Wednesday, April 30, 2014


(On finally figuring out that this journey is not really about cancer - it´s about my heart.)

I lost count a while back
of the number of thorns -
the thorns that have pierced me
during this journey.
There are crimson drops of blood
Beaded & glistening at each pinhole -
A tribute to the thorns´ severe mercy.*

Each piercing broke into my life,
into my safe interior.
It seems a raw & violent intrusion
On my inner life.

These piercings touch me in deep places
where tears & blood drops flow.
Places I didn´t know about -
places dark & hidden within me.

The piercings direct little shafts of light
from the outside to the depths.
Revealing, exposing, unmasking
a deep down ugliness.

Sins, habits, responses
Attitudes, traits & weaknesses -
They are caught in the light,
forced into plain view, slinking or screaming.

I feel appalled, embarrassed, humiliated
Confused & terrified of my own self, I bolt
I run & run & run until I collapse, heaving with sobs.
I crawl into a shadowed place, afraid.

In a desperate & exhausted heap
I cry hot tears until there are none left.
Their salty heat burns with this truth:
There is no place to run from yourself.

 I see with a start that the thorns are not in themselves my trial -
Their piercings deflect to the Spirit´s intended target -
My heart, ¨the wellspring of life¨
Of course!  He is always about deeper things.
The visible trial is always about the inner life.

Now I face this poignant decision:
to ¨let¨ the piercings have their ¨perfect result¨
or to resist this sacred proposition.
To focus on the thorns -
or surrender myself to the Rose of Sharon.

I realize with shame
that what is seen can be wasted 
when instead of deep change we allow it
to produce pity in others for us,
or bitterness in ourselves,
or walls with those we love,
or simply, defeat.

The piercings in the valley
are utterly painful
But as I surrender myself in my ugliness
to the One who knows 
of tears drops & blood drops,
of hearts & piercings
I find a fellow Sufferer -
and a Saviour.

He shepherds & counsels me
through pain, darkness & terrifying ugliness
He ushers in little miracles 
of change, of surrender, of release.
He gives strength & spiritual courage
to enter forbidden closets.

Restoration Will Come.
But right now it is the time of the valley of piercings.
It is a time for mourning & confession,
It is a time for making right & being honest,
It is a time for tear drops & blood drops.

Yet here,  even here among the thorns, there is a Rose.
He holds me, breathes for me, cries with me
He leads me to green pastures,
He brings Presence into the valley.

Knowing there will be velvety roses of character
makes the sacred piercing of thorns a bit easier.
Understanding there will be perfume from the crushing
makes cooperating with the Spirit´s plan sweeter.
Hearing His voice whisper that there will be beauty
when the tears & blood drops are dried, is a comfort.

Believing in the Rose of Sharon among thorns
means everything to me.
He knows of piercings,
and of severe mercies.
He knows this valley;
 He knows how the story ends.

I found this Rose,
my Rose,
in the Valley of Piercings...
I found Him in the only place you find a rose -
among the severe mercy of thorns.

*¨severe mercy¨ is originally coined in A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken.  His magnificent autobiography tells of he and his wife´s relationship, their spiritual quest and her death.  Our struggles to understand why there is pain & loss in this world if God is all-powerful and all-loving, are beautifully crafted in this classic which includes letters with their friend C.S. Lewis. 

Photos (in order of appearance) by: 

sudesh,, Linda Knight, Len Mathews, pea sap, James Bowe

Monday, April 28, 2014


I have seen in myself and in other friends that what works for us spiritually during normal times of life is not the same as what works in crisis.  I´m not promoting changing gods or religion! I´m talking about our practices that give us the sense of nearness & connectedness with God.  While it seems logical that we change under stress & crisis, often we don´t realize why the same practices that have worked before don´t - and we can feel guilty & confused because of that.

In ¨normal¨ life circumstances I really enjoy reading the Scriptures, doing different studies and reflecting on them in a journal.  When I am in crisis, I find my concentration is so short that reading more than a few verses at a time is a monumental challenge!  Understanding my own physiology - that a short attention span and difficulty concentrating are common symptoms of stress - has helped me to accept my new - and temporary - reality.

The first time this happened in a major life crisis, it was very upsetting to me.  My inability to read the Scriptures with delight made me feel like a spiritual failure...I didn´t understand why what had always brought me joy & insight now made me feel frustrated & inadequate...not to mention far from God because my point of connection was not working!  It took me years to reconcile this within myself and to make healthy adjustments - and to see, to my surprise, that He blessed those adjustments!  It wasn´t the same; it was different...but it worked and I learned to experience Him in new ways in the midst of the storm.

Concentration in prayer was also a failed experience although I could still pour out all I was experiencing to Him, it seemed that prayer had become reduced to me and my crisis...the difficulty took on a protagonism that was disturbing!  When under great stress, I had little energy to cope beyond the situation at hand and to look outward to others...I felt curled up in a survival mode and unable to move out at times beyond myself.  Talk about feeling ugly & self-centered!  Again, when I could understand that physiologically, that basic need to survive is God-given, and the preservation of energy for the battle at hand is a coping mechanism,  then I could accept the changes that were occurring.  It helped to remind myself often that this was temporary.

What I am NOT saying with all of this is that crisis gives us license to leave the Scriptures behind or to ignore others.  What I AM saying is that making adjustments during crisis is necessary, healthy,  encouraged and blessed by God.  There is freedom, people!  We are not limited or trapped by what is usual, normal, acceptable, practiced by ¨everyone else¨.  God is bound by no one nor any practice.  We can be pretty sure that He is the One most open to creative approaches to being connected with Him.

Over the years I have experimented with having ¨quiet times¨ with God in shorter intervals throughout the day instead of in one large block of time, pray while walking or read right after exercising when my mind is clearest (sometimes that´s the only time its clear all day!)  I have released myself from big commitments to Bible studies and have taken to meditating on a few verses at a time, imagining myself in a Bible story and experiencing Christ there, writing out my thoughts & prayers - especially my own laments - and listening to music to drown out anxious or negative thoughts.  Enjoying art & nature in fresh ways have also successfully taken me to His presence. Sometimes having others pray for me when I lacked words & strength was the only way I could pray.  Pursuing new methods has opened my heart up in new ways and deepened my experience of Him in ways I never dreamed.

Are you facing a trial that has you drowning in your own attempts to find Him in it?  If something isn´t working right now, it does not mean that you are a failure or that it may not work again for you in the future.  Why not invite Him to Shepherd you through this valley in new ways?  Determine to be open to finding some new avenues of communion with the One who is always there.  Find what does work!  You will be surprised to discover new facets of your relationship with will be blessed to experience Him in new ways in some of your darkest will realize anew that He is so deep, so vast, that we could experiment for all of eternity with different ways of knowing Him and never know it all!  He is limitless.  Why do we limit the ways we use to feel close to Him?

Photo by:  ihu03141

Sunday, April 27, 2014


So much is said here... 
yet so much more is left unsaid.

So many details explained...
and yet so many left out.

So many emotions made public...
and so many more kept private.

So much effort to be honest...
yet not all can be expressed.

It is not always mine to tell.
Or it is not the time.

Sometimes it is too raw or too new,
unresolved or too personal.

Sometimes I want to let it all out -
kicking & screaming & typing my way to release & relief.

But I can´t.
I love them all too much.

I close myself up with my Audience of One
where I can say & write anything.
Where all can be spoken - yet it is safe.
Uttered - yet held secretly guarded.
Written - yet not published.

He is the fairest & purest of audiences.
There are no cares about how or why anything is said.
I hurt no one, reveal no secrets.
I speak & write, unedited.
He listens & counsels, unrehearsed.

It is a hard balance, this cyber world,
this instant audience,
this friends & strangers at fingertip.   

I want to share our story,
be genuine & transparent throughout this pain
to let you all see - and feel - what it is like.
To encourage you in your faith,
in your own journey.

I also long to see how He shows up
and to have it recorded for my children.
I yearn for them to see that 
with Him all things are possible
and that He is longing for authentic faith -
not a religion but an honest face-to-face,
walk-it-out-every-minute-of-every-day relationship. 

I am on a quest here
of writing, of recording
of honesty, of vulnerability
of encouraging, of discipling
of mistakes, of imperfection
of real life and real faith.

I hope you will hang in there with us
to see how this story ends.

Photo by: Federica Rainó

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Every year at Easter I have the sincere desire to fast forward through the soberness of Friday to the joy & hope of Sunday. 

Am I alone in this?

I want to appreciate the death of Christ, His suffering, what it cost Him & what it accomplished for me and mankind but I honestly cannot take it all in.  It is so overwhelming, so sad, so full of pain and heaviness that I can´t linger there long. 

I am the kind of person who shuts her eyes in every violent scene in a movie and only made it through about 10 minutes of The Passion before leaving!

All of this doesn´t mean I am not thankful.  Or unaware of my own sin. Nor does it mean I don´t need to grow in this.  

I love my Redeemer.  I worship the Saviour.

It´s just that He came to give LIFE.  He Himself IS life.  And that LIFE triumphed on Sunday´s resurrection.  Of course there was a necessary path of death for there to even be a resurrection.  But, in the end, this is all about LIFE.

This year has been a heavy year.  And as Easter draws near, I have had a deeper desire than ever to celebrate LIFE, HEALING, HOPE.  It is a deep need within our family this year.  I hope this is ok with Him.  I think it is...

You may have seen my Easter Tree that I made to celebrate this year.  It´ something different for us.  Something visually symbolic of life and hope. It is made from an olive branch to remind us of the Garden´s pain.  But it keeps us looking forward to promises, to spring, to renewed faith, to upcoming healing, to miracles, big and small, and mostly, to LIFE.





Here in Spain, everyone is focused on Jesus´ death through elaborate processions in the streets.  It is countercultural here to make Sunday the big day but it is the big day for me!

I realized this week that this is the first Easter in 5 years that we have all 5 been together!  That is special, too.  And even if Jenna doesn´t have strength to make it to church, we will be celebrating LIFE on that day in various ways.  Because Jesus, who is LIFE, is what this is all about...

...and THAT´S worth celebrating everyday.

Photo by:  Brian Haslam