A breath between life

 

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How long we wait,  with minds as quiet as time…..Thomas Merton 

It took half a day or so to work its magic, the sea. I tossed and turned the first night, rolling thoughts over and over like the waves themselves. The next morning I let the beach release me from all that was troubling. I let myself fall under the spell of the sound of the surf, rolling, crashing and thunderous. 

I marvel once again at a Creator who would put so many mile markers right in front of us for us to find Him, thankful that He reveals Himself to me this way.

I remember when I was a kid, how that first glimpse of the straight blue line of that body of water against the horizon filled me with an excitement I could barely contain. Like an old friend it beckoned. Then, it was all the other stuff mixed in too. The Boardwalk, the Merry Go Round, the Taffy window. Now, I need only the sand under my feet and that pounding relentless surf.

Some say it’s just gravity that keeps it from flowing onto the earth, but I know the voice, the power behind it all. There was a time Job had questions and God had answers. All of us at some point have questions attached to our grief, our suffering. I ask why my Mom has to navigate her way through this betrayal of her memories. She remembers when remembering brought comfort.  Now her memories have turned against her; reminding her of all she has misplaced.

But the most important thing is she still knows the answers and so do I. Some things we just won’t understand this side of Heaven. She still knows her God and that He is supremely good and that never wavers for her. As she told me yesterday, “She still belongs to God. He still holds her.”

I walk and walk. And I let the surf wash over my inner soul. The deep place where the Holy Spirit rests in the quiet. I hear God’s reply with each step. And it’s all the answers I need. 

Who enclosed the sea with doors when bursting forth, it went out from the womb; when I made a cloud its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and I placed boundaries on it and set a bolt and doors, and I said, Thus far you shall come, but no farther; and here shall your proud waves stop? Job 38:8-11

Yes, the sea has worked its magic once again. We are blessed to be able to come back to this place. This peaceful place that has come to seem like home. Doubly blessed to have someone to share this leg of my journey with. 

I Choose Happy

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That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: A farmer went out to sow his seed……” Matt. 13: 1-3

There is a little kitchen towel I have. It used to be very bright orange and sunny yellow. Because of my old bug yellow will always be a happy color for me. On it are printed the words, “Choose Happy.” Lately there have been things pressing in on me. School starting again, the future, the transitory nature of where we are living, Mom’s illness.

And currently we are facing a homeless/drug element in our town. Transients are camping by the river and there are pictures of feces and you name it on the shore. They clean it up periodically and then they all come back. That has made me extremely upset and restricted my activities on the river this summer. I’ve been wondering why the environmentalists so prevalent in our state are not coming out of the woodwork on this issue. I feel robbed. Cheated.

The thief (Satan) comes only in order to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come that they (we) may have life and have it in abundance. John 10:10

Everything in this world was set in motion and created by God. Perfectly in balance. The effects of sin have tarnished it. The evidence is all around us. Jesus came to counteract the eternal result of that destruction.  He also makes it possible to supersede all the negativity around us and still embrace life, and beauty, and hope and joy. We don’t have to let the world steal it. It is a choice we have.

It was with that attitude I awoke yesterday morning with a defiant stubbornness to  “Choose Happy.” I shook out the towel from the cabinet, hung it up and claimed Jesus promise. I took it into my heart and prayed it as a mantra all day. And you know what? My attitude changed.

This morning I walked down to the river and saw the magnificent beauty that was there all along. A gift of joy returned. I choose life. I choose gratitude for where we are now. I choose thankfulness for the beautiful message my Mom left me on the phone. That she loves me and glad that I am her daughter.

You see, when I read the parable of the sower and the soil today I realized that while the seed started out good, it was the conditions of the ground it fell into that varied. Each day we are given a choice and each day we live for Christ the choice can only be life. Because He died and rose again to give it to us.

It’s an old old story, but one I never get tired of telling.

Be at peace with your life my friends. He’s got this. He’s got you.

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.

 

Peace Be Still

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I’m sitting here hunkered down in the Motorhome nervously watching the tops of the trees blow and roar. I used to love lying in bed listening to storms with the wind whipping through the trees but that was before we had 3 trees topple in the February of 2017. They were 50-year-old trees and one hit the house, thankfully no one hurt. But it takes its toll. Now we joke and say we have PTSD whenever we hear of the winds picking up. 

I am sitting and praying for Jesus to please hold up the trees. I tell him, “All it would take is “Peace be still” from you and it would all be over. Then I thought of all the other storms we are facing and tears immediately sprang to my eyes. I worry about our stuff in the trailer…..all the stuff that used to fill our home and I don’t even know what shape it’s in.

I think of my car, still wrecked in the car port, undrivable. I think how nothing really has worked out the way I thought it would here. I thought of the world situation and that it just really too much. 

But then in almost the same breath I thanked God for keeping us all safe. I thanked him for this place of beauty and that these storms, none of them will last forever.

I thanked Him that I got over this cold extremely fast. I thanked Him for my Tax return coming in just in time. I thanked Him for a friend who takes care of everything here while I am at work, or visiting my folks, or wherever…..and her positive and hopeful attitude and uplifting spirit.

I thought for the umpteenth time, there is always more to be grateful for than to fear. 

And I thanked Him for who He is. The Master and Commander who still has everything, including me in His capable hands. I think of how scared the Disciples must have been that night on the sea, how scared. And there was Jesus sound asleep. I think He was just testing them to see how long it would take before they woke HIm. 

I think of how long it takes me sometimes. When all I have to do is call His name. 

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

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Casting our Care

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These morning moments alone with God are more important than they’ve ever been for me.  1 Peter 5:7 says that we can “cast all our anxiety on Him because He cares for us.” Another version says “cast our cares.” I particularly like the one that says anxiety because that’s my weakness. Just the fact that He cares lessens the anxiety.

I remember the day I was at my Grandmother’s house long ago and the calendar in the bedroom had that verse on it and I must have been feeling anxious then too, because I can still see the bedroom, the calendar with the verse on it and how comforting it was at that moment. So comforting that the scene has been frozen in my mind now for about 30 years.

This life is fragile. We can have the best day ever and then the next it can all fall to crap in a pile at our feet. It’s kind of like leaping from sunny patch to sunny patch with storms, fog, rain, sleet and snow in between. You just have to keep going. And keep the gratitude going because there are always many things to be thankful for. God knew we would need constant encouragement. The Bible is full of encouraging verses I cling to and simultaneously forget when my mind and heart are bogged down in earthly things.

I guess I so appreciate the good moments because I have walked through that deep darkness and came out the other side. I remember a time when I could barely lift my head. I will never forget that dark fog. I will also never forget when it finally lifted. If you are feeling that way today, here are a few verses that I hope will leak light into your heart and soul today.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplications with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God. Philippians 4:6-7

The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. Psalm 40:1,2

And my favorite…….

I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33

Be at peace today, still your heart and live in the moment, because all moments, both good and bad will always come and go, but God’s Presence never leaves us…..

The “Luxury” of Letting Go

 

I felt the river calling on this particular day. It was hot and I was stressed and mentally wrestling with many things. I needed to float…….I tethered myself to the tree in case I drifted off and ended up at the Lake about 5 miles away (Like that would be a terrible thing.

I closed my eyes and let the sounds fill my ears. I heard voices every now and again, kayakers paddling by. The sound of the wind in the trees wooed me and made me think of how I used to miss that sound in the desert. Water bugs chased each other and alighted on my legs. I remembered a song by John Denver called “Cool and Green and Shady.”

He was so intuned to nature and the depth of our need of it. I miss the wisdom of his words. Here is just how I felt:

                                        “Find yourself a piece of grassy ground,
Lay down close your eyes…….find yourself
and maybe lose yourself while your free spirit flies.
August skies, and lullabies, promises to keep
Dan-de-lions and twisting vines clover at your feet.
Mem-o-ries of Aspen leaves, tremblin’ on the wind.
Honey bees and fantasies, where to start again,
Someplace cool an’ green an’ shady……”

Amidst the birds and the lapping of waves against the cement the sound of a harmonica drifted across the water. A lone kayaker in a hat was serenading the turtles sunning themselves on a nearby log. It sounded a little bit like magic. It brought me back to my childhood when my Uncle Bruce would play “Red River Valley” around the campfire.

Then I thought, amidst everything that I think is so difficult in this season of my life, there is this. This bit of paradise I can latch onto. What a luxury. I think of so many living in places torn by poverty and war and noting but fleeing from one place to another. Never having peace.

Where is their escape? Whatever I think is so difficult would be a joke in someone else’s life and perspective. This causes me to sigh and pray and thank God.

I stare up lazily at the trees and they wave lazily back. I take some of my burdens with me when I go but enough are left behind.

Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from Him. Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will never be shaken……Psalm 62: 1,2

 

The Itsy Bitsy Spider

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Everyone knows me knows that I have a long running vendetta against spiders, (except Charlotte). The first time I read Charlotte’s Web was the first time ever I was exposed to a heroine that was a creature that I had loathed all my young life. And I saw her as pretty with eyelashes, that’s how the artists portrayed her anyway. As the story unfolded I saw Charlotte as good, saw her spinning away prettily in her web the words that would save Wilbur.

This one was small, almost microscopically as he brazenly walked across my robe. I must have collected him (or her) outside and they hitched a ride. Because it was so small I deemed it worth saving. What is it about something shrunk down to a minimal size that renders it helpless. Had it been enlarged by about 10 times I would have called for its destruction in haste. But it was so small, and so vulnerable.

It was trying to spin a little web, away out of its trouble maybe. Maybe it sensed disaster looming. It sunk down into my pocket and I tried to get it to attach itself to the Kleenex I offered as a lifeline. No go. Then I got a straw and poked it down towards it and it climbed aboard. Victory!

I took it outside where I thought it might flourish, left it on the tomato plant outside. I felt I had done what God would have me do. I guess maybe I felt like maybe He feels about us. My heart was moved by a creature so small that it needed my help to get it back to where it truly belonged.

I don’t know about you but I need help each and every day to get back to where I once belonged. In my heart, in my soul, in my mind. All of us feels the loneliness that rocks us to the core at times. It’s the inborn sense that things just aren’t right and we need Someone bigger to reach down and help restore that feeling that we are truly on our way Home. Or at the very least, stumbling in the right direction.

You see, no matter how shattered we may feel today, God is in the process of making all things new. We serve a God of restoration. Everything we are going through right now will someday make sense. In the forest of Mirkwood it’s so dark you can’t see the sky but that doesn’t mean the sky isn’t there. (Read Chapter 8 of the Hobbit) It is, you just have to climb a little higher to see it. Look up my friends. Look for the shaft of light in your particular forest today. It’s Hope, and it’s always there. He’s always there.

Problems, like spiders,  can all be shrunk down to minimal size in the light of God’s Presence in our lives. He is in the process of putting all the pieces back together again. Everything in this whole crazy mixed up, messed up world. That includes me and you and everyone we care about.