Goodreads to Muse

Click to read my reviews

The Book Thief
One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are
On Gold Mountain
Bread & Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter
City of Tranquil Light: A Novel
The Distant Land of My Father
The Paris Wife
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
Fall of Giants
World Without End
A Stolen Life
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption
The Pillars of the Earth
Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation
The Road
Trials of the Earth: The Autobiography of Mary Hamilton
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, a Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal
Cutting for Stone

Gigi's favorite books »

Entries in brokenness (6)


pain, the professor

Pain is the great professor.

After I fell skiing, my knee pain hurt like nothing I have ever experienced. From the time my ski went wonky and I fell, the pain shoved out everything else from my mind. By the time I hobbled into our condo, the pain had escalated to unbearable. The next morning I quickly asked to go to the ER. What did I want? Relief!

This journey began five weeks ago. Pain has been my companion off and on. Now the discomfort of being on crutches and limiting activities teach me more than pain. I am not a patient patient.

No doubt looking back over my life, the common denominator in growth is pain. My favorite passage in the New Testament is Hebrews 12. Verse 7 says to endure hardship as discipline. It encourages us saying that all God's children are disciplined. It promises a harvest of peace and righteousness.

I don't like to be in pain. I don't even like to be uncomfortable. And yet, I want to grow.

Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word. It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. I know, O Lord, that your laws are righteous and in faithfulness you have afflicted me. May Your unfailing love be my comfort according to your promise to your servant. Let your compassion come to me that I may live, for your law is my delight. Psalm 119: 67, 71, 75-77.

These verses instruct me. When I am in pain, I don't usually reach for my Bible first. I think of all the other things that could bring comfort first. David knew that the only comfort in his suffering would be God's law. He states that he delights in it and looks to it to bring him life.

Today my pastor asked me (all of the congregation) how much did I crave God's word. I have not thought about my appetite for the Word in a while. I am thankful to be reminded of the only source of true comfort in the Universe.

If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. Psalm 119:92


cannot miss

I got a text from a friend this morning. She said she woke up praying for me. She prayed Psalm 139 over me. I felt thankful for her words.

Then in the shower I tweaked my back. One side of my body is doing all the work. That side revolted today.

I had no idea how much I needed her words today, her prayers, the encouragement. How encouraging that these were provided before my need hit, before my back went out. She said to me, "You cannot miss what God has for you in this." What a relief! My sheep brain is very apt to miss something. But not what God wants me to see. I cannot miss it.

Today I am weak. I have fallen in the pit several times. Today I needed to hear that God has me. He holds me. In fact, I cannot flee from His Presence.

And He provided just that. Today.


the pit

A deep black hole breathes behind me. I can feel the frigid air on my calves. The magnetic pull of the vacuum nearly drags me in and I brace myself steady. I am tempted to turn and at least look at the vortex calling out like a siren. It promises relief, comfort and understanding.

They don't call it a pit for nothing. Self-pity is a pit yelping out promises empty and vein as the best politician's. The banks are slippery and one look back could cost me.

I sat among friends last night with Matt. They asked some probing questions. This is the army of lovers I mentioned in the previous posts. You don't serve someone dinner, do their laundry, clean their house and take their Christmas down without a measure of love. This is our season of "Yes. Thank you." Yes, I need you to bring me coffee. Yes, would you take that to the dump? Yes, having Sam to play would help out a lot. These are the people asking the questions and hearing my yes and Matt's yes.

I confessed how most folks start the New Year with resolutions, goals and dreams. It has been strange not to participate in this ritual that I have known for 46 years. I said to them, in contrast, I am starting this year off literally on my ass. Powerless, dependent and desperate at times.

This morning I read Isaiah 6. The Bible study I am doing right now gave me the context. "In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw The Lord," Isaiah writes. I didn't know the context before now. Isaiah had never known another king besides Uzziah. In fact, Uzziah probably was a boyhood hero of Isaiah's. You see Uzziah ruled Judah for 52 years and during most of that time he followed The Lord. He rebuilt towns, fortified walls, lead an army of 307,500. He became powerful and famous.

Pride became his downfall. Eventually Uzziah entered the temple to offer incense to The Lord, a job reserved only for priests. He raged when 80 priests tried to remove him. Leprosy broke out on his forehead immediately as he stood in the temple before the incense altar censor in hand.

Pride says, "I got this, God." Pride fuels me to find life apart from God and I see millions of little ways I do that every day. Pride leads to a downfall - every time.

Self-pity is pride turned inside out. Self-pity licks the wounds of pride and fantasizes of self-protection. "Next time, I will..." Self-pity is self worship.

And so, here on my ass, I put down the pen poised to write resolutions, goals and dreams - for now. He has me here. Never before has He lead me somewhere and deserted me. Always trials have taught and shaped me. Every single time.

I want this to be my prayer:

In the year I broke my leg and tore up my knee and Matt broke his collar bone, I saw The Lord. And He was splendid in His beauty and perfect in His provision. And He was exalted above everything. Creatures never before seen by my eyes surrounded Him chanting worship and attending Him. And I saw my pride and my unclean lips. And I fell down dead - a part of me dead. And when He asked me, "whom shall I send?" I answered, "send me."


more broken bones

Two weeks ago I was skiing down a gorgeous mountain drinking in the beauty and fell on my knee. The femur (big bone in the thigh) crashed into the tibia (shin bone) and cracked it. Also, the meniscus (pad between femur and tibia) tore. I skied down, barely walked to the car and have not walked on it since then. I had surgery Friday to repair the meniscus. The ACL was bruised but not torn. The tibia is healing and did not need pins. 

One day you can be walking down streets of gold and the next it all turns to ash. This is a paraphrased quote from Lady Mary of Downton Abby. One perk in all of this includes an introduction to this PBS series. Most of the world is watching it. I thought my friends had gone mad pronouncing downtown like a Brit. Then I fell in love with the series and learned the place is called Downton. We are just beginning Season 2. 

Of course my real life at present is much like a soap opera. Who would even believe that a couple could have two broken bones from two separate ski accidents? Two surgeries in one week - who could make this up?

I hinted at the idea that there is more to the story than where I left it. Matt dropped me off at the ER at 8:00 a.m. on December 31, 2013, the last day of the year. Julia greeted us at the front door with a wheel chair. She assured Matt they would take good care of me through a genuine smile. The day ended up as I thought - a lot of waiting. The staff took excellent care of me and lived up to Julia's promise. 

That night we settled the boys down early switching around sleeping positions. Matt and I slept on the sofas in the den. The boys all three piled up in the king-sized bed. We dozed off well before midnight. I awoke to Matthew breathlessly reporting that Sam had thrown up all over him and Joshua. 

Sam came in to sleep beside me. Josh and Matthew showered and  fell asleep on the  other couch. Matt spent the next several hours in the laundromat downstairs. At midnight the fireworks pulsed through the blinds of our condo. I hobbled over to the wall to wall widows and watched the brilliant explosions through sheets of snow. I mused out loud what on earth would 2014 hold for us. 

The morning  brought ten inches of snow and the first day I ever saw of 2014 shimmered like a blanket of crystals. Clean. Bright. New. 

Later Sam and I sat in front of the fire still in our pj’s. I called my dad to tell him of my injuries. “Things cannot get worse,” I said. “But I never say that.” About that time Matt beeped in. 

“I’m going down on the ski patrol stretcher,” he said. 

“Right,” I said. 

But a few minutes later he showed up covered from head to toe in snow. Joshua and he told me their tale. He was building up speed to manage a flat spot. In ten inches of powder, skiing is a different game. He planted his entire weight on his shoulder. I took one look at him and said, “You’ve broken your collar bone.”

About five minutes after that as we sat there gawking at the broken bone and brainstorming about what to do, Matthew came through the door. “It’s awful out there!” he said. Both of us charged him, “Are you ok?” “What is wrong?”

“I lost my iPhone and wallet,” he said. 

We just groaned in relief that he wasn’t hurt. Matt went for x-rays. His collar bone lay in two pieces and his pain roared. We tried to no avail to find the iPhone and wallet. It may surface in the spring. If so, LifeCase will have a new advertisement.

The next day we drove to Denver under sunny blue skies. I had two good arms. Matt two good legs. We made a perfect match. 

Next stop security. The wounded get wheelchairs and go to the front of the line. Twenty-two year olds without ID’s get questioned by the TSA. Matthew fielded about 85 questions and finally passed. We fought our way to the front of line at the Southwest gate. 

Our layover in Kansas City turned south when they announced the need for a pilot. “We are looking for a pilot,” the announcer said. Hmmmmm. How does one round up a pilot at 7:00 p.m. on a Thursday. Apparently one does not round up a pilot. We spent the night there, and it was a quick one. Back at the airport by 5:00 a.m. Matthew went in for round 2 of questions. He flew past this one in flying colors.

We landed and went straight to the orthopedist office.   At home the next day, our friends descended upon us and have nursed us back to health since then. Meals, taking down Christmas trees, running errands, dropping off kids, cleaning ceiling fans: nothing is out of reach for this army of lovers through actions. 

I cannot fathom what 2014 could hold that could outdo this but I am not saying “it could not get worse.” No sir, I am not.

Matt had his surgery Wednesday and can do more with one arm that most folks can with two. We are healing up and feeling loved. My mother who just turned 70 is here nursing us both. She can run circles around us. Her good southern cooking is mending all of our broken places - body, mind and spirit. 


broke leg

I sit in front of a wall of windows watching a mountain wake up. On one side is a fire warming me. On the other, I feel the chill of the winter emanating through the glass.
We are in Colorado - the whole of us. Five McMurrays under one roof, and we are drinking up all Colorado has to offer in the form of snow. b ooooonnnnn
nmnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nbbbbbbnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn

I typed the above paragraph early on the morning of December 30. Then my "n" key on my iPad keyboard began to stick. You would not believe how many words have “n” in them. 

So I abandoned the post for later. I skied out into a day that would change everything... for a while at least.

This was our fourth day in Colorado. We stayed at the base of Copper Mountain but explored several other venues.  This day we skied Breckenridge. By the end of the day, we confidently made our way to the new peak 6. 

Mentally I took snapshot after snapshot of our boys mastering a sport Matt and I love. Granted, Matthew sported a snowboard. But seeing them enjoy the Rocky Mountains  grew mountains of pleasure in our hearts and souls. Gladness energized my body and kept me going even when fatigue threatened to down me. 

Our boys are spread out at ages 22, 13, and 8. Few activities engage all of us at the depth skiing provides. Matt and I relish the mountains and skiing. Of course we had frustrations, bickering and split ski pants. We had fights over driving directions and what channel to watch. 

And so I began that post writing about how life holds both things: warmth and cold. Although I am remembering it through a haze of hydrocodone and leftover anesthesia; this is the muse on my mind as I skied out into a day that would wreck my knee, end my skiing and disrupt our happy scenes on the mountain. 

I cannot blame conditions or difficulty of the run on my fall. My right ski simply hit something and went wonky. My knee bore the brunt of my fall and I rolled down the mountain in a ball of ice and snow. I deferred a call to ski patrol and foolishly skied down the mountain. 

Matt and the boys finished up with a few more runs while I took stock in a warming hut. Deep down inside I knew I was done and my knee fried. Denial is a hard friend to deny, however; and I held on until the next morning hoping it was only a sprain. 

The night did not bring relief only pain and tears. At daybreak I said to Matt, “You will need to drop me off at the ER. If we leave now, you can make it back by the first run.” I did not want them to miss a minute of skiing. 

I will bring this to a close and continue the story on another day. You will want to hear how Matt broke his collar bone but before that rang in the new year at the laundromat washing linens until 2:00 a.m. 

One thing I am holding on to is this truth: Life has both pain and intense joy. One minute you can be walking on streets of gold, and the next they turn to ash. I have no bow to wrap things up. But I am holding to my faith and God’s promise never to forsake.