On giving up dreams and having your skin ripped off

The Redemption of Eustace by Clang55
One of my nieces sent me this video of a Liberty University Convocation address a few years back. The speaker is Phil Vischer.

Who, you may ask?

You may not know the name, but you most certainly know his work. He's the creative genius behind Veggie Tales. (Let's all sing a little of "Oh, Where Is My Hairbrush?")

Mr. Vischer is certainly one of the best known animators ever. He certainly was very financially successful.

Until he wasn't. (Go ahead; watch the video. It's worth your time.) Let me just say that Mr. Vischer found out that his plans and God's were wildly divergent.

At one point, Mr. Vischer references this passage from C.S. Lewis' The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  Eustace - a very unlikable boy - was changed into a dragon. He finally, after a very miserable time as a dragon, allowed Aslan to help him:


Then the lion said — but I don’t know if it spoke — You will have to let me undress you. I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.
The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was jut the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off.  You know — if you’ve ever picked the scab of a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.” 
I know exactly what you mean,” said Edmund. 
Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off – just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt – and there it was lying on the grass, only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me – I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on — and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again. . . .”
What God wants for us is not always what we want. And we can be stubborn. But God is better than stubborn; God is faithful and patient. He allows us to flounder around in dragon skin. He gives us the freedom to choose the stupid dragon skin, even though it's vile and doesn't fit us at ALL. He waits.

God waits until we are finally ready to say, "This dragon skin is horrid! It's getting in the way of everything important ... And that 'everything' is God."

No dream we have, no thing we own, no item we produce is better than God. Even the good things: a great marriage, a wonderful family, a job that inspires us and others. Nope; add it all up, and it's still not more than or greater than God.

Having spent most of the past year and a half getting my skin ripped off allows me a bit of knowledge of the process. It hurts. I don't always understand. There are moments of "Why, God?? Why?!" There are dark nights that lead to ... well, darker ones.

There are wounds only God can heal - the woundedness of dragon skin, the vanity of thinking what we are and have and do is better than, more than God Almighty.

Mr. Vischer knows all this now too. And he came to the conclusion by NOT DOING ANYTHING. Well, not doing anything except (and this is a big "except"): spending time in prayer.  Then, and only then, did he see that all of his success and dreams were really just dragon skin.

And so it is for me.

Dear God, this dragon skin is horrid. I know it is not meant for me. I'm sorry that I mistook it for Your plan. I'll just wait right here with You until You reveal what is next for me. Amen.

Don't open that door!



Growing up, my older sister had a "Mystery Date" game. I have no recollection of how it was played, only that, at the end of the game, you had to open the door to reveal your date. You wanted to get one of the handsome guys, dressed for a day at the beach or a formal dance. You lost if you got the "dud."

My other memory of this is that my sister rarely let me play the game, as I was "too young." This meant I had to sneak into her room and play by myself. I guess that was better than nothing. (By the way, I'm sorry,  Michele,  for trespassing.)

Dear Husband and I visited some friends from college a few weeks back. We were discussing all of the traumas I/we have had to deal with over the past year and a half, including losing our house. In many ways, it's been a blessing to have the apartment we found, and being relieved of the burden of too much stuff.

I didn't realize until I was speaking the words out loud, but I really did not like our old house. Too me, it represented so much stress, so many burdens, and unfortunately, far too many really bad memories. I used to come home at the end of the day, and as I got closer to home, I would get more tense. Opening the door and entering, I never knew what would greet me: another cracked window, something being stolen, a fight .... It was awful.

No one should feel dread when they are coming home.

Moving to our apartment has relieved that particular stress. There are only good memories here, and we fully intend to make more. Opening the door now means, I'm home. Kick off your shoes. Check the veggies and peppers on the deck. Gather around the table for a great meal and a bottle of wine.

About midnight, while Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God as the prisoners listened, there was suddenly such a severe earthquake that the foundation of the jail shook; all the door flew open, and the chains of all were shook loose. Acts 16:25-26

For so many years, my foundation has been shaky. Our home shifted this way and that, with every new crisis. Now, I have the doors and windows open to the sun and the wind. Our home is open and welcoming, and my chains are loosed. The Holy Spirit has room to move here. I no longer fear an open door, losing the game by getting the "dud," or facing down an angry teen.

No, here we praise God, for He has opened the doors that cut us off from peace and He has set us free.

Looking through the wounds of Christ

Hands of Proof - artist Hyatt Moore
I enjoyed lunch with a friend yesterday. I've known her and her husband for some years, and they are both delightful people. However, we rarely see each other, as he is busy with his ministry and teaching, and they live quite a distance. However, they are in Grand Rapids this week, and she reached out to me: Would you like to have lunch? And I did!

In the course of conversation, we spoke of our children - who are all adults now, but our children, nonetheless. My children have had many challenges, and she shared that their youngest was also an addict. They tried all the things you're "supposed" to do, but eventually just had to tell him to leave the house. He chose a treatment facility, and since then has lived what his mother calls a "vagabond life." They occasionally get a phone call, a text, and email. That's it.

Is he clean? They don't know. Is he where he says he is? Shrug.

Then she said a remarkable thing: "I learned that I have to look at him through the wounds of Christ." She held up her hand, indicating the nail hole, and said, "I just have to look at him through this wound."

Well, yes.

We have so many hurts and burdens we carry. We think we have so much to do in order to make the situation right and whole. We scurry and pray, jump on the internet to seek out words of wisdom and the best treatment money can buy, but - in the end - we really don't have a job to do. We've prayed, we've given it to God. And God doesn't need our help.

But as mothers, we so, so want to make things right. We fret over every word said, over years of friction. What did I do wrong? I should have done this or that.

But it is in God's hands now. He doesn't need our help.

What we can do is to look at these hurts and burdens, these people we love, these old hurts through the wounds of Christ. Those wounds make all things whole. Those wounds hold all our wounds lovingly, carefully.  Upon seeing with and through these wounds, we can glimpse how God sees us: with great love, with great compassion, with great understanding.

Catholics have a long-held devotion to the wounds of Christ, with many prayers associated with this:

Holy wound of the right hand of my Jesus, I adore Thee; I compassionate Thee, O Jesus, for the most bitter pain which Thou didst suffer. I thank Thee for Thy graces lavished on me with such love, in spite of all my most perverse obstinacy. I offer to the Eternal Father all the pain and love of Thy most holy humanity; and I pray Thee to change my heart and its affections, and make me do all my actions in accordance with the will of God.
When we are tempted to fret, to mull and worry, to cry out - we must stop. We must look at this situation through the wounds of Christ, and let Him do the work allotted to Him. We have done our work; it is now in His hands - His wounded, tender, most capable hands.

Be Brave

A few years ago, it came to my attention that a young family member was struggling with anxiety and depression. I was able to share with her a bit of my own struggles, and let her know she wasn't alone.

Bravery - artist Arzu Yontar
A few weeks after our talk, I saw the movie, "Brave." It struck me that the young protagonist, Merida, modeled a great quality. She was indeed brave.

Being brave is not about recklessness. It is not about confidence. It's not about being foolish, or looking for glory in the eyes of others.

Bravery is about doing what is right, even when you are a quivering mess. It's about knowing that things may not turn out the way you expected, but forging ahead anyway. Being brave is standing by the hospital bed while a loved one is dying, and all you really want to do is turn back time. Bravery is standing up to a bully, when your legs are screaming for you to run. Brave is doing what needs to be done even when you're scared and tired and feeling helpless and hopeless.

I sent that young family member a piece of jewelry with the word "brave" engraved on it, to remind her that she was brave.

I'm not feeling too brave right now. My last two jobs were ones I LOVED. I loved the work, the people, the feeling of doing something with meaning. And in both cases, my bosses encouraged me, stood behind me, challenged me, and assured me that I was doing a great job, and that I played an important role in the organization.

Until both of them told me I was no longer of value to the organization. Pack up your stuff and go home.

Just before I was let go from my last job, I passed a plaque on the wall in the office. It designated employees who'd worked there for 10, 15, 20+ years. I thought, "My name is going to be up there one day. I cannot imagine working anywhere else." And within a day or two, I had to scoop up all my personal belongings and haul my butt out of there.

I'm struggling right now with the idea of going into an interview with confidence. I still have no idea what happened in both of these cases - why I lost whatever my bosses had valued in me. How do I know it won't happen with the next job? How can I possibly trust another boss, make friends with co-workers, speak up, when I know there is a very good chance a day will come when I'll be called into the office and told: "You don't have a place here anymore."?

I'm trying to be brave. I'm trying to keep my chin up. I feel like a baseball player whose gotten hit with too many pitches though, and he is skittish about standing in that batter's box. I'm sitting in the dugout, trying not to throw up, because I know my at bat is almost here.

Brave. Be brave.

I am acutely aware that brave women run in my family. For now, though, it's enough to know that I've been brave before and I'll be brave again.

Old men with a lot of money say selling children for sex is fun and profitable!

Carl Ferrer, CEO of Backpage. He was arrested in the fall of
2016 on pimping charges. He was not successfully prosecuted.
He now resides in Amsterdam, where prostitution is legal,
which I'm sure makes him feel right at home. 
I realize the title of this post is quite blunt. Trust me, it's much nicer than the ads you'll find online on Craigslist and Backpage. There, you can order up your choice: a 15 year old virgin? Sure! Want to spend some time with a 12 year old dressed in lingerie? No problem.

I know it seems incredible, and the thought of such a thing makes most of us want to turn away. Disgust. Horror. How can this be?

Please watch the movie, "I Am Jane Doe." You'll get a front row seat to the battle that is raging in our courts and on our computers. You'll hear from victims, parents of victims and attorneys fighting to make sure we are not a nation that tolerates the sale of children for the sexual proclivities of adults. You'll even hear from a former pimp who helps law enforcement by educating them about pimps. (I'm sure this man cut a deal with some court. He made my blood run cold.)

Who will you NOT hear from? The old white guys who live in big houses, who may never even touch a computer. But they might as well be printing their own money: they are the owners of these websites.

I am not Jane Doe. I am her mother. I can't believe that 5 years after we got our daughter back (and that was truly by the grace of God!) that we are still having this conversation. Why are we even ENTERTAINING the idea that this is ok?

Watch the documentary. Pray for our children. Call your Senator and Congressperson.

Just hangin' out

It Is Oh So Still - artist Fredrik Ahlstedt
I'm trying to remember when I had time to work. Honestly, I've been so busy!

Dear Husband and I spent the weekend Chicago-way to celebrate the birthday of a dear friend. She's a foodie, and we got to experience this incredible restaurant. (I had a goat cheese tart I refused to share.) We spent most of the weekend just hangin' out. And that was just fine.

I really have been busy. Dark-haired daughter just got a job, and we are navigating the early days. I've been chauffeur. And that is just fine.

The State of Michigan has wanted some of my time, re' unemployment. Actually, that was just fine: the lady that helped me today was very pleasant and helpful. Not what one expects from a government employee...

I'm helping a friend promote his book, Broken Mary, and his website. He is actually a former DJ, who was on a local rock station for many years; Dear Husband and I were big fans. Now, he's moved on (not necessarily willingly!) to a different role: helping to spread the word about Fatima and praying the Rosary. This is fine, fine, fine....

Spending the weekend with my hubby and friends helped clarify a few things for me. First and foremost: I have time. Just relax. Take time to be still. Pray. Enjoy.

Despite the fact that I truly have been busy all day, I took 40 minutes to sit on my deck and listen to music. Just hangin' out. Fine, fine, fine.

I'm just hangin' out.

My soul rests in God alone, from whom comes my salvation. Ps. 62:2

Time is getting short


''I think midlife is when the universe gently places her hands upon your shoulders, pulls you close, and whispers in your ear: I’m not screwing around. It’s time. All of this pretending and performing – these coping mechanisms that you’ve developed to protect yourself from feeling inadequate and getting hurt – has to go. 

Your armor is preventing you from growing into your gifts. I understand that you needed these protections when you were small. I understand that you believed your armor could help you secure all of the things you needed to feel worthy of love and belonging, but you’re still searching and you’re more lost than ever. 

Time is growing short. There are unexplored adventures ahead of you. You can’t live the rest of your life worried about what other people think. You were born worthy of love and belonging. Courage and daring are coursing through you. You were made to live and love with your whole heart. It’s time to show up and be seen.'' ~ BrenĂ© Brown

Trauma Mama

Dismantling Wall in Order to Heal - artist Somerson
Dear Husband and I both enjoy certain medical shows, such as "ER" and "Code Black." ("St. Elsewhere" was another fave!) These shows revolve around trauma: humans who'd been ambushed by life: a car accident, a fire, and abuse, as examples.

More often than not, these shows also highlight the trauma the doctors and nurses needed to deal with. Having a patient die is always offensive to a doctor: they are charged with saving lives and losing one is the ultimate failure. Nurses spend more time with patients, and can forge strong bonds with people that may be in their lives for just a few days.

But trauma doesn't always look like a bloody body being wheeled into an emergency room, or a house surrounded by fire trucks and police cars. Trauma comes in many forms.

According to one website, trauma can look like surgery. It can look like moving. Trauma can be losing a beloved spouse or more horrifying, a child. Trauma can also be chronic pain, loneliness, mental illness. Trauma can be caring for a loved one who is dying.

We don't get wheeled into the ER because we are moving. No one suggests a doctor visit for loneliness. When you kid gets put in jail for stealing a car, there is no EMT waiting to care for the parents of that kid.

Over the past 18 months, I've had a lot of stuff to deal with. I've lost 2 jobs, we moved (not entirely by choice), we are involved in 2 lawsuits, I learned I had inoperable cysts on my spine that may eventually erode some of the bone. Our family dynamic has changed with one daughter now living 1000 miles away.

Over the past 10 days or so, I've been praying about and reflecting on all this. I don't have a job right now; I wasn't quite as valuable to that company as I was lead to believe. Thus, I've got a lot of time to do some soul-searching.

Trauma has been a big part of our family life. Our kids started life with cocaine in their systems. It's affected all of them differently, but no one could possibly say that it didn't harm them.

Adoption can be traumatic. There are a lot of questions that don't always get answered.

For some reason, 8th grade was traumatic for all our kids. It's like the social pressure, the hormones and their already slightly-addled brains just imploded. And sometimes, the kids exploded. We lived in a house with holes in the walls, cabinet doors smashed, carpeting ruined from having toilet cleaner dumped on it. For me, coming home was never a welcome homecoming. No, I had to steel myself to walk in that door every evening after work, hoping that no thing was destroyed and no one was hurt.

Despite just having lost a job I truly loved, I am beginning to see the great blessing I've been given. I have a lot of trauma I need to deal with. I'm one of those people you want around when there is an emergency - I go into Wonder Woman mode and get stuff done! Now! Won't take no for an answer!

And then, when the issue has been attended to, I thank God and then wait for the next emergency. And there always was one. It got to be that I lived in a heightened state of anticipation and anxiety, knowing that the next crisis would be coming anytime.

Now, I have a quiet home that truly is a refuge. I have time to think and pray and write. I have time to process things that I've stuffed down very deep, because if I didn't do that, I could never handle the next crisis.

Just this week, I've been shown in so many ways (Thank you, God!) that now is meant to be a time of rest and stillness. It is to be a time of contemplation and wonder. It will be a time for me to dig out from all the trauma and hurt and sorrow and pain that I've given free rein to my brain and heart. Now is a time to heal.

Let's be kind out there, in this harsh world we live in. That horribly slow man in front of you at the check out? He's been sleeping with his wife every night in the hospital as she battles cancer. That noisy, rude kid next door? He has no adults in his life who truly care for him. That woman in the office who always has a smile on her face and candy on her desk? She is ready to break into a million pieces because her husband has informed her that he is leaving her for another woman.

It's taken a long time for me to see that I have been a Trauma Mama for a long time. All this trauma needs an outlet, to be lanced and drained, no longer allowed to fester.

As much as I hated losing my job, I now have time to garden a bit, to write more, to see friends I haven't seen in years, and to be free of a schedule. This Trauma Mama is going to take the time necessary to retreat a bit spending time in the company of Almighy God, our Blessed Mother,  and some saintly friends. I'll be taking the advice of St. Francis de Sales: Be patient in all things, but most of all with yourself.


Deep calls to deep  
in the roar of your torrents, 
and all your waves and breakers sweep over me. 
By day the Lord sends his mercy and 
by night may his righteousness be with me! (Ps. 42:8-9)

Be still

Still Water - artist Brandon Cook

Be still. Rest.

Those are the two thoughts that came to me at Adoration yesterday. As you may have guessed, being "still" is not one of the weapons I usually carry. Blessed to be Irish, "still" just isn't there. "Talk" - oh, that I can do in my sleep (and often do, as apparently I can't get enough in while I'm awake.)

But "still?"

Several people close to me have suggested this as well. It is a time to rest. So, I will. I've made a mental list of things I've been wanting to do and people I've been wanting to spend time with. And I'm making plans.

But that isn't exactly "still," is it?

No, "still" means quiet. Downtime. Not keeping oneself busy, even with good things. "Still" means to be listening intently, even when it's quiet. "Still" is when the soul opens, the mouth closes and God makes Himself known.

I have writing to do. I'm going to make that a priority. But I know as well as any writer that much of the writing takes place off the page, when a writer gives herself time to think, ponder, plan, remember ... and to be still.

I've long had two places I go mentally when I need to be still. Neither is worth mentioning here, as they are MY places (you'll have to find your own.) But in neither of those places is there noise. The loudest noise is the breeze.

Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am.
Be still and know that I.
Be still and know that.
Be still and know.
Be still.
Be.

Since this is what God is asking of me right now, I shall try my best. That's all He asks.

Into the Foggy Dew

If you've ever driven through a thick fog, you know what fear is. You can't see anything. You're not sure if you're stil...