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.

The Morning He Spoke

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He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10

I was in early morning prayer and my mind was like a superhighway. I have been job hunting and determined to keep walking through doors, keep going forward. I have had the interviews, filled out the applications for anything and everything I think I could remotely like or do. I interviewed for two positions, each of them for a Paraeducator in the Special Education Department. I was waiting for word.

Then I saw the application for the typist/office job at the school. My niece’s school. I went and got my certification for 46 WAM. One more word than I needed. I floated out of there with a prayer of Thanksgiving on my lips. One more reward, one more door. One more piece of paper in my hand that says I can do something.

You see, when you have been at a company for 20 years and have to look for something else it can be daunting. I am not young. Smart as whips twenty somethings are out there looking for the same jobs I am.

So, I was in prayer and looking for direction. I applied for the office job. I got a rejection from the first place I interviewed, and secretly breathed a sigh of relief. I was uneasy about the interview, the place. Now I was waiting for word on the other.

And it was in that place of indecision and fog of mind that it came like a Heavenly beam slicing into my heart. It was quiet but it was insistent. And clear as a bell. That’s why I knew it was from the Holy Spirit.

Be still, rest easy in my Grace.

And like all things that you know are from God, I wanted to keep it to myself for awhile. To cherish it. Part of me was afraid if I shared it, it would pop like a bubble and go away. Lose its power. Kind of like a dream you want to fall back asleep for. But the words stuck fast in my soul. I felt calmed.

And then I got the call and was offered a job as a Paraeducator in the Special Education Department. A job for which I have no formal training or education but that for some reason God thinks I can do. Because in all my years at Intel, He proved to me that He would always find a place for me. That whatever He gave me, He would help me do.

I was a small town girl in a big corporation. I had no degree and I was working around people with Masters and more…….And I retired from there after twenty years. It was Gods and my success story.

And I am about to enter another one. Friends, I would appreciate your prayers. I feel a bit like Maria leaving the gates of the Abbey headed for the Von Trapp mansion.

But I have confidence. This belongs to God, this venture. Don’t they all?

I am resting in His Grace and Philippians 4:13. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

 

 

Good Day (of) Sunshine

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

I know winter is not over yet but all over there are whispers of hope. I saw bulbs coming up, maybe narcissus the other day. We have had consecutive gray days and this morning, after a patter of steady but light rain the sun came out and the birds were giving their exuberant assent back and forth across the sky. Blue sky changes things. Just a smattering of sun reminds us that things just might be okay after all.

I was feeling thankful that this could bring me joy because to some in their minds all days are alike. I know this, I have seen that heartbreak. The thing that makes Christianity stand out so starkly in the climate of our world is that no matter our circumstance, the Holy Spirit lives and breathes within us and fans that flame alive even when life around us points to the contrary.

Satan can fling his accusations at us all he wants, just daring us to hope. He tries in vain to pull the shutters down from inside because he knows his time is short. He will settle for a few moments of despair here and there. He has lost, my friends, and he knows it. He lost long ago on that hallowed ground where Jesus gave His Momma over to the care of Mark and forgave the world, forgave us.  His last breath here was only His reentrance back Home, just as it will be for us.

For those who have followed my journey here, you know I have moved back where home once was, the only home I knew. I feel a bit like Bilbo Baggins describing his “There and back again” journey. I have met my own little Smaugs. I have been job searching. Going on job interviews feels like first dates from what I can remember.

You go through that exultation that you got the interview (the date) then you have the instant regret and desperation…….(will they, won’t they call.) The anxiety, the waiting for the email, the phone call. Hoping they will, hoping they won’t (when you think you made the wrong choice)

I am proud of myself and my milestones lately. They haven’t found me employment yet, but they have brought me something else. A victory that has grafted into myself that no one can take away. It’s God’s and mine. And everyone that prayed for me.

There was the 3 hour assessment test which I passed. And the typing test just the other day. Both times E said, just take them! And I was hoping for 45 words a minute on the typing test and I got 46! God is so generous. It was kind of surreal. It was a beautiful office and I could see other people settled happily in their suites, an architect here, a real estate office there, an attorney farther down. It was like entering another world.

And I greeted the two gals at Blue Ribbon Personnel. They were well dressed and standing at their ergonomically correct workstations, like the one I had when I had a job. It was like old home week.

Thankfully there were no numbers or special characters on the test. As Elaine said, Angels wings were there on the keyboards.

God has birthed a new day and I am going to step out in it and see where He wants me to go next. I don’t think I plagiarized the Beatles because I added the “of.” The lyrics are how I feel right this moment.

Peace on your day.