Thursday, September 29, 2011

Short and...

Short and...well, just short today.  Too much to do. Steve left yesterday morning at the absolutely frightful hour of 3 AM for Indianapolis, where he's at a meeting about Financial Aid.  Sounds absolutely fascinating.  Really, hold me back!  He only got about 1.5 hours of sleep Tuesday/Wednesday before he arrived there yesterday afternoon but when I talked to him last night, I told him that would be okay since the meeting was sure to be a snoozer.  Just this small thing reminds me of how different people are, and that it takes all of us to make a community--the Body, as the New Testament would put it, the People as the Old would.  Beve's part is often helping teenagers move on from free education to college that costs arms and legs and body parts they'll have to grow over the next ten to twenty years, if they could do such a thing.  I'm telling you, I think back on what I my parents paid for my college tuition--even out-of-state at two institutions, it was NOTHING compared to the costs today.  So if Beve and these intrepid counselors from all over the country can get some aid in aiding their students in finding aid (do you like all those aids?), it's a very good thing.

Just beyond me.  That's all I'm saying.

In a few hours I'll leave town for the weekend as well. My sisters and I are getting together at our family's cabin.  I'm meeting one in Seattle, then we'll pick up the other at SeaTac, then head back north to Whidbey Island.  So I'll be out of internet range for the next few days.  During that time I expect to do a ridiculous amount of talking, a significant amount of eating (the Dump has to eat at least 4 desserts a day, and one must be some form of chocolate.  And, despite the fact that she was the chubbiest of us as a child, she is now the thinnest.  Well, here's the truth: according to my recent perusal of old family photographs, her weight probably hasn't fluctuated since high school.  It's just that RE and I look quite a bit different than we did 35+ years ago). We'll tramp through the woods, sit around a fire, then Sunday morning, race into Seattle to have tea with our lovely Aunt.  Ah yes, a perfect sister weekend.

And I'm not fogetting my sisters' t-shirt this time. I might even come back with photographs to prove it.

So, see you Monday.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Among thieves

The list was long, my time was short, my head was down when I practically walked into a shopping cart pushed by a woman walking out of the store where I was hurrying in.  She was an ordinary blond woman in her early thirties.  I might have passed her any other time and wouldn't have noticed her.  I stepped out of her way exactly as two men rushed out of the store, and one grabbed her from behind.  She immediately said, "Hey, what are you doing?" I thought it was some friend, maybe even her husband teasing her. But then the other man (a very tall man I've actually mistaken for Beve when catching a glimpse of him peripherally) stepped between me and her cart and pulled out a pair of handcuffs. I sidestepped to keep from being hit by them, my heart pounding.  The woman yelled another fraction of a minute as her arms were pinned behind her back, and then something kind of sank in her.  Completely sank.  Like all the air and heart and everything else had popped with the balloon of having been caught.

I kept walking into the store, glancing at another woman about my age who had also watched this drama unfold  on this sunny Wednesday afternoon.  She turned toward Starbucks, I headed back to the Pharmacy, but for a single moment we really looked at each other.  She put her hand on her chest.  "Yeah," I said. "I know."

It took a long time for my heart to stop racing. But then I thought of that woman, and how her heart was probably racing, somewhere--in a police car? the store?--and though I guessed there must have been pretty strong evidence for those two undercover (though no longer undercover to me!) cops to cuff her, it made me feel very sad. Maybe she has a family at home thinking mom was just picking up a few things for dinner.  That's how she looked to me, anyway.

That's the way we humans tend to see things, though. That tattooed, hoodied,saggy-jean-ed, scruffy-faced young man was the one who pinned the nicely-coiffed woman's arms behind her back.  If you'd have told me ahead of time, I'd have pointed my finger at the wrong person.

Two thieves were killed beside Jesus.  I don't know what they'd stolen--we aren't told that. And it doesn't matter.  We usually look at their place in His story as side notes, "He was crucified between two common thieves."  But what if we turn it on its head, so that the only place God ever intended Jesus to die was between thieves.  That had been His plan all along. He is Sovereign, after all.  And the reality is that those two men hanging for their crimes represent us.  We are, one way or another, all thieves.  "All have sinned," of course.  We all deserve to be handcuffed and carted off to jail for the crimes we have done against God.  We might clean up well, put on our best face, but inside, we're exactly as they are. Yes, exactly like them. So there they were...and right between them--(between us!)--God Himself breathing the same bloody, painful gasps they were breathing.

God judges not our outward appearances but the content of our heart, Samuel is reminded when he goes looking for the king God intends to replace Saul. Shoot, if we're honest enough, even we know how much more like those thieves who had the crosses to the left and right of Jesus' we are than we pretend to be.  We jeer, and steal all kinds of things like joy and hope and time and our own peace.  Contentment.  You get my point.  I once heard someone say that all sin is a form of robbery (though I can't remember who now, sorry!) --stealing something from God and taking it for ourselves.  And that's why Him dying between thieves was so purposeful. So exactly right.  Because we are all thieves.  We have all taken our lives into our own hands and made an absolute hash of them, a botched up job.  Yep, thieves but pretty poor ones.  Pity us.  And we deserve what we get.  Like that one thief told the other that day. "We deserve this. But He did nothing wrong.  Remember me when you enter your Kingdom."  And so he's right, that robber. We deserve it.

But for one thing.  The man in the middle.  The one who took the handcuffs for me, was led off in my place.  And died.  That's the truth of it.  The only place He was going to die was between thieves.
That is why He came.  Thank God for that.  And thank God that even hanging there, with barely a breath, even at the last second, with only a few words left to say, He had enough to say to that believing thief, or thieving believer, "This day--this very day--you'll be with me in Paradise."

Now that's something worth dying for.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Logos in love

In my top 100 favorite Christian books...(maybe even top 25), The Screwtape Letters certainly rates a spot, though I've never ordered them, so I can't tell you where.  I'm just writing off the top of my head here.  Hmm, maybe I'll have to do that sometime.  You know the book, of course.  Written by CS Lewis, it was originally presented as radio talks during WWII, from the point of views of two devils--Screwtape and Wormwood.  Lewis was rather appalled to realize how easy it was to write from the point of view of demons, to look at the Christian life in the negative, so to speak, and even to see God as 'the enemy.'  But it touched a chord first in the listeners, then in the myriad readers over the sixty years since its publication.  Almost every time I think of humility, I think of words from Screwtape, that humility is not a matter of a beautiful woman saying she's not beautiful but acknowledging that she is and taking no credit for it, knowing she did nothing to deserve it but that it came as a gift.   Knowing who to thank.

But Screwtape spawned a book written by Calvin Miller, copyright 1982.  At least to me, it felt spawned by Lewis, I should say.  At least, Lewis informed Miller's thought substantially. Good books do that.  I do not throw stones here--that is not my point. This book is called The Valiant Papers.  It's a collection of letters written by a human's guardian angel, Valiant, as the human--a young man we only know as J.B. journeys toward the Kingdom.  

I read the book back in 1982 when it first came out, and most of it was OK.  Fine enough.  But there is a section that touched me so deeply, I memorized it on the spot, and have never forgotten it.  So when I found this book among my many last week, I dove in to find it, because speaking of Jesus' death from the point of view of the angels in heaven--who did not quite know what God the Father was completely about--hits me in my gut and heart and soul.  And awakens something that needs to be awakened.  Yes, again, 20 years later, it needs to be awakened again. 

Here it is:
"The highest love does not seek sweating starbursts...The best love still comes back from hilltops with wounded hands, forgiving all its assassins.
I remember well the death day of our Logos.  The vultures circled the gallows, but He would not leave the world.  He hung there just as if He had to do it.  He would not abandon those puny nails and come back home.  I remember how His heart finally broke, and they laid His body against His mother's coarse-cloth dress. She cried. Upperton (heaven) agreed in anguish.
We had waited for hours with drawn swords, but He would not give the word.  I was ready with the rest.  We would have made a junkyard of Muddyscuttle (earth), but He forbade it, and we all knew why. Our Logos was in Love! IN LOVE with a fallen planet, whose one great reply to His desire was the gallows." 
Calvin Miller,  The Valiant Papers, 68-69.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Hoops Coach

I promise that one of these days I'll stop writing about obscure time from our long ago childhood, but until we finish sorting boxes from our basement, I probably won't be able to resist, especially when I come across such treasure troves as the one containing this photograph.  This is a picture of Beve's 8th grade basketball team.  If you can't guess, he's the very tallest one in the back row, the one with the very solemn expression on his face, as though someone told him that taking this picture was serious business. Number 44, a boy over, is D, one of Beve's closest buddies, also looks pretty serious.  You'd never know that there's a sharp wit under that earnest expression. A few of the boys look put out--number 10, down in front (the Superintendent's son) looks like he didn't get enough playing time, and what's that? DM, 24, has his eyes completely shut.  Yep, seriously stuff for some of them.  Not so serious for some of the other teammates, you'll notice.  At the far end of that back row, is RP.  RP, still our very dear friend--is doing what he does for his profession. Communicating.  I can just imagine he's leaning toward SA beside him and saying, "Did I tell you  about the time..." RP is now a professor of communications, but somehow, that little boy is how I think of him.  And the whole right front row seems not  to have gotten the memo about how to pose or behave.  Maybe they gave it their best shot, but couldn't hang on any longer.    SP, number 30 (who is married now to one of my close girl friends) looks like he's had just about enough, thank you very much. But I remember why I used to call him Charles Atlas when I look at his muscles next to the scrawniness of those boys around him.  And the smirk of number 14, the pout on number 12, the twist on number 4--shoot, maybe he thought he wasn't fitting in the frame.  Oh it makes me laugh.

The album this came from was jam-packed with Beve's high school basketball clippings.  His mother faithfully cut every mention of Beve from every paper in the area.  And I have to tell you, it made me wish I'd paid more attention.  Honestly, that boy could play basketball.  I mean, I know he could, I was there, after all,  I watched every game.  But I just wasn't watching him.  And according to these old clippings, I should have been.  And Beve doesn't talk about his playing days as though he was anything special, only that he loved the sport, that he felt creative when he played.

Our kids sometimes ask me if Beve is like this high school player they know or that one, and I try to answer as well as I can.  But these articles, these pictures of him, these ridiculous statistics--they tell the story I didn't know. Steve "Mr. Everything" Wiley, he was called after a stretch of three straight 27 point games, in which he had over 40 rebounds total.  Ridiculous.  His high school team was littered with height.  Positively littered with it.

A different kind of person would have become a different man as a result of such athletic prowess. These clippings were revelations to me, and yet reminded me again of who the essential Beve is.  He could name every opponent, and speak eloquently about each opponents' best player, but remembered very little of his own.

But what makes Beve the Beve is that he didn't know those things. What he remembered about those years is that he had fun, great friends, and loved to play.  Every now and then he talks about what might have happened if he'd had a different coach--someone who believed in him, who was a basketball coach rather than a football coach who also coached basketball (and who didn't like Beve because Beve decided not to play football).  There were never fewer than 3 players 6'5" from the time he moved to varsity his sophomore year--and these weren't just tall kids, but tall, talented kids.Added to them was at least one very, very gifted shooter.  As it was, they were very successful.  Maybe in spite of that coach. A better one--a coach like the one he's worked with here in Bellingham over the years--would have known what to do with them.

And I suppose that's where I was getting to, though, as is often the case, I didn't know it.  It takes a coach.  The right coach.  Even the most gifted among us can't get anywhere without the right one.  Without the one who will do right by us, tend to our talents, guide and lead us in the way we were meant to go.  Those little boys in that picture?  They never lost a game that year.  They were that talented.  They positively smashed their opponents some of the time. But by the time they graduated from high school, most of them were no longer playing.  They had lost interest, weren't cut out for it.  And those who were saw their last season end in the worst possible way--a double defeat. And the hope of a state championship died in our own gym before it got off the ground.  It was horrible. None of them have ever forgotten it.  Those defeats a better couch could have prevented.  Would have.

I'm not writing this about that couch. I'm trying to make a point about our lives.  Beve cares very little about those stats.  But he cares a whole lot about the right coach.  About seeing to it that we are led by the one who can guide us to make the right adjustments when they are needed, who can see what is coming and can see the floor of our life better than we can.  That's what we need.  We need to be coached by the best coach, not we pay to do the job because they have some kind of philosophy that sounds good to our ears.

THE coach.

I don't really like these kind of sports analogies, these "He's my head-coach" words that athletes throw out after they've won big games, because He's God.  He's Lord of Lords and King of Kings. But yes, He's also a whole lot better coach than any old human being.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

It ends with a parade

We've had quite the weekend with the elders. Again. Yesterday morning before either Beve or I were out of bed--which tells you how early, since he's a notoriously early-riser--Grampie called. When I answered, he said, "I'm going home today." Hmmm. Knowing full well he has not yet been able to even dress himself, let alone walk unaided to the bathroom (two important prerequisites to a discharge), I did what any loving, sensible daughter-in-law would do.  I passed the buck phone to his son.  Beve tried to explain to Grampie that he was not able to simply check out of the Rehabilitation Center like it was the Holiday Inn, but it was no easy conversation.  When he got off the phone with Grampie, I called Thyrza, who said, rather excitedly, "I suppose you've heard the good news!"  And though I wanted to pass the buck on that one as well, I didn't.  Thyrza, being of sounder mind than Grampie, said, "I kept wondering how we'd manage, though I figured we could just set up a hospital bed in our living room. But we need a second commode and a second wheelchair."

Then Beve and I raced across town to Grampie's (why we thought it'd be more convenient to have him near Thyrza rather than near us, I can no longer remember, since we're the ones doing the driving several times a day!), where we found him sound asleep half on his bed, his legs crossed with a pile of his belongings on the bed beside him.  Raise your hand if you can name something wrong with this picture.  1. He was lying on a flat bed, which meant he'd transferred (medical jargon for moved) himself from his wheelchair by himself. 2. His legs were crossed, a HUGE no-no for someone with a hip-replacement. 3. The pile of belongings meant he'd been walking without aid.  Needless to say, warning bells were going off all over the place for both Beve and me.  We asked, "Did you get up by yourself?" and he answered, "Yep, but I had a heck of a time.  Could hardly walk."  Hmmm, wonder why.

We tried to explain why he couldn't do any of those things, why he couldn't leave, why everything, and he just got more and more agitated. So Beve went to get a nurse to help with the explanations.  By the time the three of us finished, he'd calmed down some, though he kept saying, "That's the first I've heard of that."  Which I suppose is true for him. Every time he hears about something these days, it's the first time.   He finally agreed he'd stay, "but I'm going home every night to spend with my bride."  (That's what he calls Thyrza most of the time these days, which is a good thing, because when he doesn't, he's usually calling her Barb)  He was disappointed all over again to discover he couldn't even go home at night. This is a rough and rocky road, I'm telling you.

 But fortunately, it was Saturday, and that means football on television so once Beve got the right channel on, Grampie was a little happier.  Happier still when we told him we'd bring him dinner from his favorite restaurant. That's right, folks.  Take out from Olive Garden.

I spent the rest of the day waiting for Thyrza to decide when she needed a ride over to him. And by waiting, I mean, getting a dozen or so phone calls from her as she changed her plan.  First it was, "In about an hour." Then, "Could you make it about a half-an-hour later?" Then, at 12:30, "I think I'll eat lunch here, first. So how about 2?" Then, "I really need to take a nap, so maybe about 3:00?" About twenty minutes later, "I need to finish a letter so what about 3:30 instead?" Then at 3:10, "I'm just now going down for my nap, so maybe about 4?" "Thyrza," I said then, "Just call me when you want to go, and I'll be ten minutes away." I kept being nice and flexible, and doing this little job here, and that little 45 minute task, without doing much of anything the whole dang day, because there was always only so much time until I had to go get her.  She called at 4:15 to say, "I'm sitting downstairs waiting for you. Where are you?" Really? Really? Sigh.
I know I shouldn't be impatient.  But sometimes it's hard, and I struggle.

But we had a wonderful Olive Garden dinner right there in the dining room at Grampie's Rehab Center, with Thyrza mothering him, and Beve making jokes only I understood. It was a feast at the end of a long day. You should have seen us marching through the hall, Beve pushing his dad in the giant wheelchair, me pushing Thyrza in her smaller one.  Holding water bottles, sacks of bread sticks, Grampie's favorite soup (he calls it "Chicken with that noodle dough), Chicken Alfredo.  Why, we were like another parade.  And somehow, as we marched, I saw our immediate future like a road before us. Beve and I pushing their wheelchairs into the foreseeable distance.  Not for long, but for a while.  Sometimes it's a parade, and sometimes it's merely hard.

  We do work hard around here.  This is winter with the elders and they just can't do for themselves.  Most of the time I am so thankful to have been allotted this winter season with them, even when it's hard, that I can bear the hard.  I get to do it with Beve--and there's no one I'd rather do it all with.  But some days the hard is harder than the good is good.  If that makes sense.

Thankfully, I know how this ends.  I know the story ends with a parade.  No, with a feast first and then with a parade.  No matter how hard the getting there, there's a feast at the end.  And then a parade.  I believe that.  The Resurrection tells me so. Read Acts 1.  The Ascension of Jesus into heaven?  That's one pretty amazing parade.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Blow, wind, blow

The wind is blowing today.  I'm not talking about a summer breeze rippling softly through the grass, but wind, mighty enough that the giant evergreens that rim our hilly neighborhood sway in the sky overhead and the deciduous trees rain leaves like heavy, multi-colored snow.  I sit on our deck in my shorts and sleeveless shirt, drinking my morning tea, reading the Psalms and listen to this wonderful sound of wind because even though the calendar might declare that summer has ended and the trees know it's time (again) to drop those autumn leaves, the sun shines and the wind is warm.

Today I love this warm wind.  I always love the wind, actually.  I love the frenzy it can whip up on water, locomote clouds, and even propel people at times.  Invisible, powerful wind.  Air with force.  I realize I have not had to fight it when it counts.  I've had umbrellas turn inside out, coats and even skirts lift from it--sometimes even to my momentary embarrassment--but wind has never been my enemy.  Not in any real sense.  I've stood at winds and watched its power, but haven't had to pray for my life caught in a frothy sea stirred up by it.

But sometimes I haven't loved the results of wind. When a mighty wind came roaring down the Frazer Valley one autumn, our home was caught in its path and we lost a large portion of our roof one night.  The rain came next, and Beve had to climb up into the attic in the post-midnight hours to jerry-rig some kind of protection until daylight so water didn't pour straight into the house.  The window of E's bedroom actually blew out during that same storm. The next morning, with no power and schools closed, all the neighbors on our street helped each other pick up the pieces, replace shingles and put in new windows.  It was one of the most communal times we had living there, and though not good, I thank the wind for that. If that makes sense.

I haven't always loved wind.  When I was a child, there was a wind I resented as much as any kind of weather.  It's called the Chinook, a wind of the Palouse.  A lovely, pile of snow had fallen, the kind of snow sure to cancel school and let us pull out our sleds and go over to Jefferson Elementary School (where Beve and I both attended) and we'd be all set to spend the day sledding on what I have to tell you was the very best sledding hill anyone has ever seen.  That hill at Jefferson was so perfect, and we grew up at such a time that we were actually allowed to slide down it during recess each snowy day.  In winter, Beve purposely wore his giant wing-tip shoes because they were smooth on the bottom and he'd be allowed to slide STANDING UP all the way to the bottom.  That hill was a two level hill with a flat space in the middle where, during non-snowy days, the older boys played football.  The hill was steep enough above it, however, that you could slide (for me it was on my coat, NOT standing), across the flat, and down the next steep part all the way to the parking lot, where the only obstacle was a light pole in the center of the bottom.  Sliding was great, but with sleds we could make it all the was across the parking lot and practically hit the school building.  And that, my friends, was the goal...well, not quite the goal, but close enough.

(I have to say one of the most tragic losses to Beve and me in Pullman has long been the remodel of that elementary school, because that hill was destroyed in the process.  We don't drive past very often, but if we ever have occasion to when we're in town, we have a moment of silence for what was lost.  In fact, I think we should stop for a moment right now.)

OK.  So there would be a steady snow fall all afternoon and evening.  The streets and cars and every other thing so covered, we'd go to bed certain the next day would be one of sledding.  Or at least of sliding at recess.  But in the middle of the night a wind would begin to blow in.  A warm wind, called the Chinook.  And by the next morning when I stumbled out of bed, that winter wonderland would have disappeared.  Wiped completely clean.  Back to the drab gray world where no sledding was possible.  At least that's how it always felt to me.

But when I became a Christian and first really read the New Testament, I really began my love affair with wind. In John 3, when he asks about being saved, Jesus speaks the impenetrable words about how the a person born of the Spirit is like the wind: "A wind blows where it will..."  This intrigued me.  Still does.  It takes reading Acts 1 to make sense of John 3, I think.  In Acts 2, we get it. "Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where [the apostles] were sitting.  They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit..." (vs.2-3)

The Holy Spirit comes upon us like wind.  A wind not merely as warm as today's outside my house here in NW Washington State or the kind of tropical breezes one finds in...well, the tropics, obviously (though someone today told me it felt exactly like we were in the tropics.  I loved it--she was appalled).  No that Spirit-wind of Acts was fiery hot, lighting each it landed on with a white hot passion not merely for the moment but for the rest of their lives.

This is what the Spirit does.  He blows fire into us, then sweeps away the dead leaves of our past, perhaps, or even the snow that we built around our hearts.  Something burns clean and new.  And then whatever we thought to make of ourselves takes second place to what He wants to make of us.  To where He blows us. That's what it means, Jesus said to Nicodemus, to be born of the Spirit.  We are born once and go our way, and that's one thing.  Then born of the Spirit and go whatever way He blows us.   If we let Him.

I love the wind.  And the Wind.  He is the one who blows my life where He will.  Blow, Spirit, blow.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A sacrifice that costs

Lately I feel like a broken record.  This blog seems to be about a couple of things--the vississitudes of Grampie and the clearing out and casting off of our ridiculous piles of extraneous goods.  But life being what it is, this isn't the day to hop ship.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I was jettisoning some of teapot collection. I sent off dozens that had no meaning to me, then left the rest sitting on my table for a week while I gathered the will and heart to let them go.  Each day I'd walk past them, out onto our deck and try not to think of what they meant to me.  The places they came from, the people who'd given them to me.  The history.  My teapots come from very continent but Antarctica (and a teapot made from ice would actually melt from the hot tea, right?), and from beloveds from so many, many parts of my personal history.  Then I'd walk around my house trying to figure out how I could fit these pots into a few more places, could hold onto them and use them and...well, and just plain have them for myself.

But after one such trip past all those pots, I sat down at the piano and played a few bumbling praise songs.  And words from scripture began to reverberate through my brain, the way they do when I worship, when God comes in and sits beside me.  It's a holy kind of thing, that unexpected word.  I'd love it to be a daily occurence.  Pray for it, but will take it when I get it, and say thank you.  As I did that day. By the time I got up from the piano I knew exactly what I had to do with those teapots.  And I mean with the most meaningful of them.  I'd been thinking of giving a few pots to people, but just my castoffs.  But God hit me hard with His word. 

Here's scripture:  David, at the end of 2 Samuel, wants to build an altar to worship the Lord.  He offers to buy a threshing floor from a man.  The man, completely in awe of the king (and who wouldn't be, I mean, he is the king, after all), says, "Oh, I'll give you the threshing floor for your altar."  But David says, "NO.  I will not offer a sacrifice to God which costs me nothing."  A sacrifice that costs.

It's easy enough to give when it's easy.  I walked away from the piano, over to the table and was suddenly rearranging the groups of teapots, so that each one I gave away was actually one that hurt to lose.  It might seem odd to you to think of teapots in such a way, but for me that day, it fit.  I began to look at my most prized teapots--from Copenhagen, Tanzania, Russia, China, Indonesia and the UK--and prayerfully consider which teapot would bless which of my beloveds most. 

And it's been good.  Not easy, but very good.  I pack teapots into boxes and wander around whispering, "I will not offer to God that which costs me nothing."  And God reminded me of these words the other day when I was praying for Grampie.  His room at the nursing facility was so sterile, so white and blah and really ugly.  I was sitting on my bed...and the next thing I knew I was pulling the quilt off my half of my bed.  I'd made that quilt specifically for MY half of our large bed because I'm always colder than Beve and I wanted a quilt just the size to cover just my half.  Ancd that extra long, twin-sized quilt now covers Grampie, and he loves it.  He's completely thrilled by it.  A sacrifice that costs.

But these sacrifices that cost.  They do lead to the best opportunity to give to God, to worship, to please Him.  Every day we have opportunities to give. And usually we only do so when it's easy, especially for us in the middle class of the west.  But we need to learn to give until it hurts.  And then keep on giving.  I need to learn this.

I will not offer to God that which costs me nothing.
I will not offer to ANYONE that which costs me nothing.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Teeth

Most people hate going to the dentist.  My father was one of them.  He didn't complain about many things in life but the dentist was one of them.  His teeth were soft, fillings were plenty, and even I remember a particularly bad stretch with a swollen cheek when I was in elementary school due to some kind of dental procedure.

 Beve doesn't exactly complain about going to our dentist (who is a personal friend) but isn't ever a treat for him, either.  Beve wore braces as a kid, but you wouldn't know it.  His bottom teeth are as crooked as if his parents hadn't spent all that money for all that hardware.  That money wasted--that sticks in Beve's craw, I can tell you that.  But he works at his teeth.  He NEVER forgets to floss (except the night he had to spend with his dad in the hospital, which he didn't know was coming so was unprepared with ablution products--fuzzy teeth the whole next day, just about drove him more crazy than all the other things driving him crazy that long, pre-surgery day!), brushes his teeth like it's his job, just generally takes the care they tell us to take.

And then there's me.  Haphazard at best when it comes to flossing.  When we've had steak, certainly.  Corn on the cob.  Other times...well, I go in spurts.  Just lazier than Beve--like in most things. It can be a rather overwhelmingly daunting thing to live with someone so UNlazy.  I mean, the man just doesn't stop. Doesn't demand others work when he's working--but just works himself. In fact, sometimes he actually tells me to 'just come out and talk to me while I'm working' in the yard, and he pulls a lawn chair out for me so I can.  As I say, ridiculous. Saintly.  Who can measure up? So I just live my life in the shadow at my own pace.  Like with flossing. Do it when I do it, the end.

Then I go to the dentist. And it's like an hour of grace showered on my head...er, my mouth.  For no good reason, certainly not because I've done it, my teeth are always beautiful.  Raved over.  Yesterday I had a hygienist I hadn't seen before.  "This is going to be easy-peasy," she told me after doing the numbering check (do you know what I'm talking about?).  "You don't have ANY plaque build-up. You must use a Sonic-care."  I confessed I don't.  Just a simple toothbrush.  "Well, whatever you do, it's working."

Then the partner of our regular dentist came in.  Oohed and aahed over my orthodontia--the pulled teeth, the way the eye-teeth were ground down to look better right in front, yada, yada, yada.  I've heard it all before.  "Really, you have great teeth," she said. As if I had something to do with them  (Just so you know, I have these really great teeth in just about the smallest opening any of them ever see, which means it's just as well they never have to do much!)

But I got to thinking about all this last night as I watched Beve carefully floss and brush his teeth.  It's a little like what we often think it takes to get to God, and by we I mean humankind throughout history. A whole lot of effort is required.  Daily, constant, rigid effort and even at that, we find out we have cavities.  Fatal flaws where things decay and ultimately destroy our lives.  We cannot be vigilant enough because we are soft.  Flawed.  We are our own cavities, in a way.

We can work and work and work, and end up with terrible teeth, if the material isn't strong enough to start with.  I realize as I write this that I'm venturing into the murky waters of whether people are born sinners or become sinners.  I think that question is beside the point most of the time, asked because people have other agendas and want to punctuate their argument with this one.  The truth is, it doesn't matter because soon enough we do sin.  There isn't any among us who doesn't, and not a single one on earth can argue against that.  Personally I find babies innocent, believe our tiniest humans the truest humans on earth, nearest to heaven. But I also find our elderly that way as well--if they allow themselves to be, like Grampie.

OK, back on track. Sorry about the sidebar.  My point is that even if we're born innocent, we're born with the material to sin.  That ability is in us.  That's what I mean about sooner or later.  Decay will come.  Rot will happen.  And eventually, without God stepping in, we'd all be left without teeth at all. Dead. Fodder for worms with not a tooth in the skull.  That's the truth.  It's only by His stepping in that there is any possibility of a change in that trajectory.  We cannot follow the rules well enough.  The Israelites proved that.  Every nation with laws and law-breakers continue to prove it.  Read Romans--it's Paul's treatise on how the law pointed out, then actually created our law-breaking.

But the Incarnation.  "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."  While we were so full of cavities we were decaying all the way to the grave, Christ intercepted that decay, took it on Himself, and gave us perfect teeth--along with everything else.  He got in the way of our decay.  He actually became our decay.  And it killed Him.  And look at us now--we're living the high life, with beautiful teeth and a smile to match it.

This means, of course, that we must--we MUST--pay attention to how we live from here.  That's what I think, anyway.  I can't bear that what He did be in vain.  I can't bear that all that decay He took on my behalf--and everyone else's--be just so we eat, drink and be merry, without living with Him our primary goal and aim.  If He did this live-changing thing, this one true thing, there's only one true response--to live for Him. Daily caring for my life so that what He did counts. Caring for Him as He cares for me.

That's a thought with teeth to it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ten On Tuesday--Stealing from my daughter

E does these weekly Ten on Tuesday lists, and because I can't think of something else to write about tonight, I just thought I'd steal this, which, apparently, she stole from someone else on down the blogger road.  So there you go. Anyway:
These questions were provided by Christine at Being Brinkman, who stole them from some traveling meme.  There aren't actually 10 questions this week.  Rebellion! But this is a good "All About You" questionnaire.

As Ten on Tuesday approaches the 100 week mark, you have a chance to win a prize by linking up over at Roots and Rings.  So do it!

A. Age: 54

B. Bed Size: King.  I do share it with a King-sized human being, of course.

C. Chore that you hate: Unloading the dishwasher.  Don't ask me why.  I've never liked it.

D. Dogs:  an English Springer Spaniel and a Lab/White German Shepard mix.

E. Essential start to your day: Tea and space. Beve wakes up fast, is ready to go the first minute. I need quiet and time to drink a whole cup of tea before I even talk.  Then I have to spend some time reading.

F. Favorite Color: I love orange in every shade.

G. Gold or Silver: Depends.  Currently white gold.

H. Height: 5'5 1/2"  (and that's 13 1/2" shorter than Beve, in case you're wondering)
I. Instruments you play: Piano, but not when anyone other than God is listening.

J. Job Title: Writer, quilt-maker...well, nothing that pays

K. Kids: Elizabeth, Jonathan, Stephanie (thought it was about time to come clean with their names)

L. Live: Bellingham, WA

M. Mother’s Name: Carolee

N. Nicknames: Carey or Carrie by my high school friends and sometimes Crank (because it was my brother's nickname) in my youth but none since. Beve doesn't even call me anything but my given name: Carolyn. And by the way, NEVER call me Carol.  I always tell people I'll give them one freeby--and that was it.  After that, I won't answer if they call me Carol.  Don't like it, it's not my name. The end.  Nor, by the way, do I like Mrs. Wiley.  Comes from having called my mother-in-law Mrs. Wiley for many years before I knew she would be my mother-in-law.  Back then she was just a tall, rather forbidding neighbor who scared me more than a little.  I was always, always polite to her. Of course.  Then I got to know her, and loved her.  But Mrs. Wiley always makes me think of that neighbor lady, and has very little to do with me.
O. Overnight hospital stays: Oh please, do I have to list these?  Seriously, you don't want to read such a long list. Starting at 4 when I got my tonsils out and...including when I spent nights with two of my three kids during their surgeries, well, I can't even count how many nights that's been.

P. Pet peeve: people who talk about the opposite sex in generalities.  "Men are always like X" or "Well, you know how women are..." I hate such things.  It's just so blasted stereotypical.  Now I'm sounding stereotypical to write of stereotypes, huh? That's it. I have a bias against biases.

Q. Quote from a movie: "Are you talking to me?" Robert DeNiro. Taxi Cab. There are others, but that comes to mind most readily.  And, "Oh Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore."

R. Right or left handed: So left-handed I forget my right hand is even there.  Can hardly walk straight.  It's a problem.

S. Siblings: 2 living brothers, and 2 sisters. I won't list their names.  They deserve whatever privacy I can afford them.  They didn't ask for this whole blog-asphere.
T. Time you wake up: As late as possible. And I'm NOT kidding.

U. Underwear: Of course. What. Are you kidding?

V. Vegetable you hate: Peas and lima beans.  And fortunately, Beve hates peas too. So we never even served them in our home.  I'm not even sure if our kids know how they taste. 
W. What makes you run late: The Beve (though I do love the man).

X. X-Rays you’ve had:  See H--hospital stays.  Just about as many. Can't even count them.  Ridiculous.  One glorious semester my sophomore year in college, I fell down some stairs on campus at WSU, broke my ankle and wore a cast on for 6 weeks, got it off, then one week later, as I was walking RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET from those same stairs, I stepped into a hole covered by dead leaves and broke the same ankle just slightly above where I'd previously broken it.  I'm telling you a whole lot of X-rays in my life.  Oh, and did I mention that I had a broken foot on my wedding day as well?  The other foot, that time.  More X-rays. Sigh. Don't get me started.

Y. Yummy food that you make: Homemade tomato soup, chicken curry, chocolate cake, pies of many kinds, chicken pesto...oh, gosh, now I'm hungry. I like to cook, I just don't like thinking of WHAT to cook. 

Z. Zoo Animal: Elephants. Though I'd prefer NOT to see them in zoos, and it breaks my heart to see them caged--even when the habitats are well-done and the keepers kind--because they need space and a herd and the savannah or jungle and no walls and barriers. I've never seen them in the wild but I dream of it, so until then--if then--zoos are the closest I can get.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Trip through time, journal-style

For one--or many--moment today, it felt like summer again.  Enough that I took the laundry that wasn't quite dry and draped it over lawn chairs on our deck.  Said laundry was 17 little girl dresses I'd made for my daughters in their childhoods.  They've been stored in boxes until they can be used for a granddaughter, grandniece, grand-something.  But when we pulled them out yesterday they smelled musty.  Hence the colorful array of memories lining my deck.  Now they're stored in a large plastic bin with just the faintest hint of grass and autumn breezes layered in with the fabric softener.

I sat beside them taking a different kind of trip down memory lane.  As I mentioned yesterday, I found my treasured blue journals.  And late last night (or perhaps, more accurately, early this morning) I organized them chronologically in the lawyer's bookcase in the now-spare bedroom.  That lawyer's bookcase has an interesting history, actually.  It was once owned by Bill Gates.  Senior.  Not the multi-billionaire, but his dad.  His dad who went to Bremerton High school with Beve's dad and was something of a nerd himself (though I'm pretty sure 'nerd' wasn't a term used back in the forties).  Anyway, that glass-fronted bookcase is now where my journals live.  All of them.  Shoot, I didn't count them, which tells you something about how my brain DOESN'T work.  But there are a plethora of them.  Really.  About 4 a year since 1977.  You do the math.

 Today, while my daughters' dresses waved in the breeze reminding me of their early years, I sat out on the deck and revisited the genesis of my relationship with Beve.  I re-read the journals I kept the year I went to Europe when he was teaching in Finland, after we reconnected there, then when we wrote copious letters across the ocean.  And the journals from our time in the Netherlands and India--all the countries on this planet where our relationship moved from old friend to something else.

I came up for air about the time Beve got home from work, though I'd thrown tennis balls for the pup about a thousand times during my read.  It hardly felt like I was reading my own story, I'd forgotten so much about it.  But it was familiar at the same time, of course.  But a few things struck me about the period when I was falling in love with him, but didn't know how he felt about me:
1. I was very, very cautious about how I felt about him.  My heart was as fragile as a heart can be.  I had been so deeply destroyed by a relationship I terrified of feeling unequally again.  And I was particularly afraid of what I was beginning to feel for a person I'd known since I was nine years old.  It was all too ridiculous, incredible, unexpected.  How could it possibly be true?  So I spent an inordinate amount of time trying NOT to feel what I felt.  I read the very private thoughts of that young woman and want to hug her, to tell her to relax because her dreams, hopes and life itself were all about to come true.
2. I believed that not-yet-the-Beve was a treasure.  That the very fact that there was a person in the world like him was a gift, and it didn't have to have anything to do with me.That was the most private message in my journals.  Yes, I wanted him to be in my life, but even if he wasn't, I was glad he was in my life.  If that makes sense.
3.  I cared more about seeing him become who he was meant to be than be in love with me.  This is true.  It shocks me to read the words I wrote.  They were so, so loving but so self-less.  I'm telling you, I was all-in, all-in-love with him, but I wanted his best more than I wanted him.  And my fifty-four-year-old self can hardly imagine that my twenty-five/six-year-old self could have felt that way.

I looked up from reading those journals--from reading about how our relationship grew from friendship to the amazing, unique moment in the Lebanese restaurant in New Delhi when he told me (FINALLY!) how he felt about me, and God had confirmed to him that we had a future together--and there he was, my now-gray-haired 55-year-old Beve.  And I thought, 'oh my God, I'd forgotten.'  I'd forgotten how it all felt when I was living it, how amazing it was to live a romance that God had a hand in, to have such a heart for Beve that I wrote all the reasons I loved him on almost a daily basis, then ended those litanies with prayers of surrender.  I'd forgotten that God did that, God gave that love.

That it was for this life, too.  This, in-our-fifties, children-raised, lives too.  Yes, God didn't only give us romance for that one moment, but for a lifetime. When He gave us to each other, He meant it.  And we forget.  That's the thing, we forget.  I have been feeling so kind of all-mushy about Beve tonight, so, "Aw, you're so amazing, I can't believe you're really my husband," mushy.  On a Monday night when he's dead tired, and we have so much on our plates that we can't even see straight and he's taking a nap in his chair before he falls asleep the second his head hits his pillow.  I'm still feeling that rush of joy that God gave me this man because I took that trip back through my journals this afternoon.

And it makes me think again why I LOVE journals. Why I think they're so powerfully important in life.  I was thinking about what it would be like for a couple who are struggling with each other, hardly talking and are even in counseling to have journals from their first days of love to read.  There's a whole lot of revisionist history that goes on at the end of relationships, and journals don't allow that.  It's all right there in blue fountain pen (at least for me).  I can't pretend I felt differently than I did.  Someone--even Beve--can walk into that spare room, open up a book and call me out.  I dare you, I double-dog dare you!  Anyway, it'd be a good thing for couples to write down in the beginning why they believe God is calling them together.  Then take out that list 30 years later and see how their lives have stacked up.

I did that today.  It was even worth not getting any other thing done.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

One old story, one long night, two miracles

Beve's been in turbo-drive to unload our basement before the rains and autumn and son return.  Yep, all three at once.  We have to make room for J to return home after not living here for a couple of years.  And undoubtedly his library has expanded.  Mine sure has.  I don't have the faintest idea how that even happens.  I mean, I promise myself I won't buy any books--unless they're on sale, or at a thrift store, or collectors' editions, or...--ok, I suppose this is exactly the problem, if one can call buying books a problem, which I never will.  Not until every room in my house has bookcases in it, and more volumes are packed away in boxes because we don't have shelves for them.  Oh wait, that's exactly the position we're in right now. Sigh.  And J is as much a bibliophile as I am.  Or maybe more.  The only reason I have more books is because I have 30 years head start on him.  So with his return home, we have to create space, not simply for his bed (which becomes redundant in our already outfitted home), but for his library. We've long since created shelves along the tops of door frames and over windows, so that space is taken.  What to do, what to do?

Clear out, you say?  Exactly what Beve's been saying.  So we've spent the weekend purging books.  PURGING BOOKS. We meaning J and me.  Beve simply carried box after box up to our driveway for us to peer in and sort.  We were brutal, J and I were.  You'd be proud, if you care about such things.  Or horrified, if you care differently.  I am a little of both.

And today Beve brought a box all the way into the house, then took himself to visit his dad and Costco, because he knew I wouldn't come up for air for the rest of the day.  You see, that box held ALL of the blue-covered books I've used as journals since I was a teenager.  My very smart husband not only knew I wouldn't be getting rid of any of those journals, but that I'd turn the house upside-down to fit them in safely. I've only been talking about finding them since we moved into this house eight years ago, because I have to tell you, I always thought that if there was a fire, that set of journals was the one thing I would want to save.  They're like my magna opus, in a way.  The story of my life, struggles, and growing up.

So I spent the afternoon with the earliest of them.  The high school journals.  And can I just say...I was like a monograph.  One tune all the time. I prayed a whole lot, but mostly (like 90% of the time) about one thing.  One boy, I should say. The good news is that I outgrew that hero worship.  Outgrew it in such a way that that boy and I have lived to talk about it once or twice in the many years since.

But that's not what I want to write about today, though this has been quite a long prelude, huh? One summer night when I was a teenager, three close friends and I drove the 80 + miles to Spokane because--sigh, deep sigh--there was a John Denver concert.  We got tickets to the second--midnight--concert, because the first one of the evening sold out so quickly.  That's how big he was in those days. And John Denver was our favorite singer, too.  His folksy ballads were the sound track of our young lives.  We knew the lyrics by heart, turned up the dial when "Sunshine on Your Shoulders" and "Rocky Mountain High" came on and could even sing along with the more obscure songs like "Grandma's Feather Bed" and "Matthew's Song."  So we were amped up for that concert, without a doubt.

But a couple of things happened on the way to the concert that evening.  One was that two of us who were (and presumably still are) thinkers, got into a rather animated discussion about the book of Revelation as we drove.  I remember absolutely NOTHING about our conversation, but my journal says that at a particular point, the driver, EE, asked the boy in the back seat, KC, to give his opinion.  And KC said, "I don't like to participate in stupid discussions like this."  Then, by the time we got to Spokane, he'd said something else under his breath, and I told him to "Shut up."  And he did.  I mean he didn't say another word to me the whole night.  He didn't go to the concert, either, since we'd only gotten three tickets for the four of us and he was the gallant one to give up his seat.  So my last interaction with him that night was him turned the cold shoulder to me.  It was pretty hard to spend that pre-concert evening with one of my closest friends not saying a single word to me and was a relief to leave him at his brother's.

The second thing happened right as my other buddy, EE, parked his parent's large car.  When I got out of the car, he asked, "Did you lock the door?"  "Yes," the other two of us told him.  "That's too bad," he said.  "Because I did too, and the engine's still running."  Yep, you read that right.  There we were outside the running car with all the doors locked.  I have to admit, we laughed first. Probably a little hysterically.  Then he went off to find a phone (this was back in pre-historic times before cell-phones! but I'd forgotten the phone call until I read about it this afternoon), while my girl friend and I stood watch over the car. When he got back from talking to the police and his dad, he had a large rock in his hand, and we watched while he tried to break the car window.   EE wasn't successful at breaking the window, but the racket he caused by pounding that rock repeatedly against the glass brought a couple of people out of a house across the street from where we were parked.

Now here's an interesting thing: in my memory, that man went back into his house, brought out a little kit which included a tool with which he opened the car.  That's what I've always thought happened.  But my journal tells me he used a simple coat hanger.  Surprised me.  Makes me wonder how many other memories I've added to this way.  Anyway, both my memory and the journal agree that he had that car opened so fast we were dumbstruck, completely convinced that God had sent us a car thief to save us.  That was the miracle of that night, that God would use a thief to open that car in the nick of time.  We were a mere 5 minutes late to the concert (which I remember as wonderful, even though our seats were in the nose bleed section of the balcony!).

The second miracle--for me, at least--came about twenty-four hours later when I was just about to head off to bed at home.  The doorbell rang, and my two buddies, EE and KC, stood outside.  KC, who was carless that night, had called EE to bring him over to see me.  KC needed to apologize.  To ask for forgiveness for how he'd treated me that evening  in Spokane.  It was the first time anyone ever actually gone out of his way to practice what God intends us to do as believers--"forgive others as I have forgiven you"-- and it humbled and moved me.  Especially coming from KC, a rather proud boy who didn't say he was sorry easily...or ever.   I've never forgotten it, really.  I don't need my journal to remember that summer night, the way the bugs flew at the light above our front door as we stood there, how the screen door felt against my back.  My parents were in the living room watching tv, and I was aware of that too. EE was in his pajamas because he'd been about to go to bed when KC had called for the ride across town to my house.  I remember that KC carried a Bible and read from James chapter 1: 19-20, "Everyone should be slow to speak and slow to become angry, because our anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires." He was slightly nervous, because the words, "Will you forgive me?" aren't easy to say.

But I melted on the spot, and forgave him. Of course, I did.  That's what also happens when someone shows up as KC did.  There was only one response.  I mean, after all that?

That was the moment when I learned about forgiveness. KC went so far out of his way that it changed my life. It's been a model for my life as well. How far out of my way am I willing to go to ask someone for forgiveness when I have wronged them?  Even if it's inconvenient and I have to ask for help (and my buddy is wearing his pjs!), I'll do it, because if God tells me I've wronged someone, there is only NOW to make it right.  No other time. I cannot be put off, no matter what.

That's what God did that night.  There were two amazing miracles for me.  God will use who ever He needs to to unlock the doors, and forgiveness is a beautiful, humbling, friendship-building, transforming thing.  And it can change your life if you learn to practice it.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Words I hate

This morning a friend emailed me, and concluded with an ad he'd seen in his local newspaper about a man who teaches: "mindfulness and mindfulness based conflict engagement." I must have stared at the screen for five minutes when I saw those six words.  What on earth could that possibly mean?  And why on earth would anyone want to learn what this man intends to teach? The epitome of absurd, if you ask me.  But then, I can't stand the word mindful.  Really.  It reeks of churchiness to me, and I'm not all sure that it actually means today what it was meant to mean.  There used to be a reverence to it, I think.  But now, like so many words, it's empty of that.  Mindful.  Full of mind.  As if the rest of the time we're empty of mind.  And, come to think of it, some of us are...living and using empty minds, that is.

But that's not my point.  My point is, there are words and phrases I've never liked.  Ones that always make my jaw clench and hair stand up on the back of my neck.  
1. "But you..."  I really can't stand these two words.  I'll give you an example of what I mean.  Two days ago, like every day since Grampie went into the hospital, I made a plan with his wife to visit him the following day.  Yesterday the plan was that I pick her and her care-giver up at 11:45. I left my house at 11:30, was half way to her place, driving on the freeway when I got TWO phone-calls from her.  I rarely answer the phone in the car, even on speaker (or blue-tooth) because I have a tendency to vary my speed with the conversation.  It's just not a very safe practice.  But I thought there must be an emergency when the phone rang the third time.  So I pulled over, only to find out (from the care-taker) that she wanted to go later in the afternoon.  So last night, I told her it would be better to tell me BEFORE I was half way there, if she wanted to change the plan.  "But you sleep in in the morning, so I didn't want to call you," she said.  See, 'but you...'--thereby deflecting the responsibility from herself to me.  
We do this all the time.  It's human reaction.  I'm not pointing fingers at her that I don't point at myself.  I know my instinct is exactly the same.  Beve tells me I've left a light on, and I want to tell him that he left the condiments on the counter.  Nit-picking each other's faults rather than taking responsibility for our own.
2. "I'm sorry if I've offended you."  This is a big one to me.  I really hate this phrase because of a single word.  IF.  It single-handedly negates the entire point of the sentence. Again, it deflects responsibility.  If you aren't certain you've offended someone don't apologize, but my guess is, that if you think you have, you probably have, and therefore, should be using the phrase, "I'm sorry THAT I've offended you." Or even more eloquently and more importantly, "Please forgive me for offending you."  That's the truth of it all. We offend people.  I think it's rare that one might have the need to say "IF..." in the context of hurting another person.  We know who we are.  The Spirit was given, in part, to convict us concerning sin. If you're honest with yourself, you know this.
3. "I didn't mean to hurt you."  Seriously?  Like this is an excuse?  Think of how many things people have done through out history with this as the excuse.  We hurt each other.  That's what we do as humans.  Let's be honest about it.  What is probably a better thing to say is, "I wasn't thinking about you at all."  That's the sad reality of sin.  We don't think about other people.  Not when we sin.  We're only thinking about ourselves.  Yet we hurt each other.  In small ways and large.  And you know what?  This will always be the case.  As long as humans try to live together we will hurt each other.  And those hurts will escalate into calamities so large there will be bloodshed.  I hate this.  

And it's good that I hate these words.  It's Him in me, hating them, I believe.  

I've been thinking about this today because that same friend told me this morning that I've always been harder on myself than anyone else.  I've been chewing on that through all the work of this day--the being with our son, our Grampie, friends and non-friends at a dinner (gee, I love making small talk!!).  And this is what I know.  My friend is right.  I am hard on myself. My mother was hard on herself.  She thought--from the marrow of her bones out, that she was a loser through and through, and worth almost nothing.  It was terribly sad, and hard to heal, though I am confident she is finally wholly healed and whole.  But my facing of myself and my own flaws come from a different place. At the heart of me, I not only do not believe I'm a loser, but am thoroughly convinced of my own worthiness.  Sure of who and whose I am.  However, also deeply and simultaneously aware of the distance I have to go in becoming truly Christ-like.  So yes, definitely hard on myself.  And rightly so, I think.  I take a sharp lens--the lens of the gospel that says, "Be holy as I am holy," and hold it up to myself.  And I hold that same lens to others, in some ways.  But here's the truth, I want to extend His grace to others, more than to myself.  Let Him show mercy to them through me.  I don't care what He does to me, but what He does through me--that's the only Christ I can be to the world.  Let Him be more in me than I am in myself.  I've said that before, and say it again.  So when I write these words that I hate, I speak them most loudly to myself.  

What words to you hate? And why?

Friday, September 16, 2011

The parting fog

Just warning you--for the foreseeable future, my blog will feature Grampie.  Of course.  I write about what is real in my life on a daily basis, and  Grampie is all that and more right now.  He's always been larger than life, this giant who lived across the street, fathered my Beve and cast a long shadow across the University and community where I spent my childhood.  Everyone knew his name, that was just the nature of the man I call Grampie.

In the last week, while we've sat in hospital rooms, surgical waiting rooms, recovery rooms, rehab centers, I've seen a facsimile of that man.  A shadow of him, I suppose you might say.  This man sleeps far more than he's awake, is listless and deeply confused. Keeps wanting to get up and go home, and never knows why he is where he is.  He thought he was at the Olive Garden the other day, which, as a good friend put it, sounds a whole lot better than the hospital any day of the week.

But he's not complaining.  Not Grampie. The nurses, doctors, and everyone who walk into his room have the same report, "He's a perfect gentleman.  He doesn't complain of pain, is always kind and exceedingly polite."  Unfailingly good humored.  That's cell-deep to Grampie.  "How are you doing, Grampie?" I ask. "Just fine," he'll say. "No complaints, whatsoever."  And that's a true story.  Stoic on his best days, the dementia has taken away even the slightest feeling of pain, so he has no need to complain, really.  But he wouldn't anyway.  It's just not in him.

That's the way he was tonight when we visited. Then he asked, "How's J getting along?" So I called up my son and held for Grampie during their conversation.  Grampie was so dear, volunteered to do whatever he could to help J find a new job, even write a letter of recommendation for him (I think he was remembering all such letters he wrote as Department Chair of  Men's Physical Education at WSU during his 27 year career in that position).  After I ended the call (which also included Grampie telling J there was a birthday card in the mail for him, which J was very gracious about and didn't laugh, even though his birthday is in March), I put my phone back in my purse then walked back over to Grampie, who seemed a bit...well, down, I guess.
"What's wrong, Grampie?" I asked.
"I'm in a bad mood."
"Why?"
"I just hate that this is happening to Jonathan. And I can't do anything to help him."
Oh Grampie!  I was suddenly fighting (okay, not fighting at all!) tears.  There he is lying in a bed, barely coherent when he isn't sleeping, and that doesn't bother him.  What brings him back to himself is his love for his grandson. The love in him for J--for all of those nine beloved grandchildren--is the real him.

Two seconds later, while tears were still streaming down my cheeks, he tried to turn off the Comcast box ("That green light is on!") with the buttons controlling his bed.  His head, then his legs, then the entire bed went up and down as he pressed various buttons but that dang green light didn't disappear until I hid the box behind the TV.  It was like the moment of clarity was gone.  He'd disappeared back behind the fog that he's been in this week.

But I'm glad I was there when the fog parted for a moment.  I'm glad I was there to see in stark pain, how much he loves and hurts for my child.  He usually masks that hurt behind a strong wall of reserve. We know it's there, but to see it on his face that way, and to hear it in his voice. Wow.  What great love he has.

It reminds me of the way the Father loves His children.  We don't always see it--because WE live in a fog, not because HE does, but the result is the same. We know it because we know His character. But every now and then, the fog clears and we get a real glimpse of how great His love is.  Not in an academic way but because our pain hurts Him, our joys thrill Him, what happens to us matters to Him. Yes, it reminds me of this, Grampie does.  The lovely, true love Grampie has is much like that love.

But I'll tell you the truth, tonight I'm mostly just thinking of Grampie.  I'm thinking of how glad I am for him, how much I love him, and how glad I am he loves as deeply as he does.  That's enough.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Whatever is true...

Grampie's pretty confused right now, though each day the fog clears a bit from his brain. A little while ago he called me, which is a step back to the normal daily routine.  He said he's been getting calls 'all over the place,' and wanted me to tell him who they were from.  Yep, almost back to his normal, when he calls me immediately after he gets a phone call to ask if I called or if I can tell him who did.

Yesterday, with Thyrza sitting right beside him, a nurse asked him his wife's name.  Without missing a beat, he answered, "Barb." Beve's mom.  He couldn't come up with the second wife's name, and this is the second time he's done that in the hospital stay.  Thyrza's too recent a memory, I suppose.

Meanwhile, on the home-front, and related to Beve's mom, as we've been going through boxes from our basement, we found a "Grandmother's Book", which she'd finished for E, and one she'd started for J.  E's is jam-packed with stories and pictures about her childhood, college years, marriage and Beve's childhood.  It also clearly reveals her philosophies of life and relationships.  About familial relationships, she believed it important to be friendly to all but cultivate those she most enjoyed.  About neighbors, she believed in 'handling' the difficult ones and enjoying the rest.  About difficulties in life, she believed that turning a blind eye [my phrase] and having a PMA [her phrase] would get a person through.  This I remember: when I was pregnant, because my big ol' stomach tended to get in the way of food getting from my plate to my mouth easily I was more likely than usual to spill on my shirt.  I should have worn a bib, like Grampie has these days, but who knew.  Anyway, whenever that happened, I was likely to grouse a bit.  And Beve's mom's attitude was always, "Just keep moving."  The more I moved, the less anyone would notice the stain on my shirt. That pretty much sums up how she felt about life in general.  Just keep moving so that neither you nor anyone else will notice the bad things.

And, to be honest, there's something compelling about this philosophy.  Sometimes I want to move as quickly as I can from thinking or looking at the terrible things that stain my life, or the larger life on this planet.    I rotate and gyrate and practically turn myself inside out to keep from thinking of certain personal horrors.  They keep me awake at night if I let them.  And God truly knows how easily my sleep is disrupted even at the best of times.

But here's the reality.  God has a certain attitude, though on the surface it mirrors my beloved mother-in-law's quite nicely.  "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."  (Philippians 4:8) This sounds just like Beve's mom, doesn't it. Cultivate the good, look at the lovely turning color of the leaves, turn up the dial on the radio and let the music swell and sweep over you until you don't think about anything else. Yes, keep moving.  Yes, dwell there.  Have a positive mental attitude.  

And there is something to this, of course.  It takes us away from our worries and lifts our spirits.

But dig deeper, and you'll find something else.  Paul, through whom God wrote these words, was not only unafraid to look into the difficult things of life, but saw them in many ways as his credentials--his resume--that God was alive and well and working in him.  The unbelievably long list of personal horrors in 2 Corinthians 11, about which he boasts.  Boasting of lashings and shipwrecks and being imprisoned and in danger from bandits and at sea and of starving...well, read the list.  It's overwhelming and, for most of us, puts our little struggles to shame.  

It's in light of all this suffering that Paul says, think on what is true.  Not turn a blind eye and pretend none of it is happening, but in the midst of whatever you're experiencing, think on what is good and noble and pure and pure and praiseworthy. Right here, right this moment, even now.   

Today, with a confused and disoriented father-in-law fighting for his life in one way and a depressed and anxious son fighting for his life in another.  With my own physical pain taking a toll on my body and the stress of these days taking a toll on my heart.  This day, this cloud-covered, leaf-falling day, I will turn my eyes to God and rejoice in the truth that He works, that He dwells here, that He never leaves the righteous unprotected. And He is our peace.  There is joy in these days.  Not in moving so fast I don't see them, not by pretending the pain isn't real or doesn't hurt, but by seeing that He is with us in the pain.  That is what is praise-worthy.  I will dwell on these things.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The good old days

During the days we've spent in hospital rooms, waiting rooms, touring rehab/skilled nursing facilities, Beve and I have repeatedly heard folks tell us how awesome we are for being so supportive of Grampie during this time.  Incidentally, awesome is a word I almost never use for anything but God.  Because it comes from the word awe and I like to save my awe for what is truly awe-inspiring, which means, God.  Not someone's new hairdo, or the dress they got at a discount price or any one of a thousand things people call 'awesome' in any old conversation.  Beve and me hanging out with Grampie awesome?  Not even close.

Because there's no place we'd rather be.  It's the reason we convinced them to move here.  We want to be with Grampie and Thyrza when they need us, and a whole lot of times when they don't.

But the reality is, there are many people in their age bracket who are alone in hospital and nursing homes.  Their children live in Iowa, Oklahoma, New York and New Mexico. And all points between.  The elders may have burned their bridges but their children have certainly left their parents alone to die.  Of course I can't speak to all the reasons those people lie alone in their beds, or sit in their wheelchairs with their heads drooping, unable to look out at the world, but it makes me sad to think the last season of their lives is spent alone.  No matter what.

Now, even though we're weary right now, it's easy for us to be with Grampie and Thyrza.  They are kind and thoughtful and care greatly for us.  This morning when Grampie's pastor came by to see him, Grampie, who'd been barely lucid for three days, looked at the man and said, "I'm sorry we missed church on Sunday."  He'd been lying in the hospital with a broken hip Sunday morning, but felt badly he had to apologize for not getting to church.  That's the kind of man my father-in-law is. So ministering to Grampie in his 'hour of need' (sorry for the triteness of the phrase) is easy, because we wouldn't be anywhere else.

But I was thinking about how this work we've been doing this week--this all-consuming, full-time, exhausting work--is ministry of the Matthew 25 kind.  The sheep and the goats Jesus talked about.  I can so clearly see Jesus in my beloved Grampie.  His wide smile is Jesus' and his gruff voice speaking my name has God's voice in it.  Believe me, I know Jesus is in him.  But I've done this work before, when it wasn't so simple, when it was all mixed up with my own complicated feelings about my complicated mother and the work was harder then.  But Jesus' words about "That which you did for the least of these, you did for me," have nothing to do with the worth of the 'least of these'.  We're talking sick and poor and hungry and naked people.  Perhaps parents who have hurt and wounded and continue to be mean and ungrateful and don't want our help. But Jesus doesn't tell us to care only for those who want it.  And He certainly doesn't tell us to care only for those who haven't hurt us.  That's about as opposite to His teaching as one could get.  He tells us to love those who hurt us, to forgive them, and then to minister to those who are hurting.  It all goes together.  And in that ministering, it's like we're actually ministering to Him.  Like HE's the one lying in that extra-long hospital bed with his gnarly old toes sticking out the end of the blanket and his face in need of a shave.  Yes, it's Jesus right there in that bed with a broken hip.  And all the love we pour out on this old, confused man, is perfume on the feet of our Lord.

There may be excuses for those who are of the world.  People who don't know Him may rationalize every which way why they don't do the right thing, why they don't love and care for their elderly parents in practical, present ways.  But for us--for those who would call themselves Christ-ones--there is no excuse.  We are His.  We have Him in us.  He loves our elderly parents...and they are the least of these.  You know?  God intends us to honor our parents.  He tells us this.  And this season is the last call to honor them on this earth.

If this call comes to you, it's a gift and privilege and responsibility all in one.  Don't miss any of it.

That's my soapbox for the day.  I think of how long and draining these days are with Grampie, how hard they were with Mom.  But in some elemental sense, they are also 'the good old days.' Sure, we're absolutely dead-on-our-feet exhausted, but, for Beve and me, when all is said and done, we will look back on this time fondly, because we were in it together, walked through it with Grampie and Thyrza, and got to minister to Jesus in them.  Yes, we'll think,  those were the good old days.  And we wouldn't have missed them for the world.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Micro and global

  I sit out in my back yard in the quiet of a September morning, throwing a tennis ball for my dog, thinking how lovely the day is, how blue the sky and pleasant the breeze. But there's something else fully occupying my mind, sitting fully on my shoulder, so to speak.

I've seen what happens when, for example, seemingly harmless cells form where they should not, take over and grow out of proportion, when they become malignant and evil and turn against the natural law.  In micro, we call this cancer.  It happened with my dad, Beve's sister, some friends, extended family, and, especially, Beve's mom.  That malignancy killed Beve's mom.  And I've seen--I admit, through the safety of my TV screen--it happen on a global level.  Cells of people form for the purpose of doing damage on a state they believe to be the enemy of their own.

I've seen what happens when holes are torn in a body. Or in the brain.  On the micro level (from within), Alzheimers does this. I saw it in my mother, and watch it again in Grampie.  It rips holes in the brain so completely, it destroys section after section, killing a person in slow motion. And when something at high speed enters and rips through the walls of a skeleton, there is damage.  Bullets do this.  I knew a couple of boys in my youth whose own fathers had accidentally shot them as they were hunting together, mistaking their own sons for deer.  One of the dads later took his own life, the pain so deep he could not begin to overcome it.  And we all watched as giant bullets--in the form of airplanes filled with people--tore holes through building so tall they seemed to reach to heaven, and one so fortified, it seemed impenetrable, and into a field that still will forever wear the scars.

But here's the thing.  As I sat outside this morning in the brilliant sunshine, I was struck by the glorious beauty of creation.  The mountains I can see in the distance, the tall evergreens of various hues lining the sky-line.  Birds fly and squirrels dart across the back fence.  Life is a flush with beauty even as there is death in it.  This is the case today as it was the case a decade ago when firefighters climbed stairwells to their certain deaths, and dust-covered people with their fearful hearts in their throats ran down Manhattan's streets away from toppled towers, and when ordinary people fought to take back a plane from those who would destroy more of their country.  Beauty and honor amid the death.

I look back at the lives of those lost--both in my own small world, and in the larger one--and am aware of how like a vapor our time on this glorious earth is.  80 years, if we're blessed with longevity.  But the magnifcience of creation is so breath-taking set against the brevity of our lives, that even if I was not already fully a believer, I would believe.  Yes, death happens.  But that can't be the end.  Not when life is so brief and creation so big and glorious and beyond all that we can imagine.  That's how wondrous God is.  "I would have despaired, if I had not believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living," says the Psalmist.  And also the goodness of the Lord beyond the land of our living to our resurrected lives.

This I believe.  This day.  On the micro level when we face the dying of his dad, if not this day, soon enough, God knows.  And on the global level.  Death, yes.  For each of us.  Death will come.  From this earth, this beautiful, lovely earth.  But life, too.  So let us end there, this day.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Same song, different verse

I was awakened this morning by cello music.  Since I was asleep I didn't quickly identify the Bach Cello suite as the ring tone I've set for me phone, though I know it when I'm awake.  Unfortunately, this meant that by the time I woke up enough to answer, Thyrza was leaving a message.  That's what the elders do.  They ALWAYS leave messages.  Then they move on to call Beve, E, and, on occasion, our other two kids (even when they're across the state and couldn't possibly be of any assistance), so it's almost impossible to call them back, even when it's urgent that we do so.  Like this morning.

You see, Grampie fell this morning.  He'd gotten up to use the bathroom, then walked out of the bathroom without his walker.  Plum forgot about it.  When he remembered and turned back to get it, he slipped and fell.  Wouldn't you know it. It was on his way back that he fell.  And as he fell, he was so concerned about protecting his left eye that he's had three surgeries on in the last year, he didn't pay one bit of attention to the rest of his body (though I doubt it would have made a bit of difference, being old and brittle as he is).  So he broke his left hip.  Clear through.  6 mm separating it from the ball at the moment.

He's lying with his feet sticking off the end of a bed on the third floor of the hospital across town right now, waiting for surgery.  Tomorrow, if his blood thickens up enough.  He's been a little high centered today on how strange his leg feels, like it's  curving in toward the other one. And he must have told the orthopedic surgeon five times that he wants to be 'darn sure' he has a DNR in place.  The last time he said it, I finally touched his arm and said, "We all hear you, Grampie," and he calmed down.  His other concern about how Thyrza will manage without him.  The truth is that she does most of the managing these days, but he still thinks of himself as the provider in their relationship.

This is a very familiar song to me. I've sung the melody a couple of times before.  Seen a parent fall, break something, lose more of themselves in the recovery.  Talked to hospitalists, orthopedic surgeons, nurses, social workers, made lists, sat in hospital rooms.  An elderly parent with dementia is a very specific kind of ortho patient, if you ask me.  Such a patient doesn't remember not to move in certain directions, not to put weight on the leg. Grampie, like my mom, doesn't feel pain, which is sometimes a symptom of Alzheimers (and, frankly, I'll take it over the opposite--people who feel pain acutely, which can also be a symptom).   This is day one.  The day before surgery, before the anesthesia which might wreck even more havoc on his holey brain.

Oh, but there was this surreal moment of the day:  Beve's brother and son had already intended to come up for the day, so, with Thyrza, there were five of us squished in Grampie's hospital room.  Suddenly in walked Beve's sister's husband.  Now a widower, of course.  P was with his girlfriend (though why we would call a woman clearly in her fifties a 'girl'-anything, I don't know!).  They stopped by on their way out to Birch Bay where she has a vacation place.  Friendly and warm, it was nice to meet her. But then they invited all of us to come on out for a party and a swim.  Even Thyrza.  Seriously?  Grampie just fell and broke his hip, is lying in a hospital bed, Beve and I are just trying to figure out logistics for the next 24 hours.  Moving Thryza around in a wheelchair, being with Grampie when the doctors are there so we get all the information.  Sure, we have plenty of time for a party and swim out in Birch Bay. I wonder what my face looked like when they were inviting us.  I often wonder if people can read what I'm thinking, because it feels almost impossible to keep my mouth from dropping wide open at such moments.  Yep, seriously surreal.

But it was for this that we moved Grampie and Thyrza here.  Here where, when such phone calls come, they are a mere 10 to 15 minutes from us, rather than 3+ hours and a ferry-ride away.  And everyone (but Grampie!) sleeps in their own bed tonight. Thyrza could go home for an afternoon nap, we could take a break--because who knows what tomorrow will bring--and we'll all be better for it.  Yes, this is why they're here.


Friday, September 9, 2011

The Greek Festival at St. Sophia

This weekend is the Greek Festival at St Sophia, the local Greek Orthodox Church.  Years ago, when we were new to this community, Beve and I stumbled onto this festival with only about ten dollars cash between us and a veritable 'borgsasmorg' (as our kids called it when they were little), of Greek delights to choose from. You should have seen us that cool September evening, counting our pennies so that we could buy enough tokens to buy a gyro to share, a little Greek salad, and, of course, some baklava.  Tokens--you have to have those tokens at the Greek Festival.  Money won't do you a bit of good.

Since then, the Greek Festival is as much a part of our September as the beginning of school...if we're not out of town, of course. So today Beve, E (who'd driven up from Seattle for a couple of appointments) and I enjoyed dripping gyros, while a band played and people danced.  Children with painted faces ran around eating snow-cones, and teenagers stood together in clumps, talking and whispering.  Every year things change a little at the Greek Festival.  This year, when we went to find a place to eat our dinner under the large tent ,there was a sign tacked up beside a roped-off section, which read, "Beer Garden--no one under 21 admitted."  We chose to sit outside the 'Garden'.though once we sat down we thought we'd have done as well to have not entered the tent at all.  It was pretty hard to hear...

But the gyros.  To die for, I'm hear to tell you.  Really. But we were saving ourselves for the main event. Dessert.  Now here's the thing.  Since April, I've almost completely eliminated sugar, fat, dairy and bread from my diet.  All in an effort to feel healthier.  And it's worked.  I actually do feel better.  I stopped eating these things and almost immediately began sleeping better, and all the aches and pains have been minimized.  Everything other than the nerve pain on my left side (which cannot be fixed by diet).

All that to say, it's been months since I've had dessert.  And tonight it wasn't just dessert, but BAKLAVA.  And I love baklava.  I can actually remember the first time I ever tasted it. I'd gone to visit my sister, the Dump, at Cal Tech for Thanksgiving her freshman (and my sophomore) year of college.  We went to a little burger place off campus in Pasadena, and afterwards she took me to a little pastry shop.  Told me I had to try this gooey bar-type cookie-ish thing with a name I couldn't pronounce.  I took one bite and wanted to face-plant on the whole pastry shelf.  I can't believe I remember that, but I bet if I called my sister, she'd not only also remember it, but be able to name the restaurants.  When it comes to food (especially dessert!), her memory is flawless.

Tonight we ate a few (ok, many!) Greek donuts (sorry I can't remember the correct name) because E loves them the way I love Baklava.  So I won't sleep as well tonight.  So I'll ache more tomorrow.  It's almost worth it. Right?

I do love this wonderful festival, though.  I love that the little old ladies of St. Sophia wear crosses around their necks and sunglasses on their eyes as they stand over hot deep fat fryers.  I love that the old men do what the women tell them to do, and the young come running when their parents tell them.  I love that we see people we know, and that others meet their friends there and that, for all that this city we live in isn't a small town, it sometimes feels that way, when we meet so many people we know everywhere we go.  I love that community doesn't have to happen only within the walls of a church or the walls of the specific church you happen to go to, but should be a part of what you do when you're out living your life on the street, and in your work and walking your dog, and doing your shopping and talking over your fence to your neighbor.  That's what Jesus intended when He talked about loving our neighbors, of course.  He intended that we'd live locally, beside each other, you know?  Not anonymously, but known.

In the back parking lot of St. Sophia Church here in Bellingham, you can watch this lived out, this community--eating, sharing, giving, dancing, living--every September.  It's sweet to eat and sweet to be reminded.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Days with Grampie

It's been a while since I wrote about adventures with Grampie, but let me just say, the fun never ends.  Last week I took both elders to the eye doctor, and, like with most things involving two elderly, unsteady-on-their-feet people and two walkers, it took four hours.  I'm not sure how exactly.  Grampie, who likes to show off by pushing his walker to the back of our Highlander and walking to the front of the car by himself managed two things: he almost instantly fell, and, my Kindle, which had been sitting on his walker, ended up in the bushes.  It took me about ten minutes to find it, with Grampie and Thyrza helpfully showing me little notebooks, paperback books, and even plastic bags, because they couldn't quite understand what I was talking about.  "It's about this big," I said, holding up my hands. "And it has a red cover. I retraced my steps, practically accused the employees of having stolen it, and was tearing my hair out, when I saw it poking out of a laurel hedge. Where it must have slid when he pushed off that walker.
On the way home, Grampie commented about how I'd "almost lost my cool when you lost that red thing."
 "Yep," I answered.  "And you know what?  You and Beve gave me that red thing."
"I did?" he screwed up his mouth in its familiar twist. "Why did I do that?"

That afternoon we had to pick out a new pair of glass-frames for Grampie while Thyrza was having her eyes tested.  I was doing my best to steer him toward some even slightly stylish glasses.  And I have to tell you, he looked mighty fine in a few of them.  But he kept saying, "I want bigger ones."  Finally, I gave in and reached for the largest pair of frames on the rack.  You know the ones I'm talking about.  They take up about half his face, need an extra brace across the front just to help hold all the metal in place. These exact frames were once worn as protective gear for fighter pilots.  I was a little horrified.  But Grampie was pleased as punch (a saying he uses all the time), Thyrza thought he looked dapper in them, and even the optician agreed with the paying customer, rather than his daughter-in-law.

So I took him in to pick them up today.  And he was thrilled with them.  Thrilled too, because he'd asked if they could be monogrammed, and, what'd ya know, they had been. Right there on one of the stems, his whole name.  So if he happens to lose those big, bulky frames among all the other big, bulky frames at the Retirement Center where he lives, he'll just need his pocket magnifying glass to find out which pair is his (because he wouldn't be able to tell by putting them on his face, after all!). Along with the frames, he got clip-on sun-glasses, and three cases (one for the clip-ons, one soft and one hard case for the frames). Grampie thought he'd won the jackpot, getting all this free stuff.

Then, while I was paying his bill (see, it really wasn't free, he just doesn't quite understand money anymore), he pulled out an old pair of glasses and was asking the technician to size and clean them for him.  I turned around to see her carefully measuring him in a pair of old tri-focals that I'm almost positive were women's glasses.  At the very least, they weren't his.  "No," I said, probably a little sharper than I should have. "You don't need those glasses, Grampie. Why don't we put them in the box for people who need glasses?"  Fortunately he's quite compliant.  As I put the glasses in the box, he pulled out another pair of glasses, an EXACT replica of the new ones, except that the gold is slightly tarnished on the old pair.  This is an unfortunate situation because these are his reading glasses.  So his new glasses and his old reading glasses look identical--or will to him.   This has disaster written all over it.

I spent the whole drive home trying to figure out how to help him keep them straight.  Five minutes after leaving the eye clinic, he couldn't remember what the new glasses were for.  "I wear these only for reading?" (He doesn't actually even need glasses for reading, he just thinks he does because he used to.)
"No, Grampie. You wear them all the time, for watching TV, seeing across the room, looking out the car window."

Five minutes later, "I wear these for reading, right?"

And so it goes.

Adventures with Grampie.  Beve and I often say that the time we spend with him is the most precious time we have.  We know it's fleeting.  Just the other day, when he wasn't feeling very well, he told me, "I'm just winding down, you know."  And that's the truth.  Grampie's winding down.  The end of his life isn't what he expected it to be when he was at the heighth of his...well, of his heighth, for one thing. (That reminds me, he's been talking for the last couple of months about what a big woman M is (his Finnish granddaughter who was here this summer).  He just told me the other day, "I'm 6'8", and she's a lot taller than me, so she must be almost 7 feet tall."  Oh Grampie.  He doesn't realize that he's not even close to 6'8" anymore. His legs are still long, but he's bent almost in half, so his head is just about even with mine now.)  But beyond that, no one ever imagines their mind will go as his has gone.  How could we imagine such a thing?  And what good would it do to imagine it?
But whatever comes, may it come with the grace and ease of spirit it has come to my dear father-in-law.  He has accepted his limitations with such equanimity.  It does me good to be with him, just to drive places and listen to him read signs.  It's a ministry of being--him to me as much as me to him. Some days when I see him, see the frailty of his movements, the gauntness of his frame, I am struck with how soon these days might be over.  I will miss the joy of these last gifts with Grampie, these days of being.