Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Hidden Stories

Suffering is hard to understand and even harder to experience. When it’s our own pain, we question God’s purpose. We might even question God’s existence. It’s natural to cry out, “Why?” or “Why me?”

We don’t always know what other people are going through. When we ask, “How are you?” we expect an answer of “I’m fine.” or “I’m well, thank you.” We aren’t interested in hearing a tale of woe. We’re asking to be polite. Many times, people truly are fine. But everyone has hidden stories. Everyone experiences pain and suffering at one time or another. Illness, grief, and loss are part of the human experience.

For fifteen years, I suffered from chronic, debilitating pain. It was so severe that I merely existed. Living was nothing more than a heavy burden to be endured. The pain had a negative effect on my marriage, my parenting, my career, my weight, my friendships, and my self-esteem. Because of strong medication and ever-weakening resolve, I walked through most days like a zombie. I began to convince myself that my family would be better off without me. I even entertained the idea of suicide. It was only God’s generous grace and mercy that saved me.

Now my life is so rich and full, I shudder to think of the abundance I would have missed and the grief I would have caused if I had acted on my selfish impulse to end it all. It’s difficult to recount those horrible years. I don’t want to remember the pain, and truthfully, I can’t recall much detail about the eighties. Many events during those years are a blur. Yet, it’s important to revisit my suffering because it reminds me that some people I encounter at the grocery store or church or book signings or walking their dogs may have hidden stories of pain like I did. One might even be entertaining thoughts of suicide.

We don’t know the stories that those around us are hiding. We can’t imagine the emotional or physical weights others might be carrying. At one time or another, we all find ourselves on the brink of exhaustion, perhaps even riding waves of hopelessness. It’s called “life” and life can be tough.

The good news is I learned many valuable lessons from my pain. One of the most important was to be on the lookout for the hidden stories in others. Only then can I minister to them as God leads me. Another lesson was that Jesus stands ready to calm the storm and lift us above our earthly circumstances, but first He must calm us. Often there is much work to be done in our spirits before we are ready to accept the lifeline He offers.

In my novel, I Want to Go Home, seventeen-year-old Abby experiences the death of her father followed by homelessness and her mother’s alcoholism. Any one of those traumas would leave the strongest adult reeling, questioning, and railing against God. It’s the beginning of a difficult, painful passage for Abby, but it’s also a journey of spiritual growth in which she learns, as I did, that God was with her every step of the way and even sent human angels to minister to her. God was preparing her for a new story of abundant life.

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories and three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room and I Want to Go Home. Website: www.cindylfreeman.com; Facebook page: Cindy Loomis Freeman. Her books are available from amazon.com or hightidepublications.com

Saturday, February 9, 2019

In Living Color

I viewed some YouTube videos in which color-blind men saw colors for the first time. Each received a pair of newly patented glasses that corrected their achromatopsia, an inherited condition of total color blindness. What intrigued me about the videos were the men’s extreme reactions. In each case, they were overcome with emotion, to the point of tears.

I’ve tried to imagine a world devoid of color where every scene looks like a black-and-white photograph. Those of us who’ve always possessed the gift of being able to distinguish colors take it for granted. For most people, it’s one of those senses as natural as sight, itself.

As I sit in my sunroom writing, I glance out the window and spot two birds at the feeder. One is a Christmas red cardinal, and the other has cornflower-blue feathers and a chestnut-red belly. They are painted against the backdrop of a cerulean sky. With the advent of spring, this scene will be dotted with green leaves, pink blossoms, and yellow daffodils. How unappealing my view would be if the colors were limited to shades of black, gray, and white.

Inside my sunroom, I grow lush plants in varying shades of green: two ferns, a peace lily, and a Norfolk pine. In one corner stands a palm tree. In the opposite corner, a fichus tree (fake, but still colorful). I wonder what labels Crayola would give their slightly differing hues: Sea Green, Forest Green, and Jungle Green perhaps? I try to imagine them without pigment: gray, grayer, and grayest. How dull they would look!  

Can you imagine a bride selecting Dolphin Gray, Outer Space Black, and Crystal White for her wedding colors? Although Crayola’s creative names make these hues sound interesting, the wedding guests would soon yawn with boredom. 

Publicists know how to use color to energize their advertisements and products. Color garners attention. Color sells.

People (mostly men) with red-green color blindness have difficulty differentiating stoplights from “go” lights. In emergencies, the ability to see red exit signs and ambulance lights saves lives. Yellow center road lines separate opposite flows of vehicular traffic, and yellow lights tell drivers when to proceed with caution. The inability to distinguish these colors could pose a serious safety hazard. 

We depend on color cues every day. If I didn’t pair my husband’s jackets and pants and match his socks, he’d show up at church wearing navy-blue pants with a black jacket, one black sock, and one navy sock. Okay, maybe that’s not a safety hazard, but it’s a fashion faux pas that most of us can avoid with little effort. 

We’ve all watched movies like “The Wizard of Oz” that start in black-and-white then gradually emerge into the full spectrum of Technicolor. Suddenly, our brains awaken to whole new sensations. We sit up and take notice. This cinematic effect must be what it’s like to put on glasses that correct achromatopsia. After watching those YouTube videos, I’ll never again take for granted my ability to see the world in living color.

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories and three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room, and I Want to Go Home. Website: www.cindylfreeman.com; Facebook page: Cindy Loomis Freeman. Her books are available from amazon.com or hightidepublications.com