Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Sweetest Spot

This morning, my friend Mz. B. unknowingly answered a question I’ve been pondering all week.

The thought process started during a (supposedly) daily reading.

The statement jumped off the page at me:

“Our hearts ache, but we always have joy.*

How is that even possible?

Isn’t that an oxymoron?

(Yet even as those doubts appeared, a deeper truth whispered


My heart has been aching so much lately that it feels more like an overly ripe uterus.

Heavy. Full. Sore. About to burst.

Because our family has been through a somewhat similar catastrophic experience before, there’s a part of me that thinks I should have this thing down pat. There’s also an external expectation that since “we know the ropes,” it should somehow make it easier. This ain’t our first rodeo! We got this!

But, no. 

Although I know from our previous experience (and many others) that miracles do happen and that God does indeed work everything for good for those who love Him, it does not negate the terrible heartache.

My heart is broken… shattered… yet again.

And it’s almost worse this time.

No, it really is worse this time.

But all during this long, hard week, I’ve been whispering that phrase, “Our hearts ache, but we always have joy.”

As I’ve said elsewhere,* I’ve been actively looking for joy in the external world. I find it most easily in the faces of my grandsons. But it’s there, too, in the blue skies of LA, the slender palms that sway, the cool breezes that caress in the shade, the vivid flowers that have survived the drought.

But I know that the apostle Paul was talking about a deeper kind of joy.

A secret place.


Mz. B. is a special friend who has supported and encouraged me through the tragedies of my adult life. She made me feel sane during the years I was away from home after Katherine’s stroke, not by grand gestures, but by frequent and consistent little things. She would shoot me a text or short email, or leave me a quick voicemail with news from home. A word of encouragement, a joke, a scripture.

Today, I opened her email and read these words:

“The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

She reminded me of the answer to the puzzling paradox in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians:

How can we have joy when our hearts ache?

Because the more sorely our hearts ache, the closer God comes to us.

In that place of pain and emptiness, we are stripped bare of our self-sufficiency. Finally, we stop our thrashing around.  The slightest half-turn to the Source of all joy, and He comes rushing in like a white-cap wave.

No matter what is happening in the external world, I can choose to retreat to that secret place of joy. It is the sweetest spot. Corporeal, visceral, as well as spiritual.

A heart-fluttering love overwhelms.

“…in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11)

I am going to crawl into my Daddy’s lap and let Him love.


(*2 Corinthians 6:10, nlt)

(This was written earlier in the week. Check caringbridge for more recent updates. Also, more joy pix to appear on my instagram account at kimberlytarnold.)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

A Sturdy Ship

“And I saw the river over which every soul must pass
to reach the kingdom of heaven
and the name of that river was suffering:
and I saw a boat which carries souls across the river
and the name of that boat was love.”

St. John of the Cross

A beautiful young friend, Claire, sent me the quote above soon after Amie’s accident. She wrote, “Although the rapids on your river seem unjustly piercing and terrifying, I am praying there are moments when you can feel the sturdiness of your boat....and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.

The Sunday morning after the accident seemed surreal and slow-motion. Instead of sitting in a pew, we were sitting in a tiny sterile waiting room outside the ICU. I turned to my son-in-law Jay, and said something to the effect that I felt empty. There was no Rhema* this time.

The moment I’d heard the news about Katherine’s AVM rupture over 8 years ago, words had popped into my head. I had no idea what an AVM rupture was. No idea how deadly and destructive. But as soon as I hung up the phone, strange words appeared: “Talitha Cumi!”*  As I wrote here, those words were to prove prophetic.

But the current crisis seemed different. There was a sickening déjà-vu feel to it all. I felt numb and hopeless after seeing Amie for the first time. Completely overwhelmed.

As I am wont to do in times of trauma, I played Bible Roulette. The Book opened to Isaiah 43. As I read these words, I got a chill.

“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
    I have called you by name; you are mine. 
When you go through deep waters,
    I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
    you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
  you will not be burned up;
    the flames will not consume you. 
For I am the Lord, your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

Reading the whole chapter, I felt a fragile peace descend. He is about to do something new. (v. 19)

As soon as we were allowed back into the room with Amie, I heard a ping on my Iphone. Looking down, I read this message from a particularly wise friend: “Praying fervently for you. Is. 43:2.”  Then, out of the almost 800,000 words in the Bible, she'd typed out the same ones I typed above.


I mean Rhema!

There was my promise.

I’ve had to cling hard to those words in the face of rising waves of pain and fear.

Yesterday was a frightening day. I sent out a plea for mercy prayers on Caringbridge. When we got back to the apartment, there was a gigantic box waiting at the door. Had I ordered something from Amazon I’d forgotten about? (That happens.)

No, it was a box of abundance from a special group of friends. Overflowing with tangible goodies of every kind, but, more than that, overflowing with things that are ‘exceedingly more that I could have asked or imagined.’ Love. Support. Solidarity. Compassion. Caring. Mercy.

This is the card that came with it:

Thank God for the gift of friends that keep us afloat when waters are rough and winds are wild. 

Thank God that he calms the storms with a word.

And thank God for the sturdy ship Mercy that safely sails us home.


*The second primary Greek word that describes Scripture is rhema, which refers to a word that is spoken and means “an utterance.” A rhema is a verse or portion of Scripture that the Holy Spirit brings to one’s attention with application to a current situation or need for direction.

**Talitha is an uncommon feminine name meaning "little girl" in Aramaic, given in reference to the Biblical story in the Gospel of Mark in which Jesus Christ was said to have resurrected a dead child with the words "Talitha cumi" or "Talitha kum" or "Talitha koum," meaning "Little girl, I say to you, arise!"

(p.s. I had to struggle not to call this one The Love Boat.  But I knew I'd get "Nerd-Alerted" by Ames when she's well enough to read!)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Holding On In The Night

Last day at UCLA

“But hold on to what you believe in the light
When the darkness has robbed you of all your sight”
Mumford and Sons

Immediately following a life-or-death crisis, there is usually a period of grace.

After the initial shock and terror wear off, you are held up by prayers and adrenalin and action.

Eagle’s wings, and all that.

You receive supernatural signs and messages that everything is going to be okay. People come alongside you. You take heart. You desperately try to keep your eyes focused on All Things Bright and Beautiful.

Then, very slowly, you start to notice a little darkness creeping in from your peripheral vision.

Like a migraine, it spreads from small specks of night on the sides…like stars in reverse…until it grows into a blackout curtain that obliterates all light.

The more frantically you try to fight it, the more exhausted you become.

Sometimes you have to sit alone in the darkness for a while.

Maybe even cry yourself to sleep in it. Take a nap.

After that, you feel around for a match, and light a little candle.

And you hold on to that little light of yours with all of your might.

Because what is true in the day is still true in the night.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Screaming Pain

(Substitute Amanda for Alexander)

Sometimes, pain murmurs in the background. Other times it throbs like a living organism. Sometimes it stabs.

Other times, it screams.

We are at the screaming stage now.

Severe pain can either shut you down into a moaning mess, or it can turn you into a wounded animal that strikes out at anyone who tries to help.

It is a terrible thing to witness such pain, and feel hopeless to alleviate it.

Yesterday was a terrible-horrible-no-good-very-bad day.

This morning, I started to run around doing things, but then wised up, got back in my prayer closet (i.e., bed), and (“just happened”) to read these words:

“We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed…

That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” (from 2 Cor. 4, nlt)

Early on in the faith thing, a dear friend shared with me that whatever it is, it is only temporary.

A day is coming when there will be no more death, or sorrow, or crying, or pain.

And every tear will be gently wiped away.
(rev. 21:4)

Friday, September 9, 2016

Weak and Shattered

Day before yesterday, I hit a brick wall. Actually, it was a concrete post.
But I am using it metaphorically.

For 10 days, I'd felt lifted up by an invisible force.

Then, in an instance, I collapsed back into waves, just as we witnessed the jet-packers do in Newport Bay week before last.

There were about 5 or 6 people in Amie’s room, all trying to do different things at once. A sweet Asian chaplain wanted to pray, while a sweet Hispanic aide wanted to bathe. The Eastern European nurse was trying to deal with Amie’s medications, while a male nurse tried to move her into a more comfortable position. Amie was trying to communicate her needs as loudly as possible. It was like the United Nations, with everyone talking at once. Or the Tower of Babel. Attempting to restore order out of the chaos, I started to get rid of some of the many cups of half-drunk liquids that were everywhere. Suddenly, the nurse flipped out.  I'd accidentally thrown out some pain meds mixed with juice that were to be taken orally through a large syringe.

She left the room in a state, and then I left the room in a state and completely lost it.

Lost my composure, my cool, my control.

Thankfully, the waiting room was empty. I closed the door and let the tears fly.

I can’t do this anymore. Why are we here in this dark place of suffering AGAIN? What does the future hold? This is all too hard and ugly and awful. I am so TIRED!!!

I called my husband to vent.

Afterwards, I slunk back into the room, but it was obvious to all what had been going on. I am not a pretty crier. My nose and eyes swell up and turn bright red. By this point, the chair bath was almost finished. The aide looked up at me and said, “Mamacita, you okay? Can I get you some water?” I teared up again.

After a good nose-blowing in the adjacent bathroom, I came out and told Amie that I was fine. I went to the corner of the room where we have hidden away drinks and snacks. Some anonymous angels* had delivered a giant basket of goodies to the ICU. As I foraged through the basket looking for a drink, I noticed the card: 

Many people have written us wonderful words of encouragement since Amie’s accident. Some kind souls have said how “amazing” our family is, how “strong” I am, how “full of faith.” These words have buoyed me up, given me hope, and helped me to feel safer and unalone.

But in compliance with the Truth In Advertising organization, I have to confess the reality. I am none of those things. Our family is none of those things. Please don’t put us up on some kind of ‘suffering pedestal.’

We are just average sinners in need of daily grace.

But we know where to turn for help…

yet again.


“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect
 in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses,
 so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.

For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (II Cor. 12: 9-10)

(*We found out later that it was Katherine's Moms In Prayer group. Thank you, angels!)

Also, the room number pictured above was Amie's ICU room. She is currently in 6623.