Down to the River to Pray

Settled. The Prayer Closet found its new resting place here down by the river. I haven’t been able to find the peace to pray or write at all it’s been such a whirlwind of activity since we got here. We are comfortably settled in the RV (3 things broke soon after we got here but those have been fixed thankfully.) Helps so much to have a very handy best friend!

I am so thankful we have such a wonderful opportunity to stay here on my Aunt’s beautiful property. However long this season lasts I will be thankful to her for generosity. It’s good to be able to help her out with some things too. God is good.

Here I can feel and see nature all around me and hear the sounds of trains which I have always loved. I have missed the trains of my childhood, it’s good to have them back. There is something Holy about a train whistle….they bring with them (to me) a sense of longing and promise, and a bit of sadness to.

This morning I was treated to the sight of a white heron on the very top of a tree across the river. And our second day here I was greeted by the resident robin (Mrs. or Mr. I couldn’t tell). That of course was very important since robins have always held signs of promise to me.

The presence of the river is strong. Rivers always are. They carry things like dreams and hopes. We had our maiden voyage with the kayaks which was something we wanted to do since we got here. Coming back in was a sight to see. We laughed so hard we couldn’t catch our breath. Now we have a rope affixed to the tree to help pull us in!

Until next time, keep my Mom in your prayers, she is still struggling after her thyroid surgery several months ago. It hurts to see her not doing all the things she loves, but her attitude remains thankful and hopeful.

Also, pray for my friend Ron Green, who lost his wife, our dear friend Ruby. She is safe in the arms of Jesus now but he will need the strength of the Holy Spirit to keep going.

Blessings and peace to you all.

A New Chapter

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“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland……” Isaiah 43:19

Just over 10 years ago, lots of people thought we were crazy to buy a manufactured home in a retirement community. But sometimes doing the crazy thing can be right. Living here close to the Superstition mountains gave me an experience I never could have gotten any other way. This place taught me to listen to the desert and what it whispers in the wild. It gave me my blog and it gave a voice to my writing. I will always be grateful for that.

At this phase of life, most people might be easing into retirement. Maybe settling into the home where they will finish out their years on this planet, winding down. We are doing the opposite, uprooting ourselves to start over yet again. Sounds crazy doesn’t it? But I firmly believe that God rewards crazy if the motive is love. In fact, I know He does. I can find example after example in the Bible where God did this.

Not long ago a statement was made to someone else that “People just don’t move back to California!” My answer is the same as his, with an addition “Yes I can, I can do whatever I want to do.” My very important addition to that statement is that I believe in a big God of impossibilities who loves it when we believe Him enough to step out in obedience and do something out of their comfort zone for the right reasons.

And I can’t wait to see what He will do. He has never let us down. He has always provided for our needs, and He isn’t about to stop now.

So today the for sale sign went up. I always wondered how I would feel when it finally happened, but I think I have cried all my tears already. We will leave good friends and great neighbors and how many times can you say that anymore? But I know that God has a great plan and that it is coming together already.

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And we will be back to visit. I never did like goodbyes, in fact, I hate them. I think I am looking forward to Heaven most of all for that reason alone. No more goodbyes….ever.

So as I have said before, this magical place by the mountain has changed me for the good. It’s carved out a place in my heart that will stay. And a Grand adventure awaits. We are going back to where we started, and to family who will love having us there.

I have a good feeling.

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Moving: First phase complete

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For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

Well, we packed and packed and Elaine’s brother Bobby brought his trailer and loaded up the shop and since you always forget something while in the process of moving, there were the bikes and the rototiller left when the dust cleared. We originally wanted to tow my car, but after wrestling with the decision we decided I would drive the bug behind the motor home.

So, in the 100 plus heat we bought one of those “Hitch-hauls” as you can see here and proceeded to load bikes and rototiller amidst some words that Jesus wouldn’t have used. Then we had to make sure they made the 759.1 mile journey. After wrestling with tie-downs (more words) we were satisfied with the result.

The drive went wonderfully smooth. (It’s easy when you have a big target to follow), and the items we wrestled with didn’t move. We had fun with walkie-talkies until we kept saying, “What, what?” for too long then resorted to our phones. We stayed the night in the Barstow KOA which was fine.

Final destination was reached after miraculously seeing only one accident in all those miles. After setting up our new temporary home at my Aunt’s we drew a huge sigh of relief down by the river at the bottom of her property.

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We got many things done. It wasn’t perfect, there were bumps in the figurative road and a few breakdowns in communication (on my part) but the end result was the Lord was with us as always. I was able to drive my Mom and Dad to her three Thyroid treatments for the cancer and today she has a final scan. (Prayers please)

Despite the fact that I fell out of the motorhome (gracefully) on the second night after misjudging the step (only one minor scrape) all was cozy and we felt tucked in. We even had a lesson about squirrels. After enquiring why my Aunt seemed to harbor bad feelings for the red squirrels she told us that the people at the zoo had told her that they bite the grey squirrels testicles and render them sterile. I never knew that!

On the first night, when I was able to go hug and kiss my folks and we were able to talk and laugh with my Aunt Mayvis over a glass of wine I sensed that the right decision was made. It wasn’t easy and still isn’t. Here now, packing the remainder of the house there are tugs at our hearts, for this has been a very happy place.

Now, we prepare for the final phase, last-minute appointments and hoping and praying Briggs the cat reaches back into his memory if cats can do that and remember what it’s like to ride in the car.

We have pheromone spray ready.

Blessings and peace to you all, and thank you for following the journey along with us. I hope you do, this next chapter might be entertaining.

 

Of leaving home and going home

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Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Matthew 8:20

Anyone can leave a house, but leaving a home takes grit, guts, determination and the knowledge that you are leaving a place for the right reasons. It’s the kind of soul-searching that doesn’t come easy, kind of like raking a plow over your heart. And even when it’s for good reasons which it is, it’s still tough.

Yesterday we packed the patio and when I saw the umbrella folded up in my car I flashed back to 10 years of morning coffee and watching the sun come up over the Superstition mountains. Ten years of dinners by the fire-pit and hanging out with neighbors on both sides of us. I confess I had to hide behind the corner and cry.

We are leaving a place that’s been really good to us. We’re leaving a community of people; a way of life that’s easy and neighbors who know each other……watch out for one another. How often do you find that anymore? We have 10 years of memories which we will take with us and hold in our hearts forever.

We have seen decline and the death of some of our neighbors too. Living in a retirement community, that comes with the territory. The man who used to be up with the chickens walking his dog and singing loud now hardly leaves his house. They are taking a different kind of leave. Preparing for another kind of exit.

Two cats have gone over the rainbow bridge here, the stray we brought along when we came here, and Sydney who was my baby. His ashes will go along with us and for that I am glad.

But we are on an adventure, friends. And I would like to take you along if you would like to come. This blog has been birthed here over times of prayer in the little shop since 2009. I can hardly believe where the time has gone. And in three weeks I will be back living in the hometown I left in 1992.

This desert is a place I will come back to from time to time, I hope. It’s left its mark and its a good one. It’s carved out a place in my heart that will remain there forever. And I will do my best to keep you all posted here.

Until then, I have packing to do. And to steal a line from one of my favorite poets. Miles to go before I sleep.

 

Thankful

 

 

 

Why we can’t ever stop loving

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“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken……..” C.S. Lewis

“We love, because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

It’s been a hard week, friends. First there was the call from my Dad. I could hear the panic in his voice: “There’s something wrong with your Mom,” he said, “I’m not sure what to do……” Then the texts and reports came back from my brother and my concern grew. I heard the word, “Sepsis” and alarm bells rang inside my head. Elaine’s Mom was in the hospital 14 days due to that condition. That pretty much ended the “should I stay or go” battle.

It was the spur of the moment and the weekend……..flights were few. Elaine said, “I’ll drive you, let’s just get in the car and go. We’ll drive as far as we can and stop and sleep, then keep going.” So we did. We called our faithful friends who have watched the cats for years and they said of course they would. Sydney had not quite been himself but he was still eating and drinking. He was in good hands.

When we got there 16 hours later Mom was just out of the hospital. (One day and one night too long in her words) She was shaky and disoriented and not looking good. After a week’s worth of antibiotics at home due to some pneumonia setting in, she was on the mend and I felt I could leave.

Elaine had turned around and left the same day we got there after having dinner with her brother in a nearby town. She was scheduled to train on Monday at work and she was also worried about Sydney. (She may not have a cape but she’s the closest thing to “Wonder Woman” I know)

She had asked me before we left, “If something happens to Sydney, if he gets really sick, do you want me to tell you or wait until you get back?” I told her to wait until I got back.

When she got back he was still eating and drinking but hiding under the bed which wasn’t at all like him. And all that week, while I was in California nursing Mom, she was nursing my cat. (she loved him every bit as much as I did) Two days before I got back he had some kind of a seizure and it scared her to death. She brought him back from the brink but after that he wasn’t the same.

We had decided after the last vet visit two years prior, no more vet visits for him. It was just too traumatic.

And she never let on how bad he was, how scared she was, because she had made that promise, you see. That’s what best friends do, they keep their promises even if it hurts.

When she picked me up at the airport I still had no clue. I breezily suggested we go to dinner. She didn’t answer right away and then she told me between tears and sobbing……”It’s Sydney……” Then panic ensued and all I could think of was getting home.

Sydney has been my baby right from the start, you see. He chose me fifteen years ago, back when I desperately needed something of my own. I had lost the cat who had brought joy back into my life after great sorrow, and my arms felt empty.

Of all the kittens in those two rooms, Sydney (Sammy then) kept coming up to me. He was God’s gift, an answer to my prayer, I know it. Later, when my niece was born, I remember lamenting that she was so far away in California. Sydney helped me with that by insisting that I hold him. I had never ever had a cat that turned on his back and insisted I hold him like an infant, but he did.

And now he needed me. With shaky hands I filled out the online form to have the vet come to the house the next day.

All that evening I stroked him where he lay under the bed, and held his paws. He was quiet, and he was never ever quiet. I was so grateful I made it back in time. Elaine had been holding such secret sorrow and so afraid he would die before I got back. Unbeknownst to me, she had made all the calls and had already checked out the websites for vets that would come to the house.

That night I made a bed on the floor so he could feel me near; he always slept right by my side or preferably on my pillow, he loved stealing my pillow. And he actually loved to cuddle, remarkable for a cat.

Sydney was my faithful and loyal friend. For 15 years of his life, each time I left for California he would look towards the door and cry and mourn for days. It was so bad that Elaine would have to leave to get some peace. After a few days he would settle down and allow her to be surrogate Mom.

The vet responded the next morning and said she would be in the area the next day, but there was no way I could let him suffer another day so I pleaded our case for haste and she came through. She said she would be here within the hour.

I waited and prayed for strength at my bedroom window and when her van pulled up I jumped.

We had already gotten Briggs out of the room. And she was so kind, so compassionate. I knew we had made the right call. She got everything ready beforehand and we comforted him as she gave the sedative. I held him close for what seemed like forever. Time stopped and I was strong for him as I knew I had to be. I owed him that.

She suggested wisely that Briggs be brought in to say goodbye, for they had never been apart. Elaine brought him in and they touched noses for the last time. “If you don’t,” she said, “he will always be looking for him.” I guess animals need closure too.

I was okay until I put his little body in the box with the shell blanket. I didn’t want to let him go and the dam burst as I pressed my face to his fur, the softest I had ever felt.

I recovered enough to go hug the vet. Soon I will go pick up his ashes so that where we go, he can go. I happen to believe he is pestering Jesus right now with his loud Siamese meow and insistence on lap time. My Mom said she thought that too.

So again, I feel how hard and unnatural it all is. We were never meant for this kind of sorrow. And though Jesus has removed the lethal stinger that reaches beyond death to redemption, we still feel the raw pain of it.

But there’s something else that reaches beyond it. Softly and insistently it flutters its way into our heart. It says with promise. This is not the end. There’s Hope.

So my question is, “Why do we keep opening ourselves up to love?” Over and over again.

The answer is simple, we keep loving because it’s in our DNA because it’s in God’s DNA and we are His children. He loves us and has loved us from the beginning with an everlasting love, even when it hurts.

We love because He first loved us. And despite the pain, we keep giving. He keeps giving. Because without love, life has no real meaning. With every loss, no matter how painful, we are better people for having risked and loved.

And God has a happy ending for us, folks.

It’s all arranged.

Spiritual Amnesia

My favorite Bible

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like. James 1:22-25

By reading the scriptures I am so renewed that all nature seems renewed around me and with me. The sky seems to be a pure, a cooler blue, the trees a deeper green. The whole world is charged with the glory of God and I feel fire and music under my feet. Thomas Merton

I decided I needed me some Thomas Merton today. He brings me close to nature and seems to have his finger on the pulse of what really matters. Because don’t we all suffer a little bit from Spiritual amnesia? That’s why church, that’s why Scripture, that’s why going out into the yard, gazing up at the moon at night. This ‘ol world just gets too noisy, too outlandish, too filled with things that really don’t matter.

You see, I am guilty. I am guilty of putting myself, my problems, my train wreck, my dysfunction on the throne where God belongs. And in doing so, I steal the joy that resides in every day, the joy that is rightfully mine as His child, the joy that the Holy Spirit longs to lavish on us. I am guilty of making myself God every time I am overwhelmed by my circumstances and give in to fear.

So for this day, I will remember how big God is. I will remember how He holds the moon and the stars and me. And in each and every little thing I do, I will bring Him into it. He’ll be there when I’m washing my car, and going to Costco. What a thought! At work when we wanted to get down to the heart of a problem we used the term “drilling down to the root cause.” Well, when we drill down to the root cause of discontent it’s because we’ve lost sight of how big God is.

I challenge you today to open the Scripture and see where it leads. I can guarantee that it always leads to life, just give a listen:

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; Though its waters roar and foam, Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Psalm 46: 1-3

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. 1 John 3:2,3

Lord, I pray for all those today who are overwhelmed with the world, with the mess outside and in, I pray for peace for turbulent hearts, peace in dysfunctional families, and the assurance that God is still in control of everything and that He has a plan and it’s a good one. Amen

I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught. Jesus

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To those for whom Mother’s Day is painful

Something Worth Singing About

This is for those who for one reason or another, can’t wait for Mother’s Day to be over. I am not saying Mothers shouldn’t be honored, what I am saying is that Mothers everywhere, well good Mothers anyway, should be honored every single day. I also believe non-Mothers and those who wish to be Mothers, and those who may not have their own kids, but are Mothers to other Mother’s kids every single day should be honored every single day.

Don’t get me wrong. My own Mom made celebrating it easy, but I believe I am in the minority. My Grandmother, on the other hand, made my Mom dread Mother’s Day. Picking a card was always a nightmare. It’s all so complicated, this relationship we have right from the beginning. My Grandma lost a child and something makes me think that marked her for life. Maybe she felt that if she showed affection to her other kids that meant she was forgetting Annie.

Here is something you should never say to a woman who has not physically borne a child. “You don’t understand, you’ve never had children.” This is a barb that sinks deep, for it makes someone feel diminished, less than. It seeks to lift oneself over another, even if it’s unintentional. That very same woman you just wounded may just be the first to step out in front of a car for your child. That very same woman may have put herself in the path of physical jeopardy for the sake of saving a child, you just never know. I have seen women literally shrink, fold into themselves after comments such as these, I know, I have felt it myself.

This, of course, is not to minimize the importance of parenting. I believe it’s one of the hardest jobs anyone will ever do. Believe me, I believe good Moms and Dads are the hallmark of a healthy society. All of us single and childless people, divorced people, widowed people support you, we really do.

Last night, we were sitting around the fire and out of the blue Elaine looked at me pointedly and said,”I am not going to go to church tomorrow and watch all the Mothers be recognized and parade around like peacocks.” This will be her first Mother’s Day without her Mom.

To this I said jokingly, “Maybe they should have whips in the corners of the church for us non-Mothers who wish to self-flagellate.” Well, actually I got it wrong the first time, I said self-flatulate. We had a little laugh about that, after I explained the history of self-flagellation in the church.

Anyway, all this to say, be mindful and pray for all those who may be hurting this Mother’s Dad. And celebrate, yes……go out to lunch, make the most of you, let yourself be honored. I sent my Mom flowers and wish I could have seen her face when they came.

I will pray for all the Mothers (and Dads) out there, for your job is hard and it never really ends. I will also pray for those who prayed and cried and wished for kids who never came. And those who raised Nephews or took on Foster kids and never were honored enough.

I pray for those who lived through the unspeakable pain of having a child take their own life. I pray for special strength and grace for that, for it’s the worst thing I can imagine.

Happy Mother’s Day everyone. Treasure her if you still have her. If you are a Mom, bask in your day. And know this, that even neglectful, careless, disconnected, emotionally unavailable Mom’s may have been doing the very best they knew how to do at the time.

Today is an opportunity for us all to extend Grace to each other.