Stories that Matter

What Do We Do Then, With The Broken?

Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving dinner table and turkey painting

We’re officially in holiday season. Tomorrow, my friends and family in the US will celebrate Thanksgiving. And then the Christmas decorations come out, the tree goes up and before we know it we’re singing Jingle Bells. Silent Night. O Come All Ye Faithful.

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But there are those around us who do not want to sing this year. Those who feel they don’t have a lot to be thankful for. Those who ache and wrestle with wounds so deep that healing seems impossible. I know them. You do too. And on some level, we’ve been where they are.


She comes to me one Sunday after service. It’s been awhile, years really, since we’ve talked and I’m surprised to see her here. And she tells me her story. Why she’s alone now and fighting the battle of her life. But she still smiles somehow and keeps saying God is good. Keeps saying it.

And I have to work hard to not shake my head. Because, really? All I can think is, Jesus, where are you in this? How can this madness, this horrific heartache, possibly be part of a plan that works all things together for good? And my second thought is, there but for the grace of God go I.  Because, this? This is my worst nightmare.

Complete abandonment.

That’s my trigger. Those roots run deep.

When you know that for the first few days of your life, you were left alone, unwanted, unnamed, unloved, abandoned by the very one who gave you life…well…you never quite get over that. You slap smiley faces on it and show the world the happy family photos and proclaim that it all worked out in the end. But. Still.

Still, forty-nine years later, I wrestle with it.

So I feel that friend’s pain perhaps a little more deeply. I lay awake some nights and wonder when the day will come that I too will be alone. Because I’m a wreck. A mess, really. I just can’t seem to get it right and I’m sure that one day it’ll catch up to me. Because why would anyone want to put up with this? Yet, they do. They choose to stay. They choose me.

What do we do then, with the broken?

Words like faith, acceptance, forgiveness and love join hands and dance ’round my mind until I have to pay attention because they just won’t stop. And they’re kicking up a lot of dust.

Do I have faith? Yes. Most days. Some days I have more, some days I scrape the bottom of the barrel to find it. But it is there.

Acceptance? Okay, that one smarts a bit, but I don’t have a choice. My history is mine. It can’t be changed. So yes, I accept it.


That’s the kicker.


I don’t know how to forgive on the level it would take to break those kinds of chains. I never have. Coming to terms with a thing but truly moving past it are two entirely different tasks. Perhaps if I had told her then, my birthmother, on the one occasion that we got to meet before she died, that I forgave her…perhaps that pain might not still simmer. But I didn’t think she’d care, really. I didn’t think it mattered so much.

And finally. Love.

They say love is a choice, not a feeling. You can fall in love, but you choose to stay. I guess that’s true. I suppose if you’re loving, really loving, someone on the level we’re called to, as Christ loves the church, you just do. I can never wrap my brain around that one. And I wonder if I’ll ever love myself that way.

So. What do we do then, with the broken?

We can’t fix the pain. I know that full well. I’ve tried. I keep trying. And I keep failing. Until finally it occurs to me to let it go. Slow learner that I am. Why do I hold onto this crap? All God wants is for me to be free. Really free. Do I think the cross was just for kicks?


Ever try to take away a toy from a toddler when they don’t want to give it up? Screaming and kicking and wailing and you wonder who the demon-possessed child is…but then it’s gone. And there is blessed silence. Then comes the laughter.

How quickly they forget. And forgive.

Perhaps that is what child-like faith is all about. Give it up already and move on.

What do we do then, with the broken?

Love. Accept. Listen. And hold tight.


Because one holy night, a lifetime ago when stars burned bright and all was still as the world held its breath, hope was born.

We know it. We have it. Hope lives on.

Share it.



  1. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser on November 26, 2014 at 11:40 am

    Good morning, Cathy.

    You have written a lovely essay, filled with truths that are very deep. I am sorry for the heartache that you have had to face.

    Your essay is a mirror. We are all both broken, and resilient. Shattered and whole, and it is incumbent upon us to ensure that we realize that no one goes home alone.

    In a past life, a mantra was “everyone goes home, or no one goes home”. It is my belief that we must embrace the wrecked, the shattered, the ruined, and carry them over the paths they can no longer walk.

    Because we are being carried, ourselves.

  2. Cathy West on November 26, 2014 at 11:44 am

    Love it, Andrew! So true. Hope you’re feeling a little better today. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

    • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser on November 26, 2014 at 11:54 am

      Thank you, Cathy. Memories are still very fragmented, but one proceeds from the loci of heartache and faith, and in that journey is accompanied by the Almighty.

      Happy Thanksgiving to you, in return, and may God have a place at your table, always.

  3. bethkvogt on November 26, 2014 at 1:30 pm

    You do get it … because you’ve embraced your broken. And because you still carry a piece of that broken in your heart.
    So maybe that broken doesn’t totally go away like we wish it would.
    Maybe that’s what heaven is for.
    Down here … we’re still broken. We walk with a limp. Our heart beats with a limp.
    But we know that one day redemption and reconciliation will be complete.
    And that’s what we long for …

    • Cathy West on November 26, 2014 at 1:32 pm

      Yes. That is our hope. And thank God we have it. We are given it. And we can hold fast to it, knowing that one day, this too shall pass. 🙂

  4. micksilva on November 26, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    YES! There it was. The God-honest truth.

    Complete abandonment. The primal fear that we are ultimately all alone in the world.

    You’ve asked the fundamental question. What to do with the broken? And I think with this post you’ve demonstrated the perfect answer.

    We share it. We express it. That picture of the little girl is priceless. I’ve screamed just like that. “You want this, God? Well, here you go!”

    …and then what? What happens next once you let yourself express it? Once you find you weren’t struck by lightning?

    I’m waiting to find out…

    • Cathy West on November 26, 2014 at 7:25 pm

      This letting go, it has to be complete. It’s not letting out a little rope then pulling it back in. It’s the snap of a tape measure that whizzes back into the box when you release the catch. That’s the hardest part for me. “Here, Lord, take it.” “Oh, wait…I’m not quite done…”
      But maybe this time. Maybe this time…
      I’m waiting to find out too. 🙂

  5. Jennifer Zarifeh Major on November 26, 2014 at 5:32 pm


    I think I can relate to you on that abandonment thing. My biological father left us when I was 2 and my brother was 4.

    For YEARS my thing was “you knew me, and maybe even loved me, then you chose to walk away”.

    So for me, having someone CHOOSE to get to know me and then STAY??? That blows my mind.

    • Cathy West on November 26, 2014 at 7:22 pm

      Doesn’t it just? Some might call me silly. After all, I never knew her. She was just a woman who carried me for nine months. What does it matter what she did? I used to think that too. Until I let myself really feel, really know that deep down, it did matter. And it’s part of who I am. So I wouldn’t change it. But it’s complicated. As you know. So we plod on, but every day is a victory because of who we are in Christ. And I celebrate that with you.

  6. Jennifer Zarifeh Major on November 26, 2014 at 5:32 pm

    And yeah, accept it, and hold tight.

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