“Instead of stressing, have a slice of hope and a cup of blessing!”
Hi reader! I appreciate your time in looking at my alternate blog site, Stressbless, however it is no longer my primary/current blog site. I’ve not posted in Stressbless for several years. The reason I leave it out here in internet space is because I have an Avatar connected to it that allows me to comment and follow other WordPress sites, so I have not dismantled this site. I may return to posting on Stressbless when I’ve caught up with my fiction story work and screenplays. Please visit my current blog/story site at
Hope to find you there!
Ann Clark McFarland
FIVE: Episode Forty-Eight is based off the following book excerpt from my science fiction, supernatural, thriller, The Contingency Generation.
I flatten out the printer error log containing my first message from Five. I turn it so the text is readable to her. “This has to be Kate’s copy. Why is it here?”
“I hoped you’d find it.” Still holding the book, Baph struggles to shed her coat.
I watch her for signs of masking. Baph holds the highest level of expertise in the art form, but so did Kate, and Kate made sure to pound into me several self-preservation tricks to uncover targeted deception.
“Please understand. I took it, because I knew someday I’d need your help.” The voice comes out pleading.
“Help with what?” I sneer, shoving the paper closer to her.
Underneath my fierce gaze, the heshee’s face shifts multiple times and then abruptly contorts into an expression I don’t at first recognize until her eyes fill with tears, and she sits to dab at her face.
The quiet sobs are unexpected. Be careful. Don’t let sympathy mask your purpose.
I hold on to my suspicion but decide to play nice. Leaving the desk, I move to shut the study door. Baph shifts in her chair when I pass, and the voluminous Hermes scarf enveloping her petite neck slips sideways. The revealed skin shows unmistakable signs.
“How long have you been ill?” I ask, knowing the answer by the maturity and location of the bruising that it’s been a while.
“Four years and two days.” Baph sits up straight and pulls the material snug again, using the book to anchor the scarf against her chest. “I’ve passed the Corpound stage, and diagnostics show I’ve moved into Elwinde.”
I read the pain in the jaundiced eyes and know no imitation can produce the effect.
“Death. Maybe weeks. Maybe days. I don’t care anymore. I just want to go home.”
“Where’s that?” Compassion overrules. The stages of the Bonemic plague are merciless.
“Five. It’s all true you know. There’s more to life than what’s here. Fol’s been banned from all of it, so he wants life to renew on earth, but I just want to be left alone. You’ve got to help me.”
Follow the full story on my fiction blog, http://www.annclarkmcfarland.com
He comes to me often in dreams. I see him laughing and walking freely without a walker, and I marvel. I ask him how he is so much better. He says the doctor put him on a new medicine and it is healing him. In other dreams, he is killed in an accident. Both dreams seem better to me than the reality that his dementia has progressed to the point that my mother can no longer care for him. He will soon be placed in a nursing home, a place he wanted to avoid and begged me personally not to allow. Painfully, my medical training prevented me from making that promise, but I avidly begged God to take him sooner.
This winter I traveled 1267 miles to his home to help with his care. I mostly saw a shadow of him, and after everyone went to bed, I sobbed, gasping in uncontrollable shudders. My mom and I visited the nursing home, a beautiful and loving place, and chose the admission date.
I ranted at God.
How can this be, Lord? You know I’ve been hungry for more time with him while he’s in his right mind. I’m just getting to know him.
My father is slipping away. Yet everything around me during my visit spoke of his intellect and will. I was sheltered in the cozy two-story log home he built from a kit. His winter boots still sat at the back door. In the basement, neatly labeled paint cans held paint waiting for his brushstroke. Nails and every kind of hardware rested in orderly bins prudently collected for his next fix-it project. His writings and books were on the shelves in his office.
My parent’s fairy tale golden years are over. With his new diagnosis of dementia, the father I’ve longed for, and saw only glimpses of in my life, now has no further chance of emerging. He is disappearing AGAIN, and I am heartbroken.
My father suffered most of his life with untreated depression. The lack of treatment was his choice. Apart from depression, I do not know who my father was meant to be. Now, with dementia, I’m losing him forever this side of heaven.
Years ago, despite the warping of depression, I saw and fell in love with the good of God in my father. However, the conflicts in his mind continually stole him from our family for years on end. Those good times were so brief compared to the dark ones and the hunger I had for him as a daughter.
These final days of loss, of “him”, now force me to stand as if ravenous in front of a banquet table filled with food at which I have no chance of sitting.
Is this what a mother feels when she births a child who subsequently dies young?
Is this what the relatives of a soldier feel when he does not return from a battle?
Treatment of mental illness can be optional as long as we are ready and willing to lose something, maybe even a life, relationship, or creative tribute to God.
I believe that if we, as an individual, family, church, or nation, avoid recognizing and treating mental illness and continue to stigmatize those who seek treatment, then we have succeeded in placing our stamp of approval on that loss and on that robbery of life.
May it never be!
Mental illness is a crafty thief. (Dementia is, too.) Unfortunately, this form of burglary happens all too often without protest.
It must stop. If you or someone you know is depressed or suffering from mental illness, they need to get help. Support and encourage those who are in this battle of life.
Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10
Abundant life takes our cooperation and diligence to Him. Such a life is not without obstacles, but anything else is a robbery.
Have you experienced a “robbery”? How did you cope?
I reluctantly agreed to go to Paris. It seemed a better idea in February when we used our savings to buy our tickets and pay our share of the week’s apartment rent. My husband and I would be celebrating 32 years of marriage this year, and the romance of Paris and the request of our daughter and husband to join them for the trip was special. My son-in-law speaks French and we do not.
However, as the year unfolded my father became quite ill. Then our office problems accelerated over the conversion of our records to electronic in order to comply with a federal mandate. In addition, I began school, and we have three other children in college or postgraduate work. Still, I reasoned that my husband and I have not celebrated our marriage in a special way for several years, AND we would be with family and someone who spoke the language well.
In the end, it was our own companionship (husband and I) and the sweet support and planning of the entire trip by our daughter and son-in-law that made it worth it. Yes, the history, art, and spectacular buildings were amazing, but we experienced daily anti-American sentiment, although we were very well behaved and followed our daughter’s conduct advice as best we could. (She should know about conduct in other countries. She graduates in 17 days with a degree in international business. Congratulations sweet heart!)
What is my point? There are several points actually.
Romance is what you bring to the relationship. It’s not the setting.
I’d rather be a native of a country known for its beautiful people and ugly buildings than to be a citizen of a nation known for beautiful buildings (and art) and ugly acting people. (Don’t jump to conclusions. I’m not saying France or America is either one.)
Don’t be jealous or judgmental of others who take a trip. Life is short and opportunity is even shorter. (We have been judged on the timing of taking this trip by some people who know us.)
I agree with Dorothy. Life at home is just how I like it.
In my town between the worlds of land and sea, there is a sanctuary—a marsh where fresh and salt water mingle to become a third world.
Emotionally speaking, when we exist between what we long for and what is not yet accomplished, we often live in a similar place. Our struggle to hang on to both worlds may be unnoticed by others, but it is very real. Places of illness, joblessness, childlessness are only a few of these sanctuaries.
There are three things worth noting about sanctuaries.
1. There is life in the sanctuary. Herons, gulls, spoonbills, butterflies, crabs, and grasses thrive in the sanctuary. Sometimes the marsh is the only place I will ever see their wonder. Perhaps they represent the inexplicable joys that can come in the midst of struggles.
2. There are companions in the marshy places. If I will look past my circumstances, I can see others walking in the sanctuary. Although my enemy would have me believe the illusion of loneliness, it is not my solitary world.
3. There is refuge in the sanctuary. It helps me to remember that the God of Land and Sea is also the God of the Marsh.
Psalm 119:28 describes a life in the marsh and a plea for help.
“My life dissolves and weeps itself away for heaviness; raise me up and strengthen me according to the promises of Your word.”
The words of Matthew 28:20b comforts us as they must have comforted Jesus’ disciples in His last moments on earth.
“Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
A glimpse of God’s strategy during our tough days is found in Old Testament stories, too.
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.” Isaiah 43:2
Finally, there is a powerful declaration about sanctuary in the words Jesus spoke about His death and resurrection. He IS the God OVER the sanctuary.
“Demolish this Sanctuary,” said Jesus, “and in three days I will rebuild it.” John 2:19
Are you living but not yet healed? Take courage. You’re in good company. There is a Sanctuary. His name is Jesus.
When the “name it claim it” approach to life does not work out, reconsider your tactic. Are you telling God He can’t say “no” to you?
This topic is discussed in a post on the blog, Girlfriends in God (link below) from Crosswalk. Don’t Say No, by Gwen Smith offers a new perspective to those who believe in God and also their assumption that they can compel Him to do their bidding.
Facing the unknown with a full throttle imagination can be stressful. Like a bag of potato chips, I find myself addictively dipping into imagined scenarios to explain what I don’t know or understand. The problem with imagination is its very nature is comprised of the ability to form images and ideas in the mind, especially things never seen or experienced directly. It’s a great resource for painting pictures, writing stories, or inventing new approaches to things, but it’s function is NOT the same as the functions of fact.
It’s hard to be both creative and realistic with the same brain. I know this because I have this type of brain.
On the one hand, I’m thrilled to exercise the talents God has given me. In fact, just recently I’ve had the blessing of being encouraged by other Christians to use my specific creative gifts. (Visual art and writing endeavors are often less welcome in the church than musical creativity.)
However, on the other hand, my imagination needs to be controlled in certain settings to keep from bringing added stress to myself and others. I need God’s grace and other’s patient wisdom to indicate when my thoughts are unbalanced and lean more toward imagination than fact. When I hear from advisors, I must be humble and teachable in order to learn where my weak spots exist. (I also appreciate when their response is balanced, too. For example, when people are equally faithful to tell me if my imagination is useful, I’m encouraged.)
I’ve found the Bible to be the perfect source of wisdom to keep balance in my life. The trick is to look to it daily for help and apply the knowledge properly.
Creative or not, we all have struggles with our imagination, and sometimes we need to reign in our thoughts AND MOUTHS to stay sane and not stress those around us.
For the artist, I believe this becomes an important step of self-control. When huge obstacles and unknown fears threaten to overwhelm us, we must understand how our rampant imagination can add to our stress and the stress of others.
If we think our minds rule, or we have trouble stopping speech or thought flow, we need to focus on these verses.
“However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9
“For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” 1 Cor. 2:11
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8
Here’s my new Texas saying, complete with a Texan accent….
The problem with a rampant imagination is the same one that might concern a rancher with a run-away bull.
“If you don’t git yer mind corralled, sooner or later the story you tell will git you gory instead of glory!”
Do you know any other good sayings about imagination and/or gossip?
“How could You,” I said. “YOU let him slip right through your fingers! WE cannot see him.”
“I see him. I know exactly where he is. He’s in my other hand. I have him. Remember, I have two hands. One is open for you to see, and one is closed for holding.”
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10
My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. Psalm 63:8
“This is what it means to be held
How it feels, when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive
This is what it is to be loved and to know
That the promise was
that when everything fell
We’d be held.”
Children use it over 400 times a day and adults only fifteen. Its influence is known all over the world. It’s addicting, and it affects the brain. Women participate in it more than men, but men initiate the use more than women. Media occupations have been historically altered by its power.
The Bible has something to say about the medical effect of this substance—laughter and being “merry.”
“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22
Have you laughed much lately? If not, why not?
In your hard times, is there still something or someone that can make you laugh?
Here’s my current laugh moment.
I sat in Subway, alone, eating my six inches of a foot long chicken teriyaki sandwich wondering if my physician husband had been called to tend to a medical crisis or if he had simply forgotten his words on the phone, “I’ll see you at Subway in ten minutes.” We were trying to snatch the twenty minutes before he had to be at a financial meeting to eat supper and discuss some serious things about work.
Instead of assisting our together time, God chose to insert a sitcom scene and sprinkle humor on our life.
Across the town at the other Subway, my husband was alone eating his half of a foot long chicken teriyaki sandwich wondering what black hole his wife fell in. He called me multiple times, a fact I discovered when I went to the car muttering about why he did not call me, and found my phone sitting in the cup holder. When I saw his multiple frantic text messages, I called him and got his voice mail so I sadly said I was headed home and I was sorry to have missed him. While I was driving, and yes, leaving my message, his blue truck passed in the oncoming lane. He honked and waved at me and then called me to say he had gone home to search for me because he was worried. (Of course now he was a smidge late for his meeting.)
Later we laughed at the pitiful scene of each of us sitting and eating our sandwich alone while waiting earnestly for the other. Our kids are concerned about this incident remarking that we live in a sheltered small town, and we will never manage to roam in a big city without losing each other.
The point is this: sometimes when life is too serious, we need to find a way to laugh.
Find a source for laughter, and you might find your stress level easing.
What do you think? What funny story can you tell?
Here is a link to an article about the benefits of laughter.