Monday, May 13, 2013

ONE OF US






WISTERIA, UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL

I am back from leading a retreat for recovering women in Malvern, Pennsylvania, and I am reeling. From the strength and stories and laughs from these incredible women, the suffering they have endured, their flowering hearts. The atom bomb had nothing on the power of love that was palpable in that circle of women all weekend.

We had the working poor and socialites, the young and the old, women who'd been sober 30-plus years and women who hadn't quite, just yet, put down the drink. We had women whose children had died of ODs,  women with siblings born with fetal alcohol syndrome, women whose kids had been taken away from them because of their drinking and drugging and because they were sober, had gotten the kids back, and raised them, and gone back to college and graduated magna cum laude and the kids are in college now, too. We had mothers whose children were bipolar, or with abusive partners, or having panic attack, mothers with eating disorders, women, like me, who had never been and are never going to be mothers.We had women who had just lost their mothers, women who had just lost their husbands, women who were caring for their aging parents, alone. We had two sets of blood sisters, women who came with posses of their sober sisters,  a pair of ex-college roommates, women who had come to the retreat, in fear and trembling, alone, because they wanted to get better.

If you have never gotten that close to the beating heart of the world, you are missing out. If you have never looked into the eyes of a human being who has suffered physical, sexual, and emotional abuse as a child that would have felled a lesser person--and who is telling you, "I have to get better. Because I'm worth something"--you have not entirely lived.

Early Sunday morning, I sat for awhile by the coffee machine with a woman who had come all the way from Washington, D.C., by train and chauffered car. I'd been there when she walked through the door Friday night,  eyes downcast, shaking with anxiety. "I'm so afraid," she'd whispered.

All weekend, we women had shared our brokenness, and out of that collective wound had arisen a strange, rejuvenating hope and strength and sense of purpose, as if we'd been infused with new blood. Now by the coffee machine Sunday morning, this gal said, "I have a great favor to ask of you--would you pray for me?" I said, "Of course I will. You've touched my heart and the heart of everyone here."

And then she said, "I'd like to do one more thing. May I pray for you? Is there something you'd like me to pray, for you?"

I gazed into that dear human face for a second, and then I put my head down on the table and wept. I had given everything I had. It was the first retreat I'd ever led and I'd given literally everything I had: my heart, my body, my sleep. But that this woman, who had suffered so much and come so far, would pray for me? 

I said, "Pray for my strength, if you would. Pray that I'm strong enough to endure the gifts that have been given to me."

Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy-burdened, and I will give you rest.

Healthy people don't need a doctor; sick people do.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

Except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.




The road of happy destiny.
Best overhead line of the weekend:
"Here's the difference between me and God.
God doesn't get up up in the morning and think He's me."
Thank you from my heart, girls.
Let's carry  it on.

17 comments:

  1. I got all teary when I read about your tears. Love that one of the labels at the bottom of the post is 'the resurrection'. We need it every day.

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  2. Heather. This is so beautiful. I love Jesus. God is good. I will pray for you and all these women. And I am thankful that our Lord is merciful beyond everything. I am thankful for you, not just as a sentiment. But really, truly thankful.

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  3. Heather, this is so beautiful. Yes, you have not lived until you are with the beaten soul who wants to feel self worth. It is one thing to lead a retreat, and your first, not by your power, but His, but another to hear that gal asked if she may pray for you? Yes, that was Love touching two beating hearts full of peace.

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  4. This piece is beautiful, Heather! Your heart of compassion for these women is evident. It sounds as though you were the most wonderful type of women - broken ones! I wish I had been at the retreat among them.

    "I have to get better. Because I'm worth something" :')

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  5. My prayers are with you and all of those woman. I should have been among them..I cancelled at the last minute out of fear. Big Mistake.

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  6. A good song for this post can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1T7i-f2m57k

    "All My Favorite People Are Broken" by Over the Rhine
    All my favorite people are broken
    Believe me
    My heart should know

    Some prayers are better left unspoken
    I just wanna hold you
    And let the rest go

    All my friends are part saint and part sinner
    We lean on each other
    Try to rise above

    We’re not afraid to admit we’re all still beginners
    We’re all late bloomers
    When it comes to love

    All my favorite people are broken
    Believe me
    My heart should know

    Orphaned believers, skeptical dreamers
    Step forward
    You can stay right here
    You don’t have to go

    Is each wound you’ve received
    Just a burdensome gift?
    It gets so hard to lift
    Yourself up off the ground

    But the poet says, We must praise the mutilated world
    We’re all workin’ the graveyard shift
    You might as well sing along

    All my favorite people are broken
    Believe me
    My heart should know

    (As for) your tender heart—
    This world’s gonna rip it wide open
    It ain’t gonna be pretty
    But you’re not alone

    ‘Cause all my favorite people are broken
    Believe me
    My heart should know

    Orphaned believers, skeptical dreamers
    You’re welcome
    Yeah, you’re safe right here
    You don’t have to go

    ‘Cause all my favorite people are broken
    Believe me
    I should know

    Some prayers are better left unspoken
    I just wanna hold you
    And let the rest go

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  7. Heather, your photos for this post and the previous one are uncustomarily graceful and beautiful! I love all your photos and I only say customarily because they're usually more "gritty". But there is something about these that speaks of feminine beauty, gentleness, and peace. What a wonderful complement to your thoughts - to write of brokenness and suffering, and offer us balm to the soul with pictures of true beauty. Thanks! You bring many apparently disparate aspects of the world together so wel - nothing is excluded.

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  8. Michele, just got a chance to listen to All My Favorite People...gorgeous. Did not know of Over-the-Rhine: have already bought The Long Surrender...wow...

    Thanks as well to everyone: I was so exhausted yesterday morning after that long weekend and return flight from Philadelphia but so wanted to get something down...so I'm glad the spirit of these amazing women came through...

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  9. I understand your post all too well, Heather. I understand brokenness. I've also experienced something similar when I was chaperone for my daughter's school trip and blessed the girls in my charge each night, and the last night, one of them wanted to bless me back. It's very humbling to be on the receiving end when you think you're the one giving. Very humbling. Thanks for your sharing. It blessed me today. Oh, and I almost forget, you are a mother. You are a spiritual mother and that's every bit as important as an earthly one.

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  10. Dear Heather, my entering the comments on this post as the only male to do so may be to go where angels fear to tread but I write about a women, my Mom.

    Now in her early 80s she has always been a strength for me. It's not that she was not broken as none of us in the family were unaffected by my father's own brokenness, a lifelong manic depression and alcoholism but Mom was a survivor, and the first person to teach me that we can't -- not in a guaranteed way -- really change anyone but ourselves. She also taught be that being broken -- and she knew nothing of religion -- was that way the good got hold of us, if we invited it too.

    OTR has long been one of my favourite artists because they are authentic and yes, they have great sound. The lyric above, in context of this post puts me in mind of another artist I love, Leonard Cohen. He once sang, , "There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in..." and I suppose light sometimes gets out in the same manner.

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  11. Owen, you're brilliant! By light getting out of the crack in the same manner it enters, did you mean it to be shining through into our surroundings to touch and brighten the lives of others, or escaping us in a draining way? I suppose both are possible, but I wondered what you were originally thinking about it.

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  12. I could feel your energy and love. You blessed so many people on that trip. And I am blessed to read about it.

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  13. Karin! Thinking of and praying for you...

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  14. Alicia Rae, I was just trying to say that not only does light or Light enter through the cracks in us but also reaches back out toward others through the cracks in us as well.

    The broken people Heather mentions - light shawn out of them to touch Heather and others and because Heather and others willinging confess their own brokenness that light gets in and then out again and so on.

    That's how I see it and I hope I have not too badly changed Heather's intended meaning. If so, let my own attempt at wisdom stand on its own.

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  15. truly a gift, it is you and your soul-giving spirit, heather. this post, especially so.

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  16. Owen, what you're saying reminds me of 2 Corinthians 4:6-7:
    6* For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of [Jesus] Christ. 7* But we hold this treasure* in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.

    The notes in the New American Bible say:
    * [4:7] This treasure: the glory that he preaches and into which they are being transformed. In earthen vessels: the instruments God uses are human and fragile; some imagine small terracotta lamps in which light is carried.

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  17. Michele, indeed, yes. Earthen vessels; jars of clay.

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