the long haul


Yesterday marked our first full week on the road.  It’s been great.  It’s also been hard.

Much of the time it felt like the steep grade on highway 140 in eastern Oregon.  We made it but not without a great deal of sweat and wringing of hands…well, that was mostly me. 

This first week was marked by two trailer tire blow-outs, some emergency mechanical work, broken water lines, rough roads, heavy winds.  I could go on. 


More than once the words of Proverbs 16:9 came to mind, “in his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps”.

For all the planning and preparation we had done, our steps, or wheels rather, we’re definitely going in another direction.  

So what is this direction? And what is the purpose?

It’s been a daily unfolding.

If not for the first blow out we wouldn’t have met the local rancher who appeared, quite literally, out of no where with a cordless impact wrench to insist on helping us.  I wasn’t sure there were still people like that left in the world. But, yes. There are.

And if we hadn’t been delayed we wouldn’t have had the most spectacular steak dinner in Paisley, Oregon, where Doug ran into an old friend.

And we wouldn’t have stayed at peaceful Base Camp RV Park near Lakeview, Oregon.  Which turned out to be the perfect place to spend our first night on the road.

Because of delays we’ve missed connections and cancelled reservations.  We’ve been down highways we never intended to travel.  At one point I lamented of being off course.  But as a very wise friend posted on Facebook, “there is no off course, just other course”. 

She is right, of course.  I didn’t want to at first, but I like this “other” course.

I want to know more.

I’ve collected pictures and memories this first week.  As internet connection and time allow, I’ll keep sharing.

the day after… plus a week

It was a very good thing to have a place to go that morning.  The presidential election had robbed me of sleep but I didn’t want to keep looking at the blood bath on social media.  Besides, I wanted to see if the real world was still out there.  According to news reports, life was over as we’d known it.

It was mostly sunny when I left, the farmer up the road still had that one field of pumpkins to process and the line at Dutch Bros drive-thru looked normal.  I was happy to discover my phone GPS was still able to get me to a place I’d never been before.  Indeed, cyberspace was still functioning.

For the last five years I’ve said “no thanks” to the annual invitation to the luncheon hosted by the Family Caregiver Support Program.  My free time is limited and since I’m not a small-talk-luncheon-y type anyway, it just didn’t appeal to me.  This time I meant to say no, but yes came out instead.  I don’t know why.  But I’m glad.

It turned out there was nothing “small-talk” about the day.  There were representatives from support agencies with great information.  I re-connected with people I’d met when my mother-in-law was in hospice.  And there were a lot of people just like me… people who are trying their best to take care of a family member at home.

And best of all, not a word was spoken of the Donald/Hillary show.  Well, there was one ugly word.  By a haggard looking man sitting at my table.  We paid it no mind however, as his day started hard.  He’d already had a face to face with a police officer called by a “concerned” neighbor when she saw his Alzheimer patient wife running down the street in her nightgown and assumed she was neglected… all because he dared take a few minutes to jump in the shower before help arrived so he could take a couple of hours off to get more help.

Yep, the real world is still out there.  But it doesn’t always work as well as the GPS on my phone.

This week I got to thinking about my life span in relation to our presidents.

When I was born Harry Truman was in office.  From Harry to Barack there have been twelve presidents.

From the time I was legal to vote there have been eight presidents.  My vote assisted in electing only two of those eight.  Two!

Somehow, I’ve managed to survive all these years with only two presidents that I really, really liked… and during the times of the other six, never once did I feel the need to block a major highway or destroy property.

Watching Martha Raddatz wimper on election night was a little nauseating.  So worried she was for the mothers who are scared for their children to serve in a Trump military.  (Yea, I think that reporting might have been a little biased, Martha)

I actually remember feeling that way myself when I voted for Ross Perot, but Bill Clinton was elected.  I had a son enlisting in the army.  And goodness… if the man couldn’t control his personal life or even his personal body parts, why should he lead my child?

But my son did just fine.  All of them did.  And Bill had nothing to do with it.  It was their own personal goals, values and training that guided.  It was the attitude and choice to not quit when things were hard and painful that carried them.

The president, the economics of the day, the wars… yes, they have an impact.  But it’s the million little ways a person chooses to live each day that makes or breaks a life.

Not a president.

Which brings me back to the group of caregivers I spent that day with… a granddaughter who had quit her job to take care of grandpa… an 86 year-old man whose wife died 10 years ago, but he comes to lunch every year to encourage people… and eat, of course.  They all had interesting stories.  Hard stories.  But not defeated stories.

The guest speaker sat at my table for lunch.  “What do you want to hear about next”, she asked me.

“How do I keep my father clean without the drama, and save what’s left of my sense of smell.”

Everyone at the table laughed.  She smiled and said she could help me with that.  And judging by the oohs, aahs and mad note taking in the room, most folks had the same challenge.

I’d shared time and space that day with people who are choosing a hard way of life.  On purpose.  A way that is full of unknowns, trying and failing and keeping on.  I left encouraged and uplifted.  It washed the ugly TV drama right out of my mind.

Real people.  Real life.  Real hope.  It really is out there.  I keep praying our politicians will become real one day too.

ximg_0675

He made the world to be lived in, not to be a place of empty chaos.  Isaiah 45:18

 

Easter… short and sweet

You laid your life down FIRST, because that was the plan.

And goodness… how You knew we needed a plan!

SECOND, they nailed You to the tree, because they were blind.

Like me.

THEN You became the pathway for whosoever would… for me…

      … to find our way home.

To You.

 

The Lord is my shepherd,

   I have everything I need.

psalm 23:1 nlt

it’s time to come in….

460

Across the valley yard lights blinked on.

They drew me onto the back deck to snap a picture, not an uncommon practice for me.  The view never disappoints.

It was chilly outside, warm and cozy inside.  I’d taken the cornbread out of the oven and soup was simmering on the stove.  Stepping outside, I had this irrepressible urge to call my boys in for dinner.  If they weren’t fully grown men, with families of their own living far, far away, I would have.  They like cornbread.

“it’s time to come in, time to come in”, looped thru my thoughts as the camera captured the view.

How odd.  I couldn’t help but wonder who/what needed to come in to who/what.  The internal message persisted and days later I still hear it.

I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time gazing off the back deck into the clouds, the hills, the trees.  And while I pay proper respect to the beauty of God’s creation, I must admit, I’m looking farther than that.

I look for what I cannot see.

I wonder what I might have missed.

After years of steady work, a family raised, and retirement from the 8 to 5 work world I moved on to living the commandment of Honor Your Father and Mother.

Back to back tours of duty with aging parents.

While it hasn’t been easy, I don’t regret this life choice.  My time is certainly full.

But still, I wonder what else there could be.  So I go outside, stare into the clouds and ask God what happened to those goals and hopes I had.

My random memory of calling sons into supper is sweet.  And what happened around that table, besides the consumption of great amounts of food, was life giving to me… hopefully to them.  We talked, argued, laughed, teased, hoped and dreamed.  There were plans made and plans launched around that table.

It’s been a couple weeks now and still I hear “it’s time to come in”.

I’m beginning to get a clue.

I’m just supposing that as much as I loved calling my boys in at the end of the day, my Heavenly Father loves the same thing.  He made me this way after all.

And I’m just supposing that maybe the message, which has now lodged fully in my heart, is His way of telling me to enjoy the trees, but just take the picture already…

…then come on in to Him and make a plan.  An actual plan.

My goals and dreams are still out there.  At this point many are still doable.  But not forever.

At my age I can’t get too excited about 5, 10 and 20 year goals.  But I can get excited about 6 month and 1 year goals.  And I know this, next year I do not want to be standing outside looking at the clouds.  Wondering.

This week I took the step of blocking out time on my calendar to write each day.  Like an actual appointment.  So far, so good.  Tomorrow I’ll build upon today and next week and the week after.

I know I’ll be tempted to forget the goals and drift.  It’s easy to do.  And it’s never easy to press on.  But a big thing occurred to me this week….

The God who created me, who loves me, who gave his ALL for me, did it for a purpose. I doubt it was so I could stare at clouds.

Some folks pick a word of the year, a word to inspire and reflect on.  I think God gave me a whole phrase…..

it’s time to come in…….

And this time I know what I need to do.

My take on rainbows, faith and fear….

roygbivLast Sunday, on my weekly post, I was going to include the fact I’d achieved ROY.G.BIV in my closet.

Months earlier I’d complimented my husband on his new-found closet organizing, color coordinating skills.  He waved across his shirts and said, “ROYGBIV” (pronounced roy-ga-biv).  I’d never heard the term before.  red-orange-yellow-green-blue-indigo-violet.   Am I the only person on the planet who did not know that ?

Anyway, due to a crazy good sale I found whilst shopping with my mom a couple of weeks ago, I added some new tops to my wardrobe and thought they looked kind of cool hanging there.

Until (gasp) I realized these tops made a rainbow.  And last Sunday, I did not want to be associated with any rainbow.  No way.  No how.  Period.

Being the thinker I am, I’ve spent considerable time mulling over my anti-rainbow gut reaction.

Obviously, it’s more than the rainbow.  It’s the ever-changing nature of our American culture.

It is change I find disturbing.

So all week I’ve observed the rainbow banner, the #Love Wins, the ugliness erupt on both sides of the same-sex marriage issue with law suits and the words bigot and intolerance bandied about on blogs, Facebook and Twitter.

The back and forth within the Christian community alone is sad and disappointing.  And I don’t know what Bible is being quoted, but some of the words and actions attributed to Jesus don’t exist in anything I’ve ever read.

Me?  I’ve wanted to rant a little myself.  But I’m not a debater.  At least that’s what I tell myself while eloquently pleading a case to my bar of soap in the shower, while I drive, while watering the plants, while doing laundry and while cooking dinner.

Man!  I’ve got to get this stuff out of my head!

So how do I remain faithful to God, true to myself and meaningfully share this planet with those I don’t agree with?  I’ve got a plan for that….

1)  Preserve relationships –

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. – Romans 12:18

I love my people.  I respect my people.  But all my people don’t believe the same thing I do.

I may be on the conservative side.  They may be on the liberal side.  But when we share life events, when we sit around the dinner table together, it will be with love and respect and concern for the other, as far as it depends on me.

Love is greater than being right.

And that extends to friends and friends I’ve yet to meet.  Because when rainbow flags and being right is our focus, we cannot hear anyone else.  And when we label, mock and marginalize, we do not learn.

2)  Remain in Faith –

Remain in me and I will remain in you.  For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine; and you cannot be fruitful apart from me.  John 15:4

Those actually are words Jesus said.  And they’re words I hold on to.  Ask me how I know they are true….

I’ve lived long enough and screwed up enough and been extended more grace than anyone deserves.  I know who I am, I know what I believe and in whom I believe.  And I’m standing firm.

That is not bigotry.

That is faith.

I trust Him to guide my thoughts and words and direct my steps.

3)  Punch fear in the face –

In the words of the great philosopher, Rocky Balboa –

It ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.

I’m not sure why.  I’ve looked back on my life to find an event that might have triggered this, but I struggle with fear.

I fear offending people.  And sometimes it’s silly stuff, like I’ll want to call one of my sons.  And then I spend an hour trying to decide if this is a good time to call, is he working, is he eating dinner with his family – – and then when I get him on the phone I start apologizing for disturbing him.  What is the deal??

I mean, this fear thing goes way back…. when Doug and I went on our first date, oh, about 47ish years ago, we stopped in Santa Cruz, California to watch the ocean.  It was getting too dark and windy to walk on the beach, so we stood on the edge of a cliff, watching the waves crash below us.  Suddenly I saw his arms raise over my head and my first thought… my first thought, people!, is…

… “he’s going to push me off the cliff”!  Who thinks stuff like that??  And by the way, he was just throwing his jacket over my shoulders.

Anyway, beyond being tossed off cliffs and making phone calls at inappropriate times… I fear being judged.  I don’t like labels.  It’s hard to undo the false perception someone paints on you.  And a label does not account for the whole of your life story.  I know this first hand… from the receiving end and the giving end.

But maybe worse than being labeled is being afraid to speak up at the right time.  Even taking points #1 and #2 into account, there are times to speak up and stand up.  And that’s why I need to get violent with fear.

I’ve noticed that intolerance word used a whole lot on both sides of the aisle.  I’m not sure how other folks define the it, but here’s my take on it…

Intolerance is a spoiled brat that has to have its way.

Intolerance succeeds by dividing and isolating individuals and groups of individuals.

Intolerance divides and isolates by using labels and ridicule.

I won’t have any part of that.  And I won’t be afraid of it either.

There will be hard times moving forward in this country I love.  And there will always be label hangers.  But you’ve got to press on anyway.

Because of love.

And love, yes I do believe LOVE WINS.  But it’s a much bigger love than the version sloganized across social media.  It’s a love that was designed for ALL of humanity.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.  Psalm 139:23-24

Snow Balls in April

A spindly, pot-bound plant caught my eye.  It sat in the garden, likely for years, waiting to be planted.  It was barely alive.

So we prepared the soil, added fertilizer and put its roots down deep.  I watered and weeded and waited.  For three years.

This April its first blossoms appeared.

I hoped the plant would grow.  I did what I could to help it grow.  But I couldn’t see the magic happening beneath the ground.

wpid-20150419_083754.jpg

On those days when I feel like a pot-bound plant… dry and thirsty and waiting… these blooms remind me that God is at work.

He cultivates my heart, because I invited Him in.

He pulls the weeds of fear, because I asked Him to.

He helps me wait as purpose grows, with good food and water from His Word.

wpid-20150421_120716.jpg

How He is a Bridge

I fell big time for one of those videos that floats around Facebook.

A little boy and a little girl stand on a ledge, or perhaps it’s a very high sidewalk.  There is a large gap the girl is afraid to cross.  Without hesitation the boy straddles the gap, lowers himself down and becomes a human bridge.  And in the cutest way ever, she scrambles over.

I got misty eyed because I’m sappy that way.  And if the video wasn’t enough already, the song Bridge Over Troubled Water played in the background.

Immediately people sprang to mind who have been a bridge in my life.  Folks who came along at just the right time with just the right word or just the right resource.  A parent who loves with no strings attached.  A son who forgives.  A grandfather whose light still shines on the bridge he crossed from sinner to redeemed.

I thought of how we serve as a bridge from time to time – walk a friend thru a struggle, step up to see a difficult project thru, bring up a child, care for an aging parent.

You lay your self down, give part of yourself up, all in the hope that another is helped, loved, found.

It’s not easy.  You have questions.  Will I get thru this?  Will this make a difference?  Will there be anything left of me?

And the hardest part… you don’t always get to know the answers.

A few years back the husband and I took a trip to Washington, D.C.  We love to tour historic sites and this time it was the Battle of Antietam.

We spent several hours in Sharpsburg, Maryland.  We toured the memorials on the cornfields where so much of the battle took place.  Then we went to Burnside’s Bridge.  Men quite literally laid down their lives on that bridge.  Perhaps some wondered if they would survive the day or if their presence would make any difference to a fractured nation.  Far too many did not live to know.

Lately I’ve been studying the four gospels of the New Testament, learning more about the bridge I love the most… Jesus.  He is described in many ways, but I like to think of him as the bridge from this problematic world to eternity.

I’ve been on the bridge a long time.

Thankfully, I’ve not had to lay down my life in the way of a soldier.  I’m not scrambling over it in the cute way of the girl in the video.  I’m not even remotely graceful in my crossing.

I’m just plodding.  With mistakes and questions and wondering.  Not so unlike Jesus’ early followers.

And the main thing I’m learning, actually the thing I know for sure – it’s all okay.

I don’t need to be perfect.  It’s okay to wonder.  And I don’t need the answers.

I just need the bridge.

1c Witness Tree

The Devil Didn’t Make Me Do It

Nope.  He didn’t make me eat that half bag of chocolate candy last night.  I did it all on my own.

I did it knowing sugar gives me a headache.  Knowing I would wake up feeling heavy and lethargic.  Knowing I was breaking my own promise.

And I didn’t even care.

Just the day before I walked through the yard, enjoyed the sun, and thanked God for new growth.  The faintest pink haze was beginning to appear on this tree.  It will soon bloom brilliant.pink

green

All that blue sky, green sprouting and pink budding got me feeling hopeful.  I decided to start walking again.  I would eat right again.  I would get cracking on those projects I’ve ignored all winter.

And then… just a few hours later… I was eating chocolate.  Again.

I know the enemy of my soul loves it when I fall flat on my face.  But he didn’t make me do it.

I made the choice.

And while I may feel a certain amount self reproach is needed as punishment, it’s not particularly helpful.

It is good, however, to review the pictures I took.  Because they remind me, not only of the new growth, but of the pruning…….  prune 1prune 2

We prune to make the trees and plants healthier.  So they’ll bloom more.  Bear more.  They don’t have a say in the matter.  They’re just plants.

We choose when to prune them.

And I choose to let God prune me.

I love how Jesus talks in the 15th chapter of John about being the true vine, how he describes his father as the farmer who does the pruning.  And how I am a branch that needs to stay attached to the vine.  So I can be pruned.  So I bear good fruit.

Attached to him.  Temporary, hurtful pruning.  I choose it all.

Because then, when I do a goofball thing, like eat a half a bag of chocolate candy and finally come to my senses… I remember I am attached to something greater.

And the times I hide from what I know I should do,.. even the times I do that hard thing he asks of me… and suffer for it anyway, I remember.

I am attached to the vine.

His careful, gracious pruning keeps me growing.  It brings me closer to the goal of being who he created me to be.

I get to choose that.

white

A Veteran’s Story… short and sweet

031

 

This boy grew up like most others of his day.  He minded his dad and loved his mom.  He studied hard, raced his bike on Seattle streets, and really loved his American Flyer train set.

 

He grew up and married his high school sweetheart, worked hard, became a dad and most every Christmas of my growing up years, that American Flyer train chugged its way around our tree.  It climbed the trestle, then down through the tunnel and into the snow-covered village… made by his hands.

But before the marrying and dad parts of life could happen, he found himself thousands of miles from home in snow-covered villages that looked nothing like the one he’d created.

He had entered a fiery crucible in a frozen forest, along with the men of Company G.

That Christmas season of 1944, they covered the terrain of Belgium on foot, sometimes by truck, with wool overcoats for warmth and standard issue combat boots.  No fancy survival gear there.  No fancy anything.

But Dad never talked about those things.  He never talked about his Purple Heart.  And he never complained.

He just got up every day, went to work, paid the bills and built a good and peaceful life.

I’ve helped my folks move twice in the last few years and recently found this Bible.  It’s a new testament with a metal cover, and stamped inside are words from President Roosevelt.  I’m glad our nation hadn’t yet been infected by political correctness, because that small book changed the course of Dad’s life.

Dad didn’t grow up in a religious family, but while he was “over there” he carried the Bible in his breast pocket anyway….  “figured it couldn’t hurt”, he said.

009008

From the tiny bits and pieces Dad shared of his story, I learned of the times he was pinned down in the snow… and the mortars that landed all around him.  I heard about the ground shaking like an earthquake, trees cracking, splintering into a million pieces and his brothers in combat who died right next to him… day after day after day.

He said there were times of strange quiet too.  And that is when he reached for his metal covered book and let God’s living word speak to him, breathe hope into him… bring salvation to him.

A new way of life was born in him and he lived it out in front of me.  Out of a time of inexplicable horror, came a good and beautiful thing.

The service of our nation’s veterans, of my father, my own sons… challenges me every day.  I am challenged to try a little harder and hang on a little longer.  They teach me that something good remains even after the bad.  And I’m thankful for whoever decided it would be good to place God’s word into a soldier’s hand as he headed into battle.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dad and Mom live with us now.  And Dad’s memories come and go.  He fights a new battle in his mind, but this one, sadly, he will not win.

For the last few years I’ve been the keeper of the American Flyer.  I brought it upstairs today.027

Sure hope he will remember.

Photo credit: Courtney McGillivray

Photo credit: Courtney McGillivray

Fog and Light and my crabby, morning self

I like fog.

Maybe because I grew up on the Pacific coast, is why.  Rain assaults you, but fog wraps around like a protective layer… it comforts me… it calms me… it reactivates my hair product.

I also like to photograph fog.  As you might imagine, some shots aren’t too exciting.  But several mornings ago I got a good one.

From a second story window I saw the fog lacing thru the trees, hovering over the grass.  I grabbed my camera and headed down to the back deck.  The neighbor’s porch light caught my eye and later, after I downloaded to my computer, I saw the full picture.  It’s kind of half and half… fog below, blue sky above.  Love pictures like that.  Kind of a two for one.

054

 

There is a type of fog, however, which I do not like.

It’s the kind that mysteriously settles on my brain overnight.  A fog which only lets in the endless to-do list, concerns for loved ones and difficult circumstances… all of which run on repeat cycle as I lay in the dark.

Maybe it’s the aging process, the stress load or the late night snack (which I’m trying not to do anymore), but more often than not my morning starts that way.

I force myself to thank God for a new day.  I force my feet to hit the floor.  I don’t really feel like doing either one.  Then I head for the coffee pot.

I know that doesn’t sound very nice.  But I am supremely grateful for a God who loves my often ungrateful self.

After some quiet, some reading, some prayer… all sloshed together with good coffee, the foggy and light parts in my head begin to focus.  This morning process is summed up in these words from The Message, “Let petitions and praises (or foggy parts and light parts, maybe?) shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns.  Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down.  It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life”.  Philippians 4:6-7.

Shape your worries into prayers – I love that.

I don’t think God is all that concerned over how I might feel in the morning, or even if I’m less than civil in those first moments.

I think he’s patiently waiting for me to sit before him, say hello and share words from my heart that he can work with… to bring in the light.