The Beauty in the Barren

House 2Definition of barren: Highway 10 from La Junta to Walsenburg, Colorado.

(So I’m not Webster, but am a watered-down relative, who is taking a few liberties.)

When I was merely a sprout of a Kansan, it was quickly imprinted on me that the mountains were created specifically for my family, but we considerately let everyone else borrow them. While there is nothing like a glorious Kansas sunset and great majesty in the red dirt wide open spaces, a refreshment of the soul happens on those pine-scented slopes one can find no where else.

However, to arrive there is no getting around trudging through a longsuffering stretch of desert wilderness. Magnetically, our engrained homing device always pulls us down this particular dusty trail.

While a two lane highway, it is  a 72 mile stretch where almost nothing grows, albeit some desperate cactuses thumbing for a lift. Scanning the horizon, one might see an anxious antelope, whose GPS evidently malfunctioned. Skeletons of homesteads mark hopes and dreams drying up and blowing away. I always have to ponder why on earth someone would purposefully decide this was the place to stop and stake a claim. Just traveling across it, I marvel the endurance and tenacity of the settlers moving west. I’m sorry, but after so much of traversing land where only sand and rocks grow, I would have demanded that Cliff Sackett turn the wagon around for what we had left was a whole heap better than where we were headed. On a hazy day, Common Sense would have campaigned that our destination had deserted us, and we would be foolishly trudging on forever.

Back in the non-air conditioned day, my family would pack the old Pontiac and head out. The 72 miles took F-O-R-E-V-E-R, especially when you’re six and the brand new crayons are melting into a clump in the back window. It was impossible to believe this was our final stretch and within 30 minutes of its end, we would be engulfed in the cool, stunning beauty of rushing streams and bejeweled pallets of wildflowers.

However, experience is a fabulous teacher. Having gone down this road more times than I can count, that 72 miles seems to get shorter, and after zipping through the harshness of Death Valley a few years back, the scraggly resilient cattle are a welcome sight, along with the possibility of maybe ten oncoming vehicles traveling this, too. I have learned that whether I can see those blessed peaks or not, they are there, strong and mighty, to welcome us.

This summer has been a rough one, hasn’t it?  And I’m not even talking personal issues, which demands unfathomable attention and energy. Our world is turning upside down with a constant volley of reports on the Zika virus, open season on police officers, tragedies that are fuzzy on who is at fault, ISIS attacks, and I’m not even touching on the insanity of the upcoming election. This list could string all day long.

Honestly, I’ve been in a funk. I’ve survived by busying myself so I don’t have to deal with  the fierceness of this desert storm. With a forecast of worse droughts ahead, I can only take so much. So I gloomily meander.

However, wandering in the wilderness is sure bleak. At times I falter a bit to being mad or scared for the future, but mostly I’m in a state of mourning, mixed with a kind of forlorn disappointment is best I can put it. Of course, I want to turn around to what was, but life is not designed that way. I can feel an on-my-face Jesus meeting is on the horizon. I kick myself for not simply getting on with it as I temporarily homestead on this impoverished ground. I know that I know that I know from covering this ground before, the refreshment and security of abiding in the shadow of the Most High will bring peace and rest.  And I will shout once again, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” (Ps 91:2)

But today, I’m still not quite there. But I’m miles closer than I was. I see the majesty from a far and His scent continues to draw me like a magnet. I can stake a claim on what I know without a doubt.

Growth will come through the barren, and beauty will blossom.

 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

(PS-For those good folks that do live in that area, I have nothing but highest respect for you and would love for you to share the beauty that I believe is there.)

Photo Credit-Patrick Praelan

 

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“Hold on Kids! We’re Goin’ for a Ride!”

roller coaster 2

(Gives ‘Kumba-ya’ a whole new perspective, huh? Prayers on the rise?)

Life.

Full of the exhilarating, yet, teamed at times with the white knuckled, breath-stealing chills of a runaway roller-coaster.  Sometimes, the clank of the cogs build anticipation as the tick-tick warns you of something building, be it good or bad. Then, sometimes there is an astonishing twist, a turn, a corkscrew that materializes from nowhere to make the strongest heart quake.

For the almost exactly three years to the date, this blog has been eerily quiet. Life at that time was full of thrills and chills, but ones that tended to give the friendly delight of little butterflies fluttering about the stomach.  That grand baby boy to marvel at and with, a meant-to-be marriage proposal, to witness the relief from a long fought illness by a faithful believer graduating to glory in the most splendid departure, and a long-awaited writing passion finally beginning to taking shape.

And the list goes on.

But suddenly, the roller coaster seemed to take on a mind of its own. Lightning couldn’t compete with its speed, and on occasion, the crushing pressure on our lungs needed a whisper to be reminded to simply “breathe.”

That Whisperer urged us to not fight the ride, but relax and lean into those curves for the track was laid out by the Master Planner, who prepared this journey long before the foundations of the earth. Gently, an unexplainable confidence settled over us.

Our fingers one by one were pried off the bar, we tossed our heads back and threw our hands to the heavens.

And oh, what a ride it has been!!!

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 1 King 19:11-12

(Just love that ‘gentle whisper’ part, don’t you? To bring the regular subscribers up to speed-if you are still there-with the exception of a blog post at Christmas a couple of years ago Having a ‘Mary’ Christmas, God put up a ‘Closed’ sign for the season. I couldn’t explain how that worked if I tried. Just as mind-boggling, now it seems to be cracking open a bit. Only God knows how much of the past will surface, and what new adventures will pop up today. I guess we’ll see where the coaster takes us, huh?  So buckle that seat belt tight and enjoy the ride!)

Photo credit:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8HDMexqDn5U

 

 

When a Good-bye Is Not Forever-The Unbelievable Last Gift

As you read this, it’s kind of tough, but please stick in to the end. You’ll be glad you did.

If you haven’t lived in this area, you wouldn’t know the story. My fun-loving Mom has been a neurological Pearl Harbor for several years. If the genetic code of chronic depression and Alzheimer’s wasn’t enough, the after-effects of the Radiant Patient Award to kill the bugs of brain cancer, followed by fluid on the brain, well, it’s amazing she still knew us most days and had it together enough to breathe.

That is until a couple of weeks ago. All signs pointed towards heaven for our Mermaid. (see When Your Parents are Named Cleon and Myrlee) I arrived at her care home with my F150 truck’s backseat packed for an unknown period of time. Mom was working hard to sleep, although I knew she would not truly wake up again. Of course, I talked about everything in the world–just in case she tuned in. Funny times, great memories, what I knew of wonders promised in the Bible, and of course, tears fell.

At one point, a favorite aide of hers, Katrina, was trying to get her to open her mouth, and Mom stubbornly pursed her mouth. Yep, that would be my mom. We shared a chuckle at the glimmer of personality through the fog. After I reminded Mom that she had been through a lot worse stuff than this, she relaxed and the mission was accomplished.

Later that evening, I cracked a stupid joke that only my family would catch, and a corner of her mouth turned in a grin and she moved a little. A sign she was with me, so jumped at the opportunity to I share my heart. I assured her of who was going to take care of whom, and that it was okay to leave at anytime. A private and precious time I will cherish forever.

Then we went through a night of hard sleeping to wake, knowing soon, yes soon was going to be her moment. Fourteen hours had passed since that last smile–just fading breathing. Cliff, my knight to my rescue, arrived, and two Hospice workers, that I had met the day before, just happened to cruise in the door.

Suddenly, Mom’s expression changed. I wish I could explain it. Nothing terribly profound, just ever-so slightly different. Cliff came behind me and hugged my shoulders.

Softly, I asked her, “Mom, do you see them? Are Grandpa and Grandma Moore there to meet you?”

Her mouth began to move, forming letters she didn’t have the breath to voice.

“Are you seeing Ann? After 50 some years, it’s about time best friends got together. And is Delmer there? What about Aunt Elva? You know, she met Grandpa when he left.”

Oh, did she try to fill us in! Her lips puckered and opened, her tongue flicking.

“Mom, you know you have those grandbabies up there we haven’t even got to meet. Jesus is an excellent babysitter, but don’t you think it’s time to meet their grandma?”

Still, she tried.

“Mom, if you see Jesus, you go run and hug his neck.”

And at that moment, she quietly left.

The Hospice nurse confirmed it. When I looked around the room. A sense of awe had taken over. And while there were tears, unspeakable joy was on all our faces. And Peace comfortingly patted Sorrow’s back and assured that all would be more than okay.

How does one leave any better than that, I ask? What a gift God allowed her to share. Her passing makes us ponder how thin the veil between this life and eternity is and fertizlized the hope in our hearts.

Of course, I have my moments. My eyes well at almost nothing and packets of LiL Traveler Kleenexs fill my pockets, which I will probably run through the washer. My brain is kind of fuzzed out as of late. Afterall, she was my mama, we’d been a team for a very long time. BUt I smile continually because in her leaving, she left a ministry that death can not stop, but keeps sparkling with eternal hope.

If you see any of our family in the grocery store, at work, or out and about, and if someone says, “I’m sorry to hear about your mom,” don’t be surprised to overhear, “Thank you so much! She went out in grand style. Here, let me tell you about it.”

(Oh, how this verse has been made clear to me now.) “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” Psalm 116:15 Precious indeed!

Angel Wings, A Cross, and a Skoal Can

treeTradition is a funny thing.  Some are started with much thought and intentionality–ones carrying the  hope ideals of great importance will be passed down through the ages.

Take the Christmas Tree.  Real, fake, or the Charlie Brown style, it’s a tradition that stands tall and proud with a halo of a thousand points of light–pointing us to the light of Christ.  One friend takes it a step further and keeps a life-sized old school ceramic Baby Jesus under the tree as a focal point for the eyes and hearts.

At our house, we have those that we cherish with all our hearts.  Three sets of  feather angel wings symbolize our babies we will meet the other side of heaven someday.  (We get that angels are angels and people are people and never the two shall mix, but this is the closest thing we could come up with.) When our psycho bird dog went hunting on our tree, retrieving one in his mouth, our hearts clenched in terror. Thankfully, it was gingerly removed, as was the dog to reside outdoors.

But our family’s personality tends to be more haphazard as does our accidental traditions.  Like the Gravy Cat, a ceramic creamer one of the kids put gravy in as a joke one year.  Because the hilarious reactions of having a cat puke on the mashed potatoes, it has been dragged out every one since–except the last time, no one seemed to notice it’s absence.  Shhh…some traditions are best left to run out their nine lives.

But others take on a spirit of their own. 30 years ago this Christmas, Cliff and I had our first Christmas together. A freshly cut (free) cedar tree stood like a tumbleweed with straggly octopus branches.  Twenty years of my folks’ one-ornament-a-year tradition had paid off, but the tree was still pretty sparse.

As a joke, Cliff took a silver-lidded Skoal can, put a ribbon on it, and hung it on the tree–to see if I would scream, of course.  I laughed, and it stayed.  After Christmas, I guess I packed it away with the others.  After all, Dec 1982 was stamped on the bottom of the thick cardboard tobacco container.

Today, it’s lid is tarnished, but it is quite honored among the silver and crystal ornaments, the gold ribbons, and sparkly white lights.  Perhaps those decorations sense they would not be here if not for this revered veteran.

And when the kids place it on the tree, for a sacred moment, one would almost swear to hearing a choir of monks singing in unison, and the lights shine a little brighter.

You see, through the years this can, carrying a surgeon’s general’s warning of death has been transformed into a symbol of love and faithfulness. As redneck as its roots, its purpose is holy…

..much like a feeding tough transformed to cradle a King.

..much like a form of execution became a literal crossroads for salvation, redemption, love, and extravagant grace.

There would be no Christmas without it.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.  1 Corinthians 1:18

So have you looked at what your impromptu traditions have transformed into? What niggles your heart to be intentional about? Are their traditions that need to go the way of the gravy cat?

Photo credit: my own

When You Are Helpless to Stop the Train From Derailing

You can see it coming.  Foreseen situations accelerate in front of  you, promising an inevitable crash.  You can try to say something, but the words are powerless. Critical choices are being made by loved ones or even arm’s-length people, who have randomly waltzed across your path and crept into your heart.  How it will end has all the precursors of an epic disaster, strewn with carnage as grisly as your imagination can create. 

And you can do nothing, but watch.

A few months ago, my heart was deeply burdened over some very dramatic situations. It ached due to precious hearts breaking while intimate dramas charged off unimaginable cliffs.  Tragic outcomes were imminent.  

As I cried out to God, he put two things on my heart.

 1.)  Little Miss Fix-It (me) was to sit still. I could be a listener, but my job was to…

 2.) pray a specific scripture over these cases.  Since then, I have not only continued with the original subjects, but I pray it over others caught in the midst of impossible issues.

The passage is Colossians 1:9-14.  Go check it out. When praying it, insert the actual names for ‘you’.  Pray it directly to God, instead of referring to him in the way it is written.

Make it the cry of your heart.  Since, it is haunting you, you will have no problem. Don’t forget to  include a plea for salvation, if applicable.

Don’t get discouraged if things aren’t abracadabra fixed in an instant.  Patience and perseverance are key.  Knowing we were in for a haul with no known time frame, I wrote the verses on a fluorescent 3×5 card and laminated it. Every morning, it jolts my memory when I open my Bible.  Or why not stick it on the fridge, in the car, etc?   Just somewhere it can’t be miss it.

Ask God how involved he wants you.  So, how in the world do you know?  A natural bent is to jump in and save the day, but his desired role may be to be stay on the ol’ knees-the hardest job in the world when one’s itching jump into action. Ask him to be crystal clear and not allow you to muddle things up.  For instance, one weekend we would have been right smack dab in the middle of the fireworks—sure to douse gasoline on the blazing Roman candles— but since God could handle it just fine without us, he totally removed his from the area.  Whew!

Since then, time has marched on, with several circumstances seeming to get increasingly worse.  Honestly, the temptation to wring hands or to simply give up has knocked loudly. 

But, on one recent instance, He intervened in such an unconventional way, that we’re still trying to wrap our minds around how brilliant his workings are. Just like I’ve seen him faithfully pull off many times over. 

Things aren’t abracadabra fixed, but there is hope—hope of healings and new beginnings as the train chugs safely into the station.

 

 

Bugaboo Hope

“I’ve finally made it!” I exclaimed to my writer’s group.  After eight months of missing our monthly meetings due to the craziest of crazy incidents popping up, the evil spell had been broken.  Don’t get me wrong.  Being with my grandmother as she passed was an absolutely excused absence one month.  A tree falling on our garage another.  A mad dash to Falcon Lake, TX to pick up my in-laws travel trailer another–no, we didn’t run into pirates, but could have easily– and the unbelievable list went on.  My eyes had to have been like Roman candle fireballs of excitement as I regrouped with this amazing cheerleading writers from U-Can-Do-It University.  My day had been made–or so I thought.

After the meeting I tumbled into the pickup, a fountain of bubbling ideas, new things learned, and friendships rekindled.  Cliff smiled and didn’t even try to attempt plugging the hole in the verbal dam that burst into the air.  As we buzzed through the streets of downtown Wichita, a mini-van with a zoned out dad driving, pulled up next to us at the stoplight.  In the back two bench seats were three car seats filled with screaming kids.  Six month old twins and one around two-ish.   Of course, a Mustang pompously zipped past and flicked its spoiler in the air of the Mini-van Dad’s path.

“Bud, it will get better,” Cliff chuckled.  “Poor guy.”

Cliff had been in those shoes.  One fateful night he stood ankle-deep in a ditch, torrential rain pelting him as he begged our four-year old daughter to please unlock the borrowed car’s door.  After changing the second flat tire of the trip, he wasn’t in the best frame of mind as he made this 2 1/2 hour trek one way to pick up his brother from the hospital solo.  Since car seats were optional at that time, both of the natives were free to roam the car, therefore hitting the electic locks.  Our two-year old succeeded in gluing her eye shut with gum and wetting her new Cabbage Patch panties.  By the time he got to the hospital, it’s a miracle they didn’t take him straight to the psyche ward.  But he survived….plus many other times, including buying tampons for an entire college volleyball team-solo.  Now, that’s a dad!

We wave encouragement and head to the little place we had agreed to meet both now adult daughters and a son-in-law for supper.  Later other friends would be meeting us for a rare get-together.

It’s kind of dark and Cliff and I shared our readers to order appetizers.  We give Casey her birthday gifts and the talk jumps to Karsten and Robin wanting some home improvement advice, ‘because when you’re going to have a baby…..”

My nacho stopped in mid-flight.  Did they just say baby?  Like the one they have been praying and waiting for years?  I shoot a look at Cliff across the table.  Both sets of our eyes immediately fill with tears–as well as Casey who walked in the place the birthday girl, but is leaving with a title.  Aunt.

And the tears kept coming as we grabbed napkins to stop the flood.  “Now, you can’t tell anyone.”  What?  You have given us news that should be sky-written, tweeted, shouted from mountain-tops and the headline of all news media being transmitted to other galaxies.  Let alone, Galen and Richelle who will be coming in the door any minute.  We aren’t that great of actors, let alone with these friends.

But, I can’t quit the tears as we pelt Robin with  pregnant mom questions: “Due, when?”, “Have you been sick?” “Are you going to find out what it is?”  But, Karsten interests me more.  His eyes are a mix of indescribable pride/ joy and sheer terror.   Suddenly the guy at the end of the table morphs into Cliff 29 years prior . Yes, I remembered.  So many questions to be answered.  Like  how to provide for his family, is he going to be a good dad, and what about diaper smells?  Although Karsten couldn’t see them, they circled his head crazily like drunk fire-flies, while he grinned a smile that rivaled the one when he watched my daughter walk down the aisle.

And I kept crying for 3 days straight.  “Our little Robin is building her nest,” I mused to a chorus of groans.  For the first time in 30 years the urge to knit has infiltrated my fingers, the sewing machine revs and I keep adorable finding things I have pick up.  When all the cute Easter clothes hit the stores, I thanked God above Bugaboo is going to be a surprize or we’d be broke.

As if we couldn’t fall in love more, the soft swish, swish, thud, thud strongly pounded through a little speaker.  In Morse Code Bugaboo tapped out “I love you, Grandmam.”  (Like you wouldn’t have gone to mush, too.)

So as mid-September nears we take every advantage to see this family as it grows and kicks.  It reminds us of how God’s blessed way past we could have ever imagined.  Even if Robin is six-months of miserable, covered in poison ivy while sweating as recreation leader for Vacation Bible School this week, and we can’t do a thing to help her.  (I’ve suggested the name “Ivy” to go with their last name “Burns’, but don’t think it’s being considered.)  And Bugaboo is commencing to kick the itch out of her.

Last night Casey and I went to the Rosary of a friend, whose unexpected death, was like a staunch kick in the stomach.  A new grandpa to new little ones.  The unimaginable has hit this family.

But when the service ended  and the family came up the aisle, a young mama was leading the group with a pudgy blue-eyed sweetheart in a pink sundress.  As the family made one of the hardest walks they would probably ever walk in their life, all eyes followed that wee one.  One foot in front of the other.  One step at a time.  The other baby brought up the rear.  The blessing of hope wrapped this family in its arms.  Later, it was shared that the two Bugabooes and an avalanche of prayer is what was getting them through.

I’m learning that is why grandparents turn into the biggest nutcases around.  They remember.  From experience they can’t afford to let  a precious chance of hope flutter off.

Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me. O’ God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.  Psalm 71:18

‘Singing in the Rain!’

Our part of Kansas is dry!  I am talking so dry that if you speak snake lingo, the cotton-mouths are…well…cotton-mouthed.  You would have a better chance of water skiing in the Sahara.  Farmers are cranky.  The water meter spins like the tumblers on a slot machine.  The weather men give themselves pep talks in the green room mirror before pitching the forecast because they know their news is bleak.  Fields are being reformed into drifts, filling ditches reminiscant of Dirty 30’s images.  Our pepper plants have been so wind-whipped that they look like wilted little sticks that raspily call out “water” as we drag another hose their direction.  Church bulletins and email loops have “RAIN!” in all caps, as people remind each other constantly of the need of some favor from above.

If it would rain, the land would be like a giant Shamwow and soak up every drop.  None would be wasted. We can water ourselves crazy, but nothing is like that little bit of moisture from heaven to green the scene here.

Yesterday a chance of rain teased it’s way into the forecast.  Dust clouds are all we have received lately, so no one took it much to heart.   Even the overcast skies couldn’t talk us into getting too excited, but a glimmer of hope started to revive.  Conversations started swirling around about what the meterologists might know afterall, and the weather websites lit up with a few more hits.

Sitting at my work desk, with my back to the window, I swiveled around to discover crystal trails running down my window.  Hope was partying on the glass in front of my face!

“It’s raining! It’s really raining!” I exclaimed to the caller, who works a block away from me.

“It is?” the tone of disbelief was unmistakable.

“Run out and see!”  We hung up.

One of my partners in crime, work, and friendship, Cheryl sashayed by my office about that time.

“It’s raining!” I alerted her in my best Paul Revere impression.

“I know!  I heard it and it smells so good!”

I jumped up and said “Let’s go smell it!”  We jetted to the door and threw it open to drink in that fresh aroma and fill our lungs.  The rain was falling softly, but our spirits were anything but calm.

Knowing that Sharla, the secretary, was on the phone, and her office faced the courtyard, I proposed “Let’s go dance in it!”  It didn’t take any arm twisting.  Cheryl was out the door and her dancing took on more of a ballet style as she piroeted and leaped.  I stuck with the classic Gene Kelly tap dancy thing.  Sharla sat inside, throughly entertained and possibly a little jealous.   Giggles fox-trotted out of all of us.

We really didn’t get much in the way of moisture, but we celebrated every bit of the wet stuff.

What poured in us was a fresh dose of hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who he has given us. Romans 5:5.  Even in the longest dryest drought, hope is our oasis.

There is a slight chance of rain in the extended forecast on several occasions this week.  The prayers and thanksgivng continue with spirits filled with hope.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.  Hebrews 11:1

For fun here’s the link to watch Gene Kelly’s famous scene: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7QL46cK7B8&feature=related

photo credit-pinklesweet.wordpress.com