The Writing in the Sand

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Where are your accusers? That was the question Jesus asked the woman who was caught in adultery. I’ve wondered all kinds of things when I’ve read and reread this story. This time it became more alive to me. I could see Jesus there……hear the stones thudding against the ground……..one, then one after another. I saw the dust fly up in my mind when they hit. I put myself in the woman’s place. I wondered where the man was?

We wonder don’t we, what Jesus wrote in the dirt. He did it twice kind of bending down almost as if He was pretending He didn’t hear the question. We’ve all done this from time to time. Someone asks you something and you don’t want to answer right away or maybe at all. You look off into the distance, look down at your hands…..sigh heavily. I think maybe Jesus did sigh heavily as He stared at the ground and moved his finger through the dust.

Where are you today? What guilt are you dragging around that you long to let go of? Where do you fall short in your accusers eyes and who are they? Is it a parent? An adult child? Yourself? The Church? A world that has dashed you into the rocks one too many times, one too many waves of grief……pain……loss.

The week is over and where are your accusers? Maybe it’s you telling yourself how you just don’t measure up against some standard you put on yourself. God doesn’t see us as failed experiments, friend, and neither should you. If it was you they dragged in front of Jesus that day with their fingers of blame the result would be the same.

The writing in the dirt, that line in the sand is for all of us who fall short, and we all do, everyday. Romans 3:23 kind of gives me hope: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Maybe on this Mother’s Day you are remembering a Mom who made you feel like you never measured up. Maybe you aren’t a Mom and others made you feel less than because of it. Maybe they even made you feel that because you never were a parent you don’t have the capacity to love fully. Don’t let that lie sink in. The stones of your accusers are falling like rain.

Here is a truth: there is a little mother in all of us. It’s how we’re designed. We are made in the very image of Who birthed the world itself. That is not to minimize the importance of good Mothers everywhere, but to bring us all up to where and how God sees us as individuals.

Embrace this simple truth today: “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” It’s a good day to be released today. To forgive and be forgiven. The air of freedom is there. Take a deep breath and remember that there is room at the base of the cross for all.

But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:5-6

 

The Aftermath

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I was restless when I got home from work because I had eaten too much of the wrong food, like chocolate chips right out of the bag, and that cookie I got from Panda Express the other day. I had to get out, so I pedaled out into the neighborhood and made my blood pump a little faster through my veins. This bike and I, we’re old friends. It’s a sturdy Raleigh that I will never give up, it is solid like a tank. Not one of those titanium lightweight models.

On the way to the main road I saw a van emptying the house of a woman who recently passed away. Died of a massive heart attack. On the side of it was written, “Aftermath.” As if all that’s left of a life could possibly fit in that van. I hope she didn’t die alone. I pedaled on, past the van with the old bed mattresses and furniture and odds and ends stuffed inside.

The dogwoods both pink and white are blooming all over town, and the wisteria. The cherry trees too. Fruit stands will be popping up now. I meant to pedal past the little Library on Edgewood but I missed it. I got sidetracked by the lake, I hadn’t meant to go that far. The evening was so impossibly perfect I went further than I meant to.

I kept pedaling and passed by two houses I used to deliver meals to for the senior center. I envisioned each face, wondered how they were doing. I also passed by the cat lady’s house. Used to, she had a sign up in her yard asking for donations for cat food. I made a note to leave some money next time. It must have been close to feeding time, several were milling around the front porch. I said hi to them and waved to her.

I would be happy with any one of the houses I passed by. I miss having a house, planting and doing and cleaning what you have a stake in. I have a kind of sorrow for our stuff all boxed up in storage. I am okay if I don’t think about it and really I don’t miss it most of the time. I hope my bed is okay, I hope the brass isn’t tarnished, I hope the artwork is not being destroyed by the elements. I hope the teacups aren’t smashed to smithereens.

My time is filled with helping Special needs kids at school, which has been a tremendous opportunity and each day I am thankful God gave me the work. It has opened up a whole new place in me that I didn’t know existed. And I come home and it really does feel like home here in this idyllic spot of beauty by the river. Each day Elaine does her magic to make this whole thing work. Okra is coming up back behind the Motorhome and we are excited about that.

This latest chapter of my life involves helping my Mom remember things. The other night I looked out to see a crescent moon with a star shining by it. I called Mom and told her to go out and look up at that moon. I asked her if she remembered calling me in Arizona when she saw a moon like that because it reminded her of me. She said, “Did I do that? Wow, that’s amazing. Well, I’m glad you live here now.”

I said, “I am too Mom, I am too.”

Redemption

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Dawn: It’s easy to find God in the pre-human hour. All of nature starts to stir and do naturally and perfectly what they do. The first bird speaks out and I am always amazed there’s just one. The morning stars are there in place and everything seems totally in control. Then the world wakes and I hear loneliness and the desperate absence of God in all the clamor of a people who have lost their place in the cosmos. Into this world a Savior is born……

It’s been cold and I haven’t spent as much time down my the river. And I need to. It’s so easy to slip and let the world and the news, (what they say is news anyway) bog you down. I was rushing somewhere yesterday and heard a birds cry and I thought, “It’s down there, it’s all happening down there and I could be sitting on the bench watching God’s show” but then the moment passed.

I confess, it’s kind of a difficult season right now. Events are happening that I really can’t write about, except in my own private journals. That hurts, because as a writer you want to write about the real stuff and when you can’t it’s like an amputation. A limb is missing and writing makes the parts grow back.

Anyway, as I walked down to the river this morning I saw it just as I rounded the bend. The neighbor had lit a little Christmas tree in the room they are redesigning. My breath caught…….”There it is, a little bit of Christmas when I least expected it!” It reminded me of the time after my husband died and I was driving around town one foggy night in a stupor when I saw this little cottage on the corner all lit up with candles in each window and white lights all around and it cheered me.  I never forgot it.

And every year I say this because at some point in the Christmas season I realize it again, “Because of Jesus, we have Christmas every day.”

My reality is that this year, like last, all our decorations are in storage. There is no big tree, no office tree, no miniature Victorian on my dresser (which is also in storage), no Nativities (of which I have four). Yet, my Savior lives in my heart. He’s all grown up and out of the manger, has been for quite a few earthly years. And wonder of wonder, He is still interceding from Heaven, still has never grown tired of the sameness of my prayers:

Here I am again, Lord. I am so scared, and worried even through you tell me with exasperation that you’ve got this, that there is nothing to fear or worry about ever. Even as He shakes His head in exasperation I can hear Him say: “My daughter, I love you. Haven’t I proved myself over and over in your life by now?”

It’s His joy I celebrate, even now. His joy I saw in the faces of the Watoto Children’s Choir that we had the pleasure of hearing and seeing the other night. (You must look them up on You Tube)

I may not have everything I think I need in my perfect Hallmark view of Christmas this year, but I have more that I could ever want and surely more than I deserve. I have love all around me with family and friends here and a place to live that most people only dream of and a best friend who has stuck by me through everything.

In C.S. Lewis’s world of Narnia, it’s always Winter and never Christmas. In my world and hopefully yours too, it may not always be Christmas but it’s always Jesus, and that means there always hope with a capital “H.”

I pray you find the Hope of Jesus today in everything you do, in everyone you meet. May He fix what’s broken in your life and mine today, Amen. 

When even the ocean is not big enough……..

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Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

I stood at the shore and waited for that feeling……..that eraser, elixir that would make all the present circumstances melt away. But it occurred to me that sometimes even the ocean is not big enough to do that. Even if it were fresh water and we were dying of thirst, it could save us but we would still thirst again, just as Jesus explained to the Samaritan woman at the well:

………but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.

But nature has always had a way of making God close for me, and I relaxed and let it do that. I looked hard at everything, and we ate good food and had some wine too. I foraged for shells and saw some magnificent patterns in some sand dollars and drew them in my book. For me, the ocean is God’s way of saying, “Here you go……explain this one.” And all I can say is that He is bigger than everything, even anyone’s problems including my own.

Even when it feels like the small things you do are like dumping a cup of water into an ocean of grief, God is the multiplier. When it’s all you can do, He makes it more than enough.

I am finished with my one year commitment to LOEL center and this weekend is the start of a little break before I begin the next phase of retirement. I am still a little ways off from Social Security and so I work for at least three and a half (counting) more years.

Sometimes I close my eyes and remember how my room looked from the right, and from the left. When I felt like everything in my life was secure and I had the umbrella of a big company over me. But maybe that was an illusion. I still have God over me, over us.

And this place by the river is truly a tremendous blessing. It is feeling like home  I am learning here to take one day at a time and receive it with a grateful heart. Maybe that’s what God is trying to tell me, that I don’t have to have everything mapped out and planned. How many people can walk down to a river in the morning after all?

The four days at the beach did its magic. I will remember the boat ride through the slough and our walks and so many birds this year, more than we’ve ever seen.

For a little time we were suspended:

It’s easy to think that at 3:19 AM it’s just us here alone in this place and I want to remember the peace of this moment. The staccato seal barking on the pier, the seagull I just heard. Even though it’s chilly I always crack the window to stay in touch with the ocean so big and still out there like God. Each drop of time is precious. An engine starts nearby, a night fisherman going out or coming in. You fighting off a cold nearby, fighting for breath and Briggs purring in my ear with his paw on my shoulder. Just is just us down here God, don’t forget us. Just beyond, over the bridge is where we left some of E’s parents ashes. The ocean breathe in and out, until God says “No more.”

And when we pulled back into town we put everything back on like a heavy pack and I have to remember Jesus other words, just before He went to the cross:

I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

And I think of Him on that terrible cross taking on my sin and the sin of the whole world and I know I can trust Him.

 

Mom’s Day

 

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With my mother’s death all settled happiness, all that was tranquil and reliable disappeared from my life. There was to be much fun, many pleasures, many stabs of joy; but no more of the old security. C.S. Lewis

I searched for this quote because it really affected me when I read it in one the Mitford series books. I realize that for many, this quote would not be so moving or strike such a chord as it did for me. For many people, today is a hard day fraught with mixed emotions and guilt. For that reason I hate the commercial aspect of it.

I wandered through the card aisle yesterday and saw many perplexed expressions and furrowed brows. I remember how my Mom always hated this day. She could never find the right card. My Grandmother wasn’t what you would call affectionate to her kids, although she provided a good home and delicious smells from the kitchen always. In that way, she did show love.

We all do the best we can, I guess. My wise friend never liked this day either. Her Mom was hardly ever affectionate either in word or deed to her daughter, and yet…..when her Mom was pregnant with her and was found with cancer, she refused an abortion. She brought my very best friend into the world 2 months early and I can’t imagine this world or my world without her. For that I will always be grateful to Joyce Dupree who had her first child at 16, a kid raising a kid.

Of both her parents, my friend says, “They did the best they could at the time.” If there ever was a grace-filled statement I don’t know what is. She cared for her Mom all through Alzheimer’s which I have written about here in the past.

And to my Mom, who has always been my friend as well as a great Mom, thank you for making Mother’s Day easy for me growing up. It was always a pleasure to find a card for you.

Mom’s do the best they can, and like this dove, they sit among thorns to keep us safe from the harsh realities of the world outside. And they prepare us the best way they know how. They mark us and imprint us in many ways. We carry some of them with us always, long after they are gone.

I always appreciated my old employer’s approach to Mother’s Day. The guys came around with a rose and a gift to every single woman, asking no questions. Because in the final analysis, all of us women are caretakers in some form or fashion. So Happy Mother’s and Non-Mothers day to all. Blessings on your day.

Nest

 

Redeeming the Time

 

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“Jesus often withdrew to lonely places to pray………” Luke 5:16

“Our conditioning as members of a consumer society prevents us from abandoning hope that, with sufficient planning, we might yet be able to see and do everything. To move slowly and deliberately through the world, attending to one thing at a time, strikes us as radically subversive, even un-American. We cringe from the idea of relinquishing, in any moment, all but one of the infinite possibilities offered us by our culture. Plagued by a highly diffused attention, we give ourselves to everything lightly. That is our poverty. In saying yes to everything, we attend to nothing. One only can love what one stops to observe. “Nothing is more essential to prayer,” said Evagrius, “than attentiveness.”
― Belden C. Lane, The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert

I read this wonderful book years ago and it has remained with me ever since. I believe it holds a very important message for our times as the world and the people in it seem to be moving at a faster and noisier pace than ever before. What does it mean to be fully in the moment of our lives? Do we skim over our days not fully touching down until we collapse in bed and wonder where the time went?

Do I treat people like things to check off my to-do list or do I give them my undivided attention?  I don’t know much but there are certain things I am absolutely sure of. I know that one day, I will give absolutely anything to hear a story I have heard a million times before and the voice I love telling it. I will hear the silence where they used to be and maybe my heart won’t be able to take it.

Listen to the stories, look into their eyes. Hear what they are saying, the desperation and earnestness behind it. Slow down long enough to honor them as individuals the way we would like someone to do for us. We don’t get to decide who’s worthy, God says we all are. That’s what real love looks like.

What makes a good day for you? For me it means that I was able to keep my finger firmly on the pulse of the day most of the time. I felt it from the time the sun came up until it went down. It made for a happy day, a fulfilled day. I rode my bike over ground I covered in childhood. I felt the bumps in the streets, I saw things, beautiful things. I took pictures so I wouldn’t forget.

I took care of Elaine who is recovering from carpal tunnel surgery. It was a joy to return a gift she has given to me many times. I got to go to the store with Mom and Dad both, one to the grocery and one to the pharmacy. I went to Lowe’s to look at flowers with my Aunt.

I was in the moment most of the day. I  wish I  could say I have this  down, but too many times I  fail miserably.  But that’s why God knew we needed  days.  They are strung out like pearls until this life ends and eternity begins. The thing is, we can  never be sure when one ends and the other starts.

I like how the King James Bible puts it here:

Walk  in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming  the time.  Colossians 4:5

And this one:

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due when it is within your power to do it. Proverbs 3:27

And just maybe I can try to repeat today what I did yesterday.

 

The Thrill of Hope

 

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The rain is watering the earth and I can almost feel it breathing a sigh of relief. You have just left and it’s the cat and me for a few days. There is a vacuum in the space where you used to be. Sometimes it’s those small things you take for granted that are the most keenly felt when someone you care about is no longer there.

Things, life, the world goes on even in the wake of losses great and small. All over the world and in many different situations people are waving goodbye; all kinds of faces tinged with emotions reflected in retreating tail-lights. Psychiatrists, counselors and ministers devote much of their time helping people deal with it. That monstrous thing we call loss.

It is raining harder now and the air grows colder inside my space. I see your handiwork wherever I look, traces of you and how you always make things work better. I open the pantry and see the motion light you put there, and everything is just so.

You are going back to a happy place and to see friends. Old friends, old footprints retraced. Everything will be clean and bright the way I remember and you will have sun and that makes my heart glad for you.

It was quite a life we had there and a good one. It was like a foreign land at first, that desert. But it turned into a place that folded itself around us, comforted us in the loss of both your parents and all we went through with Alzheimer’s and Dementia and the grief that went with it.

My words seemed to flow more freely there in the little shop, my first prayer closet. A blog was born there to the backdrop of doves cooing, roosting on the rooftops next door.

Almost from the time we are born, our hearts and souls are acutely aware of a sense of loss and the fear that stems from it. Life at its most painful becomes synonymous with loss. Loss of a job we loved, loss of a loved one, death of a marriage, physical loss, loss of a home. Sometimes one loss turns into another. Such as when a deep loss turns into a bad habit. Then we have to kick the bad habit and we have that loss to deal with too.

But here is the big hope rests within and through all this. Here is where the story gets happy. That at the other end of this spectrum of loss, there is gain, without which we wouldn’t know loss at all. And that little word, gain, is what God is, and has always been concerned with.

For at the cross, His loss became our gain.

When we were determined to ruin ourselves and each other, God said, “No, I won’t let the story end this way.” He didn’t just write a happy ending. He came in physical form to become our happy ending. He came to fill that, as C.S. Lewis so rightly said, “God sized vacuum” in our hearts.

Thank you God. Thank you Jesus. Thank you Christmas.