Found

A mom can find her kid. Even in a crowd.

I could find Andrew on the football field by watching for arms and legs. I can spot Daniel by the sound of his laugh. And Ian’s voice draws my attention. Much like his dad’s, it’s distinctive and pleasing.  And as with Andrew, if he’s moving, I can find David.

Several years ago, Doug and I flew across country to meet David. His back to back deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq had taken a toll on this mom.  I needed to see his face.

Normally, crowds distress me and I’m never one to push to the front of any line. Ever.  But once the soldiers were in the building and their commander began to speak, I couldn’t wait.  I made my way to the front, held out my camera and took the shot. Other cameras flashed around me and I wasn’t sure what I’d get.

It turned out to be one of my favorites.

~ I found you – I see you – you’re OK ~ David in crowd

I’m always amazed at the ways God finds me. It can be a phone call from someone with just the right words, a scripture that jumps off the page, a series of events that fall into place… or that unexplainable peace He gives when they don’t.

I have a persistent memory that floats in my head… a million years ago, or maybe 35-ish, I sat in a coffee shop in Anchorage, Alaska. It was middle of winter and my two sons (at the time) and I had come inside for hot chocolate.  Since we didn’t get to the “big city” all that often, the boys and I tagged along with Doug who had come in for an interview.

Jobs seemed to come and go all too often. We were always struggling.  I’d been questioning if we were doing right by our boys.  I missed family living so far away.  And did I mention… it was winter in Alaska.  Serious case of cabin fever had set in.

Honestly, I don’t remember many specifics from that day, or even if Doug got that job. What I do remember is an older couple who sat at the table next to us. Out of the blue the woman tells me she could see we belonged to one another… same beautiful smiles, same beautiful eyes.

She was sweet and motherly.  She talked to me like we were old friends.  Our conversation was brief, but as they left she put her arm around my shoulder… kind of a side-ways hug. Her parting words were that I was blessed with a beautiful family… that everything will be alright… to enjoy every single moment with my children, no matter the circumstance.

They paid for our hot chocolate.

At the time I felt so grateful.  Touched that a complete stranger would be so kind.  Amazed that she knew exactly what I needed to hear.

As years have passed, I’ve drawn a few more gifts from that memory, like that “kid in a crowd” thing. If a mom can find hers, how much more our Heavenly Father?

…and becoming more like that unknown woman.  God chose to use her arms to hug and her words to encourage.  And she let Him.

…but mostly, it’s not so much God “finding” me. He already knows where I am.  It’s reminding myself every day, or every hour if need be, that I am “found”.

after doubt has had it’s way… write

“Honey, I can’t stop moving cause I might not get going again”, my grandpa often said.  I thought he was talking about going for a walk, or wrangling horses, or making hot dog and parmesan cheese tacos.  Turns out his observation applies to much, much more…

Like writing words on paper… which sounds kind of wimpy compared to what he used to do.

So in my effort to begin again, I join this community of writers talking about overcoming writers doubt.  You will find their inspiring essays at The Positive Writer, hosted by Bryan Hutchinson.

Months ago I hit the Pause button on my writing.  The blog posts were getting farther apart, they were more fluff than substance and the angst I felt at hitting the Publish button didn’t seem worth it.

I’ve never been a tower of self-confidence anyway.  And after a few years of caregiving in an awkward family environment, I doubted my ability on almost every level.  Writing was no exception.

I still wrote down blog post ideas.  I jotted chapter details for the book I will write.  But my journal was the only place that saw my words every day.  Private words between me and God.  Prayers really.

When I tried to write other things I found myself dissecting every word, every thought behind the word, judging who might be offended, who might think me weird. It got so bad I began to censor what was entered in my journal.  I mean, what would “they” think if “they” somehow read this stuff?

ENOUGH.

What I had really done was hit the Mute button, not the Pause button.

I muted my own voice. 

And when your writing focus is memoir… that doesn’t give you much to work with.

For me, the battle with self-doubt as a writer is a spiritual one.  It’s called – the fear of man.

Lately I’ve been studying Philippians 4: 8-9. “Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right.  Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable….”.

As lovely as those words are, I used to think of them as too Pollyanna-ish.  But the more I reflect, the more able I am to attach pictures of my story to them… even the hard parts of the story.

It’s become a way to identify the endless list of what I’m grateful for AND given me a new way to look at the dark days.

I catch glimpses of God’s mercy poking thru the rubble of a messy life.

I see His light shine thru and I want to share it.

I’m using these verses as a framework for what I write.  And that’s a good thing, because later on in those scriptures it admonishes us to put into practice what has been seen, heard and learned.   As I learn to filter the good, the bad and the ugly thru them, I’m less concerned about what any man thinks.

I am more compelled to share a loving God who is always with me, even when I doubt… I am compelled to accept who he created me to be… and I acknowledge it’s not for me to worry about what “they” might think.  He’s well able to take care of that.

This battle is not new.  I’ve spoken of it before.  And it will appear again.

But each time I face it I become stronger.  The more focused I am on the truth of God’s presence with me, the easier it is to click the correct button….

PUBLISH

Light

if you were here….

I would tell you everything will be ok…

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…and I’m sorry this injustice has come your way.

But it is the way of this imperfect world.

I would tell you that no matter how pure your motive or the depth of sacrifice you make… there will be whiners and haters, those who judge, those who twist words.

They fear you because they fear change.  And the political correctness they worship was designed to shut you up, lull us all to sleep and bury the truth.

I would tell you to pay them no mind.  They are not willing to stand face to face with you in the heat of the day… so their words are meaningless.

The real truth is… they need you.

We all need you… the one who will say the hard words, who will do the hard thing.  Because every time you do you keep goodness and hope alive… and every time you do you encourage me to stand taller and speak louder.

Keep on keeping on as the brave one God designed you to be.

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken.  We are perplexed, but we don’t give up and quit.  We are hunted down, but God never abandons us.  We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going.  2 Corinthians 4:8-9

Foggy Hope

Father,

When I can’t see thru the fog, when I feel alone on the path…

… help me remember,

Your Word lights my way and hugs my heart.

Proberbs 3: 5-6

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What I Need For a New Start

Christmas lights are off…103

In fact, all of Christmas is packed away.  The big table’s empty and I wonder if it wonders where it’s people are?

I do.

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So it’s time to press on with the living that still brings more question than answer…

…to battle each day for a sliver of joy.

I need to believe there is meaning beyond what I see.

And trust God’s plan is at work, despite my fumbles and fails.

On New Year’s Day a loved one sent me this:

For I am about to do a new thing. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness for my people to come home. I will create rivers for them in the desert!   Isaiah 43:19

And there it is …..HOPE.

 

Following Tractors… and other stuff I learned in July

1 – The days of some months are like trying to catch a greased pig at the county fair… they slip thru your fingers and refuse to be contained in a single word… as in it’s been a long time since I’ve written here.

2 – On the face of the earth there are only three people left who have known me since the day I was born.  Two of them are slipping away…

… One in mind… One in body.

This knowledge makes each hug, each phone call, each letter and every “I love you” more valuable than all material things this world offers.  And it reminds me again to never ignore God when he urges me to hold out my hand, or pick up the phone, or say what I need to say.

This one moment is all there is.

3 – I learned to knit dish cloths.  It is something sane to do on those days which defy description.  Of course, if you make a gazillion of them people might not think that is very sane.

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4 – I spend a lot of time on the road following tractors… or Grandma Maude Sue who is driving 30 mph in a 55 zone.  This means I have to pass them.  And I hate to pass on country roads.  But if I don’t then I hold up that line of traffic behind me.  So I can either pull over and let everyone go by, which would be quite silly – or – I can trust my driving ability, put my foot down and go.

Interestingly, this has other life applications as well.

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5 – Although I’ve always known this, July construction projects have reminded me that the men-folk in my family have great legs… strong, hard-working legs.  Thanks for modeling yours, Andrew.

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6 – And lastly, I know I can endure a lot.  Enduring with peace and joy is the ongoing lesson.  This helps :

“I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us (me) from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels can’t, and the demons can’t. Our (my) fears for today, our (my) worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can’t keep Gods love away”.  Romans 8:38.

Amen.

Linking with Emily todaywhat-I-learned-July

Connections ~ That Pull Us Thru

A soldier returned to his home from two back-to-back combat tours in as many years.

He returned to family who love him.

But he could not relax.  He did not sleep well.  He scrubbed things that didn’t need scrubbing.  He organized, arranged, re-arranged and made piles for the dump.  He pressure washed the entire exterior of his home.  He pulled out shrubs from the front flower bed and planted rocks and bark dust… it was “neater that way”.

It seemed he couldn’t stay clean enough, organized enough or busy enough.

I wondered if it was the sight and sound and smell of war that he was trying to wash away… and suspected only time would be able to take care of that.

I see evidence that is happening.

He called recently.  His career is great.  He has good friends and relationships.  He has a beautiful home… and a barn… and even his own private fishing hole.

This year he’s planting a vegetable garden.  He planted bulbs last fall and waits to see the blooms.  He planted flower boxes on his back deck and scattered wildflower seeds around his property.

How delightfully random of him.  No more rock gardens for this soldier.  He makes me smile.

And I’m encouraged.

Because there are days when life feels rather rock garden-ish to me.

I plant and sow.  I give what I know to give.  And I still see rocks.

Sometimes I ask God if he couldn’t, just this once, speak audibly.  Tell me if I’m doing ok… or not so much.  Tell me how I can do this job better or different… or maybe show a glimpse of something to hold on to.  But he doesn’t seem to work that way.

I guess that’s why they call faith… faith.

Instead, He brings to mind a man who lives with chronic illness every day of his life.  And I’ve never met anyone with more hope and ideas and plans for the future as that man.

He brings to mind sons and sisters who struggle and choose to keep on keeping on.  How can I do less?

And then there’s that phone call about wildflowers and fishing holes, which sprouted out of war and rock gardens.

It takes time.  I need to remember that… to get to where the light is.

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Endurance

Thank you, Father, for loving me thru the angry rants I send your way…

For soothing the head I beat against the wall of hopelessness… day after day after day.

You stand steady and patiently wait for me.

You restore. heal. lift up… so I can take another step forward.  Today.

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The Portable Home

Over the past two years my concept of home has been dismantled one roofing shingle, one 2 by 4, one new window at a time.  It’s been curious and painful and enlightening all at once.

As every load of debris went dump bound, every piece of sheet rock was man-handled to the second floor, every plastic tote was packed into storage… I’ve asked God to teach me what it is I need to learn.

And all I know for sure right now, is this journey moved me way beyond a street address.

I do not take lightly there is a roof over my head.  Not at all.  Especially when I see the same homeless man camped under the same freeway overpass two weekends in a row.  And I can’t begin to imagine what home means to him.

And then every couple of weeks I see these ducks.  005

They apparently live in the parking strip between Safeway and Kmart.  They’re always there.  And I haven’t a clue what they eat, where they lay their eggs, or even where they swim.  They do, however, seem content.

Perhaps home has nothing to do with walls and floors and family photos… or that comfortable, hospitable space I grew up in… the same type of space I tried to create for my own children to grow in.

Maybe comfort and hospitality is something you carry with you.  Maybe this home stuff is more about relationship than anything else.

Because I’m finding that as the familiarity of stuff and place disappear… truth and faith become clearer.  Connectedness to others grows… even if they live far away.

And just like those contented ducks who nap in the middle of a busy shopping center, I’ve found that comfortable welcome of home in odd and varied places…

…like the cab of our truck… as we move another load from the old shop into storage.

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… and we talk of what has been and where we hope to go… if we’re blessed with that kind of time.  We sip our tall Americanos and roll into the fog.

I felt home at the train station, where loved ones arrive… and go… and leave memories to hold.

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Memories that remind me of home, yet nothing to do with a house… like picnics at the beach, homecomings at armories, airfields and army posts, gatherings at weddings and ball fields, at baby births and graveside goodbyes.  We come together, are held together by something more than a physical space.

This concept of the portable home is growing on me.  If it is so, I can take it wherever I go… share it with whoever I’m with… exercise it in whatever I do.

The quiet dark of early morning is one of my favorite home times… no matter where I am.  My books, my Bible, my journals of prayer to God.

He listens.  I listen back.  But He does it so much better.

I’m still learning.

“Lord, through all the generations you have been our home.  Before the mountains were created, before you made the earth and the world, you are God, without beginning or end.”  Psalm 90: 1-2 (NLT)

Late Bloomer, Slow Learner

I am the square in fair and square”… I get the joke 5 minutes after everyone has left the building… oblivious to Downton Abbey for two seasons, I am now hopelessly addicted.

It also takes me awhile to work thru things, like…

…mourning for family togetherness experienced last Christmas ~ ~ extended its unwelcome stay into February,

…now that we are out and the younger generation has moved into our house, I’ve discovered the truth ~ ~ I really can’t go home again.

…and since leaving my “work for pay” job a year and a half ago ~ ~ I seem incapable of setting a goal, making a plan and following thru.

I’ve sabotaged every “get fit” program started to the point where eating my way into oblivion looks appealing.

My “life in boxes” has suffered so much from dust and moth and mouse (and a small flood)… that I wonder what’s the point… of stuff.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And I’ve ignored this blog so long, I’ve considered giving up.

But, you know, things get better… clouds roll away (even here)… and the tagline on this blog to “keep on keepin’ on” seems almost salvageable.

On Valentine’s Day, my husband gave me a card…. the kind of card that after 43 years of marriage he had to read and consider carefully before handing it to me.  No drive-by card shopping on that one.  Oh, no.  It inspired me to reconsider how blessed I am right now, right here.

Earlier this month I chatted with a woman who had boxes of “stuff” just like me.  They sat in storage while she lived with and provided care for her mother-in-law… for ten years.  Her perspective refreshed and encouraged… and helped me know I can push on.

The other day on Facebook one of my favorite authors, Donald Miller, said “satan uses Scripture to control the masses.  Jesus uses it to set them free”.

I liked those words a lot.

I believe them too.

While I’m not comparing what I write to scripture, I do think the devil loves it when I’m quiet… when I shut down… when I feel too imperfect to share my words.  But thankfully… he’s not the boss of me.

So like my cousin, Joy, said in an email yesterday, “it’s another day so up and on the road we go”.  She is well named.

on the road