I’m Still Here

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He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. Psalm 91:4 

I remember the times when remembering brought comfort. Now my memories have turned against me; they remind me of all I have misplaced.  Once they were sweet traveling companions on my journey. The good ones I would turn over and over like a worn river stone, keeping them close.

Hold me like one of those well worn stones, Lord

Once my mind was clear and sure, now it’s a labyrinthian nightmare. I used to know where I was in my world and where I was going, and now the path is hidden from view. I can’t seem to find my way. I’m not myself. I don’t recognize the person I have become and yet I still know who I used to be. That’s the worst part. 

But this I do remember, this thought holds me:

You are all around me on every side; you protect me with your power. Your knowledge of me is too deep; it is beyond my understanding. Psalm 139:5,6

Help me remember who I am in You Lord. Thank you for holding my place in line until I find my way home.

Remember when you loved me? Remember when you didn’t want to escape who I’ve become? I still love, I’m still here, I’m still me. Do you hear me? Do you see my desperation when I try to follow the thread of conversation? I ask questions because I’m trying to find my way back. I’m lost in my own life. It has become easier not to talk, and yet I am so lonesome for the conversations we used to have. I am quiet on the outside and shouting on the inside. 

I feel guilty all the time because I can see you get frustrated and I don’t blame you. That’s why I ask over and over if I said or did something wrong. Because I feel wrong. Everything feels wrong and I feel bad for you. Once I was the one who held our world together, made it all work. I was the encourager, the cheer coach, the mender of clothes and hearts and skinned knees. The engine that could. 

There were days I couldn’t keep from singing. Now I spend my days looking for familiar landmarks. I long for safety. One thing remains the same. Immersed in His Grace, I find comfort knowing that my Father has not left me. He has kept the treasure of who I used to be. He holds me fast even when I can barely hang onto myself. 

“We will too Mom, we will too.”

This is dedicated to you, Mom. You are still our anchor. 

Cherish the firsts and inbetweens my friends, because you never know when they will become the lasts.

Summer 2019

 

It’s been awhile…….words continue to be elusive, just out of reach. I try to relax and realize that this is just another season and to let it go. And yet, I miss the release that comes with letting words and feelings go and maybe send a little healing out to you readers, if any of you are still there. If you are, thank you for your tenacity in believing I still might have something to say. 

Briggs is still with us. We enjoyed a trip to the beach not long after summer vacation started and he had a rough go of it on the way. He was fine after we got the Motorhome settled and brought him some shrimp from Phil’s which he loves.

Moss Landing was a blessing as always. I went on my usual quest for sea glass and was not disappointed. I was breathing out a prayer of thanks for the treasure I was finding one morning and shortly after that He rewarded me with a very special piece. A color I’d never found before.

Not long ago I did something I have wanted to do ever since we moved here. I bought myself a little one person tent from Amazon and dragged it and the mattress down by the river. The inflatable mattress was a little too fat and that didn’t leave much breathing room for me but I was very comfortable all night. I left the door flap open and a whisper of air came in. I even got a little chilly which was wonderful. I was serenaded by an owl which was like a dream. It held magic, that night. 

I want to do it again, but poor Elaine hardly slept. Briggs didn’t know where I was and he yowled and was up and down all night. Poor guy. He has slept on my bed for 18 years and he didn’t know what was going on.

Lately I have been treasuring my time with Mom. She is lost in her own life and not doing really well. We have entered yet another phase with the memory loss. Dad is her anchor right now and she wants to be wherever he is which is extremely hard on him being the solitary person he is. She asks me questions now like “Why aren’t you at work?” “Where do you live now?” But it is easy to do things for her because she is so very sweet.

Dear readers, hopefully someday the tap will be turned on once again and words will flow freely as they once did. I try and think why it was so different in Arizona and I can’t come up with anything. Maybe I felt freer there. Maybe it was because I felt more secure. Maybe I miss our home. Maybe it’s all of the above.

Books continue to be a joy and for that I am grateful. I look for excuses to go the library. I mingle with the homeless and the other odd library people and I feel at home in between the shelves. I remember when they built that library and when I close my eyes I can still hear the wooden card catalog draws slide in and out.

There is something to be said for having a history with a place. I wish you grace, mercy and peace from our Lord Jesus my friends. 

Of Dads and Grandpas

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“What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it–we’re called children of God! That’s who we really are. But that’s also why the world doesn’t recognize us or take us seriously, because it has no idea who He is or what He is up to.” 1 John 3:1 MSG

God loves families. That’s why He found it necessary and important to start one. He certainly didn’t need us. It’s hard for us to imagine what it must have been like before the creation, but we know it was a perfect union. Father, Son and Holy Spirit…..They could have gone on that way forever.

But because God is such a creator and a giver, He decided to spin out galaxies, and planets and stars and angels in the blackness of eternal space. And then, out of His vast storehouse of love He created all the animals and this home of ours, and us. I wonder…….I’ve always wondered, how much time passed in that perfect fellowship.

How many walks and talks were taken in the cool of the evening before it all went south? Before we decided to listen to the cleverly woven lies that turned God-perfection on its ear. I wonder.

Families are messy and God knew that. Even the angels argued amongst themselves about who was greatest. He created us at great risk, but He felt the risk was worth it. We were worth it. And we fell, as He knew we would in time. Since that time we have never stopped falling. Thankfully, He has never stopped trying to get us back.

When my Dad was a kid, my Grandpa left the family. After my Grandma passed away he remarried. My Dad and Grandpa did some bridge building through the years. As a result I have good memories of him. I passed the house on my walk just the other day. I remembered Christmas at the Elks Lodge and going through his box of rocks and staring at his geodes in the lit up cabinet. And ice-cream socials at the Methodist Church and picnics at the lake. 

I never knew my Grandpa on my Mom’s side but I hope he is one of the first people I meet in Heaven. We lost him to cancer when I was only two. I have a dim memory of him holding me up to his grapevines. He loved roses, and he had a cat named Fritz and he called me his “blond-haired angel” in German. I always wonder if when he held me he was thinking of Annie, his 4 year old daughter who was accidentally shot and killed by a neighbor boy. My Grandma never built that bridge of forgiveness back to him for leaving the gun out. My Mom heard him say quietly one day, “She has never forgiven me.”

I like to think of the three of them together in Heaven, all forgiven, all forgotten.

Sometimes the most important thing in life and also the hardest is to build a bridge back to someone who has hurt us. It’s a huge risk, and it’s scary and most times we don’t know what the outcome will be. It’s exactly what God did with Jesus. It cost Him everything, but to get us back he felt it was worth it.

It’s what good Dads do. 

Living Lessons

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My Mom (on right) with two classmates around 1945 give or take a few years. 

I’m not sure how we got to May so fast. The week was long. I had a cold and made it all five days to work. By the time I actually got to sit with Mom it was Friday. It was warm in the house so she suggested we go sit outside in the swing. I said that would be nice. I know that is one of her safe places. Her view on the world she has always been so comfortable in. I bought her foundation the other day but I noticed she hadn’t put it on.

We settled outside but the unsettled look resided in her eyes. She was describing how she felt and I made my best effort to make her feel at ease with what she was feeling because that’s what Mothers do and that’s what Daughters do when they become Moms. Whether they have kids or not is beside the point.

When you care for your Mom at some point you become one.

She struggled to put it into words. I said, “I know, you just feel out of sorts, like something is out of place.” She said, “It’s not like I am sick or anything, I’m not throwing up.” This is what she always says. I tell her I feel the same way on certain days. And I do. Just being in this crazy world is enough to make you feel like that.

A Mom and 3 kids came by and the one on the skateboard crossed over to our side. “You look good on that,” she called out to the girl. The girl smiled and sped by. I wanted to ask her if she knew who she just passed. Someone who has been a matriarch of Glenhurst Street for 50 plus years. Someone who always had a fresh pot of coffee on for the neighbors. Someone who raised other people’s kids for years, held Bible studies around her table, always the first to go meet the new people on the block.

Old people……old cats……Briggs is staring at his bowl now like he never ate and he has just finished two shrimp. Sometimes I think he is lost too. We have made him padded surfaces all around for his fragile hips. We do our best to make him feel at ease in his old age. When he howls, we call him and then seems to come back from where he was. He is down to ten pounds from the beefy sixteen of his ninja cat climbing jumping youth. We are so glad he is still with us. 

Mom was wistful but anxious as her vibrant blue eyes surveyed the yard……”I still remember when your Dad brought home that tree,” she said. “It was in a little pot and I can still see it. Now look at those leaves, that trunk and how big it is. Only God could do something like that.”

“Yes,” I said, “I agree.”

I sat across from her on the chair, but inside I was sitting next to her with my arm around her tight. I didn’t want to give her what I had. I told her that, and she said, “I don’t want to give you what I have either.” She pulls old memories from a rich vault and relives them over and over. We listen as if it’s the first time we heard.

She says, “Everyday I thank God for all His blessings. He has been so good to me.” I replied, “Yes, and with Him we never have to be alone.”

“Yes, that’s the best part,” she sighed.

Mom, you are still teaching me. You don’t need short term memory to be strong, courageous and wise. I only hope I never stop learning.

 

Hope for a weary world

I hadn’t planned on writing a blog post this morning. I lingered over my second cup of coffee and looked out on a fog-draped weary world. Something moved me  to grab a jacket and venture out. I put some “ready whip” on top of my steaming mug (I call it whoop-ass) and suddenly felt like a little party had started in my soul. I have come to recognize that moments like this are the whisperings of God. I paid attention to it walked out into a wonderland. 

Someone had evidently told the birds that spring was coming or was maybe already here. I saw the little gate we painted was holding up well except for a few faded colors. I filmed a little video for Mom since she doesn’t venture out on days like this, but I know she will love to hear the birds.

I found hope out there. It’s so easy to despair and just give up isn’t it? Life presses down and wants to push the life (and hope) right out of you. But this……this world that I walked into this morning was not the news, or politics, or anger or anything else but pure beauty that God had set before me. 

And now I am joyously typing away with a forbidden third cup. Something about the earth after Christmas always makes me feel like this. Like hope has come and left a Heavenly bundle and now we have to figure out what to do with Him. 

And the earth waits with hope because deep inside, she knows renewal is coming. And this is our own hope with each new day. A new opportunity to sing the song of the Redeemed. My favorite line of O Holy Night says, “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.” I like the way the New Living translation puts 1 Corinthians 15:58: 

So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.

I heard about a Christian woman yesterday, a modern-day Joan of Arc who willingly gave herself up for a number of her brothers and sisters held in prison for their belief in Jesus. I don’t remember what the number was, but I can’t stop thinking about her. She will probably face years of prison or death. In light of a faith like that, why do we waste so much time on things that really don’t matter? 

Yesterday I ran into a dear friend and as we stood in the aisle and talked I felt a Holy Communion between us because don’t you just need to know that someone really does understand? The tears that she wiped from her eyes were real. And as we parted and hugged I think we both felt a little renewed. 

This my friends, is what it’s all about………I wish you peace today, and opened eyes for all the little big moments that may never come again. 

Hope is real. And it’s here to stay. May it reach you today. 

When you’ve kinda lost your Way

 

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“Oh Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Psalm 139:1-3

I draw tremendous comfort from this Psalm. It’s almost like God is saying, “Relax, nothing you could ever do would surprise me. And nothing you could ever do could make me love you less.” It means I can rest easy and stop trying to perform. Ever feel like you just disappoint people at every turn? Lately I have been transposing those feelings onto God. I am not sure when it started, but somewhere along the way I got the idea that God was like 96% percent unhappy with me. Why do we do that? Where does that come from, that performance based conditional love thing?

I am here to remind you and myself. God doesn’t work like that! That is a lie we manufacture all on our own. Satan loves it when we get to feeling like we can’t even pray. Here is the real truth. We can always pray. And here is another thing:

There is a very important thing about you (and me) that belongs to you and you alone. Everyone who has ever lived and died has one, it’s your story. And God, from the very beginning has been center stage, even if you never thought about or believed in Him.

You see, if you have drawn breath, it’s because He wanted you here. And He has a purpose and plan that you will get to know Him. That you’ll come home. Recently I have just finished a book called “The Edge of Over There” by Shawn Smucker. It’s a great book. These people were trying to reach Heaven by themselves. They were stranded on the Edge trying to get “Over There” which they could see in the distance. They were trying to build a bridge of their own making. Kinda like what we do.

I don’t know about you but sometimes I need assurance that God still loves me. Thankfully all I have to do is remember Jesus. It cost God everything to win us back. We’re all on the “Edge of Over There”  but the wondrous, marvelous thing is that once we say yes to Jesus, even if it’s a whisper, He hears us, and Heaven becomes a reality we can see and feel.

Lately, I have been remembering my own story and each time I look back and see all that God has saved me from, the tears flow freely. All the prayers He has heard and answered. All the times I’ve been delivered and never been turned away. Each time I come back, He receives me with open arms. He has been with me from the beginning and He has promised to never leave me or forsake me and He never has.

Sometimes I go down to the river and just watch it flow.  There is something redeeming about watching water flow. I guess it’s like a visual of time. That it’s always moving. The things that cause so much pain today will someday be a memory. Friends, redeem the time! Live right here in the present because though there are sorrows, there is tremendous joy and beauty. God has given us nature so we can get a glimpse of Him.

I leave you with peace today. Look back at your path and remember all He’s brought you through. And say a prayer of thanks with me, will you?

 

The Aftermath

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I was restless when I got home from work because I had eaten too much of the wrong food, like chocolate chips right out of the bag, and that cookie I got from Panda Express the other day. I had to get out, so I pedaled out into the neighborhood and made my blood pump a little faster through my veins. This bike and I, we’re old friends. It’s a sturdy Raleigh that I will never give up, it is solid like a tank. Not one of those titanium lightweight models.

On the way to the main road I saw a van emptying the house of a woman who recently passed away. Died of a massive heart attack. On the side of it was written, “Aftermath.” As if all that’s left of a life could possibly fit in that van. I hope she didn’t die alone. I pedaled on, past the van with the old bed mattresses and furniture and odds and ends stuffed inside.

The dogwoods both pink and white are blooming all over town, and the wisteria. The cherry trees too. Fruit stands will be popping up now. I meant to pedal past the little Library on Edgewood but I missed it. I got sidetracked by the lake, I hadn’t meant to go that far. The evening was so impossibly perfect I went further than I meant to.

I kept pedaling and passed by two houses I used to deliver meals to for the senior center. I envisioned each face, wondered how they were doing. I also passed by the cat lady’s house. Used to, she had a sign up in her yard asking for donations for cat food. I made a note to leave some money next time. It must have been close to feeding time, several were milling around the front porch. I said hi to them and waved to her.

I would be happy with any one of the houses I passed by. I miss having a house, planting and doing and cleaning what you have a stake in. I have a kind of sorrow for our stuff all boxed up in storage. I am okay if I don’t think about it and really I don’t miss it most of the time. I hope my bed is okay, I hope the brass isn’t tarnished, I hope the artwork is not being destroyed by the elements. I hope the teacups aren’t smashed to smithereens.

My time is filled with helping Special needs kids at school, which has been a tremendous opportunity and each day I am thankful God gave me the work. It has opened up a whole new place in me that I didn’t know existed. And I come home and it really does feel like home here in this idyllic spot of beauty by the river. Each day Elaine does her magic to make this whole thing work. Okra is coming up back behind the Motorhome and we are excited about that.

This latest chapter of my life involves helping my Mom remember things. The other night I looked out to see a crescent moon with a star shining by it. I called Mom and told her to go out and look up at that moon. I asked her if she remembered calling me in Arizona when she saw a moon like that because it reminded her of me. She said, “Did I do that? Wow, that’s amazing. Well, I’m glad you live here now.”

I said, “I am too Mom, I am too.”