Friday, April 28, 2017

How to Stop a Pity Party in Mid-Whine

I have to admit that I've been known to throw myself some world-class Pity Parties.

Gatsby-esque affairs.

Hired a band and dancing girls. Champagne. Hors d’oeuvres. Banners. Balloons. Fireworks.


“Of course you feel misunderstood. Of course your life is harder than anyone else’s. Of course your friends are oblivious to your pain…”

(Of course you’re being really stupid and selfish and narcissistic.)


So, I’ve had to learn how to stop it in Mid-Whine in 10 easy steps. (Mysteriously, it does work.)

So if you are ever tempted to throw yourself a party, please print this part out, and tape it to your morning mirror:

1.) Think of someone who is worse off than you in some way.
2.) Pray for that person.
3.) Think of something for which you are grateful.
4.) Think of another one.
5.) Think of another one.
6.) Think of another one.
7.) Think of another one.
8.) Think of another one.
9.) Think of another one.
10.) Give thanks.

(Steps 1 and 2 may be repeated indefinitely, as there are  a myriad of people who are suffering more than you are.)

Now get out there and spread some joy around!


“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances…”

(1 Thess. 5:16-18)


Thursday, April 6, 2017

What Lies Beneath

My case of shingles has disappeared surprisingly quickly.

On the surface.

The red rash and blisters are almost gone. I can go out in public without terrifying people. A little pink calamine lotion, covered with a couple of dots of concealer… a good bangs comb-over plus sunglasses… and I’m good to go.

But the pain remains.

It waxes and wanes during the day. Sometimes it wakes me up at night. Hair-brushing is excruciating.

The pain varies from soreness to a dull hammering to a sharp stab, as if someone is sticking a thin knitting needle into my scalp or nose or the bone beside my eye. It’s a sneaky thing, appearing all of a sudden out of nowhere.

But I look fairly normal.

Similarly, Amie looks much better than she feels. The surface is shiny again, but the inner workings are still mending. A little makeup to cover scars, a couple of fake teeth snapped into place, and she is photo-ready. But every health care practitioner has told us it will take at least a year for “recovery.”

And they are referring only to the physical part.

At the end of February, we flew home to Georgia for a brief period so that my husband and I could attend a family wedding in Florida. Amie was to be “looked after” by my sister and other friends. After the intense pain and suffering of the previous 5 months, Amie was ready to “get well soon!” and get back to ‘normal’ life. Still on serious pain meds from recent jaw and oral surgeries (i.e., not-in-her-right-mind), she over-planned her time at home, trying to pack in as many get-togethers with old friends as possible. It was pretty much a disaster. She worked herself up into a manic state, wore herself completely out, and fell apart physically, emotionally and biochemically.

You cannot rush the process of healing.

More than ten years ago, I experienced a complete physical and mental health breakdown. It began with a severely bulging disc in my neck that virtually paralyzed my right arm for over a year. I was flat on my back for weeks. My husband had to sign checks for me and wash and dry my hair. (Not his gift.) Before that was resolved, I developed “sudden onset” fibromyalgia and arthritis. Then I was diagnosed with an unusual auto-immune disease that resulted in soft-tissue blisters that turned into MRSA that was resistant to antibiotics. (At that point, I was sent to Mayo.) 

The healing process from all of that was so slow that I despaired of ever being a functional human being again. For a while, the only happy thought I could come up with was, “One day I won’t have to wake up anymore.”

But here’s a funny thing. At my sickest point, when I could barely get out of bed, much less leave the house, people who saw me would say, “But you don’t look sick,” as if they suspected hypochrondria to be my only ailment.

With all of us, there is pain beneath the surface.

If you are human, you hurt.

And it takes time to heal. It is an evolution.

We may put on our shiny faces and nice clothes to enhance the exterior, but inside lie wounds and scars, buried deep in the darkest corners of our souls.

Rejections, abuse, rape, divorce, family dysfunction, failed friendships. Middle School. High School. Things we’ve done that haunt us; things that have been done to us that have harmed us  we like to keep the wounds of painful things hidden in the dark where we can’t see them. But in the damp darkness, they grow like mold, and spread: contaminating our relationships and sickening our souls, without us even realizing it.

Recently, people I know have experienced tragedies that seem totally senseless. (If you watch the news, there’s a whole roster of them every single day.)

I often wonder…

What lay beneath the thin veneer of sanity until it bubbled up into a froth of madness?

And, more importantly, how does healing happen?

Where does it begin?

I own a t-shirt with these words printed on the front: “What you reveal you heal.”  It reminds me of the 12-step saying, “You’re only as sick as your secrets.”

Dr. Alex Lickerman* writes, “in maintaining a healthy and happy life, concealing some truths is like swallowing slow-acting poison: one’s insides gradually rot.” (*author of The Undefeated Mind: On the Science of Constructing an Indestructible Self)

As is so often the case, effective secular principles are reflections of biblical truth:

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16)

By confessing… sharing…. with a trusted fellow-sin-sufferer, the scary beasts are pulled out of their dark lairs, and into the light.

And light heals.

On every level.

Light therapy is now being used for everything from wound healing to pain relief to depression. Mayo Clinic states that light therapy is a proven first-line treatment for seasonal affective disorder, among other things. But if light is beneficial for physical healing, it is even more powerful for spiritual healing.

Sometimes, healing can be instantaneous. (Don’t we wish it could always be that way?) But that is the exception rather than the rule. Patience is a critical virtue in every type of healing... physical, spiritual, emotional. The mending most often occurs “little by little,” as we continue to expose our wounds to the life-restoring light. 

Jesus is the Light.


“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)


More about light therapy:

More about suppressing emotions:


Healing can be messy. It usually involves blood and guts. Scabs and scars. It’s not always pretty to witness.

So how do you deal with people in process?

Here is where I start:

I attempt to look upon every human being I encounter as a wounded child in need of help.

It doesn’t always work, but it’s a start.

The most evil person you know was once a helpless baby. Yes, even Hitler.  Even ….. (enter whomever you hate most in a field of current candidates… of whom there are legion.)

If you are still here on earth, then God isn’t finished with you yet.

He’s not finished with them, either.