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I have seen their ways, but I will heal them;

 I will lead them and repay them with comfort,

creating for their mourners the fruit of the lips.

Peace, peace, to the far and the near, says the Lord,

and I will heal them.

(Isaiah 57:17-19)

I've been thinking - a lot! - about healing these last few weeks. Some of you know that on April 5 I slipped while out doing evening chores and broke both bones in my lower right let. I am now the proud owner of a titanium rod in my right tibia (shin bone). There was a chance that I might need a second surgery - the hope was that the fibula (smaller bone behind the tibia) would line up along the tibia and heal on its own, and that is indeed what is happening. So I've been thinking of that kind of healing.

Some of you also know that for the last several years I have been struggling with psychological trauma that was inflicted by people I thought I was close to, and who I trusted. That has been a whole other kind of healing. Since the end of February I've been thinking more about the healing than about the trauma, which is, I think, a shift in my thinking. I want to share some of those thoughts, too.

I was discharged from the hospital on April 9, and my world is now primarily the chair in our living room. I am not allowed to put any weight on my leg for another 2-3 weeks, so the world will remain pretty small for me. I've been reading books - some good, some not so good, playing too much Wordle on the iPad, and knitting. I can't get upstairs to my knitting tools and yarn stash so I have to rely on Jay to get them, which he is happy to do, but it adds a layer of procrastination to getting started (procrastination on my part, not his!). I can't go to pottery, which I really miss. I am quite proud that I haven't had the TV on during the day yet! I can't get out to the barn, but we are shearing alpacas tomorrow so I will get to see my fuzzy friends as I will do record keeping and draw up monthly shots from my wheelchair. Jay will drive me to the barn in the morning.

The upshot of all that is that I've had time to think. Maybe too much! But I've been thinking about how my bones are healing, and all I have to do at this point is let them do it. Have you ever stopped to think about the zillions of miracles that occur in our bodies every day? The fact that we remain upright is a miracle. The fact that we suffer many minute injuries that we never even notice as they heal on their own. The fact that the small injuries we get - cuts, scrapes, the times that we twist our ankles and it hurts for a minute and goes away and we forget about it - those all heal without a thought. The fact that food digests, waste is eliminated, blood clots, oxygen is carried through the body to be used by cells, and carbon dioxide is too and then is exhaled, pathogens are fought off, and broken bones knit together are all miracles.

When I was young, I thought that God had made a mistake in causing people to pass gas. And why do we have to poop? Why not just use everything we consume? When I became older and a nurse, I realized the genius of passing gas and eliminating waste - I call this the "theology of farts." This was actually going to be a blog post on its own, but here you go. Gas keeps our intestines open so that fecal matter can pass through. If the bacteria in our guts didn't manufacture gas, our intestines would collapse, causing terrible pain and an inability to digest food. Why do we need the fecal matter? Because we don't only ingest the good stuff. We eat bacteria. We eat toxins. We eat marbles and tacks when we are small and hopefully grow out of that but there may be things that aren't good for us in the food we eat. That needs to be gotten rid of, so we need to poop, and to do that we need to fart. And the theological part is that I don't think we could purely evolve into this many daily miracles. I do believe that evolution occurred and occurs, but I think someone has to be orchestrating it because it is all just too well done.

So my bones are knitting together and as I wait patiently (or not) I am appreciating the miracle(s) that God is providing. Another aside - "patients" are called that because if they aren't patient when they get sick, they will be by the time they are recovered!

I want to be clear that I don't believe that physical healing happens on its own all the time if we just have faith and believe. My grandmother was a Christian Scientist, and my understanding was that faith would cause God to heal us. I spent many nights as a little girl desperately trying to pray away my developing strep throat or ear infection. The logical extension of that was that I didn't have enough faith because I ended up missing school for a bad cold or at the doctor for the strep throat or ear infection. Just this morning I saw a meme on Facebook that faith in Jesus Christ will overcome any addiction or affliction. That, my dears, is not good theology.

God provides the knowledge for those who would help us to heal, because sometimes those daily miracles in our bodies are overwhelmed. The bacteria, virus or fungus gets a toe-hold and the body's natural immunity can't fight it off. The cut is too deep to heal on its own. The bones are too far apart to knit together naturally. We need help.

God has provided us with doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and a whole health care team to restore us to physical health. God has provided us with psychologists and social workers to restore us to psychological health. God has provided spiritual therapists to restore us to spiritual health. It is not wrong to rely on them when we need them. It is wrong to test God by refusing help when we need it. And right here, I am going to give a shout-out to all the non-professional helpers out there - the people who bring meals, clean our homes, do our laundry, drive us to appointments, help with alpaca shearing - those who make life easier and help with the healing that way. They help heal us of the need to be in control, when we just can't be.

I also want to point out that in the passage from Isaiah, above, God acknowledges those in mourning. Healing does not necessarily mean a restoration to physical health, as any hospice nurse will tell you. Healing comes in many forms, and none of us get out of life alive. God doesn't abandon us to our grief, which we will also all experience - God remains with us. And as I type that last sentence, I think what a tragedy it would be to have no one to grieve in our lives. It would mean that we had no one to love, because grandparents, parents and pets, at the very least, will pass away. Hopefully our children will outlive us. Siblings and friends may or may not die before we do. So grief, as exquisitely agonizing as it is, is a gift it means there was love, and that will never die.

Back to healing ...

Last February, I received word that one of the people who inflicted the psychological pain on me is seriously ill. This news caused me to reflect on the relationship and the pain (grief) that comes with the loss of that relationship. I prayed (and continue to pray) that her health will be restored. As I was praying a couple of days later, I thought of the Japanese art of kintsugi, where a broken piece of pottery is mended with gold leaf, and the fractures become part of the beauty of the piece. I thought of a ceramic heart, broken and repaired by kintsugi.

Later that day, I received news that brought me to my knees - I won't go into detail, but it was related to the person's illness, and caused me to reach out to my therapist for my first ever "emergency" session. We talked it through, and it helped, but there isn't any Tylenol for that kind of hurt. The next day, I again thought about the little kintsugi heart. I was going to a make-up pottery session that night, and it occurred to me that I could do a project that would incorporate kintsugi. I would make a pitcher, to represent the space that I as a woman have allowed people to fill up over and over again, and all the times that I as a woman, wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend have emptied myself for someone else. I would create this pitcher and then break it, to represent the times that I have been broken. And then I would mend it with kintsugi, and the gold veins along the fractures would add to the beauty of the pitcher, and represent the wisdom and beauty I have gained from being filled and emptied over and over again.

Just thinking about this project made me feel so much better! I went to pottery and made this pitcher.

In this photo, the pitcher is drying under the heat lamp. Before I left that evening I wrapped it in plastic and put it in the damp box so that it would continue to dry, but not too much. I only wanted it dry enough that I could add a handle.

I was so excited to share this project with my therapist, who was almost, I think, as excited as I was.

The following week we had a break between pottery sessions, so I had to wait. Isn't that what a lot of healing is? Whether a broken bone or psychological trauma, it takes time, and there is no rushing the process.

When I went back I added a handle and put it on the shelf to dry. I left it like this:

Now I had to surrender control. It was up to my pottery teacher to determine when it was dry enough and when there was space in the kiln. Some friends who knew about the project asked if this wasn't driving me crazy. It wasn't - I saw it all as part of the process, because ultimately don't we have to surrender control to heal? My pottery teacher, Steve, isn't God (I hear you laughing, Steve!), but in this instance he was a metaphor. The next step was out of my hands.

Finally the pitcher was fired and ready for glazing! I had to decide if I wanted it to be white, black, green or blue. Did I want one color or two? Did I want it to be decorative? I opted for green because it represents nature and I thought it would look nice with the gold. I opted for only green and no decoration so the gold leaf would stand out. And isn't it interesting that the pitcher looks white? I assure you the glaze is on it. Who can tell what the color will be when it is fired?

Isn't life like that? Full of choices, and we can't see what it will be like when we start out. If we go this way, we can't go that way. But we can turn around. We might not like the outcome, but we can start over if we need to. Now the pitcher went onto the glaze shelf - again out of my hands and out of my control. I waited.

At the end of March I went to my pottery class and the pitcher was in the kiln. Next week! Next week is kintsugi week! I had purchased a kintsugi kit from Amazon that came with instructions, epoxy, and three colors of gold leaf. I knew which hammer I would bring to break the pitcher. My friends were ready to support me. My therapist asked if I had thought about what I would say, if anything. Thinking about what I might say brought me to tears.

Then: life. Instead of going to pottery the next week, I was going home from the hospital with my leg is a splint halfway up my thigh. Jay had to help me in and out of the bathroom. I am a little more independent now, but every time I think, "Oh, I should...," I remember I can't. I have had surprisingly little pain, but even less dignity. I choose to see this as part of the process, too - I had my route all mapped out, but there were detours I had to take. I found wisdom and comfort on those detours, too. Jay is more wonderful than I knew him to be. He has been so patient and such a good caregiver. I hope if the tables are ever turned I will do as well.

And isn't that a metaphor for life? The best laid plans.... We can't control the wind, we can only adjust the sails (I looked to see who said that and found Thomas Monson, Jimmy Dean and Dolly Parton, so who knows?). Surrender control and adapt, adapt, adapt.

Steve packed up my completed projects and sent them to me with my friend Ann. Here is what the pitcher looked like.

Should I go ahead and break the pitcher, or should I wait? It was a nice little pitcher as it was. If I went ahead my pottery friends wouldn't be there - but I decided to break the pitcher during one of my therapy sessions and asked Jay to join us.

Yesterday was kintsugi day. During my counseling session, I wrapped the pitcher in a towel and used a small hammer to break it. It didn't break. I switched to Jay's big hammer and brought it down and it still didn't break. Jay suggested using the side of the hammer, which Gwen said actually covered more of the trauma-inflictors (there are 3 of them), and the pitcher broke.

The words I said were, "You tried to break me, but you couldn't, so I will do it for you. And then I will heal, and will be even more beautiful than before."

Also, in looking at the broken pitcher, I see that I could have pulled much more clay in the original making of the pitcher. Sometimes we have to be broken to see where we can improve.

Then, I set to mending the pitcher. I am a long way from being a kintsugi master. The pitcher is not as good as new, but it has a beauty all its own. None of it turned out the way I envisioned, but what in life actually does? It is just what I needed.

I feel strong. More drama this week, but it felt more like a sharp pinch than a kick to the belly. I would say I am still standing, but with my broken leg and all that wouldn't really be true - but I'm not brought to my knees, either.

Thank you for sharing this journey with me. Among the lessons that I have learned - I might change my mind and I might learn more, but for now the lesson for me is that everything we need for healing has been provided to us by our Creator. It is within us. T-cells and osteoblasts, imagination and creativity, curiosity and intelligence are all there. Usually that is enough, but sometimes we need help. It is not weakness to say that we can't do it on our own, because God has built that need for others into us, too. Sometimes we need to be the helper, sometimes we need the help. It is all within us, if we will just allow the processes to work and surrender control with humility and patience. Mix in a little humor and wabi sabi (Japanese practice of finding beauty in imperfection), too. It isn't easy, but God is with us.

Peace, peace ... says the Lord, and I will heal them.

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Jody Nace
Jody Nace
May 02

Kathy, thank you for taking us on your healing journey. I so love that you have a tangible symbol of that journey. The metaphors you described about this process is something we can all learn from. Thank you for your reflection and your ability to inspire others. Love you! Jody

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Thank you, Jody!!

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