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.

 

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.

Living and dying and everything in between

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At 3:30 AM the cat yowled to be fed. I am used to it, he is an old man with special needs. I think he might be suffering from hyperthyroidism. He wants to eat round the clock and I let him. I don’t want to put him through all kinds of tests, vet visits are traumatic for him, so at this point I will keep feeding him. After stumbling back to bed I was wide awake. Thinking about mortality. I asked God how on earth I will handle this little furry creature’s death when it comes. Then I asked how I will ever handle Mom and Dad’s when their time comes.

Then I thought, who will be alive to care when it’s my turn? And then I thought about their obituaries and what they will say……then I thought of my own.

And I wrote them all in my head, including my own.

And poor Elaine, I am celebrating her Birthday today, what a morbid post for her special day. But then writers can’t control the flow of thoughts and words that come, so I will try my best to weave all these tangled threads together somehow. She understands me, bless her.

Of course the answer to the question of how I will deal with any of it is: “With God, with God.” Well, He kind of whispered, “With me, with me.” Life is fleeting and oh so precious. People ask why I make a big deal about Birthdays, but I do it because we aren’t guaranteed another one, that’s why. So I try to remember the important ones.

So many people quietly enter and exit the stage door of life every single day. Some with much fanfare and some with barely a parting of the curtain. Like small pebbles dropped into a pond, only a ripple tells you something just happened.

But one thing I know is that God personally celebrates each life. None are more important than the next, all are equal to Him, and all equally worth celebrating.

I am thinking of a dear friend who just passed into Heaven not long ago. She was dearly loved by all who knew her. She loved life and living it. I read her obituary and everything in it was true, and although her family is deeply grieving and missing her, they know where she is and that is great cause for hope.

So today, as I celebrate my very best friend’s Birthday……”Happy Birthday, Elaine!” I am also thinking of our other friend Ginny and honoring her life and her memory. For I know she would dearly love to still be here with her friends and family, and yet even they wouldn’t ask her to leave the incredible beauty that surrounds her now.

It’s a perfectly beautiful day down here, a perfect day for a Birthday. A perfect day to love life and living it. Gotta go and do some celebrating now, and of course, a German Chocolate cake is waiting to be baked.

“Where’s my cake?” The Birthday girl just walked by and asked.

“It’s coming, it’s coming!” I said. But bloggers gotta blog.

She knows me so well.

 

 

The Sweetest Gift

Prayer Closet project

It was tempting for me to show the “after” first because the “before” though functional, is not the prettiest to look at. It stood in Elaine’s Mom’s room to hold adult diapers and miscellaneous stuff while she was in the care-home. Her name, which you can still see the shadow of, had to be kept on it because she forgot that it was hers to from time to time. When Joyce passed two weeks before Christmas this year, Elaine just couldn’t part with it. Then a vision began to take shape.

These are her own words on the Facebook post she made when she posted the pictures of the finished product, my incredible Christmas gift:

Lori has used my little shop for her prayer closet for years. When I go to do a project I have to clear Bible’s candles, pens, reading glasses, little pieces of paper with names on them. I never say a word. Well maybe once, for I am sure she has prayed and shed many a tear there for me. When my Mom passed I had her little chest of drawers to take home. Lori said just donate it. I said no!. I have a plan for that… And here it is. Took me many hours in the little shop.

I had an inkling of what she was doing, because she had mentioned seeing “Prayer Cabinets” online and on Pinterest. I was ordered to stay out of the shop until it was done.
Finally, the day before Christmas Eve it was complete. That night, a sheet covered dolly was wheeled in from outside by Elaine, looking much like one of Santa’s mischievous elves. She could hardly contain her excitement, she said……”You are gonna cry.”
Cry, I did……and you can see why:
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It was beyond my expectations. Standing before me was a labor of love born out of the deepest kind of sorrow. That was why it meant so much. She could have chosen any old chest to refurbish but she wanted this one. Now when I go out to pray, I see a vision of someone who looked inside her heart and refused to cave in to despair, but instead made an unspeakable thing of beauty for someone else…….and I got to be the recipient. I will cherish it the rest of my days, because I know what it took to make it.
I had stood in her Mom’s room and seen those drawers slide in and out, her looking for socks that her Mom had stashed in her purse, and marking the backs of “Depends” with permanent markers. I love that those drawer liners weren’t wasted. And the crosses……those crosses were made out of driftwood we collected from Moss Landing, one of our favorite places to go in California. It’s personal through and through.
I see it, and I think of how so many times in life God brings hope and beauty after our deepest times of despair. I think of that Psalm that talks about joy in the morning.
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And God looks at us “castoffs” by the side of the road and sees what He will make us into, because He sees what we can’t. And He’s determined to make a thing of incredible beauty out of us, even when we can no longer believe in ourselves.
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And He says:
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4: 6,7
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And someday, when we are on the other side……..He will nod approvingly and say, “I do good work.” Come inside now and see what I have prepared for you…….

Advent: Looking toward the Light

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“The Lord is my Shepherd [to feed, to guide and to shield me],
I shall not want.” Psalm 23:1 AMP 

In the deep dark of morning I was reflecting on the events of the past week trying to fall back asleep when I realized my usual method was failing me. I couldn’t get past the first line of the 23rd Psalm. I think that was exactly what God intended.

Sometimes He doesn’t mean for us to jump ahead when He knows that all we need is right there in the first line……”With God, I have all I need.” Stop. Done. Nothing more to say.

It’s been a season of highs and lows this Advent. How do you keep looking towards the Light when circumstances threaten to snuff out the “Merry and Bright” aspects of the season we celebrate? This has been our challenge this year. On the upside, I got to help put on a wonderful party for my niece, it was her 13th, a big one. Everything and everyone worked, even the Christmas lights, both front and back.

Everyone had a great time, adults and kids alike and the highlight of the night was when one of the floats from the Christmas parade pulled up out front complete with music, animation and hundreds of tiny lights. It was arranged through my brother’s friend and it was wonderful to see everyone coming out of their houses to enjoy it.

The downside was that Elaine’s Mom took a turn for the worse before I left and passed away the week I was away. You can never prepare for that. Death might be swallowed up in victory in Christ, but when it comes to call, we are reminded all over again how wrong it is, how unnatural. How it was never meant to be. My heart hurt for her from miles away and I could do nothing but pray.

Then, as we were all recovering from the Birthday party, my Mom fell outside of CVS Pharmacy. I wasn’t with her but thankfully a friend happened to be there, that part I know was Divine intervention. He drove her home. The following days before I left I was able to go with her to the Doctor for wound care.

And the question we ask over and over again in times like this is, what does His coming mean to us in the here and now moments of life?

The answer still lays in the Manger, and in the fields where the Shepherds were watching their flocks, it thunders from the brilliant sky which was suddenly and miraculously lit up by myriads of Angels.

Over and over again, this is the message we live out:

Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men, with whom He is pleased.” 

We hold on to the One who will never disappoint even when everyone else may, even those we love most. In any and every circumstance this life throws at us, we can have hope in the One who will never disappoint.

That is what we cling to this season and every day. By faith we hold up our heads and continue to put one foot in front of the other. It’s why every morning and every evening I flip the switch that lights up the tree and I plug in every strand of garland that hangs.

Those lights represent a hope, or rather a Who, that can never be extinguished.

Because He came and lives today, we can too.

River of life or stagnant pool?

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Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.'” John 7:38

Those who live in the desert especially know how crucial fresh water is for survival. Right now California is experiencing a drought. Growing up there, I lived through one back in the seventies and I’ll never forget it. Every drop was precious then and now. Can you imagine being lost in the desert, your last drop emptied from your canteen a day ago and coming upon what you thought was a fresh body of water, only to find it stagnant and undrinkable?

How about the kind of water Jesus was talking about? If you know Him, you have that living water. It’s a fresh and inexhaustible supply flowing out of your heart that’s available to anyone who asks. Can someone expect to come to you and hold out their cup and be refreshed or do they find water as bitter as the water of Marah?

When the Israelites came upon Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah. So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?”

They were extremely disappointed after being in the desert 3 days, that the water they finally did find was undrinkable. After Moses cried out to God, He directed Moses to a stick on the ground. When Moses threw it in the water it became fresh. I was thinking about that…….one commentary said that the piece of wood represents the Cross. I would agree, since it’s Christ’s work on the cross that makes those rivers of living water flow out of our hearts.

So the question remains. What about you? What about me? Can someone hold out their cup expecting to receive words that will give life? Can they expect refreshment or after tasting what you have to offer will they turn away in disappointment. Do your words edify and lift up or do they tear down? Are people drawn to you because they see the living water flow out through your easy laughter, soft words, humility of spirit and all around likeability?

Are you easy to be around or do people have to watch everything they say around you for fear of being judged or condemned?

Are you a good listener or are you already forming your own words even as the person across from you is still speaking?

I think Jesus was incredibly easy to be around, that’s why crowds followed Him everywhere He went. Of course we aren’t Jesus. We aren’t perfect. But He does expect us to display the fruits of His Spirit. (Galatians 5:22,23)

How willing are you to be a peacemaker? Are you willing to sacrifice your need to be right in order to make peace?

Are you willing to apologize even when you and everyone else in the room knows you had your facts right because it’s what God would have you do? My precious friend did this the other day and I am not so sure I would have been obedient to the Holy Spirit like she was in this instance. Nobody could understand why she was doing it but she said, “Because it’s the right thing to do.”

She was being nudged by the Holy Spirit to make peace in a situation even when she and everyone else in the room knew that she had been in the right and the other person clearly in the wrong. It reminded me of the scene in “War Room” when Tony gives back those drugs to the company even after he’d already lost his job. As Christians we are asked to do certain things that just don’t make sense to the world. Those are the hard things.

Being that living water isn’t easy. Being that living water means you have to be readily available for those who are thirsty. It means you are a peacemaker and think of others as better than yourself. It means you have to love the unlovable in your workplaces, homes, in the parking lot. It means you can’t put a stopper on your own supply because you’re afraid you’ll run out.

Jesus invitation stands open.

Someone is thirsty for what we have today.

Please Lord:

Help me to be a fountain of cool clear

refreshing water to offer hope and help

to the thirsty wanderer.

Help me not be a stagnant pool but a living supply

of what Jesus gave to me freely.

Help me be easy to be around.

And help me be available and ready

to give an answer for the hope

and joy that lives within me.

And help me always strive to do the right thing.

No matter what.

Amen.