Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The line

We've had people try to talk us out of it, of course. Bringing Grampie home, I mean. They've asked a lot of questions, played "devil's advocate," looked at us--at me!--and shaken their heads. They can't imagine it. And I get that we're doing it backwards...if it's done at all anymore.

The other day when Beve and I met with a woman who works with care-givers, she told us we had to have a 'line in the sand,' a line at which we say, "if it comes to this, we won't do it any longer." Maybe it's when we have to change diapers, she told us. But we're bringing him home a long ways down the road from that line, if you know what I mean. Or maybe it's when he no longer recognizes us or can call us by name. But he's only called me by name about once in the last six months, so we can't see that line in our rear-view mirror either.  So what could possibly be our line now? When he can't talk? Some days he doesn't. Some days he barely lifts his head, let alone looks at us. Other days there are big smiles on his face when he sees us, though, and a clutch of his hand when we try to leave. He 'packs up' his laundry hamper with regularity--dumping the puny number of belongings he has left among the dirty clothes, and is ready to march out the door with us when we go. It's hard to say good-bye on those days.

And maybe those days are enough of an answer to any one. They're basic as rock. Amid all the confusion that he lives with every second of his waking life, there is still one true person, his youngest son. Second to that is me. But the Beve is who he looks for, who he knows, "that's my son," he tells everyone, with an unmistakable pride that is cell-deep.

You know what I hope the line is...if I'm really honest?
Grampie's last breaths.
To live out one's days in community, to breathe the last air on earth among those who love you most--isn't this the best that earth has to offer? Isn't this what we all might wish if we could? I know that the world is more complex than it once was, but to get to do this, to share the final days of a person's life is something humans were comfortable with. More than comfortable, they just did it. And I want to see it that way. I want to see it as a privilege, an honor, a gift accorded to us by God because it's community at its finest.

So we prepare and pray and humbly ask for strength for this coming season.
However long that season is, may He be in it, may He be on this road we are on.
And may we be transformed by the riches He brings through Grampie's presence in our home.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

It starts with this

It starts with this,
this demolishing of our hall bathroom. At least that's where it becomes real.
In fact, we've been talking about it for a long time before Beve picked up his screw driver at 7:30 this morning to begin the demo. I suppose we've had the conversation a dozen times in the last half decade. A dozen times we've walked up and down the hallway of our house, looking at the bathroom, at its lay-out, tried to figure out how it could work. A dozen times we've walked away. Or I've shied away. That's the truth. I've been the one to pull us back from where this picture is taken, staring at a gutted bathroom.

You see, this gutted bathroom is just the largest part of the re-model we are doing so that we can bring Grampie here to live. Yes, I just wrote that. And I mean it. Along with the bathroom, we're widening several doorways, building a ramp, and getting the house ADA-approved for a man in a wheelchair. We have a contractor in charge of all of the remodel (of course, a friend's husband--we're like that!). We've met with social workers, people who work with in-home care-givers (like us), we have lists of agencies who provide nursing services which we'll need when we get him here. But the sledge hammer was moving all day long. Dust was flying. Beve and a friend (with help from J) tore into that room like this was the last day on earth.

And that's the way I've been looking at all of this too. For years I've had a pit in my stomach thinking of having Grampie here, worrying about MY ability to care for him. But about a month ago I realized we are looking at his last days on earth. Literally any day could be his last, and I don't use the word literally unless I mean it literally! And when I think about Beve and our beloved Grampie, I think I'd like to have him spend those last days with us...if we can. And God began to whisper that he should come home to die. You should have seen Beve's face light up the day I suggested it. It was what he's been waiting for, I think. Praying for me to be ready for this.

But we're honest.
That is to say, we're going to a whole lot of trouble, a whole lot of expense and it may be that we can't do it for long. Or Grampie doesn't do well here. Or doesn't live long. There are a whole lot of possibilities when making plans about a man who is almost 91 years old.

What we believe firmly, though, is that God is calling us to this. This is what we are meant to do for this next season, however long that will be. I can tell clearly that He's in it because even as Beve feels some nerves, I do not. I feel calm and at peace. It's the peace that transcends human understanding, of course, because all the things I've worried about in the past haven't changed. I'm not suddenly more agile, capable of lifting and caring for a 6'8" dead-weight of a man. But I am certain that what we'll need will be worked out in its time.

Yes, we'll get tired, and yes, it will be hard on us. But that's okay too. Doing what He calls us to do doesn't mean life is easy. We're looking to live like it's our last day with Grampie--every day. And that will be sweet.

So, part one, remodel.
Here we come.

All sorts of things ready to go to the local RE-(cycling) store. Do you need any good lumber?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Steering the ship

It's quiet in the house today. And the very air is reeking of autumn. Do you know what I mean when I say that? Do you know how there's suddenly a change in the crispness of breeze, the angle of the sun? Over the weekend it was still warm and I wore shorts and flip-flops and sat outside with my ice-water, watching Beve, with Kincade trailing him, as he moved from one task to another. But last night Beve threw an extra quilt on his side of the bed, told me he thought summer was over. Sure enough, this morning we woke to autumn rain and the gray we'll grow accustomed to for the next many months.

I also awakened with from a very clear dream. I've mentioned before that I often wake up with the name of a person or people for whom I'm meant to spend the day praying. It's an odd phenomenon, but one I've come to love. I never know who God will give me or how that person will show up but I take who comes and run with it, so to speak. Run straight back to the Father in prayer. Today, it was a young man who we've known since he was about a 5th grader. He's our son's age, was a good friend of J's in high school, because Beve's been working with his dad for 17 years, teaching and coaching.

Some of you might have seen a U-Tube that went viral that this young man made for Father's Day. It's called "The First Date," about a Daddy/daughter date with his charming three-year-old daughter. It's completely adorable. It's amazing to see what God had done via that little video.

Anyway, in my dream I was asked if I had anything to say to this young man.
What I said was, "Be careful that you don't do too much for God."
That sounds pretty weird, doesn't it? As you can imagine, the faces in the room reflected that same thought.
But then my dream self said, "I mean, don't push the ship God is steering."

Even as I write that now, I'm stunned by those words.
They hit me in the gut. Really. I have this picture of how often I try doing this and how cartoon-ish the effort is. Pushing a ship? Pushing a ship GOD is steering? Can you imagine anything more ridiculous?

Yet, there I am. Right in the water. Having a strong sense that something is the right way, the right ship (to continue the analogy), but still trying to do it myself. Trying to help God do what is HIS to do.

As I write this, I'm thinking about all the tasks that are mine to do--the tasks HE gives me. But pushing the ship is NEVER one of them. To be more clear, I'm not in charge of making my life go a certain direction, only of allowing the one who loves me to set the course.

The one who loves me most directs my steps.

Amazing what the Holy Spirit can remind us as we sleep.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Today, again

It's been a long, good week. My sister, RE, and I have been out on San Juan Island at brother BB's place for the week. While he taught chemistry and astronomy to myriad students at Friday Harbor high school, we set up a quilting shop in his living room. Our task was to make two quilts in a week. A lofty goal, I admit. We knew it going in. We'd done as much prep work as we could. And I'd loaded BB's car not once but twice with quilting supplies I thought we might need once we were stuck on an island without a single fabric store. Let me just say we were packed into his light-flooded living room, quilting like busy little beavers, quilting so fast we MIGHT have broken (at least temporarily) two machines in the process. Sigh. But that's another story.

The good news is we finished both quilts. In fact, that's the only news that matters.
Not how tired and achy my shoulders and back are from doing the free-motion quilting on a king-sized and queen-sized quilt (one definitely the largest quilt I've ever attempted!). Not that we saw less of our brother and the island than we'd have liked and not that I might have used more Aleve than I normally would wish.

None of that matters since the job got done and they're beautiful.

Pictures will come in due course, once we know the recipients have seen them first.

Until then, here's a repost that I need to read today as well:

Over the years I've used a variety of great devotionals: My Utmost for His Highest, Streams in the Desert, a wonderful little prayer book by the rather controversial theologian H.E. Fosdick, Living the Message by Eugene and Jan Peterson, a Celtic devotional, and the Book of Common Prayer, used in lituergies all over the world.  But the devotional I come back to repeatedly, the one I've given as gifts more times than I can count, is Listening to Your Life. It is excerpts from the writings of Frederick Buechner, whose writing always appeals to me.  In fact, I've been told once or twice that my voice on the page bears a passing resemblance to his, but this strikes me a little like the way a mud puddle bears a resemblance to a deep fresh mountain lake.  A puddle might imagine the clean and pure beauty of that glorious lake, but is bound by the mud in which its bogged.  Perhaps this isn't quite an apt analogy--I only mean to acknowledge he lives and breathes and clearly writes in a more rarefied air (and depth) than I can, except in my imagination.  Nevertheless, I take such compliments as they are meant, and praise God for the gifts He's given, not the ones I wish I had.

All that to say that yesterday, just before drifting off to sleep, I grabbed my well-worn, gnarly-cornered copy of Listening to Your Life (which I also have on my Kindle, for those of you Kindle addicts!), and read the entry for September 1 (a day behind, as usual). Then I chewed and re-chewed on it all night long.  It was a perfect Buechner entry, so lovely I cannot help quoting part of it here:

"It is the point from which all your yesterdays have been leading since the hour of your birth.  It is the point from which all your tomorrows will proceed until the hour of your death.  If you were aware of how precious it is, you could hardly live through it.  Unless you are aware of how precious it is, you can hardly be said to be living at all."

Today.  He's talking about this day. This single extraordinary gift of one day at a time that we are given.  Each as we live them.  God gives us the gift of time.  We use up our hours--no, our minutes, our seconds--as they come.  They're all we get. In the beginning, in the 'GOD created' first seven days of Genesis, "God set aside a certain day, calling it, 'Today,' " It says in Hebrews 4:7.  Because He knew we had to live this way.  One at a time would be all we can handle.  Not all at once, the way He sees our lives and the world and all of creation.  But each day, on its own, a precious, singular gift.

 And it's in this singular gift that we can and should expect to hear Him.  "Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts," is the second part of Hebrews 4:7, and also 3:15, where the phrase, "as you did in the rebellion" is added.  Our hearts were hardened against God in the past--in unbelief and rebellion. But TODAY we can start again.  We can ask Him to speak into this life He's given.  He tells us that too, of course. When asked how to pray, Jesus tells the disciples, in part what we call The Lord's Prayer, "Give us this day our daily bread."    This phrase makes us think of the Israelites in the desert being given manna--bread--each day.  Never more than what they needed for that day (except for the weekly extra for the Sabbath, but that's a whole different matter).  They tried holding onto extra manna for the next day and it rotted on them.  Only one day's allotment was provided.

And that's the message here, I think.  And one we so often forget.  At least I do.  It's what I was wrestling with through the night.  Some of us (and I am one of these) tend to look backwards so much our necks are sore from twisting.  And though I believe there is much to be learned from the past, there is no living there.
Others of us live only for tomorrow, always talking about what they will do, what will happen, how things will be, what might and should and...well, you know who you are and how that is.  And there's no way to live in the future, either.  It's like living in air.  No substance to hold you up.

As Buechner says:
"'This is the day which the Lord has made,,' says the 118th Psalm. 'Let us rejoice and be glad in it.' Or weep and be sad in it for that matter.  The point is to see it for what it is because it will be gone before you know it.  If you waste it, it is your life you are wasting.  If you look the other way, it may be the moment you've been waiting for always that you're missing."
Frederick Buechner, Listening To Your Life, 234. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Dancing like David

I want to be like David.
Not the David who stole another man's wife.
Not the David who hid in a cave with an army of men
or even the David who'd been chosen to lead a nation.

I want to be the David who danced.
The day he brought the ark back to Jerusalem, he was so moved by love that he stripped before God and everyone and danced. Every wart, every knock knee and battle scar, his hairy chest and corns on his toes were in full view because he was so in love with His Lord and he just had to dance. He had to show in an extravagance of emotion.

I think I cover up more than I show. And that's saying a lot because I'm a pretty out-there, open-book person. But catch me dancing in my underwear in front of even a single church? I'd be carted away to the nearest inpatient facility.

This says something about me and about our culture, I suppose, so perhaps I need to settle for looking at dancing with abandon as a metaphor. For letting all my flaws and quirks and warts and corns and split ends and broken finger nails show. Perhaps I need to let my deeper flaws show as well, but dance before the Lord and His people with such Love that no matter what is in me, it's beside the point.

Because that really is the point. Isn't it?
Most of the time, we are too conscious of how WE look or feel or dress or just plain ARE when we come before the Lord. But to be like David, to dance like David did the day he brought the ark back to Jerusalem means to abandonment. Abandoning all inhibition simply and completely because the love of God compels it. David was compelled by love. Compelled because he was loved by God as well.

Yes, to dance like David.
To lose myself in love of God.
This is my desire.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Distracted by brokenness

"Lord, teach us the distinction between the brokenness that leads us to squander our gifts and the brokenness that leads us the seek and find You, even in the most desolate places. Amen."

This was the prayer at the end of my daily devotional from yesterday. It was a gut-check and a lump in my throat kind of prayer. Lately I've been thinking about how one of my favorite Psalms, 63, speaks of being thirsty and hungry for Him, "In a dry and weary land where there is no water." We often think of the desolate times in our faith as deserts, but there is something about the desolate place in this Psalm that makes the writer hungry and thirsty. For God. And that tradition, of the desert as a place where one seeks Him who feeds and quenches our deepest desires continued with the 'Desert Fathers and Mothers.' These were men and women who knew there was something vital about the empty places in the world where everything else is stripped away and they met and communed with their Father alone.

There aren't many of us who are prone to going out into real desert places. Death Valley doesn't hold much appeal. But what is also true is we've lost sight of the value of the desert. We see emptiness and think we're missing something. In fact, we've come so far from the desert Fathers and Mothers, from Psalm 63, that we call the times when we cannot 'feel' or sense God and have no desire for Him as being in the desert. 180 degrees from what these early saints believed.

And they were convinced that there was something beautiful, something good, something lovely about brokenness. Far from eschewing it, early Christians recognized brokenness as a sign of Christ's presence, as a way that they could proclaim the gospel. That God loves enough to sometimes allow us to be broken--there is great love in this. Yes, I mean it, great love. I've said it before. And it's my one true thing.

I'm saying it again because I need to remember. I've been the one squandering my gifts lately. I've forgotten how much He loves me. I've been distracted by brokenness--by my own and by those who are broken around me--and I have not been seeking the only One who heals the broken-hearted. No, not just heals but redeems, restores, and ultimately makes new. That's a long way from simply healing.

It's a desert place I've been needing, I think. The last couple of months have been so crowded, and my spirit's been so jostled to and fro that, like the Master, I need to go out into the wilderness, into a desolate place and seek Him...have Him help me find myself again.

What do you do when you feel all crowded by the cares of life? Even good cares?

Friday, September 5, 2014

Quieting my ambitions

I've been a reluctant, rebellious, refractory, recalcitrant blogger lately Of course, the 'authority' which I answer when it comes to blogging is myself, which makes me rebelling against myself but there's something scriptural in that, isn't there? "That which I want to do, I don't do..." so to speak. I get up each morning with the strongest of intentions, spend time with God who probably puts more than half the ideas into my brain in the first place, and before you can say, "Bob's yer uncle," I've moved into my day without writing a single word on this blog, nor reading any one else's either.

So this Random Journal Link-Up Day comes along at just the right time. Spurring me to love and "Good works," I might say. Or love and good words, maybe. I heard someone quote Max Lucado on the radio a little while ago that faith without effort is no faith at all. Begging the esteemed Mr. Lucado's pardon, I would say that faith without RISK is no faith. It seems to me that what we do when we live by faith, when we TRULY live by it is throw out our arms and say, "I trust You, Lord, come what may!" And the opening of these journals is one more way we Journal-keepers risk. Those of you who read our words may not realize how much faith (and risk) it takes to open a blue or flowered or any other colored notebook and reveal thoughts we never imagined any but God seeing. But it's a big deal. And yet we do it. Indeed, as I write posts, I act on the same faith. Here are some others who take the same risk.

I open a recent journal (comparatively speaking, of course. In the line of journals that goes back to 1977, last year is a mere breath away) and find a pretty unguarded entry, full of the Dickensian self--the best and worst of me. But I take a risk and share it:

Friday, June 21, 2013
"I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in His word I put my hope." Psalm 130: 5

My heart is not proud, Lord,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed myself 
and quieted my ambitions.  Psalm 131: 1-2a

I've never had a career. Never been a 'professional' in any sense of the word. It might be a stretch to say that I've barely worked for my living, certainly not full-time for a salary. By the world's standards, I'm a humble creature--defining humble as mean or small or insignificant. And yet, it occured to me this morning that my job, my career, my profession has been GOD. Raising Godly children, serving His body, being His servant, student and teacher. And mostly, MOSTLY, being His. Just that. I am small, my work is hidden but it is His work. 

I admit, though, sometimes it's hard to be around others who have more, make more, do more, especially when they complain about their lives or keep grasping. I can lose sight about what we (Beve and I) are called to hold lightly and begin to compare our circumstances with theirs; then judge them for their complaints and worries. Or for their greediness (or for what looks like greediness from here). But that's MY sin. My envy, though I do not name it as such. I pretend I'm above it, actually pretend I'm looking down on such attitudes but I'm not. The attitude rears its head in me in perverse, ugly ways. Turn me around, change me, FORGIVE ME.

The truth is, we are wealthy in many and important ways. First, in relation to the world at large, we have plenty. If I'm looking at those who have more, I'm looking in the wrong direction. God has blessed us and I'm a fool not to recognize it. We have all we need and abundantly more. Second, we are wealthy in relationship: We have a great marriage, our kids love us, we have great friends--the list is long. Yes, we are wealthy in community. And third, we are rich in Christ. Eternally blessed--heaped!--with the pearl of great price. His love, forgiveness, the treasure laid up for us in heaven: all these far outshine mere earthly/material wealth/success to such a degree that there is no comparison. Indeed, my everything is in Him. And of course, as I've often said, I've also quieted (or had quieted by HIM) my ambition because the fulfillment of it would likely bring with it pride beyond imagining, dangerous to my soul.

Glorify yourself in me, through me, because of me, Lord. I don't care if my life counts for anything, but I do care that YOU count in, through, because of my life. Use me as YOU will. My mean, small, hidden and humble life. Just use me. Awaken me to Your voice. Open my ears to hear You more clearly. Shout if You must so that I can listen and obey. Overwhelm me with Your Spirit. I am SO tired of very me, of my plaintive, whiny, selfish, judgmental, superior self. Thank you--yes, thank YOU, that you put me in THIS life. Imagine how unbearable I'd be if I was more in the world's eyes...That instant picture made me shudder. 

Yes, thank You for this very life.