Waving Goodbye

It’s kind of a rule with some, that you wave goodbye until the people leaving can’t see you anymore.

It’s 2020, the year of the pandemic and other notable events. Our “pod” as I’ve come to label it, has been decreased by four significant persons. With that comes the strangeness of loss, and of uncertainty. What is life going to be like with all these changes?

Our small community consisted of my mom, my brother Dennis and his wife, their two children, myself and the husband. It expanded when my sister-in-law’s parents moved into a newly built house down the street. My brother designed it as a retirement home for him and his wife- for “someday”. But for now it was going to be convenient for Mary Pat’s parents to be close, so she and Dennis could help them when needed.

Unfortunately, it was Mary Pat who needed the help. Breast cancer returned with a vengeance. It has been only eight months, and now she is gone. It has been a difficult last few weeks. Both sides of our families have gathered to help and to mourn. Houses have been full. Schedules have been disrupted, and it was hard. She was at home when she died and we were with her. It was a little like waving goodbye until she could no longer see us.

Our pod also included a trio of women who we call “the sisters”. They have become like family to us over the last 25 years, included in our family reunions, our weekly sabbath gatherings, and countless festive occasions. Michelle is the elder sister, being almost 94. Judith and Susan are in their 60’s now, adopted as young children from Vietnam. Retiring from their daycare business led them to buy a house in a warmer climate and they have been planning their move for months, it seems.

Our “pod” plus a few extra visiting family members.

Nevertheless, there has been a lot of stressful preparation during this last week before their trip. They left this morning, with another one of my brothers driving a Penske truck loaded with the things they needed to set up housekeeping. Moving is always a big, stressful affair, especially when you have been a long time in one place. It is safe to say that the week’s work has left us all tired and a bit emotional. We are praying they have a safe trip. We waved goodbye this morning.

I know I will recover, but right now I am somewhat disoriented. There has been so much to do in so short a time. I didn’t feel like writing even if I’d had the time, which I didn’t. I move toward simple tasks, with clear cut goals that take my mind to a different place for a period of time; organizing a closet, doing a puzzle, cleaning the kitchen, taking a walk.

Life in 2020 has not been what any of us expected, and certainly not what I expected for my family. It has been an exercise of faith, and like most exercise, it has been strenuous. It doesn’t always feel good while it is happening, but there is a sense of it being worthwhile and useful. I have felt God’s watchfulness and his care in many ways. He has listened to my questions and complaints, and received my anger, confusion and exhaustion with great patience. I have felt loved.

I hear you, Mary Pat. You weren’t afraid and I won’t be either!

This is one of my favorite pictures of Mary Pat that was handed out at her memorial. It is testimony to her faith in God’s goodness, and mine as well. When you know God is good and in charge, there is no need to be dominated by feelings of fear. The crazy weirdness of 2020 becomes opportunity to exercise faith, grow stronger in trust, and remain hopeful. That’s where I’m at. I will not be afraid, just sayin’…

What She Saw

“What is that?” She said it several times, as we tried to tell her it was the ceiling fan that she was looking at.

She had been at home for two days since being admitted into hospice care, and really hadn’t said anything coherent for longer than that. The pain in her head had been overwhelming and made it hard to talk. Even thinking seemed to hurt her. But now her eyes were wide open and she was looking up from her bed and asking what she was seeing. And clearly it wasn’t the ceiling fan.

“Wow, oh wow!” Over and over, with awe and surprise she said it in a way that made us wish she would say more. “Oh, my gosh!” This she said not with fear or dread but with an expression that she would have used for an unbelievable sunset or some other one-of-a-kind experience.

It had been excruciating watching her, such a beautiful, generous, loving person, go through the agony of cancer treatment. Even worse, when the treatment stopped working and the pain increased, along with uncontrollable and incapacitating symptoms, we wondered how God would explain why it was happening this way. All along, we kind of knew God wouldn’t explain but would just say that he knew and he was there. It was hard, mostly because we always think we can understand. We’re reasonable people.

At last she had seen something and it occurred to me that she was now much closer to understanding than any of the rest of us. She was seeing something that took away fear, and seemed to give her peace. Maybe what she saw made all the pain make sense, or at least made it worth going through. She seemed thankful, and at rest.

And now, I’m very curious. And I’m thankful and more convinced than ever that God will prove himself good.

Things I Love About God

I can’t remember if I’ve posted this before, but since I’ve been thinking about God a lot lately, now is a good time. We are having hard happenings in our family. Cancer has struck again and the loss hurts. But our faith is meant for times like this and we don’t grieve like those who have no hope.

Things I Love About God

1. He makes his own decisions, is not anyone’s puppet or genie.

2. Ultimately, no one spoils his plan. No one.

3. He is pure genius in so many ways – his creation of time, for instance.

4. He is love, and made me capable of loving.

5. He made me with emotions. I can know pleasure, joy and also loneliness, depression and need.

6. He gives me hope that he can fill every need I’m capable of feeling.

7. Restoring is his passion.

8. He lets us have surprises.

9. He is mysterious and has secrets.

10. He makes me think, unless I am too tired and then he just loves me.

Yes, It’s Time for This!

People, the perfect thing to do while social distancing is planning your spring garden! At least, it’s one of the many perfect things. I am always super excited when I get in garden mode.

It reminds me to be hopeful. I have to wait for things to grow so it’s a futuristic activity and there is no better way to think about the future than to imagine myself out in the sunshine, digging in the soft, moist dirt and making all those straight rows of soon to be green stuff. Think birds singing, soft breezes, green grass (but not in the garden), blue sky, leaves on the trees. All that beauty that God wants us to enjoy.

And that is really the point of enjoying gardening for me. I feel like I’m worshipping God when I see and experience how crazy it is that a little pinpoint of a seed that I can hardly see grows into a carrot, or a bean. All he uses is water, light and dirt and a very smart self-sustaining program. God figured that out and those plants have been carrying out his plan ever since! Sometimes I think I get so used to seeing vegetables and fruits in the store that I forget that they are such high tech design.

Our retail stores were still open today, so I went for a quick trip to L&M where seeds were 40% off. I’m always conflicted when I see all the different kinds of every vegetable there is – they all look so good. I picked ones I thought would have the best chance of making it to full size before we get freezing weather again. Now I’m just going to sit and look at them for a few days, because they’re pretty – and the ground is still frozen.

In a few days I’ll start the tomatoes and a few others in starter soil – I’m going to use the plastic containers that I save from getting grocery store spinach. They make good little greenhouses. And I have some south windows where the seeds can get nice and warm and start to grow. I can hardly wait!

God likes gardening too – he planted a big one once. And he knew I would like it. Thank you, God.

Choosing Hope

January 26, 2019

Writing is difficult these days. Our family is going through cancer trauma and much of what I need to tell is too personal. Other things I might write about seem so trivial in comparison. That doesn’t leave much left.

It is easy to keep busy because we are forming a team, coming together to share necessary tasks and watch out for each other emotionally as well as physically. Only one of us has the serious physical suffering, but we all feel the shock as we try to help. Everyone worries about how everyone else is coping. Tears come easily and often. We cling to anything that reminds us of normal and we are often grateful for mundane tasks that occupy our minds and bodies.

We do have faith in our God who has said that it’s times like this that he carries us through. We are waiting to see how that looks. Now we are finding out what it means to have it be “well with our souls” while bad things are happening. Some days our “souls” are not doing so well and we realize that this work is not just physical, not just emotional, but very much spiritual.

Realizing that we live in a world that has gotten ruined in many different ways, we have done what we can to think about and prepare for the worst case scenario. As I went through my own worst case imaginings (which I am always doing – seems to be a habit) I found it kind of liberating to have faced the most feared things. It seemed to free up the energy and motivation to fight back.

When something comes upon me suddenly, unexpectedly, I spend more time with my fear than I do with my hope. There are those two different views to any perceived threat and I do have a choice about how much time to give to each of them. With God’s help, I’m choosing hope.

With God there is no rule about how these things must go. There is the possibility of surprise and blessing to come where I least expect it. God can take care of us in the darkest of places. Isn’t that what I’ve said – “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you (God) are with me”? Now I get to mean it for myself, and for someone else.

Another biblical phrase is “consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds”. I’m not yet at the place where I can say I’m glad our family gets to go through a trial. None of us are glad for this. It was not a chosen path, but since we are on it, much better that we accept the offer of Jesus, our creator and greatest healer, to go with us. How could we not? Once again, just sayin’…

Bedtime Thoughts: God

What does a spirit look like when you finally see it? I don’t know. But I think about it a lot, usually at night before I fall asleep.  Maybe it will be strange and scary to see God. He must have thought so because there were times he told people not to look.

But when I say “I’m putting something in God’s hands”, I’m not thinking of a scary God. I’m thinking of Jesus – God, who gave up being whatever unusual, powerful, and possibly scary thing he was and became like a man forever.

Jesus had hands. He could hold things.

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Those Who Write

It has to be true, that there is nothing new under the sun, that even though we are unique, we have thoughts in common with others. That is why I love reading. It’s through reading that I learn I am not alone in my experience here on earth. Of course, I would have nothing to read were it not for those who take the time to write. I am grateful.

We have family treasures – letters from our ancestors to each other – that my mom and I were discussing recently. What an experience it is to be encouraged by words written down a century ago, by someone who had no idea who their readers would be. And it’s not that their messages were necessarily wise or well crafted. Often they were recounting the mundane ups and downs of everyday life, but in doing that, their resiliency, ingenuity, optimism, and strength of spirit were displayed. We can say “these are the people I came from”.  What is written down has power to influence.

I’m often struck with that need to communicate. I feel restless when I’ve not been writing for a while. I start feeling isolated and want to reach out somewhere. I read something this morning that resonates, sounds true. It’s Sarah Young’s interpretation of scripture in her book “Jesus Calling”.

I speak to you continually. My nature is to communicate, though not always in words. I fling glorious sunsets across the sky, day after day after day. I speak in the faces and voices of loved ones. I caress you with a gentle breeze that refreshes and delights you. I speak softly in the depths of your spirit, where I have taken up residence.

You can find me in each moment, when you have eyes that see and ears that hear. Ask My Spirit to sharpen your spiritual eyesight and hearing. I rejoice each time you discover My Presence. Practice looking and listening for Me during quiet intervals. Gradually you will find Me in more and more of your moments. You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me above all else.  Psalm 8:1-4; Psalm 19:1-2; I Cor. 6:19; Jeremiah 29:13

I thank her for writing that, and I thank God for all those moments when I can “read” him so clearly. wpid-20150930_181847.jpg

Being Known

“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.” Psalm 139:2,3

 I was scrolling down through Facebook and came upon a video of a young man who was visiting his mother in a care facility for Alzheimer’s patients. He was sitting with her at a table as she ate her ice cream, asking her questions about her life and family, trying to jog her memory to remember him. She couldn’t. He went out to his car to finish the video and the tears were streaming down his face. It was a devastating thought, that his own mother did not know who he was.

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This from mollysmovement.com, YouTube video series.

So I spent some time thinking about the importance of being remembered by those who know us well, especially those who have the most reason to love us. We allow the concept of “being known” to shape us probably more than we realize.  Love, from someone who knows our faults as well as our good attributes, can give us a strong platform from which to love ourselves in spite of the ups and downs we experience in careers, in relationships, in accomplishments of all kinds.

Memorizing scripture has been an eye-opening experience for me lately. Verses like the one above from Psalm 139 suddenly seem close and relevant to everyday life. There was a person, a writer, who felt this way about God – that he was intimately known by his creator. I could see and feel the comfort in that. God was not going to get Alzheimer’s, or run away, or die, or become inaccessible in any way that a person could. It was his perception of God based on his personal experience, but it holds hope for anyone who spends time getting to know who God really is.

These verses could give rise to a lot of questions, and those would be good questions to put to one claiming to be Creator of the universe. Creating beings capable of thought is something we haven’t quite figured out yet, not for lack of trying (hello, Artificial Intelligence). Knowing what those beings are thinking would be the next step and David thought God could do it. I do too, just sayin’…

 

The Last Day of May

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This last day  of May 2018 – the perfect morning to sit with my cup of coffee and my book. At this time of year the sun in the east finds a break in the wall of trees between us. It shines through the translucent blades of grass, lighting them up. It shines through my dusty windows, to the floor and back up into my eyes. The husband thinks it’s too bright and shuts the blinds. But what on earth is light? Why can’t I see it, but without it, I can’t see anything else?

It’s a wonderfully quiet time of day. I can hear the cardinals, a mating pair, that live in the backyard. I can hear the refrigerator running and the faint hum of my “device” as I sit and think and type. It’s a wonderfully quiet time of the year, as the number of summer tourists is much less than the number of winter tourists. The traffic problems are lessened, noticeably. It’s the last day of May and I realize that summer is starting and the slower pace and the heat affect everything, in a good way. I find it easier to relax. I have slept well.

I can sit here and think so many different thoughts. Am I hearing all the electrical synapses as they connect and bring up memories, phrases, mental pictures? (I think I can!)

“How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you. “

 I don’t want May to end but I don’t know how to hang on to it either. Time is like light, another thing that I can’t quite comprehend. Some people think they know all about light and time, but I don’t believe them. If that were true there would be nothing left for science to explore. We will never have it all down. Light and time are actual creations of someone not like us. Someone “other”.

“Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

 It’s not just me. People have been thinking thoughts like this for a very long time.

The Bible, Psalm 139 (My new memorization project)

 

 

What I Read for Encouragement

pexels-photo-247195.jpegI’d like to encourage people today, although I don’t know exactly who or in what way. Does your head hurt? Did you sleep poorly last night? Have you gotten bad news lately? Are you feeling stale? Numb? Anxious? Maybe I want to encourage you.

Go read Psalm 103. You don’t have to be someone who has a religion – it’s literature, a book that’s been around a long time and is easily accessible. Just read it.

What if there is a God and that is an accurate picture of him? What if there is some “pit” he wants to pull you out of? What if he does want to satisfy the desires you have to be loved and valued? You could jump on that train of thought, just for a few minutes and see how it feels. I’ve memorized this chapter because I so often need to hear what it says.

I’m getting pretty aware of the things that are wrong with me.  When I hear a writer describing a distance “as far as the east is from the west”, and he’s telling me that’s how far away all my wrongness is going…  I get the impression that someone has a plan to deal with bad stuff, mine and everyone else’s. Thinking along those lines gives me hope. Hope is important.

Here is the most hopeful part of the reading for me – the part where “he knows how we are made, that we are dust, earthly”. I do kind of add my own translations as I think more and more about it. To me, it says “I know how I made you – different from anyone else. I know exactly what you are capable of and I don’t expect any more from you than that.”  That’s the way I want to be known. It encourages me to think that God and I might be on the same track in that regard.

The writer of this psalm felt that even when God knew him completely, he still loved him in a way described as “from everlasting to everlasting”. I’m a writer, and I can’t think of a way to top that. When I rehearse this psalm in my mind, I always think I want to be know that way and loved that way. It would make me happy, encouraged, hopeful. It’s a place to start.

Sure, there are some qualifiers in there, referring to those people who are known and loved. Again, as a writer, I’m paying attention to the verbs throughout the whole chapter. “Rescues”, “satisfies”, “works righteousness and justice”, “made known his ways” – all things that God does and is doing instead of things I have to do. I think the writer is saying that God is willing and able to work with people, to bring them to where they love him back, want to keep his covenant and remember to obey him.

It encourages me because it’s a good deal. It’s better than finding an honest used car salesman, or whatever analogy you want to use.  There’s more in that chapter and maybe there are other parts that will seem important to you, if you read it. Try it on.  See what it makes you feel and want. And consider that it is meant to encourage you.