Friday, February 28, 2014

The holiest moments in a day

Frustration.
That's the word for this morning.
For some unknown (or known only to the techno universe) my laptop's server refuses to acknowledge this blog.
So I write this little post and send it into space, hoping--ever hoping--that it will find an audience.
What I don't know about these things could fill the Library of Congress.
What I do know might be the size of a postage stamp.

It's a funny thing that the internet has brought into our lives. It's connected us in ways that make the world very small. We're truly a global village now. There are pockets where people aren't connected, and those people are usually considered to be 'off the grid.' Outside the norm, so to speak. Strange, that the norm is to be connected all the time in every way. Or they're not connected because they're primitive or backwards. Pejorative to be NOT hooked up to a computer or cell-phone every second? How did that happen? And how did it happen so fast? In my own life time--no, in my children's lifetimes--we went from only the elite having such things to ALL of us having them and having them as necessities.

And feeling frustrated when they don't do exactly what we expect.
They are our tools but sometimes--er, most of the time--I admit that it doesn't feel that way to me. I am at my computer's mercy.

Like today.
And I am awed that I got to here. I was such a purist. I love the feel of a pen in my hand, I love how it feels to move it across paper, the look of handwriting covering a page. And, as I've said before, for me writing is so visceral it starts in the fingers of my left hand, gripping a pen.

Computers have changed that. Composing means typing now. But it's a less organic process for me because I'm less in control. There are more interruptions in the organic process of writing.

And there I stop.
Interruptions.
That's exactly what I had in mind to write about this morning. Before I was even fully awake, the Holy Spirit and I were thinking together about interruptions. You see, interruption is one of my 'go-to' words in prayer. I constantly ask God to interrupt me from myself, or to interrupt someone else as he or she is going about his/her day. Interruptions as His way of slowing us down, getting our attention. For a single moment (or much longer at times) stopping the busyness and reminding us of what and WHO is really important. Interruptions as the best thing that happen to us.

We don't think of interruptions this way, but they really are. I have come to think of interruptions as the Holiest of moments in my day. And pay attention to what they might offer. What He might say in them.

Hmm, guess I should think of them the same way in the writing process.
Perhaps the Holy Spirit was preparing me for what He wanted to teach ME today.
Frustration to interruption to paying attention.
Yep, He's here and He is not silent.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Off the high dive

Got a rather surprising phone call this morning. It was from the wife of a couple Beve and I have known since we were wet behind the years in our marriage, when we had a tiny baby and were living in a college dorm. She wanted to 'come out of the closet,' as she put it. Those were her exact words. You should have seen my forehead wrinkle in bewilderment. I know what that term means and, though I know how she feels about the subject, I also know exactly how she feels about her husband. She adores him. They adore each other. They might just be the happiest couple I know. And that's saying a whole lot.

"We're joining a church," she told me.
WHAT?

This is a woman whose views and beliefs I've known and accepted. I don't know that I'd have called her an atheist, but she's always had serious doubts about Jesus. And even more serious doubts about the Christian church. Her husband was raised in the church but stopped attending after college. Her influence? Or life? We never quite knew.

But a few weeks ago, while in Hawaii, they went to a church with some friends and when she looked over at her husband during the singing, he had tears in his eyes. During the sermon, she was knocked between the eyes with the truth and love of the spoken word. When they returned home, they decided to find a church. Her husband told her that being in that community of believers washes away the pettiness of his daily job. Those words clenched for her. Now, just weeks later, they've decided they're all in.

"Joining?" I said. "You're joining. Not just checking it out. checking out a few others. You aren't dipping your toes in, then wading a bit up to your knees, then your waist. No you've climbed the  ladder and are diving off from the high dive. Right into the deep end of membership."

"I've always known what church would be right for us," she said.

This is a woman who has been vocal about her feelings about the church as long as I've known her. But all along she's known where she wanted to go. Isn't that interesting. Something in her knew all along.

So now they're becoming members. And slowly telling people around them this sea-change decision. You'd have to know them to understand how big this is, but trust me when I say, it'll startle people.

It thrills me (which is why she told me).

There are always people in our lives we can't imagine coming to the faith. She was one of those. I think this step I've been praying for, but never dreamed would happen. There are more steps for her, I know, but this is a very big one, and I am awed by it.
As I've said before, I prayed for my father for 20 years before he became a believer. When he did, it was one of the best days of my Christian life, not only for the fact of it, but because it showed me that God answers 'earnest and upright prayers.' Today, I'm reminded of that again.
And so I praise God.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Some quotes to ponder

We've finally caught up with the cools kids around the country, to excuse my pun. We have snow here! For For being in the northwest corner of the contiguous US, our little city doesn't get much snow. In fact, this is the first snow our almost 2-year-old (can I still call him a puppy?) Kincade has ever seen. He loves it. He spent the whole day yesterday romping. With his tail wagging and ridge in his back fully in view (he is a partial Ridge-back, after all), he was perfectly willing to dive in piles and didn't even mind when Beve threw shovels-full at him.  My hyper-Beve shoveled our back deck 5 times yesterday as the snow kept falling. Do you call that an exercise in futility? I shouldn't say. Really. He wanted to keep it cleared so the dogs tracked less snow in. However, I think his real motive was simply to get out of the house, exercise and throw snow on the dogs. Of course, because we do live where we do, by last night, with a foot on the ground, it warmed up and began raining. So much for our fluffy winter wonderland. Today it's still deep, but a soggy mess. More rain continues to fall. The dogs are less interested. So is their master. We're all sitting inside, Beve working from home, the dogs content that he's here...I am, too, now that you mention it. We don't get snow days very often.

The dogs were a bit like toddlers yesterday, only without the hassle of snow clothes. But also having to towel them off every time they came in. I guess that's a trade-off.

So much for my weather report.

Some quotes I've been chewing on recently. No commentary, just the quotes:

"Holiness is the most attractive quality, the intense experience we ever get out of sheer life--authentic, first-hand living, not life looked at and enjoyed from a distance. We find ourselves in on the operations of God himself, not talking about them or reading about them. But at the very moment we find ourselves in on more than ourselves, we realize we also might very well lose ourselves. We can't domesticate the Holy...Holiness is a furnace that transforms the men and women who get too close to it. Holy is not Christian needlepoint--it is the banner of a revolution, the revolution."      Eugene H. Peterson, Subversive Spirituality, 73.

Law, in his terrible, cool voice, said, "...If you have not chosen the Kingdom of God, it will make, in the end, no difference what you have chosen instead."
...What God does for us, He does in us...Our morning prayer should be that in the Imitation [of Christ, by Thomas a Kempis]: da hodie perfecte incipere--grant me to make an unflawed beginning today, for I have done nothing yet."                               C S Lewis, "A Slip of the Tongue" (an essay)

"We humans are all fundamentally the same. We all belong to a common, broken humanity. We all have wounded, vulnerable hearts. Each of us needs to feel appreciated and understood; we all need help."
     Jean Vanier, Becoming Human, 37.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Some thoughts on free will

When my children were born they were exactly as I expected. I'd been around babies before, you see. I'm the oldest daughter in a large family, the oldest grand-daughter in an even larger extended family. There were babies galore in my childhood. So when my babies came along, I wasn't surprised that they ate and cried (sometimes ALOT) and pooped. But I remember the first time I was surprised. I put our oldest (then only) baby, E, in her high chair when she was probably about seven months old and gave her a tippy cup with two handles. It was only partially full of milk. I showed her how to lift it to her mouth with her hands and she took great delight in drinking from it. Then she tipped it over. I said, "No, E, don't tip it." And she looked at me with a look I'd never seen before, lifted it from the tray and deliberately turned it over.

I was shocked. I couldn't believe she had deliberately done that.

She'd exercised her free will and done the opposite of what I'd told her.

Free will. I loved E in that moment as much as I loved her the moment before. Of course. You'd find me a very poor mother if that wasn't the case, wouldn't you?

But somehow we don't quite get this about God. Or at least not completely. He gave us free will. He would be a poor God if He hadn't, if He'd only made humans who loved Him automatically, who obeyed at every turn. Or who believed without questioning. And He's anything but a poor God. Our free will is the most In-His-Image thing about us, perhaps. He gave it to us in love, so that when we respond to His great gift of love, to salvation, it's a free response.

And we might do that. If you're reading this blog, most likely you have done that. However, most of you probably know people who haven't responded to God. You know people who don't believe in Him, who deny that Jesus is who He says He is. Or maybe you don't. I hope you do, however. I think your life would be very small if you don't.

I know many who don't believe in Him. I know Buddhists and agnostics and Hindus and atheists and Muslims and all sorts between. I know people who think the historical Jesus was someone to be admired but not a deity, and I know people who don't think about God at all, until they are within inches of their own death.

And you know what? God not only lets them have the free will to believe all these things, He loves them. HE LOVES THEM. They don't believe in Him; yet He believes in them.

So if this is true, what should MY response be? Should it be to throw stones and only be in fellowship with those exactly like myself? Or should it be to love as He loves?

That's rhetorical, of course.
Of course I'm in relationship with a variety of people. In my own house there's one who doesn't believe in Him. I would no more cast him out than turn my back on my own child (see what I did there?). I love him, you see. And I long to see him grow and change and become who I believe he's meant to be. And until then (and yes, even if he doesn't):

CS Lewis says, "Free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having...The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they must be free."   ----from Mere Christianity

Thursday, February 20, 2014

This is the moment

Stop.
Whatever you are doing, 
whatever you are thinking, 
just stop.
And look.
Listen.
What do you see?
This one moment? This singular, ordinary moment?
What do you hear this most mundane of instances?
The clatter of keyboards, 
the faces of children, 
the dirt of fields, 
the cacophony of traffic,
the blue sky against green evergreens.
THIS is the day, 
THIS is the moment the Lord has made.
Let us rejoice and be glad.
Right now.
Yes, exactly now.
This is what we have. 
This is where He meets us.
Whether we pay attention or not,
He is here.
In a child's face.
In a colleague.
In the honk of a car.
All interruptions are His way of getting our attention.
All silences are Him waiting for us to be still enough to
wait for Him.
There's more than meets the eye in this moment.
Win or lose, 
Rise or fall, 
Succeed or fail, 
This is the moment.
Stop and pay attention.
He is here.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

One bite at a time

I haven't posted in a while. I meant to post some pictures of Presidents' weekend, spent in the Emerald City with my extended family, which has become a tradition for us. But the truth is, it wasn't a great time for me. I wasn't my best self, you see. I'd like to blame it on pain or disability as I blame a whole lot of things these days, but mostly it was because I was just living a whole lot in my own brain, and took things too personally when they were meant with my best in mind. I hate that I do that. I hate that I'm still--this far along in the faith--so replete with ME that I'm like a small child and cannot see beyond my own nose to others' points of view.

And other things were happening right around me that were tearing me apart. These are not my stories to tell, but they were enough to keep me sleepless and tired through out the weekend. Even I, who lives in solitude so much of the time, don't REALLY live alone. I have a community of family and friends whose pain and sorrows hits hard and sends me to my knees, and makes me long to do more than is possible. I spend a long time over the weekend talking with one who has more on her plate than she can manage, more than she ever expected, and it hurts. I don't know how to help her except to pray, but that I do, and do, over and over, even in my sleep, so it seems.

But sometimes the enormity of it all makes me mute. You know? It's just so much--the pain in this world. But I think of that old saying, "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time." So that's how I pray: one thing at a time. I pray for the things that are presented to me, bit by bit, and trust the God who is Enormous, who hears EVERY prayer (not just mine) to do what is right and best and good.

And so I am thankful. He is right and best and good.
That's enough for this day.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A purse story

"I am forced to restore what I did not steal." Psalm 69: 4

This caught my attention this morning from my Psalm of the day. I've never registered these words before, but today they kindled a sharp memory that isn't altogether pleasant. And I keep returning to it as I've moved on with my day. So what am I to do but write it out and see what the Holy Spirit behind my hands might help me make of it--might help me make of that time in my life.?

I was a baby Christian. Fourteen years old and still wearing diapers in the faith. Drinking milk, as Paul puts it. And straddling worlds, I suppose you might say. I'd begun attending Young Life and Campaigners (the Bible Study/Discipleship groups for believers) but my two closest friends were those from before coming to Christ. We were headed in different directions, but one of them, Janet, had been my best friend from grade school. It was hard to let go of such an old friend, even if her influence wasn't always good.

One day in early winter, the other friend, Karen, and I were at the Student Bookstore, the 'Bookie,' on the University campus in our hometown. And there was a purse she really wanted. By wanted, I mean she wanted to steal it. Apparently, she and Janet were not new to shoplifting, though I hadn't even been a part of that activity with them. Until that day. Karen decided that I should put the purse under my coat because my coat was bulkier than hers so mine could hide the purse. And, because I'd always been easily led and wanted approval, I did as she asked, even knowing how wrong it was, even so scared I was shivering in my boots and coat and hating what I was doing. We got out of the store easily, without a hitch. And walked smack-dab into a hitch, er, a Young Life leader. That purse under my coat began to burn like a coal. I thought my heart would burst from my chest. I could hardly speak. It was like God Himself showed up to confront me with my terrible crime. I doubt the Young Life leader had a clue why I was so quiet (since even then I was not a quiet person). We didn't talk long...and got back to Karen's house, where she stowed the purse under her bed.

I was disquieted, though.Very convicted, you might say. I remember how poorly I slept that night. The very next day, I took the rest of my lunch money and went back up to the Bookie, and bought the exact same purse. It cost 8 whole dollars. I remember the precise amount. I remember that I was going to have to go without lunch for the rest of the month so that my parents didn't know (I must have already spent my allowance!). After I bought the purse, I went back to the shelves, looked around carefully and replaced the purse. This is where I didn't think completely clearly because then I walked out of the store with the empty bag and tossed it in the trash with the receipt inside. I didn't want anyone to know what I'd done. I just wanted it all to be square. Made right. Later I realized it would have been better to have kept the receipt...

Because, a few weeks later, Janet ran away from home. This was the first of several times she ran away during our high school years. But this was the only time I was involved in her story. With our parents, Karen and I had a a meeting at Janet's house to talk about where Janet might be. It was a horrible night. Upset, worried parents, upset, angry parents, upset girls. Yep, a whole lot of upset in that house. I had very little to offer. I wasn't that close to either of them at that point, for one thing. The purse was the final straw for me. "Bad company corrupts good morals," Paul says in 1 Corinthians, and it was instinctive in me to pull away. But Janet's parents had searched her room for clues and discovered many things she'd clearly stolen, so it all came tumbling out about that purse, and my involvement. Karen pointed the finger at me because, after all, I had been the one to take it, though she did admit it was under her bed. I told them about the second purse...but there was no way to prove it. No receipt, nothing but my word. And my parents weren't inclined to believe me. With good reason, I admit. They'd lived with me my whole life--how could they have known I'd been changed?

So there was third trip up to the Bookie, this time with my father. And this time, I had to speak to the store manager, admit what I'd done, return the purse (which had been retrieved from beneath Karen's bed)--and pay for it--again. It was all rather excruciating. The store manager was more kind than I had any right to expect (but I think I looked younger than my age, which might have helped) but I was shaking in my boots that day, too. It took more money that I had to work off, though I can't remember what I had to do to pay it back.

And that's the story of my paying 16+ dollars for a purse I never owned.
Quite a lesson.
It did the trick, of course. I never stole anything again.
Of course, I'd already learned that lesson.
God had been ahead of my parents in teaching me that.
But I think that was the beginning of when my heart really began to awaken to Him. That is, when I was young, and thought like a child, the most important thing was not getting caught. And I'd lie if I had to in order to avoid it. I was really quite a liar as a child. More than I like to admit. It was my 'besetting sin,' I'd say, in my pre-Christian years. And I think that sin is what made my parents not believe me. But Christ did change me. He changed even that. And I saw that my second action was still a form of a lie. It was that incident that He used to change my heart about lying. Sure there were missteps along the way, but these days, I get in more trouble for telling the truth than lying. And coming from where I came from, I call that a victory.

But that's a story for another day.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

in answer to a question

After my RJD post about my mom, I've been thinking a lot about the long, hard journey of Alzheimer's, a journey Beve and I have both watched a parent suffer. The other day I was asked if either of us have ever considered being tested for the Alzheimer's gene. This isn't the first time either of us has been asked such a question. We laugh about how the fact that each of us having a parent who died (or is dying) of this mind-stripping disease means our children will have two demented parents to care for when when they're our age. We laugh about it because that's better than crying, right?

Or worrying.

So we could take this simple DNA test to ease our children's minds. Or help prepare them.
But neither of us are inclined to take this test. This is not because we don't care about our children. Far from it. We love our children too much to give them that kind of news years before they need it. Perhaps that seems selfish to you, but being on our second go-round with this, I can tell you that there is no such thing as really preparing for Alzheimer's. We might prepare our finances, our wills, all those practical matters but those aren't the issues that trouble the care-givers of the afflicted. What troubles the family of the afflicted is the disappearing of the beloved parent, and the inability to stop that disappearance. Before my mother died, it was like she was an invisible woman right in her body. No test she could have done a decade or two before could have prepared us for that. And no test could have prepared us for Grampie when all he can say is, "I'm all screwed up, Damn it!" or when he tries to flirt with 20-something aides.

No, what that test feels like is a guillotine hanging over one's head, if the marker shows. Sure, perhaps it won't be there. But I prefer to allow God to be God of my life--however that life might end. I believe that He has my best and Beve's best and our children's best in mind, and He will do it.

Here's the interesting thing, though. Beve thinks he'll get Alzheimer's and I think I won't. We have no particular reason for these feelings other than that he has always had a crummy memory and I have a ridiculously good one. I take no credit for my good memory, I was just born with it. But that memory might well be taken from me before my life is through. What did Job say? "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord."

I'm not saying that others shouldn't take the DNA test if it will ease their minds. But for me, and my house, that test would show what God already knows. And if He knows it, that's enough for me. You know, even in his most screwed-up moments, Beve wouldn't miss these days with his dad. I didn't have as many days with my mother. She lived across the state from me. But the days I had were the best days I EVER had with her, even though she didn't know it. I hope she knows it now. And I hope--I believe--that our children, should it come to it will find the strength and joy to be glad to share whatever our last days bring, whatever our minds are like.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Being led where she didn't want to go

It's Random Journal Day over at Dawn's new (blog) home, and I'm excited to be part of the crowd in her new digs. Should be lively, entertaining and always encouraging. Hope you check it out when you finish reading my post. Check these other blogs or add your own.

Meanwhile, here at the old homestead, I'm sporting a new accessory. An airboot. I'd take a picture of it, but I'm too tired to climb off the couch and go get my camera right now. I saw the doctor yesterday who informed me my overcompensating right foot definitely has a bone with a stress fracture in it. So for the next four weeks, I'll be quite the fashionista wearing this lovely boot, but I'm here to tell you, as soon as that boot was strapped on and pumped up, my foot began to feel better. 

So Beve grabbed a journal for me again this month, and I read quite a bit of it before stopping myself. It was a very stretching time. My mom was still in her home but needed to move because she'd been getting lost around the town she'd been living in for 32 years, our church had an interim pastor who was very troubling (from my point of view) and I was seeing a counselor because I was struggling with paralyzing writer's block when it came to my book. Every journal entry was dripping with desire and worry about these things. Dripping with prayer.

And there's just so much back story to all of it, I hardly know how to pick one out and write about it. But hopefully that gives you the broad-stroke you need to enter in to what I was feeling/writing on a particular day.

I chose May 20, 2006 (Seaside, Oregon) 
Mom's Birthday. Well, she's at the ocean. But what keeps going through my head are the words from John 21 where Jesus tells Peter, "When you are old, you will stretch out your hands; and someone will lead you where you do not want to go..." I've never thought of it in this particular context before, but these words could have been said to Mom. She's definitely being led where she does not want to go. She's so much farther down the path than she even knows...she actually has no real concept of how far she's deteriorated. From the outside she seems like a garrulous, sometimes confused old lady who has perhaps always been a little dim. But her brain used to be sharp--at least she had that. And now she's a mess. It's odd to see her so. Not just forgetful but unable to process simple things. This morning she went out for a walk and when she got back she told us she'd forgotten our room number. When we asked how she found us, she said she'd walked along the hallways sticking her key in every door until she found the one that made the light turn green. That was sum-total of her problem-solving ability. It never occurred to her that she could go to the front desk and ask. We'd been so worried about where she was, a couple of us were already out looking for her (she just gets up so dang early!).
And she acted like; no, I mean, she absolutely had NEVER heard about my nerve problems before. She asked if it was the same thing as what RE has. She didn't know RE has RA. All these very fundamental things. But the kicker was that when LD showed up as a surprise and we walked in in our matching T-shirts, Mom didn't react for a moment. It was like she didn't even recognize LD. Didn't know her own daughter. It was the strangest thing.
When I'm writing about this now, thinking of her in the next room, snoring away, she just seems so much herself. And yet so much is gone. How much more will go? And I'm aware that if she's being led where she doesn't want to go, it also means that we (her family) have to go with her. And that's always the hardest thing for me. That I have to go with her.

What is haunting about this is how far I thought she'd already deteriorated. And how much worse she was going to get before she died. And...how much God would teach me, soften me, love her through me before she finished that long, hard journey into dementia. There were still 4 long years of living ahead and there were very hard days to come.

Not light and sweetness tonight, but I will close by saying that God was faithful. It's a hard disease. That's all there is to it. But He is always faithful. 
That's all.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Birthday Party at the Skilled Nursing Facility

 We took pizza, balloons, a birthday cake, blog posts, cards, Facebook greetings and ourselves over to Grampie's skilled nursing facility this evening. All day long he'd been reminded that it's his birthday, so he was in fine form. The rest of the second floor residents were excited as well--they were getting actual pizza, REAL chocolate cake for dinner. Even the staff felt the party buzz, and wandered down to the dining room when they heard us sing, "Happy Birthday!"

Grampie couldn't get over all the pictures of himself that came with the blog and Facebook posts. He recognized himself as a young man, recognized his 'first wife,' and was glad to have me, 'his publicist,' as he called me, tell the others some of the best stories of his life. It was such a sweet time, and he was so present, so very present with us, laughing and enjoying the food and the company as though we were in the finest restaurant eating far fancier fare.

After the cake was cut and served, Beve took his dad off to the side to call "his bride," and I was helping clean up a bit, when a 40-something woman walked in with her small dog and asked for a piece of cake. "Carry it to my room," she said.
I looked at her, looked down at my cane, and thought of protesting, but picked up the plate and slowly made my way after her.

When we got to her room (much farther than Grampie's room!), she directed me to set the cake on her table. Then she asked, "How are you related to [the birthday boy]?"
"I'm his daughter-in-law," I told her.
"You're [Beve's] wife." I nodded. "Are you separated or something?"
I honestly couldn't even answer I was so surprised.
"Steve's a devoted son. You don't seem to be like that at all."
"I hope you enjoy the cake," I told her.

Here's where I have to tell you that I've been fairly disabled of late. That is, even more disabled than usual. Because of my bad left leg, I carry all my weight on my right foot and have worked very hard never to limp. However, a few weeks ago pain in my right foot made it clear that I've stressed that foot beyond what it can handle. Nothing can be done for my left leg. This is the way of things. So I NEED my right foot to be strong. Until I get my orthotics sorted out, I've barely been walking. Tonight is the first time I've been to Grampie's since I had my neck surgery.

I've been trying to sort out what I might have learned from the encounter with this woman. Sometimes there are just encounters. She made a judgment about me with no facts at all. Knowing nothing. I wonder how often I do that. I'd like to think I don't open my mouth at least. I hope I don't.

In any case, we had a great party with Grampie and that's what counts.

Days beyond memory

Ninety years ago today, this man was born. He grew extraordinarily quickly. By the time he was five, he looked several years older than his younger brother who was a mere 18 months younger. By the time he was in high school, he had the nickname Spider for his remarkably long limbs. Before he was through, he was 6'8" tall. And his brother only 6.' Their parents were tall for that day, but nothing would have prepared them for a child this size, a boy who could eat and eat and eat. He grew up during the Depression which made him appreciate food all the more. Being a "clean-plater" is something he taught his children, who taught their children.

I've thought a lot over the years about the things this man taught his children. He's my father-in-law, you see. And he raised a very good man to father our children. Grampie grew up in a working class home with a dad who had high expectations. Those expectations meant earning money in those lean years--not playing sports, and definitely NOT going to college. But this Spider of a man was born not only with the gift of height but the gift of athleticism to go with it. And when the high school basketball coach talked him into trying out for basketball, Grampie did. It changed his life. Up until then Grampie expected that he'd graduate high school and get a job at the shipyard. But this man believed in Grampie, coached him (and his teammates) to a state championship, and took him around to universities to watch college teams play. Grampie's own dad had no use for such nonsense. He never watched a single game his son played, in high school or at the University of Oregon where he was an All-American.

But Grampie became a great dad. He became a dad who encouraged his kids. He went to most of their games, and when he couldn't, he'd get up and fix Beve food after long bus-ride and away games. And when they grew up, had their own families and made decisions Grampie might not have agreed with, he simply listened and accepted. I've always loved that about him. He just let his kids be free to be themselves. I think it was because his own dad was so judgmental and disapproving, but he's the most accepting man I know. He was kind and generous and loving and accepting of everyone he came in contact with. You just have to look at his Christmas cards to know that. But primarily, he was a great dad.

And the best Grandpa too. "Grandpa here," he used to say when he called. Sometimes he called several times a day because he hadn't talked to all of the kids, and had something he needed to tell one of them. Or each of them. And he must have single-handedly kept the post-office in business in the little town when he lived before we moved him to our city. He probably sent us (and all the others in the family) something just about every day. A note, a clipping, and always--ALWAYS!--he included a picture that he'd printed at Staples. Sometimes he even sent them in frames he'd bought at the dollar store. Picture it: a grainy copy of a photograph cropped and labeled and framed for our enjoyment. We'd laugh because many times he'd sent us a picture we'd sent him.

That was just one of the things we noticed in those days. There were many changes, extra phone calls to tell us the same thing repeatedly.

And now those days seem a long ways away. I can't remember how long ago it was that we first noticed those signs, but these days, there isn't much of the old Grampie left. Sometimes he has good days. They're few and far between, however. Most of the time, he lives in a fog between naps and sleep. The only person he knows without fail now is this man:
Beve took this 'selfie' Sunday on one of Grampie's good days. I'm not sure Grampie knew why he was smiling, but it's a great picture. I love it of the two of them. Grampie is one of Beve's greatest joys in life. That he gets to have these final days with his dad, even when his dad is so barely there, is a blessing.

We are amazed that Grampie is 90 years old today, that he has lived so long a life and seen so much of the world. His world is tiny now, but he continues to teach us. Even now he teaches us how to live final days, days beyond memory, with grace and kindness.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Celebrating

I may have mentioned this before but it's worth repeating tonight that I love football! Er, American football, I mean: the kind with the strangely shaped ball, odd points scored and grown men pushing and plowing into each other like it's their job. Oh wait, for pros, it really is their job.

This has been the best football season I've ever had as a fan. Now I realize that there are a whole lot of fans who root for perennial favorites, teams that are always on the verge of winning National Championships in the college ranks or NFL champs at the pro level. However, this hasn't been my experience. It hasn't been the experience of anyone in this corner of the country. We love our teams...no matter how they do. (Go Cougs!)

But our state's been whipped up into a frenzy this football season. The last couple of weeks it's like the whole world have been decked out in team colors: the sky itself decided (against all rainy winter logic) to come out from behind the clouds and be proudly Seahawks blue; the evergreens are always verdant green, showing their team pride. But you get my drift. There have been Seahawks sales at every store, Mount Rainier was temporarily renamed Mt. Seahawks for today, which the governor pronounced Seahawks Sunday!

My point is that it's been a big deal. A giant deal. Like the biggest thing that's ever happened around these parts. And those grown men in our team colors came through. They won. And our whole state is rocking! I'm just sure of it. So many fireworks went off just in our town our poor Springer Spaniel was shaking in her fur, and burrowed into the Beve's large arms.

I was happy, too. Of course! I'm a true fan.


But I got to thinking after the folks stopped yelling from their decks and the fireworks went silent! I got to thinking about how it will feel when the Real victory party begins. You know what I'm talking about, don't you? When Christ returns, when the enemy is destroyed for good, when the final victory lap is taken...there will be a feast then! A banquet! And we'll celebrate in such a way that it will make such days as this Super Bowl Party look anemic and empty. Can you imagine? On a day like this, I have just an inkling...
And maybe that's part of what I love about cheering on a team!
The inkling is that this is cool--way cool--but something more is waiting!
And I can hardly wait!


Saturday, February 1, 2014

My word for the year (and next year...and the next)


Beve and I drove down to the old cabin today that my grandparents bought right after World War II. The picture above is of the original cabin, and from this view, hasn't changed much in my life-time. One can only barely see the electric light mounted on the worn shake siding and it's impossible to know that not only electricity but that new-fangled thing called plumbing runs things inside now. From here, I can imagine a metal bucket on the corner of the porch just hauled up from the well, a dipper hanging on the post where we'd drink whenever we had a thirst for refreshment or needed to brush our teeth. Under the house, through that blue-trimmed door, is a real cellar, with a dirt floor and all kinds of tools, bats, basketballs, volleyballs, stuff I can't even begin to name. It has a particular smell, that cellar: it always smells cool and damp, but like childhood to me, no matter what time of year, no matter how old I am.

Our errand today was delivering a refrigerator we've had sitting in our carport for the last six months. We meant to take it there last summer but life has a way of getting in the way. You know how these things go. This morning Beve got up, looked at the clear sky and said, let's do it. So we did. It's not that long a drive to our cabin, but always feels like a lifetime away. Maybe a lifetime back, perhaps. I'm just so assaulted with memories, even on a short errand as today way. I walked around taking pictures and my life comes rushing back.

Beve and I had a great conversation on the drive. We've always been good communicators in the car. When our children were small, we had our best conversations driving across the state to the grandparents' houses. They'd fall asleep and we'd talk--for hours. Nothing to distract us. Even now, when we don't have children dangling from hips or bumping into us with need, we buckle our seat-belts and words flow between us.

Like many people I know, Beve has been thinking he wants a word to concentrate on this year. He's been batting around a few words for the entire month of January without settling on one. So we talked about that. I told him that I've never thought of a single word because every year, every time it's suggested, the same word (or a synonym thereof) comes to mind. The word is SURRENDER. Those of you most familiar with me are probably nodding and smiling right now. Thinking, "Of course, it's what she's always going on about."

It's true. Surrender is where everything starts for me. "You know what the most powerful word in the Bible is (for me)?" I asked Beve. He likes that kind of guessing game. He always says the most outlandish thing he can think of, just to make me laugh. Like, "pomegranate" or "Leveticus." As usual, I rolled my eyes and laughed.
"Nevertheless," I said. "It's Nevertheless. And it's not even in the newest translations--but the idea is."

It's the Nevertheless that Jesus says in the Garden of Gethsemane. It's the Nevertheless of His surrender. He'd been praying, praying with such intensity that He was sweating blood. Sweating blood--that's what the scripture tells us. Now I don't know about you, but I've NEVER prayed that hard. I've never done ANYTHING that hard. I don't even know what that would be like. But Jesus did.

He'd just been saying, "Father, take this cup from me..."
That's the first clause in the sentence. That clause tells us a whole lot about Jesus, about what He was giving up. Superficially we might look at those words and imagine that what He was most concerned about losing was His life. But I cannot believe this was the case. For the whole of His earthly ministry, He'd been talking about what the end would be. He KNEW that losing His life was part of the deal. Was the WHOLE DEAL, really.  No, what I think make His blood sweat, or made Him sweat blood (which might be the same thing!) is that as the time drew near, as it was 'at hand,' He was losing communion with the rest of the God-head for the first time in eternity. He and His Father had always been one--From creation on. From BEFORE creation, come to think of it. But in that Garden, Jesus, the Incarnate, was facing the loss of that Oneness. And it was a bitter loss. I don't know that any of us can imagine that loss because none of us on earth has perfect communion with Him.

But He knew what He was losing.
And said, "NEVERTHELESS..."
How powerful that word is. It all hinges there. Yes, right there.
"Take this cup from me;
Nevertheless,
Not my will but Yours
Be done."

And so it was.
Jesus Christ's obedient surrender, His willingness to lay down His life, His communion with God, meant that we got both, that we get ALL that and eternity besides.

We toss around the words, "Not my will but yours be done, Lord." We use them to punctuate our great hopes and justify our desires. However, what if we start there? What if we start with surrendering our hopes and desires, and THEN, begin to pray? How much more would He use us? Surrendered lives, poured out.

Surrender is always my goal.
Because--I believe that HE is better at caring for my life than I am myself.
That's the bottom line. Isn't it?
Jesus knew and trusted in the Father's plan. And prayed for THAT.

I have to learn this lesson daily. Hourly. That's why Surrender is always my 'go-to' word. There just isn't another. He hasn't finished teaching me how to live a surrendered life yet. Or maybe I should say it thus: I am still too in charge of my own life. And to the degree that I am, there is still more of me to surrender. Perhaps once He's finished this process, He'll just take me home. Maybe it really is just that--a lifelong process. Okay then.
Until I reach the throne room and see Him face-to-face, I'll just keep going on about surrender.