Wednesday, December 31, 2014

At the border

When I was a child we moved from Michigan to Washington state. We loaded up a U-Haul truck (by we I mean mostly my dad), piled into our maroon and white Chevrolet Carry-all and drove across the country. I had already come out to Washington on a train, and had moved TO Michigan four years earlier, but that trip west, I was 8. At eight, I could read a map and liked them. Once I got tired of playing trolls (you might remember those trolls with the long hair of different colors) I pulled out the  Rand's highway Atlas and started looking at the highway, and saw that after we crossed the Mackinac Bridge in Upper Michigan we'd have to cross a border into Wisconsin.

Some of you might know about the Mackinac Bridge. My quick research tells me it's the 5th longest suspension bridge in the world. However, back in 1965, it was only 8 years old and was the longest one in the world (which is exactly why my mechanical engineer father wanted us to drive across it). It lived up to its billing too. To an eight-year-old, it was like we were on that bridge for about an hour (though it's really only about 800 meters); and it's beautiful with those long lines of steel swinging down toward the road like waves. What I remember from then is the road between those suspension spans, and the water through the steel pillars. The rest, I admit, comes now from pictures I've seen since.

I don't remember much of Upper Michigan. I think we spent our first night there in some small motel. But what I do remember is that I expected the border to Wisconsin to be as large and important as the Mackinac Bridge. I thought there would be a marker that would stop traffic. Now that I think about it, I suppose my eight-year-old brain thought that every state would have something like this:

This is the Peace Arch Crossing between the United States and British Columbia at Blaine, Washington, just a dozen miles from my house.  My little girl brain said something big was needed to mark borders. Instead, what we found on our trip toward our new home were far less impressive. In fact, here's the one marking our last state border:

Not much of consequence to a little girl. Blink and it's easy to miss. But passing that sign meant I was entering the rest of my life. I scarcely knew how important that small marker would be, how much of would hinge on me entering beyond that border that summer I was eight. Everything I am, everyone I love came because I crossed that border. As small and insignificant as it was, it changed everything. But here's the thing. We didn't stop. We simply drove past the sign and drove on. We were a mere 8 miles from our destination that day and my parents were exhausted, I'm sure. They'd driven a long ways. Their work wasn't done that day, either. They still had a hill to climb (and what a story THAT was) and children to feed, and beds to make. Yes, they had work to do. That's how life works. I don't know how they did it.
But I know this:

It's like the border between two states, this marker between one year and the next. It's not a fancy thing. There's no magnificent bridge between 2014 and 2015 for all that we might party or watch fireworks or celebrate any which way. Clocks don't know the difference. Time itself doesn't stop for a moment when the ball drops at midnight. No, it just keeps on moving at its steady pace. And so does life.

It isn't the marker that matters, you know. It doesn't take a suspension bridge or a huge arch to make a border. All it takes is a marker on a map. A change of a single digit on a calendar isn't what counts in the great scheme of things. What matters is that we live from this day in a matter worthy of Him who called us. Honoring Him while this day is still today. That's what counts.
Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.
Today, cease grumbling and complaining and, with everything, with praise and thanksgiving,
let your requests be made known to God.
Today, be of one mind and one Body because We are His Body.
Today do all things to the Glory of God the Father.
Today, at this border of the year, make it your aim to be His.
Today, be filled with the Spirit.
And tomorrow, as Jesus said,
will take care of itself.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A colorful strand of yarn

I don' t know if I can write this post.
I don't know if I should write this post.
I don't know how NOT to write this post.

It's always been my practice to be very careful with the stories I tell on this blog. There are lives at stake in my stories and I don't want to violate the privacy of those I know and love. Most of the stories any of us know aren't our own stories, after all. We weave in and out with other people like we live on a giant loom and are merely one colorful strand of yarn. Together we make a lovely piece of cloth vibrant enough to parallel any sunset, strong enough to withstand any gale, and long enough to last from this life to the next. And I love all the different skeins of yarn I get to engage with, how it makes my life richer in every way imaginable.

But sometimes the strongest, most vibrant, most beautiful pieces of yarn begin to break. I've written of this before. This old diseased earth and sin and the enemy mean that we get sick. That's the truth of life on this planet.

I'm here to tell you today, I HATE THAT TRUTH!
I hate that someone so beloved can be so sick that unless God intervenes in a profound way, her life will end very soon. It's a heartbreaking, surreal thing to go from health to heartbreak in one short month.

But contained in that last short paragraph are the three words that count:

Upon those words our history as believers rests. It's our bedrock. From Abraham to Moses to Jesus to countless others through out the centuries, we hear those words ring, and see them written across the sky in the bold letters of faith. Abraham led his son up a mountain and God intervened. Moses led the people out of bondage because God intervened.

Mary and Martha asked Jesus to intervene for their brother Lazarus. And He said, "This sickness is not unto death, but unto the glory of God."

So I stand with these faithful and pray for my beloved.
But I also must be honest and say this:
Jesus prayed in a garden that God would intervene.
And then He said, "Nevertheless, not my will but THINE be done."

That's what I want to get to right now for my beloved friend.
I admit I'm not there today.
I don't know how to get there. There's no part of me that wants to admit that anything other than MY desire could be God's will for her, for her husband and family and HUGE circle of beloveds. So I sit here, praying only what I can pray.
THAT God will intervene, that HE will part the waters, destroy the enemy (within) and do a mighty miracle.

Her gorgeous skein of yarn in this life is too vital, too unfinished.
Please, God...

*If you're reading this, please pray for my friend.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Traveling into the mountains

Driving up into the mountains yesterday, I thought about the long trek a pregnant child took on the back of a pack animal. It's hard enough to sit comfortably in a car, buckled into place, good springs in the seats and ball bearings in the frame. But jostled on the back of a donkey, legs dangling, feeling every step, every bump on the rocky road? I can't imagine.

But she did it. It wasn't cold when Mary took that journey. We know that. She didn't gaze at mountains 'dusted with baby powder' (as SK used to call the light snow when she was little). That's what the lower hills looked like out the windows of our Highlander. The taller mountains in the distance were shrouded with clouds but once as we passed a valley, we saw the blue white peaks of the Cascades standing against the sky.

Mary made her way through a different landscape. Her journey wasn't on a paved highway, rimmed with evergreens. The geography of her life contrasts with mine in every way imaginable.

And yet, I have often identified with Mary. Every woman who loves Jesus can identify with her. I used to think it was merely mothers. Any woman who has born a child knows what it is to hold the whole world inside her body. But it's also true that every woman who loves him, young, old, mothers or not, who bears Him inside herself shares her story. At least in small part. We are His handmaidens. We are His to do with as He well. We must be. It's our story as believers.

See, I started thinking, as I often have, about how Mary is the first best disciple of Jesus. How we who are on the highway of following Him, must find our way, at least in part, by looking at the women of the gospels. It's good enough to look at the disciples, true. But not enough. At least not for me. I also want--for myself, for my daughters--to look at the women. At Mary, at Mary Magdalene, and Mary and Martha, and the other Mary (could they have possibly have found some other name, PLEASE?). I want to find my place alongside the women of Acts like Tabitha (or Dorcas, as her name was in the Greek), who was "always doing good and helping the poor." Peter raised her from the dead in Acts chapter 9. Or of Lydia (Acts 16), or Phoebe, Priscilla, Junia, Persis from Paul's greetings at the end or Romans.

And these words of Paul's in Philippians 4 (2-3) are helpful in my discipleship--"I plead with Euodia and Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, to ask these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life." Because we contend together for the gospel we are called to unity. No matter what. It isn't about personal or political or educational views, it's about contending for HIS gospel that we must be of the same mind. The rest falls away on the face of this; that is, it makes no difference. I need these words. I need to be told these words.

Yes, I am a woman and I am a disciple. I travel toward the mountains where the air is rarefied. Only a few of us travel it. No matter what the geography looks like outwardly, the road is far more like the journey Mary took on the back of that donkey than the one I took yesterday in the comfort of our car. We travel to the place where we will discover Him, where He will be born in us, not simply symbolically, as we celebrated two days ago, but fully and completely. I long for this. "My joy and my crown," as Paul says in the first words of Philippians 4.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The baobab tree-- a repost

I'm down in the Bay Area, visiting my youngest child for a few days, while Beve holds down the fort at home with Grampie. By the time I get home, we'll have a new floor and countertops in our kitchen!  Meanwhile, today, I'm also thinking about some close friends who have a daughter getting married. It's a beautiful day for a wedding, I think and I'm there in spirit, cheering on the bride, loving the whole party and the sweetness of the day. And I'm thinking of other dear friends who a church, so have a very busy week. You who have been in the ministry know what I mean.

This post I wrote about this pastor couple could have been written this morning, and since my day/week is crazy. I thought it apropos.

Our closest friends are traveling to Senegal in a few weeks, to spend a week in a Wolof village adopted by their church family here in Washington--It's an amazing Kingdom work, I think, this joining of a small, needy village with a church family. The beginning of a relationship that will last, longer than a week or a year. I love this being together they are doing, the family they are creating together across the world, to share and share alike. The church here will send people, and they will go to sit with those in the village, and see what they might do to participate in life there, and also to simply learn from them. Kingdom work, for sure, this going and sitting and learning. And I'm envious of what they are doing. I admit that straight out. Half my heart is in Africa at times, I think. So when my friend asked me if I would think with her about some of the images of Senegal, and write of them, I gladly said I'd dwell in that land any way I could. I'd walk it, and see what God might say to us together. So for the next several days, come with me to Africa-- walk with us, will you?
When one comes from a land populated by more trees than people, one can overlook them. Pay them no mind, or even grouse about the needles that fall on our roofs, decks and obscure our views. But in Senegal—in all of Africa—where trees are fewer, and the horizon wider (I dream of it, I know it must be, though my brain tells me horizons are actually always the same distance!), reigns most miraculous of all trees. Usually it stands alone on a grassy plain, monstrously wide, its trunk gray and wrinkled like the giant elephants that wander the continent, its limbs spreading crooked clumpy claws across the horizon. The baobab tree.
There’s something amazing about this tree—a giver of life in every form. Such trees are landmarks for travelers, visible from car, camel, horse and foot. And shelter—homes, even businesses have been built in baobab trees, carving out a broad place, and the living tree keeps growing up around it.Imagine that! Imagine living out your life in the center of a breathing tree. Its bark is used for rope, its wood makes the most beautiful of musical instruments, the shell of its fruit bowls. Every bit of the tree--fruit, leaves, sap, bark, roots—has genuine medicinal qualities in it. Every single part. And every part people use for food as well. This tree, in a land where food and medicine is hard to come by, stands tall and alone. And its trunk can hold water, just like the elephant it looks like, up to 12,000 liters, which is why it can grow strong and sturdy in drought and desert. Why, this tree makes our tall majestic evergreens look merely ornamental. Yes, it's a miracle, indeed.
And though the baobab tree sometimes has leaves all year round, it only blossoms once a year, one single night in the late spring. Blink and those precious blossoms are gone. The baobab is the stuff of poetry and legends, of rites and devoutness. One tree on the long, bleak landscape of the African heat.One tree that lives longer than any other tree on this earth—over a thousand years. One tree that gives home and sustanence and hope and signposts, and very life to those who live beneath its branches.
Again and again and again those who live in its shadow are drawn to its not very pretty appearance—because they find life there.

Just like we do, finding life where: “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him.” (Isaiah 53: 2) Isn't this amazing? I was awestruck when I read of this tree, a metaphor for the One who gives us Life. We also have that baobab tree, standing high across the landscape of our lives. Don’t we? We can make our homes in Him, while He grows up around us and continues to breathe. The landmark when we need to point others to the Way. Health in Him. Sustenance, hope, poetry. Rope when we need to pull someone along, or hang on ourselves. We have it all in Christ.

“And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God, does not have life.” 1 John 5:12

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Quilt projects, Autumn 2014

It's time for a change.
And by that I mean it's time to post pictures of the few quilts I've made this fall.
There have been fewer than usual, with the upheaval, remodel, Grampie stuff, not to mention that whole month when I couldn't use my right hand because of what I'm calling the unfortunate incident. You know the one I'm talking about if you're a regular reader of this blog. If not, check out this post from October. I still get a little queasy thinking about the painful month caused by that split second poor decision. It's a really good picture of sin and consequences, though. God doesn't hold things against us, but BOY do we suffer sometimes.

Anyway, there have been quilts. I just finished and mailed off the most complicated quilt I've ever made. Complicated and...well, let's just say it's not necessarily for everyone. My brother, BB, got dizzy looking at it, but the recipient (who has seen pictures along the way) is thrilled with the result. Her request was, "Granny fabric and I don't want it to match." So I gathered all kinds of vintage fabric--some from my stash, some that belonged to Beve's mom, some from my aunt, some from vintage shops. There are some flour sacks on this quilt and old Danish cloth. I mixed that with some current fabric every which way. Decided on a Chevron pattern to give it a modern twist because she's a very modern young woman. I cut it out months ago, couldn't figure out how to make all this completely dissimilar stuff work. Had my sister, and even my son, help me lay it out. Finally put it together last week. Finished it two days ago.

I become attached to all of my quilts by the time I've finished quilting them, so it won't surprise you to learn that I love this quilt now. We've spent a whole lot of time together and she's (yes, she's a female quilt) become alive and exactly what she was meant to be. A friend told me when she dropped by the other day that she's sure she's seen quilts like this in some Preppie store. What do I know about that? All I know is that it actually will please the recipient. There's a single mistake in it but I didn't find it until I was quilting it and decided to keep it. When I showed it to my family of men (Beve, J and BB) I had to point it out to them. They couldn't find it themselves. There's something a bit pleasing actually about a flaw in a homemade quilt. It reminds me that I'm human and so is the person who will rest under it. It isn't my goal, of course, and doesn't happen often, but I can live with it!

 These are the two quilts my sister and I made in one week out on San Juan Island at BB's house. The blue one, for our cousin, is the largest King-sized quilt I've ever made (and I've made a few!) and I managed to free-motion quilt it while RE was piecing the red quilt for our aunt. Then I free-motioned the red one. I barely came up from the air of free-motion quilting that week, but it was great to do it with RE, and to know they were going to bless our cousin and aunt. Our New Mexico aunt was shocked when she received her quilt in the mail. "Why would you want to do this for ME?" like she had to deserve it or something. I was reminded again about grace, about what it means to give freely, unexpectedly, beyond all that we could ask or imagine. She's always dreamed of a quilt but never had means to buy one herself. Now she has one that was made by people who love her and prayed for her as they made it. How sweet that is.

These are all baby quilts for the babies coming (or, in the case of the bottom quilt, already arrived) of people I love. The top one is for the son of my nephew and his wife, whose little one is due in just a couple of weeks, if he's on time. The middle one is for someone else who hasn't seen this quilt yet so I won't name them, but I suppose the cat will be out of the bag when they open it! And the third one is for the daughter of a close friend. She's already three months old and I've been delinquent in making this. Her mama will LOVE this quilt so much she might not allow little EL to get her chubby baby hands on it. I made it, thinking of the bold colors the Mama has always loved.

And this is a wedding gift I finally got sent off just before Thanksgiving. The bride and groom used these colors in their wedding and in the absence of knowing their bedroom colors, I went with these for their quilt. I love the combination, and hope they'll find a use for it even if it only covers them on cold winter nights as they watch movies in their living room (though it is a bed-sized quilt).

And that's about it for now. I have plenty of projects at the ready, one large one already cut and ready to go. But I'm going down to SK's on Thursday night for a long weekend. We planned this months ago when we thought Grampie would already have been settled in for a couple months by now. Leaving Beve so early in the game troubles me, but he promises he'll be fine--out of school for winter break and ready to hang with his dad. AND, by the time I get back, we'll have a new floor and counter-tops in the kitchen! The only thing left to do by then will be the kitchen tile backsplash, which might have to wait until January. This long process will just about be over. And our young women will come hard on my heels home for Christmas, and we'll celebrate well.

Monday, December 15, 2014

This Monday morning

Monday morning, 7:30 AM, I wake up with a start. There's no one in our house. No one who isn't sleeping, I mean. Where is Grampie's aide? What am I going to do about the legal giant who lies in his bed waiting for someone to come get him up?
This is one thing we've learned in the last two weeks: I can't move my father-in-law. Not by myself. Not an inch. He's just too big, too heavy, too immobile. And I've neither the size or strength. A couple of his aides are pretty small, but they don't have legs that go out at them without warning.

I reach for my phone, call the Beve. He says he'll call the Care Agency, from his blue tooth in the car as he comes home. I'll check on Grampie and soothe him if he's trying to get up by himself.

Grampie's still asleep. I go out to the kitchen, turn on the tea water, decide to go through my tea cupboard. Get down too many different kinds of tea but NONE of the kind I drink on a daily basis.

This morning ISN'T starting very well.
The dogs stare at me with cocked heads. They don't even bother barking to go out for our morning game of ball. They get that something's WAY off, too.

Why do we have forty different kinds of tea, anyway?
Why DON'T we have any PG Tips when I need it?

Finally the aide shows up. It's 8: 15.
"My alarm didn't go off," she says.

As we walk down the hall toward Grampie's room I tell her that Grampie doesn't hear right now. On Friday when that day's aide was cleaning out his ears, apparently she must have pushed wax deeper into his ear canals. Beve has to take him to the doctor this afternoon.

An hour later it's clear that it's a hard day for Grampie, too. He doesn't know this care-giver so doesn't want me out of his sight. Because he can't hear, he doesn't try to talk either...unless he's REALLY upset. Yesterday morning he sat straight up in his recliner and said to Beve, "Will you go into my bedroom and get me a sweater?" It was one of the most lucid things he's said in months and music to our ears. But today he's neither talking nor cooperative. He keeps trying to get me to take his hand like I'm going to pull him up onto his feet. I try to show him how we'd both wind up on the floor with broken limbs, but he just laughs at me. He shifts in his recliner and makes a whole lot of motions that make no sense to me. I try yelling at him. He doesn't pay any attention but continues to try getting up.

Inspiration hits. Grampie can still read words. How well he comprehends we don't know but I aim to find out. I grab some 3 x 5 cards and start writing simple sentences.
You have to stay here.
You can't hear right now.
Steve will take you to the doctor.
The doctor will fix your ears.
Do you understand?

Grampie points to his ears. I nod.
"Ah hell," he says.
Ah hell is right I write.
Then he points to my chair across the room.
Shall I sit in my chair?
He points again.
So I sit in my chair and watch him close his eyes.

He raises his head and says Beve's full name, like he's trying to work it all out.
I think I'll sit here until Grampie drifts off to sleep or maybe until Beve walks in the door.
Watching Grampie sleep.

I don't know what he really understands so I want to be here for when he opens his eyes again.
Just to reassure him.
This is what I do now.

It's as good a thing as any to do this Monday morning.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The noise

It isn't the desert that frightens me but the crowd. The crowd has the power to sway, you see. The power to turn my heart and soul and mind and strength from His is not in the empty places but the filled to overflowing ones. The crowded-with-stuff moments, I mean. And the surrounded by people every second of every day, too. This is a spiritual truth I've been learning here in my own humble house with Christmas music playing and good work being done every day.

I'm an extrovert, an extravagant extrovert, to be frank. . A give me a good conversation and I'll live for a week on it, turn it over and over like I'm a cow in the field chewing my cud, keeping it for extra food just in case I need it later. I probably will. I probably will need it later. God probably will use that conversation in the quiet moments afterward to reveal Himself to me. And I need that like I need air. Yes, exactly that way.

Give me houseful of people doing work around me, asking decisions from me that done bring life, and I'll start to wither. Right there in my living room, I'll wither like I'm cut off from the vine. "Do you want that wall here or here?" "Come look at Grampie's ears, what do you think about them?" "Can I ask you a question about tile, glass, flooring, counter-tops, adult diapers, paint, baby wipes, rashes, gloves, organization, the schedule, his pills, when he should go to bed, plumbers, roofers, moss-removal, propane heating, a closing date, bank accounts..." It's endless, relentless arrows to peace.

Yes, that's it, arrows.

I know my life in the last decade has been a luxury. Many people wish they had such hours, but upon closer reflection admit they would be bored by such a quiet life. I know that such a surfeit of hours alone has been a true gift, so granted to teach me to dig into prayer and meditation on His Word. On Christ and Christ alone in the empty space of my living room.

Now I see those days in part as preparation for this season. For such days as these when we'd be swept into the crowd of ministry again in our own home. This isn't the first time we've lived so, it's merely the first time such ministry has involved so many others with us in our home doing it.

For this moment as I write, it's quiet in my house. And I think of what my busy life is teaching me today: we never know what our days are really teaching us. The crowd frightens me, even when the crowd is simply noise around me. But the truth is, there is ALWAYS noise. We live in a noisy world. That noise easily drowns out the still small ONE we must hear to find peace. The quiet One who reminds us, He is here, the baby's cry which says, I am the One. I AM. He comes to bring life even into our noise. Even into our crowd, even into the kind of decisions that don't bring anything but more diapers or a taller counter-top. He comes. He is here. It's Advent and He comes.

Monday, December 8, 2014

River's Edge

I come from a family who went to the mountains. My father LOVED climbing when he was young, hiking ALL his life and I think we all went on our first camping trip in utero. We just packed up the car and went out to the woods, no matter what age, hunkered down in a canvas tent and slept to sound of the campfire and the lights of the stars. My mother wasn't a big fan of camping, if truth be told. She was a good enough sport when we were young, I think, but as we got older (and SHE got older) it seemed like a lot of work, and a lot of pain to sleep on the ground when a nice bed was a available in a motel somewhere.

In that, I'm a whole lot more like my mother than my father. Even though camping pads are much better than they were back when I was still back-packing with my dad, I'm also in much worse shape. And by much worse, I mean I'm in worse shape than my mother EVER was.

But here's the thing, I've really missed being out in the mountains. I've missed it a long time. My sister and brothers still go back-packing but that is beyond me now. Beyond my ability and beyond my desire. But the desire to BE in the mountains--that has always remained. There's something so  beautiful and invigorating up in the mountains. The sound of a high mountain stream rushing past, crystal clear and brightly clean, the ring of evergreens in every color as fragrant as Christmas every day, the air sweet enough to taste. Yes, I've missed that.

So, because of this great hunger, for the last year, my sister LD and I (and the Beve, of course) have been looking for a cabin in the mountains to buy together. We've searched from afar, looked at a couple up close, and finally, in August, found one we fell in love with.We sent the pictures to LD. She thought it perfect, too. It seemed out of our price range, of course. But we kept talking about it, thinking about it, praying about it and finally LD came up to see it in October and we made a low-ball offer on it.

Last week we picked up the keys to our 'new' cabin at the river's edge.

We're crazy-busy with Grampie, won't be able to move in up there until who-knows when. But it's ours now, for better or worse. Next summer we'll put on a new roof, a front porch, new shed and we'll be open for business. Until then, we'll be piece-mealing it a few week-ends now and then. But as Beve put it, we feel refreshed even when we've been up there for just a few hours.

For those of you who know Washington State, it's up Highway 20, the beautiful North Cascade Highway, and sits on the edge of the Cascade River.

But here, see for yourself:

This is the river side (I don't know why I uploaded the black and white copy). It's a lovely little cabin with a bedroom downstairs, and a loft upstairs.  Beve and I will use the bedroom and LD will have the loft, though, of course, we'll always be flexible, too.

 This is the Cascade River from our deck. I also have a video of it, but because I'm technologically challenged, it's upside-down, so I'll have to share it another time. For now, just imagine that you can hear all that gorgeous mountain water running. We haven't been up there for several weeks and it's been cold, so  perhaps there's even snow on the ground now. Wouldn't that be sweet?

This is the kitchen with the lights on. The lights are propane, hooked up to the propane tank. The cabin has water, but no electricity, though it is wired for a generator (which we might invest in later), and we'll have a landline telephone--old-school-like!
The homeowners (above and below). I don't know why neither Beve nor I don't look very happy. 
LD has the overjoyed look you'd expect. And believe me, she IS overjoyed. This is the only home she's ever wanted. She can hardly wait to retire (though it's years away) so she can spend a LOT of time here.

I do thank God for Beve who was willing to let me use the money from my parents for this purpose. I know that Dad especially would love this place, would have loved using it as a jumping off place for hikes, as LD will, or just to build campfires in the big fire pits or sit on the deck and watch the river and have wonderful conversations. To be in the mountains. And breathe.

Life at the river's edge, that's what I'm dreaming about tonight.

Come join us. Bring a sleeping bag or we'll find one for you. Just come.
Will you?

Yes, family, I'm talking to you! And yes, these two have already had a peek and seem pleased enough--though BB always has that look on his face!.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Work in Progress

Somehow I had it in my brain that I'd have a little more time to write when the bathroom was finished and there were fewer people in our home each day...but so far we're still a work in progress around here.

That's the truth of life anyway, isn't it? Being a work in progress, I mean. I also thought that once Grampie moved in, everything would settle into place within me as well. I'd feel certain that this daily dance of caring for him would make more sense in my unruly heart. However, there's still doubt and anxiety resides next door to having him here. Next door to the JOY of having him here, that is. There is great joy. And great laughter. We laugh a lot. There are funny moments. Beve and I are such novices at this care-taking-stuff. And sometimes there's nothing to do but laugh. Even Grampie knows that. He just has to shake his head at us when we can't negotiate our narrow hallway with him in his lift, or we've forgotten the washclothes we need or whatever else. Yep, we're a whole big bundle of work-in-progress.

What ISN'T a work in progress is the bathroom where we finally gave Grampie his first shower. It was a long week of kerfuffles: that shower was supposed to have happened last Monday but a few tiles were broken by the contracter when he tried to drill holes to hang towel rods. The shower head hadn't been ordered, other plumbing parts had been MIS-ordered so the plumbing was delayed until Friday. SIGH. Bedbaths it was for Grampie until last night when we finally got to test out the beautiful bathroom we put so much time, money and energy into!

Here are a couple of pictures of the finished project:

As you can tell, those pesky towel racks haven't been put up yet, and we haven't hung this picture Beve wants to hang above the shelf, but it's a usable space and pretty too. Grampie didn't notice that, but he was thrilled to have a shower. I never imagined having to help shower my father-in-law, but I'm glad to help him finish his days well.

Our kitchen isn't finished yet. Yep, still a work in progress there, but that's a metaphor that works for me. We'll continue to be a work in progress around here as we learn to be better ministers to this dad/Grampie of ours. And as we learn on the outside, God will work in us on the inside.

We'll always be works in progress.
That's just about the story of life.
 And I'm okay with that.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Bearers of Christ

It's December's Random Journal Day and because of my life, I'm sitting on my bed with faithful Jamaica right beside me. From the living room, I can hear Christmas music playing and Grampie's faithful aide talking to him now and then. We weathered our own Advent of sorts in the last few months, preparing for his coming, and now we live in in the fully-realized NOW of this ninety year old man in our home, taking up space and time and energy. There's a whole host of correlations I can make to the Incarnation of God about this season for Beve, J and me, but I'll leave that for another day. For now, I'll reach into the pages of my blog, rather than old journals because I'm thinking about Advent and want to be intentional about an Advent post.

So here's one from 2012:
I was fourteen when He first came to me. Fourteen and wet  behind the ears, barely beyond the reach of childhood, not sure I was ready for what was just ahead. Responsibilities I wasn't sure I wasn't quite capable of.  Fourteen and innocent. So innocent that, unlike my more mature girlfriends, I'd backed away from relationships--even offered ones--though I'd been dreaming of them, playing make-believe about them, practicing for them my whole life.

When He came to me, He took me by surprise. Of course. How could it have been otherwise? I was going about my day, doing what was required of me, and suddenly there He was. Asking such a thing of me. Asking the world of me. The world and beyond, it seemed. In my innocence I didn't understand how it could be, but His calm, strong voice told me to trust Him.
And so I did. It wasn't as hard as you might think. If you'd been there, with Him in His glory standing in front of you, saying such things, asking such a thing, you'd know. There was no way to fall but toward Him. And so I did. "I am your handmaiden," I told Him. Just His handmaiden. No exalted place for me, when there is One such as Him doing the asking. A privilege, an honor, but a servant's privilege. "The Father will honor those who serve [Him]."

"Be it unto me," I said.
And it was.
He came into me. 
And it changed me. In an instant, though it took a bit for me to feel His presence. And then I knew. He was alive in me. And my life would never be the same. I had said Yes to Him. He would be born in me. Through me. And all the world would know. Would be changed.

So I sang. I sang glory to God. Glory, glory to God. Blessed am I!

This is, obviously, my retelling of Mary's story (with small licenses, if you'll forgive me). 
However, it's also my story in a way. I, too, was an innocent fourteen-year-old girl when He came into my life and changed it. I, too, was taken off-guard by Him, by the privilege of His coming and residing within me, and the profound change it made in my life. I, too, was humbled by His presence, though the manifestation of it, though instant, was also a process, a pregnancy, if you will.

And I think that perhaps Mary, though absolutely real and historical and as set-apart from the rest of us as the moon is from the earth, is also an archetype for each of us when He comes to us, enters into us. When our life is changed by the Holy Spirit being born in us. It is ours to bear Him, to say, "Be it unto me, I am your servant," to whatever He calls us to. It is ours to respond, "Be it unto me," in trust, in faith, with joy. Humbly believing that He will honor our calling, whatever it is. It is ours to witness to that calling but not to blow our own horns about it. And it is ours to sing His glorious praise for what He does in us. To say--with our hearts and minds and souls and strength, "Blessed am I!"

"Come to us, reside in us, O Lord, Emanuel," says the old carol, O Little Town of Bethlehem. 

And I guess that's my point.
She alone is Mary, mother of Jesus.

But we are Marys, bearers of Christ, the Holy Spirit.

Now, head over HERE to Dawn's blog, to meet my friend Susie, read about her adventures with journals, then scroll down and read some of the other entries by my other journal-keeping friends.

And...may He meet you this Advent, come into you and dwell with you.
May you bear Him with the joy and humility that Mary had.
Come, Emanuel!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Life with Grampie

It's Thursday. We're still in the middle of a very steep learning curve of life with Grampie. There's just so much to learn about caring for this man who is in his ninetieth decade.
But we're making our way.

Here's a bit of a picture gallery of the first week.

Saturday Grampie held his favorite picture of his four children, watching the Oregon Ducks put a whooping on their cross-state rivals (the Beavers). When I asked him why he was holding it the way he was, he said, "I want them to watch with me."

Grampie's appetite has been hit and miss. I can't figure him out. He used to have such a huge appetite and made sure our kids were 'clean-platers', too. But these days, he refuses after about a bite, or just plain won't eat at all. Sigh. I feel like I'm the mother of a 6'8" baby and I'm trying to get to know him. Today he refused to talk to me all-together. His refusing took the form of him snapping his eyes shut tight whenever I spoke to him--like if he couldn't see me he also wouldn't be able to hear me.  And let me tell you, that man can be STUBBORN: there was a whole lot of squeezed closed eyes today. I just left him in his recliner and went back to my sewing machine. I mean, if he didn't want to eat lunch, what would it hurt in the long run?
And after Beve got home, all was forgotten.

He's definitely NOT a baby, as you can plainly tell. This is the Hoyer lift used to move Grampie. In theory I can use it. In reality, once he's settled in the sling, he's REALLY heavy. It takes two people to navigate it. The aides who've worked with it for years are still getting used to moving someone as large as Grampie, and even Beve likes J or me to help guide him. But it's pretty slick when it works, and Grampie actually enjoys it, which is helpful for everyone.

This is the dogs' new favorite post--waiting outside Grampie's room. Kincade especially has completely jumped ship from 'dogging' MY steps, to wanting to be where Grampie is. Likewise, he loves their antics, laughs at them, pets them. The other morning I watched Maica trying to measure the distance between where she sat and Grampie's wheelchair, trying to decide whether she could sit on his lap. Wisely she chose not to, but soon I think they'll all be ready for that!

Okay, this isn't a recent picture, but just tonight Grampie noticed Beve nodding off on the couch and said, "come climb in by me." It made me think of this picture, taken when we had three VERY SMALL children. We were very sleep deprived back then. (Have I mentioned three children in 3 1/2 years?) This week reminds me a little of those days. A little sleep deprived, and a whole lot of "I don't know what he needs, what do you think?"
But we're laughing and enjoying it and have a huge sense of God's presence.

Grampie's presence, the presence we couldn't really prepare for no matter how much we prepared, is real now. It's bigger and taking up space in every part of our home. But that's how God meets us too. I realized yesterday that I have to develop a new routine to my mornings, for example. For the last decade, I've gotten up, grabbed tea and sat quietly in my living room for as long as it took to awaken, talk to God, read, meditate, enter into the day. Now my living room is Grampie's space--completely and totally. And his aides have been busy with him there for two hours by the time I get up each day. So today I grabbed my tea and went back to my room, sat in my cozy bed and met God there. It was exactly where I needed to meet Him for such a day as this, especially this day when Grampie would close his eyes against me and I'd find the (internal) humor in it. That's Holy Spirit humor, I think, because I know the frustration was itching to rise. I could feel it.

There we are. Pressing on.
And God meets us.
And it's good.
This is the moment of his homecoming. Just look at those smiles. That's what this is all about. That and sleeping in his recliner and watching the dogs and being in a home and all of it. I can't count all the blessings. It's difficult but it's a beautiful difficulty, and we're loving it.

Friday, November 28, 2014

The eve

I've had a hard time settling down to write this fall. There's just too much to do: too many decisions that don't take imagination and creativity...and leave me staring at this little flickering box on which I'm meant to pour out thoughts that signify something. Anything.

It isn't that I don't have thoughts, but you don't care about diapers for the elderly or whether the tile should stop at this point or another on the wall; how many hours a care-taker should work and what I need them to do for Grampie. You don't need to know how many different sized gloves we eventually decided we should buy to have on hand, just in case...or how we had a dry run through with Grampie and an Occupational Therapist, who thinks we've done a great job preparing our home.

And for the life of me, I can't think of anything profound to say about most of what I spend my days thinking about. I only know that I get up each day and pray that even in these most prosaic of decisions, God will be glorified.

And that His grace will be sufficient for this path we trod.

Today is Grampie Eve.
That is, tomorrow we bring him home. As far as we can tell, we have done our due diligence. The bathroom looks lovely (I'll post pictures one of these days). The kitchen isn't finished but it's usable as it is and we decided not to wait any longer.

Our kitchen is stocked with the kind of finger-foods we haven't had around since we had small children. Still, Beve's out running around gathering the last of the equipment.

And I sit here in the quiet. Pondering this journey that begins tomorrow. No matter we've planned, there's no way to be prepared. No completely, anyway. The two lovely young women who will share the care-giving job each morning were asking what kinds of things Grampie likes to do, which bewildered Beve and me. He doesn't like to do anything any more. He doesn't notice the television, doesn't understand what he reads even though he can still read words, he can't do puzzles and doesn't follow me when I try to get him to sing with him. He mostly just sits or wheels himself around in circles.

But he'll be here and my lovely giant of a husband is beside himself with gladness about it. He's waited for this day for two years. And that makes me glad too.

So tomorrow, when I get up, may I rise with the day and say again, "In this day, God, be glorified. And may your grace be sufficient!"

Monday, November 17, 2014

A pack-rat

There's a check list on a 3x5 card next to me. On it I've written all we have to clear, sort and move before the 'Big Move,' which creeps up on us ever so quickly (or slowly...our tile man fell off a deck last Friday, bruising his tailbone. I was appropriately sympathetic toward him on the outside, but inside, my flesh was saying, "WHAT? Another delay?!"). We're losing A LOT of storage in moving Grampie into our home. We've taken all the storage out of the bathroom, though we hope to add some later when we don't need to maneuver a wheelchair into the shower; have none about the washer and dryer because we widened the door beside them and stacked them. And we can't store anything in the room where Grampie will stay either. Anything other than his things will confuse him.

Here's the thing, I'm married to a bit of a pack-rat. Not a hoarder of the likes of the ones on TV, but definitely one who stashes things away in corners. I love the man like crazy and I can stay this about him. He always thinks he'll need that empty peanut butter jar or the screws he took out of  old doors or light-bulbs. Oh, the light-bulbs I cleared out yesterday! The thing is, my Beve just doesn't like passing up good deals, and light-bulbs on sale constitute the epitome of good deals: a need and a value for his money. But for one thing, we just don't have the room to store them efficiently in the house at the moment. I packed them all up to put in the cellar!

But as we cleared out various parts of the house to make room for Grampie (don't look at our dining area: it's still a nightmare and will remain that way until the remodel is complete!), I got to thinking about how I'm a pack-rat too. I'm a pack-rat about fabric--and I REALLY have to go through my stash and be ruthless about it--and books and pens, even. But I'm not talking about those things.

I'm a pack-rat inside. I hold on to all kinds of things in this very human heart of mine. I hold on to how tired I am, for one thing. I let my physical condition dictate my life to no small degree. Instead of simply getting on with it, I live in it, hoard it.

This is also true about attitudes toward others. Toward Beve and his pack-ishness, for example. I look at my way as the right way always.

I remember when my babies helped me die to myself. They didn't do it purposely. They didn't rise up out of their cradles and say, "You MUST take care of my needs before your own!" Obviously. The fact of their beings made me die to myself. There is so little opportunity for self in the life of a young parent. A baby's needs swarms everything. Every waking moment, every conscious thought, even every dream in the half-baked slumber that make up those first months of new family's life. It's grueling, if one thinks of it in one way. A new parent doesn't hoard self. Can't. Just plain can't.

But one usually doesn't. Usually a parent simply dies to self because the exceptional joy of it all surpasses it all.

That's where I want to get to today. About my things, about my attitudes, about everything I hoard within. I want to die to it all because the exceptional joy ahead--of a sleeker home, a lighter load inside, a sweeter disposition--yes, a greater joy surpasses it all.

Friday, November 14, 2014

A letter from my grandfather

One of the many meetings Beve has set up before Grampie moves in is with the VA, because we've been told that as a WWII vet, he should be able to get some medical attention, something he received on a regular basis in the skilled nursing facility. And an important piece of documentation for the VA is Grampie's DDN (date of discharge number). So we went searching for it through Grampie's papers last night, and discovered that what used to be very well organized files are now in complete disarray. I think back to when Grampie and his wife, just after they moved to our town, decided to purge themselves of a whole lot of paper and hired a shredder to come in. Hindsight being what it is, I wonder what they shredded if they were keeping what all these Staples receipts and the like in his Morgan Stanley Portfolio. Sigh.

This led Beve to go through OUR files. And he found a few treasures. I knew I'd put our family Christmas letters in there (I'm VERY careful to save them--I work hard at making them creative and entertaining), the studio pictures we had taken of our children. And this chache:

A whole packet of letters, pictures and v-letters from my grandfather (called Chief) written during the spring of 1943. He hadn't seen his wife or daughter in years at that point and wouldn't/couldn't for a couple more. And by his picture you can tell he wasn't a young buck who signed up after Pearl Harbor. No, my grandfather had run away and joined the navy when he was so young he had to falsify his age back in the early twenties. Then, one day several years later, he met a Kansas farm girl just out in LA for five days visiting a friend. If you believe in love at first sight, believe it of them--they surely believed it. Believed it all their married lives. Believed it enough to weather separation, war, sickness and they came out the other side, still deeply, always in love.

These letters, and others I've found like them, reveal that. But I won't just tell you, I'll let my grandfather say it himself. Just see what you think of this man with a strong voice, who should have written a book and could always tell as story:

June 7th you said you have wondered about the kind of letter you should write me--the kind I'd like. I dunno, darling. Of course I love you so doggones much that any letter from you is enjoyed. But I guess I like the newsy kind of letters that you knock out when you're not too tired. The ones that just kind of ramble along and tell me what you've done, and kind of brag on me a little bit as to show me how good I was at some things which you have to do now, and thus miss me for those reasons, too. As for being cheerful in your letters, my precious one, the same things hold now as during all the past years. When you are down in the dumps and unhappy, if it helps to unload it, why hop to it, Carol Darling. That's one thing a husband should be for--to lighten the load, even at long range. 
     However, one thing I have noticed, beloved, is that as I grow older, the loving thoughts I have for you are not so romantic as they used to be. What I mean is this--I think of you a lot, naturally, but not every minute of my waking hours. I am too busy for that. Every night, after I have smoked my last cigarette, and just be fore I turn over to go to sleep, I pray for the safety and happiness of you and Carolee. I've been doing that for years now--whenever I am away from you. When we are together, those two items are rather up to me to take care of, rather than bothering Him about it. 
     But the rest of the day, little things come up that bring my thots [thoughts] to you in a veritable flood of love and longing. A black head in my face; a button off my skivvies; sauerkraut at chow; getting sleepy in the middle of the day; a holey sock that I throw away; lighting up an old smelly pipe that you used to razz me about; nothing romantic about these thoughts or a hundred or a thousand other similar ones. And yet, they change my thoughts from whatever was in my mind and I think of you and Carolee.
     If I thought much about the more romantic side of our wonderful years of married life, of how much we mean to each other, spiritually and physically, I'm afraid it might get me down. So I veer from those ideas, and stress--no, that's not the words, 'cause it isn't a conscious will on my part--rather it just happens that I just think of you an Carolee in the common ordinary everyday things of life. But it all adds up to this. I love you both.

He was a grand man, my Chief. I wish I'd known him as an adult. 

By the way, the V-letter shown there mentions a letter he wrote to my mom, Carolee, for her birthday. I wish I could find THAT letter, because about it he says, "I'm a funny guy, beloved. Somehow I am undemonstrative about everything and everyone but you. However, in the letter to Carolee, I tried to break down and write her the kind of letter I think about writing her--but can't seem to do. She knows I love her, and needs no assurance from me, but even so, I hope she'll like my attempt at a "loving letter," which doesn't begin to express my love for her."

WOW. That's all I can say.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A new kind of risk

In 2009, I posted this post here on Word About Words:
Only after we have yielded to Him can we reflect the face of Christ."  Celtic Daily Prayer

Yielding and reflecting.  I have always had the sense of God providing/meeting us in proportion to our own risk.  If we stay near the trunk of the tree, grasping on for dear life, holding what we already have, He will meet us there, giving lightly.  But, if we step out to the edge of the branch, trust Him to hold us, or even further, yield the branch altogether, HE will grasp us, hold us provide right there.  Catch us when we jump.  And there, what will be seen of us is His glory.  The times that I have risked most have been the times when I've been most overcome by His graciousness, His power, His care.  And my response is overwhelming praise.  He shines in my face at such moments.

Beve and I have owned 4 houses in 4 towns.  And these houses--both the buying and selling--have been moments of gigantic risk for us.  We bought land out on the Olympic Penninsula on the strength of a counseling opening in the Sequim School District, months before Beve even had an interview.  And once he actually got the job, we waited for God to sell our house.  Without a realtor.  We've only ever used the Holy Spirit as our realtor, either as buyer or seller. We stood way out on a limb to trust that He was in it, that He could do exceedingly abundantly, beyond all that we asked or even thought.  And you know the end of that story:  He sold that house about a minute before Beve had to move out to Sequim by himself.  And we rejoiced, we were humbled, we worshipped at His feet when He caught us.

This scenario has played out three more times as well.  But here's the thing: it's hard every time.  We always stumble on our way to faith, we always have to step gingerly out to the end of the limb.  I remember telling Beve once that I was a small island of faith in the midst of a swirling sea of doubt.  But you know what?  We risked it anyway.  And He catches us when we jump...every time.  Maybe not exactly as we expect, but always in such a way that we know it's Him.

"To hear with your heart,
 To see with your soul,
be guided by a hand you cannot hold,
To trust in a way you cannot see..that's what Faith must be."

This little chorus is what I'm talking about.  These words play repeatedly in my head when I step away from the trunk of that tree.  Step gingerly on to the end of the branch, and trust that His holy arms will catch me when I jump.  Not seeing with my blind, human eyes, not hearing with my deaf fleshly ears, but with my soul, my heart, my faith in the one who calls me onward. Further up and further in to faith, further in to risk! The proportion sounds just about right.

This is good news for me in this season of my life.  Once again I'm tentatively releasing my grip from the trunk of the tree of life, and am clawing my way to a small limb...and I trust that He'll be there at the end, holding on to my hand.

This is an important post for me today because as during the sermon this morning (a brilliant one from Genesis about Abram) I was struck by something powerful that is happening in our life right now. Beve and I have stepped off limbs of trees so many times in our life together. Selling homes, leaving all that we had to follow what we had faith was His call. Each time the most difficult leap meant we left something safe financially for something with no visible resources. Because this has been the case for us, I think I've been under the mistaken impression that it's only when we risk financially are we edging away from the trunk of the tree. Or even more leaping from the smallest of limps into the great  blue sky of  "Please, Father God, catch us!"

But that's EXACTLY what we're doing in becoming full-time care-givers for Grampie. It won't be a financial burden. And perhaps because it won't--because it will give us a little extra income--I haven't been seeing it as the kind of leaping risk where He will meet us proportionately. But it is exactly the same thing. It's the same heart-in-our-throats, "we know You're in this but please be in this!" kind of stepping out in faith people of faith have done since Abram left Ur.

Living by faith. Stepping out by faith. Yes, He's there holding my hand. Holding Beve's hand.
I'm awed at the way these words I wrote 5 years ago have been germinating for this moment.  At least for this moment. What will come when we move Grampie home will be hard, but we will be empowered by the One who gives grace. I can hardly wait to see what He will do in and through this season in our home.

Friday, November 7, 2014

A hard one

It's Random Journal Day in my part of the blogisphere (though we've been on hiatus for a couple of months) and I've had a certain blue notebook beside my chair in wait for it. When my sisters visited a few weeks ago, we were talking about when our brother A died. The year, I mean. The date wasn't in question: he died on my daughter SK's birthday. So when we couldn't agree, I went to my journals. When all else fails, go to the journals, and the journal will settle it, at least when it comes to dates. When my family wants to know why I seem to have a better memory than they do? Perhaps journal-keeping goes a long ways in explaining that. But I have to admit my journals have large gaps, too. They weren't/aren't written with history in mind. They're a living presence, a way of keeping in touch with a living God. Oh, please check out all the other journals, too, and the great interview with Kathryn Ross! RIGHT HERE

And so I come to this journal of the late January of 2008 (yes, it wasn't so long ago that brother A died but you'll see why it feels like far longer in a moment);

It's clogging my head so there's no room for anything else. Succinctly, he was homeless but not friendless. They came out of the woodwork to tell us that: to speak of how much they care about him, enjoyed working with him, laughed with him. "He was a very private person, we heard repeatedly. If they only knew...but we've always known, haven't we? One way or another, it's always come out.
Hours later, we've gone through his meager cadre belongings and discovered the other side of him. I keep hearing a phrase from a beer commercial, "He was who we thought he was." He really was. He had one t-shirt, some dirty underwear, one pair of pants, a very thin blanket, a wet towel, a new bag of socks along with a camera, two cell-phones (both locked) with Mom and RE's phone numbers in them. And other things I don't dare repeat here. But I can't not know now.

Tomorrow I will speak as Christ's representative and on our behalf, to this group of co-workers. I will stand before all these people who wonder about us, who question why this man's family turned our backs on him. Do I explain or not that the decade's silence was a complicated thing--not merely a family turning its back? A himself made that choice, and whatever he told them was not the whole truth. Or does any of that matter? Is there a need to defend ourselves? Or is there MORE need for them to simply continue to think well of the man they knew and less well of the strangers they do not. We're the suspicious characters in this story. And maybe it's more loving to him to leave it that way.

Christ, speak through me.
I loved my brother.
Sometimes I hated him.
Sometimes I was afraid of what he might do.
I did fail him, I know, though not in the ways they think.
So, Christ, speak YOUR love, your truth, your Gospel.
Please, don't leave me to myself.
For the sake of those people who grieve,
for A's sake,
for the sake of Mom at home and Dad in heaven.
And even for me.

I was going to stop here, but you won't know the ending, will you? So...

We had his memorial service; twice, actually spoke through it twice due to work schedules. It was well attended and the Universal [Studios] community clearly did love him. It's a huge thing to have one of your own die on the job. It sends shock waves through the whole pond.
So hopefully they feel comforted, more certain that A was not as alone in the world as he might have appeared. And hopefully some of their questions about our 'neglect' and apparent lack of interest in him have been answered. I'm glad I'd brought all the pictures from his baby- and childhood down so they had the board to look at, and that  we told them those simple stories of his life before they knew him. But the truth is, he was far more complex than they know. I keep thinking that this week has been like a vertical blind: twisting one way, then turning a completely different way with a different face.
     I spoke. Laying our cards on the table. Not a muscle moved as I told the facts of the nine year gap in relationship, our sense of responsibility, the difference in simply grieving him as they can and our having to live with this unfinished, broken, messy end that we can never repair. Then I spoke of God's love for A, of God having made A specifically and uniquely, and God knowing him for who he IS. And God loving him still.
     To speak these words honestly was hard. To do so twice was practically beyond my endurance. Both times as I said the words, RE and LD cried. BB, I think, is grieving too deep for tears.

Thursday, November 6, 2014


I've been tearing up a lot lately.  Tearing up about things that haven't always touched my tear ducts, even when I've felt deeply emotional about them. I'm not a crier by nature, but somehow the world wrings it from me these days. I'm not talking about the huge, over-arching sadness of a world going its own way, either, the story that started in the Garden and continues to cause war and enmity and fissions from here to Kingdom come. I'm talking about the smaller stories that mark my small life, the ones I know first hand:

  • Friends who live from MRI to MRI because the brain tumor inside her head is a death sentence, and she finally told him, "I think it's time we talked to Hospice." He knows we're in it with them, but what makes me teary is how alone they both actually feel. Late at night when she falls and he must use brute strength to lift her, they feel very alone. We tell them, "Call us,Beve can lift her without breaking a sweat." But they don't. It's hard to learn to drop one's walls, to admit need. How do we learn that independence is NOT the best way to live?
  • My daughter's roommate is in leadership in a very well-known ministry. And right now, is facing pretty hard enemy opposition. I tread lightly speaking of this, because it's not mine to tell, but she ministers in love, and the enemy hates that, is agitating and undermining her ministry. It's so clear to me, but it also makes me teary to think of the pain she feels from those she serves. I keep thinking, "Greater is He who is in you, CJ, than He who is in the world!" and pray she knows it and Knows it and KNOWS it to her core. The enemy wants to rob--not from human hands--from God!
  • Speaking of SK, she got her California driver's license a couple of weeks ago and sent me a picture of it. And I cried when I saw it. What's interesting about this is that when SK moved, I felt teary, but trusted her certainty that God was in the move. I watched how He parted the waters for her. But somewhere, I suppose, I held on to the idea that she didn't really live there completely as long as she still had a Washington driver's license and ours was her permanent address. But our youngest child is a full-fledged adult with a life of her own. And it's okay that it makes a Mama a little sad. Isn't it?
  • We hope to have Grampie here by Thanksgiving. And the closer we get, the more anxious I get. Raise your hand if you're surprised by this. It's a GIANT thing we're undertaking. Once he moves in, my life especially will completely change. Beve will still go to work every day, but I will be here, won't be able to leave the house, won't be free to go anywhere for any reason if there isn't another person here. We do plan to have an CNA (Certified Nurse's Aide) here four hours each morning, but we'll see how much freedom that allows me. So I'm anxious and this anxiety can make me pretty teary. Please pray for me. For all of us.
That's all I've got at the moment.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Standing at the fence

On the way back from Seattle this afternoon, Beve and I had to stop to buy some sweatpants for Grampie. That's how it started. He went one direction, straight into one of the swooshy-type athletic stores my family gets sucked into and never comes out of without at least one bright orange bag. I bypassed that and agreed to meet him at a furniture outlet where we love to buy drool over furniture, light fixtures, towels and sheets. Christmas ornaments from there hang on our tree these days; that's about the kind of price we can afford of their stock. But every now and then, if the stars align or something, and every sale is out of this world, we find something so spectacularly reasonable we buy it. The bed on which I write this came from that store, our daughter E has a beautiful linen chair in her living room from there. But usually, we just  drool.

Today was a drooling day.
But before I met up with Beve, I'd stopped at a clothing store and bought one single burgundy tunic. It was rich and pretty in color, soft in texture, and long enough to be forgiving of my generous curves. AND, the sale price meant I HAD to buy it. Didn't I? Really, didn't I? At the cash register, the young man brought out an enormous bag to put my soft little tunic in--an enormous plastic bag. But I can do without one more plastic bag in my house, let alone anywhere else, so I told him I'd just put the shirt into my small over-the-shoulder purse. It fit, but just barely. In fact, the zipper bulged when I zipped it in front of the clerk, so I just barely opened it again to stuff the receipt inside.

Then I walked out of the store, off to drool with Beve at luxuries beyond that which we need or even knew we wanted before the moment they were pointed out to us by their mere existence. Sure enough, Beve was carrying a large orange bag with a swoosh across the front. When we met at the back of the store, he was drooling over a large linen laundry basket on wheels. Beside it a linen stool in same hue had caught my eye. Both would suit our bathroom very well.  But first, as I unzipped my purse, I said, "Beve, can I put this shirt in the bag?"  He handed it over and the transaction was done. I didn't think another thing about it until...

Tonight when we got home, and that shirt is NOWHERE to be found. Not in the bag, the car, my purse, our overnight bags, or back in the store (I called). Then I sat and tried to remember the real sequence of events, and what else was going on.
And then I remembered a couple who were also right by the laundry basket and linen stool. Their attention was aimed at the oatmeal-hued cloth covered bed frame, but I remembered that the woman stared at me when I took my shirt out of the bag, because I had a fleeting thought that it did look a bit funny, a bit like I was taking a stolen article of clothing from my small shoulder bag, a bit like I had shop-lifted rather than simply eschewed a plastic bag. Appearances can be deceiving.
while we WERE buying to laundry basket (I know, I know, just drooling, right? ), I sat down and waited, holding the sack. But a stack of dishes caught my eye. Because Beve was RIGHT there, I thought it safe to leave the bag. Apparently I was wrong. I only turned my back for a single minute, and don't know for certain what happened, but I do know that the same couple sat down on a couch quite near me. I do know that I turned my back--it was a sack, for Pete's sack, not the crown jewels.

And you know too, don't you?
I am not accusing them because I don't know for sure.
I told Beve, it's possible that whoever took that shirt had the very best instinct in mind. They saw me move it, felt I'd done wrong and was trying to right that wrong.
I pray they need it, actually, that they didn't steal it because they felt even as I did: that they just wanted a new shirt. I pray that they needed it, or needed a gift for someone. I pray that good will come from what they did, even if it's a small thing to them.
Whatever the case, I pray whoever took that burgundy tunic enjoys it.
And...I hope to stop wishing for that moment back when I decided to move it from my purse to Steve's shopping bag--for mere convenience's sake.

But all this was just the first act of our afternoon. From there, we decided we wanted to drive past the high school which was recently in the news because a despondent young man didn't have enough to look down the road of his life past that moment and find hope. I live with a young (though a decade older than this one) man who get who that feels. I do not. However, my not knowing is no excuse for not caring though.

The town of Marysville cares. That's written on every street corner where red and white ribbons flutter in the breeze, on every sign, on trees and restaurant windows. That steadfast, "We love you; we ARE you!" is the backbone for healing at such a time as this. While the world's attention span is the length of a news cycle and another school shooting barely skims the surface of all the pain  that settled at its door the moment that hope-empty teenage boy invited his friends to their regular table in the school cafeteria then opened fire on them.

Marysville, Washington for those of you who don't come from these parts, is a quaint little town. It's patently NOT Seattle, thank-you very much, even if you can almost see it from here. We have more than a passing acquaintance with the place because our close friends pastor a church mere blocks from the high school where the school shooting took place. Our pastor friend has been sadly--but certainly mantle-called--intimately the aftermath of the shooting because of his work he does a a chaplain with the police dept. He told Beve he did more chaplain work in the first few hours after the shooting than he's done in five years with the department. I don't know the details of that work. It's not mine to tell if I did know it. But I do know that what God has done in my friend JM in the last years of his life has more than prepared him for such a time as this, perhaps for just such a time as this, sad as that truth is.

Our moment grieving with the community took us to the chain-link fence in front of Marysville Pilchuk High School. There have been pictures of this fence on the news in the last ten days but it's difficult to comprehend what I mean by it if you haven't seen it. You know the little memorials that spring up along roads where a person has been killed? That's what this is. Magnified by an entire region...and beyond. It's about a quarter mile long, covered with roses and other flowers, letters, pictures and emails. Balloons drift overhead on wobbly ribbons. Candles edge the bottom. There's a sawhorse barrier blocking people from parking too close, giving the grieving community space to walk beside the fence. We stood next to parents with small children, an older woman carrying a bouquet of golden roses (with orange tips), A man carefully squashed his cigarette with his toe at the stoplight before entering the fenced area.

Yes, that fence has become a sacred space, it seems to be. As I walked along it, reading words from friends, children, families of the victims, strangers, other high schools, older alumni, victims of other shootings, tears streamed down my face.
Of course.
You can't be there without crying.
And you can't be there without praying.
Those are the first two things.
But I also learned a giant truth about love.
The victims's appeared prominently, of course. did the one who was so hurting he caused the pain.
Right beside them there was his name.
Over and over, there was his name.
That got to me.

Love in action, where it's hardest.
I know this isn't simple.
And I know there are hundreds of other secondary victims, of course.
Every student who was terrified.
And all the parents who are still worried about sending their children to school.
But for a moment,
let's stand at the fence in silence,
and love where it's hardest.
Love those who seek to destroy.
That's what I learned yesterday.
Those who hurt along side with those who have been hurt.
And loving both together.

It's called forgiveness.
And we're called to it.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Compelled again

We're down in Seattle at daughter E's place. We celebrated a birthday last night with a friend of hers who has become a friend of ours. That's how life works. Our children bring people home so enjoyable we want to know them for ourselves. We had a great time in the big city,  even though the music was loud and the pub was crowded and we were decidedly out of our depth. Every time I turned around it looked like people were about to kiss. Instead they were actually simply trying to hear each other speak. Then we had a long serpentine walk to a Thai restaurant where we found quiet company with a company of nine who hadn't shared a table before but quickly became friends. It was lovely and sweet mixed with the hot spice of the Thai food.

But I'm tired this morning and was having trouble posting on my iPad (call me a techno-dummy!). Therefore, here's a re-post from 2009 that is worth re-reading, even for me...compelling reading, actually (if you'll excuse my pun).

As followers of Jesus Christ, we are surrounded by people who look at belief as something we make up, a way to make life make sense, comfort in trials, a crutch. They look around this planet and somehow see it as a cosmic twist of fate. The range of diversity in the created world—from the snow-capped mountains of my region to the savannahs of Africa, the rolling hills of my hometown to the jungles of the Amazon to the wide oceans—all just happened. And the diversity in the living breathing population on the earth—mammals, reptiles, even insects—simply evolved without a higher power breathing life into them. And above all, with dominion over all, the creation of human beings with the ability to reason, communicate, be in relationships, love was only the result of that same cosmic bang that started the whole ball rolling, so to speak. The decision to believe is, after all, merely that—a personal choice and not a particularly smart one.

But I look around this world and see the fingerprints of God all over it. It’s too much, too big, too spectacular to be other than designed by Someone. Planned and ordered in such a way that we can inhabit it, breathe in it, subdue and, unfortunately, wreck havoc on it.

And I believe—I know—that there is more, much more to this life than I have even begun to apprehend. And that starts, abides, ends with the One who breathed life into this world, and me breathing my first breath. But beyond simply believing in some Higher Power with maybe an indifferent view of it all, once He set the globe to spinning on its axis, is the foundational understanding that He has a vested interest in us, an intimate interest, revealed fully in the man who walked the dusty roads of Galilee 2000 years ago.

Right in the center of the gospels—in Matthew 16, Mark 8, Luke 9—is the profound moment when Jesus asks the disciples what others believe about Him, those outside the few who have seen and heard all that He’s done. These are not like those who I’ve just mentioned who, if they think anything at all, they think Jesus was a good man with even great teachings, but nothing more. No, these were religious people with some understanding of scripture. “John the Baptist,” the disciples tell Him, “Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” And there are religions in this world who still believe such things about Him—Islam, for one.

But then He asks exactly what ultimately must be asked of every human being, “But what about you? Who do you say that I am?” And Peter, the impetuous, the one who tried walking on the sea, who was convinced (and mistaken) that he’d never forsake Jesus, says (just as Martha does, just as the enemy and his demons know), “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” One can hear the intake of the other disciples at these wondered at, but now spoken, words. And even hear the silence that is better than applause from Jesus, before He answers, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.”

Initiated by God was Peter’s great confession, the way faith always is. Those people who think we decide something ourselves? They’re wrong, dead wrong. It has always felt to me—and confirmed here—like my faith didn’t begin with me. It began with a whisper of my name, a drawing me to something—Someone—bigger and more true than myself. Sure, some people say no--we have that choice--but I couldn't. It was like He grabbed me around the heart, and I was compelled to follow.

At another point in the story, when many have turned back from following Jesus, He asks, “Will you also leave me?” And Peter answers, “Where would we go? You have the Words of eternal life.” Exactly! Where would I go? Who else has not only the Words, but Life itself to offer? And after Peter’s denial, after his reinstatement on the beach when Jesus calls him again to “follow me,” Peter is empowered by the Holy Spirit and tells a skeptical panel of ill-wishers, “We can’t help speaking of what we have seen or heard.” And this is how it feels to me. I was introduced to a Man who was God and I belong to Him. I can’t help speaking of Him, I can’t help loving Him. “The love of Christ compels me."

Friday, October 31, 2014

Incarnate Me.

My thumb is finally recovered--Hallelujah!--so all the things that have been brewing in my brain are bubbling over to be written. See what I did there? Actually, 'brewing' and 'bubbling' are words that make me think more of MacBeth than Halloween, but I suppose I can give a nod to both today, but a glancing nod is both either is going to get. I just haven't the time.

Instead, I'm thinking about Jesus.
A far better topic any day of the week, don't you think?
Today, specifically, I'm thinking about the fact that Jesus is a man.
Okay, of course you know He is a man. It's part of the story, after all. But what hit me this morning (just when I was going about my business with another post lined up in the shoot of my brain, ready to be written) is that he's every bit as much of a man as my Beve or my J, or my dad, or every other guy I've ever known or liked. OR every other one I HAVEN'T LIKED either. Yep, that's the whole truth of it. He's a man. He was born with every single part a man has--and you know what I'm talking about--and every single one of them worked. He had to be breast-fed and potty-trained (whatever that meant back then) and taught all kinds of things little boys have to be taught that little girls don't (like where to aim when you pee, and where NOT to, and the luxury, the God-given luxury of being able to pee just about any place on earth without having to find a bush or tree to hide and squat behind).

He is human, too. While he was on earth, His body worked liked every human's does (I haven't the faintest idea how heavenly bodies work). That is to say, he was born with every organ every human has: a heart, two kidneys, a liver, intestines, a colon, a gall bladder--like my daughters, as my MOM, as every other woman I've every known, as every one you've known either. Every single one of them. He learned to walk, run, trip and fall. He didn't miss any of those steps being human means. He ate with his hands when he was a toddler, got mud on his face, he learned to read, and learned to help around the house. He was a real human child.

Look around the room where you're sitting. If there are others in it, look at them--Jesus of Nazareth is every bit as much a human as they are. And, if you're by yourself, take a good look in the mirror. You and Jesus--just the same. EXACTLY in every way that makes you human, and I'm NOT just talking physiologically. I'm talking about the ability to communicate, to love, to reason, to learn.

Come to think of it, those are also the things that make us "Made in His IMAGE."

So here's the fascinating, amazing, transforming truth:
Jesus wants us to be LIKE HIM! That is, He tells us to become like Him, "Be Holy as I am Holy."
That is, be fully human (like Him) and fully divine (also like Him).
This is what it means when we say, "Incarnate me, Lord!" Make me like you!
AND, this is exactly what the Holy Spirit is doing within us (and yes, I purposely used that ongoing verb tense--because it's a constant, ongoing process!). His whole job is to make us like Jesus but not to make us UNLIKE ourselves. He already created us as He intended us to be--each of us exactly as He intended--now He's simply filling up the rest. And that's all out of love. He makes the broken places whole. Holy. That's His job. His Incarnating job.

Already like Him,
and to become LIKE HIM.
That's the goal.
Amen, I say. Incarnate me!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Finding joy in simple things

It's been a long time between posts and this will be just a quick update, too, because I had a small in-office surgery on my right thumb today which not only wasn't improving but has continued to be so painful that typing, texting and turning a key in an ignition, shifting a car out of park, holding mugs, etc. have all been difficult. I thought I was an extraordinarily left-handed person until these last couple of weeks, when I've understood the joy of opposable thumbs by the loss of one of mine!

So after a bout of antibiotics and more to come, a rather excruciating ("Do you have a bullet I can bite?") session with silver nitrate last week, and today's surgery, I am hopeful that I will finally be able to stop wearing a bandage and thumb protector the size of Beve's ring finger (size 14 finger), and will be down to a simple band-aid soon.

In the meantime, our remodel moves along slowly. It's amazing how long these things take. We hoped to be finished by the end of this month. It looks like we'll be a couple weeks behind schedule--mostly because of a window kerfuffle. Sigh. But a whole lot has changed I wish I had pictures of our ordinary hallway bathroom of before, but alas, I didn't think to take those pictures. Still I've takes plenty during this process--from the rough openings, to the sound-proof insulation installation to the the current tape and texture stage we're at now. Tiles are at the ready, fixtures are picked out, we have widened doorways and stacked washer and dryer, and our entire hardwood is covered with paper ready for the texturing. And we're living in a constant mess. Oh, the joy of remodeling mess. But we're getting there.

So here are a few pictures.

So I'm looking forward to the wooden vanity being made to fit in this space, the rainhead shower that will come down from the ceiling behind the wall, the beautiful finished cedar post you see wrapped in plastic at the moment and the way we'll use it to care for our Grampie (and the many others who will use it as well!). AND, our daughters will be glad to know there are FOUR electric outlets in available just for them. I made sure of that, and their dad bought a heated towel rack. It's not a big room, but our guests will enjoy it.

And I'll enjoy the use of my thumb soon.
Yep, there's joy in simple things. Thumbs and finishing projects.