Category: Healing & Wholeness

A BRAVE Interview

AN INTERVIEW WITH JANYNE MCCONNAUGHEY, PhD

GUEST POST:

Hello. My name is Ms. Skeptic and I am here today to interview Dr. Janyne McConnaughey about her recent revelations concerning her life with a dissociative disorder. She has accepted this interview in hopes she can help others in understanding the disorder. …

Now, Dr. McConnaughey, for those who do not know you, will you tell us a little about your life?

Honestly, the life story I always told was of a pretty idyllic 1950s childhood. Much of my story of growing up in a preacher’s home and serving in church-related educational ministries, and my now thirty-eight year marriage is included here. On the surface, it was a wonderful life!

You are aware most who say they have DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) do not have such idyllic descriptions of their lives? Were there signs that others might have noticed in you?

The disorder is mostly hidden and often misdiagnosed. A few things are helpful in understanding this. The first is an understanding of what a dissociative disorder is. In my journey, I began to understand dissociation as more of a spectrum. To some degree, in order to cope, everyone dissociates from reality on occasion—daydreaming for instance—very common and usually healthy.
On the other end of the spectrum is the person who separates into multiple identities to divide up the pain and live life. In this category there are some who have periods of amnesia while various “parts” live life. In my case, “DID NOS,” (Dissociative Disorder—Not Otherwise Specified) there was not significant amnesia between my alternate identities or “alters.” Thus, I didn’t wake up and find clothes in my closet that I didn’t remember buying. I did have significant blocked memories (due to repression), but none impaired my ability to function on a day-to-day basis.

So no one could tell?

No. After I explain it to my closest family and friends, they often say, “Well, that actually makes sense.” But we all have quirky things we do, and this was what everyone assumed.

I must pause at this point to say there are those in the field of psychology who do not believe in the diagnosis of DID. What are your thoughts on this?

(Sigh) This is so damaging for those who are dissociative—especially in one specific way. Dissociation at every level on the spectrum is a coping mechanism and as such is not a systemic mental illness—in other words, no one is born dissociative, it is a result of what happened to him or her. Granted, there may be some predisposed tendencies, such as intelligence and creative cognitive coping skills, but it is always the result of some type of trauma—usually sexual abuse at a very young age. As a coping mechanism for trauma, dissociation can be healed. It is complicated but possible. If a professional does not believe in the validity of the diagnosis, then the answer is usually medication—which may alleviate the symptoms to some degree but never addresses true healing.
In addition, being believed was important to my healing. I knew there were three adults in my head and felt myself shift to them periodically through the day. There was nothing in my story to cause me at sixty one to suddenly create a fantasy such as this—for what? Attention? (Laughter, lots of laughter.) Dissociative disorders are all about hiding—especially at my level of what I call “functional dissociation.” When I finally came to my own conclusion about being dissociative, it was absolutely crucial to be believed!Did you know?Absolutely not. Did I know something was not right? Yes! Most spend years in therapy before it is correctly diagnosed.

When did you decide to seek therapy? What brought you to this decision?

For some, the idea God audibly told me to go to a specific therapist is probably going to be harder to swallow than the disorder itself, but that is exactly what happened. I described my fear of going to therapy in one of my first blog posts. At sixty one, I was at the top of my professional career, a wife, mother, and grandmother, with many wonderful friends—and absolutely terrified.

Why were you afraid?

Great question. I was unaware of living as multiple identities, but did spend my life running away from a “me” I could neither understand nor tolerate. My life was successfully navigated above the turmoil. I didn’t understand what it was, but I knew it had the power to destroy my carefully-constructed life.

How long were you in therapy before you understood what you were dealing with?

This is a very simple question, which involves a very complicated answer. My first session, in hindsight, was an amazing display put on by “Janyne” to prove there was absolutely nothing wrong. I was just trying to decide about signing the contract for the following year, since teaching at the college didn’t seem like a good fit for me any longer. In the next couple sessions, it became apparent I had mother issues. This is not uncommon—maybe you do too? (Uncomfortable laughter.) By the third or fourth session we decided I should work through some of my anxiety issues by going back to my childhood memories with my mother. This was when I had my first introduction to EMDR.

Can you explain EMDR?

Yes, this is always a question. It is a recognized, research-validated therapy treatment in which the client remains aware but is able to go below the surface of cognitively processed events and resolve the underlying emotions connected to the memories stored in the limbic brain. It is done in a variety of ways by bypassing the cognitive part of the brain and allowing the experience, with all of the intensity of the attached emotions, to surface. In my case, this also released repressed memories. If unfamiliar with this recognized type of therapy, it might be good to explore the EMDR International Association website.

Why was EMDR so important to your healing?

My survival was dependent on cognitive coping strategies and few therapeutic interventions would have been successful in getting underneath my defenses. There are some concerns that EMDR causes memories to surface too quickly and may overwhelm dissociative clients who do not have strong processing structures in place. As with any therapy, the keys are skillful use and care for the client. For me, EMDR was the avenue of healing.

Why do you believe this was true?

Many with dissociative disorders spend years in various therapeutic situations without ever obtaining a correct diagnosis. The whole purpose of dissociation is to hide subconsciously repressed or suppressed memories. While EMDR is designed as a way to process memories, in my case it also served as a mechanism to retrieve frozen memories from dissociative states. This doesn’t mean it would be effective in this specific way for everyone, since each case is unique.
My simple question of “Which one?” (explained in Chapter 4) early in therapy probably moved my healing at warp speed, since it allowed me to see my inner structures of functioning personas and dissociative states. My ability to see and analyze these dissociative structures was a gift, but I would never have allowed myself to see it outside of EMDR therapy. My structures were too perfect and I was too strong.

How do you know the memories were real?

This question voices a common fear. I was concerned that a therapist would convince me something had happened in my early life, but she never did that. This may occur on occasion with the rare, unethical therapist, and probably is the reason for the myth. It is horrible and prevents many from seeking help. Before the first memory of abuse surfaced, I said, “I don’t think we are going to find anything, do you?” My therapist never led me down any path. She simply believed in the truth of the memories that did surface.

But how did you know it was real?

My first memory was when I was probably three. While in the memory, there were neither adult words nor understanding to explain the pain. The truth my body told, and the anguish pouring out of me, could not be manufactured. I have no doubts. Once the memories were processed, the related triggers vanished—proof of the connection between the abuse and the triggers that had plagued me all my life. Many of these triggers are explained in the following pages.

So, you have no doubts about the truth of your memories?

Oh! Thank you for asking this question! Anyone who studies memory knows things may not have happened exactly like you remember them. In my case, there were many false cover memories (flat memories without emotion) to hide the real memories. In every one of them, I was brave and strong and escaped danger. Most of the time, it was illogical that a child, teen, or young adult could have escaped the situation, but my story convinced me. I never said these false versions of the memories in EMDR—even when I wanted to do so. I was a child and while the memory may not be exact, there is no question but something happened—something involving very traumatic sexual abuse. My body told the story during therapy, triggers made me live the memories my entire life, and once I faced the truth, there was nothing in me to doubt it. In fact, it finally made sense.

Didn’t remembering make it worse?

This is exactly what I would have thought, but the process of EMDR takes the power out of the memory by releasing it so it can be understood by the adult self. Integration was not possible until the power was removed from the memory.

What is integration?

The first step to becoming one whole person happened to me the day in therapy when I became aware of the three adults who had been living in separate compartments in my brain. I saw them and they saw each other. One of my therapist friends called it a “perfect three-point landing.” Recognition happened again and again as the alters entered my conscious world. I knew them immediately and could describe each of their personalities. So the first step was awareness. Then we had to find out why they had been created or split—always trauma of some kind had occurred. Once the trauma was healed, if they were twins (one who lived and one who held the pain), they could become one or integrate.
Integration only comes through healing—the split remains because of unprocessed pain. Shifting is a survival skill. I could not have held all the pain in one person.

The process sounds very complicated—how long were you in therapy?

I almost hesitate to answer this question. If someone is heading into therapy, he or she often wants to know exactly how long it will take to be helped. That’s an unanswerable question. I thought I would be “outta there” in a couple sessions. My denial makes me laugh; but in reality, the time it took me to reach integration was unbelievably short. It is very common for people to say eight to twelve years! That seems realistic! It is complicated. I completed the integration of the three adults in less than six months, but was sometimes in therapy for seven to eight hours in a week. What we did in so short a time was literally impossible! To say it is possible or recommend it to anyone would be irresponsible! I did not know how to do this any other way. We all knew this was true. Once the problem presented itself, I attacked it with a vengeance. It was necessary for me to give up almost everything in my life to heal; and I lived through months of hell—while still working. Most of that period of time is a blur. Without my writing, the memory of the deep processing would be lost.
So, never do what I did! Go slowly. Take time. Take breaks. Stabilize. Then go back. Slower would have been better for me; but I didn’t know any other way.

Is it hard for you to go back and read what you wrote during therapy?

Sometimes. Most of the raw processing was accidentally deleted. Those raw documents would probably be difficult to read; I did not have a clear sense of self, probably because of the extent of the trauma which created such a disorganized state. Much of my raw processing was transferred to a version of the story in which my identity was carefully disguised—a method, which distanced me from my own pain. I’m saving the volumes of material related to the psychological process of healing, for a later book. It is a very messy process, but true healing cannot happen unless someone is willing to get messy. Getting messy is something we almost always avoid, probably because we think we are the only ones who ever had such awful thoughts. Part of my sharing my messiness in this book is to tell others it is OK—you are not alone. There is so much fear. We need to help each other feel safe.

Is there anything else you would like your readers to know before they read your Brave books?

It is important to say my parents knew what happened to me at three but made choices based on the era in which they lived. My father loved me, and my mother was incapable of being the mother I needed. They both on separate occasions said I was “difficult” as a child. Yes, I imagine I was. It is also important to know I was born in 1953. What happened to me (multiple times) was unthinkable. As children, we were taught to respect adults and obey them. I had no words to describe what happened, and my perpetrators told me no one would believe me. They were right. Therefore, I used every possible God-given coping mechanism to survive.

It is hard to listen to you and not believe you.

(Laughing.) Yes, I wish I could just sit and talk to anyone who is skeptical. My openness and clear honesty is a gift. I have nothing to gain personally by sharing my story—except to help others.

Thank you for sharing so openly with me today. I do think this interview—and your BRAVE books—will help others to understand more about dissociation. I wish you the best as you continue to live out your life.

~(Excerpted from the book, BRAVE: A Personal Story of Healing Childhood Trauma)

Holy Stillness

Treasures of Darkness : Holy Stillness

I have found that spiritual, emotional, and physical healing can begin even in times that are darkened, cold, alone, silent … when I still my heart and contemplate the “treasures of darkness” (Isaiah 45:3). One of the sweetest treasures of darkness is the realization that we are not alone. This realization encouraged me anew this winter as I contemplated that nature also experiences the waiting that has become more acute for us during a pandemic winter.

In much of the Northern Hemisphere, at least, we have been waiting for lighter, warmer days of nature’s renewal. And during these days of Lent we also recall, again, Jesus’ crucified body waiting in a dark, cold cave of death. When Jesus “woke up” in that cave of a tomb, did he open his eyes to darkness? Or did his open eyes, his very breath and resurrection-life energy, shine light into the darkness even before the stone rolled away? John wrote that Jesus is the light and the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5).

We can experience moments during periods of waiting that are holy, even healing. One morning this past winter I sat in meditative prayer in a corner room of our basement. That room has two windows with below-ground-level window wells. During the summer, toads and tiger salamanders dwell in the window wells. My grandchildren like to look for them. During winter, these denizens of the deeps dig into the earth and wait in darkness, finally emerging again in late spring. On that cold, sequestered pandemic morning I was thinking about these creatures—and my own sense of waiting—when this poem came to me:

Holy Stillness
There is no heartbeat
in a seed
Yet life waits
in that brittle encasement
as surely as in the stilled
breathing and slowed
beating heart of
toads and salamanders
in winter deeps and
sleeping bears in caves
Waiting, waiting, we wait
in lengthened nights and
chilled soil and cloistered suns
for warmer, lighter, moister days
to dawn
From on high—and pulsing
in the depths—we hear
“Wait… Wait… Be still…”
and “Coming—
I did, I am, I will.”

~Catherine Lawton


(This post was first published at GodSpace on 3-27-21.)
Photo: Ehud Neuhaus / Unsplash

BRAVE WHIMSY and VULNERABILITY

The unique style of author Janyne McConnaughey—interweaving literary whimsy, informative narrative, and raw vulnerability—is reaching into the hearts and minds of readers. For instance, in A BRAVE LIFE we find Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz interacting with Janyne’s three adult selves and many child selves.

We love the way Janyne weaves delightful, fictional characters into her narratives. In Janyne’s previous book, JEANNIE’S BRAVE CHILDHOOD, Alice of Wonderland appears throughout (and rumors are she may return in a future book). But Dorothy of Oz and her Yellow-Brick-Road companions, even Oz himself, fit perfectly in A BRAVE LIFE.

Janyne McConnaughey PhD

In this new book, Janyne shares the story of how she lived her adult life with the effects of childhood trauma and attachment issues. Janyne describes her “Yellow Brick Road” journey that taught her about the abundant life and the many ways it had been stolen from her by childhood trauma. A BRAVE LIFE offers hope and insight to all who have persevered and silently suffered without knowing why…. and it provides a handbook to help Christians in the church minister to those who, as children, were victims of the unspeakable.

Janyne bravely paints a word picture of how a childhood-trauma survivor experienced adulthood—including multiple moves and transitions, marriage and parenting, and a college teaching career—all the time coping through dissociative “split” personalities.

It was a confusing life fraught with “emotional landmines,” but Janyne’s healing journey led to her “Emerald City” as all the parts of Janyne learned to trust each other and work together—which they do beautifully in this book.

Jesus shows up in A BRAVE LIFE also. The scenes where Jesus talks with Janyne’s various selves are descriptive, not prescriptive. They describe what Janyne heard the Spirit of Jesus say to her heart, true words that helped heal the effects of what trusted adults had wrongly said to her way back when she was 10.

Just as pushing back the curtain revealed the “real” wizard of Oz, Janyne had the courage to push back the curtain and reveal her feelings of being an “imposter,” of dissociative pain and struggles and their root causes. We agree with Pathway to Hope director, Kiersten Adkins, who says of Janyne, “May her courage inspire us to find safe spaces for ourselves and be those safe spaces for others.”

If you long to find your own safe spaces in which to heal, and to help (not hinder) others’ healing, you may want to join the many readers being encouraged, informed, and helped by the BRAVE series.

(Note: The three graphics above created by Janyne McConnaughey and posted on Facebook. Used here with permission.)

Peace Blows In

Sometimes the simplest moments are the most profound. On a quarantined breezy morning last week, as I watched the branches of our front-yard tree waving in the wind, these lines of verse came to me:

Spring Wind

On a bright blossomy breezy day

my fears and sorrows blew away;

And in their place gentle hopes

of fresh tomorrows came to stay.

~Catherine Lawton

Five weeks ago I wrote (in this post) that I had both caught a virus and a virus had caught me.

Now (as I have recovered), I’m thinking that sometimes it feels as if the peace of God is caught much like a virus is caught. Though perhaps I wouldn’t say God “catches” us the way a virus “catches” us, yet I will say that…

  • We are both found by God and we find God.
  • We are both taken hold of by God and we take hold of God.
  • We are both accepted by God and we accept God.
  • We are both embraced by God and we embrace God.

It is being said that anyone exposed to this new Corona Virus will “get” it, whether they show symptoms of Covid 19 or not, because we humans have no resistance to it yet. On the other hand, we humans are adept at resisting God’s pursuit.

A virus seems to pursue us, intent on invading. It can kill. On the other hand, God, out of love, pursues and woos every person he has created, desiring to rescue and save and give life.

As long as we resist God’s pursuit and wooing, we are filled with spiritual death, as if a virus has invaded and found receptors in our vital “spiritual organs.” But as we turn to God, he envelops us in his arms of love. I don’t want to say God invades us like a virus, but he freely enters our being, fills us with the spiritual life of his presence. Then Death is swallowed up in Victory.

O Breath of Life, breathe on us. Let your Wind blow through us and fill us anew with your healing Spirit, that we may resist both spiritual and physical disease. Give renewed life and vigor to our bodies’ very cells that we may resist and defeat viral attacks. Thank you that even the final death has been swallowed up in victory by the death and life of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Fear not, my soul.

Fear not, friends.

 

Does a virus catch us, or do we catch a virus?

The news, social media, and our attention has been occupied by the Corona Virus sweeping the world and Covid-19 case numbers increasing daily, Meanwhile, our publishing schedule is interrupted, author events canceled, and I haven’t posted here for a while. The following story (which I wrote and posted for my Facebook friends two days ago) explains part of the reason for my recent silence. Someone said, “Our stories matter. Everyone needs to share their stories.” Here’s mine at this time. This story is longer than most of my posts. Thanks for reading. And thanks for visiting. Feel free to share your response or a bit of your own story at the bottom of the page. ~Cathy on 3-31-20


Not long ago, we heard of a newly mutated virus discovered and starting to spread in a far away place called Wuhan. I didn’t give it a lot of thought. But numbers kept increasing. We heard briefly of a “whistle blower,” and it caught our interest more. Then we heard that that exotic virus somehow showed up on our shore. And soon it was spreading in Seattle, where I have friends (including Cladach authors). And it was more and more in the news. It seemed to show up in the area of every international airport (and one of those is an hour away from us). Before long this new virus was in our state of Colorado! Then someone in our state died of it. At that time we heard a lot about washing hands and not touching our faces.

About that time Larry and I attended a philharmonic orchestra concert at the Union Colony Civic Center in Greeley. Unlike most orchestra concerts, this one was packed! This time Greeley’s wonderful philharmonic invited a tribute singer and his small band of drums, bass, mandolin, and flute to join their orchestra onstage to perform John Denver music. The music was lovely. John Denver is popular in Colorado, and people happily crammed together, reminiscing about concerts at Red Rocks in the good ol’ days, and singing along. No doubt there were a few coughs, as there are in any crowd.

At intermission, the crowd–mostly senior citizens–flocked to the restrooms. We waited close together in line outside and inside the restroom. And because of all the advice about hand washing, we stood patiently in a crowded line to wash our hands, a long time as each person took a little longer (20 seconds?) to scrub.

Just a couple days after the concert, the public was told we needed to practice “social distancing” and stay 3 to 6 feet away from each other. When we took our neighborhood walk and approached other walkers, one neighbor would step off the sidewalk onto the grass or street and we’d greet each other from a few feet distance. We were somewhat careful but not worried.

A few days later, we were told the virus had spread within our city. What?! From Wuhan, China to Greeley, CO in such a short time?! Our church, which had prepared for Sunday by cleaning, putting away pew hymnals and Bibles, and offering plates, now, along with all faith groups in the state, was asked not to meet in groups larger than 10. Actually, that’s when it hit us more seriously. Online church was no longer just a convenient option. It was the only way to “go to church.”

Meanwhile we were going to stores, offices, small group meetings, a medical building. Larry played basketball at the gym several times during the week, as usual. Then the rec centers suddenly closed–indefinitely. It was time for spring break for students. Spring break was extended. Then schools were closed indefinitely.

We thought, well we can still take drives, maybe go to nearby Rocky Mountain National Park. But then the park was closed! OK. This is getting real and immediate and a little unsettling.

It seems a virus caught us–somewhat unawares, unprepared, somewhat unbelieving.

And somewhere along the way, I caught a virus.

One day I was walking our dog, Jasper, on our regular route. About 1/4 of the way I began feeling seriously out of breath, strangely, and had to turn back. By the time I got home I was exhausted. But in the usual way I have of ignoring symptoms and determinedly pressing on, I didn’t give it too much thought. Nor did I give the occasional dry cough much thought.

But when I started waking up at night with an awful-feeling achy, burning, tightness in my chest, I wondered. But one day I’d feel better and over-do it. Only to feel worse, though, the next day. I don’t generally take naps, but I had to lie down in the middle of the day. I began taking my temperature. I was running a low-grade fever, which usually isn’t considered crucial.

A week and a half after these symptoms started sneaking up on me, I thought, I should go to the doctor. By then we’d been learning a lot more, and no way did I want to go to a hospital or ER. I called my doctor and was surprised that they said to come in. But they told me to call from my car when I arrived and they would check me in by phone, then they’d meet me inside the door with a mask for me to put on.

Well, my doctor, wearing a mask, examined me and said I had the symptoms of Covid 19. She prescribed one of the meds that doctors worldwide are finding has some effect in fighting Covid 19. She said, “We don’t have tests. We have to save them for patients in hospitals or we’d run out.” She added, “You’re sick. Stay away from people!” and “If you get worse, go to the ER.”

I texted our son and daughter, and you can be sure text messages began to fly back and forth across the country. Our son immediately contacted his close friend who is the head of Emergency medicine in an East Coast city. His advice was relayed to me. Then our son contacted his other good doctor friend, practicing in So Cal. He sent the advice to “Rest, rest, rest!”

Everything I tried to do exhausted me quickly, so I complied. My grown kids know I can’t easily be made to rest, so they keep reminding me. I know they love me, and it’s good to feel their love (and that in itself is probably the best medicine).

Meanwhile, I told my prayer group that I was sick and they have been so concerned and prayerful. I told my sister, and her church’s prayer chain got the word. Many of them are our friends, and some of them called and texted. In the past few days I’ve heard of several groups and prayer chains praying for me! Wow. No wonder I feel such peace. And I’m hopeful I’m turning a corner and coming out of this. It has been two weeks since I first felt symptoms. And I’ve got a ways to go. [But no “place to go” anyway, it seems. 🙂 ]

So, I think a virus catches us as well as we can “catch” it. And, even though the reported case numbers are rising so fast, I’m sure they don’t nearly represent all the actual cases.

Pay attention to cautions, to symptoms, to governor’s orders, etc. Express your love to your loved ones through texts, calls, emails, letters. Take care of yourself and those around you. And pray!

~Catherine Lawton, 3-29-2020

 

 

The Courage of Authenticity

It takes courage to be an author, to declare and publish to a busy, perhaps skeptical world what you have experienced privately … to tell in “bright lights” what you have seen and learned in dark places.

Long ago in Bethlehem, shepherds waiting and watching on a dark hillside experienced a wondrous awakening and illumination. Then, even as they stood there in awe of the heavenly hosts, the shepherds must have needed courage and bravery to leave their flocks in the care of their guard dogs and run into the dark, crowded city of Bethlehem to look for a newborn baby “in a manger” and then worship him as the promised king. Surely there were more qualified and famous individuals to use as messengers.

I think the needed courage gripped the shepherds because the authenticity of their experience and their certainty of it overcame their trepidation. They obeyed, they went, they told. And their story was full of immediacy and hope.

Sometimes we authors feel that way.

Though angels didn’t exactly appear to us in the night sky and declare wonderful tidings of great joy for us to write,  Christian writers do sense a call from God and we experience wonder and the help of God (and perhaps even of angels) as we write. We certainly have good tidings to share.

Janyne McConnaughey is an example of one writer who has a life-changing story of hope and is compelled to write and tell her story to encourage others. I don’t know whether she has been “touched by an angel” but I know she has been touched by God with the courage to share her story. The title of her first book, BRAVE, tells that. And these comments from readers and reviewers on Amazon.com tell us of the authenticity and immediacy and hope in her story.

  • “There is hope!”
  • “A compelling journey”
  • “A very important book”
  • “A road less traveled … a path to healing”
  • “Kept me on the edge of my seat”
  • “Powerful story”
  • “Healing from complex trauma”
  • “A roadmap to freedom”
  • Brave is a fitting title for this true story.”
  • “A beautiful soul shows us the way to hope and healing.”
  • “A book every person who has struggled with trauma should read.”
  • “This book can be your path to healing from childhood trauma.”

Whatever your place of waiting ‘in the night’—or journey in the dark— be encouraged. A savior is born and he brings good news to the oppressed, including those suffering from complex trauma.

~Catherine Lawton


Photo: Hubble Space Telescope

The Sound of Silence

I took this photo of a sign erected at a viewpoint in Rocky Mountain National Park. I have visited the park during all seasons. In spring and summer the melodies of birds, squirrels, chipmunks, etc. rise and fall on the air. In late summer and early fall, elk calls bugle through the park. Then, on many winter days a soft, white, silent layer of snow breathlessly quiets the scene. Would you think of this “utter, complete silence” as a sound, as Andre Kostelantez did—even “one of the greatest sounds of them all”?

This brings questions to my mind:

Where/how do we find silence?

Why is silence important/needed?

What can we learn in silence?

Do we tend to avoid—maybe even fear—silence?

My curiosity piqued, I looked up Andre Kostelantez and learned that he was a Jewish/Russian immigrant to America who became one of the most successful conductors and arrangers of music in history. Among many accomplishments, he conducted the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.

I personally knew an orchestra musician who spoke of silence as if it were a sound: my daughter’s violin teacher. She drilled into my daughter the concept that a “rest” in the music was an “important nothing.”

Music rests, seasons of silence, “important nothings”; these provide natural, satisfying rhythms to music and to our lives. This is a principle that God seems to have woven into creation. As physical, emotional, and spiritual beings, we need times of silence that can become “the greatest sound of all” to us.

 Nancy Swihart has learned to embrace this life-enhancing principle. In her memoir, On Kitten Creek, she describes the times of silence on Kitten Creek farm that have become to her, as Kostelantez expressed it, one of the greatest sounds of them all:

“On prayer walks I do most of the listening,” writes Nancy. “Up here in this sky-drenched pasture a comforting solitude is one of the greatest gifts the farm has provided—placing my body, soul, and spirit into the presence of God without distraction.”

Nancy has learned to seek and relish these important-nothing rest times that give meaning and lilt to the music of her life.

Have you found ways to incorporate regular seasons of silence into the flow of your days?

A Sinful Woman Who Loved Much

One night I was very ill and out of nowhere, it seemed, the vision of this poem came to me. I thought of the woman in Luke 7 who anointed Jesus’ feet. And it just came to me like never before that, in Jesus, God was physically present in our world and to people. I like this story because of the physicality of it. Christ is truly present to us.

A Sinful Woman Who Loved Much*

My tears made mud on his dusty feet.

   My hair caked with dirt paths he trod.

My sighs rode the wind of the air he breathed.

   My hands touched the face of God.**

His eyes entered mine to unlock my grave.

   His feet didn’t shrink from my touch.

He smiled like a child,*** held the love I gave.

   How did he forgive so much?!

~Catherine Lawton 

(This poem is extracted from the GLIMPSING GLORY : Poems of Living & Dying, Praying & Playing, Belonging & Longing ©2020)

*Based on the story in Luke 7:36-50.

**Jesus was the “face of God” given to humankind, making God personal, approachable, and knowable for each of us.

***As the Child (or Son) of God, Jesus was innocent, pure, trusting


This post appeared at GodSpace on February 13, 2020, slightly revised.

Season of Anticipation

Welcome, November! A season of change and anticipation.

Here in Colorado we can see “every season in every season.” A sudden chill may hit and bring snow in October or November. Then back to 60 and 70 degree sunny days. But no matter where you live, change is in the air.

As we anticipate upcoming holy days and holidays, we at Cladach are preparing good things to share with our readers—some for this season and some for all seasons

1. Janyne McConnaughey has written a companion volume to her psychological memoir, BRAVE, entitled Jeannie’s BRAVE Childhood : Behavior and Healing through the Lens of Attachment and Trauma with a release planned for January/February. We hope to have the book available by Christmas. What a great gift for anyone who has children or works with children, and anyone who experienced trauma in their own childhood. If you enjoyed BRAVE (and many have) then you will love this companion volume.

2.    Yes, I (Catherine Lawton) am the publisher at Cladach, But I am also an author and poet. I am passionate about some things, such as my grandchildren, good books, and experiencing God in nature. I have combined these interests in a Christmas picture book, Something Is Coming To Our World : How a Backyard Bird Sees Christmas. Available late November on Amazon and elsewhere. This little, colorful book will be an experience for families to share.

3. Watch for new interviews, videos, giveaways, and sales on the many seasonal and gift-worthy books we publish. Stay tuned! Let joy-filled anticipation of good things rise in your heart throughout the month of November.

Look for—and you will find—God, in this season.
“Praise the Lord from the heavens… Praise the Lord from the earth … Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 148:1,7,14)
Art by Isabelle Lawton © 2016. See more of her art/illustrations in my book of poetry, Remembering Softly : A Life In Poems.
 

 

After the Storm: Creation Heals

 

Our corner bee garden before the hail storm

It seems God created this world with the capacity for healing built into it.

I remember Kiki, my pediatrician friend, saying that she almost enjoyed it when she got a cut or other minor injury on a finger, because watching it heal was such a wonder. I took this statement from Kiki with a grain of salt. She, of course, doesn’t desire the hurts that come from random accidents and afflictions of this life.

When the hail storm hit in July, I did not enjoy seeing the near-golf ball size hail bombard our home and trees and gardens. In late July, when our gardens were at their lushest—when trees throughout town, flowers in front yards, fruits and vegetables in gardens, crops in the fields were flourishing—came a hard-hitting, hurling from the sky, storm of hail that broke, battered, tore, ripped. It only lasted a few minutes. But it left roofs with holes, windows cracked, siding pocked, bee hives panicked, birds injured, crops destroyed, gardens sad-looking.

Our gardens give us (my husband and me) pleasure. We love to share their beauty and bounty with others. So, in my disappointment over the storm’s devastation, for a few days emotional storm clouds threatened to descend into my soul.

Why, God? What’s the use of planting and tending and making beauty, if destruction can hit any time?

I know people who have weathered many storms—both storms of nature and stormy relationships. Some have given up or have chosen to play it safe in one way or another. Cut down the trees in their yard. Take out gardens and put in rocks. Choose to distance themselves from family and friends. And I’m sometimes tempted to react this way to life’s troubles and conflicts.

But I have been learning more and more to know God as Love. He doesn’t cause evil or bad things. He is not up there somewhere, angry and vindictive, choosing to send hail on some people and gentle showers on others, then watching to see our reactions.

I recently read the book, Does God Always Get What God Wants? by Tim Reddish. He writes: “The whole Godhead suffers to bring shalom to all of creation… To love our suffering sinful world is to suffer…. The one who does not see God’s suffering does not see his love. God is suffering love…. [However,] God doesn’t let suffering have the last word. Instead, God responds to every situation in ways that promote growth and healing.”

God is, always and everywhere, with us, rejoicing with us and suffering with us.

With that truth on my mind, I took advantage of a quiet morning to spend time in contemplative prayer. And there I regained a sense of help and hope.

I have found that contemplation often clears the way to action.

I put on my sun hat and garden gloves, took clippers and went out into my corner flower garden. I began cleaning up, clipping away broken, spent, bent branches and knocked-down leaves, twigs, and flowers. And as I did, with each clip, I said, “I choose hope.” “I choose love.” “I choose beauty.” “I choose to suffer with.” I choose to enter into even the suffering of nature. (We are in this life together, after all.) I choose to cooperate with God to bring order and beauty out of brokenness and chaos, to encourage hope, light, and healing. To expect renewal and new possibilities. I decided to try rooting some of the broken plant parts. I deadheaded to encourage new blooms. I noticed the bees were making the best of things, too, extracting juice from hail-broken rhubarb stalks. Perhaps they would process it into honey.

I will join nature in its response to our God’s ever-creating and re-creating presence. I will stay engaged, by God’s grace, open to His constant working to bring beauty and goodness and newness out of pain and loss and scars…to increase Shalom.

I grieve the losses, the hurts, the scars; but like my friend Kiki, amazed at watching her finger heal, I choose to embrace hopeful wonder.

May God’s kingdom come.


 

%d bloggers like this: