The Storms of Life

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Andi Chewning – Norway 2012

“We are all drifting reefwards now, and faith is our only anchor.”
―  Bram Stoker, Dracula

I am not really sure where I am going with this today, my anchor has been lifted and while I am not adrift, I have not really navigated this course before. I want to write what is in my heart without censoring it the way I usually do. I censor my thoughts in an attempt to please others, to impress others and/or to avoid offending someone. Today, I just want to write what is on my heart.

I saw a picture on the news in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy of a seven ton cargo ship that had been tossed on shore a mile inland. The ship was huge, and it was beyond my ability to imagine what kind of force it must have taken to move it a mile away from the shore. I knew its anchor must have been tremendous yet it was not sufficient to save it, and I got to wondering about anchors and their purposes.

Storms come in many shapes and sizes from super storms  like Sandy to a cooling shower on a hot, humid day. They can cause great physical damage or emotional upheavals. They frequently bring death, destruction and pain.  And, anchors, those things which we use to negate some of that damage are not always sufficient.  That tanker’s anchor certainly didn’t protect it very well, and while a storm shelter may provide protection from a tornado what happens in its aftermath? How do you survive, cope and rebuild? How are all those people on the East Coast of the United States making it through the long, dark, cold days and nights without food, lights and heat? What keeps them going? What keeps any of us going when we lose someone we love, when we get divorced, when our friends betray us, when “life happens?” For me it is faith. Faith is my anchor and without it I just drift through life without purpose or direction at the mercy of the whims of fate.

I have raised five children and not all of them had he benefit of a strong faith, but I have noticed that the ones that I raised with a belief in a power greater than themselves had less traumatic teenage years than those that did not. They had an anchor that steadied them against the floods of peer pressure, drugs, low self-esteem and the Hollywood stereotypes of success.  Their faith, I believe, steadied them, and provided them with a secure knowledge of a power greater than themselves and their peers, and a larger worldview than their narrow, short lifespans provided them. This empowered them to stand firm and fight against the storms of life.

So too, in my own life, as I have battled depression, anxiety and stress, my faith – storm mangled as it is – has seen me through, provided me with an anchor and kept me safe to journey on toward new horizons in my life. It is my hope that all of you find a faith with which to anchor your lives and souls, a faith that will lead you to new adventures, larger horizons and more glorious manifestations of the Creator’s love in your lives.

“None of us knows what might happen even the next minute, yet still we go forward. Because we trust. Because we have Faith.”
―  Paulo Coelho, Brida

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The Chair Without A Back

“Young people don’t always do what they’re told, but if they can pull it off and do something wonderful, sometimes they escape punishment. ”
―  Rick Riordan

All of us have stories from our childhoods; stories that contributed to the development of our characters or were simply an expression of that character as it developed. One of my most memorable stories involves a chair without a back.  It began with an ordindary dinner at the kitchen table and ended with a permanent memento of my desire to explore life from all angles.

I don’t recall what led me to stick my head through the horizontal rungs of my kitchen chair. I don’t know if I was simply trying to see what was on the other side, or if I was simply bored.  Neither can I remember actually sticking my head through the slats. However, I can clearly remember not being able to remove it.  Unable to free myself, I began to wiggle and scream. It wasn’t long before my dad came to the rescue. I CAN clearly remember the sound of the saw as it ate through the wooden slats just inches away from my neck.  That chair remained my personal “seat of honor” at the family dinner table, a testimony to the follies of childhood.

An assortment adventures which run from a series of  bee stings from constantly running barefoot in the clover, to a wasp sting from spitting at a wasp nest,  to getting bit on the nose by a snapping turtle that I tried to rub noses are topped of with being chased by an entire herd of dairy cows one Christmas season. An experience that left one shoe in the quicksand, and a slamming door flapping behind me while I cowered under my bed.  I am not certain whether these misadventures shaped me or were fashioned by me as a result of my insatiable curiosity, inability to follow rules and sheer stubbornness. Regardless, they are part of who I am today.

I would love to hear from you about the stories that have shaped your life, or which are an expression of who you are. Feel free to add to this discussion and let’s get to know each other.

 

“For in every adult there dwells the child that was, and in every child there lies the adult that will be.”
―  John Connolly, “The Book of Lost Things”  

 

 

Why In The World Am I Doing This?

My Girls

Many years ago, at the age of 15, I found myself pregnant in a culture where “good girls” didn’t do things like that. I became a social pariah, and which was worse, an outcast from the faith that for so long been my only emotional support. I married the baby’s father on my 16th birthday, an abusive, alcoholic drug addict, and thus began a long slide into several divorces and other abusive relationships. However, it also led me into a lifelong pursuit of truth and knowledge as my emotional and spiritual needs were just not being fulfilled in either my relationships or my current worldviews. As much as I was able, I attempted to address this need by reading everything I could in this area, but the hunger for advanced education persisted. Unfortunately, this desire for learning took a back seat to the responsibilities of raising five daughters, but eventually I was able to start pursuing my dreams; dreams which culminated in two Master’s Degrees and three published books, two novels and one non-fiction book on spiritual direction.

 My journey has not been easy. I have had to overcome the trauma of divorce, the ramifications of being an abused child and spouse, and the inherited tendency toward depressive episodes. In addition, as a pregnant teenager I was, for most of my life, in the lower social-economic strata. Thus I was continually faced with financial challenges while trying to ensure that my children had more than just the basic necessities so that they might grow into fully confident and accomplished adults. I did succeed in this area and am proud of them; proud that they have well-balanced lives, proud that they have not succumbed to the pressures of substance abuse, and proud that all of them have had enough confidence and motivation to pursue and succeed in the areas of advanced education.

 However, I want to do more. I want to reach more people. I want to help others through the type of trials that I went through. I believe that the way to do this is to learn more about religion, education, counseling and writing in order to bring to the faith-based denominations an ecumenical outlook toward the various doctrines which currently only serve to divide and discredit Christian Spirituality.  I want to be able to provide comfort and solace to others that experience the underbelly of life whether it be addictions, poverty, mental disorders, or lack of educational opportunities, and I believe that a united faith, one devoid of doctrinal issues, is the key to reaching those that are in the most need.

 In addition, I have had a lifelong love affair with the written word. It was my passion, my dream and, next to raising my children, my greatest accomplishment. It manifested itself in many ways including the publication of two novels, numerous articles and newspaper stories, children’s literature, poetry as well as adult literary fiction. I pursued advanced education in this field and achieved a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing. This love for the written word extends itself into my teaching philosophy as I seek to instill in all my students not only a passion for writing but the ability to write clearly, concisely and effectively. I know that not every student will fall in love with the written word like I did, but I strive to at least give them a taste of what is possible when one communicates successfully in writing.

 It is my goal to combine these three passions, faith, writing and teaching, in such a way that I may help others learn, grow and prosper in their academic, professional, creative and spirituals lives and, I am humbled by the trust my students, my friends and my family have in me and my small attempts to help others. I honestly don’t know if I am worthy to do this, if I have the talent, the skills and/or the brains to even try this, but if I don’t try, I will never know.  So, I thank you all in advance for your patience, love and support.

God’s Peace,  Nancy