Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Visited Planet

The holiday season is a time of heavy hearts for those that grieve.  To lift your spirits, I
offer you my very favorite Christmas story.  Could my Aly be the small but curious angel?  I would like to think so.  Merry Christmas and happy holidays to us all.  -Lynda Cheldelin Fell

The Visited Planet
By J.B. Phillips

Once upon a time a very young angel was being shown round the splendours and glories of the universes by a senior and experienced angel.  To tell the truth, the little angel was beginning to be tired and a little bored.  He had been shown whirling galaxies and blazing suns, infinite distances in the deathly cold of inter-stellar space, and to his mind there seemed to be an awful lot of it all.  Finally he was shown the galaxy of which our planetary system is but a small part.  As the two of them drew near to the star which we call our sun and to its circling planets, the senior angel pointed to a small and rather insignificant sphere turning very slowly on its axis.  It looked as dull as a dirty tennis-ball to the little angel, whose mind was filled with the size and glory of what he had seen.

"I want you to watch that one particularly," said the senior angel, pointing with his finger.  "Well, it looks very small and rather dirty to me," said the little angel.  "What's special about that one?"

"That," replied his senior solemnly, "is the Visited Planet."

"Visited?" said the little one. "you don't mean visited by…..?

"Indeed I do.  That ball, which I have no doubt looks to you small and insignificant and not perhaps overclean, has been visited by our young Prince of Glory."  And at these words he bowed his head reverently.

"But how?" queried the younger one.  "Do you mean that our great and glorious Prince, with all these wonders and splendours of His Creation, and millions more that I'm sure I haven't seen yet, went down in person to this fifth-rate little ball?  Why should He do a thing like that?"

"It isn't for us," said his senior a little stiffly, "to question His 'why's', except that I must point out to you that He is not impressed by size and numbers, as you seem to be.  But that He really went I know, and all of us in Heaven who know anything know that.  As to why He became one of them - how else do you suppose could He visit them?"

The little angels face wrinkled in disgust.  "Do you mean to tell me," he said, "that He stooped so low as to become one of those creeping, crawling creatures of that floating ball?"

"I do, and I don't think He would like you to call them 'creeping, crawling creatures' in that tone of voice.  For, strange as it may seem to us, He loves them.  He went down to visit them to lift them up to become like Him."

The little angel looked blank.  Such a thought was almost beyond his comprehension.
"Close your eyes for a moment," said the senior angel, "and we will go back in what they call Time."

While the little angels eyes were closed and the two of them moved nearer to the spinning ball, it stopped its spinning, spun backwards quite fast for a while, and then slowly resumed its usual rotation.

"Now look!"  And as the little angel did as he was told, there appeared here and there on the dull surface of the globe little flashes of light, some merely momentary and some persisting for quite a time.

"Well, what am I seeing now?" queried the little angel.

"You are watching this little world as it was some thousands of years ago," returned his companion.  "Every flash and glow of light that you see is something of the Father's knowledge and wisdom breaking into the minds and hearts of people who live upon the earth.  Not many people, you see, can hear His Voice or understand what He says, even though He is speaking gently and quietly to them all the time."

"Why are they so blind and deaf and stupid?" asked the junior angel rather crossly.
"It is not for us to judge them.  We who live in the Splendour have no idea what it is like to live in the dark.  We hear the music and the His voice like the sound of many waters every day of over lives, but to them - well, there is much darkness and much noise and much distraction upon the earth.  Only a few who are quiet and humble and wise hear His voice.  But watch, for in a moment you will see something truly wonderful."

The Earth went on turning and circling round the sun, and then quite suddenly, in the upper half of the globe, there appeared a light, tiny but so bright in its intensity that both the angels hid their eyes.

"I think I can guess," said the little angel in a low voice. "That was the Visit, wasn't it?"

"Yes, that was the Visit.  The Light Himself went down there and lived among them; but in a moment, and you will be able to tell that even with your eyes closed, the light will go out."

"But why?  Could He not bear their darkness and stupidity?  Did He have to return here?"

"No, it wasn't that" returned the senior angel.  His voice was stern and sad.  "They failed to recognize Him for Who He was - or at least only a handful knew Him.  For the most part they preferred their darkness to His Light, and in the end they killed Him."

"The fools, the crazy fools! They don't deserve ----"

"Neither you nor I, nor any other angel, knows why they were so foolish and so wicked.  Nor can we say what they deserve or don't deserve.  But the fact remains, they killed our Prince of Glory while He was Man amongst them."

"And that I suppose was the end?  I see the whole Earth has gone black and dark.  All right, I won't judge them, but surely that is all they could expect?"

"Wait, we are still far from the end of the story of the Visited Planet.  Watch now, but be ready to cover your eyes again."

In utter blackness the earth turned round three times, and then there blazed with unbearable radiance a point of light.  "What now?" asked the little angel, shielding his eyes.

"They killed Him all right, but He conquered death.  The thing most of them dread and fear all their lives He broke and conquered.  He rose again, and a few of them saw Him and from then on became His utterly devoted slaves."

"Thank God for that," said the little angel.

"Amen.  Open your eyes now, the dazzling light has gone.  The Prince has returned to His Home of Light.  But watch the Earth now."

As they looked, in place of the dazzling light there was a bright glow which throbbed and pulsated.  And then as the Earth turned many times little points of light spread out.  A few flickered and died; but for the most part the lights burned steadily, and as they continued to watch, in many parts of the globe there was a glow over many areas.

"You see what is happening?" asked the senior angel.  "The bright glow is the company of loyal men and women He left behind, and with His help they spread the glow and now lights begin to shine all over the Earth."

"Yes, yes," said the little angel impatiently, "but how does it end?  Will the little lights join up with each other?  Will it all be light, as it is in Heaven?"

His senior shook his head.  "We simply do not know," he replied.  "It is in the Father's hands. Sometimes it is agony to watch and sometimes it is joy unspeakable.  The end is not yet.  But now I am sure you can see why this little ball is so important.  He has visited it;  He is working out His Plan upon it."

"Yes, I see, though I don't understand.  I shall never forget that this is the Visited Planet."

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Gift of Hope

No one ever says I want to grow up to write a book about grief.  But life has a way of throwing us a curve ball, and then handing us a mitt.  A few months ago I was invited to co-author a book featuring women from around the world who have all faced and endured a traumatic challenge.  Our task was to write about our difficulty and then offer a lesson to help others who are facing the same challenge.  It is touching for me to share with you that our book, The Missing Piece:  A Transformational Journey, was released in print today on Amazon.

It truly is an honor to be part of such a collection of tender stories.  One chapter is written by a woman who found herself completely bald by age nine, resulting in relentless bullying.  Others wrote about enduring physical abuse, verbal abuse, addiction, and loss.  But what makes this book so unique is that the authors share not only their personal struggles, but also how that struggle resulted in an unexpected blessing.

Jazzy is home from the NICU!
While being a published author is one of my own silver linings, this book means much more to me than seeing my name in print.  You see, one of the chapters in the book is authored by my little sister, Stacy Roorda.  Seven years ago, she was a happy, healthy wife and mother of two adorable little girls when, at age 37, she visited her doctor for aching in her arm.  The resulting diagnosis was shocking:  stage four breast cancer with metastases to the bone.  

An aggressive treatment plan was immediately established but quickly halted when lab
Jazzy, a happy healthy infant.
work yielded another surprise:  she was pregnant with her third child.  The panel of doctors stood firm, and the ultimatum was cruel.  My sister was unanimously advised to abort the baby immediately to save her own life.  Despite pressure from family, friends, and the best oncologists in the state, my sister couldn’t bring herself to do it.  

Her chapter, called “Pregnant with Cancer,” is a naked and honest portrayal of finding courage and holding steadfast in one’s faith while challenging medical advice meant to save her life. 

Despite all the pretty lights and glittery packages, the holidays can be a time of struggle
for so many.  But my sister’s story, along with all the others in The Missing Piece, encourage us to never give up despite the harshest of circumstances.  And no matter how you package it, the gift of hope is the most precious of them all. 

The Missing Piece:  A Transformational Journey, compiled by Kate Gardner and co-authored by 27 remarkable women from around the world.  Now available at  Happy holidays to us all.

Lynda Cheldelin Fell


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Grief & the Holidays

For most, the holiday season is a cherished time of year when families and friends come together to honor their faith, enjoy a formal dinner, or simply spend precious time together.  But if someone in the gathering is in the midst of profound grief, it can turn the merriment into a tense and stressful time.  Why is the treasured holiday season so difficult for grievers?  Not only are they grieving the loss of someone close to them, but they are also grieving the loss of future holiday memories with their loved one.

Grief is one of the most profound of all injuries, yet the absence of physical wounds can make it difficult to manage.  To help you understand what the griever is facing, it can be helpful to consider the griever as not only gravely injured, but also facing a lengthy recovery that has no end in sight.  With this frame of mind, the following tips can help you support the griever as they work hard to survive an emotionally overwhelming time of year.

1.  Allow the griever to set the tone for how they wish to cope with the holidays, and honor their choices.  Whether they wish to maintain their normal holiday routine, desire to leave town, or ignore the holidays entirely, resist the urge to pressure the griever to handle the holidays “your” way.  They know what’s best for them, even if you don’t agree.  

2.  Recognize that you simply cannot lessen a griever’s pain.  Trying to do so will only exhaust you and, simply put, you cannot do or say anything that will ease the gaping wound of sorrow that follows in the wake of profound loss.  Instead, replace your words with a hug as often as necessary. 

3.  Do not feel guilty when you forget tip #2 above, it happens to all of us.  Remind yourself that the griever is coping with a significant wound that cannot be healed any faster than life itself.  If a simple statement or gesture could fix it, they would have done it.  

4.  Do not avoid the griever.  Your absence will be noticed more than you think.  If the griever asks to be left alone, honor their wishes if it is safe to do so.  Otherwise, include them in the festivities and treat them as you would any other significantly injured guest:  with kindness, compassion, and gentleness.

5.  Resist the urge to try to fill the griever’s calendar with festivities as a way to cheer them.  Just like all healing, grieving is physically and emotionally exhausting and the griever may not have the energy to keep up with all the celebrations.

6.  When around the griever, do not pretend nothing has happened.  That only creates the elephant in the room.  But don’t coddle them either.  Remember, treat them with kindness, compassion, and gentleness.

7.  Do not feel guilty for enjoying your own festivities.  And give yourself permission to take time out for yourself.  The holiday celebrations are a wonderful way to recharge your own batteries, and depriving yourself serves no purpose.  If the griever is present most of the time, then carve out ways that allow you to celebrate in private.  Even small ways can recharge your batteries, like indulging in whipped cream on your favorite hot holiday drink or enjoying a night out with other friends.  

8.  Expect the griever to have cranky moments.  From lashing out in anger to having a meltdown like a small child, pain can easily overload our emotions.  Recognize that the emotions of grief are far too powerful for us to control every second.  If you are having difficulty finding compassion during one of these moments, go outside for a breath of fresh air and take a moment to remember that pain makes us all cranky.  It’s human nature.

9.  If possible, help the griever find a way to honor their loved one’s memory during the holidays.  Treat them to coffee, then “pay it forward” to the person in line behind you in the loved one’s memory.  Or buy a small bouquet of balloons in the loved one’s favorite color and leave it in a public spot for a stranger to find while you both watch discretely.  Or help the griever donate to a cause that was close to their loved one’s heart.

10.  Should the griever find themselves caught up in the moment and enjoying the merriment, celebrate with them.  But be patient if the moment doesn’t last long.  Over time, those precious moments of joy will grow as the rawness softens.

You need not understand the complexity of grief in order to have compassion and sensitivity toward the griever’s discomfort and sadness during the holiday season.  Past memories of merrier times and traditions magnify the loss and sorrow that those times and traditions are no longer, abruptly replaced by a new, often unwanted future.  

Remember that the griever is working hard to cope with a profound injury:  a genuinely broken heart.  Honor the griever’s sorrow by allowing their tears when the emotions become too raw to keep inside.  Tears offers a release from the emotion, and your warm hug and dry shoulder offers the most precious holiday gift of all.