Deeper Roots

10991263_853205298074613_4005687171510527978_n
Well Watered Trees, Watercolor in Nicaragua, Marcia Carole

The past couple of days have been resting days, yet again. I’m off the chemo pill this week, so it makes no sense that I am so weak. Maybe I picked up yet another virus? All I can do is lean into resting, yet again today.  While I lie in bed, I often listen to a number of teachers, who help me to think about my faith. Today, I spent a bit of time with a teacher in Jeremiah 2, in the Old Testament.

“Your wickedness will punish you; your backsliding will rebuke you. Consider then and realize how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the LORD your God and have no awe of me,” declares the Lord, the LORD Almighty.” Jeremiah 2:19.

What was the underlying problem for God’s people? No awe of God, no reverence or holy fear of God. So, I got to thinking….In my moments of sin, I am not in awe of God, but of something else – maybe my comfort or happiness or pleasure or success or my reputation. I do think, as a Jesus follower, the Holy Spirit prompts us to keep away from malice, envy, bitterness, all the sins mentioned in 1 Peter,etc. but we don’t always heed God’s promptings. I think, at that moment, what we/I treasure or what we are in awe of, directs our actions, thoughts, words.

p1080514
Well Watered Tree Bearing Fruit, Watercolor, Marcia Carole

As I have spent, and continue to spend, so much time lying in bed, resting, seemingly doing nothing… the Lord is working away. He has repeatedly convicted me of my sins over the years, lovingly prodding away at my lack of awe-led obedience moments, for so many years, in so many situations. I weep hot tears with Him when I think of my lack of obedience and head-strong actions. I ask His forgiveness and mercy for choosing: comfort, pleasure or happiness over obedience, as I endlessly nap.

These are dark, hard, hard days of destroying cancer cells, and, sigh, some good cells, too. However, I imagine these are golden days in tearing down lesser things taking my worship while building up my God-awe, by my confessing sin/rebellion, in so many hidden corners He is revealing in my soul. Then, He is building God-awe in those torn down places. My only hope is in knowing I am that tree (Psalm 1) God planted in streams of living water, with my roots digging down deeper than they’ve ever had to go before. And it’s truly painful. However, my awe-filled soul roots, can be in nothing less than Jesus and His righteousness. God is making certain of that.

p1020431
Psalm 1 Tree, Watercolor, Marcia Carole

“Italian Bicycle”

marciacarole_italybicycle_10x8
Italian Bicycle, Marcia Carole, Watercolor

It’s been a very long while since my last blog post. My focus has been on living with stage four breast cancer while trying a new strategy – a chemo pill and estrogen blocking shots. I’ve made some real progress in the fight, according to my latest blood work results. With the progress, has come increased pain. However, in the midst of pain, I have fought for a new piece of art. The above painting is the first of its kind in many months.

I have lovely memories of idillic weeks of leisure in the Tuscan town of Lucca. While there, I often walked past the above scene, especially on afternoon strolls. I loved the jumble of plants, pots and bicycle. I snapped lots of photos (all looking the same) and dreamed of painting a watercolor of this scene. Well, here it is – and it’s a miracle painting.

Making art actually takes great concentration – something that is in short supply for my chemo- bruised brain. With grit, determination, and a true passion for my subject matter, I sketched this beloved scene. Then I went over the sketch in pen. Finally, I added layer upon layer of watercolor. As my mind wobbled and my body gave out with the deep ache of the residual destruction of chemo, I crawled across the art-making finish line. I hastily brought this piece to my printer in Seattle. (Before I ran out of steam.) I received amazing gicleé prints from him. I had cards printed to sell and give as gifts. All of this work seems to be a miracle of sorts. You see, these days, I take nothing for granted. Each day is, more and more, a gift.  And, well….just maybe, that’s a good place to be.

 

Storyropes – A Bridge To Release Trauma

IMG_7278
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.

10805652_797752396953237_8444947338475764_n
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.

11041717_859698534091956_5831628887210594948_n
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.

11800252_938068409588301_6358684269321971851_n
Storyropes in Peru – A woman set free that night!

Return To Seattle – Self Portrait

 

13880131_1141030462625427_2330886915299162747_n
This is the beginning stages of a self portrait, response to cancer.

Three months after moving from Colorado Springs back to my home in Seattle, I awake and think of the blog posts I wrote during by dark battle during IV chemo. Part of me wants to stay far from even thinking about those hard days, but part of me knows I need to remember and release trauma associated with those days. The ways I’ve been releasing the trauma so far – walking an hour each day, trying yoga and adding stretching to my daily regimen of self care, talking with God about the hard, darkness of IV chemo and utter fatigue, and now….painting a painting to respond to cancer.

Showing that cancer is hard and scary, is one thing I want to show in this painting. I also want to bring grace and beauty out of this suffering and into the piece. I am combining mehndi art forms and realism. I’m also remembering beautiful places where I have been, where lovely people live. There are hints of Nicaragua, Peru, Italy, India, Cambodia, and even Africa.

I have a PET scan and CT scan on August first. My body will be scrutinized for cancer cells hiding here and there. I am praying there are fewer cells wandering around, and I am hopeful my immune system has become stronger. I’ll continue painting and telling my story, and God’s story in the midst of it, as long as I can.

Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story—
those he redeemed from the hand of the foe, Psalm 107:2

Being, Not Doing – How Un-American

I awake from yet another nap, hazy-eyed and curious if my body is feeling any better. Sometimes my body feels so separate from “me” that I have to check on it as if it is its own entity. It won’t co-operate and doesn’t feel integrated with the “me” that is my soul.

I lie still and check my breathing, my headache or lack thereof, and I check to see how my a-fib is doing. I’m still here, so I think. I think about how I used to do so much. I think about how I used to think my significance and my hope for leaving even a small legacy of some sort was all in the doing. Doing a lot. Doing a lot all the time. Helping women. Traveling around the world, etc. Well, I need a deeper, more certain reason for my hope, my place where I feel loved and where I place my significance. As a follower of Jesus, I explore this in new ways. Since coming to Him, I’ve known, truly, He loves me with mercy and grace, but I need to believe it better, deeper.

13221715_1098403540221453_3519415110333742120_n

These days, I’m “being.” I recently took a little downturn, went back on my oxygen, and began napping all the time. The fevers came along for the ride. And although I am writing this while propped up, I’d say I’m more being than doing. I could stop typing at any moment and lie back down again and totally just be. I ate a bowl of soup today for lunch, and I had to take a two hour nap after that effort.

I wanted to write because I’ve been thinking about my worth in just being. Hour after hour, lying in bed, I am being, not doing. As an American doer, that’s a hard pill to swallow. In the same way, I think in an American way; I have to do something to earn God’s love and care. However, the Bible makes me think counterintuitively, counter Americanly, and states that God loved me way before I loved Him, and His love is all a free gift or grace…But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, …Ephesians 2:4-9  There it is – not my own DOING. Sigh. Lean into it. Rest in it.

13241327_1098403890221418_7628224588072730948_n

I’ll try to continue writing in the days ahead….I do have a new idea for a storying art project based on hope and being with our God. That would be “doing” which I am currently not doing. (Smile.) Tomorrow, I have a meeting with my new doctor in Seattle. I am looking forward to what she might suggest.

Joyful Dancers

P1100789

In my living room, I have a large canvas of African dancers. I call the painting, “Joy.” This painting in my living room encourages me every single day. It reminds me to ponder all my blessings, and the one true God who gives those blessings. I can so easily get sidetracked by my daily concerns, my cancer, my oxygen tubing and its limitations, and so many other little details of my life. Then, there hangs that painting, preaching a sermon of encouragement to my anxious heart. I find myself letting go of my cares as I soak in the colors and movement.

Raise your voices;
make a beautiful noise to the Eternal, all the earth.
Serve the Eternal gladly;
enter into His presence singing songs of joy!
Know this: the Eternal One Himself is the True God.
He is the One who made us;
we have not made ourselves;
we are His people, like sheep grazing in His fields.
Go through His gates, giving thanks;
walk through His courts, giving praise.
Offer Him your gratitude and praise His holy name.
Because the Eternal is good,
His loyal love and mercy will never end,
and His truth will last throughout all generations. Psalm 100, The Voice version.

How did the painting come about? Well, when I was in Cameroon helping women to share their stories using art, as the stories were being told and each woman received prayer, the Cameroonian women would break out in joyful singing and dancing. It was an amazing experience to be a part of, and my soul still “sings” when I think of those days of joy. I came home and painted this painting!

So, when I feel down about fighting stage four cancer, when I ache all over and struggle to feed myself, huffing and puffing from the effort, I remember the joy of those women through my painting. I reach out for that joy.  And, I offer God praise for His goodness and mercy in my life. It might be just a moment in my day. However, there it is – a bit of redemption right at that moment, and God is glorified.

preview

 

My Normal – Living Close To Oxygen, Making Art

Cancer Update: I am four weeks past my last IV chemo today. I stopped in order to gain some strength for my move back to Seattle in early May. I want to be able to get on a plane without being in a heap in my bed! So, my oncologist has put me on two pills to continue to fight stage four breast cancer. One pill kills fast growing cells, including red blood cells. (Yikes!) The other pill is an estrogen reducer; my type of cancer enjoys eating estrogen – something I seem to have in abundance. Both are less harsh than IV chemo. I continue on a low level of oxygen for my breathing. So, I am staying close to my oxygen machine and making new art. I get about 90 feet with all my chording – it keeps me close to home.

During this transition week, I have been collaging the story of Jesus’ encounter with the widow of Nain – a true story you can read in Luke 7:11-17. What struck me about this story is the generous, loving heart of Jesus. As He approaches the funeral procession for the only son of a widow, Jesus is heart-broken for the widow and her plight. He has no problem being emotional about the widow’s grim situation.

12924533_1064757713586036_3011157345544396336_n
Jesus approaches the funeral procession of the only son of a widow in Nain.

No one asked anything of Jesus. His heart was gripped with compassion for the widow.

996151_1067238280004646_4611069865589693588_n

He stops the procession, and Jesus tells the widow not to cry. He then touches the coffin where the dead son lies.  Jesus says, “Young man, I say to you, get up!”

12140739_1067239250004549_8249523022909067267_n

The dead man sat up and began to talk. The Bible does not say what he was talking about, but I’m sure he was surprised to be in a coffin! I collaged the man sitting up and then being reunited with his mother. The Bible says, ” Jesus gave him back to his mother.” Now she would have a son to take care of her in her old age, something very important in that culture. Widows had very meager lives without care from family in Nain.

I’ve added clocks to a couple of pages of my book because I want to talk about time. It seemed like it was too late for this son to be healed. He was dead, for heaven’s sake! However, at just the right time, Jesus comes and raises this man from the dead. Time doesn’t seem to have a hold on Jesus; He seems to operate outside of time. He has power over time and Jesus shows He has power over death within time! (This is something I hold very dear to my heart.)

When I showed this whole book to my grandson, Calvin, age 5, he said, “Just like when Jesus rose from the dead on Easter.” Yes! Calvin acted like it was normal, natural behavior for Jesus to raise this son from the dead – that He has power over death. The faith of a child is a marvelous thing!

12933136_1067239690004505_4969711155980900926_n-2

I’m thinking of adding some confetti or banners to the gold chords I have on the last page to make it look more like a celebration. Jesus turned the widow’s mourning into dancing! He does that in the mundane of our lives, too, but His bigger gift to us is: He has died on the cross, been raised from the dead so we don’t have to be separated from God for all eternity. In a real way, we can be raised from the death and darknesses of our hearts right now, today. Jesus is heart-broken for each of us, and He conquered death for each of us if we would believe in Him. I put my faith in Jesus once again, today!

10931032_1067873019941172_8787711698570340548_n

Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him.  As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her.  When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”

Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!”  The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.

They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.”  This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.” Luke 7:11-17

Family Photo Shoot – Grace Abounds

12718396_1052655661462908_635595774181570106_n

A little over a week ago, a wonderful photographer friend who photographed Virginia’s wedding, came and photographed my family. Jen Lints is the best photographer I know! She does amazing things with light or the lack of light! She made this cancer patient look happy and well loved.

I was feeling better than I feel today, so I could fully participate. We all braved a chilly Colorado late afternoon in spring, and acted like our teeth were not chattering!! Jen photographed both outside and inside. When we were inside, she had the grandboyz draw with me – something we do ALL the time! Outside was fun, with Katie and Eric and the boyz and my Virginia and Jered. These photos are just sneak peaks at a few before they all come my way. What an amazing grace and gift to me!

10290601_1146657002041500_7828330092907422154_n
Me, with my grandboyz – drawing as we always do!

You can find Jen Lints Photography Here. Just click on her name! Then, get amazing photos and be very blessed!

Marcia-75