Captured by Pam

words and images by pam wright

Tag: Christian

Captured: Encountering a Dream Angel

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I have had encounters with angels. Several times. This is the story of one of those encounters.

Many years ago, I was just coming out of several years of heavy drinking that very nearly killed me. I was so very fragile emotionally, physically and spiritually. I started going to a 12-step program in Seoul, South Korea, where we were living at the time, and there I met a fellow alcoholic with more than 25 years of sobriety, who would have a great impact on my own recovery.

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Captured: Seeking (the Other) Mary at Christmas

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Be honest. How many of you, man or woman, found yourselves running around trying to finish last-minute preparations for Christmas, looking a whole lot more like Martha than Mary?

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Captured: Facing the Mirror of our Lives

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My daughter has this huge floor mirror that she received for Christmas a few years ago. I love that mirror because for some reason, whenever I check myself out in that mirror, I look really thin. Not going to lie, I like that.

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Captured: Discovering the Naomi Within

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There was a time not so long ago when I might have said the same heartbreaking words that Naomi utters in the Book of Ruth after losing her husband and sons in battle, which forced her to return to her homeland with her tail between her legs and her Moabite daughter-in-law Ruth along for the sad trip home.

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Captured: Just Call Me ‘Caesar’

Francis Ware Wright, Jr. (right), better known as Caesar, with his lifelong friend, Bill Hoyer, on the waters of Lake Erie — the place where he once said he felt closest to God.

Francis Ware Wright, Jr. (right), better known as Caesar, with his lifelong friend, Bill Hoyer, on the waters of Lake Erie — the place where he once said he felt closest to God.

His name was Francis Ware Wright Jr., but he was better known as “Caesar.”

He was my dad.

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Captured: A Miraculous September Morn

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There is a day in my life that I will never forget.

I love South Korea very much. In a certain sense, it is my birth country because I left that county a very different person from the one who arrived. That time almost seems like a dream, a nightmare really.

When my family moved to Seoul in 1999, I was suffering from the final stages of alcoholism. My doctor later told me that had I continued drinking, I would have been dead within three months.

For many years, I was self-medicating to alleviate emotional pain, feelings of loneliness, despair and to forget some painful experiences that were no fault of my own.

That day in Korea started like so many before — waking in my my bed, bile rising in my throat, trembling from withdrawal, and trying desperately to get more alcohol into my system so I could me feel normal again.

That morning turned out to be very different, however.

I lay there watching the sparkly dust fairies in the sunlight streaming across my bed, mesmerized by the glow of the dust in the sunlight and the dance of each individual piece of sparkling dust.

Without warning, I heard the voice of God rise within me, telling me to move. It literally felt physical as I experienced a sudden revelation and conviction rise in my soul. I suddenly knew that if I didn’t do something immediately, I would die.

Fear gripped my heart as I got out of bed and dressed. I somehow managed to grab some money, get myself down the hill from our house, into a taxi and ask for a hospital.

It took an hour to get to the hospital and I thought I would die at any moment all the way there.

A few hours later, I found myself locked up in the mental ward of Samsung Hospital in Seoul. They didn’t know what to do with me. At the time, there was no such thing as a cushy rehab center for alcoholics in Korea, and the treatment of alcoholism and other addictions was still in the infancy stage.

I didn’t speak any Korean and none of the doctors seemed to speak much English. I was so scared. And let me tell you, withdrawal is as awful as you might imagine. It feels like you have bugs crawling under your skin, like you might die of fright, you can’t stop trembling. It’s just impossible to describe.

I was so sick and the pleasures of drinking had now turned on me. It wasn’t fun anymore. It never made me feel good, or cute or funny or anything but horrible. It was hell on earth. I think I understand a little bit of what hell is — what it feels like to be completely separated from God.

It is desolation.

They took everything from me and just locked me up. I had nothing but an IV in my arm and a gown on my back. I was terrified and I was completely alone. No friends. No family. My husband took my little boys to his family’s home in France and my three daughters were left home alone with the “adjumonie.”

The guilt and pain and fear was unbearable. I couldn’t stand the thought that my kids would have to tell their friends their mother had died an alcoholic, and I knew that’s exactly what would happen, and soon, if I didn’t do something. I thought I would die right there. And I sort of wanted to die right there.

My soul felt empty and my life worthless. I have never felt so powerless and lost and there were no more excuses. No where else to turn. No one to reach out to.

It was just me and God in that room. He held his hand out to me …

I fell off my bed right there in Samsung hospital, literally onto the cold floor, and gave it all to him. I gave up the fight of trying to control my life and my pain, and I surrendered. I begged him for help. I begged, begged and begged some more. It was the most heart-felt prayer I had ever offered. I was a broken, broken woman. And, although I have never felt more alone in the world, locked up in a Korean mental ward, I know Jesus was in that room holding out his hand to me, begging me to just hold out my own.

And I did. I held out my hand.

In answer to my pleading, God sent an angel in the face of a young, Korean man. Just a few moments after begging God to save my life so I could be the mother I longed to be for my children, the man walked into my room. He didn’t seem much older than a teen.

He walked in, placed a bible in my hands without saying a single word, bowed low, and and then walked out the door. I didn’t know who he was and I never saw him again.

There I was in a Korean mental ward with nothing but an IV in my arm, a hospital gown on my back — and now a Korean-English Bible in my hand. Needless to say, it was a powerful moment — a tender, precious moment.

I eventually came to believe he was the answer to my prayer. I believe the young, Korean man was an angel sent to answer my prayer.

That’s how grace and love resurrected my life and, eventually, that of my family. All I had to do was ask. Over the course of the next few months and years of healing, God comforted me, he held me and I never want to let go of his hand again.

I see my life in two halves — before God stepped into my life in a mental ward and after that memorable day. Life is really no easier now, and it can sometimes knock me upside the head. But, it’s an entirely different way of living.

I know that God is with me, even in the loneliest of times and through the greatest difficulties and moments of grief.

Before that September morning, when I awoke to the vision of dancing dust fairies in the streaming sunlight and the voice of God, I felt entirely left on my own. Since that day, I know I am never alone and I never have to feel that way again. I rely on that truth.

The resurrected life has far-reaching consequences of its own.

Ever since that day in Seoul, I’ve prayed relentlessly to see a change in my family’s legacy of dysfunction and addiction. I prayed for years that my children would learn about a different life than the one I knew before that day in Seoul — a resurrected life, a life for God.

I am seeing those prayers being answered each and every day, and I watch my children — and their children — live out their lives centered in Christ.

It’s miraculous.

Captured: Gazing Into Eternal Eyes

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A photo recently taken of my 17-month-old grandson, Riley, and his paternal great-grandfather moved me from the moment I first saw it.

There are just some photos that say so much, that convey a thousand words and elicit deep, deep thought.

The moment captured between the two in the photo is even more poignant today because Riley’s “PopPop,” John Loux, died last week, a little more than a month after the photo was taken.

I can stare at the photo for hours, pondering the gaze between the little boy just beginning his journey here on earth and that of the old man, who was about to walk through the door from this life into eternity.

What are they saying to each other in that gaze? What wisdom is PopPop wanting to impart to his grandson? What questions does Riley have for the man who had lived in this world for nearly a century?

Riley seems so intent on his great-grandfather’s face in the photo. Perhaps it’s John’s striking Colonel Sanders beard that attracts the young lad or perhaps it’s just seeing an aging gentleman. After all, Riley doesn’t come across many people of that age as he goes about his day-to-day existence of being a toddler.

I don’t think that’s it, though.

I think Riley sees something powerful and intriguing about the man with the weathered face, hinting at a life that knew joy and heartbreak, fear and pain; a life marked by his love for God, his servant’s heart and his absolute devotion to family.

Perhaps Riley could somehow grasp that this man had something important to share with him through that gaze.

Perhaps he longed to know the secrets of his PopPop’s long life.

John’s own gaze into the eyes of his grandson is just as precious, and I can only imagine what he was thinking in that moment.

Riley’s grandmother and John’s daughter, Bonnie Temple, was the one who snapped the photo and later told me that John was not doing well that morning.

John had been living with the Temples for several months after the death of his wife.

That morning, John had slept in very late and woke to the sounds of Riley playing in the living room. As John emerged from his bedroom, little Riley toddled towards his PopPop, arms raised for him to be picked up. Bonnie said her father reached down to gingerly pick up Riley and sit him down with him on his favorite chair.

Bonnie was concerned that her father, whose health was fast deteriorating, wasn’t strong enough to lift Riley, but was touched to see a sudden burst of energy empower her father enough for that moment with his grandson.

I think God wanted Riley and John to share that moment together, knowing that he would very soon be calling John home.

My musings take me to the words exchanged through that gaze.

“PopPop, tell me,” says Riley through his eyes. “What can I expect of this life? What should I do? What will it be like?”

“My little Riley — first of all, know that you are beloved,” John responds. “Life is a magnificent journey full of adventure, difficulties and uncertainty. Life will be replete with challenges, of that you can be certain. Sometimes you will be unable to make heads or tails of which way to turn, what decision to make and how to navigate the ups and downs of life.

“But, if there’s one thing I can tell you, it is this …

“Cling to God.

“Cling to him through the good, through the hard … no matter what comes your way, cling to him and you will live a wonderful, abundant life. You may not have a dime to your name at times, you may be ill, you may have concerns and experience the unfathomable pain of loss and heartbreak, but through it all, you will have an abundant life and you will know joy.

“Never forget, my boy, what was done on your behalf and take this knowledge into account in every decision you ever make, especially when it comes to people. Love like you have been loved, and take care of the people God brings into your life.

“Be kind. Be generous. Love well.

“And don’t worry. I can tell you — from this vantage point of having lived a long time and through so much change — that all will be well. God will remain faithful to you and yours, and there is nothing that you won’t be able to conquer with God in your heart and mind.

“I’ll be going soon, beloved boy, but Jesus and I will be waiting for you. You didn’t get to hear all of the memories I’ve made and cherished, but when we meet again, I’ll tell you all about this wonderful life I’ve had. I’ll be watching over you, little one. Be good. Listen to your mommy, daddy, nana and papa … they will teach to you what I taught to them. I love you, buddy.”

Bonnie told me that John grew up in a home that did not allow dancing because of their religious beliefs. She said the first time she ever saw him dance was at her wedding.

Perhaps that is why John’s eyes lit up every time Riley danced about with abandon and pure joy.

Today, John is dancing and singing with the angels, surely with his own complete abandon and purest joy.

I believe he was greeted by Jesus and the people he loved who had gone before. I know Jesus said, “I am pleased, John. You did well, my wonderful son … welcome home.”

And I imagine John took a bit of time to share with all of them the memories he had made and cherished. I imagine, too, that he thanked Jesus for his love and protection, and for precious moments he was able to enjoy with his family here on earth.

I’d bet John’s eyes lit up at encountering the sights of heaven in the same way they lit up when he looked at Riley performing his toddler antics.

And I marvel at what John must have felt at that instant when he gazed into true eternal eyes — into the absolute, unimaginable love found in his savior’s eyes.

I’d bet he thought of Riley and about the moment he shared with his great-grandson not long before his death — that captured moment when the old man and the little boy, separated by nearly a century, gazed — for just a brief, everlasting instant — into eternity.

Captured: What if… Then Maybe

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I am SO human… so predictable and I don’t ever seem to get past this one…

I recently had an interview for a job that I’m still waiting to hear about. I would love to get this job and I honestly feel like it’s a perfect fit. But, through the process, I have become really annoyed with myself because I find myself doing the ‘What if… then maybe game’… hoping to get something out of my behavior.

You know what I mean…

What if I love everyone, to the point of exhaustion, ignoring my own needs and well-being… then maybe I will be loved in return.

What if I work incessantly at pleasing people… then maybe I will be loved in return.

What if I am the perfect Christian… following all of the rules to a tee… then maybe God will love me in return.

What if I give all my money to help others… then maybe I will be blessed and loved in return.

What if I do all of the above… then maybe I’ll get that job!

I remember the very first time I did something that garnered praise and love… I must have been 4 and I took it upon myself to clean up the bookshelves that housed my brother’s and my toys. The reaction I received from my father over that little clean-up changed me forever.  I loved his reaction! I loved how grown-up and worthy I felt. He was proud of me!!! It would dictate how I began to work in order garner praise and love for the rest of my life…! People-pleasing…

I still seek that from others … and, wrongly, I still seek that reaction from God. I continually hope that my behavior will make him proud of me. If I behave in a certain way… then maybe He will come through for me.

I limit God by placing human expectations on Him… I think many of us do.

The only things that God is asking of me is to trust him and to wait on him… with patience. I don’t need to do anything or behave in a certain way. I just need to chill… and love and trust my Heavenly Father…

What If I let him have control of my life? What if I trust him with that life? What if I just wait on Him??

Then maybe I won’t have to try so hard and I can appreciate the true expression of love … God’s unfailing love.

Captured: Permission to Grieve

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I give myself permission to grieve…

I’m going through a ‘season’ of life where everything is in flux! I just turned in my keys to my apartment and I watched someone move into the apartment that my fiancé vacated just over a month ago…

… the apartment that was supposed to be our new home.

I have no job and I had to move in with my daughter this weekend … all because of recent developments…

you know what… I’ve been quiet about this… I kept it to myself… why??? Why should I protect the one who abandoned me… after a promise, with a ring….

My fiancé talked me into quitting my job as a HS English teacher… He said I could pursue my dreams… He said I need never work another day in my life… that he would take care of me and then…

then came the words…

‘I need you to follow me in missions’… ‘I Need you’… So I followed… after all… he ‘needed me’…. and, so, I quit my job…. I would have done anything for the man of my home… the one I said ‘YES’ to…

He needed me… psssshhhhhh!

And so here I find myself today… alone, jobless, and hurting…

Yes, my heart is broken. I have tried to be brave and to accept the inevitable… but if truth be told … this hurts…

This hurts so much…

I loved this man. I trusted this man… I feel like I guarded my heart… until I gave it to him… I was cautious… Oh my, I was cautious…

Is it ever enough… how cautious can we ever be with our heart?????

He stopped loving me after assuring me time and again that he would love me no matter what… We had a pastor friend who was going to marry us that gave us a Dr. Seuss book as part of our ‘pre-marital’ counseling … the classic, Horton Hatches an Egg… with the phrase… ‘I said what I meant and I meant what I said, an elephant’s loyal one-hundred percent’… that was our thing and my fiance would repeat it all the time…

Until, he didn’t feel that way anymore…

He left…

It’s not his fault and I still love and admire him… He followed his heart… it just wasn’t after my heart…

I try to be brave and to say the Christian lines… ‘It’s God’s Will”… etc… but I can say all the right things that I want…

But….

Ultimately, this hurts…

Yes, it hurts…. Oh my, it HURTS… but in this ‘season’ of grieving here’s what has comforted me beyond measure…. beyond understanding, really…

… my eternal love, Jesus, knows how much I hurt… He knows… and He keeps telling me…

‘Pammy, it’s OK… you can grieve… You’ve been hurt… But, please know, my sweet girl, that I LOVE YOU!!! I know the pain of hurt, betrayal and disappointment… I know!!! I am right here beside you… and I will NEVER leave!!

Never, never, never… (a line from the movie, Somewhere In Time) 

JESUS SAYS:

I said what I meant and I meant what I said…

I…

the great I AM, the WORD, the LOVER of your soul…

I am loyal…

100%!”

I hear him and I know that….

Tomorrow will be better… whatever tomorrow may bring…

Grieving is a part of life… and acknowledging that it hurts is healthy and good…. After all…

Jesus wept.

Captured: Just Say Jesus

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I pray. I’ve always prayed. In fact, I tend to have a running conversation with God in my head throughout each day, and it has been good.

Sometimes I find that as I pray, words are coming out of my mouth that are for my benefit… words and thoughts that just come of their own accord. And I know these words are of God and they teach me.

However, in recent weeks I have learned something new about prayer… and about my prayer life. There is a new song by 7th Time Down called ‘Just Say Jesus’, that says:

      Life gets tough and times get hard
      And it’s hard to find the truth in all the lies
      If you’re tired of wondering why
      Your heart isn’t healing
      And nothing feels like home
      Cause you’re lost and alone
      Just screaming at the sky

      When you don’t know what to say
      Just say Jesus
      The name of Jesus
      If the words won’t come
      Cause you’re afraid to pray
      Just say Jesus
      Whisper it now or shout it out
      However it comes out
      He hears your cry
      Out of nowhere he will come
      You got to believe in it
      He will rescue you
      Just call out to the way
      The truth, the life

In recent weeks, I have found myself in a place where that’s the only thing that could come out of my mouth… ‘Jesus’ … I would whisper the name, scream the name, repeat the name. And I now understand that God put me in that place because He wanted me to finally, really listen… as if saying, ‘Pammy, would you please just listen to me!! Would you please just be still and KNOW that I am God’. I settled down and today I can see that my prayer life has been a lot of talk and not a lot of listening. It’s one thing to know that, in order to hear God, you really must be still, and yet another one to actually be still and listen. Since I didn’t seem to have what it took to be still… God stilled me himself, through circumstances in my life. All for my good!

I love the quote by John Bunyun, ‘In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart.’ That’s where God took me… to a place where I realized that my blathering words, begging for this or for that, just were not what I needed. I wasn’t going anywhere in my relationship with God… it was becoming stagnant. That’s not to say God did not hear my words or that He doesn’t love to hear my words, it’s just that the communication was a little too one-sided. He wanted me to be quiet, to listen… because only HE knows what is best for me, and where I needed to venture next in our relationship.

And, so, I really began to listen… frankly, because I could do little else…

In the turmoil of fiery fires, I paused to whisper His name… and it never failed… He showed up to help me, to tell me what to do! I sometimes thought I couldn’t take another moment, and He would tell me to take a drive and He’d showed me something beautiful along the way, calming my heart. He’d tell me to get out and exercise, which steps to take in my career, to write a blog, or to spend time with my precious grandson. And the blessings were and are innumerable!!

Soren Kierkegaard said this about prayer, ‘The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.’ I like the sentiment in his words… that I am being and will be changed by prayer. I already see so many changes in my life and how I view life. God has given me strength beyond anything I dreamed I could muster. He has provided ‘a peace that passes all understanding.’ He has healed me of wounds that date back to childhood and He has finally made what I already knew into absolute TRUTH in my heart…

… the truth that He wants the very best for me!!

… even if it’s beyond difficult…

… even if it involves pain and uncertainty.

… even if I’d really rather learn it all in an easier fashion.

Despite the hardships of life … the disappointments … the trials … by listening to the words of God and actually hearing His love pour down over your soul from the heavens and the flutter of angel’s wings around your head… NOTHING is too difficult  … and absolute beauty can be born from the ashes.

The name of Jesus is POWERFUL…

… Just say ‘Jesus’.

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