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.

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.

 

 

 

23,376 Days

There’s an old shed on our property that needs to come down… ever since we lived there actually… which is about 8,694 days.  But like many things, it was put on the back burner.  It was too cold outside, too rainy, too hot, too much stuff stored inside and what would we do with it all anyway?

But last Saturday was the beginning of it’s end.  As we worked to empty it, boards fell off on their own.  The rest will meet its end next weekend.

As we worked my emotions cycled between relief and embarrassment.  Why didn’t we do this long ago?  Why did we waste so much time?  A parade of unfinished projects, plans and hopes for this property marched thru my brain.

But it serves no purpose to beat yourself up. The past has passed.  And by day’s end my feelings were all relief and a lot of gratitude.

I’ve come late in life to that biblical admonition to “number” my days.  I’m still trying to understand.  Setting goals is a good thing.  But clearly, looking at life in big chunks of time hasn’t worked for me.

Am I supposed to check the days off like they’re part of a gigantic “to-do” list?  What happens when something derails the countdown?  Something like a death, a birth, job loss or health issues?  What happens if my time ends suddenly?

Today I have lived 23,376 days.

I did not use them all well… because life has a habit of derailing countdowns… and I have a habit of loosing hope.

…. like these last 598 days.  Living the role of caregiver in my mother-in-law’s home wasn’t on my countdown.  It was one of those things you thought “could” happen, but probably not really, but really… it did.

My tendency is to set aside my “real” life so I can focus on this job that needs doing.  When, in fact, this is all my real life.  All of it.

If you view life as a gift from God, which I do, then each day is a perfect present of 24 hours.  A few of them I opened and used well.  Too many of them… not.  And with more than I care to admit, I chose to wait until next week, next month, next year… to do what needed doing.  But I didn’t.  And now they’re gone… along with the opportunity and blessing each carried.

Awhile back I read 20,000 Days and Counting, by Robert D. Smith.  It’s had me thinking about using this gift of a day… about how to take the orderly plans and the messy surprises, pull them together and build upon them… so at the end of a week or month or year, you’ve lived well and shared well.

It’s a lot to absorb when you’ve looked at time a certain way for so long.  I’ll come back to this again.  But in the meantime, the husband came home with birthday cake.  So I’m headed that direction.

Got to fuel up for demolition day next Saturday…

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Beautiful Imperfection

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Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is worth more than precious rubies. Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life….

She finds wool and flax and busily spins it… She gets up before dawn to prepare breakfast for her household and plan the day’s work…

She is energetic and strong, a hard worker… Her hands are busy spinning thread, her fingers twisting fiber.

She extends a helping hand to the poor and opens her arms to the needy… She has no fear of winter for her household because all of them have warm clothes…

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs with no fear of the future. When she speaks, her words are wise, and kindness is the rule when she gives instructions. She carefully watches all that goes on in her household and does not have to bear the consequence of laziness.

Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her:  “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!”

Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.   … selections from Proverbs 31 (NLT)

I tend to view her as perfect, especially in my older years.  She would be the first to say she is not.  I’m glad she isn’t.

In my young person life she was the first grown-up to speak these words to me… “I’m sorry”…. “forgive me”…. “I love you, let’s fix this”.

In my old person life, I see her face and work through her shortcomings… which in turn helps me deal with mine.

It’s OK not to be perfect.

She still leads the way in humble grace… being altogether lovely.

Thank you, Mom

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Finding Peace… Kentucky Style

~Oregon~

I left my back porch twelve days ago.  Have been home for two.

It takes a couple days to clear the mental cobwebs and settle back into routine.  I could barely keep my eyes open yesterday.  But I did.

There were mountains of laundry to do… and groceries to buy… and messages to return.

Thru each day I looked at the pictures we took, desperately trying to keep the memories fresh.  That’s the hard part when you’ve had a break from the norm…

And all the while I’m doing that, I wish we lived closer… dear ones on the east coast, west coast and all points in between.

I think of the obligation that tethers me here… I still don’t understand it all.

Perhaps I never will.  And perhaps that’s okay.

It takes time for acceptance to creep in… when acceptance is required.

So today I will look at the photos… again and again and again.

Today I thank God for blessing me with family… everywhere they are.

Today I trust He will bring us together when we need to be together…

…and sustain us when we are apart.

I thank Him for:

~airplanes

~cars

~air-conditioning

~floppy-eared dogs

~and deep fried pickles

I thank Him that the sound of early morning Kentucky echoes here in early morning Oregon.

I trust Him with my life and when tomorrow comes…

I will do it all over again.

Amen.

~~ Kentucky ~~

How I Can Look Like A Rusty Tractor

The man has a knack for spotting old things stuck in the bushes… along a road… in someone’s driveway… out in the middle of no-where.

He catches a glimpse… of a headlight, a tail light amongst the branches, a rusty fender… and more often than not it ends up in our yard.

Last weekend’s acquisition is a tractor… from a neighbor’s yard where it’s been rusting for years.  They were thrilled to see it go and he was more than happy to take it off their hands.

He chained it up behind our truck… I hopped on to steer… and he towed us up the hill.  (Honestly, there was no hopping involved – I climbed on carefully because it had ants and bugs and moss and creepy stuff all over it!)

So, does it run?

Ummm… no.

Does it have the potential to run?

He says yes.

I hope so, because it was fun to steer – plus it all felt very farmy-ish.

This exercise reminded me of my old Chevy Suburban – Alaskan style…

…Doug goes to plow customer’s driveway… finds rusty blue and white suburban in the trees…  it’s filled with bags of frozen garbage… asks if he can have suburban instead of cash… guy looks at Doug like he’s nuts… tells him it doesn’t run, but “heck, ya, take it!”

So Doug plows driveway… tows suburban home… connects two wires… car starts… drives to dump and unloads garbage… drives to car wash and scrubs it inside and out… drives it home to me.

And I drove that car for years.

Toted boys and groceries and laundry and sports equipment and coolers of salmon. Fairbanks, Valdez, Kenai, Homer… it went everywhere there was a road… and a few places there wasn’t.

At the laundromat the back-end doubled as a playground for Star Wars and GI Joe adventures.  And when we left Alaska it made the cut to caravan down the highway to Oregon… where a mechanic’s wife said ‘driving a car like that should be grounds for divorce’.  Quite rude, don’t you think?

It was a great old car.  It fit our family.  It didn’t let us down.

I’m glad the man has an eye for potential.  And it’s a good thing he’s not afraid of a little hard work.

I’m also glad he views in the same way, the potential and hard work involved in our relationship.  At least… I’m guessing, after all these years… I think he must.

And when I drive myself in circles and roll off the deep end worrying about things I cannot fix… when I get stuck on the negative and forget to remember the good stuff… I’m glad God finds me in the mess I’ve made of myself.

He’s not put off by the exterior.  He sees thru his lens of possibility.  He sees who he created me to be.

The top layer is rarely the true story anyway… I’m learning.

The Last Someday ~ A Memorial

I’ve been thinking a lot about that villanous word – Someday

… about how I let it rob me and what I am going to do about it.

… about my parents as they face major change.  As Mom said the other day, “he just thought this would never end”.

I imagine these soldiers thought ~ someday I will be home… marry her… finish school… buy a home.

Arlington National Cemetary

Was someday supposed to end like this?  Really?

I’ve been to D.C. many times over the years, but last year was my first visit to the WWII Memorial.

We found my Dad’s name on the list of Honorees…

…there he is…  Robert H. Jamison – Seattle, Washington – U.S. Army

He was a lucky one.  He came home and pursued his somedays.  And like most of us… he let a lot of them go.

These Gold Stars… each one represents 100 American service personnel lost in WWII.  There are 4,048 gold stars on the wall.

A lot of somedays never realized.

To the lives each star represents, to the moms and pops and sweethearts who answered the knock at the door, the sons and daughters they never knew… my deepest and forever thank you.

To those of us living in a land bought and paid for by unimaginable sacrifice… how can we do less than live each day to the full?

I suspect the best thanks is to live the life you were created for.

Gold Star Wall – WWII Memorial

Ears To Hear

For the last several days I have prayed to keep a guard over my mouth… to not say anything that inflames, insights… or seriously embarasses should my kids overhear.

Maybe I should have been more aware of what I allowed in through my ears, settling in my heart?

I wonder why we attempt to give the best of ourselves to others, but receive and accept the worst for ourselves?  Maybe it’s not a we thing, but a me thing…I don’t know.

But I do know today I’m listening for the good stuff………

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Proverbs 37:3

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

Whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye…. Zechariah 2:8

He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught. Isaiah 50:4

Amen

Constant Pilgrims

Tradition and continuity… I love them both.

Thanksgiving holiday was different this year.  There was no crowd squashed around the table – – only we three.  With all the tumult of moving and change a quiet day was perfectly in order.

And I must say… Doug’s turkey was outstanding… as was my pumpkin pie.  We do pretty well in the kitchen together when we have lots of time and space.  This year we had plenty of both.

These two little pilgrims were the first holiday decorations Doug and I ever bought.  They’ve been a couple as long as we have.  Being tiny little wax people, I think it’s quite amazing.

They started out in San Jose, California about 42 years ago and moved along to Campbell and Cupertino.

Not wanting to miss the adventure they traveled with us to Eagle River,Alaska, then shared our zip codes in Wasilla and Chugiak.

They made the journey, sharing our sadness at leaving the north, back to Oregon.

They’ve met near disaster on occasion – – as have we.  They’ve been partially melted and frozen a time or two.  They’ve become a bit stooped and crinkled.  But then, so have Doug and I.

I love continuity.

Grace for the Overly Stressed

“What’s happenin’ Mom”, the customary greeting from a son’s Sunday morning call.

“Oh, not much”, my customary response ……when I don’t really want to talk about what is going on ….when I don’t want to verbalize the “what’s happenin” because there’s more than I can handle.

When he mentions he and the brothers and the families want to spend time with “you and Dad”, my heart sinks a little.  I can’t handle one more thing.  Guilt hammers me for such a thought.  I compound the negative by unloading some woe.

There is NOTHING I want more than time with them.

I call him back to apologize …and get his voice mail.  I worry.  Of all the people to dump on he’s the last one who needs it.  Then relief to see his incoming call.

“Hey, Mom!  Here’s the plan…you and Dad…2 pm…be there!”

So we are there …..welcomed to a cheerful gathering place ….. to delectable food …. to most excellant grill skillz …. to great conversation.  We enjoy grandchildren and laughter and precious moments that are not to be wasted.

And I realize again how blessed we are.

I hope I remember better next time.

Boys out in the field

Exploring.......

"Look Avery, Grandpa's got food!"

"Score!"

Two year old brother gives one year old sister "a chip".... we didn't let her eat them all!

“so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company” Romans 15:32

I was refreshed ……..