Sunday, October 26, 2014

Fleeting Days of Easy Conversation

The phone never rings more than two times before she grabs it, a little out of breath, as if there's a rush, but there's not. Or she just came in the door with arms full of groceries, but she didn't. And she always answers, 'Beverly?' with that question mark in her voice.

I say, 'Hi Mom, how are you?'. Without fail she says, 'your mom is doing great, I'm doing just great.' The conversation dips and turns, a sort of tango to take us to how she's really doing. What she's busy with, who she's seen lately, where she's gone. That takes all of minutes these days.

As soon as she can, she turns the conversation back to me and my family. 'Well now, how are all those kids down in Texas doing?' How are those up north?" I answer with names and details, a gentle refresher for her, assuring her they're all fine. Doing well. We're all doing well.

We used to stay in touch by writing real letters, on lined paper, with blue ink. Photographs and newspaper clippings were shoved into envelopes. No recipes. My mother has never been the recipe-exchange type. A few years ago, after a drawer-cleaning stint, she gave me back all those letters I'd written her, all the photos and news clippings still intact. Someday, eventually, I'll take them with me on that trip to the beach we said we'd go on, but never did; I'll reread them while I lie in the sun, my face shaded by a big, floppy hat, and wish she was with me. I already know, years ahead of time, how it will feel to be there without her, remembering. Right now they sit on the closet shelf, sheets and sheets of a journal I didn't know I was keeping.

Back in those days when we talked on the phone but lived miles apart, 'long distance' was not something to be taken lightly so we crammed as much in as we could. We talked about everything. Nothing was taboo, and we only hung up because the bill was running up, ten cents a minute. We'd stop the flow of easy conversation. Stop the deep, long talks about politics and discrimination and women's lib, and books and marriage and divorce and such, but never a word about recipes. Oddly enough, those cooking conversations are, and always have been, with my father. My mother and I would hit on a subject and talk it to the ground. That was then.

This is now. A now that snuck up on me, one day at a time until it turned into years and we're in a place where there's not so much to talk about.  Is it because her world is getting smaller, the walls closing in around her? Surely mine will someday too soon do the same. The last time we talked, after I hung up, I thought about how I need to do better. I need to go back with her to a place and time when life was full.  Remember with her all her favorite stories. Let her tell me again, for her, but also for me so I tuck them away safe. Now that phone minutes are virtually unlimited our conversations aren't. I need to work on that. Put out the effort to find things we can again talk and talk and talk about.

Earlier this week I sat in the chair of my living room, chattering away with my two grown daughters. Words flowed, twisting and turning and looping around again. We remembered together, laughing and yelling over each other, squealing and gasping for breath.  We could have talked all night if one mama wasn't sleep deprived from having a baby, and the other one knew better than to stay up too late because a houseful of little people would be waiting for her when the sun was barely up. Good sense won out, but everything in us wanted to stay there together.

That evening with my girls, for a moment their voices were muffled in my mind. Words went pale and danced behind the filter of my heart. Like when bright sun comes through the glass window and you can see particles of dust floating in the air all around you, I was mesmerized by the sheer sound of their voices filling the room. My room. Just being here together in the fullness of it all. Someday my girls will maybe remember back to this night, and so many others, when we couldn't talk fast enough, about enough, long enough. When we were all sad that it was too late to stay longer and being responsible ended our evening too soon. They'll remember when my world was big and wide and full of new people and interesting events, and books, and news and such. When we didn't talk about doctor visits and prescriptions and aches and pains and such.

Why is it days slip by so easily, going unnoticed, turning into years? What can I do to make it hold still? For right now I can really, really, really listen to how it sounds when my mother calls me "Darlin'" and somewhere in our talking says "It's just so good to hear from you." I'm trying to grasp, at the core of my being, that someday I'll look back and remember these days - with my own mother, and as a mother of my two grown daughters, and wish I could have just one of them back. Wish I could ask my mother about her new friend down the way, and hear her reply. Listen to my girls talk about being sleep-deprived, and feedings, and toddlers, and teenagers, and everything else in-between. I'll look back to these fleeting days of easy conversation that floated in the air all around me.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

They have no wine.....

"On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not  yet come." His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast." So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now." This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him. John 2:1-11

I've had these verses stuck in my head for days now. Rolling around, giving me time to mull them over. I often pray while I'm driving, not because I'm so sanctified, but rather because I'm a scatterbrain who has a hard time focusing / sitting still when I'm home.  I focus better when I get in the car. As I prayed for this or that situation or person these last few days, this 'water to wine story kept coming to mind. 

First, I love, love that Jesus' mother saw a problem, knew the Solution, and immediately asked him to fix it. I love even more that right after he told her the problem didn't have anything to do with him, he fixed it, plus some. And she knew her kid; she knew he would because after Jesus explained why it wasn't his problem, she immediately gave the servants directions on what to do to help him. Having raised a boy myself, I love this story from that angle. Knowing even Mary didn't raise a boy without being a bit bossy at times makes it easier for me to go to sleep at night with a clear conscious regarding my own mothering days. (Has anyone else ever wondered how she knew he could do miracles at this point?)

I also love that Jesus picked turning water into wine as his first miracle. Did he know, all the way back then, that denominations would be arguing over it til he came back and straightened out all the hullabaloo? I have my own opinions as to whether it was 'fermented' wine or not, but that it's still a hot topic 2000+ years later amuses me. No doubt there are plenty out there who wish he'd turned flour into wedding cake or flower seeds into beautiful blossoms, rather than throw the whole wine thing into the mix. 

I love that Jesus had a regular life, with family get-togethers and celebrations. That he got invited places, and showed up. With all his friends. I wonder if he had any goofy family members, aunts, uncles, brothers, cousins who threw kinks in any gathering. Was there one who was always too loud, or a grouchy complainer, or someone who was late to everything? Was there one who never dressed quite right, brought recycled gifts, or whatever they contributed to the pot luck, everyone knew to stay away? Did he have an aunt who knew his favorite dish and always brought it for him to enjoy? Did he laugh loud at jokes, or even tell a few? Did the kids flock to him, even though he didn't have any of his own? Was there a girl, or two, who kept their eyes on him, always hopeful he'd notice them too? Did he dance? I hope he did. And if they had wedding cake, I bet he enjoyed a slice, or at least the 2000 years ago equivalent of wedding cake. I've never, ever, ever understood anyone who turns down a piece of wedding cake at a wedding. Really? Who does that? 

This wedding at Cana  also makes me think about the whole nature of God. Versus my nature. Or the nature of almost anyone else I know. I know God will take care of my needs. He knows when I'm hungry, tired, sick, discouraged, worried. He'll provide water when I'm thirsty. What's hard for me to grasp is that he takes care of my wants too. And he's happy to do so. Scripture tells me that he came that I might have life, in abundance. That he is the giver of good gifts. Mary didn't tell Jesus the people were thirsty. There was water there to fill that need. Instead she told him the party was still going strong, and there was still much celebrating to be done, so the people needed more wine. 

Two thousand years ago Jesus loved his mother enough to do as she asked.

Two thousand years ago Jesus agreed the party wasn't over. 

Two thousand years after God gave his son for us, why on earth would he hold back on all the rest of the good stuff? We shouldn't be praying that marriages would hold, but rather that they would blossom into what they were always meant to be. Not that businesses would survive, but rather that they would thrive. Not that our kids would learn in school, but rather that they would learn to love learning. Not that the money would stretch far enough, but rather that it would grow ten-fold to be used for noble purposes, and just plain fun. Not that we would beat the disease, but rather that health would be fully restored. Not that churches would be filled, but to overflowing with lives changed as a result. 

The miracle at the wedding at Cana reminds me to be praying, not just for tap water to quench thirst, but for good wine to celebrate life.  

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Learning to Listen

It wasn't the best way to start a friendship. Sharp words, misunderstandings, quick judgments, followed by me closing my front door and crossing her off my list.

Til she came back the next day to apologize, and we stood there and talked and listened and talked some more. Grace went back and forth between us til we were both surprised to find we might like each other after all.

Months have passed, we've chatted a few times, but this past week we finally took time to sit down and really talk.

For four and a half hours we sat on the patio, under a slip of a moon, declaring guacamole and chips dinner. And I listened.

I'm not a good listener, at least not as good as I am at talking. Just this past week I was in a restaurant and the server took our orders without pencil or pad. She made eye contact, listened to each of us and brought back our food. I told my husband I could N.E.V.E.R. do that, I'd forget.

When my new friend sat down I told her, 'please talk with your mouth full. I know you haven't had dinner but I want to hear your story.'

We started with when she was ten and her entire family was traveling down a highway on a rainy night, and her mother grabbed onto the door handle. She woke up to see her lying feet away in a ditch, gone from her forever. At sixteen, and within months of each other, she lost her father to cancer and her older brother to an aneurysm. At sixteen an orphan. I didn't speak, except to keep track of details, like the waitress did when she asked what dressing I wanted on my salad. Stay in it, listen deep, pay attention.

She told me about her loves and losses, and finally getting married, and bringing four babies home.

She told me about the lump and lymph nodes, and the mastectomy, and the chemo and shaving her head, and wearing a ball cap, and the cinderblock on my chest felt even heavier than an hour before.

She told me how it felt to find out she was going to be a grandmother too soon; her daughter was still in high school, and after that little one was born they found out another was coming, from another daughter and there still hadn't been any proposals or celebrations.

We ate guacamole and chips, and sipped wine for four and a half hours. The lights of the neighborhood disappeared all around us. We stayed, swatting at the bugs the porch light drew to us.

Somewhere around midnight huge wings swooped through the trees over us, and we heard owls, calling one to another. And then a magical moment, here they came, a pair touched down on the live oak branch hanging overhead. Barred owls with brown and white feathers and huge eyes that looked straight ahead., They sat there silent, and for a moment I wondered if her story had drawn them.

We sat there, watching the owls and listening as they called to the one already flown away to a neighbor's tree. She leaned in and whispered that she'd never seen an owl, at all, let alone so nearby. The two lifted and flew away into the night. And her story was done.

I never took a note, I had no pencil, but I know her story. I know the name of every one of her children, how old they are, how old their children are, where they are in life, where she is, what her hopes and dreams for the next five years are. I know she doesn't particularly like chocolate, visiting San Francisco is on her bucket list, she's a 15 year cancer survivor, and is learning to be happy at the weight she's at now.

It wasn't the night to take my story out. One offering on the altar was enough.

I still don't know completely what to make of that evening. I do know we all have amazing stories just waiting for someone to listen to with their hearts, rather than a pencil. Hers is still bumping around inside me, working itself out, and I am changed for having heard it.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Make Your Monday Matter....

Watch this:  It is the very best thing I have EVER, EVER, EVER seen on Facebook.

My gift to you:

Makes me want to go out and adopt a dozen myself. Or sponsor someone else so they can.

Heart-shaping stuff. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Imitation - the sincerest form of flattery

Sitting down to do my Bible study lesson this morning, I was instructed to grab a recipe by someone I admire, and share it with my morning group tomorrow. Normally I'd go to my two yellow binders. They're full of recipes by women I've been blessed to know throughout the years.

But I had one particular woman in mind, and none of her recipes are stored there.

My group is doing the latest Beth Moore study, of 1 Thessalonians. The author's point, in pulling out this little card, is to consider who I want to I.M.I.T.A.T.E.

I grew up, in large part, 'by-my-bootstraps' - whether it was learning to cook, be a wife and mother, or how to live my life. Which would explain a lot of the mishaps and mistakes along the way. I've been grateful, through the years, for what I could glean from library shelves. Writers taught me how to breastfeed a baby (natural but not necessarily easy), fold fitted sheets, make a mean meatloaf, clean house, put together a budget, and entertain. All those things women used to learn at the feet of someone else who lived nearby, but that rarely happens these days in our world.

I have been blessed a few times, with great examples I never met:

 Emilie Barnes has a fascinating life story;she's an organizing queen, and a great example of how to host a tea party;

Anne Ortlund had a profound influence on me, thirty years ago. Her book, Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman, was life-shaping. I still clean out my closet, consider what's on my nightstand and set up files after that book. Attempting what's between the pages can be overwhelming. I had to read it three times before I felt like my brain wasn't exploding.

Given the choice of anyone on this earth to spend an afternoon with, I'd pick Ruth Belle Graham. I'd love, love, love to look through her Bible. (I believe I've read somewhere that she used ONE her entire life. Imagine what's jotted in it?!) She was a spunky personality who set aside her own life agenda and followed her husband, and look what happened! I can't wait to talk to her in heaven someday.

There have also been real, oxygen-breathing women who walked alongside me - Karen loved me in my loneliest times and went to paint classes with me, Bettie is/was hilarious and can cook like nobody's business, Tris mothered me and taught me to hang wallpaper and deal with a husband working too many hours, Deone challenged me spiritually and taught me what submission was truly about, Laurie never knew I was watching her but was the perfect pastor's wife, Cathy, Robin, and Carol were my friends during the season of raising teenagers (and still are although, thank the Lord we're past that season), and Charlotte was my often barefoot, from Virginia real gem.

But if I got to go back and redo it all, and copy one person it would be Sally Clarkson. Sally who I've never met personally, but I've read all her books and followed her blog for years. She's the one I'd choose to have my daughters and daughter-in-law follow.  I suspect my oldest daughter would take one of Sally's recipes to Bible study. That thrills my heart. I so pray my daughters and daughter-in-law are better wives and mothers and women and sisters daughters and friends than I have been, and if they follow after Sally they will be.

Webster's defines 'admire' this way:  'to marvel at, esteem, regard, respect, set store by."

Sally and I share several things: we both have a Sarah as our oldest, we've both gone gray, we're both usually too busy and often feel overwhelmed by life, we're both introverts by nature and need to retreat on regular occasions, we share a heart for encouraging women / mothers; we've been married about the same length of time, and are happiest when all our (albeit grown-up) children are back in the nest, and if they're all there at the same time that's even better, at least in theory.

We are also very different: she has a large ministry, mine is to those nearest me. Her hair always looks nice (or at least in photos), she drinks tea and I prefer coffee. She loves to get outdoors and go on ridiculously long hikes, while walking the dog a mile is a stretch for me, literally. She's traveled abroad, that's still on my list. She's been a missionary, I've been on one mission trip that just about killed me. Most of her children are still not married, and she doesn't have grandchildren yet. All of mine are, have been awhile and we have eight little blessings running around.

I'm hoping grandkids will show up soon for her, so I can learn from her in that arena too.

So just for today, if you read this Sally, I want to say thank you. For all you do, for all your work, but mostly for being someone I can admire.

As an aside, recently I read a book, Extreme Grandparenting by Tim and Darcy Kimmell. After being into this grandparenting thing for thirteen years I realized I needed a new vision, and this book was life-shaping. If you have grandkids, read it. If you hope to have grandkids, read it now and save yourself some of the mistakes I've made in the past.

BTW here's a link to Sally's blueberry muffins. I thought it fitting to bake up a batch and take them to Bible study tomorrow.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Stretching hamstrings and hearts

We're lying across from each other on the treatment room floor. Her tummy shows more when she's horizontal, falling over the cute, flowerdy belly band. Mine looks slightly similar although my last tax deduction is 30+ years old. I take solace in the fact she's less than half my age, and find myself considering a belly band for seniors pitched to Shark Tank. Or I can do 1000 sit-ups every night and avoid ice cream. To quote Pooh, 'oh bother.'

It's just the two of us with a few feet of blue mat between us. The rest of the world shut out. We chat back and forth, about husbands and marriage and how do you get them to do what they should, without making them feel like they've married their mother?

She asks me, "How long have you been married?"

I tell her, 'almost 34 years. We were both married before and have been married to someone for pretty much forever.' I feel compelled to be transparent, not have her think it's always been pretty. I tell her I brought a child into the deal, and he didn't, thank the Lord. Presenting perfection blesses no one. Honesty does.

She's in her first decade of marriage, a little one at home and this next one will arrive this fall. That's long enough to see it's not easy, with a lot of life still looming ahead. She says her mother lives with them, but won't be able to help with this new, little one because she's working full time and going to school. But maybe the mother-in-law, who is 'wonderful' can lend a hand when the baby comes by cesarean. Sounds like an active house with some challenges. Like most of us.

She gets quiet for a minute, then says, "so, what's the secret? How do you make it work that long?"

I lie there, bending knees and hips and legs this way and that, stretching out muscles that have been too long stagnant, and consider. How do you make it work that long?

'Well, first you mess it up, and it fails, so the next time you realize how fragile life and marriage is, you raise the stakes to what they should be.'

She lies there, across from me, belly resting on the floor, stretching and listening.

'You realize you are a sinner married to another sinner, so it's only going to be so tidy. Keep your expectations reasonable.' (Thank you, Elizabeth Elliott for that wisdom.)

She is completely quiet, fully listening, eyes locked on mine.

'You recognize that, even when you have the promise of eternity, you still only get one shot at this life. That person sitting across from you at the breakfast table, or brushing their teeth, or snoring on the pillow a foot away, only got one shot too, and they gave it to you. You honor that. You make a decision to walk through life together, alongside each other, both being a helpmate to the other as God intended us to be. You honor that gift of giving each the other's one shot.'

She says, 'nobody today sees it that way, nobody does that. Nobody is saying that these days.'

I tell her, 'some are. Some still are.'

Trusting God that while we were stretching out muscles we were also stretching hearts and minds and visions of what can be.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Three Months Behind, Oh Bother!

It's just about September and here I am with June photos. That's three months behind. That's 25% of the year. Which is about where I am in reading through the Bible in a year too, but we won't talk about that right now. 

When we headed to Idaho we packed our passports. (Actually I have to use mine all the time now, since I trimmed my driver's license to fit my wallet and was asked, going through airport security, that 'did you know you can go to jail for that?!' Uh, no, I didn't. They seriously considered not letting me go through security for trimming 1/8" off each side. I thought it a perfectly reasonable explanation that it didn't fit my wallet. So some good hair day in the future I'll go get another one.) 

Anyhow - one of our hopes this summer was to spend some time somewhere in Canada. We chose British Columbia this year, taking a drive called The Selkirk Loop, 300 miles of gorgeousness, and only about 100 miles north of Huckleberry Haven (our Idaho townhouse.)

Bigger than life views

If I'd had a chair and something cold to drink I could have stayed here all day long.

I've always loved wild roses more than those in gardens.

Made us smile.

Prayer bench at the cabin we stayed in.

I've always had a thing for bridges. Loved this orange one.

The funky little place we stayed. 

Don on the ferry to an island in B.C.

How fun is this?

The ferry we took back and forth and back and forth again.

View from our back deck

I've never met a poppy I didn't love.

On the ferry ride. 

Big stacks of wood tell me it gets cold in the winter!

Never figured out what this was, but it sure was pretty!

And my birthday present - a blue bike with a basket. Don got one too so he could join me on rides.