Spoken To Tenderly in the Wilderness

A kind friend lent me the book Cheer Up! Motivating Messages for Each Day of the Year by Nancy Campbell and Michelle Kauenhofen (2012). Quite honestly, I was so uncheerful that I stuck it away for a few weeks. But today I needed some reading material to take with me to my daughter’s gymnastics practice, and so I grabbed the cheery purple book with a pretty tea cup on every page. I read about a month’s worth of cheer and motivation.

I can’t say that a month’s worth of cheer and motivation has cured my depression or fixed my marital problems. It kind of made me roll my eyes because it was so obvious these ladies had husbands who probably taught them most of this stuff to begin with. Well, that’s my gripe, but I did pull out something that spoke to me…

From the April 10 entry, “Are you going through a wilderness? Take heart. God has promised that in the wilderness experience, He will speak tenderly to you. Hosea 2:14 MLB says, ‘I will take her to the wilderness, and I will speak tenderly to her heart.’ The word is emotive and means ‘from the very heart.’

That’s nice to hear. I have heard some things lately that I believe is God speaking tenderly to me. I belong to a church that loves me. And God put me in my marriage for a reason. So often I believe I’ve messed up. And it’s not that at all, because if it happened, then it’s a part of God’s plan for the good of those who love Him. So this way I am right now, this tension in my house, this miserableness, and the shift of responsibility from myself to my husband, this waiting for him to either forget or react… it’s all controlled by God. He’s speaking tenderly to me as I live each day, and He’s trying to get through to me that He is all I really need.

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Reading Jane Kenyon

Every adult novel I pick up these days gets put down again. Too dark. Too much tragedy. I already know this story. Too much drinking. I don’t care.

But I can pick up my volume of Jane Kenyon’s Collected Poems (2005), and I am instantly in a world I understand and want to be in. I’ve liked Jane Kenyon since I first learned about her, but right now I feel like she is a true kindred spirit.

Here’s a poem by her to make us think about summer again.

Peonies at Dusk

White peonies blooming along the porch
send out light
while the rest of the yard grows dim.

Outrageous flowers as big as human
heads! They’re staggered
by their own luxuriance: I had
to prop them up with stakes and twine.

The moist air intensifies their scent,
and the moon moves around the barn
to find out what it’s coming from.

In the darkening June evening
I draw a blossom near, and bending close
search it as a woman searches
a loved one’s face.

— pg. 254

Oriental Poppies

Oriental Poppies by Georgia O’Keefe, 1927

I’m making an effort to think clearly tonight, being honest with myself. Certain things that bother me are bothering me again, and normally this causes a type of confused panic to begin. Lots of points and counterpoints going on in my thought processes, and I get lost and start wondering which point is “the most true.”

Well, here’s my attempt at removing myself emotionally from my own situation.

God loves His children. God can be trusted. God is in control. God’s plan is beautiful.

What do I like about this poppy painting? The heart of small things are monumentally important. Something traditionally beautiful (like flowers, or say, a marriage) can show unusual beauty and interest when examined closely. But see, I can’t even talk about a painting without trying to talk about my own problems. How about this: the painting is startlingly beautiful, kind of like seeing a flower in real truth after only seeing fake flowers.

I just realized how great school was for getting your mind off your own problems. You can bury yourself in the world of academia. Homeschooling doesn’t work so well because it’s studying in the environment of home. Home is vital and must not be buried.

And God’s plan is always the best plan, no matter what I think.

[Afterthought: I suppose choosing a Georgia O’Keefe painting to help me remove myself emotionally from something wasn’t very smart. I probably should’ve gone with something still clinging to the Middle Ages, like Giotto.]

Crazy Things in Our Brains

I just wrote an article about postpartum psychosis, which is thankfully rare among new mothers. It’s a crazy thing when you feel like you are being controlled by something else, you’re hearing voices that aren’t there, you are paranoid of people you used to trust, and you can’t tell anyone about it because no one is going to understand. And that’s just some of the nasty tricks our brains are capable of.

I remember the mood swings and the mama-bear mentality. I remember hating people who said things that I didn’t want my baby to ever hear. I remember really wanting to do things correctly and biblically; I wanted to sing my babies the right songs, teach them the right values… all these major issues that I was squaring away right there and then. I wasn’t psychotic (thank goodness), but I was different after giving birth. It’s a changing time, for certain. I think there should be more awareness about this, especially for the husbands, because the moms just believe in what they believe. The moms are super aware.

A Time for Everything

Reading Ecclesiastes 3 when you’re having a rough time leads to unusual thoughts. If there’s a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, does that mean I’m in that time to refrain? If there’s a time to seek and a time to lose, does that mean it’s God’s will that I lose (and what exactly am I losing?). I kind of get it, though. Solomon is looking wisely at life and seeing that many stages happen, just in one life. We change, we go with the times, we act differently in different situations.

In a way, that’s a comfort. It’s normal to change. It’s normal to have stages of pleasure and pain. God is a constant, but this life is not.

I returned my very helpful marriage book to the library, and already, only two days later, I’m missing it. I’m backsliding into blaming myself for things. You’d think I wouldn’t be so attached to the physical words printed on physical paper, but apparently I am. It’s as if a wise, supportive friend just left me. What would Solomon say? There is a time for reading, and a time for thinking alone. Or maybe like this: There is a time for books, and a time for (hmm… emptiness, thoughts, independent thinking, blogs?) Okay, I’ve got it: There’s a time for leaning on others, and a time for standing alone.

Except my standing alone is more like falling down. Oh well. I’ll get there, I hope.

Forget-Me-Nots in the Window

Forget-Me-Nots in the Window, Henri Matisse, 1916

Writing is such a helpful thing for me. I don’t personally know anyone except myself who needs to write in order to think properly. When I take a break from writing, my thoughts build up and cloud my mind. If I’m not writing, I’m not communicating well.

So thank you for coming and reading and sharing my conversations. Some days I’m crying out my words, and other days I’m sitting in a cool blue-green world with a bowl of simple little flowers blooming in the sunlight. And that’s a nice place to be. I wish this lovely little spot of existence transformed itself into a real place here in my real life, but after all, isn’t this whole life just a shadow of the higher reality? Who am I to say that the home I live in is less shadowy than the words I write or the artwork I look at? Maybe God gave me these other worlds as real comforts to me. Reprieves. Because He knows I don’t get out much!

One Year Off

On a rare solo meander through the nonfiction stacks at my library, I pulled out this book by David Elliot Cohen: One Year Off: Leaving It All Behind For a Round-the-World Journey with Our Children (1999). As warning bells sounded in my head (such as, hey, you shouldn’t even be reading about stuff that might make you envious), I decided to read it. Because I have three kids. Because I like round-the-world adventures. Because it sounded brave.

And it was brave! And funny. And poignant. David Elliot Cohen, his wife, their nanny, and their three children aged 3, 7, and 8, took off for places like Zimbabwe, Paris, Australia, Thailand, and Italy. They failed at homeschooling, but really, what was this for the kids except a giant history and social studies unit? And although they were worried about spending so much time together as a family, they pulled through. They survived each other. They became closer!

I ended up liking this book just for its own merits. But the analytical part of me wonders why I really picked it up. I think I know that I will never take trips around the world. It’s quite possible I will never fly in an airplane (haven’t yet!). It’s not that I have anything against world travel. On the contrary, I find it fascinating. It probably has more to do with how I experience things best. Probably, although I haven’t tested it, I would prefer reading about a trip to the African wilderness than actually taking one.

Was there one place Cohen went that I would like to go? Maybe the houseboat in Burgundy, France. That’s my style of adventure. I wouldn’t mind seeing the Great Coral Reef in Australia, but is it actually something on my bucket list? Nah. I know I won’t get there. And anyway, my husband absolutely doesn’t want to fly in an airplane, and if I did drag him along somewhere against his wishes (and that would be pretty much anywhere), he’d drive me nuts. He’d console himself with large quantities of food. He’d talk. Constantly. What would I do to console myself, I wonder? Hmmm. I’d probably bury my nose in a book.