Faith, life, Parenting, Uncategorized
Comments 18

Scars that Tell A Story – Learning to Embrace Daily Suffering

'Pebble beach 1' photo (c) 2010, e-Magine Art - license:

“Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.” {Psalm 116:7}

I’ve never had a good answer to the question of why God allows bad things to happen.

I know the pat answers, the religious sounding and correct answers. But really, when you try to apply the pat answers to a broken heart, it’s a little like making a tourniquet out of tissue paper.

Theoretical and theological approaches to the question of unjust suffering sometimes only serve to insult the wounds even further.

But I have had glimpses of suffering, of others and my own. I’ve felt a bit of the searing pain and soul-crushing weight of physical, emotional and spiritual wounded-ness, just a bit, and in theses dark valleys, I’ve found some answers.

I’ve put them in my pocket, like pebbles, small memorials of the truths that have given me insight and guidance to respond to tragedy in a way that promotes healing. I’d like to share my memorial stones with you. They seem random and unpolished, but I’ve learned to faithfully pick them out of the dust and rubble of my human experience and hold them as reminders.

My most recent, and most intensely personal, story is the automobile accident we were in last summer. However, I’d been gathering stones for some years: small truths that have formed me and my response to God when the “big” things happened. It’s these stones that arranged themselves into a foundation, a bedrock of beliefs that upheld me when the battle hit home and the wounds wrecked havoc on my flesh.

The first I remember is my Father’s Hands.

I was only four, maybe five, years-old. We lived in the little trailer in New Mexico. My dad worked in construction and labored through the winter months.

His hands were abused by the work. Fingernails black and blue from a poorly aimed hammer, skin rough from handling wood. And he had these deep, angry cuts at the cracks of his joints. His palms were not lined like the rest of ours, but creviced and engraved with daily suffering. He came home long after dark, exhausted but happy.

As I watched him, I began to understand that living life is hard out there, but to come home, to a place of safety and rest, can be enough to incite gratitude in one’s spirit. And that is the choice he made.

After he ate dinner, he’d say, “Pearl, why don’t you let me do the dishes.”

I remember looking at those wounded hands, imagining the sting of soapy water reaching into his cuts.

Mom would rebuff, “No, Lew, it’ll hurt your hands.”

“After the initial sting, it won’t. Besides,” then he’d smile, “The soap and water will be good for them.”

And he’d get up, still dirty in his work clothes, and stand in that tiny kitchen and hand wash the dishes that fed seven people. Sometimes he’d whistle. Sometimes he’d end his KP duty by spinning mom around on the square of linoleum for a jitterbug. And most nights, he’d ask mom to fetch the salve.

The Watkins brand Petro-Carbo Salve, I think it was called, smelled awful and came in this disk-shaped container a little bigger than dad’s shoe-shine paste. It was hard for his injured fingers to open, so dad would ask one of us to do it. It’s pungency tickled my nose when the lid came off and I’d hand it to him. He’d dip and scoop a fingerful or two and work that salve into the scraped surface of his hands, into the deep cuts that would only crack and bleed again the following day at work.

His hands–the wounds, the service, the baptism of dish-water, the daily salve of home and healing–serve to remind me that daily suffering is useful and necessary.

When I fall to complaining about the little things that scrape at my joy, the futility of work, the wear-and-tear of living here, I try to pull out of my pocket this stone of remembrance.

To know suffering, even the small and daily sort, is to know even better the joy and healing of coming home to Christ, finding nourishment and cleansing and healing in the grace he has to offer us.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” {Matthew 11:28-30}

We can let day to day living and all its bumps and bruising leave us downcast and disappointed. We can deride the circumstances we  must travel through because they hurt us: financial loss, relationship loss, unemployment, betrayal of friends, health issues. Or, we can dip our hands into the healing waters of grace, grit our teeth through the sting, and realize that the whole process is meant for our eventual good.

And then, we can let the scars of the places made whole again, though shiny, pink and sensitive they may be, tell the story of God’s faithfulness and goodness to us, day in and day out.


Your story, your scars, are different than mine. What you are experiencing I cannot fully understand, because it isn’t mine. But our stories can, in concert, tell a bigger story. A story of grace and redemption.

How do you accept daily suffering? How can we better support each other? Do you have any memorial stones to share?



linking up with Michelle and Ann’s place today



  1. Oh, Precious Friend. I love your dad! Thank you for sharing this immense truth. I just blogged about that today today. Thorns that make us great. Suffering that makes us soft in the Savior’s good hands. How good to know that my heart is not alone in the world. So grateful for your words today. Many, many blessing poured out from heaven today, right on top of your head. Thank you.

  2. What treasures they are–those stones of remembrance!
    Beautiful post, Alyssa. Such truth.
    Thank you for sharing a bit of your journey with us. It blessed me so…

  3. This is you at your best… Being the pen for God to share truths that stick to our minds like our parents cooking did to our ribs… My dad was like your dad. He demonstrated the quiet strength of God in an easy manner.

    Those stones I too carry with me. I have difficulties, but the things I face are different than the ones my parents faced, because they paved the way and opened the door of their hearts to God. With all the love and sacrifice I saw, how could I not follow the Truth?

    The scientists found that the trees in the biosphere that made human existence possible down in Tucson, couldn’t keep from dropping their branches, which would ultimately cause them to die. They figured out that without the constant strain of the God made wind the trees wouldn’t generate any tinsel strength that ultimately cause them to survive.

    To quote my old pastor, “Brother – that’ll preach”!!!

    • tinsel strength is tough! I am just in the process of rebuilding so many muscle groups that I feel like my limbs might fall off! I want so badly to walk like a normal person again.

      But, you’re right, there is a certain truth in suffering and death, this theme that is so central to the gospel, that we cannot imagine that we ourselves should be immune from it.

      I’m so glad that even with their imperfections, our parents opened the doors of our faith — what a gift!

  4. roseann elliott says

    Hi neighbor….what a beautiful story of your dad…what a blessing to have a dad that showed the way of Christ…oh there are beauty in the scars…the scars tell a beautiful story if we allow grace…the stings of the water grace…to heal…
    great post…blessings to you…

    • I have struggled with the visible scars of my accident, and a dear girl told me they’d tell the story of my salvation — this was the central idea of this post. I’m so glad she nudged me in a better thought direction.

  5. what tender words – they leave me reflective, grateful, with new insight. visiting from ann’s and I’m so glad I did.

    • Laura,
      Thank you for coming by, and leaving a note. I’m glad you came (and I very much enjoyed your piece about saying goodbye to your boy). Sending prayers,

  6. Your dad’s hands reminded me of a story about my husband’s hands when he did heavy installation of roofing. One sunday he substituted for the kindergarten class. A small girl asked him, why are your hands so dirty? It was difficult to explain that the tar from the shingles would not come off easily. When he retired, it took a good while for that stain to leave. He used goop of all kinds too. For our sin, there is only one cure and we have discovered what it is. Praise God.

  7. Thank you for sharing this memorial stone. This is a beautiful post and a shining example of love and service by your father, on several different levels. “…daily suffering is useful and necessary.” Wise words, Alyssa. It’s a hard truth. I love the nuggets of truth and wisdom here at your place. 🙂

  8. the way you tell your story…I felt like i was in that trailer with you in New Mexico. and all I could see was light and love and healing.

    how can we better support each other? I think we have to listen to each other’s story, not with a word in the mouth, but a heart that is open to receive and to give freely, without judgement, without a quick answer, but with a whole lotta Jesus love.

  9. What you ended with is so true… what we go through is different. And the only thing that makes any sense is knowing our Lord. HE is the only One Who can help us walk through tough and hard elements of life. HE is the only One Who knows the eternal consequences of what we are facing. And, at least in my case, the only way I can make it through w/o hammering and yammering about “disappointment”: is to “face” Him, focus on Him, trust Him. Ain’t no other way to make it through life.

  10. Pingback: The Advent Fulfilled: Looking Closely At King Herod’s Blood-Stained Hands | Alyssa Santos - Rocks.Roots.Wings.

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