Thursday, May 31, 2012

It's God's problem

Apparently it's all things purple over at the Random Journal Day link-up. Check it out HERE.

Tonight my dive into my history led me back to 2005. It was the winter/spring before two of our children left home for college, so worries about financial aid loomed large. As did a host of other things, like leading our church's multi-generational mission trip, teaching adult Sunday school, speaking at a retreat, my mother's spiral into Alzheimer's, my novel, and the dissolution of a marriage of someone very close to my heart . But here's what I wrote that February night:

Tuesday, 2-22-05
...these are things deeply burdening me at the moment. And they bear much in common. Nothing the eye can see, of course, but there is this: we (Beve and I) cannot solve any of them. We cannot 'fix' any problem. Not by will nor by might...it's ALL beyond my ability, my control, my humanity. 
As Beve always says, "It's God's problem."  
EXACTLY. That's it. The way I'm called to live is stretching out my hand in faith. Moses touched a staff to a rock and water poured forth because God was in it, solving a drought issue. He raised his arm and a sea divided because a transportation and chase catastrophe was upon the people. God was in that. Moses wasn't the one solving Israel's problems in the wilderness, he was just the man who kept going up the mountain to seek God's face. Then, his face a mere reflection, Moses came back down to the people to lift his arms and say, "This is what God says..." NOT 'this is what I think we should do.' He didn't make a single attempt to lead by solving his own or anyone else's issues. He knew those problems were beyond him. Overwhelming Up on the mountain, over and over, saying, "You, Lord, have always been faithful. You have to do it again. If Your presence doesn't go with us, we can't move! That's how much we need you."  
Let me learn this lesson today, Lord. You have always been faithful. Over and over and over. You have to do it. You don't tease. I learned that once. Remind me again for my kids--for the finances for their college.  You will provide. You know we can't solve this issue by ourselves.

"If your presence doesn't go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are please with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?" Exodus 33: 15-16


Homelessness

It's a drizzly day here in Bellingham, the kind of day that makes me want to hole in my house by the fire with a good book and enough tea to last through the day. Even Maica had to be coaxed to retrieve her tennis ball with dog treats, or they'll be left scattered all over the yard like neon green pine-cones (since the big Lug died, she's been like a squirrel hoarding her balls all over this house--in both kennels, under couches, beds, in bathrooms). So I was a bit surprised to see Everett show up a few minutes ago to put in six hours on our front garden.
"I'm not afraid of a little rain," he told me, the gigantic hoop earring in his left ear nodding in agreement.
"Okay," I said. "I don't have any money on me." And before I could finish my sentence he took a step backwards, the fear showing on his face. I hurried to say, "So I'll go down to the bank before your day is finished.  The relief was palpable.  Twenty bucks means more to someone like Everett. I have to keep that in mind--not scare him.

So while I sit by the fire, I'm thinking of homeless people. People wandering through life with nowhere to call their own. Most of us take our homes for granted. Whether those homes are large and luxurious or small and compact, if we have enough money that we also have access to computers in our homes, we usually have enough. Yes, I realize there are those who have chosen electronic devices over food for their families but I'm talking about most of us.  We have addresses. Phone numbers. A host of different numbers that make up our identities, when you thing about it. My mother refused to memorize her social security number because she didn't want to be reduced to a number. I, on the other hand, know not only my own, but Beve's, my kids, and even Grampie's number these days. Somebody has to remember such things for him.

But the truth is, we're descendants of homeless people. Everyone who lives on this continent came from nomadic people. Even most of the native tribes moved their villages depending on the season. There were no addresses here. No fixed place (an exception would be the cliff-dwellers of the Southwest).  And if our fore-parents arrived here from somewhere else, our families left another homeland, a specific village or town or city, to take their lives in their hands, put their trust in God (if they were believers) and become nomadic--at least for a while--before finding their own promised land.

And that leads me to our spiritual heritage--no matter where we now dwell in this world. If we are Christians (or even Jews or Muslims, for that matter) we are descendants of Abraham. Called Abram at the time, God told him to leave Ur, take his wife and go (see Genesis 12). To wander to the land that God would show him, the land that would become one of promise. So he left, became Abraham, Sarai became Sarah. And nomadic for a while, they got themselves into a bit of trouble in their wandering before settling in that land of promise--the land blessed by God, though less lovely than the one chosen by Lot.

Later there was another long, long period of homelessness. 40 years of living in tents, of packing up and walking and having to trust God for sustenance and shelter and everything else. Homelessness wasn't easy. It revealed what a soft and unfaithful people those people of God really were. A whole generation lived and died without ever putting down roots. Their own unfaithfulness kept them wandering from the moment they left the comfort of "when I used to have a life" to when they died. And...honestly, this is a hard story for me to read. I feel for them. As stiff-necked and unfaithful as they were, I'm glad (as usual) I'm not God, because I know exactly how I'd feel if I'd been living that life among them.

You see, homelessness never is for the faint of heart, because we're soft. We all are. We want our creature comforts; we worry and fret when those comforts begin to slip from our grasps. And we don't trust that God is ahead of us. No matter what. Maybe for a moment we do, but it's hard to sustain. It's a rare and mighty thing to see someone who really gets that God is always, always ahead of us. Always leading. We should watch such people, stand in their shadow and allow their bright trust to shine on us as well.

I'm no different than anyone else. Homelessness scares the living daylights out of me. I admit that. I think I'd crumble to the ground and die before I'd been on the streets a week. And without a place to put my head, I would I trust God? Would I believe that He was in it? I think it might be a stretch beyond my powers to endure.

But I know this, "Foxes has holes and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no where to place His head." (Luke 9: 58)  Jesus spent His earthly ministry without a home. He went from place to place, trusting God for the next step. Our Lord Himself was homeless. And perhaps, we see Christ most when we gaze into the eyes of those who also have no place to lay their heads.

But there's another, more practical daily point for us. It isn't essentially about not having an address, but trusting that the next step, the next place we go is directed by God. This is what we learn from the wanderings in the Word. God led and He was followed. No matter what. In the desert, as we go from place to place, wherever our lives take us. It's an attitude of homelessness--trusting Him for sustenance and shelter  of every kind.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

An Alphabet of travel

This has been a tough year for allergy-sufferers around here. Again this morning, as I try to write this, my eyes are streaming so much my vision is blurred. I don't why blurred vision makes it difficult to think clearly, but somehow it's true. So I'm not going to fight it, won't try to come up with something insightful or profound. Instead, I thought I'd 'steal' what E posted on her blog last night and answer an alphabet of travel experiences:

A. At what age did you first travel overseas? Out of the country--to Canada with my grandparents before I turned 8, I think. But actually across an ocean didn't happen until I was 25 (1982)--when I packed a back-pack and traveled through the UK and Europe for three-ish months.
B. Best foreign beer you've ever tasted? Well, I'm don't actually like beer all that much, but while in Europe in 1982 I toured the Heineken factory in Amsterdam. And drank beer that day--or at least tasted it then passed it on to my friend. I do like Corona--though I think it's the lime I really like!
C. Favorite Cuisine: English high teas have always been a high point of trips to the UK, but to choose one, I'd say, Indian curry, and specifically,in a small town called Pushar in northern India, at an open air restaurant, a man made individual dishes for us while we watched, on something akin to a bunsen burner. And that meal--that curry--was so good, I've never forgotten it.
D. Favorite Destination: Edinburgh, Scotland. We got there right late in the afternoon, and were allowed into the Castle grounds for a few minutes just as the sun was setting. It was romantic and breath-taking and haunted with history. I still dream about it.
Least favorite Destination: I'm not real fond of the casino cities of Nevada. Was in Reno once, have no reason to ever return, thank you very much.
E. Wow event: It's personal but I really think the most wow event in my entire life was meeting an old friend at the Naked Man outside of Stockmann's in downtown Helsinki, Finland. My life (and his) changed course as a result of that moment. Thank God for that event, really. So impactful, I can tell you what he was wearing (tan cords, brown v-neck sweater with a white oxford shirt, brown and tan down jacket).
F. Favorite mode of transportation: The trains in Europe. And the bikes in Holland. Love them both. Wish for them here. Still.
G. Greatest feeling about traveling: knowing that God has done it. I've felt this so many times.When I first went to Europe, or was buckled into my seat on my way to a DTS. When Beve and I were on our way home to get married. When everyone is at the airport headed out to a mission trip--in Alaska, Mexico--because the funds have come in, the tickets are bought, we're all wearing our matching shirts. I love that feeling. God's ahead of us.  It's the best feeling there is. God has done it. And on the way home--that He has accomplished His purposes. 
HHottest Place traveled: Palm Springs in July. You might think India would have been hotter but that was November and December. Palm Springs in July was the hottest place we've ever been...and we took our children. Spent the whole week in the pool. Crazy. Loved it. Wouldn't change a thing.
I. Incredible Service: In York, England, my friend and I were bone-achingly tired. It was wet and we'd been walking for hours trying to find the B&B we'd booked for that night. Finally, two drowned rats got there. This older couple (transplanted from Scotland) opened the door, took one look at us, hurried us up to our room, took our wet clothes to dry them, made us come down to their rooms and gave us some sherry to take the chill off. And the next morning we had one hardy breakfast. It was lovely.
J. Longest Journey: I haven't had any ridiculously long trips like some people have (the over two day types) but when we flew back to the Netherlands from India, the stop in London where we switched planes. What we weren't told until we got there was that the plane actually stopped in Amsterdam (our final destination!) to refuel before going on to London. But because of customs, we were allowed to get off the plane, wander around an enclosed part of the airport but had to reboard, fly to London, get on another plane and fly back to Amsterdam. It was the most frustrating trip we've ever taken.
K. Keepsake: Does my own husband count? It does for me.
L. Letdown sight. Wow, I honestly can't think of one. There probably are things I've been disappointed in, but when I look back on them from here, everything has the hue of "I'm glad I did that!" Oh wait, maybe the wax museum in London. Don't know why I wasted money on it.
M. Moment you fell in love with travel: Hmmm, again. I honestly can't remember. Maybe it was the moment I began reading about other places. 
N. Nicest hotel: EASY: Dalhousie Castle in Scotland where my mom, sisters and I stayed in 2000. I'm talking real castle, with a restaurant in the dungeon. It was the all-time coolest place ever. Thanks, Mom. 
O. Obsession: Tea and books. That is, I always want my own tea with me--so I bring it along. AND, I try to read books that are local to the culture I'm visiting. Can't help myself. It's part of the experience. Oh yeah, and compulsively journal about it all, of course.
P. Passport stamps. Hmm. I'm on my third passport since I started really traveling. In the first one, which I was most proud of, there are stamps from the UK, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, the USSR (as it was then), Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, and India. The next one has the UK stamps. And this new one is pristine, waiting its turn.
Q. Quirkiest Attraction: the town dump in Hoonah, Alaska to see the grizzley bears feeding on garbage. Honestly, it's the 'don't miss' attraction in town.
R. Recommended Site: If you have a chance to go to India, it really is worth your while to see the Taj Mahal. It's everything it's cracked up to be. Overwhelming, fascinating story, and you'll rub shoulders with such interesting people from all over the world. 
S. Splurge: High tea at Harrod's and/or the Savoy. Each time I've been in London, I've made it a point to have a High Tea somewhere really fancy. Even the High Tea at the Empress in Victoria, BC is a beautiful tea. 
T.Touristy Thing: Probably all those trips to Disneyland. 
U. Unforgettable travel memory: Lunch at a Lebanese Restaurant in New Delhi, India. This was the spot where Beve told me how he felt about me. It could have been anywhere, of course, like the Dairy Queen just down the street. But it wasn't. It was a very exotic place and I'll never forget that. God did that.
More recently, however, going to Thompson Island in Boston Harbor was unforgettable in a completely different way. To stand there, where my great-great-multi-great grandfather first lived, where his name graces the land, where we came from--it was pretty awe-inspiring. My family has long-roots here.
V. Visas--I've had two visas--one to live in Holland in 1983, and one shorter one for the time in India that same fall. They were both student visas, and were simple enough to get.
W. Wine: I've been the recipient of wine-expeditions, but haven't done much wine-tasting. My funniest wine-related story is of my mother in that dungeon restaurant. She ordered a bottle, and when the wine was poured for her to taste, she said, "Why are you giving me so little? Fill it up, please!"  That was Mom for you.
X. Excellent views: Depends. I like the view from my house. But for mountains: I'd say Glacier National Park (though don't make me go on that road again!), Zurich, Juneau. For oceans: Kauai has so many breathtaking beach views, but so does the Baja coast of Mexico, but so does San Diego, and then there's the Gulf of Mexico, or the Atlantic. or the Scottish coast, or the Irish Sea, or...
But to choose just one--the view from Edinburgh Castle. The End.
Y. Years spent traveling: many. Hopefully many more to come.
Z. Zealous sports fans. England and their football fans. But...we also saw some pretty fanatic cricket fans in India (which seems like an oxymoron to me--fanatic and cricket in the same sentence?).

And there you have it...

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Wild and crazy happenings...

Wild and crazy happenings 'round here.
Per usual.
Of course.
While Grampie's wife is visiting with her daughter and son-in-law, which has meant a stealth and steady movement in the skilled nursing facility. A slight of wheelchair, you might say, a now you see the 'girlfriend,' and one blink and there's Thyrza right in her place. Thyrza doesn't know there's a 'girlfriend', and that's just how it was planned. Phew! Thyrza has planned many and varied activities for the week, most of which were beyond Grampie's capabilities, or demanded Beve's assistance--usually at times he wasn't able to assist! But we've had a good week.

And today, just because we like to make things interesting, Beve and a buddy took out our non-working sliding door to our back deck, and installed a beautiful set of French doors in its place. Unfortunately it wasn't nearly as simple a project as that sentence makes it sound. We had a large hole in the wall, on a sunny but very breezy afternoon, while Beve and his friend went for more supplies (why are there NEVER the right supplies at hand for a project?). I'd been sitting at my sewing machine, finishing some squares for a quilt for our family's cabin on Whidbey Island, cutting off the setting corners when I suddenly looked down and saw that I was bleeding all over the place. My rotary cutter had sliced a bit of finger but my hands were so cold I didn't even feel it. Needless to say, I put away that part of the project until there was a door back on the house!

And there now is. Shimmed and set in place. No door knobs or locks yet, so burglars have an easy way in, but  we'll take our chances. We have this fierce watch dog, after all. Oh right, the fierce one died, now we only have the one who's more afraid of people than they would be of her. Still she barks, and that's good enough. Right? Right? Work with me, here. I need to sleep tonight.

Actually, though I don't want you to go telling this to everyone, we aren't a very secure household. We never have been. There have been times when we've had people stay with our dogs and had to dig around to find keys to our house for them because we don't carry them as a general rule. We just don't. We come and go and leave the house as it is. We do lock it at night...and have been known to lock out our children, just because we're on auto-pilot and forget they're home visiting, or think they've come in when they haven't. I'm pretty sure each of them has had to climb in through the dog-door at least once. It's a good thing I've never been the one locked out because I can't imagine any circumstance in which I'd be able to climb through that dog door. I'd probably just sit out on the deck, punching in Beve's cell-number until I could finally rouse him. Or bang on our window. Or I know...not be out that late, to begin with!

In any case, we ALMOST have new French doors. And I can imagine summer more each day. Opening that door all the way so that we have a large indoor outdoor expanse and lots of room for all of us to eat and sit and be together. Because that's what this summer will be--a whole lot of together. We have a full-house for the month of July again and are looking forward to all the ways we can celebrate Grampie when the family comes from all corners to see him.

As I say, wild and crazy happenings...

This morning I was readying Psalm 16 (which is another of my 'desert island favorites!), and it fits the week, the day, the coming summer:
"Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup;
you have made my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance."

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day reflections

Memorial Day.
Remembering those who served in our country's armed forces.
So here's a run-down of those nearest to me who I'm remembering today:
Beve's grandfather was in the infantry in France in WWI, was gassed with mustard gas and was never quite the same again. And, even though the War Office said he was too tall, Grampie supplied his own uniform and went off to build roads in Burma in WWII. He was 'lucky' to have gotten sick enough that when his first unit shipped out, he couldn't go. Lucky, because they all died on that most deadly of roads in that deadly theatre--the CBI.

My maternal grandfather, Chief, the career naval man, sailed on practically every sea on this globe, but spent much of the war years in the Pacific--and I don't know how he managed to avoid battles. Hmm, maybe he didn't. Maybe he just didn't tell his wife and daughter how rough things really were. Maybe he wanted them to think he sailed through without any scrapes with death whatsoever. So from where I sit, it seems like one long adventure, Chief's life at sea.  My other grandfather was slated to ship out as an officer in the Army to Omaha Beach, where that unit was all lost, but he had such severe back problems he spent the war training officers at Fort Sill in Oklahoma. And these grandfathers of mine are not the first in my family to have served. In fact, I have ancestors who've fought in every war this country ever fought, from the Revolutionary War forward (I'm related to Patrick Henry and Oliver Perry), including men on both sides of the Civil War (cousins named, of all things, O'Hara, and no, I'm NOT related to the fictional Scarlett O'Hara of "Gone with The Wind.")

My dad was a naval ROTC in college. It wasn't until he graduated that he and Mom could finally marry.  Then Dad went to sea as an engineer on one ship after another for six years. Dad served in peace-time, though. He sailed, visited ports all over the Pacific rim, and played a lot of bridge--when he wasn't working on the bridge.  It wasn't a very hard life. Interesting but not stressful. No bombs or bullets making life worrisome for those out in it or those waiting at home.

But I also know young men who are serving now, in a theatre of war far across the globe. It's both easier and more difficult to serve now, I think. These men can speak to their wives and parents often. Thanks to skype, and other technologies, the world is smaller.  But because of these very technologies, families at home know more about what is going on with soldiers far away. For better and worse. Sometimes this is good, but sometimes--when the word comes that a unit will be out of communication range for a while--it increases the worry. Years ago, a family wouldn't know such things until long after the fact.

So I stand in awe of these young men and women who go. And their spouses who wait. Their parents who wait as well. I' tip my hat if I wore one, and salute if I dared, to all those who serve in such ways. It's not for the faint of heart to say, "I'll go." Put on a uniform, obey hard orders, leave what is known and safe and loved in peace time or, more particularly, during wars. I might not have always agreed with the policies of the government that put these people in harm's way, but I not only have no beef with those who sacrificially go, but I am humbled by them.

So, along with all those who celebrate your service, who are sons and daughters of the Revolutionary war to every war since, I celebrate and honor you. I'm grateful. I admit, I'm sorry you had to go (oh, how I wish there would be no more war, but I know--as He knows--that as long as there's sin in this world, people will fight!), but I'm very glad we could count on you to do so when we needed you.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Pentecost

"When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they 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 and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them." Acts 2: 1-4

Whatever you are doing this day, whether it's small or large, something you been dreading or something for which you've been anxiously waiting, you aren't in it alone. The day of Pentecost tells us this. That day came. No, I believe it comes. It may have come in a moment together when those first followers of Jesus were still reeling in a closed room from the appropriate fear and wonder of seeing Jesus ascend (like we wouldn't have been shaking in our boots from such a sight!). It may have been a wholly new event, a world-altering event for them. It was, of course. On a dime it changed the course of the world almost as much as the Incarnation itself. Honestly, if Jesus had lived and died and rose again, but Pentecost hadn't happened, all those three years of Jesus' earthly ministry would have been only a blip. No one would have known. It took the Holy Spirit entering into His followers, changing them, empowering them to move out into the world and fulfill the Great Commission that made that Word-was-made-flesh-and-dwelt-among-us to be passed down to us. So that we, too, could have our own moment. Our own Pentecost.

Yes, our own Pentecost. The moment we say yes to Him, the Holy Spirit comes. Perhaps there is a mighty wind across the past in our lives, perhaps there's a fire that burns out all that was before--a fire that burns out former vices, former ways and wants and dreams. Perhaps there's a wind and fire for something--SOMEONE--in such a way that from then on we can't help (like Peter and John) 'speaking of what we have seen and heard', what we have experienced.

But there's another kind of moment, which happens far more often, I think. My own Pentecost was somewhere  between. There was a specific moment. I can put my finger of memory on it in a way that it's like spraying a bit of perfume on my wrist and smelling it--and instantly I'm right back in that moment, though I was only fourteen-years-old. I remember well the awe and wonder of it as a prayer was prayed for the Holy Spirit to answer my own first fumbling words of faith. I was sitting along a path at a camp (headed, oddly--but, of course!--toward a chapel in the woods that was occupied at that moment) and when that young girl prayed for me, I actually felt something tip within. Something opened, I suppose you could say. Perhaps there's a metaphor for the fact that I was sitting among the pine needles along a path toward a worshiping place. In any case, it doesn't matter where I was. It only matters Who came into me. And He did. The Holy Spirit came into me that day and my life was surely changed.

There was a change in the wind--a change in velocity and power. Without a doubt I began to seek His Kingdom. I'd never been in love before but that's how I've always described it. I instantly fell in love with Jesus. Head over heels. And, for better and, sometimes, worse, have loved Him ever since. Or at least have been conscious of His great love for me no matter how I mess up. And secondly, He gave me a fire for the gospel. A fire to tell my small world of this amazing Love I'd found. That's what happens when you fall in love.  My parents, my friends, my siblings and cousins and whoever were subject to my soliloquies about Jesus. Whether they were ready to hear or not. The fire of the Holy Spirit had come upon me and that was it.

Pentecost comes to each of us. One way or another. If the Holy Spirit dwells within you, if you love Jesus, there He is. If your life is His, there He is. Pentecost has come. This is as important a day in the history of the church as any there is, but it's also representative of as important a day as any in your life.

So live in it. Live in your life, with the profound realization that the Holy Spirit lives within you. That's the story of Pentecost, a story that changed the world--and changed your life!

How will you live out and honor Pentecost among those you dwell this day?
"Whatever you do, whether in word or in deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." Colossians 3: 17

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Everett

We've suddenly become the kind of people who have a gardener. A gardener named Everett.

First a confession: I'm a crummy gardener. That's the truth. I love to have growing things around and we spent a whole lot of money to have a garden put in around a slate patio, but I just can't manage to sustain caring for it.  OK, there are extenuating circumstances that I could use to justify my inability to garden--like not being able to kneel for more than about 30 seconds on my bad leg. But the bald truth is, it's just...such hard work. And I'm not all that good at hard work.  And Beve, the man who works harder than almost anyone I know who doesn't make his living off the land itself, has almost no time to work on our yard. He'd like to, but with everything else in life, it's just not possible.

So he came home a couple of weeks ago and told me that our friends' friend, Everett, loves to garden.  Everett. He became a tennis partner of our friend about four years ago. He hits the ball hard, and wins more often than he doesn't, and as long as he doesn't have too much cash on him, he shows up when he says he will. Everett, you see, is homeless.  He's been on the streets of Bellingham about eight years now, ever since he got out of jail, was handed a no-contact order from his then-wife so had no place to go.  Lately, he's been doing some work for our friends, helping with some house repairs, gardening, cleaning up rubbish.  He wants to get his life together. So Beve asked if he'd come over and try to make some order of the disorder in our so-called gardens.  He was supposed to come last week, but he was too flush with cash and had disappeared. This happens with him. Too much cash in his hands and he'll drink it away. Not show up for a week.

But today, bright and early, he was out on our front patio, gleeful at the work ahead.  Ready to get down and dirty pulling weeds, pruning bushes, revealing the garden that we knew was there.  He stopped for a break and told me a little bit about his life.  He's a talker, Everett is.  "I'm a felon," he told me.  "Like to drink too much."  He talked of ''back when I had a life," as opposed to "living in the homeless community." He told us where he likes to sleep (baseball dug-outs when it's raining), where he eats (there's a large enough Homeless community here that he eats different places every night of the week), where he washes his clothes (again--a service provided by a church in town once a week!), and where he showers. He's a pro at this 'life' he doesn't call a life.

And he's a pro at gardening, too.
By the time he finished, eight hours, several bottles of water, a couple of cherry colas, one grilled-cheese sandwich and a few handfuls of potato chips later, he'd made serious progress.  We're astonished and pleased. And Everett? As I was driving him to the park where, when the day is nice, he hangs in hopes of scrounging up a game or two, he said, "That was a lot of fun. I think I'll get it finished in about a week, but then I'll have to keep up with it." I smiled. Everett feels a little purpose here, feels some ownership of our garden already (clearly more than I feel). And he told Beve just to give him twenty bucks and to hold the rest for him (as our friends do), so he can build up a savings.  He has hopes, you see.

It's a sweet thing to see hope grow like this. To be a part of it. And...our garden is very happy to be in the hands of a man who knows what he's doing. A master like Everett.

Friday, May 25, 2012

He showed up

When I got to the airport the other day, I parked alongside dozens of other cars in new-fangled place, carved out of a former cargo lot.  The cell-phone lot.  Within a couple of minutes I realized that I should have brought my Kindle, because the wait was likely to be longer than I'd bargained for. I'm not easily bored, but not being bored usually involves keeping my mind occupied.

So I began scrounging around for something to write on--that is, the little notebook I carry in my purse for just that purpose. I'm a writer. When I can't put my hand on paper and pen, I feel lost indeed. So I always carry a notebook and not one but about a dozen pens. In fact, I can't imagine being at large in the world without either. Without my cell-phone? More often than not. Without writing tools? I'd have a panic attack.  And in the car I most often drive, I keep a Bible in the glove box.

But I wasn't in that car Wednesday morning.  And the only notebook I had was in serious danger of being too full to be much use to me. However, a notebook with only a couple of pages free is better than writing up my right arm, so I took what I could get and was happy about it.

And because I wasn't completely inspired by the gray, cheerless day outside my car's window, and because I felt more than a little anxious about what lay ahead for Thyrza with Grampie, I felt a rather serious need to marinate myself in the Word of God. So how does one do this when there is no Bible at hand?  I sat for a moment, letting the tranquility of simply holding the pen poised over the page steal over me. It does, you know. The simple act of holding a pen even before a word is written, is enough to calm whatever nerves are just beneath the surface. There's an empty page, and there's that pen and sometimes, if I wait long enough, God will show up as that pen moves across the page. And I'm as blessed by that happening as anyone.

So I held the pen, almost prayed--if you know what I mean. Maybe you don't. Maybe you're more conscious of really speaking to Him every moment. But I'm not. Sometimes when I go to pray, it's more like I think about God than talk to Him. Sometimes this is wrong. Sometimes when I do this then go on my merry, daily way, and assume I've done my duty by Him, I'm so sorely mistaken, it's worse than if I hadn't thought of, or talked about, or read of, Him at all. Because it's all theology, or philosophically (which is even worse) or doctrinally, or something else. And has very little to do with being in relationship with the ONE who loves me most. Who waits for me to talk to Him. And who doesn't care a whit about such arguments.  In fact, aren't they a bit like gossip, if you think about it?

But that day, it was more like listening, which is a whole different thing. A waiting thing. And that 'thinking' is really what He wants from me. I don't do it often enough. And maybe it's only the HOly Spirit that can do it at all, but Wednesday that was it.

And then it began. I wrote my own miniature Bible in the few pages of that notebook.  I started with Genesis and wrote every reference I actually know by heart in the entire Bible. And it was telling. I know the Pentatuach better than the prophets (by about a country mile); John and Luke are my go-to gospels (without  a doubt); Romans, 2 Corinthians, Ephesians and Philippians--these books I know by heart.  But don't ask me about Zephaniah. Zechariah, Ezra. If I was shipwrecked tomorrow with only the pieces of scripture I carry right now, the gaps are wide.  I lean toward the New Testament, of course. Most of us disciples of Jesus do. But all this writing out of these references--and even the large spaces (whole books whose titles are the only things I know!) between--made me again realize what God has done in giving us His living and active word. His Word. He gave us His word.

Think about that. He gave us His word, and when someone gives you their word, that's a big deal. Something to stand on. His word more than any word we've ever been given.

That's what He was after when I started listening in that cell-phone parking lot.
I was almost sorry when my cell-phone finally rang.

My Gethsemane

Still down in Seattle and it's another Random Journal Day. I've been praying since last night about whether to post this entry because AGAIN I'm away from my bookcase full of journals. This morning God kind of punched me in the gut with the sense that I must post this, though it's pretty intimate and very raw. But I keep it in my Bible. I keep it there to remind myself...well,to remind myself of my Gethsemane.

August 23, 1997
In Pullman, sitting by Dad's hospital bed, who is still trying to conduct university business though he bleeds and has tubes running in and out. I drove out to [RE's] Wednesday night and screamed out loud to God, "Please don't let my Daddy die!" and suddenly, there in the car with me, right there in my shrieking tears, was God. 
"I know exactly how you feel," I heard, as if He was sitting beside me, speaking in the quiet, though I didn't feel quiet at all. And then I was, quiet, that is, because He was there and reminding me that He knows what it is to lose to death someone beloved, to be unable to stop that death from coming. Then I felt frozen, though I was speeding through the night, and a scream rose in my throat because I am sure now, sure of all that He was saying. Not only that He understands, though that comforts, but that Dad will die of this. 
It's what I dare not say, but I know it and hate knowing it. I sit by Dad, laughing with him, being teased by him, and know it. It's a terrible, hard word. But God spoke to me, and when God speaks, even if it's such a word as this, there's purpose in it...if I can only bear to listen. 
Lord, please tell me something else. Not this. Please, anything but this. Just a little longer. Rationally I know that there will never be enough time, but I can't help asking for it because it's Dad and...it's Dad...and so I ask it.
And here I understand finally. Gethsemane. Praying in the garden. Knowing what lies ahead. "Please take this cup from me, take this cup from Dad." And yet, side by side with that bleeding, sweating depths of my soul plea, I whisper in the dark of this room, where he sleeps so close I can put my hand on his arm. Oh, I don't want to say it, but I must. I must. The core of obedience. "Not my will, but thine...be done."


My father died 4 days later. And just so you know--I wasn't ready. Even though God had whispered this, I was caught off guard, plunged into grief. But it didn't change the fact that God had spoken. And I still believe that there is a special gift given ANY time God speaks, no matter how hard the word. And fifteen years later I can look back at it with enough objectivity to be awed by the gift of His word to me. His teaching about death and Gethsemane in that car and Dad's hospital room a couple days later. So I keep a copy of this journal entry in my Bible to remember that He speaks. Not always what we want to hear, but what He wants us to learn. And that is His gift.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Dreaming for Seattle

E and I spent the day in downtown Seattle with some out-of-towners. E was designated 'tour-guide', and did so with her usual grace and Beve-like steadiness, winding up hills, through traffic, in and out of crowds with the aplomb that  she wears as easily as she wears her Converse tennies. And she was equally graceful and articulate when these out-of-towners asked her questions--both off and in-front of a camera--about her life, her future, just who on earth she is, because though these men didn't know her, God does, and it's all connected to why these visitors are in Seattle this week.  It was a lovely to be out in the Emerald City, lovely to show off the waterfront, the men throwing fish (even straight into a camera lens)at Pike Place Market, and at the top of Space Needle.

But as I implied, these three men, Kyle, John and Rich, weren't just tourists. They met E about a month ago when she was traipsing (er, road-tripping) around the east, a grad. student with a couple of profs, writing what stories they fell into. Articles which would be posted on a U of W/Seattle Times blog.  And one of the stories E stumbled into (if you believe in such stumbling, which I surely do not!) was a massive swarm of blue t-shirted folks in Asheville, North Carolina. She and her prof asked a few questions about what was up with all the shirts, and were directed to a particular man--Kyle Martin. Kyle spent about ten minutes with E just before he went up to speak. She told me this morning that while he was talking to her, worship was happening.  ("Wow," I said. "Didn't that make you want to join in?" E was so often part of worship teams in high school and college. But she said she was concentrating on listening to him.)

My point is--worship. Yes, WORSHIP. You see, the event--the seven-day (but months of prayer and preparation and more prayer) event--was called "Revive Asheville." E and her profs had wandered into a revival--of a pretty cool sort, with all kinds of community involvement, and paying attention to what that city needs, and...well, real participation with that city and the Body there. It's powerful stuff. On E's end, what came out of that conversation with Kyle and John (Mr. all-things research!), was, of course, a story written by E about Revive Asheville, and the Non-profit organization Time To Revive that is behind this movement.
And E's story is why those men came to Seattle a mere month later. Her article.
How does this all happen?

God.

E and her story, her gentle way of asking questions and steady listening (and her not-insignificant writing skills) were used by God as an invitation--a call?-- for a team of people from this organization to come to Seattle to 'test' the waters of our lovely Puget Sound, see the green of our trees and the snow of our mountains, but most of all, to see the people, listen to their stories, walk the streets with them and see what God might be doing in front of them.

So E and I walked with them. Stopped with them. Waited when they stopped to talk to ferry workers, restaurant workers. Waited and watched. I watched how it looks to be heard by someone really interested in an answer. I looked at this place through the eyes of people looking at it with hearts open to it in the ways of the gospel--to intersect with humans where they live and work and play and need.

And I loved it. It opened my eyes too.  To dream dreams, as the scriptures say, to see visions. To hope.

While they were standing at the top of the Space Needle I was sunning myself among a diverse population of people who didn't only stare at the fountain but actively engaged with everyone else engaging in the water. There was laughter at men caught by a spray, applause at a well-run weave through it. I've sat there before when almost nothing was going on, but today, that fountain was a living being, drawing people in. It was like the village square where people came to gather--to sit and share a bit of lunch, gossip a bit, get to know their neighbors--sharing good news, perhaps.

So I thought of those three men up in the clouds with my daughter praying about revival in this city, praying about how that might look, what it might mean...and I could see it in that fountain. I could see people drawn to a fountain that is a literal thing and discover a FOUNTAIN who is the REAL thing.

It was a privilege to walk those steps with them today. To imagine this place as they see it, to envision what might be.

For me, for this day, it was enough to sit there and pray and imagine and be thankful.
Yes, to be thankful to have spent this day in the company of people so bent on Kingdom work.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Back for a visit...and what a visit

Down in Seattle for the week. Several things are happening here. The first is that this morning I made a run to the airport to pick up Thyrza and her daughter and son-in-law. I gave them the keys to my Highlander (or Lander-on-High, as E would put it!) and sent them on their way toward Bellingham for a week's visit while I stay here for a couple more days. Yep, Thyrza's back for a visit. She's been so counting the days she had her clothes packed a week ago. Grampie has been alternating been thinking he is moving back to Maryland with him at the end of the trip, forgetting about the visit altogether and...not even caring that they're coming.  The truth is that suddenly this visit has taken a turn from potentially difficult at the end, when Grampie has to start grieving all over again, to completely awkward and strange.

You see, last Sunday when Beve and J went over to pick up Grampie for a dinner outing, a couple of nurses pulled them aside to say, "Did you know your dad has a girlfriend?" WHAT? But it's true. Apparently he's been 'keeping time' with a tiny woman (and I mean VERY tiny--about 4'10") who also has Alzheimer's.  They eat together, sit together, talk about going on dates. Grampie even asked Beve at dinner Sunday night if the place they were eating was a good place to take a 'girl' to get a burger, though I don't know how Grampie thinks they could go anywhere by themselves.

When Beve told his brothers later, they each found it highly amusing. But they don't have to deal with the potential landmine that is--even as I write this--driving up the freeway toward that skilled nursing facility, expecting her husband to be as thrilled to see her as she is to see him. We've been praying that once Grampie does see Thyrza, it'll all click back in, but we warned her daughter just in case. Because if it doesn't...YIKES! Needless to say, we made the decision not to tell Thyrza unless we have to, and the nursing home is on red alert to keep that little lady out of the way for the next week. But seriously...

The other night Beve rather mournfully said that his dad would be horrified if he knew what he'd become. I completely get that. I remember walking into my mom's room in her nursing home and having her say, "Have I told you girls? I'm in love."  But she was 'in love' with a very kind male aide, and didn't have a living husband who was about to coming walking through the door. But Alzheimer's is no respecter of such things. It destroys brains with no rhyme or reason. It doesn't keep pockets open for our convenience or even our love. It simply destroys at will.  We can pretend it doesn't happen, rail against it, but, in the end, cannot stop its destructive path.

I know of nothing similar to this in the spiritual realm.  The enemy would try this.  There have been created horrors that have mirrored such devastation (the atomic bomb comes to mind), and whole regimes that have tried. But there's always--always redemption. Some way, some how. Hope rises. There is resurrection. Not in the immediate--not the next day, or even the next generation--but somehow, some way, what humans mean for evil, God uses for good. I believe this.

So I have to believe this about this disease within the human brain. It cuts such a wide swath through the head that sometimes--as with my mother--not a thing is left by the time the last breath is let out. Not a word, not a glimmer of life in the eyes. A flower has more life to it than my mother did at the end. But, I have to believe--I do, I do--that God means good to come from this evil. I have to believe that even when Grampie is acting now in a way so wholly foreign to his real self that he would be not merely appalled but ashamed of his current actions, God understands. God means to do something with this. He intends good from it. How, I cannot say. What, to whom, for whom? Again, I have no idea.

But until He reveals that (if He does at all), we simply pray that He will walk with us through this week.  That He will smooth the rough places, give understanding to those who might misunderstand (and by that I mean EVERYONE, even that little woman, who will surely be bewildered by this), and will help Beve and me extend grace to our guests. (Just so you know, they are staying in a motel--they like their space).

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Psalm 23, part 2

Part 2 of Psalm 23--my personal reclamation.

For Thou art with me.
Years ago, my brothers, middle sister (the Dump) and her two sons hiked the Chilkoot trail in Alaska, which was an historic path used by gold seekers in the 1898-99 season. The most arduous part of the hike is called the Golden Stairs, and is essentially a boulder field straight up a mountain. On this day, as on every day, my youngest brother hiked at the back. My youngest brother's name I'll divulge for the first and only time on this blog, because it's fitting for this Psalm, written by the man who knelt by the stream and prayed it before he went and slayed a giant with a stone from a slingshot. My brother's name is David, and he is--ABSOLUTELY--as beloved by God as that king himself. As beloved by God as we all are. But I digress. Anyway, D hiked at the back. He learned this from watching our day when Dad was a Scoutmaster leading many long hikes, always hiked at the rear, to encourage the slowest. To lead from behind, so to speak.  And usually, on this arduous, historic hike, my sister hiked with her twelve-year-old son, helping him along. But she had watched D on those first few days on the hike; she'd seen him flip his pack straight over his head in an amazing display of strength, she'd seen his care for the rest of them, his quiet kindness. She knew she could trust him.  So on the day they had to climb the Golden Stairs, my sister to struggle as she made her way up those boulders. She knew she had to march at a certain clip or she wouldn't make it. If she tried to slow down to her son's pace, they'd both fall. So she told him, "I'm going on, but Uncle D will help you." And she left him. She didn't tell D, she simply went on. At the top, my sister looked down that boulder field, and there was our brother, not only helping his nephew up every large rock, but actually carrying his pack as well. He'd been there every step of the way, and lifted the burden that made the journey more difficult. My sister trusted him with what was most important to her because she knew his character, and her son experienced it.
This has always been the perfect picture of "For Thou art with me." Because we know His character we can trust Him. And KNOW that He doesn't leave us. No matter how it might feel, we can KNOW that He is with us.
How much do we trust the Shepherd?

Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.
These two things represent works of the Holy Spirit within us. The rod is a weapon, used to fend off enemies. It's dug from a tree, cut from the ground where the root is enlarged so there's a knot in it. Then it's used as a club against dangers.  It's a weapon of defense--so there's power and authority in the rod.  We are given power and authority by the Holy Spirit to help us ward off the enemies that come against us, to preach the good news, to speak in His Name. We hold His rod, when we have the Holy Spirit in us. But the rod is also about discipline. Hebrews 12: 5-6 says, "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when He disciplines you, because the Lord disciplines those He loves." If we recognize that we are disciplined as a parent disciplines a child--to help us grow into maturity, perhaps we will be less resistant to it, less apt to question, "Why did this have to happen to me?" when it comes.
The staff is about comfort. The staff a shepherd uses is to gently guide the sheep along the path they should go. It's like my brother carrying my nephew's pack, helping him along a difficult path. We have that comfort. When we're likely to tumble off, there is the staff to lean on, to comfort us. Jesus told us He would send a Comforter. John 16: 13 says, "When the Spirit comes, He will guide you..." The Comforter deals in love with us--He knows exactly what each of us needs--sometimes a gentle pat with one end of the staff, sometimes a tug with the crook--to pull us back in line. Both are a part of discipleship.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
Now a feast.  We have won the battle, now we have the feast.  But not just a feast behind closed doors with only the other victors. No, this feast is in front of our slain Goliaths and all the other giants we've put to death. Jesus tells us a banquet is waiting. And we are invited. But so are all others. "Invite them to come in," He tells us. We have to look at it from this angle first: to talk about our enemies in light of Jesus' call to love and welcome them.
So, who is my enemy?
First, recognizing there are real enemies of the faith wanting to snatch us from Him--principalities and powers. The serpent in the garden. The enemy Jesus warns against. "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil," we are told to pray.
A couple of 'tricks'--via scripture--for facing our enemies.
1. Stand and Stand and Stand firm.
Ephesians 6: 10 f.
That's it. Read it. I'm not kidding. That section of scripture tells us to stand and put on our armor. It doesn't tell us to fight. Just to stand. We aren't usually very good at inactivity, but that's it, folks. The implication is that the Holy Spirit--which is the sum-total of the weaponry and armor we put on--does the fighting for us. We stand and pray. The end.
2. Eat. That's what we're told here in Psalm 23. We are not only safe within our armor, but victorious enough to eat in the presence of our enemies. Of course we must have enough sense to stay near our Shepherd while we eat this feast, but we can do that. And what is this feast, on a practical level? "John 4: 34 says, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent me." Being part of HIS will. That's our feast. Partaking daily in the Bread of Life, the Living Water, the fellowship of those who will nourish us.

You anoint my head with oil...
Now we, like David, are the anointed ones. We are His people. We are a royal people, a holy priesthood. That's what it means to be anointed. But anointing has some specific properties:
1. healing--There's something supernatural about the presence of anointing oil in prayer. And we are called, as anointed ones, to also do this as we pray for others.
2. Restoration--Our skin is made supple when oiled. Dry becomes soft, baby-like. So spiritually we are restored through oil. And our 'oil', in the sense of restoration, is the cross. We are restored to our true selves. Reborn through that oil, so to speak.
3. Set apart/filled with the Holy Spirit. David was anointed when he received his calling to be king. So we are set apart as His when we receive the holy Spirit. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we are given all the rights, privileges and responsibilities of royalty.

My cup overflows. 
Because of the nourishment of His food and His Oil, we not have more than the "I shall not want" from the beginning. Now we have abundance.  We are moved to overflowing. Discipleship moves us from just what we need to an overflowing cup. Every time Jesus feeds people, there's more than enough. Have you ever noticed that? They're always picking up extra. Cups overflow. We live abundant lives. So what does He want us to do with all this extravagance?  It's for us and, through us, for others. We have this great privilege and great responsibility--this adventure, this extravagant life with Jesus. So share it.

Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life
The Shepherd is surrounding us--He leads and follows. Nothing less. He led us beside still waters, now His goodness and mercies come after us.  It doesn't always look this way in the middle of it--I admit that. I admit to the struggle of recognizing goodness and mercy every moment of every day. But I believe it will follow. IS following after. This is HIS promise. No matter what happens, no matter where we are in the middle, we can be sure of two things from Romans 8, NOTHING can separate us from the LOVE of Christ Jesus our Lord (see 38-39); and in every circumstance HE is working for our good. Romans 8: 28 doesn't say (no matter what you think) that every situation IS good, but that IN every situation GOD is working for our good. That significant difference is the promise that rings of Psalm 23.

And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
He knows us and we are His. We know His voice. He lay down His life for us. So from the moment we gave our lives to Him we began to dwell with Him. But someday, some great and glorious day, we will also be together in that place where
"...God has exalted Him to the highest place
and gave Him the Name that is above every name,
that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father."



Monday, May 21, 2012

Reclaiming Psalm 23

The first time I remember going to church was to some kind of Bible School when we lived in Michigan. I haven't the faintest idea what kind of church it was, can barely remember what we did, but I do remember memorizing the 23rd Psalm.  I remember this because there was some kind of prize at the end of the week for those children who could say it correctly. And, because memorizing came easily enough for me--even at 6 or 7--and the carrot held out was sure to be something I'd want, the 23rd Psalm became the very first section of the Bible I knew. Long before I actually knew much about the Bible at all, I could recite it straight through, just like I could recite the prayer my parents prayed with us every night.

And just like that prayer, the 23rd Psalm had little meaning back then.  I mean, what exactly did it mean with all those strange sounding phrases and word endings?  I hadn't faintest idea. King James will do that to a little girl who hasn't been raised on cadences of the Psalms and the language of the scripture.
"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want."  What?  I don't want my shepherd?
"He maketh me to lie down in green pastures."  Maketh. What is maketh?
Well, you get the idea.

But after I became a Christian, and actually began to understand scripture, I had something of a distaste for Psalm 23. I don't know if it was because it was long familiar, or if it still carried some kind of "I don't get it," from my early childhood, or if it's because Psalm 23 is the 'go-to' Psalm for memorial services. Right? It still is, come to think of it. As long as people are leaving this planet, there will be Psalm 23 read at funerals. That's just the way of things.  Whatever the reason, I tend to skip past it rather rapidly in my perpetual re-reading of the Psalms.

But a few years ago, when asked to speak at a retreat, I felt led to talk about the Gardens of scripture. "From the Garden of Eden to the Garden of the Resurrection."  And in the middle, suddenly, there was Psalm 23 as the garden of living--not dying--as a follower of Christ. This may not be new to you. Maybe you've long since figured this out, but it was a revelation to me. AND it redeemed a Psalm that is worth the price of admission.

So I thought I'd do an annotation of this much memorized, much honored Psalm (taken--sort of-- from my notes from the talk) about living it.

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.--Perhaps this Psalm was given to David the day he went to face Goliath. Perhaps he had already gotten nosy, then big for his britches. "Shoot, I can kill that old giant!"  On the basis of God's strength, David announces this. Then, eschewing the armor and sword, he goes off to gather stones for his sling shot. Maybe it's as he's kneeling by the river that he first prays these words, picking up these stones. "The LORD is my shepherd. I need nothing else. No armor, no sword. Just the Lord. I have been trained for THIS day by Him." A shepherd's staff, a sling shot and five stone. Everything he needs.
AND, we have everything we need as well. The equipment needed for battle comes from GOD--not from the world. The equipment needed for whatever life brings us comes from the Shepherd.

He makes me lie down in green pastures. This is the great spiritual discipline of solitude and silence. He knows we need rest and quiet. "Be still and know that I am God," He says (Psalm 46: 10) It's a theme of the Psalms. And this is modeled in the Incarnate. Jesus practiced the quiet and solitude we also need. If we are too busy, it's not of God. And--we can't blame it on temperament. No matter what kind of person we are, active or not, we must 'lie down' and rest with Him. Grow into His likeness alone.

He leads me beside still waters.  This is the spiritual discipline of the Word. Jesus says, "I am the Living Water." We need to living word "The word of God is living and active..." We need to drink from it, bathe in it, immerse ourselves in it. "My soul thirsts for you," Psalm 63 says. This is how we should feel about the Word. Many people read self-help book after self-help book, looking for ways to 'try' to make their lives work. But these are rushing waters. We take them in, take them in, take them in, and then--like an overly-saturated sponge, we can't be used as God intends. Still waters, that's where He leads.. He will lead us to the pool of His living word, and reveal what will both quench our thirst and enable us to move.

He restores my soul.  The spiritual discipline of fellowship.  The Shepherd takes personal care of what each of us needs. When we are overwhelmed, busy, He makes us rest, when we are dehydrated He leads us to His water. But He also surrounds us with the Body that restores us when we are hurting and need comfort. Or simply need material aid. We don't have to suffer alone. We are given the Body exactly for this purpose--to restore us when we fall, to help hold us when we can't walk.

He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. This is the spiritual discipline of obedience. These words are the center of this Psalm--the core of what the Shepherd does, what our spiritual life is about. Growing up in Christ. Being led toward maturity--to become 'Little Christ-ones.' We are called by His name, and what we do, we do IN His name. We are made in His image, to walk in a manner worthy of what we are called.  Ephesians 4: 13 speaks of our goal as being "to become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ."

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil.  This is the spiritual discipline of prayer. In fact, at this moment, David has begun to pray in earnest. He's gotten down to it. He's going into battle. No matter what comes, He fears nothing. In the church, it's a whole lot easier to talk about God or to do things for God, than to talk to Him. But we must learn to pray so that at the moment of difficulty, we pray in complete faith. This moment is not simply about prayer, it's about trust. And we must acknowledge that it's really difficult to walk there. We aren't, by instinct, a trusting species. Perhaps we would have been if sin had not entered the picture, but we'll never know. However, we don't have to TRY to trust. We walk in this 'valley' with the shepherd. AND, we must also acknowledge the presence of the enemy--that we do battle against him, and that, as Romans says, "Our battle is not against flesh and blood (as David's was against Goliath) but against principalities and powers."  But--we need NOT, should NOT fear evil. The Cross is the great answer to the presence of evil. The great final solution.

And...
This is where I'm going to leave it today. Yes, in the middle of a sentence. Because I have a great story for the next clause, and I don't want to rush through it. So, tomorrow.  For tonight, marinate in the front half of this Psalm about living with Christ. Let it wash over you, and--perhaps-- be redeemed in you, as it has been in me.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

On behalf of rain

Today it's raining here in Bellingham. Yesterday when I was out and about with Maica riding co-pilot, the line at the new Fro-Yo shop down the hill was winding serpentine around the newly bricked, now-trendy-looking shopping center, folks sitting in the sunshine chatting at tables, at the edge of the curb, just standing in line talking to their neighbors. Maica and I didn't stop. We drove down to the park on the Bay where people were walking their dogs on the well-kept paths beside the sparkling water, drinking iced coffee outside of Woods coffee stand at the water's edge, and throwing frisbees on the grass while children played on brightly colored play equipment.  We didn't take the walk I'd intended, though, because Maica took one look at all those dogs and began cowering in a corner of the car. (She's afraid of dogs and doesn't know she is one)

Instead we drove through Fairhaven, an old part of town where one of the bookstores in the whole world lives. Yes, it lives. Village Books is a living, breathing place. A dog-friendly place, I might add. Bring your kids in, bring your pups in. Come in, sit down in a rocking chair and read whatever strikes your fancy. Go up to the second floor where the fiction dwells, get an espresso or a cup of soup and stare out at Bellingham Bay where you can watch ferries bound for Alaska leaving port. Watch the sailboats. Or read a book you haven't even bought yet. Or, if you'd rather head down to the lower level, check out the used books, regional books, and stop by the Calaphon Cafe, which might just be one of the best eateries in town. Outside that lower level is the Village green where, on summer nights, bands play or movies are shown against a wall. There's market day on Wednesdays. And any day, the village green is a lovely place for meeting friends. Just like it was intended.
A block over is our favorite Tea Shop, where a traditional English high tea is served every day, complete with scones and clotted cream, tea sandwiches and Cornish pasties. Oh my, how hungry I am thinking of it.

I didn't stop in Fairhaven, however. Maica and I had a date to meet Beve at the REI sale. So we drove up the hill dotted with old Victorian homes, down the other side past Western Washington University (some of the views from those dorm rooms are of the bay and islands and likely the Canadian Rockies...I'm telling you, I'd be staring out the window more than studying anything--even a subject I liked!) and pulled into the crowded REI lot where I found a space under a tree for Maica.  REI is a destination spot in this neck of the woods. Especially during the sale. Even on a perfect northwest day like yesterday, when, surely no place on earth is any more beautiful than this, all these outdoor-loving people were lined up hiking-boot to hiking-boot, like they line up for coffee or fro-yo.  Beve in his mowing shoes and I in my Crocs fit right in...trying on Tevas and Keens like we're the Pacific Northwesterners we are. And yes, we both have Birkenstocks, have both worn socks with them, don't use umbrellas (except to watch outdoor sporting events).

And yes, it does rain a lot here. It does. People  from other parts of the country ask about the rain all the time. It's the second most popular question. The first is, "Have you ever seen the President?" or something else District of Columbia-related. The answer, OF COURSE, is "WRONG Washington!" Even when someone from these parts says, "Washington State," to a person from another part of the country or (more likely) world, we get these questions. So most of us simply answer, "Seattle" to the question, "Where are you from?" (By the way, I live about an hour and a half straight north of Seattle)  And then we hear the inevitable second question, "Doesn't it rain a lot there?" And, as I said, it does.

But speaking on behalf of rain, I'd like to say: it's also a whole lot green. And stays green all year round. And I'm here to tell you, you don't melt, soak up, mold, or mildew from rain. It can't hurt you (unless there's too much of it--and around here, our floods come more from too much snow in the mountains than too much rain in the lowlands). The benefit of rain is plenty. Even I who grew up on the dry side of the state, can see this. Can see how lovely the green is. And how things grow here--from grass to flowers to weeds (darn it!). Now, I won't lie and say don't get tired of endless weeks of rain. Of course we do. We crave sunshine. CRAVE IT. In the long gray days of winter, we crave sun like some people crave chocolate.

But this also means we don't take the sun for granted. We know what we get to see--glorious blue sky, sparkling water, temperate temperatures--when it does. We get to play in this place, where forests and mountains and lakes (two right here within our city limits) and rivers and salt water all meet in this place we call home.

But please, don't tell anyone I've told you all this. We try not to let it out because after all, we wouldn't want the whole world in on the secret that all the rain doesn't add up to much in the face of  living in Bellingham, Washington (State)--my now-hometown.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

May 18, 1980

Another day I remember for other people's memories, rather than my own. I was in Eugene, Oregon when Mount St. Helen's blew its top that lovely spring day. So busy working my job with mentally disabled adults, I was unaware it had finally happened--we'd been watching it get closer and closer, via media for months.  Later I remembered having a picture of St. Helen's on the TV screen as I walked past it doing one task or another, but it didn't register.  My mother, who always called each of us at the first sign of trouble, wasn't successful at reaching me until the next morning and by then was in high panic mode. I was merely surprised to hear her voice at 10:30 on a Monday morning when she should have been teaching her 4th grade class.

But the Pullman School District didn't go back to school that year. Washington State University, for the first (and last) time in its history, suspended classes and ultimately sent the students home without finishing the semester.

It's hard to fathom from here and now what that time was like, what that day was like--even three hundred miles away from where the real tragedy was happening--the uprooted trees, rerouted river, destroyed homes, and loss of life.  But here's what I know from living with a man who was there that day, and from others as well.

The sky darkened in the west like a giant thunder storm was approaching. Some friends of mine were playing softball that afternoon in a city park and they remember how still the afternoon got, and how, unlike when a Palouse storm is coming, there was no wind. Over head, the sky was blue, in the west, came utter darkness as far as the eyes could see. Beve was driving back to his home in Tacoma, WA in his VW bus with a couple of buddies after a weekend with his parents--driving straight into that blackness--so he was about an hour out of Pullman when the ash began to fall. Fast and furiously it fell, obscuring vision like the thickest snowstorm. But unlike snow, even his windshield wipers and headlights didn't help guide him. It didn't take long to realize they wouldn't make it across the state, so they abandoned the bus, somehow made it to Beve's brother's place in a tiny town called Lind, where they found Beve's brother filling juice bottles with water because who knew whether the water itself would be contaminated. Those young men slept on the floor of Lind High school for a week--calling in to their schools back in Tacoma with updates--until a train made a stop for them and got them back to their jobs.  Because all the ash went east, their principals couldn't quite understand what the deal was that week.

If those principals had only been there...I always wished I had. That's the truth.

In Pullman, people wore gas masks at first--the stores sold out of them--if they left their houses at all. Children had nightmares. I know my brothers did (they were 10 and 11 at the time). They worried about the ash plugging up their vehicles, getting into their houses, whether it would be toxic to plants, their animals. Sure, you laugh now. But in those first days, nobody knew for sure. Finally, people began inching out of their houses.  Then they had to deal with the ash.  Ash piled like the finest snowflakes.  And, yes, snowplows were used, shovels came out of garages. Imagine using you snow shovel in shorts and a t-shirt.  Shoveling ash that doesn't always go where you aim it, but flies...because it is, after all, light as ash.

By the time I went home for a visit a couple months later, you could hardly tell it had happened at all...rain had seen to that. Still, at the edges of streets, between blades of grass, there was ash.  Like fertilizer, it was doing its job that year, too. Very well. And potters--like Beve's mom's best friend, had a field day, collecting it. We love the beautiful pieces she's glazed with Mount St. Helen's ash.  So there were good things, I suppose one could say.

Still...this day--May 18--always draws that day to mind. And it's first the good things I remember. It's the fear of my mother, the disquiet in creation itself. The way the whole world stopped across a whole swath east from that one blast of earth. I think of how creation has such power and how often we forget. And, though the memories are not my own, I remember. Those given-to-me memories remind me that creation has power to move and change and overwhelm us. And we should be in awe of it.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A better country

Another week's rushed by and it's time once again for another Random Journal Day Link Up.  Play along, if you write, read along if you read. Here's the link: Wah Lah!

Today when I reached onto my shelf of blue notebooks, I found Summer 1996.  This entry is August 11 (which was my Granddaddy's birthday, though I didn't mention this). We were on our way to a basketball camp in Olds, Alberta, which is north of Calgary.

Yesterday, after crossing the jagged peaks of the "I want a rock from the Rockies" mountains (as J put it), and starting northward in a straight line between long fields of cattle (twice passing groups of cows on the road itself), I felt that same claustrophobic feeling I've only felt in the flatlands of Kansas and Oklahoma.  "We're too far from the edge," I thought. "We can't get off." And my breathing quickened. I remember it so well, though it's been a dozen or more years since I last felt it. And I know it's counter-intuitive but I'm most claustrophobic in the places where nothing breaks up the horizon lines, where there are no trees or hills and the sky looks like it could crush the earth.  It tightens my chest with the sense that I can't move; yes, can't get off.
But then the thought jolted me that in fact I really can't get off.  Of this whole earth.  My feet and body are planted here, not merely by gravity, but by God Himself. And this panic which reaches in to strangle me is not about needing an edge--about wanting to be near the sea, which is just an arbitrary comfort that I'm used to, but is the truest reaction I could have. I do not really belong here. My sojourn in this place is temporary--nowhere on this planet is my true home. As I struggle to make my way here, it's the "longing for a better country--a heavenly one," as Hebrews 11 puts it, that I experience.  The earth has no way off, save one. And I am 'stuck' until He calls me. And though I strain my eyes until they tear, the fact that I can see nothing on the horizon here in Alberta is a perfect reminder--that I cannot see with my human eyes what I am really longing for.  So this restlessness within, even in the most beautiful places, is covering the deep desire for my true home.
But for all this, for here and now, for this day in this place, I am content. I can say with Paul, "I desire to depart and be with Christ, but it is more necessary [for my children especially] that I remain in the body." Philippians 1: 23

A dinosaur

OK, so I have a good memory. Beve has learned to count on my memory to save him repeatedly in the last 28 years.  I remember where I've put my purse, even if I don't put it in the same place every time I put it down. And I remember where Beve leaves his backpack, his wallet, his...almost everything--if I've actually seen the thing we're talking about.

There's one thing, however, that I'm always, always misplacing. So often that it's a joke around here.  It's my phone. I just never remember where I've put my phone. In fact, this exact moment, as I write this post, I haven't the faintest relationship where I left it this time. And even if I have it on me, because I've forgotten to charge it, it doesn't do any good. Or I've charged it then don't manage to turn it on.

The fact is, I'm just not married to that dang phone. I almost never answered the house phone when we had it, and now that we don't, this cell phone is the bane of my existence. I love the convenience of it, can text at the pace of a...very slow snail, though I can't bear to use the abbreviations that are destroying grammar, two thumbs at a time.  And even before it was against the law of this state to make calls while driving, I hesitated to do so. It just didn't seem very wise to me. And really, what could possibly be so important that it couldn't wait until I got to where I was going. Likewise I almost never talk while I'm shopping because again, what could be so important? There are exceptions to this--usually involving my kids.

This is turning into quite a rant, huh?

The point is that it makes sense that I never know where my phone is. I don't place a very high value in it. I do place a high value in communication, but not by having a phone attached to me every minute.  Other things are equally important. Like solitude. Not connecting. Being quiet to recharge; like my phone, this is essential to me.
Having the choice is the point. Having the choice.

I think we forget this. I think we forget that we don't have to answer every text, every call; we don't have to let people know what we're doing every second any more than our parents and grandparents did. There's something freeing about using a phone for simple things like talking only when we need to. My kids will tell you that they hear from their dad a whole lot more than they hear from me--once he learned to text, he never went back. And don't get me started about Twitter!

I know I'm a dinosaur, and that someday people like me will be completely extinct. But in the meantime, will you raise your glasses to dinosaurs like me...if only for a moment.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go find that dang phone!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Longing

Sitting on my deck in the morning sun, drinking tea and reading Galatians, I come to this verse, "But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope." (5: 5)
I feel a familiar longing pierce my heart. A longing for Him that is not shrouded in the confines of earth.

Walking up the hills of the Palouse, I feel a certain longing whip through me like the western wind over the newly seeded fields, a longing for His Spirit to be the mighty wind to flow through me to the world.

Standing at the ocean's edge, I feel a strong tide of longing wash over me, flooding my soul with a desire to see Him, to be swept away in the great expanse of His love.

Sitting in my cozy living room with the fire burning brightly, I feel the heat of longing burn within for Him to be intimately drawn closer, ever closer to Him.

Walking through a green-canopied forest, I feel the hope of longing that He will cover me from all that threatens to hurt me from without.

Standing on a high peak with creation spread out before me, I feel the overwhelming longing that in the Creator's handiwork I be worthy of the privilege of my sixth-day place.

Being among sisters and brothers on Sunday mornings, I feel tears fall on the contours of my face at a word well-preached in His Name, a scripture read in His word, songs raised in joy by His Body.

Sitting in a room or at a table with friends, a conversation changes tone, and suddenly, I feel a familiar longing pierce my heart. A longing for Him in my ordinary life. But...I long for Him because He first longed for me.

"You, God, are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land where there is no water." Psalm 63: 1

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Abraham's moment

Genesis 22.
God calls Abraham. And like the best moments when God calls in scripture, Abraham's answer is, "Here I am."  Simple, concise, and obedient. Called by name, called by God, the only answer is, "Here I am." No matter what the call, this is the answer.

"Take your son, your only son whom you love--Isaac--and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you."

Talk about a call. This is a doozy. The doozy of all doozies. And Abraham is no stranger to hard calls. He's already lived a long life full of such difficult calls that most of us would buckle in the face of them. Leave your country. Believe that you'll be the patriarch of God's people and that ALL the people on earth will be blessed through you. Trust that though you're an old man and your wife is ancient she'll bear a son.  Okay, so he slipped a few times. You try believing such things without running for your life.  Tell me you wouldn't. Tell me you wouldn't think you'd been slipped some kind of drug in your lamb stew and were merely hearing voices.

Now this. Take that long promised son, that only son, through which the apparent dynasty was supposed to come and kill him. And don't turn away from that word because that's the bald fact of it--Abraham was told to kill his son as a sacrifice to God.  Yikes. Double YIKES and then YIKES again.

But he didn't hesitate...at least as far as we're told. And given what he's done to hedge his bets earlier in his story, we know he's given to hedging. This time, however--FINALLY, perhaps--Abraham simply loads up the donkey, takes a couple of servants, kisses Sarah goodbye and leads Isaac up the mountain.

Then Isaac asks a question begging to be asked, especially by a 12-year-old looking around for a lamb because he's no dummy and knows his traditions. "The fire and wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?"
"God himself will provide the burn offering, my son."  I imagine Abraham stroking Isaac's hair as he says this.  Maybe cupping his cheek. Tenderly, half wanting to hang on for dear life.

But he doesn't. He just moved on. And when they get  to the top of the mountain (where such things tend to take place in scripture), he built the altar, having already sent away the servants. Arranged the wood just so. Stalling a bit, perhaps. I would have. Maybe an hour or two. Maybe a day or two. Maybe as long as I possibly could. But finally Abraham bound his son, his only son--Isaac--and raised the knife to kill him.

It's right here I want to stop. Make some observations.
I believe--no, I am convinced--that in one way or another many, if not all of us have such moments in our lives. We believe something, perhaps are CALLED to something, we are certain is God's will for us. We have been earnest in following Him in that thing. Obedient in stepping out in faith to follow that call. Faithful in walking in a manner worthy of it. This maybe a  profession, a relationship, a hoped for relationship--becoming a parent comes to mind. Dreams for our children, dreams for our spouses. I cannot begin to list what God might call people to, because He's personal and imaginative with us and so are His calls. But my personal example is my novel. There was a clear and certain call to begin it. More clear than any I've ever experienced. Even now it's hard to write about how beautiful that moment was, how full of Him.

 But sometimes comes a point at which, inexplicably, He asks us to sacrifice it. To make an altar and lay it down. And we have a choice at that moment. To answer, "Here I am," or to resist.Three things stand out about Abraham's call to lay down Isaac that may speak to such moments when we are asked to surrender.

1. Abraham's complete obedience.  Despite his earlier waffling, Abraham didn't waffle here. From the first, "Here I am," to the raising of the knife, he moved forward. He put one foot in front of the other because God asked him to do so.  Without knowing what the ending would be, He simply obeyed. His first act of surrender was His obedience.
2. Abraham's keeping of God's confidence. By this I mean, he played it close to the vest. He didn't divulge to ANYONE what God had asked of him. It was between him and God. Not his wife, not his servants, not his son knew what he intended to do that day on the mountain. An act of surrender comes privately, not asking those closest to us for their opinion, not announcing to the world what we intend to do.
3. Abraham's total faith.  From the beginning to the end, Abraham trusted God. We don't see this in every movement, but it's implied. When Isaac asked him where the lamb for the sacrifice was, Abraham revealed that trust overtly. "God will provide the lamb."  He laid his son on the altar in faith. Raised the knife in faith. We can guess by his actions to that point that he could have slain his son in the same faith. He didn't know WHY God had asked him to do this, but he trusted God. Surrender involves our complete faith in God, no matter what we are asked.

We know the end of the story. We know that God did intervene, did spare Isaac and provide the lamb. But we never know the end of our stories when we are asked to surrender. This morning I am thinking of two different situations which had very different outcomes.  My novel, again, is the first. Four years ago now, God asked me to surrender it. To take it up the mountain and lay it on an altar. Burn it. I was reluctant to do so. Not instantly obedient. Nor did I keep God's confidence. I spoke to many and varied people about the word He clearly and profoundly gave me. As a result, He finally took it from me in a wrenching and ugly way. He did not--will not, I think--ever provide a substitute for that novel.  It is done. The end.

The other example is that of a person close to me who has waited a decade to become a parent. Waited with faith and hope. And, I believe( though I do not know the whole story) surrendered this desire for the sake of a spouse uncertain about being a parent. Laid it on the altar. Let it go. Said, "So be it." Didn't talk about it, didn't ask advice about how to move things along, simply let it go. And God took that sacrifice and said, "I will provide a lamb.--this is NOT a sacrifice you have to make." And now that person is rejoicing in parenthood (as is the spouse!). Rejoicing in a way in which you would be so in awe, you would surely bow because God has done mighty things. Because of a person's complete obedience, keeping confidence, and total faith.

If He's asking you to surrender. To lay something on the altar, which of these stories do you wish to be yours?

But here's the thing. You surrender without knowing the ending. You must. There is no out in surrender. No, "I know you'll give it back." It's all or nothing. That's what we learn from Abraham.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The other mother

Inexplicably, this post didn't post yesterday, so a day late but a dollar long, here it is:

When I married the Beve 28 years ago, I gained something. Someone, I should say. I'd known her for years, of course. One knows their neighbors in our town, especially the ones who live across the street and stand head and shoulders above the rest. And, unfortunately, have the perfect yard for cutting from one street to another. Beve's family did. If I didn't cut through that yard, it took HOURS longer to go from my friend's house all the way down to the end of the block and back up the street to our house. Sometimes I chanced it. But there were also times that her firm voice came out her kitchen window and said, "Did your parents really teach you that it's okay to cut through other people's yards? You wouldn't want a path in your yard now, would you?" And I'd slink back out their drive way and walk the long walk of shame around the corner, knowing she had windows out the front to watch me the whole way up the street if she wanted.

So I was a little afraid of Mrs. W when I was a child. She was tall and larger than life and didn't have to raise her voice to make me shake in my tennis shoes. She dressed with great style--with large pieces of jewelry that dangled around her neck, from her ears and jangled as she moved her large expressive wrists--in bold peacock colors--deep purples, royal blues, aquas and purples.  I saw her in the grocery store, at basketball games watching her son (my classmate), driving her Volvo, and was intimidated. Yep, intimidated.

Then I went to Finland. Then I came home from Finland, already unexpectedly falling for her son. She and Dr. W were back east that year, on Sabbatical to West Point. When they returned in June there was a welcome home neighborhood potluck for them. I probably would have blown it off another time--I was an adult then--but I was interested in anything that concerned that son, so I tagged along that night. And she was looking for some help unpacking their belongings quickly because of incoming guests two days later, and my mother (as usual) volunteered me.

So the next day I found myself in her kitchen with the extra tall counters, working side by side with the woman who'd become the Other Mother in my life. By the end of those two days, we were fast friends, laughing hysterically as we got down to the wire and began dumping belongings into any old drawer just so they'd be out of sight before the guests arrived.  These guests, by the way, included a new fiancee of her oldest son and two Finnish friends her sons were bringing home for a visit. This meant, of course, that the son I was trying to guard my heart from was on his way home as I was working with his mother. At the end of this unpacking project, Mrs. W's husband actually told his wife that he wouldn't mind if that son chose me to marry, making Grampie the first person to actually predict our marriage.

Eleven months later we were family. Mrs. W (a name I never called her again) became my 'Other Mother'. And gave me gifts for which I'll always be grateful. When I married her baby (as her youngest, Beve held a very special place in her heart), I became part of her pack, I suppose you could say. She let me in. And we dealt very well together. I listened to her when she complained about Grampie--one of her favorite phrases as the end of a complaint was "At least he doesn't beat me," which was guaranteed to make her laugh and look at her marriage in perspective. And she taught me--as well as I could be taught--how to be a gracious, easy host in my own home.

And then I had a child. And how the flood gates opened. Because The Other Mother was made to be a grandmother. She adored her grandchildren. Absolutely adored them. Every single one of them. I was privileged to see her with a brand new one five times and each time the very first thing she'd do was gently pull their hands out of the swaddling and say, "Ten long fingers. Perfect." She loved the idea of big W-sized hands and feet. She was so proud to be tall, and so proud that those babies were as well. Then she smiled her big giraffe smile, content with the world because her babies had babies and she could smother those babies with love in cuddles and gifts and parties and time.

And she did, every one of them, in every way possible. The Other Mother--Grammie--made everyday moments into parties. Tea parties, popcorn parties, peanut-butter and jelly parties, 'let's go down to the beach and have a picnic' parties.  She taught E how to sew (though it didn't stick) and sewed up a storm herself for those babies. She gave extravagant gifts--not in price, but in absolute thoughtfulness, in the sheer 'I know who you are' perfectness that I've never managed (though I've begun to see it duplicated in my children, having skipped me altogether!).

She got to enjoy those children too short a time, though. That's the sad story of The Other Mother. Beve and I were only married 7 years when she was diagnosed with cancer. She fought it a year, a year in which we lived with her and Grampie for a while, and down the road from them the rest of it, but a year in which she mostly didn't leave the couch, didn't have the energy to play with the children, or play with those babies as she was used to doing. The disease took a whole lot out of her, but her inability to be herself took more.  We were already missing her by the time she died just about a year to the day after that first tumor was discovered.

But we've also never stopped missing her. I haven't. Not for Beve and his siblings, not for myself and especially not for those grandchildren some of whom aren't even old enough to remember her at all. What they've missed is impossible to conceive.  This post is for them--to let them know that among those who have loved them in their lives was a tall, graceful woman who held them, cuddled them, smiled and laughed and was happier to be their Grammie than she had been to be anything else in her whole life. She told me once that she was born to be a Grammie. I believed her. I saw it.

So on this Mother's Day, I'm thinking of her. Wishing she could be here to see who all those babies have become in the last 18 years since she last saw them. I'm missing her for myself, and missing her more for them. Happy mother's Day, Barbara Wiley. You were the best Other Mother I could have wished for.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Twenty-Eight Years

Home from the Palouse, in time for another RDJ, which you can find here
I pulled out a journal from the spring of 2002, and I confess, once I saw that I'd grabbed a spring, I turned it to May 12. To this exact day in 2002. Because today is my wedding anniversary. 28 years ago today, Beve and I were married in our hometown (where we started this morning with a latte before we hit the chisom highway west).  Just to remind you, we looked like this on May 12, 1984.
We were just a couple of silly kids that day. Oh wait, we weren't kids at all, but in our late 20s. Still, looking back, we sure look young to me now.

Anyway, back to my May 12, 2002 RJD entry:
Eighteen years! 
 I remember standing in my dress in the church library, surrounded by all those blue-hooped dresses RE and I had made (and how I cringe thinking I made them wear such things--they looked like Princess Di's dress! Yikes!) and suddenly hearing Beve begin to sing, his surprise for me in the wedding. And the momentary horror I felt that my dress had been taken in too much and was too tight once the slip was on. And that my foot (which I'd broken three weeks prior and had refused to get casted) would be too swollen to fit into the high heels we'd bought...such silly superficial worries. I remember walking into the church alone to greet Beve for five minutes by ourselves before pictures. Just those few quiet moments when we could really see each other for the first time. That was breath-taking. Our attendants later told us they'd snuck up to the balcony to peek down at us. 
And I remember the absolute calm that came over me walking down the aisle with Dad, a calm that lasted through saying my well-memorized vows and listening to his. Surely the presence of the Lord was in that place. I remember that. 


Now it's ten years later, and these memories are as clear now as they were a decade ago. But I would add other things on this anniversary day. I would say that I remember countless days and dresses and jeans and diapers and basketball shorts and braided hair. Cuts and bandaids and bread from the bread machine, his amazing cinnamon rolls and my sewing creations (including the infamous Easter outfits I made for ALL of them--dresses for the girls, ties for Beve and J). I remember family conversations and family vacations, Dimetapp and baby aspirin, sleeping bags and babies in our bed, basketball hoops in our living room and in our driveway, reading in our bed, in their beds, in the big chair, on the floor, in the car and everywhere. Basketball games and practices, plays and practices, driving lessons and swimming lessons, first cars and first car-wrecks. And I remember "Top-pen" Ramen, and Honey Nut Cheerios, and about a billion other meals, messes, moments in between.

Mission trips and VBS, Sunday School, and church. Talking about Jesus a thousand ways, a thousand days because He is the gravity beneath our feet, and the sky above our head and everything in between. Because that's how we wanted/still want our kids to live.

This is the anniversary of our wedding but I celebrate our marriage. Full of days and nights and trips and fights and all the things that make us who we are.  The other night as he was falling asleep, Beve said, "I love you," and I suddenly had a revelation-- so I told him, "I love us!"

And that, I think, is about as good as it gets.