The World Can Swallow You

That is if you let it. The world can swallow you whole. It gets to be too much sometimes. And at times there are just no words. They simply will not come. Dry as a desert inside, that’s what it feels like. The start of this year was one for the books. California made the news and not for the bizarre reasons it usually does. This state can be downright embarrassing sometimes for many political and other ridiculous reasons. Or maybe you love all those reasons.

This time it was a massive storm. Series of storms, rather. The rain just wouldn’t stop. Coming from the Pacific Ocean there were about 9 storms one right after the other, producing what is called a Bomb Cyclone. I had never heard of that term, but we are all too familiar with it now. Whole communities were flooded, and freeways were shut down. In this town alone, we had around 100 plus very large and very old trees fall causing massive damage and in some cases loss of homes and lives. When the sun finally came out it was like a miracle. We are safely on the other side now, but the fallout continues in the aftermath.

The neighbor lost a huge Cottonwood, and my aunt had a tree guy come and eliminate a possible catastrophe. This was a 50–60-year-old tree that we have watched bend and sway from our vantage point in the Motorhome with no small sense of dread and panic. Its two massive neighbors fell over the last historic storm in 2017. My brother’s house also flooded and so did a good friend of mine’s.

In other news, I got a call from the Dr. right before Christmas that the spot I had removed came back as Malignant Melanoma. I was in the aisle of Walmart when I got the call and my world just shifted like it does when you get unexpected news like that. I have since had the diseased part removed (I hope enough) I get stitches out Tuesday. We also got a call from Elaine’s brother that two of his friends had passed away. One of them in these recent storms. He wandered away from his cabin and they found his body the next day, frozen.

My Aunt also had a terrible fall on Christmas morning that she is still recovering from. Nothing broken, miraculously so, since she is 90 now. And my current student at school (I am subbing for another aid that is absent) has had two seizures since coming back from Christmas break. It’s very upsetting to watch but I am thankful for our school nurses who are wonderful and were there in minutes. She usually recovers pretty fast but it’s harrowing. I can’t imagine what her parents go through.

All this to say, that this world can be a very hard place sometimes. And it can swallow you whole if you don’t have something to anchor your soul. But this is the good part.

Everything can change in an instant and we can be surprised by joy and wonder even though our circumstances themselves haven’t changed much.

Take this morning, for instance. I had nothing, no words at all. But as I read my Scripture in the quiet of dawn, a candle lit in the middle of my heart. It felt like JOY. And also, we got a new laptop, and I can finally have the luxury of sitting at the table posting this blog instead of having to go out to the garage where the main computer is. Amazing what you can get used to if you have to. I almost can’t believe it’s the eighth year we’ve been living in this box. It’s been hard and we are ready to be done with it. Few people get how hard it is. They think we have been on some kind of vacation. Well, I would suggest that they try using the laundromat every week, along with dumping the “shitter” and worry about propane and a million other things.

But I digress……Back to JOY. It’s what I’m feeling right now, and I am so very thankful for the Lord and His words that are living and sharper than anything and able to beat back any darkness this world and Satan can throw at us. I wonder things. Being in a state of wonder is not a bad thing. It’s how we learn. Why do we capitalize Satan, anyway? I personally don’t think he should get that “billing.”

To change the subject, is anyone watching the Chosen? It seems to be a global phenomenon and I’m glad for it. It seems to be turning people’s hearts and thoughts to the REAL Jesus and that’s very good.

Finally, if you, dear reader, have stuck with me this far, I thank you! There is still so much beauty and goodness in the world, and I sincerely hope this day finds you seeking the miraculous in each moment.

The Lord bless you and keep you…….Lori

*****I call the bird in the picture “Chocolate.” He visits me on the fence.

Do Words Still Matter?

What words could I add? 

In light of all the suffering going on in the world right now, what words could I possibly add that would make any difference at all? It’s a question that writers everywhere ask. The answer, thankfully, always comes back the same, and has throughout history. Words matter a great deal because the written (or spoken) word will always have tremendous power to change. Even if that change is a barely detectable shift in the heart or soul. And there will always be readers. In my formative years, there were no computers, no iPhones. We had each other. Real faces, real places. And the things we read in books. We had no choice but to use our imagination. 

Flash forward to 1996. I started work at Intel, Corp. For 20 years I worked alongside many others deep within the heartbeat of the technological age. Together, we built the chips that made it all go. I remember back then people said we would be living in a “paperless” world. And now, in 2022 we are drowning in more paper than ever before. And thankfully, bookstores have not become obsolete. Libraries are still being funded. All is not lost. 

When you look around at our current world situation, it would be easy to lose hope. Character seems scarce. Crime is off the charts. And yet, we honor a beloved Monarch who has passed into glory. We honor and pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth because she embodied great character and values not readily seen much anymore. She had the role thrust upon her in her youth, and instead of resenting it, she rose to the challenge and continued to do so for 70 years. Splendidly. 

Also as Americans, after 21 years we must pause, at least at some point in our waking moments today and remember 9/11. We all remember where we were that day. 

On a more personal note, we have just gone through a massive heat wave here in California and yesterday we were released at last and out from under the 100 plus temps for the first time in several days and weeks. For quite a few days we have been hotter than Arizona which is very rare. 

Just being able to take a walk without sweltering was like a miracle. There is something so redeeming in it. Getting out, off the phone, away from the barrage of voices that can so often cause unease and weariness of soul. Come away with Jesus on the mountain and pray. Even He, being God knew how important that was. 

And read. If you haven’t read Ray Bradbury’s “Dandelion Wine” I wholeheartedly recommend it. It will restore you to all things good, worthwhile, precious and true.  Most of all, read the Word that matters more than any others. His. Peace and Blessings, Lori

Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.

Psalm 119:105

He is risen! (and so can we)

A motley crew. The rock band spelled it differently so I don’t think that will land me in copyright jail. It’s just really the perfect term for all of us. Jesus most trusted friends all scattered when He was arrested. Matthew 26:56 says: “Then all the disciples deserted Him and fled.” Each of us is gets to rise up this morning; we have another chance at life and a myriad of choices in one 12 hour day. 

Just getting up sometimes is hard, isn’t it? But we get to, today. And we will continue to have victories and failures, sometimes simultaneously. We will curse the driver in front of us and then apologize to God for our language and our anger flare ups. We will act like the disciples did when they gave up on Jesus. 

I went to place fresh flowers on Mom and Dad’s grave yesterday and I saw people laying on the ground next to their loved ones resting place. I saw Easter eggs scattered around graves, bottles of adult beverages (which always seems strange to me) and food. I saw sorrow. 

Then I thought of the words of the two Angels in Scripture here as described in Luke 24:

“While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He is risen! Remember how He told you, while He was still with you in Galilee.” 

Why do we seek the living among the dead? It’s human nature, I guess. Why do we as a human race continue to choose things like war, addictions that wage war on our bodies and souls, death instead of life? 

But because of Jesus final victory over death, we too can rise to new life. PERMANENTLY. That is what makes Easter the most important event in human history. We have the victory because when Jesus rose from the grave He had the final word. Because of this, though our bodies may rest in the ground, our souls reside in eternal home with Jesus. 

Until the time God says enough is enough, and 1 Thessalonians 4:16 comes to pass, we rise. And because of Easter. We rise with hope! 

A Pretty Nice Life

It’s been awhile since I posted anything here in my little corner. So much has been going on. Sometimes it still feels surreal that Mom and Dad are both gone. Elaine says, “You will feel a bit like an orphan,” and she’s right. We had the garage sale and the house is mostly empty. The cousins came and we did a walk through. Shared some memories of 1127 Glenhurst long ago. Of exploding homemade firecrackers and waking up to the screaming engines of the hydro-boat races on Fourth of July mornings at the lake. 

This war that has just been started is hitting me hard. Several times I have cried, prayed over the pictures I see on the news. What is it all for? Maybe it’s because I’m thinking of Grandma and her family coming over on the ship, immigrants from Russia themselves. How bad must it have been to risk that horrific trip across the Atlantic to land on Ellis Island with only hopes and dreams of a better life? 

This morning I feel incredibly lucky. We’ve been living in this small space going on 6 years now. It hasn’t been easy, but we have made it work and made it homey. But we are longing for a real home again. And we are closer now to being there, wherever there is. Real estate is ridiculous in California but there are places to be had up in the foothills. And neighboring states close by are a possibility. 

I think of the Ukrainians on the run, fearing for their lives, their homes. I settle in my cozy spot by the window, with second steaming mug of coffee, reassuring stack of books nearby, within eyesight. This old tub is burdened with books in every storage place. Elaine says its like the long, long trailer only it’s not rocks its books. 

The other day I lifted the storage under the bed and took all 15 or so out. “I’m cleaning books out,” I said. She was hopeful. My measly little stack of four didn’t make a dent, but it was something. “Hey, it’s a start,” I say. 

And it’s another Saturday and the collectors are coming for the throwaway stuff at Mom and Dad’s house today. And today, I will exercise, and thank God for our freedom as my heart aches for those whose lives will never be the same. 

Sanity Restored

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I wonder. Is it possible to miss the days you never knew? It’s like stories you’ve been told so long they become a part of your own memory. They make my heart ache for what we’ve all lost. I don’t recognize my own country anymore. I wake hopeful. So very grateful for what I can restore, for what is still here that is good. I reach for peace and I am relieved that the unmovable things are still here.

God’s creation is still good. There are books, endless books full of messages of hope that I rest in. And I open once again to my bright highlighted passages and read again the old, old story about how God became homeless for just a little while for us all. So we could have a happy ending.

I start a new book this morning and feel that spark of recognition that comes when you know you’ve met a new author and it’s one you’re gonna like. (And I’m only on page 5.) I liked her name right off, Ruta Sepetys. Thank you Betty for the recommendation!

Oh Jesus, my prayers have become so simple. “Fix what’s broken, in our world and in me.” There is so much broken. So much we’ve left far behind. I want it all to come back. I want the shrieking and the lying about how terrible our country is to stop.

I want those simple times I got on the tail end of in the sixties and seventies, back before everything went crazy. When you could buy a home and only one person had to work. Back when we all played outside until dark without fear, and when there were corner grocery stores. And yes, when people still had their babies, unplanned or not.

I’m tired of sides. I remember when Americans could disagree but still come together because we had already fought all the battles and won. We can all vote, we can all aspire to any job, there are more opportunities than ever before. But there are those who are very loud that are saying that isn’t so. And it’s tearing our country apart. 

I remember, reaching back through the years of summer evenings when I really didn‘t want to go to church but now I’m glad I did. I miss Altar calls, I miss the Grandpa I never knew, asking everyone he camped around if they knew Jesus. And I can imagine my Mom and Sisters embarrassed.

There is still so much good here folks. It’s morning, and afternoon and then evening, and God still calls it good. And it is. And behind the scenes? He’s still making all things new. 

What’s in your cup?

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Dad called, “We just have too much,” he said, “We cleared out the shelf where we keep the coffee cups, and there’s only two of us here now…..” When I got there they were all over the table, stacked two deep. He wanted to throw them all away. There was a sense of urgency about it, like so many things he is wanting to clear out lately. I said, “Well, let’s just sort through them and see which ones you still use. We agreed that they had to keep the ones from the Ahwahnee in Yosemite. And the one to Grandpa and Grandpa from Lauryn. We narrowed it down to 5 or 6 out of 20. 

Clearing out things can be a lot like clearing out a life. An acknowledgment that an excess is no longer needed. It can be liberating but also diffused with a sense of finality. Memories are attached to things and that’s where it gets tricky. There are hoarders who have a mental condition that prevents them from throwing anything away. I guess they find a kind of comfort in all those piles of stuff. And then there is the opposite, throwing away everything and then wishing you hadn’t because you realize there is still life to be lived.

When life spirals out of control I guess you feel you must do something about the things you can control. Little things become paramount. You can’t control getting older, or change, or a ravaging disease, but you can control the things you see in the immediate space around you, so there’s a sense of haste.

I kept the best ones and took them to a local cafe where they accept everyone’s used cups. It’s a cool thing I think, like drinking out of someone’s history. I find comfort in knowing some of their coffee mugs will live on in our community. I like to think the many prayers and all the laughter shared while using those cups and the hands that held them over the years will somehow pass a little peace and grace on to the next user.

cups 2

For so many years, their home was where everyone came. There was always a knock or a hello through the screen door and the phone was always ringing. “I’ll just put on a fresh pot of coffee,” my Mom would say. Even now, I can see shining eyes, and ringing laughter over those cups. The walls hold the memories even in the silence. The winding down of life.

The Bible speaks about our bodies being living vessels. Far too many years I tried to fill it with things it was never meant to hold. The Christian life is a series of emptying and filling. Sometimes this life just empties you out. People and circumstances can leave you feeling that way. Maybe that is Jesus’ way of getting us out of the way so that He can fill us with Himself.

Jesus once had to drink from the worse cup ever. But drink He did, to the bitter dregs. He did this so that we wouldn’t  have to. Has your coffee gone cold? Are there only the bitter grounds of yesterday? Pitch it into the bushes and refill from a fresh cup of Grace today. Jesus stands ready. The campfire is warm and the coffee is hot. 

“You prepare a table before me in the Presence of my enemies, you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” Psalm 23:5

cups

This Pandemic

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At first it was kind of like a snow day. A little euphoria, our Spring break extended. School was put off, then cancelled for the rest of the year. It felt like a small taste of retirement. Hey, I had free time to do all the things I wanted to do when I wanted to do it. And books. I had books. Then the library closed. And our favorite places of business. The sidewalks emptied. And people got this virus here in the States and some died. It got more real.

Time stretched on, and I discovered to my surprise that I really liked Suduko. Easter came and went and it was nothing like any Easter we ever had, because there wasn’t one. Of course in the biggest sense there was. And maybe because of the way the world  was this year, the Resurrection felt even more meaningful because the life as we all knew it here had kind of died.

One day we found ourselves in an unbelievably long line (seniors only) at Costco. People pushed their carts Zombie- like, masked and unmasked alike. The line undulated like a snake around and around the parking lot. We all shuffled along looking a little bewildered. We got behind a talker in a tank top, adjusting his mask between words all through the line.

I think it was around day 28 of lockdown that it all came crashing in for me. A kind of bleak despair. It stopped being fun many days ago. The endless rules, and the endless news. The not knowing what or who to believe. As someone who is a bit on the antisocial spectrum of reclusiveness anyway this was coming too naturally for me and I didn’t want to surrender to it.

I can’t help wondering how many families and businesses will still be intact when this is all a memory? I hope and pray they will come back stronger than ever. As for me, I’m ready for open signs and full parking lots. I’m ready to actually go to church (maybe without the shaking hand part.)

Despite all this, there has been good. I think we have remembered how to be kinder and help each other out like good neighbors used to. Trips to the grocery store for those home bound have turned into reconnaissance missions.  Just taking a short drive has felt like being sprung from prison or military leave.

Something of this time I hope will remain. The forbidden luxury of hugs and closeness that I don’t want to take for granted anymore. The rhythm that is life has slowed for us all and that’s a good thing. But while slowing is good, stopping is not.

It’s time to get back to business because this is hurting us in more ways than one. Americans were meant to thrive, it’s what we were built on. So let’s wear our masks, wash our hands, and get to work. It’s time. Quarantine the ones who are sick and let the rest of us live.

Let freedom ring again.

A World in Pause Mode

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Life has been suspended and I can’t help feeling that for once, on this day it feels right. I remember as a kid when things closed and everyone flocked to church at noon on Good Friday. I also remember being glad when it was rainy or cloudy because that also seemed right on this day of days.

“Oh Jesus, what you went through so that we could have forever with You. When the shadow of the cross fell it reached all the way to Heaven and even silenced the Angels. They had never seen the Father hide His face from the Son. Ever. But that day was unlike any other day that will ever happen again.”

This shutdown has not been without benefit, in every adverse situation the good arises like a sweet perfume. The weeds grow along with the seeds, it’s just that the weeds are visible right away. But the good seeds are working their magic down below where we can’t see.  I believe we will have a lasting benefit from this time.

We will remember the quiet times, the books we read. The times spent talking, learning new games, getting to know each other again. Maybe all this family time, cooking and eating together, stretching our imaginations and praying more will have a lasting effect. Not to mention going a little bit crazy. 

What I’ve been learning from all this is what I have taken for granted, the simple little things. I have always been a person who has been intentional about not doing this and yet, I have realized that to some extent, I have. Who ever thought hugging someone we love would feel like a luxury, a risk, something forbidden.

Each morning. I have tried to go outside at first light and celebrate a little resurrection. I close my eyes and concentrate on all the noises I hear. It’s a blessing to have these mornings at home. Not having to get ready for anything. Downtime. Then there’s the downside.

Honestly some days it feels a little bit like the shadow of death is hovering all around us. Seeing loved ones only from a distance. Not being able to go, to help, to do. So close, so far away.

I’m thankful I have had someone (thank you E) to laugh and cry with during all this. It’s been a blessing to help those in our circle who are alone. 

I’m reminded in Scripture that this is only a light and momentary affliction. The other side of eternity stretches much further than we can see right now, but it’s still there, waiting for us. Because of the horrible, awfulness Jesus went through for us. Because He loves us.

The Trinity worked a beautiful plan my friends, and we can all partake of it. This pandemic will pass, but what will not pass is the empty tomb. It stands open and glowing with hope. Today we remember how our Savior was battered and bloody beyond recognition but on Sunday we remember how Satan was defeated.

Death has indeed lost its sting. Again. Thanks be to God.

Waiting for normal

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In every crisis situation there is a paradigm shift. You look around at your world and it’s different. The birds are still singing, flowers are still in bloom. The hummingbirds still come to the feeder and the geese still honk their way through the sky. Nature never stops. But we’ve stopped. That is, what we always thought of normal has stopped.

I’m sitting here waiting for the 7 o clock train, “Soft Hands” we call the conductor, because he does soft little puffs on the horn. I wait with an over-exaggerated impatience. It feels a little bit like panic, which I know is ridiculous but I want to hear it because that feels normal. But he doesn’t come. It’s 7:32 and I wonder where he is.

I feel a sense of unreality like the day after 9/11 when there were no planes overheard. Trying to describe it to my Aunt, I said, “I feel like the rapture came and we were left behind, but I know that’s not true.

It’s like a Stephen King novel that we’re all playing a part in. The other day we stood in the Geezer line at Costco to get supplies for my folks and Aunt Mayvis and it was like the zombie apocalypse. Gloved, masked elders (us among them) shuffled forward, hundreds of us towards the door. We waited over an hour.

A local nurse has passed away from the virus and now his wife tested positive. And an employee of one of our favorite wineries also tested positive.

And no one knows quite what to do. Our homes have become bunkers. The downtown area is quiet. Schools are closed for the rest of the year. They made that announcement yesterday. And yet, people are finding creative ways to stay in touch.

Writing letters, notes, leaving food on porches. And speaking of porches…..I have seen actually seen people sitting on their porches again. There will be some good to come out of this. Never again will I take hugs for granted. I will hug a little harder after this. Maybe we all will. I believe good always comes during times like this. Even as my heart aches to physically hold my folks and family close. 

Maybe when we finally leave this new normal behind, our old normal will feel like new again. Once more my friends, we will stand close, breathe each other’s air without fear, enjoy each other’s company, have community. It will be a little like being born again. And the sooner we do what we have to now, the sooner we can get back to that.

Easter will be different this year but one thing is for sure. Nothing can stop the King from coming, again and again into our lives.

As I drove Downtown these past few weeks I’ve been thinking lately of the words to that old Gaither song, The King is Coming:

The Marketplace is empty

No more traffic in the streets

All the builders tools are silent

No more time to harvest wheat

Busy housewives cease their labor

In the courtroom no debate

Work on earth has been suspended

As the King comes thro’ the gate…..

Even so come Lord Jesus…….we need you, our world needs you.

 

Songwriters: Charles Millhuff, Gloria Gaither, Bill Gaither

 

 

 

It’s still Lent

One good thing about all this rushing about, worrying about this virus, being selective about where we go and listening for new updates is that sooner or later we get tired of all that. We settle in, we tune out, we get creative about the things we can do instead of what we can’t.

And when we stop, something very Holy happens. We start paying attention to other things. We start talking more, we find closeness of a different kind. It looks like calling people. We are checking on each other more. We are remembering what it looks like to be a true neighbor.

Nothing like a pandemic to bring us closer. To make us realize we are all really one big family across the globe. 

The most important things are still ours. It’s still Lent. Just underneath all the hubbub is a Spiritual pulse that beats stronger than ever. It’s the 25th Day of Lent. We are still leading up to the horrible awful (Good Friday) and the unbelievably wonderful (Easter).

And the best thing of all, is that in every challenge, every crisis we hear the thunderous echo of His last words. Those last words that changed everything, made restoration between God and man possible again. “It is Finished.”

That means everything is still possible. God is with us. I think the phrase I love most in the 139th Psalm is:

Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be. That one wiggles me every time.

Use this time my friends, for the good. Get outside where we can still go, marvel at nature. Learn something new. I was challenged with Suduko. I was always afraid of it but Elaine was patient. She kept telling me I could do it and now I find it extremely relaxing. She did scold me when I was talking out loud trying to figure it out. She said the rule of Suduko is the silent working of numbers. I laughed.

This morning I walked down to the river and watched the tops of the trees fill with light. I also saw the two wood ducks greeting each other. Two “V”s in the water merging as they traveled together.

And God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning–the sixth day. Genesis 1:31

As long as the earth endures, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease. Genesis 8:22

Peace, I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. John 14:27