Stranger Inside

Sometimes we find familiar around the next curve
Sometimes we find familiar around the next curve

Your eyes,

your face,

your smile (absent for too long)-

they are all familiar

impressions on the

repressed memories

lurking in the recesses

of my sub-conscious mind.

I wrestle with the

incongruity of

past and present-

the surreal shadow

that slithers across

the barren landscape

of a new reality.

I hope you can find


your smile,

your life (reason to live)

all buried beneath

the stranger inside-

the person I once knew.


Inspiration:  For those who look to this part of the post to explain what on earth I was writing about, I won’t leave you hanging.  This poem has dual  meaning.  It was written to/about a person consumed by drugs.  He looks like the person you’ve known all along, but inside, he is gone.  His good heart belongs to his addiction.  It is also written to/about his parents; the people who have struggled to accept their only child is no longer the boy they raised.  How do you come to terms with that?  Not very easily.  That’s all I know.  Sometimes I can’t believe these are the same people I remember fondly from my childhood.  They are so different now; so sad and broken.

Unfortunately, this is about my family.  Just in time for the holidays, relationships have been severed and only time will tell if they can be repaired.  Right now, I’m sort of in the middle and will walk the line as best I can.  In the meantime, all I can do is offer prayers for peace, strength and forgiving hearts.

I realize I’ve neglected my fiction here lately.  I’ve written a couple of stories I plan to submit for publication, so I can’t post them here, but I do have a couple ideas.  I hope to post some fiction soon (either this week or next.)

I’ll sign off with this… if we look closely enough, we can find even the tiniest blessings in times of trouble.  I hope you have a beautiful week!


A Place For Everything

Our society is one obsessed with organization.  There are even stores that sell nothing but storage bins and totes of all different colors and sizes.  Good thing, so we can put our excess stuff on a shelf, in the closet, or under the bed, in style.  The world tells us that stacking everything neatly is much better than spreading our belongings out in the middle of the floor to sort them one-by-one.

I’m finding my emotions aren’t much different than the “things” I tuck away into their designated storage spaces.  The “bad” feelings are folded up and buried beneath the daily have-to-do’s.  The “good” emotions (the ones that lift me up and draw others to me) flow freely like the toys that are forever strung across my family room floor.

I never consciously chose to avoid feeling sadness, longing, anger or grief – all of the emotions that weigh down a smiling heart.  But like a storage tote stuffed too full, the lid popped off and pain spilled over the sides.

After my grandma passed away, I acknowledged my loss and allowed myself to cry for my own sadness, knowing full well they were selfish tears.  My mind knew I didn’t need to cry for her because she was free.

Within weeks, I returned to “life as usual,” whatever that means, because my life is one continuous crazy mess.  There was enough going on that I didn’t dwell on missing her, or my grandpa, who passed away several years ago.  I thought I had healed, but it turns out that healing is a process of relapse and recovery.

Going to my grandparents’ house was much more difficult than I thought.  Food needed to be cleared out of the house, and I knew being in that house made my mom sad, so I told her my husband and I could do it.  My husband took the lead and I held trash bags open.  Silly as it sounds, I felt like pitching the expired food was like tossing pieces of my grandparents’ lives away.

My mom surprised me by showing up and filling more bags to take to the landfill.  I distanced myself from the labels I peeled off her prescription bottles; I made myself focus on the “things”, not the owner.  It wasn’t until I reflected on it later that night, and days later, that tears fell and I recognized that my wound had opened up again.

Tempting as it is to slap a bandage over it, I’m not going to.  Eventually, joy will replace grief.  This metamorphosis is promised in the Old Testament of the Bible (Jeremiah 31:13) as well as in the New Testament when Jesus prepared the disciples for His death (John 16:20).  One of my favorite songs, Before the Morning, embodies this message.  It’s hard not to feel some joy after listening to it 🙂

I’ve thought of my mom often throughout the week.  Neither one of us cried in my grandparents’ house.  I wonder if her tears come at night too; if her wounds are healing, just as mine are.

Is It Better Than A Hallelujah?

Have you ever listened to a song over and over – even memorizing the words – without really absorbing the meaning or the message of the song?  This happens to me often.  Most recently, I discovered my mindless appreciation of the song, “Better than a Hallelujah” by Amy Grant.  (Click song title for link to You Tube video.)

During my drive to work on Friday morning, instead of howling along with Amy, I abandoned all delusions that I actually sound okay and just listened.  Wait a second, I thought, after the song ended.  I replayed the song and listened a second time.

God loves a lullaby in a mother’s tears in the dead of night

Better than a hallelujah sometimes.

God loves a drunkard’s cry, the soldier’s plea not to let him die

Better than a hallelujah sometimes.

We pour out our miseries,

God just hears a melody.

Hold it.  Did this song just say that God likes our pain?  That our heartbreak is music to His ears?  Surely this couldn’t be true, because it ruins the image I had of a loving God.  It doesn’t seem very nice to derive joy from someone’s suffering, does it?

Friday night, I decided to get to the bottom of it and did some scripture research in my Study Bible.  (In my youth, Friday nights were about movies and friends.  Then again, that was back when you could get a movie and popcorn for less than ten bucks.)  These days, as the children and hubby sleep, I am free to spend my Friday evenings delving into burning questions, such as this 🙂

I was relieved to find evidence that supports my previously held notion that God is caring.  Sure, we suffer at times, but we also experience joy – and both are opportunities to praise God and put our faith in Him.  There were two scriptures that had additional study explanations that helped answer my question:  Nahum 1:7 and Psalm 34:17-19.  I’ll write about the second one here.

Psalm 34:17-19The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.  The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  A righteous man may have many troubles but the Lord delivers him from them all.

The additional study text explanation of these verses summed up the core message beautifully:  “God may not remove our difficulties, but sees us through them.  God changes something – if it’s not our troubles, then he changes us.”

So, our suffering is not for God’s entertainment.  We may not understand the specific reasons, but our trials are meant to form us into the tool God needs to carry out His bigger plan.  Kind of like a blacksmith heats metal to a red-hot glow, and then pounds it with a hammer until it takes the intended shape.

Our lives are the chunks of steel.  We are unfinished pieces being forged into something beautiful and useful.  I think our metamorphosis pleases God; not the suffering we endure.

What do you think – has suffering noticeably changed you?  Do you see yourself as weaker or stronger after suffering?

Our Character – No Pain, No Gain?

Recent road trips have given me enough time to finish Know Why You Believe, as well as three fiction works that have been gathering dust on a bookshelf since last summer.  Not much writing, though.  The scales will tip in the other direction next week when Spring Break is over and the kids go back to school.

The final chapters of Know Why You Believe addressed the following questions:  Do science and scripture agree? Why does God allow suffering and evil? Does Christianity differ from other world religions? is Christian experience valid?

These chapters were all interesting to me, but I found my mind settling on the chapter about suffering and evil.  The chapter proposed several logical explanations for the abundance of suffering and evil.  The first problem is humanity and free will.  God created us so that we could make choices on our own (otherwise, the book points out, we would be like programmed robots.)  Simply put, we often make bad choices.  But, this doesn’t explain everything.

Other times, God allows us to suffer in order to build our character.  He sees something in us that can only become stronger through suffering.  (It makes me think of muscle soreness after a strenuous workout and how builds muscle.  Although, I have to confess that my muscle growth is stunted, as I generally avoid such workouts J)

Another interesting aspect addressed is evil, and Satan himself.  I admit that I’ve often wondered why God doesn’t just get rid of Satan, since God is so much more powerful.  The book explained that one day, God will eradicate evil – ALL evil.  (Unfortunately, that means us, too.)  It does make sense that he can’t pick and choose which evil to end. 

I haven’t killed anyone, but in my life, I have stolen, said hurtful things, cursed, and lied (very poorly.)  It seems reasonable that there isn’t a ‘safe zone’ of sin that will give us a free pass when God does eliminate evil.  But, God already thought of that and sent Jesus.  It’s up to us to ask forgiveness.


I may drop to my knees,

But will carry on.

I trust He will not crush me,

But make my spirit strong.

When I think it’s too much,

And plead for relief,

He may decide it’s not enough –

His plans are bigger than me.

How do you approach pain and suffering in your life?

Breaking Up

“I ate a bagel with cream cheese,” Sarah muttered.  “I didn’t graze on a dry salad for lunch.  Instead, I had mashed potatoes and gravy.  I devoured buttered corn and fried chicken–even the greasy, fat-laden skin.  Later, I indulged in a slice of cherry cheesecake.” 

The words tumbled off her tongue like a devout Catholic repenting sins at confession.  Guilt filled her insides fuller than the day’s feast.  She stood naked in front of her tormentor, prepared for the truth about her gluttony.  Not opinion, just fact.  A tiny part of her recognized her entrapment in an unhealthy relationship, but she didn’t have the strength to break free anymore.  The day of feigning normalcy illuminated the truth that she no longer controlled her destiny.


The evening before, her doorbell rang just after seven o’clock–which rarely happened on a Wednesday night.  Sarah opened the door to find her mom standing on the porch with pizza and wings.

“Mom!  What are you doing here?”

“I was in the neighborhood and thought we could have dinner.”  Each word produced a puff of condensation in the chilly evening air.

“I’m going to your house next week for Thanksgiving.  You couldn’t wait?”  Sarah didn’t believe her mom had any reason to be in town and found it odd that she would drive from Casa Grande to Wickenburg just to eat dinner.

“Life isn’t meant to be lived tomorrow.”

Sarah rolled her eyes.  “Isn’t it your Bunco game night?”

“I cancelled it.  Are you going to let me in?”

“Um, sure.  I already ate, but I can visit with you while you eat.”  Sarah walked away toward the kitchen.

Her mom followed, closing the door behind her, and set the boxes on the counter.  She slipped off her hooded cardigan and draped it over the back of a chair.

Sarah had set a stoneware plate on the counter next to the boxes.  After catching the stern look from her mom, she pulled out another for herself.

“Thank you, dear.  You know I don’t like eating alone,” her mom said with a smile.

“I know.”

Sarah lifted the lid on the pizza box and zeroed in the smallest triangle, sliding it onto her plate.  She added a buffalo wing from the other box.  She felt her mom watching her, but willed herself to avoid eye contact.

Her mom filled her own plate with two slices of pizza and several wings and followed Sarah to the sofa, where they would use the coffee table as a dining table.

“Do you mind if we watch Survivor?” Sarah’s mom asked, breaking the silence.

“Sure.”  Sarah turned the TV to CBS, grateful for any distraction that would divert her mom’s attention from her. 

Twenty minutes later, Sarah had picked the toppings off her pizza and ate the meat of the chicken wing.  The pizza crust, the wing’s saucy skin and the tiny bone looked like the remains of an animal sacrifice on her plate.  Sarah’s stomach lurched, and she knew she had to get rid of it.

“Excuse me,” Sarah muttered, seeing her mom involved in the show’s latest devious plot.  She stood before her mom could see the contents of her plate. 

In the kitchen, Sarah buried the leftovers in the trash and left her empty plate in the sink.  A quick glance over the high snack bar counter into the living room confirmed that her mom paid her no attention, so Sarah slipped away to the bathroom without saying a word.

When Sarah came out of the bathroom, she found her mom staring at the “image wall” in her bedroom–a three foot square collage of bodies that should’ve been hers.  Supermodels, A-list movie stars and stick-thin musicians wearing tailored dresses, designer labels and skinny jeans were framed by pictures of obesity.  Photos of women with shorts that crawled up their thighs, tight t-shirts hugging rolls of back fat and physics-defying spandex shorts that resembled sausage casing, all reinforced her belief that fat should be eliminated.

Some of the photos were torn and shredded, remnants littering the floor below as if mauled by a wild animal.  The pieces evidenced Sarah’s melt-down from the night before.

“What’s this?” her mom asked when she heard Sarah’s footsteps on the carpet behind her.

“What are you doing in here?”

“You were in the bathroom a while and I got bored.  What took so long?”

“I was cleaning.”

Her mom turned and gave her a long look.  “I’m worried about you.”

“I’m fine.”

“I wrote a letter to Dr. Phil for advice,” her mom said.

“What?  How could you do that?”

Her mom stared at Sarah with tearful eyes.  “You had such a pretty smile.  It made everyone around you smile.”


“You’ve gotten so thin.  I can see your collar bone.”

“Really?” Sarah asked, pleased that her mom overlooked her bloated belly.  She was sure the daily ration of a rice cake, carrot sticks and sunflower seeds must have helped.

“It’s not a compliment.”

“Oh.”  Sarah’s confidence fell again.

“I want you to come back home.”

“Mom, I’m twenty-five.  I can take care of myself.”

“You don’t look well.”

“I’ve just been busy training for the marathon.  When it’s over, I’ll get back to normal.”

“That’s two months away!”

“I’ll be fine.”

Her mom didn’t say anything, but just held her gaze.  Sarah looked away because she couldn’t trust her eyes to not betray her.

“Your father and I talked.  We’re coming back on Friday to get you.”

“That’s only two days from now.  And it’s so far…”

“It’s plenty of time to pack some clothes.  And two hours is nothing.  I’d drive across ten states for you if I had to.”

Sarah’s throat constricted, refusing to let any words or emotions pass through.  Two arms enveloped her in a hug.  Hands brushed up and down her spine, scraping at nerve endings like hot razor blades.  Knowing her mom’s fingers sensed the indentions between each of her vertebrae intensified Sarah’s self-consciousness.

“I love you,” she said, releasing her daughter.

Sarah stood inches away, her skin still prickling from the touch.  She felt…empty.  Her stomach was unburdened, her body weary, her head suspended weightless and dizzy, but her heart ached.  She wondered if the anguish would follow her in death, and beyond.

“I guess I’ll go,” her mom said, breaking the silence that stretched like a deserted highway between them.

Before Sarah could ask her to stay, her mom let herself out of the apartment.  The door latching seemed so final; so lonely.

Exhausted, Sara stumbled to the couch.  She closed her eyes to shut out the tilting room.  The ticking wall clock lulled her into a trance and the steady cadence held her captive until the next morning.


On Thursday night, Sarah learned the truth:  she carried two extra pounds that she didn’t have the day before.  Fighting the urge to get rid of them, she pulled on her pink fleece robe and tied it at the waist.  She hoped it would calm her shivering body.  With the green-hued bruises on her pale skin swallowed up in the downy fabric, she experienced a fleeting moment where she almost felt normal.   

She curled up in bed, resting her head on the pillow.  Tomorrow, her parents would drag her home.  Her life as she knew it was breaking up.  Soon, she would be turned into a child again, stripped of her dignity, pride and control.  Then, she remembered control was already gone, but she could not pinpoint exactly when that had happened.

With her eyes clenched shut, Sarah hoped stillness would swallow her and silence the nightmare for good.  She prayed that, unlike Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, God did exist and would end her suffering.  So tomorrow, her parents would find her and take her home.