Monday, September 21, 2015

A Week of Concerns; A Lord Who Overcomes

Labor Day comes and goes. The heat of summer swelters over us, and even some thunderstorms brew up from the warm southern waters. We experienced a one-day deluge, a constant downpour--  refreshing unless you're driving on a freeway. A prediction of an El Nino weather condition may cause some to pause, hopefully to prepare our cars, our roofs, and our umbrellas for more. I hope the reservoirs open their mouths wide and catch every drop. Finally getting a day at the beach last week, I take in the beauty of the powerful surf and the vast ocean, reminded of God's deep and wide love for me.

  Can I comprehend Lord  the breadth, the length and height and the depth of  Your Love?  

A new assignment served itself up on my plate this year. Same school, but different kids with different challenges. Assigned to a moderate to severe contained class, with one teacher and a few other staff, I am the newbie. Immediately, by the end of the first week I'd say, I felt very comfortable. The kids...easy to love, the staff... felt a part of a team, the teacher...she's got this and then some! God moved me in a different direction yet with the same destination in mind. I am reminded of His plan for me, that despite all that I thought I might be, or could be still,  or what others think I should still consider,  even this late in life,  God whispers in my ear that I am OK and pursuing the right path. Affirmed in the gift He has given me and the joy and healing in that pursuit,  I trust You God

...because Thou, O Lord hast helped me, and comforted me. 

A young woman remained all year in the forefront of my prayers, her name: Traci. Her dad, one of my closest friends, called me back in January while I sat in the movie theater. I got back to him to find out that his daughter who suffers from Cystic Fibrosis, listed by three major hospitals for a transplant--got the call. Many prayed for this day. San Diego, their home for the next 8 months would find them commuting, living, and hoping in prayer for their daughter's ability to thrive and regain some normalcy in life.

She received two lungs, a liver and a pancreas--the first 4-organ transplant ever! The surgery lasted more than 24 hours. Her body never rejected the organs, yet she suffered with many setbacks due to infection and her kidneys shutting down. After all these months of mighty prayers and hopes, Traci went home to find her perfect healing.

...and the righteous cry out, let me dwell in Thy tent forever. Let me take refuge in the shelter of Thy wings...

That happened on Tuesday afternoon. Wednesday I am back in class when I receive a text message.

Did you know Sumiyo?  "No, I replied, I don't think so..."

"You might know her as Muku"...said the next text.

"Yes, of course I did."  She worked here with me a few years back."

"She lost her life in those floods...the one in Zion."

Again, my heart feels the pull of how tragic, how fleeting, how unpredictable, and how quickly a smiling face begins to etch a memory in my mind. She almost reached her 60th birthday. She loved to hike, always sharing with me when she'd occasionally give me a ride home, where her next hiking venture waited. This new sport for her , "canyoneering" according to the news, took her to a place where she felt close to God, the beautiful formations and sandstone cliffs of Zion, Utah.

Our friend Muku, 3rd from the left. 

Walk about Zion, and go around her; count her towers; consider her ramparts; go through her palaces, that you may tell it to the next generation. For such is God, Our God forever and ever. He will guide us until death. Psalm 48:12-14

Wednesday night, our writing group in which I co-lead, (AWF--Aspiring Writer's Forum), met for the first time this season, year 7! I am truly amazed at all the Lord's doing with this bunch and the continued support and enthusiasm shared. I am looking forward to submitting more of my book for editing, critiquing and the dream of publishing as well as listening to others as they write for God's Glory.

...for I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord... 

...but by the Grace of God I am what I am and His grace toward me did not prove vain, but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the Grace of God with me. I Corinthians 15:10. 

My writing partner struggles with her health and I continue to encourage her and pray for her strength. She finds her purpose in mentoring and leading others to tell their God stories. I follow in her footsteps. Along her walking path, her beloved "furbaby" Kindu, also struggles with health issues. Sadly, this week of year 7 of AWF, Kindu's last chapter closed with a sad departure. My heart hurts for my friend  who mothers her beautiful dogs with joy and passion, even dedicating a blog to their antics.

...are not  five sparrows sold for two cents? And yet not one of them is forgotten by God.

Saturday, I attended a baby shower for my close friend's 4th daughter expecting grand baby #6! Try as hard as I can, weddings, showers...fill me with a bit of melancholy, but I muster through and DO rejoice in the expectations. I wonder if God's plans include this blessing for me. Questions pop up from strangers in conversations, and yesterday was no exception.

...and for this child I have prayed.

John 16:33 "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." 

So what can I say about this week?  We cannot predict, nor forecast what may happen tomorrow. Each day we must choose to trust God, who remains in control.  He is  my rock and my refuge. He is Jehovah Jireh, the Provider of all good things. He calls us together in fellowship to minister to one another in times of uncertainty, struggle and sadness. God bestows gifts to us, ones He prepared for us to use for His glory. He comforts us with the knowledge and promise of Heaven in the sudden and the unexpected. He cares about our deepest pain and holds our tears in the palm of His hands. We can come to Him in prayer, sit and bear our burdens to Him. He hears and shows us the way from the darkness. He teaches us to see beyond our own circumstances and recognize all those times we especially need His strength.

And sometimes He just surprises us with precious gifts that speak straight to the heart.

Lying in the dark, on black asphalt, something shiny caught my eye as I walked to the car. Picking it up I recognized it as a bracelet of some sort, nothing fancy. I dropped it on the bottom of my purse. When I got home, I remembered a little later about the find. Retrieving it, and looking at it now in the light, I immediately felt a wave of Love from the Holy Spirit wash over me.

A charm bracelet with 8 different angels. 

This week had its challenges, its finality, its tears. Next week, we remember our own son Timothy,  his birthday on September 25th. As I fund raise for NephCure and retell his story, I celebrate the Lord's healing in my heart and the divine purpose, some of which still hides in God's sovereign plan, but some that reveals itself everyday to me. In that, I place my hope. In that, I sing with the angels.

Psalm 91:11 "For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Catch and Release

A prodigal son, I soften my heart towards him more everyday, hoping and praying he softens his towards the things of God. Its not that he doesn't believe, its just, you know... the tug of the world, time, judgment, expectations and habits and...

He came to me this week, "Look mom, I'm in one of the pictures for the boat."  (not planned). 

He shows me on his phone the web site for his favorite charter fishing boat. I see two young kids showing off their "big" catches of Yellow tail. Behind them, sitting up top, a profile of my son looking out onto the water, getting a good perspective of the vast ocean. 

I ask him, "How come you aren't catching these big fellas?" 

"I don't know, someday I will." 

"You're a great fisherman," I say. 

"No mom," he says, "I'm an average fisherman. Did I tell you what happened?"

He proceeds to tell me a "fish story."

"I thought I had one, a big one. I fought my line to bring it up. I knew it wasn't something I just snagged, for I felt the 'tug-tug' on the line of something.  I reeled and pulled, and the deck hand came by my side in anticipation of the fish coming up. I pulled it in, disappointed to see a piece of fan coral and the rock it attached itself to, my line snagging it. Having a double line, there was a smaller fish attached to the first hook,  the one I felt tugging--pulling the "rock" in," my reel broke."

"You broke your reel?" I said in sympathy.

"Its OK. time for a new one anyway." 


Facebook Post: August 3, 2015, a few days after the above conversation. 

Drenched in sweat and quite overheated, she came in through the slider where the bottom of the stair beckoned her to sit. Kicking off her tennis shoes and socks, her feet throbbing as the perspiration ran into her eyes, stinging. She hit pause on her app and then hit finish, the music drowning in her sweaty ears. The song's lyrics repeated, "You're not finished with me yet..." "Oh, yes I am, she thought," as her walk recorded her stats. Just then, the orange butterfly that appears everyday flew by the slider to play in the garden right outside the door. Overwhelmed with sudden emotion brought on by shear heat exhaustion, she guzzled the last of her water and then proceeded up stairs to shower. Flipping the switch, the radio relayed encouragement. "Holy Spirit, You are welcome here, come flood this place and fill the atmosphere;" the song she loves, plays again. Suddenly she is reminded of a story told to her this week and also, something she's been praying for, for awhile. God connects the story in the way she understands, in words she needs to write and metaphors that hold weight. The emotion comes again, not from exhaustion, but from refreshment and encouragement, for the presence of the Holy Spirit moves in her atmosphere, revealing, reassuring, that despite all her sweat, her tears, her persistent knocking, God says, "I hear you and I am on my way."

We've all got our line hooked into a burden. We fight it with all our strength to get through it, to see the victory at the end. That is what we concentrate on. It zaps all our strength, expends our resources, disappointes those who wait with us. Yet, God has attached another line, a line of salvation baited with His Grace.  Did we forget about that one?  We can feel it, the tug-tug of His presence, letting us know He is there and we fight for everything else only to see our burden revealed, our weight of the world leaving us feeling defeated...just average, not worthy.

BUT GOD...He is tugging, linked through the hooks of prayers that cast their nets of hope into the sea of Your mercy, for the catching of the heart of our prodigals. You my son, are not just average. God guides you, seeing through the murky waters of doubt and looks upon you as divine, worthy, gifted and purposed for something amazing. 

I hear Him this morning tell me this, in the atmosphere of Holy Spirit conversations, fishing stories, walking feet and music. God reminds me of the conversation with my son and whispers to me, Yes, I am "tugging" on His heart, don't give up the fight. His "someday" is on deck and in My timing, I am preparing Him for bigger fish within the ocean of my grace. He continues to minister to me...

You see? He is not giving up, planning ahead for a new reel. I hear your prayers. He keeps going back to that same boat, the same spots, where My glory awaits him. Amazing Love, I promise to lure him gently back,  leaving the burdens behind on the bottom of the sandy sea. Keep directing Him to the spots where my Goodness waits. He is listening. 

Catch Him Lord, I pray. Release the burden, cut the line with so many barnacles of real or unreal obstacles,  and sink it. Allow Him to pull into Your Amazing Grace and Forgiveness. Help him to recognize Your tug from the tug of the world. Forever, In faith, I wait and anticipate the snap shot of victory. Amen 

(and as I type this last word, the song "Holy Spirit" comes on the radio once again).  God is so Good! 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Imagination Celebration

Walt Disney: "George Banks and all he stands for will be saved. Maybe not in life, but in imagination. Because that's what we storytellers do. We restore order with imagination. We instill hope again and again and again."

Ted and I just celebrated our 38th wedding anniversary.  Movie night is Saturday, more than likely movie-at-home night, so Saturday before last,  I talked him into watching "Saving Mr. Banks," which happened to be recorded on my DVR.  I watched the movie last year, in fact, I went to the theater by myself and saw it.

"You'll really like this movie Ted, it is a good story, a back-story of a childhood favorite--Mary Poppins!"

"Who said 'Mary Poppins' was my favorite, I don't think so! I'm more of a Davy Crockett sort of guy!"

The chest flares and the hands go in the air, cocking an imaginary rifle. 

We settled in and at first he wasn't too engaged, but I saw a shift, enjoying the character of P.L. Travers played by Emma Thompson and her determination to "own" her story; refusing to compromise in any way and give in to  Mr. Disney's silliness.

Sympathy shifts back and forth in the movie, for the song writers and Walt to get this film made and for the "little girl"/ stubborn woman, who wrote her story for other reasons, for her own healing. She wants to remember things differently, bring herself peace. She allowed her imagination to write a better ending--a new ending. You begin to understand this as the story returns to the author's childhood.  Mr. Disney would also identify with Mr. Banks for his own reasons.

Monday comes around with our anniversary looming, and Ted suggests: "Let's go to Disneyland, have dinner there for our anniversary!"

It's hard for Ted to go to Disneyland; the rides aren't too accommodating for someone needing two knee replacements. We really take it easy when we go.  I made the reservation at the Blue Bayou in New Orleans Square and we were both excited because we'd never been there, always wondered what it was like on the "other side" of the river.

As I recall our evening at the Magic Kingdom and as I think on our 38 year marriage, I can draw similarities.

We come through the tunnel entering the park and we rest a bit on the bench right on the circle of Main Street. It is not too crowded. When we get up, Ted grabs my hand and starts looking for the window--the window where Walt Disney added his own father's name (as shown in the movie).

Elias Disney~ Contractor 

Our first stop is Adventureland!  Isn't marriage an adventure!  Whoo-hoo!  We stop at the first place calling us to entertainment, "The Tiki Room."

C'mom, you know you want to sing along!  

Welcome to our tropical hideaway
You lucky people, you
If we weren't in the show starting right away,
We'd be the audience too
All together
In the tiki, tiki, tiki, tiki, tiki room
In the tiki, tiki, tiki, tiki, tiki room
All the birds sing the words and the flowers croon
In the tiki, tiki, tiki, tiki, tiki room

It kind of was like that for Ted and I in our first years of  "bliss." We went to Hawaii every year for his paddling races. We bought the house, got the Golden Retriever, then the kiddo came along. Life settled in to real adulthood and suburban living. Another kiddo came along. The birds sang and the flowers crooned.

We were cruising through life, doing what we thought were the right things, having fun, enjoying parenthood and suddenly, out of nowhere, an evil sneaked onto our shores, fired cannonballs of struggle. Pirates came to rob us of our peace. One attack came from diagnosis and then kidney disease pushing us onto the plank of worry; others from finances,  in attitudes, loneliness, priorities and responsibilities: an unbalance of ideals and passions. The boat almost sunk.

"Where your treasure is, there lies your heart."

And the demons sing:

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me.
We pillage plunder, we rifle and loot.
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho.
We kidnap and ravage and don't give a hoot.
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho.
Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me.
We extort and pilfer, we filch and sack.
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho.
Maraud and embezzle and even highjack.
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho.
Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me.
We kindle and char and in flame and ignite.
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho.
We burn up the city, we're really a fright.
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho.
We're rascals and scoundrels, we're villains and knaves.
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho.
We're devils and black sheep, we're really bad eggs.
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho.

The house burned down, Yo Ho! 

We buckled ourselves in--TOGETHER and went on a WiLd RiDe! 
I sat behind the steering wheel. My prayers brought the Lord's guidance, the Lord's forgiveness and a much clearer view of a horizon in which I begin to focus on. Ted reaches for it as well. We moved  down a very uncertain road with twists, turns and detours. We found our way, TOGETHER,  safely delivered within the Lord's protection despite looming obstacles and broken hearts.

Lastly, we arrive in STORYBOOK LAND, where imagination brings healing and writing turns into real stories and Castles and mansions on hills become visible and attainable, promised by a real KING. We're swallowed up by a whale, but not Jonah's whale, a whale that represents Greater Things around the corner.

We're laughing again; laughing at the duck that almost flew into Ted's head and knocked the Mickey ears off the girl sitting next to him!  We're not shaken. It's not an end yet. More chapters await.  

The fireworks light up the sky. They STILL light up the sky. 

And in Tomorrow Land as well. 

This story might have ended one way, but God destines and determines with our cooperation, with our eyes on Him... which ending will be told. With God as our Executive Producer, our story promises a Happily Ever After.

The Blue Bayou can be a dark place if you stay there, but I see the fireflies, the butterflies. They show me a way to imagine and see all the Goodness of the Lord,  to know His Hope as I write His name on the window of my soul.

Apostle Paul: "For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance, we shall wait eagerly for it."  Romans 8:24-25