Wednesday, December 24, 2014

All I Want For Christmas

As a little kid all I wanted for Christmas was…Christmas!

Dad’s disdain toward the commercialism, and the dogmatic idea that it was connected to pagan influences, prompted him to ban the celebration of Christmas in our home. No excited anticipation for Christmas Eve, no countdown to Christmas morning. No Christmas tree. No letters to Santa Claus. I often wished Santa was real so I could avoid the embarrassment at school of having to answer “Nothing,” when asked “What did you get for Christmas?” No, there were no presents to open.

Well, okay, one set of grandparents always gave each of us five dollars and the other grandma gave us something, like a pair of darned socks. And I mean, darned in the sewing sense.

But besides that, our Christian home didn’t embrace any of the traditions observed by most of the people we knew, not even for the fun of it. Other than Mom’s little Nativity set up in a corner and a big dinner with relatives, the season was bereft of Advent Wreaths or church Christmas services.

But as a seventeen-year old, I discovered that the giving of gifts could not be prevented. With money saved from babysitting jobs, I got something for each of my family still living at home. Only Dad did not accept the one I got for him.

Confession time here. I admit that a bit of rebellion against my dad’s dogmatism figured into this act of good will. But the joy I felt at giving gifts gave me a glimpse into God’s delight at giving the greatest gift, His Son Jesus Christ. And a teeny tiny twinge of what refusal to accept that gift might mean to the Father of lights, the giver of every good and perfect gift. (James 1:7)

I do understand Dad’s initial stance that Christ’s birth date is not recorded anywhere and was likely not in wintertime at all and that Christmas got tied in with less than Biblical beliefs. But in later years Dad relaxed about those issues, figuring they weren’t deal-breakers, and he opened up to the season’s celebratory options. Joy to the world!  

My husband and I enjoyed establishing our own seasonal traditions, which included providing gifts for our kids and ways for them to give to each other. Their anticipation made it fun for us. Finances were of a sort that we had to keep it pretty simple, but even if we’d had more freedom there, I think low-key would still have prevailed.  

Another confession here. Even though we celebrated Christmas, I sort of did what Dad did. I got huffy when someone said “Happy Holidays” or used “Merry Xmas” as a greeting. Why did I take offense? How did those things take away the joy in my heart of knowing my sins are forgiven and that Jesus Christ reigns? By protesting belligerently, did I bring any peace and good will into the world? Later I realized holiday comes from holy day and learned the X in Xmas is the Greek letter used for Christ. Like in the ichthys, that fish symbol many use to identify themselves as Christians.

Whether my Christmas time comes with simple imagination or with elaborate trimming, what freedom there is in realizing no offense was intended.

All I want for Christmas nowadays is to be joyous, in discovering what brings delight to others and to God’s heart. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Heights of Panic

It’s been years since I’ve had the nightmare. The one where I’m in a car driving or riding pleasantly along. In the mountains, or along a cliff, sometimes on a freeway or a country road. We encounter a curve and the mood changes. Our car fails to negotiate it and over the shoulder and downward we plunge. It feels like the rocks and waves are rushing up to meet us. I know it means death and a scream tears from my throat. And that’s when I wake up. Usually waking everyone else in the house too because the scream was out loud, not just in my dream. My heart pounds, my breath comes in gasps, I’m crying. The terror is so real.

It’s a dream I had repeatedly from childhood on into my adult years. Sometimes the end wouldn’t come until our car was fully underwater. With each repetition it felt more and more real until in my dream I would be saying, “It’s not a dream anymore, this time it’s real!” Fear overwhelms.

I’ve always had acrophobia, an extreme irrational fear of heights and falling. I hated riding or driving in mountainous areas as the reason for the fears from my dream was so in my face. But as an adult I would pray for God’s help and force myself to go in order to participate in activities I enjoyed such as women’s retreat in Big Bear, California. Even with prayer the nightmare preceded these events and I would border on panic the entire route.

One year the nightmare came with painful intensity. I woke both myself and my husband with my screaming. Sobbing, I said to my husband, “I can’t take it anymore. Will you please pray for me?” And he did.

I wrote Weapon of MassDestruction, a fictional story based on this incident, for the weekly challenge at And I’ve not had the horrible nightmare since. Mountain driving and high places were still challenging for me but manageable.

Until a couple weeks ago when my husband and I decided to spend a Saturday afternoon driving up to Artist Point in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, in the North Cascade Mountain range.

Artist Point is a mere 5100 feet in elevation. Mt. Baker, at 10,781 feet, holds its lofty white head high above. But the route, the only route, is about 55 miles long and the last sections of it are a series of switchbacks and hairpin turns with very few guardrails.

I had not been up this highway in over thirty years but my reaction took me by surprise. A painful, panicked reaction. We emerged from the heavily forested region where views of the precipices could not be seen to suddenly being out in the wide open vista of rocky cliffs above and below. 

My chest tightened, my heart pounded. I murmured, “Oh, this is getting hard for me.” Then as my husband negotiated a particularly tight turn, I felt the world tip and spin around me and without my seatbelt holding me upright I would’ve probably resorted to a fetal position—not an attractive look for a sixty-year old woman. It was the nightmare feeling in full reality. I yelled something, I don’t know what—the whole scenario is blurred in my mind now. Scared my husband half out of his wits. So grateful for his skillful driving.

My husband pulled over at the next pullout, which didn’t really reassure me as the edge was RIGHT. THERE. OUT. SIDE. MY. WIN. DOW! Or at least it seemed that way. Hubby asked me if we should turn around and go back down the mountain. I managed to calm my breathing. And I said, “No. I want to go as far as the road goes.” No way was I going to let this fear triumph over me. It’s been decades since I was last up here and I wanted to see beautiful Artist Point and the                                              other amazing scenes. 
Mt. Baker shrouded in clouds.

I felt bad for scaring my husband. I felt bad that it sounded like I didn’t trust     him; that it looked like I thought he meant to kill us both.

But that is the nature of a phobia. It takes over the senses and cancels out reality.

According to what I’ve read since this incident, the extreme fear of heights can be an inborn one, with some people more affected by it than others. In addition I have vertigo so constant changing of direction will affect my balance and make me feel that I am falling when I am not. An article in Wikipedia states, “The human balance system integrates proprioceptive [the sense of the relative position of neighbouring parts of the body and strength of effort being employed in movement], vestibular and nearby visual cues to reckon position and motion.” I am challenged in this area already so if you put me in a world where visual cues have receded, don’t be surprised then to find me in the fetal position.

I enjoyed our stroll around Artist Point 
once we got there, but fighting back tears of shame the whole time did detract a bit. 

Before we headed back down the mountain my husband reassured me that there was no shame to be had. We discussed the fact that as a child the responsible adults in my life had ridiculed me, for the fears I expressed on this very route, the scene of the crime, so to speak, and used the opportunity to frighten me further. Sort of a situation of traumatized trauma. I work on forgiving them and accepting release from this tyranny.

On our downhill trek my dear husband purposefully drove even more sedately and with a mind for my comfort. I kept my eyes looking up with the name of Jesus in my heart and quietly on my lips. Fear still lurked but panic stayed at bay.

I am confident that Jesus my Lord does not look at me as shameful because of my fear. (Psalm 69:33; Romans 8:1, 38 ) He gives me grace and tells me to have it on myself. No shaming from him. (Hebrews 4:14-16) Reminding me that it's in the middle of terror that bravery and courage are demonstrated. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


This is the third and last episode in the saga of Cornerstone Ranch; unless inspiration takes me back there again at some point. Thank you for reading! I’d love to hear from you. (If you need to get caught up before reading this, see Part One and Part Two)

Lips set in a smile of smug satisfaction, Clayton caressed the ledger’s leather cover. Things were looking mighty good here at Cornerstone Ranch. Lush pastureland sustained ever-increasing herds of cattle and flocks of sheep. Along with a creek running through the 100,000 acres, good fortune had led Clayton to dig water wells in just the right spots. Even in the dry California summer nobody went thirsty.
The Cornerstone Ranch foreman chuckled as he anticipated an entertaining evening later at the saloon in Dry Gulp.

That town’s gonna have to change its name one of these here days, he mused. Ain’t no way none of us is goin’ thirsty no how.
Everyone there knows they owe their success to me and my boys out here on the ranch. We bring ‘em all the business they can handle.

All the same, a small shudder rose from some locked down place in his middle when he looked out the window. The weeping willow at the edge of the gully whispered an oft-repeated accusation. Murderer.

Clayton flapped his hat at the window dismissively. Ain’t nothin’ but the breeze in that durn tree.  He sauntered out of the ranch house and saddled his horse. Time to survey the little kingdom he considered his own. It had been many years since Cornerstone’s owner, a gentleman who lived on the eastern coast, had visited. All the time and effort Clayton had put in gave him cause to believe he was more owner than Mr. Eastern Fancy Pants would ever be.
Clayton spit a stream of tobacco juice onto the corral’s hard packed dirt. 

It’d be a blue moon that’d see Mr. Fancy Pants settin’ foot here again. To top if off, them ‘messages’ I sent by way of Mr. Fancy Pants’ agents as well as that son of his, oughta be enough to scare those fancy pants right offa him. He’ll stay away for good.

That consarned son of his shoulda never left home. I told him to skedaddle before he ended up gettin’ tangled in my rope. I was just protectin’ what’s rightly mine! Ain’t nobody gonna take it from me!

The weeping willow stirred again and a shiver went up Clayton’s spine. He spurred his horse out onto the range and left the willow far behind. 

Squinting his eyes against the glare of the midday sun, Clayton peered across the high chaparral. Was that a plume of smoke he saw just beyond the ridge leading to Santiago Peak? He removed his hat and wiped the sweat off his face with the red bandana he wore around his neck. 

Nah, must’ve been a cloud of deerflies. It’s gone now.

Fire was an ever-present threat at this time of year. He was real strict with his cowhands about leaving fires unattended or tossing smoldering cigarette butts. To be on the safe side, he’d send Little George out to investigate.

After dinner Clayton put on a clean shirt.  “Hey, Willy,” he called to his lead ranch hand, “I’m headed into town. You’re in charge. Most of the boys are goin’ with me.”


“Okay, boss,” Willy’s bushy eyebrows waggled up and down as he pictured the fun they’d be having. Then he remembered something, “Oh, hey, boss. Little George ain’t come back yet from scoutin’ out that bit o’ smoke ya seen. Ya reckon he’s alright?”

“Shucks! You know the man’s part Juaneno Indian,” Clayton rolled his eyes. “Every so often he takes it into his head he’s gotta observe some ceremony to the moon or somethin’. Nah, I ain’t worried ‘bout him.”

With that Clayton and the boys, whooping and hollering, galloped off to town.

Several hours later, bleary-eyed, they let their horses navigate through deep midnight shadows. Slim and Whit’s harmonizing about not being buried ‘neath the western skies on the lone prairie prompted Clayton’s gaze upward. He let out a gasp. “What in tarnation is that?”

“Why, that’s a blue moon,” Slim replied, his higher education kicking in. “And I believe I smell smoke, through which we are viewing that celestial orb.”

Fear surged through Clayton, dispelling the whiskey-induced stupor. Little George! Fire!

As they passed the weeping willow and neared the ranch, complete soberness hit. A horse-drawn buggy waited at the gate, a tall immaculately dressed figure alongside. In a long line to either side, mounted soldiers stood firm, fire reflecting in their drawn sabers.


“Boss,” Slim said, “It appears Mr. Eastern Fancy Pants has returned and intends to avenge his heir with flame and sword."

Slim reined in his horse and doffed his hat. “Adios, Clayton, adios.”

(* Photo taken at Hovander Homestead Park, Ferndale, Washington)
(** Photo taken at Cramer's Farm, an event venue in Northwest Washington State)
(*** Photo taken at Lynden Pioneer Museum, Lynden, Washington)

Monday, July 7, 2014

Part Two of the Cornerstone Trilogy

Another piece of my creative fiction for your entertainment and contemplation. (See SNEAK PREVIEW for Part One in this little saga)


I pondered what the old bartender had told me as the whiskey settled in my stomach. Clearly he had no idea who he was talking to, or he wouldn’t have divulged his dilemma.

You see, I’m a reporter for the Los Angeles Observer, and I was in Dry Gulp investigating a crime. All right, I’m a cub reporter and I was there on vacation at my employer’s suggestion. Okay, okay! He chased me out of town after I got fresh with his daughter, Matilda, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.

Anyway, a couple weeks prior, my resource at the telegraph office had tipped me off. Two gentlemen, both sporting black eyes and numerous bruises, and one with his arm in a sling, sent a telegram addressed to a renowned franchiser back east. Said they’d been assaulted by the cowboys at that Cornerstone Ranch of his, and what did he want them to do now.

I made the acquaintance once of some cowboys from that Ranch at a certain establishment down by the docks. They seemed to have plenty of money to throw around. And they relieved me of my wad. I’m no great shakes at poker, but I think they cheated. I’d sure like to see them get their comeuppance.

My banishment resulting from my little escapade with Matilda, had maybe put me where using my expert investigative skills, I could get back into her daddy’s good graces. I envisioned the headlines.

Cub Reporter Uncovers Plot 
to Take Over Back East Franchiser’s Ranch; 
Murder and Mayhem Averted Just in Time!

Great care must be taken. No accusations of yellow journalism for me. It might boost newspaper circulation but let Hearst and Pulitzer settle that score without my help. As a professional, I intend to always proceed with ethics. My stories will have pathos, human interest, and be sympathetic to the underdog, whenever I find one and it doesn’t bite me first. And my stories will always be entirely verifiable.

I started the process immediately by interviewing the bartender.

“Sir,” I said, in my best professional manner, “those two gentlemen you mentioned, why were they here and why did they get manhandled?”

“I guess they wuz here ta c’llect the income fer the ranch’s real boss. But Clay’s set on keepin’ it fer hisself.”

“Clay, the ranch foreman? What’s he got against his boss?”

“I dunno, young feller,” the barkeep replied. “But I shore hope the boss don’t send his son out here like I heard he wuz. I jest know they’re gonna kill ‘im.”

“Will you inform the local law enforcement agency?” 

The old man’s eyebrows cinched, “The who?”

“Uh, the sheriff, sir,” I said, arching my own.

“Well, now, I jest don’t rightly know. Granted, my life ain’t that important, but ‘tis mine an’ I’d like ta keep it fer a spell. My wife an’ little girl prob’ly be happy ‘bout that too. Clay made it crystal clear he’d come a-gunnin’ fer me if I messed with his business.”

Like cotton on a spindle, my brain was already busily spinning words together.

The sound of boots pounding on the boardwalk interrupted my thoughts and a man burst through the doors.

“Hangin’,” he gasped. “Weepin’ willa’ tree—the gully—Clay and his men! Hurry, mebbe we can stop ‘em!”

I grabbed my pencil and my composition book and rushed out with the rest of the crowd.

But we were too late. A grotesque shadow down the gully matched the figure suspended on a rope. The lynch mob was nowhere to be seen. The whiskey I’d so recently enjoyed threatened to unman me but I had a job to do.

“Sheriff, what’s next?” I somberly asked the lawman as he turned his horse towards town.

“I figger they’ve skedaddled back to the ranch,” he said. “I shore ain’t goin’ after ‘em alone. Reckon I’ll round up a posse. Gotta send someone down to Los Angeles too.” He shook his head, “We need us a telegraph office up here.”

While some men took the body down, I sketched a picture of the scene. I felt sure it would have a prominent spot on the front page of the Observer when I got back to Los Angeles. I was confident my boss would assign me the follow up on this story. Would the murderers be brought to justice? Would the owner of the Cornerstone Ranch come to avenge his son’s death? I hoped I’d get to interview this influential man. It’d be this journalist’s highest achievement.

(*Photo taken at Cramer’s Farm, an event venue in Northwest Washington state)

(**Photo taken at Lynden Pioneer Museum, located in Northwest Washington state)

Friday, May 23, 2014


When I come to the end of writing a story and I look back on it, realizing that a few hours ago this story did not exist, to go from a blank screen on my computer monitor to word-sketched scenes and characters—I am astonished. This feeling of gratefulness to be allowed that adventure is almost overwhelming. Top that off with the opportunity to have the story published, entertaining my readers and perhaps revealing an underlying truth, brings me to doing the happy dance.

I don’t have the date when the book will be published, but I have signed a release for Breath of Fresh Air Press to include the following fictional story in their Mixed Blessings Books series, coming out in the near future. Originally written in November, 2010, for’s weekly writing challenge, this story received an Editor’s Choice award. Later weekly challenges prompted two more stories set in this fictional town of Dry Gulp. I’ll be featuring those stories here in my little corner soon. Now for your reading pleasure and to whet your appetite for the entire Mixed Blessings series, I give you:


Rumors don’t come howlin’ through the window like a Santa Ana wind at four o’clock in the mornin’. Nope, more ‘n’ likely they come tantalizin’ like a breeze, lickin’ at yer ears, temptin’ ya to position yerself for a mite more o’ folks’ palavarin’.

I wish to high heaven I’d fastened the shutters snug agin’ my own meddlesomeness. If I’d’a done that, I mightn’t be in this here pickle, havin’ to make a life alterin’ decision.

I been owner o’ The Dry Gulp Saloon here nigh onto twenty years, offerin’ the best whiskey in town. And sasspariller fer the ladies. I ain’t opposed to females frequentin’ my establishment a’tall. But if it weren’t fer womenfolk I might’a never heard what I’m about to tell ya. So I’m a tad conflicted about allowin’ ‘em in.

Boy howdy, there’s this big outfit outside o’ town, The Cornerstone Ranch. It’s been there since before I come out west. Owner lives back east. I been out there, providin’ liquid sustenance at a barn dance, so I know the foreman. Clay seems like a good ol’ cowpoke, never done me no harm anywise. He’s shore made somethin’ out’a that spread. Ever’ fall his cowhands drive hundreds o’ head o’ cattle to the railroad, herds so big there don’t seem to be no end to ‘em. 
Must take in some purdy good money too ‘cause Clay and the boys drop more’n a bit o’ silver on this here countertop o’ mine.

I asked Clay once about his boss. He said he ain’t heard from the feller in years, figgers he done lost interest in the place. That don’t bother Clay none. Clay says, “Me and the boys’re doin’ mighty fine. Don’t need him messin’ things up. We been doin’ all the work all these years—I figger it’s MY place now. He ever shows up? Might jest be a show down in the streets, that’s all!”

I must’a looked a tetch pale faced ‘cause Clay grinned and clapped me on the back. “Don’tcha worry none, ol’ feller,” he said. “Mr. High Falutin’ Eastern Fancy Pants ain’t a’comin’! I’m shore he got better things to do than ride all this way on dusty trains and stagecoaches an’ all. You jest tend yer bar and no trouble’ll come to ya.” 

Well, I wadded my botherment like a hankeychief in my back pocket and got on with my saloon keepin’, like the man said.

I got me a little gal, Daisy Rose, borned to me and my wife seven years ago. My wife’s one o’ those ladies who come in fer my sasspariller. She ended up stayin’. I ain’t sorry Daisy Rose come along but like I said, I’m a mite conflicted.

I let Daisy Rose have the run o’ the place. She keeps me up on the doin’s ‘round here. They say womenfolk love bearin’ tales but I gotta ‘fess up, to my shame, my ears’re always flappin’ fer the tale to be told. So I ain’t never told Daisy not to eavesdrop.

One day Daisy tells me what she heard while she was doin’ her little chores, sweepin’ the storage room. She don’t know what it’s all about but it durn near made my blood freeze.

Seems a coupla Cornerstone cowboys was enjoyin’ a smoke out back. They’s laughin’ an’ talkin’ about how messengers from Mr. Fancy Pants been comin’ regular-like to the ranch. How the cowhands got orders from Clay to give ‘em a message to take back to him. As Daisy Rose prattled, a remembrance come to my mind of a coupla well-dressed strangers that’d partook of a glass of my finest. Later I seen ‘em boardin’ the stage, a little worse fer wear. Now’s I think on it, ‘twas evidence of a cowpuncher’s blows.

Daisy’s a’pullin’ on my vest, “Papa, does Mr. Fancy Pants have a son? Willy and Little George said when Mr. Fancy Pants’ boy gets here, they’re gonna throw him a party in the gully where that ol’ weepin’ willow grows. What kinda party is a lynchin’ party, Papa? Maybe Willy and Little George’ll invite me.”

Now I gotta decide if’n I oughta bear this tale to the sheriff an’ run the risk o’ Clay’s six-shooter finding a place to put a plug in me. Or am I gonna let Mr. Fancy Pants’ boy get hung so’s I can go on benefitin’ from the Cornerstone’s silver?

I wish to heaven I’d’a made Daisy Rose stay home with her mama.

(Photographs taken at The Rusty Wagon, a local eatery)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


New pages are turning! I’m anticipating adventure and exploration with a group of like-minded women writers this year. The following, a piece of creative fiction (originally submitted for the writing challenge in May 2010), seems appropriate for encouraging the members of that group now, and a good reminder for me. You don't have to be a writer for it to resonate with you as well. 

(Original Title: Text of Life)

Lord, I’m feeling really lonely. I want deeper friendships. I see the women at my church who have friends they go out to lunch with, have over to their homes, take trips with…they’re friendly towards me but there’s a sense of distance, like they don’t want to invite me in. But not just at church, in my neighborhood and at work as well. And I want to minister to them too. How can I do that if we don’t connect?

Have you shared your book with them?

My book? What do you mean my book? I’m not a writer!

Your life is being written moment by moment, child. What you’ve experienced from the day you were born until now is your book.

Hmm, I’ve never thought of it that way. But no, I haven’t really wanted to do that, share my book with anyone.

Why not?

It’s… well, for one thing, it’s too depressing.

How so?

Who wants to hear about my parents’ alcoholism, the abuse, my dabbling in the occult and my promiscuity? Before I met you, Lord, my life was a real mess, a downhill slide…hardly inspiring or uplifting. I’d rather talk about You, Lord.

My darling child, I do want you to talk about Me, and you must. But I have a question for you. Your life story is depressing for whom?

Why, for anyone I’d try to talk to, of course.

Delightful child, are you sure the real reason isn’t because you’re the one it’s too depressing for?

Whoa! You sure know how to ask the right questions, Lord!

I know the right answers too, daughter.

I’m listening, Lord!

The people in your sphere of influence may not read my Word, but they do read you. They will relate to you when you are honest about your past, when you don’t deny or discount it, or dismiss it as having no bearing on the present, or assume it will be depressing to them.

When they know what you’ve been through, they’ll be able to see the clearer how I’ve made all the difference. Even the women at church have secrets they hide because they think no one will understand. What would it mean to them to know someone like you who has been there?

If I’m going to be honest, Lord, I have to admit that I don’t want to know their stories. Whenever I hear them talking about their pasts I’m impatient for them to just move on…to get over it. Is that a lack of compassion on my part?

I’m aware of that in you, my daughter. And the answer is, yes. But it begins much closer to home.

Are you saying I haven’t been compassionate towards myself?

Now you’ve caught onto that twist in your plot! And here’s an even better twist: My compassion will flow through you to others, as you are willing to receive it for yourself.

Wow, Lord! I think I know why I’ve been afraid to open up like that. What if they turn their backs on me, see me as the scum I know I’ve been and decide I’m not worthy of their friendship?

Oh, I know, some may turn away—I don’t force anyone to do anything they don’t want to. But I have established a mandate for other believers to be supportive when you open the book of your heart. I assure you, there will be some who welcome you, who want to read your story. And I will lead you to them.

Precious child, take a look in My Book. This is something King David discovered. See here? “God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to His eyes.” You might have noticed that My Book is full of stories that could cause stomachs to churn and hair to curl or stand straight up on end. But David and many others recognized how important it was to record not only the good, but also the bad and the ugly. You’ve been able to relate to that, haven’t you?

Oh, yes, Lord! I have! I love your Word so much!

So, child of mine, how can I rewrite the text of your life, if you’re not willing to open the rough draft?

This will not be easy but I’m willing to submit my manuscript to you, Lord, by sharing it with those who desperately need to see it.

They will be blessed, as will you, my daughter!

(Scripture from 2 Samuel 22:21-25, in The Message Bible)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Earthquake-proof the Dentist Office

Where do you feel most vulnerable?

I think I have to say for me, it’s when I’m in the chair. Where dental procedures are performed. Where my personal space is invaded. Where pain is involved. Where my airways seem to be impeded. That chair. Compared to other circumstances I’ve faced, say, being in stirrups, (and I’ve given birth three times and each time was by a different method so I can honestly speak to a variety of vulnerable positions), dental procedures evoke a very extreme level of anxiety. The level that makes dentists wish they’d earthquake-proofed their office, such are the tremors that emanate from my body and encompass the chair I’m occupying. I’m not exaggerating.

A couple weeks ago a convergence of increasing pain in my mouth and available funds sent me to the chair. Since we moved last year, I had to find a new dentist. Add another level to the anxiety meter. So at the first appointment, which was for exam and x-rays only, I put it right there on the forms I filled out. About being extremely anxious in the chair and how I would be taking an anti-anxiety medication to get through whatever procedures needed to be done.

I felt hopeful with how the young lady at the counter greeted me and helped me with insurance paper work and forms. And her interest in me as a person came through very clearly.

When my new dentist entered the room, I so appreciated that he kept his distance as we first talked, and that he listened. He asked me from where I thought the anxiety stemmed. He didn’t interrupt as I listed a myriad of circumstances involving dental horrors in my childhood. Topping the list was my first visit at age twelve, a tooth that my parents refused a root canal on, insisting that I would lose all my teeth by the time I was twenty-one anyway so just go ahead and pull it, leaving me there alone because they had things to do, me sobbing with terror, the dentist pulling the tooth and dropping it down my throat, which I gagged and choked on but eventually coughed out, the dentist yelling at me and telling me it was my fault that he dropped it. Yeah, it was pretty traumatic. Other things on the list were fillings done without anesthesia, and being told what a baby I was for complaining about the pain because there are so many other things way more painful.

I’ve had a number of root canals, crowns, tooth extractions and deep cleanings since then that didn’t qualify for horror movie ratings but the initial incidents are ingrained and affect every single new encounter.

My new dentist listened to it all. And then he affirmed me. He said what I’d experienced was horrible and it shouldn’t have been done that way. The next thing he said was so unexpected I still almost can’t quite believe I heard my ears right. Basically he said, “There’s nothing I can do to go back and change what happened. But what I can do right now is apologize for the way those dentists practiced and for what they did to you. I’m saying I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?”

Really?!? Yes, really. I’m still processing what that means. And I am working through that forgiveness.

Yesterday was my appointment for the root canal. I took my little Lorazepam to take the edge off my anxiety. My sister became my TLC giver and chauffeur. She even offered to hang out in the tiny waiting room. I couldn’t do that to her. Just knowing she was close by at The Woods Coffee Shop was enough for me.

I still felt vulnerable in the chair. I still felt that my personal space was invaded. And hey, when the dentist said, “You’ll feel a little pinch now” as the needle was inserted into my locally anesthetized gum, I felt it. A few tears leaked out. And my body felt jerky (thankfully no tremors this time). But I also felt respected and heard. I felt the kindness, the care, the concern for my welfare, and the peace and presence of Jesus that friends and family were praying for.

I like what a favorite author of mine Steve Arterburn says in his book, Toxic Faith, “The true presence of God in my life does not provide escape from reality and personal responsibility. His presence should provide a firmer grip on reality and a hope that reality can be faced with all its pain and sorrow.”

The dentist also said he’d like to get to a place where I feel I can trust him. I’d like that too. It will take time. But what a relief it would be to approach the chair without a tremble, as there are more procedures ahead.