I thirst: Brett Alan Dewing [Retrieve Lament]

(You can read all of this week's stories of lament here.)

Jesus gave us a litany of last words as a Sufferer; we refer to them as the Seven Last Words of Christ. The deathbed words of the Suffering Servant provide a framework for the stories of lament I'll be sharing here this Holy Week.

I count it a high privilege to know -- at least in a small part -- the writers of the mourning stories I'll be sharing now through Holy Saturday. Their stories have helped form me in my understanding of suffering and I believe they could also encourage you too. Today's guest is a man Brian and I know from our days living and working in New York state. I first got to know Brett through his kind offer to share poetry with my art-starved self. It was like a cup of cold water - which is a fitting metaphor for the day we remember the parched and dying Christ.

It'd be silly to pretend that the form of suffering Brett so vulnerably shares with us today isn't among the most culturally vulnerable positions in our world today. His lament acknowledges a complexity of suffering that makes the majority of the world, and, sadly, the Church, too uncomfortable to acknowledge. 

As we near the Feast of the Passover, I'm thinking a lot about our Israelite forebears being rescued from slavery in Egypt - dramatically freed from a backbreaking life that led to death by route of the stark, uncomfortable wildnerness. In this context Brett's question, Can we grieve the loss of an unholy life?, feels a bit like what the Jewish fathers and mothers might have meant when in their austere desert provision they found themselves remembering fondly the melons and cucumbers they were fed in Egypt. What might those longings have sounded like if they'd stopped short of building the golden calf as an idol to their faulty memory of the "good, old days"? I wonder if it might have sounded a bit like Brett's honest, thirsty lament.

Would you read Brett's story with me, and listen with an open heart for any words Christ might be speaking to you?

A Man of Sorrow  by Scott Erickson ( source )

A Man of Sorrow by Scott Erickson (source)

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst.’
— John 19:28 (ESV)

 

Grieving Our Vinegar Thirsts

by Brett Alan Dewing

Jesus’s call of thirst from Golgotha calls us all to examine the thirsts in our lives. Are they holy thirsts that bring us closer to who God calls us to be (thirsts for His blood in the Eucharist), or are they worldly cravings that bend us toward idolatry and consumerism (thirsts for the vinegar He was given)? There are times in our lives when two roads diverge in a foggy wood, and we, groping, take the wrong path. When we realize our error, what do we do? When we find ourselves back on the straight and narrow, what do we do with our time on the crooked and wide?

Sixteen years ago, God led me out of a gay identity into something much wilder and less contained: an identity in Him. For a dozen years, I thrilled in the experience of chasing God and His ways, but I didn’t know what to do with my time as a gay man. Were those times, those relationships, those drives to be all labeled not-good and thrown on the trash heap of the past?

In the last four years, my sexual identity has not been so sure. I have found myself again wrestling with my old desires – good desires like companionship and community and love that were twisted ever-so-slightly into unhealthy thirsts. And again I must ask, what do I do with the path I daily refuse to go down again.

Can we grieve the loss of an unholy life?

When we turn from our earthly desires toward Him, we all must leave things behind. For me, that meant leaving behind a life of seeking fulfillment in another man. That meant the very real possibility of never knowing someone sexually. That meant the loss of an identity that promised inclusion and the picking up of an identity that seems even today to lead to loneliness and Otherness.

But in my searching, wandering heart, I have found that it is holy and healthy to mourn those things that a gay identity promises, even though they are not things God wants for me. We all must mourn the paths we didn’t take, even if – no, even though – they are not the paths God would lead us down.

It is OK.

It is OK to cry out to Him in my loneliness, in my frustrated sexual being, in my uncertainty, to mourn the life He called me out of, even if I find myself desiring it once more. It is OK to weep for the loss of a broken life. We must, in fact, let go of every “if” or “might have been” to truly follow Him without reservation. Let them float away like balloons, in an array of tears, offerings to Him that set us on the good path. He knows what we gave (give) up, and He can take the tears of pain and anger as we grieve our vinegar thirsts.


Brett, I'm praying with hope for you and all of us the words of our sister Julian of Norwich who found herself enfolded so deeply in the love of Christ that her proclamation "all shall be well, all things shall be well" comforts our troubled hearts even today. May it be so. ~ Tamara)

Brett Alan Dewing.JPG

Brett Alan Dewing is a poet, playwright, teacher, and critic living in Binghamton,
NY. He grew up in Warren Center, PA and was educated in Canada, where he earned
three BAs and an MFA. He has interned at Brookstone Performing Arts in Toronto
and studied under Canadian legends Iris Turcott and Judith Thompson. His play,
Requiem for a Broken God has been performed on both coasts, and his plays my first sex poem and One Is Silver were performed at Redeemer University College in
Hamilton, Ontario. He self-produced plays throughout high school but has yet to
enjoy his professional American premiere.

You can buy Brett's book here, and read his reviews at b-a-
dreviews.blogspot.com
.


Once, ritual lament would have been chanted; women would have been paid to beat their breasts and howl for you all night, when all is silent.
Where can we find such customs now? So many have long since disappeared or been disowned.

That’s what you had to come for: to retrieve the lament that we omitted.
— Ranier Maria Rilke, "Requiem For A Friend"

(You can read all of the Retrieve Lament stories from previous years here.)

Why have you forsaken me?: Amy McLaughlin [Retrieve Lament]

(You can read all of this week's stories of lament here.)

Jesus gave us a litany of last words as a Sufferer; we refer to them as the Seven Last Words of Christ. The deathbed words of the Suffering Servant provide a framework for the stories of lament I'll be sharing here this Holy Week.

I count it a high privilege to know -- at least in a small part -- the writers of the mourning stories I'll be sharing now through Holy Saturday. Their stories have helped form me in my understanding of suffering and I believe they could also encourage you too. Today's guest has walked with Brian and me through most of the joys and sorrows of the last seven years - as partners in a relational healing ministry and as beloved friends. In God's kindness, He led Amy and me to the same spiritual direction certification cohort without us even planning it that way. So, we continue to work and learn together from our respective homes in Austin and Bridgeport. Amy embodies what it means to be a wounded healer, and I'm grateful to her for share with us this Holy Week.

Would you read Amy's story with me, and listen with an open heart for any words Christ might be speaking to you?

   Quilt by Junko Oki ( source )

 

Quilt by Junko Oki (source)

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ’Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’
— Matthew 27:46 (ESV)

 

Bella

by Amy McLaughlin

The gift came to me in a circuitous, even painful and confusing way. We were helping a Hurricane Harvey family entrenched in all levels of poverty. We were weary with the cycles of addiction, abuse and dependence in the family we were serving and had questioned whether we should have ever become involved. Then one day I brought a friend out with me to visit the family and to play with the kids. As we rode together, I shared with her a bit about my own hand-to-mouth childhood and about being raised by a single mom. She listened and then commented that I could relate to this family because of my story. This family’s situation was so stark that I simply hadn’t made the connection. As we were leaving that day, beautiful, blonde, three-year-old Bella became frantic and started screaming and banging the inside of the duplex door we had shut behind us. We drove away with the heaviness of Bella’s chaos.

Over the next week I began to unravel. I ached for Bella and felt the grip of my own three-year-old grief close around my throat. God seemed to be using us to love this family and the family to love me, for He ushered in a grief that He wanted me to embrace in a deeper, completely joined way. He wanted to be there with me then and now as I faced my own three-year-old panic.

It was November and my spiritual direction cohort gathered for training. I was half-way through a two-year program to earn a certificate in spiritual direction. I had greatly grieved and wrestled over the abandonment of my father numerous times but never before alone with the Lord in this way. Over the course of my training weekend, I was given three hours of silence for two afternoons. I'd just had rotator cuff surgery and knew I needed to stay inside and not venture out. As I sat with the wide window of green hills in front of me, the grief of Bella and then my own “banging the inside of a duplex door” loss rose in me. I fought it and reminded “it” that I had been over this numerous times. After some attempt to put it aside, I let it be and God invited me to grieve with Him, to see Him holding my bare-chested, diapered self then and my raw lonely self now. I lost time that afternoon. I only knew He was grieving with me as real as the closest of friend.  As the first day ended I thought maybe it was all out.

Afternoon two of silence began and I sat aware that I was not finished, that He had more for me.  Anger began to rise. In whatever ways I protected my Dad from my heartbroken reality then, and in whatever ways I still maintain much silence about the cost to me now, I began to unleash questions of my dad, then questions of my God. Questions like, how at the end of the day, Dad, could you actually walk away from your own flesh and blood? I have kids and that has only served to strengthen my question.

And Father, how did you arrive at the conclusion that the way this would play out would be good for my sister and me?  Why has it taken me so long? Why has it taken you so long? I felt as if God let me stand close and beat his chest with the depth of my pain. He did not waiver. He did not stop me. I felt I was to get it all out. And He was there when I settled. I didn’t have an answer. This experience became a sort of answer. A deep bonding happened between God and me, the one who dreamt me up back when He was casting stars into existence. The one who stayed close when my parents were reeling with their own brokenness. The one who honors me and delights in me and gives me all good things now as I step into my 50’s on this Easter morning!

To think a little abandoned blonde three-year-old, after years of insomnia and self referenced living could move into her 50’s with such an intimate knowing of her Father’s nearness is beyond what I can take in, certainly beyond what I or any of us deserve. But it is true and calming and full and life giving. And after this skin-on-skin grieving with such a good Father, I feel more a part of the family than I thought possible.

Psalm 73:28 says, “The nearness of God is my good.” From this place, I can pray for Bella.


Amy McLaughlin.JPG

 

 

 

Amy is wife to David, mother of two teenagers, Slater and Gracie, and a learner in the ways of grace, healing, waiting and trusting God. She directs a relational healing ministry at Christ Church Austin, she teaches, keeps her LPC license current and is in spiritual direction training.


Once, ritual lament would have been chanted; women would have been paid to beat their breasts and howl for you all night, when all is silent.
Where can we find such customs now? So many have long since disappeared or been disowned.

That’s what you had to come for: to retrieve the lament that we omitted.
— Ranier Maria Rilke, "Requiem For A Friend"

(You can read all of the Retrieve Lament stories from previous years here.)

Retrieve Lament: Rachel Spies' mourning story

Throughout this week that we call Holy, I've invited a few friends who have companioned in suffering with Christ and His people to share a bit of their stories with us. I'm grateful to today's guest - a friend from our beloved church family (and writing group) in Austin - for sharing from her experience of a relentless lent. I'm also grateful to Rachel for her skill in expressing the inexpressable in a way that welcomes us into her grief, and thereby, our own. This is no small gift, and I pray that God will raise up a canopy of protection over Rachel's family, as she and Jonathan continue to wait for resurrection. I pray this for all of us in the various forms of suffering we encounter waiting for the help of a risen Christ. Would you read with me, and listen with an open heart for any words Christ might be speaking to you through Rachel's story?

Walls From Words and Stories  by Ines Seidel ( source )

Walls From Words and Stories by Ines Seidel (source)

Retrieving the lament of that which is almost unbearable to name

The past five years I have lived in Lent. The church calendar has ticked by but I have stayed here in the barren place, the dark place where hope is for others and resurrection is a belief but not tangible. It’s one of those long stories, too long certainly for this space, with long emotions and long components, but familiar too – grief, hurt, expectations not met, illness, grief, uncertainty, abuse, adoption, mental illness, destruction. Many families enter into these lands, and many families fall apart. We did. Some families are able to weather the storm. We couldn’t.

Last year I had four children, this year I have three. Or maybe I still have four. I don’t know how to answer that question. Last year my daughter knew nothing of violence or crime or the physical power that men can yield over women. This year, at eight years of age, she is a sexual assault statistic. I will never be over that, never.

Five years ago when I heard the word “rad,” I thought of 1980’s slang. Now I think of attachment disorders and all the hell they entail.

I am a writer, a poet of sorts I suppose, and my offerings are often written on the page. These are a few of the laments I retrieved over the past few years.


I had a son

I had a son
With tight black curls
and
Tight black skin
Bright white teeth
and
Bright white smile

He had
Tight slit eyes
He told me
Tight white lies

He had a mom
With slippery hands
and
slippery heart
Who couldn’t hold on
when she slid away
on slippery feet
Into the dark

I snatched him up,
grabbed him up,
stole him -
Carried him over the sea
Told him to forget who he was
Told him to be like me

I had a son
He had nothing
but
A name, A country, A tribe

I had a son
He gave me
hate red cheeks
And
a dead black heart

And the saints sang Hallelujah,
And everyone worshiped a thief.
They all bowed to the abductor,
all hail the savior in chief.

Before and After

Notice the clouds
balled together to form the very
likeness of a brontosaurus,
free-roaming gentle giant now trapped
in plastic molds
and skyscapes

One scream and
the world ends,
the clouds forgotten (already drifting apart)

One scream and
sirens come
surrounding

One scream and
How can sixty seconds
violate innocence so
casually completely forever?

Real Live Monsters

Once monsters were
beasts
who lived in
pages of fiction -
hairy giants, with
sharp teeth and claws

I was wrong.

Because this fall
I met
A. Real. Live. Monster.
And though beast,
It blended well
In a human suit

It had fire-breath
And long arm tentacles
Strong as ten men
hidden beneath its clothes.
It crouched in wait,
and struck.

And all I was left to do
- hold my little girl
open gash in her side
As she sobbed in my arms for hours on end

Support for South Sudan

We are a tribe of neon-chested armor clad warrior women
Dressed ready for battle
Cecilia leads us out with a mighty cry
“Whoo-eee-ooo-eee!”
and heads out the door toward the open field beyond
Someone starts a rhythmic clapping
we stomp-skip-clap
No words are needed now
we fight as one, but each a different battle
Mary fights malaria five times,
Teresa and Eunice fight to keep going
past their dying babies
Janie fights eight mouths to feed with no food
Everyone knows what to do
We form a dancing circle as we keep
up the clapping and the stomping.
Very Old Martha
Has three fingers, very few teeth, walks with a cane
She starts a new song with a new beat,
and everyone is now slapping a knee on a down
beat while clapping and stomping.
We move counter-clockwise, as one.

Rachel Spies.bio.jpg

 

 

 

 

Rachel grew up and still lives in Austin, TX, where she enjoys writing, her family, and searching for the perfect margarita

Once, ritual lament would have been chanted; women would have been paid to beat their breasts and howl for you all night, when all is silent. Where can we find such customs now? So many have long since disappeared or been disowned.

That’s what you had to come for: to retrieve the lament that we omitted.
— Ranier Maria Rilke, "Requiem for a Friend"

(You can read all of the Retrieve Lament stories from previous years here.)

Retrieve Lament: Alicia Nichols' mourning story

Throughout this week that we call Holy, I've invited a few friends who have companioned with Christ and His people in suffering to share a bit of their stories with us. Today's guest is so very dear to me, and her story one I've mourned from much further away than I'd ever hoped to be when one of my siblings suffers. Even with my ten years advance, I often find myself learning and leaning into my sister's wisdom. Watching Alicia and my brother-in-law, Richard, continue to nurture hope in the middle of so much pain, and watching the Church come around them, time after time, has changed me for the good. Would you read their story with me, and listen with an open, prayerful heart for any words Christ might be speaking to you through them?

Alicia's chromosmal analysis

Alicia's chromosmal analysis

Retrieving lament with the family of Christ

Only a third of the way or so into the hill, I could just feel it all drain from me. Any motivation to keep pushing up the hill, gone. Weird, considering the one strength I bring to running is the ability to keep moving. So, I walked. Defeated. I noticed this same pattern in other areas, as well. Like when I was laboring in the birth of my son a year ago. No emotional reserve to work from.

Because this wasn’t typical of me, it stood out and made me ask, why? It became apparent that it was undealt with grief draining my soul.

Driving home a few weeks after my 2017 New Years’ resolution to allow myself to feel my grief whenever it came up, I was overcome with anger and wept out: Why couldn’t God just have answered in a relational way? Yes, I know we got the answer “no” through the death of each of the four babies we miscarried, but why couldn’t He have had the kindness to be present with us in that “no"? Just silence. Like He didn’t have the nerve to speak the answer to my face. I just had to wait for His “no” in the bleeding out of each of these lives.

My almost four-year-old daughter has a deep, pondering mind and the ability to ask questions that I have no idea how to answer. It really bothers her that she can’t hear “God and Jesus.” She often asks about this, and part of my reply is that God speaks to us in a variety of ways, including through His people.

He is present through His people.

Oh, the abundance and tangibility, the extravagant solidness of the community around us in the waiting and hoping and grieving, in the throes of each loss.

For example, two years ago when I found out that the cause of our miscarriages was a chromosomal abnormality, the feeling that each of my cells was broken consumed me. I hated my body. In fact, I could feel myself trying to pull away from my own body, which caused as much internal conflict as you can imagine. I turned to a few friends and asked them to pray with me. So, in my living room they sat as I ranted and wept, and they listened to God with me. And with their strength of presence, we together poured my anguish into the cross. They spoke to me truth and grace and forgiveness and release. They were God’s presence to me, such tangible presence.

At that same time, I shared with our small group and the women gifted me with a massage. A massage is usually a good idea (am I right?) but - God made us body and soul. The first group of women helped me find God with my soul and the second helped me find God with my body. They were God’s tangible presence to me. 

I could tell you about my sister-in-law showing up quietly with a quiche the day we came home from brutally miscarrying our first, or the time she responded to my frantic text and watched my daughter as I started to miscarry our third. Or the time she and my brother showed up a year later with beer and cookies, just to say they were with us as we processed understanding the brokenness of my body. Or I could tell you about the verses of encouragement persistently showing up in the mail during the season that I was miscarrying our fourth, statements of truth to assert and limply hold on to when my heart was not there. Or the flowers given from family to say we’re here and we honor this life. Or the meaningful necklace from my good friend, because she knew this would stay with me and always be close to my heart, and physical remembrances help. And her gift of asking me how I was doing months later when it would be easier to hope I had moved on. Or the gift of listening friends who had experienced great loss who could validate my pain with the words “I know” with a kind of weight only they could offer. 

Arms and ears and gifts and words; the tangible kindness of God so present with me.

Emmanuel in grief.

And, the number of people who pleaded with the Father for my son (who is currently healthily crying upstairs. His life may be an answer to prayer, but that doesn’t mean he wants to take a nap). When I visited my sister’s church in Austin, TX in January of 2016, nearing 7 months and clearly great with child, the woman who came up to me and put her hand on my belly and said, with boldness, “I am invested in this child!”, I knew without a doubt she and so many others were.

God present through His people in life, too.

 As a way to grieve the loss of the four little ones we lost through miscarriage,, I decided to make four baby blankets in their honor and donate them to the Life Choices Center. I honor the lives of my little ones with this small gesture, and lift my ache to the God of Hope who is so present with us.

 As a way to grieve the loss of the four little ones we lost through miscarriage,, I decided to make four baby blankets in their honor and donate them to the Life Choices Center. I honor the lives of my little ones with this small gesture, and lift my ache to the God of Hope who is so present with us.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alicia Nichols lives in Gaithersburg, MD with her husband, daughter and son where she spends her days chasing her children through various parks and libraries and engaging with the diverse community around her. 

Once, ritual lament would have been chanted; women would have been paid to beat their breasts and howl for you all night, when all is silent. Where can we find such customs now? So many have long since disappeared or been disowned.

That’s what you had to come for: to retrieve the lament that we omitted.
— Ranier Maria Rilke, "Requiem For A Friend"

(You can read all of the Retrieve Lament stories from previous years here.)

Retrieve Lament: Les & Renee Aylesworth's mourning story

Throughout this week that we call Holy, I've invited a few friends who have companioned with Christ and His people in suffering to share a bit of their stories with us. I asked my friends Les and Renee if I could share an update on their lives three years after Renee, at age 38 and the mother of 5 children, ages 20 months - 13 years old, suffered a stroke. Les was a God-send to us when we were first figuring out how to be parents to teenagers - befriending our oldest son at a key time in his life. We've grieved Renee's illness from a distance and have grown in our ability to understand what suffering-bourne love looks like -- in marriage, in family, and in community. Would you read their story with me, and listen with an open, prayerful heart for any words Christ might be speaking to you through them?

Renee's stroke took the use of her dominant right hand, but she has taken up painting with her left hand. This is a watercolor she painted near the third anniversary of her stroke.  Les shared Renee's interpretation of the painting this way:  "The 6 bright flowers in the bright sunny blue skies on the left side of the painting represent me and our 5 kids. The tallest is me, the next is Ivan, and so on. If you look closely, you'll notice another flower in the middle, leaning into, almost consumed by, the dark, stormy area. That flower is Renee, and the dark area represents  aphasia  and her inability to communicate and connect to the rest of us. While the rest of us stand straight and tall, her flower is bent and weak, and bends from the bright side and into the darkness. It's as if she's in this "in between" place. Her mind is stormy and dark because of the aphasia caused by her stroke, while part of her is still in the sun. I know there is a storm raging inside there that causes confusion and despair, but my hope and prayer is that that flower strengthens and grows tall once again in the sunshine, and the storms dissipate and once again she can connect with us as before."

Renee's stroke took the use of her dominant right hand, but she has taken up painting with her left hand. This is a watercolor she painted near the third anniversary of her stroke.  Les shared Renee's interpretation of the painting this way:  "The 6 bright flowers in the bright sunny blue skies on the left side of the painting represent me and our 5 kids. The tallest is me, the next is Ivan, and so on. If you look closely, you'll notice another flower in the middle, leaning into, almost consumed by, the dark, stormy area. That flower is Renee, and the dark area represents aphasia and her inability to communicate and connect to the rest of us. While the rest of us stand straight and tall, her flower is bent and weak, and bends from the bright side and into the darkness. It's as if she's in this "in between" place. Her mind is stormy and dark because of the aphasia caused by her stroke, while part of her is still in the sun. I know there is a storm raging inside there that causes confusion and despair, but my hope and prayer is that that flower strengthens and grows tall once again in the sunshine, and the storms dissipate and once again she can connect with us as before."

Les and Renee's journal entry from February 26, 2017

(the third anniversary of her stroke)

It struck me tonight that 3 years ago was the last night we went to bed without stroke being on our minds.  Renee was going to go to the doctor to get her headache checked out...but that never came.

I can hardly believe that 3 years has passed. I remember when it was 3 months and that felt like an eternity; and the thought of 3 years was nearly impossible to fathom. And yet, here we are.  I think we always tend to reflect on anniversaries of any kind and this is certainly one that makes you think a lot.  People who have survived strokes call them a "strokeversary", so Renee is having her 3rd Strokeversary.  It truly is a badge of honor, because surviving a stroke is a big deal!  Especially considering in those initial minutes Renee thought she was going to die and meet Jesus, and in the initial hours, the hospital thought the same.  But she didn't and one of our first prayers of many prayers prayed for Renee was answered.  She lived and I'm able to share about life 3 years post-stroke.  

I remember in those early days, when we were in the ICU, every time I went back to Renee's room I prayed and hoped that I would walk in and see Renee sitting up in bed and say, "Hi Les." I hoped after she went through the initial procedure to attempt to remove the clots, just hours after the stroke, that she would come out of the procedure all better. I had hoped after our stay at the rehab hospital that they would help put Renee's brain back together again and that she would be all better.  "All better" is what the kids and I have prayed thousands of times since February 26, 2014. But "all better" hasn't come; and that is hard for all of us.

Yes, we strive towards some kind of new normal, but that is hard to swallow too. I think it's because we rarely believe or think that the "new normal" will last very long. We tend to think it's more like going to another country where there are different customs and languages and foods and even restrictions, and everything seems different and for the duration of your stay that is your "new normal." But you know that you will eventually come home and the "new normal" will have been temporary, and you will resume your "old normal." That's at least how I imagined it even as I tried talking myself into accepting our "new normal." But the "old normal" is gone and the "new normal" is here and as far as accepting it, I'll be honest, I'm not there. I want to, I really do, but I still haven't come all the way to full acceptance of it. I'm, after 3 years, still grieving the loss of the wife that I once knew.

Now I'm aware that's normal, to some degree. Others I've spoken to that have survived stroke said that it wasn't until after 5 years that they felt or knew it was going to be OK. Five years? I don't know if that gives me relief or gives me chills. Still, I want to feel OK now; and I wrestle with that tension. But, I was recently reminded that it wasn't until many years after Joseph was abandoned by his brothers, then sold into slavery, then thrown in prison, that he could tell his brothers that what had happened to him, God meant for good. So I try to have grace for myself.

And for Renee, this strokeversary is mainly filled with disappointment. She was certain she would be doing much better by now. So was I. But her days, after Aviah goes to school, are mostly boring for her. That is, when she's not battling the many effects of the stoke. She wishes she could read a book. (As an aside, literacy is more important than you can imagine. It truly allows people to expand their worlds; but being unable to, Renee's world has shrunk.) She wishes she could call a friend and shoot the bull. She wants to hop in the car and go visit someone. But she can't, and so she spends half the day alone and lonely.  

Life is harder than we thought it would be at this point. We had hoped for more progress by now.  We had hoped we would be feeling better about the whole thing. I find that we are still very much in the dark forest in our journey. And yet, when life has felt darkest, God has always sent a little light for us to give us hope.

Renee hasn't had a seizure since July. Last year, at this time, I wondered if we would ever be past them; and here we are. So now Renee is released to start driving again. Which of course brings about a whole new slew of worries for me (especially now that Ivan recently turned 16 and got his permit). Most of the things that give me hope, like most of the things I miss, are little things: a new word, a new phrase, the fact that she makes most of our meals now, or that she gets the coffee ready for the morning most of the time. She even has been waking up earlier, many times before me, and making me coffee! She was always a morning person, so it's good to see a little bit of the old Renee coming out. She has been able to stay home alone since the start of school year. This has removed a huge burden off me, because one of the biggest logistical tasks I had to perform every day was making sure there was someone to stay with her. Now I have so much time on my hands I don't know what to do:)!  There really are too many to share of how God has provided little lights to brighten our lives.

I recently stumbled across a kids' book that came out recently called The Voyage to the Star Kingdom. The book primarily deals with the loss of child, but there is something in it that speaks to all who have gone through prolonged suffering. It's about a family that finds itself deluged by a storm cloud that settles only over their house and won't stop raining; and the rising waters threaten to destroy them. And this is how it's felt for us these past 3 years - like a storm cloud has settled over our home and won't go away. It just won't stop raining; and it has felt like many times we were going to be swallowed by the flood. I very much resonated with that image and I'm sure many of you can too.

But, the book goes on to describe how the Star King, even though he may not stop the storm, always sends a gift of something or someone to help meet a need. And this too has been our experience. Over these past 3 years, even though the storm cloud has continued raining down on us, we have seen the hand of God provide in so many ways that I suppose could fill books! So many of you have faithfully prayed for us.  Over the course of several months this past year, Renee kept getting anonymous postcards from someone as they traveled around the world, telling her that they were praying for her wherever they went. You can't imagine how that encouraged and lifted us. 

Renee with a painting from a friend

Renee with a painting from a friend

So we covet your prayers still. We need wisdom and open doors for Renee to enter a clinical trial for stroke treatment. We need safety as Renee starts driving again. We need no more seizures to continue. We need Renee to make more tangible progress in her speech. We need her ankle to stop rolling and constantly being injured. I need wisdom in just doing life as Dad, Mom, Caregiver, Neurologist, Nurse, Chauffeur, Cheerleader, Secretary, Speech Therapist, Physical and Occupational Therapist, etc...oh, and Husband too.  

We really want to do this journey well. We really do. We want God to smile down on us. And for Him to be glorified somehow through this. Even though it is hard to accept our "new normal" I want to trust Him - no matter what!

Isaiah 42:2-3a: "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior"

Thank you again for helping us weather this long storm, and helping us not be swept away. We love you for it!


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Les & Renee live in central New York with their five children.

You can follow Les & Renee's journey on their Caring Bridge journal.  

Once, ritual lament would have been chanted; women would have been paid to beat their breasts and howl for you all night, when all is silent. Where can we find such customs now? So many have long since disappeared or been disowned.

That’s what you had to come for: to retrieve the lament that we omitted.
— Ranier Maria Rilke, "Requiem For A Friend"

(You can read all of the Retrieve Lament stories from previous years here.)