Church Adventures

cognitive overload; overstimulation, resting brain, spatial orientation, Uncategorized

I don’t see myself as a bumbling, muddle-headed person but sometimes I feel like one.

Last Sunday at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, many of my brain injury challenges showed up. Twenty-three years after my TBI I still think of my challenges as separate from me rather than part of who I am.  I wonder when that will change!

There are two services at GCPC; the first is at 8:30AM in the alcove outside the fellowship hall and the second is 10:45 in the sanctuary. I’ve been attending the class called “The Spirituality of Vulnerability” at 9:15 am. Participating in a class as well as attending worship pushes me cognitively which is why I like to attend the first service. It is shorter with fewer people and for some reason; I don’t get as overwhelmed when I go to class after worship.  However, I often miss the liveliness and energy at the second service so I sometimes attend it.

As usual, I was late for class. I rushed to church not obeying the speed limit and parked in the lot across the street. This allows folks who need to park close to the door, to do so.  Merrimon is a busy street with cars whizzing by. For some reason the stoplight seemed further than usual so I simply crossed without it.

The class is in the choir room with chairs arranged in a semi-circle facing a CD player. Since I knew the youth choir was going to practice in the next room, I wanted to sit on the other side of the room so the sound would be minimal but the door there was locked so I had to enter on the other side.  I sat in a seat by the door in the second row.  As expected, I wasn’t able to divide my attention in order to hear the presentation so I moved to the other side of the room.

Of course I had my purse and a bag with my books in it.  When I settled in, the choir was softer but still bothered me so I put in my unobtrusive ear plugs which help minimize outside sound.

Prior to my TBI, I never thought about how hard one’s brain works every day. I had to manage the sound of rustling paper, group conversation, the singing next door and the class facilitator.  As a result, I needed to “rest my brain” during the thirty free minutes prior to worship.

I went into a nearby office but even wearing my bright pink earplugs which blocks sound better than the other ones; I could hear the commotion out in the hallway. Plus there was a ticking clock that drove me insane so I moved it across the room.  Looking back, I wish I had closed my eyes and rested my brain but instead I first checked my emails and Facebook until the hall got quiet.

I then closed my eyes and rested my brain. But it was difficult quieting my thoughts which seemed to come at me from all directions. This happens often and a cognitive therapist once suggested I go or do something else to shift my focus.  Since there was no place to go I tried her second suggestion which is to internally yell, “Stop!”

Worship GCPC Oct. 19, 2019I went to worship, late of course. I always sit in the front so as not to be distracted by rustling paper and other sounds.  The service was full of energy and life giving. The children even helped with communion as pictured. I stayed to hear Jeff play the postlude which I don’t often do due to my weakened cognition.  I knew I didn’t have much cognitive energy left so I quickly walked to my car.  It wasn’t there.

A husband and wife were standing next to their car and the man said he arrived at 9 AM.  This made no sense for when I arrived at 9:30 it wasn’t there. I know lots of folks with brain injuries who get confused but nothing like this has ever happened to me so I began questioning myself. The woman drove me through the parking lot next to the church but it wasn’t there either.  “What is happening?” I thought.  “Am I going crazy?”

Now I was really upset. I began thinking someone had stolen it and I was going to have to call the police. I spoke to John Legerton and he looked in the lot where I usually park. John is a very calm guy which was perfect since I was not calm.

“I better call the police because it has been stolen.” I wished I hadn’t stayed and listened to the postlude.   I wasn’t sure if I had the energy to do all the necessary things when one’s car is stolen.  All I wanted to do was lay down and go to sleep.

Finally John returned and told me he had found my car. I had parked in the parking lot NEXT to the bank not in the bank.  Relief overcame me.  John drove me to my car and I rested a bit before going home.

This whole event reminded me again why it is so important for me to concentrate on what I’m doing and on nothing else. Hopefully I’ll remember this lesson.

 

Communion

Uncategorized
Haywood St. Communion 19

Me leading communion at Haywood Street Congregation

I led communion this past Sunday at the church I attend in the late afternoon – Circle of Mercy. I really like public speaking but I still always get nervous. (Fun fact: Some studies say public speaking is a person’s greatest fear.)  Maybe if I had been leading worship these past twenty odd years; this would not still happen.

I wish I could lead communion without using notes. I used to be able to do this but my brain seems to freeze now and I can’t remember what I planned to say.  We used Psalm 56:1-7 as the call to worship (“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble…..”) which is one of my favorites.  I often read it when I’m frustrated and angry about having a brain injury and I always feel the Spirit of God as I read.

We also sang one of Mark Siler’s songs as our call to prayer. (Words by Br. Roger of Taize Music, music by Mark.) I love this song and remember when I first moved to Asheville, Mark gave me a C.D. of his music.  I vividly remember working with polymer clay in what we call the “art room” in our house and playing this song over and over and over again.  Here are the words:

Rest your heart in God, let yourself float on the safe waters,

Living life as it comes, with all the rough weather it may bring.

Give, without counting how many years are left,

Give, not worried about surviving as long as possible.

(repeat first two lines ending with “all the rough weather it may bring.”)

I said, “We know about rough weather, don’t we?” I then spoke of Greta Thunberg’s call for a climate strike but that here, weather wasn’t meant that way.  “Every day there’s another troubling story about Trump.  Every single day we see injustice.  Rough days are ahead which is why we need this table….. We come hungry for God’s love, comfort, and justice.  We bring our battered hearts and minds.  But more important, we come hungry for transformation.  At this table, lives are changed.” I prayed and followed with the words of institution.

When I first started attending Circle of Mercy, I did not take communion if the person presiding didn’t use the “Words of Institution.” In my Presbyterian mind, I believed participating was betraying my ordination.  I have come a long way from that belief!

I always liked communion at The Open Door Community in Atlanta because it was different every Sunday and often, it related to the sermon. I feel the same way about communion at Circle of Mercy and at Wednesday’s Haywood Street worship service.

Here, in the Presbytery of Western North Carolina – the Presbyterian Church body consisting of all ministers and representatives from every congregation in a geographical location that meets 4 times a year – we always have communion at our worship service.  When I was a member of the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta, we celebrated the sacrament once each year which seems right to me. Every meeting seems excessive but I do understand this presbytery has a lot of small and the meeting is the place where they can experience it in it’s full meaning.

I have found in the Presbyterian Church this sacrament to often tacked on to a worship service and seems rather rote. This fall Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church is exploring the sacrament and having it every worship service.  So far it has been led in interesting and meaningful ways. This gives me a chance to think about the sacrament and how others view it as a ritual.  Either way is now okay with me but when I lead, I lead like it is a sacrament.

What are your thoughts about communion? Do you find it meaningful or boring?  Feel free to comment here for I’d like to have a conversation about it.

 

The Gift of Vulnerability

Uncategorized

I have a difficult time “tooting my own horn,” as they say so I am grateful Joyce Hollyday who helped me write my book, Forgetting the Former Things: Brain Injury’s Invitation to Vulnerability and Faith, wrote a post on her blog about it on June 6 2019.  (joycehollyday.com).  I am printing it below.

“The jangle of an incoming text woke me from a deep sleep. “We’re in trouble,” it began. It was 5:16 a.m. California time. I was 2,000 miles from home, jet-lagged and groggy. I managed to send a reply to Michael along the lines of “Be there as soon as I can.”

Michael and me with Sparky at the beach

Tamara, Michael, and Sparky at the beach

Michael Galovic and Tamara Puffer met almost 25 years ago at the Open Door Community in Atlanta, when he was living there as a resident volunteer and she showed up one day to help out in the soup kitchen with the youth group from the suburban Presbyterian church where she served as associate pastor. Tamara kept coming back. Her time at the Open Door reshaped her theology and calling, and she began seeking a position where she could serve marginalized people like the homeless ones and former prisoners who were revealing Jesus to her there in transformative ways.

In August 1996, just three months after they married, both Tamara and Michael sustained brain injuries in a car accident, Tamara’s the more serious. I was in Atlanta then, just starting my second year of seminary at Emory and spending a lot of time at the Open Door. I remember the shock of the news and the prayers that went up from many corners.

Tamara spent two weeks in an induced coma and then, though she wasn’t fully aware of it at the time, woke up to a totally different life. She had to relearn how to walk and speak and write. A former professional violinist, she no longer possessed the mental focus or manual dexterity to play, and she had to climb out of an abyss of despair to accept that she would never again serve a church as its minister.

Tamara and I caught up with each other again years later when we were both living in Asheville, North Carolina. She asked if I would help her write a book. One of the great joys of my life is working with people to bring their life journeys into print, and Tamara’s, I knew, is among the most extraordinary. I felt honored by the invitation.

CASCADE_Template

It took us three years to birth Forgetting the Former Things. During Tamara’s long rehabilitation after the accident, on nights when dread had kept her from falling asleep, words from the 43rd chapter of Isaiah echoed through her mind: “Do not remember the former things…I am about to do a new thing.” The book title is a double entendre that speaks of both the memory challenges that result from brain injury and the need to let go of what once was in order to be open to re-imagining one’s life.

Throughout our work, I was moved by Tamara’s heart, courage, and perseverance. The challenge of writing a book seemed at times overwhelming, and more than once she considered giving up, but always she found the strength to keep on. We can all rejoice that she did. Forgetting the Former Things is a rare tapestry of first-person faith journey woven with gritty theological reflection and persistent hope.

In June 2017, with the book almost finished, we were at Azusa Pacific University near Los Angeles, where we were scheduled to lead a workshop at the Summer Institute on Theology and Disability. Travel is particularly difficult for many people with brain injuries, and the “trouble” came to Tamara as a result of the stress, disorientation, and overstimulation of a cross-country trip via two of the world’s busiest airports, compounded by jet lag and lack of sleep. Michael’s early-morning text was the beginning of a grueling, heartbreaking day that ended with Tamara being taken by police and emergency medical workers to a behavioral health hospital.

“This is the worst thing that could have happened,” I lamented to Michael, both of us raw from concern and exhaustion. I thought of all the time spent planning our workshop, and Tamara’s excitement and anticipation of it, now all lost. Three days later I was shocked when she announced upon her release from the hospital that she wanted to offer the workshop at a rescheduled time. She went right to work modifying it to incorporate the recent trauma.

My fear that the experience was a setback that would derail completion of Forgetting the Former Things evaporated when Tamara instead gave it a prominent place in the book. She wrote that, in a world of fast food and instant communication, of cutthroat competition and the illusion of self-sufficiency, where busyness and stress are considered normal, “Those of us who ‘can’t keep up’ can be teachers…Those of us with disabilities offer the world the gift of our vulnerability. We know that life is an endlessly moving target. We’re always responding to uncertainty, re-creating ourselves, being reshaped by the Spirit as we journey on through the wilderness to the next mountain.”

Back in 1996, a few weeks into her intensive rehabilitation after the accident, Tamara had a profound insight, which she also reflected on in Forgetting the Former Things: “In one life-shattering moment I had gone from feeling like someone in control—with a clear career path, the privilege of choice, and a measure of power—to being an invisible person on the sidelines, merely trying to cope with each challenge as it came and get through each hour as it unfolded. I wasn’t simply feeling called to ministry among the marginalized. I was the marginalized.”

After California, Tamara began embracing a calling that she has named “minister of vulnerability.” At the workshop there, and wherever she and I have spoken to crowds about her recently published book, her story moves others to share their own. As they pour out their deepest fears and longings, often with great emotion, I think about how much this world needs Tamara Puffer’s ministry. And I whisper a prayer of thanks for her courage.

Forgetting the Former Things: Brain Injury’s Invitation to Vulnerability and Faith, by Tamara Puffer with Joyce Hollyday, is available through bookstores and at https://wipfandstock.com/forgetting-the-former-things.html.”

 

Faith 4 Justice

Uncategorized

Faith 4 Justice is a group of ecumenical church leaders in Asheville led by Tami Forte Logan who have been meeting for a couple of years. Tami sent out a reminder for the meeting and it was the next day. I had planned on attending another meeting in the afternoon but decided to try doing both because I’m very interested in Faith 4 Justice. Of course after this meeting, I realized attending both wasn’t a good idea. Many years ago, I would have attended both and then paid the price.

It met at Haywood Methodist Church right up the street from my house so I could walk. My neighborhood is now one of “the places to be” in Asheville so many cars zoomed by and it was noisy. If housing costs in 2005 were what they are now, we never could have afforded this home. It’s small but I do like it.

Walking to the meeting, I didn’t put in my bright pink earplugs -a mistake – for in the five minutes it took me to walk there, I became overstimulated. I purposely arrived late since I knew net-working was the first order of business and the stimulation would be too much for me. When I arrived, conversations were still buzzing and my brain was tired. Not a good way to begin!

Due to my mental flexibility and overstimulation issues, all meetings are hard. In fact, I’ve finally decided to resign from many committees and Presbyterians have a lot off meetings! I often don’t say much because conversation moves so quickly and by the time I think of a comment, the subject has changed. My brain also freezes and I forget what I’m going to say.

White Fragility coverFaith 4 Justice is studying and reading this book together. This was announced at the last meeting I attended but since I didn’t write it down, I forgot. After the business portion of the meeting, Tami told us to split into groups of two and answer a few questions, one at a time. What that meant was one person from each group speaking and there were about 7 groups. I knew it was a difficult environment for me, so I slipped out and “rested my brain” returning after the discussions.

I’m aware that it is important to split up in small groups for workshops and meetings but doing this is usually impossible for me and I don’t get anything out of it. This day was especially hard since I had been tired when I arrived. Sometimes I can push through it but I didn’t want to do that this time.

I plan on reading the book but have not yet begun. In fact, I have much solo writing and reading that I need to do so not having to push through so many meetings will help. I really do better when I’m alone as long as I get to work and stay off Facebook!

Gospel of Mark

Uncategorized

The gospel of Mark has two endings. The first ending is in 16:8 while the second adds ten more verses. I won’t go into all the reasons there are two endings but I will say, the first one speaks to me. The following is Mark 16:1-8 in the Common English Bible (the women’s edition).

I first heard of this translation from Rev. Dr. Jaime Clark-Soles at the Summer Institute for Theology and Disability a few years ago. Here it is:

“When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome brought spices so that they could go and anoint Jesus’ dead body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they came to the tomb. They were saying to each other, ‘Who’s going to roll the stone away from the entrance for us?’ When they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away. (And it was a very large stone!)

“Going into the tomb, they saw a young man in a white robe seated on the right side; and they were startled. But he said to them,. ‘Don’t be alarmed! You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised. He isn’t here. Look, here’s the place where they laid him. Go, tell his disciples, especially Peter, that he is going ahead of you into Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you.

“Overcome with terror and dread, they fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”

This bible has comments scattered throughout. The comment prior to this passage says in part, “Perhaps this ending casts us in the role of the women, perhaps we confront this question of faith; Will we be silent and fearful, or will we proclaim God’s life-giving power in those places where we assumed death to have the upper hand.”

I may be taking the comment a little out of context but what I hear goes something like this. “Tamara, you have just written a book with Joyce Hollyday called, Forgetting the Former Things: Brain Injury’s Invitation to Vulnerability and Faith. How can you use this experience to proclaim God’s life-giving power to those who have sustained brain injuries? How can your story proclaim life-giving power to all those around you?”

I am a little uncomfortable being so vulnerable with those around me. But perhaps my willingness to share my vulnerability will give others courage to share there tender places. I have other thoughts about this book, but it is late and Holy Saturday will soon be over. Tomorrow I will celebrate Jesus’ resurrection and his life giving power.

Wilderness II

cognitive overload;, over stimulation, Spirit, Uncategorized, wilderness

Lately, I’ve noticed my brain injury challenges are more present than they sometimes are. I’m trying to manage them but it is very hard. Yesterday I said to Michael, “Why don’t I ever see other survivors dealing with over-stimulation and cognitive issues?  I see brain injury folks all the time attending meetings, workshops and other events and they don’t seem to struggle as I do.”

His answer? “Probably because they don’t get out in the community like you.”  A light went on in my head and I thought back to all I’ve learned about brain injury.  Perhaps the folks I see are less challenged by cognitive overload and stimulation issues. They may have other reactions such as slow speech or difficulty in using their hands or legs,

March signIn addition, I feel called to work for justice in my world. That doesn’t make me better than others.  It just gives me a different calling.  I’ve chosen to continue working for justice even if it means sometimes exacerbating my brain injury weaknesses.

For example in Atlanta I pushed through those challenges by doing such things as visiting Terry Mincey on death row or spending 24 hours on the streets with the Open Door Community. The price paid was having to take it easy for several days. Here in Asheville, I choose to be arrested in the Moral Monday movement in Raleigh – four hours away.  Again, I rested for days afterwards.

I’m so glad I did these things but I’m not sure I would want to pay the same price again. Now I’m deciding how important an issue is and whether my presence matters before making the decision to participate

Life is a journey and the wilderness often changes around us. I can’t keep living the way I used to live.  I must always choose the path I believe God is calling me to travel.  God then gives me what I need for the journey.

All of us are living in the wilderness and must listen for the Spirit’s voice. What is the Spirit saying to me now?  I’m not sure.  What is the Spirit guiding you to do?  Feel free to answer in the comments because we are all in this life together.  I’m interested.

Vulnerability

Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Spirit, Uncategorized, Vulnerability
GCPC bulletin picture

Ultimately, when you’re at the edge, you have to go forward or backward;
if you go forward, you have to jump together.
~ Yo-Yo Ma

A couple of Sundays ago, Marcia Mount Shoop, pastor at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, preached a sermon that really impressed me. I was out of town that Sunday so I read it. (here)   (picture above from bulletin)

In it she tells the story of Ray Hinton – a man who spent 30 Years on death row before being exonerated and released. “After three years of talking to no one, he heard another {prisoner} crying. He heard crying a lot on death row….but this time something happened.  Ray got up and started to pace.  He could feel something stirring, but he resisted it, telling himself, ‘His crying has got nothing to do with me.’ ”

Ray’s mind wandered as he paced in his cell. Marcia said, “The Spirit was on the move. As the man cried again, Ray realized that he, too, was crying. He sat down on his bed and started to weep for the man jailed near his cell.”

He wrote later, “I was on death row not by my own choice …despair was a choice. Hatred was a choice. Anger was a choice….Hope was a choice.”  Faith and love are choices.  So he made the choice to reach out – to love.

“Hey, are you all right over there?”

The man told him he just found out his mother had died. Ray said, “I’m sorry man.  I really am.”  This was followed by other voices from the cells around him.  “Sorry for your loss” and “Sorry, man.  Rest  in peace.”

Ray wrote, “I wasn’t expecting to have my heart break that night. I wasn’t expecting to end three years of silence.  It was a revelation to realize that I wasn’t the only man on death row.  I was born with the same gift from God we all are born with – the impulse to reach out and lessen the suffering of another human being.  It was a gift and we each had a choice whether to use this gift or not.”

Marcia continued, “Ray’s profound vulnerability as a black man sentenced to death for a crime he did not commit had a ripple effect onto those who loved him.” Thinking about those on his cell block, I would add “and on everyone around him.”

While often it is not a choice to be vulnerable, sometimes it can be. All of us have vulnerabilities but we often hide them because we don’t want to seem weaker than those around us.

People with disabilities often don’t have that choice. Some of us have hidden disabilities that you can’t see.  I’m able to hide my cognitive overload, spatial orientation and other issues.  However, when I do this, I’m a zombie, often sleeping for many days to recover.  Since moving to Asheville when possible, I’ve chosen not to hide my vulnerabilities and be my true self.

I do hate when I say something like, “I have to miss that meeting because I’m cognitively maxed out,” and the response is “At least you have an excuse.” I want to scream but instead think silently, “My excuse is taking care of myself which we all must do including you!”  Perhaps one day I’ll have the courage to say it out loud.

In our society, taking care of ourselves is looked down upon. We’re rewarded for working long hours or serving on committees at the expense of our health.

Even in church, folks look up to those who are serving on several committees, working a full time job and taking care of their families. Folks like this are seen as “better Christians.” Even Jesus got away from the crowds to rejuvenate. If Jesus had to do it, who are we to think we don’t?

I must note these words about vulnerability are penned to a mostly white middle class audience. Many folks who live in lower socioeconomic or racial status do not have this choice.  They have to work in order to put food on the table and take care of their families.  They have to hide their vulnerabilities and this makes me very sad.

Take a moment now and think about your vulnerabilities.  Do you feel comfortable sharing them?  Is it safe? What about folks around you?  I would love to hear your thoughts about vulnerability in the comment section.

On the Path of Liberation

Uncategorized

Last Sunday I led the “Call to the Table” at Circle of Mercy, the church I attend on Sunday evenings. In it I quoted part of the evening’s “Call to Worship,” written by Ken Sehested. “A life in Christ is an invitation to live according to a different rhythm. It stimulates the courage to move forward even when the path seems to crumble beneath our feet.”

I added, “In our current world, it feels like our path is not just crumbling but is leading us over a cliff.”

narrow pumkinIn my walk this morning in the fall coolness as the leaves were changing, I took a different path than I usually do. On this leaf covered street, I felt fall in the air for the first time. Sparky and I dawdled a bit as I allowed him to sniff the wonderful smells and as I looked the Halloween decorations.

The path did not crumble beneath my feet nor was I afraid I would fall off a cliff, but rather it was a peaceful morning. With no sidewalks, I was forced to walk on the road. Every time a car came whizzing by – going much faster than they should have been in a neighborhood – I moved to the side of the road, sometimes having to walk on people’s lawns.I was reminded how important it is for us to rest and enjoy theskelotin world around us, in the midst of our current chaos.

I live one block away from Vermont St. which is closed to cars on Halloween night and the street is full of trick-or-treaters. I took pictures of some of the homes adorned for Halloween and some are included in this post.

Nancy Sehested said in her sermon, “We’re on tough journey. The tyrants are strong and they are crushing the very people who we long to liberate…..we want power. The domination systems want power. Our power is in service to God’s system of love and liberation. Our power is to demonstrate the power of God to overcome fear with love.”

spider webThe folks on Vermont probably thought nothing about such things. They just wanted a safe and fun place for their children to be on Halloween night. However, without knowing it, they are shouting out to the powers around us. “We can enjoy God’s world! We can laugh and be a community just as God has called us to be. We walk not on a crumbling path but a safe and joyful one.”

Nancy ended her sermon with these words: “Friends, there is danger on either side of us. But don’t be afraid. We are able. God is giving us all the power we n need to make this journey of life and liberation together.”

Let it be so.

Walking Through the Wilderness

Michael Moore, resting brain, Uncategorized, wilderness

As I come out of the wilderness, my tendency is to begin participating in too many things. This is a symptom of much of upper class, upper- middle class and middle class American culture.  As our society becomes more stratified this is happening right now under Mr. Trump – although it began happening much earlier.  As others have said, our current president only brought things that have been occurring, to the surface.

I saw Michael Moore’s new movie Fahrenheit 11.9 yesterday. Whether you like Moore or not – many folks do not – you need to see this movie for it describes exactly what is happening today in our country.  It frightened me and I hope it frightens others to action.

Back to the wilderness and the path “in the mighty waters (Isaiah 43:16a CEB) ” stretching before me. I asked Michael to help me remember not to do too much.  I need him to tell me gently perhaps in the form of a question – not what sounds like an order – or I will rebel.  “I don’t care what he thinks!  I can do all this!” I’ll think to myself.  When I am angry at him, I’m really angry at my cognitive fatigue and over-stimulation issues. I long to be as I was before but my path through the mighty waters, has changed.

Front Yard 27 Jarrett StThis changed path means I have to make choices or I’ll over-do it. Yesterday I worked outside in the garden and it wore me out.  So many sights, sounds, and thoughts overloaded me.  Afterwards, I put on headphones and listened to Yo-Yo Ma perform the cello concerto in b minor.  I closed my eyes and rested in the music.

I did try to rest without listening to the music, but I couldn’t stop thoughts from invading my mind. “I need to make a list of the plants in the garden to know what they need to thrive.” A neighbor in his 70’s walked by me as I worked and told me he had recently fallen and broke several ribs.  I clicked into my caring mode – one of the hazards of being a minister – and told him not to walk too far since his broken ribs needed to heal which meant sitting quietly.

It doesn’t take too much to challenge my cognition these days. Just being out in the front yard was all it took.  I needed a way to focus on something else and the concerto did the trick.

I will continue walking this path through the wilderness with God by my side.

Forgetting the Former Things

Executive Function, Flooding, Vulnerability

Joyce sent the final manuscript of my book – Forgetting the Former Things: Brain Injury’s Invitation to Vulnerability and Faith to Wipf and Stock publishers on June 1. At first, she was going to edit my work but as the days progressed, it became clear my brain injury challenges made this impossible.

I needed her organizational, integration and her concentration skills – all which are challenges for me. I wanted the book to be theological, not just biographical which meant I had to integrate theology into my story.  She did this for me or I wouldn’t have been able to write it. I understood the integration but I was unable to do it alone.  So the authorship is “Tamara Puffer with Joyce Hollyday.”

The reality that I could not write the book alone didn’t really hit me until she sent it off to the publisher. My mind flooded with thoughts such as, “I can’t even write a book by myself!” and “Other brain injury survivors have written books alone! What is wrong with me?”

My thoughts got darker and darker as they tend to do. I was falling off a cliff – which is how I describe my depression.  I didn’t know how to stop falling and I ended up in darkness.

Sparky & Tamara -beach

Last week my husband Michael and I went to Myrtle Beach. I asked him to go alone but he refused. I didn’t want to go but I forced myself because the beach is his healing place. I told him I would try my best not to bring him down but I couldn’t guarantee it.

The first couple of days I tried really hard to engage but it was difficult. I had trouble sleeping the first couple of nights and one day we went on a bit of a wild goose chase trying to find a certain park.  When I couldn’t sleep I sat outside on the balcony overlooking the beach.

It was then that I remembered the sermon Joyce and I preached at Circle of Mercy several months ago. I spoke about needing Joyce’s help but that was okay.  I said something like, All of us need help.  I can be a minister of vulnerability now.  This frees up others to be vulnerable as well.

The last couple of days there were totally different because I remembered what my call is now: Minister of Vulnerability.