Sunday, April 21, 2013

If Charlotte Bronte and I Could Have Tea

I have just learned, through the reading of Syrie James’ Author’s Afterword in her book The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte, that poor Charlotte died from hyperemesis gravidarum.  I was startled when I read the line; it struck me hard, as in "What?! That's like me!"  I even allowed myself a few tears, suddenly recalling my own wasted body and the feeling that I was not going to survive during  my two pregnancies. It sounds melodramatic, but there were times I wasn’t sure I would make it. It's not your run-of-the-mill morning sickness. I always feel a bit ashamed though, trying to explain to people.
Charlotte Nicholls (Bronte), married not even a year, died with her baby yet unborn . Weak from fever, nausea, vomiting, not able to eat and eventually unable to speak, she fell into a stupor and finally passed away.  What a tragic end— how many family deaths she had endured, years of heartache, and how brief her and Arthur Nicholls’ joy in being together.

The excerpt from James’book:

“Early on Saturday morning, March 31, 1855 – just three weeks short of her thirty-ninth birthday – Charlotte Bronte died….Charlotte’s death certificate made no mention of her pregnancy, stating that she died from “phthisis,” the same progressive wasting disease from which her brother and sisters had perished. Modern medical opinion, however, cites hyperemesis gravidarum (excessive sickness in a pregnant woman) as the cause.”  (James, p. 452)

Living a century and a half later, I had the medical care (eventually) that gave me a chance to recover and have my two children born, healthy and strong. But I remember the delirium,  the strange light-headedness of actually starving, sitting half passed out in a wheelchair in emergency, and later lying on a gurney in a crowded hallway. Late in the night a female doctor pried open my eyes and shone a light into them, one at a time. I heard her murmur, “You, my dear, are very far gone.”  Thankfully, over the next few days on IV drip, my mind and body came back to itself. A week later, I was in awe looking at Lauren’s tiny hands waving on the ultra-sound. How could someone else be surviving in my emaciated self? It felt actually miraculous. I am very blessed to have my two children. They are even more precious to me because of the struggle and intense battle that precluded their births.

 I know many mothers feel this way on some level, as there are many difficulties that occur on the way from pregnancy, to birth, to the newborn life. I’ve never met anyone though, who really understands what I went through. It was lonely and painful, but I think I understand something of the lucidity and deep waters that come from suffering, and for that I’m actually thankful.  To read that Charlotte Bronte, the author of Jane Eyre, eventually died from hyperemesis made me feel a strong kinship with her, long gone as she is. My heart broke for her, and her new husband, and their unborn little one who would never see the light. So much on earth ends in pain and sadness. I hear myself sounding terribly sentimental, but I suppose we all have our themes of sensitivity. Each of us has certain thoughts that summon sorrow and cause us to reminisce.

Apart from the sadness, and the kinship, the thing I most feel is gratefulness. Thankful that I was born in a time where help was available, when I could raise my beautiful girl and rambunctious boy and carry on with the business of living.

 If it wasn’t for the lasting literary triumph that is Jane Eyre, the world wouldn’t know of Charlotte Bronte, and I definitely would never have learned of how she left the world too soon.

Charlotte wrote under the pseudonym Currer Bell.
A portrait of Charlotte Bronte





Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Devotions From the Rut

My last post mentioned being in a type of spiritual rut.

    That's the low, carved-out place in the road, the easiest place for the wheel to fall into. I'm picturing a grey-brown side road in the country, rather muddy, trees close on each side, no gravel to speak of, and you're on your bike bumping along the rough middle when the tire slips into the deep rut on one side. It feels confined and hard to balance, but you stay there, hoping a chance will come to pull out of it. If not, you know you'll have to dig in and pedal hard, wrestle the handlebars and push the bike out with gritted teeth and determined effort.

That's the way it is.
Not a perfect analogy, but it works.
The trouble with ruts is you know you can't stay there too long. The close sides mean that if there is something ahead, if you hit a rock or a root or a bend in the road, you're hooped.
I'm still on the road, but how did I get in this rut? I wasn't paying attention. I didn't really care. It just happened.
And spiritual ruts are part of the journey, sometimes. I don't always feel close to God, I know that. I've been here before. He's still there, but my angle of looking at Him is different. Sometimes shadows pass before, or obstacles, or I don't want to look.
 I'm upset, I'm sad, I'm angry.....apathetic......any of those will lower my gaze.
The world is noisy; I was watching it and got distracted.
My troubles are many; I was pondering them or blinded by their intensity and turned away.
The good news is,
I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is the right road.
"Blessed are those whose strength is in You, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage."  Psalm 84:5

I'm not turning off the road. What a waste of time I know that to be! Not going to pretend I'm having the time of my life though; it's a lot of uphill. I'm tired and the bumps are jarring and I'd prefer to jump off the bike and throw it in the creek, yelling like a savage.
"All my longings lie open before you, O Lord; my sighing is not hidden from You. My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes." 
"I wait for You, O Lord; you will answer, O Lord my God. For I said, 'Do not let them gloat or exalt themselves over me when my foot slips.'"    Psalm 38:9-10, 15-16
I haven't made much progress this year, which is discouraging. I haven't become amazing and conquered all my fears. Falling down a lot of times, I have scratches and bruises that hurt and make me feel resentful. Bitterness can derail a journey faster than anything.
I think some people shake their head at Christians because we seem so attached to our little circles, our work at church, our way of life. We've found a nice, comfortable perch on which to look down at the rest of the world. People can see it's not all that genuine, at times, just comfortable. We don't talk about Jesus much. He's there in the background, smiling approvingly at our efforts, our tidy lives. At least that is the impression we have.

 I don't know many Christians who are open about their actual struggles; it is harder than it might seem to be honest and open. One reason is the smugness of other Christians who enjoy gossip and the good feeling they get when someone else is having a tough time. Another reason is human nature - we've learned to put our best foot forward. "I'm fine, thanks, just look at my Jesus bumper stickers!"
                                                  *       *       *     

The father of the demon-possessed child said to Jesus, "I do believe! Help me overcome my unbelief!" Mark 9:24 This has been called the foundation prayer of faith. He wants desperately to  know for absolute sure, to feel like he believes. He's humble enough to admit he does not.
True, deep commitment....can it exist with mental reservations? Seems so.

There needs to be space for doubt in the church. "You know what? I just don't get it" has got to be allowed. Swallowing doctrine and dogma hook, line and sinker can make a bunch of pretty dead fish. Think about it. Is blind acceptance real faith? Doubt has been a part of the Christian walk for thousands of generations of true saints.

Doubt can be used as an excuse for endless non-commitment. This is a different journey. This is an excuse to do nothing and look pretty good doing it.

Help my unbelief.

I continue to pedal up the rutted, pocked and slippery road, spattered with mud and looking less-than-lovely. I'm gathering strength from His Spirit within, from His words, His songs.

I'm really glad to be on this road. This is the road that leads home.

"Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire."   Hebrews 12:28-29


Friday, April 12, 2013

Stories, Poems, and Devotions. Oh MY!

I restarted this blog thing a while ago because I wanted to write devotionals, based on the Bible, with substance. What is a devotional, you might say? Yes, it is a word from the "Christianese" dictionary. It is simply a written or spoken mini-sermon, a short message that is meant to encourage, instruct, or challenge believers in God. My hope was to write devotionals unlike many I had tried to use in the past, especially with young people -- so many were trite and fluffy and trying really hard to be cool.

The thing with me is I never have to try to be cool because I simply am - Cool. (snort, smerp, chortle, simper, cough!)

Today I am battling a lovely lung infection or whatever, it makes me weak, tired, and my breathing is shallow and my heart is beating a little too fast. Now, don't be alarmed, I'm quite sure it's not pneumonia. I know, because I've had THAT thing twice. Which is why what for some people is a run-of-the-mill cold or flu, for me can be actually debilitating.

All That To Say.....

I noticed I haven't been writing devotionals lately. First, I'm in a bit of spiritual rut. A low point. Kind of muddy and well, low. Have I lost my faith? Oh no, not at all. I've been in these ruts before. It takes some serious horsepower to blast out of one, sometimes, and I haven't got the jam. Trouble is, the longer you stay in a rut, the deeper it gets, sometimes. If you could experience the Spring road conditions in Alberta right now you would know how appropriate this imagery is!

Second, I'm distracted by thinking up and writing stories. Plot lines and characters pop into my mind all the live-long day; it's like living in a parallel universe. The writing is going slowly as I feel discouraged a lot of the time, thinking that it's all garbage. It may very well be. The last thing I want is someone to read it and say, "Wow, yeah, amazing! I'm enthralled, really, I am!" while inside they are thinking "What-on-earth-was-that-even-about??" As in when a child shows you a painting and you rave and rave, it's beautiful! A pretty red flower on the hillside! but actually it's a helicopter filled with zombies that are spurting out red blood as they devour the passengers.... awkward....

The trouble with the stories I want to write is I have to be dead before they are published. The situations I want to write about would be too real, too obvious. It's a no-win situation! The proverbial Rock and Hard Place that my little ideas are stuck between.
I know how writers do it, they stick the character in but change the name, the age, even the gender, and then have them do the idiotic things that another heavily disguised character loathes and exposes.

For example, say a person you know lives in complete denial of an obvious problem. Let's stay very general, no reading between the lines, I'm actually not thinking of anything or anyone. Well, you change the problem, you change the person, but you take enormous delight in having them deal with it, vicariously through another character. A writer can even take a modern issue and transfer it, say, a few hundred years backward to the French Revolution, and deal with it there. Or take a hypothetical situation and thrust it forward fifty-odd years. What would the world be like, IF? Take Orwell's 1984.

The other writing I do is poems. Also rather obvious. Now I know why Emily Dickinson hid all her poetry in the dresser. No one needs to know how crazy I actually am! So what is the point of writing them, you ask? It's like condensed feeling. Like putting oranges, bananas, pineapples, mangos, and apples into the juicer, and all the pulp and peelings and unnecessary, fruity trappings are left in the bag and you have.... a small glass of pure flavor.  Writing a poem is like letting some air out of a too-full balloon, like hugging someone you love but haven't seen in a long time, like a loud laugh outside after a 4-hour silent examination in a stuffy room.  It has to be done. It brings relief. Simile number's like exposing a festering, painful wound at last to open air and clean water.
Regardless of the readership, poems get written.

I've wondered if I should have three blogs,  Devotions, Stories, and Poetry. Maybe in future, if I keep this up. I don't think I'm brave enough, though, for the Stories and Poems. Maybe that's a good thing.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Take Your Own Advice

Been awhile since I've been on here! Did you miss me? :-D
              Ahahahaha!  How I enjoy mocking myself.

 "It's not funny!!" "Yes it is." "You're just mean!!" "That may very well be." "People should know what you're REALLY like!!" "Well, they do now, Ms. Double-Exclamation-Points." "It's not funny!!"

 Yes, I'm talking to myself. It's fun. Or am I blogging to myself....? I should possibly look into medication....

Well, in other news, Today I Am Painting. Now, I know it doesn't appear that way, as typing and painting are generally incompatible, but I have Big Plans. Though the ambition, and the can of paint, have been lying dormant on the floor for various and sundry reasons (some involving sickness, children, a sewer emergency, birthdays, kittens being born, substitute teaching and copious, unwelcome snowfall) today I have barely any reasons why I can't get painting.

(insert swig of luke-warm coffee here)

I'm excited because the color is divine. Jamestown Blue. Oh it's perfect, I love blue, I always paint in other colors, and finally....BLUE. Like coming home. Coming home to Jamestown. (HA HA! Who comes up with these names???? Why is Jamestown blue?)

(insert call from daughter who is sick and needs to be picked up from school)

Well. I had fine hopes.  Hopes of a stimulating and thought-provoking discussion about how people should take their own advice. You know, like when you are thinking, "I totally know what so-and-so should be doing." Or when someone actually asks you what they should do. "I'm exhausted and I feel like I am letting my family down and running myself into the ground! What do I do?" and you say, "Possibly, now don't get me wrong, but possibly, you should quit your job and take a step back. Re-gather your scattered wits and let your brain atrophy so that the cells can multiply without assault."

I was going to launch into how we should ask ourselves what advice we would give to someone in our situation, and then try taking it. Hence, the title above.

What are you struggling with? What are you weary of? Do you feel like you are veering off course?

Think for a moment. How would you answer someone else in your situation, with your particular bent and set of circumstances? Is it possible that you do know what to do? It could at least start the process, bring maybe a bit of clarity, wipe a clean spot on the smudgy window of  the issues at hand.

However!! I must fly!!! I must rescue said daughter in distress! And then I will paint. I will!!
"Yah right." 'Don't you talk back to me. I've had enough out of you." "You wish."  DOH!!!