By Faith Chatham - Dec. 30, 2010
In 1941 it was 6 years before my birth.
In 1951 I longed to start first grade and when my big sisters came home for lunch they had to play school with their baby sister to console me. I learned to read and thought books should be read cover to cover without interruption. In the second, third, fourth and fifth grades, and on up into high school, I'd read by flashlight under the bed covers if mom insisted it was time to close the book, turnout the bedroom light and go to sleep.
In 1961 my father was killed suddenly in a train truck collision and my world crashed with him. It seemed the only way not to hurt that badly ever again was to not love that deeply. I spent hours sitting on the veranda, pouring out my heart and hopes to the seemingly all understanding black walnut tree in the side yard outside my bedroom window, watching light and shadows as they danced through the sycamore tree leaves projecting shapes on the century old bricks in our front walk. I listened to how loud the crickets sounded in the relative silence of the night and how bright, yet fleeting, was the light of fireflies in spring and summer. I tried to figure out what life was to be for me and what I was to be in it. Despite all the nurture and encouragement around me I felt rejected and abandoned. I was thin skinned and minor criticisms could send me on a tail spin. I tried to win acceptance by being a people pleaser, over achiever, dependable, kind and talented. I was a church group youth leader. I set out to change the world, help save the world, conqueor the world. Through baptized and believing in God, I was so into being the church that I missed out on being with God.
In 1971 I was trying to disentangle my heart from loving someone who crept up on me -- one I didn't consider a candidate to date let alone to fall in love with. The 22 years age difference and more than a little circumstance crowded out our joy. For both of us love was cloaked in mourning and denial.We didn't doubt love...but I noticed that what we loved and admired most in each other was diminished in our being together. I tried to convince God that our union was worthy to bless. He never did.
During that decade, work was my solace. I co-founded a community theatre in my home town, worked at the hometown newspaper, ran my own creative shop, exhibited and sold my paintings, owned and operated an art gallery and teaching studio. I wandered the woods with my border collie, sat on the shores of Lake o the Pines and Caddo Lake writing and reading poetry, painting and listening to the waves and seeking God and wondering if what I saw and perceived of life was what it really was or was supposed to be about. Mostly I wondered why love which didn't fit wouldn't release my heart and dreams and why someone who was miles away was more present than most folks who were actually in the same room with me. Despite my wishing it were otherwise, no new love could get through to me because neither I, nor my former lover, totally willed to severe the cord, though determined to stay away. Love and futility seemed one and the same.
In 1981 I closed my ad agency/creative shop in Longview and moved back to Arlington, worked at another newspaper and returned to college full-time. I'd just completed an internship at MHMR before leaving East Texas. I'd realized it would be futile to pursue a MA in psychology because, observing the misuse of confidentiality laws to protect incompetence and abuse by mental health practioners rather than for benefit of clients, I'd realized I'd probably be a whistle blower if I worked in clinical care settings. I studied Urban Affairs, communication, international political and economic systems. I earned a second bachelors degree in Russian Language and Soviet and Eastern European Area Studies. I studied in Russia and Eastern Europe two summers and spent part of a summer doing research at Stanford's Hoover Institute of War and Peace. I used a travel grant for intergovermental studies.
In 1991, I was a consultant for Fortune 500 companies. Recently out of grad school, I lived on an international stage, was connected with friends and acquaintances around the world. God was reopening my heart like a flower, regenerating closed off dreams and talents and sustaining me as I struggled in adjusting to living without my best friend and confident and my mother, who had both recently exited this world through long, multi-yeared journeys with the same invasive form of lung cancer. During this decade, business colleagues, priests, bishops and missionaries filled my mind and daytimer. I went to seminary and was "formed" as a Fransciscan.
Usually it seemed that I had a front row seat for my own life adventures as God worked things out better than I could dream, imagine or accomplish, though most folks seemed to try to give me the credit.Eastern Europe and Central America consumed much of my attention.
Despite hard work and success I couldn't get adequate affordable health care and my body suffered.
In 2001 I suffered massive neurological and physiological damage. By the end of the year I was totally disabled and my biggest life crutch -- work was ripped from my survivors toolbag. Doctor after doctor diagnoised and labeled me permanently and totally disabled. I never accepted either the totally or permanently label/prognosis.
The monastic journey ended abruptly when the Bishop took on more responsibility than he could handle and he delegated oversight to those who were unprepared and/orill-equipped to respect the vows and vocations of others.
In this decade, without medical doctors giving reason to expect much improvement, I've had to relearn basic life skills and processes, regain speech and cognitive functioning, reteach myself (with help of an incredibly patient friend) English, studying it like it was a foreign and not my native language. I've again begun to paint, write and advocate during this decade, though not as much or as smoothly or consistently as before. I lost the ability to drive and dance but experienced heightened gifts of mysticism and intercessory and contemplative prayer.
In late 2008 I was surprised to discover the ability to set aside fear. I was astounded by romantic love from a most unexpected dearly cherished old friend. I found myself enabled to receive love and to love more more deeply than ever in my life. I came to trust in God's love and in my own, and to receive, despite the fear of knowing that whether through separation of death or a decision, mutual or imposed by another, parting eventually is the reality of all love relationships while we inhabit these mortal bodies.We knew we were God's gift to each other. Instead of my loving another romantically, I let God love another through me romantically. Each time we hit a snag I let God reshape me. Instead of my trying to convince God, this time I let God gift us. It felt and appeared like it would be forever. Our dreams, hearts and hopes conjoined and then diverted.
2009 was a rough year emotionally and physically. I had five eye surgeries and had to begin relying some of the time on an electric chair. The presence of that chair made me more determined than ever to get to the place where I'll no longer need to use it. I'm not there yet, but there is now a glimmer which builds my hope. I haven't started painting again yet, but expect to next year.
By late 2010 I'd progressed to using a cane as much as the chair or walker. Occasionally I walk briefly without pain with neither. The love of my life (thus far) returned in friendship in late 2009, and we grew to a really good place spiritually and romantically this past year. This month he encountered someone else who literally takes his breath away and he hers. There is no room in his life for a former lover, nor in mine.
As 2011 approaches, I'm acutely aware that I am richly blessed. I see how far I've come cognitively, mentally, emotionally, spiritually in this past decade. It was the most physically confining yet emotionally expansive decade of my life. I fought and worked continually, unrelently to re learn to walk, to speak, to think, to write, to reason and to love and receive love. I've almost lived the life of a recluse with only a handful of friends within my inner chambers, yet it seems that thousands of folks I've never (or barely) heard of, think they know me! The battle is far from over, but as I assess where I was a decade ago and where I am now. I have hope for a future where I'll cast off fraility and experience stamina and health instead of premature senility and restriction. After five eye surgeries in one year I'm at last able to read novels for the sheer joy of it. I hope to shed the pain and regain the ability to walk and stroll for the fun of it. I miss dancing and have never ceased to long and dream of dancing. This month I read five novels just for fun. I hadn't read a novel for fun in years
Ten years ago there was little hope of getting where I am now. I'll let God give me new hope, fresh dreams, his anointing and his blinders and his vision, and those he chooses for me to experience his life with.
It has taken many decades for me to entrust my heart and soul to love. In 2008 when I was terrified , I poured my heart out to God. The little girl who'd huddled in Aunt Pole's stair well while Daddy's funeral was being planned, pinching myself hoping I'd wake up and find it wasn't real and he wasn't dead reminded God how very much love hurts. As I faced loving, God assured the woman I'd become that some day, whether by death or mortal acts and decision, there would be a parting. He didn't tell me he'd protect me from dissapointment, sorrow or hurt. But he promised me that if I'd receive his love and let him love another through me, God assured me when the time came, however soon or however long it might be, God promised me he'd be here, would take my hand in his and guide me through it. I hope the cord gets severed this time, though I can't say I don't love him. Sometimes we must be emptied before we can be truly filled. Instead of discarding, maybe we can release former lovers to God and trust that in God, there is no blessing to one or two at the expense of another, but rather to each their own special gift from God.
He is faithful and present. I'm as inquisitive and eager to learn today as I was 60 years ago. I'm less impetutious but not really that exceptionally much more patient. Instead of ploughing ahead I usually soak in listening prayer and look for the path where God clears out the way. I've learned to release those I love to God, whether they are near or physically, mentally or emotionally far away. I know God doesn't bless one of us by failing the other. The Father doesn't give to one child at the expense of another. If we give and receive the fathers love to each other and we're led in different paths, his blessing is for all, not for just one or two or a few out of many.
I expect this next decade to be the best in my life thus far. My joy is not dependent upon how another or others make me feel. Love is now to me a presence that transcends human acts or events.
Faith Chatham receives intercessory prayer requests at firstname.lastname@example.org
Intercessions will be offered.
Messages may not be answered but prayers will be offered.
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