“I am afraid of emotions,” Mack admitted… “I don’t like how they feel.
I’ve hurt others with them and I can’t trust them at all.
Did you create all of them or only the good ones?”…
“Mackenzie.” [spoke] Sarayu “…Emotions are the colors of the soul;
they are spectacular and incredible.
When you don’t feel,
the world becomes dull and colorless.“
~ The Shack ~
Color. It lifts my spirits. It reminds me that God is still present. Still working. Good in spite of the brokenness and trauma that surrounds me.
Red to yellow through orangeWhen we first moved to Oklahoma in 1992 I came without a job. On days when my husband was in graduate seminars and I felt particularly down, I went to the fabric store. I walked around isles and isles and bolts and bolts of colored cotton fabric. I didn't know a soul in Norman and we had little money, but I immersed myself in color.
Yellow to blue through greens
Blue to red through violets
Nothingness to an array of blues
Immersed myself in good.
These past few weeks color has once again taken a prominent place in my life. Color studies visit my life in art displays and projects, spoken words, written words and book covers.
Recently our yoga instructor talked us through a mediation of sorts, a guided way to focus on stretching while breathing. She asked us to visualize the color of the stretch and then while releasing to visualize the change to another color.
I pictured red-hot red and the transition to yellow through beautiful oranges. I breathed… stretched… released… stretched and then released again. I breathed. Deep breaths. Breath that reminded me of life.
I relaxed more and stretched once again. This time my thoughts went from red to orange and stayed present with orange, comforted in orange.
While focusing on breathing my mind also centered on my dear, dear friend who recently _____ her daughter to suicide. I use a blank because no word seems to fit. Not “lost” to suicide because her daughter is still very much present in her thoughts. Not “experienced” suicide. Not past tense because the family still experiences the suicide and the loss of her physical presence every day.
When we visited recently we shared, we grieved, we paused in silence. In grief and sorrow sometimes words came, but most of the time nothing graced our lips. The thoughts and ache deep inside. Red-hot red thoughts. Red-hot red aches and sorrow.
In a loving grief inspired act, her daughter’s high school art class gave the family a painting her daughter helped create. Her small group expressed their color wheel study through a celestial view like what Hubble would see. The painting is stunning and the transitions around the color wheel seamless and timeless. My friend received the framed painting several days after her daughter’s suicide and I couldn’t help but tear up while she looked at the painting. I wondered about her thoughts and the rainbow of memories washing through her mind.
Not long ago while feeling especially fearful about our cross country move and my writing project I thought about the yoga meditation. I ask myself what color fits the pain I feel. Just when I think I’ll dive in and share my writings, the gremlins torment me. I get excited one moment and in a flash it’s gone and I am overcome with fear.
What color fits this pain?
The feeling is cold. I’m clinched.I visualize a drab gray, but honestly it feels like the absence of color. All life drains away when I listen to the critics’ voices. No blue, yellow or red undertones. Death really.
The feeling is terrified I will make a mistake; say something “unorthodox”.
This feeling says, “I don’t approve.”
It says, “Stop…no further. Too risky.”
It warns, “You are violating the rules. You’ve stepped out of the ‘good girl’ box.”
As with the yoga meditation I visualize the stretch and pain of stepping out of the “good girl” box. I choose the color blue my least favorite color. Instantly an array of beautiful blues comes to mind.
Deep rich Blue
Stepping through this rainbow of blues and weaving though these words, ever so slightly I felt the tight grip release. I don’t want to give into the critical voices and stop writing. I don’t want them to win, but their voices are strong in my head. I fear disconnection, which is death to me. It is a future fear not grounded in reality, but nonetheless in my present being vulnerable seems a gateway to disconnection.
Brené Brown speaks something in her book Daring Greatly that stirs my soul. To be vulnerable is “to engage”, to be “all in”. Vulnerability is “uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure”. Brené is adamant that vulnerability is not weakness.
As I dance with the blues I choose to engage “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure” and to release my tight grip on mechanisms I've chosen to protect my heart from being hurt or disappointed. I choose to face my shame triggers, to name them and question their message.
I grieved with my friend. The community grieved with my friend, her husband, and sons. The church literally overflowing. No standing room. People waited outside.
At her home, I held her face in my hands.
We’ve been through a lot together over the course of our friendship. I met her six-months before her daughter was conceived. Over these years we’ve talked a lot. Walked through a lot. Laughed a lot. Cried, grieved and prayed...a lot. She taught me that absolutely nothing is beyond God’s ability to redeem; nothing too tragic, too scary, too ugly.
My friend’s daughter took her life by cutting off breath. I thought of her today as my lungs fill with breath. Oh sweet one!!! Why? I search for understanding in a situation that defies understanding. Another friend said it well. Depression…the monster…grabbed hold and wouldn’t let go.
I want to believe God is in this and that God has not left us. I want to believe that all this will turn out for good. I’m supposed to believe “in all things God works for the good of those who love him,” a major tenet of my faith, but today it is difficult to accept from where I stand. How on earth will losing a daughter to suicide turn out for good? How can good come out of this; not tiny good, but huge good that explains why God did not step in and intervene.
I don’t understand why He didn’t. This is the fear of my struggle. I want to turn away in disappointment, but this color meditation points me back and reconnects me to God. Color is my promise that I can dialog with God about my fears, my disappointments (unanswered prayers), my confusion (why You did not intervene), my anguish over my friend’s daughter’s death.
Most of these questions will remain unanswered, but my grace is that I KNOW I can still speak my questions to God. I know He will meet me, hold my hand and walk with me in the confusion. I trust His character because He’s walked with me through many other circumstances. I've faced fears and failures, rejection and loss. Changed through them. Learned His character. Something new. Something deeper.
I didn’t always believe this, but I now know in my bones that God is good. Good whether the sun shines or not. Good whether I am rich or poor or in sickness or in health. Good whether I live or I die. Good in tragedy or in peace.
Today my hope comes from believing that what the enemy meant for evil will turn out to bring Life in much the same way that for some Jesus’ death was meant to be an end; a stop.
Through this tragedy and trauma I cling to hope that His ability to redeem anything will once again take flight.
As the weeks go by we are settling into our new life with new routines and new networks, most yet to be discovered. New places. New faces. Yet all this newness is mixed with discomfort, instability, and loneliness. My head spins up narratives that make the loneliness deeper. My friend’s daughter’s death still troubling me.
My friend and her family’s grief is a billion times more complex, painful, and tragic than mine, but I speak a feeble prayer in the face of my fears.
I bring all this to You. It is huge. Too huge for a human to deal with without Your intervention which brings me to my fear.
I’m hurt and my faith wavers. I still believe You are real and You are good. I do believe both, but I have a wound of mistrust. I don’t understand and not able to see why You didn’t step in and change the circumstances.
We prayed so much for her kids. We prayed and prayed. One of our constant prayers was for friends. In the aftermath we see that she many. For this I am grateful.
Did we not pray the right prayers?
Did we not pray enough?
Did we not use the right words or
use the right tone or body posture?
I suppose when I start asking these I’ve fallen in a trap. The trap says I can control and change people through my prayers. An alluring trap.
What is my safe question to ask? My insides in anguish. I come back to a place of great sorrow and grief. My heart weeps. I ask You to provide a support netting for my friend and her family to help them through this.
Even while writing this prayer I’m hesitant to ask. It breaks my heart that I hesitate to enter Your embrace. It’s not fear, but distrust and mistrust. I don’t know what to do except to confess this. Tears in my eyes and sorrow in my heart. I love You and I don’t want to turn away, but I’m so disappointed.
I feel like we exhibited great faith and learned to cling to You hard and fast. Maybe I thought this would carry to her children and You would protect them from all things. It’s so complicated; so very complicated.
I’m really hurt and not sure where to turn…
…still to You. You are my Stability. I am beloved and cherished. I have chosen to walk with You and accept Your wide open call to be a disciple and to step into Your flow.
Yes, again today I speak that You are my God. I will follow You even through this….even through this.
Strengthen my faith. Grant me empathy in greater measure. Empathy for those who struggle to believe You, trust you and to stay in spite of disappointment, loss and confusion.
You are my home.
While writing this prayer tears streamed down my face and angst expressed in my cries. My sweet dog, Gracie, walked over from across the room. She knew I was upset and pestering me with her nose she anxiously jumped in my lap. I buried my face in her fur and touched her dog tags. They made me smile. Her collar caught my eye among her beautiful black and white fur.
Turquoise. I smiled. Turquoise BLUE.
Embroidered in big letters is her name, “Grace”, followed by my husband’s cell phone number. The juxtaposition washed over me. Her name and our number necessary should she get lost.
I sent my friend a picture of Grace’s collar with these words:
Grace's collar with Brad's phone number reminds me today
that grace will always point me back home.
I was able to confess to Father today that I'm distrusting and mistrusting Him,
but I need home.
I need Him and I don't want to leave Him in my confusion, disappointment, grief, or sorrow.
I don't want to leave home, but my heart aches with confusion.
I'm trusting that Grace truly is my way back home.
Sending hugs to you my dear, dear friend and journey partner.
Today grace reminds me that God knows my grief and pain from loss.
my way back home.