Thursday, August 29, 2013

Faithfulness

The other day an old friend (via text conversation) said, "Thanks for being faithful all these years." And I've been thinking about this sentence ever since. It was a nice thing to say, to be sure. A compliment, even. Nevertheless, even as I read it, so many thoughts ran through my head that I could hardly contain my fingers. I didn't respond with any of them. I only said, "And I appreciate your faithfulness, too."

But here's a bullet-point list of all the things I thought:

  • Of course I'm faithful. 
  • Or maybe I'm not faithful, I'm just in love with Jesus.
  • But then there are all the times when I'm really NOT faithful.
  • "Even when I'm faithless, You, God, are faithful." (2 Timothy, 2: 13, my paraphrase)
  • And why should I be thanked for being what I'm supposed to be, anyway? Luke 17: 9-10 says, "Will He thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told do do, should say, "We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty." 
See, it's a whole lot to have tried to say in a text message. But the idea hasn't gone away because just this morning I had another conversation with a friend about wanting to know that our lives have counted for the Kingdom, when all is said and done. Because I'd been mulling this sentence around for a week, I was quick to say that most of the time we don't get to know that. We are asked to be His servants. To answer His call. To do our part in our corner of His Body. And we don't know what comes of that work, because it's His work. My friend said, "Of course, it's not about us, it's about Him. His glory." 
Exactly. 
His glory. 
We unworthy, unqualified, un-everything servants are privileged to serve the King of Kings. That's glory enough. Can you fathom this? Really, can you? He uses US to serve Him. What a crazy mixed up reality, where the weak and powerless (see the Beatitudes!) are the ones with all the power in the universe.
We pledge fealty to HIM and HIS power is ours. His everything is ours. 
So if we're faithful, it's only what we were supposed to be. He's the faithful one.
Still, I do long to be faithful. 
More tomorrow than today.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

What I believe

Barely awake this morning I began counting the pains in my body. Calculating what it would take to get me out of bed, onto my good leg and moving without a walking stick. Then I stuck my head under a pillow and moaned. The equation was more than I could bear, I thought. There was just too much.

And then I heard it. The inimitable whisper that isn't a whisper at all. Sometimes it's a roar, sometimes it thuds through my spirit with such demand that I'm frozen in place. "What about the pain in MY Body?" He asked. "What about the ways MY Body is still broken and hurting and needs a walking stick to move in the right direction?"

And then I realized that this is the day. This is it. A day I've been thinking about, meditating on, contemplating, pondering for years. But because I haven't spoken (or written) it, I've had less and less to say.  But today is the day.

Here is my testimony. Not my 'how I came to Christ' testimony, but 'what I believe about the gospel' testimony. We are the greatest gift God has given this world. After Jesus Himself--indeed, because of Jesus Himself--we are it. The Incarnation of God on this earth. That's us, folks. Each of us who believes in the Lord Jesus is indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God. And it's the most awesome, beautiful, glorious thing imaginable that this should be so. Puny me? The one who still sins and blows it and doesn't keep her temper and is self-involved and self-righteous and all those things is also the one who, by the grace of God, the love of the crucified, resurrected Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit, can participate in His LOVE for the world.

That I believe this puts me in line with evangelical Christians. Of course.

But what doesn't is that I am NOT a conservative. I want to come out of the closet and announce that I'm a liberal, left-wing evangelical Christian.  Indeed, I wonder at times how it came to be that conservative, republican and Christian all came to be synonymous. But that's not for me to say. What is for me to say is what I believe.  I believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ pushes us to love, to love, to love. Shall I say it again? And I don't know who is exempt from that love. As a Christian, my first, last and only responsibility to is show a person Christ when those around him or her would be judging and pointing fingers. Levi who became Matthew, Zaccheus, the woman caught in adultery, the Samaritan woman, parable after parable teach us this. It's impossible to read the gospel and NOT see this. "This is my command: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13: 34-35) "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends." (John 14: 13)
"Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God because God is love." (1 John 4: 7-8)

So to the nuts and bolts of it: I'm pro-life. In every sense. From one end of life to the other. From birth to death. So I'm a pro-life, pacifist, anti-death-penalty believer. I don't believe in "An eye for an eye." Jesus told us NOT to, you see. He said, "No pay-backs!" I believe that the Incarnation calls believers to stand against war. I absolutely believe this. I could have (had had) discussions with those who believe wholly in just wars, and I can accept that we disagree just as believers disagree about many things theologically. One can make a case for either side (and I have a wonderful lecture on CD by two of my profs at Regent College who laid out this debate very clearly). But in the end, love must win. That is to say, I must respect those who have different points of view, those who are in authority, those who serve. AND, those who are the victims. Yes, even those. "Love your enemies," Jesus said. He said this.

I believe that homosexuality is something a person is born with. Perhaps there are other reasons as well, but this is the primary 'cause.' I've known many people who are gay and lesbian. In some cases, I've known them most of their lives, could see the writing on the wall well before they were ready to admit it. Watched the pain that such an admission caused, watched their lives be destroyed as they tried to ignore, pretend; yes, even pray it away. I've asked over and over, "Who would willingly choose this?" I've had conversations with people who expected me to judge and be harsh and turn on our friendship because, let's face it, I'm an evangelical Christian and we aren't a very tolerant bunch. And I hate--yes, HATE--that the very ones who should be most loving, most available to carry burdens when there are burdens to be carried, usually aren't because we're either left out because it's assumed we'll judge or we really ARE judging. I hate that. I don't want to have an opinion about what should and shouldn't be a law because I want to be so busy loving those around me, so busy in relationship that I let God do His work. And I do the work HE's called me to. Maybe you'll find this ostrich-like, but it's how I feel. I was put here to be a Christ-one. That's it. That's it. To love the world to Him.

And I believe God's heart breaks for all the hurting Christians sitting in the pews of our churches who are afraid to say what's really going on in our lives for fear of judgment. Too much drinking, or a bad marriage, kids out of control, or pornography addictions. And we hide it under saying all the right things, speaking Christian-speak, and don't get down and dirty with each other. We assume every one else is doing better than we are, or that we'll be judged. Found unworthy. Or we're so busy pointing fingers at all that's wrong with everyone around--the homosexuals, the people in Washington, our obnoxious neighbor, the person in the blasted car in front of us--that we don't let God in. IN to our own dirty selves where HE can love us. Where He already DOES love us.

I guess that's about enough of an unfolding of myself for the day.
If this makes you done with me, so be it.
I love you, anyway.
Carolyn


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

An orphan

This week is an anniversary of sorts for my siblings and me, though not a happy one. The 22nd marked the 3rd anniversary of the day our mother died, and today (the 27th) is the day our dad died in 1997.Yep, orphans now. Funny to think of that, since the youngest of us is in his forties and a couple of us can barely pretend we're in our mid-fifties (though I'm trying!). But that's the truth. An orphan is someone who has no parents. And that's us.

When our mother began to decline with Alzheimers, I began to think about being an orphan, a concept I'd barely considered before. The truth is that it hadn't been possible have a real mother/daughter relationship with Mom for years. Well, it was for my sister, RE, but that's because Mom thought RE was her mommy. And RE knew it was important to go along with that upside-down reality. But a real relationship? Not so much. I remember when it really hit me, too. Beve's sister had a stroke in the fall of 2009 and was comatose in a Seattle hospital. Dying. My instinct was to call my mother. But by then my mother wasn't able to use the phone, couldn't speak clearly and wouldn't have known who or what I was talking about. I missed my mother when Glo died, just being able to talk to her, just knowing she'd care.

But what I've learned over the last three years is what God has been teaching people through-out history. It's the story of Ruth. We are all orphans, and none of us are. That's the paradoxical truth of it all. The story of Ruth is pretty personal to my family because my parents loved it so much they not only used 1:16 in their wedding but named a daughter because of that story. Ruth. My little sister bears the name of this wonderful story of an orphan. An outsider whom God used as part of the lineage for His begotten Son. Ruth famously had no family and wasn't even considered one of the Chosen ones--an Israelite. Only a mother-in-law who also had lost everyone, everything that mattered to her. These two women clung to each other, "Beseech me not to leave you," Ruth told Naomi. "For your people shall be my people, and your God my God."

An orphan. God took her in. Used her. God said, You are MY child.

That's the glad truth of it. We're on our way to being orphans. Or, to be clearer, we are all lost and without a home. We are all Ruth. And He says to each of us, "You are my child. I am your Father." Sometimes it takes actually losing a parent to learn this. Losing someone, anyway. But we must learn it.

We are loaned our parents, just as we are loaned our children. And maybe, because they're loaners, we should pay careful attention to how we love them, to how we engage with them. That's another thing I've learned in the years since my dad died. I never imagined he'd die so young (just 10 years older than I am today). And I didn't always hold him lightly. I gripped him hard. And took him for granted, and all the things people do when they don't know. But God knew. And God knows today how long we have with each of our beloveds. So today, the child-of-the-Father me knows that the only one I must grip is HIM. Everyone else I must love deeply, and hold loosely. Love and surrender. Love and love and love to Him. And trust Him with their lives. And you know? As I've learned this, I think I'm becoming an easier mom, a mom who lets her children live their lives, follow His call. And that's just what He intended. My children aren't orphans, either. They belong to Him.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Here and there...


It's been threatening to rain all day. If I forget, the wind chimes that Beve has layered on our back deck sing to me in reminder. I want the summer to stretch deep into October, want my geraniums to bloom into autumn.
(this salmon geranium is the plant I've been pampering for years--it's an off-spring of one given by Beve's mom to her best friend in 1963)

The wind is no longer a summer breeze, the chimes say, but cool, with undertones of falling leaves and crisp apples. Even our dogs no longer lie on our hardwood floors, panting out their heat after being outside. Instead they curl up like bagels on the couches (on the quilts, of course! wouldn't want to get the actual couches dirty!).

I've missed the rain, if truth be told. I like it. I've grown used to living in a place where rain is part of the natural rhythm of life and keeps everything lush and green.

 I miss the smell of rain in the air, fresh and cool, and the feel of it on my head. I've lived in this part of the country longer than any other place on earth. Well over half my life, come to think of it. And I love it here. Love it so much that I can't imagine living anywhere else. People often ask (now that we're the ages we are) where Beve and I have thought of moving when he retires. Here, we say. This is where we are home. And we knew it as soon as we got here. The water, mountains, forests all form a perfect marriage. Why, there are only a few places (and probably most of those are less urban than on the I-5 corridor with a population that swells every single day with Canadians who come across the border to shop!) where deer routinely stop traffic. Yesterday it was a young male with the beginning of a fine rack. All alone. And every car braked for him while he meandered across the busy street downtown. Yep, right downtown.
It's because we live right on the border of human population and the wilderness.
And I love that.

But just this afternoon I began re-reading a book that makes me remember why I always look east to the Palouse when I think of the land that is formative to my soul. There's something about those rolling hills and the prayers uttered there that made (and continue to make) me who I am. One can press in beneath canopy of trees, one is exposed on those hills.

 I live vicariously through my farming family, too. Ask them more questions about the farm, their work, the seasons, the harvest, than a west-sider usually even knows to ask. But if you could see the Palouse, you'd get it. It's just so beautiful. SO God-created beautiful. Yes, in a quieter, emptier way, a way that means you don't have traffic but you do have neighbors, you don't have western Washington rain but you do have storms. You don't have 'purple mountain majesty' but you do have 'amber waves of grain.'



And God will meet you on those hills. The silence there sings with Him as loudly as my wind chimes. And today as I sit in my west-side living room, watching the clouds over  Bellingham Bay, I'm thankful that I first learned to hear His voice on the other border of our state, far from the waters of Puget Sound.
There on the hills of the Palouse.



Friday, August 23, 2013

Praying for teachers

It's quiet here.
REALLY quiet.
Just as it takes some adjustment when the house fills for the summer, so it takes time for the dogs and me to settle into the silence once Beve starts leaving the house at 6 AM in the middle of August. There's a myth that teachers get summers off. But I'm here to crack open that myth. Beve worked until the last day of June, a couple of days in the middle of July (and often at home in-between, of course), and has been back in the office every day this week. Going full tilt. Sure, he's a counselor. Gets paid for it, don't you know? But I stopped by the high school yesterday and the faculty parking lot was full. Completely full. And ran into a whole lot of teachers wearing shorts and flip-flops in the hallways, carrying boxes, papers, notebooks, etc. They've been to conferences, meetings, classes all summer long. My younger brother, for one, who has five different classes to teach next year, spent about half his summer in classrooms, learning to be a better teacher. And still he's worried that he won't be good enough.

Beve's worried too. There's just so much to do, and so much counts on what these men and women do for these young people--from 5 to 20-whatever. I listen to him, listened to my friends last weekend at the lake who are also teachers, to my sister who works at the university level and am awed by what they carry. It's a load, a very heavy load. I know a whole lot of people who have home-schooled for a variety of reasons that make sense for them. Theirs is the same load, only more personal.

I realize a lot has been written in this country about the state of our educational system. But let's not throw all educators under the bus. The ones I know--and they are legion--are capable, compassionate, and give like they're called to it. Couldn't possibly get paid enough. I suppose unless you're a professional athlete or movie star, that's true about most professions, but it's always true for teachers. It makes me wonder what would happen if those of us who are NOT teachers began to take seriously what it costs to BE a teacher. And to honor them accordingly...what it costs and what's at stake.

So this is my soap box this morning because I live with an educator who cares so much and worries that he's getting too old to be effective as a counselor, but wants his door to always be open to whoever needs to come in,  still wants walk around inside the shoes of kids with them, wants to be their advocate when no one else is. It's harder every year because he's older and there are more constraints on what is expected and allowed, but it's what his heart cries.

I've asked this other years around now, but I'm asking again. As this new school year begins, will you join me in praying for our educators? Kindergarten through college? Home, private, alternative and public? Will you join me in standing in the gap for those who stand on the front lines with our young? Those who hold minds and hearts and spirits in their grasps?  They have burdens too heavy to bear alone. We can be their burden bearers today.

Thank you.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Prayer for the day--repost

I accidentally just deleted a post I wrote (and posted) the other night--the prayer from my daily devotional. Since I can't recreate what I said about it, I'll simply re-post the prayer for those of you who would like to have it yourself. I was trying to delete a post I'd begun but HADN'T yet posted, just below it on my list. I'm sometimes a clutz that way visually.

From Celtic Daily Prayer:

Christ as light
Illumine and guide me
Christ as shield
O'ershadow me
Christ under me
Christ over me
Christ beside me
On my left and my right
This day be within and
Without me
Lowly and Meek yet
All-powerful
Be in the heart
Of each to whome I speak
In the mouth of each
Who speaks unto me
This day be within and
Without me
Lowly and meek yet
All-powerful
Christ as a light
Christ as a shield
Christ beside me
On my left and my right.

Yes--THESE great words--
be in the heart of each to whom I speak
and in the mouth of each who speaks
unto me.
Amen.

Monday, August 19, 2013

A quilted weekend at the lake

There's been a hiatus here. One last summer hurrah, if you will (unless there's another one, and I certainly hope to squeeze one more in--but that's another story!).

I've been out of internet range for the last half week because it was the annual 'girls' weekend' with my life-long friends. It was pointed out by one of us that these get-aways have been intentional for 10 years now, making this a rather special time together. Knowing this MIGHT be why I decided last summer to make quilts to give each of them. However, my brain doesn't work that way--you know, marking occasions that way. I just decided because I decided. One quilt was given last summer. The rest were meant to be finished and mailed off on each birthday. Then someone (me!) proposed to bring them to this summer's party.

Sooo I did. I spent a year searching for exactly the right fabric all over the world (in one case, anyway). Online, in stores up and down the west coast (and even in our hometown). Looking at patterns, making up my own patterns, thinking of the woman and she likes, what aesthetic she likes. Finally, cutting into fabric, praying over each cut, over each stitch, living our friendships, imagining reactions. In two cases, after making an entire quilt, I was uneasy enough with the finished I made a second quilt (and was right to do so for one of them. For the other, the choice is still excruciating!).

My family's been living it all with me, of course (only one quilt made Beve and J raise a ruckus. They love it so much they wanted me to keep it for our own home). Beve, who, of course, knows all these high school friends, wanted to helicopter in for the giving of the quilts. "I'll take the pictures," he told me. "Then I'll just slip out. You won't even know I was there." Obviously! A legal giant is easy to miss (sf).

It was the best time we've ever had together, I think. A decade ago, though we had long history together, there was a whole lot of reminiscing and laughing about our past when we gathered. And less buy-in to the idea of this week-end, maybe. But now, we've been doing this so long, we're really in each other's lives. We can get down and deep and dirty with the pain and muck and cares in the safe zone that is our friendship, without having to explain the back-story. It's like picking up the conversation we laid down when we said goodbye--was it really a year ago? There were plenty of laughs, of course. We have a finely-honed sense of the ridiculous and bring it out in each other. But there were tears, too.

And I LOVE THAT. Yep, I love, love, love that we cry together. In all ways.
It makes me cry with joy that we're so important to each other that it was a no-brainer to move the location and time so that one of us could get there. And cry, too, that she was so moved that we'd do it that she cried. I love that another of us stayed in town to see an injured dad and, providentially (God plans SO well) was there to be co-pilot with that woman.

One night at dinner, we talked about what charms us about our husbands. We were asked this by the only one who is divorced. And what awed me when I thought of it later, is that those men (and 5 of the 6 are graduates of our high school!!!) are very similar kinds of people: service-oriented, wise, kind, funny. Looking at them, you might not guess it, but it's really quite amazing. And though they all annoy us (and yes, we also spoke quickly of these things--but didn't linger there; as I said, "What he is is far more important than what he isn't!"), we came away from the conversation reminded again of how blessed we are. Even the one asking felt blessed.

So, the quilts:
I was pretty antsy to give them Friday night, when they arrived in my car (I'd come out a day earlier--yep, that's logistics!) with the last two 'girls.' And began marking time about as soon as we got our hugs in. Then got a little shy when the moment came. All sorts of what-if's swirled through my head. My already-sweaty body went into over-drive. But it was a blessing to me to bless them. And they loved their quilts--each of them. Hallelujah!!!

This is taken by the one who received her quilt a year ago. And we're all wearing bows from the packages of the gorgeous candle lanterns (on the table) that we received from Lace (right behind me), because we changed our gathering location. On the far right, our hostess for the weekend, holds two quilts because she can't decide which one she wants.


And here we all are. MP, me, CH, BM, LT, CK, WE. I'm standing in front of the quilt my men didn't want me to give away. And I brought it home and used it on my side of the bed last night. So there you go.

Love my 'girls', even in the second half of our 50s. I'm glad we're who we are, glad we get to continue to live out life together. Yep, it's like our very lives have been quilted together--of so many things I can hardly list them, but I pray that these quilts will remind them of that--not just of me, but of all of us and who we are to each other.
See you at the river next year.
C

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The car accident

My middle sister's stopped by a few times in the last couple of weeks. I say 'stopped by', because each time has been a visit of less than 24 hours. Nevertheless, we manage to squeeze a lot of conversation in during that time. Monday she, my younger brother and her younger son were here packing up their packs for a back-packing trip in the North Cascades, about 45 minutes northeast of our home. All their camping goods and instant food made me think of the days when my dad (a scout-master) had food and equipment laid out all over our front yard and scouts swarming over it like teen-aged mosquitoes, preparing for the long hikes they took every summer. LD still uses the pack Dad bought her too many years ago to count (she can't stand throwing things away) and her 18-year-old son has graduated to Dad's last pack, still in good shape after all these years.

Today they're on the second day of a 35 miler, up beyond the fog of Bellingham, up where the air is pure and the views clear. Three of my siblings LOVE hiking like they love to breathe. My older brother only misses this trip because he's across the world in India working. Two of us--RE and I--like to watch them go, and are happy to see them return. It's always been that way for me, at least. I get why they love it...at least in theory. But it seems like a whole lot of pain for a whole lot of discomfort and for what?

Oh yeah, for the glory of getting there. For the views, and the being and the campfires and sleeping in tents and everything up close and personal in creation that we usually only see from a distance. If we're looking at all. Yeah, I get it. I did grow up in this family, after all. But the suffering in it is too much for me. Too much now, of course, but it always was, even before the left side of my body began to betray me.

I'm a wimp, you might say. But each of us is made of different things, and that's okay.
However, the other day my sister, LD, and I got to talking about the accident that was the genesis of my relationship with pain, so I've been thinking about it a lot since.

I was seven years old. SEVEN. Yep, it was 49 years ago. We lived in Ypsilanti, Michigan because my dad was a PhD student at the University of Michigan (and he was in the lab that day, working). It wasValentine's Day--a Sunday (our family was not church-going in those days)--and I'd gotten a new, fuzzy red coat that I wanted to show my friends, who were playing across the street. So I ran over to show them. Then remembered that I wasn't supposed to cross the street without asking. So I went back across to ask my mother. All this I remember (or at least remember remembering, if that makes sense. I've told this story a time or hundred) From here on, I remember nothing. On the third trip, apparently I darted out from a parked car and a car struck me, hitting me squarely on my left hip, not breaking it, but opening my skin so that the bone was visible, and pushing the hipbone into the backbone. When my mother (and a huge crowd of neighbors, I'm sure) got to me, I was holding on to the bumper and repeating, "I'm sorry, Mommy, I'm sorry, Mommy."

Our next-door-neighbor, a cop (off-duty) drove us to the hospital, lights blaring. I don't remember this, either. I have very vague memories of being in the hospital, one of talking to a cop about it. Out of the corner of my memory, I can see him, and think his name was Officer Mike. It might not have been. My mom also always talked about finally getting a hold of my father. She'd been rock steady all afternoon, but the moment she heard his voice, she fell apart and could hardly talk.

I remember being home. For a long time, I laid on the couch with my hip bandaged, draining. Sometimes exposed with a hole cut in a sheet so it could get air. It was a nasty, nasty-looking mess, but somehow, every time my mother opened it, I had to look at it. I remember how white the bone looked. Even now when I see bones I am reminded of my own hip-bone and its porcelain color.

I didn't go back to school until the wound healed. My sister and I were figuring it out the other day, and determined (with my vague memory) that it was about 6 weeks to 2 months. When I went back, it was like it was my birthday. I got the special seat cover on my chair, and at an assembly that week, I went up on the stage and everyone clapped for me.

So it was a big deal, I guess. Children don't know these things exactly, of course.
Here's what I know: the doctors told my parents that I would likely had trouble with my back when I was older. But they had no MRIs, no CAT scans, nothing more than X-rays to see into bodies in those days. So there was no way to tell how my nerves had been affected. Squished.

And for a long time--32 years--I felt fine. There were times when I'd wonder why my left leg ached, but it would go away. And then, finally, it didn't. It didn't in my arm. Now my neck. All on the left side.

All because of that accident 49 years ago.

LD and I talked about how a momentary thing like that changes a life. One quick dart from behind a parked car, and here I am, incapacitated to a large degree. In constant pain.

And yet, when I look at it all, I think of what wasn't that day. I think of how God was with me. A bit higher and I'd have been hit in the chest. Or the head. He was present in that mess. And present in the messiness of the healing, even knowing that the scar on the outside (which, of course, I still have!) wouldn't be the worst of it. He was in me in the years of physical health, when my body did exactly what it was made to do. And He's been VERY present in me in these long years of pain.

I won't lie. The pain grows increasingly difficult at times. There's a loneliness in living with such pain every second of every day, a loneliness in knowing that my actual health is good and that, perhaps, a long life still stretches out in front of me. But though I know the context is different, what rings true for me are Paul's words in Philippians 1: 20-21-- "I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Light and LIGHT

The first words God spoke (at least our first recorded ones), were "Let there be light." And by the end of the sentence, light was. Before He spoke, no light, by the time He stopped, light had turned on. This outshines Thomas Edison about the way the cosmos outshines a match.

We live in a world of physical light. Without it, we're doomed. Doomed to lose plants and water and every other thing necessary for life. In fact, doomed to fall off this planet and go hurling off into the darkness of space, which is just about the scariest thought imaginable (and whoever thought up the movie, whose trailer I recently saw, with that as the premise ought to be shot!). Anyway, my point is that God began where life begins--with light.

When Eve was compelled by the enemy to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, it was like she, and then Adam, sent themselves hurling into the darkness of space. It's an interesting thing. Genesis 3: 6 says she saw that it was "good for food, pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom." Huh. I am Eve's daughter as sure as I am anything. The best tasting food? I'm in, my mouth watering all the way. Pleasing to the eye? Yep, I'm certainly all about that, even as I 'try' not to be. And, most of all, desirable for gaining wisdom.' Gaining wisdom--this is my downfall. And, I dare say, the downfall of humankind. Indeed, the history of the world is about gaining wisdom, or knowledge (which isn't REALLY the same thing). Trying to know more, be smarter, be better and do good, to get a leg up. And somehow, there's a feeling in most of us that it's possible to become good human beings--better human beings--by knowing more. Or by looking better.

But God knew better. He knew that our eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was recipe for disaster. What Eve saw didn't include the dark side of knowledge, tastes and desire, did it? She only saw light. She'd never been in the dark, of course, and even the shadowy words of the serpent didn't mean much to her in the full sunlight of Eden.

But with one bite, she was plunged into darkness, Adam swiftly behind her. It was so dark for so long, that at times God despaired of the whole lot of us (see Noah), had to shine one small match on the whole earth (see the prophets!), but continued--over and over and over--to be faithful when His people were faithless. It's remarkable, thinking of God's long patience. We think we're patient when we pray for someone to come to Him for a few years. Imagine centuries of it.Yes, He got angry. He had reason to. But He never stopped holding out that promise-- "If you return to me, you stiff-necked people, I will save you."

And then the promise was fulfilled.

With words of LIGHT.
"The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it."
At the Incarnation, Light is new, spiritual, eternal. We need this LIGHT as profoundly as we need the light on earth. Inside us. There are two ways to think about this new LIGHT. First is in the overcoming of the darkness that is sin in our lives. We come to Christ, we are overcome by He who is LIGHT, and though we might sin again, we will never be overcome by darkness again because we are overcome by Light. Filled/flooded by Him. We're free from the bondage of sin and darkness. This leads me to the second way to think of light: Light as in the opposite of heavy. Whatever our lot or burden in life, once we are flooded with the LIGHT of Him (the Holy Spirit), that burden is lightened. Jesus promised this. We forget it but it's true. I should have it tattooed on my forehead so that when I look in the mirror I am reminded, "My burden is LIGHT."

And here's the really cool thing that I also forget: we go out into our corners of the world like a floodlight. Absolutely glowing of Him. That's what He intends, anyways. If you're in Christ's Body, and He's in you, there's LIGHT in you. No matter what. So square your shoulders, friends. Pay attention, because He's always about Lighting the world.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Just this:

People always tell me how much they look alike. 
But I'm always seeing their differences.
The creative passion of the one,
the rock-steady organization of the other,
the theatrical voices,
the musical laugh of
the younger,
the sports-loving, 
news-prowling
mind of
the older.
But then I see these 'seesters'
(as my younger daughter calls them)
and am struck
by how alike they are,
how lovely they are,
inside and out.

It takes years to grow 
into women--
but they've made it, and
made it well!
Even so, 
if
 I call them 'the girls'
when they're 40 and 44,
I hope they'll understand
that to me,
they'll always be 
my girls, 
my babies, 
my daughters.

The 'I' in the Middle--Repost

Just hugged Beve and my youngest child goodbye, saw them fold themselves like sardines into a Subaru, and head off on the road-trip that will end with unpacking all of SK's belongings in a tiny apartment in Berkeley, where she'll begin her new life. I kept the tears at bay for most of the morning, until seeing an email from my older brother who has a whole lot of practice saying goodbye. He has a son who lives across the country. And now he himself, lives across the world from his 'real' life. Or maybe that's his real life. Anyway, he put his wife on a plane last Thursday from there and it was hard on him. His empathetic words to me this morning made the tears well up in me.

So I'm not going to try to be coherent this morning. Instead, I thought I'd repost a post that actually spoke loudly to me just a few minutes ago. Even though I wrote it myself a couple of years ago, it might as well have been written for me today. So from the Spring of 2011, here it is, "The Giant I in the Middle."

I'm probably too tired to write this post.  Tired enough that I'm distracted by my very first word in this post. How many times have I begun a post with the word "I" or some form of it?  Or because I was aware of that propensity, dropped the personal pronoun and simply implied it instead?  A large percentage, I'm guessing.  The other day as I was driving somewhere, listening to sports radio, as I often do (if it's been left on by a previous driver), I heard some coach or player or analyst repeat the so-oft quoted phrase it's become hackneyed (say it with me, if you want!), "There is no "I" in team."  My son, daughter or husband always point out that there is, however, an I in win, which is, after all, the point of sports.  Isn't it?  But what I imagined saying the other day was, "there is no "i" in [plug in a last name here]". And I imagined a family with the concept of WE rather than I.  Training children to think of the whole rather than themselves, to really, truly think first of the unit and each one as only a piece of that unit, a piece which is essential to making the whole work, but cannot work by itself, and isn't the only or most important piece.  In fact, there is no most important piece.  All together is the most important.  Together.

But then I began to laugh, because, as those of you who know me, know, I've had two last names, and as luck or fate or providence or God Himself (of course) would have it, each of mine has an I in it.  Most people don't like to spell my maiden name with an I in it.  They instinctively don't.  All of us who have lived with this name know the truth of it, though, that Crain is spelled best like brain, not like...well, like that giant machine that lifts things out of the earth. You know--like a crane. It's CRAIN, thank you very much. And I didn't leave Crain in the dust when I married.  My middle name (which didn't have an I in it) meant almost nothing to me, for all that it was the middle name of some great-grandmother I don't remember meeting, given to me simply so my initials matched my mother's. Crain meant everything.  I'm still a Crain.  Always will be.  And now a Wiley.  Also not spelled the way most people spell it. That Wylie stuff I watch people type into their computer even as I'm saying my name and actually spelling it for them.  "Oh," they say. "Sorry," hitting the delete button rapidly. I shake my head. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have even ONE name that didn't need to be spelled for people. Carolyn isn't Caroline. Theresa isn't Teresa. Crain isn't Crane. Wiley isn't Wylie. None of these names are uncommon. But each is almost always incorrectly spelled.
But I digress.
As usual.
Maybe it does relate to my point, though...

My point is that I'm swimming with self.  By that I mean, I get so caught up in my own junk and stuff and worries and thoughts and how I look at the world and what I need and who I want to be, and what I think is important (like having my name spelled correctly) and what I dream and...that it's hard to get outside myself.  Isn't it?  It's hard to walk in other people's shoes.  Jesus tells us that we are meant to do this.  That it's our most important task as His followers--to consider the world from others' points of view.  And I fail at this.  I want to love Jesus more, but I don't always want to love people more.  Yet He says it's one and the same.  And if I'm failing to love people, I'm absolutely failing to love Him.  The great big I that starts each post is the I that blocks Him from working through me.

Today SK and I were driving through town and I saw a woman throw something into the street.  I don't know what it was but I was incensed by it.  Unbelievably, almost irrationally angry that she would just litter like that.  I could have stopped and yelled at her, I was that mad--except that it's not really my nature, though I pretend it is.  Instead I just railed at SK about how disappointing the world is, how much I hate how people are, what they do, etc.  But even as I'm speaking I hear The Holy Spirit behind  me saying, "You are no different.  You're judgmental and mean-spirited.  You lash out in anger and have a critical heart, and think you're superior to most people.  Look at yourself.  Tend to your own sins."

There's a giant I in the middle of SIN, of course.  Exactly where it all starts.  My sins, sin itself. It's easy to talk about the goodness of God, the amazing grace of the cross and the abundant resurrection life He's given us in our salvation.  But I didn't just take one shower in my life and was clean ever after.  No, I get dirty again, because I'm flesh and sinful flesh.  Saved and being saved, hallelujah, but still in need of the cleansing only He can do...and He does it at my repentance.

Yep, not past the first word, but maybe it was the word I--er, WE--needed today.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The golden one...

 When I was a little girl, my mother put my hair up in curlers every single time it was washed. Every single time! She pulled and yanked and pulled my wispy, baby-fine hair around wire curlers, pushed pink sticks with knobs on the top through each one to hold them in place and I learned not to make a sound. I knew better. I knew whining and complaining wouldn't stop the pain and would make my mother annoyed. So I held still. When she got to the last curler, right at the bottom of my neck, she always said, "This is the golden one."

I knew what 'golden' meant in those days. Just as if it was an actual synonym in the Oxford Dictionary, it meant "Last." And it still means that to me. So this morning, when Steph came out of her room and sat down on the living room couch, I told her, "Today is the golden one." She smiled. Because she's my daughter and had her hair done under my comb and fingers many, many times as child, she knows exactly what that means (though I didn't curl my daughters' naturally strong and wavy hair--I braided it!).

The golden one. The last one.

All week long our back room has been a staging area for SK's belongings. She's taken bags and bags of clothing to Goodwill and consignment shops, divided household goods, sorted jewelry, coats, shoes, make-up. She's said goodbye to friends at every kind of meal you can imagine--breakfast, coffee, lunch, drinks, dinner, potlucks, dessert. By her own estimation, she doesn't have a large community here, but you wouldn't know it by her social calendar this week. She answers question after question about her new life--many of which are unanswerable. "How long do you think you'll stay down there?" "Do you think you'll ever move back to Bellingham?"

Through it all, she's maintained confidence that this is right, that she's excited, that God is in this. I love that about her. I love the strong sense that she goes with God, that He's ahead of her. It makes my own natural sadness easier to bear. I can let her go because He goes ahead of her.

But it's the golden one. The last day. Beve asked me yesterday how I was feeling, and I told him that it's always a really strange feeling when our kids leave. They're so present in our house up until the very second they get into their cars and drive away. Then I face the absence. Right now, she's just naturally here. Playing and cuddling with the dogs, watching TV as she sorts her belongings, laughing as she reads facebook updates. I can't imagine her absence yet.

But what I also feel is that this whole last year has been the golden one. SK left home to go to college at 18. Even after she graduated, she didn't come home. But last summer, she moved home and worked for a year. It's been a boon having her (just as it was having her older sister for the season E was home after college). Unexpected but a joy. Yes, a boon. And now she leaves again. I'm reminded of a poem I read (but didn't write) at my high school Baccalaureate (I was chosen to speak by virtue of NOT being present at the meeting when the speakers were chosen!).  This poem is slightly off, since, obviously, I'll always know (and adore) my baby, but part of it rings true on this golden day with her!

"Let me not know you for a day
and leave you with regret,
let me, instead, thank the Lord,
that on His home we met.
Let me not understand you
for a fleeting instant,
then look back and sigh,
knowing we can't capture it again,
Let me, instead, be thankful for
the time we shared,
the time we had.
Then let me go with the Lord,
too thankful to be sad."
SK with Beve and Grampie,
at dinner last night!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Dog Days

This is what the 'dog days of summer' means to me:

Sitting down at the harbor in the gloaming
watching boats,
sun and water
glisten

golden waves of grain
(the harvest was well under-way 
before the end of July this year--so said my brother-in-law 
when he texted me that he'd 'harvested for me' for my birthday)
Sunsets earlier each night 
out the front window
More golden fields (did I ever mention I love
these wavy hills?)
Puppies...
(It is, after all, dog-days!)

And this one--my lovely SK--
packing up her life to move to the Bay area...
In just four more days.
I'm so excited for her and 
 sad for me.
Of course. 
Mamas can feel both these things at once.
Mamas do.
Sigh.

We always said we weren't raising children,
we were raising adults. 
Teaching them to grow up and
go.
And so she goes.
As she should. 
God calls,
she answers.

But oh, 
how I wish these dog days could last.


Monday, August 5, 2013

Heal, help or home

Summers are always so full. I think we cram a year's worth of shared meals, conversations, visits and events with people in the two months Beve is out of school. This last weekend we went down to Portland, OR. for the wedding of a woman we've known since she was three months old. E was only three weeks old at the time, so these two woman were each other's first precious friend.  E was a bridesmaid in this wedding, and we're close enough friends with the POB (parents of the bride) that we stayed in their home (SHE invited us--I wouldn't have presumed otherwise.)  It was a lovely wedding in a glamorous setting. And this family throws such legendary parties that a full 50 people showed up who hadn't RSVP'd.

But, as usual, the long traveling is always complicated for me my body.  It takes a toll, that's all there is to it. Because of traffic, the drives were longer than usual both ways. And in between, there was a whole lot of standing and walking around, stretching, bending, lifting and just generally using limbs that rebel at such expectations.

So the other night I was lying in bed quite overcome by this rebellious pain. I don't get there too often, but when I do, it's hard to concentrate on anything. I hate that about pain, hate that creates a box which closes so tightly that it's hard to see out. Everything else is seen through the lens of that pain: what I expect of myself and what I expect of those around me. I become a completely self-involved, selfish "grumpy old lady." That night, when no earthly position helped, my unguarded, imperfect self was like a megaphone of whine and complaint to God.  "Please God, make it stop."

You might not believe me, but I've honestly never prayed such a prayer before. Never asked for cessation of pain. Only for endurance and the spirit to learn what HE wants to teach through it. But I'm holding on my my fingertips right now, so there's my naked longing flung before Him. "Please God, I've had enough."

Then squarely between my eyes, came a power ball of revelation. There are only three answers to such a naked prayer. God will heal me, take me home or give me strength to live with this. Those are the ONLY answers. And, if I really have the mind of Christ, I know (I knew in that moment) that each is a positive answer. I truly have nothing to fear if God can/will/intends to answer my pain with any of these three 'solutions.' Healing, strength or heaven itself.  What is wrong with any of them?

Therefore, it was a simple thing to say, "Your will be done." Yes, His will be done in my body in one of these three ways. Restored health, strength to live with ill health, or a home-going where all my pain will be gone. The truth is, my body--my VERY body--is God's problem. I don't have to live only in my mind because my body has betrayed me. HE is in my body, every bit as much as He's in a completely whole, healthy, running-perfectly one. Not only my spiritual life but my nerves belong to Him.

And then I began to chuckle, because these answers are the same for everyone, no matter what the situation. Trouble at work? God will either heal it, give us strength to endure it, or remove us from it (metaphorically taking us home, if not physically). We participate with Him in what He does for us, but make no mistake, such difficulties are GOD's problem. Heal, help or home: that's what He intends. When we cry from the deep well of our hurts, it's for for those things we are crying.

My pain hasn't abated. Not today. I'd go so far as to say, I'm barely vertical, though I've been up for hours. But there's a spring in my step, or at least in my heart. I don't have to do anything about this pain. It's HIS to solve and resolve.

And I trust Him.
In what way are you most hurting? Do you get--deep in your core--that whatever that hurt is is God's problem? Trust Him, He's in it. He knows about it, and 'won't allow you to suffer beyond your power of endurance."

Now excuse me, I have to go lie down.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Seeing me in the stars

It's random journal link-up here in my corner of the blogisphere. After reading this, please head over to Dawn's blog read check out other journal posts. Thanks.
Now,
rather than climb back out of bed, I thought I'd share something I got in my inbox yesterday, something that will go straight into my journal tomorrow. About a year ago, my siblings and I started writing round robin letter/emails to each other on our birthdays. We used to make sure we called on those days, but there's somethings better about these notes, about saying what we need to say in front of God and each other, telling--for all our immediate world to see--what we appreciate about those who share(d) our last name, our bed room (at times), our parents.

It was a year of great blessing for each of us. About every other month there was someone to write about (at least for the first half of the year). I learned that my siblings are a creative bunch, with personalities clear and true that shine straight through their writing. Not surprisingly, of course.
This year, it's been our practice to write comparing the birthday girl (or boy) to a sport, activity, food group or something. Extend the metaphor to suit the person. My middle sister, who has an astronomer for a boyfriend, came up with the star idea for me: the constellation most like me. I chuckled when I saw this. Just the other day, I told someone I'd have to spend every night with my head pressed in a book in order to learn the stars, so this constellation thing feels a little ironic.
Still I liked what they wrote enough to share it with you, even without the blue notebook, or my own thoughts about any of them. They stand alone.


Hey, Carolyn!

This is it, the big day, your special day! Day of piles of presents, balloons, cake & candles, being treated well and feasted and celebrated!  Champagne and cherries!  OK, maybe a couple of emails and a casual "Happy birthday, Mom."  Maybe that sums it up!  But I hope you feel special and appreciated.  That's what I hope!

I would say you are Ursa Major, the Big Dipper. OK, it's a boring one, everyone knows it -- for many people, it's maybe the only constellation they know.  But you are the Big Dipper because, like it, you are always pointing to the north, and you are always guiding (and counseling) people, and you're the first one your family thinks of when we need help.  Always shining brightly for us.  Just like the Big Dipper!  (I like the long stretches -- more challenging.)

So there you go, people, pick the constellation that is most like Carolyn! Or that Carolyn is most like.  (OK, OK, pick a sport -- there's got to be some fertile ground there.)

Love always,

Laurie


Carolyn,

I am not very good at constellations, not having learned many nor having a boyfriend who is an astronomer, but here goes…

You are Orion’s belt, stay with me I think I can make this work, the belt symbolizes strength and stability, both of which we all lean on you for.  In may ways you are the strongest person I know, your life through pain is a lesson in humility and grace.  You are getting it done, and within the life of pain you have become an artist; I dare anyone who has seen your quilts to disagree with me! 

Enjoy your birthday; know that those of our family who have gone before you are proud of you, love you and rejoice at the important place you are in our family, strength and stability for all of us.  Just as we love you, are proud of you and rejoice with you and for you!

Love, Ruth

PS: Thank you for your time this weekend, always having a place for me!  It was great.  And Marlene had an absolutely wonderful visit!


Carolyn -

Glad I have creative siblings. I had nothing yesterday so I just dropped the note on Facebook. 

I'll pick Canis Major, because of your love of dogs (not implying you are one). Also, it includes Sirius, the brightest star in the sky. You are often that in a group, in a good way. Your love of people and Jesus always shines. I've seen it even when you're holding your face trying to keep your head from exploding. 

I thought about picking Cassiopeia (hooray for Apple word completion) because it is a crooked W, and I always liked saying it. But a constellation named after a vain queen of Greek mythology didn't seem like you. And you are only physically crooked. 

Happy Birthday again!

Love,
Rich

Ps. Final move to my apartment today. Dayle's been working on it, buying stuff, since Monday. 

 Happy birthday BS!

I know the suspense was killing you so here you go: the Milky Way. I know it is a galaxy, but I don't care. It works for me. I'm the midst of all the darkness of night you not only have many bright points that make a wonderful tapestry but there's also a lot of just 'hazy brightness' that holds it all together. And sometimes that's even better. You never know when something brilliant will come along. I'm glad your my sister. Actually I'm glad you're all my siblings. 

There you go!  Have a great year

BB

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