Friday, January 26, 2018

Let the Ice Cubes Fall Where They May

Although I’m an introvert, I like to fit in and feel included, and I understand it requires getting involved.
Calvary Community Church, Sumner, Washington
To that end I attended a women’s Bible study that began yesterday at a church nearby.

I love women’s Bible studies and this one is called Discerning the Voice of God by Priscilla Shirer. I know I will enjoy the lessons and learning. And based on my previous experiences, it’s a good way to connect with other ladies especially if the group is small enough. The class had probably several dozen women attending but the church set it up so that women can sit in groups of eight or so at tables. I felt quite welcomed at the table I was escorted to by one of the ladies in charge and enjoyed a lovely conversation with another gal who was new to this event.

But then! It was ice-breaker time! I confess I am so not a fan of plunging into what could be a freezing environment via the Similarity Bingo game. You’ve probably played a version of it a time or two. You are given a list of likes, dislikes, activities, traits, etc, and the goal is to find one person in the room who shares a commonality with you for each item on the list.
Anyone born in Bellingham? Anyone? Anyone?
Bedlam ensues. Some people opt out of playing. Usually I’m one of them. I’m not afraid of approaching people I don’t know especially in a church setting. So it’s not fear that would make me choose to sit it out. If the end result is for people to get to know each other, I’m all for it. But this kind of activity, at least for me, feels like a waste of time in that regard. I knew I’d get names on my sheet of paper but I would likely not remember the people attached to those names. But yesterday I chose to interact and let the ice cubes fall where they may. Why?

Well, it’s been a month since we moved and the only people I’ve talked to, other than my husband, kids and grandkids, are the staff in the apartment leasing office, store personnel, and librarians. And those have been mostly just in passing. So it is time for me to break out of my own shell and move past any isolation I’ve put myself into. Even if I didn’t establish a long-time friendship with this activity, I felt like I came to understand myself a little better and it was what I needed to do for my own growth. 

When the game ended, I slipped back into my chair and was warmly greeted by the new friend I’d made earlier. She’d opted to sit out. That will be my choice next time.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Find Friends

This is the devotional I wrote and shared with my writing group this past Saturday:

“I look up to the mountains—does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth! He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps. The Lord himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade. The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night. The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.” (Psalm 121, NLT)

When we last saw our heroine, she was lost in a maze of moving boxes. Two months later and she has emerged, grateful for the destination God has provided. For her and her hero, being in their castle together after living in two separate realms, is most satisfying.
Our new neighborhood

Hey, in the middle of this move, we weren’t sure where we were going to be, or even when. The apartment application process took more time than usual due to needing various work and wage confirmations so we weren’t expecting to be able to get into it until after Christmas, if at all. Then suddenly things fell into place and we could move in before Christmas! It meant a bit of a scramble but were we ever grateful when after days of rain, the morning broke bright and sunny on December 23rd, our moving day. We were even more grateful we weren’t moving after Christmas when Whatcom County was in the throes of Icemageddon!
Moving Day! Snow on the ground but blue sky above!

Being in Bonney Lake made celebrating Christmas in Enumclaw with some of our kids so much easier. Only a half hour drive instead of three hours. Our friends that my husband was staying with for three months, were having family come for Christmas so the bed he vacated was much appreciated. Our friends had surgeries scheduled for January as well so I think it’s a relief for them to be without an extra boarder as they recover. 

My husband’s job involves him going out on sales calls to home owners that could be anywhere in Washington state. He is given his list of appointments via email first thing in the morning. There isn’t time for him to share them with me but we recently learned how to use a particular app on our iPhones. It’s called “Find Friends”. So at any time of the day I can tap on that app and see where he’s located. At least as long as there is a cell tower near him. There’ve been a few times when all I get is “Location cannot be found.” The first time that happened I kind of freaked out. My lucky sister was the one who got the slightly panicky P.M. from me to, “Please pray.” My imagination had me picturing a car-jacking, or a home invasion and his phone being destroyed. Now that I know sometimes service is interrupted and that he’ll show up on the app eventually, I’m all c’est la vie. 

This move has been an exercise in patience and trusting God to show us one step at a time. He had His eye on every tidbit of the process, He oversaw the apartment application, the missing employment verification forms, our friends’ surgery schedule, and the weather! And because the Lord Himself watches over us, He doesn’t need a Find Friends app!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Pilgrimage to Jerusalem

I’ve often said that waiting for something isn’t hard for me. It’s not that I’m patient exactly but I find things to occupy my time while I’m waiting. Change is a different ball of wax. In spite of my opposition to it though, that ball of wax will drip. In a way I want this upcoming change to happen NOW so we can be done with it, and I have reason for that, but I also have mixed feelings about it. 

After being laid off from the job my hubby’s had since mid-2013, he accepted employment with another company. Oh, so full of gratitude that God provided this new job within four weeks! The catch is that the office he will work out of is about 115 miles away. Doesn’t seem like far but when it’s in the Seattle area with its famous freeways, where you’re free to sit in traffic for hours on end, a daily commute is out of the question.

Yep, the change I’m talking about is another move for my hubby and me.

Here’s where my mixed feelings arise. I’ve loved being back in the county where I was raised. Reacquainting myself with familiar territory, seeing friends from childhood, feasting my eyes on nature-rich scenes, frequent family get-togethers (especially with my sister), it’s all been so good. The tears come pretty readily when thoughts arise of not having easy and quick access to it. 

BUT circumstances are such that the move will not happen right away. In the interim, he is staying with friends of ours close to his new place of employment during the week, and coming home on weekends. 

Now, I’ve often experienced being on my own for days and weeks and months in previous scenarios involving my husband’s work situations. And it works out okay. I’d rather have him home every night but a paycheck coming in regularly is not a bad thing. But folks, I confess I’m becoming eager to have both. This week I’ve had a little taste of it. I’m spending the week with our friends too! 

With rain pattering on my umbrella this morning I explored the yard around their home, letting my eyes be refreshed by the lines of their landscaping, which, yes, includes a slide.

Caught a shot or two of chickadees at the feeder.

A glimpse of a bear peeking over the patio fence. 

As I meandered I mused on what I read earlier in the day in my quiet time. “When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs. The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings.” (Psalm 84:6 NLT) According to the preceding verse, they are those who receive strength from the Lord, having their minds set on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. I am on a journey to the place God has chosen for me, and my husband, where we will be together. On the way there may be a few tears pattering—with change, that’s to be expected. Aaaah, refreshing springs and the blessings that sprout from autumn rains are part of the change too.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Wasting Away in Blackberries

The old farm where I grew up is in the process of being destroyed organically. My dad sold it thirty-plus years ago and since then, it has become unrecognizable. Blackberry vines surround every structure and wherever there’s an opening the vines have snaked inside, digging in their thorns and pulling down roofs and decimating walls. Little of the barn buildings can be seen and I expect by next year blackberry vines will fully encase the house. Who knows why the present owner has allowed this destruction but it hurts my heart to see this once beautiful piece of property looking like Sleeping Beauty’s castle before the prince came to rescue her.
Renovating isn’t even at option at this point. If ever I were able to buy back this land, we would have to bring in a bulldozer and completely level it before we could restore it. 

A writing exercise sent me to this verse: The LORD determined to tear down the wall around the Daughter of Zion. He stretched out a measuring line and did not withhold his hand from destroying. He made ramparts and walls lament; together they wasted away.” (Lamentations 2:8 NLT) As sad as it looks and for various reasons according to further study, God made the choice to let Israel, the Daughter of Zion, be destroyed. Whether it was with blackberry vines or some other vegetation, or at the hands of sword-wielding warriors, the end came. He still has a plan for full restoration that He is working on. He has measured it all out and knows exactly how far things must go. Clearly grieving over loss is an expected part of the process. 

I grieve over losing things, from certain places I enjoyed living in, to those I love making less than best choices or at least, contrary to my beliefs, to friendships that soured and died, to my own youthfulness passing by. I look around to see where God put His measuring line in hopes the mark He placed for the boundary is in sight. Knowing that God uses a measuring tape reassures me that there will come a time of restoration. When I understand that tearing down a city allows a new one to be built, hope surges up and the pain in my heart ebbs. 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Never Too Late, Never Too Old

A devotional I shared with my writing group today.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1 NLT)

As writers, some of us feel we have nothing significant enough to express. Others of us think it might be too late to develop our skills, that we’re too old. Maybe our attitude is that there are already so many writers, who do we think we are jumping onto the page. 

From the time I was about twelve years old, in addition to writing, I’ve had the desire to interpret and share my world through a camera’s lens. Never had anything fancy in the way of photographic equipment—instamatics back in the day when we used rolls of film, followed by cartridges. Cameras were always point-and-shoot types with film, and the same now with digital. Except for the last couple of years I’ve mostly used my iPhone6. Someday I’d like to have the opportunity to get acquainted with cameras that have adjustable lenses and learn how to use them. But I’ve been told, regardless of the equipment, that it’s your own eye that is responsible for a great photograph. 

In photography, as well as in life, sometimes it takes looking at things from a different perspective. With camera in hand, it might require getting down on your knees, or squatting rather unbecomingly. I’ve even resorted to holding my iPhone low to the ground and without even looking at what’s on the screen, snapping away and hoping for the best. Lots of shots get deposited in the trash; thankfully no film gets ruined anymore. But there are times when a photo that I’ve captured in that way ends up capturing me when I see it later uploaded onto my computer screen. One such recent photo makes me think of our lovely group of women who aspire to write. 

I don’t know what the flowers are called but they grow in wild crowds on the spit at Semiahmoo at this time of year. As my husband and I meandered along the path, the sun, a hazy blaze on the western horizon, set up its last hoorah for the day with those flowers. Quarter-sized centers of bristly brown, surrounded by candy-corn petals, they looked good enough to eat. Grabbing the sun’s setting rays, they lit themselves up, dancing in the breeze. They didn’t compare themselves with each other, they didn’t consider it too late in the day to splash their beauty across their world, and though some were losing their petals, they waved just as energetically as their fully-petaled companions. 

It’s not too late in the day for us. I know Hebrews 12:1 refers to pursuing our faith-walk but could we apply the principle? Isn’t our writing part of our faith-walk? Remember when the sun is setting here, it’s rising somewhere else. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

A Much-Needed Prescription

With four children, the oldest age six, the twins age four, and the baby not quite a year old, it was no wonder the mom felt frazzled, and she looked it too. Holding her youngest on her lap while the pediatrician checked the baby’s ears and listened to her heart, the mom allowed herself to relax a little in the chair. A sigh, one of those involuntary sighs that she was famous for, chose that moment to escape. The doctor scooted his wheeled stool across the room to his desk, and picked up his prescription pad. He smiled at the mom. “Baby is doing fine. But I’m going to write a prescription for you, Mom.” He scribbled a few lines and then handed her the slip of paper. She read it over.

“Are you serious?” she said.

“Yes,” was the smiling and emphatic reply.

The prescription read: “One weekend with [your husband] and without children at my vacation cabin on Lummi Island.” 

In the four years that her kids had been under this doctor’s care, she’d seen his kindness, patience, compassion, and gentleness with them, as well as his skill as a physician, but to be the recipient of his generosity and obvious concern for her mental well-being brought tears of gratitude. She felt that the weekend away did much to help her hang onto her sanity. A move to another state shortly after meant a new pediatrician but she always thought of him as the best one her kids ever had.

Thirty-some years later she read on Facebook that a certain Noemi Ban, holocaust survivor, would be giving a lecture at Western Washington University about her experiences. Always interested in knowing more about this, she signed up to attend, along with her sister. She pondered the woman’s last name. It was the same as that of the wonderful pediatrician who cared for her children. Could they be related? 

If you haven’t already guessed, I was that frazzled mom. It was this past week that I went to the lecture. And there was the pediatrician in the front row proudly watching his mother, at the age of 94, talking about having hope and love, instead of hate, even after suffering so dreadfully at Auschwitz. I spoke with Dr. Ban for a few minutes during intermission. I said, “You must be so proud of your mom!” He smiled and admitted he was. I went on to express my gratitude for his care of my children, and of me with such an unusual prescription. He said he recalled that occasion and how my husband had done a little carpentry work for him on the cabin to help defray our medical expenses with him as well. He asked about my kids. Then giving me a hug, he thanked me for connecting with him that evening. 
My sweeties, 1984

Hearing and reading Noemi Ban’s story (Sharing is Healing, a Holocaust Survivor’s Story with Ray Wolpow), I realize that it was she who influenced her son to be the kind and generous man who took a personal interest in his young patients and their parents. She raised her children to love life and to overcome hatred, a much-needed prescription in our world. I know my children were just a few out of the hundreds who were benefitted in part by this one woman. I feel blessed to have heard her say, “Life is for living. I love life!” 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

It's All Playing!

Playing in the leaves and the pumpkins, playing with words, playing with photos, it's all playing! I'm no poet but when a prompt for Haiku showed up in my writing group, it called forth some words that may or may not be considered poetry but it appealed to my desire to play. Take a moment, dear reader, and play with me. Be refreshed.

With edges curling
Crisping to red and yellow
A lone leaf resting

Once shady partners
Simmered in sun, blown in breeze
Task complete, they fall

Yes to the pumpkin!
Forget past seasons’ neglect
And doom of compost