A breath between life

 

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How long we wait,  with minds as quiet as time…..Thomas Merton 

It took half a day or so to work its magic, the sea. I tossed and turned the first night, rolling thoughts over and over like the waves themselves. The next morning I let the beach release me from all that was troubling. I let myself fall under the spell of the sound of the surf, rolling, crashing and thunderous. 

I marvel once again at a Creator who would put so many mile markers right in front of us for us to find Him, thankful that He reveals Himself to me this way.

I remember when I was a kid, how that first glimpse of the straight blue line of that body of water against the horizon filled me with an excitement I could barely contain. Like an old friend it beckoned. Then, it was all the other stuff mixed in too. The Boardwalk, the Merry Go Round, the Taffy window. Now, I need only the sand under my feet and that pounding relentless surf.

Some say it’s just gravity that keeps it from flowing onto the earth, but I know the voice, the power behind it all. There was a time Job had questions and God had answers. All of us at some point have questions attached to our grief, our suffering. I ask why my Mom has to navigate her way through this betrayal of her memories. She remembers when remembering brought comfort.  Now her memories have turned against her; reminding her of all she has misplaced.

But the most important thing is she still knows the answers and so do I. Some things we just won’t understand this side of Heaven. She still knows her God and that He is supremely good and that never wavers for her. As she told me yesterday, “She still belongs to God. He still holds her.”

I walk and walk. And I let the surf wash over my inner soul. The deep place where the Holy Spirit rests in the quiet. I hear God’s reply with each step. And it’s all the answers I need. 

Who enclosed the sea with doors when bursting forth, it went out from the womb; when I made a cloud its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and I placed boundaries on it and set a bolt and doors, and I said, Thus far you shall come, but no farther; and here shall your proud waves stop? Job 38:8-11

Yes, the sea has worked its magic once again. We are blessed to be able to come back to this place. This peaceful place that has come to seem like home. Doubly blessed to have someone to share this leg of my journey with. 

God wants to “friend” you

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O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thought from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways…….Psalm 139:1-3

“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his masters business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything I have learned from my Father I have made known to you.” John 15:15

This morning I was sitting in the half-light of dawn when I said a simple prayer:

Thank you Lord for being the kind of God who wants to know his people, his creation intimately. Thank you for being the kind of God who wants to walk with His people in the cool of the day. Amen

We made these packets for the kids last year to take home. Each one was filled with the things they had done throughout the year. I imagine God making a book like that for me, cause that’s the kind of God He is. Sometimes I ask Him if He still loves me despite the fact that I know I disappoint Him in some way every day. The answer always whispers back quietly in the dark, “Yes, I do.”

Jesus stepped up to step down for us and all we have to do is say yes to His sacrifice. To give Him back our lives for better or worse. Jesus was the One who said the yes to who will give this woman, this man in marriage for life. The One whose yes involved the most unspeakable and wonderful sacrifice.

A good parent never stops loving their kid no matter what they do. Yes, their hearts are crushed and broken when they disappoint, but only because they love them so much and they don’t want them to go through the same mistakes and heartache they went through.

I have been reading and rereading Psalm 139 and I don’t think there is any clearer picture in Scripture of how God loves us and longs to know us and have us know Him. It gives me great comfort to know that God’s love goes the distance with us to the end.

That’s what I have today folks. It’s my gift to you from God.

Your eyes saw my unformed body…..All the days ordained for me were written in your book before even one of them came to be……Psalm 139:

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.”

Restoration…….(kind of like what God does with us.)

Behold, I show you a new thing……..Isaiah 43:19

Just a very partial showing of Elaine’s restoration projects I thought I would showcase today……..My Prayer Closet out of her Mom’s old beat up dresser, a window covering you can open and close, a candy scale that was sad, corroded and forgotten, and a new table for my Aunt’s wash area! It is amazing living with a restorer and creator.

And her latest, the iron was weathered and tarnished and the wood just about gone…….we were about to throw out until I said (as we were dragging it to the scrap heap)……..”Wow, this iron frame is heavy, it’s a shame to not save it!”

And the newest Lubester……..

I love how she sees things. A piece of wood is never tossed out……she has a vision for what it could be made into. And the old rusty and forgotten is seen for what it once was and what it can be again.

This is the beauty of what God longs to do in each of our lives, my friends.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7

And now she is outside building a cat house for the neighbor’s cats. They have the whole acreage here to run around in but they have decided home base is the Motorhome. Well, they were neglected and the neighbor is hardly ever home so a handful of food here and there become a twice daily regular feeding time.

Like I said, this is just a sampling of what she’s done over the years and for many recipients other than myself over the years, given away as labors of love. God has blessed the work of her hands as she blesses others. She amazes me.

I am so glad God has chosen not to leave me on the scrap heap. He is the Creator and Restorer of all times and all seasons, and that includes me and you.

“He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning to the end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

Always just a little bit of mystery isn’t there? God has the right to keep some things under wraps, but someday all will be perfectly explained and understood.

Enjoy the beauty of His creation this weekend. I leave you peace…….

 

 

Happy Birthday to my bestie

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“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” Proverbs 27:17

“Two are better than one, for they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” Ecclesiastes 4: 9-10

Here she is in her happy place and it made me glad she could be there. There I can see in her face that her burdens are lightened. Today, I honor her because everyday she does things for me and makes my life a blessing.

She is God’s girl.

She’s the one who pays for the person ahead of her at Sonic Burger and never tells a soul, but I find out. Just the other day when she went in to pay for my cookies at the bakery, she noticed a WWII veteran struggling to open the door (he had a cap on).  She opened the door for him and then paid for his order without him knowing…….these are the kinds of things she does everyday and I always tell her, “God is smiling on you….”

She lives out her faith in a simple practical way by noticing strangers who need help……by leaving the last serving of what she thinks I might want. She loves until it hurts.

She does things for my Aunt every single day without saying a word because she knows living here is a blessing and she cares for her and my whole family. She breathes life into situations and life into a party. She moved with me all the way to this state even though it meant leaving a life and friends she loved.

She was always the one to work out difficult situations at work. She was the one they sent to train the “challenge” person. She never made the big sales in Insurance because she wouldn’t sell little old people something they couldn’t afford.

I know I make her sound like somewhat of a saint, and she is in the “Christian” definition. But like all of us, she knows her failings, but everyday her motto is to make something a little better than it was before. We all need someone in our lives that sees the best definition of us and she is that for me.

Only God knows her better than I do.

She encourages me every day, but she also loves me enough to let me know when I am not being honest with myself. Sometimes best friends have to be tough as well as tender, if they truly love.

Today I honor her life. For 28 years we have been best of friends. Through moves, up s and downs, victories and failures, joys and heartache, but most of all laughter. She lights up my days and I thank God for her.

She’s my friend, my sister in Christ, my soul-mate who laughs at all the same things I do.  Happy Birthday, Elaine Dupree!

 

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.

 

Coming and Going

“Love doesn’t hide. It stays and fights. It goes the distance, that’s why love is so strong. So it can carry you home.” Unknown

Somewhere in between longing and joy, regret and hardship, tears and laughter, there is a place we call home. When we go back we run into all that history, all those feelings, and in turn they run smack into everything that’s going on now. That’s why going home evokes so many powerful emotions for so many.

It’s the place and people you grew up with, the place you learned to sink or swim, or survive and thrive.

Somewhere in between the place we always seek to recreate and romanticize and the place we never want to see again lies that place we call home.

I go back to the place I spent all of my growing up years, so lots of memories come with it. The sorrows and the joys live there within its walls, along with those things that never seem to change.

The squeak in the porch step, the way the screen door sounds when it slams…….my Mom’s dryer that will never die, the one that never stops, all day long…….and that keeps spinning no matter if the door is open or not. I am convinced that God keeps all her appliances going.

And this time, the garage talked. The first time I heard it, it scared the daylights out of me. “Oh,” my Mom said, “Lauryn has a couple dolls out there that talk and it must be the motion that makes them go off.” I felt like I was in a horror movie where Chuckie the doll comes to life.

Everytime I go home I fry something. This time it was my Mom’s favorite hair dryer. I think it was going on its twentieth year. I looked up and the connection in the outlet was smoking. I caught it just in time.

My Mom constantly complains about not having enough electrical outlets, and it is a valid complaint. Back in the early sixties, they didn’t put outlets in every six feet, about two per bedroom was enough.

There was a new hood over the stove this time. I went to reach for something up in the cupboard and I almost needed a ladder. The new hood extended much further over the cupboard than the last one, but neither my Mom or Dad thought it was a problem when they bought it, they were just happy to have a new one.

The cat still loves to hang out in the sink. The first one liked it there, and so does the new one, amazingly enough!

My Mom still gives me the best of whatever she has. She insisted I have her new fan, not the one that rattles, and having body wash and lotion for me when I didn’t even think she heard me say I needed it. At eighty three she still seems to have everything everyone needs.

My Dad still says, “Everything is better when you’re here…..”

And when I close my eyes I still hear, “Watch me, Nori!” and it makes me happy but sad all at the same time.

My niece still has a problem saying her “L’s.” She was so thrilled that her Auntie was there with her, watching her swim. And she laughed and laughed at the video I made of her kitties getting into a tussle. Her favorite thing to do now is make videos of us when she thinks we aren’t watching and then laugh uproariously when we catch her at it.

I have found that going home teaches me lessons all over again. I learn things about myself and some of them don’t make me happy, yet I am thankful for them because without the realization, the change wouldn’t be possible.

Going home is made up of little hard and soft moments all strung out together.

I realized this, as Mom and I sat hand in hand watching Franklin Graham evangelize India. We each shed tears because how could you not, watching people who have nothing, suddenly gain everything? Part of mine were shed because everytime I am near them, I feel the weight of time pressing heavy.

We are a family in crisis mode, and aren’t we all? And sometimes, most times, I just don’t know to help.

One thing I do know to be true, the faith that has kept us together through so much still stands, will always stand. And always…..He keeps us.

And going home and coming home are both very good.

“The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.” Psalm 121:8