Before the World Stirs

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I awoke in the dark to owls calling. I counted three slightly different tones. Weigumina the cat led me to our early dawn swing session, tail in the air as cats do. She likes to head bonk my coffee cup so I had to hold it up to keep it from sloshing while she settled on my lap. My thoughts took on the rhythm of the swing. Another weekend, a little island oasis of rest once more and for that I am so grateful.

As I often do, I was thinking about Creation and all its creatures. Feeling the absence of our little Briggs still I was ruminating about people who call themselves “Dog people” and “Cat people” and how that can’t really be a thing unless you don’t dig deep enough into your own soul. To fully enjoy what both have to offer us as companions is to embrace each unique difference.

And do you ever hear people define themselves as a bug person as opposed to a fish person? God could have stopped at one hundred or one thousand animals, but He kept going. Why? Because He has a boundless love for the beauty of individuality.

To quote James Herriot:

I have felt cats rubbing their face against mine and touching my cheek with claws carefully sheathed. These things, to me, are expressions of love.

And of dogs:

If I had been a little dog I’d have gone leaping and gamboling around the room wagging my tail furiously…..And, “Dogs like to obey. It gives them security.

I am thinking of Daney now, the service dog at our school. How she comes up to me friendly faced with a favorite toy, wagging her tail in greeting each day. It is a comfort to stroke her soft ears, and see the loving trust in her eyes.

I think of the beauty of the sunrise and the moonrise. How different they are but each has the power to take your breath away. I think of my many years in the desert and how captivated I became of the desperate and wild beauty there. What a loss if I had closed my mind to it and refused to let it speak to my soul.

And now I’m back here in California where there is not as much sky to see because of the trees (messy trees says E.) Soon the leaves will be scarlet and every shade of yellow and orange. It’s the weekend again. These are stressful times for us all, and yet I have this little island of peace at the end of the week.

A thought on love and loss: Every heart has its own time and way of mending and each must determine when the time is right to receive another. That loss is a sacred part of us we will never forget and we shouldn’t, yet there is something in us that knows that it is right and good to move on.

Goodbye faithful friend….

Goodbye faithful friend….

The dawn broke around us gently and beautifully with promise but with a pall quiet as a distant church bell of sorrow. Tomorrow we lose you and it doesn’t seem real. Tears come and go at unexpected times but we keep to the rhythm of the day’s routines because somehow that rhythm is comforting. As if things are as they’ve always been for the past 20 years. 

You get as many treats as you want today, buddy. You have told us in your own way that it’s time. You are hurting and we know it. Tomorrow our world will have been shifted off its axis as it does after a loss. The reminders will come, like darts to the heart. 

We will think we hear you everywhere. We will wait for the familiar sound of your feet jumping off the bed heading to your bowl for a drink. We will watch for you underneath our feet and the emptiness will feel unbearable. Everyone thinks their dog or cat is the best, but you truly lived up to what E. called you, perfect Briggs. You never got sick, never did a thing wrong, never had an accident in the house. You always came out to greet company. You were a people cat. A cat of cats. 

Thank you for making me laugh this sad morning. I thought maybe you would forget about secondses, but when I looked down you were looking up at me waiting for your second helping of fish eye gravy (it’s really Fancy Feast but it looks like fish eyes). We will think of you at Shrimp-o’clock, and five in the morning and every hour in between. 

Your name plate remains forever, Briggs Dupree: Venture Capitalist by day, Jazz Musician by night, and larger than life Superhero changing into your red and blue cape to save us. Because sometimes, God knew we would need something soft and furry that purrs or barks that comforts the way no human can.

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The morning is quiet and the mockingbird sings, picking up the same endless melody he closed with last night.

David Nevue hymns play softly in the background and I am praying for my nieces little cat who is very sick. Seems to be something she ate. There are little teeth marks in the interlocking rubber floor mats in the bedroom. And now there is a big bill, but that pales in comparison to a girl who is heartsick. Oh Lord, sometimes we just get tired of all the sorrow. The world is weary. We are weary too. 

As I sit here amidst my tears there is a joy deep down resting at the bottom of my soul, in a feathered nest. It’s that quiet peace God gives. The living promise that He will never leave us or forsake us. That there is still joy for the taking. The assurance that in the end, all will be well.

I walk outside and see yet another mangled baby bird that will never sing a note. This is the fourth. Why do things have to die? I guess sometimes things can be rescued and sometimes they can’t. I think of the little mouse I saved one morning. Two bluejays were attacking it mercilessly. They would pick it up in their sharp beaks and then drop it to the ground. The mouse was terrified and when I went to pick it up it squeaked in fright. The poor thing didn’t know I was trying to save it.

I could feel its little heart beating in my gloved hand, and then it was my turn to be a little afraid. What if it ran up my sleeve? I hurriedly carried the stunned little creature to safety and settled it beneath some shrubs. I wonder if that’s how God feels about us? We fight so hard when He’s only trying to save us from ourselves. 

He looks down at the way we’ve chosen to mangle our world, our lives, and then He watches as we walk right past the gate that would swing wide and welcome us in.

He longs to pick us up and settle us in the only place we will only ever find peace and safety? “Rest my child,” He beckons. Finally, exhausted by all our own efforts, we collapse at His feet. He welcomes us, takes us as we are.

He’s the God of second, third, seventh, one-thousand chances. This morning I didn’t think I had any words at all. But God supplied a few, as it turns out.

The  train sounds in the distance, life propels forward. And the joy outweighs the sorrow once again. Despite everything, we have hope.  Pray with me friends? That a little cat a girl loves will be okay today.

A Rescue Story

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I’ll never forget the first time I saw him. As we rounded the corner of the medical complex to go in, there he was. The smallest kitten, no bigger than a minute, all alone. He was scared and crouched behind a shrub. A lady in clacking heels was nearby with a small box. She said, “I’ve been trying to catch it for hours.” I looked at Elaine who sighed big time because she knew I could never leave the situation alone. She proceeded to the lab to get her blood work with a sense of foreboding that the day had just taken a turn and somehow she would be involved. I seem to find kittens and cats everywhere. It’s not like I try.

Anyway, this office lady was on her break and clutching this box to put the little guy in. I crouched down quietly and held my hand out for him to smell and he walked right up to me. My heart did a flip as he nuzzled against my neck and purred. She looked on in amazement and said, “I am taking him to the pound to see if they will take him.” I said, “Let me make a call.”

We exchanged phone information and I told her I would wait right there. In a small panic I called one of the patron saints of Animal Friends Connection, Marion. She told me that if I could keep him a few days she would see that he got into the vet. It was no surprise to me when she came back with the little guy in the box to tell me they had no room at the local pound.

I put him in a carrier and off we went to my Mom and Dad’s house where I explained the situation. I was able to keep him there two days. My Mom has some memory issues and she was upset by the little guy’s presence. She kept asking why the cat was here and who it belonged to. The Angels at AFC accepted him into their community. I had named him Stash by that time for his brown mustache. He promptly went to the vet where he was treated for several things. I gave them money to help with his care. I was already hopelessly attached.

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I went to visit him in quarantine after the vet. He was being treated for several things common to kittens left to fend for themselves. He peered out through the cage at me but I couldn’t hold him. My heart ached and ached until finally he was taken out of quarantine and brought into the shelter where I could go and visit. All the shelter workers were sure I would adopt him and in my heart he was already mine. And yet, I had a elder cat at home who had been a faithful friend for 19 years and I didn’t know how he would react to a kitten. I had done that in the past with disastrous results.

When you volunteer at a shelter, this is the risk you take. You wonder when you will meet “The One” who fully captures your heart. You tell yourself the rewards outweigh everything else and really, they do. But now it had happened to me. And every day I wrestled.

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Every time I went to the shelter I wondered if I could resist bring Stashie home. Each time, after I loved on all the other cats, I spent extra time cuddling him and holding him close. Maybe it was my imagination that he remembered me as he nuzzled my ears. But maybe it wasn’t. I cried over him. One particular time coming home from the shelter Elaine had her phone ready to video his homecoming. But in the end, I just couldn’t do it.

Our Briggs has been so loyal for so many years, and his health is not the best. I could not bring myself to subject him to a new cat friend. I know me, if he rejected him and was miserable, I wouldn’t give Stashie back, I would deal with it and it wouldn’t be fair to either one. So for now I go visit, and I’m praying for the best home for him. He is a great cat. He doesn’t try to get away when I pick him up. I can hold his paws and he doesn’t mind.

For now, it’s a rescue story. Soon, I hope it will be an adoption story. Maybe he’ll even get adopted with a special friend to grow up with. The good folks at Animal Friends Connection continue to care for Stash and all the other doggies and kitties who will someday find forever homes. And I am so grateful for all they do.

Christmas with the Kittizens

 

This morning I decided to bundle up and go down for some prayer and quiet time. I felt I needed it, though I confess I didn’t much feel like it. I opened the gate which was blocked by a snowbank of leaves from the disastrous winds yesterday.

I called to Weigumina, (sister) to come along. She hadn’t followed me down there since her injury and I missed her. Her brother had since taken her place and I think she felt a little pushed out of shape about that. (These are the neighbor cats but they aren’t home much and we started feeding them because we felt sorry for them) We took to calling her Weigumina because Vern Weigum had his 1956 Belair parked in my Aunt’s carport and that was her favorite place to enjoy the sun.

Once down there I fired up my heater and shut the door to keep the heat in. I was sitting there feeling a little dejected but grateful for the warmth. I heard a scratch and small meow at the door and there she was! I was so glad she made it down there and of course all my prayers were totally disrupted. She made herself at home on my lap and proceeded to stick her nose in my coffee and beg for my cooky.

All the while she had her eye on the door watching for brother. Sure enough, he showed up too. She was perturbed and commenced growling and even gave him a little swipe when he got too close. He wasn’t much affected by that. I could hear him in the corner batting around Sydney’s little feather-ball I gave him to play with. Then he jumped in the sink and watched us from there. They are both such clowns. I guess God knew I needed some entertaining (thank You)

Yesterday E was sick and Briggs stuck close to her side all day. We are so glad he is still with us at 16. He is of course, perfect. He has taken riding in the Motorhome in his stride even at his advanced age.

Earlier that morning I was at my brother’s house putting lights on the tree and I noticed his neighbor’s cats (who he has also started feeding because they are neglected and ignored, yes it runs in the family) playing with the leaves out front. It was so cute.

The tree was cause for great excitement for Pencil Neck, my brothers youngest cat. He runs around with a zip-tie in his mouth and will retrieve for hours if you throw it. And Mima, the queen of the house has earned her status over the years by handling many different animal situations with grace and dignity.

It’s Christmas with the Kittizens for all of us and we are glad for the comic relief and comfort they give us all year long. We continue to miss Tyler, one of the best dogs there ever was. To his credit, he always knew which cats belonged to the family and knew not to chase them. And Sydney, we still miss you so. I sometimes still expect you to come when I pop the tuna can.

They make our lives better all of our fur-families don’t they? I can’t imagine what we would do without them. Merry Christmas from our fur-house to yours.

 

Kinda like Heaven

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My brother and I with Thunder, circa 1965 or so……

There used to be a row of houses on the next block over from where I lived. We knew every family that lived there very well. The houses were owned by the adjacent hospital but I never knew that.  About 10 or 15 years ago now, one by one all the current occupants moved out and the houses themselves were physically moved to a neighboring town.

Growing up, I spent hours inside every one of those houses. Some of them many, many hours. Starting from left to right, there were the Meier’s, then the Matsumoto’s, (whose kids were almost part of the family since my Mom watched Rhonda and Jeff when their Mom went to work.) Next to them were the Merry’s, then the Dillon’s. It was quite a spectacle to watch those houses be readied for a move.

I was reminded of all this yesterday when I took Mom to the store and saw Harriet and Sam Matsumoto. Sam has cancer now, on chemo. I can remember when he used to drive Rhonda and I to school sometimes, he would turn on the vents and stuff would fly out.

I was thinking of those houses, those people, this morning at 3:00 AM when I couldn’t sleep. In my memory I see every house, every family. I remember the night our dog got hit by a car and we mourned the loss sitting in Rhonda’s room. I remember the day I was swimming in the back yard of the Meier’s when the Dollinger boy came with a boa wrapped around his neck. I remember Todd Dillon running home when he cracked his chin in our driveway. So many memories.

I was thinking that in those days I could have knocked on any one of those doors and would have been welcomed. Offered a cooky or ice-cream bar. I would have listened and respected those parents like my own.

It struck me that must be a little of what Heaven is like. Being able to knock on any door and be welcomed. Now it seems few neighbors know each other. My folks just about have to flag the younger people down to talk to them before the garage swallows them up in the evenings. It’s sad.

I am not in John Lennon’s camp, even though I loved the Beatles back in the day.  I love to imagine Heaven because for me it’s just as real as this world, more real in fact. The Bible says in Heaven we will be fully known.

No worries about money, no mortgage, no war, no death, no homelessness, no crime, no pain or sadness. No loneliness or heartache for what might have been. No disease or any kind.

And God will wipe every tear. That sounds pretty darn good to me right now. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of good still left in this world, and much to celebrate. But I don’t think anyone would argue that it needs some redeeming right about now.

What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him…….1 Corinthians 2:9

Sacred Moments

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In the light of all that is happening in Texas, I sit here in the quiet; I realize again that the Sacred comes many times in the ordinariness of the start of the day.

I see the flooded homes, see the panicked people and animals clinging to each other and it doesn’t seem real. Too terrible to watch and yet I owe it to them to not turn away.

It’s the first communion-like pour of the steaming cup.  The old faithful senior cat who has been through so much with us, resting on his post after his breakfast. If I lost everything in this Motorhome and had him safe in a carrier I could be okay.

I see the two dogs in the row-boat, and them trying to save the horses, and I see 5 cats shivering in a basket with 4 strong heroes carrying them to safety.

David Nevue’s peace floats through this little space we call home this morning and I am praying for the flooded people, and thankful that someone I care about is safe in the other little room playing with her phone, I hear a video and it’s comforting. And that my family is too across town. This is the sacred part:

It’s in these little moments before the day starts to crash through my brain and everything starts all over again that I feel that just maybe everything really will be okay because He said it will. 

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. John 14:27

Be with them all Father. Bring your comfort to the shelters and the roads and the rooftops where people are hunkered down, waiting for rescue, for the next step. I pray for all the organizations going over to help, all the individuals and groups taking boats and supplies and love. May your grace wrap itself around them all. Amen

And be with us too, Father, because some of us have disasters right here.

A new day has dawned, and as long as we have Him, we have hope.

The Way Home

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“Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home” Matsuo Basho

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” Melody Beattie

“The beauty of inviting Jesus into our heart and life means we carry Him with us into every circumstance of our lives, essentially He becomes our home wherever home is. Knowing Jesus is returning to our original home.” Me

It was hot out and I had been cooped up since I got home, moldering in my cave/chair with a book and my phone. Finally I had to take a break from the inside and step outside. You know how when you’ve been in a building for too long and you go out and it feels a bit like Narnia just to be out? I used to feel like that at work. We had no windows to look out. I would go out and feed the sparrows in the patio and reset my compass.

I was met by my the feline comedy duo who zigzagged across my path vying for attention. They followed me to the feeding station and then I was surprised by a dash of pink behind the shrubbery. My Aunt informed me they called these lilies naked ladies. (Come to find out, Elaine has been watering it)

I have come to realize in this place we have carved out here, that you can have a little piece of domesticity and it can feel like home, even when you are between homes. I sat with a glass of wine as I watched the cats roll in their own little piece of heaven and felt peace settle around my shoulders. I breathed deep…….it was a welcome feeling and I felt gratitude fall around me as I  aimed my camera and clicked away.

When you know who Home is and that every step you take is leading back to Him, you can rest assured that all will be well wherever you land. Basho was somewhat right, the journey can be home when you know where you’ll end up.

And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. Jesus…….John 14:3

Peace be with your weekend friends………enjoy your journey.

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Morning prayer attempt

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I would not suggest inviting the cat (or in this case cats) to your prayer time. They insist on taking God’s place as first billing. This morning I walked down juggling heater canister, coffee and treat down to the prayer closet by the river. Mrs. Weigum was waiting for me and I held the gate open for her as usual. Since moving here, she and her brother have attached themselves to us since the neighbor is hardly ever home. She waits for prayer time because that means lap time.

I settled in and hardly had a chance to say, “Oh Jesus thank you for the miracle of this new day and I invite you into it……” When from my lap came a hiss and a primordial growl. Brother had followed us down there and she was extremely offended that he was invading her space. She slapped at him when he got too close.

He tried to jump into the prayer cabinet and I hastily closed the door. Then he investigated every surface in there and insisted on jumping into the little sink and then the window sill. (Whoever said cats were independent were never around any cat I’ve ever had). And these aren’t even mine.

After all the ruckus I gave up on praying or reading my devotional. I was too busy playing referee.

As I turned the heater off and blew out my candle, the sun was peeking through the trees and the birds were heralding the new day so I lifted the cover off the Adirondack chair and Weigumina and I sat there and watched as God lifted His curtain on another day. And a beautiful one it promises to be.

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A fish jumped nearby and her head swiveled in that direction and then a crane launched itself from a tree across the river. I love watching how they fly with their long legs straight out. They have started their morning cacophony up in the trees across the way. We call them “the cluckers.”

I guess you could say I had my prayer time. It’s not always about the words we say, but the gratitude that fills our hearts when we thank Him for the new day and where it comes from.

Thank you Jesus.

 

 

 

Looking Up in 2017

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Hope in Me, and you will be protected from depression and self-pity. Hope is like a golden cord connecting you to Heaven. The more you cling to this cord, the more I bear the weight of your burdens; thus you are lightened. Heaviness is not of My Kingdom. Cling to hope, and My rays of Light will reach you through the darkness.” Sarah Young, Jesus Calling

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

As Jesus and His disciples were walking by the temple one day, one of them remarked on how beautiful it was. I can see Jesus glancing at it, maybe nodding in agreement, then saying (Message version) “All this you’re admiring so much–the time is coming when every stone in that building will end up in a heap of rubble.” Then He goes on to explain just how bad things will get before He comes back and sets everything to rights. At first glance that might seem like a real joy-killer, but then He says at the end of Luke 21, “Look up, for your redemption draws near.”

It’s easy to despair looking at the events of the world around us. And I’m only thinking of the things that happened this past week! It’s easy to forget how to look at the world through the lens of  wonder, filtering out all the anxiety and dread about what will happen next. But Jesus doesn’t just tell us to buck up, or think beautiful thoughts. He points us to Himself. He is our ultimate hope and the hope of the world.

Sometimes He reminds us of this in the simplest of ways. The other morning I took a walk down by the river and the neighbor cat decided to tag along. I watched as she sprang ahead, leaping with a wild joy as she chased blowing leaves. She high-stepped it, and shaking her feet at the wet grass she almost tripped me by running across my feet. I have to admit, I got caught up in her playfulness.

Why do we humans complicate everything so much? Why do we eat ourselves up with worry? On Friday night I lamented that I was worried about finding a new stop on my route. My wise friend said, “You’re not driving it today.” Then I said something else and she repeated, “You’re not driving it tomorrow either, or Sunday.” I was robbing my moments of peace which I do repeatedly.

As I continued my walk, camera in hand, I got several cute shots of the cat comedienne. I laughed and caught the wonder again through my camera lens. I looked up at the sky peeking through the trees. I need to do more of this, I thought. I walked back up and then smiled all over again when I downloaded the pictures to the computer.

This quote by Frederick Buechner kind of sums up my thoughts today:

Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and the pain of it, no less than the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments and life itself is grace. Frederick Buechner, Now and Then: A Memoir of Vocation

I plan on re-doubling my efforts to keep looking up during the course of the coming year. I plan to remember how to live in wonder at the world around me, and letting Jesus be my filter. I will fail sometimes, of that I have no doubt. But sometimes I will succeed.