Why we can’t ever stop loving

Sydney

“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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What they don’t tell you

My walk in the woods

There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth…….Ecclesiastes 3:1

Here is what no one tells you about retirement, or semi-retirement whichever the case may be. It’s a little bit like marriage, first comes the honeymoon stage. Everything is exhilarating and exciting with a little bit of disbelief at your good fortune thrown in. Then comes the next phase where reality sets in. Things are still good, mind you, they are just more real. You realize that it takes a certain amount of work.

You realize that with most things, freedom (or bliss) isn’t free. With any kind of happiness, there is a responsibility thrown in with it.

I am finding that in many ways, retirement comes with its own kind of responsibility and that in some ways, working was easier. I didn’t say better, I just said easier. When you are under the “umbrella” of the corporate giant, pretty much everything is taken care of. The devil is in the details and you don’t have to think about them.

All of a sudden someone has just thrown you the reins to the stagecoach, or rather, you took the reins willingly and that can be scary as hell. It reminds me of how I used to feel on a stretch of Highway 87 on the way up to Payson, Arizona. There is a vista that opens up as you round the bend and it used to take my breath away just for a second. I think I’m a little bit Agoraphobic, (that’s the fear of open spaces.)

You have to be okay with owning your own destiny and taking care of all those little details you didn’t have to worry about before. You learn things about yourself. Now I am learning how to appreciate and navigate the open spaces.

I am learning that I don’t do well without a plan. My tendency is to drift. A little bit of that is okay. But then the time comes to get a rhythm going, to pick up the pace. Get the ball rolling. Like right now. I was going to wash the car and it’s already past 10. Soon it will be too hot. My list is sitting where I can see it. Blogging wasn’t on it.

And yesterday, I was in a kind of black hole. My prayer was short right before I sent myself off to sleep, “Jesus, I’m in a real fix here.” Because even though I know that He gave me the definite answer I needed when I was making the big decision, now I feel like I have to make it all work. In short, I put myself on the throne again.

Today is a new day, thankfully. And I am figuring this retirement thing out. I am still oh so very grateful and I know that I know that I know, it was the right decision. And I also know that my prayer life is more important than ever. That won’t change. Now I can start everyday with prayer and that is a great thing.

And this morning, I awoke in a good mood, a hopeful mood. I am thankful for every little thing. I know that I didn’t lift myself out of the funk, it was His grace that did. And that is cause for praise.

He’s here, and He has a plan. It’s working out.

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.

 

 

Love is always the right answer

Weighing in on the side of Love

“My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.” 1 John 4:7 The MSG

4:00 AM Prayer:

What a mess I am, God. I don’t love nearly enough or nearly the right way. I let petty things get in the way far too often. I miss way too many opportunities. I’m too critical of people and I am tired of it, I just want to love. I want to build people up instead of tearing them down because tearing down can become a habit. But so can building up. Can it be that simple? Help me to have peace and let me get a glimpse of You in this still hour while everyone else is asleep. Help me to fall asleep for just a while. Stop these thoughts, quiet my mind. Jesus……Jesus……Jesus.

Right after I prayed that prayer I allowed my mind to fill with a vision of what life would be like if we all truly lived by the Spirit and allowed Him to control our words, our deeds, our plans. And while I was still pondering that I fell asleep. About an hour later I awoke with an indescribable feeling of what could only be described as a “golden peace.” It was as if my heart was lit from the inside out, and I felt the peace that I recognized as the one only God can give.

I write this as if it happened just this morning but it didn’t. It happened as I lay awake on my brother’s couch last week the 17th of May. And I am still trying to piece together just what I dreamed because I can’t remember a thing, only that wonderful peace when I awoke. We get those gifts sometimes and when we do we are always amazed. I am anyway.

I never got a WWJD bracelet when they came out, but in any given situation should we not ask ourselves that question? More importantly maybe we should ask: “How would Jesus love in this situation?” This culture we are in, it’s not a culture of love. All we have to do is look at the headlines. Really, has any culture ever been about love?

Peter sliced a guy’s ear off when they came to arrest Jesus. But somewhere between that time and when he died (tradition says by crucifixion upside down) he learned how to love like Jesus did. I can’t even get my mind wrapped around that kind of love. I have a very long way to go.

But that peace I experienced that morning, and the joy and wonder and grace I experience so often tell me that Jesus still loves me this I know.

We’re all broken and in need of healing. If only we would let down our walls long enough to turn towards each other and help each other mend. That’s the Spirit of reconciliation God wants and desires for each one of us. Especially in the church.

Too much of what we take part in here in our modern world is unnatural–that’s why we don’t have peace. We don’t even know how to get it. In reading the Psalms, praying in the quiet hours and spending time outdoors we can begin to relearn what we have forgotten.

Teach me to love, God. Teach me to love. And thank you for loving me.

I Stand Amazed

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Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
    don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
   he’s the one who will keep you on track.

Proverbs 3:6, The Message 

As I write this, a bit of the disbelief and wonder still surrounds me at the circumstances which brought about my sudden retirement from the company where I had spent the last 20 years. If you would have told me a month ago I would be sitting here writing this with my career at Intel behind me, I would have said you were crazy. I had been thinking about it, praying about it, wrestling with it seriously over for the past year, and had even set a date for December or January of this year. I just didn’t think it would be this soon.

And so many times, I had held this verse in my heart and tried to live it, asking God for a definitive Yes or No, Yea or Nay, some kind of deciding factor that would push me one way or another and let me have the confidence I wanted to know I had made the right decision. And then, this……

We had all heard rumors about the layoffs and cuts at Intel, but of course we had weathered all these before. Yet this time, soon after the announcement was made, the roll-out was swift. Suddenly, people we had worked with for years were gone. Everyone was a bit shell-shocked. And then I got the enhanced retirement offer and I knew it was what I had been praying for just a month before. And it was more than I could have hoped for.

And I stand amazed at how good God is. And not because it worked out for me, but because God is always good. Yet sometimes, He does something that so flat-out astounds you with His timing and how perfect it is you know without a doubt it came from Him. I want to stress that it’s nothing I did. There is no formula ever, to guarantee things will fall in line with how we pray. I don’t believe in that kind of gospel.

What I do believe is that sometimes God rewards the one who clings to His word and hangs on for dear life even when there is no evidence whatsoever that an answer lies just beyond the bend.

Here is what I wrote in my prayer journal today:

Thank you God. You fill me with wonder. You became a flesh and blood God well acquainted with suffering and grief and tears and yet still vast and unknowable and full of mystery; able to create this whole universe with a word. I stand amazed that you died because you wanted to save my life and you thought that maybe if you did that, we could have a chance to be together forever. You removed the intimidation factor that might have kept us apart and you brought me near at the foot of the cross. You confounded the minds of the best and the brightest in your short time on earth and shattered their hearts because when they came face to face with you, they knew what they lacked was not intelligence or religion but love. You made them see that all their efforts were worthless because they were blinded by the pride that didn’t let them see you for who you were. Forgive me Lord for those times when love gets left out of my own actions. You have led me with patience and love and picked me up when I could go no further so many times. Thank you for loving me even in my great weakness and failure and for your grace that is greater than all my sin. I stand amazed.

So now I am on this different path and it’s scary at times, but I know He’s got us. It’s a new chapter and I find comfort in the fact that He will be in this next one as well. He was gracious enough to let me make my personal goal of 20 years with the company and reward me at the end.

I stand amazed.

Winds of Change

 

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I laid in bed listening to the hum of traffic out on the road. I wanted to revel in the sameness of things the way they’ve been for the last 11 or so years for a few more minutes. To let the cocoon of the wonderful comfortable rhythm of days the way they’ve been wrap itself around me for a little while longer. I am aware that today is different. Today my retirement may be accelerated. The plan might be kicked up a notch. 

Today is the day the email will drop, the one everyone at work has been waiting for. The one that will announce the changes and what if anything it means for us here in Arizona. What it might mean for me. My work phone is on the charge by my bed. Usually I shut it off all weekend. But this morning, I wanted to see the message first thing.

Funny isn’t it? How you can pray and pray for something and then when it comes down to maybe actually having it answered, you dig your heels in at the last and a little part of you is afraid that it may not happen and also afraid that it will.

This is what I saw when I finally opened it:

“You are eligible to participate in the Enhanced Retirement Program (ERP).” And then a long explanation about restructuring and reinvesting and growth in the company.

All I kept thinking is how amazing God is. Just when I decided to retire at the end of year, this comes in. And it’s a good offer. The timing leaves me in awe once again of how He works. All the times I prayed, and cried and wondered if I was doing the right thing by staying. And later, in prayer in my little shed, this is what my devotional said:

“Circumstances are in flux, and the world seems to be whirling around you. The only way to keep your balance is to fix your eyes on Me, the One who never changes. If you gaze too long at your circumstances, you will become dizzy and confused. Look to Me, refreshing yourself in My Presence, and your steps will be steady and sure.” Jesus Calling April 25

All day long the wind howled between the houses as if to mimic change blowing in. It picked up strength mid-morning and never wavered. My allergies kicked up something fierce. Elaine came home looking like she’d been in a war. She said driving the bus was like wrestling all day. And then she had to wipe boogers off the seat and window…….

At the end of the day, the wind finally stopped. I sat out for a little while on the little deck, wondering about the road ahead. I can relate to Mary in Scripture when it says, she “treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” I spend a lot of time pondering things in my heart. I guess that’s what writers do before the words make it to the page.

Today, I stand amazed at all He’s done and continues to do in our lives. I may not know all the ins and outs of how it’s all gonna play out, but I know He’s with us. And I know He’ll never leave us. And He won’t leave you either, my friend.

He’s in it for the long haul.