A New Season

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For behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. Song of Solomon 2:11,12

The last time I wrote (if I remember correctly) I was in a bit of a funk. I was missing the doves that were a regular background noise of my prayer/meditation times in Arizona.  I had seen them in the area and wondered why I never heard them. I discounted it as part of a necessary season I was going through along with everything else. Now, it seems I hear one several times a day. God has given them back to me, along with Spring and flowers everywhere. The sun has touched down and the earth is truly full of His glory. As I write a Mockingbird is singing its heart out, so loud it almost comical.

I am happy to say, my heart feels lighter. Maybe it’s as simple as the weather. We walked to the lake today. That even sounds amazing doesn’t it? As much as I have whined and groused about all the things that bugged me about my home state since moving back, to be surrounded by all this beauty (and of course being close to my family) balances things out quite nicely. When weather permits I go down to the little river shack to pray. My old faithful LL Bean robe gave up the ghost and I had to throw it out. That’s what I would bundle up and walk down in, but my friend found another online and surprised me with it. I think it must have cost her a bundle, it weighs 5 pounds!

Now that the weather is warming up, I will go down more mornings before work. We have had some BBQs here lately and that is a very welcome change, to be able to cook outdoors is something we missed so much. Here is what Elaine made for my Aunt, her old sink washstand was rotting so she rebuild a frame and added a little cooking space which works great. The old wood is in the wheelbarrow!

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There is something Holy about creating something, isn’t there? It is truly a blessing to be able to work with your hands and make something better, give it a new life. After all, we are created in His image and God is the ultimate Creator. During Lent, we remember God’s great work of redemption, His greatest and most awful gift. Awful because it cost Him everything, great because it was the greatest act of Love He ever did and will ever do again.

He is our hope, our joy…..now and for all eternity. Nature reflects this, especially at the turn of the Seasons.

You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Henry David Thoreau

Life is grace. Sleep is forgiveness. The night absolves. Darkness wipes the slate clean, not spotless to be sure, but clean enough for another day’s chalking. Frederick Buechner

 

 

One thing I’m sure of

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“A life is either all spiritual or not spiritual at all. No man can serve two masters. Your life is shaped by the end you live for. You are made in the image of what you desire.”

“By reading the scriptures I am so renewed that all nature seems renewed around me and with me. The sky seems to be a pure, a cooler blue, the trees a deeper green. The whole world is charged with the glory of God and I feel fire and music under my feet.” Quotes by Thomas Merton

I thought it fitting to start the New Year with quotes by one of my favorites, Thomas Merton. The second quote echoes what I was feeling as I walked down to prayer this morning. The thought that wouldn’t let itself go was this:

Whatever I do this year or any other, without God it’s a wasted trip.

I was thinking of Merton as I always do when I am close to nature. This morning as I sat down by the little river shack, I thought I heard the owl. I don’t hear it often and when I do I make myself completely still so I can hear it. What it is about nature that makes one lean in and listen? I guess that’s how I stay in touch with the Holiness of God. There is a purity in nature that this artificial world just cannot duplicate.

“Help me to love better this year,” was my prayer as I read over 1 Corinthians 13. It was a deeply humbling experience when my Pastor friend once encouraged me to lead the Bible study on these verses once. I never forgot it. We’ve all read those words so much they’ve become like a nursery rhyme. Just about every Christian wedding we hear it. But when I studied it, I saw how incompletely I really do love.

I see Jesus staggering with the cross up the hill. That is 1 Corinthians 13 personified. I saw Him forgive the mockers. I saw Him return from the dead and ask Peter if He still loved Him. I saw true love. And someday, I will see it radiating from His eyes when He looks at me. How can I not try to love better?

I see this past year and it’s staggering how far we’ve come, what we’ve been through. How I struggled with this move and now we are on the other side. It’s been a year of joys and turmoil. Equal parts fear and faith. Equal parts stress and anxiety, but also resounding love because we know who is on the trail ahead of us. We carry our home with us, in more ways than one. He is our true North. This year, and every other.

So it’s on to 2017 with Jesus. We are heading to the coast to bring in the New Year. I see hope ahead.

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

 

The Thrill of Hope

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I made my way down to the river even though I knew I wouldn’t be there long. It was early morning, still dark as it usually is when I go. I didn’t need to see it as much as I needed to feel it. Kind of like I feel about God. I needed to thank Him for the good day I had. A big gold star was shining overhead and the crescent moon was on the other side, peeking through the bare branches with a star right next to it. There was a Holiness to it.

There in the little river shack, I knelt and thanked God for the good day. Lately I have felt something like Plexiglas around my heart, or maybe teflon. Nothing has quite reached me, call it a form of depression or unease. Whatever it is, I felt the platelets shift yesterday and it felt really good to feel some joy leaking in. It was that thing with feathers that Emily Dickinson so eloquently wrote about:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
I had a good day at work the day before, and later that night we went to a local place, the place where I got married so long ago. It’s changed greatly, now it is a full fledged spa, with a vintners room and additional rooms. When I was married there almost 40 years ago now,  it was a little old Victorian country house with a garden and that part of it is where we listened to a three piece ensemble. I distinctly remember the day Mom and I went there to discuss the ceremony. It was a fall day and windy, and I remember how the leaves looked coming down. It was a special memory between she and I. I will remind her of that when I see her.
We sat and sipped wine and met some lovely people, one of whom auditioned for the voice. The other two, a couple sat down next to me and the lady explained she was an author and historian and they were there to interview an owner of the Inn and write his life story. So we talked about different authors and she said she liked my hat. We exchange cards, I dug my homemade crumpled Staples version, and she her crisp eloquently done one.
As we stepped outside I heard a commotion, which was Santa’s firetruck all decorated with lights. I wrote another story about this on Dan King’s “Bible Dude”blog which you can read here. I jumped up and down like a kid and cried…….”Santa, Santa!!!” They drove right past us and we waved and they honked and we all shouted our Merry Christmases.
What are the odds, that it would be coming by right then? Does God mind when we indulge in a little fantasy about Santa? I don’t think so. I actually think he sent it for us because we needed it.
Just like we always need Him.

Coming Home to Gratitude

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“God reveals Himself in rear view mirrors. And I’ve an inkling that there are times when we need to drive a long, long distance, before we look back and see God’s back in the rearview mirror. Maybe sometimes about as far as Heaven–that kind of distance.” Ann Voskamp

This afternoon, I remembered something I used to do back in Arizona. It was a wonderful habit of counting out my blessings along with the community that Ann Voskamp started with her wonderful book, One Thousand Gifts. Oh, I remember those Monday posts, sitting there in my cozy home counting out my “thankfuls”fondly.

I have been struggling, really struggling to get words out. Before they used to pour out like an offering……..liquid words splashing like a drink offering on my altar to God. The well seems to have dried up but I have learned as a writer that these times are often as valuable as when words flow freely.

The move we wrestled with for so long is behind us. The stress of me starting a brand new job that I almost drove myself into despair over, behind us. I have arrived at a kind of comfort zone where the blackness now is a gray with a tinge of hope at the edges. We are settled in a beautiful spot by a river where we hear trains often, always a favorite of mine. I missed those in Arizona.

So I wondered. Why can’t I write? Where did the words go? Why, with all this beauty around me does my soul feel dampened? Where is that deep peace I had in the desert?

Could part of it be that I have brought too many other things to the foot of the cross and forgotten my gratitude? Could it be that simple?

So here in this place, on this Veteran’s Day, I will forget all about the craziness going on in the world and concentrate on counting my gifts again, for they are many: 

Little leaves floating down from Heaven, resting circles on the water.

The owl I heard the other morning

The three river otters I saw playing, mouth agape as I tried to run for my camera on Saturday morning

Cherished time spend with a dear friend and laughter that went along with it, and Kayaking on the river. 

My health…..my health…..my health. 

This new job that I wrestled with and at last come to a place of a somewhat uneasy comfort zone. 

A best friend who never stops finding ways to make living in an RV better and more comfortable, and thankful that it didn’t sell so we could live here in this incredible beauty. 

Family who is close, who I can drive or bike to see. 

Friends who have expressed joy and gladness that we are here now. 

God, who has never left me, and never will.

Thank you Ann, for starting this with your wonderful book, One Thousand Gifts. I pray that the Lord continue to bless and keep you and your family.

It’s Friday but Monday’s coming….

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Philippians 4:6-7  do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Last night was Friday and now I join the throngs saying, “TGIF.” After having spent years doing 12 hour shifts and enjoying a string of 3 and 4 day weekends at the end, I am now working a five-day week. I do have to qualify that by saying it’s only a four-hour day. Before you laugh yourself silly at my puny four hours, let me tell you that I lost sleep, cried, prayed, and worried myself sick for the first two weeks I was there.

There is a truth about me that surprises some people because I can come off as being very mellow, relaxed and easy-going. The truth is that I can tie myself up in knots over things that someone else may not spend even two minutes worrying over. Even things some people consider fun, I can turn into a turmoil of gut wrenching anxiety. It can be crippling.

It has taken me 57 years to realize that the only thing (person) big enough to handle my anxiety is God Himself. Trying to smother it or medicate it doesn’t work for me, it just comes back bigger than life after the haze wears off. For those of you taking medication prescibed for anxiety or depression, this does not mean you. There are times when this is needed.

This is what I think…….That we are all of us in recovery in some form or another, and I think it starts at birth. From the moment we are pushed into this life, it starts.

What are you in recovery over today? I have learned to embrace my need for help with this thing. I got help. I had five free sessions of counseling when I left Intel and it’s the best thing I ever did. That lady “got me” the very first session. I think God sent her.

Please don’t ever let anyone tell you it’s weak to get help. It’s the strong who realize when they need it and take the hand of support that’s offered.

I am learning not to live for the weekend, but live for the day because sure as anything,  I know that these two days will fly by and I will be set down smack dab in the middle of Monday before I know it. And God will meet me there too. That is what He’s been trying to tell me for 57 years now, and I have made some progress. There was a time in my life when I would have walked, no……run away from anything that put me way out of my comfort zone.

But God waits outside your and my comfort zone. And He’s here on a beautiful Saturday too. Live in the here and now, where Jesus tells us He is.

Forgive me, Father for putting other things on the throne of my life. Things like worrying about my own failure. You have already given me the tools to complete the tasks I need to do. Reel me back in from myself. You are all I ever need. Thank you for a friend who looks out for my good. (Elaine) Everyone needs someone they can spill their worries to without fear. Now I do the same to You, Lord.

Thank you for this good day that You have made. How dare I look at how you hung the moon, placed the stars, keep everything in motion and still not trust you! 

And thank you, Marty Unruh for your artwork, my friend. We did pick the right verse!

But the Lord…….

IMG_4250So far this year has been a year of tremendous blessing and challenge, and letting go. I let go of the first big thing, the thing that had been my financial security for 20 years. My job. My career. My nickname for Intel was “Big Brother” because in a sense it was. It was an umbrella of protection in a way. And it had also become part of my identity I guess. For so long I had questioned, wondered when the right time would be to leave. 

I kept asking God, make me know. Help me to be sure. Then the retirement package rolled out and it was like God was saying, “You asked for it, you got it.”

Since then I have been traveling back and forth to California to help my Mom get through a couple of surgeries, of which she has come through tremendously well.

And on the heels of coming back from California the first time, I lost my best little good fur friend in the world, my Sydney. We lost I should say, because Elaine loved him just as much, and Briggs is still searching some days for his brother.

I haven’t had a lot of time to really reflect on my semi-retirement. I found I didn’t want to get out of bed, and for me that is unusual being a morning person. But I did. I fed Briggs and cheered him up. Made him a little high with a dose of catnip.

I wondered whether I should even write a post because I wasn’t in the best of moods. But then I thought of David, and how blessed I have been by the Psalms over the years. David had his bouts with great fear and depression.

I remembered how many times in the Psalms (and the Bible) where it says, “but God.”

I was ready to close the door and cower in fear……But God. I was ready to throw the covers over my head and not face the challenges of a new day…..But God. I was thinking I had no happy words…..But God. You see, no matter what we are facing today, God is bigger. God is the big But in whatever we face, always! It the most important thing He has taught me in my one little life.

“My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.” Psalm 73:26

“But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol,
For He will receive me.” Psalm 49:15

No one has ever actually seen God, but, of course, his only Son has, for he is the companion of the Father and has told us all about him.” John 1:18

The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of our God shall stand forever.” Isaiah 40:8

So this morning, I got out of bed much later than usual. I figured maybe I needed the rest. And though I didn’t feel much like doing anything, much less writing, I found that when I started moving through the day, listening to music that sang His praises, my spirit lifted.

The best thing we have as Christians is a hope that is tangible and real because it’s found in the physical presence of a living God who wants and desires to meet our every need. That’s something concrete that we can pass on to others. And it’s the most powerful gift we can give in a world that needs hope more than ever before.

So the next big thing will be letting go of this home that has been our sweet refuge for several years now. It will be hard……maybe the hardest thing yet. But God…….But God……I rest in You.

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” Jesus

Shalom!

 

Winds of Change

 

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I laid in bed listening to the hum of traffic out on the road. I wanted to revel in the sameness of things the way they’ve been for the last 11 or so years for a few more minutes. To let the cocoon of the wonderful comfortable rhythm of days the way they’ve been wrap itself around me for a little while longer. I am aware that today is different. Today my retirement may be accelerated. The plan might be kicked up a notch. 

Today is the day the email will drop, the one everyone at work has been waiting for. The one that will announce the changes and what if anything it means for us here in Arizona. What it might mean for me. My work phone is on the charge by my bed. Usually I shut it off all weekend. But this morning, I wanted to see the message first thing.

Funny isn’t it? How you can pray and pray for something and then when it comes down to maybe actually having it answered, you dig your heels in at the last and a little part of you is afraid that it may not happen and also afraid that it will.

This is what I saw when I finally opened it:

“You are eligible to participate in the Enhanced Retirement Program (ERP).” And then a long explanation about restructuring and reinvesting and growth in the company.

All I kept thinking is how amazing God is. Just when I decided to retire at the end of year, this comes in. And it’s a good offer. The timing leaves me in awe once again of how He works. All the times I prayed, and cried and wondered if I was doing the right thing by staying. And later, in prayer in my little shed, this is what my devotional said:

“Circumstances are in flux, and the world seems to be whirling around you. The only way to keep your balance is to fix your eyes on Me, the One who never changes. If you gaze too long at your circumstances, you will become dizzy and confused. Look to Me, refreshing yourself in My Presence, and your steps will be steady and sure.” Jesus Calling April 25

All day long the wind howled between the houses as if to mimic change blowing in. It picked up strength mid-morning and never wavered. My allergies kicked up something fierce. Elaine came home looking like she’d been in a war. She said driving the bus was like wrestling all day. And then she had to wipe boogers off the seat and window…….

At the end of the day, the wind finally stopped. I sat out for a little while on the little deck, wondering about the road ahead. I can relate to Mary in Scripture when it says, she “treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” I spend a lot of time pondering things in my heart. I guess that’s what writers do before the words make it to the page.

Today, I stand amazed at all He’s done and continues to do in our lives. I may not know all the ins and outs of how it’s all gonna play out, but I know He’s with us. And I know He’ll never leave us. And He won’t leave you either, my friend.

He’s in it for the long haul.