Friday, March 27, 2015

Well with my soul

It's been a bad week, a week full of pain. When I saw my doctor yesterday we talked about the sorry state of my spine from top to bottom, and how it affects my life. We talked about how I've had to hold on to walls to walk, and my limp is noticeable even to the dogs (well, maybe I exaggerate), and sometimes when I try to get out of chairs it doesn't work. Beve and J tease me a little about it when I tell them I'm doing better--"Oh sure you are." And how I sleep with three pillows cradling my broken body because there are so many parts of my body that are broken. My doctor has known me for a long time and he has seen me in good and bad spots. Mostly bad spots--I mean, that's when people go to doctors after all, right?
It was a good conversation. It helped.

This morning, after my dose of prednisone, I lay in bed and thought about how hard pain can be. I thought of how often people ask me, "How's your health?"
Not, "How are you?" like most people are asked. That question can be answered superficially (in grocery stores) or deeply (from close friends). But "How's your health?" is a very specific, very pressing question. And I DREAD it.

See, I'm more, so much more than my physical health. And though, of course, I think about my body a lot (I do have to live here), it's not my deepest concern. At least I don't want it to be. I know that at times I whine and complain about the pain in which I live (ask Beve or my kids if you don't believe me!) but for the most part, I realized this morning that it isn't really that important to me. I want people to ask about what's REAL in my life--what I'm thinking about, what I'm reading, what the world looks like from where I live. And, of course, most of all, Kingdom-come things, King-of-King things.

I could be really depressed about my physical ailments. Certainly other people with such things are. When I first began seeing my doctor and neurologist about my back and leg stuff, I was always asked about depression. A dozen years later, neither of them ask me those questions anymore. I think the Holy Spirit has changed me. Who I might have been had He not gotten ahold of me when 44 years ago is hard to imagine, but it's possible that person would have been even more of a whiner and complainer than I am. And significantly more depressed about the trajectory of her life. From glory to glory He changes me, says scripture, and I realize that, in part that means He changed me once at my rebirth and continually each day. It's a stop-in-my-tracks thought to consider that how I respond to each thing that comes my way isn't me but because He lives in me and re-creates me. To the extent that I give Him room to move and do and work, HE WILL continually make me His, so that I can walk and live in a manner worthy of Him.

So yes, physical pain this last week, bad enough that I walked lop-sided and could barely put together a coherent thought, let alone write a blog-post. But He lives in me. And that (hallelujah!) is more than enough to tip the scales. He is in me, so it's well with my soul.

Yes! From now on when people ask about my health, I think I'll answer, "It is well with my soul."

Monday, March 16, 2015

Being reminded

Almost thirty years ago, Beve and I lived in a college dorm with a newborn baby and three floors of rowdy college students. We were friends with three other couples who were also hall directors (and spouses), with one other baby among us. They were sweet days, even though we had very little privacy or money and our three room apartment was so tiny it would fit into our living room in this house. We had great, rollicking dinner parties with these other couples, sharing meals in the college cafeteria or our little apartments with such joy and laughter you'd have thought we were dining on fine china at the Savoy (I've eaten there--no big deal!).

And the babies, these two little girls, grew from infants to two-year-olds during our days there. They learn to roll over, sit up, crawl (well, E didn't), walk, and run in the halls of dorms and long walk-ways of a college campus. They were loved by college students, cafeteria workers and even professors but mostly these couples who were family to each other. Even in the years after we left there, while we continued to live in that city, we continued to share holiday meals, birthday parties, and just-for-the-heck of it get-togethers. We saw each others' babies in the hospital--at least until we left :).

But life gets in the way of keeping people close, you know? We who were once in each others' pockets, haven't been altogether in half a decade even for a meal. But Saturday, one of the couples had a son get married. And by the kind of intention that comes with such long relationship, we were all together again.

We've been closer to the family whose daughter was the other baby with E in those early days. E and that woman are just short of thirty years of knowing each other. Their friendship is long and deep and has, as you might imagine, connected us well, too.  So of course, E was with us this weekend when her old friend's brother married. E was sitting in the pew when the first other couple arrived. If we haven't seen them in half a decade, I think she hasn't seen them in double that long--or more. The husband saw her right after he hugged me. "Is that E?" he asked. I nodded. He grinned, like he was seeing a long-lost child. In a way I think he was. They all were. It was amazing to watch how much they wanted to talk to her, how dear she (and her friend, CEK) is to them. It hadn't occurred to me that to these people our first child had been like their own child, too, their own baby. E took her first steps in one of their living rooms, she gladly fell asleep in any of their arms. When we needed a moment away, we dropped her at their places and they never took a dime. She belonged to all of us. "Do you remember how you liked having me play with you?" one of them asked E. She didn't, of course. She was too little. But those words made ME remember...and maybe even brought a couple of tears to my eyes.

It was a wonderful thing to be reminded of this over the weekend. It reminds me of what community can really be. I have been feeling a little lost lately, now that all the work and ministry of the last (many) years of caring for Grampie (and Thyrza) has come to a close. We've had different kinds of community at different times in our lives. And we will have it again. These people, though we aren't as close as we were for that season just a few short years ago (it sure feels short since then today), still love us, are still committed to us. And I feel the same about them.

I bet if all of you look back over your lives, you can think of those kind of friendships, too. You can think of people with whom you did life on a daily basis for a season, but no longer see very often. It's good news, indeed, that nothing is lost from such far-away days, that they mattered, that it's only time and space that separate, not hearts. Thank God.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Being led an unexpected way

Daughter SK has a story to tell and because she's a gracious sort, and because she knows me (smile) she's allowing me to tell it.

In the almost two years that SK has lived in the Bay area, she's loved a whole lot about her life. She loves living with her 'bestie' from college, a woman who knows her, gets her, and has a wonderful family who has welcomed SK in as one of their own when she's too far away to celebrate holidays with us. She loves the amazing kids she gets to rub shoulders because she's become a Young Life volunteer. She loves the new friends she's met down there, women with kindred hearts who love life so much like SK does. She loves the church she's in that is as diverse a place as I've seen, a true picture of the gospel lived out in full glory, week in and week out. She loves just being in that wonderfully rich cultural environment that is the whole San Francisco Bay area. She's drunk the marrow out of all kinds of things because she lives there: from Oakland A baseball games to avant-garde theatre productions and everything between. I never know what she'll have been up to when I talk to her in a week.

What she hasn't loved is her job. Not even a little. And she's given it the old college try, as my Beve would say. She works in a small office for two men who are in their forties, running the property-management company they own together. SK is a people person. She likes being part of a team. This lone-woman environment hasn't suited her from the beginning. It's done little more than paid the bills for her life. So, as you can imagine, she began searching for a different job about a year ago (maybe more). She got a whole lot of call-backs from applications, a whole lot of interviews, even second interviews. I can't tell you how many but it was plenty. But she never got hired. The answer she always got (IF she got an answer, which is a whole different story--why is it that companies don't feel the need to tell people they haven't been hired? BUSH league, if you ask me!) is that she just didn't have enough experience.

Let me ask you, as SK has asked (over and over), how exactly is a person supposed to GET experience if someone doesn't take a chance and hire her the first time?

This continuing job search left SK discontent, doubting, impatient. You can imagine. Maybe you've been there. She began to wonder what she was missing. People kept telling her to be patient, that God had exactly the right job out there for her. Maybe you've heard those words before. Maybe you've SAID those words before. They're hard to hear for a person who is only seeing closed doors. It's confidence-destroying, I know that. To continue to go to job interviews with a sinking feeling that it'll end the same way is a hard thing. She stopped telling people (i.e., Beve and me!) about those interviews; she just didn't want to talk about them any more.

And finally, she got to the place where she said, "OK God, I'm just going to live today for today. I'm going to be present in my life." That is, so what if the job was not what she wanted, so what if it was hard and her bosses constantly gave her mixed messages and she had to tell people hard things, like "You're evicted!" She decided she's just live in the moment and trust God.

As she's been doing this, something else was at work a long ways away.
SK got an Facebook message from a woman she was friends with when they were freshman in college, first figuring out who was who and what was what behind the Pinecone Curtain that was their University. They drifted apart before they settled into their sophomore year at that school, and haven't been in touch since. So when I say it was a message out of the blue, I mean it was about 7 years out of SK's horizon. This woman and her husband live and teach at Rift Valley Academy in Kijabe, Kenya. That school needs choir teacher for the 2015-16 school year, and this woman (whose first name is the same as SK's and married name is ours except it starts with R rather than W. This could cause some confusion...) thought of SK.

Left field, right? SK was blown out of the water. She hasn't thought about teaching choir in years, though she has a music minor, has been in a truckload of choir since she was old enough to sing. She did imagine it back...well, back when she and the other S were friends. AND, it was always her dream to live and work in a third world country back then. She wanted to take a year off from college to live in an orphanage in Mexico, actually. So it wasn't a difficult thing to see that perhaps God was in this. At least in this enough to apply. She sent her resume off to the school superintendent, then hesitated over her experience. That dratted experience again. She has no teaching experience, of course. And that's the sticking point, isn't it? She does have plenty of worship and ministry experience. Those were also important parts of the job.

It was a long, convoluted road of emails, phone interviews, etc. but the day SK was packing to leave here after Grampie died, she screamed from the bedroom, "THEY want me to join their team!!!" And then she began to praise God. The superintendent told her that He knew from the first few moments of their conversation that she was the right one. THAT'S how our God does it!

So SK is busy preparing to go to Kenya now. She must be there in August, so will come home in mid-May for a couple of months to get ready. The job is considered a short term mission with a year's commitment (and the possibility of a year's extension if she wants).  She's talking to choir teachers, job shadowing them. I mailed off her viola last week because she has to sharpen up those skills too, since she may teach some private strings lessons.

And she has to raise support--that's a big hunk to bite off, of course. But SK tells us she's certain God is in this. Here was a door where she wasn't looking that God practically shoved her through. It's a pretty powerful thing to see in one's life.    Usually we only get hints about what He wants from us, where He intends to lead us next. But right now, for this next year, at least, SK is being led a way she did not choose. But she's leaning into it gladly. So gladly.

The Rift Valley Academy sits on a hill above the Great Rift Valley and is the perfect place from which to view it in all its splendor. I have poured over pictures of the Great Rift Valley since I was a little girl and first fell in love with the animals of the African plains--elephants and lions especially. To think that SK is going to live one of the places I've most wanted to visit on this planet thrills my heart. To think that God so intentionally called her there makes us both wonder what He has in store, what treasures she'll discover high above that valley. He is purposeful, our God. What He'll do through SK, what He'll do for her. What she'll learn, what she'll teach: these are all part of the ways He'll lead her this next year when He leads her where she did not expect but now cannot wait to go.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Living Grateful

Just about to go to sleep when I realized it's Random Journal Link-up Day, and I completely spaced. So before you read any further, skip on over Here to read Joy's beautiful journey/ministry with journaling and don't forget to check out the other journal-keeper's contributions in the link!

It's been a hard week for me. People who live with chronic pain know about such times. I suppose after all the stress of the last several months preparing for and having Grampie here, watching him die in our home, it's not surprising that my body is rebelling now. I'm very used to what to do when my body is screaming in pain. This is what I've been given, I believe. And grace covers my insufficiencies so well. I'm awed that God filled up my weaknesses to the very last moment needed in Grampie's life. And now is letting me feel what I didn't feel during those days I needed strength. That's how He works. So I don't begrudge these hard days. They are just part of life on this fallen planet, in this broken body of mine.

All that said, some days are harder than others, and this has been a hard week.

So I forgot RJD until just now. Come late to the party, bring a bologna sandwich of a journal-offering perhaps (I don't know yet, I haven't opened the notebook to see). But perhaps, there will be a feast at the table anyway. Perhaps God will take my paltry offering in my broken hand and make it into something good. "Taste and see that the Lord is good," the Psalm tells us. So, shall we see?

This is the page I opened to:
June 7, 2001
Went with Beve to SqHS's Baccalaureate Service. The unforgettable speaker was Noemi Ban, a Holocaust survivor. She watched her father bless her as he was taken to die. She saw her mother's eyes saying, "I love you," as she was led to the gas chambers. And Noemi found grace, love, faith and hope in the most evil of all the death camps-- Auschwitz. When her own strength ran out, when she was so near death she couldn't stand, three friends, at the risk of their own lives, held her up. They literally held her upright through the night so she wouldn't be sent to die. Is there a clearer picture of friendship? Of love? She spoke of her liberation day, of a beautiful young American soldier finding her (with her friends) hiding in the forests. He told her, "You are free." She fell in love with America on that day and has lived her whole life grateful. It could have been otherwise. She could have been destroyed by that evil. Instead she has lived, grateful for her freedom. 

It makes me wonder. How do I live? Am I so busy looking at what's wrong with my life? At the things that aren't what I like, the relationships that are difficult (like Mom) that I just don't live grateful. Living grateful for what is. Isn't that the story of the gospel? Isn't it also true that we were all saved from certain death? Do I live that way? Or have I forgotten? Have I begun to take this unbelievable (but true) story for granted, that He got in the way of death FOR ME. I mean, it's like He stepped in front of a bullet for me. That's just the truth of it. Jesus Christ took what was meant for me. If He'd done it that personally, I'd probably never stop thanking Him. I'd feel like every single day was charmed after that moment. But the truth is, that's exactly what He did. It's that personal, that immediate, that real. The cross was all that. Stepping in the way of death for me. Freeing me from certain death. And every single day I live, I should live in light of THAT. Nothing is bigger, nothing is broader, nothing is more important than that. What He did colors everything. 
So...nothing that ever happens to me compares with what He's already done. I live my life grateful, no matter what.

Funny how these things work out. I needed to read these words tonight, to be reminded of why pain isn't important, why I can (and usually do!) rejoice in my little pain. There's a whole lot more in what Noemi shared that service. I love her words about friendship. Can't believe I didn't write about that. But that isn't where my brain went that night. That's telling too.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

A Room of My Own

I feel a bit chagrined to use this title, considering Virginia Woolf used it first, for a far more exalted purpose. Be that what it may, we're in the midst of huge changes around here. Not surprisingly, after this last season, we've been trying to figure out what to do with ourselves and our home. It seems like just yesterday that all of our kids were taking up space in these small rooms, so much so, that I never considered pulling out my sewing machine, except for the occasional mending project. Come to think of it, in the move to this house, somehow my machine and foot pedal got separated from each other and I had to borrow a machine (from Thyrza, no less) to even accomplish the easiest of those tasks.

How odd to think of that. Consider that back in when my girls were small, I had that sewing machine running day and night. Yes, I was the kind of mom who sewed for her children, and matched their dresses when I thought I could get away with it (Christmas and Easter and family gatherings and...well, you get the picture). Then suddenly I stopped sewing altogether.

And then one day, Beve found a used Pfaff on craigslist, which spurred me to learn to quilt. I didn't take a class, didn't look at a pattern, didn't even measure fabric, just dove off the deep end and set to it. And I was off. It turned out well enough that I never stopped. Since then, I've quilted in just about every room in this house. First I set up my machine right in front of the computer in the corner of the TV room. I don't know how I managed. There was barely space.

As my fascination with quilting grew, so did my accoutrements, like rulers, cutting mats, rotary cutters, patterns and books. And shall we talk about fabric? Or fabric addiction, perhaps? No, maybe not. All these things began to spill out of the corner where I was trying to quilt. Most recently, I've been quilting back in our TV room, while my stash of fabric (the fabric not designated for a specific project) was in a closet in a bedroom. It wasn't convenient for any of us. When it was time to quilt each project, I had to set up my large quilting table, which then blocked the outside door we all use to get to our cars. Let's just say it hasn't been the most convenient of set-ups.

However, we've all made the best of it for the last few years. It's made me learn to quilt quickly, which is a good thing, though hard on my body. The give and take of life. You know how it goes.

Years ago, we bought a Murphy bed for the room in which Beve has his study. It's a great set-up for a rather small room. Afterwards, though, I told Beve that I thought the perfect place for another Murphy room was where my sewing table was in our TV room. It would be out of the way all day, dropped just at night, and we'd have a real bed for extra guests, rather than just having a sleeping bag on a couch as they've had to use. Sunday, Beve found one on craigslist. SUNDAY. He's been looking for years. But we couldn't have used it before. Not when we had kids at home. Not when we had Grampie here.

Only when the time was right did Beve find that Murphy bed, and for a mere 125$. I love that!

So I spent Tuesday moving all my sewing stuff to my new room of my own.
You want a tour?

There you have it. Sweet, isn't it? (By the way, the Audrey Hepburn and Lucille Ball prints on the wall belong to SK, not me...but I'm leaving them as an ode to her! And I'll hang the horse painting as an ode to Grampie)

I really culled my stash a few weeks ago. You can't believe the amount I sent on to Good Will.  Being organized is surprisingly soothing. (And yes, there are two more machines in my closet, if I need them. One never knows!) Those pink-labeled bins are full of cut-up squares, ready for use. I just add to them when I have small ends of fabric.

Ah, a room of my own, with both tables up. Who knew such a thing could bring such pleasure? And, just so you know, the table the machine is on can easily be removed, and an air-mattress added, so we still have a private extra guest room. We will always want to have that option, of course.

And now, as they say, I'm open for business. Ready for all the creativity that will spring out of this amazing space.

Hope your week is going well, too.

See you tomorrow for Random Journal Link-up day!