A Lesson in Weaving

She watched her through the open window that looked down on the small balcony. The young girl looked out over the river that lazily wandered past the castle. The child was hers, but she was no longer looked like a small girl. She had grown in those years she had been held captive by the enemy lord. She felt a lump in her throat that she could not swallow. The girl, her girl, didn’t want anything to do with her, her very own mother, nor her grandfather, the King.

Image by  DarkWorkX  from  Pixabay

Image by DarkWorkX from Pixabay

When they had first found her in the enemy’s castle she was like a caged animal. The room they found her in was filled with waste and squalor. The girl did not recognize her mother at first and when she tried to take her in her arms, which ached to hold her again, the girl screamed. That scream had pierced her soul. They were finally able to get her out of the castle by coaxing her out with sweets. The thought of it still made her shudder.

Eventually, the girl saw that they were not going to hurt her and in fact were going to provide for her pretty clothes and good food, things that she hadn’t gotten when she was a captive, but still, she kept asking when she could go home. It galled her to think her only child thought of his palace as her home, even after how she had been treated.

A noise from behind her caused her to turn. Her father, the King, approached. He put his arm around her shoulders and gave her a squeeze.

“Father, I don’t know what to do. I feel absolutely helpless…I know she is hurting, and probably angry at me. I let it happen. I let her get caught by that evil man. I am to blame and now, I can’t even look at her without feeling utterly hopeless.”

The King took in a deep breath and let it out very slowly. She often saw him do this when he was thinking before he spoke, a practice he always thought wise.

“Daughter, you know how very much I love you, so I can understand those feelings of helplessness and even hopelessness. Did you know that I could not sleep at night when you were being courted by your late husband? It terrified me to let you go, knowing each step you took towards independence took you further and further away from me. But, I had to learn to trust the One. I knew that He would always take care of you, no matter where you were. Even when I eventually sent you into battle.”

Image by  Enrique Meseguer  from  Pixabay

She pulled away from him, suddenly feeling angry. “This is not a simple courting session that my daughter went through. She was beaten, starved and we don’t even know yet, if he did other vile things to her. She was just a child. Was the One with her, when that was going on, or has He abandoned her…has He abandoned us?”

The King sat heavily in a chair that stood near the fire burning cheerfully in a brazier. He pulled the footstool in front of him and patted it.

Once again, he wanted her to sit, to listen, to learn from him.

As she did so often, she began to pace. “No! I am not going to sit at your feet, like a little child and have you explain to me, how I need to trust the One. He let my little girl get hurt. He let her get caught by that vile enemy.”

“Now wait a minute. Is it your fault, or is it His fault?”

She stopped and stared. “Well…I….I….I don’t know! All I know, is that little girl is not the same person I knew before she was taken.”

“Are you the same person you were before she was taken?”

She inhaled, trying to practice the same technique he did, not speaking until she was sure she was in control.

“No. I am not.”

He patted the foot stool again and smiled.

Reluctantly she sat.

He leaned forward and took her hands in his own large ones. She could feel the callouses there. He was no show piece. He was a king who fought and bled beside his own men for the causes he believed in. How could he keep his calm demeanor? He always seemed at peace, no matter what.

“How do you to it? How did you send me into battle, knowing full well, I might never return?”

“Do you remember how your mother used to love to weave tapestries?”

Image by  MrsBrown  from  Pixabay

Image by MrsBrown from Pixabay

She smiled, remembering her mother, the Queen working tirelessly into the night weaving various colored threads together. “She used to hang it, so that when we came into the room, we could not see what the finished picture would be.”

The King let out a chuckle. “Oh yes. Once time I tried to sneak in when she was away and she had the loom booby trapped! I suddenly found myself doused by a bucket of honey mead. I couldn’t get the flies away from me for weeks.”

She laughed, remembering her father taking bath, after bath, after bath, but unable to get the sweet ale completely washed out of his hair.

He squeezed her hands. “Your mother always had a purpose for everything she did. Why do you think she presented the tapestry to us only from the back side, until the work was done?”

She shrugged. “I had always assumed she just loved the surprise on our faces when we finally saw it.”

“Oh there was definitely that! However, in addition to that she wanted to remind us of what real life is like.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Life is made up of all manner of threads, some beautiful colors and others dull and even ugly. If you didn’t know that the front of the tapestry was going to be made into a beautiful work of art, you would have thought the piece merely an ugly, jumble of random colored threads and knots where the threads had been tied off. It is that jumbled mess that makes up our lives. The ugly threads and the beautiful ones are all necessary to make the completed picture.

The One is weaving those threads. He is making all of it, even the threads we don’t understand or want to understand into a picture of such great beauty that it will be declared a masterpiece, when we finally see the finished product.

Your mother was an artist and she taught you those same skills before she passed on. What are you going to do with your threads? You can use them to create beauty, or like our now dead enemy, you can use them to weave chaos.”

The King leaned forward and kissed her forehead, then he rose to his feet and quietly left the room.

She stared into the fire, that slowly claimed the fuel it was burning. The fire was chaotic, yet it served a purpose to provide warmth and cook food. It was even beautiful in its dance of flame. Could it be, her father was right; that beauty could come from the chaos of life?

She knew what she had to do. She would teach her daughter the loom. She would teach her the dance of light and flame, darkness and chaos and pray the One would bring healing and beauty for them both.

This is a fiction piece by Amy D. Christensen

In 2010 Ravi Zacharias wrote a book titled, The Grand Weaver. It was this book and the images he shared of God being the grand weaver of our lives that inspired the imagery revolving around the tapestry in this story. If we can grasp His divine plan for our lives, in which He uses all the good, the bad and the ugly, how much easier would it be to let Him have control. I hope you enjoyed this story.

You can see the previous parts to this story by clicking on the links below:

Part 1: Return to Battle

Part 2: A Father’s Perspective

Part 3: Waiting

Part 4: Ready to Die


Stopping the Train Wreck

Over the course of the last few weeks I have been looking at how are thoughts can easily sabotage our efforts to form new habits, and be better people. Many of us, when we enter a new year want to reboot. We want to try again to tackle those extra pounds that we have cumulatively put on each holiday season. We want to go at those piles that pervasively appear in each and every room of our house. We want to be better people; more giving, kind and loving. Many of us begin a new regimen of exercise and dieting, clutter control and clearing out, and even invest in pod casts, books and other things to help us think and act differently. Why then, is it so hard to stick to it? Why after a few days, a few weeks, or if your are really good, a few months, do we typically fall off the wagon?

In my post of two weeks ago, When Our Thoughts are a Train Wreck, I examined three mentalities, I believe, contribute to our inability to stick to our new habits. These three thought patterns include being self absorbed, demanding our rights and not caring. I’d like to reexamine these patterns and discuss ways to change our thoughts.

Being self-absorbed

As I mentioned in the original post, taking care of ourselves is not a bad thing. We need to exercise, eat right, get enough sleep and stimulate our minds to give ourselves the best life. Being self-absorbed revolves around a preoccupation with certain ideas about ourselves. These can include thoughts that we do not measure up to some invisible standard that we think other people have set for us, and self-degrading messages like, “I’m too fat,” “I’m not good enough,” which can lead to self-destructive behaviors like cutting, addictions and even suicidal thoughts.

We all have self-absorbed thoughts from time to time. It is easy to get into that mind-set when life is hard and things are not going well. It is also easy to dress in this mind set when your past holds tragedy and pain. However, life cannot be lived to the fullest if we allow those things to imprison us.

I am not a professional counselor, but I’d like to suggest a few things that can help us to get out of the self-absorbed mind-set.

1 - Get Moving

This is partly about exercise and partly about behavior modification. Often when we get into an anxious or self-absorbed circuit, we are unable to get out of the loop. Much like a hamster running on his little wheel, our thoughts keep coming back around to the same loop. We revisit the destructive thought, the let down feeling, the disappointment in ourselves or others and round and round it goes.

Pixabay

Pixabay

It is a well known fact that exercise has good effects on our brains. From increased oxygen flow and release of hormones to antidepressant effects that reduce stress hormones, exercise really is beneficial for the brain. Movement helps to get us out of the loop. It doesn’t have to be rigorous exercise. If you are sitting down, stand up. If you are standing still, move. If you are going north, turn around and go south. Every time those thoughts come creeping back in, move.

Pixabay

Pixabay

I find walking very cathartic, when I am stressed. As I walk I do deep breathing and I purposefully force myself to look at the world around me, the neighborhood, the people, the trees, the snow, the icicles hanging from the roof tops. These simple things get me out of my self-absorbed loop and help me to think about other things. It also reminds me that the world is not coming to an end, even if it may seem like it today. As Scarlet O’Hara said in Gone With the Wind, “Tomorrow is another day.”

Pixabay

Pixabay

2 - Get help

You don’t necessarily need professional help, but if you do, or if others who care about you are recommending it, then do it. Otherwise, find a group of people to keep you accountable. Get an exercise and dieting buddy. Find someone who is going to accept you, but also encourage you to do better. Find an older person, who’s got life experience and ask them to mentor you and help you get out of your self-absorbed box. Or if you are an older person, who doesn’t have much human contact and your are still able to get around, volunteer at a dog shelter, a newborn unit at the hospital or a school. All of these things get us outside our own boxes.

3 - Seek and Speak Truth

You know all those side effects you think you have because you got on the internet and looked up the medication the doctor gave you?

“Stop it!”

In reality, the side effects that are put on medications are put there to keep pharmaceutical companies from getting sued. The reality is the statistics on people who die or have severe reactions to medication are rare. It is an exception, not the norm. The same is true for so many aspects of life. As the saying goes, “Sh-t happens.” This is true, but most of the bad things that we think are going to happen, don’t. In addition, many of the bad things that happen to us we bring upon ourselves. Start researching what is true.

In addition start speaking truth:

“I am not perfect, but I am beautiful.”

“I don’t have a college degree, but I am smart.”

“I haven’t published a book yet, but I am not a failure.”

“I got mad at my husband, but I am a good wife who has bad days.”

“I yelled at my kids, but I am a good mom, even when I my hormones have me off kilter.”

Keep it real.

Demanding Our Rights

Once again, having rights is not a bad thing and an ideal that our founding fathers believed was very important for communities and nations to survive and thrive. However, the thought that the world owes us something is not truthful or beneficial. The mentality of, get it all and get it now, is also not an accurate way to approach life. How do we cope with these entitlement feelings we all have struggled with and still act like a caring, giving individuals?

1 - Walk a Mile in Someone Else’s Shoes

There is no greater preventative to a rights demanding mentality, than to put yourself in someone else’s place. Being in the service industry I have seen people at their best and at their worst. I don’t even think people realize how rude and obnoxious they are at times. I have had helicopter parents demand that their child’s book be given to them free because it wasn’t on the shelf when they came in to purchase it. I have had people accuse me of racism because when I explained the parameters of their rental book I told them they couldn’t spill their lunch on it. I tell this to every individual I rent a book to. At the end of the day, I am just another person trying to make my way in the world, just like everyone else.

When I feel like my rights are being infringed upon, or that I am being taken advantage of, I try to look at things with new glasses; someone else’s glasses. Thinking about where another person is coming from, not only enables us to view the world differently, but it may even move us to have compassion on another person. You never know what another person is dealing with in their life. They might be dealing with deep hurt or disappointment, or they may be experiencing grief, illness or pain. Having compassion and empathy gets us out of our rights loop and enables us to be better, more understanding individuals.

Pixabay

Pixabay

2 - Recognize Rights Mean Responsibility

Having a right, does not give us a free pass to do whatever we want. In fact, having rights, means having responsibility. People who are for the right to bear arms, understand that owning guns means they are responsible to handle those guns safely and teach others that gun ownership requires safe handling and being responsible to use them wisely.

Many people think that demanding rights is a way to guarantee their freedom to choose to do whatever they want. The opposite is, in fact, true. Having rights means we are enslaved to the responsibility of using those rights for good, not merely personal gain.

Pixabay - bread

So what does this have to do with our thought patterns and becoming better people. My daughter and I have both struggled with our weight. We both love food, especially things that are full of carbs. Bread, sweets, chips are all on our radar of things we love. At one point my daughter said she wanted to be able to eat whatever she wanted. You might think that being able to eat whatever you want is true freedom. However, true freedom lies in the ability to make the better choice. Even if we were able to eat whatever we wanted and never gain weight, does that make it right?

True freedom is the ability to not be bound by our appetites, whether it be food, sex, money, popularity, alcohol, Netflix or any other thing that can become an obsession.

To enjoy freedom we have to control ourselves.
— Virginia Wolf

Not Caring

It is easy to get into the mindset of not caring. When life gets busy, or overwhelming, sometimes it is easier to just give up. Who cares if I eat that whole bag of Twizzlers? I don’t care if my coworkers like me? I’m failing that class, so what?

Pixabay

Pixabay

Take a look at a few of these quotes:

Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.
— Margaret Mead
Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring, and integrity, they think of you.
— H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
Without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community.
— Anthony J. D'Angelo

It is important to care. Often, we just need to revisit the why behind the what. In other words, ask yourself why you should care.

Why should you care about your health? Because you are a valuable person who probably has others depending on you and who care about you.

Why should you care what your coworkers think? Because you are part of a team. You can have a positive impact on the people you work with if you care.

Why should you care about your grades at school? Because every choice you make now, will affect the choices you make in the future.

Start thinking about why you should care and maybe that will reignite your ability to care.

Next week will be the final installment in this series on New Year, New Mind. I’ll be looking at setting goals and how to realistically keep them. I will also have some spiritual insights as well. I hope you like this look at renewing our minds. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Have a fantastic weekend and to all my northern and midwest friends, stay warm!

The Tower

I lived there once, the Tower. More accurately, I was held captive there. Maybe you are familiar with my story. I was young and curious and that curiosity would often lead me off the beaten path. One particularly beautiful day, when it wasn't quite spring yet, but the sky shone so blue and the sun so bright that I couldn't help but wander, I came upon the castle...his castle. It was beautiful in the sun light, covered with green ivy. The stone walls were built with some ingredient that sparkled, and I loved bling. Before I knew it, I was touching the warm walls with my fingertips. I wasn't afraid. I had no reason to be, or at least I didn't know of one.I walked along the wall until I came to a heavy wooden door and there he was.

Arundel Castel - Arundel, West Essex, England - Photo by Amy Christensen

Arundel Castel - Arundel, West Essex, England - Photo by Amy Christensen

He was tall and very handsome. His light brown hair fell in waves to his broad shoulders. He smiled at me and held out his hand. I took it.

I don't know why! What was I thinking? He was nice to me for a while, giving me presents and telling me I was special, but then he took me to the tower. It became my prison. It wasn't until after he had locked the door that I realized I had made a mistake. Fear grabbed my stomach like a claw then scrabbled its way up into my throat. What had I done? How could I have been so naive, so foolish? The tower became not only my prison, but my torture chamber. The first time he pulled me close I realized his flesh smelled like the breath of hell and rotting meat. He never took me, but would hold me close, until I nearly suffocated from the stench, then he would push me away, mocking me, telling me I was ugly and stupid. Then he would leave locking the door behind him, laughing as he walked down the hall. Over and over, day after day. I had no idea what he would do when he came in. I was terrified. It was always the same. He would hold me, his putrid scent filling my nostrils, until I no longer noticed it. Then he would push me away, railing me with insults. One day, he took the key to the door and threw it out the window. 

Tower steps - Raglan Castle - Raglan, Wales - Photo by Amy Christensen

Tower steps - Raglan Castle - Raglan, Wales - Photo by Amy Christensen

Turning to me he grinned, "You will never be enough!" He walked out the door, laughing down the hall until I could no longer hear him.

I fell into a heap and cried. I didn't even care if I was rescued. I just wanted to die. I was worthless. No one would come for me. No one would ever love me, especially now that I reeked of his lair, his stench. Everyone would know that I was not enough. 

That was years ago now. The Prince saved me. He rescued me. He came and defeated the master of that castle who held me captive. On that day He stood in the door of my tower, I will never forget the eyes that shown like that bluest sky I remembered so well from when I was captured. I cowered at the other side of the small room with a ragged blanket wrapped around my shoulders. He came and knelt down in front of me. 

Holding out His hand he said gently, "Why are you here? You are free. Come, beloved!"

I winced. Shaking my head I tried to back even further into the stone of the walls that had imprisoned me. 

He smiled, "Come, beloved!"

"No!" My voice came out like a squawk. 

He moved to touch me, but I scooted back. He persisted. "You are my beloved. Come, take my hand."

This time, I stood up. "No! I....am...not. I...am...not...enough!"

The prince stood and in one step gathered me into his arms. The first thing I noticed was that he smelled of earth and pine, flowers and fields. He took my face into his hands and said, "Beloved, I am!"

There are still times, I hear that other voice, "You will never be enough!" It comes as a whisper at the end of the day when the sun is waning and the sky darkens.Those words that once held so much power over me were real and cut deep. But the Prince brought healing. His voice has become a balm to my injured soul. He is enough. And I am His. 

“...I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.
— Jeremiah 31:3 (NASB)
I belong to my beloved, and his desire is for me
— Song of Songs 7:10 (NASB)