First Sunday of Lent

Each evening the sun’s rays hit my Mom’s sheep and birdhouse at exactly the same spot. I never planned it that way, it just happened. Sometimes the cat poses along with the sheep putting himself squarely in the portrait. More than likely he’s only following the last bit of warmth before evening.

This morning I was leafing through my Dad’s Book of Common Prayer. He had written a note over part of the Eucharist seen below:

This made me smile. I know Dad was proud of his Scottish and English heritage. Since I did my DNA a few years back I’ve found that I’m 28% Scottish. I previously thought I was more English.

I read aloud and as I did, I recalled the soft murmur of voices in the chambers of my heart and memory. I remember the sounds in the old St. John’s church when it was on Lee Street in the middle of town. I heard the soft insulated thumps of prayer kneelers going up and back down. Dust motes floating through stained glass light; I heard us saying the words of the Eucharist all at once: 

We lift them to the Lord

It is right to give Him thanks and praise

So many years later it’s as if I’m there. And there are so many other church services down through my youth, Baptist, Methodist, Non-denominational, weekend Church retreats, you name it. My folks were denomination hoppers for a while and now I’m glad they were. Because the common denominator running through them all was tradition, and community. 

More than that, it was Jesus.

I remember faces, voices from the past, too many to count. I thought again how grateful I am to have this rich heritage of Churchgoing. Those memories hold you together in all those in between times in the desert of faith when you’re trying to recapture what you’ve lost. 

What I am sad about is that I am wondering if my generation will be the last to remember the old hymns. I can still chime in with the melodies even if some of the lyrics are lost. I can see the value in churches holding fast to keeping their traditions alive. In a world that is spinning out of control, it’s comforting to know you can attend church and parts of it at least, will still ring true. Still hold to tradition.

The fundamentalist in me misses altar calls. Remember those? The closing music starts up, and the Pastor stands at the front, invitation open. Hopeful hearts pray while eternity waits. Then one courageous individual stands and scoots across knees out of the row and into the aisle. The most dramatic and personal moment in the church for me was that moment. I was fourteen. I grabbed Mom and she went with me.

And the great miracle is that as Christians, we carry this living cathedral wherever we go. Held safely in the shelter of our hearts. A turn of the key, sealed for the day of redemption. As parents, the most invaluable gift we can give our kids is something, or most importantly someone bigger than themselves.

To deal with life’s blows you need this.

In closing, join me in prayer for our war weary tear-stained world. For you, for me, and the Ukrainian people and (no doubt, many Russian people) many of whom are not in favor of what is going on.  

God of the nations, whose sovereign rule brings justice and peace, have mercy on our broken and divided world. Shed abroad Your peace in the hearts of all and banish from them the spirit that makes for war, that all races and peoples may learn to live as members of one family and in obedience to Your law, through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Anglican Church, Diocese of Perth. 

A Pretty Nice Life

It’s been awhile since I posted anything here in my little corner. So much has been going on. Sometimes it still feels surreal that Mom and Dad are both gone. Elaine says, “You will feel a bit like an orphan,” and she’s right. We had the garage sale and the house is mostly empty. The cousins came and we did a walk through. Shared some memories of 1127 Glenhurst long ago. Of exploding homemade firecrackers and waking up to the screaming engines of the hydro-boat races on Fourth of July mornings at the lake. 

This war that has just been started is hitting me hard. Several times I have cried, prayed over the pictures I see on the news. What is it all for? Maybe it’s because I’m thinking of Grandma and her family coming over on the ship, immigrants from Russia themselves. How bad must it have been to risk that horrific trip across the Atlantic to land on Ellis Island with only hopes and dreams of a better life? 

This morning I feel incredibly lucky. We’ve been living in this small space going on 6 years now. It hasn’t been easy, but we have made it work and made it homey. But we are longing for a real home again. And we are closer now to being there, wherever there is. Real estate is ridiculous in California but there are places to be had up in the foothills. And neighboring states close by are a possibility. 

I think of the Ukrainians on the run, fearing for their lives, their homes. I settle in my cozy spot by the window, with second steaming mug of coffee, reassuring stack of books nearby, within eyesight. This old tub is burdened with books in every storage place. Elaine says its like the long, long trailer only it’s not rocks its books. 

The other day I lifted the storage under the bed and took all 15 or so out. “I’m cleaning books out,” I said. She was hopeful. My measly little stack of four didn’t make a dent, but it was something. “Hey, it’s a start,” I say. 

And it’s another Saturday and the collectors are coming for the throwaway stuff at Mom and Dad’s house today. And today, I will exercise, and thank God for our freedom as my heart aches for those whose lives will never be the same. 

A Savior is Born

 

Prince of Peace born soon

A stable not so warm, yet

He will light the world

 

God’s whispered love

A vacant throne in Heaven

God with us always. 

 

The impossible

One life embraced by Mary

To embrace us all.

 

Shepherds abiding

God’s bright chorus in the night

At once, sin reversed

 

A tender shoot fights

A cry splits the night, new life

A Savior is born. 

5-7-5

Fall at the lake

One train meanders…..

Another answers its call

Melancholy dawn.

 

Melancholy train

Early morning answered by

Another close by.

 

Slow rumble on tracks

I wait for melancholy

Whistle brings hope

 

Early morning train

Fills my heart with hopeful strains

Sadness and longing

 

The haiku is a Japanese poetic form that consists of three lines, with five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, and five in the third. The haiku developed from the hokku, the opening three lines of a longer poem known as a tanka. The haiku became a separate form of poetry in the 17th century.

Between Two Worlds

A little trapped between two worlds. That’s what it feels like to me. I know they are in Heaven. I can feel the comfort, the security of that. And it helps greatly to fill the void they left. They died 43 days apart, Dad on August 19 and Mom on October 2. Of course we knew it was coming with both of them being in their 90’s.

As I held Dad’s hand and listened to his labored breathing I was aware again of the immense weight of a soul. It’s the one thing that can only be measured and felt once it is gone. Death is a mystery. One minute there is a living breathing person full of ideas, thoughts, personality, whose DNA you share. The next minute the person they were is one hundred percent gone.

It was a blessing to be there when Dad passed. We almost made it for Mom, but between the time we got the phone call and the time we got in the car enroute, they called again. But we were able to hold her hand when it was still warm and say our final goodbyes. Dad had a wonderful celebration of life and I had a brunch for Mom and many of her dear friends. I could tell they were so very thankful to be able to gather in their home and share stories about Mom. Closure is needed in times like this. As Dolly Parton said in Steel Magnolias, “Laughter through tears in my favorite emotion.” And there were plenty of both.

I have been thinking more about eternity. With so much going on in the past 6 years it’s been all about stifling emotions and just getting through each day. Some things I still can’t unsee. I still remember the panic seeing the ambulance and firetrucks at the house when I rounded the corner. And to see Dad on the bedroom floor bleeding from the head……ever since then we’ve been on autopilot. Dad in the hospital, then navigating the healthcare system over admission into the Carehome. Then Mom with Alzheimer’s suddenly without Dad for the first time in 71 years. 

In the process we got a wonderful caregiver part-time for Mom. Jo was so good for Mom and I gained a friend. Mom’s whole world changed and she spent every day trying to navigate the maze in her mind, and figure out her life in segments of what would happen next. She was so very fearful, but she loved seeing me every day. I made a vow to take her flowers every week so she could enjoy them. We had our Saturday date nights together. I gave her food and wine. Sometimes a martini. And she would fuss when I wanted to sit out in the dark before bed.

After some terrible falls and incidents we checked her in the same Care-home Dad was in and she was able to go see him several times before he passed. She got great care and we were able to breathe a bit. She was able to attend Dad’s Memorial which was a blessing.  Staff and nurses at her facility said after that day,  though, Mom changed. Even with Alzheimer’s I think it really sunk in that Dad was truly gone.

She followed him to Heaven just 43 days later.

And we are catching our breath. Slowly going through the house. I gave each of the ladies a piece of Mom to take home. I wrapped up her figurines and handed them each a bag on their way out. And the other day I remember when Dad and I went to the show and saw an awful movie called “Stanley” about a rattlesnake. Dad hated snakes and I’m not why he took 12 year old me. But now I just think of that day and smile.

O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

— ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:55-57‬‬

How it Started

There is no nature apart from God, but there is no reversing the phrase. Apart from God, there can be no nature. If you try to convince yourself otherwise you are lying to yourself and the very laws of physics. Someone set this all in motion and the One who did can just as easily stop it all. Every day we bear witness to a miracle when we wake if we choose to see it. With 330 species of just hummingbirds alone can we really say with a straight face that all of this just evolved? Does saying it with the utmost sincerity make it true? 

I hear a resounding no as I sit and watch the day start once again by the river. The river otter is busy crisscrossing over to one side and the other. A fish jumped in the same place three times, casting rings that caught the light. Geese heralded their way before I actually saw them in formation across the sky. And what about this love and companion that animals seem to want from us, and we from them?

A cat sits contentedly from her vantage point on my lap watching for fish to jump. Animals are yet another extension of the great love of God. Evolution can’t come close to explaining the emotional connection between domestic animals and our mutual need for each other. This kind of love and bond can only be explained by God’s great love for us.

Once again I am captivated by how the book of John begins…….In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without him was not anything made that was made.

And the Word started it all……

, , , , , , , , , , ,
The Word made flesh and dwelt among us

Letting Go

It was the night of the Strawberry Moon and I awoke at around two thirty. I sat transfixed in the passenger side of the Motorhome parked here on the California Delta. It was as if God Himself had a Yahtzee cup full of light filled diamonds and thrown them across the water.

On the opposite bank in the distance I could see the red lights of the wind turbines along the Altamont Pass on I-5 blinking out a rhythm as they slowly turn, beyond that, beyond the hills lies the great Pacific Ocean where so many happy times have been spent for so many years now.

As I watched the moon, I also tuned into my latest Netflix addiction, “Manifest.” Soon, I crept back to bed but not before I had a few scoops of artichoke spinach dip with some chips. I fell asleep with the sparkle of God’s diamonds behind my eyes.

It’s been an almost unheard of reading run for me as well. I’m on my fifth good book since summer break. I’ll give the titles in case anyone wants to check them out. The first was “What Comes After” by JoAnne Tomkins, then “Eternal” by Lisa Scottoline, “Made in China: A Prisoner, an SOS letter” by Amelia Pang, “Deacon King Kong” by James McBride, and my current read by Eric Metaxas, “Fish Out of Water.” All different, all wonderful.

I am sitting here with a water view out every window. Where else can you do this? We are truly blessed to have this treasure so close. I can hop on the freeway and be home in just about 20 minutes.

I have David Nevue on Alexa and scullers are just now coming by. We’ve seen 3 big freighters going out to sea. Everyone comes out to watch the massive wall of ship go by. We watch for the Tugs. When they go out, you know there’s a big one coming in.

In the normal course of life, we work, check things off to-do lists, stress, stand in lines for prescriptions, groceries, gas…..and we wait, hopefully to get to a little oasis of time where life is suspended just for a little while.

A merciful letting go.

It’s been a very rough year. In addition to the stress of COVID, my Dad entered his own suspended reality in the Convalescent Home the last part of 2020. My Mom is continuing to navigate through the rough waters of Alzheimer’s/Dementia. We watch her trying so desperately to figure out her world and the people in it. She has lost her way, and we spend much of our time trying to help her find it.

In all these things, we know God is here and continues to hold us in the palm of His hand, even as life veers wildly out of control. We grieve…..we wait for the next thing. In between we have moments of Grace.

I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief….For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free. Wendell Berry

The river knows the way to the sea: Without a pilot it runs and falls, blessing all lands with its charity. Ralph Waldo Emerson

Just Breathe…..

Let there be a place somewhere in which you can breathe naturally, quietly, and not have to take your breath in continuous short gasps. A place where your mind can be idle, and forget it’s concerns, descend into silence, and worship the Father in secret. There can be no contemplation where there is no secret. Thomas Merton, Book of Hours

This book has been a comfort for many years. Though months might pass between the times I open it, the power and beauty in its pages has never dimmed or failed to renew. Merton’s words crack open a place deep in my soul where the Holy Spirit dwells. There is wisdom here that I need to return to again and again. It reminds me of who I am in Christ and the assurance that despite everything we see around us, God is holding it all together. It speaks to me of the dawn of Creation, and how we are all longing for our true home. Everything we reach for in this life hearkens back to our longing for Eden.

Being trapped is a terrible feeling. Can one find happiness in a few measured moments of peace between days that threaten to squeeze the life out of us? Care-taking affects everyone involved, not just the ones doing the caring. That’s the hardest part. Is it enough to say it won’t last forever? And what happens after? What sorrow lies on the other side? Yet I know that the sorrow is part of it all, and the sweetness of the good memories that will replace it. And the going on part will come, that embracing life once again. Finding that path of redemption and freedom we once knew. Plans will once again be made and followed through on. That’s the hope that keeps us going. 

I took Mom to see Dad yesterday. He was facing away from us and I was a little shocked at how he looked. He requested a buzz cut and he got it. He had no hair! It was a good visit for he and Mom. Mom joked about having a boyfriend and Dad laughed. They held hands as we sat by the aviary. 

I thought maybe I would feel sorry for the birds, but it was hard to watch them and not smile. They had a nice home and could fly to and fro. There was a big perch in the middle where they would simultaneously all land on, then promptly vacate as they rocked it back and forth. They were like little grey, brown and yellow comedians as they flitted around. Mom and Dad loved watching them and so did I. They had a good clean home and food and they were safe from predators. And they didn’t seem to know or care that they didn’t have their freedom. 

Maybe I can learn something from them.  They have no clue about time, just one day flowing into the next. But I am never not aware of time, right now what it looks like is a huge clock with legs. And it’s coming for me.

The other day I gave myself a day of freedom and I didn’t call anyone, didn’t go see anyone. I….just….came…..home. I felt like my old self again. Elaine and I went for a ride and laughed at everything and nothing.

Oh how I miss that.