Easy to Believe

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It’s easy to believe in Heaven on mornings like this one……

when the air is sweet and the stars are still winking but

just about to depart from sight.

I walk on tasting the day, knowing how sweet and precious it is.

How fleeting each moment and how important it is to think of time how God does.

Like each day is as a thousand years and how a thousand years a day.

Weightless and free and yet bound to this earth.

I walk on and I flush out a dove, startled from her place.

In wonder, I pray in my place of silence

I wonder at how I can cry the tears of the bitter waters of Marah

and in the next breath have streams of living waters to

flush out my sorrow and replace it with joy.

I marvel at my God.

Whatever happens here:

I have at the very most 35 years this side of Heaven

and then a permanent vacation where peaceful waters flow

and there is no crying only endless joy

a ribbon of eternity stretching out further than my eye can see.

Yes, I grab my cup of coffee and settle in my chair.

I can see it from here.

The Miracle: Road Trip stories

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One thing that has always been on my “bucket list” is to see a whale. I lived half my life in California and much time on the Pacific coast and I have also spend much of my “Arizona” time on vacations at the beach, San Diego and all along the Pacific coast. I even went on a cruise where they almost guaranteed that I would see whales cavorting right off the ship. It was comical, Elaine told me later as she sat and watched the whale fanatics move across the ship in one collective pod every time someone shouted, “Whale, starboard” or “Whale, port-side!”

Of course the ship captain said, “I don’t know why we aren’t seeing any, last week we saw them all over the place.” I can tell them why, Lori wasn’t on that ship. It’s gotten to be a joke everywhere we go, that I have just missed the biggest migration ever seen.

During the coarse of the trip Elaine said that all that would be needed to make this trip perfect is to see a whale. I rolled my eyes and said, “Well, we all know that won’t happen, they know I will be watching.”

Even so, between navigating and everything else, I had my eyes peeled the entire trip. Finally, off the coast of California, it happened. We had been watching what looked like a whale watching boat when we came around a bend with an impossibly huge and sweeping view of the Pacific when Elaine gasped and said, “I think I see a whale spouting!” I screamed, “Where…..where??” Then I saw it too. As she frantically looked for a place to pull over, she said, “Where are the binoculars?”

Now, the binoculars had been the same place the entire trip. On my side of the car in the door. As I fished around in there, I couldn’t find them. In the meantime, pulled over, she saw it again and again. As I tossed things here and there, up in the air in the backseat and front, I saw my dream start to swim away…….as we both searched with gradually escalating voices for the elusive binoculars, “They’ve been there the entire trip,” she said, a bit frustrated now.

Finally I grabbed my camera and focused on the spot where we saw it. It spouted again!

It was then that she then went around to the passenger side and proceeded to take them out from where they had been the entire time.  Meanwhile, the miracle was swimming out to sea, but not before we got a good view of the grand spectacle of nature that I have always wanted to see.

Yes, I guess you could say it was a perfect trip.

And no, this picture isn’t one I took, the whale was a bit further out, but this is what it would have looked like had we been closer.

 

The Encounter: Road Trip Stories

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“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so, some have entertained angels without  knowing it.”  Hebrews 13:2

It was one of those spur of the moment stops. The kind we said we’d do when we planned this 3800 mile road trip. We turned down a road because I was enamored of the amount of vegetation, and the promise of a stunning view at the end of the road. Oregon held shades of green that we just don’t see in Arizona and we made many stops along the way. We turned down a road that had a marker for the Pacific trail and winding our way down to the bottom we saw a hiker who seemed to be in distress.

He was carrying a backpack but not an overly large one, certainly not large enough to spend nights in the woods. He made a motion for water and Elaine rolled down the driver’s side window and handed him the bottle we had. He looked spent. As he gratefully took it, he looked back up at Elaine and said, “Thank you, for giving me that, I will watch over you.” We wound our way down to the bottom and captured what vista we could with the encroaching fog.

But the view on the way up was what stunned us. It was as if the Heavens opened.

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We looked for our hiker on the way back up the road, to give him some bread we had, we would have passed him since he was coming down when we were going up. He was gone. There was no trace of him…….I asked Elaine, “When you looked in his eyes did you feel something?” She said yes. Was he an angel in disguise? We may never know this side of Heaven, but two things happened on the way home that made us think maybe he could have been.

Later that day, we rounded the corner and saw a car have flipped end over end on the shoulder of the road. Let me just say. If this had happened on any other stretch of the road he wouldn’t have survived, anyone who knows Highway 1 on the Pacific coast knows those cliffs that dip their toes in the ocean. And if we had been directly behind him? I don’t like to think about it.

The car was resting on its smashed roof with the tires in the air and the driver was somehow outside the car. He was walking around it stupefied, leaning on his cane and smoking a cigarette taking pictures of the damage. We asked him if he had called already and he said he had. We continued on with our flashers to warn other cars, which did the same. There was no safe place to pull over.

The second close call came on the freeway on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Traffic had just started to move after being gridlocked and we were moving at a pretty good pace, as well as we could with heavy traffic in all lanes. Elaine saw something fly out of a truck ahead and immediately there were brake lights all around. There was nothing she could do but slam on the brakes and hold the wheel. She had to do some fancy maneuvering but even so, there was nowhere to go. We waited for the impact from behind, but thankfully it never came. Thankfully, everyone was paying attention.

The red couch landed in the lane right next to us.

After asking each other if we were okay, we took a deep breath, said a prayer of thanks and went on out way.

But not without thinking about our encounter with the hiker the day before.

This morning thought about it again as I said another prayer of thanks for those times, and all the other times where I am sure that before the Grace of God go all of us.

“For it is written, He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you carefully.” Luke 4:10

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The Long Way Home

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The day I left my hometown in 1992, there was disorder and chaos and a big moving van outside my apartment complex, and my boss pretending to organize it all. I was on the cusp of a grand adventure, moving away from the hometown and family that I loved; the place where I had always felt secure, yet at 30 years of age, I had never lived away and I felt it was a good opportunity to do something radically different.

I left behind a husband recently buried, and a lifetime of memories. Mostly all good.

It was a move to the high desert of Arizona, with the promise of pine trees and mountain tops and a bit of snow.

Two cats yowling in carriers across the desert in driving rain that came from nowhere, all these years later and that is one of the memories that stays.

That, and my Mom with tears flowing and a heart breaking for a girl that she could no longer keep safe. And a Dad trying not to cry but not succeeding. She carried out to me her most precious possession, the Bible we shared together. An old tattered copy of “The Way.” I still have it, all these years later; with both of our notes co-mingled on hope filled, love filled pages.

We built a dream home, E and I, because back then it was as inexpensive to build as to buy, so why not? A dear, sweet couple named Mr. and Mrs. Bott signed over the deed with a handshake and fifty bucks. A three-story house grew up on that lot. My room was beyond custom-made French doors on the very tip-top, and when it snowed it turned into a snow globe. If I opened my windows, I could almost reach out and touch the tops of the pine trees and in the dark early mornings an owl would hoot.

But there, even in that magical place of beauty, I never felt quite at home.

I discovered that you can’t rush healing by building a dream on top of sorrow, especially when you’re running away from the only One who can heal you.

Even so, God jogged along beside us. He touched us through some very special friends we met there, and a little brown Presbyterian church.

Then that dream died. None of our boss’s promises rang true and he stopped paying his business taxes and all of a sudden nobody was sure they had medical coverage anymore, and he started storing food and ammunition and got kind of crazy. That led to another move and a wonderful opportunity at a big company in New Mexico. It was a terrifying round of interviews, but we both landed jobs.

In Arizona, I was a small town girl in another small town, but Albuquerque was something completely different. I became swallowed up in a huge company and I floundered in a land that looked mostly like a brown paper sack. It’s only now, with some distance behind me, that I can see that it had its own brand of magic. My Mom came to visit and she was mesmorized by the clouds, said she’d never seen any quite like it.

We found a house in the exact neighborhood I said I wanted to live in. It was hilly and pretty and my boss lived right down the street. At night all the garage doors would open and swallow up the people. Nobody played outside, not in the front yards anyway.

Despite feeling lost in a giant corporation some good memories stand out from that time. Of bright-colored balloons against the sky, so many it was staggering, and my brother and sister-in-law who came for the Fiesta, all of us thinking that she was free of cancer then. I remember laughing together over icy cold Coronas under a tin roof at On the Border as the thunder rolled.

And God spoke quietly to me in the sun one day as I cracked the cover of Philip Yancey’s book The Jesus I Never Knew. That’s when I started my journey back home, back to Him.

Arizona beckoned once again with a job transfer, and another move back to a place that I considered closer to home…….it was back across the desert, with the same two cats, older now. And we landed squarely in the arms of Grace when we found a church we could truly call home.

It was peace, and grace, and prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit and traveling that full circle that made me realize that the only one I could truly trust to bring me home to healing was God, and He never left.

And of all those beautiful places, it’s this humble, manufactured home in a senior park, the one that surprises people when they walk in because it looks nothing like that preconceived idea………is the one that truly makes me cry at the thought of leaving it. This place where I pray, where I pour out my heart and He listens.

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This place where a blog was born, and two cats lay buried and two more are now getting to be old men. Where the clouds roll in on summer afternoons and the thunder rumbles. Where the doves coo and the quails cry. Where we dealt with E’s Mom and the Alzheimer’s and her Dad’s death, this place is where we most feel like home because it’s where the river of His grace has carried us.

Each day, I wake up to a miracle because now I can finally appreciate the beauty of the journey.

And I pray for the grace to be ready for the next move, for there is a stirring within me to go back to the place where I began; to end my journey there. I know it’s faith that leads us all home, and I am seeking God’s face for whatever lies ahead. I find myself in a peculiar place in this journey, that of being afraid to leave and afraid of not leaving soon enough.

But maybe that’s not a bad thing, for if I didn’t have the fear, I wouldn’t need the faith.

Please join me over at the Atlas Girl Blog Tour  to help celebrate Emily Wierenga’s book launch of Atlas Girl today. It’s a must read!

There are places…….

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There are places you miss like the face of a loved one…..I know this face. Years full of memories have attached it to my soul, so much so that it has become not just a place, but part of who I am. I see it and they all come flooding back like the mighty Merced that cuts a powerful swath through this valley.

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If I close my eyes, I can feel the spray of this fall where one day near the top my hat took flight. And leaning over from the guard rail I saw it perched on a ledge below. The wind caught it again before my Dad could rescue it because he almost went. The wind was God that day.

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And here is where the coyote trotted through, meandering one day in the hush of a quiet morning. I stopped still and watched him, a living prayer on noiseless feet in his space, in his element, not mine.

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And this…….as we walked along the meadow. I had been here for years and never chanced to see this splash of pink. A day in early May when we walked in that dreamlike place. How many years have we walked this meadow and wondered aloud how it would be to live there in one of those little enchanted houses…….as close to Heaven as we would wish for here.

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I remember how happy Lauryn was when “Blackie” came out to greet us there on our walk…….there in that frozen time.

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Heaven has hoses……and though I smile when I see these, my heart aches, my throat swells with lost time. Yet even so, my heart rests in hope knowing I will be in that place again someday, and maybe soon.

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. 1 Corinthians 13:12

I regret not having my good camera yet that year when we visited Yosemite, but I am glad I got these.

Another slice please……..don’t mind if I do.

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Trip continued from yesterday……..

The next morning I was like a little kid, hyper and chomping at the bit to get down to the ocean because, well….the water was so close! I have never lost my excitement at getting that first glimpse of the water, it’s tied to so many good memories I have as a kid, and each time is magic, but breakfast was included in our stay and more importantly, I was in dire need of coffee.

As you can see, I fell in love with how the light was streaming in the morning windows…….and the coffee was much to my satisfaction. I had a feeling, since the night before, Nashua had shared with us that she enjoys a good cup of Turkish coffee. Somehow I knew it would be strong enough to stand up to my specifications and I was not disappointed.

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We were ushered to a table and given fresh orange juice, and a wonderful frittata filled with cheese and potatoes with a side of sausage and fresh fruit. It was all excellent and it tempered my anxiety about getting on the beach enough that I could sit and enjoy it, as well as take a couple of pictures.

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After that, a long walk on the beach was in order. We watched dogs play and collected some interesting rocks along the shore. The weather couldn’t have been better and that added to the almost surreal atmosphere. It was like God’s stamp of approval on the day. Having spent many cold and foggy days at the shore, I was ready for anything.

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When we came back we headed up to the rooftop again, since we had only seen it at night before. The view from the rooftop was stunning……….It is definitely yet another selling point to this Hotel. Unfortunately, the only photo I got was with my iPhone and it wasn’t very good, however you can check out the Hotel website, where you may be able to see it.

Another benefit of staying in the smaller Hotels is the people you meet. I have already told you about Nashua, but we also met a very charming young gentleman named Lance who also is employed by the Hotel. He was very well spoken, with an unbridled enthusiasm for life that was catching. He poured us each a glass of wine and the four of us talked together in the lobby for a very enjoyable hour or so and I never got the feeling they were merely being polite, they were really interested.

We also met a couple from Brisbane, Australia, both very friendly, celebrating their anniversary. They asked for a recommendation for dinner and we gave them the name of the place we were going to right down the Pier, the Sandbar Grill, a local hangout which was excellent. We ended up seeing them come in as we were finishing up. As we left they were getting on very well with the couple beside them.

Unfortunately I never knew quite what he said because his accent was so thick and he talked so fast, we never understood a thing he said. He sounded a lot like “Gimli” from Lord of the Rings. We nodded back and forth a lot. Fortunately, we understood his wife quite well so that helped.

We also met a very interesting lady named Rika, who is a film set designer in LA. She talked to Elaine quite a bit, being interested in just about everything. She wanted to know how long she had been driving her motor home.

She had an elegant, yet understated and humble way about her. Graceful in the way that always makes me feel somehow lumberous and awkward, while not meaning to. She is also part owner of two restaurants and I love the name they chose: Can’t Fail Cafe.

We were thinking of heading out after only one night but we were so captivated by Hotel 1110 that we had to stay another night and I am so glad we did. It was a great send-off to the rest of our trip along the coast. We ended up meeting up with Rika again at Phil’s for lunch before we all went our separate ways. Phil is famous for winning a throw-down against Celebrity Chef Bobby Flay for his Cioppino.

Hotel 1110 was a delightful surprise and I think I can speak for both of us when I say that we will be back this way again someday. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

A Perfect Slice of Time

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E. drove furiously into the night as we mapped our way to the exact address of Hotel 1110 on the Pacific coast. We were under the gun. The ad on the internet said the Hotel doors would be locked at 10 and it was fast approaching 9:15 when we finally called to make sure someone would be there to let us in by 9:30. The accented voice on the other line assured us she would be.

I made a couple of mistakes navigating, which made for a few stressful moments, and the first time we drove right past it. We had to drive up quite a few blocks before we were presented with an opportunity for a U turn.

“Is that it?” I said.

“I’m not sure, do you see a place to park?” She asked.

We drove back into a narrow little alley that opened into a few spaces, but we weren’t sure it was the right place so we went back out and found a place on the street. We were beyond ready to settle for the night. Past ready to start a much-needed overdue vacation. Ready to feel once again the healing properties of the ocean.

Despite our initial trepidation at the parking situation, once we entered the foyer of this captivating place, any misgivings we might have had were laid to rest. And when we met the charming innkeeper, who made us feel at home and instantly welcomed we both breathed an inward sigh of relief.

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She checked us in and with a charming Lebanese accent introduced herself as Nashua. Gazing around, already eager to run upstairs and let my camera out of its case, I felt like I had stepped into another era. It was part Victorian, part Bohemian with a splash of old west Bordello thrown in, but very tastefully so. We gratefully accepted our keys and stepped up wonderfully creaky stairs to a hallway that I imagined held hidden passageways and doors that led to secret rooms.

We abandoned the elevator after the first time because it was so slow, but to me that only added to the charm. Our room opened with a real key and once inside, we were greeted by Audrey Hepburn who seemed to approve and who could ever argue with her?

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“This is awesome,” I said, “Just like one of the places in my dreams!” I often dream of old buildings and long passageways and doors that lead to stairs and narrow alleyways. I instantly yielded to the adventure this was turning into.

The windows cranked out revealing a neighboring view you might see in an old Alfred Hitchcock movie. Amidst the late night traffic noise, we heard the unmistakable sigh of the sea and the barking of seals.

Vacation had truly begun.

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Join me tomorrow as I continue our adventure, won’t you?

Psalm 139 and 3/4

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“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

He has indeed called us Heavenward. And even as we battle down here we are thinking of that hereafter, that future time where the cares of this world are but a lost memory.

And as I lay awake in the dark tallying up my worries, thinking about all the things I wish I could fix but can’t, I write my own Psalm and call it 139 and three-quarters.

For the umpteenth time, I give Him my laundry list of things, those that He already knows about me and I feel it float Heavenward as He assures me He loves me anyway, again.

When sleep is snatched away by the cares of this world, I pray in the wide awake moments before dawn and I feel the peace of my home surrounding me like a cloak. Though worldly sorrow nips at the edges of my heart, the hope of His peace seeps in and around it like Holy smoke. This is the prayer I pray: 

“Bind us together Lord, bind us together with cords that cannot be broken.”

And then I think of the sock that made its way into my suitcase. Her little sock.

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I don’t know how it got there, but I am glad it came back with me.

I think of all the pictures I didn’t take, and how my camera never left its bag. And how I couldn’t care less because what we had instead was much more beautiful.

I thought of how we hid every possible place in the house and how she covered her eyes and counted and giggled as we crouched together in the dark closet while my Dad looked for us. She still hasn’t got the part where she is supposed to stay quiet while she hides, and that makes it all the more precious somehow.

Years from now, I will remember how we all collapsed on the couch after we were done, and how Mom came in and asked what we had all been doing to look so exhausted.

I thought of how I put swim goggles on along with my wrinkles and flat hair and went all the way under the water because she wanted to see me under there with her. I can still hear her shriek of excitement, “You too, Nori!”

It was also a weekend of some firsts. She sat down beside me on the couch with a book and let me read to her, something I have dreamed of ever since she was born. It was like a mini miracle. And how she wedged herself into the couch close by me, wanting to be right by my side all weekend long.

We went to the store together and she helped me shop. Another first. Store was always a scary place for her before.

No, I didn’t get one photograph of fall, not one red leaf, not one landscape of how the morning mist lay in the vineyards, and not the one of the old barn I saw either. Sometimes life just can’t be freeze framed, it has to be lived. The leaf you see is one I took a year or so ago.

This was not the time to chase the perfect shot. It was the time to savor, and treasure, and corral that which there is never enough of.

Time.

That’s what the sock reminded me of.

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And looking at it now, I’m smiling as big as the face on the sock because when I look at it, I can still hear “You too, Nori!”

Sometimes, Heaven’s a place you can find here. It’s in the love shining out from the eyes you leave and come home too.

God’s way of saying He loves us.

God’s love reaches what you can’t fix

Convicted

I fretted, I worried, I prayed. Then I asked others to pray. Then I flew back with a speech all prepared in my heart, hoping God would hollow out the perfect time. You know, how you wish it would work. At just the right time, the clouds part and the sun would beam down upon my heart and before me on the wall would be brandished the words:

Now is the time.

Maybe it happened and maybe I missed it. But God taught me something anyway. You can’t fix everything or even anything but you can always love. Things happen, life gets in the way, sometimes people get sick or they’re not emotionally available. Or maybe you aren’t. But that doesn’t mean God isn’t in it. Love is still present. God is still working behind the scenes. He is just that big.  And maybe sometimes just loving and being there is all God wants us to do. Maybe it’s the most important thing any of us can do.

Love is patient, love is kind. But sometimes it hurts like hell. 

In the Doctor’s office with my Dad, I gave just as big a sigh of relief as he did when he learned that he had a reprieve from a shot in his eye. It seems the treatments are doing what they are supposed to so it was a good appointment. I was thankful I could be there.

Tyler, the dog everyone shares is getting older too. He has his playful moments and his bark is fearsome if you don’t know him, but he no longer hops into the car. His hips are stiff and he hesitates at the door. He’s my walking buddy in the mornings at my brother’s house. He still bounds ahead of me, and if I cross the street to the orchard, he waits at the end of the driveway faithfully until I get back.

One morning my Mom opened the paper and found that another friend and school-mate had died. That led to talking of others who had gone on before. In your eighties Heaven must seem close. We talked of who we wanted to see there first, besides Jesus of course.

And always, time to leave presses up against the present.

The day before I left, a little girl was already worried about when “Nori goes home.” She is ten but she still struggles with “L’s.” And when we left her at school, we didn’t mention it. They dealt with the emotion when they picked her up at school. Separation anxiety.

I think we all have it.

Deep down, we know we’ve all been separated from our forever home, the one we were meant to have. We know something is not quite right. And we spend all our lives trying to get back there.

Thank you Jesus, for being that one way.

No more goodbyes ever again. And though it takes the sting out of the goodbyes here and now, I still felt it as I looked back once more through tears as they drove off dabbing their own eyes.

In all of our comings and goings, and behind the hope and dream of every trip home and every trip back, He remains.  And more importantly, He is big enough to fix what I never could anyway.

Prayer this morning: “Lord I don’t know what I’d do without you.” Amen

The Traveler’s Prayer

Home

Thank you Lord for going before me.

Thank you for being there through security, and all the hassle that brings.

Thank you for being there as I sit on the plane, as I close my eyes right before that time my heart quickens just for a moment when I think of all the things that might possibly go wrong when I am high up in the air.

Thank you for being there when the squeak of the tires hit the tarmac and everyone scrambles to get bags……..

to be the first off the plane……to rush to the next thing.

Help me to cherish every single moment when I first see their faces.

Because it’s never just another trip.

It is a chance to love them again, while we are all still here.

Fill in the gaps Lord, with your Holy Spirit and let peace fill all places in between.

Bind us all together and help us let go of all the small irritants that sometimes get in the way like unwelcome static on the radio.

Help this time be valuable.

Open lines of communication as only You can do.

And help me to remember above all, love.

And that sometimes love means action,

sometimes it means the right words.

Sometimes it just means being there.

Give me the courage and wisdom to know what to do when.

Because, as you know, I am good at getting them all mixed up and out of order.

Thank you God,

Your girl down here.

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

Psalm 139:1-6