What’s Going On?

 

 

 

I think it’s official, the world has lost its sense of balance. Yes, we have a pandemic going on, yes, it’s serious, and yes we need to take precautions.  But is all this fear and panic justified?

In order to buy our groceries and not feel like a packaged sardine, I have to shop when things are not crazy.  And when would that be?  I dislike ordering things online.  Supposed early hours for those over sixty-five doesn’t help since there’s a large constituency of that here in Tucson.  Not much advantage. Add to those numbers folks who disregard the age recommendation and come anyway.

This morning I decided to try Costco at 8 a.m., being told the first hour on Tuesdays was for seniors.  I figured I’d avoid the initial rush and go about ten minutes late. Ready to leave, I couldn’t find my car keys. An indoor hunt led to nothing. I tried the car itself; there they lay on the driver’s seat. Huh? I left for my mission, only to round the corner and face an orange sign: STREET CLOSED.  Two obstructions in five minutes.

Obstruction three. Arriving at Costco was shocking.  The left turn lane was filled halfway back to the post freeway intersection.  Oh joy. Waiting to even turn IN took the patience of Job. Policemen arrived, found places to park, put on their fluorescent vests to direct traffic, of course after I made my left-hand turn.  By now, I gave up any hope of being able to park much less get through the Costco doors. I wasn’t mad, but it wasn’t something I wanted to navigate. I consoled myself that I could get away and go home easily by taking the business loop around to the next intersection.

Wrong. Bumper to bumper cars prevented a speedy exit for anyone. Now I was getting mad, another obstruction. And of course, this most northern intersection into Costco was not policed and people do what people do best, enter the intersection tentatively when the light turns green instead of stepping on the gas. I was stuck in that passageway twenty minutes, creeping my way to the light. Ten cars short of it, a cop arrived from the other direction to make his way to park and set up shop at the light. Of course.

Before I drove much further, I looked for a place to pull over, to adjust a 25 pound weight rolling around in my RAV trunk.  I’d forgot about it, before this errand. (An anchor cylinder for the dogs’ running leash at the park.) Its presence scared me, imagining it could slam its way out the rear door. I pulled over and hauled it to the floor of the second seat.

By now, a blog piece was forming in my mind. I decided to take a photo of the road sign that said STREET CLOSED, a symbol for what’s going on these days. But I left my phone at home. Obstructions five and six, the dangerous weight and forgetting my phone. When I returned to the site with my phone, the sign was gone; the street crew was loading up! So I parked and walked to the one around the corner that said STREET CLOSED AHEAD when I heard a beep beep.  I looked down to see my phone die right then and there. Obstruction seven.

What’s going on? Our world is upended. Unless you live in the arctic or jungle or Sahara Desert, you’re impacted by the obstruction and restrictions of this insidious Corona virus. My exciting March calendar was trashed; the events were once-in-a-lifetime things, big sacrifices for me. So events are cancelled, church is postponed, schools and stores closed, restaurants forbidden to serve, gatherings frowned upon; it goes on.

Normally, I try to take things in stride, albeit I have to work at that. I err on the side of skepticism; it’s been hard to agree to quarantining. I accept that the Lord’s in control– Christianity 101 says so, however that doesn’t mean things are easy nor that I have to like obstructions. God has an enemy and evil is having a heyday.

But Satan’s pot stirring has its limits, praise God. One morning I’ll get up, know where my keys are, be able to go to the store and not find half of Tucson in the parking lot, not get stuck in unnecessary traffic, not be endangered with a heavy weight, and not be so careless as to leave my phone behind. Whether the blame is on myself, life’s circumstances, God’s enemy, general stress, sin, Murphy’s Law, or a threatening virus, God’s still in charge. I want to find better ways to cope than giving in to despair and anger.

This is too big of a crisis not to acknowledge the inherent Big Ideas in it. Years ago, when my first marriage was heading toward a shoreline of rocks, I came to realize God’s presence with me.  Things were so awful, dark and overwhelming that all I could see were dark clouds. I despaired, picked up my Streams in the Desert devotional, and turned to the day’s entry. There, I read that God dwells in the clouds. My balance came back, my burden was lifted.

God’s in this. Bad things can happen. When they do, He’s still there, wanting to show us stuff we haven’t yet seen. Who knows what amazing things will come out of this storm?  Instead of pining for the items I wanted to bargain buy at Costco, I can trust Him to show and give me things a lot more important than a bucket of dates.

We are growing as a country and medicines are coming forward. Ideas showing how to be better prepared are forming. On a personal level, I recognize other things. Here’s my starting list.

  1. Remain calm and quell my agitation.
  2. Pray to stop being selfish and lamenting my inconveniences and losses.
  3. Let God speak to me. Read the Bible and journal.
  4. Pray big, pray for myself, for others, for families whose loved ones have died, for the infected and those with other illnesses in the midst of this turmoil. Pray for the countries and areas hardest hit. Pray for a vaccine and ingenious scientists. Pray for those caring for and bringing medical supplies to the needy. Pray for those out of work and pressed for money to pay bills. Pray that the animus is quenched in our country, and for those deciding how to best help us. For our economy and other countries struggling. Pray for selfish agendas to be crucified. And for myriads to come to Jesus.
  5. Who can I help financially wisely?

What’s on your personal list?

We have two small dogs, one who got to be with us from her weaning and one probably on the streets for a year. You can guess which one is the calmer, happier dog. Lucy-Hazel missed an entire year of our love, assurance and correction. We must train and re-program her and hope she can calm down and realize she’s safe and doesn’t have to be so defensive, nurture balance in her life.

Perhaps this is a time for us to draw closer to God. Only He can lift the burdens from our shoulders. I believe that street sign was removed on purpose, so I’d see that yes, there are road closures at times in our lives.  But our Lord removes them when the work He’s doing is completed.

“Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; He won’t permit the righteous to fall.”   ~ Psalm 55:22:

 

 

A Fine Sailor

       I so appreciate having the Lord as my strength and captain in this life.  Without Him to part the waters and direct the ship, I’d be lost at sea. Or capsized and drowned. I’m a very bad sailor. Wearing a life jacket is a fine thing, but it doesn’t protect the boat from crashing into the rocks. Jesus is far more than a life jacket. He’s our pilot.

       I know how to row a boat, that’s not it.  I knew my way around the Michigan lake where my family spent its summers.  Sometimes Dad took us to the marina in Mipadeka or the motor boat to buy groceries. (Mipadeka was our rowboat, named by using the first two letters of our names in order: Mike, Pat, Debby and Karen.) But navigating life is quite another thing. Life’s an ocean, wide and dangerous, stormy and deep; some mornings I resist rising from bed, as if that avoids challenges. Life is wary and can bring sudden trials from around a corner.

Some are easy enough to handle, a simple notice about an overdue lost library book. A friend asking for prayer. A doctor postponing an appointment. A warning light in your vehicle.

Others are not. Like waking up with a weird, unidentifiable stab of pain in your back, first on the right, then the left.  What?  Or finding I’ve disappointed or made someone angry, someone important enough to trouble me. A car accident causing injury, yet you survived. Even worse is a diagnosis of a serious disease or condition that was heretofore well hidden in your body.

God is there for us. He’s not an absent friend. He knows. If we’re on his team, he’s not only stepped into our boat, he’s commanding the choppy waters. And well. He’s a fine sailor.  Though I sometimes put myself at the helm of the boat forgetting he’s there, Praise God, I usually come to my senses quickly and relinquish the boat to him. How swiftly he does rush to me, when I pray.  How wonderfully he sends wisdom to solve the puzzle, strength to shoulder the burden, or miraculously lift the load. And in the worst case scenario, even if we feel alone, we are not alone.

“Now it happened, on a certain day that He got into a boat with His disciples.  And He said to them, ‘Let us cross over to the other side of the lake.’ And they launched out.”  ~Luke 8: 22

Dearest Lord, would you remind us you’re in the boat? You launched it, and you’re navigating. Please minister to people we observe with pronounced needs.  Please forgive our sin, for ways we misstepped, or had no vision to see.  Give us grace to make amends.  Please lift the sorrow and pain of life, if that’s possible.  Help us find things we’ve misplaced, or learn to live without the persons or things no longer ours to hold. Grant us wisdom and counsel to respond to others as you would. Bind evil. Please bring healing to our body and mind or loved one’s, enabling us to walk in fellowship with You, to know your peace and be comforted by Your love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

re mark a ble

 

When I planned yesterday, I hoped for good. I did not imagine remarkable.  Remarkable is worthy of attention, striking.  I couldn’t have known.

Emily, in Our Town by Thornton Wilder, is allowed to return to earth for a day.  She is rattled by what she formerly took for granted but now sees as amazing. “Do any human beings ever realize life, while they live it?—every, every minute?” she asks.

Sometimes remarkable are the once in a lifetime situations.  Other times it is a combination of events that mark our day. Often, it can be both.

Foremost on the docket was the slated surgery of a friend who’d called the night before to ask for prayer.  Over the phone, she and I and her daughter prayed. The surgery had popped up like a fully inflated beach ball released under water.  The doctors said it was urgent to insert a pick line (with a “pigtail”) into her lung to drain fluid and mucus.  But because of her blood clot status, the blood thinners had to be stopped at a precise juncture.  As a brand new medicine, the timing had never been tried before. A maverick and risky balance was needed.  My friend had already had one stroke; she didn’t need another.

The situation rallied me into unceasing prayer.

I put my friend on a personal prayer chain. And importuned God in a way that surprised myself, as if prayer took over and I was along for the ride.  I pleaded with Him with words I knew and words I didn’t.  They tumbled out, were punctuated, loud, and repeated.  But not vain repetitions. Meaningful poetic and pleading words I prayed until peace came. My wind-blown waters flattened and became smooth and still.

In Madeleine L’Engle’s Circle of Quiet at the end, she speaks of the human mind being like a radio or television set.  “With our conscious, surface selves we are able to tune in only a few wave lengths.  But there are others, and sometimes in our dreams we will pick up a scene from a distant, unknown, seemingly non-rational channel—But is it non-rational?  Or is it another language, using metaphors and similes with which we are not yet familiar?”

This was my experience. I remember asking God to apply my prayers to the timing of the surgery.  (I thought it was occurring at this exact juncture. But hospital delays can occur.)

In the meantime, I had to distract myself. I shoveled dirt out of holes for a cactus and rose bush, was given a cancellation appointment to get my nails repaired, and visited my stepfather across town.   I stopped at a thrift store to distract me more and found a card lover’s garden: professional quality greeting cards at Ben Franklin roll back prices: ten cents each.

The afternoon arrived without a surgery update except for notice it’d been delayed three hours. No matter. God lives in eternity, not bound to this world’s schema. I believe prayer can be retroactive and fast forward.

I finished my lunch.  An awaited for text about the surgery came like a telegram: SUCCESS!  Details to follow.  Thank you, Jesus!

Fighting an infection, I took a nap. But I had a mid-day counseling appointment and set the alarm. But it did not sound. I slept on. I awoke with a bolt two minutes before I had to leave. God had awakened me.  My pastor gave me counsel I desperately needed for an impasse.

Having left the house so quickly, I forgot my phone.  (I miss subbing jobs without it.) But I hadn’t been in the door five minutes when a job came forward for me.

My husband cooked a fabulous Thai noodle dinner, and on the last bite, the doorbell rang.  There had been no confirmation that my high school piano student was coming, but here she was.

Sunset came and with it, the stellar realization that this day had been remarkable.

Are all days full of the stunning?  No, of course not.

But I subscribe to the premise that each day has the remarkable in it.  All we have to do is pay attention in Word and prayer and in comes God to remind us He loves us.

As a girl growing up in the Methodist Church, one of the songs we always sang in the service was the Doxology.  I still love it.

 

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Praise Him all creatures here below!

Praise Him above ye, heavenly hosts.

Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

Amen.

 

Self Care

Sometimes life demands things of us we don’t feel fit to give. The choices of others might draw us into an eddy. We would drown, if we let it. It may not be the choices of others, but life itself–an illness, an accident, a crisis that arrives at our doorstep and there we are. We have answered the door and cannot say, “I’m not home.”

We must face it. Action of some type is required.

There are, thankfully, many ways to assist, support and care for others. On any level, however, care taking is not for the weak-hearted. And if we neglect to take care of ourselves, we can experience what my daughter said is called “Compassion Fatigue.”

Recently, in reviewing some older Facebook posts, one soothed me. It was a list, “20 Things to Start Doing” from a Pintrist domain.  I wish I knew the identity of the author. Without her permission I cannot post the list, but the following ideas helped me most:

  •  drink more water and green tea
  • eat lighter as the day wears on and start with a big breakfast (using more natural foods)
  • go to bed earlier
  • increase flexibility by stretching
  • do yoga or meditation
  •  find ways to live in a tidy place
  • go outside a lot more

I commend this author’s stellar list.

I love lists. Writing them is empowering for me.

Maybe it is because without them, I flounder.  I get lazy, postpone and waste my time.

Also, with a list, I can check things off.  This motivates me. And if I don’t get around to making my list early in the week,  it’s never too late.  I sometimes write a list on Friday of what I already DID and then check off the boxes one by one.  It feels great.

Best of all, though, a list empowers me to be inspired.  One idea generates another.

This author’s “20 Things to Start Doing” inspires me to practice these seven things, and from them I chose meditative/prayer time as a keystone. Coincidentally, my pastor encouraged the same, months ago. Said to not pray out of obedience or duty, but make it our day’s central piece. When I do, I’ m given rest from the care taking. I read God’s texts, and His thoughts become mine. I am not alone. He cares for me.

Lists aside, self-care is important.  May you be inspired by an idea that puts you in the hammock of God’s mercy, there to rock and soothe your soul.

 

“Cast all your cares upon Him, for He careth for you.”  ~1 Peter 5:7

Six Near Perfect Reasons for Swimming* your Laps

 

(*Replace this with your choice of cardio vascular exercise)

 

Often when it comes time to swim my laps (twice a week) I’m tempted to talk myself out of it.  The number of reasons I come up with for postponing it or using the time for something else is creative. But unsatisfying.

The mind is one of our greatest assets.  So why not make it work in our favor?  I did some self talk. It was imperative to overcome the uncomely thinking that nagged at my success.

Here are six near perfect reasons to get with it and stay with it. No doubt there are plenty more benefits besides these.

 

 

  1. I don’t feel that good, and I just came down with the sniffles.

Best reason to go.  Clear out your sinus passages with a pronounced breathing routine.

 

  1. It’s an ugly hair day. (Or ugly whatever day.)

Perfect.  A shower day anyway.  And: exercise transforms your outlook. No more Ugly.

 

  1. It’s [or not] my Swim Day/I skipped once last week.

Another perfect.  Routine is empowering.  Get back to it and don’t relent.  Pick up where you are and go from there.

 

  1. It’s hard to get out the door.

Of course it is.  Hey! Exercise is an idyllic way to practice discipline in your life. Think ahead to the joy of coming back IN the door when you finish.  And its rewards.  Don’t talk yourself out of something fantastic. Boot yourself out the door.

 

  1. It’s hard to spare the time.

A common whine. Don’t let the challenge of time management detour you. The more tempted you

are to skip, the more reason not to.  Your To Do list is a page long. Don’t yield to it. Put the

important first.  A bonus benefit of exercise is that when you take care of yourself, other things you

need to do go much better.

 

  1. I don’t want to. I feel lazy and I’d like to take a nap.

The Bible says to buffet the body and bring it under submission to the mind.  The body wants

what it wants when it wants it.  It’s bossy and likes a free ride. But to strengthen it, it must be harnessed, saddled and ridden. Put your mind in charge. Once those endorphins are released, you won’t feel lethargic or sleepy.

 

 

Things to Remember

 

I will remember the cold of 2017 on several planes. And actually, having returned from a cold snap in Tennessee, the onset of a new year still feels cold.

Without the presence of some beloved family members and some dear friends, life can feel like the blast of a cold wooden floor under your not-yet-awake morning feet.

The joy of working on an adorable Vintage investment home turns cold when your clay sewer system and basement leaks, forcing the relinquishment of big funds for repairs.

And being rejected by a promising publisher can chill your bones, as well. When I was told in a two liner email that my historical novel did not line up with their company’s plans for the coming year, it seemed as though they’d taken a needle to my lungs and deflated them.. I did not even tell my husband about it for months.

But one must not sit on their hands.

To wit, it so happened that two sweet ladies at church asked me to read my story to them, as often as we could meet. We are more than halfway through. All the while, I see flaws and oversights, character development needs and basic errors that couldn’t otherwise be detected, without an out loud read with an audience. They have fun speaking up, suggesting tweaks and turns, which I as the author weigh in the balance. Without realizing it, I am learning how to be a presenting author, learning how to defend my story with confidence.

Perhaps the cold will turn to warmth this next year. Revision is never foolish.

I must go on. In fact, I take hope in the words of Kathleen Kelly, the protagonist from the movie You’ve Got mail. She answers her second co-star Greg Kinnear (one of my favorite actors , as they break up, that no, she does not have a boyfriend, but there remains the hope and promise of one. Stars are in her eyes.

Unpublished writers, be pro-active and keep the stars in your eyes.

 

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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