Monday, August 13, 2012

Beginning of the Shining (not to be confused with the movie of the same name)

Although this is not my first blog post, I feel like I’m groping around in the dark. What kind of luminary is that? LOL! Okay, so my first two posts were just about learning to blog—they still count. My groping now is about where to start with the light shining thing. At the beginning? Well, there’s an illuminating thought. And wouldn’t you know, I was asked recently to share something about my beginnings—with a group of friends in a book discussion club. They expressed they found it inspiring so I’m thinking this blog is a good place to share it as well. You’ll get to know a little bit about what makes me tick and I’ll have gotten one more blog post under my belt. Woohoo!

So here’s what I shared:

As some of you may know I express myself best through writing. Plus I can spare you the rabbit trails I’d take you on, and make sure I get to my point, if I stick to reading it. Hopefully you won’t mind.

As soon as I got the email from Kerry, my mind immediately went into gear, wondering what to share, how much, what aspect, etc and my heart prayer was for God’s direction. A story I wrote about my childhood for in 2009 entitled Accidents Are Not Born came to mind. Within a few minutes of letting Kerry know that I was willing to share, she wrote back with the words, “Praise God from whom ALL blessings flow…you are one!” That confirmed for me God’s direction to share from that part of my life.

By the way, I didn’t start reading One Thousand Gifts until after I’d finished writing out what I’m going to share with you today. But once I started reading it, I felt confirmation there as well.

One might think, “A dairy farm, what a safe and pleasant place to grow up in.” That, I’m here to tell you, is a somewhat naïve illusion. Rural living, yes, can be pleasant but it can also be dangerous. I will tell you about a few, but not all, of the accidental injuries in my life that occurred down on our farm in the Pacific Northwest.

When I was born in 1953 I joined two brothers and one sister. My brothers, Larry and David, were six and five years old. My sister Debby, a beautiful blue-eyed blonde with naturally curly hair, was eleven months and about three weeks older than me so we spent ten days each year being the same age. But only for three years. She passed away in 1956 just a month after her 4th birthday. That’s a whole ‘nother story I won’t go into today.

To just briefly round out the family history, my precious sister Robyn came along when I was five years old and the tag-along brother Brian arrived when I was almost fourteen.

Now the first dangerous incident I’ll tell you about might not meet the definition of an outright accident. It involved my oldest brother who experienced oxygen deprivation during birth which led to brain damage. His mental ability was too impaired to know right from wrong and likely his action in this wasn’t intentional—thus an accident.

Every summer my father baled hay in meadows through which an icy creek meandered straight from the Cascade Mountains. To cool off from the sweatiness of loading hay onto the wagons, also known as ‘bucking bales’, Dad and my brothers and the crew of local farm boys often took a dip in the creek. Someone decided damming the stream at a wide spot where the banks were high would create a swimmin’ hole worth diving into. That engineering feat accomplished, much refreshment ensued.

Enter Mother with picnic lunch for the workers, accompanied by five-year-old me—a little girl afraid of water and with an introverted temperament, easily overwhelmed by a busy environment. When it was time to go home, I found myself on the far side of the creek—I do not remember how I got there but the creek was just a trickle in some places so maybe I waded across. Perhaps the late afternoon shadows on the water now freaked me out. In any case, whining for help went unheeded except by my aforementioned brother.

Instead of carrying me across though, he threw me into the swimmin’ hole, now about nine feet deep. I swam like a rock. My short life passed before me. Hell’s fiery flames flicked at the soles of my feet, or so I thought. It was only dead leaves from the branches used in the dam, which could’ve snagged and held me captive. One of those local farm boys dove in and saved me—my first hero. I still remember his name—Les McDowell.

Danger zone ahead: the kitchen.

My chore as an eight-year old was putting dishes from the drain rack into the cupboard. To reach the higher shelves I used a chair to climb up and sit on the counter.

Our old farmhouse kitchen’s metal cupboards had one below-counter door that never latched properly. As I dismounted from the counter rather than using the chair one particular morning, the sharp corner of that slightly open door caught at the back of my knee and dug in. I’m sorry to be so graphic but I thought the sound I heard was my dress ripping.

Thirty stitches, and fifty years later, a wide scar due to ‘proud flesh’ sews a seam from back-of-knee to bottom-of-rump and gives testimony to the fragility of skin.

At age nine I decided to try performing a gymnastics routine. We didn’t have TV so I must have seen this at a friend’s house and no one said, “Don’t try this at home.” So I attempted it with my non-athletic body. On a mattress. Trying to flip. Using my head as landing gear.

Not having that tended to properly at the time, I’m grateful to have feeling in my arms and legs but I’ve dealt constantly with pain. I know I am very fortunate in not having broken my neck.

Getting the wind knocked out of me—a recurring theme.

Jumping off stacks of baled hay in the barn into piled-up loose hay was great fun. After many jumps it got pretty packed but not so solid that landing on your feet was of any consequence. My dad suggested doing a ‘preacher’s seat’. He explained, “That’s when you stick your legs straight out in front of you and land on your rump.”

I tried it. I thought my breath had died and gone to heaven. Walking was difficult for several weeks. As was sitting, standing, lying down, turning over, and just about every position known to my body.

Again not attended to properly, my tailbone and surrounding muscles remember the injury and take the time and trouble of reminding me daily.

Another breath-taking incident occurred when my brothers wanted me to learn baseball. Instead of a wooden bat they swung a heavy metal pipe. I shudder to think how much worse this could’ve been considering what I’ve seen on the Discovery Health channel. In my case, the pipe flailed the air in my brother’s hands and connected with my mid-section. It is a most awful sensation to be unable to get air in or out, which I also experienced the time I walked behind a cow and she kicked me in the stomach and sent me flying. Crazy, isn’t it?

All of the incidents I’ve mentioned happened in the first ten years of my life. At the age of ten, I realized how close to eternity I had come on many occasions and who knew how many more might be in my future and which one might usher me into it. My little soul responded in a personal way to the gospel message I’d heard since birth. I confessed to being a sinner, needing God’s forgiveness, and I invited Jesus into my heart as my personal savior and Lord. I trusted that according to Romans 5:1, I could now say of my eternal destiny “therefore being justified by faith I have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

But for years I pondered something my mother let slip, that Anita’s birth was an ‘accident.’ There was also an impression made on my mind that with Debby’s death, it was the wrong daughter who died. Other things happened as the years went by, including molestation, that seemed to confirm that to me. I stuffed all those confused, hurt and angry feelings that were woven into the fabric of my being, and pretended I was okay. Until in my late thirties, depression and suicidal thoughts took me down.

Thank God for good professional Christian therapists. Through counseling, support groups and prayer, I finally discovered this spiritual truth in a way that I could apply to myself. Yes, life has accidents but as a wonderful surprise planned by God, I am not one of them. I love what the Psalmist says.
“You saw me before I was born.
      Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
   Every moment was laid out
      before a single day had passed.
How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
      They cannot be numbered!
I can’t even count them;
      they outnumber the grains of sand!” (Psalm 139:16-18a, NLT)

As with the physical pain, I confess I still struggle at times with the emotional pain of feeling unwanted, but God wants me to trust Him even through that. Pain and brokenness remind me that I need Him. Another passage in Psalms that resonates with me says, “My health may fail, and my spirit grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.” Henri Nouwen, in his book Becoming the Beloved, encourages me with this: “The most-celebrated musical composition, the most-noted painting and sculpture, and the most-read books are often direct expressions of the human awareness of brokenness.”

And in preserving me from injury to the point of death, I see God had a plan and purpose for my life. Sometimes His purpose has brought me front and center, sometimes into the background. To God be the glory.


  1. Just as beautiful to read as to hear, perhaps more so because I can go back and linger on certain sections, letting the emotions pull me deeper. Good work dear heart. You ARE shining your light.

  2. I love it!! Can't wait to read more of your blogs Anita!!