The Words We Leave Behind

Yesterday I retrieved a new voicemail from my phone.  Because I’m one of those people who often saves voice messages, and because the 21 day time limit had elapsed, it was necessary to cycle thru all saved messages to get the new one.

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Normally, without listening, I just press 9 to save and move on.  For some reason, I listened to each one.

There are several from my sons.  All four of them.  I used to have a saved message from April 2007, just prior to one son’s military deployment.  It was accidentally deleted last year and I cried a little bit about that.  He was sweet enough to leave a new message just before he boarded a plane for his 2014 deployment.  Another son lives on the other side of the country and two live only an hour and a half away… yet I’ve been known to pull out my phone and listen.  Just because.  I may hear grown-up, manly voices, but in my heart I see little ones who used to sit around my dinner table.

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Dating back a couple of years, is the voice message from a sheriff’s deputy.  My mother-in-law, who suffered from dementia, had managed to call the 911 operator and report she’d been abandoned and needed help.  She called a second time to tell them she was being held against her will.  All of this before breakfast!  When I came downstairs, she waved me into her room to talk to the “nice man on the phone”.  She had “no idea what he wants”. 

There are many details from that morning which I’ll leave out, but by the end of it I was pretty sure I was having a stroke.  The deputy called back later in the day to  1) clarify the incorrect street address I’d given him in my befuddled state,  2) to assure me everything was ok on his end, he understood,   3) to see if everything was ok on my end.  Nice guy.  Not sure why I keep that message.  Maybe to remind me I am stronger than I thought I was then.  The memory is kind of funny now.  Sad and funny.

The last three messages on my phone are from my aunt.  She died in the fall of 2013.  As they played back, it felt like she was sitting right next to me.  I’m glad I didn’t have to talk back… because of the giant lump in my throat.  She was a big part of my life, for all my life.

Her messages generally had three parts – – something funny she couldn’t wait to tell, something about me she was grateful for and how much she loved me.  The last message, just a few weeks before she died, was weak.  Some words were slurred.  But still she managed to share her good humor, her gratitude, her love… one more time.

Words.

I love to read them and write them.  I stumble some when I have to speak them.  I’m continually amazed how they can be equally hurtful and healing.  And I will always be a student of them.

But for today, I am grateful for these few recorded words… for the healing, the hope, the love.

The Devil Didn’t Make Me Do It

Nope.  He didn’t make me eat that half bag of chocolate candy last night.  I did it all on my own.

I did it knowing sugar gives me a headache.  Knowing I would wake up feeling heavy and lethargic.  Knowing I was breaking my own promise.

And I didn’t even care.

Just the day before I walked through the yard, enjoyed the sun, and thanked God for new growth.  The faintest pink haze was beginning to appear on this tree.  It will soon bloom brilliant.pink

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All that blue sky, green sprouting and pink budding got me feeling hopeful.  I decided to start walking again.  I would eat right again.  I would get cracking on those projects I’ve ignored all winter.

And then… just a few hours later… I was eating chocolate.  Again.

I know the enemy of my soul loves it when I fall flat on my face.  But he didn’t make me do it.

I made the choice.

And while I may feel a certain amount self reproach is needed as punishment, it’s not particularly helpful.

It is good, however, to review the pictures I took.  Because they remind me, not only of the new growth, but of the pruning…….  prune 1prune 2

We prune to make the trees and plants healthier.  So they’ll bloom more.  Bear more.  They don’t have a say in the matter.  They’re just plants.

We choose when to prune them.

And I choose to let God prune me.

I love how Jesus talks in the 15th chapter of John about being the true vine, how he describes his father as the farmer who does the pruning.  And how I am a branch that needs to stay attached to the vine.  So I can be pruned.  So I bear good fruit.

Attached to him.  Temporary, hurtful pruning.  I choose it all.

Because then, when I do a goofball thing, like eat a half a bag of chocolate candy and finally come to my senses… I remember I am attached to something greater.

And the times I hide from what I know I should do,.. even the times I do that hard thing he asks of me… and suffer for it anyway, I remember.

I am attached to the vine.

His careful, gracious pruning keeps me growing.  It brings me closer to the goal of being who he created me to be.

I get to choose that.

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Fall Love

Last week I took some moments to capture color on the trees… and take a coffee break with the husband… and build memories to hold till autumn comes back next year.

The leaves fall, the wind blows, and the farm country slowly changes from the summer cottons into its winter wools. – Henry Beston

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I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion. – Henry David Thoreau

A Veteran’s Story… short and sweet

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This boy grew up like most others of his day.  He minded his dad and loved his mom.  He studied hard, raced his bike on Seattle streets, and really loved his American Flyer train set.

 

He grew up and married his high school sweetheart, worked hard, became a dad and most every Christmas of my growing up years, that American Flyer train chugged its way around our tree.  It climbed the trestle, then down through the tunnel and into the snow-covered village… made by his hands.

But before the marrying and dad parts of life could happen, he found himself thousands of miles from home in snow-covered villages that looked nothing like the one he’d created.

He had entered a fiery crucible in a frozen forest, along with the men of Company G.

That Christmas season of 1944, they covered the terrain of Belgium on foot, sometimes by truck, with wool overcoats for warmth and standard issue combat boots.  No fancy survival gear there.  No fancy anything.

But Dad never talked about those things.  He never talked about his Purple Heart.  And he never complained.

He just got up every day, went to work, paid the bills and built a good and peaceful life.

I’ve helped my folks move twice in the last few years and recently found this Bible.  It’s a new testament with a metal cover, and stamped inside are words from President Roosevelt.  I’m glad our nation hadn’t yet been infected by political correctness, because that small book changed the course of Dad’s life.

Dad didn’t grow up in a religious family, but while he was “over there” he carried the Bible in his breast pocket anyway….  “figured it couldn’t hurt”, he said.

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From the tiny bits and pieces Dad shared of his story, I learned of the times he was pinned down in the snow… and the mortars that landed all around him.  I heard about the ground shaking like an earthquake, trees cracking, splintering into a million pieces and his brothers in combat who died right next to him… day after day after day.

He said there were times of strange quiet too.  And that is when he reached for his metal covered book and let God’s living word speak to him, breathe hope into him… bring salvation to him.

A new way of life was born in him and he lived it out in front of me.  Out of a time of inexplicable horror, came a good and beautiful thing.

The service of our nation’s veterans, of my father, my own sons… challenges me every day.  I am challenged to try a little harder and hang on a little longer.  They teach me that something good remains even after the bad.  And I’m thankful for whoever decided it would be good to place God’s word into a soldier’s hand as he headed into battle.

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Dad and Mom live with us now.  And Dad’s memories come and go.  He fights a new battle in his mind, but this one, sadly, he will not win.

For the last few years I’ve been the keeper of the American Flyer.  I brought it upstairs today.027

Sure hope he will remember.

Photo credit: Courtney McGillivray

Photo credit: Courtney McGillivray

Black Beauty and Frankenstein

Black Beauty left this week.  Somehow, Someway, she made impact with a stationary object.

I know NOTHING about that.

I do not drive her.  Really.  The person who does might have more to add, but that’s all I’m sayin’.

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In the meantime we’ve acquired, supposedly on a “temp basis”, an old farm truck that had been put out to pasture.  His name is Frankenstein.

I just call him Frank.

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Frank’s paint is peeling.  He’s old.  He used to be a diesel, but someone decided he should run on gasoline.  So when you look under the hood there’s a big empty space and some weird things that don’t connect anywhere.  And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the extent of my mechanical knowledge.

Last week we took Frank for an overdue trip to the dump.  As soon as Doug connected the trailer hitch I swear I heard Frank say, “are you kidding me?!?!?…”

But Frank got us to the dump anyway.  He rumbled along steady, even with a heavy load.  And he made it back home, which is always a plus.

As we backed into the driveway, Frank suddenly rattled, wheezed and blew steam everywhere.  Poor guy.  I was beginning to like him.  He’s soft and comfy on the inside.  I can climb into Frank without hurting myself.  And he runs like a champ, even if he is old, tired and patched together.

But honestly, I didn’t want to like Frank.  My husband has a penchant for collecting vehicles like I collect sets of dishes.  And we have more than enough of both.

The truth is, I’m beginning to identify with Frank.  I feel on the inside how he looks on the outside… a little rough, a little rugged, a little tired.  And when I get tired, it really isn’t pretty.  Do I need new vitamins?  A new moisturizer?  Or maybe, a complete make-over like Black Beauty will get over the coming weeks?

More seriously, can I keep up with what life demands?

As for Black Beauty, her door is bent so badly it won’t close.  She’s on her way now and will come back with some new parts on the inside and a shiny new coat on the outside.

Frank’s doing a lot better.  He got a tune-up and a part or two.  He doesn’t spew steam anymore.  And I don’t care what he looks like on the outside because I know him on the inside.

As for me, I know nothing else than to rumble along steady, do the job God expects of me and come back home when I’m done… kind of like Frank.  These words say it better:

Take a new grip with your tired hands and stand firm on your shaky legs.  Mark out a straight path for your feet.  Then those who follow you, though they are weak and lame, will not stumble and fall but will become strong.  Hebrews 12: 12-13

…and I’m trying a new moisturizer.  Hey, it can’t hurt.

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Fog and Light and my crabby, morning self

I like fog.

Maybe because I grew up on the Pacific coast, is why.  Rain assaults you, but fog wraps around like a protective layer… it comforts me… it calms me… it reactivates my hair product.

I also like to photograph fog.  As you might imagine, some shots aren’t too exciting.  But several mornings ago I got a good one.

From a second story window I saw the fog lacing thru the trees, hovering over the grass.  I grabbed my camera and headed down to the back deck.  The neighbor’s porch light caught my eye and later, after I downloaded to my computer, I saw the full picture.  It’s kind of half and half… fog below, blue sky above.  Love pictures like that.  Kind of a two for one.

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There is a type of fog, however, which I do not like.

It’s the kind that mysteriously settles on my brain overnight.  A fog which only lets in the endless to-do list, concerns for loved ones and difficult circumstances… all of which run on repeat cycle as I lay in the dark.

Maybe it’s the aging process, the stress load or the late night snack (which I’m trying not to do anymore), but more often than not my morning starts that way.

I force myself to thank God for a new day.  I force my feet to hit the floor.  I don’t really feel like doing either one.  Then I head for the coffee pot.

I know that doesn’t sound very nice.  But I am supremely grateful for a God who loves my often ungrateful self.

After some quiet, some reading, some prayer… all sloshed together with good coffee, the foggy and light parts in my head begin to focus.  This morning process is summed up in these words from The Message, “Let petitions and praises (or foggy parts and light parts, maybe?) shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns.  Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down.  It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life”.  Philippians 4:6-7.

Shape your worries into prayers – I love that.

I don’t think God is all that concerned over how I might feel in the morning, or even if I’m less than civil in those first moments.

I think he’s patiently waiting for me to sit before him, say hello and share words from my heart that he can work with… to bring in the light.