January 16, 2015

Love in a Winter of Discontent…

Category: News — Ira @ 6:07 pm


Love is a burning thing
And it makes a fiery ring

—Johnny Cash, lyrics

I’ve been in a pretty brooding mood, all this year. Well, which is pretty much the last two weeks or so. Not that unusual a state of mind for me. And I thought I had something outlined, reflecting that, something that would come. But still. As the third Friday approached since my last blog post, there wasn’t a whole lot of inspiration going on inside me. Maybe I’ll just skip again, I thought, as the week arrived and passed right along.

But then I thought. Well, write a few words. You’ve always claimed to write from where you are. So write, from where you are. And here a is a compact version of what I figured to say about what all was going on inside and around me at that point along the road.

As short as the New Year has been, a few things have become very clear to me. I’m not quite sure how to approach all of it. And I’m not quite sure how to write it. So I guess I won’t, not until it all comes down around me.

This is a different year, from any other. And I’m not even exactly sure what that means. It’s just something I can feel inside me, deep down. There will be some major changes in my life. And no, I’m can’t tell you what those changes all will be, because I don’t know, myself. It’s all on the table, as far as I’m concerned, in my head. All I am or have. Yeah, I need to face and deal with some personal demons, some habits and addictions. That’s a given. But I’m talking about more than just that.

I’m talking about my life as I’ve known it, including where I live and what I do. My home. My job. There’s nothing that’s not on the line, when it comes to what changes the year may bring. Nothing. I’m not saying those changes will happen. I’m saying I’m totally open to whatever happens.

There are some hard doors ahead, to walk through. I sense that. I know it. I’ve already walked through one I never planned to see, and another hard door looms. Strangely, I’m kind of excited and eager about it all, even though I can feel the fear stirring deep inside. You don’t really plan for things like this. You just walk into them, when they come at you.

And there are relationships, too, out there, that need mending. I’m not even sure where to go with all that, what it looks like, to mend such a thing, especially where memories of deep and slicing pain remain so fresh. I mean, how do you ever talk to such a person again? It’s possible, I guess. Even probable, if you’re willing to face what was. Whatever. I figure those doors will open, too, when they’re supposed to. If they’re ever supposed to, that is. Maybe that one fearful door will be just like the ones I’m walking through right now that I never planned to walk through. You never can tell. So you just keep walking.

I guess what I’m leading up to is this. I’m not sure what things will look like, in the months ahead. And right now, I just don’t feel like writing what I think they will look like. I have no idea. You always keep walking, in life. But sometimes, you don’t just keep writing. Sometimes, you pull back, when the voice to speak is silent.

Maybe this will be the most productive year you’ll ever see, on my blog, and elsewhere. And maybe it won’t. I just don’t know, right now. Like I said, right this moment, I don’t feel like writing at all. I’m thinking some spigots are gonna open, just a little bit down the road. I don’t know that. This is a different year, when everything I am or have is on the table, to be changed or not. Everything. Maybe the changes will have to happen first, before the writing comes. I just don’t know.

I got no plans as to when I’ll post again. It might be in two weeks, or it might be in two months. I won’t force it. You can’t force real writing. I’ll speak it when it speaks itself. I can promise this, though. Sooner or later, in its own time, all of the journey will be told right here. All of it, including the moment I’m in right now. And that’s about the only promise I can make, when it comes to my writing.

And that right there was me, pretty much all brooding. Saying what was in me to say, this week. A short blog, signing off until I felt like writing again. And when you’re in a self-focused brooding state of mind like that, right about then is when something real will come and smack you up ‘side the head. And that something slipped up on me yesterday afternoon.

It was close to closing time, around four or so. An Amish contractor walked in. He had a sample piece of special order trim he wanted made. Let’s take it out to Eli, and see what he says, I told the guy. I think he can make that profile. It looks a little tight right here, but I think he can make it. We walked out. Eli greeted us. I showed him the sample of trim. Can you make this? “Yeah,” he said. “I can make that.”

We stood around and just talked for a few minutes. Eli asked the man. “Do you want to pick the trim up tomorrow, I guess?” A simple question. Normally that would of course have been the case. But not this time. The Amish contractor shook his head.

“No, not tomorrow. Monday morning,” he said. “I have a funeral tomorrow.” And he went right on and told us a little bit about it.

“It’s a young bride who just got married in November,” he said. “Last August, she came down with a real bad type of cancer. She went backward pretty fast, and she was barely strong enough to go through with the wedding. But they both wanted to do it, so they went ahead and got married anyway.”

And I could only shake my head in amazement. Wow, I said. That’s pretty brutal. There sure was nothing wrong with what they did, though, getting married when there was so little time. He looked at me and nodded. “No,” he said. “There was nothing wrong with that.”

And I couldn’t shake it, after the Amish contractor had left. Here I was, all focused on how tough life was for me right now. Focused on my own demons. Focused on my own problems. Alcohol, and how hard it is to cut back. How I’m dreading it, to quit drinking, even for a month. How wimpy is that? And I choose to get all brooding still, to invite the darkness in, off and on, about a pretend relationship that blew up in my face last year. And there are stressors in my life right now, about my job. Boo, hoo, on all of it. Cry me a river. Look, how tortured it is, my “writer’s soul.” Look, how I’m struggling along so bravely under such a heavy load.

Meanwhile, just a few miles away, across the county, there’s a young Amish husband who chose to marry his wife, even when they both knew she had only weeks of life to live. That’s brutal stuff. And it’s powerfully, powerfully beautiful, that any kind of love on this earth could be as strong as that.

And I think about it, their wedding day, back in November. Probably two months ago, or less. How her family and her community closed in around her. How they worked hard, to give her that special day she always dreamed of. And how, above all, there stood a man by her side, a man who loved her unconditionally, even as the cancer devoured all she ever was as a healthy, glowing woman. It was day of real joy, their wedding day, I think. A day of real celebration. A day of gratitude for the moment.

And I feel a little ashamed, looking at that scenario, and what could have been mine, way back in my Amish world. I couldn’t stay for a beautiful girl who actually loved me, a healthy girl, with no looming threat of death. Nah. I was too focused on what I wanted. Didn’t matter, the people I hurt, breaking away. I just wanted out. And from where I am right now, I would do it all over again, the getting out. But I sure would do some things a whole lot differently, when it comes to breaking away.

Back to today, the very day this blog was posted. A young Amish husband just buried his wife, the woman he married when he knew this day was coming, and was real close. There’s something so strong about their story, that couple. Something haunting, something real. They lived their lives for each other. And the foundation of all they were? That was a simple little thing called love.

There is no comparison between all that crap I was fretting about, and what really matters in life. Love. Just plain old simple love. Love of God. Love for all I meet, regardless of who they are or where they come from or what they did. Love is what matters, in the end.

So, yeah, I’m still thinking this will be a year of pretty substantial changes. Yeah, I can still feel it, deep down. But I’m not all tore up, like I was back there, about how tortuous it all is, about not knowing when the writing of it will come. I still don’t know. But I’m a little more relaxed about it all.

Because I reckon all those doors will open when they open. And I reckon I’ll just write it when the writing gets here.



  1. Love this (as usual) and you. So excited to see what God is gonna do with your 2015!

    Comment by Dorothy Miller — January 16, 2015 @ 7:40 pm

  2. Love-ly.

    Comment by Pizzalady — January 16, 2015 @ 8:01 pm

  3. There’s a gospel song called, Stand Still. The words are, “When you don’t know where you’re going, stand still, and let God Move.” (I left out some of the words)

    Comment by Carolann Ellmore — January 16, 2015 @ 8:13 pm

  4. Quitting is the toughest thing my husband and I have gone through. Drugs and alcohol brought us together in the first place 18 years ago. To start anew without any outside influence really was just that..new and terrifying. Fear that we wouldn’t get along or have anything in common was always in the back of my mind. Would it destroy our marriage? To have someone go through it with you is a must. Keep your mind fixed on true joy,Not a liquid blur. What’s strange is the fact where I at last found my help. What got me through a day without even the clock on the wall reminding me its time to get high.

    On the cold tiled floor of a Starbucks bathroom, fallen to my knees in utter despair, I called out to God. Just as the hundreds of songs and many masses persons proclaim to have done before me. No words would come to my mind what I should say or ask. No, “Oh Great and Mighty Ever Present Lord of all Creation help me a worthless sinner.” What I did was cry and just whispered, “Help.”

    He did. There is no other way to tell it. That’s it. 20 years of dependency gone. There are days when I think how fun it would be for me and my man to go get a drink and just have a night of fun. But I know that one drink will make it easier to drink another and so on. We are boring non party goers now, We the Gen Xers.. Hard to believe.

    Don’t give up or give in on change. Be ready and open to anything under the sun. Fear is not real, strength is.

    Comment by MindyDHullinger — January 16, 2015 @ 8:23 pm

  5. Brutally honest blog, as usual. I think God put that Amish contractor in your path for you to see that we all suffer in some way on this earth. We all have troubles and heart aches. There are always people better off than we are, but there are always people worse off than we are. My mother used to have an expression, “i cried because I had no shoes, and then I met a man who had no feet.” You can overcome what you need to overcome with God’s help. Put yourself in his hands. Take one step at a time and one day at a time. I will keep you in my prayers.

    Comment by Rosanna F. — January 16, 2015 @ 8:49 pm

  6. You done gone made me cry, Ira! What a beautiful story, yet painful to the core… it just breaks my heart. And your blog, all around, is just what I needed today. That level of honesty, facing hard stuff, the uncertainty of life ahead, yet ‘just knowing’ something, and feeling it deep inside. I get that. This morning I wrote the following words to a very good friend, who is much like a brother to me: “It’s a year of change… of blessing… of transformation… whatever that all means…. but I feel it in my bones. It is also a year of hard work…. ” Sometimes you just know it and you don’t know if it’s good or bad, but you know God will be there, and He cares. I’ve been so blessed to watch your honest journey, especially this last year–I just mentioned that to a friend the other day–and I know He has a good plan for you. My prayer for you, for this year, is blessings spilling all over your life, courage as you cut back on the alcohol, faith when you doubt the journey and hope… lots and lots of hope!

    Comment by Trudy Metzger — January 16, 2015 @ 9:51 pm

  7. Enjoyed this blog so much… want to encourage you. I know a little what you might be facing. I had an addiction to watching too many videos and movies and my life was somewhat unproductive at home…I am a nurse so I do 3 -12 hour night shifts then I feel tired and it feels good to sit down…But I brought this to God and told Him I need help changing this habbit I have. Well, our first grandbaby was born and she had a very bad jaundice and the numbers kept going up…and I was sitting in church and felt God’s Spirit challenge me to give this up for a year and He would heal her. I wrestled because I didn’t think I could do it. But it was just the thing to get a vow from me…and I did it and I have had a great year it is almost up and I am going to be honest I look forward to be able to enjoy a good movie again but I never want it to control me again! Our grand baby will be 1 this February and is healthy. It’s worth the discipline! Get the DVD Called Addictions and the Brain

    Comment by Ruth Eicher — January 17, 2015 @ 12:19 am

  8. To love like that. Jesus knew that love. You are a beautiful man, Ira. Move forward. You are not alone. You are and have been in my prayers.

    Comment by Laura — January 17, 2015 @ 12:39 am

  9. Very profound. Your blogs have to keep going, you have influenced in ways I cannot even say. Your book has so resonated with me. Thank you for sharing this story as tragic as it is, we need to read this stuff to gain perspective on our own personal lives…and your heart has shown in this. We all have regrets, we just have to trust God in everything. Thank you, Ira
    Sincerely, Lea Tartanian

    Comment by Lea Tartanian — January 17, 2015 @ 10:57 am

  10. I used to think, I Could Shape The Circumstances around me, but now I know. JESUS Uses Circumstances To Shape Me–
    Ira, it is a Journey for all of us, we got to keep on praying for each other, and put our Faith and Trust in GOD.

    Comment by Warren — January 17, 2015 @ 11:18 am

  11. Yes, please keep going. You have great influence with your writing and do not know who benefits from your words. The Year is still new and we are getting sunshine now, maybe that will help.

    Comment by Linda Ault — January 17, 2015 @ 11:24 am

  12. My mother, dying of pancreatic cancer, asked, “Why do we have to leave the world by going through such pain and suffering? Why can’t we just die when our time is up?” That made sense to me, but still, when you’re old, you more or less see death as the grim and sadistic reaper who can turn up at any time to take you away. When you’re young, though, that’s a tragedy. That young bride. A young girl we met this summer at the Johns Hopkins oncology radiation unit. She is 12. She’s battling a very rare cancer and she’s still hanging in there, but her poor parents are being dragged up and down the peaks of hope, the valleys of despair.

    Comment by Cynthia R Chase — January 17, 2015 @ 2:51 pm

  13. This is such a good illustration of sin: when all we can see is ourselves and the pity we think we deserve.

    I needed this reminder today. Fortunately, I can lay it all on Jesus and trust him with all the work of who I am and what I should do.

    Comment by Naomi — January 17, 2015 @ 3:49 pm

  14. Well written Ira. Ich bin un brilla! So much easier to love than to hate. I’m going out on a limb and speak for the majority of us who are your friends and say that we can be your support group during the month of February. When you think you want a cocktail…write a blog ???? and feel the “love” — we can get you thru this.

    Comment by Karen — January 17, 2015 @ 5:36 pm

  15. Protection is also part of the law of God. Circle the wagons, Ira, and know that His angels and His Love are protecting you.

    Comment by Gay Racina — January 18, 2015 @ 1:13 am

  16. MindyDHullinger your comment made me weep. Thanks for sharing. Tina

    Comment by Tina Eicher — January 18, 2015 @ 8:11 am

  17. Waking up one Sunday morning after my 18th birthday and having this faint little thought that maybe something wasn’t quite right with how much alcohol was going into me was only the beginning..Almost 2 decades later,after quitting on my own so many times I lost track,almost 2 years was my record while I was in school,after the pleas from my family didn’t work,the self help books,a couple of therapists, the 4 church membership’s starting with Old Order of which I was born into,career changes,geographic changes,a marriage that didn’t feel right,there came that incomprehensible demoralization, a moment of clarity,the God spark I like to call it.I was done and I knew it.It came late one night standing in the doorway of an apartment in Phoenix,Arizona.Things were missing and the wife was gone,tired of my actions and behaviors.It was terrifying, this process of getting honest,of finding humility, of getting rid of old religious ideas that didn’t work.Many times I would think I just can’t do this.But the people around me would say you can’t think your self sober,action is what matters.In the doing comes the understanding. And they were right.Its been very good and then at times its felt like hell and that’s the way its been for me.Like it says in the Good Book,in your weakness can be your strength. The real friends in my 12 step program get me,they are support,I tried to go it alone and it didn’t work..by the grace of God…Peace to all..

    Comment by lenny — January 18, 2015 @ 12:12 pm

  18. Off and on, for two days now, I’ve thought of what you’ve written. I’ve wondered if there are any words I can offer that might help to strengthen you. I feel like I’ve got nothing.

    When something like drugs, alcohol, overeating, overspending, or whathaveyou becomes a stumbling block, what causes it to get its hooks into someone? I have often wondered. I think maybe when it goes from simply producing enjoyment to, instead, bringing relief.

    Maybe it’s the deep introspection and thoughtfulness, the very things that make you such a captivating writer, that seeks relief. Maybe it’s the ache from the anguish in this painful world, which causes alcohol to call out, like the distant song of the sirens. I hope this does not come across as judgmental.

    I will name you in prayer, asking that God might be your strength and take the taste for alcohol away from you. Sometimes He’s hard to wait on; sometimes we’re put to the fire longer than we think we can stand.

    I like the lyrics you posted. I met Johnny a couple of times when I was a girl. He seemed genuine.

    Comment by Tammy — January 19, 2015 @ 5:38 pm

  19. Hi Ira!

    I suggest going to an RU meeting, and quiting cold turkey. http://www.reformu.com/ They are a Christian group, located everywhen in Baptist or independent churches. They do not call them selves “alcoholic” but a child of God. Each week they said what God has done in their life. Usually they have child care, and the children receive lessons in Christianty also. Taperers rarely let go, and you want success.

    You have let God take the wheel, so look out! You are in for the ride of your life!

    Comment by Kathy Dean — January 19, 2015 @ 7:31 pm

  20. Hi Ira, today’s devotional from “Streams in the Desert” states that Sorrow reveals the unknown depths of the soul & the unknown capacities for suffering and service. Lighthearted, frivolous people are always shallow and are never aware of their meagerness or lack of depth. Sorrow is God’s tool to plow the depths of the soul that it may yield a richer harvests. Sorrow, yet without despair is the power chosen to reveal us to ourselves, and causes us to take the time to think deeply and seriously, …and examine our motives and attitudes, imagine what will come out of all this. !!!

    Comment by Georgia Pearson — January 20, 2015 @ 11:05 am

  21. The griefs of the human heart cannot be quantified. Nor does God’s Word teach that some should, or even can, be ranked as greater or lesser than others. The mental anguish the Psalmist wrestled with is given as much importance as Job’s tragic loss of family. Both books show that honestly facing and grieving all life’s pain or loss is God’s design for us. In doing so, we can learn invaluable truths about who God is and who we are. But it takes a lot of guts and courage to look honestly into one’s heart and mind.

    Comment by Ava — January 20, 2015 @ 3:30 pm

  22. “As a deer pants for streams of water,
    so my soul pants for you, O God.
    My soul thirsts for God, for the living
    When can I go and meet with God?”

    “Why are you downcast, O my soul?
    Why so disturbed within me?
    Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my savior and my God.”

    A few weeks ago I was feeling badly, depressed even. This is nothing new for me. My moods are like the waves of the sea-always changing. But this time, a few weeks back, I asked myself a question: “What’s wrong with you girl? There is love in your home, you are safe, you have no material need, your life is good. Why are you so sad and gloomy, and dreading of the day?” I thought about it. It made no sense.

    There’s an emptiness in me that I have been desperately seeking to fill and not one thing I have sought after has satisfied it. “If only I try harder, get in a church group, join a Meet Up group, find something of interest to do, think more positively, stop doing this, start doing that, if I would just…”

    “This is a different year, from any other. And I’m not exactly sure what that means.” These are your words, but they’re mine, too. I decided, or should I say,was directed by that still small voice, to go to God with my emptiness, my gloom, my confusion.

    I want more of God this year. I need more of him this year. My steps are simple: I’m reading my Bible everyday with an open heart, starting in the Psalms. I’m jotting down things that jump out of the pages. Nothing big, no fireworks, no four hours of prayer on my naked knees aching on jagged stone. Nope, none of that. Just reading, just pondering.

    And I’m feeling it. Feeling God, seeing things through His eyes. Feeling my emptiness dissolving. It’s only been about a month, or less, but He’s here. “Good morning my beautiful boys!” I now say to my children. Before it was dread, a dragging of the bones off the bed. I just wanted to be left alone in my gloom. In a sick sort of way gloom can feel good if you let it.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Polly Anna seeing God as a happy pill that wipes out all that ails. That’s not reality…until I get to Heaven. I’m just walking toward the Light. It feels good.

    You call yourself a brooder, but I think there’s more to it than that. You’re intuitive, deeply sensitive to your surroundings, more aware of life than the average person. A man tells you about a wedding where the bride will soon depart; his words are few, but your thoughts are many. You’re able to speak and feel what each participant is experiencing because of the sad occasion. You’re able to describe the depths of love between the betrothed. You’re able to go deep quickly. It seems to come naturally to you.

    But there is a condition to this gift, a warning label, if you will. You have to keep a tight relationship with God. He’s crucial to keeping you on track, steady, on the up-and-up. Without God’s protection you could easily spiral into the darkness because of your sensitivities, your ability to see more. It could be a curse like that in Hemingway’s life or a blessing like that in C.S. Lewis’ life.

    I’ve been reading your works for at least two years and have gone back to the very beginning of your blog and I can see your struggle. But it’s good, it reveals your hunger and thirst for God. At least that’s how I see it.

    If you decide to take a break from writing you will surely be missed. A lot! But we all go through seasons. Just remember Who you belong to and that you’re loved, cherished, and adored by Him. Please check in with us, your readers, even if it’s just a sentence or short paragraph. Allow us to encourage you, pray for you, let you know we care. I hope you don’t require a break but if you do you’ll be missed, like I said. I just hope it’s not required.

    Comment by Francine — January 21, 2015 @ 12:18 pm

  23. Beautiful story of the Amish couple. Thanks for sharing. :) It’s a nice reminder that we need to occasionally step outside the fog of our lives to count our blessings. As for yourself, I’m really excited for you. Something inside is about to be born. Take a breather. Take a chance. We’ll all be anxiously awaiting. :)

    Comment by Lisa DeYoung — January 22, 2015 @ 10:51 am

  24. If you stop writing, you will be missed, and who will quote from Thomas Wolfe? I guess I’ll have to find the book, wishing you all of God’s best.

    Comment by Georgia — January 22, 2015 @ 10:19 pm

  25. I just put down your book, after reading it in one sitting (recovering from pneumonia). I, too, grew up in similar surroundings, and I can identify hugely with everything you went through, as a child and as an adult.

    Stangely enough I spent 31 years in London Ontario, and back in the seventies we would go to Aylmer to see those “quaint Amish” people. I was fascinated to read that although it was realtively easy to escape the outwards trappings of Amishness, with it’s religious practices and culture, it was well-nigh impossible to escape the embedded false doctrines of Amishness. The fear of damnation that is ingrained into each and every Amish child’s psyche.

    It sounds to me, reading about where you are right now, that although you understand more about God’s love and forgiveness, you have still not been able to shake that out of your subconsciousness. Academically you have been freed from the torment of despair and agony, but you have not yet known the total liberty and utter shining joy of forgiveness.

    The Bible teaches us that sin is sin is sin. No one sin is worse than another. Yes, sin against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable, but just the fact that that would so torment you, means that you have not cursed God and died. It’s only unforgivable if you die unrepentant. (I’m referring here to what I read in your book.) And all those millions and millions of sins are not too much for the efficacy of Christ’s death on the cross.

    You have so much to offer the world. You are a deeply insightful man who sees much, thinks much, feels much and knows how to write about it. Our world is a dark, dark place, with sorrow and pain and gloom. In your own words, there is a tiny ray of blinding light. We need to follow that light, stand in it and embrace it. It is the light of God’s love through Christ. Only then can we bear to live in this vale of tears.

    Take heart, my friend, look to God for your only help and comfort and you will find your way. He never, never lets us down.

    Comment by Thea H — January 26, 2015 @ 5:47 pm

  26. Thank you, Ira, for sharing your struggles. I always find strength in that place of humility and it opens the way for others to share their struggles, as well. I still experience pain from past decisions that hurt the people I love. Thank God his grace continues to show itself and mercy is new every morning. Prayers.

    Comment by Cherrie — February 13, 2015 @ 12:33 pm

  27. Ira,
    All I can really say is I’ve had the same feeling of some pending change since the year began, but much less eloquently could I describe it. Your post hurt in some deep level of my soul, though, it is tinted by some haunting beauty.

    Comment by Sara — February 16, 2015 @ 10:27 pm

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