COCOONS by Peggy

My husband laughs at me all the time because he says he has never seen anyone “cocoon” themselves the way I do when I lie down.  I am able to totally tuck myself in to my blankets like a baby that has been swaddled in theirs.

Until I was about nine, my father worked the middle shift ( 4pm til midnight), so he wasn’t there at bedtime most nights.  On the weekends, though, he would always be the one to tuck us in.  My sisters and I shared a room (that’s right; all 3 in one room, and it didn’t kill us!).  My younger sister and older sister shared a double bed, but I was on my own in a single bed next to theirs.  Daddy would come up and tell us a story (he was a GREAT story teller!), and then proceed to tuck us in.  Starting on the far side of the double bed, he would first tuck in the youngest, Tina, then the oldest, Marie.  Since my bed was right next to the door, I was the last.  I always loved being the last and actually felt that somehow I had special time with Daddy that the other two missed, even though he did the exact same thing to them, and I’m sure they felt equally as special.  He would make a big deal out of fluffing the pillow, arranging the blankets just so, and tuck it all around me nice and tight.  The last thing he would do was hold both of my little feet in his massive hand for a second, and give a quick rub to my head, and then the kiss on my head good night.  Finally, it was lights out.  I always felt loved and protected and safe.  He was a great dad!

As the years went on we moved to another house where we girls all had our own rooms. The tucking- in ritual went the way of all childhood rituals, and I just went to bed with a quick kiss goodnight.  I am, and was even then, a hopeless insomniac.  I would stay up until the wee hours reading or listening to music.  Even after the lights got turned off, there were many nights that I would just lie awake for a while before I could finally fall asleep.  By that time my Dad was very sick with emphysema, and he had a great deal of difficulty breathing. He only had the use of 13% of one lung, so even sucking in his deepest breath was little more than a whisper of air.  Every breath was painful and exhausting, even with an oxygen tank to aid him.  Lying down was particularly hard for him, making him feel as though he was drowning,  so he would stay awake sitting at the kitchen table until he literally just couldn’t stay awake anymore.  Finally ready to try to get some sleep, he would make the trek up the steps to bed.  I hated that because I would listen to him struggle up the steps, trying so hard to catch his breath, stopping a few times, before reaching the top to then make his way down the hall. It was agony listening to it, so I can only imagine how horrifying it was to experience it.  I would hear him stop off at my younger sister’s room for a minute to tuck her in, then work his way down the hall to his room.  My room was directly across the hall from his and my mother’s room, so I would be his last stop.  He would come in, and try to be quiet, lightly tuck the blanket around me, hold my feet, stroke my head and give me a quick peck on the head before leaving the room.  I would pretend I was asleep so I wouldn’t interrupt the ritual.  Being a teenager, there was a big part of me that rolled my eyes and wanted to say “Daa-ad!  I’m too old for this!”  But I never did.  Because there was a bigger part of me that was just a little girl, who, in the face of seeing her Daddy wasting away from that horrible life-sucking illness, took great comfort in feeling his hand on my feet, and being tucked into the cocoon as only he could prepare it.

I married Jim when I was 19, leaving the nest so painstakingly feathered by my parents. My hubby is a good man, and has been the perfect mate for me.  My father died when I was 20, a little more than a year after our wedding. I was pregnant with our first child, his first grandchild.  Although relieved that he was no longer suffering, my heart was broken.  My poor mother was so unbelievably stressed out at that time, and I found myself handling a bunch of little details for the funeral.  My brother and I had to rifle through boxes of mementos to find my parent’s marriage certificate, and Mom charged me with the task of getting together Dad’s clothes and getting them to the funeral director.  Mom was a little frantic when we (Mom, my sisters and I) went to the funeral home to make the arrangements, and she seemed to be obsessed that they make him look exactly as he did when he was alive.  In her grief, she was focused on making sure that Dad’s hair was combed correctly with the part on the right side—she kept saying that she just wouldn’t be able to stand it if she went to see him and he did not look like himself.  She made me promise to mention it again when I brought the clothes over to the funeral home. The funeral director was very patient when I told him yet again, and he said that focusing on a detail like that  was a normal reaction with someone overcome with grief, he saw this kind of thing all of the time, and would be sure that Daddy looked his very best.  The viewing was scheduled to take place a few days later in the evening before the funeral, and again for an hour before the funeral Mass the next morning.

The day of the viewing seemed to drag on, as family was gathering and trying to be “normal”, trying to not think about the evening ahead.  In the afternoon, the phone rang, and someone asked for me.  When I went to the phone, I was quite surprised to hear the funeral director. He said he did not want to speak to my mother because he did not want to upset her, but that there was a little problem, and could I come to the funeral home right away?  I got Jim, and we made up an excuse about going to the store for something, and drove the mile to the funeral home.  Here I was, just 20 years old, pregnant, and heading to a funeral home to be told God only knows what about my father’s funeral!  I had no idea what to expect.  I was so grateful Gilbert was with me (yes we have always called him “Gilbert” and not Jim)!  We went to the door, and the funeral director and his wife greeted us so warmly and comfortingly.  Jim said “ So, tell us what the problem is”, as he put his arm around my waist with one arm and grabbed my hand with the other.  Mrs. Funeral Director said :  “Well, I know how very upsetting this all is to your mother, so we thought it best to ask for you first, since you brought over the clothes and all.  You see, your mother is quite insistent that we make sure your father’s hair is parted on the right, is that right?”  I nodded in the affirmative, and she went on “ Well, I am so very sorry, but it seems that I just can’t make his hair part on that side.  It just wants to part on the other side, and actually seems to be cut that way.  I was hoping you could come and take a look and maybe comb his hair exactly as your mom wants it so we can make this experience as good as possible for her.”  I actually had a hard time processing what she was saying, and Jim was saying to me “Peg?  Do you think you can do that?”  I just remember saying:  “Sure, I’ll do it”.  Mrs. Funeral director said, “of course I will come with you, and I will do the actual combing if you’d like, but please tell me I have it done correctly.”  I honestly don’t know what possessed me, but I said “No, that’s ok, I’ll do it myself.”  She and her husband looked a little tentative, and Jim said:  “I will come with you—I don’t want you to go in alone”.  Mrs. Funeral director gave me the comb and she and Gilbert walked on either side of me into the room where my Dad was.

We walked to the front, where Daddy was dressed and laid in the casket my mother had chosen. He was partially tucked in with a satin blanket, a crucifix placed there, rosary entwined in his hands.  He looked at complete and perfect peace.  All of the pain and strain of emphysema   was gone from his face, and he looked like the Daddy of 3 little girls, the Daddy that took us to the park and regaled us with tales of make- believe:  Barnacle Bill and sharks and soldiers and barracudas.  His hair was combed perfectly, with the part on the left.  My mother, in her grief-stricken state, had told the funeral director the wrong thing.   He didn’t need his hair combed, everything was perfect. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I do remember the kindly smile of relief that came over Mrs. Funeral Director’s face when I communicated that his hair was perfect.  She squeezed my hand, and said “why don’t you take a minute”, and walked silently to the back of the room. There we stood, Gilbert and I, at my father’s casket.  It was surreal.  Jim took a few steps to the side, leaving me to stand alone, gazing at this man, my hero and protector, now gone from the shell of his body.   I took the comb, smoothed his hair anyway, tucked the blanket, put my hands briefly on his foot, and gently kissed the top of his head.  He was tucked into his cocoon, by one of the daughters who loved him lots.

Later that night, as my mother went up to the casket with her children gathered around her, she held his hand and said “oh, he looks like a little boy!  He is so peaceful”.  She didn’t know about the phone call that came to me and my visit with my Daddy a few hours earlier.  I did tell her a few years later as we sat having morning coffee at my kitchen table.  She said she honestly was so out of it when he died she didn’t even know what she told the funeral director, but she did remember telling anyone who would listen that he needed to look good or she wouldn’t be able to stand it.

Growing up, my father made a cocoon of love to surround his family.  As an adult, my husband has done the same for his.  I know I am a better person because of him.  I’m the renegade, impulsive and explosive one, and Gilbert is the “steady Eddy” and voice of reason.  He has been an amazing father, and I know our children feel the same way about him as my father’s children felt about him.

I also know there are far too many people who never get to experience that kind of love and safe-keeping.  Too many go through life orphaned, abused, alone, rejected and abandoned.  It’s as hard for me to fathom how a father can abandon or hurt their child as it is for those people to imagine a loving and good father.  I have no comforting words of wisdom for those that are victims of such abuse.  But God does.    I know, I know.  Most would say:  “If God loved me so much, then why did He let all of this happen to me?”   I have no answer to the “whys” in our life experiences.  I wish I did.  But I do have faith:  the substance of things hoped for and not seen.  I have faith to know that God is God, and I am not, and faith to know that this life is but a wink on the timeline of eternity; like a grain of sand on a beach.  But eternity is forever, and, when we have faith in Jesus, we will spend it with Him.

When I think of the word “cocoon”, I think of it as a verb, an action word.  I cocoon myself when I go to bed, my father cocooned me when he tucked me in, Gilbert has cocooned us (me and the kids), and God cocoons me every day in His safety and protection, by His grace and comfort.  He goes before me as a cloud by day and as a light in the night seasons of my life.

In closing this entry, I ask that you ponder the words of Psalm 91:1, 2 & 4.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” … He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge…”

Imagine! We are cocooned under the wing of the Almighty!  Hunker down, get cocooned and read the rest of the Psalm.  You’ll be glad you did.

© Pro 31 Women’s Compendium and all blogs posted by its authors, Peggy Gilbert, Barbara V., Andrea B., Ronda W., including any photos or original illustrations, commencing January 1, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s authors and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the authors (Peggy Gilbert, Barbara V., Andrea B. and Ronda W., and Pro 31 Women’s Compendium, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content

COCOONS by Ronda

Pro 31 WC

Cocoon

Seasons change, people change-isn’t that a song and a cliche.   The truth of the matter is that for most of us, we don’t like change.  As a wellness professional, one of my goals is to encourage clients to welcome change.  It is an important part of maintaining health and wellness.  It is important to life as well. SPOILER ALERT. Change isn’t fun. It is difficult.  Since it can be challenging, we don’t welcome it.  We resist it, when the real lesson is to embrace it.  Free will. Humans.

Animals on the other hand, instinctively welcome change.  Many animals go through a process of transformation that is critical to survival and growth. Interesting. Without change, without transformation growth is aborted.  ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT.  For animals the “cocoon” becomes the vehicle that precipitates their transformation.  SPOILER ALERT. Cocoons aren’t very aesthetic. Chances are it is going to look ugly. Nevertheless, animals instinctively surrender to this process. It is embraced and welcomed.

We are not like animals. Bet you saw that coming. We are mammals but we don’t act on instinct for survival. We have a free will. We have a choice.  We must learn to surrender to the process of change when our season presents itself.  We must choose to yield to transformation.  Embrace our own “cocoon” season if we truly want growth and transformation.  Surrender to the process. Yield.  We lay down our will.  Sounds easy. SPOILER ALERT. It’s not.  It requires some spiritual ingredients. HOPE. FAITH. TRUST.

Here is the lesson we learn from our animal friends: creatures trust the Creator.

King David in Psalms 139 gives us creatures some insight.

Verse 16 of The Message Bible reads

“Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;

            all the stages of my life were spread out before you,

            The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.”

Our Creator knew us from the beginning. Plans were made, but ultimately the choices are OURS. FREE WILL.

Verse 7 says

“Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit? to be out of your sight?”…

Verses 11 & 12

“Then I said to myself, “Oh he even sees me in the dark! (in my cocoon, my translation). At night I’m immersed in the light!

It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you: night and day darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.”

The cocoon is dark.

CHOOSE HOPE. CHOOSE FAITH. CHOOSE TRUST.

Some of us will have darker cocoon seasons.

Lamentations 3:6

“He locked me up in deep darkness, like a corpse nailed inside a coffin.”

A coffin sounds like a cocoon to me.  Jeremiah, a prophet of God, wrote the book of Lamentations. (The title speaks volumes).  He is known as the weeping prophet.  Here he says God put him in deep darkness.  Just like our animals friends experience cocoon or pupa stage as part of their natural development and transformation; so it is with us.  WHY?  Speaking from experience, we learn HOPE, FAITH & TRUST.  In my cocoon I learned hope, faith & trust.

Jeremiah also said this,

“I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness, the taste of ashes,

the poison I’ve swallowed.

            I remember it all-oh, how well I remember- the feeling of hitting the bottom.

            But there’s one thing I remember, and remembering I keep a grip on HOPE.

God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.  They’re created new every morning. How great is your faithfulness!

Lamentations 3: 19-22

In the cocoon the creature dies in order to be reborn all by the hand of the Creator. Don’t be a victim of arrested development. Don’t resist the cocoon season.  Let’s learn from our animal friends who have gone through this process of transformation over and over again.  We can choose to have hope in the Creator’s love for his creation.  We can choose to have faith even when everything looks like darkness, knowing that even then we are not alone.   We can trust that the One who formed us ONCE can do it AGAIN if we will embrace the cocoon. Welcome the transformation.  SPOILER ALERT. Be reborn.

Choose HOPE. Choose FAITH. Choose TRUST.

COCOONS by Andrea

Cocoon… as soon as I saw the word, I knew it was what had happened to me… my metamorphosis.  Of course I’m not exactly a butterfly but the similarities still spoke to me. Immediately it brought thoughts that took me back to a time in my life when I needed to go deeper into my relationship with Christ.  I needed to rid myself of pettiness and wasted worry.  Self-conscious, anxious, guilt-ridden, shamed, self-loathing – all those really productive emotions that for some reason I had chosen to define myself. Did I mention sarcastic? …. although I’ve been told that’s the Northeast’s real accent…. “just a touch of that sarcasm“.  I had heard you could use self-affirmation to make yourself feel better, but all that had done for me was make me feel stupid.  Who talks to themselves and reads positive messages for themselves?… just pathetic!!  So there I was wondering around in the desert, knowing the Lord had a place for me but not able to read His roadmap to the promised land.  I remember looking at a plaque at Lamb’s Road church that read… but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint. While I felt like I had an I.V. in my vein just sucking the strength from my body.  Not realizing that what I needed to focus on, was the Lord’s rest.  Heb 4:9, There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.

To be a Christian, which I define as a follower of Christ Jesus; is not a denominational affiliation.  It meant laying aside my ways and accepting His.  Not just hearing the word but consuming it, like food.  Allowing it to nourish my soul and breathe life into my damaged psyche.  I could understand what the bible said, I was a new creation, but in my heart it was just Andrea, struggling to get along; striving, always striving.  I would read: For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith, but I’m not sure I could believe it

I would ask myself what does it mean to be conformed into the image of Christ.  As one looking in the mirror with eyes wide open, do we see Christ in ourselves?  Our hope of glory. As the apostle Paul wrote: till Christ be formed in us. By 1990 I had been a Christian for 7-8 yrs I was being treated for depression, PTSD, OCD, GAD (generalized anxiety disorder) and epilepsy.  At times I was suicidal.  I went through years of therapy, often wondering if I was better or worse as a Christian.  I know today that God had a plan.  People often say, God doesn’t give you more than you can bear but we were never meant to bear a lifetime of pain in one day.  It must be processed and healed slowly, uncovered layer by layer, the roots of bitterness, envy, unforgiveness and strife go deep.  So what does it mean ’till Christ be formed in you’?  I was unable to ‘BE’ the Christian I ‘thought’ I should be; I simply gave up …. “ok God here I am, this is all that I have and all that I can do.”  I began to start my day by literally wrapping myself in His righteousness like a cloak, or my cocoon.  I would pray in the Holy Spirit for 15-20 minutes and ask the Lord to heal me.  I stopped asking to be made a ‘good Christian’ and just began to accept that I belonged to Christ.  I was not just a servant of God but an adopted child, an heir to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  The work of the cross was so enormous, who could it not cover?  How vast, how tremendous, how immeasurable was the triumph of God coming to earth, walking among us and allowing Himself to be hung in the most hideous, agonizing and humiliating way man had yet to devise.  Absolutely incomprehensible.  All I needed to do was fit my comparatively minuscule self, under the work already accomplished for me and accept what was already mine.

I came to understand that Jesus had not only taken my sin to the cross, but He had taken my disease, my humiliation, my shame, guilt, abandonment and the punishment for my transgressions was on Him.  I did not need to pay the price for them, He had already paid it, I was set free.  Totally exonerated for my sins and what I needed to do was to do the same for those who had sinned against me.  Because by the judgment I used for others, I would be judged.  I forgave the persons who had abused me and my daughter, and even the man who murdered my best friend.  I found as long as I was holding onto unforgiveness, these people were holding on to me.  To truly be free, I needed to forgive and leave judgment in the hands of God..  A merciful and loving God, who had so generously forgiven me.  I pray He forgives them also.  That is what it means to be conformed into the image of Christ for He is merciful, loving, gracious and forgiving.. Over time I began to sense a new mind being formed in me, one that looked at myself and others through kinder eyes, empathizing instead of evaluating.  Early on it was difficult – the old me still struggling with this new me…. and yet the Lord’s patience and guidance is gentle; His rebuke ‘life changing’.

Today my house is peaceful… I am at peace with myself (on most days) and at peace with the world …. the journey to this peace: to the mountain top was a long and arduous one… we all walk a path…it may be filled with our own nightmares and fears – the ones we carry around with us and then the very real fear of victimization, unemployment, pain, death and grief.  These can be the scars on our outside or on our inside, we all have them.  The older we get the more scars we have.  This is why as we age we often get tough and become unyielding.  Our hearts hardening in the process, we pull back from the Spirit of God.  The sad thing is, in keeping the pain away we also keep the joy away.  Insulating ourselves from disappointment we reject the very thing that will heal us and turn our pain into our greatest strengths.  Christ is the refiner’s fire, taking something painful, damaged and worthless, He forms it into His image of what it could be in us.  When we submit to Him He is faithful to commit to us.  Today when adversity hits… yes I get anxious but there’s a part of me that gets excited because I know the Lord will show Himself.  He will save the day, although I understand He won’t do it the way I choose.  After all these years I submit to His ways simply because they are far better than my ways.  I live in anticipation of what Christ will do today.  It was Christ who spoke the world’s into existence and He is still speaking today.  As we turn our hearts to Him, trusting Him, acting in faith we will see His faithfulness and experience His glory, which is now ours…

God bless, may you know the awesome power of His love and presence in your life today and for all eternity,    andrea

COCOONS by Barbara

Cocoon of Grace

If asked the question what is the definition of the word Cocoon? We would find meanings such as:  “To bind tightly, a protective covering, a casing, a shelter.”  The next question posed might be “what exactly goes on inside a cocoon?”  If you have the pleasure of observing a cocoon it looks like nothing is happening and it is just hanging out so to speak but that is not the case at all. There is quite a bit of commotion going on inside that little casing, cocoon or chrysalis.  Let’s look at the butterfly for instance.  The caterpillar’s  body is broken down before it can become a new creature. It actually digests itself into a liquid where some cells eventually become the anatomy of the butterfly. Then it pushes itself or cuts its way through the protective covering.

WOW! Isn’t that what we experience when we accept Jesus as our savior? Think about it. The moment we accept Jesus the Bible tells us that we are new creatures and that the old has passed away and all things have become new. We push or cut away from our old nature but unlike the butterfly we are going through changes or metamorphous  every day.  As we are going through these changes I see us surrounded by a cocoon of grace. Grace is the unmerited favor or the unconditional love of God.  What does grace have to do with a cocoon you may ask?” Well, we are of the understanding that the cocoon is a protective covering or shelter that keeps the caterpillar safe from the outside elements as it is changing.  You could say that our outside element is the enemy always prowling around like a roaring lion.  He is always trying to condemn us and throw those fiery darts at us by saying we are not good enough, we will never measure up, or we will always fall short from the new creature God destined us to be BUT Romans 8:1 tell us, “There is no condemnation for those that belong to Christ Jesus.”  Isn’t it encouraging to know that when Christ died for us, He died for our sins, past present and future, we no longer live under the curse.  If that isn’t a cocoon of grace then I don’t know what is.

Maybe you are reading this and you never accepted Christ as your Savior.  I’m telling you, you can live in that cocoon of grace.  I don’t care what you done or are doing in your life, Jesus loves you.  Ok, so you may be in sin but my Jesus hates the sin but loves the sinner. Just accept Him and let Him do the rest. Don’t buy into the lie that you need to clean up your act or change your lifestyle before you can accept Him. Jesus will meet you right where you are. At the same time, I am not saying you can just live anyway you want. Paul states in Romans 6:1 “So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving? I should hope not! If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there?  Or didn’t you realize we packed up and left there for good?” Ok, I know it is a somewhat confusing but this is what I discovered. Once you grasp the concept of grace, the more willing you are to let the Lord makes changes in you.  At the same time you begin to fall in love with Him and find you are making choices that you know will please him.  Just be willing to be willing.  You may be that caterpillar right now but the Lord wants to change you into that beautiful butterfly if you will let him. Just take into account, the caterpillar changing into the butterfly did not happen overnight. Furthermore I am not implying your life will be easy from now on but I promise you, it will be the best decision you will ever make in your life.  Just tell Him to come into your life and let your new life begin. I am talking from experience.  Every day I am changing more and more. Have I completed the process?  No, we complete the process when we go home with the Lord.  Again, it is a day by day progression and I make mistakes everyday but I am enjoying the journey, with the knowledge that I am loved and accepted just the way I am  but at the same time I am allowing the Lord to finished the change he started in me.  Take a step in faith and take the journey with me, knowing without a doubt that we are sheltered by a cocoon of grace.  I will say it one more time.  He loves you and He is waiting for you just as you are.