Still writing…

Still writing.

Life distracts with a silly thing called “reality” that keeps getting in my way. Visiting my relatives, spending beloved time with my baby niece, three small children (not mine, my roommates’, but beloved just the same) who are a force of nature that could bring down an empire (and possibly win a land war in Asia in a year or two), enough Dora the Explorer episodes as the constant soundtrack of life in this house to make me fairly certain that the solution to all my problems is probably hiding at the bottom of a talking purple backpack, and the very STRONG suspicion that Swiper has swiped my sanity, plus the crazy measures needed to attain both use of my laptop and use of WiFi concurrently mean that everything I’m writing is being written long-hand first? Well, it just makes the writing process more of a challenge (but I’m probably a better writer for it). – VKS

If you’re also subjected to too much of a certain small, enthusiastic Latina and her purple monkey friend, this will make total sense to you:



Introducing Wentworth L. Wigglewhiskers 26 FEB 2010

Wentworth L. Wigglewhiskers, taken 26 FEB 2010.

At 12:09 AM on 26, February, 2010 — this precious little friend came into my life.  He was Felicity for a week, but we soon sorted that out (he wasn’t a very cute little girl, but as boy pigs go he’s downright precious!).  This is my beloved Wentworth L. Wigglewhiskers (“L” for “Lutra” — a reference to the cute little otter whiskers he got from his daddy, Watson); but he’s Dubsie for short.  His mama Eleanor was pretty darn cute, as is his daddy (Watsie belongs to my sister).

I’ve had a lot of guinea pigs in the past twenty-three years, but this little guy is one of my favorites because I was actually there the moment he was born. He was a singleton, rare for guinea pigs (and consequently had some very serious “only pig” issues for the first six months of his life). Mama decided he was weaned at right about three weeks, but since she was his only friend and companion, he screamed and screamed and screamed for a lot longer than most baby guinea pigs (who — with their sibling — quickly figure out that Mom is no longer there to tell them what to do, and thus set about attempting to explore, eat, climb on, or destroy everything in sight as they feel out adolescence). Dubsie though? He pretty much didn’t want anything to do with me for the first six months of his life (until one day he decided that I was okay and that he was not going to die). Since then we’ve been the best of friends. He’s a really sweet little guy. He gives kisses, and cuddles, and is just generally a really neat little pig. So today I decided I was going to write this little guy a tribute post, because today is his third birthday. Love you bug!

Wentworth and Eleanor and I moved around a lot — we became a very close-knit family. Wentworth didn’t get to live with his mama, but he did get to see her whenever he liked because her box was right next to his and all he had to do was poke his little nose up and they could talk “over the fence,” as it were.

Last summer Eleanor started slowing down. She was middle-aged and I thought she just needed a friend. As it turned out, she was ill — probably with cancer — and died in my arms on the last Tuesday in November. At the end of September, sweet little Annie came into our lives as a friend to Eleanor. She is now a friend to Wentworth. Eleanor taught him manners, but Annie taught him how to interact with other guinea pigs. They’re really sweet together. Hoping for a few more years with my sweet little friend. Happy birthday sweet boy, you are very loved.

Oh, right — Anne and Wentworth — guess which of Jane Austen’s novels is my favorite!

Eleanor Wigglewhiskers, taken 12 MAY 2010.

Eleanor Wigglewhiskers, taken 12 MAY 2010.

Watson, taken 10 JUL 2010

Watson, taken 10 JUL 2010

Eleanor and Watson, taken  9 MAR 2010.

Eleanor and Watson, taken 9 MAR 2010.

Eleanor and Wentworth, taken 9 MAR 2010.

Eleanor and Wentworth, taken 9 MAR 2010.

Wentworth Wigglewhiskers is a big pig now, taken 19 MAR 2010.

Wentworth Wigglewhiskers is a big pig now, taken 19 MAR 2010.

Wentworthian homework help, taken 12 MAY 2010.

Wentworthian homework help, taken 12 MAY 2010.

Me and Wentworth, taken 11 JUN 2010

Me and Wentworth, taken 11 JUN 2010

Wentworth Says Good Morning, taken 3 MAR 2011.

Wentworth Says Good Morning, taken 3 MAR 2011.

La Bohémienne et Le Perroquet, taken 4 SEP 2011.

La Bohémienne et Le Perroquet, taken 4 SEP 2011.

St. Val the Eccentric with Attributes, Copyright 2012 V.K. Starkgraf, All Rights Reserved

St. Val the Eccentric with Attributes, Copyright 2012 V.K. Starkgraf, All Rights Reserved

Wentworth Valentine, taken 3 FEB 2012

Wentworth Valentine, taken 3 FEB 2012

A Wentworth Leprachaun, taken 17 MAR 2011.

A Wentworth Leprachaun, taken 17 MAR 2011.

Annie Wigglewhiskers, taken 31 JAN 2013

Annie Wigglewhiskers, taken 31 JAN 2013

Still thinking…

For the first time in days I have a few moments to gather my thoughts and really think — no retreating into bed after a stressful day, no gale-force winds rattling the windows, no little kid chatter on the other side of my door (love them, but sometimes they make me mental), no noisy crazy neighborhood din, no “I need to be up for church in __________ hours,” no one requiring my immediate attention for any reason, no roaring headache,  AND I accidentally took a nap so am awake and marginally alert.

I can work with that.

My topic has been gratitude, but came largely without prompts to guide me — just take the time to find God in all things and find points of gratitude to God as you do so.  Actually, that’s a great and beautiful thing to be part of the examen, but not really much to write about.  What I have been prayerfully meditating on are the lives and stories of the Bible where gratitude is present in unexpected ways.

That’s a lot to think about.

I’ve done some editing on the draft I’m working on…still working on it.  I also need the touchstone for the inspiration that will set my pen flying (that’s the other thing, I’m writing this all long-hand and typing it up later because my writing is more creative and less academic when hand-written first).

It really is a lot to think about.

It’s Wentworth’s birthday today (the little pig featured in the photo here) — he’s three years-old today, and I hope to edit together a tribute for me sweet little “attribute” later.  Love that little pig!

It’s also the 73rd birthday of a very dear friend and former teacher…I think she deserves a post too, but I will have to think more about that.  She was a person called by God to speak into my life as a young person, and I have been forever blessed that she chose to respond to that call.  I would not be the person I am — indeed, might not be here at all — were it not for her love and care.

Blessings for your Tuesday, grace and peace to you, take the time to find God in all things.  — VKS

Little “fishys” and lost souls

A post on Facebook from the Public Health Education department (a department that shared offices in the county building where I once worked for a couple of different county departments) put up a link to an article this morning reminding me that it is “Eating Disorders Awareness Week.”

Thus sayeth Val: Be Aware.

Seriously.  Be aware.

I don’t know if there is a “ribbon” for Eating Disorders.  Maybe there should be, maybe not.  I know cancer survivors who cling fiercely to their respective ribbons.  I suppose it is their right.  Personally though, I’ve always paused to wonder what clinging to a ribbon really means.  Maybe I’m just dense on this one, but wouldn’t being able to wake up in the morning and know the day and live life be reminder enough that one is a survivor?  And what does being “a survivor” really mean anyway?  Are you promoting your own strength or thanking God for his grace and mercy?  By no means would I dare discount anyone, but…the more I think about it, the more I agree with the idea that the two components of a human life are “dust” (the earthly, mortal, part) and “soul.”  Our dust has little strength of its own against the creative forces of life and death.  Seriously.  I’m a survivor too…but I take no credit for it. Soli Deo Gloria — to God alone be the glory.

Cancer ravages the body before it steals your life.  Eating disorders steal your mind and your soul before they ravage what is left of your body.  It’s no way to live, and it is an incredibly painful way to die — by torture and assassination of the soul.

All eating disorders work similarly, but anorexia nervosa is the one I’ve seen up-close, a devil I know well — I will thus frame my awareness in terms of and with reference to anorexia nervosa.  Anorexia is not about food — it never was about food, it will never be about food.  The food issues are merely an outward manifestation of a much deeper problem.  As the body wastes for lack of food, it is only following in the footsteps of a soul dying for lack of love on the deepest level.

The soul goes first.

It’s not about food, it’s not about being thin, it’s about self-control being run off-the-rails in the direction of self-destruction.  There is an evil element to that which defies description.  The most basic truth is that where there is a VAST space left in a person’s life (usually “girl’s life” in the case of anorexia nervosa) , great darkness moves in and takes over.

What anorexia nervosa does to the mind, soul, and body (in that order) is among the closest things in life I’ve ever witnessed that could arguably be classed as “demon possession.”  The audio and video feed of every failing and inadequacy you’ve ever experienced in your life (anyone who is not a narcissist has this) never shuts off and eventually takes over.  I say we all have this?  We do, but honest perspective and love can usually shut it off.  Anorexia comes where that love is absent, moves in, and whispers that it will keep you safe from everything in the world that can hurt you — your strength against the weakness of hunger will help build your strength against the pain, emotions, people, and situations that are trying to destroy you.  You need it, trust it — don’t be weak and let the hunger, the emotions, the pain win.

It’s all a lie, but it comes in a very pretty culturally-endorsed package — if “thin” is beautiful and “exercise” makes you “healthy,” why not worship on that altar?  The air-brushed and drug-soaked fashion and celebrity universe seems to support it, why not?

Because it is a lie.

I once heard a speaker remark that a person with anorexia is the kind of person who, if she resolved to drink eight glasses of water a day, will stay up until midnight to drink eight glasses of water in the last ten minutes of the day if she forgot just because she resolved to do it.  Not everyone suffering from anorexia nervosa is a Type-A personality, but if there is a Type-A personality suffering from an eating disorder, I won’t even bat an eye to leave any wiggle room for possible speculation: 100% of those individuals are battling anorexia, it’s the only one that appeals to a tidy, methodical, meticulous nature.

And that’s the cruellest part — the type of person who gravitates toward anorexia nervosa is typically an extremely intelligent, capable young woman with a lot of talent, potential, and often leadership ability.  Were their heads on straight for self-perception and self-care, these are women who could justly and capably rule the world.  Anorexia nervosa snuffs out the best and the brightest by design.

I don’t know if there is a patron saint for those suffering from eating disorders.  Mary Magdalene, however, comes to mind as a potentially just and beautiful choice.  She was healed by Christ from seven demons.  It doesn’t say much more than that about the nature of the situation, but here was a woman who we got to quietly follow through various little snippet accounts in the Bible as a person who did not forget what Christ’s compassion, love, and healing did for her and meant to her life.  She followed Christ’s body to the grave.  She was given the beautiful gift of being the first person to know of Christ’s resurrection.

Stop.  Just stop.  Stop and think about that for a minute.  This was no random thing, there are no coincidences.  This was not her good luck — one lesson to learn in  the Bible is that God doesn’t work in terms of “luck.”  Just stop and consider that of all the people Christ loved who loved Christ, he picked Mary Magdalene to be the first one to encounter his resurrected self.  That’s huge.  Not Peter, not John, not his mother…Mary Magdalene.  If you want an argument for “least” being “greatest,” there’s one.  Now, there is a lot of weird mythology around Mary Magdalene (I believe none of it, and neither should you).  The three explicit references were that she was healed from seven demons, she was present at the crucifixion and followed the body to the grave, and she was the first person to learn of the resurrection.  That is what we know.  What we also know is that this is a woman who understood — and never forgot — how much Christ’s compssion and healing had restored her to life.  She loved Jesus of Nazareth and became his disciple.  She was favored with the honor to be the first to experience the wonder and joy of the resurrection.  That’s huge.  This is a woman who got up every day with the knowledge that Christ was the one who gave her both life and hope.

I can’t think of a better person to flesh out the hope of a life healed from something like anorexia nervosa.

But while we’re on the topics of saints, I need to make one thing absolutely clear: anorexia mirabilis is made-up and garbage.  There is no “holy” absence of hunger, but anorexia nervosa can actually phisiologically re-wire a person’s brain to “turn off” hunger.  There is a sub-class of ascetic saints who suffered from this “holy” disease with some pretty disturbing behaviors and outcomes.  There is no starving yourself to death for the glory of God, it just doesn’t work that way.  I have no love for the veneration of these particular saints (Catherine of Siena among them).  I cannot venerate the faith of anyone willing to worship at the altar of death.

If you’re reading this and looking for answers, maybe you’ve found them and maybe not.

Maybe you’re the one who is suffering, maybe it’s someone you know…or maybe you’re just one of the wonderful friends God has blessed me with in my life who makes it a joy to get out of bed in the morning.

I have a friend who is one of my confessors and prayer partners, she is custodian of a very large piece of my soul and I love her very much.  I was praying for her and for her family as I was waking up this morning.  She is a grandmother and has another grandchild on the way.  I was praying for this little one a prayer that is the best prayer for all children — that they may live a life where they always know (and never, ever, ever doubt) that they are loved.  If I am praying for your children or grandchildren, that’s one of the things I’m praying.

The alternative is — quite literally — a living hell.

If you or someone you know needs help, please…do something.  Praying is good, but this kills and destroys in horrendous ways.  Please get help.

I’m just a pilgrim, but I’ve battled my own Apollyon, as it were.  Survivor?  Yes.  Recovered?  Yes.  Perfect?  No.  Loved?  Without question.  I am not a therapist, I am not qualified in any professional capacity, just a pilgrim.  But I also happen to know that the fishy site is one of the most praise-worthy and amazing places on the web for resources.  They have support boards there too, it’s wonderful.  The site is well-run and well-moderated.  The fishy site is the real deal (though by no means a substitution for help in real life).  For more information:

Finding friends among the “fools for Christ” and “friends of God”

St. Francis of Assisi coined the phrase “fool for Christ” — may we all live and die so “foolish” as St. Francis!!!!

As I’ve read the Bible over the years, and paused to reflect on the lives and the story of the lives within, it often strikes me that I would be friends with some of them  had we ever lived contemporary to each other “in real life.”

I think I could have been married to this one.

If your friends could describe your life with one word, what would it be?  I like this life and the answer of this man’s friends.  One of my heroes…in the quietest way possible.

Truth For Life with Alistair Begg — “Son  of Encouragement”

A prayer for discernment (REBLOG)

Love this 🙂

The Center for Spiritual Formation

O Christ Jesus,

When all is darkness

And we feel our weakness and helplessness,

Give us the sense of Your presence,

Your love, and Your strength.

Help us to have perfect trust

In Your protecting love

And strengthening power,

So that nothing may frighten or worry us,

For, living close to You,

We shall see Your hand,

Your purpose, Your will through all things.

–St. Ignatius of Loyola


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Thinking, not resting — I haven’t abandoned my Ignatian quest!

Firstly, the idea of taking my Ignatian Spirituality quest on a day at a time now seems laughable — this stuff is just too deep. This week’s topic was “gratitude,” and I’ve been meditating on various scriptures and stories. The writing will come, but there is one story — the story of someone who prayed for something with every fiber of his or her being and from the depths of his or her soul who, in the very same breath as that prayer, promised to give 100% of that gift from God back to God if the prayer were answered — that is making my head explode.

THAT is gratitude.

And that — and a few other stories — are where my mind has been. Also, I’m always working on other things here and there, and I need to edit some of the bits of my essays as well. I’m a photographer and I love art — I try not to just submit text, I try to give a more well-rounded media presentation. These things take time, and when I can get WiFi on my dodgy netbook is limited to when the one spot in the house where I can sit close enough to get a signal (the middle of the living room floor) is not being used by a cyclone of adorable children.

So — writing on, and still here. Blessings for your weekend.

Outrageous Nonsense (REBLOG)

She’s right…


It’s Wednesday…and I’m still thinking about the epistle from last week. It’s rare, by this point in the week, that I’m still thinking about something that happened on Sunday. There have been countless services between then and now. I’ve usually preached, tMan Thinking Clip Artaught, and read at the daily office by now. But this week, I’m sitting in my office on Wednesday afternoon still thinking about the epistle from this past Sunday.

Here it is:

James 2:1-10, [11-13], 14-17

2My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favouritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? 2For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, 3and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, ‘Have a seat here, please’, while to the one who is…

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