OUT OF COMPLACENCY, INTO DEPENDENCY

Near my walking trail. It's rural.
Near my walking trail. It’s rural.

*It has been extremely difficult for me to write after finishing my thesis; I’m always wanting to use APA citations, and my creativity seems to have flown the coop. This is a long, tedious effort to get back in the swing of things.

And the LORD God said to Steven: “Take thy wife, thy puppy, and all thy belongings and head west to the land I will show thee.” (Severance, Colorado)

Did Sarah kick and scream when Abraham said, “let’s go”? Well. . . I did. I was as mad as a wet hen. Tulsa was my home. Family, friends, colleagues=history. Comfort. And a touch of complacency. Just a touch. Really.

Everyone kept telling me how great it was—you know—Colorado—mountains—skiing—hiking—fresh air.

As for skiing—Tried it when I was in my 20’s; gave it up for Lent.

However, I do love mountains, so after I quit kicking (silent screaming continued for a while) and accepted the inevitable, I laid down some ground rules for Steve and God:
1. I must have a house west of I-25
2. I must have a mountain view
3. NO TRACT HOMES!
4. No linoleum must ever touch my feet.
5. No builder’s grade carpet (I would not give up my 50-year-old hardwood floors for tacky carpet).
6. No split-level or two-story homes need apply.

Yes, yes. . . I know. I’m blessed to have a home. I sound so materialistic. In the words of Idina Menzel–“Let it go!”

Then I met our realtor, Scott, and he showed me a total of five houses within our price range. That was it. I’d scheduled three days for looking at houses and only needed one. Seems the oil and gas boom in northern Colorado meant more folks moving in and fewer houses available. Prices went up and up and up and bidding wars ensued.

Lesson: Don’t lay down ground rules.

The Reality:
1. The only houses west of I-25 in Ft. Collins within our price range were split-level, dingy basement, one-and-a-half bathrooms, no-closet-space homes.
2. Mountain views were 50K extra.
3. Tract homes east of I-25 were more affordable.
4. Only two houses were available that wouldn’t require massive renovation and cleaning. One backed to a busy road in Greeley (where the wind wafts the scent of meat processing plants through the town). The other was clean. Good location. Nice quiet neighborhood. A two-story with finished basement. Great storage. Clean. Horrible builder’s-grade carpet. Linoleum in kitchen and bathrooms and 3’ x 4’ square entryway. No mountain view. BUT an incredible garden in the backyard and three full bathrooms. Great sized master.

We bought it the second one.

The Move
Steve moved out first. He started work at a church in September. I stayed behind to sell the house, pack, and finish my master’s thesis. The house sold in 12 days, so I moved in with my parents to finish writing my thesis and moved out in November.

I learned so much during the time with my folks. Certainly researching the effect of optional single-sex classrooms for boys

View from my "tower" at my parent's house. I worked on my thesis there.
View from my “tower” at my parent’s house. I worked on my thesis there.

struggling with literacy was an eye-opener and a very difficult research topic (one I’d chose for myself—no excuses!); however, the real growth came from just being around my parents and watching Christ in action through their lives. Blessed.

More Reality: Identity Crisis

I’m a teacher. It’s my identity. My teaching consumed me—about 60-70 hours a week (to the chagrin of my hubby). Teaching provided me with wonderful colleagues, terrific students, and an outlet for my creativity. Every week I’d look over lesson plans, re-work them, integrate some newer ideas, and grade papers. My reward? The appreciation of my students and their parents. It was never monetary. It was, however, a source of pride. I wanted to be an exceptional teacher. I loved having a great reputation. It sounds so conceited, but it’s brutally true—I valued my reputation and identity as an exceptional teacher.

Vanity, vanity. Poof. It’s gone.

Now I’m unknown. I apply and apply for adjunct teaching positions, but I don’t know anyone who knows someone. No connections.

And I miss my daughter and my parents and being only 3 ½ hours from my grandson.

But I’d become complacent. I see it now. It’s Windex clear to me now.

My complacency looked like this:

  • I figured that once I finished my master’s degree, someone would hire me based on my recommendations, reputation, and connections to wonderful teachers.
  • I figured I’d eventually find the right church and get involved.
  • I figured I’d start feeling stronger and be able to bike and lose weight and get healthy (I had to quit teaching for a year due to major arthritis issues and need for disk fusion surgery—worked on master’s while recovering).
  • I figured I’d start having weekly dinners with my parentals and with my daughter and her hubby.

I figured a lot of things, but didn’t take action on any.

Complacency.

And then God said, “Enough already.” Maybe. Who knows what God is saying in the heavenly realms concerning his millions of children?

Now I’m living east of I-25, have no mountain view, walk regularly on linoleum and builder’s grade carpet. AND I’m at peace.

Linoleum isn't the end of the world. Just miss my hardwoods.
Linoleum isn’t the end of the world. Just miss my hardwoods.

Dependency.

Severance, Colorado is on the eastern plains. When the wind sweeps down from the north, we get a nice whiff of a giant sheep ranch. The tiny town’s motto: “Where the geese fly, and the bulls cry.” The geese I get. The bulls weeping? Ah. Interesting story. Bruce’s Bar in Severance (an authentic “hole in the wall”) is famous for Rocky Mountain oysters—thus the bull’s cry. Ouch.

When isolated from friends and family and familiar places, you can keep kicking and screaming (I did), get really depressed (I did), or learn to trust your heavenly Father (I’m trying).

I began to live in God’s Word. I meditated on it day and night. I found a Bible study class in Ft. Collins. The ladies are precious and the study consumes much of my time. I found a church—Mountain View Community Church. Stevie and I love it. We are getting involved, and I am the volunteer print woman. I am now running bulletins, printing whatever needs to be printed. Using the folding machine. Stuff I learned to do as a graphic designer for South Tulsa Baptist Church in Tulsa eight years ago. I am trying to be useful while I look for a teaching position with a local community college or university.

I have no idea what is going to pan out for my future. None. I’m learning to walk by faith and not by sight—and it’s stinkin’ hard for a control freak like me.

What I know: God is the source of my strength. It doesn’t matter whether I “know someone” or have “connections”—He is my connection.

Kitchen tables are not for eating--they are for studying!
Kitchen tables are not for eating–they are for studying!

On the front of my Bible study notebook I have inserted a printed page that reads:
“If I do not stand firm in my faith, I will not stand at all.” It’s from Isaiah 7:96.

I recite it several times a day. It’s still lonely and isolated. I don’t have any friends yet—just some acquaintances. But God is my anchor and He holds me steady against this changing and sometimes overwhelming tide of change.

Piglet Meets Joshua and God…But No Hittites

PigletAlan Alexander Milne understood people very well—I think. He died in 1956, two years before I was born. But the Winnie-the-Pooh stories and characters are still one of my favorites. C.S. Lewis said,  “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” So true. I just finished reading A Wrinkle in Time for the four millionth time—still love it. Just like Miss L’Engle, A.A. Milne created characters with which we can all identify– even though they are animals.

For example, I closely identify with Piglet. He’s a bit insecure, kind, accepting, but tremulous about the world at large. He likes friends like Winnie-the-Pooh because WTP is kindhearted and a bit unsophisticated about the world, but willing to brave bees for what he loves: honey. He also likes having Tigger around, though Tigger is quite dangerous. He helps Piglet become a bit more adventurous. I think he is glad that Owl is around because Owl is the voice of pragmatism. I’m very like Piglet. I even have friends that are combinations of Pooh, Tigger, and Owl: sassy, kind, and brave. I need to be around brave people because I’m a bundle of fear.

 

What in the world are you so afraid of, Cindy Lou? (And yes, I am a Cindy Lou.) Shall we make a list? (These are in random order—I’m nervous about chronology because I could place something in the wrong order and have to rethink the whole list.)

  1. Fleas
  2. Tornado warnings
  3. Walmart
  4. Driving to strange places by myself.
  5. Failure
  6. Big dogs unless they are very furry.
  7. Live fish.
  8. Knives in the hands of killers (haven’t met any but the thought terrifies me)
  9. Failure
  10. Dying
  11. Phone calls (everyone texts me these days—if the phone rings then something bad or upsetting has probably happened and then I’ll worry and be afraid for the person who calls—usually one of my grown children)
  12. Filling out financial forms
  13. Gluten
  14. Waking up in the morning unsure if my body is going to be sick all day (thus going gluten-free)
  15. Family members dying. Sure we all will have to do it, but nonetheless, it’s hard. It’s scary. It’s grief. Soul-numbing grief.
  16. Tyrannosaurus Rex—what if we COULD use dinosaur DNA and make a T-Rex?
  17. Drones. I don’t want to hear drones instead of birds during my morning walks. No drones.
  18. Snakes, of course.
  19. Swimming in the ocean because there is no bottom. No there’s not. Really.
  20. Growing old and getting dementia and barking at my grandkids.
  21. Trailer houses.
  22. Moving to a new place at 56 years old
  23. Failing to make an A in every one of my remaining five Master’s classes. (Currently 4.0 after five).
  24. Disappointing my parents and my children.
  25. Disappointing my hubster.
  26. Disappointing my new pug puppy that I pick up on Wednesday. Her name is Zoey with one “o” though I love Zooey Dechanel. She’s more of a single “o” type of pug.
  27. Falling in public. I do that periodically. Last time was in Seattle right on the main drag by Pikes Place Market. There was a stumble (I was looking up at the sky as I’m prone to do), then a moment of panic, then acceptance as I hit the gravel with bare knees and naked hands. People stopped to see if I was ok. Hubster grabbed hold of my arm and didn’t let go for several hours.
  28. Confrontation. I am not smart enough about politics to debate policy. I don’t want to be put in a position to defend myself because I don’t know why I can’t just have an opinion without people confronting it. Thus Facebook is scary.
  29. Buzzfeed tests on Facebook. The Moose is my spirit animal? Really? I mean, I don’t believe in spirit animals and I’m part Cherokee so that should be right up my Native American alley.
  30. God. Or lack there of. Wait. I’m a Christ-follower so that isn’t a good thing to throw out into the world. Ok. I’m 99.9% sure that God exists and that Jesus was his only son and that Heaven exists. I’m banking my life on it. Really. If I live my whole life serving Jesus and living as He tells me to in His Bible and then I die and there’s nothing—I’m ok with that. It’s been worth it.

 

Ah oh! #30 caught the eye of God. There will be a discussion over this. After all, I just finished listening to Rick McKinley from Imago Dei in Portland during my morning ramble (they have an app for that!), and he was discussion Joshua and the whole “be bold and courageous” repetition. As a “Piglet” this is not my strong suit.

God: Cindy Lou, so you are only 99.9% sure that I know you and you know me?

Me: Maybe. . . I mean if we were actually having this conversation out loud with you sitting in the chair next to my computer, then maybe I’d be 100% sure.

God: I get that. In fact, I get that a lot. Have been getting that a lot for quite awhile. Nothing new under the sun as Solomon so beautifully expressed.

Me: I’m sorry. Humans aren’t good at the whole faith thing. Did you know they made a movie about Noah? Oh wait, you’re omniscient. That’s another thing I have a hard time with.

God: Yes, I saw them working on Noah. I’ve seen the film. They left me out. Good entertainment as long as you don’t think it’s actually what happened. Hollywood. Charlton Heston as Moses? Couldn’t they at least find a Jew? Oi vey.

Me: Now about this bold and courageous thing. You know I’m a Piglet, right?

God: I’ve known you before you were born. I saw you in your mother Lois’s womb. I saw you born, and I can see when you die. I can see all the places and spaces in between.

Me: Oh. So you know about…

God: Yep.

Me: And the other time. . .

God: Cindy Lou—I know you. I know your failures and your successes. I know your heart and your mind. I understand what makes you tick. I’ve got you. Do you hear me? I’ve. Got. You. And you are fully forgiven and fully loved and fully mine.

Me: I heard you that time, Lord. I heard you in the whispering birds and moving trees. I see you in the blossoming life and dark clouds. I hear you repeated in songs by Audrey Assad and through the words of others who love you. But…

God: No buts. Cindy Lou—be bold and courageous.

Me: I don’t have any Hittites surrounding me. Just life.

God: You do though. Every time you are confronted with something from your culture that goes against my Word and you reject it as truth or you turn off the television or refuse to conform to trendy morals, you are fighting the Hittites. You are being bold and courageous.

Me: I need a tee shirt that says “I fight Hittites in my sleep.”

God: How about just relaxing and trusting me…even when you’re nauseous and you don’t know why. Even when your body is swollen and throbbing with inflammation. Even when you don’t know what you’ll be doing in two years or tomorrow. Even then. Be strong, bold, courageous and walk.

Me: I’ll try. I really will. But I’ll fail.

God: Hey, it’s ok. Remember Paul—everyone has sinned—failed to live up to my desires for them—fallen short of my glory. But I’m a pretty compassionate God. Very patient. Long-suffering. Merciful. And righteous.

Me: That’s a bit scary. The righteous bit.

God: Don’t be afraid, Piglet. I’ve got your back.

Me: Resurrection, right?

God: Resurrection. It’s coming—and I don’t mean on ABC.

Me: Ok. 100%. I’m sure of you 100%. I’ll try to live like it. I will.

God: I know. I love you. I love you more than the moon and stars and the mountains—some of my best work. You are my best work.

Ok, so that’s a silly conversation, but it’s real. It’s based on my own fears and God’s truth. As Lent climbs towards Resurrection, I will meditate on Joshua 1:6-9. I will walk in 100% certainty of God’s existence and covenants. He has never broken His word. Ever. It’s not in His nature.

 

 

 

A Stranger in a Strange Land

*This is response to the three photos by Marissa Othon. I realize her pictures are set in Panama, but I’ve never been to Panama and I have been to Washington State. I fell in love with it and so I’m transposing these photos (and adding one of my own) to Washington.

The mossy woods north of Seattle.
The mossy woods north of Seattle.

She liked looking at the boats. There was something so alien about them—nothing familiar to a landlocked Midwesterner. She imagined the fisherman’s life as hard and stinky and wet and cold—with more than a touch of danger. A few of them stared at her from their colorful boats as she walked slowly up and down their dock breathing in the fishy oxygen, trying to acclimate herself to a different sort of life. This was her home now and these were her new people; her first congregation.

Annie never pictured herself as a pastor. A teacher, maybe—but never a pastor. In her staunchly Baptist Midwestern family, men were the pastors. Women were great with children’s ministry and women’s studies, but not in the pulpit. And yet after she graduated with a teaching degree, she had felt an urge—almost a physical push to get her Master’s of Divinity. Now, three years later, she was going to pastor a small Methodist church in a tiny town about 30 miles north of Seattle. She had never been to the Pacific Northwest, so she was trying to soak in everything she could. She’d taken a ferry from Anacortes to Friday Harbor and then did some island hopping, loving the way the islands rose out of the ocean like large green eggs. She even saw some whales—just the top of them and a few “spoutings”—but miraculous. Even Anacortes was enlightening. There was this sort of hardware store for boats. Its windows were dusty and filled with old lights, oars, nets—all the strange accouterments of boats made to cut through the ocean. She found a pair of rubber boots in bright yellow and laid claim to them. She felt a bit more like a native wearing the bright boots until she realized that everyone else wore the dark red or dingy orange. She exchanged them for the dark red—she didn’t want to stand out as an outsider. She longed to be native—to belong to this forested and magical place where mist hugged the ground and deep green moss grew with impunity. She’d already found a few trails near the parsonage where she was expected to live. She liked to wander, but sometimes grew afraid. The forest was so tightly woven and secretive. There was a fallen log covered in moss that covered one part of the trail behind her new place. She hiked just that far and then sat and listened. So many sounds and so much creeping and growing vegetation. Fertile. The land seemed rich and fertile.

Her new church hunkered down on a blue-green hill covered with what Annie now knew were Red Alder, Western Hemlock, and fragrant Douglas Fir. She’d immediately bought a guide to the trees and vegetation of her new home. As she wandered the trails, she tried to identify the different types of trees. Another way of laying claim to this new place—the naming of things. The church itself was a dingy white clapboard with a steeple and bell tower complete with bell. And like the English churches of the 19th century, it even had a cemetery attached to the west side filled with the ghosts of fishermen past. Mist-covered for the last three mornings in a row, the parsonage hung back a ways—another dingy clapboard. Five rooms. Eight hundred square feet. It needed some work. Paint primarily. Maybe a few new fixtures. Definitely a new toilet and some more furniture. Her graduate school, garage sale decor didn’t fill up the space very well. She wondered if there was an Ikea in Seattle. She’d Google it later. The house’s one saving grace was the porch. It was big enough for a small table and chairs. (Another reason to find an Ikea!) Annie had sat on her steps for the last few mornings drinking her coffee and thinking about Luke.

First, a female pastor without a husband is asking for trouble–especially a female pastor not quite thirty. Somehow marriage had missed her in college and graduate school. It seemed to her that there were very few men that actually came marriage-ready. Lots of flitters and flirts. So after much coaxing and reassuring, Annie had ventured into the world of on-line romance. It was really hard for her—she was a very private person and throwing her photo out into cyberspace seemed a bit too irresponsible. Plus she felt extremely vulnerable, but her friends from graduate school insisted it was safe—you just had to be wary and careful.

It took her three friends two hours to dress her up, and “funkify” her cropped, dark brown hair with gooey paste. They then added some eyeliner and pale lipstick. She looked so different . . . not at all like a pastor. She wasn’t really comfortable with that look—Annie had convinced herself to avoid any sort of tight, possibly provocative clothing. She liked tights. Heavy, black tights under a loose-fitting pencil skirt. And boots. She had two pair of cowboy boots that she had worn in and now fit her feet perfectly.

The photography session began, and after several tries, Annie’s best friend Joy was finally satisfied. Thankfully, Joy was great with the computer and managed to get her profile up quickly. Then Joy, Debbie and Sydnie sipped some red wine with her while they waited for any responses. There was a few that first night–mostly middle-aged, balding men without a steady job. She passed. This was not going to work, so she didn’t check the computer until Joy came over a week later wanting an update.

Of course, there was more wine and more searching through her latest responses. They immediately tossed out about 20—they were kind of creepy and way too “hey baby.” But there was one—Luke. Luke Fewster from Seattle. A fisherman. His profile said he was 31, divorced five years earlier, no kids, a boat of his own called “Lois Jean” named after his mother. He liked to read, hike, and bike, go salmon fishing (of course—Washington, duh.), kayak—basically do all of the things that Annie rarely did, except for reading, biking, and hiking. Short hiking. More like a jaunt then a hike. She’d only been fishing a couple of times out on her grandfather’s pond. Not her favorite activity. The thing about Luke that pulled her in was his love for Jesus. Luke was kind of a radical, long-haired (blond) Jesus follower who was big on social justice issues. He led a group called “Fishers of Men” that worked with the poor, helped the other fisherman out when needed, and mentored at-risk kids in the local schools. Joy immediately pooh-poohed him saying, “This guy is all machismo and not looking for a wife…plus, what would you do in Washington? That’s ages away from here. And you can’t know if this guy is for real—he sounds too good. He’s lying.” And Annie had agreed for the moment. But as soon as Joy left, she’d pulled up the website, found Luke’s profile, enlarged it and stared at his eyes trying to see if she could tell what type of man he really was.  Sort of convinced (the brown eyes did it), she sent him a message. “Hi, I’m Annie. I thought your profile was interesting. Love Like to get to know you better.” Simple. Should she be perkier? Add some humor? Should she change “interesting” to “intriguing”? No. Intriguing implied mysterious which definitely implied a sort of sexual intrigue. Nope. She stuck with “interesting.” She stared at her message for a couple of hours, getting up and doing some laundry and cleaning the kitchen. Finally she realized that if she didn’t at least try, she’d never know. So she sent it.

And now, four months and hundreds of emails and phone calls later, she was actually in Washington . . . with a job . . . with a future that both scared and excited her. She could not believe it when the school had suggested her for the job. It was so far from her comfort zone. She’d thought Missouri or Kansas. Maybe Colorado. Never Washington. Washington was like another country. But within a matter of months, she’d visited the church, flown back to Texas, been asked to take the church and here she was—in the middle of a green-blue forest in a tiny house that overlooked a worn out church and mist-covered graveyard.

And of course there was Luke. Luke who lived just 30 miles away. Crazy.

She thought about meeting him in person for the first time as she wandered through the town’s harbor, peeking in the fresh fish booths and trying not to breathe too deeply. A few townspeople said “hi” to her. A bunch didn’t. She was already missing the Midwestern friendliness. These folks seemed wary, and she obviously was a fish out of water. Ha! She’d never been on the ocean until she’d taken the ferry from Anacortes. Today she was wearing her shorts, dark red boots and an OSU t-shirt, but she obviously didn’t blend in. The boots weren’t doing it for her.

Still she needed dinner. Luke was coming for dinner, so she needed what else, fish. And she needed to get to know these fishermen and women. One booth towards the middle seemed less crowded than the others, so she walked in and looked over the catch as if it was normal for her. She had to turn away from the slimy looking squid or octopus or something with long tentacles. Nope. Annie was not up for anything squiddish. And no lobster. She didn’t even know how to open one. Oi vey. What was she doing here?

–Help you with something? Need a fish for dinner? These are fresh—right off my boat. He was dark, maybe Hispanic. He seemed to know she had no idea what she was doing.

–Yes, thanks, she stuttered. I’m afraid I don’t know much about what is easy to cook or how to cook it or what to serve it with . . . I’m new here. I’m the new pastor for First Methodist Church. (Wow, she thought. I really impressed him with my verbal prowess.)

–Well, I’ll be. We got us a woman pastor. That’s somethin’. I’m Charlie Mendez. This is my wife, Ginny. We’re glad to meet you.

Ginny was small, with dark eyes, narrow lips and a wide nose. Her gray curls snuck out from under a Seattle Seahawk ball cap.

–I’m Annie Sinclair. Glad to meet you both. I afraid I’m having a bit of culture shock. I’m from Oklahoma. Not much salmon and halibut fishing around there. No ocean—you know.

They laughed lightly with a friendly sort of rumble.

–We can help you pick out your dinner. It’ll probably be lunch for a couple a’ days, too. Here’s a little recipe paper. It’s got some ideas on it that Ginny wrote up. How about you just let us choose for you?

–Thanks so much. I’d appreciate that.

Annie watched as Ginny and Charlie picked out a salmon and then gutted it, filleted it and chunked it into good-sized portions.

–Now you take this home and follow one of them recipes and you’ll have you a fine dinner. Get some rice and vegetables down at the market and you’ll be set. Charlie handed her the white paper-wrapped salmon.

–Thanks again Ginny and Charlie. Do you come to the church? I mean . . . it’s ok if you don’t, I was just wondering.

–Well, it kinda depends on the week. Sometimes I have to go out on my boat even if it is a Sunday. But Ginny here usually takes the boys.

She looked at the dark eyes and narrow smile. I look forward to seeing you then, Ginny. Bye.

She glanced back and waved while they watched her walk out to the gravel street and over to a bike that was chained up against a lamppost in front of a hair salon.

–Hey there, Pastor Annie, Charlie yelled from across the street. You don’t have to lock up your bike—nobody here will take it.

He waved and then turned to some customers.

She put the salmon in her basket, pulled her backpack tight and headed back home. First I’ll figure out which recipe I’m going to try, then I’ll get out the rice and cut up the veggies . . . She sighed, all of sudden nervous with anticipation and fear. A silent prayer shot up to Heaven. Oh God. Oh God. Oh God. What am I doing? He didn’t answer. Typical. Oh God, Oh God, Oh God! What am I going to wear? A dress? No—that’s trying too hard. Jeans and a sweater? It’s July—too hot for a sweater.” She looked down at her shorts and Oklahoma State t-shirt and now muddy red boots. Maybe that maxi dress…

She kept pedaling, adjusting gears for the small hills. It wasn’t a long ride—only about three miles. Most of it was fairly level and graveled. Not too bad. She looked around her as she pedaled; forgetting for a moment that she was preaching to a new congregation in three days and she was about to meet “the man.” Instead she noticed that the mist was coming in again. She loved it and she loved riding through it. Sort of like riding through a cloud. The forest looked magical in its blue-green haze, while the ocean kept up it’s murmuring roar as she sweated up the hill to the church. That hill was the hardest part. She hadn’t made it up all the way yet and she wasn’t going to make it today. She got off and starting pushing the bike the rest of the way up to the church. She took out her keys and went in. The stone floor was smooth and cool. She wandered up to her pulpit and stood behind it for a while, looking out at the empty dark wooden pews. The stained-glass windows were dark and she could hear the ocean outside as the tides shifted with the moon. It was 5:00. Time to start cooking. Time to see if the flesh and blood man lived up to the emails and phone calls. And would she live up to his expectations? Crap. Why did she let Joy talk her into this? Annie locked the door to the church and pushed her bike through the cemetery towards the parsonage.

Through the mist, she could see a grey pick-up sitting comfortably in her driveway. Then she saw the man sitting on her porch—one leg stretched out with a book in hand. She pushed more slowly unsure of what she wanted to do. Run back to the church? Hide behind a tombstone? Jump on the bike and ride back into town as fast as she could? Then he looked up and saw Annie on her bike and smiled. She saw how he moved when he stood. How he wasn’t as tall as she thought he’d be. How his hair was shorter now, just sitting on his shoulders. How his dark brown eyes creased when he smiled. How one front tooth sort of turned a bit toward the other. Just a bit though. He spoke as he moved to take her bike and push it towards the porch, and his voice was gentle and honest.

–Hi Annie! What do you have in the basket?

–Salmon. For supper. I’m not sure what to do with it. Charlie gave me some recipes.

–Charlie Mendez? She nodded. Charlie’s a good guy. And don’t worry—I’m an expert with salmon. I’ll show you how to cook it.

And just like that, Annie relaxed and smiled. Luke took her hand and they walked inside together.

This is my post for the Weekly Writing Challenge.

peanut butter cookies are NOT a solution. . .

peanut butter cookies
peanut butter cookies

I admit it. I eat when I’m depressed and right now I am not seeing my life very clearly. I’m not seeing how truly blessed I am. I’m not seeing that God is providing even as I stamp my feet and demand answers.

But He is. And I’m being a poothead child.

Folks say how lucky I am not to have cancer. I am grateful I don’t have cancer. I know people whose families have been devastated by that disease. My brother-in-law is one of those people. He is clear of cancer now, but our prayers and thoughts were always going up the God super-highway.

So. . .I’ve got arthritis, and it is doing a number on my cervical discs. My white blood cells are hyperactive and just love to munch on my joints. I picture little pac man figures munching greedily through my joints. Yum yum. They salivate in anticipation.

I’m having surgery in two weeks to fix the damage.

BUT THOSE STINKIN’ PAC MEN are now munching their way through my lumbar discs. I’ve been told that the discs are like jelly donuts between the vertebrae. Well, my little pac man figure has munched away on the disc material in order to get to the delicious jelly. Result? Jelly is running into epidural cavities and irritating my nerves. Literally.

I didn’t know nerves could hurt so badly—aren’t they the  transporters of pain to the brain? Seems like they should have some sort of nerve protection which would prohibit them from hurting just because a little jelly leaks out of my disk donuts! Oi Vey!

Nerves are very sensitive.

Bly me, now I can’t walk well. As my daddy says, “Cindy Lou, you have a hitch in your get-a-long!”  Yep. My get-a-long is long gone. I walk like Frankenstein’s creature.

I can handle the pain stuff. It gets to me and my hands shake all the time, so I take a light-weight pain-killer; I flushed all the Percocet down the toilet. No thank you. I’ll take a peanut butter cookie.

But I also have to take this nerve pain medication. I think it may be evil because my hair is falling out. My hair is short anyway because it is really thick and bushy and coarse. But now, it’s thinner. And it has receded at my temples and my bangs won’t grow to cover it.

My mom suggested a wig. No way jose. No wig. I wear headbands as a disguise and eat peanut butter cookies. And mope.

Oh, did I mention that sections of my eyebrows are falling out? Thank goodness for Smashbox and their eyebrow powder. it’s terrific.

This week, deep, round and red, sore bubbles broke out in random places on my face. If my face were a map and my right eye was Maine, then I have these red bumps (one at a time—not a group) in Florida, Arizona, Mexico, Washington, and Quebec. I think they may be (gulp) pimples.

Another peanut butter cookie.

Can I be blunt, please? I’m vain. I’m not, nor have I ever been beautiful, but I have always been cute. Ok looking. Not special, but I hung together pretty well. But now—I won’t look in the mirror except to put on make-up.

I have to wear glasses and I’m now a good 30 pounds overweight because I can’t walk or ride my bicycle. Walking kills foot and makes me cry in pain for a while and wish I hadn’t flushed the Percocet down the toilet. Doctor doesn’t want me to ride my bike because I could fall and crack some of my fragile discs that the Pac Men have been attacking.

What now? Locusts? Boils? (I actually think pimples count as boils.)

This too shall pass.

It will. I read Psalm 27 last week and several parts of it spoke to my heart and eased my soul. The last verse was better than a peanut butter cookie.

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

Sigh. To everything there is a season. This is just a season. I can wallow around with peanut butter cookies or I can be strong and take heart and wait.

I’m trying. I’m praying. God is moving, and I just need to wait and apply Clearasil quite liberally.

. . .and avoid peanut butter cookies.

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red lipstick bravery

origin_199185257 Romans 8 always confounds me. 

Today I woke up and the pain hit me all over again—not emotional pain—physical pain. It is the physical pain that defeats me and makes me angry and frustrated.

*I consider that my present suffering are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in me. Romans 8:18. (I change the pronouns all the time to make it more personal).

It’s morning and I go to the Lord. Everyone’s morning God time is different, I’m sure. When I was teaching high school, my time with the Lord was a quick reading of My Utmost for His Highest while I dried my hair, and then listening to a good word from a favorite podcast while driving to school. During the twenty-minute drive I practiced developing a prayerful attitude. For me, a prayerful attitude means  calming myself and centering my mind on the truth and presence of God. That He was my creator God. A God that cared for me with all my idiosyncrasies and past, present and future failures. I centered my mind on the truth that I was NOT going to teach the kids by myself. I didn’t have the intelligence or quickness of mind it took to teach. I had to keep God in my pocket, so to speak, so I could reach down in that pocket and feel his hand grasp mine as reassurance of presence and love. Sometimes I have a stone cross in my pocket or a rock with “strength” engraved on it (given to me by a wonderful young woman).

*Many times, I don’t know what to pray anymore. I’m find I’m repeating myself. I have a list and it’s the same list. How and why? How and why, Lord? Help Lord! Please, Lord! And then I remember my access to the Spirit. Why do I forget that? His indwelling in me. Oh Holy Spirit—I pray—moans and groans too deeply implanted to be verbalized. The Spirit translates.He gets it. 

 And then comes verse 28. God works all the yucky, painful stuff for good—His good. His good in me. Shaping and forming me to be more like Jesus, but oh what a stiff, cold piece of clay I can be.

So today, in pain, I read these words and reflect and write. Looking at red and gold and brown trees reflecting the morning sun. Wishing I had another cup of coffee  and could sit a while longer until my hands quite shaking. And the pain passes.

Slowly, slowly it does. The shaking becomes a vibration. I run the dishwasher. I eat my oatmeal.  I take a shower, and even though I know I will be working on my computer today and may not even leave the house, I put on red lipstick. Red lipstick is brave. I will be brave in my hope today. I will be brave in my trust.

 “So what do you think? With God on our (my) side like this, how can we (I) lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us (me), embracing our (my) condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us (me)?” Romans 8:31-32 The Message Bible

A Poem by Wendell Berry—for my daughter-in-love, Renee

A Homecoming

One faith is bondage. Two

are free. In the trust

of old love, cultivation shows

a dark graceful wilderness

at its heart. Wild

in that wilderness, we roam

the distances of our faith,

safe beyond the bounds

of what we know. O love,

open. Show me

my country. Take me home.