Monday, September 30, 2013

Hands together

His large hand,
my smaller one
partnered like always.
The hands are older now
The rings,
 scuffed and tarnished.
They've seen some things,
these rings have.
Dinged and dented, 
and lived in the heat of life.
Pulled weeds in dirt,
washed dishes,
changed tires and oil...
(well, only his).
They're rings--
circles of hurts and joys alike.

The hands are wrinkled,
sometimes stiff with age,
with the cares that come
from changing diapers,
teaching children
to walk,
tie shoes,
ride bikes,
drive cars,
drive away.
Hands that sometimes have to
hold too much at once
(even for hands as large as his).

But holding together.

I try to remember what 
they looked like new,
these rings,
these hands together.
What we 
growing old together 
would actually look like

It's this.

Tarnished rings,
Older hands.
Doing it together.
Hand in hand. 
Mine on his.

Thirty years ago,
we got on a plane together 
to fly to Holland as friends.
By the time we flew 
back to the United States
six months later,
we were hand in hand
for good.

I wouldn't have kept 
these rings clean and pretty.
Life is messy,
we get bumped
and dinged,
 and tarnished.

But that's the way
to make the
and life itself, 
get the best 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

A hinged life

The other day I was looking for a CS Lewis quote about prayer I couldn't quite remember. I never did find what I was looking for, but came across this one that has stuck with me ever since:

"For most of us the prayer of Gethsemane is the only model. Removing mountains can wait."  Letters to Malcolm, Chiefly on Prayer, p. 60.

Surrendered lives. I've gone on and on about this. It's my bally-wick; and you know why? Because I never quite manage. It seems to me that if the Son of Man, the Son of God, the Incarnate Word who was God faced this exact dilemma, sweated drops of blood over it, we cannot assume it's an easy, one time, lay-my-life down-and-be-done-with-it kind of prayer. No way, no how. From where I sit, it's daily work. Life-long work. Surrender of my self to Him. My will for His.
And all the world hinges on what happens when I do.

Jesus prayed and prayed until he could finally say, "NEVERTHELESS...not my will, but YOURS be done."

Everything hinged on it. Everything.
My salvation. Yours. The whole world's.
All of history changed on that word.
Is that amazing or what?

And if we live in the Garden, and hinge OUR lives on this Nevertheless, then think of how confident our prayers can be. No more anemic, "Bless them, Lord," prayers, but solid, deep and true because they're 'Not my will but YOURS be done--in EVERYTHING'. Right? Start there. Start our prayers there. Think of how solid and hearty prayers based on HIS will being our will. If our lives are surrendered from hair follicle to toe-nail, straight to our souls, the Holy Spirit will govern our prayers.

My desire is for a hinged life- a life that hinges always on that "NEVERTHELESS."
I might have a wish for something, a half-want,
Not my will but HIS be done.

PS. You'll probably hear me write about this again.
Sometimes I think 'surrender' should become my middle name.    

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Care Meeting

I haven't posted about Grampie in a while. But things are moving along with him at a pace. Commiserate with his disease. This afternoon Beve called me at after school, and you'd have thought I was the one with Alzheimer's. "I'm on my way home to pick you up," he said.
"Oh, shoot," I answered. I was sitting at my sewing machine in pajamas. Fortunately, Beve works about ten minutes away from our house, and I'm a low-maintenance kind of person. I threw whipped off the pjs, threw on some jeans, t-shirt and sneakers, grabbed Grampie's laundry and met Beve half way down our hill.

We got to the care-facility just in time to walk past Grampie slumped over in his wheelchair, hang up his clothes and sit down with the professionals for the tri-monthly care-meeting about how Grampie's getting along. What we find interesting about these meetings is that we aren't sure who learns more--us or the professionals--at these meetings. We know Grampie pretty well. We know he's declining. We see that he is no longer capable of carrying on telephone conversations with his wife. We recognize the symptoms of some things mean he's in sharper decline. It only takes being with him to see that he's worse. He's more confused, more agitated, more anxious, more...Alz-hammered. But also still here. Still completely here.

He still laughs with delight almost every time he sees us. He still likes to direct people like he's the chairman of the department like he was for all those years at the university. He still wants to walk me to the car every time I leave because he's a consummate host, and thinks he's picking up the tab at dinner every night because  he wants to be hospitable, has given away his watch, his prized Cougar slippers and half-a-dozen sweaters that nurses and aides have to track down when when we alert them that they've gone missing again. He'd give the shirt off his back if he could because his essential self, his deep-down, organic self is that giving, that kind, that generous.

  As she's said at other care meetings, the charge nurse told us again today that Grampie is unusual in that he never gets violent, even when he's the most frustrated. At his worst, he'll set his feet strongly on the ground.
That's it. Just set them off his wheelchair and on the ground. The worst thing he ever says is, "Well, I'll be damned," or, "Oh, to hell with it." Then he lets them move him any way they want to, even though he's such a large man it takes three to do it.

Imagine that. The kindness so deep in this man.

It makes me think again of being at Regent College and having a guest lecturer pick up a cup as an illustration. "What will spill out of this if it is bumped:?" He asked us.
"Whatever is in it," was the answer.
Alzheimer's is proving this in Grampie. What is spilling out of Grampie is what is in him. His brain has holes all over it, and what is left is sweet. Indeed, what is spilling through those holes is the sweetest parts of him. And I wouldn't miss it.

I'm not saying this is always true of Azheimer's. I KNOW it's more complicated than this. Trust me, I know this. But I do know that trial, pain and difficulty make spill out of us whatever is actually in us.

So what is that?
What is REALLY in you?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

His church in action

Friday afternoon, Beve and I braved the traffic of Seattle to go to a memorial service of the man who had been the president of the university in the town where we grew up. Not so coincidentally, he was the father of one of our closest high school friends, a man we haven't seen in almost two decades. But (also not coincidentally) this former university president had retired in the same community where Grampie'd made his retirement home, so we've spoken to the dad but not the son. So, knowing what it is to lose a parent, we reached out to our old friend when we heard the news of his dad's death. And he was glad enough to invite us to the Seattle service. There will be another one held in a few weeks in our home town, with the pomp and circumstance required of a man who was known as 'the students' president' because his first, last and primary concern was the students who were on campus right then an there. Dr. Terrell (or Dr. T, as I came to call him once I was old enough to feel comfortable around my friend's dad) became president during the late 60s when the country's campuses were tumultuous places. So you might say he jumped in at the deep end. I remember how he took time for ME. Even me, his son's friend. I remember sitting in his office in their house across his desk from him and he just talked to me. Another time, he hitched a ride with my mom, sisters and me up to the scout camp where his son was in my dad's troop. We had a picnic together--just Dr. T, and us, right on Kamiak Butte. It is an oft-told story in my family, because it involved deviled eggs he'd brought. My middle sister ate too many on my behalf. I still thank her for that. Anyway, he was quite the man.

But to us--to Beve and me--he was primarily our friend's dad. I didn't know all this stuff. I didn't think about it. I knew their house was the largest in town. They had a house-keeper and their kitchen was enormous, a front stairs and a back stairs and three floors (and a basement) and plenty of places to hide when we played hide-and-seek, and a huge yard with a wrought-iron fence surrounding it and a Saint Bernard that roamed its borders.The only time I remember being REALLY awed was when our friend's mom invited me into the master bedroom to show me the Sadie Hawkins' picture of her son and me on the mantle (which she loved because it was so adorable--it really was. And the story of me inviting him...completely accidental. I've still never confessed to him that I'd thought it was a joke. A joke I was glad had happened in the end!). That bedroom was about as big as half of my family's first floor--and we had a pretty big house. But our friend was just like the rest of the guys I knew--a huge tease, a rock, and one of my favorite people with whom to have conversations. EVER. He was just so blasted smart. So challenging. That is, if you could get him to settle down enough to have such conversations. Beve and this friend together--well, let's just say they were a handful--not in a bad way but ridiculous. I can't even tell you. 

Anyway, as these things go, we grew apart, even though we live just up the freeway from each other. But his dad died. So when he asked us about coming to the service, it was a no-brainer. 

It was wonderful to see him. He's older. Craggier. Odd how that's happened in two decades. Beve's gotten gray, I've gotten wrinkled, he's gotten craggy. But we're still ourselves, inside still our seventeen-year-old selves too. The best part of the service was when our friend's incredibly well-spoken, brilliant son talked about his Grandpa. We were awed. Really, only mid-twenties? Seriously? That young man will be president some day. I betcha.

Anyway, this is all prelude to what I wanted to say. The church where the service was held is St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle. It's a beautiful church with roughhewn wooden planks on the ceiling, high arched windows and an organ that will knock your socks off. In my twenties I went to the Compline service there and still remember those holy moments. This cathedral is in the middle of one of the most beautiful parts of Seattle, overlooking Lake Union, set among lavish, old and stylish homes. Well, I should call them mansions because that is what they are. Really. Manicured lawns, brick facades, large porches and porticoes. I kind of wanted to peek through the windows of every one of them as we walked the two blocks up the hill back to our car after the service.

Two blocks because the parking lot was full and we were late because Seattle traffic is like a parking lot itself and we made the rookie mistake of not accounting for that. At least not enough on a Friday afternoon. Anyway, here's the thing, the very, beautiful, powerful thing:
The parking lot at St. Mark's isn't as large as it used to be.
It isn't as large because on the side and back of the church, right in the middle of this posh neighborhood, is a tent city. 
A tent-city. 
It made me weep.
The church being the church., putting feet on faith, saying, "Come to ME all you who are weary and heavy-burdened, and you will find rest for your souls." 
"You have no place to live? HERE. Put up your tent here." Maybe even providing the tent. Probably, I'm guessing.
Beve let me out of the car and I felt over-dressed in my simple flats, black skirt and top because right on the steps was a woman--clearly from that tent city--sweeping with an old broom. Doing what she could. And she was singing. And suddenly I felt out of place, to tell the truth. Not down and dirty enough for the Kingdom. Trying to put on airs for the neighborhood, rather than for His Church. 

That moment-- that woman on the steps--felt like the holiest moment of my week. Seeing the Body in action. She has been given, so she gives back. And is glad in it.

I went on in a slipped into the last pew just in time to hear a soloist sing, "Hallelujah!" from the balcony. As it soared over us, I thought, Amen, Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Kingdom come

Sorry it's been so quiet here. It's been...quiet.
I start blog posts. Delete them.
Start new ones. Delete them.

Yep, it's been that kind of week. It isn't that I haven't been thinking. Obviously.
The other day, a woman blogger I read wrote about how the gospel isn't just  for Sundays but for every day, every hour, and that got me to thinking, of course. I throw around the word gospel all the time. It's important to me. "Walk in a manner worthy of the Gospel," Paul says. And he certainly isn't talking about one hour on Sunday morning. So what IS he talking about?

Most of the time, when we think of the Gospel, we think of the word "Good News." And this good news, for me, has always been most clearly distilled in the sentence of Romans 5: 8-- "The amazing proof of God's love is this, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." In a nutshell, this is the good, the best, news of the Incarnation of God. We might also simply say, "For God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him will not die but have eternal life." (John 3: 16)

These are two magnificent verses that spell it out perfectly. The who, what and why of the gospel. And our responsibility is summed up succinctly in Romans 10: 9-10. Paul tells us that, "if you declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, then you shall be saved."
And so we can be done with it.

However, I think there's more to it than this.
See, Jesus spent His earthly ministry talking about the Kingdom. "The Kingdom of God is near."
Over and over He taught not only by word but example what this Kingdom means. The preaching, the service, the giving to the marginalized, the seeking the lost. The Kingdom is not made up of rules but of those who love and are willing to lay down their lives for each other, and, of course, for Him. His Kingdom--come on earth as it is in Heaven--is radical. It looks different than earthly Kingdoms. In Christ's Kingdom, everyone has a place at the banqueting table, even those who might not look like they belong. In Christ's Kingdom, it's not about how long one has worked, but who one is in relationship with, that counts.
Yes, in the Kingdom of Heaven, we are worthy because we are His. And then, once in the Kingdom, we are called to live and act and do and be LIKE Him. To live like Him. To follow Him. To act like Him to the world who will only see His face in our faces. So we can tell them that He Loves THEM like they're the best thing that ever happened to Him. Because, after all, they are. He's the LOVER of their souls, and He wants to use us to tell them. We're His lovers--His little worker-bee-lovers on earth from here to Kingdom come.

So when I think of what the gospel is, it's not only "God so loved," but, "Your Kingdom come."

Saturday, September 14, 2013


Now, if you'll excuse me, it's time for bed.

Friday, September 13, 2013

My giant project

Perhaps you remember me mentioning that I finally dove into the wonderful, crazy world of free-motion quilting. Well, never one to stand in the shallow end for long, I decided to dive in on my second effort. The first free-motion quilting I did was on a quilt about 48"-60". Maybe slightly larger. The second one...

Hmm, I think I'd better back up a bit.

In the four years since I seriously started quilting, I've made three quilts for our king-sized bed.
Each one has been slightly bigger than the last. The dimensions mandated by quilters don't take into account the size of man who sleeps under said quilt, you see. And in our case, what often happens is that one of us (me!) ends up with NO quilt because the other (Beve!) has rolled over, taking the whole thing with him. This has been an on-going issue for the length of our marriage. I've compensated by adding an extra blanket (now quilt) to my half of the bed--even during the warm summer months.
This one:
But now and then, it gets cold enough that Beve actually wants an extra quilt on HIS side, so I made him one that would be extra long (one of his complaints is that most blankets, sheets, quilts, etc are NEVER long enough!):

So we're a cornucopia  of colors and sizes and kinds now, especially in the dead of winter. And even though I love color, it's a little much. Beve doesn't even like color as much as I do. In fact, he asked me early in the summer if I'd make us one GIANT quilt with colors HE picked out, in a pattern of HIS choosing. 

What was I to say to that?


So, once I finished all the other had-to-be-finished-by-August projects, I got right on it. And it's a doozy. Massive. The largest quilt I've ever made. By far. 120" by 120". 
And because I'm a 'jump in at the deep end' kind of person, there was no way I wasn't going to free-motion quilt this quilt. I mean I taught myself how just last week, right? I must be an expert by now.

It's my third day of quilting, my third, full-time day, I should say. I had to run to the store this morning because I ran out of thread (and would have sworn I had enough when I started), and am so sore and aching, I can't possibly work on it today. SIGH.

But it's staring me in the face as I write this, so I thought I'd give you a glimpse of what I'm talking about:
It's 6 x 6 of these squares. What you see there is the yet to be finished part. Sadly. That's how slow I am. Behind my quilting station you can see all kinds of important aids to the process. A water bottle--gotta keep hydrated. Some dog bones--gotta keep our Big 'Fathead' busy. And then there's Maica's kennel off to the side for when she's just plain driving me crazy. Then there are the ordinary rulers, thread and other quilting equipment. It's a real going concern I've built for myself here in my family room. Pity that I'm too tired to take advantage of it today. There's a very good lesson here about jumping into the deep end when one doesn't REALLY know how to swim, but you can probably guess that.
Anyway, here's an up-close look at my work. You see the faint orange lines? I carefully drew all those free-hand quilting lines before I began, but once I got comfortable, didn't really need them. Now they're just getting in my way, and bugging me because I'll have to clean them off at the end. But,
"Live and learn," as Beve's high school basketball coach always said.
"And all you do is live."
Today, I'm just living.
Yep, living with this giant almost finished quilt in the middle of my quilting space in my family room.
Looking forward to it being finished.
But you know,
all those lines also represent lines of prayer.
Hours spent with God and the thread and my sewing machine. 
Kind of like my own little rosary, if you can understand that.
Praying for my husband.
It's a good thing.
And maybe that's why it's taking so long.
(At least I'd rather think that than that I'm just not very good at this yet!!! Or should have taken a class.:))

Thursday, September 12, 2013

This ramshackle home

Okay, so I realize that it's not unusual for me to be occupied (or pre-occupied!) with my physical body. It's not just a hobby, you see, it's a way of life--this pain in which I dwell. This morning I awakened with a headache and got to thinking of what a poor, broken-down bargain God made when He made His home in me. A fixer-upper, He thought, but the walls and wiring are disintegrating before our very eyes.
Imagine, the Kind of Kings came into THIS and calls it home. How can that be? How on earth can that be?

But two profound revelations (though profound and revelation are redundant, aren't they?):
1. He was broken when He came. Broken for me, He enters my broken body to make me whole. Broken with sin--sin that I caused-- He comes into my sin-riddled body to cleanse me from that brokenness. AND, though He was broken, He was also Whole. Wholly resurrected, wholly Holy, made new--all for my sake. So He makes me. His human body still looked broken (ie, see Thomas and the holes in His hands and side), but where it counted, He was complete. Whole.

2. It is not on earth that it counts (as in 'how on earth can this be?'). There is no power on earth capable of being broken and whole at once, of doing what Jesus did/does. It's only and fully Heaven's work. Kingdom work. Yes, it's God's work that means He can make His home--willingly, gladly, eternally--in an earthly body that is neither whole nor complete. In an shell that is fading day by day. God does not look at me and see brokenness. He sees wholeness. He sees one in whom His Holy Spirit lives. It doesn't matter what the casing's like. Jesus told Thomas, "I've not yet ascended to the Father." On earth His human body would continue to bear the scars of brokenness, of the cross, of all that He's borne. It's in Heaven that new bodies are given.

So I thank God. My very body is a picture of what He's done for us. I remember again. I don't have the luxury of imagining I have the strength to live without Him. My broken body houses the only Strength capable of keeping me upright. Even a ramshackle (don't you like the way that word sounds?), decaying shell such as mine is a mansion, because it houses the King.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


This is what l look at every time I open my computer. "I love you," Beve is saying to SK as he left her apartment in Oakland/Berkeley last month. I love, love, love this picture. This is how we say goodbye every time we leave. Or from across a room. Our parents taught us this sign. My grandmother taught it to my dad. She had a deaf sister, so they did a lot of hand-spelling (not actual ASL in those days). This one stuck--for all of us.

This morning I'm thinking about the Cross, and how it's the ultimate picture of God's love for me. For us. I've been really wrestling with something lately, and I've been doing it on my own. It took until this morning to realize that Calvary means I don't have to. No, that's not even strong enough. Calvary means Christ did all the wrestling and what I do is stand before Him, admit my need, lay down my burden and know that He takes it. He already died for it. So He actually took my burdens 2000 years before I knew I'd need Him to...though He's always working in the present on my behalf as well.

The enemy wants all of us to forget that Christ took care of our junk, that we aren't slaves to sin, that we aren't in bondage and don't have to try to figure our way out like modern-day Houdini s. We're saved. WE'RE SAVED.  And we're constantly being saved--from the one who'd really like to get his dirty little claws into us.

But he can't have us...

"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us." 1 Cor. 8: 37

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Capital H

A footnote in a book I started reading last night (see last night's post--I chose!!!!), The Sense of the Call: A Sabbath way of life for those who serve god, the Church and the world by Marva Dawn, addressed the fact that due to the desire for gender neutral language, pronouns referring to God are no longer capitalized. And, as usual, it got me to thinking about my own reasoning for continuing to capitalize pronouns referring to our Triune God and how I actually feel about this whole issue.

So I thought I'd explain what any reader of this blog has obviously noticed. I always, always capitalize any word that refers to the Person of the Godhead. Always have, always will. Indeed, I capitalize a lot of words regarding God. There's a sense of Holy Other when it comes to God for me, of fear and reverence that isn't possible for any finite creature. He is God, after all. He is Creator, Savior, Redeemer, Lord. He is everything. That's it, you know. He is everything. Everything we cannot be. Everything Carolyn cannot be. Yep, probably I could say carolyn in counterpoint and I wouldn't be far off the mark. Only the truth that He lives in me gives me the backbone and heart to capitalize my own name in a way.

And I think it funny, really I do, that it was in effort NOT to exclude women that the decision was made to stop capitalizing the pronouns of God. Not funny haha, but funny strange. Funny, like 'You have GOT to be kidding me!' The moment we don't set God apart, the moment we don't see Him as distinct from any other him there is is the moment that he (and all he's) are better and more important than she's. But He is as far from he as we are from ants. Are you following me? The capital H makes all the difference. At least to me. I see it and know--KNOW--we're talking about the One who transcends gender.

But I have a couple of things to say about gender while on the subject:
First, we cannot pretend the Incarnate was anything but male. We must start there. The One who gave His life for us was a Man, Son, Son of Man, Son of God. And He called God Father. Troubling as this is to some who have troubling relationships with their own fathers, Jesus was born of a human woman and a heavenly Father. That's just the truth. Obviously, biology dictated that it couldn't have been the other way around and this doesn't mean that God--who made us ALL in His image, both male AND female--isn't both and above genders. But we are told to call God Father too. I can't imagine calling God Mother. I just can't. The end.
Secondly, when it comes to being included, no matter what the Old Testament or Paul says about women, Jesus Christ, the Incarnate, was inclusive. Incredibly inclusive. Sure, His 12 disciples were all men, but His first miracle was at His mother's request, His last words at the cross were to her, and His first words after His resurrection were to women as well. Women are treated in the gospels exactly opposite to what society dictated they be treated. Jesus re-imagined the role of women, right in the heart of what He was doing--Mary sitting at His feet, listening rather than in the kitchen serving, Mary pouring perfume on His feet as an act of worship. Women are in on it, not off in another room. I read the gospel and I need go no further to discover that I'm free to be whoever I, a woman, can be.

That's enough. The Capital H does all of this. He does this. He is not merely another man, another male like every other male, every other H. Never has been. He is God. He is God; there is no other.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Right this moment

Have you ever thought about the fact that at any given moment you're actually thinking of about five or ten or a hundred things at once? No, just me? Hmmm.

Well, I do this. All the time.
And because I live with him and can point fingers well, I know that Beve does the same thing. It leads to complications in conversations. We'll be chatting about something. like the coach of the Seattle Seahawks, then after a very short pause, he'll say, "and you know he immigrated twice." And I'll say, "WHAT? Pete Carroll immigrated?" "No, I was talking about Gabe," the person we'd been talking about BEFORE he took the left turn onto the subject of Pete Carroll. It goes both ways, of course. I'm just as likely to assume he's followed my train of thought when he got off at the last station and is looking around at the scenery a bit.

Yep, our minds wander. Neither one of us is a linear thinker. So at any given moment, the kinds of things I'm thinking about ranges from ridiculous to sublime and back again.

To wit, right this minute I'm thinking about:

  • where I put my neck pillow so I can be more comfortable as I'm sitting in bed writing this
  • Remembering to pay that bill tomorrow morning
  • the friend whose dad (a pretty public figure in our hometown) whose dad died last week
  • why Maica feels the need to press hind end right up against my clean body 
  • how SK's doing and why we didn't skype with her this weekend as we'd intended to
  • that Jesus was a story-teller and at least part of the reason I'm so in love with Him is because He made me a story-teller, too. I respond to them, I like them, and I get them.
  • That, as the pastor said this morning, sometimes words really aren't good enough. How do I describe color or size or distance or so much of creation to a person who cannot see?
  • blind am I to God's REAL presence in creation, in life, in conversation? Is He just too vast, to blinding colorful and large for me to see?
  • What book should I start tonight
  • Needing a dentist appointment
  • How E's fun-run went (tutu and all)
As you see, right in the middle of ordinary tasks thoughts are some real reflections. 
My goal is to keep all these things in the right perspective, so that the small things--the list things--are simply that with no special weight, and allowing those things God reveals to enlarge and take over so I am less blind to Him, in all my doings.

That's it. 
That's all I'm thinking about right this moment.
Have a good night.

Thursday, September 5, 2013


"The LOVE of Christ compels us..." 2 Corinthians 5:14
Some random Saturday in the fall of 2004, I wrote these words.
Yep, it's that time of month again.
No, not that time of month (I'm beyond that, thankfully), but
Random Journal Day.

I actually love this day. And plenty of other contributors make it a great day over at Dawn's blog
Love peeking into my myriad notebooks to find whatever I might find there.
Randomly. It always makes me want to drop whatever else I'm reading to refresh my memory with that Carolyn and her musings. Not that my musings were so profound, but I lived the life that prompted those reflections onto the page. And I like re-discovering what sometimes came from such reflections.

Like this one:
"The love of Christ compels us..." That says it all, doesn't it? In every relationship, every task, every action, every thought, my prayer is to say, "The love of Christ compels me."

It's a very small snippet of what I was thinking about that random Saturday, because most of the rest of it had to do with details related to a mission trip I'd be leading the next summer to Uruapan, Mexico. It was the second trip I'd led to that area of the Baja, (just south of Ensenada) the second multi-generational trip our church had sent. We'd fought for the idea of a multi-generational mission trip. I fought for it...sometimes not very politely. Sometimes I had to take my hat in hand and ask forgiveness of the very people I most wanted to convince that God was in it. Because I wasn't acting like the Love of Christ compelled me. I was acting like I had a bone to pick, I knew what was best (and they didn't) and why on earth couldn't the mission committee see it our way?!?!

God has a way of working, when He's really in a thing. Despite us. Despite our blown tempers and ill-advised reactions. And HE was in such an idea. Such trips. We took 50 people that first year. The youngest was 5, the oldest was 75. The next year, the year I was already planning for, we'd have almost as many.
And that Saturday, God's word drowned out all my ideas of how to proceed with the planning.

From then on, the word for that "Mexico Mission trip" was "For the love of Christ compels us." It was so important to me, that I pushed to have it put on the backs of our team shirts. When we walked through airports, through stores, everywhere we went, our lime green shirts proclaimed, "For Christ's love compels us."

But until this moment, when I opened this random journal, I didn't realize what the genesis of all of that was. This small, two sentence reflection that birthed a mission philosophy, not merely for that trip but for the next two as well.

Ah, how sweet the memories.
But also, how strong the conviction.
Does the love of Christ really compel me?
In all my ways?
Please, Lord.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A day of prayer and fasting

Sometimes it seems strange to live in such a beautiful, peaceful place. A place where the water glistens and mountains rise tall in the background; where we don't lock our doors and if there's a loud bang it's almost sure to be fireworks, or a car back-firing. We worry about our health insurance premiums going up, about the price of gas at the pumps, and how our son will get through the next year. But we walk outside to fresh air and green grass and dogs with wagging tails and flowers blooming and it's all easy.

Yes, life is easy where we live.

Then we turn on the news.

And I think of how the one small plot of earth where Jesus walked is the very geography still being fought over since Abraham and Lot first stood and divided it thousands of years before Mary even knew she'd be the mother of God. Not a very hospitable part of this earth, either. Not the most beautiful, easy place to live and make a living. Hard in both ways. But always claimed. Always fought over.

The peace never seems to hold there.
The human part of me wonders why one side or the other doesn't just say, Okay then, take it already. I mean, what's a piece of earth that small? Really. It's just such a small piece. To kill so many so often so many ways. But they've dug their heels in, these peoples. Both sides. Claimed the land as theirs. Because, of course, it is. Each can make a case for it. Can you see this? I can. I can see the case. And the pain of it all.

And the blasted pain that their staking a claim has made. The war that just won't end. The tiny swatch of land where there is no peace.

I don't know what the answer is. But I believe I know where it lies. Or at least in WHOM it lies.

I'm not a Catholic but I think Pope Francis has the best idea. This Saturday, September 7, he's calling for a day of Prayer and Fasting. If enough of us--Catholics, Protestants, Evangelicals, charismatics, even those who barely believe at all--call on the ONE who is our peace, we will be the difference-makers. We can stand in the gap for Syria. For Israel, Palestine and the whole Middle East.
What do you say we our knees dirty for our middle eastern neighbors, ok?
And call on HIM.
Yes, let's call on our God--our Holy, Triune God--together for those who do not know Him.
"He is our peace, who has broken down every wall."

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Hard prayers--repost

On this gloomy, rainy September Tuesday, I think it's a good time to re-post a rather gloomy post. So gird your loins, that's your only warning. I have been thinking about the topic of this post again lately because of the season we're entering with Grampie. I've walked this path before, you see. And I really hate that I know what's coming. These days, whenever we visit him, Grampie instinctively looks toward me to interpret his world for him. Maybe he's always been more oriented toward women for that, or maybe he thinks I'm his mother (though I do think he usually knows who I am). It's just that he seems to need me to explain everything. Both Beve and I have noticed this. But even then he doesn't always understand. It's hard to see. It's heart-breaking. To see such a giant of a man so reduced.

But to know what's coming...
Well, that brings me to this re-cycled post, from October of 2009 when my mother was still living. She'd lost the power of coherent speech but was still moving around in her own wheelchair. Was still eating on her own. We didn't even know the harshest reality that awaited us. Still these were my words:

The other day I had a conversation with a woman who is no stranger to dying parents, having traveled back and forth to the east coast to sit with a father on Nantucket, of all amazing places (shoot, I'd have sat with him, just to spend time there!).  She's met Mom several times over the course of our time here in Bellingham, and always asks about her.  When she asked the other day, it spurred a conversation about assisted suicide.  Sue said, "If I ever get to that place, just put me out of my misery."

We all say things like that now and then.  Beve'll get stuck behind one of the walker-brigade at the retirement complex where Grampie lives, inching along like Tim Conway in the old Carol Burnett sketch.  Once he's finally past them, he'll whisper to me, "Just take me out and shoot me when I get like that."  I smile and nod, saying, "Beve, you're almost like that now, on your bad days."  But neither of us mean it.  We absolutely believe in God's sovereignty in all things, particularly that He is in control of our living, and, perhaps even more, in our dying.  Sue doesn't have our world view, though, and there was an earnest conviction in her voice when she spoke to me. I suggested that Mom is already too 'gone' to make any kind of decision, even if she (Mom) was actually of a mind-set to believe in assisted suicide.

But  this has led me to think hard about my equally earnest prayers that God take Mom home, that HE put her out of this misery.  Earlier in my Christian life, I would have been aghast at the idea of praying for someone to die.  It somehow felt wrong. Shouldn't I always be praying for healing? Sure, sometimes healing comes after life on this earth ends, and that I have seen clearly.  But the actual, fervent, active prayer for someone's death?  Doesn't even reading that sentence turn your stomach a little? But that was before Alzheimer's took up residence in Mom's life.  That was before the deep, horrifying cruelty of this disease stripped Mom of everything that makes a person a self.  Now, it seems to me that the only loving prayer, the only active participation in seeing Mom well again, herself again--or, hopefully, a better self than she has ever been--is to pray for her death.

This prayer no longer worries me, makes me feel badly, or weak.  As hard as it sounds in the abstract, this prayer is the strongest, truest thing I can do for her now.  In the last semi-well years of her life, Mom became preoccupied with spending time in the Word.  First reading and doing devotionals, and then--when her capacity for understanding diminished--simply copying long passages of scripture.  That year it became my practice was to call her every morning to pray for her.  Some days that's all I did.  We had no conversation, not extra words at all, just that prayer. And I have to tell you, they were hard prayers.  I mean, some days I didn't know what or how to pray so that she could understand.  So mostly I prayed that she be marinated in His love, that He protect her and give her peace. And she cried--almost daily. Many times she spoke of how much she loved Him.  I've thought recently that it was like she was storing up 'food' for the winter. All those hours immersed in scripture, all those prayers. It wasn't long after that Lenten season when she told me she could no longer pray, and had stopped reading.  Now she's in a great hibernation, and I'm pretty sure she has no idea who or what God is.  But it's in there, in her real self.  And, as I told her one day, "It doesn't matter if you forget God.  He won't forget you."

So today, as every day now, I ask Him--boldly!--to remember her, to marinate her in His love, to grant her peace for today, and to PLEASE take her home, where she belongs.

Monday, September 2, 2013

What I've learned from quilting lately

Hmm, I'm not sure if I can actually type this evening. I had to dig my wrist brace out of my closet this morning because I woke up with what is surely tendinitis in my bad left wrist. It was completely worth it, however, because, after 100 quilts, I finally got up the courage to do an entire quilt with what is called 'free-motion' quilting. It took me two days, and 4 bobbins, but I finished it, and LOVE it. And it wasn't really so hard, once I got the hang of moving the quilt around. But obviously my left wrist took the brunt of it. So here I am with my ever-ready wrist brace.

As I was quilting my loops, and swoops, moving the quilt backwards and forwards, never lifting the needle (until the bobbin ran out of thread) I got to thinking about why it is that it took me so long to dive into this part/kind of quilting. It reminded me of how long I talked about wanting to  start quilting in the first place before I actually made my first cut into fabric. Years, really. I think I've wanted to be a quilter since I was a little girl sleeping under the quilts my grandmother made for us. In those days I didn't think of quilts as anything special, though. In fact, I envied my friends who had rooms that were color-coordinated with matching bedspreads, sheets and curtains. My bed had either one or two quilts on it (depending on the time of year), and they didn't even match each other, let alone the one on my sister's bed across the room. They were just quilts, and we just layered them up as we needed them. And I didn't appreciate them one little bit.

Then I grew up and began to realize what treasures they were. How amazing they ARE. Art and comfort and love and heritage all wrapped up together. And I wanted in on it. Wanted to take up my needles and fabric as the granddaughter of my Kansas grandmother and do her proud. Extend love to those I love as she had. As her mother and grandmother had before her.

But it seemed so beyond me. So hard. So, SO hard. And I wasn't starting from nothing. That is, I've known how to sew since I was about 10 years old and learned on the peddle machine at our family's cabin (where there was no electricity back then) on Whidbey Island. When our girls were small, I made all their dresses. When I was young, I made most of my own dresses as well. Shoot, my sister and I made my five bridesmaid dresses in about five weeks and those things were so enormous (think the era of Princess Diana) they needed hoop skirts under them--which my mother gladly bought).

But quilts seemed like a huge leap beyond making dresses.
I don't know why, looking back. Mostly quilting is simply sewing in straight lines. In fact, these days, I don't even use pins to hold my fabric together. They just slow down the whole process.

The thing is, it was the fear that kept me from quilting for the longest time. The fear that I couldn't learn. That I wouldn't be up to the challenge of it. Not quite good enough, or creative enough, or maybe just sew a straight line. Or all of the above.

And that's the case with most things, I think. We always stand at the edge of 'doing' because we think we can't. Or we think we aren't. That's it, we really get stuck on what we think we aren't. And that's exactly where the enemy wants us to stand. So we stand there until we really can't do that thing. We talk about it (the way I did about quilting--redundantly!!) but we never really take that step. I wonder how much of life I've missed because I just won't take that step. I just can't. It's too big, too much, too outside my box.

Of course, there are some personalities who thrive on new things, who take steps and chances, and lean into adventure without a second thought. I can't imagine being like that. But I do wish I could step out a little easier. More quickly. Because when I do, I discover how much it's worth least, most of the time. Or, discover, quickly, how it isn't right, which is okay too.

It's the stepping out that counts. The stepping out and doing. Being willing to take a chance, and discovering that this thing one's always wanted to do is every bit as great as one imagined. Every bit as fun and creative and wildly colorful as this quilt I just finished. Sure, I got tendinitis. But I got a whole lot more too. And I'm not going back.

So tell me, what are you wishing and hoping and wanting to do...but just not quite sure you're up to doing? Lean in, my friends. Take a step. It's so worth it.

Here's the quilt I just finished--pre-quilting, though. I'll have to update this post tomorrow when it gets out of the dryer, so you can see how it turned out quilted.

Update: Front and back of the quilt, all washed, dried and ready to be shipped to its new owner. Free-motion-quilted with my love.