Speak what we feel

This might get kinda long. Sorry. Something about conference season and the sudden upending of schedule and home life often catapults me into epiphanies. Being away from home makes one vulnerable to prolonged thought. I love, and dread this season. It comes every year, this round of travel and speaking, trips in hotels, trips in cars… a riotous wrangle of adventure, exhaustion, friendship, ministry, and probably, madness. This year, however, was remarkable for starting with a bang. Actually, it was more of a pop. And it came from the general direction of my knee.

I was in the house all alone just as dusk poured darkness in through all the windows on the eve of the conference. Upstairs, in my room, I was whirling about to very loud music, attempting to turn the exercise of packing my suitcase into an aerobic dance. To the blood-quickening uillean pipes of Rock Island, 1931, I put my foot down for a vigorous pirouette, but to my unbounded surprise felt my leg buckle and my knee give an astounding pop. Next thing I knew, I was on the floor, back against my blue wall, legs at odd angles, my right ankle twitching. It was ten minutes before I could move. I was stunned. I rubbed my knee. I tried to calm my ankle. I rocked back and forth as feeling came back and everything went sore. Finally, I decided that whatever popped out must have popped back in.

I also cried. I think the shock of it (and I hate to admit this, I hate to cry) brought the tears. The pain was low grade, but I was shaking, scared at what I might have done, and as I sat there, trying to straighten my leg and stand, watching my toes twitch, I almost wept. Big, babyish tears. I asked myself if I was two years old and my brain very calmly answered no. I asked myself if I intended to let a little knee drama cow me in future from daring rescues, hikes across the English moors, or relief work in a war-torn country (all of which I plan to do). Of course not. I gingerly hobbled my way to my red chair and sat there. I took deep, decisive breaths. But each strong, calming suck of air into my lungs came out shredded into a sob. I couldn’t stop.

I thought I was just being irrational. For whatever reason, physical pain is the hurt I am least able to philosophically bear. I feel slapped across the face by it. I am more of a wimp at being sick than I like to admit. I mentally rolled my eyes at my weakness and let the tears come. But then the worst pain died down, and I was pretty sure nothing was broken. I kept on crying. Harder. I couldn’t stop. My throat ached, but so did my heart and I was bewildered as to why. It took me ten more minutes to suddenly realize I wasn’t crying about the pain. I wasn’t even crying over the shock or the scare. I was crying about things that had happened two weeks ago.

I felt crazy, but as I sat there, hurt after hurt and struggle after struggle came to me. Every niggling battle of spirit or mind I had pushed away in the past busy month rose up clearly before me, holding out their hands for a share of the tears I had thus far denied them. Silly, small things, most of them. Loneliness, the old hurt of feeling on the outside that I have such trouble keeping away. Restlessness, the daily fight to be sane and at peace when ever fiber of me yearns to work and love and give and fight, and there is no thing, or cause, or person willing to take it. Little irritations, taxes and details and housework. Old hurts that will not die, the darkest figures, always there in the farthest corner. Crazy as it seems, my popped-out knee disarmed my resolve and opened up the room where I lock my sorrows. Those tears gave all the imprisoned hurts I hadn’t acknowledged permission to come out, blinking, into the light of my thought. I cried for a long time.

I think we all have that room. I think all of us bear this stone-walled place within us where we stash everything we can’t allow ourselves to cry about, or even the things, tiny and big, we just don’t have time to mourn. I don’t think we talk about it very often. Like the grief we stow there, it’s not a place where the human soul can dwell for long. I think though, that it can be dangerous to entirely ignore it. I was surprised by my grief the other night. I hadn’t been depressed of late, but I realized how much feeling and need I had pushed away as I ran around my crazy life.

It made me question how I handle what is broken in my life. I am such an idealist, and such a “feeler” as we say in my family (look up the MBTI personality system and it will make more sense), that I can tend to gloss away the very valid and real struggles in mine, and other’s lives. That push toward beauty which can be so redemptive, can also be deceptive, leading me to ignore the sort of grief that never leaves, but returns with a sudden vengeance. I am an explosive griever. (Sorry, mom.) When I finally do break down, it ain’t, as my sister says, pretty.

The other night was a strange and sudden freedom. Those tears released me to know how much I need to cry, to acknowledge my fear and disappointment. I need to be able to admit I’m a fallen woman living in a broken world.

Realizing that made me question my writing. I sat in my red chair that night for a good hour questioning just about everything, but I couldn’t stop thinking about what sort of story I tell in my blog, in my books, in my words. Am I honest? I tend to write about the idealistic and beautiful because it is what I hunger for. I think all artists are driven to create the thing they seek. That’s good. But I wonder if I have told truely. The good and transcendent are certainly half of my life, but the other, equally living half, is the struggle. Sin, the nettling acrobatics of living in a technological culture, the way I hunger for people, for approval, the restlessness that sometimes makes me feel I’d rather just be a martyr and have done with it. There’s also the fear of what other people will think. Can I admit that I watch TV? That I like rock music? That The Dark Knight is one of my favorite movies? That I’m rarely at peace and usually in the throes of some desperate desire? Maybe its my ministry experience, but I worry that someone will be offended, or let down, by my admission that I am a very normal, workaday girl. Oh, heaven’s in my heart and all that, but I muck along and survive the best I can.

In Shakespeare’s tragic drama of King Lear, there is a line spoken near the end of the play that sums up most of what I felt on my knee-popping night and what I have felt in the days since as I pondered my writing. In the play, Lear has lost everything. There is no longer a kingship, or a throne, or a family, or wealth, or ease to disguise the person he truly is. He has to face his own heart. And this is what is spoken:

The weight of this sad time we must obey.
Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.

That’s what I’ve decided I want to do. In my writing and life, in my prayer and conversations, speak what is real, speak what is true about the adventurous and very painful journey through treacherous mountains that this life is.Β  And part of that is admitting my frailty. The way I do so want to be creative and earth-centered, but end up on the couch in front of the TV. The way loneliness makes me defensive, sharp to my family. The way I can be close as breath to God one morning and the next, as far and distant from him as can be. Even the way that disappointment pads at my heels like a loyal dog. It’s not that I want to dwell on the darkness. Simply admit it. Watch how it is formed and defeated by the light.

And then, of course, of course, continue to celebrate this light, the Goodness that is constantly invading the stone-walled rooms of grief, the corners of anger that fill my heart. The light has come and it will prevail. That’s still the heart of who I am and what I will say. But I’m not in heaven yet. Neither is anyone else here on earth. So the words I speak and the stories I tell must be tales told from the broken place. I don’t want to bottle up my tears or my words anymore.

So. Confession completed. I know, it’s probably not as big a deal to anyone else as it is to me, but I feel very freed. Hopefully, I can live this out and no more knee-pops will be necessary. (It’s still sore.) And with this very wordy epiphany, I will add a further one for you… I will be moving my blog soon. It’s a combination of a desire for a bit more expanded creative space, a slightly new identity, but also, rather humorously, because the first thing anyone says when I tell them the name of my blog is:

“Itini… what?”

And then:

“How in the world do you spell that?”

Life is so very humbling. Tears and unstable joints and a generally unliterary world. Oh well.Β  If you need it, I wish you a knee-popping sort of day. It’s cathartic, if painful. But I hope you don’t. I hope instead, you are much further along than I and can watch the beauty around you with an honest, joyous heart. All for now.



Filed under Contemplations, Outrageous Occurences

17 responses to “Speak what we feel

  1. Jennifer

    Dear Sarah,
    Thank you so much for once again beautifully putting into words what I have felt since Sunday night when I too went through much the same (sans any popping). As I have reflected over it these last two days I have felt the same sense of freedom in the acknowledgment. I struggle between knowing how thankful I should be and how content I should be in God’s will for me and the very real emotions that come with human pain and disappointment. I tend to deny the latter far too much which the Lord never asks me to do (very much like Eve adding to what God had said). It was very needed to weep and share (in my case with my wonderfully patient husband who had had no idea these things were even a issue any longer) and bring it out in the open to be examined and dealt with, and even if nothing really changed about the issues, I was changed. Much like the violence of a storm that leaves behind it a freshened bit if earth.
    You have always, in my probably less than humble opinion, been very real, but realty mixed with a rare sense of hope and the knowledge of what you were created to and one day will truly be in all fullness. And you inspire all of us who read your blog to remember it for ourselves too. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing your beauty with all of us. Blessings upon blessings.

  2. Although, as a runner, I’m hoping to avoid knee-popping days, I can relate to your experience and the gratitude you feel toward it. I have had my share of those days, and it seems, as I get older, I’m making progress in exposing the heaven in my heart, as I “muck along and survive”.

    I’m grateful you’re at this place, because I look forward to reading what becomes of you as you experience it. I’m also very grateful you’ve shared this story. All of it feeds my soul. Thanks!

  3. Sarah, keep writing about both the beauty and the grief. It is all good for me to read. Your post reminded me of a poem I found recently…

    “What I Have Found”
    by John R. Leax
    from his book Grace is Where I Live

    This place that claims my midlife
    labor is not an Eden I have made.
    It is a place of trial.
    My hope resides in yielding
    to what calls me still to stay.

    No charming serpent curls
    about my arm and whispers
    in my ear. But I am tempted
    nonetheless. Like Homer
    I take the stories of my people,
    I give them shape, and hand
    them down. What I pass on
    is truth made new–half-truth
    spun through kind invention.

    The world I make is finer
    than the world I know. How else
    contain the bitterness, the pain,
    the grief? I have not lied.

    I say my words; I seek
    the wholeness of the wolrd.
    Like Homer I am blind.
    I see what is not here.
    I see this place by word
    and grace a new creation.
    That word is what I’ve found.
    That grace is where I live.

    (I think you can also find the poem here: http://campus.houghton.edu/orgs/english/what_i_have_found_______________.htm)

  4. This is one of your best posts. People have so much pain inside them but feel they must put on a magic church mask.

    They need Velveteen Bunny real people. πŸ™‚

    Sometimes life is just hard. Isn’t it wonderful that we can choose beauty and loveliness in the journey, even when storm clouds are all around?

  5. Rachel Marohn

    (Sorry about the long post- won’t do that anymore)

    This reminded me of a friend I met while @ a mission school in Germany. She was S. African and the sweetest, most “real” individual I have ever met. The church we were at was really pushing the ideology that sin was like an onion that had to be peeled slowly away, layer by layer. We were at a retreat one week, where we had to go through some very detailed lists of sins and check off the ones we had committed in the past. Then we were to go over them with a counselor. My African friend and I were going through them, thinking deeply on some of them, questioning if we were guilty, and on others checking immediately. One of them was swearing and another was watching occult movies (which included “Lord of the Rings”! “Check!!”). Well, to say the least, we were feeling rather lousy. Lot’s of checks! I personally am not one to support such methods of digging back for sins. I wasn’t sure that some of them were even sins! I ended up throwing it away with the knowledge that I had already asked forgiveness of many of those sins (had turned from them) and was forgiven (washed away immediately!). So, why go back over them again with an intermediary (counselor, who was a sinner as well). It so turned out that my friend had done the same thing. She told me in her sweet S. African accent (if you can imagine), “Rachel, I love G-d dearly and talk to Him all the time. We have a wonderful relationship, but sometimes I can’t help but say s**t, and no little list that I check is going to cure me of that.” She went on to ask, “Can we all just be REAL Christians”? Though it didn’t sound much like a swear word with her delightful accent, I was quite surprised that such a “perfect woman of G-d” (in my view) would use those words! I know that I have, but had set her on a pedestal. We both agreed that “Lord of the Rings” just couldn’t be a sin, but if so, was one we would probably commit yearly. I will probably post a more extensive view of that (and other books/movies w/ wizards and witches) someday. I think it is important to live as children of a King while we are here on earth. That means an endowment of Spiritual riches that persevere in the darkest of circumstances. We may not have all we dream for here, but it doesn’t mean we can’t keep hoping, planning, and trying (Proverbs 16:9). I honestly believe that if I don’t end up getting a horse or becoming a professional violinist here, I will on the new earth. You are right to be an idealist in that sort of way. Of course, God can bless you on earth, too. There are many Scriptures about that. It’s just that we all have different walks to walk and different trials to conquer. I understand how you feel about your journal. I feel the same about mine- that what I write is what I need to abide by to be a good witness. We all come to that point where we feel like we are doing all the work with our own weak bodies and minds. It’s as you said, God can use you as you are- the “real” you. Your trials will definitely minister to others. We are weak vessels that He molds and uses. I’ve had to tell myself many times that I don’t have to try so hard to be perfect all the time. Especially in looks and words for me. I’ve got my airs and I always like to look good on paper! See me in person and in mind, yikes! “I am weak, but He is strong!” (Romans 8:26-39)

    You were always very real and sincere to me, in person- a very kind and fun person!

    Maybe you could become “Itinerant Realist”, hahaha!

    Blessings to you,

  6. joydancer

    I like you as you are and am always so blessed. wonderful post.

  7. Rachel Marohn

    P.S. Google turbotax- what a life saver for taxes! Quick and easy. We downloaded a version that we purchased. It does everything you would ever cringe at, automatically! My knee has popped out of joint a few times. It’s a little scary, but once back in place no harm is done. Popping is usually not serious, unless you tear a ligament- ACL, which would be quite painful. -Nurse Rachel πŸ™‚

  8. Thank you Sarah. You encapsulate perfectly ( I marvel at your gift with words) what I have felt so very often. I’m blown away.

  9. Susan


    Firstly I hope your knee feels better soon! Nonethless the results of your popped knee were the makings of a needed post!

    Since Monday I have been struggling with the battle of being ‘real’ with people. You said ” I worry that someone will be offended, or let down” . It is almost paralyzing to be living in fear all the time of what someone will think of me. So I share less and less of what I think, and yes it is a mask.

    Interesting post, glad you shared it with us ‘out here’!


  10. I’ve been a closeted reader for some time now, enjoying your blog immensely, and I wanted to say thanks for sharing. I made a half-commitment this year–the sort of commitment you won’t quite admit to yourself in case you don’t follow through–to look into the stone-walled rooms when they open, rather than running away. But when I see how broken life is, all the frustration and confusion and loneliness and apathy, and compare that with what I wish life could be, it’s discouraging. Discouraging to the point that I pretend the darkness isn’t there, or else doubt that the light-filled world I long for can exist at all. Your post is an encouraging reminder that admitting the presence of darkness does not exclude the possibility of light.

    As another idealist, writing for me also is a way of making real what I hope (and believe) to be true. At the same time I like to think that I’m a realist because I’m an idealist. I have to live in *both* worlds because it’s only when the ideal becomes real, when archtype is united with ectype, that the real world has meaning.

  11. this is beautiful, Sarah.

    thank you for sharing this piece of you with us.

    hope your knee heals quickly, but like you, i’m thankful for those pains that He uses to mold us. they are truly gifts.

  12. My Dearest Sarah,

    I have been reading your blogs since your mom sent out an invite to join you and Gypsy on your jaunt to Prince Edward Island. I have been blessed by each and every post (even those that told “part” of the story — as a kindred spirit I knew more could be told . . . ). It has been a wonderful journey and I hope your new blog endeavor will still invite readers, as I so enjoy your fluid prose and poetic eye.

    As for pent up emotions and tearful releases . . . I join you in having a recent epiphany washed fully in repressed tears. My son died 5-1/2 years ago just before his 16th birthday. I mourned him appropriately and assured everyone that I was fine. I busied myself with attending to my other children and their feelings of loss. Long story short . . . on this past Christmas Eve a CD came on the player that I had not heard since my son had gone to Heaven — it was one of his favorite Christmas CDs by the Gaithers. When I heard those familiar tunes I melted into tears that quickly became great gulping sobs. I washed dishes and peeled potatoes and sobbed my heart out. It HURT! The world hurts SO BAD sometimes! I cried out to God and He lovingly embraced me while the tears gushed. In time, the wracking stopped, my tears ceased, and my heart filled with joy and lightness. I had not ever allowed myself to feel the true pain . . . I feared what facing that grief would do to me. Now I know . . . it set me free.

    I still miss Andrew. I will never “get over” his death. But as you so aptly point out, humanity is synonymous with pain, but we endure and live to seek beauty despite the darkness.

    This post knocked on my heart, as I too have a “beautiful” blog and have avoided mention of this event altogether for fear of being judged or pitied. (I cannot abide pity!) I began my blog to focus on whatever is beautiful . . . can a tear-stained face shining brightly with the smile of victory over pain/loss/death qualify as beautiful? I think your post has convinced me that it can and I wanted to add my little voice of congratulations to you for setting out to be “Real.” May I join you in this quest, dear sister in Christ and kindred lover of all things beautiful?

    You are in my prayers. And I might add, those prayers include thanksgiving that you have written such a lovely book about books. You wrote from the heart about reading for the heart — it’s REAL and really enjoyable. Thank you for sharing so much with someone you only know through a blog comment.

    God Bless you! XO!

  13. Rowena

    Thankyou, your best piece of writing yet !

  14. Katie

    Thank you taking courage and writing this blog. Life is not perfect for any of us, but I agree with Brenda that we CAN choose beauty. You are such a great example of someone whom strives to make that choice daily.

    Thank you for your vulnerability. Thank you for exposing a piece of you that you don’t perceive as beauty so that we may be encouraged when we feel the same pains and struggles.

    I have prayed for you for years. That God would fill your loneliness. I will continue. Loneliness is something we all try to push to the wayside, but nonetheless, it rears it’s ugly head at the most peculiar time!

    Thank you again for transparency in this blog. You are a true gift!

  15. Dear Sarah. I, too, pirouette to loud music and burst into tears that are musty and stagnant, causing me to try to follow the breadcrumb trail right back to their cause.

    You are not alone. Thank you for being so honest. It gives me (and so many others!) the courage to do the same. I’ve said a prayer for you, you who bless so many by being exactly. who. you. are.

    I can’t wait to see your family in June at the Idaho Homeschool Convention. πŸ™‚

    And- (giggling while I whisper):

    I love The Dark Knight, too.


  16. Sarah, thank you for opening up your heart–all parts of it–to us. Your being real about your whole life, not just the beauty-seeking parts, minister possibly even more than the other, because everybody feels those things, and it’s weakness, not perfection, that unites us. Perfection or idealism can be challenging and inspiring, but commonality and struggles are encouraging and uniting. Being in the limelight of ministry makes it hard for us to be open about some things, but it always seems to bless others and give them hope when we do!

    I’m praying for you, your knee, and your continued journey into all of this. For any of the naysayers who can’t handle the thought of you watching TV, there are many, many more who are bolstered by knowing you’re a real woman who also really loves God!

  17. Melissa McCleary


    Life does tend to pitch some curve balls at us, doesn’t it. I’m so sorry that your knee popped and I hope you are indeed feeling better… I too detest crying, and am far more able to shoulder emotional pain than physical pain. But some days we are blessed in ways that we don’t initially consider blessings. Maybe it does have something to do with the season… painful awakenings of the soul seem to be going around. At least seasons like this tend to be followed by those of great peace and joy, so chin up, chickadee, as my mother would say. πŸ™‚

    I just wanted to wish you well in your “pause,” as a friend of mine often calls such phases of considering and redefining; and to say that since (another) friend from my church recommended your blog several weeks ago, I have derived a great deal of enjoyment from your writing, as well as cause for my own reflection. Thanks for sharing, blessings, and my best with all you hold inside and all that waits ahead! πŸ™‚

    Missy M.

    ps. I too love rock music. You go, girl. πŸ™‚

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