(Dis)orienting experiences

Confession: I need to work on dismounting from our vehicle. I am wearing boots these days, and trying to keep my skirt off the slush-spattered lower lip of the van, and it makes an odd and clumsy falling out.

There are twinkle lights on my mantel again and Baby Jesus is snug in his hay. Nativities spot my house, and paper snowflakes hang on the windows against the night.

One year ago my heart broke, and I am still recovering. I don’t know if you realize that or not. In the past three months now, the world I see has turned topsy-turvy and right-side-up. Pieces of healing have come in moments of stunning grace: in the most astonishing places: in the sacred and the secular and the ordinary: in the longed for places and scheduled sessions and unexpected meltdowns. I cannot speak about most of it. I don’t mean not here, but not at all; I cry.

But I can tell you what I can.

I went to a Supper in order to taste the Christ, I was so hungry for him. So very hungry, so in need after months of vacuity, and when I received the bread he was suddenly there, in me, and my soul cracked open.

Finding him – he himself, his own overwhelming presence – I found at last my posture toward him. At last.

It is Christmas and I am losing again.

My foster son has been transitioning out of my home for many weeks, with all the accompanying drama and upheaval and need. The hand tucked through my arm after he has been horrible at dinner, the shy grin when his eyes are supposed to be closed in prayer. I keep telling everyone how different this is from last time, how we knew from the beginning that he was going home again and how open his family has been and how he has been enrolled in our Christian school and so we will see him often, often… and all of this is very true, very appropriate, but it does not explain why my heart is beating funny.

I had images taken and I saw it pulsing there in real time, throbbing in endless precise working motion, the brave and tender valves fluttering over and over, waving in the current and clamping closed, waving in the current and clamping closed, always the same little dance, over and over, and I felt so sorry for it. When the rest of the body works hard, it must follow suit. When the legs race, or the lungs, or the brain. Hard and hard. Harder and harder. Most of the time I do not even notice. Not for one moment of my life will it be allowed to rest.

We filled out paperwork for the relicensure of our home, and answered questions. What age and number of children do you feel most qualified to care for? What needs are you willing to take? I have begun to dream again, when I thought my dreaming days were done.

Somewhere along the line, we became foster parents – instead of adoptive parents like we always imagined. We are passionate about giving families a second chance whenever possible. We are the landing ground, the rehab station, the halfway house. This we did not foresee. We are willing to do either, but for now we are called to do one.

I became not only a foster mom, but a fire wife. I became it in my heart and I stopped fighting it. Someday I will have to tell you what that means.

One weekend I listened to a man talk about media and the terrible things it does to the brain and it was the best teaching and I left with no categories for any of it: the words, the books, the blog, the medium. What does it mean? I paused to reflect and found that when I am silent, I continue silent and it is not good. The words are paths I follow out, and this is the place where I share the words. I am a false being to you, someone you do not really know unless you know. But I am not talking for you here, I am talking for myself because it is a path I follow out, one syllable after another, footstep upon footstep, light enough for the next, choosing to be as little false as I can.

I am trying to find words for things there are not words for yet and it takes hours. I am tired and I am lost and I am not doing good work, and then I am. And then I am not.

This is hard for me to admit, but I went from being a no-medications girl in June to a four-medications girl in December, because longstanding grief does terrible things to the self: the body carries the burden and the systems tip, and the heart.

I looked into my heart and I saw with my eyes closed the place where the pain sits, and I took its measure and felt its weight and I cried while she spoke. I began to accept that hard place and what it has done for me. It is not all of me but it is a part of me.

Pictures of myself have come unbidden to my eyes. I am not what I want to be. I am a really nice person, and then I catch a look through someone else’s eyes and they are seeing a demanding person, a perfectionist and it has to be right and it has to be done now. This is not what I want to be, but it is a part of who I am. They are seeing a fearful person always apologizing, always explaining. They are seeing a person with discomforts and limits and boundaries. This is not what I want to be, but it is a part of who I am.

We are always apologizing for the wrong things, like an old woman leaning very near to whisper a horsey whiskery apology for the tic in her eye while her unbearable garlic and pea green breath blasts you between the nostrils. I am so sorry for my tic I know it must be really hard to be close to me, she breathes.

We none of us can smell ourselves.

My son came home and left again. When I drive away I leave him in the cold on the mountain and I hope to God the stoves light and the shelters warm. I am not the mother I want to be, but I am a mother. I remember the guilt of tucking someone else’s son into bed, last spring, and being a fool and a hypocrite because someone else was doing the same for mine: my own: my son: far away on a mountain. Someone was touching my son’s hair and comforting his fears while I was doing the same for a stranger. Why, Lord Jesus?

Sometimes a mother takes our head against her breast and speaks life and we are broken together beyond recovery and also, we are going to make it.

I want to get rid of all the extra things in my life and focus only on the meanings. Only on the real parts and not on the fluff and the clutter. I want to rejoice and grieve and thank and heal and die and live and be born and see the rooms grow. I want to worship, more than anything else. I understand my posture now, but each day I must bend again and speak my word to him until I am whole, on the other side.

It is Christmas. We each have something we need, and something we give.

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4 years ago


Prayer Warrior Because I'm also in great need of prayer
4 years ago


4 years ago

Bless you Shari!!!! I can so identify with parts of your thought-provoking words. (We none of us can smell ourselves)…..how true! It works both ways tho-the not pleasant and the sweet smells we can’t smell???? the sweet ones can be a rich blessing to those around us. Take courage and prayers for continued healing????

4 years ago

Yes, Shari, this resonates deep in my soul… 4 yrs ago my heart broke..and its been a wild ride through the canyon with God moments of blue sky and peace filled breezes midst the foaming turmoil. Sometimes I’m caught head down in the rapids, coming up for air, only to be pushed under again. Sometimes, His Presence is so tangible I skim the surface. I let my son in the mountainous cold too, and cry as i try to make sense and process the new heights, and the recurring valleys. I cringe to see the “stuff” that God exposes as He chisels deeper into my heart.. yet, I rejoice to know..He’s not done with me yet. And there are glimmers of redemption in our story.. Praying for an extra measure of grace as Jesus meets you where you are…

Teresa Derstine
4 years ago

Shari…….. your healing words remind me so much of the healing words penned from Ann Voskamp…. so much spoke to me today through your honest words of pain and truth to her words….. “The Greatest Gift” Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas…..:December 8th reading…. The Stairway of God…..:: Genesis 28:16. Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it.

4 years ago

I can “understand fully” parts of ur story better than others,but! I am feeling for you in ALL parts… I too realize that others see a different ME than who I “am”. The pain and the tender wounds of being a mother are not what we want to personify our SELF. So know u r are not weak or monstrous or unknown, even when you think all those are true or when others think it is so. When we can’t walk, we crawl. When we can’t crawl,we simply turn towards our goal the best we are able.

Chastin Zook
4 years ago


Wendi Bollinger
4 years ago

This resonates with me in a way you will never know. Thanks for baring your soul!

Wanna B. Writer
4 years ago

“The words are paths I follow out…” Amen!! On a side note- there is no shame in getting the help you need- medicine, counseling, time away, even the tears. God uses many things as mediums of healing. (Though I can imagine my husband’s eyebrows raising as he says to me, “I didn’t know you believed that.” ????) Christmas Blessings to you & yours!

4 years ago

So much pain and truth and beauty. Your words make a path for others too. Thank you.

4 years ago

Twice this morning I have come back to read these words. They are powerful and you are a person of courage and love. Jesus, please give Shari a blessing ❤

4 years ago

I so get this…I have felt many of the same things. I am not going through the same things, but pain and guilt comes in many different packages. Hugs to you! Jesus is so dear and so near to the broken-hearted.

4 years ago

I hear you, Shari. <3

The last line especially is something I learned for the first time this year. I’m so grateful that even broken things are useful in God’s world.

4 years ago

I’ve been waiting for your words, and now when I see you be as little false as you can, your courage takes my breath away. ????♥️

4 years ago


Twila Beachy
4 years ago

Shari! My heart bleeds for you! I don’t know what to say, but I do care! I anticipating our son’s first visit tomorrow. Monday he needs to go back, & o need to let someone else be Mama for him. There’s much excitement, but also mixed feelings. I pray you will find Jesus holding you close through this dark valley. Nestle close to Him & feel His comfort and love for you!❤️????

4 years ago

I love your work and you, dear friend.

4 years ago

As always, I am speechless with admiration at honesty like this. I do not follow my words out, they follow me from afar. It is an utter relief when others say things that I rarely can.
The purple heart in the comments above says it best… Awarded for bravery to one wounded in service. Prayers for healing!

4 years ago

A no medication girl in June and four in December- me too. The battle is every day, every moment. Prayers.

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