Jeremiah 29: 11-14

Jeremiah 29: 11-14

11 For I know the plans I have for you, ” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, “declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.

When we go through times of difficulty and pain then our faith is strained because we cannot understand how a loving God, Father, and Savior could allow his beloved children to suffer such horrific events in their lives. Were we created to suffer? NO. We were created to commune with God in the Garden of Eden offering our love and praises to our Creator. But that is not how things turned out and the choice made in that garden has affected all of creation as it all fell with man.

I struggled a long time with scripture because of two distinct reasons. First, people who claimed to know what God was saying in his Holy book were interpreting it through their own biases leaving the message empty and at times painful. Second, well meaning folks threw snippets of scripture at me in an attempt to lift me up but they instead felt like insincere platitudes or cruel reprimands. I felt so alone and so distant from God that I turned my rage toward him.

There was a point along my walk of faith that I told God:
“If you are not going to help us, then just stay out of our lives. I do not need you screwing with my life so I will do what you refuse to do. I will fix YOUR mistakes!”
Obviously, each of these words was saturated with pain, confusion and a feeling of utter abandonment. I used the anger and hatred to plow forward determined my life would not be a repeat of my Mothers’, who was disabled and raised three daughters in poverty. I was going to become a doctor and have power to control things and help the people God refused to help. That did not work exactly as I had planned. I then decided that I was going to teach, not as much power but still equipped with what I thought would be a life-changing movement that would bring me and my mother out of poverty, finally. That did not work out as I had planned. Next, I decided to become a therapist and travel around the nation as respected speaker to educate the masses about child abuse and sexual predation. However, I was beginning to realize this plan, too, was doomed to failure. By this time I was being practical knowing my health would not hold up as long as the “normal” young woman so I decided to plan my career track in a way that would allow me a lucrative career where I could help many people without the need to be physically active. I would achieve financial stability and finally be able to secure my mother’s and my future well being. Well, my plans failed here as well. Oh, I earned the education and degrees but I had run out of time to bring MY plans to conclusion. My health began to fail me by exponential leaps and I saw my future disintegrate before my eyes. By this time my faith had grown and I had learned many things allowing me to understand that God had never been my enemy…he was and would always be my champion.

Today, after decades of suffering and an understanding that my future holds more suffering along with further restrictions on my mobility and independence, I am in full acceptance of GOD’s plan for my life and not my own. God had used each and every one of my choices to reveal another part of who he really was and what he needed from me. He has an everlasting patience and boundless love that will accompany us upon our journeys whether we want him there or not. He is there waiting for us to understand how much we need him. I was not a very patient person but I have learned patience. I was not one who trusted God completely but now I give myself, my life, my soul to him with full abandon because I know beyond any doubt that his plans for my life are to prosper me and not to harm me. Without going into all the gory details of my struggles I will provide a picture depicting a “before” and “after” image of living within my plans and now living within God’s plans for my life. Some may see it as very negative but I do not. In the first image, I thought I was doing what God wanted me to do and in the second, I know beyond all doubt this is where God needs me to be right now and that is okay because I care little of what the world sees as success. It only matters to me what God sees when he gazes upon his daughter…love.

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In the first image I was happy but did not know joy or peace. In the second image I know joy, peace, love, acceptance, faith, perseverance, forgiveness, and all my waking efforts are to do the will of the Holy spirit who resides within me. Yes, prolonged, chronic illness has ravaged my body but not my faith as God holds me in his everlasting embrace and that is true and utter happiness.

When minor bad things happen use them to practice patience and to reveal to yourself whether you go to God for answers first or whether you rely on your own understanding, which is never enough. We cannot see the whole picture so our understanding of the now is severely restricted. God sees and knows all so we must put our total trust in his hands. When major, horrible, bitter things try to destroy us then we must cling to God even tighter than before. These horrible things whether they are minor or major are not from God but are borne of Satan. He is the target of our ire, for he is using all the power afforded to him in an effort to bring us down. He wants to rip our souls from our bodies and cast them to hell and sing victorious songs that he was able to destroy a follower of Christ.
God could stop it, all of it, in the blink of an eye but it is his unfathomable mercy and love that keeps him from stretching out his hand and beginning the rapture, the second coming, the return of our Savior. Most Christians see this as a glorious event, and it will be for believers but no horror, no fear, no depth of pain and suffering will ever compare to what is coming in the final days. God wants as many of his children to turn to him before that event occurs because he does not want to lose any of his children, whom he dearly loves. If you are a Christian then you know how the story ends and it is a wondrous, glorious, awe filled conclusion to the relationship between God and Mankind. However, many will perish, be judged, and cast into the eternal lake of fire. Each of us was created for a specific purpose. Each and every one of us was given specific gifts that were meant to equip us to survive Satan’s torments.

If we try to follow our own plans then we may find worldly success, if you are willing to compromise your beliefs and sacrifice a commandment here and there. The world will reward you but you are not fulfilling your purpose. If you are a follower of Christ then you will keep getting up each time Satan and his minions knock you down. It will not be easy nor pleasant but just as God told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for thee, for my power is revealed in your weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12: 7-10). Not everyone will be called to great suffering, for God has not equipped all of his children with the ability to endure prolonged suffering. Not all of his followers will be broken. No some will be very successful and well known. Not all of his followers will taste the bitterness that humanity and the fall has to offer. However, all will be held accountable for their walk upon this Earth. No one will escape the suffering this world has to offer and not everyone will turn to God for help. They will try it on their own and some may even appear as if they are succeeding in this world. Yet, whether or not they recognize the existence of God, He is there and there will be a reckoning.

We are not going to understand or like everything we are going to encounter upon our path to Glory but it is critical that we do not stop. Get up, keep moving one step at a time because the more suffering you endure the greater the work and purpose the Lord is placing before you. The more attacks you survive and thrive beyond then the stronger warrior you become for the Almighty. While he does not cause the pain, heartache, and suffering he will use it to fashion you, mold you, teach you, and create within you a clean heart that will shine so brightly all will know you are a son or daughter of the almighty King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Amen.

Living like Jonah


Tina Blackledge

If you are a Christian then you know well the story of Jonah but I will sum it up here for those who may not. He was a godly man who worshiped the Lord our God. The Lord came to Jonah and told him to go to Nineveh (a great city of 120,000 people plus livestock) and tell them that they would be destroyed in 40 days because they had become wicked and turned away from God. Well, Jonah didn’t want to do this because he knew the Lord would forgive Nineveh if they repented and he thought Nineveh deserved to be punished, and they did deserve it for their wickedness was evil. So Jonah hopped on a boat and went in the opposite direction as if he could escape the Lord. God put a stop to that nonsense by bringing a raging storm upon the vessel which Jonah bought passage. The other sailors were not believers in God but prayed to their multiple gods to save them. Yet, when their prayers went unanswered they went to Jonah and figured out he was at fault for their current circumstance.

The sailors asked Jonah what they should do with him so that his God would spare the rest of them. Jonah told them to throw him overboard and the sea would calm but they did not want to do such a thing so they rowed their hearts out until they had no choice but to submit to the Lord. They threw Jonah into the sea and it calmed at once, they repented and served the Lord for the rest of their days. Jonah’s story was not yet over. The Lord sent a great fish to swallow him up for three days until Jonah repented then the fish spat him out upon the shore. Jonah reluctantly but obediently went to Nineveh and delivered the message. Immediately, everyone repented including the king who commanded all in the city to fast and be in mourning. He commanded that all must stop their evils ways so that they may yet convince the Lord that they were sincere in their repentance. Jonah left the city in anger charging the Lord with being loving, compassionate and full of mercy. Jonah wanted the wicked Nineveh to be punished but the Lord forgave them and did not destroy the city. Jonah sat outside the city and pouted like a ill tempered child but Lord loved him so he gave him an object lesson using a plant, a worm, and searing breeze to teach him that his anger was unjustified. You can read the story in its entirety in the Bible in the book of Jonah chapters 1-4. It is a short little book but it is overflowing with many lessons.

So how am I living like Jonah as the title alludes too? Well, first I think we all must be honest with ourselves and recognize places in our life where we have followed our own wants/desires instead of what the Lord wants of us. You may protest by saying that it is hard to know what the Lord’s will for your life is but that is just a lie we tell ourselves when we want to do what we want to do. The Holy Spirit speaks softly so you need to be listening if you want to hear it and that nagging feeling that you should be going in a different direction is deliberate.

Throughout my life, I have lived as Jonah trying to avoid what the Lord wanted me to do. I knew what I wanted and I worked very, very hard to attain it. I wanted financial stability, a specific career, and power over my future. I had followed all of society’s steps to succeed. I ignored those who said I couldn’t achieve such lofty goals. I ignored the pain of my childhood maladies. I ignored the heartache of familial betrayal and abuse. I used my anger at the world to fuel me and give me that extra push when I wanted to give up. I was running away from the path the Lord wanted me on, the path where I could do the most good in this broken world. Yet, the Lord uses all of our choices for our eventual good even if there is great pain in the interim. If we truly want to follow him then he will bring us back to where we should have started.

If you have read my beginning posts on this blog then you are aware of the challenges that filled my past, arrested my present, and are in the process of shortening my future. There is no need to rehash that information in this post.

I thought I had learned the lessons within Jonah and could avoid making the same mistakes but in a recent letter to my cousin, I realized I was once again running from a path I did not wish to go down. As you know, I am in poor health. My recent doctor’s appointment had me determined to stick to my previous decision concerning my treatment. As you know, the rheumatoid arthritis (RA) that revealed itself when I was five has had 41 years work on destroying my body. I have developed subsequent ailments due to the longevity of the RA and the toxic medications used for its treatment. Hence, my last several doctor’s appointments put the doctor and I between the proverbial rock and hard place. A secondary ailment, termed vasculitis, has not responded to treatment and has brought my body to a crisis point where the repeated inflammation of my vasculatory system could cause organ failure, internal hemorrhage, stroke, heart attack, or embolism. My doctor suggested I try adding another toxic drug used in organ recipient patients to annihilate my immune system, which has been attacking my own body since the RA first reared its despicable head 4 decades ago. Of course, immune suppressant therapy is the norm for any autoimmune disorder when your immune system goes into hyper drive for no reason at all. But the addition of this drug would most certainly cause the development of different cancers and/or fatal infections. The doctor had not mentioned it before because we had been trying to get a more expensive and more effective medication approved by my health insurance to no avail. However, after nearly a year of out of control symptoms my body is in crisis so there is no other option except to allow the diseases to finish me off, which I am not opposed too. When you have suffered day in and day out for forty years, you tend to want to be paroled for good behavior. Yet, this is not the road I was trying to avoid.

No, the road I was actively avoiding appeared when I found a large mass in my abdomen. I did tell my rheumatologist about it and even showed her. She strongly recommended that I see a specialist straight away given that I have been on immune suppressant therapies most of my life but I declined that option as I had zero intention of doing anything about the mass. Although I had resolved to stay around until the Lord chose to take me home instead of forcing his hand by taking my own life, I was not about to do anything stupid like prolong it intentionally. I had discovered the mass several months ago when it was about the size of an orange. Now it is the size of a small cantaloupe but I do not associate any pain or discomfort from it due to all my other health issues making it is easy to ignore. Finding another regular doctor, then being referred to a specialist, then going through all the tests, biopsies, and subsequent surgery and recovery was and IS the path I did/do not want to traverse. This is the path I have been actively avoiding because I did not want to go down another road that led to suffering even if it only promised to increase the suffering by a micron. I did not see this action as running away from the Lord’s will until writing that letter today to my cousin.
Several years ago I prayed that the Lord would reveal to me the purpose to all I had suffered and to all the suffering I was promised in the future. I needed to know or I feared I might not have the strength to endure it. He answered that prayer and I have been greatly blessed to see all the connections where my suffering has led to a path that enabled me to help someone escape the darkness in which they were lost or still struggling to walk through. My experiences have helped many folks along the way that might have given up had I not been able to say that I, too, had gone through that or was going through that specific circumstance. When you look into the eyes and heart of the wounded there is pain, suffering, and so many questions. The only way to help those suffering is to be able to reflect true understanding back toward that person. It is as if they are at the bottom of a very deep and dangerous pit and either losing hope or having lost hope of ever getting out when you become the pin point of light that they can barely see. You are the one throwing down the rope and encouraging them to hold on tight because you are not going to let them go. Of course, you are not the one they are truly looking toward but toward Christ. They need to see the love of the Lord for them through you. Sometimes, you are the only Bible someone will ever read or the only Christ someone will ever be able to see. Each and every one of your actions and words are monumentally important when viewed through this filter.
As I was writing to my cousin explaining my rationalization not to take this path, I realized that I had my marathon sneakers on and I was running like a mad woman from the crazy house (metaphorically speaking). I think I must have run millions of miles away from where the Lord needed me throughout my lifetime. I guess I could spin that fact to say that at least I got some exercise when my body refused to obey me. Sarcasm aside, I realized that I might need to take this path of addressing this large mass in order shine my faith so someone who might be lost can see it. It is a large responsibility and truthfully, I do not want it but I have decided that I am going to stop running and obey the Lord. He is sending me upon this path for a reason and it is about time that I start listening to him instead of doing what I want to do and speed my exit from this life. I want to be in paradise, the Lord needs me here for something. I want to be in paradise, but the Lord is asking me to tread upon this path for someone, I think. If my history is any indication of my future then this is going to be a very difficult path to tread and there will be great suffering involved BUT someone needs me to shine Christ for them. Whether it is a nurse, doctor, patient, janitor or someone else matters not, for if someone is alone and lost in the dark ready to give up all hope then I am willing walk this path to find them. A little extra suffering is but a small price to pay if you can help someone find their way or rekindle their hope. Without direction or hope then we are truly destitute in our souls and in our lives.

So, if you are running away from something perhaps it is time you take a break and evaluate where you have landed upon your journey. I pray many blessings upon you and thank you for reading my mutterings. If you could spare a prayer for strength, I would greatly appreciate it.

Why Am I?

Opening my eyes
greeted by my pups
yapping good morning.

I have to move,
I must get out of bed
and I think, ‘Why again,
did I want dogs?’ but then
their exuberant kisses,
happy eyes and wagging tails
quickly remind me.

I muster my strength
and pull myself to the edge
of the bed, simultaneously
praying for the ability
and offering praise for
each and every inch.

My pups cheer me on
until I am upright
wobbling my way
to the bathroom.

Putting on my robe
releases another round
of barking, but now in urgency.
I move as quickly as
my body will permit.

By the time I hobble my
way to the living room,
start the routine and
hook them to their
leashes they are
dancing in circles.

I grasp the leashes tightly,
grimace at the pain,
then open the door.
They bound outside
to find their favorite
spots then scout out
the yard for nightly
critter activity.

I descend the five steps
that lead to my home
stiff-legged holding
firmly to the leashes.
Walking to my favorite
spot, a lawn chair
providing a picturesque view
between several large,
beautiful trees. Wispy
white clouds are
streaked across the
blue expanse.

I praise God for this gift
and begin thinking. First,
I think of the tasks
that need accomplished,
the tasks that I would
like to accomplish,
and then the ones that will
actually get accomplished.

I dismiss the aches and pains,
and the spasms in my back,
while inspecting the ulcerations
upon my skin.

Now I have time to ponder,
“Why am I?”

Choosing Death…Mercy or Madness?

          Most of you reading this will automatically assume that I am suicidal and in need of an immediate intervention. Rest assured, that is not the case; instead, I throw a topic out there that is spoken of only in whispers and largely condemned throughout the races, cultures, lands and history. As you know, if you have been following my blog from the start, I have lived with rheumatoid arthritis since the tender age of five. I will not try to recap everything that this disease entails because it would be terribly redundant. It can be summed up with pain, loss of mobility, and many secondary ailments. There is no cure, all treatments are toxic, and the endgame is the same, dying in terrible twisted agony. And… Alone. Friends and loved ones will hang on as long as they can in their support, care, and love of you. But in the end, death will tarry causing enormous suffering on every level imaginable. Yet, this end is much easier to bear than it is to witness. Hence, friends and loved ones cannot bear to look upon your twisted frame or endure your cries. There is no condemnation in this statement, it is only a reality.

           Lifers, people who have had a debilitating disease from birth to death, know well the end they face and spend their lives coping for that eventuality. Yet, those who are “short-termers” (people who develop a debilitating disease at 40 or above) cannot possibly fathom the end facing them. Truth be told, the short-termers are utilizing all their resources just to make it through the day so they are not capable of handling the idea of a horrific end. Likewise, the family and friends of ‘short-termers’ also have extreme difficulty dealing with their loved one’s ailment. Many will scatter and flee from this unknown terror leaving the ‘short-termer’ utterly alone. Chronic illnesses are not immediate death sentences; rather they are decrees of lifetime torture. I write this to honor the struggles of a couple of friends, who have been having a particularly active period with their respective ailments. I understand the pervasive ache in the hearts and minds of these friends for humanity is so limited in its understanding that it is easier to discard or abandon that which frightens us.

             As a lifer, I have learned to live with my ailments and the attitudes of others toward me. At first, you try to hide it, be normal, do not let on that anything is different, for when they know, when then see, they run or worse, stay and persecute you. It has taken me a lifetime of watching my own mother deteriorate, worsen, then die a horrifically painful death as my own ailments progressed to see the utter lunacy of it all. I used to be driven mad by the whys of it all and human wisdom falls so far short that it was more a slap in the face than a comfort. Upon my journey, I clung to the knowledge that Christ loves me and that I was not being punished for some unknown sin. My suffering and the suffering of all has purpose even if we cannot see it in the moment. No one, no, not a single person can understand these words unless you have trudged through the bowels of hell, itself.

            The turmoil within a person who must live with this daily torture can become so severe that he or she will begin entertaining the idea of ending their pain permanently. Pain, as a descriptor is a hopelessly inadequate term for the multilevel, pervasive emotional, mental, physiological, and spiritual pain a person with chronic disease suffers. We spend too much time getting people to just see us, just to validate that we are worthy of drawing breath and that there is just as much purpose, if not more, for our lives as there is for theirs.

            When I express my desire for paradise then I am quickly labeled “suicidal”. Make no mistake; I hunger to be in paradise to feel one moment in my existence in which pain does not occupy. Anyone who is in chronic pain for a lifetime and says they do not look forward to the moment of release is either a masochist or a liar. Nevertheless, that does not make us suicidal, crazy, depressed, or faithless. Do I get depressed? Profoundly depressed on the spiritual level! Do I struggle with my faith, yes, but it is the struggle that brings understanding. I would love for the pain to be gone forever, but I feel extremely blessed because I am not attached to this world. I do not hold value in the things most people do because I know they are meaningless. Possessions mean nothing, fame means nothing, and fortune means the least because none of these things will release you. None of these things will bring happiness or understanding. They can only mask the pain and suffering of any who are in such pursuits. No Earthly thing will ever be able to fill the void left when a person turns from his or her Creator. Make no mistake, whether or not you believe in a divine creator matters little in the end because by that point, you have already wasted your existence by self-serving pursuits. If you have not attempted to decrease the suffering of others by any measure while you drew breath on this planet then your life meant nothing. You took up space and resources that could have been better utilized. Suffering exists only because of a broken creation. If you have done nothing to try to fix your little corner of creation then you are the problem. We all suffer, regardless of status, wealth, or power but the difference between Short-timers, lifers, and everyone else? We see it, we understand it we know the end game because our walk upon this earth is finite, our suffering is limited to no more than 120 years. It is a mere blip on the screen of humanity. We know it can be endured, survived, and even thrive in spite of it.

          It is ‘everyone else’ with their mottos of, “don’t ever give up! Keep fighting the good fight! Or “these disabled people are all a draw on our resources, let them all die and rid ourselves of the burden.” that must be endured. The first motto may not seem so bad unless it is you doing the suffering. Our friends and loved ones don’t want to lose us so they demand we fight but they cannot provide any reason to continue the battle except for telling us that God controls life and death and not we ourselves. This is certainly accurate, but they do not provide any strategies of how to endure the suffering only that it must be endured. These statements are at least borne of love so we may resent hearing them but we can understand why they are uttered. The second set, ‘let them all die’, makes rational sense if you place value on a human being for only what you can get out of them and if you abide by strict parameters of what is of value that can obtained. The point is neither group has any business telling the one doing the suffering how they should or should not live. Humanity cannot fathom the creator’s plan; therefore, how can anyone individual hold the absolute truth? Just because someone prints it and packages it and you buy it doesn’t mean its the best or accurate way to live life. The only purpose for a human being is to make another human being better at being human. If we all did this, blind to all differences, then our creation would heal and suffering would stop. Yet, that seems impossible, and it truly is for mankind, because we cannot agree on anything small let alone the big questions.

             If you are looking for answers, start the search within yourself, for that is where the problem begins. All of us are created for a very specific reason but none of us are forced to fulfill it. We are given the choice and the longer we take the more broken creation becomes, it can only end one way, in great suffering. We lifers already know this, we see it, and we feel it. We know the beauty, awe, and wonder of this glorious creation but we see the scars humanity continues to inflict upon one another, upon the land, upon the air, and even in space.

If you are healthy or if you are suffering, if you were given another day on this planet, then use it for the betterment of all instead of the advancement of yourself, for there is only one end for all in this corporal form. Make the journey worth it, make each of your steps count because even us “lifers” understand that only when our purpose has been fulfilled will God call us home; therefore, that must mean we have a job to do until we are released from these broken bodies. So…let us do it with great vigor towards a different ending, one of healing and not ultimate suffering.

Choosing death, mercy or madness? Of course, it would be merciful but that does not mean it is the way it is meant to be unless your purpose has been fulfilled and who are we to decide when the job is accomplished? There haven’t been many notable cases where God kicked in an ‘early retirement clause’ for humanity. Stay the course, keep fighting not because I cannot bear to lose you but for the sole reason that all of humanity needs you to fulfill your role, whether they ever recognize it or not.


Tina Blackledge

Open your eyes to the light
tiny babe.
Open your eyes to the wonder
of humanity.

A wail of protest signals her arrival
into a world full of possibilities.

Tears of Joy fill the room.
The babe is placed in her
mother’s arms.

Three days she took
to make this
journey into

Her tender
cheeks colored crimson
as the bond was set between
parent and child. Both relieved to
see their newest daughter.

“What took you so long,
little one?” a weary
mothered asked. Tears
streaming freely.

Nearly five years
go by as quickly as
a hummingbird’s flight.

The night calm is shattered
by the child’s wails.
The mother and father are by
her side in an instant.

What is the danger? They
cannot see a threat but the
child wails.  Skin hot to the
touch. Tears flow all around.

Test after test. Doctor after doctor.
Month after month.
“Your Daughter…is ill.
She will only get worse.
Be assured, it will not kill
her. No, she will live…
but a life different it will be.”
a physician proclaims.

Each word, a dagger to
the parent’s heart.
Two more daughters at home.
The father’s income uncertain.
The mother’s health
is failing.

Three years more.
The sickness is invisible to
most. The daughter lives her
life between chronic flares, bronchitis,
pneumonia, and near constant fever.
The mother is ill. The daughters are sent
to family many times
to be given protection and care.

The grandmother alone, would
accept the sick daughter, for all others
held fear. The child had barely seen eight
years pass when two of her uncles, whose
bedroom she shared, taught her
another kind of pain.

Trust was destroyed.
Innocence stolen.
Her body burned crimson as
she learned to silence
pain and own shame.

A secret set by lies
and blame. “God thinks you
are filthy because of what you did here.
If you tell, everyone will know what
a bad girl you have been and they
will not love you anymore. No one
wants you around now and if anyone
finds out this secret then
not even Grandma will let you
come here. Mommy and Daddy will not
love you, they won’t even be able
to look at you again because
they will know how dirty you are. God
saw what you did and he is angry at you.
So, if you tell or if you do not
do exactly what I say then everyone
will know what a dirty little
whore you are because
you let boys touch you.”

The sick daughter
began to pray anyway,
“Please God,
please take me away.
Please, just let me die.”

School taught her.
She was fat. She was ugly.
She was stupid. She was poor.
She was worthless.
Her heart turned to stone.
“If you hate me so much, just strike me
dead!” The girl prayed as anger
consumed her.

Six years expire.
Parents have allowed hate
to divide the family.
Mother and daughters alone,
hiding from
darkness only father can bring.
The mother is ill.

Surviving, barely.
The secret revealed
the family divides. The uncle’s words
proven true. Her heart is dead.

Two daughters marry
finding too late that a hasty
escape would bring profound

The mother and daughter have
long ago switched roles. The daughter
takes all the right steps to success but
security is never found.

God hates her, she believes.
She tires of waiting for him
so she tries to escape her sentence
of lifelong suffering.
Her attempts
are thwarted and her rage

Cast back into poverty. Discarded
as refuse, once again.
A choice she must make, live or die.
Her attempts have wounded her family.
She cannot bear to see them in pain.
A promise she makes to her
loved ones, herself, and to God.
She will not take her life
but prays in earnest that God
will give meaning to this woe begotten existence.

The mother worsens until the
daughter can no longer offer
care so they are
separated for the first
time in thirty-four years.
Guilt and release, is
profoundly felt.

The daughter is caring now from afar.
Given the freedom to
live her life.
Her body has been used up.
She tries even harder.
Beginning a new career
hopes are held high.

Her spirit to survive will not allow
injustices to live so into the
mainstream she fits not.

Her body is failing,
mobility is a decision.
She resigns herself to just
surviving and
writing something of
worth to leave behind.

A change, unexpected.
God has something more planned.
He never hated her,
he was never angry with her
and now he showing her
how very much he loves her.
God uses another
to melt the cold dead heart that
ceased to beat so many decades before.

She wasn’t looking.
In fact, she pushed it away for decades.
No man could she love.
No man would she allow to love her.
Her heart was closed off forever.
Imagine, her wonder.
Imagine her awe.
Imagine her delight.
God gifted her love from the purest of hearts
and the purest of men.
All those years of suffering,
all those years of pain melted into nothingness,
as she was lavished with unconditional love.
Not only was she gifted this man’s love
but now she knew beyond
any doubt that God loved her.
He never wanted her to suffer.
He never wanted her to feel pain,
for only he could have helped this man
sneak past the walls she had constructed.
Only God could have melted her heart.

God   loved   her.

God loved her
and that, she found,
is all she ever needed.
She is going to live.
She is living.



Tina Blackledge

Can you hear me?

My soul longs for your
My soul cries from the

Can you hear me?

A moment without
Pain, I have never known.
He shares my bed
His grasp is
firm as we
hand in hand.

Can you hear me?

Brokenness betrays me,
others have torn my flesh.
A burning ocean courses within.
My bones cry to you. Searing,
ragged breaths push
in and out.
but I cannot fill my lungs.

Can you hear me?

From the womb
I was broken.
from the womb I was

Can you hear me?

How can I bear any more?
How can I love?
How can I allow others to love me?
How can I bear it?

Can you hear me?

“I hear you, child.”
“The task is difficult and
the journey is… far.
I hear
the whispers of your

Do you hear me, Child?

“While pain is your bedfellow
and imprisons your
body. I hold you
gently, firmly, lovingly.
Pain will release you
and then I will cradle you in my embrace

Do you hear me, child?

“Your body is broken,
your flesh has been torn,
your heart has been broken,
your spirit has been crushed.
Your being cries out to me and
I weep bitterly for you.”

Do you hear me, child?

“I will gently kiss your
wounds as softly as the flight
of a butterfly and
caress the brokenness till
it is no more. I will
make you whole. “

Do you hear me, child?

“I knit you together,
I created your vessel
to carry my love to
the broken. My dearest,
I know what I ask
is unbearable but I will
be there with you. I have always been there.
I will provide for your
every need. I will send others to strengthen
and not take from you. I knit you
together with great care. I knit you
together with great purpose. I knit you together
in a way that will allow your loving words and actions to be
heard and seen by those lost in their misery, for if you had been whole,
they could not hear you.”

Do you hear me, child?

“I have instructed many
to come
to your aid, but not all
hear and obey. Yet, some have.
Others will come to help carry
the burdens just as you help others
carry their sorrow and hardships.
You are not alone, child. I love you more
than you can possibly understand and I will
never hurt you, abandon you, or cause any
harm to you.”

Child, do you hear me?

“I love you with
all my

I…I...hear you, Father. I hear
you…send me
and I will


Five Years

I was diagnosed with systemic rheumatoid arthritis at the age of five. I was born to a steelworker and a housewife. We had good insurance and income until my father was laid off and then we had very little. I was raised to think nothing of the arthritis; instead, I was told by more than one health professional that the RA would likely go away by the time I was a teen. In 1974, there were few options for anyone who had arthritis let alone for children with the disease and even less was known about it among the lay population. By the time I reached adolescence the disease was not the only major thing going on in my life so it took a back burner to everything else life dished out. In fact, I never considered myself sickly and was always surprised when someone showed me sympathy for the disease. I had no idea what it all meant and no one in my family knew more than just the basics. You must remember that it was the 1970’s and personal computers were in their infancy and far, far, out of reach for my family even if it had been offered to the public. Hence, there were not many places to look up information about childhood diseases. Additionally, I was one of three children and that left precious few hours in the day. The mindset in those days was to listen to the medical professional as if they held the only truth and this was even more pertinent to the blue collar sect and all those below.

            The good that came from being raised in this type of atmosphere is the fact that I did not even think to feel sorry for myself, nor was I allowed to baby myself. The thought not to do everything the other kids did never crossed my mind. I was sick, a lot, but I never thought of myself as a sickly kid because I was not treated as such. I do not remember a day without aches and pains so this became my “normal”. I just assumed everyone dealt with what I had to each day. This was my life and I did not question it; instead, I lived it. It was not until I was in middle school that I began to realize that there was something that set me apart from the rest; however, it wouldn’t be until I reached college that true understanding would come. Even then the disease was pushed into the shadows because I did not have the time, energy, or desire to deal with it. I had been determined to be “normal” ever since grade school when the other kids began treating me differently. I did not have medical insurance between the ages of 17 and 27; therefore, I treated the symptoms of the disease with high doses of  OTC aspirin. I was never attracted by the drug or alcohol scene so that factor never became an issue.

            At 42 years of age, I have been dealing with inadequate care for this progressive and aggressive disease for the past 37 years. It has not been an easy path to walk, both literally and figuratively. There have been moments when I could not bear the thought of spending one more moment in pain let alone the next 60 years. If you allow it, this type of disease will rob you of everything. It will destroy who you are, who you hope to become, and how you are remembered years after you have passed. It will steal your happiness and contentment. It will annihilate your dreams. It causes hatred, bitterness, and envy to build to nuclear levels of destruction until you do not even want to be around yourself. However, it can only do any of these things if you allow it too. The only thing this disease will do with 100% certainty is corrode your body but it is up to you to decide if you will spend the rest of your life waiting for the torture to finally cease or spend each moment living toward fulfillment and peace. Trust me when I say that these words are not spoken lightly, for I continue to carry the weight of this burden even now.  I have made plan after plan for my life but they have not come to fruition. Despite the strong desire to do otherwise, I have not given up.  I am not a super human person resolved to be tough regardless of the pain. On the contrary, there are many a day where I crawl into a hole and pull the dirt in behind me caring little for anything outside my misery. Each moment is a battle. Some are victories and some…are not.

            What is the key then? What turns the tide? Hope. Hope will give you strength; therefore, you must become determined to find that which gives you hope. For me, it is my relationship with my heavenly Father. My hope rests in him and I take comfort in knowing that my body will be whole again someday and that there does exist a day when I will awake without pain. There may be no cure from the medical community; therefore, I do not waste my time hoping for one. Instead, I pray for strength and endurance. I pray that I might glean wisdom through my sufferings. However, there are many a day where I pray for all just to stop. When you are chronically suffering, I would consider you ill balanced if you did not think, ask, or pray for release from the pain at some point or another. I draw heavily upon the strength of Christ Jesus because this frail body cannot do it alone.

            At five years old, I had no idea why I could not walk. I had no idea why I was in so much pain or why my mother cried. I had no clue of what was to come or how difficult the road would become but I still hold to my hope even if it has been translucent at times. Do not give up, do not surrender, and never tell yourself that the fight just isn’t worth it.