Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The LORD be with you

My great-nephew left today.

He has been living with us the past few years, going to school, falling in love, making a life for himself. Within a short period of time, he had a group of friends from church that I called his "posse", and shortly after that, a girl that lit up his eyes and heart and became his constant companion.

And then he joined the army.

He is in love with helicopters, and can find and fix its problems. And the army needs men who can fix helicopters. Only two weeks from completing Basic, they got 2 weeks off for Christmas. He went to his sister's house for Christmas, and then spent the next week here.

His sister lives in Redlands with her hubby and 1 and 1//2 year old little son.  They have always been very close.

Well, that's not entirely true.  She did not like the little interloper to her family for the first 10 or 12 years of her life.  One Christmas in particular, she was 6 and he had just passed 1 year old, he wanted to see what she got, too - with the endless energy of a toddler, he circled and circled and never gave up. She did NOT want his fingers "all over her stuff!"

After  almost melting down with exasperation, she gathered it all together, to make it easier to guard ,
but still he could reach it.

So... she sat on it.

Mission accomplished.

But I digress.

At the age of 11 her girlfriends thought he was soooo cute -  so she granted a truce.

And then the most wonderful thing happened.

She accepted Jesus Christ into her life.

And her heart grew 10 sizes that day (Sorry Mr Grinch - got you beat, hands down!) From that day on, she and her brother grew closer every day. They hung out together and she counseled him and they shared their hearts.

And still do.

So at Christmas she invited the entire family to come for Christmas dinner.

Of my original family of 4 kids, 2 parents and a grandmother , only myself and one brother are left.

And he, curmudgeon that he can be, refused to go to Redlands - a mere 3 hour drive.

And I could not find it in my heart to leave him alone on Christmas Day.

So my niece had one less person to bother with, and he and I shared a frozen lasagna for a few hours.

And after that I was alone.

But this kind-hearted young man called me on Christmas to tell me about a special present he ordered for his grandmother and me, checked how my day was, and then told me, "Everyone here loves you,"  ending with "Merry Christmas!"

Quite a lad.

Somehow, after his call, the alone feeling left me. (pausing here to clear my throat and blink my eyes a bit - think I got a piece of something in one…)

My usual New Year's meandering is spent deliberating on my word for the coming year, a thought to concentrate on, day by day.

This year, I've decided on "considerate."

I want to put others first with a heartfelt letting go of my "self".

To train my heart to walk with Jesus and pray for my Father's eyes to be my eyes, my hands to be His hands, my heart to belong fully to the love He offers to one and all, and to let it be poured through my hands and heart - daily, without a moment's hesitation, without withholding a second's worth of energy or a teaspoonful of affection.

I want an open heart, open hand, and arms open continuously to anyone who needs a hug   - or can't move fast enough to escape one.  I want to think up the small things that are really big things when put in the proper perspective, and make sure no one ever suffers that "all alone on Christmas Day" feeling on whatever day it happens to be. To look for those little things that mean so much to curmudgeons and  non-curmudgeons alike. And to drop-kick that "me first" attitude that so easily creeps in thru the cracks in the walls of my heart.

In short, to have an attitude that says, "Everyone here loves you."


I'm gonna miss that boy.

Friday, December 23, 2016

A Boomer Christmas Memory

Kids the world over are getting ancy.

BUT they are shining up their halos and trying to be "good" for only a couple more days.

In my family, the kids( of whatever generation) couldn't hack it.  Time stopped. Presents under the tree, from relatives "back East," which, growing up in California, was the whole world, cuz West was pretty much water for a loooong ways away.

After the youngest sib found out the jolly old man wasn't really related and thus had no power over us, we began to celebrate the holiday the Swedish way, which is, to open presents on Christmas Eve, because Christmas Day was the birthday of baby Jesus.

heh-heh-heh….

No more running screaming down the stairs at 0600 (or earlier) -  and altho the excruciating wait for the morning light was over, my dad, with a twinkle in his eye, found plenty of ways to keep "excruciating" in view.

After a dinner he ate soooooo sloooooowly, all the dishes had to be washed, dried and put away. No such thing as an automatic dishwasher in antediluvian days, my brother and I washed by hand, dried by hand, put away by hand - and, for one day of the year, no dawdling occurred.

None at all.

Then we had to "go get Grandma."

Now, my Grandmother was made of spun sugar - and steel. I loved her Swedish accent and ancient gingerbread cookie recipe, only concocted at Christmas, and decorated with little silver balls that broke your jaws with their rock hard exterior.

No one can make her gingerbread cookies.

All of us got the recipe directly from her.

And all of us agree: she didn't write down the entire recipe.

And no one has figured out what secret ingredient she forgot to include.

But I digress (a touch of excruciating here - just so you get a bit of the feeling)

She, of course, was in cahoots with my dad on the excruciating part.  My normally spry, up for anything, moving right along grandmother was always having a bad day on Christmas Eve.

Altho her eyes were also twinkling, she limped her way in from the cottage behind the main house, accompanied by the traditional Swedish moan of "Uff da!" with every step.

Every excruciatingly slow step.

Offers of "Let me help you, Grandma" were met with brave refusals of help, and in that Swedish accent I so loved, she would say "no, no, I come. I come."

After Grandma was seated, my dad would say, "Where's Mom?" and the search would begin anew. My mother was somewhere upstairs, wrapping a last minute gift, or looking for one she had misplaced, or whatever ex-cru-ciat-ing idea she came up with.

FINALLY all would be assembled and one of my brothers would begin to read the tags on a present and pass them out.

Trying to add a little speed to the process.

Only to have one or the other of my parents say, "Not so fast! Not so fast! One at a time."

Which, of course, would be met with the traditional chorus of our long, drawn out, excruciated Christmas groans.

And so it would go, until we had turned the pile of presents into ripped off sheets of obviously not recyclable wrapping paper, drawing from my mother the perfected, sad Christmas sigh.

Because we were not a wealthy family. My father worked many Saturdays doing painting jobs for a bit of extra cash.

My mother would always wrap a new pair of sox for each of us 4 kids to make the number of presents seem more prolific. She never agreed with my ungrateful, indignant and disgusted comment of "Moooom! Sox are NOT a real present!"

She would calmly smile - and say, "Yes, they are." And that would end the discussion.

The next generation of kids had, of course, one parent that wasn't used to the Swedish Christmas Eve early-opening-of-presents dispensation, so the kids would come over on Christmas Eve and open their presents from the grandparents and assorted uncles and aunt, and then get a second gig on Christmas morning to open stuff from Santa and/or, depending on their ages, their parents.

The generation after that had yet another parent unschooled in Swedish ways, and this one adamantly against this Swedish hocus pocus…. but got bartered into the position of the kids being able, on Christmas Eve, to open ONE single Christmas present of their choice, but they had to choose a gift from one of the non-parent people.

Which never seemed to be a problem.

Ever.

And now another generation has begun to appear.

Another non-Swede has been added to the mix.

And it remains to be seen how this one will react.

The excruciating experiences of Swedish traditions 60+ years ago are now, seemingly, stowed away with the ghost of Christmas Past. I don't know if the barter will work with this one.

But I'm pretty sure of one thing:

I'll bet the kids growing up would agree with me 100% that sox are NOT a real present.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Have you ever felt like ...

…you fell off the edge of the earth?

No landmarks…
No footprints left in the dust…
No trails…
No sign anywhere that anyone has gone thru this desolate place…
Not even - thankfully - a dinosaur track…
No bloody trail - not as a Brit would use the b word, not as a medical person would use the word, nor as an unsuspecting explorer on the edge of a cliff carefully perusing his environment, but never
looking over the cliff, where he would no doubt find a swiftly climbing animal/aborigene/escaped murderer  (and again, noting the absence of such a one with thanks!)

And noting, I confess, it sounds like a 1942 war movie filmed on some deserted island (like Maui) with Bing and Bob…….and if you don't know who this is referring to, I say:WHAT? you never took a basic B&B romp BW movie class or …ahem…WATCHED SOME CLASSIC SHOW IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT WHEN YOU COULDN'T SLEEP?? (or live in a cave waaaaaay more primitive than Maui?????)

OK, deep breath, tirade completed…

…for the moment…

If you are still with me after all that, I apologize, but when you have cabin fever, tirades, for some reason, seem appropriate - after all, people feel like you did fall off the edge of the earth where the sign is. (you know the place - that cozy little map corner that has a sign when that point is reached - any map worth it's salt has this sign - in flavorful script that flashes red when viewed from the correct angle…)

The sign reads :

"BEWARE...

"BEYOND THIS POINT THERE BE DRAGONS!!"

Now, personally, I have (thankfully, again) never encountered said dragons, altho I will confess, the people who live with/around me probably have (blush blush). And I agree that cabin fever is no excuse. I am trying to own my crappy attitude and not kick it away, as if to say, "How did THAT get in here?" and "No, it doesn't belong to ME, thank you for asking…"

But alas! The  Holy Spirit of the Sovereign Living God has a flashlight in His pocket that is a little bright for fudging… and my fingerprints glow in the dark in neon colors even without it. So when He turns it on… let's just say, I have nowhere to run.

And I am tired.  Bone weary, cranky, I-don't-want-to-thumb-in-the-mouth tired.

And the afore-mentioned HSOTLG crosses His arms and taps His foot a little…can the Holy Spirit tap His foot? OF course! He's God - He can do anything! So crabby me sits - pouting and shamefaced - before the tapping foot and finally get the guts to look up into His eyes, with tears oozing out of mine tho I am trying not to let them drip, and when my eyes finally blink the blurry stuff out of the way, I''m stunned.

Because the disappointed look in His eyes that I was soooo expecting, and steeling myself to accept - is nowhere to be found! Honest!!

All I can see there is Love.  Capital L love.

And I feel myself being lifted to my feet, and in the tenderest of whispers,  Love says," Let's try again now, shall We?"

Selah*

*In case the meaning of this Hebrew word has slipped your mind, "Selah" can mean anything from "How about that!" to "Sit quietly for a moment, and ponder that thought…"(I generally favor the latter.)







Monday, June 6, 2016

I'm back again - for now

It's taken awhile to get back here - obviously. My illness waxes and wanes, and right now it's very active. So I've not been posting a lot or doing just about anything.

No sketching - no painting - no blogging.  Even tho the materials needed are right at hand.

I can't seem to gather enough energy for a simple sketch.

It's an odd situation. I haven't been this sick since it first started in 1988. I am surrounded with the tools of creativity, from pencils to watercolors to yarn. I usually have several projects started and ongoing.  I've been borrowing gorgeous travel photos to sketch, of Italy and Hawaii and Japan - I usually keep them a week and sketch them out - this one, of Venice, I've had for a month.  My perspective is wonky and the times I've tried to sketch turn out lousy.

It bugs me.

And now I think God is trying to get my attention.

He's led me to the book The Daniel Prayer, and there's a list of sins to consider prayerfully, quoted from "an old timer revivalist" that are forming a substantial burr under my spiritual saddle. Anne Graham Lotz shares how this old timer person listed these probing questions - essentially to draw a circle around yourself and make sure everything in that circle is pure. She shares how the first time thru she was a little smug.  "I don't do any of those things," she thought. The second time thru she was uncomfortable. The third time thru she was on her knees, crying.

I've been thru once.

And that burr is digging into my heart and spirit.  I can taste that smugness she spoke of.  And I'm wondering where that list is going to take me.

I have  a feeling I don't really want to try a second time.

Job says that "man is born to trouble as sparks fly upward."

And I agree.

I've set off a few fireworks in my lifetime. And they weren't the pretty kind.

I know somehow I've become so comfy in my "Christian walk" that I've probably rationalized some things - and refused to see others.

So, if you are a praying person, please pray for courage for me - the courage to comb my soul with God's viewpoint, to agree with whatever He shows me and to repent with my whole heart.

Because when I get right down to it, I want to know that inside that circle, all is well. That there's no grey areas, no spots where I have compared myself to another sinner and shined up my halo. I want nothing hiding in my heart, no barrier between my Holy Holy Holy Lord God Almighty and the deepest spot in my soul.

Period,


Thursday, December 17, 2015

A word (or two) about Christmas


Haven't been here for awhile - ummm...that's sort of obvious, tho,isn't it? Sorry folks! My illness waxes and wanes, and right now, it's waxin'.  Or, as those in the know describe it, it's in a "flare." That means that all my symptoms are doing a wax job on my body, too - I should be one shiny, slick human when this lets up. Plus, I've caught the local bug that's going around everywhere. It's been a week now, and shows no signs of letting go, especially the cough. Because my immune system took a hike 20 years ago, I get pneumonia a little faster than the population.

It's hard to be sick around the holidays, isn't it?

Since most of those who read this blog are chronically ill too, I think the LORD has us out in a lifeboat bailing water.  It's hard to see all the excitement and busy holiday fun stuff 3 feet away and know it's too far to go.  So many things I miss - making cookies, decking the halls , decorating a Christmas tree.  I miss having Munchkins crawling around and laughing and big family dinners and family jokes - you know the kind, the ones no one who didn't grow up with you has a clue about - and the not-so-polite-loudly-commented-upon things that kids say at the precise moment that everyone in the room falls silent, only to be stored in the family memory bank and brought out at the holidays.

And when that child grows big enough to blush, their indiscreet moments are resurrected with teasing twinkles and general laughter.

In my family, out of the 6 folks we started out with, we have dwindled down to two.

My one remaining brother and I have buried all the rest.

And all in December except the one in January.

So starting on December 24, in 1964, my father died. The 15th when my mom was called Home in 1996. December 31st, my oldest brother died in 1997. And then my baby brother in January of 2003 at the age of 45.

My sister in law, who has been my bestie since we were 14 years old, and I have taken to going out for dinner on the anniversary of their Home-going,when possible, and toasting the coronation of our family members with clinking glasses full of water.

The absence of those cherished souls, their voices muted until we, too, fall silent on earth and begin praising in the midst of the angels, still makes the heart ache.We celebrate the annual event as a coronation day.   It helps, but nothing can mend the hole in the heart upon their Home-going.

The sharp, jagged edges of the hole smooth out a bit, but nothing will mend it until we, too, wake up and breathe celestial air, no doubt to hear someone start laughing and telling all those stories of family folklore. Hmmm... I wonder if you can get embarassed in Heaven...

And, at this time of year especially,  I think our hearts grow lonely for those who beat us Home. We see windows as out of a Kinkade painting, the warmth and light streaming out beckons us. Oh my  - it looks so cozy in there... and snippets of laughter and joy slip from doors opened in welcome, of families safely in, of cold and loneliness kept out.

Then God had humans begin the tradition of  the lovely decorations of Christmas lights, to remind us of the One Who is Light, and in Him is no darkness At All.

At All. 

As the first night fell after my Mom went Home, 2 of my brothers drove me home from my 3rd brothers house.  I sat in the back seat, watching all the Christmas lights on homes.  It had been one of my mother's favorite things to do - driving around  to "see the lights."  It was something the two of us did every year.


Just she and I.

And at that moment, I almost couldn't bear it. I felt my heart tear.

So I said to Jesus, "Lord, she loved this so much, so very much. And I can't take her to see the lights, ever again, She'll never see them again."

Quick as a wink, His whisper came to me: "What your mother is looking at right now makes those lights so pale in comparison.  She is so full of joy, she cannot hold another drop."

So...if you, too, are seated at a table with empty chairs and missing voices, with a  fresh and jagged hole in your heart, or one smoothed out a bit, but a hole nonetheless, talk to Jesus about it.  He lost His earthly father - He knows what that feels like. And He had the added pain of knowing He had the ability to heal Joseph, but His Heavenly Father said, "no." I cannot imagine having that power, and being unable to use it as that one you love slips away. 

I have written a lot of Christmas poems - under the picture above is a link to the poetry page. The implications of that miracle are seldom talked about - how could God have slipped His great heart into a tiny baby? It always takes my breath away, to realize that Jesus put away all of His power, all of His ability to be omnipresent, not just for 33 years, but forever. In essence, Jesus gave away His  freedom, so that we could be free.

How all of heaven must have held their breath at the moment He was clothed with a body, to see the actual heart of the Living God, wrapped in human flesh.

It gives me the chills
.
 Which is why I write poetry, and why a lot of it is about Christmas.  Oh look!  Here's one:


I find within a longing to return,

To somehow crawl back

To the Christmases of my youth -

To smell again the straw-filled manger scene

And hear the child-known lowing of the stable cow,

To have my eyes stretched wonder-wide

By magic lights and sparkling beams

From tinselled, star-crowned pines.

But more, I long for a toddling, trusting faith

To sense the Spirit-hush of birthing Gift,

To hear the God-babe's newborn cry,

To join the threadbare, trembling shepherds

Kneeling at His feet.



I want to lead the Magi in,

See their delighted faces glow

And watch tears stream down weathered cheeks

To fall on shimmering cloaks.

Oh! Let me bow beside them there,

Prostrate before this Promised King

And worship, filled with awe,

While angels sing.
-------------


If I don't get back here again beforehand, I wish you a Christmas filled with awe and wonder.

Monday, September 7, 2015

I've not been around for awhile...my body decides to tank every once in awhile, and then God calms everything down for a bit. So I'm back from a recent calming, and enjoying just being here.

Autumn is showing signs of moving on in here in the desert.  Not fully yet, but hinting at it. 

I love this time of year.  At sundown the thermometer sinks below the 100 mark, making the out-of-doors area a pleasant place to be.  The sunsets are phenomenal, as if God were finger-painting in wild abandon.  The clouds seem iridescent as their gray-feet blush pink.  The hummingbirds take one last lingering sip and retire for the evening.

And then the bats come out to play.

At first they seem like just tinier birds - but no bird can stop on a dime and do a 180 to catch a moth who wandered into the wrong bit of air. They whirl and swirl and stop your breath with their acrobatics - I find myself whispering a "Yay!!" to the wheeling and diving dervishes.  I want to cheer them on, these maligned animals who are simply doing what God created them to do. Especially when I remember that they are responsible for  the removal from the air of my arch-enemy, the mosquito.  Makes me shiver just to think about it.  Go for it, guys, enjoy a great dinner tonight and suck those little guys up like a vacuum cleaner!

And then - poof! - all color is gone from the clouds - except the gray looks gray-er and the creeping deep blue of night begins to saturate the sky.  Lights come on in houses, windows glowing with that amber light that makes everything look cozy.

My favorite aunt loved this time of day too, and I often think of her - and miss her dreadfully. When my mother died, she called to offer her services if ever I felt the need for some mothering. We slowly lost her to Alzheimer's - a horrible disease that steals the comfort from relationships and leaves the victim befuddled and easily frightened.  She coped as long as she could, with a standard set of questions designed to carry a conversation as if she actually remembered who your were.  It broke my heart to hear of her decline - a breaking I had endured several times before as I lost family members, one by one, to age and death..

But this one was different. It was a brutal losing.  One inch at a time.

Her son cared for her to the last, as faithful a heart as ever was.  He itemized her life, page by page, until everything was numbered and discarded and the important things saved as much as possible.

I have always thought that newly owner less possessions were among the saddest things left on earth. Objects of most importance to someone are suddenly, once again, just "things." They drift in the cosmos and eventually vanish - unless someone remembers their importance and out of a sentimental moment, snatches them up and again assigns them value.

I am so grateful that in my time on this earth I have been so very blessed with my family members.  I have friends whose family ties are painful in the extreme.  In contrast, I have waltzed through my life with wonderful people, kind people, loving people, who taught me that others were more important than the bug you have under your saddle.  One half of my family were bitter and lonely - and heaven protected me from them by a few thousand miles, leaving all the warm, fuzzy ones to surround me with kindness, encouragement and love.

When my time comes to go Home and rejoin them, I hope what I leave behind will be a memory that cocoons the soul, perhaps a joyous laugh, an encouraging word in a difficult time.

The one Man Who ever said He'd rather die than live without us -and proved that by His death - with that death bought me as fearless an exit as is possible from this life. I am so grateful He found a way to push through my self-sufficient ego and fill me with Himself. He changed my life from black and white to color, changed my heart from having room for only me, to embracing Him and letting Him do any future driving to any destination He chose - and to my great surprise and delight, He chose joy.

In addition to which, He added hummers and bats and Quail and chipmunks and sunsets and cool evening zephyrs that dance in the branches of trees and swirl through your soul.

We serve an Awesome God.


Friday, August 7, 2015

For Those of us Afraid of the Dark.

I have been contemplating fear lately.

When I came to Christ - or, rather, when He busted His way into my heart, I was involved with the occult - and with an extreme sensitivity to fearful things. Movies, plays etc.  And in the after-occult season the fear of darkness - actual and imagined - became a factor in my life.

He took the darkness out of me, washed out the remaining stains, but the fear has come to be one I have never conquered.  I cannot sleep in the total darkness.  I need some tiny bit of light to be able to sleep.

As a nurse, I became interested in the hospice movement, and one of the things it taught me was that dying patients almost always want to be in light, sunlight or manufactured, ss they leave this world.

I have health conditions which have placed me in that position a few times.  And now a virtual friend is facing that challenge daily, as he fights a vigorous battle with lymphoma.  And moments of fear overwhelm him.

It is a fearful thing, death. 

Even though it is something we all will face, even though the One Who bought us with HIs blood has conquered it before us - and won!- even though we truly know, to the tiniest cell in our bodies, that we will be in His presence the millisecond we leave this earth.

Even though....

When I was standing on the edge of that cliff, gazing into the darkness of the unknown, the fear would not let me go.  Would not.

Oh, I could vanquish it for the moment - and always with His Name on my lips - but when the thought came round again, threw another harpoon into my heart, breathed in my ear, it was battle time again,

It still is.

I can think of it from a distance, as though it was a far off  event, but when it comes to REAL and TRULY, it takes awhile for me to call on His Name and claim His peace. And while I have made the provisions and protocols for this body my spirit dwells in, leaving this body - and thoughts of the actual process by which it will happen, are fearful. 

Corrie Ten Boom, another heroine of mine, said that, as a child, she told her father that it scared her, this death that would, eventually, end her life.

He asked her, "Corrie, when do I give you your ticket when we take the train.?"

"When it's time to get on it." she answered.

"That is when Jesus will take away your fear.  Right now, you don't need the courage to face it.  When the moment comes, Jesus will give you your ticket and you will not be afraid."

And so it was.

And I trust it will be the same for me.

I don't need that peace right now - because it isn't time, yet.

But I trust, like Corrie, that when the moment comes, His joy will fill my heart, and my spirit will take flight.

And there will never be another moment of fear of the dark.

Until that day, or moment, or second comes, I will leave it in His hands.