Category Archives: Faith

Free Sowing

Free Sowing.  It’s a gardening term that my therapist taught me as she gifted me some parsley, basil, and chia seeds.  It means seeds that do not require much tending to grow.

The last year and a half, I have required so much tending and care, that I am happy to be at my free sown phase.  I have happy days.  I have real moments when the dark foggy abyss abates, and I feel the sunlight on my face.  Those moments are longer and longer.  Words cannot adequately give gratitude to how that feels.

The pivotal moment for me occurred when I saw my friend on the street and presented with the opportunity to tell him forgave him. I reiterated I knew his daddy caused him to do the things he did to me.  Something happened that day, he told me that he was wrong, relating also, his father often told him to do things he should not have done.  I was no longer the only one saying these things happened.  I  no longer doubted my memories.  A tender mercy that I prayed for, answered very directly.  My husband witnessed his confession as he sat silently in the car beside me.

Since our conversation, surprisingly, days passed without a thought of the abuse or my abusers.  The long-awaited mental reprieve granted.  Not to spread all sunshine and roses, some days are still hard, but many more happy days of light than before.

What of my alters?

They still remain vigilent.  I am learning to live with them and they me.

Gidget fulfills her job as protector, and gets quite upset if I do not let her do her job.  She speaks up in situations that I should speak up and don’t or won’t.   She also loves to laugh and play jokes.  A few weeks back my husband and I went on a date.  Gidget came out.  I had shrimp on my plate.  When she allowed me to come back there were green beans in a smiley face with one shrimp as a IMG_2272nose staring at me.  Apparently she had told Mother she was not going to let me eat all the food at the restaurant.  She really likes Ole Times, and shrimp.

Squirt, or Little Shanna, her feelings are so tender.  She has been happier.  She watched Curious George a couple of times.  Mother said she gave her a play- by-play of what George was doing.  She still has some of her fears, but she is feeling safer.

Adrian.  I do not know what to say about Adrian.  Mother can talk to her and get through to her.  She does not like me, AT ALL.  She is very angry.  Though relatively quiet the last few weeks, she still makes part our “family”.

I suppose the dream of being “normal” – alter free- when I started to feel better, isn’t going to happen.  They are my normal.  Learning to live with them and accepting this part of my life is key.

 

 

 

The Mean One

 

I have debated writing about this over the last couple of days, but I know that I would do myself and my readers a great injustice by not writing it.  This blog serves as my journal and our voice.

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DID 1 (Photo credit: Vlad OFP)

As you have noticed I have not written in several days,  the reason behind this is the level of my anxiety has been extremely high.  It began Sunday with a blow up with a step-daughter, that ended unresolved, and remains unresolved, and will probably remain unresolved.  I just need to let it go, and do the things that I have said I would do,  nip it in the bud when she starts taking life out on me, ending it right there and then, not allow myself to be her emotional punching bag.  I allowed this conversation go on much longer than I should have, each time she would throw her verbal artillery at me, I defended, allowing myself to release pinned up anger from the last nine years, thinking somehow that I would feel better.  I do not.  Though I do not feel bad about the things I said or did, I, in no way feel “vindicated” for by my words, just heavy and negative for letting go on so long.

Then Tuesday, I had a doctor’s appointment.  I get very anxious to go to this doctor’s office because the waiting room is full, that and it is my internist.  I knew that I had let my diabetes, my blood pressure, and cholesterol fall on the back burner.  Though this doctor has the absolutely most amazing bedside manner, I still feared being scolded, no matter how gently it would be.

As I stood in front of the mirror brushing my teeth and  trying to calm my nerves, Little Shanna, began to express her nervousness.  I tried to reassure her, letting her know how nice the Doctor was, and that I was just nervous, but that we would be okay.  Then I heard her the other voice, “You be quiet, I’ll take care of the squirt.”

I was confused and shocked.  Little Shanna, this third identity, and I talked.  The third, not nicely at all, she was upsetting Little Shanna and I tried to calm her.  I would ask her name, she would laugh and give me a different name every time.  She has given me the name Sharon, Sally, Susan…the worst was when she laughed and said Legion and continued to laugh.  I tried to rebuke her in the Name of Jesus Christ, but she laughed, and she knows that she and I are part of one, and she isn’t going anywhere. When I realized I was still brushing my teeth my mouth was bleeding.

I ran to my bedroom hurried to get dressed, so that I could get out to my parents house.  I was terrified.  She laughed, the most awful laugh.  I do not know if you remember me telling you about the experience with the smoke and fire trucks, it was that same laugh. I thought that was Little Shanna at the time.  I remember even then I said, she seemed older than Little Shanna that day, now I know why.  That day she told me she would exploit all my fears.  She has repeated that many times the last few days.

I hurried out to my parents.  Went to my Mother’s room where she was getting ready, and Daddy laying on the bed, through my tears, I told them.  “There is another one.”

We went to the living room and almost immediately Little Shanna came out.  She needed Mother to know she was scared.  She talked to Mother more than she usually does.  She kept saying she was scared. I cannot remember what else Mother said she said. In the middle of comforting Little Shanna, the other one pushed forward.

Mother said she looked very mean.  Mother told her to leave but she laughed that laugh that I always hear, and said, you can’t make me leave.  Mother called on the name of Jesus Christ to make her leave and she went back in, she was still tormenting me from the inside though.  Daddy said he could hear the laugh all the way back in the bedroom.

My days are running together, I think it was that night that I was sitting here and I heard Little Shanna whispering to get my attention.  I asked why she was whispering.  She said she did not want the “mean one” to hear her.  I do not know how the brain of the DID works, or if that is just the mind of the child not wanting someone else to hear her.  Anyway, she said, “Killing people is bad, I didn’t want to kill you. It was the mean one.”  If felt like she was implying that the “mean one” had made her say those things about killing me when she wanted me to commit suicide.

Another disturbing conversation, I think this was yesterday, but it could have been Tuesday also, was The Mean One telling me that ”I can force my way out and pretend it is you, a bitch and make your life hell and no one will know, but you cannot pretend to be me, everyone will know, sucks to be you.’” The prime example of this is Christmas with the family right before little Shanna came.  Little Shanna cries like she does because she is scared of The Mean One, and upset of the situation that caused The Mean One to come.

It is so scary having something so mean, sinister, inside you.  I wish I could understand DID.  Living it blindly scares me.  Going solely on my own experience I feel that Little Shanna only has my memories as a child.  The Mean One, pretty much access to everything. I do not know how to control her.

I just don’t know, I suppose we’ll see.  Thank you for reading. If you are a person of faith, I would not mind extra prayers right now.  I am having a hard time dealing with this.

Love you all. ~Hope

 

 

 

 

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Oh Have Mercy!

Helping-others
Photo Credit: http://www.techtricksworld.com

Funny how the mind picks things to ponder on.  This morning will waiting for Roscoe and Enos to finish their “business” outside, my mind drifted to how we judge people, we being me.

I try really hard to walk the path my Savior, Jesus Christ, asks.  He commands us to be merciful.  Yes we obey he laws of the land and execute righteous judgement in  prosecution of criminals doing so, but within ourselves and while dealing with offenders our charge command is to be merciful.

Why is that?  Does it matter?  Not really.  I think though in addition to the fact that in order to being able to receive the gift of mercy ourselves we must be merciful, there  is another piece to it.  We cannot see inside of an individual like out Savior can.  We have not watched their daily struggles or successes, and seen what brought them to this point

Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables comes to mind.  Jean ValJean, imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread..  He was not a mean or a cruel thief, he stole because his nephew was starving.  We received a huge prison sentence for this.  When released he could not find work because of his past.  Eventually going to a parish, he steals the silver.  This time however, the priest shows him mercy, and explains to the constables that the silver was a gift, and even goes so far as to give him a candlestick that he missed.  Because of this kindness, not only ValJean’s life was changed, but many others.

I am not saying if someone breaks in to our homes to say, “oh you forgot this.” I am saying that we can be more freely forgiving, more free to offer the hand of fellowship, free to serve those that are least serve-able

I could be completely wrong in this hypothesis, but I feel if people exhibited more charity and mercy, there would not be a need for so much “justice”. Some of those, especially the youth, that are acting out, and fall into the jaws of justice would feel compelled to change because they would see their worth as human beings and as sons and daughters of God.

Such would be my hope.

Thanks for reading.  Have a wonderful Saturday.  ~Hope

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It’s Raining It’s Pouring

It has been raining today.  Heavy showers passing by.  Roscoe cannot stand the sound of the rain, he jumps up and begins shaking.  Yeah, my dog even has anxiety issues.  When it comes to the rain, I love it.  I love the sound. I love the smell. I love how it feels. I just love it.  Do not love how my head feels when the barometric pressure changes, but oh well, I still love rain.

The hubs and I have been watching a marathon on American Restoration on the Roku today.  Gosh, it totally amazes me how they can take something broken and in completely horrible shape, and restore it to such beautiful mint looking condition.  Of course as I watch it I think about myself.  I know how I look physically and emotionally.  I am in a pretty rough state.  The journey I am on, and the Healer and Refiner working with me, my Savior Jesus Christ, will in the end help me to be mint condition again.  A new person, well and whole.  It is just going to take time.

Another lesson I have learned in this analogy is that just like different methods need to be used on different materials or you will do more damage, so it is on this journey.  He’s with me and leading me.  Helping me to find the right things I need to do.  Yet another lesson is that each thing has its own time, you cannot rush it.

I know in the end I will be excited with the improvements and healing, and say, “Wow! I am not the same person that started on the journey.  I am better.”

My pray for myself and others on this journey that these thoughts are taken to heart.  It is easy to write them, and feel them as I write them.  It is another to remember them in the darkness of trial.

Thank you all for reading.  I am still working on my MP3.  Please send your music choices to help me.

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New Year, New Look

Decided to change-up the look of my blog. I do not know if I will keep it this way or not. I really like the look of the owl, and I read to see what the owl symbolizes. It is wisdom. I should have known that.

I sang the little ditty as a child. “A wise old owl sat on an oak. The more he heard the less he spoke, the less he spoke the more he heard. Why aren’t we all like that old bird.” We would sing it over and over again in rounds.

Wisdom. What is wisdom? Wisdom is something you can only gain through experience. No one can give it to you as a gift wrapped in a pretty bow. You cannot read it in a book or on a blog, and magically bestow it through osmosis. No, wisdom comes through your own application of knowledge to your experiences. This journey is my journey to a completely new wisdom. I am learning more about myself that I ever knew existed and parts that I did not know I hid. I will learn how to work together with myself to create a powerful them so that we can do as the image of the owl states “Shine On.”

I have been counseled for years to gain knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge has always come very easy to me. Almost too easy. I suppose you could call me a nerd. Wisdom, not so much. I have to learn life’s lessons time and time again, before the wisdom sticks. This time, however long it takes, however many lessons are involved, I will gain the wisdom I need.  Can’t go around it, can’t go over it, can’t go under it, must go through it.
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So for me funny moment happened today, at my husband’s expense. He teases me constantly about my memory, as I addressed a couple of days ago. Today however, he called me on the way home from work and told me that he was at CVS picking up his medications. I was super confused and asked him, “Didn’t you pick those up yesterday?” That’s when he started laughing. He said he started thinking about the coupons he had to use at CVS and said he would go today since he had to pick up his medications anyway. The pharmacist tech looked and looked, and probably thought they had lost another of our prescriptions. (I called and reported them to corporate a few weeks ago for losing prescriptions.) This time it was not them, it was my adorable husband and his perfect memory. Thankful for those moments!

Sink or Swim, I Thought Fat Floated

No surprise I am emotional today, I am every day. I have glimpses into light and peace. I did so as I studied and read the scriptures, and listened to uplifting music this morning. However, much like an egg on perfectly seasoned non-stick surface thrown into the air, so went my brief feelings of joy. Back into the abyss I sink.

I talked to my lawyer earlier this week and he said the disability judge is running fourteen months behind, so my case will not be heard until probably next December (2014). It is so frustrating. Confusing too, the emotions I feel. I am so terrified being in public right now, going to a hearing around people scares me. When I am scared and overly emotionally Little Hope seems to have the upper hand. It has been a HUGE fear getting in front of the judge and she come out. It will leave me unpresent not knowing what is going on or how to answer any questions. Not to mention if she pulls one of her fits.

Something I realized today, I beat myself up over things before they happen. I create elaborate scenarios in my head, stupid what if scenarios. Example in point. I let Daisy and Roscoe out in our fenced in backyard. While they did their business I figured I would do mine. (TMI moment coming) My stomach was bothering me and I stayed in there a few more minutes than I originally thought. I start panicking that Roscoe and Daisy have dug out of the yard. (Completely out of character for Roscoe, and Daisy too if she is not with Gage.) But it was real to me. I could not hear them in them playing outside the window. I just knew they were gone. Daisy has a chip, Roscoe does not. They are going to get hit by a car. Tracy is not home to help me find them. It is my fault that I ate the Oreos, because I know those and my Metformin mess my stomach up. I am not going to be able to live with myself. (I am trying to hurry so I can go find them, but my stomach would not cooperate.) By this point I was almost in tears and shaking. I hear the neighbors dogs barking, then my parents dogs barking. My fears are confirmed, they have escaped. Why else would all the neighborhood dogs bark. I have got to get out of this bathroom!! Why did I eat those stupid Oreos!! Those Oreos killed my dogs. Then I heard it, outside my bathroom window, inside the fence, Daisy’s beautiful bark. The same bark that annoys me at 3:00 in the morning.

My epiphany came as I walked to the door to let them in. I am always finding reason to hate me, real or imagined.

In therapy we have talked how I blame myself for all the bad things that have happened to me, part of it for me is to give any others involved a free pass. The deeper part is in most cases I feel like something I have done caused it.

I’m fat. I have heard I am fat because I would eat at my Granny’s and my home. I cry as I type that. In my mind being fat has been the root of many of my problems. For those who say lose the weight, let me say, if there is a diet, I have tried it. I have owned several exercise machines, walked, swam, danced, kickboxed, you name it. I would lose some, and breathe and gain weight again and the pounds I lost would bring family members and friends.

So again I am fat, it is my fault. I got that. It is there. I cannot shake it. Enter the teen years and puberty, I get something that “fat girls” get Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. I’m fat. I caused it. My fault. Through the years I was told that I would have trouble getting pregnant. Lose weight they say, but PCOS makes you gain too. So being fat made me have something that makes me gain weight. Anyway, losing weight nor medication helped. Infertility=No Child because I am fat! My Fault! But wait, there’s more! I wanted a child so bad. My self-esteem so low I am easy prey. All the signs were there that the baby did not exist, but I believed her. Everyone hurt because of my dream and my gullibility. Then instead of my womb producing something beautiful, it produced something ugly, cancer. Cancer, that was my fault because I am fat. Now my heart is enlarged and thick, I have asthma, degenerative back disease, diabetes, and several other things…and why??? BECAUSE I AM FAT!!!

So why do I hate myself? I wonder?

Fat provides a cruel floating illusion, when in reality it acts as a millstone securely placed pulling you into the deepest your abyss.

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Hello 2014, What Do You Hold In Your View?

I’m here. Yeah, still alive and breathing which is a plus. The last few months have been tricky and remain so. I had surgery in November on my neck for a herniated disk. My back is still giving me a fit and finding a comfortable position to sleep almost impossible.

Little Hope continues to cause to make my life a mess. I refuse to acknowledge her as part of me. My life has become that of a recluse because of the prison which she holds me in. Fearing constantly that she will take over. She ruined my family Christmas for me. Showing herself to my extended family. I hate her. I wish she would go away. You hear the cliché in movies that there is only room for one of us in this town, well that is how I feel about my body and mind.

As I write the tension and the anxiety wells up inside. I have been anxious for several days, fearing that something is going to happen to someone I love. Not that anxiety is new. This is just constant. I hear a siren, I turn on the scanner, or call my loved ones. Irrational I know, but I cannot shake the feeling. At night I wake up to feel my husband breathing, to feel his warm skin. When my Mother and I return from a doctor, I scan the sky for smoke to make sure our homes have not caught on fire while we are gone. When we pull in, I scan the yard to make sure my Daddy has not fallen. I am in a constant state of worry. As they read this, it will be the first time my family hears some of it. I am ashamed of it, but it is my life, if that is what it can be called.

I determined myself to start writing again, not allow the little bully within to stop me. I apologize for the negative post, I am trying to get the emotions out. Trying to be real.

What does 2014 hold? A lot more therapy. I hope I can learn to control the monster within. I am sorry such horrible things happened to her, they happened to me too, but she needs to let me be the adult and live. I try to explain to her that she is safe, and that she will be happy if she lets me live. She does not trust me. She often screams loudly in my mind. “If you are sad you must die.” or “That’s not fair. That’s not fair to me.” She does not want me to be sad, or to be too happy. So I live in limbo. Reclusive.

I communicate with friends and family via Facebook and texting. My immediate family I talk to on the phone or at my parents home. I cannot even attend Church right now because of panic attacks being around people. I miss going to Church. I miss spending time out. I miss me.

I do have hope for 2014. Hope that I can press forward and get to know the new me, and feel comfortable in my own skin. Hope that I will walk back into Church without a panic attack. Hope that will be able to date my husband again, I miss our dates. Hope of shopping trips with my Mother. Yes, others have resolutions of weight-loss and exercise. It goes without saying that I need to have those things on my list, but that will come.

Songs of the Heart Sunday: A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief

First thing this morning the word to one of my favorite hymns kept running through my mind.

Savior, may I learn to love thee,
Walk the path that thou hast shown,
Pause to help and lift another,
Finding strength beyond my own.
Savior, may I learn to love thee-
Lord, I would follow thee.

Who am I to judge another
When I walk imperfectly?
In the quiet heart is hidden
Sorrow that the eye can’t see.
Who am I to judge another?
Lord, I would follow thee.

I would be my brother’s keeper;
I would learn the healer’s art.
To the wounded and the weary
I would show a gentle heart.
I would be my brother’s keeper-
Lord, I would follow thee.

Savior, may I love my brother
As I know thou lovest me,
Find in thee my strength, my beacon,
For thy servant I would be.
Savior, may I love my brother-
Lord, I would follow thee.

I had decided to write my whole Sunday post about this song. It teaches so much about service and who our brothers and sisters are.

Then at church today we sang another favorite, but we generally only sing the first three verses, the chorister today was prompted to sing all seven verses. At the conclusion of the song, there was not a dry eye in the room, or one that I could see through my tears.

As I have thought about the two songs together, realize that the theme is serving one another, and not knowing what is hidden that the eyes cannot see. The song touched everyone in a different way, for different reasons.

A poor wayfaring Man of grief
Hath often crossed me on my way,
Who sued so humbly for relief
That I could never answer nay.
I had not power to ask his name,
Whereto he went, or whence he came;
Yet there was something in his eye
That won my love; I knew not why.

Once, when my scanty meal was spread,
He entered; not a word he spake,
Just perishing for want of bread.
I gave him all; he blessed it, brake,
And ate, but gave me part again.
Mine was an angel’s portion then,
For while I fed with eager haste,
The crust was manna to my taste.

I spied him where a fountain burst
Clear from the rock; his strength was gone.
The heedless water mocked his thirst;
He heard it, saw it hurrying on.
I ran and raised the suff’rer up;
Thrice from the stream he drained my cup,
Dipped and returned it running o’er;
I drank and never thirsted more.

’Twas night; the floods were out; it blew
A winter hurricane aloof.
I heard his voice abroad and flew
To bid him welcome to my roof.
I warmed and clothed and cheered my guest
And laid him on my couch to rest;
Then made the earth my bed, and seemed
In Eden’s garden while I dreamed.

Stripped, wounded, beaten nigh to death,
I found him by the highway side.
I roused his pulse, brought back his breath,
Revived his spirit, and supplied
Wine, oil, refreshment—he was healed.
I had myself a wound concealed,
But from that hour forgot the smart,
And peace bound up my broken heart.

In pris’n I saw him next, condemned
To meet a traitor’s doom at morn.
The tide of lying tongues I stemmed,
And honored him ’mid shame and scorn.
My friendship’s utmost zeal to try,
He asked if I for him would die.
The flesh was weak; my blood ran chill,
But my free spirit cried, “I will!”

Then in a moment to my view
The stranger started from disguise.
The tokens in His hands I knew;
The Savior stood before mine eyes.
He spake, and my poor name He named,
“Of Me thou hast not been ashamed.
These deeds shall thy memorial be;
Fear not, thou didst them unto Me.”

Through out the song I pictured several people, but during the prison scene in my mind I saw one person. “Him”. As I sang the words, “He asked if I for him would die”. I knew the answer. I sobbed as I sang the words that echoed my own reply to “him”. I would and I knew I would. As terrified as I get when I see him, I do not want anything bad to happen to him.

My Mother was one of the speakers. She was sitting on the stand, I in the congregation and we locked eyes, I sobbed. I did not know what my face registered. I know when “he” usually comes into my mind or my PTSD kicks in Little Hope is evident on my face. I did not feel that so much, it was just the realization within myself that I would die for this friend. Then singing the next verse, was very overwhelming.

After Church and a visit to see my aunt, when we were about to turn into our drive we saw “him”. I was already holding my husband’s hand. I squeezed it tightly afraid to let go. My breathing increased. The words to that verse started going through my head over and over and over again. When I would allow myself to move on to the next verse I calmed down enough to get out of the car.

Songs of the Heart Sunday: Give Thanks In All Things

My mind has thought upon the will of God, and being grateful in all things. More than being grateful, but expressing gratitude.

The following true story of gratitude has always touched me. At one place of employment that was particularly difficult, I put a large picture of a flea to remind me to be grateful.

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Excerpt from The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

“Barracks 8 was in the quarantine compound. Next to us–perhaps as a deliberate warning to newcomers–were located the punishment barracks. From there, all day long and often into the night, came the sounds of hell itself. They were not the sounds of anger, or of any human emotion, but of a cruelty altogether detached: blows landing in regular rhythm, screams keeping pace. We would stand in our ten-deep ranks with our hands trembling at our sides, longing to jam them against our ears, to make the sounds stop.

“It grew harder and harder. Even within these four walls there was too much misery, too much seemingly pointless suffering. Every day something else failed to make sense, something else grew too heavy.

“But as the rest of the world grew stranger, one thing became increasingly clear. And that was the reason the two of us were here. Why others should suffer we were not shown. As for us, from morning until lights-out, whenever we were not in ranks for roll call, our Bible was the center of an ever-widening circle of health and hope.

“Like waifs clustered around a blazing fire, we gathered about it, holding out our hearts to its warmth and light. The blacker the night around us grew, the brighter and truer and more beautiful burned the Word of God.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?…Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.”

“I would look about us as Betsie read, watching the light leap from face to face. More than conquerors…It was not a wish. It was a fact.

“We knew it, we experienced it minute by minute–poor, hated, hungry. We are more than conquerors. Not “we shall be.” We are!

“Life in Ravensbruck took place on two separate levels, mutually impossible. One, the observable, external life, grew every day more horrible. The other, the life we lived with God, grew daily better, truth upon truth, glory upon glory.

“Sometimes I would slip the Bible from its little (sack) with hands that shook, so mysterious had it become to me. It was new; it had just been written. I marveled sometimes that the ink was dry…I had read a thousand times the story of Jesus’ arrest–how soldiers had slapped Him, laughed at Him, flogged Him. Now such happenings had faces and voices.

“Fridays–the recurrent humiliation of medical inspection. The hospital corridor in which we waited was unheated and a fall chill had settled into the walls. Still we were forbidden even to wrap ourselves in our own arms, but had to maintain our erect, hands-at-sides position as we filed slowly past a phalanx of grinning guards.

“How there could have been any pleasure in the sight of these stick-thin legs and hunger-bloated stomachs I could not imagine. Surely there is no more wretched sight than the human body unloved and uncared for.

“Nor could I see the necessity for the complete undressing: when we finally reached the examining room a doctor looked down each throat, another–a dentist presumably–at our teeth, a third in between each finger. And that was all. We trooped again down the long, cold corridor and picked up our X-marked dresses at the door.

“But it was one of these mornings while we were waiting, shivering in the corridor, that yet another page in the Bible leapt into life for me.

“He hung naked on the cross.

“…The paintings, the carved crucifixes showed at least a scrap of cloth. But this, I suddenly knew, was the respect and reverence of the artist. But oh–at the time itself, on that other Friday morning–there had been no reverence. No more than I saw in the faces around us now.

“‘Betsie, they took His clothes too.’

“‘Ahead of me I heard a little gasp. ‘Oh, Corrie. And I never thanked Him…’

“Every day the sun rose a little later, the bite took longer to leave the air. It will be better, everyone assured everyone else, when we move into permanent barracks. We’ll have a blanket apiece. A bed of our own. Each of us painted into the picture her own greatest need.

“The move to permanent quarters came the second week in October. We were marched, ten abreast, along the wide cinder avenue…Several times the column halted while numbers were read out–names were never used at Ravensbruck. At last Betsie’s and mine were called…We stepped out of line with a dozen or so others and stared at the long gray front of Barracks 28.

“Betsie and I followed a prisoner-guide through the door at the right. Because of the broken windows, the vast room was in semi-twilight. Our noses told us, first, that the place was filthy: somewhere, plumbing had backed up, the bedding was soiled and rancid.

“Then as our eyes adjusted to the gloom we saw that there were no individual beds at all, but great square tiers stacked three high, and wedged side by side and end to end with only an occasional narrow aisle slicing through.

“We followed our guide single file–the aisle was not wide enough for two–fighting back the claustrophobia of these platforms rising everywhere above us…At last she pointed to a second tier in the center of a large block.

“To reach it, we had to stand on the bottom level, haul ourselves up, and then crawl across three other straw-covered platforms to reach the one that we would share with–how many?

“The deck above us was too close to let us sit up. We lay back, struggling against the nausea that swept over us from the reeking straw…Suddenly I sat up, striking my head on the cross-slats above. Something had pinched my leg.

“‘Fleas!’ I cried. ‘Betsie, the place is swarming with them!’

“We scrambled across the intervening platforms, heads low to avoid another bump, dropped down to the aisle and hedged our way to a patch of light.

“‘Here! And here another one!’ I wailed. ‘Betsie, how can we live in such a place!’

“‘Show us. Show us how.’ It was said so matter of factly it took me a second to realize she was praying. More and more the distinction between prayer and the rest of life seemed to be vanishing for Betsie.

“‘Corrie!’ she said excitedly. ‘He’s given us the answer! Before we asked, as He always does! In the Bible this morning. Where was it? Read that part again!’

“I glanced down the long dim aisle to make sure no guard was in sight, then drew the Bible from its pouch. ‘It was in First Thessalonians,’ I said. We were on our third complete reading of the New Testament since leaving Scheveningen.

“In the feeble light I turned the pages. ‘Here it is: “Comfort the frightened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all…'” It seemed written expressly to Ravensbruck.

“‘Go on,’ said Betsie. ‘That wasn’t all.’

“‘Oh yes:’…”Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.'”

“‘That’s it, Corrie! That’s His answer. “Give thanks in all circumstances!” That’s what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!’ I stared at her; then around me at the dark, foul-aired room.

“‘Such as?’ I said.

“‘Such as being assigned here together.’

“I bit my lip. ‘Oh yes, Lord Jesus!’

“‘Such as what you’re holding in your hands.’ I looked down at the Bible.

“‘Yes! Thank You, dear Lord, that there was no inspection when we entered here! Thank You for all these women, here in this room, who will meet You in these pages.’

“‘Yes,’ said Betsie, ‘Thank You for the very crowding here. Since we’re packed so close, that many more will hear!’ She looked at me expectantly. ‘Corrie!’ she prodded.

“‘Oh, all right. Thank You for the jammed, crammed, stuffed, packed suffocating crowds.’

“‘Thank You,’ Betsie went on serenely, ‘for the fleas and for–‘

“The fleas! This was too much. ‘Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.’

“‘Give thanks in all circumstances,’ she quoted. It doesn’t say, ‘in pleasant circumstances.’ Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.

“And so we stood between tiers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong.”

“They started arriving soon after 6:00 o’clock, the women of Barracks 28, tired, sweat-stained, and dirty from the long forced-labor details. The building, we learned from one of our platform mates, had been designed to hold four hundred. There were now fourteen hundred quartered here with more arriving weekly as concentration camps in Poland, France, Belgium, Austria, as well as Holland were evacuated toward the center of Germany.

“There were nine of us sharing our particular square, designed for four, and some grumbling as the others discovered they would have to make room for Betsie and me. Eight acrid and overflowing toilets served the entire room; to reach them we had to crawl not only over our own bedmates but over those on the other platforms between us and the closest aisle, always at the risk of adding too much weight to the already sagging slats and crashing down on the people beneath.

“Even when the slats held, the least movement on the upper platforms sent a shower of dust and straw over the sleepers below–followed by a volley of curses. In Barracks 8 most of us had been Dutch. Here there was not even a common language and among exhausted, ill-fed people quarrels erupted constantly.

“There was one raging now as the women sleeping nearest the windows slammed them shut against the cold. At once scores of voices demanded that they be raised again. Brawls were starting all up and down that side of the room; we heard scuffling, slaps, sobs.

“In the dark, I felt Betsie’s hand clasp mine. ‘Lord Jesus,’ she said aloud, ‘send Your peace into this room. There has been too little praying here. The very walls know it. But where You come, Lord, the spirit of strife cannot exist…’

“The change was gradual, but distinct. One by one the angry sounds let up.

“‘I’ll make you a deal!’ The voice spoke German with a strong Scandinavian accent. ‘You can sleep in here where its warmer and I’ll take your place by the window!’

“‘And add your lice to my own!’ But there was a chuckle in the answer. ‘No thanks.’

“‘I’ll tell you what!’ The third voice had a French burr. ‘We’ll open them halfway. That way we’ll be only half-frozen and you’ll be only half-smothered.’

“A ripple of laughter widened around the room at this. I lay back on the sour straw and knew there was one more circumstance for which I could give thanks. Betsie had come to Barracks 28.

“Roll call came at 4:40 a.m. here as it had in quarantine. A whistle roused us at 4:00 when, without even shaking the straw from clothes and hair, the stampede began for the ration of bread and coffee in the center room. Lastcomers found none.

“After roll call, work crews were called out. For weeks Betsie and I were assigned to the Siemens factory. This huge complex of mills and railroad terminals was a mile and a half from the camp. The “Siemens Brigade,” several thousand of us, marched out the iron gate beneath the charged wires into a world of trees and grass and horizons. The sun rose as we skirted the little lake; the gold of the late fall fields lifted our hearts.

“The work at Siemens, however, was sheer misery. Betsie and I had to push a heavy handcart to a railroad siding where we unloaded large metal plates from a boxcar and wheeled them to a receiving gate at the factory. The grueling workday lasted eleven hours. At least, at noontime we were given a boiled potato and some thin soup; those who worked inside the camp had no midday meal.

“Returning to camp we could barely lift our swollen and aching legs. The soldiers patrolling us bellowed and cursed, but we could only shuffle forward inches at a step.

“Back at the barracks we formed yet another line–would there never be an end to columns and waits?–to receive our ladle of turnip soup in the center room. Then, as quickly as we could for the press of people, Betsie and I made our way to the rear of the dormitory room where we held our worship “service.” Around our own platform area there was not enough light to read the Bible, but back here a small light bulb cast a wan yellow circle on the wall, and here an ever larger group of women gathered.

“They were services like no others, these times in Barracks 28.

“At first Betsie and I called these meetings with great timidity. But as night after night went by and no guard ever came near us, we grew bolder. So many now wanted to join us that we held a second service after evening roll call. There on the Lagerstrasse we were under rigid surveillance, guards in their warm wool capes marching constantly up and down. It was the same in the center room of the barracks: half a dozen guards or camp police always present. Yet in the large dormitory room there was almost no supervision at all. We did not understand it.

“One evening I got back to the barracks late from a wood-gathering foray outside the walls. A light snow lay on the ground and it was hard to find the sticks and twigs with which a small stove was kept going in each room. Betsie was waiting for me, as always, so that we could wait through the food line together. Her eyes were twinkling.

“‘You’re looking extraordinarily pleased with yourself,’ I told her.

“‘You know, we’ve never understood why we had so much freedom in the big room,’ she said. ‘Well–I’ve found out.’

“That afternoon, she said, there’d been confusion in her knitting group about sock sizes and they’d asked the supervisor to come and settle it.

“But she wouldn’t. She wouldn’t step through the door and neither would the guards. And you know why?”

“Betsie could not keep the triumph from her voice: ‘Because of the fleas! That’s what she said, “That place is crawling with fleas!'”

“My mind rushed back to our first hour in this place. I remembered Betsie’s bowed head, remembered her thanks to God for creatures I could see no use for.”

This talk on gratitude really rang a familiar chord in my heart.

In All Things Give Thanks

Songs of the Heart Sunday: Each Life That Touches Ours

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“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” ― C.S. Lewis

The blessing and nature of friendship is on my mind today. Of course it would be after spending a couple of days with the hubs and his pal, but also last night I received a call that a dear friend of mine is in a diabetic coma. I could hardly rest worrying last night. I went to see her before Church and after Sacrament went to be with her a few more hours.

The lyrics to Each Life That Touches Ours For Good has been on repeat in my head.

Each life that touches ours for good
Reflects thine own great mercy, Lord.
Thou sendest blessings from above
Through words and deeds of those who love.

What greater gift dost thou bestow,
What greater goodness can we know
Than Christ-like friends, whose gentle ways
Strengthen our faith, enrich our days.

When such a friend from us departs
We hold forever in our hearts
A sweet and hallowed memory,
Bringing us nearer, Lord, to thee.
For worthy friends whose lives proclaim
Devotion to the Savior’s name,
Who bless our days with peace and love,
We praise thy goodness Lord above.

I have been blessed with the best family and friends. Right now I am reflecting on many of those relationships with gratitude for the lessons we have learned together.

Once I consider you a friend, you ARE a friend and occupy a hallowed place is my heart. There are many in my life that others might have evicted from that hallowed location, but I cannot. When I love, I love deeply and completely, almost to a fault. I forgive, and TRY to forget.

My husband often teases my reference to various people as “my friend”, but once you have made a positive personal impact on my life, you are my friend. Through blogging I have made many new friends, and as I continue to blog and read blogs, my circle of friendship and heart real estate will grow.