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 way Home

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Words are so very hard to come by these days. There are things I am going through right now that I can’t write freely about, maybe that’s why. But there are still plenty of things to say. I have struggled with prayer the past two years like I never have. In the desert, my prayers and words seemed to flow.  That place of dust and cactus and mysterious beauty was like a foreign land at first, but it turned into a place that folded itself around us. Comforted us through the loss of both Elaine’s parents and all we went through with Alzheimer’s and Dementia and the grief that went with it.

My blog was born there in the little shop, against the backdrop of monsoon rains and the cooing of doves that never seemed to stop. I don’t miss the heat but I miss many other things about our life there. Looking back can sometimes paint memories with a rosy hue and that’s good. Like I said, I don’t miss the endless relentless summers.

Here, mercifully, it cools off at night and in the morning we are always surprised to find sometimes even chilly air coming through the windows. Coming back to my hometown has felt like simultaneously fitting into an old slipper and wrangling my foot into a stiletto heel two sizes too small. I feel at home sometimes and lost sometimes. Maybe a bit of both at all times. But that’s okay, thankfully Jesus goes with us wherever we go.

The most important things are still intact. Despite the fact that I don’t have the “feelings” I used to have, the prayer life that once felt so rich, I know this silence of His must be part of the journey. That’s where faith comes in. The Bible says He keeps our prayers in a bowl, so I know they’re safe in His keeping.

Sometimes the plan is as simple as putting one foot in front of the other over and over again. Maybe it’s all about setting things right one at a time, the things that are right in front of you. This place has brought about tremendous creativity and new experiences for both of us. And we are very grateful to be in this place of beauty.

The mile marker always starts with gratitude. That’s the way Home with a capital H. Heaven that is. The most important thing is to find people with the light of eternity in their eyes and hang with them. Those are the ones you laugh with, and pray with, and are at ease with. You don’t have to worry about everything you say. I feel like something close to Supernatural can happen with a simple gathering on a front porch somewhere. It’s something you just feel. You know.

None of us knows when we’ll take our last breaths here but the most important thing to me is knowing I will take my next gasp on the shores of Heaven. I will gaze in wonder like the kids from Narnia I know I will be at a loss for words.

Until then I will keep my eyes on the mile markers for direction. I look back at each place God has allowed me to set foot and I know it’s all been Holy ground. Because He’s been there.

Every step.

 

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.

What a Special Needs Classroom Taught Me

 

 

 

The job of Paraeducator had in its description many things, mostly categorizing what I would do to help out the teacher in the classroom and on the playground, and in turn the kids. What it left out was something it couldn’t possibly know or prepare me for. That was how those kids opened up a whole new place in my heart for love.

What it also left out was how I learned even more about grace working and playing with them for these past 4 months. That is, grace with a capital “G” as in God’s grace.

At first I had a hard time learning all their names. I got so and so mixed up with so and so. But then I got to know them as individuals. That was when my heart opened up. I found that I even came to love the ones who got on my last nerve and had to put in time out. Even when they looked right at me and did exactly what I told them not to!

How can you prepare your heart for how you’ll feel when they call your name and run to you with arms outstretched? How can you know what a good feeling it is when they give you a spontaneous kiss and hug even after you’ve had to scold them? That’s when I heard the Spirit whisper, “That is how God loves you, my child.”

I can honestly say that I loved each and every one of them in different ways. (Around 25 in all) I found myself calling them “my kids” more and more as the weeks wore on. As another school shooting happened and I found myself in a classroom, I couldn’t imagine someone threatening these little ones, so vulnerable between the ages of three and five.

They even found their way into my dreams.

Even now, almost a week later the songs that were part of the daily repertoire are still running through my head. “Chickarocka chickaboom” “Ladybug, ladybug” “Great White Shark” “The Jellybean Counting song” all still there.

I wasn’t prepared for how hard it would be to say goodbye the last day of school. They left so soon, each in different directions. And I wasn’t ready. Their faces, their voices, everything that is uniquely them, all gathered together in a string of memories I won’t let go of. I will miss reading to you Jonathan. I will miss you catching me when I miss a page. I will even miss your tantrums.

I will miss you Christopher and the impossibly cute way you talked, and the funny noises you made running on the playground. I know you all by name now. We are no longer strangers and I will wonder about you all my life.

You were my first class. And you taught me so much more than I could ever teach you. I will hold you in my heart and my prayers, and wonder about what you will grow up to be. Thank you for teaching me about how God loves us all. Each in our own uniqueness; each with our own bundle of idiosyncrasies and problems, insecurities and hangups.

Thank you God for shining down on me through those little ones. To show me how you love me. Even when I look right at you and defiantly insist on doing things my own way. I know now……I know more about how deep Your love really is and how much you thrill over my victories. And I know how you feel when I run to you with arms open wide and how you long for that.

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.