloths which hid the surgery at my waist from my drugged and bleary eyes.

Luke spent weeks in the hospital learning to eat and breathe
and I wept buckets of tears in physical and emotional pain.
The solitude of the wooden rocking chair beside his NICU isolette offered my humiliation privacy.
My mother and mother-in-law exchanged worried looks at the foot of my bed when they realized the  drugs used to keep me incoherant while my body recovered from such blood pressure rollercoasters had
rendered me amnesiac of my delivery.
Almost all memory of the event was erased forever.
Leaving him there daily was the hardest thing I had ever done, coming home without him
almost unbearable.
My body had expanded to house another person all those 7 months and was preparing to be
 his primary caregiver 
but my hearts' plans were thwarted as he remained behind in the hospital 
cared for by confident nurses and faultless machines. 
My body echoed in vacancy, my soul crushed under the guilty deduction that 
I alone had failed my life's most important calling: 
as a little girl I had failed to keep myself I had failed to keep my baby safe.
It was almost more than I could endure.
When Luke came home I busied myself in being "mommy" finally,
pushing with my shoulder against the closet door blockading the crammed boxes of pain and hurt.

Over time and during the next two pregnancies {because I insisted the fairy tale WORK, damn it}
the shame of being a faulty incubator deepened, 
my conclusion that I was again and again
 being betrayed by my body.
Disgrace crashed like waves over me as I realized there would be no more babies.
Three healthy, noisy, sweet boys in 4 years time, 
accidentally arriving before I could catch my breath
and it was all over. 
The doctor peered down over the third set of blue surgical cloths, his graying eyebrows arching as he asked my 29 year-old self:
"Are you sure you wanna do this?"
and I heard my voice maintain with surety: 
while the OR's swirls of white blurred by my hot tears testified to the unspoken opposite truth.
But it was done - there would be no more babies and I would need to reimagine the fairy tale.

Pain had caught up with me. 
Running while carrying a dream too grand had slowed me enough to be caught and this time the hurt had time to seep into secret grooves, 
paths of self-loathing worn deep by the convictions of childhood that 
I made a mistake and I had failed and It was my fault.
The whispered childhood taunt threatened.
I was damaged then. 
I was damaged now.
And others were being damaged just by my existing as a damaged person.
The searing pain of that accusation scarred and the guilt sagged like chains
 around these beliefs in my heart. My fairy tale had been given an alternative ending.
Three years would bring the agony of defeated plans, the conflict of a discontent wife, 
the annoyance of a disappointed mother, the discord of hurt without purpose.

Contemptuously, I sank into the suspicion that I deserved this unrealized dream.

Unbeknownst to me, like early scatterings of sunlight 
in that place where you aren't sure whether morning is dawning or your eyes are just being audacious...
God was sifting the strands of my pain carefully,
His hands deftly braiding something extraordinary. 

Without the pain of my pregnancies, without the interruption of my fairy tale
I would have never turned the page to a messy, vibrant reality
where God melted down the fiascoes of my disappointing body into a useful machine

and startlingly fashioned .............. life.

God was taking my pain and making life from it.

I was to watch and see that this is God's specialty.

...stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Giving Thanks

  Thanksgiving 2012

Grandparents, aunts and uncles, a cousin and all our tribe.

One delicious, tranquil day of thanks.