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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Hope for a weary world

I hadn’t planned on writing a blog post this morning. I lingered over my second cup of coffee and looked out on a fog-draped weary world. Something moved me  to grab a jacket and venture out. I put some “ready whip” on top of my steaming mug (I call it whoop-ass) and suddenly felt like a little party had started in my soul. I have come to recognize that moments like this are the whisperings of God. I paid attention to it walked out into a wonderland. 

Someone had evidently told the birds that spring was coming or was maybe already here. I saw the little gate we painted was holding up well except for a few faded colors. I filmed a little video for Mom since she doesn’t venture out on days like this, but I know she will love to hear the birds.

I found hope out there. It’s so easy to despair and just give up isn’t it? Life presses down and wants to push the life (and hope) right out of you. But this……this world that I walked into this morning was not the news, or politics, or anger or anything else but pure beauty that God had set before me. 

And now I am joyously typing away with a forbidden third cup. Something about the earth after Christmas always makes me feel like this. Like hope has come and left a Heavenly bundle and now we have to figure out what to do with Him. 

And the earth waits with hope because deep inside, she knows renewal is coming. And this is our own hope with each new day. A new opportunity to sing the song of the Redeemed. My favorite line of O Holy Night says, “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.” I like the way the New Living translation puts 1 Corinthians 15:58: 

So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.

I heard about a Christian woman yesterday, a modern-day Joan of Arc who willingly gave herself up for a number of her brothers and sisters held in prison for their belief in Jesus. I don’t remember what the number was, but I can’t stop thinking about her. She will probably face years of prison or death. In light of a faith like that, why do we waste so much time on things that really don’t matter? 

Yesterday I ran into a dear friend and as we stood in the aisle and talked I felt a Holy Communion between us because don’t you just need to know that someone really does understand? The tears that she wiped from her eyes were real. And as we parted and hugged I think we both felt a little renewed. 

This my friends, is what it’s all about………I wish you peace today, and opened eyes for all the little big moments that may never come again. 

Hope is real. And it’s here to stay. May it reach you today. 

Where Were You?

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I walked down to the river’s edge this morning and quietly marveled as I watched the world wake up once again. I thought of other times, other places. The sky aflame in the Arizona desert, the forest floor at the bottom of towering granite monoliths of Yosemite, the call of jays echoing from tree to tree. And of course, waking up to see the Pacific Ocean in all its vastness. Nature calls us to God like nothing else.

Over and over again I have found a place for my faith to rest in what I observe all around me in the backdrop of nature. When we do that we are basically agreeing with God that what He made was indeed good. It’s praise without words, when all others fail.

Job had a lot of questions after all he lost and suffered. I would have too. And God had a lot of answers. When He finally answered Iyov (Job), the Creator Himself drew upon the world He created:

Then Adonai answered Iyov out of the storm: “Who is this, darkening my plans with his ignorant words? Stand up like a man, and brace yourself; I will ask questions; and you give the answers!

“Where were you when I founded the earth? Tell me if you know so much. Do you know who determined its dimensions or who stretched the measuring line across it?”

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“Who shut up the sea behind closed doors when it gushed forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its blanket and dense fog its swaddling cloth…..

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when I made the breakers its boundary set its gates and bars, and said, “You may come this far, but no farther; here your proud waves must stop.”

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Have you ever in your life called up the dawn and made the morning know its place so that it could take hold of the edges of the earth and shake the wicked out of it?

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Which way leads to where light has its home? And darkness, where does it dwell? If you knew, you could take each to its place and set it on its homeward path. You know, of course, because you were born then; by now you must be very old!!!

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When it’s all said and done, Job replies basically “I will zip my lips now, I had no clue what I was talking about. There is nothing more I can say, other than to repent in dust and ashes.”

And when I look deeply into the night sky and realize I can only see a small fraction of what’s out there, there is nothing more I can say except:

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Thank you……I get it.

The Shroud of Grace

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Yesterday I awoke to a gloriously foggy morning. I am one of those that can’t resist bundling up and chasing it as it shrouds and swallows up everything and fills the air with silence. I joyfully walked down to the river to find 3 misty ghost like figures floating on top of the water; their fishing poles angled hopefully. Every now and again I would hear the plop as they recasted their lines, their hushed voices echoing across the water,

Further down I saw 2 ducks making a v-line barely visible through the misty air. I only heard a flock of Canadian geese honking above. I shot a few pictures with my camera and then decided to venture on down to the lake. My Sunday peace was only disturbed when my camera wouldn’t focus on a particular shot and I had to ask forgiveness for my foul words.

I wasn’t enjoying communion with fellow believers and yet I was at church. I have always found God in the fog, for two very emotional moments of my life happened in the fog long ago. The first was when I was driving around grief-stricken, my eyes blurred with tears after the loss of my husband.  I turned a corner and through the fog, I saw hopeful little candles in each window of a charming little cottage. Something about it gripped me and at once my spirit was calmed and brightened. It was God’s  way of letting me know I was going to make it.

The other time, I was alone in my room. Everyone had left and “Oh Holy Night” was playing on my record player (yes, it was that long ago) All I can say is that the Holy Spirit came to me in that room and I can remember every detail. In that room God came to me and revealed the awful, beautiful truth of what Jesus did to save me, us.

Wherever you find yourself this Christmas let me tell you that there is hope. I can say this with perfect confidence and clarity because there is simply nothing you or I are going through that is bigger than God. I know this. Jesus came so that we could always have real hope to fall back on in the darkest times of our lives.

Allow me to close with a quote from a wonderful book I read by Beldan C. Lane as he went through his own journey through the valley of the Shadow of Alzheimer’s in the nursing home with his Mom:

I met a woman by the elevator each day whose mouth was always open wide, as if uttering a silent scream. In a bed down the hall lay a scarcely recognizable body, twisted by crippling arthritis–a man or woman I’d never met. Another woman cried out every few moments, desperately calling for help in an “emergency” that never ebbed. Who were these people?

They represented the God from whom I repeatedly flee. Hidden in the grave-clothes of death, this God remains unavailable to me in my anxious denial of aging and pain. He is good news only to those who are broken. But to them he’s the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, lurking in the shadows beyond the nurses desk, promising life in the presence of death. The Solace of Fierce Landscapes, Beldan C. Lane

This is the paradox of the message of Christmas. Innocent life with a bitter twist at the end but that ultimately gives us Glorious freedom from that same death. Sometimes I think this is why we rush to buy and give during this season. We know there is something about Christmas that is joy but we can’t quite place our finger on it. We do our hopeful best to be cheerful and join in only to find ourselves worn out from the effort.

That’s because the Gift He gives us is so much bigger than everything else in this world. It’s Himself. We are free, all of us this Christmas. We have to only reach out and accept the gracious offer He gives.

Merry Christmas from my Prayer Closet. May His peace find you today, and every day.

What a Day that will be

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(Photo credit, someone’s cat Google images) Gotta love that face.

One week until Christmas break and I can hardly believe it. Life continues to ebb and flow around us here. Elaine lost her favorite cousin. She found out last night as we were sitting having dinner and I was so glad she wasn’t alone when she heard the news. This was a man who had me in stitches when we visited him in the place of her birth, San Angelo, Texas. He could have had a career as a stand up comic. His comic timing was a gift and along with that Texas twang, he was a natural. The first time I met him he came to add a room on her folk’s house. We walked up dressed in our Arizona casual clothes and he turn from the ladder and said………”Well, I thought you were gonna work? How you gonna work in those golfin britches???” I may have not got that quite right but you get the gist.

Because of my interest in seeing the Monastery he knew of we drove and drove on miles of dusty road until we found it in the middle of nowhere. They waited until I wandered around and took pictures and met the Nun where I got a pamphlet and got to see the Sanctuary. Actually, I think it all started because I wanted to see his goats. We met his son there (who has also since passed on) and I also took many baby goat pictures. At the time we regretted a day spent driving for miles, but now I am so glad we did that. It will always be a precious memory.

Here today and in Heaven the next minute. I say that because Gerry knew his Savior and I am so thankful for that. “What a day that will be,” as my Mom’s Aunt was known to say. I was thinking of the lyrics to that song that was sung at her funeral and here are some of the words:

There is coming a day when no heartaches shall come
No more clouds in the sky, no more tears to dim the eye.
All is peace forevermore on that happy golden shore,
What a day, glorious day that will be……

What a day that will be when my Jesus I will see, and I look
Upon His face, the One who saved me by His grace;
When He takes me by the hand and leads me to the Promised
Land, what a day, glorious day that will be…..

As for me. My writing has been minimal. The natural flow of words I once enjoyed has stopped. But I have learned there are all kinds of seasons. I just have to wait in my own advent of waiting. I do continue to pray in the wee hour before work.
Everyone who knew me at Desert Harbor knew that I prayed for the air conditioner to keep working. We were one of the last to have the original unit. When we left it was still running.

Now I pray for my car. The 12 year old bug’s windows sometimes don’t want to go up all the way. The lock that was on the glove box broke off. The other day the engine light went on and I prayed that it would go off and it did. I just keep saying, “You gotta keep this car running Jesus, it’s paid off!” It still looks good. In fact, the other day I found a note on the windshield wiper that said to give him a call if I want to sell it. My buggy is not for sale. We have a lot of miles between us, and I’m not ready to give it up.

Blessings and grace to you this Christmas from my prayer closet. Lori

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Here I go again…..I had a paragraph written when the iPad just shut down. It saved two words. We awoke once again to smoke-filled skies due to fires both North and South of us.  I found myself staring at the sun as it rose bright orange. How often do you get to stare at the sun? I was wishing for my blue skies while others were enduring the horror of watching what they’ve worked for go up in smoke. They were having to wake up this morning without homes, pets, even loved ones. Just goes to show that on any given day, someone else has it worse than you, though that is small comfort when it’s you going through it. We did find out that two good friends made it out safely but it doesn’t look good for their home.

Yesterday at school the teacher’s brother-in-law come in and give a little talk to the kids for Veteran’s Day. He brought in all kinds of equipment they could try on. It was so very cute and the teacher took pictures of all the kids trying on helmets. Of course they have no idea of the horrors of war, thankfully. Abraham ran by excitedly  saying, “I am ready to go! I was born ready!” Yesterday was his Birthday and we found out he want to be a Veterinarian when he grows up. Layla turned towards me with the huge helmet wobbling on her head and both teeth missing in front, “Look Miss Lori!” It gave me the warm fuzzy feeling that happens often with 5, 6 and soon to be 7 year olds.

I kept Jacob occupied with a video to keep him quiet. He and I had our moments this week as every week. I get lots of sympathetic looks from all the teachers, principal and staff as I try to get him to get off the floor and walk to class or as I am wrangling him up or down the stairs. He is six and Down’s syndrome. He is cute and endearing and I have grown attached to him despite how frustrated I feel much of the time. On the plus side, I got an outstanding review from the Principal this week. It was much-needed validation that they are happy with what I am doing. (thank you God) the prayers have helped!

Whatever you are walking through this season my friends know that you are not alone. Those words ring hollow except when you know the God that went through the worst this world can offer for us all. The end of the story is victory. Every one of us can have a happy ending because Jesus didn’t stay in the grave. And that is what we ultimately have to focus on when our world is caving in around us.

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57