A Way in the Wilderness

sparky on tripThis is a picture of my dog Sparky in our car lying in the midst of our belongings as we returned from our beach trip a couple of weeks ago. Worn-out, he lies among the clutter and I must admit, right now I feel the same way! I had hoped to return from the beach rested and raring to go, but that didn’t happen.

As I’ve done numerous times since my car accident, I’m focusing on Isaiah 43:18-19. “Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

I don’t like being in the wilderness but it seems in this journey, there’s no way of avoiding it. Back in the late 90’s, there was so much improvement in my functioning that it was hard to focus on what I had lost. I didn’t feel buried in the wilderness until after my rehab. I knew I wasn’t ready to serve a church yet, but wondered what to do next. “What is wrong with me,” I thought. “Why don’t I feel like I’m accepting this?” After all, I had already been through all the five stages of grief outlined by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance

I know now, acceptance is not a one-time event. It keeps happening over and over and over again. The neuropsychologist I saw back then, suggested that grief, rather than being in stages, is more like a coil. One keeps returning to the various stages but it’s easier each time.

While that image helped me for years, I recently found a picture which seems much truer to my experience for the brain injury journey isn’t a simple coil or road: my thoughts and feelings are all over the place.

I’ve always struggled with the verse in Isaiah about not remembering the former things. I know how important it is to remember the past and learn from it. However, here the prophet doesn’t mean to forget what has worked before but to move on and try new, creative things. Carlos F. Cardoza-Orlandi writes, “Faith is restored as we see things differently.”

So as I go forward along this road, I’m looking for the creative, life-giving, Spirit of God along the way. There will be days when my body feels like this picture looks and that’s okay. I must be patient for I will eventually see God making a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. God has done this in the past, and God will do it again in new,creative ways.

A Way in the Wilderness

My favorite Scripture is in my head today.  “Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert , to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise.” (Isaiah 43:18-21)

This Scripture has been important to me ever since I sustained my brain injury back in 1996.  After many months or rehab when I began volunteering at a hospice and then at the Open Door Community – which is considered a “Protestant Catholic Worker House” in Atlanta – I thought of these words.  When both things didn’t work out due to my brain injury challenges, I began volunteering as a Chaplain at a retirement community in town.

Working there was quite a journey through the wilderness for me.  First I couldn’t drive so I took the bus.  I wore my tennis shoes to walk to the bus stop and when I arrived at the center, I changed into my dress shoes, putting my tennis shoes into my Lands End bag.   I met some wonderful folks there and was able to participate in some significant ministry.

I struggled with depression then.  In fact, I have  struggled with depression my whole life.  Sometimes I think creative folks experience the darkness of the world to a greater extent than other folks do.  I believe depression is a physical issue and I’m just one of those people who’ve had to learn how to live with it.  I do think I feel things, both good and bad, more deeply than other people but as hard as it is, I do so see it as a gift.

Depression is part of any brain injury.  I don’t really understand the mechanics of it but I do know that many, many brain injury survivors must battle it.  Although it certainly is not fun, I have learned techniques to manage it.  Writting helps me immensely.  I’d be embarrised if folks read some of my journal entries since this is where I let my darkness out but I write none the less.

Music is another outlet for me.  I often will sing at home when I’m alone and this really helps me express my emotions.  Swimming helps as well.  I take a pretty intense water aoerobics class and this past Tuesday I really let the water have it.  I pounded my arms into it and kicked my legs through it.  It wore me out but it felt so good!

So yes, I’m on a journey through the wilderness. God gives me water  and I’m not alone.

Do you experience depression?  If you do, how do you deal with it?  Do folks understand you or do you feel very alone with it?  If you have a brain injury, have you noticed it is worse not than before?  Feel free to comment here – I think commenting on WordPress is much easier than on Blogger.  I will have to figure out how to use WordPress though so it will probably be a while before I figure out how to post pictures!

Overwhelmed again

I found this poster on Facebook and I fell in love with it. This is why I love Isaiah 43:18,19 so much. “Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

It seems I always go back to this verse whenever I’m going through change. When I stopped being an Associate Pastor, I thought about these words. Each time I began another volunteer position in Atlanta and in Asheville, this passage came to mind.

The quotation on the poster along with Isaiah’s words touches me now. I’m really trying to do more things but it’s hard because it doesn’t take much for me to become overwhelmed. I spoke with my cognitive therapist on the phone yesterday and when I first began talking to her, I sounded almost manic. I was having difficulty slowing my thoughts down.

She reminded me of something she told me back in March of 2011. Anxiety and stress produces a chemical response in my body that actually can impair my cognition. She said back then that I could counteract this by practicing mindfulness. I shared with her how much listening to classical music seems to calm me down and help me get out of that chemical response. She suggested I do this every day and see how it works for me.

So I do have the power to say this is not how my life is going to end. I’m not going to spend it stressed out and overwhelmed. As I continue to be involved in more things now, I’m going to take time every day to listen to music. Today I listened to violin pieces y Ernest Bloch. Perhaps God is doing a new thing for me. Only time will tell.

Scars

This past Sunday was the first Sunday after Easter.  When I went to Grace Covenant Presbyterian the picture on the left was on the cover of the bulletin.  I looked at it and thought, ” what does a little girl ready to climb a ladder into heaven have to do with Easter?”  When I read the quote from Pope John Paul II underneath, I was more confused. “Do not abandon yourselves to despair.  We are the Easter people and hallelujahah is our song.”  When I heard Kristy Farber’s sermon on Thomas in John 20:19-31, I understood.

She asks, “One question we may sit with is, how are we to celebrate God’s resurrecting power when the world around us appears so broken?”  She continues, “Even when we spend time, money and energy trying to help those in need, it often leaves us wondering if our feeble attempts have made a difference.”

I can relate to her words.  Sometimes I get frustrated and angry with myself when I see so much need in this world and how little I am able to do.  Right now, I’m involved with organizing two different things that I believe are very important in this world. No one else has agreed to organize them so I’ve decided to do it.   Oorganizing is one of my weaknesses.  It stresses me out and makes me anxious. But I’ve thought it through and made a choice to go forward with them.  

In dealing with this stress, I’ve realized that because I’m a perfectionist, I put more stress on myself than others put on me. This is forcing me to tell myself as a former therapist of mine suggested, to just stop.  It doesn’t matter if either one comes out perfect.  It is not even in my control.  I do like to be in control of things. However, I’m not in control just like none of us is in control.  I had no control of the car when it crashed into me.  I’m also not in control of my double vision or of my current hand difficulties. (I probably will have to have hand surgery again – I’ll write more about this later.)  

In her sermon, Kristy tells the story of a group of undergrads who took mission trips to Haiti. The students were astounded by the joyfulness of the children there.  They just couldn’t understand it.  Kristy writes, “Resurrection is life coming out of death.  New life and new hope.  Thomas looks for joy, hope, peace – not in a clear, unblemished form.  He needs to see and to touch resurrection in the midst of brokenness.” 

Tomorrow I have a Brainstormers support group meeting.  The location is close to me but one of the members is going to pick me up on the way there.  I will walk the block to the main road where she will meet me in a parking lot.  Another member of the group picked me up this way before but she got all confused with the directions so I gave this other person clear directions.  It turns out she knows the location but laughed and said if she wasn’t familiar with it, she would have become confused as well. (spatial orientation)

So like the children in Haiti, we could laugh about our scars together.  I read my favorite passage of scripture again today in Isaiah 43.  I read this passage all the time and am always filled with hope.  “Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old.  I am about to do a new thing.” 

Living with a traumatic brain injury means constantly finding ” a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”  (Isaiah 43:19) I refuse to abandon myself to despair.  I am one of the Easter people and hallelujah is my song.  

How do you remind yourself that you are one of the Easter people?  How do you refuse to abandon yourself to despair?  I write in my journal, swim laps or work in the garden.  I also give myself days when I don’t get anything done.  Feel free to comment here or email me directly puffer61@gmail.com