Category Archives: Rheumatoid

The Lenten writings: holding hands with sorrow

I might never have asked what could be

but for sorrow.

I might never have opened to the terrible vulnerability of love

but for tears.

I might never have begun this treacherous path to God

but for emptiness**.

I remember, as a child, being fascinated with the book “Hinds feet on high places”. Much Afraid, the main character, is invited by a gentle Shepherd to go on an adventure to the high places. She longs to go to those mountain that she can see from afar. But even the idea is utterly impossible. She has feet that don’t let her walk well. When he takes her to the foothills to begin her walk upwards, he introduces her to her traveling companions: sorrow and suffering. She recoils from their touch, tinged with pain. “Why couldn’t you give me joy and peace as traveling companions instead” she asks.

I Identified with Much Afraid on so many levels. My rheumatoid disease came early, before age two. And with it, came many rules. I was not allowed to run, or to play outside, or take PE. The idea of going to the high places would have been just as laughable for me.

My night child also carried much fear; each bedtime it permeated the air. The idea of doing something bold and brave was just as unreachable as the distant mountaintop.

I think of the girl who was, and the woman who now inhabits this body. This much stronger body can take walks, dance with my daughter in the kitchen, plant a garden, and choose to do bold things. It’s still invites care with kindness, but it is full of possibility and hope.

Would I be this woman without these journey mates?

Something to sit with on the second day of Lent.

**poem: But for Sorrow by Rob Suarez. Source: from America Magazine, Vol. 184, No. 10, 03/26/2001.

The poem is for the first Thursday of Lent from the Lenten Poetry Companion, Mystic Activists, Neighborhood Ministries.


I am a hero.

“You are my hero… “These words from my rheumatologist’s mouth caught me entirely off guard. I laughed, an old trick I learned as a Baptist preacher’s daughter when I felt uncomfortable. He came right back again: “I’m serious. You are my hero.”

I am having trouble soaking that one in. I don’t know why? Maybe I had my shield up so strong that nothing came through. I told a friend, “how can I be a hero if I can’t even drive or function as an adult in this society”. I am 5 1/2 months into healing from the car accident. It seems to all be about trusting the slow heal. There’s no “hurry up” on anything. 

So 24 hours later, I am still wrestling with the word. I decided to look it up in the dictionary, a leftover tactic from being a good girl student. Now I’m just angry!

he·ro. ˈhirō/. noun.  1. a person, typically a man, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.”a war hero”. synonyms: brave person, brave man/woman, man/woman of courage, man/woman of the hour, lionheart, warrior, knight. 2. another term for submarine sandwich. 

What is this “typically a man” business?! That just offends me on every level.   (Nor do I identify with being a submarine sandwich, by the way). 😏

So in God’s humor, the ridiculousness of the definition has had the desired effect. While I am not so sure about any “Noble qualities”, I can say this with certainty:


I am a hero. 

Courage. Bravery. Me. 



These hands 

You have no business catching babies.”

These words, spoken by a doctor this week in about 20 different ways, have haunted me. This is the second Doctor who has made grave proclamations about my midwifery practice and my hands. 

What do they picture when those words are uttered? Sitting on a stool with the mom up in stirrups, gloved hands in the air? Do they imagine some sort of intense hand maneuvers?

Perhaps they do not picture quiet waiting by candlelight. Maybe they don’t see the mom reaching for her own baby? How can they sense the deep stillness with the only sound being the movement of the water in the birth pool. 

In this place, this holy ground, hands are still needed. But they are gentle hands. 

I was privileged to hold space to welcome a baby last night. Another midwife was there, for the strong hand movements if needed. An apprentice brought her strong and capable hands. And so we held this vigil together. A vigil for the new baby, joining us earth side. We held space in our hearts for another baby born three years ago on this night who we knew could not live outside the womb. And there was a tender knowing that the space was also sacred tonight for these hands of mine, healing still. 

No doctor can imagine what it means to be a midwife in a home. The most empathetic practitioner falls short in picturing this holy work I am called to.

It is not a business; I do not need a work release. It is a calling. And so I listen for the Spirit; for the yes and for the no.  And I am encircled by my sister Midwives, Who protect me in this fragile work of healing.  They bless these hands. 

No one knows the journey ahead. Perhaps I live more aware of that and than some. But for today, this knowing is enough. I have stood again in that space where the veil between heaven and earth is so thin it shimmers. 

And to this holy work I offer my hands; broken, and healing. 

These hands. 

(Picture used with permission)

Lenten writings: beautiful hands

“Look at how beautiful these hands are! Just look at these hands…”

My rheumatologist’s words yesterday stopped me in my tracks.  I used to think my hands were beautiful. I remember as a third-grader riding in the carpool, looking at the other girl’s hands and thinking, “I’m so glad my hands are not ugly like hers. “. I loved the way my hands moved as I played the piano. I wasn’t so sure about the art, as my mom said I was the worst student she had ever had. But, I still loved my hands.

And so, as rheumatoid began to twist my hands, it twisted my heart as well. When I would look at my hands, the contempt dripped from my mind: witch’s claws, old lady hands, twisted, broken, useless. This week, a doctor dripped contempt with the words, “you hold your pen weird. Why do you do that?”  How could he  know how long it took to find a way to hold my pen with the changes that have been wrought from the rheumatoid.  And to learn to hold a brush, and bless my artist…this is the journey unseen.

I am beginning to learn that I have the hands of a healer. I place my hand gently on a mama’s belly, and connect with the baby who swims within her womb. I cradle the head of a child as he revisits places of trauma in the dark of night. I create.  Color and form move onto paper, redeeming the artist.  I place my hands palm up, feet on the floor, listening to story with my whole self.

And so the doctor’s  words jolted me. He was gleeful almost; so delighted at the stability of my rheumatoid, at seeing my hands without inflammation. Since the car accident,  I have to choose again to be kind to my hands. Right now, I long for someone to tell me I will be a two handed Midwife. I cannot turn my left hand palm up, can I still listen with my whole heart?  And, if my hands are broken, can I still be a healer?

The tears flow as I write this last line, the words go straight to the core of my being. Maybe that’s what being a healer is; I offer only my broken hands. 

Christ has no body but yours; no hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes with which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which walks to do good. Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now but yours. Yours are the eyes with which he looks compassion on this world. Christ has no body now on earth but yours. ”
By Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)

The rabbit house

Space in the middle.

Isn’t that what we long for in advent?  Space to breathe, to think, to feel, to BE.  

I wonder if the spaces aren’t already there?  (A double negative, to give pause).  How often do I fill up a space, when it opens?  The vacuum of the endless list of “to do” sucks in any stillness, almost audibly.  What if, I let the unexpected spaces just BE?

Today I am in the “rabbit house” (not the dog house!)…  A tiny space provided by a near stranger given for me to rest in while I pick up my daughter from college.  Space to breathe, to BE, in the middle.  This is a season where God is stirring my heart to fight for justice in new ways, in bold ways.  In the midst of that stirring,  I am so grateful:  for moments of joy that imprint on my heart, for moments (or hours, or days) free of pain, for a bird that sings outside this little hut.  

I have been coloring this Advent.  It slows my brain, readies it for sleep.  I could wash a few more dishes, or answer an email, or sign off a chart.  Or I could color…with a cup of tea.

I wonder what moments are opening for you?  I would love to hear, as you notice; as the Spirit gives you space to just BE.

Lentn Writings:  Love and help

i saw a woman, twisted with rheumatoid.

Her hands like flippers, she turned the pages of the newspaper laboriously.

Creasing each one slowly with her palm, Painful to watch.

Her serenity was palpable.

Hannah saw her too, as we waited for her bagel.  

“Mama, do you see that lady?”

“Yes Hannah.  She has rheumatoid like me.”  Hannah was quiet. 

“Yes, but she doesnt have as much love and help around her as you do.”

Love and help.  

Love around, encircling.

Swirling like a fog, permeating the very air.

That is healing.

Rheumatoid marches on,  relentlessly taking ground.

Twisting joints as easily as pipe cleaners.

Fatigue blankets, like swimming through mud.

Pain flares with red light, cutting through everything.

And then comes the love, all around.

It shatters the lie “you are alone.”

Courage returns, indomitable, Just enough for today.

Perhaps that is Easter.  When all seems dark, love wins.

Courage, again

got meds today, after an eleven week journey of navigating reauthorization process.  

I dont like it, the broken system, the hoops to jump through.

It is not life giving, it depletes life, which blocks the healing energy which needs to flow. 

Most of all I don’t like rheumatoid.  It has been part of my journey since 20 months of age.

I do all the other:  naturopathy,supplements, homeopathy, acupuncture, eat pristinely clean food.

And I still need biologics, and I still need to get them paid for…$34,000 a year.  

Today it came.

I feel relief, and sadness, and fear, and anger….all the emotions swirling together.

My body tries to find its balance, teetering toward flaring like a too heavy falling box.

And my spirit tries to find its balance too, the “breathing space for my soul” that the Psalmist cries out for…

I need journey mates on this road, the long road.

People to help me find courage, to reflect the Father’s face, to show me mine.

So for tonight, I choose gratitude.

I got to welcome two babies this week.  

As I stood on that sacred ground, where the line between what is seen and unseen is thin, I remembered.

This is what is important, this is my passion.

This is where I find courage, one of the holy places.