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 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. 

Kinda like Heaven

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My brother and I with Thunder, circa 1965 or so……

There used to be a row of houses on the next block over from where I lived. We knew every family that lived there very well. The houses were owned by the adjacent hospital but I never knew that.  About 10 or 15 years ago now, one by one all the current occupants moved out and the houses themselves were physically moved to a neighboring town.

Growing up, I spent hours inside every one of those houses. Some of them many, many hours. Starting from left to right, there were the Meier’s, then the Matsumoto’s, (whose kids were almost part of the family since my Mom watched Rhonda and Jeff when their Mom went to work.) Next to them were the Merry’s, then the Dillon’s. It was quite a spectacle to watch those houses be readied for a move.

I was reminded of all this yesterday when I took Mom to the store and saw Harriet and Sam Matsumoto. Sam has cancer now, on chemo. I can remember when he used to drive Rhonda and I to school sometimes, he would turn on the vents and stuff would fly out.

I was thinking of those houses, those people, this morning at 3:00 AM when I couldn’t sleep. In my memory I see every house, every family. I remember the night our dog got hit by a car and we mourned the loss sitting in Rhonda’s room. I remember the day I was swimming in the back yard of the Meier’s when the Dollinger boy came with a boa wrapped around his neck. I remember Todd Dillon running home when he cracked his chin in our driveway. So many memories.

I was thinking that in those days I could have knocked on any one of those doors and would have been welcomed. Offered a cooky or ice-cream bar. I would have listened and respected those parents like my own.

It struck me that must be a little of what Heaven is like. Being able to knock on any door and be welcomed. Now it seems few neighbors know each other. My folks just about have to flag the younger people down to talk to them before the garage swallows them up in the evenings. It’s sad.

I am not in John Lennon’s camp, even though I loved the Beatles back in the day.  I love to imagine Heaven because for me it’s just as real as this world, more real in fact. The Bible says in Heaven we will be fully known.

No worries about money, no mortgage, no war, no death, no homelessness, no crime, no pain or sadness. No loneliness or heartache for what might have been. No disease or any kind.

And God will wipe every tear. That sounds pretty darn good to me right now. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of good still left in this world, and much to celebrate. But I don’t think anyone would argue that it needs some redeeming right about now.

What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him…….1 Corinthians 2:9

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.

 

Tea and toast and self preservation

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Yesterday I fought through my route, feeling sick. I felt better at the end of the day but today I awoke still feeling puny. I needed a day for tea and toast. I am washed out, washed up. Stressed. I am so very blessed. Elaine made me scrambled eggs and bacon and my Zen tea. The kind I used to get at the Intel cafe when my life was ordered and predictable. Today I am missing my old uncomplicated life. From a distance the stress I had there seems minute.

It was a beautiful weekend at the ocean, in one of our favorite places. It didn’t disappoint…..it never does. Moss Landing is a little fishing village along the Pacific coast by Monterey, California. There is no shopping, and only one hotel. Nothing to do but eat at Iconic Phil’s Fish Market and walk for miles on the beach. It was just what we needed.

And, after hemming and hawing with my finger on the “Book Now” button on my IPhone for an hour, I decided to do something I have wanted to do for years, I went on a whale watching charter. After I got over the strange reaction from the motion sickness patch the night before, we headed out at 7:00 AM the next morning. And we were rewarded with whales! They didn’t get as close as I thought, but we saw them. And I didn’t get sick. On the way out I wanted to hear John Denver’s, “Calypso” played loud over the speakers.

The sea was rolling and some fog swallowed us up for a time, but it was magical to be in their playground.

Our last day we had another lunch at Phil’s looking out over the Pacific. We collected a few shells and bits of seaglass before packing up and heading home. We were greeted with warmer temperatures when we got there. At last we were settled in. I called my Mom and her voice was tight with stress.

Then I got the horrible text that I didn’t deserve and that I wasn’t expecting. Welcome home……Can I go back to the ocean please?

And I have been sick for two days. Yesterday, I quit fighting and took a day off  and went back to bed. Some days you have to take care of yourself and let others take care of you. Last night I crawled into the peaceful magic back space in the Motorhome with my book and fell into a dreamless sleep. I awoke to “Dinner’s Ready” and the sound of Amazing Grace playing on the smooth jazz station where we have never heard it played before.

Sometimes God gives you exactly what you need right when you need it.

I am guarding my heart today and yet I hope God will show me how to keep it open enough to extend grace. I am learning that protecting myself is okay.

 

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.