Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Little Lost in Another's Pain

I sit at the keyboard and move about in cyberspace visiting one blog after another, reading what other people are writing about this week. A few people write about Lent, another about her current book and still another about decorating her bathroom. I certainly don't know what to write about today. It isn't because I have nothing to write; I think it is more that I am flooded with feelings about other people's hurts. As my husband might say, “You are a counselor, you should know how to work through these things.” Maybe I do, maybe I don't.

Sometimes I am just too up close to let go. There are times in our lives when too many people we care about are hurting all at once and we just plain get flooded with emotion. First I must pray: I pray for my mom and step-dad who are making their way through the rugged terrain of Parkinson's and its surprising but strategic attacks on various bodily functions. My heart is heavy for my mother as she describes the day's progress or regress as she observes the slow process of moving from this life to the next. I am not trying to sound morbid, but I grew up in a family who accepts death as a natural part of living, though the hard journey is not necessarily anticipated with great joy.

There is a client for whom my heart weighs in heavy. Can I help her? Does she even want to be helped right now? Though it is best to remain detached I find it difficult to care enough to get invested in someone's painful story without getting a little bit lost myself. You may find this unhealthy; I think it is just one of the pitfalls of being a counselor (or human being) who cares. I must not let it overtake me, but sometimes it takes longer to detach. I do my best to let go for a few days and remember God has her in His hands.

At the end of the week there is Saturday, a day for self-care and little projects; Friday and Sunday, bookends of the weekend, offer a much needed pause from the care-taking of others to do home things giving my mind and heart a break from the heaviness. I don't stop caring, merely refocus my energy. There is something about mundane home tasks: cooking, cleaning, puttering, bringing bits of order here and there, reading and doing a bit of handwork that washes comfort over a tired spirit like a warm cup of tea. It soothes me. It brings perspective to these sad stories I drop down into throughout the week. It is up to me to find ways to open the pages of renewal and hope so that I may come back to bookmarked difficulties with an objective, untangled and hopeful heart.

You know what gives me joy? It is remembering I serve the Living Hope, 1 Peter 1:3. No matter what we face in this life we serve the Living Hope, the resurrected Christ, the joy of Easter. I was challenged last week by Jennie Allen's questions in her Chase study: “Do we just confess an intellectual belief in God or is He real enough to impact our circumstances? . . . When life closes in, what will you believe about God, and what do you believe Him for?” So when the burdens seem heavy, people's stories take a turn for the worse, and I am feeling inadequate, I must ask myself these questions. And then I must open my eyes and watch in eager anticipation as His Spirit works to make beauty out of brokenness and pain. Do you have a worry or heartache weighing you down? I pray you will find peace and hope by opening your heart and allowing it to be poured out into the Creator's hands, the One who weaves everything into His perfect and beautiful master plan. And watch in eager anticipation to see what He makes of it, or of you.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Conglomeration of Books

Books are my biggest weakness, well besides coffee and dark chocolate. My favorite present to receive is a book I have been longing to read. The only trouble is my momentum for collecting book is at a more accelerated speed than my reading, though I read everyday. I have always had a voracious appetite for well written words – words to inspire me to a truer version of myself and fill my imagination to overflowing with beauty, joy and hope which is then poured into my life and the lives of others.

Long ago a woman I barely knew visited my home and complimented me on how I decorated with books throughout my house. I confessed it was out of necessity; I do not have enough book shelves. My husband will attest to the lack of book shelves, or excessive number of books I own. For two years in a row I have requested book shelves for my birthday or Christmas. When I moved here nearly four years ago so we could get married I parted with several books I had read and reread; I was sure I could part with them at the time. Oh how I have lamented several volumes no longer in my possession.

But I know, and my husband reminds me, I cannot keep every book forever; we would soon run out of room for ourselves. Yet books have a way of creeping in and stacking up on tables, under tables, in book shelves and, well wherever they can barter space with an item deemed lesser in importance. Some of you have a headache right now from shaking your head up and down emphatically in agreement; you welcome books in like a sticky spot on your counter beckons ants. You cannot get enough of them (books, not ants) and you angst over parting with any book, even books you know you won't read.

After beginning this post, I began wondering about my obsession with books. As a child my mother read nursery rhymes to me. I would memorize them and pretend to read them to others. But I do not recall bookshelves in our home or owning a lot of books; we rarely went to the library. I recall during the school year buying books from the scholastic book club or checking out a book from the school library to read and return the next day. When desperate I would scour my grandparent's bookshelf for something to borrow. Once I begged my mom to let me join a book club via mail. Every two months I would receive a new book in the mail. I still own one of my favorites: Professor Diggins Dragons. We didn't have much money so it was a sacrifice for her to give into me. The library would have been cheaper.

When my parents started attending church regularly and following Christ, books gravitated to our home. There were spiritual books, but there were also lots of self-help books. As a teen I was reading self-help books driven by my voracious desire to learn, focusing in on how to fix what was broken in me and my family. Maybe those were seeds planted bringing to full bloom the call to counseling. Who knows? I just know I had to have something to read to feed my imagination and my hopes, and to learn all I could about God, myself and others.

At times I am overwhelmed by the stack of books under my bedside table yet to be read. But I never stop longing for the next read. One of the things I found fascinating about my husband when we first became friends was his passion for reading. Like me, he has a stack he is reading through and a stack waiting to be read. It was so wonderful to meet someone who would understand the desire to learn and the joy of reading a well written story.

What are some of your favorite childhood stories? Black Beauty, Little Women, and Up a Road Slowly come to my mind. As an adult I discovered Anne of Green Gables and read all 8 volumes, plus many other books by Lucy Maud Montgomery, including a favorite character Emily of New Moon. What are some of your favorite books? And what impact have reading and books had on your life?