A conversation about physical recovery from prescription opioid addiction

Dave and I talk about the physical aspects of his recovery from prescription opioid addiction: withdrawal, post-acute withdrawal syndrome, and more.

What happens when you stop taking a prescription opioid? Well, that depends. Have you been taking them according to the instructions? Or have you been abusing them? Most people who take powerful opioids for recovery from medical procedures experience only mild withdrawal. But when you’ve been taking them for years, and in amounts that could kill you?

In this 20 minute video, Dave describes his many withdrawal experiences with Tramadol and Suboxone and gives insight into the critical need for support in the early months of recovery — especially from long-term, high-dosage prescription drug addiction.

If you’re discouraged that you or your loved one isn’t “back to normal” this is an important watch. Oh, and please subscribe to our newsletter if you haven’t already. We’ll send you a week’s worth of posts in one email.

right, wrong, and grace

But over the past ten years, God has been peeling. Peeling and peeling the layers of me. And I am confronted often by who I think I should be and who I am.

And why.

Total honesty: I had a post all ready. Filters for our words, part two: on husbands and social media. Ready to go today.

And then, this thing happened.

A big to-do in the world I come from. And I was sad. Mad. Vocal. I researched. I followed. I watched and I listened. I was outraged. I was grieved.

And then, suddenly, I snapped out of it. For that, I thank my sister, and my husband, the “Ain’t nobody got time for that” lady . . . and the lovely squash I baked for dinner.

I got sucked into a “foolish controversy” yesterday. A “wrangling of words” with some people who are always right. Even when they use faulty metrics from sources they usually oppose, fail to practice principles of confrontation they preach, and paint condemnation with broad brush strokes.

It is surreal. And sort of painful . . . to collide with the world that shaped my mind as a new adult.

I struggle so much with this, this legalism, that took hold of me. The wrongness of them. The rightness of us.

The need to be right is just part of who I am. I can’t entirely blame that on my education. But it was certainly nourished there.

It felt good to be surrounded by people who thought exactly like me. If we differ on nuance, fine. Let’s just not make it an issue. Honestly, I don’t like to fight. Right felt right.

But over the past ten years, God has been peeling. Peeling and peeling the layers of me. And I am confronted often by who I think I should be and who I am.

And why.

And the who I think I should be is weighted so heavily with the years of sermons and books, and principles and seminars. I look back and find no place for the woman whose husband is a Christ-follower & church leader — and yet struggles with pain and addiction to pain pills . . . And suddenly I am there again . . . lost in a world of blue blazers and khaki dress pants, confused by how being right made you live right, because it didn’t. All the rightness in the world did not equip me to deal with addiction.

Yesterday, I thought of all the years of my life I wasted. Believing that certain denominations were wrong and therefore had nothing good to offer and all the while, in a “seeker friendly” — and therefore wrong — mega church on the other end of L.A., a program was launched that held the keys to my salvation.

12 Steps. Imagine that.

Biblical principles to release both Dave and me from bondage to secrets and shame. Truth, through which I finally understood my actual need for God even though I had known Him all my life and had been grounded in solid theology (with a degree from the right school to prove it). And through which I came face to face with the reality of God’s grace. Grace sufficient for me. Power made perfect in weakness.

A place where people prayed over me and Dave with a passion I had never heard in all my life. A place where we sang songs with repetitive choruses, read from a different translation of the Bible, wore t-shirts, and were preached to by recovering addicts. A place where we grieved, and celebrated.

I had never experienced Church like that.

And I broke. The pride. The fear. The defense . . .

. . . but the peeling takes time. These layers are thick.

I listen. I study. I read. I pray. I ask God to give me a heart of compassion rather than rightness (believe me, I have a full tank of that). I fail. I retreat. I strive for perfection. I believe knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. And yet, still, I lean toward the comfort of knowing . . .  it’s just so much easier than love.

I am surrounded now by people with whom I don’t always feel completely at home. I don’t take for granted that we see eye to eye on finer points of doctrine. My closest friends worship in churches my education taught me preach a false gospel. And yet, I witness in their lives a deep communion with Christ,  and in their churches a stronger commitment to reaching out in Jesus’ name with actual love and help for the hurting — doing what Jesus would do. And I’ve been studying what they teach — from their writers — the core of what they really believe — and it’s there in Scripture — in interpretations dating back to the earliest days of the Church. And I am beginning to see how so much of what I once believed about them was based on caricature and representations and not reality.

This week, I appreciate anew that I am in a church where I am learning to have a spirit of love along with a spirit of discernment. I was — and still am — sorely lacking in actual grace. For others, as well as for myself.

I’m not always comfortable with grace. I am still overly concerned about appropriate attire (as though poor fishermen had Sunday finery). I am still self-conscious of movement, of kneeling to pray, of closing my eyes and shutting out the world to sing.

And I am slow to raise my hands.

* * * * *

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling;  one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

— St. Paul, Ephesians 4:1-5

blessings for the broken part three

The endless gray sky feels forever like 11 o’clock in the morning . . .
no sun to guide and you must check your watch to remind you of the passing of the hours.

Night ebbs slow. Day is a fading in and out of light. Artless.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. — Matthew 5:5

The endless gray sky feels forever like 11 o’clock in the morning . . . no sun to guide and you must check your watch to remind you of the passing of the hours.

Night ebbs slow. Day is a fading in and out of light. Artless.

I feel it in the heavy winter gloom. I see it in faces. Touch it in names. And it’s there on bitter pages. The year I was angry with God.

I’ve come upon it unexpectedly again in the third beatitude. Blessed are the meek.

Stretch out my life, and pick the seams out*

In the weeks our life was coming apart, another family in our church was walking through the worst trial I could imagine. Far worse than mine.

Their four year old daughter had had another in a series of surgeries to repair her heart. Her recovery was long and tenuous.

They graciously shared their home with us when we lost ours. In their home, walls covered with their faces, my prayers intensified for this beautiful family. Prayers for us. Prayers for them. Prayers for healing. For her. For Dave. I forgot myself when I prayed for her . . .

On a blinding, bright, bitterly cold January day, I walked along with the crowd from the church to the cemetery. As they released pink balloons to the blue sky, her bless-ed parents became saints to me.

But my tears became questions. If God could allow the worst to happen to them, I was not immune. The worst could happen to me, too. My story was not guaranteed a happy ending. Dave could go back to drugs at any time. I really might never trust him again. We actually might get a divorce. We may always be destitute. Our life really has been destroyed.

I began to doubt things I had believed all my life. “Plans to prosper not to harm” — oh really? Burdens piled on. Homelessness. Poverty. Social Services. And underneath all flowed uncertainty.

Issues with Dave’s former employer became daily aggravations. It seemed so unfair that they should place any burden on me. Summer days passed in a cubicle instead of at home with my kids as I had done all their lives.

My dearest sister struggled against cancer. I could barely breathe prayers for her. My chest ached morning to night. I was afraid to trust God with her. And she was a thousand miles away.

Bitterness shot out roots . . .

Months of my life burned at the edges with fear. I painted myself with a tough coat of anger to hold back the pain. I was anything but accepting of God’s will.

* * * * *

I composed this post over the past week and was reluctant to post today as I had planned. Because injustice strives so hard for control.

This morning, I feel the stretching as two-years of tearing the fabric of so many lives threatens to tear longer and deeper.

This morning, the Pope’s words of resignation resonate with the ache in my own heart.

The fight wears on you . . .

The meek shall inherit the land

Jesus’ blessing for the meek invokes scenes vivid in my mind. . .

Cain, in a murderous jealous rage against his brother. God speaks to him: sin is crouching at the door, it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.* 

I wonder if Moses had heard those very words himself before bitterness overtook him at Meribah and he struck the uncooperative rock in a display of anger.

Moses had done so much good and had obeyed so much. It seems so unfair that he should not be allowed to go into the  Promised Land.

. . . Moses had been to this place of testing before. The people were thirsty. They doubted. Would a loving God lead them to the desert to die?

I feel near that place again, too. And I want to smack that rock with every fiber of my being.

It takes conscious choice to submit my life to Christ’s care and  control. 

Meek is not about quiet. Or reserved. Or shy. Or weak. Meek is accepting God’s dealings with us as good. Meek requires the wisdom to know when the fight isn’t yours.

Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret—it leads only to evil.
For those who are evil will be destroyed,
but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land. Psalm 37:8-9

blessings for the broken, part two

We used to wear our grief.
Black for a day, a month, a season, a year . . .
To show loss.
To let the world around us know we carried sorrow.
Appearance had meaning.

We used to wear our grief. 

Black for a day, a month, a season, a year . . .

To show loss.

To let the world around us know we carried sorrow.

Appearance had meaning.

We treated mourners with respect. Spoke differently around them. Guarded our conversation to avoid heaping sorrow on complete strangers.

I wonder why we stopped. Why long, visible mourning has gone out of fashion. . .

* * * * *

Blessed are those who mourn, Jesus said.

In every version of the Bible, the English word, translated from Greek, is mourn. 

Grief manifested; too deep for concealment. Often . . . to weep audibly.

(Now we cover. Allow ourselves acceptable sorrow, but keep calm and carry on. Mourning is for poets. Wailing is for pagans.)

But Jesus spoke the Beatitudes to people who bore grief visibly. No makeup or drops to hide weary eyes. Faces revealed hearts. Clothes told stories.

I think, even then, mourning had lost something.

Because they used to show real grief over sin by putting on sackcloth and ashes.

In ancient times, recorded in the Old Testament, garments were torn by the grieving. Rough, dark, shapeless clothes replaced them. Ashes on heads. Ashes in which to sit.

Ashes, the remnants of sacrifice. A symbol of sorrow. A sign of humility. Of desperation. Ashes to cleanse. Israel, David, Nineveh . . .

Public displays of repentance had become a show for Pharisees. See how religious I am?

* * * * *

For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation.” 2 Corinthians 7:10a

God knows when mourning of wrongs is just for show.

Sometimes we know, too. Or sense it.

Because addicts repent a million times. This is the last time. I’ll never do it again. And yet they do . . . and we cannot make them be sorry to the point of change. Preaching at and pleading with cannot induce real repentance.

And we are the same. We who believe we are free from destructive vices.

We repent when we are caught. In gossip. In aggression. In spending money we don’t have.  . . and at once we are consumed with self. With how can I get out of this and still save face. . .

. . . Books of mourning sit beside me on a shelf. Spiral bound pages, words poured out in tears. Sleepless nights, hollow-eyed days. Bitterness and belief intertwined. Pride shredded until I thought I had none left, but I was wrong.

Mourning isn’t pretty. Mourning feels like dying.

* * * * *

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Jesus says.

It seems He is speaking of comforting those who have suffered tragic loss. Of wiping away every tear from our eyes.

Comfort — this one word in English means so many things in Greek. Parakaleō: to call to one’s side, to summon, to console, to admonish, to encourage, to teach. I recognize it from Bible school. The Paraclete is the Holy Spirit . . .

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever. John 14:16

* * * * *

Mourning and comfort. Both are process. Neither can be rushed. Sowing tears and reaping joy takes time.

Comfort ye my people, God told Isaiah. And it was more than 400 years before the Comforter came . . .

Blessed are those who are broken. Who grieve deeply over their wrongs. Who feel trapped and helpless in their chemically dependent body and throw themselves at the feet of Jesus, begging for healing.

Blessed are those who are broken. Who are exhausted from trying to fix the broken people they love. Who are afraid if they stop, no one will pick up the pieces. Who grieve over the pride that keeps joy hostage.

Blessed because they receive power greater than themselves.

* * * * *

There are hidden places where grief is still worn. 

Where masks of I am fine are set aside, confessions are made, and encouragement is given. Where tears of sorrow flow freely, waiting for the Comforter to wipe them away. Some stay months, others stay years.

We confess aloud that there is a Power greater than ourselves.* 

That God exists,

that I matter to Him, and

that He has the power to help me give up addiction, pride, control . . . whatever has broken me.  * 

* * * * *

A little more about mourning and comfort: Psalm 30, Isaiah 61, Lamentations, Shattered Dreams, A Tale of Three Kings, A Grief Observed

* * * * *

blessings for the broken, part one

The breaking was just as much for me as it was for him.
I see it now. I saw it then.
But my eyes are are slow to turn the image upright. . .

I like to be strong.Confident, competent, able.

Helen Reddy in my head since 4th grade. I am Woman . . I am invincible.

I can bring home the bacon and fry it up in the pan.

Ask if I need help and I become more determined to do it myself.

I am independent to a fault.

And I will work myself into an ulcer.

* * * * *

The breaking was just as much for me as it was for him.

I see it now. I saw it then.

But my eyes are are slow to turn the image upright. . .

A friend reminded me this week: we say we are concerned about what’s best for THEM, but we’re really concerned about what’s best for ME

Addicts, she means.

Addicts don’t just one day wake up and said, You know what? I’m done with this life. I’m going to be a new person now. And then the pain ends.

But we so hope they will. And we so hope it will.

We pray for them to make right choices. We pray for miraculous healing . . .

Sometimes, it takes years of prayer to finally come to see.

Because truly admitting you need help means you have to be broken.

. . . and broken involves suffering.

* * * * *

It is agonizing to watch self-destruction.

. . .  sometimes we draw hard lines . . . sometimes we tell them to suffer somewhere else . . . sometimes we are ready for them to be broken.

But sometimes, we forgive and cover and scold and give books to read and phone numbers of people to call and lecture and pray and forgive and cry and scream and flail and forgive and weep and beg and block doors and take away car keys  and suspect and make phone calls and plead and make them go to the pastor and make them sign and believe and hope and accidentally discover and confront and forgive and cry and pray and discover again and lash out and yell and beg and pray . . . Love believes. Love hopes. Love endures. Bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh, my life.

Until we are ready to be broken. Broken more.

To throw ourselves at Jesus’ feet and admit we are powerless to control.

Save me from furious rage, from appeasing, from excuse-making, from micro-managing, from holier than thou, from I can do this by myself, from this reflects so poorly on me . . . from fear of suffering.

Until  pride is stripped away and I realize. Until I admit that I am powerless to control . . .

* * * * *

 Blessed are the poor. . .* Jesus said.

Beaten-to-your-knees-by-poverty poor.* Reduced to begging.

Blessed are the poor in spirit. (Matthew 5:3)

“Blessed are the people who feel keenly their inadequacies and their guilt and their failures and their helplessness and their unworthiness and their emptiness—who don’t try to hide these things under a cloak of self-sufficiency, but who are honest about them and grieved and driven to the grace of God,” says another.*

Happy are those who know that they are spiritually poor.*

Blessed are the broken.

* * * * *

I prefer to forget broken.

But Jesus reminds me.

Broken is how He opened His first sermon. On a mountain, like Moses: I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt. You shall have no other gods before me.* 

I did not bring myself out of Egypt. I did not bring Dave out of Egypt. I am powerless.

Broken is not a once I was. Broken is a place to come back to over and over and remember. Especially for the self-reliant. For the self-sufficient. For me.

You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ You don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see.I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference. Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.Revelation 3:17-20

God blesses those who realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them. Matthew 5:3

marking time


Tally Marks

Time will not be managed.

It will not slow. It will not rush. It will not freeze.

I want these short winter days to stretch long. To keep the candles going long after the power returns — careless of chores — just to finish a game of cards in the glow.

Funny how the power outage last night was a welcome relief. The frenzied pace of life is beginning to make my heart ache.

I push hard on the brakes, attempting to slow the clock. Attempting, in my own way, to live deep like my fellow woods-dweller Thoreau.

Saint Paul whispers to me with words of purpose, memorized when I was unconscious of the depth of them: Redeem the time because the days are evil. 

* * * * *

I confess I have been a time marker. Ticking off the hours, the months, the years, waiting for the passing of time to do its business . . .

Seconds til the game’s over. Minutes til school’s out. Hours til I can go to bed. Days til my mom visits. Weeks til the baby is due. Months til the debt is paid.

. . . Years til was is accepted as true . . .

The first days, weeks and months after we flushed Dave’s Ultram passed agonizingly slow.

I know Dave was counting them off.

Seconds of self-denial. Minutes of nausea. Hours of withdrawal. Days of restlessness. Weeks of coming back to recovery meetings. Months of accountability and faithfulness. Hours of clocking in at work. Months of humbly handing over receipts or handing the phone to a friend or pastor to confirm where he was.

Years of honesty.

Trust is not instantly restored. Trust takes time.

It was a terrible penance, I know, for Dave to live with me. My reluctant hope resembled skepticism, my beat-up faith expressed in anger.

I must have quit marking time some time ago . . .

I hadn’t noticed. 

But in the looking back, I see.

Time is for proving.

* * * * *

Recovering addicts mark the days. And celebrate them.

A coin, signifying 30 days. 90 days. 6 months. A year of daily battle. Two years of defeating destructive habits . . .

And now, we have come to five.

Five years and two months on a path of healing, removing heavy, bitter stones along the way.

Time heals . . . for we are no longer the same.

The anniversary passed quietly. A kiss. A moment of silence in the midst of the chaos of living . . .

Peace.

I am not in a hurry, now, to pass the time.

Time heals griefs and quarrels, for we change and are no longer the same persons. Neither the offender nor the offended are any more themselves.– Blaise Pascal, The Pensees, 1669

all I ever have to be

Library of Congress, Dorthea Lange, 1939

I really am deeply grateful for my life. But there are moments, seasons when discouragement gets the upper hand.

Frankly, I’m amazed at how quickly and easily I am discouraged.

I’m more fragile than I would like to think.

I started out the morning feeling sorry for myself. Sorry about myself.

A look in the mirror, a step on the scale, a careless word remembered, the pile of books and laundry and things I should do that fills the chair I love but haven’t sat in for weeks,  failure to meet a registration deadline . . .

I am learning to do battle against discouragement with gratitude . . .

Thank You God that my husband loves You so much. That he works hard to provide for our family. That he fought hard against addiction and defeated it with Your help.

Thank You for four healthy, beautiful children who have blessed our life.

Thank You for a loving extended family. For precious friends.

Thank You for my cottage near the sea, in spite of the tiny living room, mossy roof, musty carpet and sulphery water.

Thank You for the sun burning through the marine layer, reminding me of the hour and that it’s time to go to work. Thank You that I have a job to help supplement during these stressful economic times.

Thank you that we have food to eat, gas in the cars, a roof over our heads and clothes to wear.

Thank you for fresh strawberries, and homemade ice cream . . .

So much to be grateful for.  

But I’m hardly ever — maybe never — grateful for me.

For who I am. For where I am.

I am impatient with my own imperfection.

I want to clean myself up before people see me.

I beat myself up for being socially awkward. For not sharing more of my life with others. For being a self-absorbed parent. For the thirty pounds I’ve put on in the past four years. For not calling. Not inviting. Not going. Not being.

This morning, it’s that.

There are days when the years creep back in.

The days, the months, the years I should have been . . . patient with a child, encouraging to my husband, reaching out to a friend or loved one, inviting people to come over, writing a book, exercising, eating right, keeping up photo albums, paying off debt, saving for a house of our own . . .

I’m pretty sure discouragement is what keeps an addict in addiction.

Shouting down the internal voices that call you out on every mistake . . .

The past weighs heavy.

It’s easier to not try to change at all.

Bend down, O Lord, and hear my prayer; answer me, for I need Your help . . .
Give me happiness, O Lord, for I give myself to You . . .
Teach me Your ways . ..
Grant me purity of heart . . .
. . . for Your love for me is very great . . .
Give Your servant strength . . .
Send me a sign of Your favor . . .
Psalm 86

Today, after I read the Psalms and pray, it’s an old song that lifts my spirits . . .

. . . a song I’ve known since I was a teenager trying to figure out who I was and where I was going.

Like Sue Heck on The Middle, I was the girl who enthusiastically tried everything and failed — cheerleading,volleyball, the hurdles, choir, piano — you name it.

I lost that courage somewhere along the road of life.

At some point along the way I realized I was totally uncoordinated. That I had no sense of rhythm. That my heart felt like it would explode and I would pass out if I had to play the piano in public. That I couldn’t carry the harmony unless my friend Angie was standing next to me . . .

And then I grew up. Got married. Had children. And settled into a habit of comparison: If only I was . . .

Today, I woke up doubting. And it’s taken two hours to pray, read, and write out my feelings. To greet the day with joy.

I will make a new list of gratitudes. Not of what is on the outside, but on the inside. What God is doing in my heart.

I know I’m growing. I can’t give up just because I haven’t arrived.

So the song. The one I’m singing this morning:

All I ever have to be
Is what you’ve made me.
Any more or less would be a step
Out of your plan.
As you daily recreate me,
Help me always keep in mind
That I only have to do
What I can find.
And all I ever have to be
All I have to be
All I ever have to be
Is what you’ve made me.

— Amy Grant

Everyone, no matter how old or how accomplished, battles seasons of discouragement. How about you? 

a life as unmanageable as my hair

I will always remember a dear friend’s words. I had three little ones and so did she. Once, when I apologized for not calling her, she said, “That’s okay, Deb. We all know when you have a baby you disappear for about six months.” I loved her so much for knowing me like that. Better than I knew myself.

When I finally saw her again, in the course of our conversation she asked me, “So, Deb, what ARE you doing with your hair these days?” (Only the closest of friends can get away with this stuff.)

Maybe you’ve noticed? I haven’t returned your call or text . . . answered your email.

I’ve dropped off the face of the earth . . . and  let my hair, apparently, go to seed.

* * * * *

I’m not sure I could pinpoint the exact reason for my reclusiveness and coiffure neglect these days. But I know it has to with overwhelmed.

The kids are growing up fast. Our oldest will be a senior in high school this year. Every conversation is tainted with a bit of desperation. What have I missed? What do I need to teach you?

Add up the hours at work, the chores, the activities and appointments that come with four teens and preteens, hitting that age where I must eat right and exercise or I will gain 4 pounds a day, trying to write . . .

* * * * * 

So, I’m reading the Psalms.

I love them because they remind me that the greatest king ever — renowned for being beloved by God — had powerful emotions. He wrote and sang about his misery, his joy, his anger . . . and his overwhelmedness.

Beautiful poetry. The best, really.

Lately I’ve been enamored with the phrase unfailing loveAll the love I can muster is so weak. I fail at love.

Unending mercyLovingkindness. Over and over in the Psalms. A study of verses about God’s unfailing love brought me here:

O my Strength, to you I sing praises,
for you, O God, are my refuge,
the God who shows me unfailing love.
Psalm 59:16-17

O my Strength. A name for God.

Strength. I have none. He is.

* * * * *

I try to avoid the appearance of helplessness. 

I hold my cards close. Measuring each play.

But overwhelmed forces my hand.

The whole mess — thrown down on the table for everyone to see.

And it forces me turn to The One who is Strength itself.

When I finally give in — admit my overwhelmed, confess my independence — prayer and quiet times grow longer. Morning prayers become vital. I draw my strength from His well. Reluctant to leave.

Lord, You ARE my Strength. I cannot do this thing you’ve set before me. Help me!

* * * * *

Overwhelmed is a feeling I know too well. Babies. A husband who struggled with addiction. Jobless. Homeless. Poor.

If I’m honest, my overwhelmed today doesn’t hold a candle to the past.

This overwhelmed is different.

Alongside the Psalms, I open familiar and well-worn books written by women who poured out their hearts on the page decades ago. Long before blogs made this laying down of our cards a thing.

Their words strengthened me in days of hopelessness and are still comfort today. The quotations are long and full of archaic phrases and words, but if you are overwhelmed, they are so worth the read:

His thoughts said, I can no longer.

His Father said, Thou canst. Thou canst do all things through Christ which strengtheneth thee. Is tribulation a new thing to any child of Mine? Shouldest thou expect to be without pressure, batterings, toil, tears, discouragements, disappointments, ingratitudes, obloquies? All my servants had these in abundant measure. Look and thou wilt see their footsteps in the dust of the road. But they had strong consolation and so hast thou. Not to be pitied, but happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God.

Doth the burning sun distress thee? There shall be a shadow from the heat. Art thou beaten by the storm? There shall be a covert for thee from storm and from rain. Or is it that thou art too weary to know why thou art so weary? Then come to Me and I will refresh thee.

— Amy Carmichael, His Thoughts Said


When I speak of burdens I mean everything that troubles us, whether spiritual or temporal. . . The greatest burden we have to carry in life is self. The most difficult thing we have to manage is self. Our own daily living, our frames and feelings, our especial weaknesses and temptations . . . these are the things that perplex and worry us more than anything else, and that bring us oftenest into bondage and darkness. . . You must hand yourself … over into the care and keeping of your God . . . He made you and therefore He understands you and knows how to manage you, and you must trust Him to do it. Say to Him, “Here Lord, I abandon myself, and to make myself what I know I ought to be, but have always failed. Now I give it up to Thee.”

— Hannah Whitall Smith, The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life

* * * * *

I got a haircut this week. A desperate attempt to manage the unmanageable. A fail. It was much easier to pull it back into a barrette.

I will never have perfect Nancy Drew hair. (You may not have noticed, but in the books, she always threw on her jeans, pulled a sweater over her head, ran a brush through it and was ready to go, looking amazing.) My crazy, out-of-control-in-this-humidity hair will always keep me from vanity.

And I am reminded that my overwhelmed, as much as I dislike it, breaks down my independence and pride.

Ah! This is the place of humility God wants for me.

To fold. To confess I can’t do this life on my own. It’s not in me.

I’m not self-sufficient. He is all-sufficient.

He is strength itself. He will give me strength.

Realize I’m not God. I admit that I am powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and that my life is unmanageable.
“Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor.” Matthew 5:3
— Celebrate Recovery, Principle One

What about you? Are you trying to manage the unmanageable on your own? Have you come to the end of your strength and found His? Leave a comment. Anonymously if you wish. 

Happy are those who hear the joyful call to worship, for they will walk in the light of  your presence, Lord. You are their glorious strength. It pleases you to make us strong. Psalm 89:15 &17

there is beauty in detail

Jane and I walk the road that leaves our little town and wanders along the shore. Snow-capped mountains to the west shine in the morning sunlight. Sailboats sleep on the glassy bay. We spot a heron, three seals and two coyotes on our walk. We are blessed to live in this place.

I stand in a farm field in the warm afternoon. The fragrance of strawberries rises to entice me. A glistening red catches my eye and I eagerly bend to add another to the heavy bowl.

I wander the beach below my house. At my feet, a thousand sand dollars. I stoop and stare into a tide pool of life: inhabitants blissfully unaware of exposure.

There is beauty in these points of finery. Footnotes of love from the Maker of all things.

On cold, gray Puget Sound days that fill most of the year, we remind ourselves there is a piece of heaven all around us. If only we will wait. We will see this glory.

* * * * *

We moved to Washington in July ten years ago.

The youngest of our four children was just a few weeks old. I spent the weeks before his birth packing our house in California, praying that this was the right thing.

We were leaving my dear family. The close friends with whom we had gone to college and walked together through the first ten years of marriage and parenting. A school and a church (our employers) that loved us. A pediatrician, so important to a young mom of four, who made me laugh and who assured me on what seemed to be a weekly basis that the sicker they are when they’re babies, the healthier they’ll be as children.

I packed in tears. But I also hoped.

The first serious mention of seminary had been on my 32nd birthday. But it was to be a year before we would move. A year we thought the world might end. Terrorist attacks, painful revelations, a surprise baby and awful sickness.

I had been as enthusiastic as Dave. I convinced myself that in the right place, our marriage and his health would be better. We researched schools. I made plans and budgets. We could easily pay off current debts in a year. We could do this.

But headaches and money problems had persisted. And anger crept back in.

After one particularly heated fight (during which I’d thrown an iron pot across the kitchen and dented the wall behind Dave’s head) I wrote in my journal: “Dave is not a fool. There was a reason deeper than just folly with money . . . at last he broke and said he had been running from what he knew God was calling him to do for 10 years . . . we cried and prayed and I knew right away that something had changed. . . he will be a different person from now on, I know.”

Seminary was supposed to be the answer. Dave had simply been running from God’s call. Like Jonah. That’s why the boat of our life was tossed and sinking.

(Years later, I read about how addicts in their downward spiral attempt to end their addiction by “geographical escapes.” But I knew nothing of that then.)

* * * * *

We arrived here in July of 2002. Jobless. Homeless. Optimistic.

Gracious cousins and friends took us in. Dave, me, and the kids who were 7, 4, 2 and a newborn. Six of us. Family and friends sent money to help us stay afloat.

Then came a terrifying car accident with all our little ones on board. Totaled our van. And a new back injury gave Dave an entree into any doctor’s office for pills.

I had picked up the habit for busy seasons of reading through the book of Psalms in a month, five Psalms a day 1, 31, 61, 91, 121 on the first day, etc.

Promises fill my journals:

By awesome deeds Thou dost answer us in righteousness, O God of our salvation. Psalm 65:5

Blessed is the Lord who daily bears our burden. Psalm 68:19

For every beast of the forest is mine. The cattle on a thousand hills. Psalm 50:10

But weeks of homelessness and unemployment turned to months.

The enthusiastic journal entries came to an abrupt end. Despair crept into the pages once again.

* * * * *

I am deep in discouraged thought. As he settles beside me on the back porch in the evening sun, there is a tone of comfort in my teenage son’s deep voice. He puts his arm around me and it takes me back a decade . . .

Three small kids and an unhappy baby, homeless, homeschooling the oldest, jobless, living only off the generosity of friends and family. Exhausted. Hopeless.

I took the kids for a drive in our new-to-us van and turned on the cd I’d picked up at a yard sale.

God will make a way Where there seems to be no way
He works in ways we cannot see, He will make a way for me
He will be my guide, Hold me closely to His side
With love and strength for each new day
He will make a way, He will make a way.
By a roadway in the wilderness You lead me
Rivers in the desert will I see
Heaven and earth will fade, But His word will still remain
And He will do something new today.

A deep little voice from the back seat interrupts my thoughts. He notices my tears.

“We’re in a wilderness, aren’t we Mommy?”

Yes, baby. We are.

He sings. What does he know of wilderness? He is four.

Out of the mouths of babes.

You have taught children and infants to tell of Your strength. Psalm 8:1&2

* * * * *

I think I’m going through a phase.

It’s possible that it’s just taking time for the cold and gray to unfetter me and allow me to enjoy the sun.

But I’m inclined to think it’s my age. And the number of and ages of our children. There is much about having teenagers that resembles the toddler years, I am sorry to say.

Constant activity. Difficulty making time for my friends. Peacemaking. Falling into bed exhausted at the end of the day. Unknowns that must be released to God. Soon I will be launching them into the world.

And then there are these words. I don’t have the time.  Work. Responsibilities. Self-consciousness. But they press on me . . .

The Psalms are once again my daily food.

* * * * *

Morning sun warms the new chair I placed next to my bed (another blessed yard sale find). I stop what I am hurrying about and sit down. Reveling in light, pleased by the unexpected.

God, help me to notice. These details remind me of Your love.

This morning, words from Psalm 71 are a message of encouragement:

My life is an example to many, because you have been my strength and protection. That is why I can never stop praising You; I declare Your glory all day long. vs. 7-8

“I will tell everyone about your righteousness. All day long I will proclaim your saving power, though I am not skilled with words.” vs. 15

“You have allowed me to suffer much hardship, but you will restore me to life again and lift me up from the depths of the earth.” vs. 20

It is a Psalm of telling. Even if it takes a thousand words.

* * * * *

God speaks in the details.

It is the way He spoke His encouragement to the patriarchs and prophets. In the water and wind, in the storm, the stars, the grains of sand. And to His disciples. Consider the lilies of the field. Are you not of more value than they? And it is the way He speaks to us now.

Images and words He writes on my heart. The still small, but deep, voice. A ray of sunshine, a lifting of my eyes to the mountains, a sweet fragrance, a child’s voice, a song, a verse.

Stop. Notice.

He is whispering His love.