Faith, life, Parenting, relationships, Writing
Comments 15

Kill the Madwoman

Her soft hands, so fresh from womb, only a few years into this journey called life, placed one smooth-sided block atop another. Her black eyes–steeled flint in focus–worked the masterpiece in the child’s mind. When the final block was placed, pinnacle of the preschool room, she rested hands on lap and breathed the sweet release of the creative and her eyes shone with the single, satisfying comprehnsion: perfection.

But it would not last.

'Children's building blocks_Horizontal' photo (c) 2010, Ano Lobb - license:

Nothing we build with hands and smooth-stoned concentration truly lasts.

In a moment, the ziggurat toppled as another girl’s glistening buckle-strapped Mary Janes marched through the valley of perfection. Her single-minded goal was the dolly resting non-chalant in the pink plastic shopping cart. Her single thought? Mine.

Wails from the builder-girl. Dolly-snatcher trips, lands face first on a Barbie car. Chaos and madness.

And no one got what they wanted.

Crying for comfort, for redemption, for justice they both came to me. I was the fair judge, the lord-of-the-preschool, the One who could set it all aright.
But not really. I offered sympathy in the form of pats, fished for a tissue to clear the tears and snot that threatened to drip on shiny shoes, and performed the magical sleight-of-hand in a caregivers arsenal: Distraction.

And I think of that time when the madwoman overtook me.

America shuddered in terror as the death-count grew. I sat in September-flowered cloister, listening to the silence of the skies bereft of aircraft and prayed. For them, the families, the newly deployed who would come home riddled with holes and problems and missing limbs.

And I prayed for me. Little guilty prayers. Because my life appeared to be a tower of smooth-sided building blocks, carefully placed, wonderfully enjoyed. And I was the princess inside the tower: middle class, happy family, two children-boy and girl- healthy and bright, man by my side.

But the tower was tottering. Joy had fled like the languid pre-Labor Day summer. There was a crisp taste of destruction in the fall air and a war of terror battling in my chest, in my mind. It was Lilliputian in comparison, I knew, I know, but full-scale warfare was happening within me. The A-bomb might drop at any moment and leave me ruined. And I was terrified.

We had lost thousands in bad investments, victimized by people we thought we could trust. We were upside down in real-estate debt. And as punctuation to the run-on sentence that threatened to destroy us: a baby unborn, lost before we met.

Even the unborn were unsafe.

And then, as school began and the calendar turned to fresh September, I missed my period. Yes. No. Could I be?

Pregnant again.

The miscarriage and pregnancy and ensuing tide of hormones ground me down into the cave where I met the madwoman, wild-eyed hermit of fear. She ran naked and filthy in the realm of my unkempt soul and taunted me and my perceived security. And my wails to God became all about me and my fear.

I was afraid of anthrax and small pox. Vivid dreams of my children and new infant, poxed and oozing, startled me awake gasping. I stumbled to the bathroom for a drink, a breath of air to shake the cold-sweat terror off my back.

And I saw her in the mirror: eyes wide and flaming, fevered with fear; hair everywhere framing gray skin in the moonlit room.

In an instant I flicked on the light and saw only me. Tired me. Sad little me. Wearing pajamas and not in tattered rags like some female Smegol. I took a long draught of water straight from the stream and stumbled to bed.

Next day, I pulled the plug on the cable TV– right out of the wall. I stopped answering the phone and never got the mail from the box beside our quiet suburban street.

 I dug trenches and hunkered down, an anchorite of the soul. Weaponless, I had to wait out the battle and pray I survived. I prayed feeble prayers that this child within me didn’t come out touched by the darkness, like a baby Edgar Allan Poe. I asked that she come through me unscathed, that being in the womb of a near-crazy lady might not affect her.

I sank into my bed as the autumn sun stretched golden on the garden, exhausted from the ministrations of my daily activities. I still cooked dinner, pushed my children on swings flying at the park, made home-made playdough with food coloring and glitter mixed in. I planted flower bulbs in still-soft soil. I acted out the scenes of life and hope, but the madwoman within, a parasite, sucked me dry.

I ran to God nightly begging my pauper’s prayer: save me from this fear, please, take it from me!

The silent answer, night after night. Nothing.

I talked with my obstetrician. He set my file down, leaned on the counter facing me and with all I had left in me, I believed he was going to say, “Alyssa, there’s no hope for you.”

Instead, he said these words, “I think we could give you something for the anxiety, but first I want you to think about something: Remember what you know. Remember Who you know, and give into that. See if that helps.”

Soft pat on my knee and the enlightened guru disappeared into the mist of the office hallway.

Who I know.

What I know.

The next morning, while running the shower too long, I leaned against the wall and knew my prayers had been the broken ramblings of the spiritually insane. With clarity of spirit, like the possessed swept clean I said, “Forgive me Lord, for my fear. Forgive this obsession with destruction that I built into an idol. Create in me a clean heart, Oh God, and restore unto me the joy of your salvation. I confess my sin of fear.”

The pelting water ran cold and the madwoman ran, her screams diminished by the birdsong at my window.

From the shower stepped a new person, free and baptized in the waters of confession.

“The peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7


Friend,  He who knew no sin became sin for you. He is our peace. He can save us from the madness. He already has. Do you know him?

I am broken and spilling prayers for you today.

Linked with Peter Pollack’s One Word

and here, too :



  1. A part of me worries that I know exactly what you’re talking about, Alyssa. That I have seen that woman. I, too, have utilized my time in pouring water to confess myself clean.
    You stirred my heart as always.
    So thankful for grace. So grateful He gives relief. So blessed to know I’m not alone. . .
    Thank you.

    • Isn’t that a gift of heaven, this community of grace? I am amazed to think we get to live in community forever in the presence and light of Jesus — and free of the battle — thank you, too, friend, for coming and reading and sharing.

  2. The hardest battles are always the ones within… The only way to win is to submit to the Truth. His Truth. Amazing miracle how we can be in the exact same circumstances and within seconds be in a place 180 degrees apart spiritually. God is great.

    Thanks for sharing that personal story. They don’t get any better than that…

  3. OH, bless that sweet, brave man for speaking truth to you. Beautifully told–so raw and tender. I am honored to read this part of your story.

    • He is an amazing dr. to be sure, and he is sweet and wise — I am grateful for that day he spoke truth to my quavering heart.

  4. Hi Alyssa,
    The pathos and fear here, Christ knew all along.
    Even when you heard only silence, He heard your heart.
    Heard your cry and answered.
    I recall that day so well myself. Who could forget?
    Seems like only yesterday I looked to Psalm 91
    For my own consolation.
    He who dwells in the Secret Place
    Of the Most High, shall abide under the shadow
    Of the Almighty…
    Let us hide ourselves in Him,
    Always. ~ Love and blessings!

    • When I think of the options, the other places I could run — there is nowhere that compares to the Shadow of the Almighty —
      thank you, Debra!

  5. We get angry when our blocks are toppled over by others and our world crumbles around us, but there is HOPE. Those healing waters shower over us and cleanse us and cause us to be whole again.

    • Hazel,
      There’s a passage in Isaiah that tells of a dark future day when no one even sings or makes music — hope will be lost. That verse makes me so sad and makes me choose to “sing” (of course I write better than I sing, so I stick to that:) ) of the Hope of the Cross —

  6. Occasionally something is dropped into our life that fills us with fear and dread and doubt… and keeps tripping us as we try to turn to the Lord. My more recent ones were related to my daughter’s divorce about 5 years ago and how this was affecting my g-kids. It was her choice, her persistence and INsistance… and the consequences could be “deadly” for years. I think I cried for most of that year. Things have changed, both good and bad, but my fear has reduced significantly and, in that particular situation, I’ve been able to stop being a “Mom”, “Mom-in-law”, “Grandma”, feeling whatever was needed would be my responsibility. When fear and panic try to take over, I give it over to Him… again, and again…

    • Joanne,
      I think heartbreak and fear are close cousins — often when we suffer pain, even the pain of those we love, our next step is fear. I don’t know if it’s to protect ourselves or because we have to find the faith again to grasp hold of Truth, but the fear comes in and terrorizes. Bless you for sharing that it is an ongoing process… we are to keep going to Jesus, who gently lifts it from us and gives us hope instead…

  7. Hi Alyssa~ I don’t know if you remember me from many years ago, back at NWC. I am Shari Schmidt, now, Shari Miller. I was so happy to have stumbled upon your blog. You writings are simply wonderful! You have an amazing way of putting words to page and creating pure poetry. I heard about your accident last fall. You and your family have been in my prayers. I am glad you are getting better. God is good! Many blessings to you!

    • Hi Shari!
      Yes, I remember you. We’ve come a long way since NWC, haven’t we? At least I know I have — thank goodness that Jesus and everyone else that loved me never gave up on me. I’m glad you commented here and I’m grateful to the opportunity to reconnect! Thank you for thinking of us during this recovery — it has been a challenge, but God is good and we’ve been surrounded by wonderful people that have helped us and loved on us through this. The prayers, though, they have been amazing in keeping us going. I read on your blog about your battle with cancer, so you know, in a very real way, that we sometimes have to navigate through places we did not plan to go. I hope that you’re well and cancer-free. So happy to “see” you again.

  8. Wow. Your words ~ so poignant and true ~ resonate deeply. To remember what you know and Who who know. What beautiful words of encouragement.

    I’m here from “Write It, Girl.” And I’m so glad to have found your blog. I’ve read your About page. We have some things in common. I’m looking forward to reading more.

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