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 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.

The Refiner’s Fire

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You may have heard the story about the woman who attended a Bible study and wanted to know about the process of refining silver after she read Malachi 3:3. She writes of her visit to a local silversmith:

“As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities. The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot; then she thought again about the verse that says: ‘He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver.’ (Malachi 3:3) She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed. The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, ‘How do you know when the silver is fully refined?’ He smiled at her and answered, ‘Oh, that’s easy — when I see my image in it.’”

As I meditated on this story and passage I also thought of our part in it. How we must willingly stay in that fire. How many times have I been through something painful and sought only to relieve the pain not thinking or caring about the end result. It’s humbling. And it’s what I leave you with today. If you’re in that “refiners fire” today, know that He is surely with you. Right where you are today, know that He will never leave you or forsake you!

 

The Morning He Spoke

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He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10

I was in early morning prayer and my mind was like a superhighway. I have been job hunting and determined to keep walking through doors, keep going forward. I have had the interviews, filled out the applications for anything and everything I think I could remotely like or do. I interviewed for two positions, each of them for a Paraeducator in the Special Education Department. I was waiting for word.

Then I saw the application for the typist/office job at the school. My niece’s school. I went and got my certification for 46 WAM. One more word than I needed. I floated out of there with a prayer of Thanksgiving on my lips. One more reward, one more door. One more piece of paper in my hand that says I can do something.

You see, when you have been at a company for 20 years and have to look for something else it can be daunting. I am not young. Smart as whips twenty somethings are out there looking for the same jobs I am.

So, I was in prayer and looking for direction. I applied for the office job. I got a rejection from the first place I interviewed, and secretly breathed a sigh of relief. I was uneasy about the interview, the place. Now I was waiting for word on the other.

And it was in that place of indecision and fog of mind that it came like a Heavenly beam slicing into my heart. It was quiet but it was insistent. And clear as a bell. That’s why I knew it was from the Holy Spirit.

Be still, rest easy in my Grace.

And like all things that you know are from God, I wanted to keep it to myself for awhile. To cherish it. Part of me was afraid if I shared it, it would pop like a bubble and go away. Lose its power. Kind of like a dream you want to fall back asleep for. But the words stuck fast in my soul. I felt calmed.

And then I got the call and was offered a job as a Paraeducator in the Special Education Department. A job for which I have no formal training or education but that for some reason God thinks I can do. Because in all my years at Intel, He proved to me that He would always find a place for me. That whatever He gave me, He would help me do.

I was a small town girl in a big corporation. I had no degree and I was working around people with Masters and more…….And I retired from there after twenty years. It was Gods and my success story.

And I am about to enter another one. Friends, I would appreciate your prayers. I feel a bit like Maria leaving the gates of the Abbey headed for the Von Trapp mansion.

But I have confidence. This belongs to God, this venture. Don’t they all?

I am resting in His Grace and Philippians 4:13. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

 

 

Good Day (of) Sunshine

image For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds has come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land…..Song of Solomon 2:11,12

I know winter is not over yet but all over there are whispers of hope. I saw bulbs coming up, maybe narcissus the other day. We have had consecutive gray days and this morning, after a patter of steady but light rain the sun came out and the birds were giving their exuberant assent back and forth across the sky. Blue sky changes things. Just a smattering of sun reminds us that things just might be okay after all.

I was feeling thankful that this could bring me joy because to some in their minds all days are alike. I know this, I have seen that heartbreak. The thing that makes Christianity stand out so starkly in the climate of our world is that no matter our circumstance, the Holy Spirit lives and breathes within us and fans that flame alive even when life around us points to the contrary.

Satan can fling his accusations at us all he wants, just daring us to hope. He tries in vain to pull the shutters down from inside because he knows his time is short. He will settle for a few moments of despair here and there. He has lost, my friends, and he knows it. He lost long ago on that hallowed ground where Jesus gave His Momma over to the care of Mark and forgave the world, forgave us.  His last breath here was only His reentrance back Home, just as it will be for us.

For those who have followed my journey here, you know I have moved back where home once was, the only home I knew. I feel a bit like Bilbo Baggins describing his “There and back again” journey. I have met my own little Smaugs. I have been job searching. Going on job interviews feels like first dates from what I can remember.

You go through that exultation that you got the interview (the date) then you have the instant regret and desperation…….(will they, won’t they call.) The anxiety, the waiting for the email, the phone call. Hoping they will, hoping they won’t (when you think you made the wrong choice)

I am proud of myself and my milestones lately. They haven’t found me employment yet, but they have brought me something else. A victory that has grafted into myself that no one can take away. It’s God’s and mine. And everyone that prayed for me.

There was the 3 hour assessment test which I passed. And the typing test just the other day. Both times E said, just take them! And I was hoping for 45 words a minute on the typing test and I got 46! God is so generous. It was kind of surreal. It was a beautiful office and I could see other people settled happily in their suites, an architect here, a real estate office there, an attorney farther down. It was like entering another world.

And I greeted the two gals at Blue Ribbon Personnel. They were well dressed and standing at their ergonomically correct workstations, like the one I had when I had a job. It was like old home week.

Thankfully there were no numbers or special characters on the test. As Elaine said, Angels wings were there on the keyboards.

God has birthed a new day and I am going to step out in it and see where He wants me to go next. I don’t think I plagiarized the Beatles because I added the “of.” The lyrics are how I feel right this moment.

Peace on your day.

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For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain……..The Apostle Paul, Philippians 1:21

Almost from the time we are born, our hearts and souls are acutely aware of a sense of loss and the fear that stems from it. Life, at its most painful becomes synonymous with loss. Loss of a job we loved, loss of a loved one, death of a marriage, physical loss, loss of a home. Sometimes one loss turns into another. Such as when a deep loss turns into a bad habit. Then we have to kick the bad habit and we have that loss to deal with too.

But here is the big hope rests within and through all this. Here is where the story gets happy. That at the other end of this spectrum of loss, there is gain, without which we wouldn’t know loss at all. And that little word, gain, is what God is, and has always been concerned with.

That when we were determined to ruin ourselves and each other, God said, “No, I won’t let the story end this way.” He didn’t just write a happy ending. He came in physical form to become our happy ending. He came to fill that, as C.S. Lewis so rightly said, “God sized vacuum” in our hearts.

On a final note, I wanted to address those who seem to think the California fires are the result of God’s judgment due to the fact that sin is so rampant in this state. My God doesn’t go around setting fires and starting earthquakes and floods. That’s Satan’s job (if you believe in him and I do because Jesus certainly did).

To some, California may be an example of what they feel is wrong with the world, but no state or geography has cornered the market on evil; that territory starts within the heart of us all and there is only one cure:

Jesus himself. He’s our only prescription with a permanent cure for heart trouble:

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have not told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?” John 14:1,2

Please join me in praying for all those who have lost homes, businesses, and lives in this beautiful state I call home now.

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.