All posts by kerry

The Gift

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I write this morning to the sights and sounds of a squirrel having been traumatized by a Cooper’s Hawk who tried to have him for breakfast. He is now sprawled out on the side of an oak tree, tail quivering and barking at a bird of prey that almost ended his life. The young hawk, clothed in the kind of feathers that represent an immature bird, after unsuccessfully obtaining breakfast, came and sat about 20 feet from me, right after the sun had risen, unaware that I was so close.

They are called “Thin Places” in the Celtic tradition of spirituality.  A “Thin Place” is where the veil that separates heaven and earth is lifted and one is able to receive a glimpse of the glory of God. Just now was one of those places. Another is from my most recent visit with my pain doctor and I wanted to share that particular thinning space. There is a Celtic saying that “heaven and earth are only three feet apart, but in the thin places that distance is even smaller!”  I had returned home from an appointment with my pain doctor, parked my truck, and reached over in to the passenger seat to gather whatever paperwork and stuff the doctor had given me before exiting my truck.

The appointment had gone well for the most part. I had brought with me on this day an article that had been written about my pain struggle and my portfolio of previous art pieces. As a side note, I want you to understand that I look at my portfolio with a strong sense of sadness. It represents a time when I could sit in my shop and work endlessly with little or no pain as I completed the beautiful art projects represented in the pages of this book. This time for artists is called a “zone”, where an artist can sit in one place and mentally and spiritually go to another place that allows for greater creativity. My pain often prevents me from going to that “zone”, unable to stand after a few minutes of work or unable to focus on the project.

I had taken the portfolio to allow the doctor to see what it was that was at stake in my work with him and he was so very much impressed. The pictures reflected not only just fancy art pieces but it reflected a gift that I have always acknowledged to be straight from the living God, pictures of thin places represented through my creations. And now the gift if not gone, is certainly leaving quickly. For you see, I go to my shop and it now becomes more difficult than ever due to the pain and shortness of time by which I am able to do what I have loved. Am I depressed? Oh yeah! More depressed than I can express to anyone who reads this. I have watched my life as it has grown more limiting in what I can do and I keep yelling to the God of gifts, please pull me off of this ride, please! Please help me to continue in those precious thin places!

After getting home and pulling into the driveway, I got out of the truck and looked down and low and behold there it was; a feather. I had no room in my hands to pick it up so I went inside, threw my belongings down and returned to its resting place. I bent over and picked it up, holding it in my hand, and I knew exactly who it had belonged to; it was from a Cooper’s Hawk. It was a primary feather, the feather found on the outer part of a wing which gave the swift flying bird the ability to do what God had empowered it to do. I held the feather by the quill and stroked the hair-like fibers, going first against the flow and then grooming the hairs back in place. This was not just a simple feather my friends, It was and is a thin place.

One of the topics that I am grappling with is how do I continue to create. The pain has all taken its toll. The surgeries have all taken their toll. The depression has taken its toll. And here in lies the beauty of a simple molted feather. It is that time of the year when birds are molting and getting prepared for what the next season lies ahead. If it is waterfowl or songbirds, they are being prepared to fly the distances needed and the strength for the fall and winter through the shedding of old feathers for new ones. If it is a bird of prey, it is dropping old feathers and growing new ones that will help it to be able to fly and attack whatever is needed for sustenance, able to do and be what God has created it to be.

So how do I know that this is the feather from a Cooper’s Hawk? A few years ago I carved and painted a flying Cooper’s Hawk that I titled “Amazing Grace”.

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I had been inspired to do the carving as I observed a Cooper’s Hawk on the grounds of the church where my family and I were attending. I was in the midst of one of those “life transitions” and was asking God for a little bit of clarification. In the midst of this all, I became a constant observer of this Cooper’s Hawk and even named her Grace. I watched her dive and chase songbirds and squirrels, sometimes successful, most times not, but the whole of the events of this time, throughout the weeks and months of watching her, was nothing other than a spectacular “Thin Place”, the space that God had given to me where the veil was lifted and I was able to experience the glory of God.

Now, instead of the bird, instead of watching and being inspired by the acrobatics of a beautiful raptor, I was holding a molted feather from its wing. Suddenly for me, the thin place became a little thinner and the veil between dirt and spirit, between suffering and rest, between heaven and earth was ever so slightly lifted. My pain doctor, I am convinced, is a gift straight from God. Over the last three months, I have “molted” the levels of narcotic pain meds, molted some attitudes regarding my pain, suffered less, become more hopeful, found new treatment options, found a new pain counselor, discovered more possibilities for treatment, started vitamin supplements, taken more control of my pain management and am feeling less disabled. Am I cured? Oh heck no. Do I have less pain? By all means! Do I wrestle with all that lay in front of me? Yes! But at least now I am on a journey that I am able to see and experience good options for treatment and maybe even a molting of old flight feathers for new ones.

  

 

Re-Stood

Oil on Canvas

The greek word Anastasis from which we derive the English word “resurrection” is really interesting. I am not alone in appreciating this word especially if you have lost a loved one too early or have a debilitating issue and even this day that the Lord has made has been made because of one who re-stood, relived, and revived. The word literally means to stand up again. Oh how I love that term especially knowing where my legs are going now!

Paul talked about believers who would literally stand again by the power of the resurrection if they believed in the “standing up” Christ, post death, pulled down from two sticks, transferred to a stone tomb, the two ton stone rolled away, re-standing next to God and us too someday! That’s us believers, but somehow, we who have been re-stood up keep going and sitting down again. That is not what we are supposed to do if somehow we believe in the re-stood up Christ who lives right now, in the living spirit of a God who expands our existence and the universe every second, minute, hour, day, month, and year.

I battle with my own existence. I get caught up in a time that was, where I stood up because at times now, the prospect of literally re-standing after even sitting down hurts like you wouldn’t believe. The faith that we hold on to tells us however that one day, we will again stand, risen, new legs and the whole bit.

Sometimes movies tell the story of our Christian faith in ways that we have to use our minds to dig in to. So the movie “Avatar” depicts a guy who is a parapalegic who cannot stand and through the use of a fictional being, gets new legs; gets to run, dig his toes in the cool moist dirt, and look up into the sun and laugh. He gets re-stood on new legs.

We are literally re-stood in this life because of our belief, asked to go forward, with new legs, not backwards, with whatever in the heck we have that may or may not work. Forward. Re-stood. Misunderstood at times because the love we are asked to carry and walk with. Mind, fractured body; faith, yet again, found not in whatever we don’t have but in someone who lived and died and stood again who asks us to do the same. It is the day the Lord has made, rejoicing most of all because, on this day, he and we will be restood, raised again, out of the tomb and ground, and even poured into the mason jar for pete’s sake!

Forward.

Find me at www.kerrysmith.me and Kerry@kerrysmith.me  moving forward.

 

 

What to Make of This Mess

Bewildered!

I am not sure what to make of it, this, this, pronouncement or whatever it was by my neurosurgeon this week. I have read for quite some time the dangers of opening pandora’s box or in this case “Kerry’s box” the number of times it and I have been opened. Its just a danged lot people and I am trying to go back now and retrace my footsteps as to what led me to my decisions and if I am not careful, I can get to kicking myself something awful.

We inherently trust a valued medical profession. The results of my surgeries have even baffled my surgeons with one saying to me some 6 weeks after one particular surgery, “Do you mean to tell me that my surgery did not help you?”

You must understand what is at stake during this time. I was declared disabled the first time of my application process, and that was partly due to the staffer in the disability office looking at my case and literally calling me every few weeks to urge me to complete the paper work for disability. On the one hand, I am so disabled. It has all now impacted me to the place where there are few places on my body that do not hurt. But do I think of myself as disabled? Heck no! I often find myself as a spectator to my own body. It is like I am watching a wrestling match between the warring factions under my skin.

Yet it is not just the physical war; It is the mental, spiritual, emotional, social, and everything underneath the skin kind of war. To sit down and get into a zone for an artist, to the complexity of the detailing work that I do is now fleeting because of the sheer magnitude of it all. I could picture being some old guy sitting around a fire at the ripe ole age of 90, way in the winter of life, whittling and carving. But not at 50 something. I am too freaking young for this yall!

No, I am not dying and I have some friends who are dying and they now look at a period to the sentence of a life God has given them here on earth. I suppose a period may be worthwhile, a blessing so to speak, an end to the suffering a person is going through. See I am not sure when this will stop nor do any of the doctors I am seeing. They just don’t know. No one knows which is where I am. The only thing, the only thing I know is that I live in pain. I sleep in pain. I used to be able to sit down at my work bench and enter a place that is untouched by pain. That time is no longer and I now do my artistry in pain if I can do it at all. The pictures of my art work I cherish! I love to hunt and fish, but now those places are filled with pain. Sitting, standing, lying, all of it, in pain. The pain meds that they have prescribed me now have affected my digestive track so look soon for me to write something about trying medical marijuana. Oh, and that too has some issues. See, each month, I have to give a urine sample and if I have traces of anything in my blood stream that they have not prescribed me, they can stop seeing me as well as any other doctor and I am done with any kind of pain meds. So, once I try Medical Marijuana in the great state of Tennessee, given that it is illegal, I am done with the professional pain treatment option. Damned if I do; damned if I don’t!

Why am I writing this? No this is not my attempt to find pity for what I am going through. That boat sailed a long time ago. I could just as soon ride this internal horse off into the private sunset. I could privatize what I am going through but see, all those years ago, when I decided to live a life with some type of ownership given to a God far bigger than me, I gave up a really big part of me and that is navigation. And so do any of us when we chose to follow the likes of a God who came and lived life quite publicly. We give up navigation or rather should give up navigation. Our personal compass that we assume can get us from point a to point b is off. The directions meaningless. The maps askewed. All direction is wrong for living life the way our society says we should live life if indeed we have come to follow a traveling carpenter oriented towards another world.

I have to finish this because, my hands are hurting. My neck is hurting. My head is hurting. My eyes are hurting. My back is hurting. My hips are hurting. My legs are hurting. My feet are hurting. And my heart and spirit and mind are hurting even more because my babies and the woman I love deserve better. At times, so does my world. But friends, I conclude with this one thought. I am not God. I sometimes think that I am. Or at least act like it. But I am not.

Tonight I watched a show on the Discovery Channel about the Hubble Telescope and was reminded about my place in the universe. The number of planets and stars are beyond our comprehension and the more we see, the more there is to see. It is infinite and beyond our scope of reason. Because I cannot see those planets and stars does not mean they do not exist. I just can’t see them. And if in my pain and suffering I have come to understand anything, it is this: because I cannot figure this out, because I cannot find an answer to this suffering does not mitigate for one moment the love of family and friends nor does it cover up the love of a God I cannot see neither does it take away my capacity to love and express love. And for these things, for these things I would never have come to understand unless I went through this pain, for that, I am grateful beyond words.