R edemption has been on my mind for the past 7 months. Ever since my hand went into rebellion with a repetitive stress injury, the word started ringing in my ears.

I didn’t become friends with redemption right away. I wasn’t even thinking on those terms. For awhile, my thoughts would ping pong back and forth depending on the day. There must be a silver lining to this. What am I being invited to focus on through this small life detour that I may have ignored if my hand stayed healthy? Those thoughts came on the good days. But a liberal dose of these were sprinkled throughout as well: I depend on my hands for basically EVERYTHING that brings me joy in life! This is hard. I don’t like this. How am I ever going to build a business if I can’t use my hands? Wahhhhhh me. I’m so over this! I just want to get back to my art!

Then in the midst of all this, while my hands were still on hiatus, I started talking to my sister Leah. Cue the faint chords of redemption. Leah is a really marvelous artist. She and I had previously batted around the idea of starting an art/stationery business together but, for numerous reasons, it seemed too difficult to me. There was just too much to figure out. Those conversations usually ended quickly with me saying, “Yeah, that would be so cool! But I have no idea how we would make it work in reality – how would we blend our styles, how would we split the profits, who would have what responsibilities, etc etc etc?” This went on and on. I’m an expert at seeing all the pitfalls of a proposed plan. (Uh, that’s legit, by the way. I took a personality assessment that told me so.)

When all my normal activities came to a halt, though, Leah brought up the idea again. “I was thinking about your hand injury and…I would love to be your hands. You can’t use your hands right now but what if I translated your designs for you or we somehow collaborated? I really think we should give this more thought and consider forming a business together.”

I was immediately more receptive to the idea than ever before. Suddenly all those nitty gritty questions didn’t seem as hard to figure out. That resistance I had once felt was all but gone. My thinking started to shift so drastically that it was hard to remember why this hadn’t been the plan all along. This is the PERFECT idea! Of COURSE Leah and I should form a business together!

There have been so many more conversations since that initial chat. It’s gone from a fun idea to a venture we’re pursuing doggedly. I’m talking with an attorney this week actually, to figure out all the legal stuff that goes along with forming a legitimate business. My Etsy shop of handmade cards is great but Leah and I want to take this to a whole new plane. This goal hasn’t been without challenges and there will surely be more – but overall it’s beautiful and energizing and leaves me shaking my head saying, “This may never have happened if my hand had remained healthy.” I’m actually grateful for the injury, believe it or not.

It’s like the John Steinbeck quote that I’ve come to love so dearly: “And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens – the main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.”

In the midst of the tough situation it’s frickin’ HARD to not worry about losing. My brain likes to get on a freak out loop that goes something like this: “This is terrible! This is going to change life as we know it! Say goodbye to every dream you’ve ever had!” Then John Steinbeck presses pause on that soundtrack and says, “Excuse me, but may I cut in for a second? Nothing good gets away, my dear. Have faith in redemption.”

Phew, now all that’s been said, I’ll be TOTALLY FINE, God, if I never have problems with my hand again. Just want to make that clear! I’ll also be perfectly content if no other sadness ever presents itself.

And yes, I see the irony in all this. I completely understand how that last comment shows how very human I am, right down to the core. “I’ve been giving these awesome gifts that I never anticipated through a situation that I definitely didn’t want and I’m going to write a whole blog post about redemption and how everything turned out better than I could have imagined…but dear God, please allow me to avoid any and all future situations of hardship because I’m better off without them. Thank you for your consideration.” Ha! I totally see the absurdity… AND I still feel that way regardless. Maybe enlightened monks would feel differently but I still hate suffering.

I also realize that, in the grand scheme of things, a hand injury is nothing compared to much of the deep suffering in this world. Situations where people say, “What on earth is happening, and why, and how will I survive this pain?” I’m four-leaf-clover kind of lucky that I haven’t personally encountered anything like that yet…but I know plenty who have and I know my future isn’t exempt from the possibility of harsh pain.

So if this starts sounding preachy at any point, it’s basically because it’s a sermon to myself. Boy do I need it. It’s so easy to forget about redemption when you’re right in the thick of a crappy situation. I want to remember that it’s there, even if the redemptive storyline may take awhile to emerge.

THIS is what redemption is to me: something grand and beautiful coming out of something that was ugly.

Here are 3 things I absolutely love about redemption and everything it means:

1. I love that redemption acknowledges the grit. Actually, it hinges on the hard stuff. If there weren’t messy, ugly things present at the start, then redemption would be not just unnecessary but impossible. Without hard circumstances, we get a whole different story, and not a very interesting one at that. I’ll prove it. Story: “Things were great. They stayed great.” I mean, I’m not saying I don’t LOVE that kind of story and hope for it – but at some point in each life in some area, the bottom falls out. And when that happens and I’m grasping at straws, I need the hope of redemption like I need air.

2. Here’s another thing about redemption that I love: when something is redeemed it doesn’t suddenly mean that the hard parts are sanitized and are no longer part of the story. It seems insulting and even harmful when people try to morph other people’s pasts into narratives that actually aren’t that bad. (That’s a classic lament of people who’ve lost someone close, right? When others pat your back and say insensitive things like, “Oh, it was meant to be” or “God just wanted another angel.” Uhhhh NO. Wrong answers. Major buzzers going off right now.)

In light of a world where things can be redeemed, we can still acknowledge that hardships are painful, undesirable, would never even be ALLOWED to happen in a perfect universe. We can still bang our fists on tables and scream into echoing rooms. We can FEEL the unfairness and tragedy of a situation. Then redemption scoops all of that up in its great big hands and says, “Look. I am doing a new thing. YES that was gut-wrenching AND we’re going to make something beautiful out of the wreckage.”

Yes/and. It’s one of the most powerful combination of words this world offers.

3. Redemption doesn’t imply that X had to happen in order for Y to take place. That’s what I like about it, too. There are so many mysteries when it comes to this world, chief among them being why evil and bad things happen and how that can coexist with a God who is good. I won’t remotely pretend to have this figured out or know the answers but I DO know this is where the story of redemption saves me from spinning into a hopeless mess.

When I was growing up, my mom was always quoting her favorite bible verse to us, Romans 8:28. “All things work to the good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” There’s the story of redemption again. It’s not just the good and beautiful things that work to the good. It’s not the things we mistakenly thought were bad but were actually good and that’s why they turned out all right. It’s not that the hardship had to happen in order for good to come. No. It’s simply that ALL THINGS work to the good. It doesn’t matter what you throw into the redemption machine; somehow, once it gets input, good things can arise from the mess.

Now, would things have been BETTER if there hadn’t been a mess to begin with? I’m a lowly, limited human but I’m going to say YES. Evil is the worst. The mystery of suffering is sucky and hard.

I think Anne Lamott describes this paradox best in her gem of a book Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers:

“I also know that life can be devastating, and it’s still okay to be pissed off at God: Mercy, schmercy. I always want the kid to live.
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I can picture God saying: “Okay, hon. I’ll be here when you’re done with your list.” Then He goes back to knitting new forests or helping less pissy people until I hit rock bottom. And when I finally do, there may be hope.
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There’s freedom in hitting bottom, in seeing that you won’t be able to save or rescue your daughter, her spouse, his parents, or your career, relief in admitting you’ve reached the place of great unknowing. This is where restoration can begin, because when you’re still in the state of trying to fix the unfixable, everything bad is engaged: the chatter of your mind, the tension of your physiology, all the trunks and wheel-ons you carry from the past. It’s exhausting, crazy-making.
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Help. Help us walk through this. Help us come through.
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It is the first great prayer.”

(As a quick aside, I read Anne Lamott’s writing and think, “What are you guys even DOING reading my stuff?!? Go get every single thing Anne Lamott has ever written and learn about redemption and suffering and wonder from her! Seriously. Get yourself over to Amazon or the library right this instant.)

At the end of the day, I have little explanation for why suffering is allowed to occur – but I am learning about what can happen to that crackly, dry ground even after the worst draught. The hope of redemption breathes life into the worst of times.

Deep breath. Nothing good gets away, my loves. Nothing good gets away.

Note about the nuts and bolts of this blog: It’s good to finally be back with you after such a long hiatus! Now that my hand has mostly healed, I’ve been discerning how to juggle the huge (and exciting) task of starting this new stationery company with my sister with my other endeavors, including this blog. I’ve concluded that I’ll post on the first of every month. So when you turn the page on your calendar, I hope you’ll hop over here! I’ll have something waiting for you, pinky promise.

You know what you probably shouldn’t do when you have a repetitive stress injury in your hand? Cut up all these peppers:

You know what I did when I had a repetitive stress injury in my hand? You guessed it. Cut up all those peppers (and a bunch more that were in a large bag and about to go bad). I also made apple muffins, swept the house multiple times, edited photos on my phone…the list goes on.

And for SOME annoying reason, my hand has yet to heal from this injury.

The other day I was doing my workout at the gym and nearly started crying because my hand was hurting so much. When I recounted the story to Bobby later that night I was like, “I just don’t get it! Here I am, resting my hand, and it’s throbbing at the gym when I pick up a weight or grab on to a bench to do a leg raise!” (P.S. Aren’t you so impressed with all my gym talk?)

And Bobby observed “Well, it sounds like you aren’t actually resting it then. Right?” That husband of mine. So astute.

I think I was secretly hoping that my hand would be able to understand that I was laying off the painting, writing, and obviously intense stuff but would turn a blind eye to the other normal-day activities. It’s as if I were a 10 year-old who gave up sweets for Lent but then proceeded to have hot chocolate and soda and frozen yogurt because liquid sweet things and YOGURT can hardly count, right?!?!

This is day 14 of this whole saga and finding out I had an RSI. By day 14, things were supposed to be feeling back to normal. I’m realizing that I’ve stunted that a bit.

So where does this leave me? As much as it makes me cringe, I realize that I need to get far more strict about this whole concept of rest. I’m figuring out healthy freezer-type meals that I can literally plop in a skillet and stir with my left hand. I’m asking Bobby to do the more intense meals and chopping. I’m laying off of sweeping and any activities at the gym that directly involve my hands. I’m even realizing that typing very much, however gingerly I go about it, can’t be great for my hand.

That last point, about the typing, brings me right back to this blog. I’m all about consistency and follow-through. I know how important it is. And yet, I think I need to lay low right now and put a halt to creating new blog content until my hand is out of the woods. I can only draw so many Folk-Art Friday creatures with my left hand, so that’s going to be on a hiatus, too.

I’m fully confident that my body will work to heal itself if I actually allow it to do so. Last night, I had a dream about writing a letter with no pain. This has literally become the stuff I dream and fantasize about, ha! To bring this into my reality, I’m not sure exactly how long this true rest will need to be, but I’m ready to do it right.

Please send up prayers and good vibes for my poor little hand so I can get back to this space sooner rather than later! In the meantime, I’ll still be popping in on Instagram (I can’t abandon creativity completely) so I hope you’ll come see me over there. And once I’m back on the blog train, I’ll send out the alert via a newsletter, so please subscribe if you haven’t already (subscription bar on the right sidebar).

Have the happiest of weeks, friends!

I bet you didn’t even know that unicorns could be left handed, did you?! Well, to clarify, I’m actually pretty sure that unicorns are ambidextrous. It’s one of their magical powers. As for someone who’s (sadly) NOT so ambidextrous? This girl.

Since I’ve had to lay off painting due to my repetitive stress injury, I figured I’d try my luck at completing today’s folk-art Friday creature with my left hand. This took me 4 times as long as it normally would and it still is painfully evident that this guy was completed with my non-dominant hand.

I went to one of my favorite open air cafes the other day to read and placed lefty unicorn on the wicker table.

I hope the next customer was inspired to try something new and fun – whether that involved ordering a different item on the menu or painting a mural with their left hand. (I would be positively gleeful if that latter option actually happened.)

Here’s hoping the same for you and yours this weekend – that you step outside your normal routine in some delightful way. It’s good for you!