Sunday, May 29, 2011

Spinning

I've spent the last two days weaving down the hallway like a drunken sailer, holding on the the walls like it was about to rise up and hit me if I wasn't careful, my head spinning like a top.  And I hadn't even had a good time to have told about it, or forgotten about it. Hadn't had a drink too many, or even a drink at all, simply the dizziness that makes the world spin on its axis, making me want to take to my bed with my eyes firmly closed, hoping it'll disappear when I next open them.  No such luch--at least not over this holiday weekend.  So I grab the walls and keep walking.  Stare down my dizziness as though that has a chance in the world of doing any good.  I steadied my gaze on my sewing machine, in hopes that the single-minded pursuit and focus would keep my head from rolling off its axis.  However, the moment  I raise my head, it all comes rushing back to meet me--the dizziness, the floor which seems to have grown waves like the ocean, waves which my landlocked legs have no hope of navigating with out listing off into the sea.  Lest you thin I'm exaggerating, you should ask Beve or E just how much I resemble the drunken sailor I'm calling myself.  All I need is a peg leg and an eye patch and it's the pirate's life, I tell you. Yo, ho, ho ain't all the legends might have you believe.

Therefore, because I have am actually attempting to write this post mostly with my eyes closed, the possibility of profundity or even thoughtfulness is unlikely. So I'll resort to a more prosaic post. A simpler offering: some photographs of my recent quilting projects.  With any luck, I'll manage to accomplish that one small task.

These are the two sides of a duvet cover I made for our friends who have been our hosts, SK's surrogate parents, nurse, counselor, friend, and a plethora of other things during her years at Whitworth.  It was a small enough gift for all the ways they've blessed us and her with their love, patience, wisdom and presence in her life and ours.  We are abundantly grateful, and I hope that as they are covered by this duvet they are always aware that we take none of it for granted--not what they've done for SK, for us, or for any of the many, many others who have come through their lives.

A peacock-hued lap-quilt I made for SK a year ago, but never managed to get a picture of.  She loves these colors.  Always has. Always will.  It's my version of a scrap quilt, I suppose.

A little lap quilt I laid out on the floor one afternoon from some scraps, and before I finished playing with it, it was this.  And by the time I'd finished quilting it, I knew who it was meant to belong to, though I wasn't aiming for her when I started.  I don't know why, but it's hers and God knows.  And may it bless her as she's blessed SK's life in these last several years.  

I told Beve a few weeks ago that I wanted to make a lap quilt for him. But because he's a legal giant, his lap quilt is approximately the size of a normal person's twin bed quilt (or maybe just a bit larger!). Anyway, here it is.  These are Ty Pennington fabrics, and, believe it or not, Beve actually chose them from my well-stocked (I'm almost embarrassed to say how well-stocked) shelves of fabric.  It may be hard to tell from this photo but they're peach and light blue and brown.  I told him I could either use the fabric with a white contrast (which I already had) or I could buy some brown.  He said, "I think it would be fine if you bought some brown."  If you know how often he rolls his eyes as I buy fabric you'd find this comment very illuminating.  But he has good taste--the brown works, I think!

Last summer when Beve's middle brother and wife were here visiting, my sister in law and I were talking about my quilting, and she said she loves the color teal, and is really drawn to Asian prints.  I immediately took her into my sewing room and showed her a set of coordinating fabrics I'd had for over a year, not knowing what their purpose would be.  She couldn't believe it--they were exactly the colors she loved, even down to the gold flecks in them.  So I told her I'd make her a quilt with them.  Someday.  And I finally, finally got to it.  The list has been long, but it's done.  I think she might have even forgotten.  The second picture is the back.  I've been wanting to try my hand at creating a plaid, so this is my attempt.  It might not show up very well in the photo, but it was an interesting exercise.

And that's all I've got...for now.  There are more in the works, of course.  There always are.  I have nephews I've never made quilts for...which I really want to, but only if they let me know what colors they like.  (That's a hint, boys!)

And some relatives coming from far away might--I say, MIGHT--just have to make space in their bags for the trip home.  

But for now, I must lay down my spinning head.

PS. Sorry about the typos.  E started laughing when she read this post.  I came back and corrected them, but that's what happens in this state of dizziness.  Teach me to type with my eyes closed!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

V Revisited

Remember V?  Those of you who read this blog from the beginning--or know us--remember an afternoon when I opened the door of my home to a young girl with a ski cap pulled down over her head, so that I couldn't see her face.  Beve had warned me, just moments before that she was on her way, so while I was out on our back deck, crying into my phone to my neighbor, E was calmly changing sheets on a bed so this girl would have a place to sleep.  And then I opened the door for what we all thought would be a two-week stay.  V.  It turned out to be a three month adventure.  Sometimes fun, more often than not, difficult and stretching and so far beyond what we thought we could do, it was like all the parenting we'd done with our own three in all those years before had only been the practice runs.  It was like we were in a great rock tumbler with V, and with her sisters and mother by extension.  The bruising was fierce, and sometimes I wanted very much to run away.  The times we were lied to by V, or screamed at by her mother, or cried at by both...well, as I say, a rock tumbler.  My stomach was in knots the whole summer and I'm pretty sure I didn't sleep soundly until she left.  BUT...that great stretched-out, rock-tumbling summer was absolutely something God meant for us to do.  I knew it even as it stretched us, even as it hurt and ripped and made our peaceful home a place of such strife.  And we've always prayed that it would reap something in V. Someday.

That day I opened the door was May 30, 2008.  Each year since, on Mother's Day, V calls to wish me a Happy Mother's Day.  She no longer lives in Bellingham, so even Beve hasn't seen her in the last couple of years.  But she called him yesterday, said she was coming to town, and we arranged to see her today.  When I opened the same door today that I opened three years ago, her head was thrown back and she was smiling at me.  V.  A now high school senior V.  More mature, more at peace (I think), but still herself, still playing us a bit, telling us what she thinks we want to hear.  Ah yes, we thought almost immediately, V.  We remember this.  Before she'd been here half an hour, we were talking about teenage sexual practices, pregnancies and all of her friends who are moms.  When she would have made just a couple of snide comments, we made it a real conversation.  Made her talk about the difficulties, the pain, of how the only good choice is to NOT have sex. Even J, who had stopped by, weighed in on the subject.

V always knew what she could get with us.  And, even when it was hard, I think that's why she calls me on Mother's Day and why she is glad to see us now.  There's a lot in her life that is hot and cold. She neither knows what she's going to get from them, nor is she consistent in how she responds to others.  But the Beve is who he is.  And I can't be anyone other than myself no matter how much I try.  And believe me, I used to think it would be great to be someone else, someone more quiet, a less strong personality.  But God made me this way.

And I believe it's the very consistency in Beve and me (with all our weaknesses present as well) that V remembers fondly and is grateful for.

And if we're going to be used by Him, I'd just as soon it be so.  If the going is hard--as it was with her, and it may be again with others--it's Beve's consistency that I count on, and my compulsive communicative-ness that he relies on.  God uses us as He made us.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

On my mind

Some days are like this. Some days I wake up with a single person so firmly in my brain that it's all I can do to put one foot in front of the other to do my own tasks in my own house in my own life.  I'm that much centered--in mind, heart, prayer--on whoever has a grip on me.  The Holy Spirit does this, of course.  It's the Holy Spirit who puts a bungee cord between people so that prayer can accomplish what might not be even thought of otherwise.  I've learned not to fight it.

But today was a no-brainer.  Today I spent the day praying for a young woman, a family awaiting a baby, and all the pain and beauty between the two.  I've known for a while that this day was coming, but woke up this morning with the strong impression that this was THE day, and sure enough, SK texted me not long afterwards to say it was the day.

My youngest brother, BB, turned 40 Tuesday.  Forty years ago, my dad was forty years old and got the best birthday present of his life.  I think of BB as that, the best birthday gift of my dad's life.  And this year, I'm thinking more than ever of the young girl we'll never know who gave us that gift.  I've thought of this so many, many time over the course of BB's life, how much I love him, how glad I am that he's my BB, how much richer my life is because he's in it. But until this year when SK's been walking alongside a friend making the same hard decision, I never really considered the gift of BB from his mother's point of view.   I know nothing about BB's birth mother, so I have no idea what motivated her decision.  But what she did, and what this friend of SK did this afternoon when she placed a baby in his family's arms, is a sacrifice of love.

A family has a new baby this evening.  And apparently they love the quilt they were given along with their new son; I'm glad to have had a tiny way to bless them.  But as much as I feel joy for them, my heart is aching for SK's friend.  But God understands that too. He knows.  He understands and will redeem what has been given up willingly.  He is the restorer.  He is.

I'll keep praying.  As He leads. Wherever He leads.

Yes, it's been one of those days in one of those weeks.  Do you have those?  Do you pay attention when you can't get someone out of your mind?  That's Him, you know.  His whisper.  Let it lead you to prayer.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Spend it all

Beve's having a little pre-bedtime nap on the couch across the room while we watch an NBA basketball game. Beve's been known to sleep through every sport known to man, through movies so intense I could hardly blink my eyes, let alone close them and drift off to slumber.  I mean, he slept through "The Passion of the Christ!"  When I was purposely not allowing myself to look away from the screen--through the relentless beatings, especially--Beve was sitting beside me, his legs twitching, because it was, after all, a darkened room and he was sitting in a semi-comfortable chair (though his definition of comfort and mine are light years apart!), and sleep comes naturally enough in that exact environment.

I envy that about my husband.  Have I mentioned that before?  I envy the ease with which he sleeps and the ease with which he awakens and the ease with which he walks through much of his day. But the truth is, Beve carries a heavy load every single day of his life.  And if he crashes at the end of it, and every chance he gets, it's because he's worked for it. Where he's spent his waking hours--the counseling center at Squalicum High School --is like the deep end of the pool.  A whole lot of traffic comes through that door.  It's a diverse and needy population Beve spends his days with and he walks among them well.  We laugh at times because all the administrators at his high school are short, like about my height, even the two male principals, so Beve stands out like a street light when he's with them.  And they look up to him not merely physically but for all kinds of support.  I love that about the Beve.  I love that his couch is where people come when they simply need to vent--teachers, staff and administrators as well as students and their parents.  I love that he takes so much time with people that he's their safe place.

OK, so I watched Oprah's last show today, and she was talking about people finding the thing they feel called to do, that which they are passionate about.  Pretty much the same kind of thing I write about all the time. Beve is one of those who most exemplifies this in my life.  He knows well what he's meant to do.  It's for this he was made.  I think the most satisfied people I know are those who feel this way about their lives.  Whether it's a calling to engineering, nursing, business or the theatre, if we are about what we were made--in His image, from the first moments that that sperm met the egg, made--to do, there is a deep well of satisfaction in the doing.  I feel it.  I feel it when I write.  I know that writing, whether there is a paycheck or not, is my God-ordained calling.

That whole paycheck thing often gets in the way of people discovering what God made them to be.  The need to work and pay the bills and have insurance and...keeps people so firmly on the job treadmill that there's no time to think about passion and calling.  And I get that.  I also get that I'm lucky to have the freedom to think about such things without the responsibilities of such bone-tiring passion-zapping work.  But what I'm saying, no, what I hope is that there are moments when something rises up inside that helps you know, "For this I was made."  That's what Oprah was saying today.  But she didn't originate the idea.  That came from God.  If you were made in His image, He made you with a purpose, and that wasn't merely to have a job and get through the week.  Maybe it was about being a parent, or a friend, or a person who creates--via cloth, yarn, paint, or whatever.  Or it's organizing  (if so, could you please help the Beve?).  When I think about how many parts of the body there are, so many we can't even see or understand, I KNOW this is also true for the body of Christ as well.  Nothing is wasted, friends.  Nothing. Whatever lights you up is undoubtedly from the light of the world.  Isn't it?

So embrace it. No, don't just embrace it, but spend it. Spend it all.  That's what I see in Beve. Every day he gets up, laces up his shoes to go off and spend it all.  He keeps nothing in reserve.  And what he discovers is that God replaces what he's spent.  It's like the manna in the wilderness.  If he tried to hold back, it'd just mold.  God gives him everything as he spends everything.  That's passionate living.  Living and working as he believes he's been called.

Yeah, spend it. Spend it all!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The weight

E and I drove down to Seattle yesterday to pick up SK's car.  SK and her two closest now-college-graduate-"We have BA's, world, and that stands for Bad-A_ _" (as they said!) girlfriends are taking a celebratory roadtrip down the coast of California, via Las Vegas (I think...). It was good to see her for a rather frenetic lunch.  I say frenetic because she and her friend were a bit hard to follow conversationally as they relived the last week of saying good-bye to a life they loved.  Lots of inside jokes, as is always the case with young women who have lived in the same space for so long their very bodies take on the same rhythm.  They hated to leave but are looking forward to this next adventure, both in the short term (the road trip) and the long term (the jobs and internships they have waiting for them in the fall). Many of their friends have such large question marks at the end of their rental leases they decided to stay in Spokane at least another year so they can continue with the close community they've so loved.  This was not for SK and these two friends.  No way, no how were they going to put their lives on hold for another year.  They loved college and Spokane was fine while it lasted, but it's over now.

This isn't to say they don't have some fears about the future.  Of course they do.  They wouldn't be human if they didn't.  An unknown future always makes us a little anxious.  It can twist us into knots if we let it.  But better to admit it to ourselves and God than to stay put in a safe place because we're too afraid to take a wrong step.  Right?

On the way home yesterday, I was listening to NPR, and there was an interview with a woman whose sport is competitive speed hiking.  I'd never heard of such a thing before, and it actually goes against what I instinctively thought was the purpose of hiking.  I didn't think it was to cover as much ground as possible as quickly as possible, but to walk slowly and purposely, somewhat contemplatively so as to enjoy the natural world.  This woman, when asked this, claims that speed hiking is absolutely contemplative, it just takes more hours fewer breaks in a day.  She starts at 4 AM, stops for a ten-minute lunch and hikes until 9 PM.  Other than that, she simply walks, though 'sometimes the trails tells [her] to run.' Then she eats, goes to sleep and starts all over again. She holds the women's record for hiking the Appalachian trail, on which she averaged 36 miles per day.  Her top day was something like 48.  My dad used to take his scout troops on 50-mile-hikes and it would take an entire week to do it.  So her pace is unbelievable.  And yes, she carries a pack, and the terrain is harsh going at places, and...well, it's a hike, after all.  Not for the faint of heart.   After that winning hike in 2008, she got to thinking of what she could have done differently and decided to try for the over-all record this coming summer, on which she'll have to average 45 miles per day.  "Can you do it?" the interviewer asked her.  "I wouldn't be trying if I didn't think I could," she answered.

I was driving drop-jawed, I can tell you that.  I don't have a whole lot of interest in slow, 3 mile per day hikes that my dad always wanted me to go on.  So this is anathema to me. Really.  It was like staring at a strange animal in a zoo, to listen to her love and passion and compulsion to hike, and hike so quickly.

But at the end of the interview she was asked what she worries about.  And she gave this answer:
"Fear is weight on the trail.  Fear of exposure means carrying too many clothes. Fear of starvation means carrying too much food. Fear of violence means carrying a weapon.  It's the fear that weighs a person down."

Profound, huh?  What do we carry that weighs us down? What do we hold on to that makes our journey harder to take, and the going rougher?   We must identify the fear, I think, in order to let go of the weight that keeps us from the pace of life that God intends for us.  So what is it for you?

Monday, May 23, 2011

What will they think?

Reputation.
I don't think much about this normally.  I just figure if I live well, aim to please Christ, that's the main and only point.  What others think of me is secondary. I remember once in high school, when a boy in my class who was rather wild, with a huge intellect, must have said something perhaps hurtful to me.  I don't remember what he said.  What I do remember is walking down the hall by the library with him (which is a surprise--I certainly cannot remember EVER walking anywhere with him at any other time) and saying, "Only those who actually are in my life have the power to hurt me with what they say about me, Mike."
"So you don't care what others think of you?"
"People will think what they will," I told him.  Can you imagine?  My sixteen-year-old self said these words.  Of course, I'm pretty sure I didn't quite mean them completely then.  How could I?  A girl that age?  Still, it tells me that my feelings about reputation run pretty deep.

Besides, it seems to me that if one is actually following Christ and aiming with her whole heart to please Him, it will show up in all areas of life.  However, every now and then something happens that forces me to examine a concept I believe I'm immune to.  This week has rendered two such moments about my own reputation, one which is laughable and matters not a whit in the grand scheme of things, and the other, less laughable, which continues to plague me, sorry to say.

The first story (which actually happened more recently) occurred the other day when I had to take a lock out to U-Haul to put on the storage unit we got for a month to house SK's stuff.  There were two men at the counter, the young one helping a customer.  The older one, clearly the owner, asked me my business.  I explained what I needed, which was the number of the unit, since Beve had neglected to tell me.  The man asked if I was on the account.  It turns out that I wasn't.  Beve had put E on instead, because she's a sturdy type who can actually lift and move boxes and furniture.  Smart thinking of Beve...except that, with the lock I was holding and E's name on the account, this old man thought that I was the first wife, and she was the second, and I was trying to lock out my ex-husband from his storage unit.  And, even when I told him otherwise, and could recite Beve's name date and serial number faster than he could, he didn't believe me.  He's seen too much in his life, I guess. The people who use storage units must be sorry sorts.  So there I was, trying to convince a man that I am who I am, that my daughter is my daughter and that my own husband is my husband.  See what I mean about laughable? Fortunately, this man also watches the clock and when he saw that it was his quitting time, he pretty much ran out the door, and the younger man, who'd been watching the whole by-play, apologized up, down and sideways about it, led me to the right storage unit and sent me on my way.  I was still shaking my head hours later, thinking of what a vindictive ex-wife I'd been for a while there.

The other--more important to me--situation happened at SK's Baccalaureate.  Before the service, when the Petersons walked in, I went up to Jan and Eugene to catch a word with her.  I knew he'd been in the pre-preaching zone, but she was just sitting there.  We had a few moments to chat and in the course of that, she asked me about my health.  I said a few things, and she asked if I took medication for my leg.  I said, "Oh yes, a cocktail of meds."  She looked at me, then said, "I have a friend who got addicted to pain meds after a surgery, and it's been horrible trying to get off them."  I just nodded, and our conversation moved to other things.  Hours later,  literally, when I saw them walk in to graduation, it suddenly hit me why she told me about her friend.  She thought I was addicted to pain meds. It horrified me.  Really. That Eugene and Jan Peterson might think I was addicted to pain meds, when I NEVER take them--that just killed me.  I can't stand any kind of narcotic because they give me headaches.  I'd rather live with the pain than deal with a different kind of pain on top of what I already have. Besides, what would  be the point?  No, my meds are all directed toward the nerves in my body--anti-epilepsy drugs, primarily.  No addiction possible.

It's in me to want to write them a letter and clarify exactly what I just clarified here.  Just because I don't want them to think poorly of me.  To have the wrong impression.  And I could, of course.  But I also know that ultimately my reputation is in God's hands.  Yes, I am certain Jan did get the wrong idea. It's very likely she's praying for me and my dependency on drugs.  I know her, I know how she rolls. But it also feels small, if that makes sense, for me to have to defend myself.  It's just not that big a deal in the grand scheme of the Kingdom.  Would I care if it was a different person?  Someone with a smaller shadow over the world, and my own life?  Maybe not.

I'm still chewing on this, as you can tell.  Ultimately, as I said in the beginning, what matters most is what God thinks of me, and to live in such a way that I honor Him.  Enough said.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Obedience

I'm a pansy.  I'll admit that upfront.  And I think that most of us are, when it comes to the kind of obedience we read about in the Testaments of the Bible.  We think we have it rough when God asks us to go on a short-term mission, or to fast and pray for someone, or whatever it is that is so sacrificial.  But we really have no idea.  Think of what God asked Abram.  "Take your wife and leave your home for the land I will show you."  Think of the Israelites who'd made Egypt their home, albeit an enslaved one, for 400 years. "Take your families and follow this man, Moses, who will lead you through a sea back to your own land." Think of Joshua, to whom it was told, "Have the people march around this city for seven days and the walls will tumble without you lifting a hand to help."  Even as stiff-necked, rebellious, scared and disobedient as the people of God often and infuriatingly were, they risked more than the majority of us ever dream of doing.

The Israelites Moses led left everything--think of that.  Think of having been in a place 400+years.  What if every descendent of every slave on American soil decided to return to Africa all at once?  That's what we're talking about here.  In theory, there might be much rejoicing among those who had been used as farm and house tools, but wouldn't there also be a sense of, "But this is my home.  I am an American, too."  I can't say, for sure--I can't imagine, and am NOT trying to speak to what I cannot understand, just to place what the Israelites did in a context we might get.  My point is, it wasn't necessarily as simple, "Yippee, we're out of here!"  So it isn't surprising to me that there were grumbling. Really. Obedience is hard.

But then there's Joseph.  Mary's Joseph, I mean. The man who was much more obedient than the people of Israel, with less to go on (only a dream that might well have been something he ate!) and a whole lot more to lose (his reputation, for example).  This was a man who was, as Exodus 21:5-6 says, "a servant for life--with an ear pierced with an awl."  Think of it: he makes a plan to put aside his betrothed wife, goes to sleep, and when he gets up in the morning, he's already made a completely different plan.  A 180 degree change from when he lay down to sleep.  That readiness to obey didn't happen in the morning, but was already there before he went to sleep the night before.  When the angel of the Lord spoke, Joseph was ready to obey, no matter how odd or outside his preconceived notion of what was possible or probable for his life. He's told,"What is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit." I can imagine thinking, very skeptically, 'Well, okay then. The Messiah, you mean?  Of course.' But the text in Matthew simply says he got up and obeyed. The end.

And this was the mark of Joseph's life. 

We talk endlessly about Mary's faith, trust and obedience.  But this amazing carpenter, who was step-daddy to the Son of God was visited by angels not once, but three different times as he carried the burden of this little family. "Take this pregnant girl to be your wife."  "Get them out of Bethlehem--all the way to Egypt."  "Go home now!"  And entrusted by God, as a man and a father, to raise God's own begotten Son to be a man Himself.  Can you imagine?  Joseph helped give Jesus feet to stand on this earth, and was a model of a man for the Son of God.  Think about that a moment.

And all because of Joseph's heart of obedience, that helped him obey before he even knew what it would mean, when the world was pointing fingers, when it cost him everything--reputation (at least for a while), a home, his job, his country.

As I say, we're pansies about obedience in comparison.

But here's the thing about Joseph:  He did it for Jesus.  Yes, for his wife and new baby son, but that son was the SON.  Was Jesus.  He did it for Him. He was always considering Jesus.  NOthing in Joseph's life--from that first dream on-- was about himself.  Ever after, he lived his life putting Jesus first.

This is an obvious thing, because it's what all fathers do.  But it's also a perfect picture of discipleship.  If we can be Joseph, if we can live, paying attention to angels (and we entertain them, Hebrews tells us, even when we're unaware), and putting Jesus first, considering Him, being His servant--we're in good shape.  Do I get up in the night when He speaks? Do I move?  Step away from my comfort zone?  Trust Him when it looks improbable or impossible?

And here's the other thing:  All these things Joseph did, from the moment He first obeyed and took Mary to be his wife onward, he did WITH Jesus.  Think about that.  Jesus was always present.  Yes, yes, I know, He was a baby, small child, little boy. But the metaphor is a good and useful one for us, because we are not left alone even to obey by our own strength.  In fact, trying to obey by our own strength is likely to doom us to failure--at some point or other.  Instant obedience is only possible, I believe, if the Holy Spirit empowers us to it.  If He pierces our ears with an awl so that we are His servants for life.

(By the way, it was when I read those verses in Exodus at the age of 24 that I decided to get my ears pierced.  Before that I'd resisted.  Since, I've LOVED this pierced sense of being His Servant.)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

That day

When I was in high school, many of my guy friends had this saying, motto or slogan or whatever you call it: "Bachelor 'til [the] Rapture."  And while I understood the passion which motivated the sentiment, it was both baffling and annoying to my oh-so-hopeful heart that the best and...da! ONLY Christian guys around were patently NOT going to get involved with a girl, not now, not ever.  Their desire to stay single had a profound effect on my life, no matter what I wished or hoped or dreamed, which seemed very unfair. (I do thank God now that He protected them--and me by extension--because our lives have been much richer for having our concentrating on Him during those first, important years of faith)


These earnest, serious, Christ-loving young men believed (as we all did!) that His return would be soon and very soon.  But we weren't alone, of course.  Throughout history, Christians have been looking at the skies, expecting to see Him returning in His glory.  The apostles didn't even believe a generation would pass until that day would come.  But generations passed.  Christians fell asleep...er, died still waiting for Him.


And, of course, the prophecies grew.  Predictions began almost immediately.  And you know what? So far, every single one of those predictions about when Jesus will return have been wrong.  DEAD WRONG.  Of course, men and women will continue to look at the skies, continue to try to read the scriptures--particularly those certain books that hold mysteries, God-inspired mysteries--to figure out the season, date and time of Jesus' return.  There's that whole Nostradamus thing that people pile onto every few dozen years.  You remember him, don't you?  That's the book in the Bible where...oh wait, that's right, he was just a man. Just a plain old man looking at the sky--at night--and thinking he had it all figured out, with a few thousand caveats, of course.  You know, all those outs so that when his predictions were wrong it wouldn't be on him.


Because of course he was bound to be wrong.  If man or woman could predict it, God wouldn't have told us Jesus' return would be like a 'thief in the night.' A thief in the night, folks.  Is that so hard to understand?  You can't see Him coming.  I mean, think of the first time.  Think of the ridiculously unexpected way He came the first time, to that fourteen-year-old girl all alone wherever she was, in a backwater town that by all accounts nothing good had ever come from before that day. That most holy of holy days when a seed was planted in a girl's womb--who could have predicted that?  Even Isaiah, whom God had told, didn't know what he was saying.


That's how God works.  That's how God always works.  Unexpectedly, even ridiculously to our human standards. So there was no way, no way on earth the world was going to end today.  I was going to say, no way in hell, because Satan might have wished it just to show he is more powerful, but that battle was won 2000 years ago on an April weekend in a small country in the Middle East.  In fact, if you think about it, the most important battle of all was on a hillside alongside thieves, so that's the symmetry of this story, if you're looking for one--He died between thieves, and will return in glory like one.  Imagine that for a moment.  Talk about counter-intuitive.  Would we EVER think of Him like a thief?  Never in a million, because we're pretty much like the Pharisees.  We're all about power and big gestures.  The big moment.  We're looking for fireworks.  I wonder, though, if part of the surprise is that we won't get it.  We might just miss Him because we're expecting something else, something more like a Hollywood blockbuster and less like God's majesty, which I can't even begin to imagine.


However, here's the other thing--the more salient point: What if the world had ended today?  What if this was the day, that great and glorious day when the roll is called up yonder, as that great rollicking hymn says? Are you living your life so that whenever He calls will be a great and glorious day for you? Will you?


Are you ready?

Friday, May 20, 2011

The rhythm

One of the rhythms of my devotional life that I picked up somewhere along the way and never put down is a daily Psalm reading. Those who have lived in monasteries have been following pattern for well over a thousand years.  No matter is going on outside the walls, the Psalms set the tone for their daily, prayerful life.  Like so much about that life, I love this.  If truth be told, as far back as my pre-Christ-following days, I read a novel called In This House of Brede about a very worldly city woman who gives it all up to become a cloistered nun.  I was so drawn to the story I imagined doing so myself, though at the time I had no notion of what I'd be giving up or why I'd be doing it.  Now that I've followed Christ for many years, I still gaze with something like wonder at that simple, prayerful life, though I imagine it neither as pure nor as empty of human drama as my dreams.  A community of people holed up together is bound to create discord and flared tempers, and rubbed-the-wrong-way personalities that must rub along together none-the-less.  The Psalms help.

And they help us.  These very human, at times very primal cries to God to intervene and BE GOD!  These dances in the soul praises.  They help me.  Like familiar friends, at times.  I look forward to certain ones when I know I'm almost to one, like the anticipation of a good meal.  My rhythm is simply to read a single Psalm a day, with the exception of 119, which I read in 2 stanza sections.  When I finish 150, I begin again.  Around and around I go.

This never-ending reading of the Psalms always leads me into whatever else I am reading for my time with God.  There are seasons when it's difficult to plot what I should read next.  (If this is true for me, I can't imagine how difficult it must be to be a pastor who must continually find new and fresh 'material' from which to preach the good news.) In my most drought-filled times, though, the Psalms pull me through.  They are, of course, "new every morning," fresh and clear and stand in the place for when I can not summon my own words.  Prayer when I cannot pray, thoughts to stimulate me when I am foggy and dense.  "Deep calls to deep," they say, and I have found this true.

I'm back at the beginning of the Psalter now, back at the starting line, I suppose you could say.  When Beve and I were first married, we decided to memorize scripture together, and he suggested that we begin with Psalm 1.  He loves this Psalm.  "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the path of sinners or sit in the seat of scoffers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not whither--whatever he does prospers."

This is the rhythm of discipleship.  Delight in the Lord, firmly planted by water (of course!), yielding seasonal fruit.  We often miss this, I think.  We always want to yield fruit, or to yield fruit without being firmly planted and planted where there is water, streams of LIVING water flowing into us so that our roots grow as deep as our branches grow tall.  No lone tree out on the edge of a bluff where the wind will whip its branches, but right by the source.  And fruit comes from cross-pollination.  To become like Christ, to bear the fruit of Him, I need those who will challenge and stretch and push me to become more than I could be on my own.  All in order to produce the fruit of righteousness.

 Because it's the fruit of righteousness Psalm 1 is talking about.   In my early Christian life, I heard much about a different kind of fruit--those people or souls we have led or brought to Christ.  The more mature and theologically astute I've become, the more I understand that 'fruit' in John 15, Galatians 5 have to do with something going on within oneself.  But here in Psalm 1, the phrase is "yield its fruit in season", which has a unique twist.  That there's a seasonal aspect to fruit is obvious in the natural world, but what are we to make of it spiritually?  Are we to assume we aren't intended to (always, in all ways, at all times) be Holy, wholly like Christ, having the fruit of righteousness?  So is there room here to  believe that the Psalmist refers to the fruit of ministry in a different way?  There are definitely seasons for that.  Seasons for planting, watering, watching and waiting then finally--finally!!!--bearing and harvesting fruit.

The point is that we are to live in the rhythm of walking in step with Him and not with the wicked. Delight in Him and His word, and not with the scoffers of it and Him.  It's this rhythm that produces fruit.  And...in this we prosper.  Not in a worldly way, but the Kingdom's economy.

I love that this first Psalm, which can be considered an introduction, is about the rhythm of life. It's the perfect way to start. After all, you get the rhythm down, everything else will follow!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A quick look back

The week has flown, and I haven't done justice to last weekend.  So tonight I'm going to power through the more significant moments of Sunday with SK.  That means I'm leaving out all of Saturday which was a lovely day.  So just imagine laughter with SK, her roommates and their families while we ate barbequed chicken, roasted sweet potatoes and Beve's famous guacamole. And imagine an evening of Whitworth students strutting their stuff in the best possible sense across a stage, singing, laughing and entertaining their friends and family.  SK, along with the improv troupe she's been in this year, were hilarious, and we were thrilled to see her perform one more time.

So that was Saturday in a nutshell.
But Sunday.

But first, as is always my way, a backstory:
You know how there are people in your life who have changed you for good, and changed you forever?  I have a few such people in my life.  Some of them I've even known.  More than once I've met a person through his or her writing and have been so impacted it's like I actually became friends with them.  Years ago this happened.  I met a pastor through his books (via a very good friend), then went to Regent College in no small part because of that man.  At Regent that first fall, I remember one day in particular.  Every person at Regent is put into a community group, like a small group in a church, and when I had a chance to look at the lists, taped to the cement wall, I finally found my name at the bottom of a list.  But in the middle of that list was the name of this man.  This theologian.  Right in my community group.  So for that year, that first year of seminary and first year after my dad died, I sat in the apartment of this man and his wife.  We told our stories there and became friends. They gave our children signed copies of his books.  A few years later, after they retired and moved away, we went to their lovely lakeside home in Montana. 

And that's about the last time we saw them until Sunday morning at Whitworth's Baccalaureate service.  My friend, who was my teacher, is also the grandfather of one of SK's classmates, so was invited to give the baccalaureate address. His grandson, who introduced him, said that sometimes he's struggled with the "So your grandpa wrote the Bible," comments he's gotten from classmates.  This pastor (for that's what he always will be) spoke from the text of John 15, concentrating on the fact that John, a careful writer, used the word, "Friends" three times in the passage.  I'd like to be able to tell you more completely what he said, but I can't.  I was too pre-occupied by how like himself my friend sounded.  The cadence of his words so familiar I got lost in them rather than listening for the content. 

After the service, we raced over to SK's house to load the U-Haul. By the time we got the trailer loaded, the first raindrops had started falling, and by the time we got downtown to the Spokane Arena for graduation, it was POURING!  Pouring, I tell you, and us with no coats.  Dumb, dumb, dumb!  Fortunately, the ceremony was indoors.  It was quite the ceremony too.  My sister, RE, and I had a chance to walk the arena a couple of times before SK walked across that stage.  That's because she was the VERY LAST student to graduate. THE VERY LAST!!!  Last student into the arena, last one across the stage, last student out.  Beve and I really should have changed our name to Awiley.  Or Bwiley? Anyone?  But because she was last, she took the president by the hand and, along with the other graduates of the theatre department, they took a bow together.  It was pretty sweet.

Then it was a sea of students, families, cameras, laughter and tears as we tried to find our SK.  And...we neglected to take a single picture of her in her cap and gown.  If that isn't the epitome of a youngest child, I don't know what is! Sigh. But it's a weekend we'll remember.  It's written in me. 

They do it well, that alma mater of SK's.  Before they're through, those students have been prayed over, committed, praised, advised, sung to, laughed with, pomped and circumstanced the lights out.  And, as we were reminded at every single event all weekend long,  now they go out to, "Honor God, Follow Christ and Serve Humanity" (Whitworth's creed).

A pretty good way to live, if you ask me.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Commission

In Spokane for SK's graduation where we celebrated all weekend long, and I do mean all weekend, the list of events was long and varied, some deep and so thought-provoking they began with a lump in one's throat and end with tears rolling down one's face, others so gut-bustingly funny, it makes me wish I could have walked all the days of these last four year with these students, just to live through them all with them. Capturing a glimpse, however, is all that was afforded me--and all the other parents--before these brilliant, sharp as whips, clever and funny young adults tossed their tassels from one side to the other, took off their gowns and said their final goodbyes to these good old school days.

Friday night was the Communion and Commissioning Service that began the weekend.  As early as a year ago, our friends who have long been a part of this community told us we absolutely could not miss this service.  It's always been their favorite part of Commencement.  Afterward, I fully understood that.  Three things stood out to me from that service.
To begin with, it was significant that the first event of the weekend was the 'sending-out' one.  From this point on, the graduates were already on their way.  I know this is so because right in the middle of this very prayerful, very God-present service, there came a moment when the graduating seniors among us were asked to stand and speak to God, speak such words that should have had them all on their knees.  If their knees hadn't buckled from the very weight of them.  I had closed my eyes to listen (and for once in my life, hadn't read ahead in the program), but when they said the second line, my eyes jolted wide and sought the page.  I had to be sure of what I was hearing.
Here it is, the covenant Whitworth University seniors make with God at their commissioning service:
I am no longer my own, but yours. Put me to what you will; rank me with whom you will.  Put me to doing; put me to suffering. Let me be employed for you or laid aside for you; exalted for you or brought low for you. Let me be full; let me be empty. Let me have all things; let me have nothing. I freely and heartily yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.  And now, O glorious and blessed God, Creator, Son and Holy Spirit, you are mine and I am yours.  So be it.  And the covenant that I have made on Earth, let it be ratified in Heaven. Amen.

Let's sit with that a moment.
No, let's kneel with it.
Can you say that with truth and faith and trust that whatever He brings will be good?
I love this covenant.  I love that SK's graduation began with this.
And with this:  After the covenant, came Communion and the Annointing of the graduates.  As I told Beve later, I got very teary when I watched SK be annointed.  "You and every other mom," he said.  Yes, of course.  But there was also this.  Our youngest daughter was annointed by one of Beve's oldest friends, who is a fine, much loved professor at Whitworth. We're almost always asked how we know RP when we're around Whitworth, and people are always a little surprised to hear we've known him since elementary school.  But there he was Friday night, the esteemed, always relational RP looking intently into SK's face, speaking gently to her as he annointed her with oil.  And just for a moment as I watched, the canvas cracked, and I suddenly saw RP as he'd been when he was SK's age, or a decade earlier, with big bushy hair, who was something of a goofball.  RP?  I thought.  Really?  Then I slid my glance over at my own husband and the same thought came to me about him. SW?  Really?  However did I get from there to here?

And then the canvas closed up again.  Because I know exactly how we all got here.  To that night.  To the graduation weekend of SK.  God.  God was in the night, in the moment, in all the moments between. We'd made covenants.  Promises we'd sometimes kept, and sometimes hadn't.  But He had. The reason Israel was considered a covenant people isn't because they kept their covenant, but because God did.  Again and again.  And so Friday night when I wondered if those oh-so-very-young people knew what they were saying, God knew and will keep His promise to them.  And they are annointed now.  Sent out into the world to serve those He calls them to serve.  That's what RP said that night, that Whitworth sends out its graduates.  Sending them out to do Kingdom work in honor of the King.

I could have come home after that service.  I really could have.  I didn't need a gown or tassel or long speech to tell me she was finished and ready.  And I'm very glad that we started the weekend in the right place--honoring God, committing the graduates to Him, and them to the world.

And you know what He said when He gave the disciples the same commission, "Remember, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."  That's the promise He will never break.
Hallelujah!

Monday, May 16, 2011

A plethora

Home from Spokane. 
SK is a college graduate!
We spent the last three days celebrating in many and varied ways.  I'm a little too tired tonight to write about it all, but let me just say that Whitworth University knows how to send their graduates out into the world with intention, prayer and vigor, reminding them that they now and forever after belong not only to God and His Kingdom, but also to the small corner of it that is the Whitworth community.

We moved from event to event, intermingling those with frenzied moments of packing SK's life.  We drove off this morning with a U-Haul behind us, leaving our newest college graduate over there, hanging with her peeps, cleaning her house before she goes on a road trip with her closest friends to So Cal. We saw old friends, even older friends, new old friends and were blessed by it all. SK was the last--the literal last--person in her class to cross the stage to receive her diploma, embodying the phrase, "saving the best for last!"

But there's more.  A plethora more. Deeper, wider and richer than these bald facts.  And I dare not attempt to write of them tonight when I can hardly think.  So prepare yourselves for a week's worth of ponderings about the weekend's worth of meeting God. 
And now, if you'll excuse me, my bed is calling my name.

Oh, and did I mention that SK is a college graduate?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A day not like any other

I don't have a lot of time today.  Too much to do.  A ceremony awaits, you see.  A celebration long planned, prayed and waited for is looming.  So I have packing to do, last minute details I must see to.  You know, the kind of things you worry that you'll forget to do and will leave the house without.  Beve will ask, "Is it all here--or finished?" and I'll answer just what my father always used to say, "By definition."  By this he meant there is nothing we can do about at this point.

We drive across the state for SK's graduation weekend tonight.  Yes, her college graduation.  A bittersweet time for her as she says goodbye to her beloved community behind the pine-cone curtain, and steps out into the next season of her life. Graduation from college is a lovely, sad moment.  One to celebrate the accomplishments but also take a moment to grieve the passing.  Plans have begun to take shape for the next season.  We look forward with great anticipation.  Commencement to it is a time to celebrate as well.  I love that we call such a moment both graduation and commencement.

Today, however, is another milestone day as well.  And the first paragraph I wrote could have been written almost three decades ago on a sunny spring day in my home town. So, because of what I have to get done today, I thought I'd just share this:

What amazes me about those two oh-so-very-young people (besides how enormous Beve's hand is compared to mine!) is that we thought that because we'd already known each other 18 years, we knew just about everything there was to know about each other.  We were so certain.  I really hated being a newlywed because I just instinctively felt like we were farther along than that.  How naive.  How ridiculously naive.  It's a little like how a new Christian thinks she knows everything there is to know about Jesus the first year.

This is about nine years later, when Beve's dad married Thyrza. We're still look like babes to me (and he always seems so much taller in pictures than he seems when I'm standing next to him!). Our three chublets were taking up all the air in the room in those days, so our marriage was the foundation of our family, but not the focus of our attention, if that makes sense.  We relied on our easy friendship--we had to--and fortunately for us (and no real credit to either of us) we were friends. 

These kind of friends.  Just thought I'd throw this in here.  This picture was taken in the Redwoods of a group of Young Life kids who went to Woodleaf one summer. Beve's on the far right, inexplicably standing on a long, so he's even taller than usual.  And I'm the girl with the lovely white belt (by the way, that's the boy who teased me about my nose in the tank top next to me).  On this trip home, Beve and I sat together and sang every song we knew in the Young Life song book.  I mean, every single song we knew.  It took hours and hours. And we laughed ourselves silly.  We both remember it fondly now.  And God was looking down on those hours knowing what was ahead for us.

We're still friends.  He's my best friend.  I'm so grateful for the life I get to live with him.  For the 27 years of adventure with God and with Beve.  His hair is gray now, and I'm chubby, but we definitely know each other better than we ever did.  And still he keeps surprising me.  That's the truth.  Beve always surprises me.
Happy Anniversary, Beve.
Now on with the day.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Movies

Today, because I'm tired, got too little sleep and can hardly think, I thought I'd cut and paste the 30-for-30 E and her bloggy (how did a word that wasn't even a word a decade ago become an adjective?) friends do on Tuesdays. This week's fare is all about movies.

1. If you could watch only one movie for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Dead Poet's Society, just for two moments: when Robin Williams gets a young, introverted Ethan Hawke to speak the poetry of his soul in front of a class, and when, as Robin leaves for good, the boys stand on their chairs and say, "O Captain, my Captain."  Love, love, love it.  Goose bumps just thinking about it.

2. Let's say someone wrote a screenplay about you; what actor/actress would you choose to play you and why?
Who I'd choose and who should are two entirely different propositions.  I'd choose Meryl Streep, and she could probably pull off a chubby woman in her fifties with a longish nose.  Hmm. The only problem is she's entirely too stylish for me.  She'd have to drab up quite a bit.  But she's good at those kind of things, so maybe I'll stick with her.

3. What's the first movie you remember seeing in theaters?
Mary Poppins.  No question about it.  It was stunning.  The whole experience.  We weren't much for seeing movies when I was small.  My dad was a grad student, my mom was a stay-at-home, sometimes-substitute teacher.  Not a whole lot of extra money for things like movies.

4. Did you ever make out at the back of the movie theater in middle school/high school?
Well, if by 'make-out',  you mean sit by and hold hands with a boy, the answer is yes.  If you mean anything beyond that, absolutely not. Gross.  Though, I unfortunately, I was sometimes the beard.  That is, I was the friend a girl was supposedly going to the movie with so she could really sit in back and make out with a boy.  I'd wind up sitting down in front with some boy--also a beard.

5. Are you a Netflix-er, Blockbuster-er or a Redbox-er? (Or none of the above?)
Mostly a Redbox-er at this point, if at all.

6. Name one actor/actress who you would give anything to have a dinner date with.
Tom Hanks (and his wife, of course).  I just watched him on Oprah and he was hilarious.  The whole place was laughing hysterically.  Plus I loved what he answered when Oprah asked why he'd stayed married to the same woman so long: "Because I'm not stupid." I think he would be interesting and funny and Beve and I would both enjoy them both.

7. What's the worst movie you've ever seen?
Oh gracious, how much time do you have?  When I was in college, I went to a whole lot of movies.  There were 99 cent shows at midnight every Friday and Saturday night, plus matinees, so sometimes we saw as many as 7 shows on a weekend.  My personal best...Anyway, I wish I could say I've walked out of some of those stupid ones, but I didn't.  But I HATE movies where you root for the bad guy, also ones where one calamity after another keeps happening, all for comedy's sake.  These make me crazy.  Beve LOVES Trains, Planes and Automobiles, and I really can't stand it, though I concede that there are funny moments.  Beve and I did turn off The Wedding Crashers after about five minutes a few years ago. Our kids shook their heads at us, saying we need to run our choices by them before we rent movies.  Now that's telling

8. Do you sneak snacks into the theater when you go?
Not very often.

9. Movie theater popcorn: love or hate it?
Unfortunately, love it.  Fortunately, I rarely allow myself to buy it.  Easier not to take the first bite.

10. What is the all-time best Disney movie in your opinion?
My sentimental choice is Mary Poppins, even though my kids will groan.  We had a rather regrettable experience with that movie one summer.  A house-guest found all of our other Disney movies too violent for her three-year-old son, so it was all-Mary-Poppins-all-the-time for those weeks.  Our kids practically wanted to burn the movie after that.  And who could blame them?  But you know how violent Little Mermaid is, after all.  One can't be too careful.

And there you have it.  My take on the movies.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Conquered

We who live in this Star-Spangled nation are used to being victors.  Our history is made up of wars fought and mostly won, usually far away from our shores.  The first of the two significant ones on this continent gave us our independence and the second was fought to free those who had been enslaved by virtue of no more than skin color.  Recently I read an article about how Americans have somehow lost sight of this fundamental truth about that war, that, as President Lincoln wrote in his Inaugural Address in 1861, "One section of our country believes slavery is right and ought to be extended while the other believes it is wrong and ought not to be extended.  This is the only substantial dispute." (Time; April 18, 2011)  Living in the far northwest corner of the continental states as I do, I find it hard to believe that this is true, but we're young up here.  I know that.  Shoot, when I was back east when I was a teenager, there were still folks uncertain if we had electricity out here--and that's a true story!  What that means is that sometimes we're a little like a bunch of idealistic college students who think the world can change by believing it so.  The more jaded, world-weary east coast, the 'I've seen it all, and been hit by most of it' south know better.  They fought that fight, after all, while we were still barely a twinkle in the eyes of the dreamers, still a good yarn before a campfire for those who longed for adventure.

Whoa, I lost my way there, like those walking with the wagons, didn't I? My point is, that was a bloody war, and though there was a winning side and a losing side, in some real way, everyone in this country did both.  The war was won, freedom was given, but the battle wasn't over for those people of color, after all.

And then there have been the many, many wars fought since.  On every soil but our own.  All over this planet practically, we've gone racing off to help.  And well we should.  That's not my point here.  My point is that we feel STRONGLY that we must be the conquerors.  We must.

But what if that gets in the way of our need to be conquered by God?
That's an overwhelming thought, isn't it? To be conquered by God.  To be taken over, lock, stock and every part of me so that He runs the show completely and I am only the...well, only the slave, to put it in perspective.  We work so blasted hard for our own and everyone else's freedom when it turns out, all along, that the best possible thing for us, the only possible way to live that makes sense and gives us room to grow and become like Him, is for us to be conquered and be His slave. 

To our western, autonomous selves, this is a near-to-impossible thought.  We're so used to doing not only for ourselves but for everyone around us as well.  We're just so dang capable, after all.  I mean, if we're Americans, we're the (perhaps fading) super-power.  But how ridiculous is that?  Even to say it is ridiculous.  There is only one Super Power.  Only One.  And here's the amazing, magnificent, world-shaking, life-changing, humbling truth: the One who set the planets spinning and the waters churning is the same One who dwells within and lives to change us.  Who came to conquer death wherever He finds it, which includes the death that sin creates in our own puny selves. He was always after us, you know.  A people for His name.  Conquering death so He could get us.  Because He loves us.

I can't fathom His love for me any more than I can fully fathom my need for Him.  But maybe, just maybe, it helps to think of Him as the conqueror over my unruly heart that will go its own way, if left to my own devices. I am conquered by His love.  No, not a bad way to think of it, at all.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day

My personal history of Mother's Day, via pictures:

First, with my mother.  If you squint, you can see Mount Rainier over her right shoulder (it's easier to see in the actual photograph).   And this other photo with her, which I've always loved, because I'm looking at her, and clearly love her.  It might not have lasted, but it was there then, and that makes it sweet.
Then, with each of my grandmothers:

This is my maternal grandmother, Grandmom.  I'm the child between my grandparents with sand all over heself.  My older brother is sitting on Grandmom's lap.  I'm pretty sure it was at Long Beach, WA, where they owned property.  I remember driving out onto the beach (which you can't do any more), and even this old station wagon of my grandparents...or maybe I just remember the pictures.
And with my paternal grandmother, Grandmomie.  OK, go ahead and laugh. In my defense, let me just say that I like the color orange.  And that to have something like Grandmomie was unbelievably special.  You can't imagine.  AND, I can guarantee the wind was whipping my dress because there's no earthly way I was as chubby as I look in this picture...not until the last 25 years, I mean.


Wait, how did this get in here? Hmm... Just a gratuitous picture of my dad and me that I couldn't resist. And one of my sisters where, if you didn't know us, you'd think us, well , I don't know what you'd think us, but whatever it is, you'd probably be wrong, except about me.  Anyway, have a chuckle on me, ( family!):

 
On to the other, more significant, part of Mother's Day:

E and me: she's about 2 1/2. Beve always called this his award winning photo.


J and me sharing a moment his first Christmas.


SK at about 3 years old, sitting pensively on our back deck.

And let me not forget the tall handsome man with a great heart who made me a mother, has been such a great dad.  I couldn't have done it without him, of course, but wouldn't be the mother I am without his wisdom and humor.  Thank God.  We're all dressed up for Easter when the children were in 4th, 2nd and Kindergarden (the girls in dresses made from the last of the bridesmaid material from our wedding!).

So, to those who mothered me, and to those I've had the privilege of mothering, thank you.  God knew what I needed when He gave me this life.  For better or worse. It's always that way.  My children are always the better!

The End.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

My sisters

Don't know if you've realized it, but Sunday's Mother's Day.  J saw us walking through Costco with a couple of carts full of plants and said, "Oh that's Sunday, isn't it?"  He grouses a little, but our yearly Mother's Day tradition of planting our front patio pots with flowers means that he doesn't have to think of another gift, just has to show up and help.  Not a bad gig, if you ask me.  I'm not one for traditions, but I like this one.

So Mother's Day.
My father had three sisters. And then he had three daughters.  And my mother watched all of us.  She watched her sisters-in-law with their mother, working in the kitchen, caring for their babies, sewing, having a home, and somehow, Mom got it in her head that we should be like them.  There was one GIANT problem with this proposition.  Mom wasn't anything like my grandmother or my father's sisters.  She was allergic to being a traditional stay-at-home wife and mother.  It didn't suit her well, and what didn't suit her made the rest of us miserable.  Life was better for all of us when she took off what to her were shackles of too small a life and returned to the classroom.  Sure, we didn't have home-made cookies or dresses, but we didn't have many of either while she was at home with us.  She was more interested in reading, though her reading did extend to recipe books, which meant every now and then she got some hair-brained (or great) idea to try some new recipe. Most were good, after all, she could read, as I said.  No, Mom was a teacher.  A very good one, from all accounts.  I had her for an entire month my 2nd grade year, but remember next to nothing about it except my inability to call her name.  I was mortified by the idea of calling her Mommy in the classroom, but couldn't wrap my tongue around 'Mrs. Crain' either.  Hence, I just stood in front of her and hoped she'd know I needed her attention. Sigh.

My point is that Mom was very different from the women she unsuccessfully tried for ten years to emulate, not wrong (though she sometimes felt so), just different.

And so the three daughters she raised are different mothers from her--and from each other. And sometimes she didn't appreciate that we parented so differently than she did.  She saw it as a clear slap against her way of doing things, which wasn't always the case, but just meant that we were--we ARE--three very different women, with three different ways of doing things, and those ways have worked out well enough in each of our lives, and, if I dare say so, by the grace of God, in the lives of our children.

RE, the youngest, was the first mother of the three of us.  Because she was the first and the one who lived closest to Mom, Mom had the most influence on the way RE dealt with her children.  It was the path of least resistance, RE has said more than once, which I can certainly understand.  RE was/is also very intentional about tradition with her children.  Come to think of it, intentionality is a very good way to describe RE's way of mothering. She thinks carefully in large ways and small ones. But about tradition: she has the gift of gift-giving, of making an event out of many simple days that I often overlook.  Her children have been shown her love by small acts of remembrance and large gifts of acknowledgment over and over again.  They probably don't even realize how unique it is that their mom loves this generously.  My kids have certainly noticed, though. However, RE isn't a pushover as a mom.  She has high expectations of her kids.  I remember how she went to their school to get work for them to do over summer vacation.  She simply wanted them to stay sharp, to not be lazy, to develop the habit of study early.   And you know, her kids have lived up to her expectations.  They are smart, well-mannered, charming and kind.  AND, the hardest working, most helpful young people you'll have occasion to meet.  She (and her husband, of course--but this is her day) has done the job God called her to do when He gave her these three children.  Does she lose sleep over them? Of course.  Does she sometimes wish one was a little more of this, and another a little less of that? Undoubtedly. But in the end, she's a great mom.

Then there's the Dump.  Dump has unbelievable rules and guidelines for her sons.  Has had them from the moment they were born.  They couldn't eat this, couldn't do that.  If I told you all of them, you'd think she was a vegetarian new-age hippy.  She's definitely NOT a vegetarian.  She loves desserts and raw meat too much.  But the rest?  She started taking her sons hiking while they were still in diapers, taught them to love the out-of-doors the way our dad and she always have. In fact, 'she taught them...' might be the best way to describe Dump's relationship with her sons.  There have been times when they've been discussing the most complex ideas--and this was when the boys were still quite small--and none of the rest of us was even interested.  But they were all engaged.  They're a closed system of geeks, those three.  Smart.  No, beyond smart.  Those boys are freakin' brilliant.  The younger one was doing palindromes ad nauseum when he was merely 5 years old, ones so elaborate I needed paper to work them out.  And the Dump provides the perfect home to stimulate these kinds of minds.  She pushes them, prods them, works on them, and teases them.  And they're her whole life.  Interesting, kind boys, who are far more comfortable with adults than their peers.  She thinks they're amazing, even when they drive her crazy.  Sometimes I'm amazed that she calls them "loser" and they know that she actually means that they're winners in her book, but they get it. Totally and completely.  It's a weird, wacky world she has with them, but it works.  Very well.

And then there's me.  When we talk about our ways of mothering, we've always said that I'm the least traditional of the three of us.  That is, I am the least concerned with tradition for its own sake (despite the whole flower-planting thing for Mother's Day, which is a wonderful tradition because it means the pots get planted, they don't have to buy me some silly things I don't need, and we do it together. That's a three-way win in my book.).  This is a valid observation. This is possibly because I find some of them ridiculous and more likely because I am not very organized when it comes to such things. And I am the least interested in my children's grades or test scores or achievements.  These things feel are like vapors to me--their importance lasts only a moment in a person's life.  There are other things on which we have spent our parenting energy.  The development of ethics. I can't say from within myself how successful we've been, but I like our kids too.  We've laughed with them, cried with them.  I know I'm the most easy-going of the three of us.  Sometimes too easy-going, Beve would say, when he has to pick up the slack.  I'm not much of a rule person.  Never have been. But I had a two prong motto through-out their childhood.  One was, "Train them in the way THEY should go, and in the end they will not depart from it."  This meant that I needed to get to know each child individually so that I could know what was best for that child.  No swooping mandates, but customized for each one.  And the other, "We aren't raising children, we're raising adults."  The last thing we wanted was full-grown children, still needing to be told what to do, how to live. 

L to R: me, the Dump, RE. One of my favorite pictures of us, but for the life of me, I can't remember what we're laughing about!
So the three of us.  Different but all used by God to grow men and women to successful adulthood. I'm thankful for them. For who they are, for impact they've made in my life and, especially, the impact they've made on the lives of their children.

Friday, May 6, 2011

A word about words

A word about words: you readers of this blog--some faithfully, some just stopping by--have you ever wondered about this title?  What in tarnation (as my rather salty sea-going grandfather, who had cleaned up his vocabulary by the time I came along, would have said) does she mean by that? And the question is valid.  When I began this blog, I had some idea that I might daily take on a concept, a word, if you will, of which we take a rather mundane view, and turn it on its head to see how God breathes within it.  But, as with so many things I set out to do, God twisted them for His good purposes so this blog has morphed into something a bit different.  Not altogether different, but definitely not so precise, so constrained as a single word leading to a more expansive one, one the Incarnate inhabits--as He inhabits the world.

However, today, I'm thinking precisely of a word in the most Biblical sense.  That is, I'm considering the idea of the word of the Lord as He gave to men, and, far less often, women to speak His truth into the lives of His people or a person.  We have learned to call this prophecy after the name given to these men in the Old Testament.  And many of us think of prophecy as a foretelling or promises of future events.  And I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge that there is reason for this.  Consider the most important prophecies of the Old Testament for followers of Christ, like those of Isaiah 9: 6-7, "For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given and the government will be upon His shoulders..." The long passages of the Servant King beginning in Isaiah 49 are another example, and, of course, the words of Isaiah 53 which foretell the Messiah's painful purpose on earth.  We can be confident that Jesus was who He said He was, because He fulfilled every one of these prophecies.

However, more often prophecies were a word from God for a present situation. "Thus sayeth the Lord," (as it is written in the King James translation, which has its 500th birthday this year!) often accompanied these words to the person.  Nathan, for example, had a such a word, in the form of a parable, for David after he committed adultery with Bathsheba.  David apparently needed a something of a road map and a kick in the pants to realize that what he had done was wrong. Once David was smarting from such a kick, he was truly repentant.  Psalm 51 attests to that.  It's the the most beautiful prayer of repentance in scripture and has worn well through the ages for those who long to have a clean and restored heart.

Such words from the Lord are considered gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Every place Paul lists gifts--Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 come to mind--he mentions prophecy, this "Thus says the Lord for today" type of prophecy.  However, many of us in the evangelical church don't quite know what to make of some of the gifts Paul considers true.  The other (speaking in tongues) perhaps I'll tackle another day, but I know this:

God has often given me a word for another person, an unexpected, unasked for, word.  There was a particular season when, because I felt called to pray for a couple in ministry, the number of such words increased.  I suppose these friends (and they became much closer friends over the course of this praying season) needed such assurance as the pressure they faced increased.  Other times, for no particular reason that I can discern, God just puts something on my heart, pushes against me to speak it until I can barely carry on a conversation with anyone else until I have done what He has asked.  There was a Sunday morning at church several years ago when I felt I was supposed to tell our fairly new worship leader to read Jude.  I don't suppose I had spoken to him more than once before that morning and he certainly didn't know whether I had any credibility spiritually.  So I resisted.  Nevertheless, in the end, I did what God told me to do. He was kind enough, but you know how these things are.  I'm pretty sure he was thinking, 'who the heck is this woman anyway?" 

The next day I got an email from him saying that he had been at dinner at some friends in Olympia that Sunday afternoon, and one of his old friends told him she felt strongly that God was saying he needed to read the book of Jude.  He was amazed and humbled that God would speak and confirm His word two different ways.  He might have dismissed it simply from one of us, but each of us--completely unknown and unknowing--were used by God to make him certain of the truth of the word.

I think God wants to speak to us more often that we think and that, after the Word itself, He uses the word His speaks through His followers to speak through us to each other.  If He chooses to speak through us to others, we are disobedient if we do not speak such a word, a 'thus says the Lord.'  I have been guilty of that as well, though (thankfully) I don't know what the result of that disobedience has been.  I rather think it's a little like Esther to whom Mordecai said, "For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will come from another place... but who knows that you have come to [this] position for such a time as this?"

For such a time as this, God might intend to use us to speak into someone's life.  Perhaps you don't think of it as prophecy.  Perhaps you only have a sense of a conversation you need to have with someone you work with, and you've been putting it off.  But it's possible that it's for this moment, for such a time as this, you were put in this position, not to harm but to help and bring light--to bring the Light of the World--to someone else.

Here's the other side, of course.  When someone comes to you with a word they believe is from God, you have the responsibility to determine whether it's true.  Though I have spoken such words, I do not think we should willy-nilly take every word without thought. Here are some quick thoughts about this as you pray:
  1. Is the word in line with God's word?
  2. Do circumstances confirm the word?
  3. Is the person reliable as a believer?
If these things are true, obedience is your next step.  Isn't it?

P.S. Can any of you tell what I did differently on this post?