A 2020 Celebration

I’ll bet with all the memes and jokes about 2020, you are surprised that I’ve found something worth celebrating this year. But I have! I’ve actually found many things worthy of celebrating and writing about.

Today I had a great report from a cancer screening test and I couldn’t wait to celebrate by taking a long, long walk. It felt so good to swing my arms and stride along. I had not been aware of being anxious, but apparently I was. The relief made me feel lighter than air. I had asked for my health to be protected, knowing that is not always how things work. Good health is not the ultimate sign of God’s approval, and he even works his purpose through the death of his most loved persons. I guess when you have the intelligence to create life, to restore and make anything brand new, and when you plan to eventually resurrect all who’ve died anyway, you think a bit differently about death in general. Nevertheless, I admit that I struggle to keep God’s perspective in mind at times. And I particularly don’t like cancer.

For me, there is no better way to celebrate than to move, to see, to experience the natural world. I could give you the short story – it was a beautiful day and I saw a deer and two snakes. Or I could show you with my pictures, which I love to do. August is the last month of summer. Everything here in the north is maturing and getting ready to die or go dormant in a very few weeks. The colors are different, the grasses and flowers are going to seed. You can feel the progression of life cycles that are expertly designed to show us things about God, if we will look, and think about what we see.

The irresistible trail (a miracle, not a single mosquito or deer fly did I swat.).
Hospital trail, Beaver Pond Loop, where rest stops are furnished with urinal and chamber pot, naturally.
Beaver Pond, with beaver lodge in the distance.
There is a snake in here, but you have to look really closely. I nearly stepped on it before it crawled off the path. Adrenalin moment.

If you put away thoughts of COVID19, politics, natural disasters, and riots, I’ll bet you can find something to celebrate in 2020 too. I’d love to hear about it.

2020 Birthday

Yesterday was my birthday…

And I decided to count and name my blessings throughout the day.

1. I woke up. The chance to celebrate one more time.

2. I woke up on land my grandfather used to own, still in the family, in a free land.

3. 12 people actually read yesterday’s blog post.

4. I had hair to comb.

5. I got to go over and have coffee with my mom.

6. My youngest brother came over to sit with us and tell me happy birthday.

7. Mom added a 1927 cookbook to my antique collection.

8. Pancakes and Nutella for breakfast.

9. A day with no rain in the forecast!

10. Singing birds everywhere outside – red winged blackbird trills,my favorite birthday song.

11. Online greetings that make me tear up.

12. No headache today.

13. Already have supper figured out and ready to cook.

14. A long birthday walk on Hospital Trail North, all 10,000 steps in the great outdoors

15. A surprise stare down with a beautiful wild deer in the forest (which I took as a birthday present since it doesn’t happen very often)

16. More birthday blessings from people online, more happiness reviewing those memories

17. A “hope” rock from my sister-in-law

18. The special dinner – I didn’t burn anything!

19. Birthday dessert from my mom.

20. Alexa played music I liked all evening – another rare occurrence.

21. FaceTime talks, texts, and calls from family during the day. They all helped me to feel valued and to process the fact of aging, and live with the fear of it.

22. The mantra “We understand fear is normal, but courage gets the final say.” from “The Next Right Thing” by Emily Freeman

The Other Side of Thanksgiving

If I had remembered to take pictures at the right time, I could have shown you my beautiful table, decorated and set for our Thanksgiving meal. But I didn’t and through that I realized there is an “other side” of Thanksgiving.

That side is as much a part of the good memories I hold as seeing that perfectly cooked turkey, the smorgasbord of pies ready to be served, or that plate full of food artfully arranged. The other side is seen here…

and here…

and here.

It is experienced as I wash dishes with help from guests, wipe counters clean, search space for an extra chair at the table, empty garbage, and wipe a spot of gravy off the floor (okay, it was really cat throw up but that’s not the point).

The other side includes that kind of relaxed, awkward time after eating when no one is quite sure what to do so they do this…

or this…

or this…

The other side is dear, but also a little stressfull as the number of people in the house swells, the kitchen counters are crowded with supplies, refrigerators are full of leftovers and entryways look like this.

Those necessary inconveniencies of travel, trying to keep rested over a long weekend, trying to connect in meaningful ways with each loved family member and guest – all are parts of almost every Thanksgiving I can remember. They are the other side that is maybe not so photogenic or talked about.

I think I love the other side too – the mess, the chaos, the spills, the broken dish, the menu item that gets forgotten in the fridge, the cat that dips its paw in my guest’s water glass.

Thanksgiving is a singular, memory making holiday with two sides. It might even be my favorite. All this goodness makes it easy to say “thank you family!” And “thank you guests!” And most of all “thank you God!” for another great Thanksgiving.

November Moods

One of the few colors to penetrate November’s grey cast – the greenery I gathered today.

November Moods

November is colored a hundred shades of grey

As if summer had used up all the colors in the world

Grey is an easy, undemanding color, more like a feeling

November tells me I have reasons to be thankful

Now there is time – I don’t mind looking for thankful thoughts

With every leaf I pick up, and every walk I take.

Thankful that I made it through the summer challenges

The unfamiliar roles I had to play, the confusion, helplessness

Thankful for wise ones who shared the load, who came alongside

I can hear the travelers in the sky, honking

I can see their dark V against the grey background of clouds

The comfort of knowing that nature knows it’s November

Geese take turns leading, how wise of them.

You Are Special

To all my readers:

I’ve been to a writing conference this week and it’s made me examine why I write. I have to conclude that it’s not just for myself. I want it to be for you too. I’ve been cheered by the compassion expressed after my latest painful posts (and painful pictures). It’s made me thankful for you. I feel like you are all kind of “my people”.

I feel like I should attempt to tell you why I write here. But first,

The NOT WHYS – I’m not:

trying to make you feel sorry for me

trying to present life as only full of hard things

trying to be sounding hopeless or bitter

trying to compare my life with anyone else’s

Really, I’m not.

THE WHYS

What I want to do is offer the events of my life as an example of the hope that a very average person can have. We all have seasons when life is hard, and seasons when it is not so hard, maybe even joyful and fulfilling and interesting. Life is given to us as a learning experience and I love the ability to share the ordinary things that happen to me with you. I feel a responsibility to be fully aware of what can be learned from the ordinary and to think deeply on what might be of value to you as you read.

I love to show you the beauty of our physical spaces like my northern forests and wetlands. I share with you the fear of doctor’s visits and threats to physical health because we can learn that we are not alone. I tell you about the crazy stuff because I know we all need to laugh at the things we (I) do. I love to tell you about people like yourselves that are precious to me.

For me, my hopeful outlook is bound up in my faith. I believe in a God more loving than can be imagined and I should probably be telling you more often how I feel his love applied to me personally. I believe all of us “ordinaries” are unique and specially loved by God. Whether you believe as I do or not, doesn’t it comfort you, encourage, you to know that another person respects and values you because of their belief? Doesn’t it make you curious how that can be? I want to include that kind of conversation in my stories. I hope that in some way you can feel God’s love applied to you through what I write.

I have more to say about the writing conference but I needed to start with this, tonight. Thank you for being there and for reading.

Autumn and Family

A past Thanksgiving in the place that is now my home.

I’m not sure I can blame it on the season, but there is something about fall that makes me miss my family in far away places. Sitting here at breakfast with the husband, I even miss our  family members that live down the street. Maybe I’m thinking longingly of Thanksgiving gatherings. Maybe it’s the thought that the long winter is coming and we should see people now, before travel gets risky. Maybe it’s because life is so obviously changing for all of us and I feel the need to KNOW how it’s affecting everyone.

We do a lot of sitting and talking. Good stuff.

Mom and I were sitting in her living room, doing our sunrise chat one day this week. She brought up the fact that many of our southern family members had moved recently. They were in houses she had never seen, so she didn’t know how to picture them at home. We started reflecting on how much better we know someone if we have visited them in their home – or at least we think we know them better. We know where they sit to relax, where they stand to talk on the phone, where they let their cat in and out, where they set the table for a meal. We know a lot of things, if we’ve been there. 

This topic is also on my mind because it was just a year ago this summer that we moved.  For quite a while friends and family didn’t know where to picture us. Even scarier, we didn’t know where to picture us. We were kind of floating and fitting in. A year into being Hayward residents, I feel like we are gradually setting our stamp on our home. There are beginning to be ways that it reflects who we are, our interests, our activities and priorities. As that happens, I feel the need to be known.

I am grateful today, for all the times I’ve been able to visit friends and family in their homes. I’m grateful for the times I’ve been able to host them in my abode. Those sharing times add to my awareness of their personalities. I know the ones who find minimalism comforting, and the ones who surround themselves with ALL their treasures. I know who is handy with tools, who loves creative touches, and who spends most of their time outdoors. I love knowing these things.

 And since this is Saturday sabbath, I have to consider that God is leading me to think about what I consider my “real home”. What will I find there and in what style am I getting ready to decorate it? From what I have seen of God (who I believe came up with the idea of home and family), the good things here on earth are meant to show us, in a small way, what he will let us experience in the future. He is such a hopeful God. 

I know not everyone is comforted by their knowledge of family togetherness. Some have never known a family. Some would like to forget what they know of family.  If that’s you, I want you to know that when it is done God’s way, family is wonderful. My family experience is not perfect – no one’s is, but even the hard and sad times have purpose. They create a holy longing for the perfection that will come when God makes bad things good again. I think it’s that simple, maybe. Just sayin’… 

I Love My Refrigerator

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Highlight of the day, and probably the whole month – I got a new refrigerator.  I’m just saying that refrigeration is one of the things we take for granted, and shouldn’t.

Eldest daughter said “what happened to the old one? It’s just you and dad so you couldn’t have needed a bigger one!”  But we did.  It may seem like an inconsequential need compared to those who have no refrigeration at all and that is true. But think of how many times in a day that you go into the fridg for something. I am a tall person and every time I had to bend over or get down on my knees to look on shelves that were low and deep. At times, I was nearly crawling into the thing. The only part I could look into standing up was the freezer where I seldom needed to go.

And then some really smart person came up with bottom freezer refrigerators. I have had one of those ever since my first bout with really bad back problems, and what a blessing they have been.  They make so much sense.  That’s the main reason for getting a new one. It’s just so sensible to put the stuff you need most often on the top where you can get to it.

However, there’s more. The old refrigerator with the freezer on top only produced ice cubes by me. I filled those plastic trays – the ones where two or three cubes never pop out until you pound them on the kitchen counter, then they fall out on the floor and you don’t find them until later when you step in the puddle. For my company meals I would empty four or five of them and have to fill them up, find a level spot in the freezer to put them down, and get out again before the door swung shut on me. If I forgot and didn’t do it immediately guess what? No ice next time. Have you ever timed how long it takes for an ice cube to freeze?

I purposely did not shop for the double door refrigerator with the water/ice dispenser and all the digital readouts. I don’t like being constantly reminded that I need a new water filter. I especially don’t like having to take the whole ice maker apart every time there’s a jam, although it’s not hard and I’m very good at it. It’s just a pain when you think ice is at your fingertips, and then it isn’t.  My opinion – there’s just too much to go wrong with those models.

In the middle, between ice cube trays and digital dispensers there sits a reliable, sensible solution. A bin in the freezer which fills itself with ice. It’s effortless. Put a scoop in it and shovel away. I am so blessed.

This new fridg is four cubic feet bigger than the old one too, which means that I only have to stack the containers of leftovers two high. Also nice, I open the door and nothing falls out by itself. Everything is right there, upright in its own space, at eye level, in good lighting. It’s just lovely. I may actually stay in the kitchen and cook tomorrow just to be around the refrigerator and enjoy it.  Rarely do I do something that extreme.

One last benefit was just demonstrated to me. The husband, who is also primed to enjoy the new appliance, just came in and got directions on how to find the prunes on the second shelf. With nothing except a brief description of the jar, he opened the door and pointed right to it. Way to go LG. Life is good, just sayin’…

Complete with magnets, pics and coupons…

A Place to Practice

I remember when I was in my teen years, sitting in church, and feeling great discomfort as the pastor asked if anyone wanted to give their “testimony”.  I should have a testimony, I thought. Other people have testimonies, and they sound so glowing and spiritual. I would scramble to think of something to say and hope that the time allotted would be done before I got myself together to volunteer.  And then I wouldn’t think about it again, until the next uncomfortable time, when I would also not be ready again. So went my first uncomfortable church experiences.

Since then, I am happy to report, I’ve discovered a new way to deal with discomfort in church (other than staying away from church – not the best solution). This is partly due to training I’ve had in Bible Study Fellowship, where they taught me to think about my own spiritual experiences, beliefs, and even feelings ahead of time.  We have a somewhat “churchy” language when we call it a testimony, but it really is an explanation of what I experience, believe and feel about my relationship with God.  And how odd was it that I had never realized I could think about those things ahead of time?

 The last two weeks in church, the pastor has offered an opportunity to practice being vocal about our relationship with God.  Last week he asked for examples of God’s faithfulness during the week. This week he asked what thanks we had for God.  Such general questions are great nudges for us to practice speaking about things that are important to us. Church gives us opportunities and a safe place to practice in order that we grow and improve. Speaking these things gets easier the more we do it.

In this day of TED talks and podcasts, people are all over the place, talking about what is important to them. Not everyone is meant to be a public speaker, but it looks to me like God gave most of us mouths and the ability to speak. He is faithful to us, blesses us with things to be thankful for. Every week he makes it possible for us to be back in church in front of a friendly, compassionate audience of friends and neighbors. I should be the first on my feet. That’s why I am.

Being first up is my philosophy of the last few years. It really cuts down on anxiety, vacillating on whether to speak or not, those moments of racing pulse and stage fright. I don’t always know exactly what I’m going to say, and sometimes I say something a bit strange and wish I’d said it differently. But overall, the practice has been worth it.  The Bible says that when we are brought before authorities to answer for our faith, that God will give us words to say. Somehow, I don’t think it’s saying that should be the first time we’ve ever opened our mouths.

I’m just sayin’ this because I know others have this same discomfort at times and I want to encourage, if this is you. Think of something to thank God for each day, and be ready to say it.  It’s really that easy.

Not Tired of Winter (yet)

Not really tired, no. It’s still fascinating that snow comes in so many forms. Last week it came with wind, and was in fine, round particles that stung when they hit my face. A couple of days later it fell straight down out of the sky, so slowly you could watch a single snowflake on its way.

The snow on the ground this morning is definitely flaky, intricate, lightly and loosely stacked, and reflecting the bright sunlight. Beautiful.

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This beauty and variety is stunning, and straight from the creative genius of God. He allows me to observe it scientifically with my mind, that he also created. He allows me to enjoy it with senses that he created.  That is a large part of why I am not yet tired of winter.  I’m actually thankful for it.

Things to wonder at are everywhere outside.

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I could not begin to pile snow 3 feet high on a table and have it be done so neatly. Notice the line showing two snowfalls.

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It’s just a bush, with an artistic hole in the center. But how curious?

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A Song of Intent

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Song 1

A song by Shirley when things weren’t going well with the sale of their house.

In the style of David

 

My hopes were high.

 I have waited for your help,

asking over and over for you to finish what you have started with me.

One minute I was excited and feeling like you had blessed me,

and the next minute unexpected circumstances dashed my hope.

It looked like you had been toying with me.

It looked to some like I was foolish to depend on your goodness.

Why would God care about the sale of a house in Florida?

I would be wiser to acknowledge “chance”

or ask “the universe” to work things out.

 

But today, the sun slowly appeared on the horizon.

That sunrise!

Light shot straight up into the clouds and turned so many beautiful colors.

The clouds filling the skies glowed rose gold one minute and royal purple the next,

going through their changes like a kaleidoscope.

Even as I looked to every corner of the heavens,

 my eyes were drawn back to the center of light,

that blazing circle of fire.

As you have promised, it is there every morning

to remind me of your faithfulness, your creative power,

 your intent to make a world perfectly designed for me.

You even took care to make it beautiful as well as functional.

 

As you are faithful in these large things,

I will trust you with my own small concerns.

I will acknowledge your demonstrations of love and care.

I will wait for what comes next with interest.

There is no one who cares for me better than you.