The Slow Heal

IMG_1535As much as I love an instant, fire from heaven healing, there is something very special and tender about the process of "slow heal." It reminds me of those encouraging words in Isaiah where Abba Father says "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty..."
A few months ago I left my husband and kids behind and flew from Australia to the US to help care for my mom. She had been fighting Lymphoma and was in her 10th week of an alternative therapy. Things were looking good but then one day she feel down her stairs and broke her pelvis. Her pain was immense but worse than that, the fall had shifted something in her psyche, and what erupted was a waterfall of emotions. Even with all of the precious care administered by my dad and sister, by the time I arrived, she was in a state of black and white thinking and all hope seemed lost. I made note of the fatalistic thinking and observed that as long as life moved steady she was fine but at the first road block, deep frustration and anger emerged and what followed was a total shut down, which would then exasperate her physical healing.  As much as I wanted to find a solution for her physical pain I sensed that her emotional state was blocking the healing and had to be addressed first.
After an initial assessment, we quickly began to establish new ground rules regarding the tone, pace and energy input/output in the house. Helping my mom to see the fragility of her emotional state was the first step towards healing. We worked on identifying and removing stressors, including topics that triggered emotional melt downs. Things like politics, Facebook, TV, and any conversation that involved logistics had to be shelved. We learned new ways to communicate emotions through journalling and focused on prayer and meditation as immediate “go to’s” when feelings of being out of control consumed. The more my mom engaged this emotional healing process, the stronger she became physically. However, the stronger she became physically the more the rest of the house would relax back into old patterers of relating thus raising the energy level in the house. And so, for Dad, Mindy, Josiah and myself, we would have to move more tenderly, allowing space for mom to drift in and out of her different emotional states. For a time, we had to put aside our own need to feel validated or justified, to be heard or understood. We had to diligently and aggressively zero in on, and isolate the pain so that healing could truly come. Whenever we would break from that commitment a relapse would happen and we would have to refocus. Consistency was essential.

IMG_1528As we all worked towards finding and maintaining a spirit of peace, mom began to improve. She began to see clearly, taking captive her thoughts, releasing her expectations of a faster pace, journalling (although, still not natural) and allowing the Holy Spirit to nurture and heal her inner brokenness. Our focus became all about “The Slow Heal.” We could feel it coming, hope was in the air, but the discipline and dedication that it took on all of our parts to continue to stay the course was difficult at times. The pay off was worth it and as we crossed over the hump, mom really began to recover. I was able to leave knowing that the spiritual ground had been tilled, cleared and ready for planting. And, I departed confident that just as the passage in Isaiah encouraged that once the rain came, that much fruit would come to bear.

I am amazed at all of the ways that the Spirit brings healing and especially thankful that I got to be in the front row for this one. My mom is precious to me no doubt but what was most encouraging was to see that she is precious to the Father. I think it totally rocks that for now healing has come to her body but even more than that, to see that at age 70, God is still after my mothers heart. This was the most encouraging part of the whole process. To me, that is what the “Slow Heal” is all about, that beautiful, mystical process of spiritual refinement. For the reality is that these bodies of ours will eventually fade away but the ancient text promises that our spirits will continue to soar like wings of eagles.

Recently my mom wrote an update about her healing. Here it is…

“Yay!!! Good numbers today set for another 6 months and I’m cleared to spend the summer in WI with my darling grandkids. Watch out Door County, here I come.

It is so good to be able to give my own update. When I fell in Feb I suffered a compression fracture to my pelvis but in the first few days I came to understand my whole body including my brain was effected. This changed our approach to helping me heal.

You all have been such a big part of this process. Just knowing you were saying my name to God, stopping by, sending meals. flowers,cards and words of encouragement have been a lifeline. Thank you so much.

Jerry is my #1 hero….he stepped into the role of caregiver, taking care of my needs even when I could’t get out of bed. A real test of our wedding vows we make almost 50 yrs ago…wow that’s a long time ago.

Melinda Kay supported her dad cooking cleaning and assisting me as needed. Sweet Joziah Marquez has been there cheering on my little accomplishments and giving me hugs. Nate, Heather, all 6 of the Price and the Hollands encouraged me on face chat.

IMG_1511Then 6 weeks ago Jana Holland flew in from Australia and relieved the team. What a blessing. She brought her great cooking and nutritional knowledge plus the understanding of the value of energy input/output in all our relationships. She’s back in Australia but a part of her is still with us. Thank you Jana for taking time out of your schedule to come and thank you Craig Holland, Banjo Graciana Holland for sharing her with us. Love you all.

Most of all…thank you God for the ways you work in our lives because there is still much work to be done loving people as you love us.”

And, that last line just sums it all up… “There is still much work to be done.” That is an encouraging and hopeful thing to hear my mother say.

Summer Camp

Camp TekakwithaCamp Tekakwitha

Bus ConversionEvery summer, for the past few years, we’ve volunteered for one week at Camp Tek in Shawano, WI.  Our friend and fellow bandmate, Eric Blumreich is the director at the camp. We met Eric and his family while our kids attended St. Matthews Catholic School in Green Bay, WI. We became fast friends with our love of music, laughter and over all good vibes. Eric recorded bass on our 2011 album Ashes to Beauty and over the years we have camped together, celebrated the 4th of July, and enjoyed countless meals together. So, volunteering for a week, was really sweetened as the idea of spending a week with the Blumreich clan was always a welcomed experience.

Last summer, during our week at camp we felt an inkling that next summer we’d like to explore what it would look like for us to volunteer all nine weeks. The conversations about that possibility were lively and exciting as the idea tapped into everyone’s desires to be in one spot for a longer stay. A desire for a place that would allow time to try our hands at new things including craftsmanship, mentoring, and of course, time to rest before our next tour.

As the year progressed, we solidified our plans and after a four-month tour in Australia and a trek across the US we began moving in the general directions of Wisconsin. We purposely booked only 6 premier shows for the summer so that we could really focus on our time at the camp. However, as we came closer to our visit, we were a little apprehensive about our plan to volunteer all summer, giving up our main source of income. We were anxious and we wondered how our daily needs would be cared for. And then, a few months before we arrived, Eric offered me a part-time position as a cook in the kitchen, which was our first sign that God was working things out.  We also had a few unexpected gifts via our Modern Day Missions fund and of course, the six shows offered enough to get us through. One day at a time, just what we need, when we need it. That has been a consistent theme for almost three years. Not sure why we seem to always forget but as we approach other unknown season, we will hopefully look back and remember and in doing so be an encouragement to others.

Camp TekakwithaOne young counselor asked me what I personally learned by being at Camp all summer. I had to think about it for a minute, the leading of song, connecting with staff, campers and overall support was familiar but being on staff part-time in the kitchen was a curious experience for me. I haven’t been in a roll where what I had to say or how I felt wasn’t necessarily an important part of conversation, rather my role was as a cook, preparing food, cleaning, organizing, and making sure things ran smoothly in the kitchen so that the campers had a good time at camp. Although my bosses were quality, it was a humbling experience the first few weeks, re-learning what finding harmony in an environment even when things were out of my control meant. I learned that harmony is squelched when we aren’t willing to see the impact we have on others. And, that harmony only comes when we lay down our pride and lift others up. It would be easy to spout off ideals and beliefs about building community and reconciliation as we travel and be disconnected from the realities of the daily grind. But, being at camp in that kitchen brought me down to earth and thrust me into a situation that I probably wouldn’t have chosen had I known the lackluster of it all. It’s through these uncomfortable experiences that our true colors come out and we find out if we practice what we preach. For me, this nine weeks was a blessing. It was filled with moments of deep observation, quietness and most of all the people who worked alongside me will forever be precious in my mind.

As for an overall picture, what did nine weeks at Camp Tek look like for the rest of team Holland? It looked like our teenagers engaging on a daily basis with peers, working out attitudes, faith and beliefs. Camp provided Graciana with her first consistent paycheck, as she worked full-time in the kitchen as an aid.  It was a summer of making camp friends, managing time and responsibilities, learning lessons about money and time management, and finishing up her finals towards high school graduation. For Banjo, it was pure bliss. He was engaged daily with the campers, whether he was an official camper or not, he was fully into every week, playing hard and making friends.

Camp TekakwithaCraig volunteered all of his time and talents at Camp and used his hands and creative building skills to enhance the grounds. He remodeled and organized the maintenance workshop, building storage sheds, walking paths, and team building games on the grounds. He was often seen rolling around on the lawn mower and eventually became Lawn Mower Man. One a side note, he used this summer to grow out his hair, needless to say not much sprouted and thus ensued the mourning process of an age gone by. Although, he did really try to rock that side hair. Who knows, maybe he’ll keep it and start a new wave of fashion.

Summer Camp was nine weeks of beautiful weather, getting to some of our unfinished projects, re-evaluating our families vision and desires, connecting with young people, mentoring and building up the body through worship, it was a time of reflection on all that has transpired over the past year. It was beautiful sunsets on Loon lake, camp fires, silly camp songs, swimming, Ga-ga Ball, cooking for hundreds of kids, participating as a team in the kitchen and sharing quality time with the Blumreich’s and the Saladars. It looked exactly how it was meant to look. Summer of 2014 we be one we all will remember.

Maybe This Is The Storm That We Won’t Make It Through

“Below the street,” is a term counselor, Jerry Price, uses in his teaching on “twisted thinking.” It represents going deeper, being more transparent, removing the mask. You have to go below the street if you want to find out what’s really going on, if you want real change.

Well, for the past two weeks I have had a bitter root taking hold of me. Fears about things that might happen to my children to harm their minds and faith. Fear of what our future holds, how we will sustain. Little thoughts of discord, here and there, about my husband. Anger brewing, to the point of tiny outbursts. Stupid little moments would arise where I would feel he was not protecting me or the kids and I would blow up at him. Things that were totally out of his control or things that I misunderstood.

For instance, a few days ago we stopped in at a local youth center. We got out of the car and my husband made his way a cross the street. I was still back at the car and shouted, asking if we could get a business card out of the trunk for the director. Looking back, I’m sure my tone was harsh, as I felt he was abandoning me by going ahead so quickly. He responded, with a slight shift of his head and plainly said, “no.” He then stated that the case was buried under all our luggage. I really didn’t hear his whole comment but everything in me went hard and I began to yell at him, scolding him for speaking to me that way, like I was a child. He was a bit taken back and begin to explain that he was just stating a fact but I read it so differently. We didn’t really take time to work it out then and there but rather kept walking into the building; greeting the director only moments after this outburst.

After our meeting with the youth director (which went fine, by the way. Amazing how we can put a mask on and just soldier on when we want to) we returned to the car and just carried on with life but deep down I knew something was going strangely wrong. Harmony was absent, but who’s fault was it?

I could feel a storm brewing, and remembered Jerry Price’s teaching in our  More Married sessions, where we learned about “storming” and how it’s a natural process in relationships. However, we learned that when we don’t enter into the storm we go back to a dysfunctional “norm,” and stunt our growth, keeping everything on the surface. However, if we engage the storm and allow it to clean house, so to speak, we come out in a new form; a form that allows deeper connection and harmony.

Investigative, I scoured through the gamut of reasons to why my heart was so hard. From dire straits “this is it, maybe this is the storm that we won’t make it through,” to the more rational, “this is definitely a storm, how do we make it through?”  I began to move from focusing on what my husband was doing wrong to what I was doing. I considered that maybe it was hormonal or maybe it was the change in my diet, maybe it was living out of a suitcase in a foreign country or the uncertainty of life and feeling out of control. What ever it was, self loathing crept in every time a little blow up would happen. I felt more and more insecure and I began to feel extremely isolated.

I’m practiced at “white knuckling” and was able to fend off some of the outbursts; keeping them at bay, specially when we were around others. And, I even choked out a few prayers. However, all I could get out was a whisper of “help me.” What in the world, I hadn’t felt this way in years. What was going on?!

 

Then the final straw broke. We were planning on going out to a local coffee shop to work on web stuff.  We had spent a comfortable morning, sharing breakfast and getting ready for the day. I was lingering and at a certain point in the morning, my husband announced that he was going to get in the car. That was it, just a simple announcement and I flipped out. His declaration seemed abrupt to me. I began to bark at him, “What? What about the computer… and the bag…and what about the kids…are the kids ready?” I panicked, trying to reel the words back in. He stood there looking at me like a deer in the head lights, asking what he was meant to do? He asked, what did I want him to do? No words came but rather I began scurrying around gathering the computer and bag, yelling at the kids and we all clumsily made our way to the car. Once inside the car, we all sat utterly stunned. My mind was racing, what is going on with me? Why am I so out of control? And, then I saw it plain as day, a manifestation of my past began to come forward.

My husband sat patiently, quietly, and then the vision became clear. Seems that when he announced that, “he’ll be in the car” it triggered a memory from my childhood and my dad saying this to my mom and then leaving the house. Then for the next 15 or 20 minutes my mom would hurriedly try to get all of us children out the door. I don’t really know what was going on between them but from my little person perspective, it seemed that my dad abandoned my mom to do all the heavy lifting. I made note of this at that young age and developed a belief system about men based on that belief.

I began to weep. I was paralyzed and didn’t know what to do next. Seriously, everything could have gone south at this point. He had every right to admonish me but he didn’t. Instead, he began to speak gentle words of truth over me. He declared harmony in our relationship and then he asked if he could pray for me and not is a sappy patronizing way, but in a genuine I care for you way. I wept even harder and said yes. What followed was an experience I can only describe as supernatural. His petition for Abba’s mercy, power, discernment and his declaration of Love began to envelop me to the point that the hard casing around my heart shattered. I felt immediate relief. I could see clearly now, all that had bound me up.

Look, working to get below the street was no easy task, as my ego was bruised and my natural tendency was to try to hold face. However,  the more his love covered me the more my pride was laid low. His was a true act of grace; the kind of grace that bleeds for another. The kind of grace that trusts the repentance process, that leads the recipient back towards Abba’s original intent for our lives. Not the cheap stuff, not the fabricated kind that says, “it’s OK, you’re just living your truth, you can be an ass and we’ll all get by” but the kind that says “this isn’t who you’re created to be and I will cover you in order that you might actually have a moment to reflect without the distraction of self-protection.”  It was in this moment that I could see my twisted thinking errors, my stubbornness, victim stance and manipulative thinking. I could see that my own ability to “fix” them was not enough. I began to pray silently along with my husband, weeping for forgiveness, thankful for this relief and new hope.

freedomLook, we don’t always get it right, but in this situation, my husbands humility and grace, is a beautiful example of how we are called to care for one another in the body. His faith carried me to the cross and in doing so, carried me into the presence of God. He fought for me, stepping out-of-the-way and allowed Abba to heal me. Had he allowed his pride to get in the way, we would probably be at ground zero, still storming. His willingness to fight for me and surrender his own pride set a wise tone that allowed me to surrender my own pride, see clearly and fight for us.

In the end, we stormed and can now get on to enjoying the new form. Everything is above the street. For now. 🙂