Another Kind of Goodbye

 

 

As long as ten years ago, I would sometimes drive by a beautiful building, or a well cared for small house, and wonder who owned it, and how they obtained it. It wasn’t an envy, more like an admiration kind of thing.  But I did wish and ponder if I would ever be able to own a second piece of property, as an investment.  I had a conversation with the Lord about it— asked Him what he thought of such a notion, would it be all right with Him?  Then I went about life, and didn’t think too much more about it.

The Lord remembered me.

My parents were blessed with the ability to leave my siblings and myself a good inheritance. Though the summer God plucked my Mother was a forlorn one, it opened up an avenue for me, heretofore untraveled.

I was happy for Mom’s new eternal residence, but my spirit felt dampened. Curiously at the end of a few weeks, I felt a heart tug, to go back to Grand Rapids, my birthplace. It was a yearning, a longing.  I knew things were not as they were sixty years hence, but I still wanted to go. To see my childhood house again, and to walk down Garland street, find my playmates’ houses was compelling. I could find two of my grandparents’ homes, and see the South Methodist church and my old elementary school. Best of all, perhaps I could find our cottage on the lake, a thirty minute drive from the city. A cousin did some hunting, and through her efforts, found the area of the cottage on Big Lake. Astoundingly, it had become listed for sale/Open House, two days after my mother’s death.

I did not take this as a sign, nevertheless thought it remarkable, and by summer’s end, made plans to fly “home” to answer what felt like a call on my heart.  Having grown up in Grand Rapids with summers at this cottage, it was a powerful thing to do.  My joy abounded.

Recently, I read Psalm 87 and at verse 6, was caught in its wonder. “The Lord records as He registers the peoples, ‘This one was born there.’”  Following the script, it said ‘Selah.’  This means stop or pause and think about it, something my mother taught me.

I flew to Grand Rapids that August, with my husband. It was exclusive and thrilling to re- visit our 1950’s dollhouse cottage, put myself inside its walls, climb its steps, touch the knotty pine kitchen cabinets my father had made, go down to the lake and sit on the dock, (albeit a different one)and find the old fish house, with some of its foundation blocks still in place.  As I stared at them close up, a Daddy Long Legs came up over the top edge of its wall, as if my own father sent it, to acknowledge he knew I was there. He was the one who taught me not to be afraid of spiders, and I still remember how he did so, letting a Daddy Long Legs crawl over his hand.  Emotion washed over me.

Long story shortened, God did not have the cottage in mind for us to purchase.  It was too pricey, and too remote—on a dead end road, not safe to be there on my own. My husband said a lake property didn’t interest him, and he would only come twice a year. Other things soured the option. There was no internet service, no city water, no sewer service, it had a propane tank, and the nearest town was ten minutes away. I realized I wasn’t a wilderness kind of gal. I wanted to live in a small town, where there was a sheriff.  Because God drew these parameters for me, I could let go of the cottage.

We looked at other houses.  The nearest fun town was Allegan, so we took that road. After months of searching, and a major rejection on an offer, by December, a perfect little house near the historic downtown opened up for us.  It was ideally suited to our needs in every way. And it was for a price that if in Tucson, would sell for three times as much! Amazing.

A 1933 home requires a lot of tender, loving care and grueling work.  We enjoy it three times a year, to partake of three seasons: spring, summer and fall.  We are making improvements that are safety driven, function driven, and beauty driven.  We have found a loving church family nearby, so what more can we ask for?

Now the hard part is leaving our home in Arizona to come here, and leaving Michigan to go back. I hate good byes. It was hard enough to say goodbye to Mother, and I can’t say I did it well.  I leave both Arizona and Michigan reticently, when it becomes time to depart.

Recently, it became that time again, to return to Arizona, and the blues set in. I was bothering myself about it, for days. I didn’t know how to help myself past this.

God remembered me, again.

I was babysitting/playing cards with the pastor’s kiddos, when it was near time for me to say goodbye.  I told them, “After this game, I need to leave.”  (Giving cues is helpful to small children.)

The second oldest boy’s face lit up and he said,“Oh boy!”

Talk about laugh out loud!  His mother heard, and corrected his manners. She explained she told him he could play a video game after I left.  No wonder he was thrilled.  Ha!

Immediately, I realized God had given me a gift.

If the Lord calls us from one place to another, we can receive it with some component of joy, if not in full measure.  Sorrow has its place, and is appropriate in its timing.  But at some point, sorrow needs to take a back seat—it cannot be so big that it rules us.

God has things to give us, sometimes elsewhere or without the person or things we want to cling to.  He has things to show us, because He loves us so much.

So, I’m flying back to Arizona tomorrow.  Oh boy!

 

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The Better Way to Elsie

One cannot expect things to go smoothly on all counts, every day.  But when you travel, it’s not wrong to pray for this.  I mean, literally and out loud.

So we took a day trip through Grand Rapids, from our little home town of Allegan, south of there.  To wit, we’d be leaving our car for the day at the Toyota dealership over a recall item, get a rental and drive north of Lansing, to Elsie.  There, we would meet the family of a darling elderly friend who passed away suddenly last Spring.

We started a few minutes late, but not enough to upset the fruit basket. Still, we had to get gas.  And, it started raining.  I don’t think that was three strikes against us, but it made me wonder.  We were now nearly a quarter of an hour behind schedule, and not how I wanted our day to begin.  I prayed silently for a safe trip, and for us to have clear directions.  We had a Michigan map, hand written directions from the Peterson’s to their house, and both our smart phones.  It seemed like those, and our plea for mercy would make the trip foolproof.

My husband had taken charge of the dealership arrangement, and its address was straightforward,  an uncomplicated 28th Street exit off state highway 131 North.  No problem. An easy find. Can do.

As the front seat passenger, I had to privilege of reading and writing, and my head was down. The straightforward exit somehow got passed.  Alas! Had only we caught that turn,  our turmoil would have been avoided.  But in a car zooming along at sixty miles an hour, there’s no time to lament one’s demise. One must gather their wits, like it or not, and come up with a cool Plan B.

I never do quite understand why sometimes it’s as though shutters close upon us, even when you have done all you can to avoid them.  But they do.

Immediately I brought up the GPS , and we took the soonest next exit, Hall Street, it said.  But it directed us left, not right.  What?  The dealership was east, not west.  Faith flew the coop.  My mate wanted to get back on the freeway, and keep heading north, thinking 28th Street was still ahead.  We plodded our way back to the freeway, having pulled off on a one way street, facing the opposite way. Of course.

Once there, state highway 131 N thrust us immediately into downtown Grand Rapids, north of the dealership.  The GPS confused us again, because we thought it directed us to get off. This made no sense— we were squarely in the middle of the business district.  Obviously, we misinterpreted its nanno second direction to take the 96 East.  How could that be the way?  We weren’t ready to head to Lansing yet.

So we now we were lost again.  The GPS  talked us back to the freeway, but its direction to go left at the light onto the freeway was not the truth.  We were supposed to go straight, and then left.  GPS’s never differentiate when to turn left, have you noticed?  We made an illegal turn to return to the intersection, and finally made the turn correctly.

96 East then took us around the top of the city, east to the Beltline, where we could exit, and connect to 28th Street, five miles away.  A very out of the way, turmoiled route, confusing, upsetting, and hard to follow.  Not the foolproof trip I’d hoped for. And all because those ‘shutters’ blocked us from seeing that 28th street exit.

Once the trading of our vehicle was done, hope sprung eternal, and we found the 96 East easily this time, and headed toward Lansing.  However, the Michigan map got left behind in the Toyota, oh joy, and now we were down to my trusty hand written directions, and our fully charged smart phones.  Nevertheless, we thought we were safe. And this time, we took time to pray out loud together, asking for no further complications.

The first connection was made  easily to 69 East, but when Michigan 21 came up, there was a north and south distinction, as I recall. We figured that out, only to be faced head on with a split in the road, asking us if we wanted to go to St. Johns or Clare?  Boom!  Just like that.  We were supposed to know which one ?  My hand written directions were folded up.  The GPS didn’t talk soon enough, and I was asked to make a nanno second decision for which I was not qualified.  And so we digressed. Again.

I put away the written directions.  We were getting to Elsie by way of an entirely different route. The Michigan map had been left behind, there was nothing we could check.  My phone was losing its power, and we could not spare pulling up maps, with the remaining power of the second phone. I had to just sit back, and let my husband follow the GPS with Plan C.  And hope for the best.

In the end, we got there.  As fate would have it, this new route was shorter, with fewer twists.  We had an absolutely delightful visit with our new friends in Elsie.  In this particular instance, all’s well that ends well.

But we never know that, no matter the juncture.

We travel this thing called life, and proceed, as best we can.  Shutters hide things from us, at times.  Split second decisions converge.  We pray, and give ourselves up to the Lord.

We are not guaranteed we’ll find our way, the first time out.  We’re not promised we won’t get lost, or escape momentary confusion.  Praying is smart, and it is fine to hope for good results.  But the results are in His hands.  He gives us something better than good results, He goes with us.  The Lord will be with us.

I love that about Him.

“Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”  ~Matthew 28:20

 

~A Prayer~

Thank You, Father God, that this is true.

You go with us. You dwell with us.

Sorrows may inflict us momentarily, or reside with us, for a time.
But You are there, beside us.

Help us content ourselves with this consolation. And draw close to You.

Amen.

 

 

Set Aside

 

Part I of a treatise on the miraculous, for Lent

Everybody wants to be loved, we latch onto it. Love helps us cope with life. In 1958, Phil Spector cut a song, To Know, Know, Know Him and I thought it was cool. Here are the first nine lines.

To know know know him
Is to love love love him
Just to see that smile
Makes my life worthwhile

To know know know him
Is to love love love him
And I do
And I do
And I do

As a young girl, I began to feel I was not quite like other people.  That I was different and not preferred.  I wore glasses from the age of two. When I was five,  I was given penicillin for a boil on my behind, and broke out with a rash that never left. I was the middle child of three. My older brother liked my sister more than me. Or at least it felt like that. And my foster brother also liked Karen more.

Happily, there were some reprieves from my poor self image. I did well in school and I learned piano well. I also had two good friends, Marilou Hage, and Marcia Dorman.  My parents and grandparents loved me dearly, and my sister adored me. These things brought me great happiness.

Still, when winter came to Grand Rapids, Michigan, my life got hard. The harsh and frequent snow, and icy weather had an immediate effect upon my skin.  It chapped, cracked and bled.  I had scabs and sometimes staff infection entered the wounds.  I’d have to stay home from school to recover. My parents gave me support and understanding.  I was taken to doctors and later, the Mayo clinic to seek solutions.

Kids asked questions about my rash and scabs and it was embarrassing.  I can remember how I flushed, as I gave them a reply. I tried to hide my skin, but the eczema broke out everywhere there was a joint or flap:  behind my knees, armpits, my neck, at the bottom of my ear lobes, every finger knuckle, my wrists, and then on my lower arms, where there were no joints at all. Though my siblings never made fun of me, my classmates’ curiosity and probing made my self-esteem plummet.  Michigan winters gave me a good understanding of what it was like to feel ‘set aside.’ But I think God used those winters to offset my life in a permanent way.

I think each of us has a life experience that leaves a lasting mark. A relative of mine was abused as a girl.  My mother lost her thirteen year old brother when he ran away from home to find his mother who left the family. Georgie jumped off a train from a bridge, into the river below, and drowned.  My grandfather’s eyesight failed in his twenties, and he lost his accounting job. My former husband was mistreated by both his parents his whole life without reprieve, and no apology was given him later on. These kind of things make us feel as if we’ve been ‘set aside’, singled out, a product of the extraordinary.

Could it be that God marks us, as if to distinguish us—in love?  Surely the One who made us couldn’t want that we should have a life of unrelenting hardship and abuse.  Yes, there are cultures where cruelty and persecution goes on for years.  In The Immortal Irishman, we read how the English Parliament suppressed and battered the Irish for years, believing them to be inferior Catholics. How sorrowful that some cultures must endure dictators, oppression or depraved poverty without relief.  These things defy understanding except we know that in this earthly life, evil sometimes gains an upper hand.  A good God raises up the good to fight against the evil, for His intention is for it to be conquered and replaced with goodnesses.  Praise God this is so.

The Lord marks all of us, one way or another.  He calls all people to come to Him in earnestness, to “know, know, know” Him. True followers are given a gift, His Presence inside them. Philippians 4:11 says, “The Lord is near.” With this gift, we are ‘set aside’ from the world.  In good ways, in servitude.  For to know His presence is to love Him.

Part II will consider this amazing presence of God within us, a most miraculous thing.

Smart Counsel

Smart Counsel

Per chance, I found a poignant book called: My Lord and I- Daily Meditations, by Harry Tippett in a thrift store some months back.  I was smitten, given it was a cross-hatched 4.5 by 6 inch thick book, and published in 1948, the year of my birth.  Its entries are nothing of regular nature.  It’s a pearl. I relish each reading, albeit not all entries are just for me.  You know what I mean.

But on my August birthday, I was hoping for a gem.  I wasn’t disappointed. Its title of Jesus Our Counselor was followed by Eccl. 9: 11 “The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.”

To wit, this could mean that no matter how quick, strong, wise or skilled a person, it is not these that God blesses, but rather He bestows in time and through His own choosing what will happen.

And on this note, I’m at peace.  We live in crazy times, a world with crumbling order, terrorism gone wild and denial of its threat thereof, race relations under attack, corruption in highest levels by-passed, it would appear, by our justice department.  Harsh statements, falsehoods, accusations, misleadings are the deluge— how shall we be saved from this state of affairs?

I bewail a lack of integrity in but a few leaders today. Can the Lord intervene and do something miraculous?  Of course!  “Time and chance happeneth to them all.”  Yesterday in a sermon, I learned about Don Piper who was killed in a head-on collision in 1989.  A passing by pastor was directed of the Lord to stop and pray, but was told the driver of the car was dead; they tarped the gruesome car, waiting for authorities to come remove the man.  The pastor went into the car, and prayed for the deceased Mr. Piper. After an hour, he ran out of things to pray and began to sing, ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus.’  Suddenly, a voice joined him.  Mr. Piper rose to life!

Who in this world would follow such a God directive, to pray for a dead man?  To believe it mattered?  Instead, we gauge the worth or progress of something by outward appearances, or numbers, am I right?

The author Tippett:  This emphasis upon worldly advantage has captured modern thinking…our measurements of value…often gauged by mere bulk or numbers.  Counting noses in God’s work has been frowned upon by Heaven ever since the days of the numbering of Israel against His express command.  We triumph in majorities and hold contempt for minorities.  We honor men who boast, “Is not this great Babylon that I have built…by the might of my power?”  Dan. 4:30.  This veneration of size and truckling to power…{is called} megalomania, the craze for bigness.

But Jesus was never overawed by size or majorities.  The temple of Herod was the greatest pride of the Jewish church.  The priests were dismayed when Christ predicted its destruction.  In the teachings of the Master, mountains of difficulty give way to simple prayer, and “out of the mouths of babies and sucklings” He ordains strength.  End quote.

My former pastor’s young daughter recently took issue with the gender bathroom controversy.  On her own but with her parents’ permission, she gathered signatures and sent them to the state legislature to protest the allowance of the cross gendered to enter the bathrooms at her elementary school. She petitioned for a bathroom of their own.  She sent it to her legislator and now, the legislature is voting on a law that will make all persons use the bathroom of their birth.  This child has been invited to come speak to the legislature about her concerns. Is not this phenomenal? I rejoice to see how the Lord is using this young girl to accomplish His ways on earth. If the bill is passed, this child’s name is going to be on it!

Tippett: “He ordains strength.”  Psalms 8:2.  All through the Bible, greatness in worldly evaluations is in sharp contrast to the humble heart and teachable spirit Christ lauds as Heaven’s true cloth of gold.  [It is}…not the cause with the greatest financial backing nor the leader with the best education, nor the artisan with the swiftest skill—none of these are necessarily signs of favor with Heaven.  “Not by might and not by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord” is the formula.  End quote.

I believe that when we pray, we invite Jesus’ counsel. It doesn’t get any smarter than that.  May’nt this be a way out of the current bungle of politico?  His plans are remarkable; He directed a pastor to stop and pray for a dead man, a child to gather signatures of protest. He directed me to pray for my mom’s rescue from death often.  I prayed with a friend and then on my own as I drove to my sister’s side, not knowing she was having a fibrillation attack.  I called out to Jesus by name when I was nearly hit head on with my babies in the car with me.  He so wants our prayers, prayers for others, prayers for our needy country. Time and “chance” belong to Him. Pray, pray hard.

 

When did Jesus send you a directive to pray and what was the result?