Storyropes – A Bridge To Release Trauma

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My Storyrope

I’ve been on a nearly year-long journey of fighting cancer for a second go round. Stage four breast cancer. I’m in what they call palliative care, but that’s not hospice just yet. My oncologist is firm that they are very different. One can be fighting cancer in palliative care for years, even. (Many days I think I can’t handle the fatigue or nausea one more day, and I want a loving hospice team to scoop me up and kindly carry me into Heaven.) That’s the way to go! People call me brave and courageous; I whimper in my bed and marvel that others see me as strong. Yes, I get up most days, push through the fatigue after a lengthily time praying, singing to myself, and listening to an encouraging talk or Psalms.

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Teaching Storyropes in Haiti

But this post is about storyropes. And bridges to release trauma. I want to share via video because I’ve slowly read, limped through some excellent training, taken a bit of yoga, tried relaxing, breathing techniques, and still I see the making of a storyrope is a key and profound way to engage, explore and release our stories. So, I am determined to make a storyrope demo video as soon as I have the strength, with the hope that the teaching can be translated into several languages as I teach. A friend from Hong Kong is coming mid-september, she has taught storyropes there, and I hope she can help make the video.

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Teaching Storyropes in Seattle

I’ve learned a few things this summer:

  1. We all tend to carry shame and hide it.
  2. Many have had shameful things done to them.
  3. Many have done shameful things they fear ever exposing.
  4. Our bodies and brains store our shame, our trauma, our losses and abuses.
  5. The shame, trauma, etc, can be released through: art, music, drama, movement, poetry, yoga. Secondary “talk therapy” may be helpful once bridges have been built with the creative arts. Example: A formerly trafficked woman may see a tree in misty shadows and begin to cry. The art tapped into her deep sorrow at walking the streets, and now, she began putting words to what she was feeling upon seeing the misty tree that looked like she felt.
  6. The storyrope making is a kinesthetic activity. Movement is good for releasing trauma. and it is coupled with “telling” our stories through colors of fabric and ribbons that represent parts of our stories.
  7. Once words are found for the strips of fabric and ribbon, shame begins to be released from our minds, emotions, bodies and souls.
  8. I like to care for someone who shares their story with the storyrope by asking if they would like prayer – to speak truth and life into dark and evil, shameful situations. Quiet listening and grieving with the person sharing their storyrope in best.
  9. Reading some Psalms may be helpful in soothing wounded places. African friends would often sing in community after each woman shared their story.
  10. If participants want, in prayer, they may release their trauma to a just God who loves them. I’m respectful of all participants; we are each in different places in our spiritual journey. We never want to add trauma by pushing people to share something they are not ready to share this time. They may share with a counselor, women’s leader, pastor, rabbi, priest or a family member with whom they really feel safe.

The video below was made last year, and it just tells a bit of how to get started with making storyropes. I hope to expand this video into a teaching video in the days ahead, Lord willing. Thanks for joining me on this journey, and thanks for your many prayers. Our God hears! We just have to relax into His sovereign love, that is shown by Jesus.

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Storyropes in Peru – A woman set free that night!

Gift Bag To Give When A Friend Is Going Through Chemo

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We all want to help when someone is diagnosed with cancer. But, where do we start? What do we do, especially if we are not in the person’s inner circle of friends? (Or, if we are.) How do we show up? One thing we can all do is make a gift bag with goodies for your special person’s chemo infusion sessions and for their days of recovery. Many have asked me what should be put in a gift bag, so here are a few suggestions for a “blessing bag” for someone in a hard place, especially for those fighting cancer.

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A colorful gift bag of your choice, is a great way to start. It could even be a fabric bag if you’d like. There aren’t any rules here, except to try to bless and encourage. Fill the bag yourself or with a group of friends. This is a great project for several to pool their resources and gifting. The more the merrier!

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Start off with some comfort lotions for the inevitable dry skin from chemo, hand sanitizer for those endless office visits, tissues for the tears that will come, and tuck in essential oils if you know your person would like them. Think pampering and comfort when selecting lotions and oils. Everything hurts during chemo. Remember cozy, fuzzy socks for cold feet – chemo often takes a long time, and your person’s feet will cool down.

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I have a friend who makes very special products to heal and soothe. These would be great to add to a blessing bag. Her website is Picket and Oak.

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Tuck in some mints, gum, and sweets that will help with any strange tastes or nausea during chemo. Ginger gum and ginger mints are also good ideas to help with nausea. My doctor has suggested Tums for the lighter nausea days.

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Next, you can add gift cards to Panera or Starbucks, or any of your local coffee shops and restaurants that might encourage your person. I’ve gotten $5 Starbucks cards when I am making many gift bags; a friend purchased $10 Panera cards for some of my gift bags. These are a really huge addition because they allow a caregiver or your person to take a break from cooking or to actually get a little treat.

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Then, you can add a favorite book to encourage or cheer your person on her journey. Kara Tippetts, who fought hard throughout her breast cancer journey, wrote a book with Jill Buteyn about showing up for your people who are sick or hurting. I highly recommend it! If someone likes making bookmarks, add one of those to the book. (Audio books are great, too.) Then, you can add little gifts of beauty: bracelets, earrings, a pretty necklace, a handmade scarf or hat. Of course, it helps to have a group to add extra items like this, but, one of your friends might make jewelry, and just maybe, they’d love to donate a few items to your bag. If a friend knits or crochets, maybe she can donate a hat or scarf. After someone fighting chemo looses his or her hair, a soft, handmade hat is a very special, well used gift.

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Another important item to tuck into your gift bag is some lip gloss, vaseline or lip balm. It’s fun to find different flavors of lip balm, but the more practical gloss is well liked as well. Chemo patients’ lips are always dry in the winter.
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A soft hat to sleep in or wear through the winter is a lovely item to include.

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A couple of other ideas to include are emory boards and nail hardener type nail polish. Chemo patients often have fragile nails, even to the point of loosing them. I know. That scared me right into using nail hardener! (I’ve asked for prayer so I don’t loose my nails.) Some folks use Jamberry nail wraps, and they might be a help as well. Also, bath salts and bubble bath are just wonderful items to include. A cancer patient often does not have the energy to stand up in the shower, and the soaking bath helps remove toxins while giving comfort to your person’s achy body.

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A final idea is to add some blank art cards or thank you cards. Your special person will have so many thank you cards to write – and half they will never have the energy to get to. I have so many people I need to thank for helping me, I feel I should make an announcement over a national public address system, and thank everyone at once! In fact, thank you to everyone who has helped me on my cancer journey!!

These are just some ideas. These items have helped me on my journey with stage 4 breast cancer. They just might bless your person. And remember, don’t dash off right after you have handed your person their gift bag. You will cheer them so much by hanging out for a bit; maybe crack a joke, share your news and help them to feel they are still in the land of the living! Your presence is really one of the biggest gifts you can give them! You can be a curative balm in their time of “hard.”

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Katie, sharing the journey with me, often comes down to my apartment in the evening to check on me and give me the gift of her time and her presence!

A joy-filled heart is curative balm,
but a broken spirit hurts all the way to the bone. Proverbs 17:22 The Bible, the Voice version

Here is the link to the Just Show Up book: “JUST SHOW UP”

Here is a link to Picket and Oak: PICKET AND OAK

 

 

Bombastic Tomfoolery

Once, when I was taking down one of my oil paintings that was displayed in a Christmas show, an older gentleman took one look at the painting and said, “I could have done that.” Since I have oodles of time to process all kinds of  experiences I have had, due to my cancer journey and resting in bed for hours, I have processed this experience and actually become appreciative of this critical man’s bombastic tomfoolery.

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The Holy Family, Marcia Carole, oil on canvas

I think of the eight years of art training, both on the undergraduate and graduate level, that I completed. I think of the tricky aspects of oil painting, and how I shy away from the fumes and glazes of that medium. However, occasionally, like with this painting, I embrace the fumes with an open window, and I experiment once again with the buttery textures of oils and glazes. This painting came on the heels of eight years of academic training and thirty-five years of practicing my artistic skills.

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The beginning stages of this painting

While lying in bed, fighting chemo nausea, I think of the idea I had, even before I started painting – the wonder of the Trinity dancing and communing in Heaven in eternity past, and the moment Jesus chose to leave that perfect union of three persons in One God, to come to earth for us. And to do what? He came as a humble baby, grew into manhood, died on a wooden cross for our wrongs, rose from the dead, (defeating Satan and death) and He has now danced back to the Father and Holy Spirit, and secured a place for us in Heaven for all eternity. Serious hard work! He did all that because of His great love for each of us in our hopeless, darkened, fallen, never able to quite get it right, condition.

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Adding more layers and glazes

And what is our response to all Jesus did? All He gave? (Think of His MANY years of preparation???) Well, of course, in our bombastic tomfoolery we say, “I can do that.” I can save myself.  Our way of saying, “I can do that.” is usually something like this: “I’m a pretty good person; I haven’t killed anyone,” or “I think God loves me and will overlook all the bad stuff I’ve done,” or, “I’ve done more good than bad, so I’ll probably go to Heaven,” or, “There is no God.” The reason why I am an authority on this is because I used to say these very sentences. I’m one of us. I was full of bombastic tomfoolery.

Then, one day, with the help of those further along in admitting their tomfoolery, the scales began falling from the eyes of my haughty and yet shame-filled soul, and I humbly saw the need for the work Jesus did for me. I began to appreciate it, rather than say I could do it. Eventually, He became my greatest treasure – clinging to Jesus and the work He did for me, is more precious to me than life itself.

So, when someone says to me, in all their bombastic tomfoolery, “I could have done that,” I will smile and think of my own silliness in thinking I could save myself from sin and death. I almost weep for joy at the gift of humility God has given me, so I could know, appreciate and receive the work and the gift of Jesus.  Merry Christmas!

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My home in Seattle

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

Advent – Mary’s Song

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I’m adding layers of color to the background of my drawing. I’m thinking of Mary’s joy, while at Elizabeth’s home. Mary seems truly humbled to realize more deeply, she is carrying the promised Messiah foretold in Scripture.

Mary’s Song – Luke 1:46-55

“My soul lifts up the Lord!
My spirit celebrates God, my Liberator!
For though I’m God’s humble servant,
God has noticed me.
Now and forever,
I will be considered blessed by all generations.
For the Mighty One has done great things for me;
holy is God’s name!
From generation to generation,
God’s lovingkindness endures
for those who revere Him.”

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Mary bursts forth with praise and worship for God; she reviews His power, character, mercy and compassion, and that He is her liberator or savior! I begin adding layers of vivid color as I consider Mary’s song of adoration.

“God’s arm has accomplished mighty deeds.
The proud in mind and heart,
God has sent away in disarray.
The rulers from their high positions of power,
God has brought down low.
And those who were humble and lowly,
God has elevated with dignity.
The hungry—God has filled with fine food.
The rich—God has dismissed with nothing in their hands.
To Israel, God’s servant,
God has given help,
As promised to our ancestors,
remembering Abraham and his descendants in mercy forever.”

 

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Caleb, my youngest grandson, visits me while I am painting, so I know I will be taking a break for now. My energy has diminished as well.

I am seeing Mary’s humility in new ways this year. She is undone that God has noticed her, and that all generations will be blessed through her, and through the birth of her child. Once she has humbled herself, she recounts all God’s mighty acts, His disdain for the proud, and His lovingkindness and mercy. for the humble. The humble are very special to His heart.

This is an inadequate illustration, however, I can compare Mary’s feelings with mine when I’ve received an art prize that was so honoring, while thinking, “I’m amazed, I don’t deserve this. There are so many who painted better than me.”

I’ve been wrestling with my pride throughout this cancer journey. I know God continues to build humility in me – something He treasures.  I spend lots of hours lying down, resting, and asking forgiveness for ME wanting to be in control of my life, and have it turn out MY way. I am jealous of those with good health and ease in running about. Then I repent of my jealousy. Then, I get jealous again, Ugh. Round and round I go. I’d like to be a little more like Mary in my situation – reviewing God’s attributes with thankfulness – so, let me try: His name is holy, His lovingkindness is everlasting, those that are humble He elevates, and He feeds the hungry. God is my savior – Jesus has come to liberate me, us, from sin, our pride, and set us free. I am so, so thankful!

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Heavenly Father, I am so thankful you created me, you placed me in a family, You have supplied all my material needs, and, as I humble myself before your glory and majesty, you will raise me up. You will keep all your promises to me. Thank you, Father, for this season of expectant waiting.  Even in the midst of cancer.

Thank You Paul Neeley!

I’d like to thank friend and fellow creative, Paul Neeley, for sharing my post about my Peruvian art cards. He was so kind to write up a post about the cards on his own blog, which you can read HERE. He is working in India right now, but he took the time from his busy schedule to highlight my latest work – created in between rounds of chemo for stage 4 breast cancer. Thank you, Paul! Blessings to you on your travels.

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Being Still – Bone Pain, Stage 4 Chemo

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Last Friday, I completed my third chemo infusion, with three of my four daughters, lovingly, generously at my side. I was so excited that I was not getting a shot that potentially protects my bones, because the side effect of that shot is extreme bone pain. Kind of crazy side effect, but that’s what happens. My girls and I went home from the treatment; we were hopeful that the pain this week would not be as bad as last time.

By Monday, however, my pain overwhelmed me. All I could do was to lie as still as possible and breathe. Sometimes, the pain was so intense, I would forget to breathe. The pain was defining my moments, that were stringing into hours. My knees were and are particularly painful. I describe it like this: if you have ever fallen on your knees, on cement or pavement, and hit really hard, that’s how it feels. Bang, you hit the cement, bang, you hit the cement, bang, you hit the cement, hour after hour. No let up.

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Oxycodine becomes my new best friend, and we hold hands and wander into a kind of dizzy sleep. The knee pain is constant, but my brain is in a fog, so I have moments of being tricked into thinking the pain is less. I am being still, so I wonder to myself what I can do. Then, I laugh at myself, because that’s just silly. I’m down for the count, flat as a pancake. “I can’t do anything,” I say to myself. (Why am I such a doer? I mean really; take a break!) “Well, I could pray,” I say to myself after a few minutes of painful breathing. The pain has stripped away the desire to do anything else, and so, I begin praying. I weakly pray for every family members I can remember(think chemo brain); then I go onto praying for friends. I think of Eileen, Laurie, Trisha, Sue, Tom, Lupe, Konnie, Betty, Karen,Kara’s kids and so many more. I bring marriages, children, parents to Him. It’s just God and me, in the pain, having a conversation. I’m not moving one inch, I’m being still, my knees are banging on the cement, and I am entrusting my people to the God who knows me and loves me. The pain doesn’t rob me of my faith.

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If I can trust God in this kind of constant pain, in this dark valley of the shadow of death, with the people I love, then I know something miraculous is happening. Once in a while, I ask God to take this cancer from me, however, my over-arching thought is not self-pity. Instead, it is, “Let me bring my dear ones to the God of the universe that loves them.” It’s quiet, but truly, it’s a let’s all scream and shout kind of victory of my faith.

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Daughters of the King – Romania

Daughters of the King in Romania

Wherever I travel, one of my favorite things to do is to pray for women and give them each a crown. The crown is to remind them that they are daughters of the King and God’s masterful artwork. The women feel loved and valued as we put on our crowns.   

Daughters of the King – India
 I am finishing up a second week here in Romania, and it is going to be hard to say farewell to new friends. I am thankful they are in the Lord’s care!   

Telling Our Stories – Romania

  Recently, my team and I had a wonderful time of sharing our stories in Arad, Romania while on an outreach here.  I am away from my laptop, and I am hoping this works! About 40 women gathered to have tea, hear the story of the woman at the well, and collage part of their stories last Thursday evening. 

  

  

  

 

Many came up afterwards and shared how the art-making process lifted things from their hearts. How wonderful to hear the ladies sharing their stories and praying for each other. Each of our stories matters and is important in the telling of God’s greater story! One woman has been meeting with me since that night so she can learn more and minister to women using the art. I’ll share about that soon!

Telling Our Stories – Seattle

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Telling our stories with fabric squares.

I recently squeezed in a trip to Seattle to lead five events/workshops using art to tell our stories. The first gathering was with my team traveling to Peru in August. We used four fabric squares to tell our stories. Then, we prayed for each other as our stories of hope, violation, betrayal, loss, hard and hardship came tumbling out. We grew closer as we became careful listeners to each others’ stories.

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Putting our “stories” together.

Finally, we put all our “stories,” which were 8 inch square cards, together to form a beautiful tapestry. We saw how each of our stories mattered for the whole story – God’s story. I then took one square away, and we saw that God’s story is incomplete without all of our stories.

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Questions to ponder from Mark 2:1-12

For the next several workshops, I used the above format after teaching on the Mark 2:1-12 passage. I asked participants to think of not only their immediate needs, but perhaps their deeper soul needs and people they can bring to Jesus for His care.

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Answering the questions.
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A participant’s work.
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A participant’s work.
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A participant’s work.

After a time of collaging the answers to the questions, each person turned to their neighbor and shared their work. Each listened carefully to the other’s story. Then, they prayed for each other. It’s amazing to me to watch as people take time and care to hear each others’ stories and pray.

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