Saturday, June 30, 2012

Saffron-flavored silence

The house is quiet for the moment. In a house of ten people and two dogs (including one puppy) quiet during daylight hours will be in short supply around here. Doled out in small measure so we appreciate it like saffron. You know what I mean, don't you? Saffron--that spice that is so ridiculously expensive that half an ounce costs over a hundred dollars. Something that expensive we don't take for granted. We don't waste saffron on frivolous dishes, sprinkling it on our eggs in the morning, our tuna sandwiches at lunch and our hamburger helper at dinner. No, it's meant for the finest of our meals. Meant for special moments.

That's how quiet will be for me this summer. I can tell that already. Our one-lane hallway gets log-jammed in the middle, our table is stretched to capacity, we've gathered chairs from every corner for seats in our living room, and the bathrooms have revolving doors on them. Poor things (and by things I mean both the bathrooms and those who have to take a number and wait in line). But we're learning community. Learning again what life was like when large families lived in homes as small as this day in and day out, year after year. We don't have a large home, you see. Not by any stretch. It has plenty of outdoor space, but when the rain comes (and it does--it did today) and we're clustered inside, it gets a bit crowded. Today, one of Beve's buddies who knows the Finnish brother, stopped by. Then our Chinese girl, who is in town for a few days, also dropped in with her significant other.
Grampie sat in his chair shaking his head, "My gosh, you guys have a lot going on. I can't keep it all straight." And though that's true in an ontological sense, I think every one of us felt it pretty strongly for a while today.

So we kind of retreated to corners. Some Finns to take naps, others to run some errands, Beve to school one last time, and here I sit. Quietly in my living room with the dogs gladly sleeping nearby.

We all relish community but perhaps community works best because we have a bit of the saffron-colored silence now and then, to sprinkle between us. The poet W. H. Auden has a line I've always loved that speaks to this: "I'm talked out, quipped out, socialized so far out of myself, I need the weight of mortal silences to find myself again."

I'll take this moment, breathe it in. And lift off back off into community, flavored with saffron.

Friday, June 29, 2012

On the first day of vacation

On the first day of vacation, our relatives came to us. One from Beersheva. Three from Helsinki, One from Boston, and two (eventually) from down in Se-attle.
There were some kerfuffles:
One lost dog in Israel
One lost bag in Manchester
One left Iphone at SeaTac airport.

The phone was recovered, the dog was found and the bag is finally on its way here.

We all slept like babies. In every nook and cranny. On the couches and the chaise lounges, resting at the table, practically falling into our soup (if we'd actually had any).

Then we called up Grampie, told him we were coming.
And... I'll tell you. He was STUNNED. He couldn't believe his Finnish family was here. He couldn't believe it. Beve had told him yesterday. We've been telling him for weeks. But every day's a new day to him. So today, it was a surprise. Like he'd won the lottery. The biggest jackpot in Vegas history. In the history of any jackpots. Well, the grand-prize of all surprises. Yep, that's what this morning was to Grampie. 
See, he got out of bed on a regular Friday morning, a day like any other and before he had his lunch that day had taken a left turn into glorious. With the gift of his son and family from across the sea. A family he wasn't sure he'd ever see again on this side of glory.
And he knew them. Every single one of them. Even the two he hasn't seen in over a decade. You should have seen his smile. Really. It generated enough wattage to light up the whole facility and made me cry to see. To see him love like that, to see him so full of joy. There have just been so many days when he's put on a fine face in the face of all that is not fine that to see him have something REALLY fine. Well, that's fine, indeed.

So he'll be with us every day for the next five weeks. Taking his naps here, being our 88 year old baby. Having to be reassured, reminded and cajoled into certain things, pulled back from others. But he'll love every minute of it. Even if tomorrow morning it's all new again. Even if every single morning it's like a big surprise that they're here--come to celebrate him and listen to his stories one last time. Come to sit by him and watch him move those large hands expressively side-to-side while he makes a point, to hold his tongue that certain way when he tries to cut his meat and watch him frown his half moon frown when the world rushes past. Here to listen as he reads aloud every sign or incorporates others' words into the middle of his sentences: I was thinking so the Mariners leave two men stranded that this is the most precious of last gifts--if you know what I it's the hopper mean.

Seriously though, this will be the most precious of summers. Our Giants (and my own beloved BB) live together in our home as one big Clan of family.  With a patriarch in a wheelchair, wearing a WSU "adult bib" presiding at the end of the table.

On the first day of vacation, our family came to us.
And we called it, called it, called it very good.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Always this tall

Once again it's Random Journal Link-up # 14

I don't have much backstory to this one. It's just a random post from a random middle-aged woman one random (probably rainy) February night.

Wednesday, February 10, 2009
I was standing in the bathroom a moment ago, my elbows on the counter in order to peer closely into the mirror. It's a ritual I've repeated myriad times over the last few years...ever since I first noticed that whiskers have begun to grow in one particular spot on the left side of my chin, right along the jaw line. Just two or three of them but they're annoying. For a moment tonight as I plucked them, I imagined being 30 years older, squinty-eyed and unable to pluck my own unwanted hairs. Will a strange curly one grow out of my cheek or off the end of my nose? And will I be too old and infirmed to take care of my own ablutions--or even notice them? If so, who will do it? Who will tell me? And will I listen? I can't quite imagine an 80-year-old Beve trying to pluck my face.

We get older every day. And sometimes I even feel it. But most of the time my inner self feels exactly the same as I felt at 16 or maybe even 10. As I've often said, "I can't remember becoming tall enough to see over the kitchen counters." That is, inside I've always been exactly the same size. Intellectually I know I've grown, but I don't remember it. I almost remember being small, but maybe I just remember the feeling of being on Dad's shoulders, or held in Mom's lap.  And I remember pulling out drawers to stand on, my feet on the outer edges (though I'm pretty sure Mom didn't like me doing it!), and standing on the wooden stool to wash and dry dishes in Michigan. But those are all memories, not actual feelings. That is, despite those memories, it still 'feels' like I've always been this tall.

And I think the same holds true spiritually as well. That is, it feels like I've always been exactly this tall with Christ. Though cerebrally I KNOW I'm in a different place with Him than I was at 14, I still feel like me. It's only in looking backwards that I can really tell the difference. Even at that, there are times when I'm so dry that it's like I've regressed all the way back to that childhood with God. To childishness--not child-likeness. I wonder if I'll still be feeling this way when He's beckoning me into Glory itself. Like I'm still just a child. Still just a child but one with whiskers on her chin and her mother's face in the mirror. Sigh.

The spotlight

The summer flu has migrated to my throat.
This is dangerous territory, friends. Me without a voice? Oh the horror. The absolute horror.
Less so, I think, for those around me, who might just find my strangled voice a welcome change.

The fact is, I'm a talker. A grab-spotlight-and-only-give-it-up-at-gunpoint person. And this is NOT a strength. Because I do this, there are many around me who might infer that I neither realize I do it, nor understand what I'm doing. Neither is true. I do realize. And there are times when I even realize that I'm riding roughshod over those around me to garnish attention.  And though some of you reading this might say, "Then stop it," it's not that easy. Would that it were. That any sin was easy to conquer, to throw in the dustbin once and for all, never to pick up again.

This is my besetting sin, I think. It's the thing of which Paul writes in Romans 7: 15-20 "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it."

That's a pretty long, redundant passage to say what I know to be true in my own life. What we each do, if we admit it. No matter how much I want to do the right, I don't always do it, and even at the very moment I most desire it, sometimes I fail. There are times--at large family gatherings--when I pray that this time, please GOD!, I won't talk more than listen. This time I'll be the one who serves and sits in the background and doesn't have to drive the conversation. This time I won't open my small-on-the-outside, but oh-so-verbose mouth and suck all the air from the room by my wit. And this time, I won't hurt someone's feelings by saying something insensitive.

And still I do it. There is the room, there are the people. My people. And my good intentions get swallowed up. Yes, even my prayers get swallowed up in my default setting.  So much so that others don't see that I'm not really all that. That I don't really have diahhrea of the mouth and have to spill everything I know to everyone I meet. In fact, I don't. I absolutely don't. HE sees to that.

It's just that there is also a sinful nature here. It has not been eradicated. That is the truth. I do not do what I want to do.

I'm thinking of this today, of course, because though I'm sitting alone right now, we are four hours away from being swarmed for the summer. Four hours away from when my short-circuits will tell me that it's time to go on stage. My spirit is willing to be quiet among these people, this family of giants (and the shortest person coming to our home is barely under 6' tall), but my flesh is definitely weak.

No, the truth is, His Spirit is willing. Maybe I should stop there.
I am who I am. The oddest thing about me is that I need--like I need air--silence in my daily life. I am absolutely lost without it, because it means I haven't had a moment with Him.  And the less time with Him, the more likely to be loud myself.

All this to say...I will need prayer in the next six weeks. Prayer to be less like me and more like Him. To have Him glorify Himself in me. That's the way. The only way.  Then maybe, just maybe, I can give up that spotlight. To others.

Even better, maybe to Him. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Time-Traveling Tuesday

Because I somehow managed to pick up a flu bug today, I took a nap. I take naps about every six months or so, and am not very good at it. In fact, usually they result in headaches, even more insomnia than usual and a general sense that all is not right when I awaken. It's really not worth the trouble.

But this evening, because I took that nap, and because of the malaise that comes with a flu bug, I'm also suffering from a lack of inspiration. At least that's what I'm blaming said lack of inspiration on. In any case, last week, after pulling out my travel journal from my backpacking trip through Europe, I read through the whole trip. And...
I've decided that once a week (Ttime-Traveling-Tuesdays!), I'll take you with me on that journey in 1982.  Not every sentence of every paragraph, but enough so that you'll have a real sense of the trip, because it was life-changing personally, and pretty cool generally.

Well, you'll see.

So, here we go:

October 11, 1982
London (Earl's Court Youth Hostel)
I've set foot off the North American continent for the first time in my life and I never want to speak again. The voices here are so lovely. And, to sound trite, everyone just plain looks so British. the houses have red roofs and huddle close together, like they have secrets. It's grey, overcast and drizzling, exactly the way I'd envisioned London to be. It's novel...and a novel setting. No wonder they all wanted to write and live and grow here. I want it to seep through my clothes, right into my very being. SK and I have been so involved in getting here that we've hardly walked around at all, but I can wait. It's all out there and I'm alive for it.

But part of me feels like there should be no 'motor cars', no modern buildings. London, even today, is full of Victorian-aged streets, so there should be horse-drawn carriages and women in long dresses. But somehow (as contradictory as this sounds) the punkers fit too. I'm not sure why. But that's the rub of London, I guess.

Why did I want to come to Europe? 
In some ways I don't know. I only know that I had to, that seeing these places, living this way was meant to change me. Already my shoulders ache from carrying my pack and my eyes are lead-filled from jet-lag...

OR to say it this way (in the third-person):
She came to London independent, confident, brimming with exuberant anticipation. She set foot on soil she had never felt before. "You'll probably get over there and find it's all just a big map," someone had told her and panic rose as an unbidden, unwelcome companion. "You don't know what you're getting yourself into." But she did know. She'd stopped asking for a knight in shining armor, she put a backpack on her shoulders and went looking for a life. Walking down the streets, past history itself, she stumbled into love of a dialect, a philosophy; yes, a life she could imagine. She watched people carrying on their lives. In city flats (the signs FOR SALE 1 BED FLAT hang on every street) through the windows she saw life--a woman closing drapes on a darkened room, another washing greens, a man reading (Dickens, maybe, or Keats), a young family with a babe still in a high chair. Life and she had come to glimpse it, both yesterday's life and today's.

A young man with purple eye-shadow. An old woman with her gray hair knotted behind her and a gap where her front teeth might have been. Other American voices at the next table (Oh my, the valley-girls have followed us to London). Eating pizza because pubs might take more courage than a first night can muster. Gathering our sea legs.

But sleep will help. Yes, mostly, sleep will help.

Another lesson from my dogs

Another lesson I've learned from my dogs--from our lovely Jamaica. She's lived her life (5 whole years!) afraid of every other dog but Jackson, and this new puppy, Kincade, just plain loves her so much that she's not only overcome that fear, but loves him right back.

God is love.
Whoever lives in love lives in God and God in them.
This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment.
In this world we are like Jesus.
There is no fear in love,
but perfect love drives out all fear...
The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
1 John 4: 16-18

Monday, June 25, 2012

Guests become family

E and I are sitting in the TV room, trying to make as little noise as possible. There's a party at the other end of the house. A party of public school counselors, no less. And you should see how they party!  We're talking mineral water, tabouli, hummus, veggies...yep, these folks are wild and crazy. You can see why we needed to get out of their way.

This party--a retirement party for the man who's been their district supervisor for the last couple of decades--helped us get the public rooms in our home ready for the family who will arrive on Thursday. Beve LOVES hosting people. He takes after his mother that way. More is better for Beve, and he'd gladly have our house swell to capacity every moment of every day. And...that's exactly where we'll be this summer. In fact, this weekend, we'll set up a trailer in our driveway for an overflow bedroom for the young adult women who will need their own space (and who will likely stay awake giggling while the rest of us sleep). We'll have ten people in this house during July.

Some of these folks who are here today know us well and have been quite sympathetic about what we're facing, as if it's some kind of trial. But we don't see it this way at all. I worry about things like making sure everyone has a bed to sleep in, enough space so that they don't feel crowded and overwhelmed. I want my home clean enough that I'm not embarrassed by it, but also comfortable enough that people know they can actually live here. Be a part of us, sit at our table and enter into our family. That's what Beve has taught me. It's what his mother taught him. A true hospitality, I think.

Sure, I worry about menus because I'm lousy thinking of what to make for meals. Then I worry about making sure we actually have all the ingredients necessary to make said meals. But once those two things are organized, I can sit back and relax. I'm not a passionate cook, but that's okay. Especially now that I have grown daughters, one of whom (or maybe both) definitely has developed the passion I lack. There's pleasure in the cooking when cooking with someone who finds pleasure in it.

Then we sit at our table together. All of us. I learned this from my grandparents, my parents, my in-laws and the best of my friends. Beve and I believe in expanding our table so that we can all sit together. The sacrament of sharing in a meal is part of what we offer when we open our home. We join hands, lift our hearts, give thanks, eat together and share in the good that has been given. In taste, in word, in every other way.

So we look forward to the plenty that will be around our table this summer. Our family together. Beve's brother, his daughters, their mother, our children. Our Grampie. More family. My brother. Perhaps more family.

Many times Beve and I have heard the saying that guests, like fish, should be thrown out after three days. And we always look at each other and shake our heads sadly. Three days is just about the time it takes until our guests become family. And that's what we look for. Guests who become family. Family as guests who become family in our home.

Come, bring your suitcase, we'll clear out a drawer, and give you a bed. Put you to work and call you one of us.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Settling into Summer

School's out.
Beve took off his work clothes Thursday night, put on shorts and Vacation Beve showed up Friday morning, right on schedule. Bright and early. Sure, he had to go to school for that last (pointless!) day when no student nor teacher does anything but be there, but he did it in shorts. And when the bell rang, Beve had cake and sparkling cider and a celebratory speech all ready in the counseling center for the entire staff.

Then he came home and marched outside to trim the laurel hedge in our backyard while Everett worked in the front garden. That's how Beve rolls. He is just made for action, my husband is. Made for movement and action and company and hosting and...and just about everything this summer will hold.

I always feel a bit of a jolt when summer comes because Beve and I are made so differently. When I get up during the school year, I'm used to not having to speak to anyone but God for hours. I settle in to my favorite corner of the couch (or chair on the back deck) with tea and my Bible and let the morning and God wake me up as slowly as necessary. And it is necessary because mornings are hard.  I come at them screeching and clawing, like I've lost the battle every time. And the last thing I want is to have to talk about it. To have noise or cheer or even a single question about how I slept. Silence is all I want. Good and faithful silence to ease me into the day that I'd just as soon not have had to face.

But Beve starts the day with a bang. He jolts awake as though caffeine had been poured into his system while he slept. He wakes up so fast, there's not a single yawn left by the time he leaves our bed. And he leaves that bed, even in the summer, HOURS before I do. By the time I come stumbling out he's already halfway through his morning. And since he was at full-speed at the crack of dawn, he's in overdrive by the time he sees me.

And ready to talk about it. Talk to me about it. I lift a blurry eye toward him, grunt a little, pour water into the electric kettle and turn my back while he tells me what he has planned for us. I try shaking off the cobwebs while the water boils, and he asks me to come out and help him with this project--hold the ladder for him as he gets the top of that hedge (the electric trimmer was the sound that rattled me from my sleep!).
"May I drink my tea first?" I ask. "I just need to sit for a few minutes."

"Sure," he says, far too cheerfully.
A few minutes later he comes back into the living room and sees me reading my Bible. Stands there for a moment. "Can you help me now?"

I have just read these words from Psalm 25: 4-5--
 "Show me your ways, Lord, .
  teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are my God, my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long."

I put down my Bible.
Summer has come. Beve and I are different. And we learn to adjust each summer. He learns to give me the slow mornings I need and I learn to need less time than I want (not to mention how I've learned that Beve must go to bed early so that he can HAVE the early mornings he needs). It's a balance. We learn it again and again and again.
I'll never be a morning person, he'll never be a night owl. And yet, we'll make it work once again this summer. What lies ahead is good. Even if it takes a couple of days to settle in.

 My hope is in Him...all day long.
Beve knows it at  dawn,
and I sense it at midnight.
But it's true for both of us--all of us--all the time.

Friday, June 22, 2012

On the train

There's a two-fer from me this week for Random Journal Day Link-Up.
I just couldn't bear for my other post to be the only representative of my journals. Nor the last thing I read and thought about before going to sleep. I've always been very careful about what I think about before sleeping. Sleep comes hard enough anyway. Dwelling on that part of my history doesn't help.

Hence a second post tonight. A 'travel journal.' My famous back-packing trip through Europe in the fall of 1982, with my friend, SK (from whom my SK was given her middle name!). It's just a slice of a day on that trip. A cut up snapshot, but it takes me right back.

6 November 1982
On the train again. Beating our heads against language means putting our packs on and getting ready to get off 6 hours early. "Damn Americans!" (ed note: something we heard so often it had become our litany for our mistakes!) It means being so sick of greasy hair that I wash it in the dirty sink in the WC. God only knows if it's cleaner now or before.
 The wheels roll, car doors slam between rocking, people (to pass the time) sleep. I count the holes in the ceiling, wear the same clothes day after day. This is my life. When I close my eyes I see princes, open them to the same dingy world. [SK] sleeps. A man across the aisle moves ahead a seat to talk to a woman in bright pink boots, after offering us a beer. We eat our dry bread, washing it down with lager (I know why they call it BITTER!). These crumbs must last until morning. We don't know where we'll lay our heads tonight.
At the Swedish border, the guards searched our car (on the train) and took two bedraggled men away for a closer look. As one left, the other stood at the window, seemingly indifferent. The throbbing vein in his neck told me otherwise.  He gulped hard. His bloodshot eyes dared anyone to question him. But now they sit here quietly. Every cushion was overturned. Finally the guards left and the train moved on.
On our way to the train station in Copenhagen we saw a well-dressed man with two bags searching through garbage. Around him walked women in furs, men in leather. They paid no more attention to him than they would a rodent. Merely stepped out of his way. Avoiding the stench of poverty? And we  watched, like he was an animal in the zoo, a species we--girls from small towns in Montana and Washington--are not accustomed to seeing in our daily lives.                                                                                                                                                   

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Cover me...

Random Journal Day Link-Up #13
Or: 'Cover me, I'm going in!'
See this long row of journals?
Well, I have been very-VERY, VERY-deliberate about where I aimed my hand in lifting one of the notebooks from the shelf, keeping myself from wandering too far toward the left. There's one journal shorter than the others about a third of the way that direction, and it's been my Ebenezer, so to speak. My marker. Anything left of that has been no-man's land for me.
In fact, I can safely say that in the more than half of my life that I've been married (28 years) I have never once even opened them.
Tonight, though, I felt a little braver than usual. Maybe more aware of how broken relationships can be. How hearts can break but still beat, and people can walk around, looking for all the world like they're fully functioning while they're really barely breathing and fully occupied with self or someone else who bloats us so out of proportion that reality and life and Jesus Himself are distorted.

There's a long back-story here that I cannot go without telling.
It's not a pretty one but I lived it. The first of these blue notebooks was bought just days before I moved to Eugene, Oregon where I'd transferred halfway from a university in Washington State (I always tell people it was because of my dad, but it was really because of a boy) to two colleges.  The second day--I do not exaggerate this!--I was sitting in an orientation and a boy sat down next to me. We had about a five minute conversation. When he walked up to the front of the room, I turned to a new friend and said, "I'm going to marry him."  

That was the beginning of what can only be called...hmmm, I don't know what it can be called. I am almost 55 years old and I still don't know what that relationship can be called. We dated, we didn't date. He asked me to marry him, he broke the engagement, he came back, he left, and on and off and on and off. For five years. And through it all, I held on. For a long time in the beginning I believed that GOD had told me that he was the one. My belief almost convinced him. Time and time again. But later, even when I wanted to get over him, there was a pull between us that was like a drug. I often said he loved me too much to let me go and not enough to hold on. And it was--ABSOLUTELY--a form of emotional abuse, how he treated me. Looking back, I can see it. As clear as the sun.

And at the end, I was so broken, I was so shattered that I felt certain there would never be a man in my life. That I was doomed to a life alone because there was something inherently wrong with me.  That's how it felt. To the marrow of every bone in my body.

God did give save me from that relationship. And I've always believed that saving came when I finally had the courage to walk away. As long as I held on, He couldn't work. When I gave up, He began to heal. Only months later, Beve walked back into my life in a new guise. Like a fresh wind after stale mold had built up.

So that's my story.
So I know emotional abuse. Or obsession. Or whatever it was. A moth drawn to flame, maybe. Something ugly, anyways.

And all these journals are mostly page after page of 'he loves me, he loves me not.' And so full of very me, I cannot find myself in them.
But they are also the real me as I lived them.
So cover me, I'm going in.

May 25, 1981
Someday I shall have a 12 year old daughter. Named Elizabeth and I shall call her Beth. Perhaps her Grandpa, my daddy, will call her Betsy and will hold her on his knee or take her camping and teach her how to build a fire. Wow. how I long for that day. Seeing my friends so contentedly parents makes the gap seem pretty wide to me. someday seems as far away as heaven at moments like this.
But the most melancholy thought of all--my babies won't have brown eyes the right tint or the best shade of copper-colored hair. Oh for the day that it no longer matters.
Then Joshua said to the people, "Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you." Joshua 3: 5.
I think maybe the most wonderful thing would be to stop wanting all together. For home, for family. For anything so clearly beyond what is meant for me.

His covenant

This is a true story (and yes, I have permission to share it):
He stands before his bride with a letter in his shaking hands and reads with trembling voice. Words of love and commitment. Of "no matter what, I'm all in!" His heart, his life, their future is in his hands and voice, set before her as a promise. Just like it was on that first day when the covenant was made. When his voice rang out with promise and blessing and love and commitment--"no matter what happens, I'm all in." No matter what you do, I will be faithful.  I'm yours.  This is what the letter he holds says. I know. I have read that letter. I know it like it was written to me.

His bride listens. But she doesn't believe the words of the letter. Or doesn't care. In any case has no interest in such a covenant, even if she once did. She has turned her back a long time since. Turned her heart away, and her life as well. She has moved away from the promise given to her, the promise she once thought was meant for her. So she says no to this letter of love. She lets it fall to the ground unheeded.

This is a true story. The story of a man and a woman, yes.  It actually happened this week. And one way or another, I suppose it's been happening in marriages since there were marriages on this earth.

But it's also our story, because it's the story of God and His people. Yes, this is the picture of what happened between God and the people of Israel. God made a covenant with Abraham. "I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." Genesis 12: 2-3
"As for me, this is my covenant with you: you shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham...I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you and kings shall come from you. I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you...and I will be their God." Genesis 17: 4-5, 6-8

Over and over God repeated this covenant. No matter how often His people were stiff-necked and disobedient, no matter how many times they turned away, He continually said, "I am your God." I'm all in. But no matter what He did or said, there were always some who chose not to obey, return His love. Often (like in the desert) it was an entire generation who let that covenant fall, unheeded. Like stone tablets, that covenant fell (and still falls) on the dirt and broke.
So He sent prophets to tell the people of His love, allowed the people Kings when they asked, basically bent over backwards, sideways...

And finally, He came all the way down to earth in human-form to keep His own covenant. And still people chose against Him. Some followed, of course. More didn't. They yelled against Him until His Covenant-made-flesh was put to death. And He allowed it. He knew there was no other way to keep that covenant. To win back His bride. To allow Himself to be put to death.  He was after our lives, our God was.

We have all been the faithless bride. We have "all like sheep gone astray, we have all turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on HIM the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53: 6)

Human relationships fail. This is a reality of a fallen planet. Sadly, brokenheartedly, I know this to be true. But it's also true that--more importantly!--we fail in our relationships with Him.

The good news, the eternal news is that He keeps His covenant with us. He died to keep His covenant. He will never leave or forsake us. No matter where you are at this moment, no matter whether you're living life to the fullest or have been handed that life in a basket like it's only dirty laundry, to HIM you are precious.

And that's a true story.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Let hope arise

Another sunny day here in the northwest. For those of you who think it only rains in this part of the world--you're right. Wink, wink. We don't want the truth let out of the bag that when it's sunny it's green and gorgeous.

SK and I sit out back and watch our dogs frolic across the grass. Frolic isn't a word I use very often. I'm not keen on flowery phrases, but there's no other word for what they're doing. Frolic, scamper, jumping, bobbing and weaving in and out of the shade of the cedar tree.  They're as carefree as only dogs can be. Carefree because they have absolute faith that all their needs will be met this day. They will have food in their dishes as soon as they begin to pushing those dishes across the kitchen floor (well, almost as soon--this puppy seems to be hungry about every two minutes). They can flop down and sleep whenever they feel like it and there's always a hand to pet them--all they have to do is nudge someone.

We aren't quite so carefree as our puppies. Would that we were. We get swallowed up by all kinds of worries that take our minds off simple things. We don't quite believe that our needs will be met, that we are loved by our Master, that we can lay down and sleep without worrying about tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

I get this. I do. Right this minute as I sit here, I'm consumed by worry. Worry about some people I love so much I'd switch places with them in an instant to take their pain. I would. I hurt with them, am angry for them about the lot they've been given, about the fire they're in. And there's a very human part of me that wants to shake my fist that such pain is possible. And has landed on them. Yes, I'm so consumed by the pain this sunny morning it's like I'm right there in the dark with them.

Not at God, though. Honestly, not at God. See, I have a very strong belief in the Garden of Eden story. I really do believe that it didn't have to have been this way, that we might have lived in perfect harmony with Him forever and ever, but for one tiny thing. He wanted us to freely, completely love Him in return and, therefore, gave us free will. And that free will meant that we--the first we's--chose other than Him. And then every other we since then has also chosen so. If it hadn't been Eve and Adam, it would have been Tom, Dick and Harry, I think. So blaming God for what we humans have done to mess up seems slightly wrong-headed.

And to blame Him for not stepping in when He actually DID step in seems a little ridiculous. I mean VERY ridiculous. He did step in. He came. He BECAME. And He is our only hope. In any and every situation in which we find ourselves in the dark and lonely places on this earth (and there are plenty) He is the only hope. That's the truth of Calvary. The truth of the empty Cave. Really. The darkest place in human history was the place of the greatest miracle, wasn't it?  Jesus' tomb--where He died. It was there, at that moment where all hope seemed to be lost that all hope--where OUR hope!!!--was found.
"He is not here.
He is risen."
Let hope arise in the darkest place. That's the secret of the tomb. Hope can arise right there IN it. Not after it, not by ignoring it, not by looking out the door, or trying to solve it, but IN it. With Jesus Christ there in the dark, in the lonely, in the tomb of whatever.  Let hope arise. He is there...
and He will ARISE.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Just a little news

I interrupt this blog to bring you some news bulletins from my life:
  • Puppy raising is NOT for the weak-kneed or faint of heart. And yet...we keep doing it. And I keep falling in love with these dogs before we even get them home. I might not believe in love at first sight in romance, but when it comes to puppies, it happens every time. And every day, we see how much this puppy is bringing health and life back to Jamaica as well. "Take delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart...
  • We had a great Father's day with some of our closest friends, who were 'passing through.'  After church, we all took Grampie out to lunch at one of the best Mexican restaurants in this part of the country (and even our very knowledgeable and hard to please Latino sister-in-law LOVES it!). Our friend J brought me in Grampie's wheelchair seat cushion to sit on, because he knows I always need extra padding. And I was very grateful. Grateful, that is, until I realized my rear was wet all the way through--and so was the cushion--and so was Grampie. Sigh. There was nothing to be done at that point but remove the cushion, sit in my wet pants until I got home and could change out of them. But before I even got changed, the new puppy peed on my shoes. There was a bit of 'ick' factor to the whole thing, but that, too, is ministry, I suppose. At least I hope God will see it that way. And Grampie didn't know. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust Him and He will help you...
  • While we settled on our back deck to have a conversation, the dogs played and Beve actually began to snore. Poor Beve. He's so completely tuckered out from this year. Many years ago he complained that he had a brain tumor, he was so tired and cranky, which was in very poor taste, and even poorer taste several years later, when his sister actually did have brain tumors. My point is that as tired as he was that awful year (and there were some pretty hard things going on back then) this one has been far worse. But the end is in sight. Just three more days of school (and yes, he IS counting!). Day by day the Lord takes care of the innocent, and they will receive an inheritance that lasts forever...
  • Today, because we like to keep things lively, Beve went to Seattle to see a specialist about some 'spots' on his bladder. He'll go back in three months to be rechecked, but things look pretty good. Thankfully. Be still in the presence of the Lord and wait patiently for Him to act...
  • Next week, he invited half the school district over for a party. OK, maybe I exaggerated, but just barely. I did see that the invitation said, "No spouses," so I'm wondering where I'm supposed to go while they're all invading my house. In any case, the big blast will be a warm-up for our house-party of the summer, which starts just four days later, when the Finns arrive. Four at once, this time. We'll have a house-full for most of July. The girls will be driving up and down the freeway and Beve's other brother and family will come over for a few days from the central part of the state, so we'll have a crowd around. I'll have to dust off my cooking skillsThe Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will not fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand."

This news has been sponsored by Psalm 37 (The New Living Translation).

Once I was young and now I am old 
Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned 
nor their children begging for bread.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

That's who he is

It's Father's Day. So I thought I'd take a stroll back to where there were children in our home instead of wild dogs and grown men. Back to when there were cries and wrestling matches and 'dates with Daddy,' and 'bare-pickle time' and piggy-back rides to bed, and stories on his lap, and all kinds of things that only the tall man could achieve.
This tall man. The one with the sunglasses, holding J, his middle child, his only son. The one who longed for a little boy who would wear gym shorts and high top tennis shoes and follow him around. The one he called Lovey, carried like a football, let him coach with him, hammer with him, drive around on our riding lawn mower, go to basketball camp (long before he was old enough to play!). The one who grieved the shoulder injury, went to specialist after specialist and grieved the loss of sports, then saw to it that J would go to high school where his Dad was a counselor, and encouraged Debate, AP because he saw the brilliant mind of his high-topped athletic, but unable-to-play-sports son. That's who this Daddy was.
This one, holding E, his first born--within hours of her birth. The one whose presence he was so excited about, he called up both sets of parents and told them I was pregnant before I even got home from work. The one he cut his diaper-changing, baby-rocking, middle-of-the-night, "I'll get her" skills on. The one who taught her to dribble left and shoot right, who left her at hoop camp even though it broke his heart, and watched her games and encouraged her every step.The one who helped her start a business and kept it going all the way through her college--then named it after her. The one who said, "Go to community college and play hoops," because that was her dream. That's who this Daddy was.
This one, face to face with SK, his baby, just like he was the baby of his family. The little ringletted one he'd hold on his lap with her blankie, while she sucked her thumb, as he read a story to her, one story after another, after another. And if he tried to skip a page, she'd catch him--every time. The one he'd dance on his feet, play "Pretty, Pretty Princess" with, complete with necklaces and earrings and crowns (oh my, how pretty that giant, good-sported Daddy looked), and drank tea from her pretty teacups. The one who took her on those Daddy-dates and went to concerts and plays, and said, "It'll break my heart to tell her she can't go to Whitworth," then watched God show him the money and let her go. That's who this Daddy is.
Yep, that's who this Daddy is.  You might call him JESKdad, like I'm JESKmom.
But to me, he's just plain Beve.
Happy Father's Day, Beve. Thank you for being the best father I could have asked for to the best children I could have dreamed of.

PS. Happy Father's Day to Grampie, and all the other Dads in my life as well.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Quilt confetti

When I'm not traveling, romping with dogs, having conversations with my father-in-law on an endless loanop (he introduced us to his girlfriend yesterday--lovely woman!), I'm sewing. Rather obsessively. As I do most things. Plunging in with my heart and head, let the chips and housework and cooking fall where it may.
Because I'm like that--obsessive, I mean--I tend to gather great heaping quantities of fabric, and dozens of ideas and tools, thread, yada, yada, yada. You know, everything one needs to do the work.

For years I wanted to learn to quilt. I mean years. I've been sewing since I was about ten. And even as a little girl, sleeping beneath the handmade quilts of my grandmother who was raised by her mother and grandmother on the Kansas prairie to do such work, I've wanted to follow in their footsteps. Er, handprints? Their quilts were made from used up clothing and flour sacks...and I remember fingering the squares and imagining the stories of each piece. As I got older, I really wanted a bedspread or comforter--like my friends had. Something matching, rather than the multi-hued, age-bleached ragged quilts on our beds.

But when I became an adult, the desire to quilt returned. Picked up steam. It was like a magnet to my grandmother, her grandmother. My whole Kansas prairie heritage, perhaps.

I kept putting off the 'try.' Thinking I needed to take a class or something. But finally, with kids out of the house, I took a big gulp, plugged my nose and took a swan dive into quilting. My first attempt was made without a pattern, or how much fabric would be needed (I never have been good at math!), how to cut, or even sew seams so they'd lay flat. But somehow, it hooked me.
Here's that attempt (dog not included!):
There were several more without patterns:

The one below was my first attempt using a pattern. And can I just say? FAR TOO HARD for a beginner. I hadn't the faintest idea what I was doing. Really. Thankfully, the friend it was made for is full of grace...has never mentioned the mistakes.

Since then, I've made dozens of quilts. By my last count, I'm at 75 as of the one I gave away Wednesday. These are my latest offerings.

This is a baby quilt made for a friend who is due to pop any second. Maybe as I write this. Or as you're reading it. She (with her husband) is a very good friend of E's. Her parents are our next door neighbors, and her sister had a baby just 3+ months ago.
This baby quilt will belong to Beve's oldest nephew's second child who is due the beginning of next month.  D (or N as we know him) and his wife like bold colors. So I went bold. The only pattern on the quilt are three squares with lambs, which came from a nightshirt from Beve's sister, Glo. I carefully cut out every lamb from that shirt in hopes that I'll have enough to grace Wiley baby quilt with a reminder of their lovely Auntie Glo, who so loved their parents.
And just Wednesday I put the binding on this quilt for my Aunt and Uncle. Originally I intended this to be for our family cabin on Whidbey Island. But once it was finished, Beve and J were so impressed with it (Beve said, "It's my favorite quilt so far!") that they thought I should just give it to my Auntie. So I did. Sent it down to Seattle with my girls as the delivery women, who made my dear Auntie tear up. She says it is the absolute PERFECT colors for her bedroom and "I've never had a homemade quilt before."

And that's good enough for me.

In fact, that's the whole point. To bless those God puts on my heart to bless. Wherever, whenever He says. It's something I can do. And love to do. And is part of a heritage that reaches back generations to the Kansas prairie.


Random Journal Day 12
Day with Cade 2.
One of these things is definitely not like the other.
But I press on, removing cords, limbs and a five-year-old Springer from his path. Try to write this post. Oh shoot, he just trotted out here with some of J's underwear.Clean? Dirty? Don't ask, I won't tell.

OK, where was I?
Oh yes, a journal from the spring of 2007. SK graduated from high school that year. So we were busy with all of her activities--her theatrical, musical and parties and prom and graduating functions, her glittering presence in our house, full of laughter and friends coming and going, and...well, those of you who have been through it know. Those of you just starting out--it's joy and sadness all wrapped into a pita, with hope and prayer holding it together.

And, as it had for many years, that prayer came weekly in a small room off the women's bathroom at our church with a faithful group of women who had children of a similar age. We poured out our hearts and our hopes, our faith and our fears. Laid it all in a pile at the feet of Jesus, perfumed by the worship that happens in such places among such hearts. This entry, as so many others over the course of those years, came as I pondered what had  been between us and Christ in that 'upper' room.

Friday, April 27
Sometimes after one of us has prayed deeply, another person pipes up with, "Lord thank-you for the birds and their beautiful melodies." The palpable shift frustrates me. It's like we can't bear to dwell in the deep mystery where things are a little hard and uncomfortable. The only way out is to push to the surface and focus on the first thing we spot or hear. 'Wait!' I cry inside, 'He's almost ready to speak. To say something you've never allowed Him to say.'

My failing is that I don't speak up and cause waves. Don't say, "Dive! Dive!"  I'm fearful of conflict, of being thought weird, of criticizing. Be still. Be still and wait. Yet also speak what He compels us to speak. Both are right, both are the way of righteousness. Both trip me up. Oh God, you know how often they both trip me up. Speaking too quickly, too certainly, too authoritatively, too...too everything-ly. And NOT speaking when I am certain. Because sometimes I am certain that I'm certain. That He makes me certain, I should say. 

But here's the deal, Lord: I sin against YOU, and You forgive me. And again and You forgive me again. And on and on and on.

And's not enough. You must change me or else I will always only be this, and never more. Never of any more use to you than what I am this moment. Speaking halfway, too much or not enough. Never quite glorifying You as it's possible for a life to glorify you. Perhaps more than a babe in arms, but not a full-grown, mature adult in Christ.  

But the work of changing is not my work--it is Yours. I cannot get any further than my own will and my will is where my greatest failure comes. It's more and ethical and trips me up in its personal goodness and self-righteousness that puts self at the dead center of the universe. No, change from self falls short and stumbles and boomerangs back. 

Only, always, only You can change because only, essentially, against YOU do I sin.
So change me. Remodel me. Remove everything down to the studs. In fact, tear it all down and start from scratch if  that's what it takes. 
But please, God. Make me like you.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Free--the sequel

Just so you know...
I know--I KNOW!!!--we're suckers for dogs. Really. You don't have to shake your head, roll your eyes, make fun of me any other way. I already know. We love dogs around here. Honestly and completely.
And ever since Jackson began failing, the folks Beve works with started a pool about how long it would be until we got a new puppy.

And let me just say,
one of Beve's buddies guessed it dead on (well, he guessed June 15, but close enough. And, to our credit, the other guesses were June 1st, 4th and 10th).

This is Cade. Recently, as in last night, his name was Bleu and he lived an hour south of here with a young family. They found him and his wonderful puppy energy too much to handle. They left him locked up all day while they worked, and outside all evening while they played with their children, and after a month of this, realized it wasn't fair to him or them or their kids.  So they put  this ad on Craigslist:

FREE 13 week old Yellow Lab (Marysville).

We saw it last night. Jackson, as some of you know, was the best in the known world, and we were given him. So it seemed sort of like, oh I don't know, God?--that there was another free lab waiting for us--maybe.... It was worth a shot, anyway so we wrote an email, which they got--along with 53 others (the man counted!)--and he emailed back that he'd call this morning, which he did first thing. He told me that they'd weeded out a lot of those emails, but kept coming back to ours, and felt strongly that we were the right people--even though they'd actually already communicated with some other woman. But something hadn't felt right about that situation, and they wanted this puppy to go home to the right people.

So this afternoon, J and I drove south, met the man, got peed on by Bleu (his former owner was embarrassed but we've been around this block before!), who has now been re-named Kincade (for a character in J's favorite book). He's already answering to Cade, scampering all over the place, causing this:

Yep, our scaredy pup is shivering in her timbers, BUT, she's actually doing better sooner than we expected. She's very curious/interested in this little interloper, hasn't hidden in her safe kennel once and has even managed to growl like the dominant older dog is supposed to to put a young whipper snapper in his place. This could very well be exactly what the doctor ordered. Er, the vet. Oh, that's right, the vet did suggest a puppy...only not quite this quickly.

But as I said, we're suckers.
For two reasons.
These two:
This puppy, you see, could very well be just what the doctor ordered for our son.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Memory Lane

The reason Beve and I uprooted our children from their very settled, contented lives out on the Olympic Penninsula 15 years ago was so that I could attend Regent College in Vancouver, BC.  It didn't initially sit well with me that I would be the uprooting agent, I who was the at-home parent, the one they were accustomed to seeing every day when they got up in the morning and off the bus in the afternoon. But God made it clear and Beve and then an increasing number of people began to see that this move was good and right. So we packed up our home, our children, stuffed our cars and drove into an unknown future.

The immediate future (namely that first summer) included no job, no home for us to drive to when we left Sequim. A wing of an acceptance letter and accompanying financial aid and the prayer for all those things we'd need to land were all we had. During that summer we faced Beve's sister needing a kidney transplant (and his brother coming from Finland to donate it) and the many weeks we spent caring for both of them and her then-five-year-old son. The living out of suitcases from one end of the state to the other. A road trip/camping trip for my fortieth birthday (with that unknown future still looming, why not play?).

But God sent Beve to the right job, gave us the right house in the nick of time.
And then my father died, in the very last of the unsettled things of that long unsettled summer.

And then I began my  studies for a Masters in Christian Studies at Regent College.

Those years I studied at Regent were the best years academically I've ever had. The courses were challenging, the professors were profoundly wise, the students were interested in pursuing excellence. The conversations in and out of class were rich. The fellowship was full and as close to like-minded as I'll  get on this earth, I suppose. We came from all over the world, were diverse of culture, economics, education and ethnicity. And it didn't matter a whit when we gathered each Tuesday to worship. And afterwards to break bread with our soup. To eat and talk and be the Body of Christ that was Regent.

I spent three years taking classes there. Another 18 months writing the novel that would be my Arts Thesis.  For those three years I drove to Vancouver from my home north of Bellingham, WA three days a week. Battled the border, Highway 99, the tunnel, the bridges, the maze of streets that made up my commute to The University of British Columbia where right across the street sits the tiny oasis of Regent College.
I'd park my car at the church that given weekly rights to Regent students (for a fat fee!), tromped down the hill and find my academic home under the green roof of Regent College.

It was an inspired time for me. A time out of time. I don't know what that first year after my dad's death would have been like without Regent. I remember sitting in a seminar, and having the professor even cry with me. That professor NEVER cries, I have long since learned. But he did that day. And it cemented a friendship I will cherish into heaven. Of all the amazing professors from that amazing time--J I Packer, Gordon Fee, Eugene Peterson, James Houston, to name a few--he's the one most significant. Loren Wilkinson.

I'm thinking of my Regent years today, and the great privilege of being able to simply say I studied there, let alone have a Masters in Christian Studies, because the girls and I went to Vancouver yesterday. We didn't actually go to Regent, sadly, though by my own choice. By the time we finished wandering Granville Island, the day was late and I knew the traffic would be terrible through the tunnel, even with the counter-flow lane. Still. It was sweet to be there. Familiar, like a trip down memory lane simply to be on those streets where people speed up when green lights begin flashing and positively race when they turn to yellow. Honk and the silly Americans for slowing instead. Yep, it all took me back to when I was so thinking a whole lot, I could barely concentrate on the road (though I'm still hardly better). But then I was immersed in the spiritual. Surrounded by people thinking, studying, conversing about eternal things. Talking Jesus all day long. Being stretched to heaven.

Becoming more me on this planet than anywhere else has ever made me. That Master's Degree reminds me of the incredible gift of Regent just when it was most necessary. Thank God. I'd do it again in a heart beat. There aren't many things I'd say that about in my life--do-overs because they were so brilliant and wonderful. But really, IN A HEARTBEAT.  Just ask me. me the money. There are more classes out there.

If you're ever in the neighborhood. or feel like moving to this neck of the woods to study, there's no place better.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Still out 'vacationing' with my daughters, though we actually spent most of the day at home yesterday. That's the beauty of being at a resort a mere 30 minutes away from our own house. While the girls had 'in-town' errands I had to sew a binding onto a quilt. Across the room, Jamaica did this:

She is NOT a fan of this whole "Home Alone" gig she's been on this week. In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised if she rigged up some kind of booby-traps in case robbers or other 'bad guys' tried to get in the house. You know, bad guys like...other dogs, birds, garbage trucks, people walking on the sidewalk, strange noises.  There's been a whole lot of escalating fear in this puppy since her big buddy died six weeks ago. We've all seen it, but being alone is like the worst of tortures.

We know this because our next door neighbors have been around now and then when we actually go out the door to have a life. Saturday, the wife had to come over, sit on the back deck with Maica and throw a tennis ball for her for a while. Maica played for a bit but mostly wanted to back herself up next to K--to simply be reassured by the touch of a human hand on her fur.

Yep, she's one scared puppy, our lonely dog is.  So scared I took her to the vet last week to ask if there's anything we can do to help her through this transition. We talked about natural anxiety medications (Phermone collars), actual medications, 'Thunder shirts,' getting another dog (which would have to be--in her case--a puppy, because she's terrified of dogs, due to being badly bitten/traumatized by a dog when she was small).  Oddly (for us), Beve began to look for puppies online that night, while I looked online for Thunder shirts.  I'm just not ready--nor am I sure I ever will be--for another dog. Don't know if that's the answer. But calming her fear is.

I deal with it myself. That's the truth. I struggle with fear. And though I worry about rational things (of course there are rational worries that we all face, it's the irrational ones that haunt and--yes, annoy!--me. In fact, I really hate how long the list is, but here goes:
Caves (or being deeply underground even in buildings)

And  the only one of these that has any basis in reality is that I'm allergic to bee stings. Still, I'm talking palm-sweating, beath-taking, heart-pounding fear in these situations. There have been times when my family (both birth and with my own kids) that we've been driving on a high mountain road--especially when it's GRAVEL!!!--that I've had to sit in back with my head buried in a pillow. Completely terrified.

But aren't most fears?

In fact, fear is such a BIG deal, there's a whole industry dedicated to it--horror stories, flicks, a holiday and amusement parks. Because fear sells.

I don't get that. I don't. I hate the way it makes me feel, do everything I can to avoid it; wouldn't read a horror story if a grade were dependent on it, wouldn't watch a horror flick if a gun was put to my head. All those stories told around campfires of a hitch-hiker with a hook--not for me. Not ever.

Because I'm a wuss. I am. Admit it straight out. Proud of it.

And because--now that I'm a grown-up--I know who is the author of fear. I know him. I know him in fear at large and fear in particular. I can't tell you that such knowledge always makes me better at standing up to him, but it helps. Or perhaps I should say--HE helps. Because I know where to go when my heart is pounding and my palms are sweating and I think I can't breathe.  He alone.

The opposite of fear. He alone.
He's my Thunder shirt.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Clearing up Misconceptions

Thinking this morning about the weekend past with my cousins and sisters (two of each).  We represented three branches of my father's family tree.  A full decade separates us in age (I am the oldest granddaughter of my grandparents' 23 grandchildren--from their 4 prolific children, so and we five women weren't even half of the female cousins--but hey, it's a start!), and ideologies and ideologies separate us as well. Read that to mean that three of us walk with Christ and two do not. However, we managed to talk our way through the weekend anyway.

Mostly that talk revolved our families. And our family, which isn't surprising. Our shared heritage. What was is how much each of us thought we knew or understood about our history, but didn't quite. It was only hearing the others' stories that we could put pieces of the puzzle together that began to make more sense of things that had baffled or misguided our perceptions for decades.

For example, one Seattle cousin has always thought that our dad had 'gotten out' of the rather inborn, disfunctional family system that was our larger family. Three households lived in triangular walking distance until she was in her twenties and she just thought he couldn't handle being that close so he moved across the state (my hunch is that she was helped in this perception by a grandmother who resented that her favorite--and only--son lived 300 miles away). She was very surprised to learn that he/we tried to move back to Seattle after getting his PhD, but couldn't because his father was in the same department at the only state university in Seattle--and two profs from the same family (with the exact same name!) wasn't allowed. So Dad applied (and got) a position as close as he could get--at Washington State University. Yes, it was three hundred miles away--but only that. "Oh," she said. "That makes a lot of sense."

And I learned new things too. From my own sister who told a rather in-depth analysis of why/how my father died--one that I had never heard. It took away the mystery but left me very sad because it also took away the possibility of his life. I realize this sounds ridiculous because--obviously--he died. But he was never going to live. He hadn't a chance of surviving. And I suppose I'd just closed my ears to it because I wanted to imagine a stretched out life of a dozen more years. But she cleared up my misconceptions, whether I wanted emotionally wanted them cleared or not. Family history is nuanced. Full of such things that we can't know by ourselves. Full of emotions like my grandmother wanting to hold my father close during his life and me wanting to hold onto his life after it was gone. Flawed and nuanced. And we need our relatives to help us see beyond our own flawed, nuanced perceptions to get to the truth.

As I was waking up this morning it hit me that these collective memories of ours--these shared truths that clear up misconceptions--go a long ways in describing why there can be--should be!--four different gospels, and three with virtually the same stories. We read something from a single person and we get one impression. We don't see the whole thing clearly. Taken from four people, set down with four points of view, with different 'family' (read apostle here) of origin as THE origin, and what we get is something so much more layered that we can trust it.

Trust it too, of course, because, unlike family history, which is flawed and nuanced, the gospels are God-breathed. Inspired. In-Spirited, I guess you could say. Maybe, though, still nuanced. I think that word. Nuanced. Fraught with meaning. Layered with it. We can find our way to the source--which is HIM--through those nuances. But also through the sharp-edged sword of it. He will meet us in the gospels, meet us and clear up our misconceptions, re-orient us to Him.

PS. One more thing:

My cousin took this picture with a powerful lens on her camera while we were walking on Saturday morning. To naked eye, it looked like a log bobbing far out in Drayton Harbor (right at the Canadian border). But a telescope pointed at it revealed the truth--fat seals sun-bathing on a fixed dock.

To the naked human eye, the Word of God looks like one thing. A book. Perhaps it contains wise words in places, but it doesn't breathe them.  Certainly nothing living. It takes a very powerful AID for us to see the TRUTH. We need the Holy Spirit to reveal that the Word of God is Him. That it does more than hold words but is His Word. His written word. Given. Placed there--not accidentally, but tethered to this earth (like that dock in the harbor)--for us to hold and read and hear Him speak.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Ah, family!

Just hugged my sisters and cousins goodbye after a great few days. Walking the beach--and you'd think my middle sister and I had never set foot near salt water before, because we wore tennis shoes which got WET when we tried to come back in through little rivers of incoming tides.

And while we were carefully trying to avoid the water, RE was doing this:

Yep, my youngest sister actually seems to be able to walk on water. 
We drove out to a long spit where we saw Osprey in large numbers sitting on rocks on the bay. If you squint, you can almost see them through the reeds here.
Out on Semiamhoo Spit there were bald eagles, more osprey and more kinds of gulls than I could name unless I was a professional 'birder'. One of my cousins notices birds and interrupted her own stories mid-sentence to point another bird I wouldn't have noticed. In the top of trees she noticed some birds with 'ruffled feathers, and curved heads' and was startled to think they were vultures--which we've never seen in these parts. Only when she got closer did she realize they were immature bald eagles.

My sisters and I had the requisite "Sisters" shirts with us (Finally), so we had our picture taken in them on the beach. And then we tried a timed photo of the five of us. The sequence looked like this:

But it was a sweet time. They would tell you that, of course I would like such a time, because I'm always looking for meaningfulness, but the fact is that it was a weekend full of meaning. I loved the fact that we don't have to explain our back stories, that when one of us talks about a difficult parent, the others get it because we all had a relationship with that person as well. And when we talk about family characteristics, we are talking about our shared family. We laughed about our mutually thin hair (a sad genetic fact of our family), and our dilemmas with finding styles to help. We laugh about all kinds of family stuff that is only funny if one belongs to a clan. But...we also cried together too. Sitting around the dinner table last night tears were shed for the mother who died far, far too young who was aunt to the rest of us, and the father who died also too young who was uncle to the rest.

And at exactly the same time I hugged them goodbye, I hugged Beve and my daughters hello. The girls are here for the next few days. Ready to relax, watch movies, walk the beach, play games, eat ice-cream, do a little yoga...(with their purses, of course).

Sea, sand, sky. Ah, creation.
Ah, family.
Ah, good.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

In the handkerchief drawer

Another Thursday night, another weekend when I'm not in town; this week-end I'm having a cousins' retreat with some of my female cousins. We're out at a resort on the very northern corner of Puget Sound, a mere 30 minutes from my house so I'm (not surprisingly) the first one here, trying to wait up until the crew gets in after midnight.

It's also, of course, another Random Journal Day Link up--and let me tell you, there are some pretty amazing people finding treasures from recent and long-forgotten journals. You should check them out. SERIOUSLY!
This weekend away from home, I actually DID remember to randomly grab a journal, and even flipped it open to a page before leaving the house. Did a bit of an "Awww..." when I read the first sentence, so marked the spot. You'll see why.

March 20, 1996
A little boy turns 9. He's waited for four years for the pocket knife his daddy bought for him and placed in a handkerchief drawer. Periodically, the growing child has reverently peered into the drawer, 'checking' the knife, or hinted that 'it sure would be nice to use that knife for this...' but mostly he's just waited. Hope deferred. Living by faith, trusting that his daddy would give it to him when he promised.  In all truth, I'd forgotten, but he hasn't. Finally, he's nine years old today, big enough by a dad's arbitrary standard (set when it seemed such a long ways off he didn't quite imagine he would ever get there). Big enough to handle and not hurt with a small pocket knife of his own. How many doors one must walk through to adulthood. A marker of progress: a boy turns nine and thinks all the world's been made over just for the newness of his age. Just because he can hold a little knife and sharpen sticks beside his daddy.  
And I'm thinking again of the 'putting on decking'  idea I've been wrestling with--in relation to this obedience of (J's) waiting. Noah heard God, and all that building came down to year after year after year of single-handedly building a giant boat by himself. Putting on decking day after day--he waited. He worked but he also waited. It seemed crazy to the world then. And our own continued obedience in whatever our decking is can look equally crazy to the world. But still he did it. Still we do it. Waiting for the time to be right. Waiting for the water to come. Or waiting for the right year (to FINALLY be nine years old!).  How do we continue to wait and obey, and believe that what He has said He will do or give or called us to will actually come to be? 
"He who calls us is faithful..." That's the glimpse in the handkerchief drawer, or the reason we keep pounding in nails. J knew his dad would do what he said he would. Noah knew God would do what He said he would. 
I love that I can learn from my son as well as from the scripture about how to live by faith.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

My beating heart

A blogger friend posed a question today that I thought I'd take a stab at answering. To check out the question, see her blog here.

Her question is: "What drives you to write?"
My short answer is flip--"what drives my heart to beat?"  I need to write like I need to draw breath, like I need food--or maybe more than I need food. In fact, I'm don't quite know how to BE without also writing about what I'm being. If that makes sense.  I certainly don't know how I'd know God. I've been writing my whole Christian life, writing out my theology, writing my doubts into faith, writing my confusion, writing Him pleas and screams in the night, whispering to Him through pen and page the hopes I dared not say out loud. And learning through that writing how to articulate to a disbelieving and intolerant world that He is and HE is and HE ALWAYS is.

I cannot be without writing. In fact, the only time I went to a counselor on my own was when--inexplicably--my pen was stilled. Words dried up. For no fathomable reason, there was nothing there. One would call it writer's block, that something was broken. But maybe I had to be broken. So I went weekly to sit with a Christian counselor (who interestingly shares my name--and mine is not a name I come across every day of the week) and we talked together, cried together and prayed together until the words came stumbling back.

There is, I think, in every writer (and if I am anything on this earth, I am a writer) the desire to be published. This is absolutely true for me. But along with that desire, within me I recognize the warring (unhealthy) desire to be KNOWN. To have a name made for myself. To BE somebody. Though it is fair and good and Godly to want to honor Him through the gift He has given, it is a less honorable thing to want to be famous by doing so. To want to take the credit for what is surely His gift. Because of the giant ME in the middle of my dream of being published, I have often wondered if the death of my novel was His protection from what would surely NOT have honored Him. I know me--I would have taken the credit; which actually would be no credit to me, but great shame. So mine has been a more hidden life. Thank God.

And this blog was born. Born out of the need to write, to live out all the ways He meets me. But to do so in a more anonymous fashion. Though my family and close friends know the particulars of my life (and I do reveal them in some ways), I felt compelled to not be named, to not name my children, the Beve, or anyone else of consequence in my world. That hidden-ness has been very important; as John the Baptist said, "He must increase and I must decrease."

Yet more and more I feel a sense of calling to this blog. I knew it would be ministry, but that it really is continually surprises me, maybe because I stumbled into it. I had no grand plan or goal. Expected nothing. Simply wanted to write. NEEDED to...needed to live out my faith through the writing of it. Needed a new place for those creative muscles to be flexed. And yes, to teach what God puts in my beating heart to teach, to share what He gives me to share. Whenever that came. That was the beginning. But now I'm not simply committed to this thing I do but committed to those who read my words as well. Committed to being my unfolded self before God and reader alike so that He can do what He will with these words my fingers spew across the page. Because there's a relationship with people; those I know and those I do not who read these words and catch a glimpse of Incarnate God. And that is a privilege beyond all I could ask or imagine.

So what drives me? "The love of God compels me." I need to write like I need to breath, and He compels me to both.  Do not be still, my beating heart. Lord, keep the blood pumping--physically and creatively as well.

Not always present

My fingers curve above the keys. There's a will to write but not always a word to write. This is hard to admit. I expect there to be words when I come to the computer. I expect God to meet me here. To meet me in my notebook. But sometimes the clearest message that I have of His presence EVER is that He's silent sometimes. I'm not sure if that makes sense to everyone, but...

When we love someone, we aren't ALWAYS with them. Sometimes they leave for a time. And we feel that absence. Obviously. We can't manufacture their presence by slight of hand, but sheer force of will. They are either there or they are not. It isn't our doing at all. Unless we are certifiable and have conjured them, sometimes they are silent. This is simple truth.

So too, clearly, God sometimes doesn't speak. I could wish--no, could, do pray--it otherwise. I pray I am always, completely inspired by word, and Word and WORD to write cogently of Him. I pray that there is always something new revealed to me, privately and (now) publicly about who He is. But He isn't a giant slot machine. He isn't a magic trick. I cannot conjure God up. He is who He is.

So I sit. I write this. He either inhabits my words (as a blogger friend put it yesterday), He Incarnates them. Or He doesn't.

The question is. Does He inhabit the writing? Or does He inhabit the reading of the words I write?
Because sometimes when I write, I think it's a field of dry bones. But then I receive an email of how touched a person was, that those dry bones were the flesh they most needed on their own skeleton.  He uses what He will as He will.

This is true for each of us. In all of our dealings.

"For this reason, I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline." 2 Timothy 1: 6-7

Monday, June 4, 2012

Ministry in three places

I got up bright and early on this dull and dreary Monday morning so that I could take clean laundry to Grampie before he was dressed in some odd mixture of pajama shirt, hospital gown and too-short, borrowed sweatpants. Somehow with the visit of last week, we forgot all about the ordinary things like making sure he had enough clean clothes.  When Thyrza lived here, she was adamant that WE do his laundry because she's freakishly worried about germs every moment. In fact, she carries a bottle of hydrogen peroxide around in her walker, and left a gallon jug of it when she moved across the country. And I was dismayed to discover that among the things they were leaving us at the end of their week's visit was yet another large brown bottle of the stuff. If you ever need any, come on over--we have enough for the neighborhood, the city, the whole state, I think! Once she left, we thought about having the facility do Grampie's laundry because, after all, he is paying an arm, a leg, a few organs and most of his life's blood every month to live there. You can't believe how expensive it is. How ridiculously expensive it is to get old and lose your mind, your dignity, your everything. But apparently among the things you can also lose in such places is your laundry--even if you have every single piece of clothing you own marked with your name and you are the tallest person who has ever lived there by at least 4 inches. I walked in one day and there was someone wearing one of Grampie's cardigan sweaters--one that Beve's mom knit for him twenty+ years ago.  That red sweater even has "Hand-knit by Barbara Wiley" on a tag inside the collar, but there was a short (er), chubby man wearing it, the sleeves hanging off the ends of his arms. I made a nurse check it for the tag, and take it right off of him. I don't have the faintest idea how it got from Grampie to this man--Grampie can't even dress himself these days.
All that to say, we do his laundry. No matter how much it costs to live there, it's important that he not lose his clothes in the process of losing mind. Doing his laundry, and seeing to it that his shaver is clean, and combing his hair before we go out (just the way he would have done it if he still cared), and making sure his pants are zipped (they very often aren't these days) when we leave his room--these are just some of the small things we do as ministry to Grampie.

And I was in a hurry to get home because Everett was supposed to work today but he never showed up. This, too, is part of what we get when we signed on for this gig with this man. He's probably on a bender somewhere in this city and has lost track of the day. It's the reason he lost his life to begin with. And, as Beve, our friends and I were saying, if we look at this simply as a employer/employee relationship we'd be laying down the law quickly. Wouldn't we?  "You have to be responsible," we'd tell him. "You have to..." and he wouldn't be able to do it any more than he's been able to for the last decade or more. It seems to me that there is a different way, a Kingdom way of ministering to him. Giving him water and cherry colas, fixing him lunch (he told me the other day that he was only going to charge us for five rather than six hours because I'd fed him, and I said, "That sandwich did not cost 10$ to make!): these are ways to minister to him. AND...not counting his sins against him. Maybe there are limits. I don't know. At the moment I don't think so. I think that the most important thing is to be in it with him, to show him what grace and mercy look like--no matter what he does. Some of you will say I'm being naive. Perhaps just plain stupid. I don't know. I think I'm looking at this--at him--with the eyes of the Spirit within me. I trust that. And we'll keep praying for him, praying for how to do this. And press on.

And while I'm home today, Beve drove a buddy down to Seattle for his weekly chemo treatment. It's been hard going of late--in more ways than I could describe here. When Beve checked in with me a couple of hours ago, he said he'd offered to let his friend stay with us for a while, if that was okay with me. Probably a good idea, I told him, knowing how hard it's been. To have someone in the house with him so he can simply sleep and not have to worry about caring for his own meals, etc. This is a practical ministry we can do.

Ministry in three places. Three practical ways (which is Beve's favorite kind of ministry ANY day of the week!).
I think if you pay attention, you can probably identify ministries of your week as well. I'm not talking about things you get paid to do (though you might), but of how you approach your tasks and responsibilities. That's really it, isn't it? What do you do that you KNOW is ministry--Kingdom-come ministry?  And when I really think about it, it hits me that the key isn't the golden rule of Matthew 6: 12 ("So in everything do to others what you would have them do to you...") but  the lesson of the sheep and goats of Matthew 25: 40 ("Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." Whoever He puts before us, we minister also minister to Him in serving them.