A bus filled with blessing

They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do. Psalm 1:3

She had almost forgotten about the application she had filled out for the bus driving position……almost but not quite. She was sitting by the computer when the phone lit up with an incoming call. The phone is turned all the way down so her Mom won’t run and answer it. In the past she had agreed to things over the phone “Oh, yes, you can come and service the air conditioner….” It has happened before.

It was the Apache Junction school district calling. She couldn’t believe her ears when he said, “How soon can you come in and see us?” For years, every now and then we would pass a bus and I would hear her say, “I would love to do that.”

For the past year and a half, her Mom has been her full time job, and it has been hard, especially for someone who has worked all their life.

So she went, and of course they loved her. Especially when they found out about her driving experience. They wanted her so badly they even pulled strings to get her in the August session of training.

And the schedule is such that she can come home between routes to check on her Mom……..and, it’s only just around the corner!

“This,” she said, “Is the first job that I have felt in a long time that is from God.”

I have waited for this, I have prayed for this…..for my dear friend who lives her whole life for others.

Whose hands are still partially numb from her last project for someone else.

Last night we sat at a restaurant as pictures came through my phone……there were two completed Mr. Potato heads, one my brother did and one my niece did. I smiled as I read the texts. “Sometimes, you just have to take time out to play Mr. Potato head with your girl,” he says.

As I scroll through, the phone rings in my hand and it’s my Mom.

“I was just having a glass of wine and thinking of you,” she said. “I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing,” she said, and she laughed. “Well,” I said, “I happen to think it’s a good thing, since I am having one too.” And we laughed together and she told me about her day. And I told her about Elaine’s new job…..

She whooped and hollered over the phone………”Oh, that is so great! She is just right for that job.”

Later I get a text from my brother. My Mom must have told him…..”CONGRATULATIONS to Elaine, Wooooooohooooooo. Bus driver for kids? Perfect. I am so happy.”

This, I think, is what it’s all about.

Rejoicing with those who rejoice. And I think of what a cornucopia is life. Some days so full of hardship you just want to sit in a corner and never come out, and then, blessings so rich that all you can do is lift your hands skyward.

Praise God from who all blessings flow.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7
I was driving down the freeway when it hit. I felt that familiar feeling……..the shallow breathing, the knot of tears forming in my throat. They come sometimes without warning. It started as an ordinary task in an ordinary day. I was following Elaine because she was taking her car in.

I held it at bay, at arms length, because I have to get stuff done. I think it’s just life piling up sometimes, and it has to come out somewhere, sometime. I am no stranger to this feeling. It has always been with me.

One of the very first times I can remember was when I caved during a Christmas play at church.

I had one line, I don’t even remember what it was. Because all of a sudden all I wanted to do was get off that stage……I strained my eyes through the bright lights and all I wanted was to find my parents. And then I did.

The road blurred through tears. I breathed little puffs of air. I turned off the freeway and onto the street. Off to my right was man on the sidewalk wearing flip-flops, a Hawaiian shirt and shorts….and a guitar strapped around his shoulder. He was carrying on a very animated conversation, with himself.

Laughter bubbled up through the tears a little hysterically, I thought……..”I hope that’s not gonna be me someday soon.”

Then I thought of my childhood friend Mary. Mary of the big blue eyes and wonderful reading voice.

It was always either her or me the teachers chose for reading out loud. I still remember her singing a solo in a school fashion show, she sang “After the Ball” in a blue dress. I don’t know what happened with Mary but many years later my folks told me she would skate down the street in a full hockey uniform, helmet and all. She never played hockey a day in her life.

She died recently at my age, only 53. She had a daughter and I would love to see her.  I wonder if she had Mary’s eyes, and liked to read. I hope she will be okay.

Don’t we all dance a bit close to the border of crazy at times? I think you kind of have to, to live this life we all live.

As I caught sight of Elaine’s jeep through the maze of cars, right in the midst of my panic I thought…….”Thank you Lord.” Because all my life I have never had to go through this feeling alone, and some people have.

And this wonderful friend has been with me through so much. And I will tell her about this, and she will say, “Well, maybe you are a little bit crazy, but I understand, and everything is gonna be fine.”

Because after all, God has us. He really does. 

The Dangers of Assumption

Two are better than one,
Because they have a good reward for their labor.
For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.
But woe to him who is alone when he falls,
For he has no one to help him up.
Ecclesiastes 4:9,10
Do me a favor today? If you live with someone, walk across the room and  grab their hands and look in their eyes and ask them if everything is okay. Even if you think everything is alright.
They may smile, shake their head and pull away, or think you’re being silly. They might giggle or laugh self-conciously. But then again they might surprise you and words might come tumbling out. Words they have been waiting to share.
Chances are, if you are living with someone, you have settled into a routine of what you call normal. Maybe one person is more silent, and the other one’s the talker. And usually it works. Life hums along. But when stress and life and circumstance come beating against the door, the seismic pattern shifts. All of a sudden what worked yesterday, is broken today.
Maybe it happened so gradually that you didn’t even notice. But now the silence is deafening and you, being the quiet one, pull in even further. You think maybe leaving them alone in their silence will fix it…..make the problem go away. But it never will.
If someone you love is quiet and they usually aren’t, something may be drastically wrong, and more silence won’t fix it.
They will wonder why you are leaving them alone………They will wonder why you are leaving them to battle it out all my themselves…….They will wonder if you care at all.
Learn from me……..I have made this mistake in the past, and I am sure I will again, of assuming that everything is okay, and then being shocked into awareness that things are very much not okay.
Leave a note in your wallet if you have to. Take it out and read it again and again.
Then do what it says.

The cake tells the story

After years of vain familiarity, some distant gesture or unconscious behavior, which we remember, speaks to us with more emphasis than the wisest or kindest words. We are sometimes made aware of a kindness long passed, and realize that there have been times when our Friends’ thoughts of us were of so pure and lofty a character that they passed over us like the winds of heaven unnoticed; when they treated us not as what we were, but as what we aspired to be. Henry David Thoreau

I am so thankful today that I have such a friend, and today I celebrate her life, her Birthday. There are so many things I would like to give her, so much she deserves. If I could I would give her a trip to Paris and a dinner under the twinkling lights of the Eiffel tower. And a full moon smiling…….And then I would whisper a prayer to God to have the stars do a little dance. Cause sometimes, as she so often says, sometimes you just gotta give it a little dance.

Or I would buy her an East Coast cruise to tour every single lighthouse.

What I would most like to give her right now is freedom, which she doesn’t have. Freedom to get in the car and go somewhere, anywhere, overnight. She is doing what she has to do right now, even though it is incredibly difficult. She is living what Ann Voskamp so aptly describes as the Hard Hallelujah. Where faith meets reality.

I know that every day she meets Jesus, because she can’t do it without Him. Even with Him it’s tough. This cake tells the story of her life as it is right now. Her Mom asked what the cake was for, and then for the umpteenth time, she asked her whose Birthday it was. Really, that was partially my fault. I put up the Birthday banner way too early. You learn not to do that with Alzheimer’s.

Her Mom stayed in the kitchen and Elaine figured out why soon after when she came out with a piece of cake and said, “That is good cake.” At least she said it was good.

Months ago I had put in for this day off, her Birthday, so we could hang out like we usually do on her special day. Then there was a scheduling conflict with someone else and they would have had to come home from out of state early. She said, go ahead and let him have the day. That is just how she is. That’s why I love her so.

I don’t like to imagine my life without her joy, her laughter, her unique brand of sunshine. She loves God and He loves her. She is God’s kid through and through. You can tell by what she does.

It’s in the way she loves people. It’s in all the little things she does when nobody except God is watching. She is the one who sees the baby carrier in the beat up car and finds the weary parent and slips them a twenty. She’s the one who pays for the Sonic order behind her. She’s the one who hand delivers bowls of cut up watermelon for the neighbors.

And every time she makes ice-cream cones, she makes three more to take next door.

She’s God’s kid. She notices when people need help, need to talk, need a listener. And she gets busy and does something about it. Not a dispassionate noticer, not her.

She’s my best friend in the world and I wish everyone could have the pleasure of knowing her. She is truly, the friend everyone would like to have.

I know she will be embarrassed by this, but after all, best friends are for shining the spotlight on each other. She has been shining the light on me now for 23 years, and I thank God for her everyday. Her life is a blessing.

Happy Birthday Elaine!

A Roomful of Royalty

“Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.“Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:18-20

As my feet hurriedly slapped down the stairs after work last night I was thinking about where to go. I had destinations in mind. Birthday business. Tomorrow is the Birthday of my very best friend, and as all best friends, I wish I could give her the moon. I know how tough this past year has been for her. There are so many things I wish I could do for her, so many things I wish I could give her……And she would deserve every one.

I thought…….She deserves a roomful of Royalty. A party to end all parties, a true celebration of her. Then I remembered that there will be a very special guest indeed. He is already making plans to attend. How could I have forgotten?…….Oh, Lord. I never want to forget you, please forgive me. The Holy Spirit, ever a gentleman, stands back and waits until I remember that He is the highest court in the land. Who else do we need?

It’s gonna be quite a party indeed.

Invite Him today, into whatever you are doing. He is there in the midst of it, my friend. He is the third person at your table for three, you business meeting, your commute, your life…….

Thank you Lord, for everyday with you is a celebration.

Casting our care……

……….casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7
You’re hurt and still reeling from the pain of it……all you want to do is go away. Like an animal that is scared or sick, you want to find a dark quiet place and go there. The pain of it is so great you don’t even want to talk about it. You didn’t expect it, and especially from them. You reached out your hand for help and drew back a bloody stump.
I don’t know much but I do know that when your heart is aching that much, there is only One who can heal it. When you don’t want to talk to anyone else because it just hurts too much to repeat it, you can tell it to Him. He understands. One of the saddest verses in the Bible is also the most comforting to me. It is part of Isaiah’s prophecy concerning Jesus:
……He was despised and rejected–a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Isaiah 53:3
He felt that bitter ache……He identifies fully with us in that way. His own best friends deserted Him when He needed them the most. We all did. When the ones you love the most turn their backs on you, and that you don’t even know what to do with the hurt, give it to Jesus. You can trust Him with it. He is waiting with open arms.
Let Him place His healing hands over your heart today. Even our best friends can’t do that, as much as they might want to.
But He can, and He will.
He loves you dear one.

Impossible Joy

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Romans 8:35-37

The past year is fast receding, along with all the events, challenges, joys and sorrows along with it. As I look back along the 365 days worth of everything that made up 2011, I am once again filled with thanksgiving of what He brought me through. I reflected on this one thought this morning on my 30 minute commute, as my car idled into the parking lot and came to a stop.

That in every seemingly impossible situation during the past year, impossible joy came along for the ride. In the moments of hysteria, sometimes laughter rose up beside it.

In helping my best friend deal with both parents, one with Dementia and one with Alzheimer’s, I learned many things about myself, some things which were not pleasant. I learned how easy it is to love the lovable, and just how difficult it can be to love the unlovely, the unlovable. It stretches you like nothing else. Several times a day I fail miserably. But I am thankful for that too, for that is what keeps me praying.

I am amazed at what transpired, what we got done.

What He brought us through.

And I am amazed at how painful moments can recede in hindsight and the joys magnify.

Like stones worn smooth by a rushing river, He smooths us out. It is easy to forget that just like that mighty river that is flowing all around us, He is still and always, there.

Washing us clean, making us more like Himself.

The blessing of fellowship

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:25

Yesterday Elaine and I went to see a dear friend who Pastors a church. He was a friend even before he was a Pastor, but we used to meet at work for prayer and Bible study. It was so good to catch up. By the time we heard all his problems ours felt much smaller.

We sat there for 3 hours…..until he got a call to pick up his daughter at school. The time had flown so fast we scarcely noticed it.

What a blessing it is to have dear friends to fellowship with. Like iron sharpening iron, we are strengthened by each other. He told us of what pain he has suffered over his next to youngest daughter. The one he never expected it from. He also said that lessons he has learned from going through that has helped him deal with issues in the church.

The hardest lessons to learn……Letting go.

He had to learn to let his daughter go, and sometimes to grow a church, you have to let some people go. A very perplexing lesson when you are in a small church and you are trying to grow it.

Sometimes God uses those we love the most to teach us the hard lessons of letting go. Sometimes it makes no sense. Sometimes we feel that the most Godly thing we could do is to grab on tighter. But God’s ways are higher than ours, always.

And it makes sense when you think about it.

He used the One closest to Himself to change the world.

Multitude Mondays on the Road

I am posting my blessings on a Wednesday instead of Monday because I didn’t want to miss an opportunity…….to thank Him again for outshining the stresses with blesses.

As I lay awake after my arrival, my mind swirling….one thousand thoughts converging……

colliding, worries tumbling over and over like a spin dryer.

Everything that comes with wanting to be everywhere at once when visiting family. The excitement of being there, and the sometimes extreme duress that came with traveling with someone extremely unpredictable, and with many special needs and challenges. It all swirled around.

My heart beating, my neck tense…..I prayed and let it all out to Him who listens best and can calm my heart when all else fails.

Still the blessings shine through the darkness. And many smiles were had and much laughter too. Now that I am home, I remember one after the other.

Being able to park the RV at my Aunt’s place on the Mokelumne River, and it was a blessing to her too to have us there. A comfort to her since now she comes home in the dark, her husband spends his days and nights away in a rest home. She said over and over again how she enjoyed it….having us there.

Seeing my Mom’s Bible study gals again…..their faith always shines through whatever they are dealing with, and there are many issues. But oh how we laughed and got a bit of study in too. Sometimes the fellowship is the most important part of the lesson.

Being able to spend time with Lauryn, my niece, my precious girl whose voice I still hear right now…saying my name which I waited so long for her to say. She has captured my heart with all the things she does……As I put scattered Lego’s back in the bag, my heart tugged…..lurched for her and the fun we had. Leaving is so bittersweet.

Enjoying a walk downtown in the crisp fall weather……clicking with my camera and enjoying once again walking all the paths I used to walk.

And of course, being able to do some things for Mom and Dad who are so appreciative of every small thing I do. I only wish it could be more……enjoying great food cooked by my brother, who really missed his calling. He should have been a chef.

Throwing an impromptu party for the “girls” in the Motor home. Elaine cooked a wonderful dinner and we laughed until our stomachs ached. My Aunt came out later and said what a great time she had…..

And to top it off. A spontaneous side trip to the ocean. I promise, pictures will follow………….There was a special place she longed to go, my best friend…..but with her Mom along, there was not much peace or relaxation for her. Let’s just say it was not a real vacation. Her dream of escaping there for a few days didn’t work out, so she asked me……Want to take a side trip to the coast on the way back?

It would mean getting back with no time to spare for work. But suddenly the prospect of going there, standing on the pounding surf, was irresistible. And she beamed like the sun……We turned the “bus” to the West with our hearts singing.

And Oh, the seafood. The magic of the waves, walking for hours and hours on the beach, watching the sandpipers clown around the shore, and the otter who entertained us for a solid hour with his antics.

It was all so wonderful. There is truly nothing like praying by the ocean.

Getting to bed at midnight and getting up at four AM for work is something I have not done in a while. But the memories and bit of peace and relaxation we carried away is worth every bit of sleep lost.

Sleep can be caught up. Moments are for seizing,  and once passed we can’t be sure they will come again.


A God Gift

I get to go on a CRUISE!

We are going to this place……..I had no idea where Belize was until a couple of days ago. I must admit when I first saw where it was on the map, my fatalistic overactive imagination conjured images of drug lords and kidnappings and assault rifles. Immediately I got on the travel website to get some facts. So far it sounds very intriguing, especially for someone like me who loves history. It has been featured many times on the Travel Channel and also House Hunters International. Two people I told at work immediately started gushing about it….yes, they actually gushed. I feel safer now.

So, how it all got started………I saw an ad in the paper asking for writing submissions. Well, all I saw at first were the words: WRITE and CRUISE. Contest was sponsored by the good people at  Home Instead Senior Care. They wanted stories about caregivers sacrificing to care for loved ones at home and the winning submission would send the worthy caregiver on a cruise…..I could think of no one more worthy or in need of a cruise than my best friend who has been through so much the past several years with her folks. I tip-tapped my entry in the space….then I had to cut, and cut again.

I whittled it down to two words under the limit and hit “send.”

I didn’t hear anything for a few months so I figured it was already done, then lo and behold, I got an email day before yesterday. My essay was one of the winners of the caregiver cruise for two so Elaine (and I) will be headed for Belize in January. Wheeeee! I still can’t quite believe it. It’s a God thing. Sometimes He just gives one of those completely unexpected gifts, God gifts I call them.

And what is so wonderful is that my very generous and humble friend would hand this trip right over to someone else if she thought they were more deserving than she. No, no no, I will not let her.

Of course, when I read my submission again, the first thing I see is a big whopping error that I can’t believe I let slip by. But when I think about it, isn’t that just the way God works?  If I had sent off a perfectly polished copy my ego would have had every opportunity to get all puffed up, as the Apostle Paul put it so well.

I am so grateful for this opportunity to see more of God’s good creation with someone so deserving of this. Someone who has missed so many vacations and left her dreams of another cruise somewhere far in the future, if at all. God had other ideas. I feel like He gift-wrapped it just for her.

“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. James 1:17