When Your Life is Under Construction

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view of our backyard, early Summer, from the upper deck

I have been pondering the tension lately between between the image I project to the world about my life and what is ACTUALLY going on.

Every morning I stand at my kitchen sink, I see a variation of this view above. I often post the photos on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter, giving folks well, a certain kind of impression.

Some mornings the view looks like this:

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(we’re a little nuts about birds)

or…..depending on the season, the scene outside my window might look like thisf983e-p1200391

or this

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Our backyard is pie-shaped as our lot sits at the back of a cul-de-sac; lots of grass, shrubs, garden area, roses, trees and so on

Summer garden, obviously…..

If I cast my eyes in the right direction, looking OUT….I see beauty in every direction; that’s what I want to focus on.

Continue reading

How to Build a Bridge with Words

First item on the grocery list: postage stamps. In ALL CAPS. I’ve written it down three times this week, only to return with pasta, bread and milk, but no stamps.

This necessitates an emergency trip to the drugstore; I HAVE to get my Grandson’s birthday card in the mail.

While the counter clerk rings up a couple of other items (I believe there was dark chocolate in the basket), I ask for two books of stamps.
“We’ve got flags and Rudolph,” she announces. To  commemorate the upcoming holiday, obviously.

For a split second I consider mumbling something about no Madonna and Child on the stamps, or at least Jesus in the manger. After all, “that’s what Christmas is all about.”

Thank God for split seconds. They can make all the difference.

Internally, I scroll through social media’s recent protest about Starbuck’s plain red Christmas cups.  Seasonal hot beverage containers  with no design, no hint of anything that commemorated Christmas.  Supposedly missing ‘the whole point’ of the holiday.

Opinions were bandied about far and wide that Starbucks was declaring a ‘War on Christmas.’ Christians were supposed to take sides. It got ugly. And ridiculous.
Turns out the manufactured ‘controversy was generated by somebody with an iphone and a Facebook page; the sad end of the story is well, history.

I was pretty sure Jesus was okay with plain red cups; I asked for two books of Rudolph.

As the clerk handed them to me, I remarked about the charming and familiar sight of cartoon characters depicted on the page. All the old friends from Burl Ives’ 1964 classic, “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” are there—Sam the Snowman, Hermey the Elf, the Abominable Snowman, Santa himself and of course, Rudolph.

Nothing says ‘Christmas’ like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

For another split second I remember our pastor’s recent message about bringing Jesus into every conversation. I send up an arrow prayer, “God, I know Christmas is all about your Son’s birth as Saviour, not about Rudolph or Santa Claus.
I also know December 25th isn’t actually Jesus’ birthday; that’s probably not the point.
Is there a way to build a bridge here?”
  
I begin by commenting to the clerk about shared memories of the cartoon when it first aired on television years ago.  Chuckling together about our common ‘old age’ and love of Christmas classics, I include the young man in line behind me.

He’s probably all of 25.

I swing wide my arm and gesture towards him, including him in the conversation. Surely he’s seen the Rudolph classic?  It’s shown every year at Christmas, just like “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “A Christmas Carol.”

“Yeah, I remember watching it as a kid. It’s great. The Abominable Snowman was my favorite.  The music’s fun, too.  Who’s the guy that told the story?”

“Burl Ives.”

“Burl Ives. Yeah, they show that every year. It’s like a Christmas tradition.”

My purchase finished, I say goodnight to the clerk and the young man and head out the door.

Holy Spirit says, “That’s what Christmas is all about. Jesus came to Earth, yes, to save people but people need to get to Him first.”

The only way to bring people to Jesus is to build a bridge,laying planks of peace one conversation at a time. To reach wide our arms and our hands, invite people into the invisible Kingdom we inhabit and show them a better way.  

In the season ahead, especially in the world we’re waking up to each day, we need to find words that will bring us together, find ways to that will point to peace.

We need to share with a heart that cares about people over polemics.

And we need to remember the only red that matters is the blood our Saviour shed to free ALL of us, whether we love reindeer, Rudolph or red cups.

Miracle

We’ve been informed we are
flying  at 29,000 feet (approximately)
above the face of the Earth,
suspended (how? by speed, lift and whatnot)
like a moving planet jettisoned in a line
moving at the speed of sound (light?).
Refreshments are served,
secured with invisible payments
traveling via plastic and magnets
swiped by staff standing still
as we travel at 575 miles per hour (approximately).
My snack appears and I’m handed my cup.
Nary a drop spills as I glance at clouds
rushing by like white airborne water,
and I can’t help wonder at which is harder to believe,
that people can walk on air

or that Jesus walked on water.
~~~~~
This is a re-post from the archives….we are winging our way on another vacation–long-awaited–to California with friends and family.
Here’s to more miracles.

When You’re in the Middle of a Transition

I was re-reading my journal the other night, recapping life since May 2014 (when I started this particular volume).

On December 10th I had written, “Mom’s (my mother in law’s) hip surgery is today.  Life as you know it will stop.” I have no idea why I wrote that other than I felt prompted by the Holy Spirit.

My mother in law is (or was) 94 years old and has lived with us since January of 2007. She was diagnosed with vascular dementia last summer, prompting us to hire a part time caregiver for her.
(When I say she lives with us, she actually had her own space in a finished 1 bedroom apartment downstairs–kitchen and the whole thing.)

After her diagnosis, she continued a steady decline. In September she took a fall, leaving her with a nasty cut and a bump on her head.  Said fall only aggravated an already repaired broken bone from LAST summer and led to this second surgery because of the deterioration in the hip joint.

Life didn’t exactly stop on December 10th–it went into excruciating slow motion, squeezing out all the rest of What One Normally Does during this season of the year.  

Mom’s (I called her mom) recuperation after surgery dragged on past the normal 3 days, as she decided not to eat.  On Day 4, I called my husband’s sister in New York, desperate and worn out–dealing with daily visits to the hospital, working my subbing job as a teacher and trying to support my stressed out husband was leaving me in a very needy state.

My sister in law (newly retired, thank you God!)  listened to me pour out my frustration and called us the following morning to say she’d be here in Seattle the next day. I broke down in tears from the relief.

With Jo’s arrival Mom seemed to rebound. She made the move into Rehab care and Jo took up the daughterly role of encouraging her and advocating for her. There were small victories each few days.

Still there was nothing normal about this season. I didn’t put a Christmas tree up, but we did go to Goodwill and get a ‘senior tree’ for the living room (which I took down 2 days ago).
We didn’t decorate our house, but we decorated Mom’s room at the Rehab–hanging lights, a wreath, Christmas cards, the whole shebang. People loved visiting her room!

We spent Christmas Day in the Rec Room at the rehab facility and a week later, with Mom safe and cared for on New Year’s Eve, we sat exhausted on our family room couch watching the ball fall down in Times Square.

Then–Happy New Year!–the caregivers called us New Year’s morning at 6 to say that mom had fallen in the early morning. She forgot she’d had surgery and left her walker behind as she made an attempt to go to the bathroom.

That was the beginning of the end, really.  Back to the hospital and an agonizing 36 hours of decisions. There were two choices: surgery and ANOTHER 6 weeks, not just of rehabilitation, but complete immobility, plus significant pain.
We could choose that course or we could choose……well, to do nothing. 

Mom had already decided to stop eating once again, had told us for months she was ready to go be with Jesus.  She had a heart condition, a mild infection, many things that could well, take her life essentially, in 2 -3 weeks.

We spoke with her Physician, consulted the surgeon, talked with the hospital floor doctor.  We questioned our pastor–are we playing God by deciding to essentially let her die? Is that a godly decision?  

The most difficult time came in the hospital’s Family Room, a private space for relatives, where we sat and prayed and cried together–my husband, his sister and I, as we sought the Lord for what to do.
We decided to sleep on it and the next morning decided the ‘let her go’ choice was best.

The course we had chosen–‘Comfort Care’–provided time for family to come and say their good byes, for relatives to reconnect and for small miracles of God’s timing and presence to permeate each day. 

We were able to change her needs to hospice care and brought her home, where she passed away peacefully on January 19th.

Although Mom lived for 4 weeks after my sister in law first arrived, it seems like it has been much, much longer.  There had been so much activity family and friend-wise, not in a way that my life ‘stopped’ per se, but in a way that it signalled the end of one season and the beginning of another. Definitely a transition time: painful and messy, but there’s a wonderful new ‘something’ on the other side.

The most significant change would be our living conditions. My husband and I have had either my son and his family or my mother and father in law living downstairs for OVER 14 YEARS……that’s a long time.
I can’t even remember what it was like to not have someone else in our home….sharing the laundry room, stealing my newspaper (smile) or playing the TV too loud.  

My sister in law returns to New York in a few days (thank God for her! a thousand times over). I’m so grateful that she’s been downstairs, easing us into the loss by her presence.
We will miss her, but frankly, I look forward to having my house (and my husband) all to myself again. 

Now that I think about it, I guess my journal notes were prophetic.  

Life as I know it DID stop, but as sure as the birch tree is beginning to bud, new life is coming.  
~~~~~~~~~

Linking with Jenn the Soli Deo Sisters and with Jennifer for Tell His Story.
SDGConnections                                       

Coming Clean

Can we talk?

I’m a little nervous. When I set out to write in this little space in the blogosphere I was committed to my blog’s tagline–shining, reflecting and revealing God–Three Way Light.

But I have a post I wrote for another Christian publication online that’s running this week….
and well, when you see the other stories they feature, you might wonder about that–my shining for Jesus and all.

About six months after I started blogging, I heard the Holy Spirit say the word ‘Connect’, as in CONNECT with other people, to build bridges into and across communities. 

By communities, I mean people of different interests, different ages, different focus, but all of them people who claimed to be following Jesus the best they know how.

And I’ve learned something.

Not everyone is the same shade of saved that I am.

The world of evangelical Christianity that I’ve grown up with for the last 40 years is changing.

More precisely–the world has changed.  

People’s interests, backgrounds, life journeys–they’re a far cry from the way things ‘used to be.’

Used to be people were hungry for a Saviour because they knew they were lost.  Used to be when you said the name of Jesus or mentioned church (at least in my Protestant world) people were on the same page.

But the face of faith is changing.

I’m not talking about compromising the Word of God.  Because I won’t.

But I’ve sure had to adjust my ideas about the ways Jesus might reach people and who he might talk to, which is really nothing new, if I checked the Gospels right. Or the Psalms. We are all broken people in constant need of a Saviour.

So, for now I’m trusting God that this is an open door, an opportunity to speak the shade of truth that I know into the lives of people I’m just beginning to know, in Jesus’ name.

That’s a good thing.
Actually, I think it’s a God thing.
~~~~~~~~

Cory Copeland, founder and editor of Bedlam Magazine (‘where faith and culture crash’) kindly accepted a piece I wrote about marriage and the ‘S’ word–Submission, a subject on which I am no expert.  For marriage, as my friend Judy H. likes to say, is a ‘job of work.’ You can click HERE if you’d like to read it.
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Linking with the small community of Wonder Seekers
formerly known as Unforced Rhythms community
hosted by Kelly Chripczuk--come visit!