Captured by Pam

words and images by pam wright

Month: October 2013 (page 1 of 2)

Captured: Grief-tide

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I have been through many seasons of grief. I’ve grieved over the death of loved ones, over the end of relationships, and over the end to a way of life. Grief happens whenever we lose something that is dear to us. The degree to which I suffer varies, but it is never a pleasant experience, and, well, grief is grief. Like the tide, we cannot control grief… it ebbs and flows of it’s own accord.

I lived in France for many years, and there, the tide is called La marée … we spent our summers at a house in Le Moulleau, near Arcachon. I remember that the tide would be greater or smaller depending on the moon. When the moon was full, especially at the spring and autumn equinox, they called it La grande marée … this is the time when the tide was said to rise as fast as a galloping horse at Mt. St. Michel. Where we stayed further south, the tide would be so great that the entire beach would be engulfed with water at high tide.

I find that my grief is like the tide … sometimes it’s like la grande marée and my whole soul seems to be consumed by my grief. There are days that ebb, when I feel like my old self, full of confidence and hope; then there are days that flow, when I have difficulty even breathing. I even find that sometimes I’m caught in a riptide, unable to find my way back to shore.

I’m in a season of grief now and it has been a true grande marée. But, it has taught me much. I find that I don’t always handle grief well. I tend to try to control my grief by doing things …

… going for a run

… taking a drive

… watching endless amounts of television

… eating ridiculous amounts of junk food

… lashing out at those around me

Rather than allow the sorrow to come…. I’ll do whatever to forget about the pain for a bit.

What God has been teaching me through this particular season of grief is that if I try to control my grief, I only make things worse. Instead of handing over my grief to God and allowing myself to grieve in his care, I tend to react poorly, trying to control my circumstances. I so want to be that happy, everything-is-fine person that I stuff it down, deep down, until the moment it erupts. And these past few weeks, I fell into the same old patterns and the truly ugly in me emerged. I’ve hated myself for the way I’ve reacted and it hurts even more to realize that I’m capable of being the person I really just don’t want to be.

God has been whispering to me that the only way to heal is to offer forgiveness, to others and to myself, and to make amends when I react poorly. By reacting in anger, hurt and bitterness, I’m only prolonging the pain. God is asking me to allow him to control my grief, to fall into his arms, and to accept grief for what it is … a time to mourn what is lost, to seek his face, to be changed by what is revealed in me, and to heal.

I don’t like the pain and other negative emotions that have rippled through my days of late, but I am full of gratitude, as well. God has been revealing things in me that need to change; things that I can offer up to him for his refinement. I’m grateful because I do want to change, to be more ‘Christ-like’ in my relationships… with Jesus, with the people God has placed in my life, and with myself.

In grief-tide, it seems that the best thing to do is relax, surrender to the ebb and flow, and trust in the healing waters of Jesus’ love, comfort and forgiveness.

Captured: Just Some (deep) Thoughts…

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God and I have been in deep, deep in discussion over the past few months… He has been revealing so much to me through His word, prayer, music, nature, books, and through sermons. I say ‘revealing’ because I’m realizing that God does not teach us anything, it is revealed because being ‘created in His image’ means that truth is already a part of our being, but has been ‘hidden’ from us because of sin. That’s why most people are born with a sense  of justice, why we love , and why we are appalled by violence and hate. We WERE ALL created in the image of God with all of His/Their (Father, Son and Spirit) qualities. But we turned from it and the full glory of who and what we were created to be is gone. What is left is so evil, we can’t even be in the presence of our good and sovereign God apart from Jesus

There is one particular series of sermons that has made a great impact on me … the ‘Doctrine Series’ by Mark Driscoll. He really helped me to understand the concept of what being ‘created in the image of God’ means and its implications for our lives today. As image bearers of God, we were meant to live in a ‘shalom’ relationship in 4 areas: with God, with others, with the environment and with our selves. But, because of the fall, all those relationships were severed.

We suffer greatly from our separation from God and many don’t even realize that this is why they suffer.  Most of our relationships with friends, peers and family are accompanied by problems and misunderstanding and often times, with heartbreak, bitterness and pain. When God made Eve from Adam’s rib, he sang about the joy of having Eve by his side… but when Eve sinned because of the lie she believed… that God was holding something, some pleasure from her – which is why we all, still to this day, try to control our lives rather than trust and rely on God with the leading and direction of our lives. Because of Eve’s sin, Adam immediately assumed the posture of a victim and pointed his finger first at Eve, then at God for giving her to him in the first place. Many of us are very guilty of blaming others for all the hardships, sin and pain in our lives, instead of accepting responsibility for our sin. They are ours and ours alone.

Instead of the Garden of Eden, we now live in an environment where people starve, there are tsunamis, accidents happen, tornadoes wreck havoc, and pollution destroys any semblance of the beauty God created in nature.

And above all, we suffer because of the glorification of very selves… we have come to worship the created rather than the creator. Instead of loving God and loving others like God has always loved us, we create idols of ourselves. Our desire now is to glorify ourselves rather than to glorify the image of God in us.

We talk a lot about hypocrisy. I agree that hypocrisy is a particularly painful sin for the person who continues to do the things that brings anything but glory and honor to God, as well as to those around him or her.  At the same time, I’m finding that discussions on hypocrisy are futile because there is not a single person who is not a hypocrite, myself included. I was shown this in a very powerful way this summer when God revealed my own sin like never before. I was shown that every thought, every emotion, every gesture ultimately was about myself, no matter what I did. I realized that I was guilty of spiritual pride… I thought that God had done so much in my life and I was free from so many of the bigger, more obvious sins like my alcoholism. And He has done so much and my life has changed dramatically. I am so very grateful. But I realize, too, that God has only barely touched the surface of my sins. I understand that my sin is deep and all pervasive. This is what the fall has done to all of us. One sin isn’t greater than another… sin is sin. Whether one of us drowns our sorrows in drugs or alcohol, or spending, or porn, or whether we stay at home and glorify ourselves for being so ‘good’’, we are all guilty. When we get disappointed in ourselves or shamed by ourselves or proud of ourselves, it’s because we love ourselves so much. And I agree, guilt is a good thing if it turns us towards God, but it becomes a sin if we turn from God in shame because of it. So many feel like we’re not good enough to be with God… we think we have to wait until we become good… until our behavior is such that God will love us again. That’s so false. God does love us. He just wants us in relationship AT ALL TIMES. And we must remember that God’s unfailing love and Jesus’ gift of salvation is absolutely not a free ticket to sin… we are held even more accountable to our sin because this truth has been revealed to us… that’s why the gift of the Holy Spirit’s conviction can be so painful at times.

When faced this summer with the extent to which I sin on a daily basis, I was heartbroken and began to feel like it was hopeless… how could I contain my thoughts, my actions… how could I begin to love God, the environment and others more than myself? How could I find shalom in all the areas of relationship that God intended for us?? I saw it as insurmountable.

In the weeks since, I have been realizing that I was right… it IS insurmountable of my own devices. I cannot change my heart or my behavior. But, I can give it up to God to do that work in me. Only God can ENABLE me to love in that way, by the power of the Holy Spirit. I am coming to realize that I really do need to let go and let God have everything that is ‘me’… from every thought, every desire, every emotion… everything. My desires MUST be God’s desires. It’s not just the big, obvious sins that I must relinquish. No, I need to relinquish and surrender my very life. The words, ‘my life is not my own’ is becoming very real to me… slowly but surely.

In a sermon about God’s Image, Mark Driscoll referred to something Calvin said about how we are like a mirror intended to reflect the image of God… but that, with sin, the mirror is broken, reflecting a distorted image of God. And that it is only through Jesus that we are able to reflect a more genuine reflection because He Himself is the image of God. I love that.

Our reason for living, our reason for doing anything really is to love others more than self, as Jesus did, and to reflect Jesus. Apart from that, life is wrought with pain, and futility and is entirely unfulfilling.  I had a friend who always used to say, ‘we are here for a purpose, with purpose.’ He’s so right. And our purpose truly is to reflect… to each other, to our friends, our families, and to our foes … a clear image of God, though Jesus Christ.

As we give our lives over to God, as we study His word and as we come to love Him more each day, He enables us to love like He loves us, which, in turn, affects our behavior. We tend to try to control our behavior, which, in my case often leads to a loss of control… in my actions, in my words, in my thoughts… Instead, we should allow God to work in us, returning the broken shards of our broken mirror into one of clarity and perfection. He alone gives us the capacity to love outside of ourselves. If we allow Him in, He fills us with love, which then overflows to those around us. But, we must, at all times, stay close… without being close to Him through prayer, worship, study and fellowship, we are not ‘softened’ enough to allow Him in to make the change in us.

We are responsible for this… it doesn’t just happen. It is a RELATIONSHIP… a relationship cannot happen without communication, discussion, love and caring… we must engage in the relationship in order to be changed!! And one of the more wonderful benefits that I am coming to appreciate and enjoy is that it makes the hard parts of life so much easier to bear… because, every once in a while, there is less of me and more of Him. And in those moments, when my heart is breaking, God finds a way to express His comfort and love and grace to me, and I am filled with hope and awe and wonder and joy. It’s a very different experience from the days when my relationship with God was pretty much non-existent…

I really believe our joy is rooted, not in the job or the spouse or the children we have or the ‘good works’ we accomplish, although these are blessings that God provides and loves to offer… he does love to give us presents… but real joy lies in our willingness to mirror Jesus, to be in relationship with God and to love others more than self.

Nothing else can even touch that!

Captured: Querencia

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(This comes for a devotion I shared with kids at a preparatory meeting for VIDA Nueva on Jan. 31, 2009. Reading it again today was a good reminder to always invite Jesus into all that I do, into my life circumstances and into every other aspect of my life …) 

I want to tell you about Wednesday. It was a good day in the end, and I was reminded in a powerful way about two of God’s lessons. They weren’t new lessons for me, but I was shown them in a really cool way.

The first lesson was this:

When Brittney, Francis, Amos and I met this week to prepare for today’s meeting, it came to me that I really needed prayer against distractions. I was feeling like everything was getting in the way of my time with God. I really thought that if I could make a greater commitment to having more quiet time or being more focused on my relationship with God more often during the day, things would be better.

And, so, we prayed for that specifically.

And God had an answer to me for that prayer… the next day…

In October, I read an amazing book that I know some of you have read called The Shack. It’s a great book that has shown me so much about the nature of God. I gave it to my best friend, Helen, to read and she just returned it. As I was flipping through the pages, I came across a section of the book with my typical underlines, circles, highlights, lots of exclamation points and stars. I read it and had a ‘eureka’ moment. In the novel, the main character is having conversations with a personified God.

Here’s the section that interested me:

God and the main character are having a conversation about this very topic and the main character asks God, ‘Don’t you want us to set priorities? You know: God first, then whatever, followed by whatever?

And God Says: The trouble with living with priorities is that it sees everything as a hierarchy, a pyramid. If you put God at the top, what does that really mean and how much is enough? How much time do you give me before you can go on about the rest of your day, the part that interests you so much more?

You see, I don’t just want a piece of you and a piece of your life. Even if you were able, which you are not, to give me the biggest piece; that is not what I want. I want all of you and all of every part of you and your day. I don’t just want to be first among a list of values; I want to be at the center of everything. When I live in you, then together we can live through everything that happens to you. Rather than a pyramid, I want to be the center of a mobile where everything in your life is connected to me.’

WOW… it reminded me so powerfully that this was exactly what I have been doing… I was making lists, setting priorities. Yes, I was trying to make God my priority, but I was actually getting it all wrong. I should not be worrying about distractions from God. I cannot stop the distractions from coming… life is so full of distractions. We are busy. We spend time reading and watching TV and doing other enjoyable activities. We spend time in prayer. We go to church. But, he doesn’t want us to spend an hour on Sunday, or certain parts of the day in prayer or in quiet time with him, etc. He wants the joys, the laughter, as well as the tears… even the times when we are ashamed of ourselves. He wants to be our constant companion for everything. I’ve also learned that nothing will ever disappoint Him… He already knows every single thing I will do, every single day of my entire life. He’s not surprised by anything. He simply wants us to include Him… just like a lover wants to be included in everything concerning the beloved…  the good AND the bad.

OK… great, sure… I want that too… but how do I do that… with a bracelet, an alarm, what… ?? How do I feel an intangible presence all the time? I’m a really touchy/feely person, so this is very hard for me. My love language, if you’ve heard of the love languages, is physical touch and God’s seems to be quality time. How do we broach our differences?? And yes, I do feel closest to God when I am surrounded by beauty, etc… I am reminded of His glory, but what about in the mundane of life?? While grading papers, or washing dishes, or simply lying around doing nothing? It’s even harder to feel close to God then.

The ONLY answer I came up with is to pray for it, to pray that God creates this in me, does that work in me, because I know that I can’t do it by myself. So, my prayer has changed from God protect me from distractions, to God come with me into the distractions, to be with me in everything … please help me to feel your presence in all aspects of my life… I want you there for everything… the good, the bad and the ugly!!

The other ‘lesson’ is this….

That same day, I was perusing a book for English classes about writing, called Writing toward Home. One section of the book talks about finding your ‘querencia’. Now, apparently querencia comes from the world of bullfighting… the bullfighters want, above all else, to keep the bull from his querencia… the place in the bullring where the bull feels most at home, a place where he derives his strength… it’s a dangerous place for the bullfighters because now the bull has the upper hand… they’ll do everything to keep the bull from that place. They study the bull to learn this about him.

So the exercise in the book calls for writers to find their querencia… the ‘wanting place’ where they feel most at home; a place from which they can garner inspiration for their writing.

This led me to contemplate my own ‘querencia’… yes, I am inspired and feel at home in nature, with a camera in my hand, when I listen to music, when I sing, when I am surrounded by beauty, when I journal, when I write. And it also came to me that these are also the very places where my desire and my longing for God are most palpable. For me, it’s the same place.

Well after reading about this and contemplating on it, I went back to The Shack again and thought more about priorities, etc…  and I came across something I had written on one of the pages. In Guam, where I initially read the book, at a cross country meet that I was coaching, I had to accompany a runner to the hospital after she was injured. While waiting for her to be treated, I read the book, and I wrote this in a margin….

(A baby is crying here, saying over and over ‘I want to go home’- she knows it’s safe there… much like we long for that somewhere safe…) Whoa!!! I read that and was so amazed… I wrote underneath that statement… ‘querencia!!!’ … so ironic!! Or was it… )

That night as I lay in my bed feeling sad and sorry for myself, I began to contemplate this ‘querencia’ idea. That’s when both lessons of the day kind of came together. I was crying… feeling really miserable. I remembered how God wants to be a part of everything, so I invited God to share in my pain … I was reminded of times when I would just cry, never sharing it with God… instead, just feeling incredible loneliness.

As I lay there crying, praying, and talking to God, the ‘querencia’ idea led me to imagine where my ‘querencia’ really was. I wanted strength and I wanted peace. In the desire to share my pain with Jesus, an image came to me. I was lying on my side on my bed, in a fetal position, hugging a pillow to me… But, in my mind, I saw myself lying in the same position, but now at the foot of the cross, with Jesus hanging on the cross above me. It was a very vivid picture in my mind and heart. I was lying there, gathering strength and sharing my soul with Jesus. I could smell the dust and feel the hard ground, the air was warm, and I could feel the blood and tears fall from Jesus onto my body… grace rained down upon me in the form of blood and tears… and understanding. He knew first-hand my pain… and he comforted me there, in his own pain…

I felt safe there. I felt entirely myself there. I didn’t have to pretend like everything was alright and I didn’t have to put on a happy face like I do much of the time. He knows me. He loves me. I’m safe there. He’s my ‘querencia’… there at the foot of his cross.

ISAIAH 40:33

But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

My prayer for all of you is that you, too, begin to invite God into all aspects of your life, not just relying on the QT’s, or praise times, or VIDA meetings, or church to be with God, (mind you, these are all VERY important) … but to bring Him into everything you do because…He’s there already…

He IS your Querencia…

Captured: Caesar

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Francis Ware Wright, Jr.

My Dad… that was his name at birth… (He’s the one on the right in the photo)

There’s a great story of how my Dad got the name of ‘Caesar’, the name most of his friends and family called him for the greater part of his life. As legend goes, when he and his family moved to Uniontown, PA, his mother told stories of Julius Caesar. He hated the name Francis and so, when he arrived in Uniontown, and when the local kids asked his name, he said…

… Just call me Caesar!

I love that story!

Honestly, the relationship with my dad was far from ideal and it has left me with scars… they say that a child’s wellbeing is determined by their relationship with their father… and it also determines how they view God, as Father. I’ve been hurt. I remember the look of hate in my dad’s eyes as he looked at me. I remember when he’d say that I was ‘nothing but a snotty-nosed brat’… I remember how much he loved my mother and how he would say to me… ‘You’ll never be anything as wonderful as your mother’…

And I remember the 2 things that really stick out in his love for me…

I brought a boyfriend home from college, who had the audacity to  ditch me the first night to go out and party with my brother, leaving me home alone. Dad didn’t like that. The next morning, my dad said… ‘Good morning, _____, When are you leaving?’ Yea, he really didn’t like that this boy left me hanging and he let it be known.

And the other is when I was 29-years-old and he said to me, ‘You are such a beautiful woman, Pam… but, you know… it’s all downhill from here… a woman after 30 is done…’

I can actually laugh at that now….

My dad didn’t have an easy life. His mother died of ALS (or Lou Gehrig’s disease) and from what I know… it was awful. His first wife, the momma of my older, half-brothers, died suddenly of a heart attack at a very young age, leaving him to take care of 3 boys…

It destroyed him.

And alcohol was all that could console him. I know little of the years that followed, but I know that life was not easy for my half-brothers and sister, or for me and my little brother, once we came into the family.

It got really messy…

Eventually, he stopped drinking…

But, he was not happy… he hurt… he lost his job… he tried to begin again… and my mom found herself in the workforce for the first time… as a reporter for a newspaper.

It wasn’t easy… we moved from a very large home into a tiny apartment… it’s only natural that a man would react with shame and hurt… lashing out at those closest to him, when he failed in his own eyes… it hurts me to think about how he must have felt… it totally wasn’t his fault. It was just he way things happened…

However, I’ve been affected from this past… it has filtered into many of my own relationships and more importantly, how I view God. I’m working diligently to see God for who He is rather than the ‘paternal’ filter that I have from the experience I have here on Earth… God has been very good in reconciling the dichotomy of my viewpoint.

But, today…. I look at the photo above of my Dad with his best friend, Bill… and my heart just melts.

He was a man who loved his family, he loved fishing (I still wish he could have seen the movie, ‘A River Runs Through It’… he died just before it came out.. it is my favorite short story and movie and it is so reflective of my family!!! He would have loved it!!) …

My dad was a sentimental man.

I remember how he would start piling up the equipment to go up to Lake Erie each summer, where we had a cottage … that was our only vacation, but it was the place I long for, even today… Dad couldn’t wait to get there and we’d hear stories of how he and his BFF, Bill Hoyer, would catch bass after bass. He taught me how to rig a rod, catch a fish… appreciate nature.

And he loved the Ohio State University… he loved everything about OSU and football… he loved Woody Hayes, met Jesse Owens while they were both students in the 1930’s, rarely missed an OSU home game, always carried a buckeye in his pocket… he taught me about loyalty… and a love of sports…

I still love the lulling sound of sports on TV as I fall asleep… my mom worked most nights, but dad always had sports on TV… and the sound of that is very soothing. It may sound weird, but sports commentary is a sort of lullaby for me…

OH MY… I love my Dad! I miss my Dad!

I remember Christmas… he would tear up every time George Bailey would run home at the end of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and he’d realize how much he is loved. Yes, my dad loved all of us so much … but I was blind to that. I just saw him as mean, seeing the man who filtered his own pain into the relationships that mattered most…. but I just thought he was a horrible person…

OH, I was wrong.

I’m so much like my dad… I love what he loved… fishing, sports, family… water.

God.

Dad once said that the reason he loved fishing so much is because it is when he feels closest to God.

Ah man… we had a complicated relationship… yes, he hurt me.

But, I love him… I miss him… He was a GOOD man… he’s no different than you or I…

Today, despite the pain he caused in my life… and my goodness, we all cause pain in each other’s lives …

… especially in family…

I appreciate, love and miss the man who once said…

… ‘Just call me Caesar!’

Captured: Cosi

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I have a dog… a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Her name is Cosi… actually her AKC official name is Cosette Lexington Le Bruis… after my favorite book, Les Miserables, the city where we live, and my ancestor, Robert the Bruce.

But, I call her Cosi.

She is lying next to me right now.

So much has been written about dogs… about their unconditional love. Well, I’m going to join the masses who love dogs and share what she means to me …

She is my mini-me… she mirrors every emotion. If I’m joyful, she bounds with enthusiasm. If I’m sad, her big brown eyes reflect the same. Sometimes, when I am sad, she puts her paws and little head on me and I think… that position canNOT be comfortable, but she doesn’t seem to care… she just wants to comfort.

She follows me everywhere. When I get up, she gets up…

When I lie down, she follows…

The only time she seems to envy my life is when I’m eating a steak… She looks up at me with those eyes, seeming to say…. ‘Dude, that smells and seems like SO much better than the kibbles you feed me’. Who can blame her? Steak v. Dog food… yea, I’d go with steak, too!

Apart from the food envy, the only thing she seems to worry about is me. When I watch her, I am reminded of the verses from Matthew 6:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not     life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

She doesn’t even worry about today… she just lives and loves.

Even if I am cross with her, she just wags her tail… time and time again. Sometimes, I envy her… I wonder what she thinks about and I often wish I could be so simple in my existence… just love those around me, never worry because my ‘master’, my heavenly father, will always take care of me… I just need to frolic about, running and chasing butterflies, and leaves, like Cosi… enjoying life just because we are alive… serving, with love, as my puppy serves me. I can learn much about loving from my dog.

I’ve often thought about the ‘eyes’ in my life… it seems to me that I’ve come across eyes that can only show disdain, disappointment and judgment…

the look in people’s eyes have hurt me…

In fact, I’ve yearned for the moment when I meet Jesus and I will see only love in his eyes…

… and this may sound weird, but my dog always looks at me with love… she doesn’t know anything else…

… just like Jesus…

He IS love, so he cannot look upon me with anything but love… I am his bride!

I pray that the ‘look’ I offer others, and the comfort, and the unconditional love is like my dog, Cosi. When I’m sad, she doesn’t say anything… sometime words don’t help… instead, she just looks at me with those big, brown eyes and I know she is communicating: I’m sorry… I love you… I understand.

And that’s all I need.

Yes, Cosi is a wonderful role-model!

I want to be just like her!

Captured: 49 Days – 49 Days

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I’ve often heard the expression… ‘What will you do with the dash of your life?’ … referring to the dash between your date of birth and your date of death. For example, if I were to die this year, mine would be 1963 – 2013… in other words, what did I do with my life between those dates… what did my dash represent…??

I’m kind of doing the same with the dash in between the birth and death of my ‘love story’ … 49 Days – 49 Days. What happened in that dash? Still trying to figure that out!!!

Let me explain… I met ‘my love’ on an internet dating site. Yea, I know, but I was was cautious… oh, I was cautious. I met a man who was so like me… we loved to write, we loved God, we loved sports, we loved to be punctual (and in a world where everyone around me always seems to be late that’s a big one for me!!)…

We made plans to devote our lives to God, to each other, to our families, to work as a team for missions in Guinea and Guatemala… and to follow God’s purpose for our lives…

…we were a ‘match made in heaven’… I believe this because all we did from the time we met on-line, until the moment we met in person, 49 days later, was to write and share our souls. We never spoke on the phone, no skyping… we decided we would only write to each other until the day he would come to see me for the first time. Oh my… I couldn’t have met a man more perfect for me… a man who wanted to get to know my soul, above all, through letter writing… ??? Are you serious??

We wrote volumes… I mean volumes… so much so that on my 50th birthday, ‘my love’ offered me a book that he made for me… the best gift I have EVER received… compiling all of our correspondence those first 49 days… the cover of which you can see above.

The significance of the ducks in the photo … a photo I took on the day he proposed to me under a lighthouse (one of my favorite things and how he found a lighthouse in Texas is remarkable, but he managed to find one) … is that, in Korea, where I lived for many years, couples are offered wedding ducks as a symbol of fidelity for life. ‘My love’ knew this, which is why he used my photo on the cover of the book he offered.  Actually, I had a pair of Korean ducks that I bought myself in the hope of someday meeting someone, and I gave him one of them to keep until we were married… uniting the ducks as we became united. He still has that duck…

Tomorrow is significant for me because I will mark 49 days since the day I said goodbye to him… 49 days ago, he held me in his arms, told me it wasn’t over, that he had to follow God, with the parting words, ‘I love you too, honey’…

49 Days – 49 Days

What happened in the dash??? How did we get from A to B?? Of course, it’s a two-way street… YES, I made mistakes… but, I still don’t understand… we all make mistakes! I fail… he fails…

… we all fail. God is Bigger than failure, right???

In any case, falling in love with him was one of the most beautiful times of my life … his words were magic… our future seemed secure… he was the first man to get on one knee for me… I’d never been proposed to… he promised to take care of my heart, my health, my kids, my life… I’ve never been happier. We prayed every night together… on Skype, and then, when we were in the same city…. every night before we parted, we prayed…

Which is why the ‘dash’ is so hard to figure out… for me and for my family… we all believed.

Today’s sermon at church was about the ‘voice’ of Jesus, our shepherd… and how a sheep knows his shepherd’s voice and will only respond to that sound. The problem with humans is that we hear other voices that distract us, rather than the voice who most wants to protect us … and so often we only hear our own voice, a voice from within, based on filters of the past, and our own longings and desires, rather than the voice of the one who loves us most. And, so, we wander off from the direction of our shepherd.

What I’ve learned in the past 49 Days is that the only voice I should ever trust is the voice of my shepherd, Jesus… He is the only one who can protect me from the wolves, the thieves, those who might harm me, whether intentionally or just out of the circumstances of life… or perhaps because they themselves are not listening to the voice of their ‘shepherd’…

… instead they wonder off, as well … towards the desires of their own hearts… forgetting the sound of the shepherd’s voice… and his direction…

It’s so confusing, right??? Honestly, I believe discernment is what I struggle with most of all… who am I hearing??? How can I be sure it is God’s voice that I am hearing??? Yes, I’ve heard that if it’s in alignment with Jesus’ life and the Word, then we ARE hearing the voice of our ‘shepherd’… and we are in His will for our lives…

‘My love’ is human… he did the best he could… he failed in my eyes… but that is just ‘the voice’ I am hearing… I am not God, so I cannot know how God sees this other than to know this…

God loves me…

God loves ‘my love’…

And He wants the best for us both…

Each night, I continue what ‘my love’ and I first started the day those first 49 Days were completed … the day we first heard each other’s voice …

I pray for him… and I can still hear his voice praying for me…

I miss his voice… and I miss praying with him each night… not gonna lie about that… after holding someone’s hand and praying as a ‘chord of three’ and then being once again alone isn’t easy…

But, honestly, I feel safe and sound within the hearing distance of my shepherd… the one who calls me ‘my darling, my dear, my child, my beloved… my sweet, hurting girl…’

Yea… I’ll stay close to him… his voice is pure… it’s powerful… will never falter… and will keep me safe! And when I do wander off into treacherous terrain… I know he’ll come after me to lead me back where it is safe… and I love that!

49 Days seems like the perfect time to ‘put a bow’ on the finished gift of my ‘love story’…

… because it was a gift.

49 Days – 49 Days

… for me, the dash was love.

Captured: Make You Feel My Love

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There are lots of reasons why Lea Michele’s cover of one of my absolute favorite songs by Bob Dylan, Make You Feel My Love, is touching me tonight…

The show, Glee, was a big part of my life for a long time… I grew up singing… I was in a Glee Choir much like the ‘kids’ on the show… in Ohio, as coincidence would have it… and I loved the show the minute it came on. When they sang the Journey song, Don’t Stop Believing, at the end of the first episode, I was hooked!! In fact, I wish I could find the link that my kids did for me of the song for Mother’s Day… it was hilarious and showed just how much I loved the show and song…

While living in Korea, I had a ‘Glee’ party every week and other American friends would come to my apartment, we’d fix some kind of snack and we would watch… singing along and laughing at the antics of the characters … It brought me home… to my roots in music and my roots in America… yep, everything I loved.

And then when I learned of the death of Cory Monteith this summer due to an overdose of heroin and alcohol… I was deeply saddened…

I know both sides of addiction… and the pain it causes….

I understand because I have suffered from addiction to alcohol myself and can understand Cory’s pain, but because I watched someone, and cared for someone who I thought would die night after night because of his own addictions, I understand what it is to love and care from someone addicted.

My friend was addicted to so many things, including heroin and ‘benzos’, and I would stay up night after night and count his breaths… knowing that the combination of the drugs and alcohol just basically made someone stop breathing in their sleep… I knew if it got below 7 breaths per minute, I needed to call someone… I became an expert on addiction… I was on the internet constantly, researching… just wanting to know how to help, but no matter how hard I tried, he wouldn’t seek help…

… I was scared for my friend.

Scared of this world.

… and that’s what happened to Cory Monteith. He was alone in a hotel room with no one to count his breaths… I listen to Lea Michele’s cover of ‘Make You Feel My Love’ and I KNOW there are so many who wish they could make those they love who are addicted KNOW how much they are loved. I’m sure she wishes she could have been there to count his breaths. It doesn’t matter that they were celebrities… they are no different than the rest of us….

So, I hurt for her as well… and I hurt for my kids and other loved ones who wanted me to be well…

However, in the throws of addiction, none of us can ever hear how much we are loved… we can only hear the siren call of comfort found in a bottle, or a pill, or food, or porn, or… whatever it is…

And I KNOW God feels the same for his addicted children … oh, how his heart must break!! He screams that he could ‘make us feel his love’… it’s hard though to hear that still, small voice in the midst of hurt and distractions and the disappointments of this world.

It’s hard!

… there was nothing I could do about the man I cared for. There was nothing my family could do for me… I had to make the decision to stop… He had to make the decision to stop…

I still don’t know if my friend has stopped using … I tried to help and share what I know of God’s love. And I pray for him…

My heart bleeds for those who suffer from addiction and those who love those addicted. It is the work of the devil. It is vile, it is rampant… our whole world suffers from addiction.. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, successful or failing… addiction touches us all… one way or another…

…and there is only one defense… God! He’s the only cure…

Tonight, I will watch the tribute to Cory Monteith on the Glee episode, thinking of the millions of others who suffer from the addictions of this world and those who love the addicted …

in this messed up world that is so perilous to our souls!

And I will be praying…

… praying for the day when Jesus returns and all this can be put behind us… the day when there will be no more pain, no more tears…

… only love… and joy…

… and singing!

Captured: Sea Glass

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As a child, I loved to collect sea glass. We owned a cottage up at Lakeside, OH on Lake Erie, where I would spend hours upon hours collecting sea glass, organizing it into the various shades of blue and green and brown, marveling at how the water could make the edges so smooth… I continually ran my fingers along the edges, feeling the contours and textures.

Somewhere along the way I forgot about my childhood collection of sea glass…

A couple of years ago, while walking along a beach in S. Korea, I came across a piece of sea glass in the sand. Tears filled my eyes as I was wrenched immediately back to that time of my youth. I remembered that not only was sea glass a part of those endless summer days many years ago, it was also a time when I was formulating dreams for my life… dreaming of the prince charming who would be by my side for ever.

In contrast, as I came across that piece of glass on the smooth sand of Taejon Beach many years later, I realized that so many of those dreams had been shattered just like the piece of glass in my hand. I was going through a very difficult time in my life and that little piece of glass just reminded me of the pain of those shattered dreams.

But, then, just as suddenly, another voice inside reminded me that I no longer need to cling to those old shattered dreams, but rather, I could begin formulating new dreams for myself, dreams based on what God wants FOR me. I put that piece of sea glass in my pocket and I’ve been collecting sea glass again ever since… all the while dreaming.

A student of mine, an apparent angel in disguise, who heard my sea glass story in class, took it upon himself to create a piece of art with my name written in the sea glass that he had collected on vacation in his home country of Greece. He presented that art piece on the day I was forced to announce to the students and faculty at my school that I needed to change my name back to my maiden name after divorce … a very difficult thing for me to do. I was so distraught at having to change my name. But my student walked into my classroom that morning, before the opening assembly on the first day of the new school year, and presented me with his artwork. Having no clue that I was about to publicly announce my name change, I was startled to see that he, instead of spelling out Ms. Arzel in sea glass as I was known in class, had written…

‘Pam’

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God spoke to me through the sea glass, through the gift given to me by my student, reminding me that no matter my name, no matter my dreams, crushed or formulating, I am loved, hope remains, and I am treasured.

Just like my new treasure of sea glass.

When each of my daughters married the man of their dreams… the men I fervently prayed for them to find … they each carried a piece of sea glass with them… God has blessed them so wonderfully with the men He brought into their lives… and in many ways, He fulfilled many of my own dreams by blessing them so …

I have often offered a piece of my sea glass collection to a loved one as they venture into something new… the most recent was when I offered a treasured piece of blue sea glass (I only had 2 blue pieces) to my fiancé as he left me… I like that… offerings of love and forgiveness are all we can offer … right? We are called to offer something treasured… especially when it involves love and hope… I gave my heart to this man and I loved him… all I could do is offer a gesture of hope that his dreams come true, despite my own pain at losing him.

It gives me some peace…

Today, I have never believed more in the beauty of sea glass… and how God speaks to me through small pieces of broken glass…

God can take our broken dreams… our rough edges… and He, and He alone can smooth them over with His unfailing love, grace and redemption…

and He can provide new dreams….

… even when the dreams we clinged to so fervently just…

evaporate…

I find hope in sea glass!!!

reposted and updated from http://www.tumblr.com/blog/pamwright24

Captured: Road Trippin’

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I do this thing… whenever I feel antsy over the job thing, or the heartbreak thing or anything really, I jump in my car and I drive.  I just go. I love it!

I suppose it has to do with the travel bug I’ve had for the past 30 years and now that I’m ‘settled’ in one place, I just miss moving… and it’s the only thing that truly settles me! Now that I think about it, as soon as I got my license, I drove and drove and drove… all over my hometown. My mother would get so angry at the mileage I would accrue on her mustang!

I’ve driven across the United States alone… from coast to coast. I took 3 little girls, under the age of 5 from Indianapolis to New Mexico. I drove all over Europe and Korea… I know, I’m not very ‘green’ and I’m sorry, but it’s just what I do.

Each morning I get up, take my dog to the park and then I drive the beautiful country roads surrounding Lexington… it’s so beautiful this time of year… October, my favorite month… the mist rises from the paddies, the horses’ coats glisten from dew, mighty oak trees are beginning to change color and there are miles and miles of fencing that is typical of this region. I blast K-Love on the radio … and I sing and I praise and I pray… it just does something to my soul.

I am reminded each time I take one of my drives that everything will be alright… that God’s grace and a tank of gas are all I really need to thrive. The joy I experience on those roads makes every worry just disappear and I am grateful that I am able to drive.

hmmm… perhaps I should seek a position as a truck driver!!

Captured: Athena

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No… that’s not Athena in the photo … that is me… a few years ago…

Yea I know…

it’s kind of something I kept quiet… scared of feeling lame, and pathetic and stupid… But, you know… it happened… it did… why hide it, why pretend… ????

The reason I share this is because I thought of this picture as I caressed my kitty, Athena, tonight as I settled in to fall asleep…

I got hurt a while ago, but I seriously think my cat was hurt worse than I … she was hit by a golf club, thrown against the wall, and so brutalized that she retreated under the bathroom cabinet… never leaving… not even to go to the bathroom… that poor cat was traumatized…

Yea… I was too… I remember one night in a hotel… just my kitty and me… scared to death of being found… scared of not living another day… it was a bad time…

But, that is now in the past…

I watch my sweet kitty, Athena, today… she has responded to love… to my caresses…. to good treatment and straight up love… I hate what happened to her… even more than I hate what happened to me… But, like Athena, I have been loved on too… I’ve been caressed and loved back to healing… not only from the people in my life who love me,  but from a greater love… my defender and the lover of my soul… ah, by Jesus!!! He has loved on me…

I KNOW that God is the greatest healer of all… I know that Athena and I were surrounded by angels on those days of despair, and pain, and unimaginable fear in California…

And, ah, my sweet, defenseless kitty… I know how I felt for my cat on those days… and I can only imagine how my savior felt for me on those same days…

Athena and I are good today and we forgive the one who hurt and scared us so…

Why???

Because he was hurt and scared, too … never, ever think that people who lash out in anger and violence are without hurt and fear themselves! I’ve prayed for this man… I forgive this man… I relate to him and empathize… and I hope that my Jesus is so loving on him!!!

Going to sleep now… remembering and thanking God for love and mercy… I share this not to garner attention to myself, but to share how GREAT is my God!!! He is AMAZING!!  And I love him so much… he who can save not only me, and my cat, but those who hurt us, as well!!!

PRAISE GOD!!

BTW, isn’t this the sweetest song ever?

Listening to it as I fall asleep…

You know, we all get hurt… and yet we all have the ability to heal by the love and grace of our savior … I’m grateful my kitty is alright today, despite what she went through…

… yea… I’m grateful I am too…

Thank you Jesus!

Here they are … Athena, and my puppy, Cosi! Happy at last… we are an AWESOME trio!! =)

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Nighty Nite…

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