a family I’ll remember

Today I met a beautiful family at The Penny Cottage Christmas event. The three young children, a baby and their mother caught my eye right away. The two girls had matching red and black plaid dresses and neatly braided and styled hair. I visited with their mom about her table. She is helping connect local people with things made by artisans in other countries who have been rescued from trafficking and other tragic situations. I enjoyed learning about this avenue of helping others.

I loved meeting this family, and as the mom tended to her table preparations, the little girl in a wheelchair gestured for me to come take a look with her at the mural on the wall. “Look,” she said in wonder. “What do you think that is?” We enjoyed the picture of the river on the wall, and I told her I really liked her red plaid dress. She noticed that it matched my red plaid fleece jacket. I asked if her mother sewed it, and she nodded. I asked how old she was, and she said, “Three.” We’re the about the same age, she said. I told her I wish I was three like her, and almost four, too.

The oldest boy, wearing a tidy button down blue plaid shirt emerged from the stairway, and excitedly shared with his younger sister what he saw upstairs as vendors were setting up. The elder sister also smiled and told her about the treasures she saw upstairs. Then the two kids headed off to explore some more.

The youngest girl’s face lit up and she asked me if I’d unbuckle the seatbelt to her wheelchair and carry her upstairs so she could see the delightful things her brother had been describing, too. I told her I’d love to, but I don’t have the best legs myself, so we went over and asked her mom about her request. Her mom shared with me the miracles God has done in the life of this precious little girl, nearly 4 now. She truly is an answer to prayer and meeting her and her family touched my heart. As I listened, my heart rejoiced at the loving family she is surrounded with, and I felt in awe of what God has done through the measure of healing He’s given her. By His grace, she’s defied many sobering medical predictions even before she was born, and her mom glorifies the LORD as she shares what God has done.

This bright girl had a sparkle in her eyes, and when I saw her upstairs, she had ‘adopted’ a handmade little gold-colored yarn toy. She held the adoption certificate in her hand, and thrilled with her treasure (a gift from their friend), she wanted to go show her mom. The braces on her legs and her wheelchair don’t slow down the spirit and love of this remarkable child one bit.

mental health during this pandemic

I was pondering today the reality that around the globe we are all faced with some strange realities simultaneously. Who would have guessed this was all ahead a year and a half ago? I want to say that I acknowledge the pandemic is very real. We have lost loved ones who died from COVID (thought these two women were elderly and had other issues as well), and we know younger people who have been very ill with this virus. We’re praying hard for one man who is very sick and in ICU, and others. So there’s no denial that this is a serious illness.

The origins of the illness and how various leaders around the world are responding (and opportunistically trying to control people beyond their legal authority and impose socialist policies) are worth pondering, however.

In many places, elderly have been isolated from loved ones for months and months now, and depression and other mental health impacts are serious. Kids are hurting too. They are missing out on contact with teachers, other kids and other benefits of in-person education. The mental health crisis is as serious as the pandemic, and these are inter-related. We need to create ways for meaningful connection. We need to consider the whole person, and also we need to stand up to leaders who are abusing their positions and harming many in the process.

Rise up. Find ways to care about the people in your sphere of influence.

Yes, we need to avoid spreading this blasted virus. But we also need to remain engaged in life and find and preserve connections with others that are life-giving. A friend has brought her dogs over sometimes and she stayed for dinner recently. Another friend came over for a visit and stayed for dinner in the past few weeks. We enjoyed music, prayer and conversation, and we don’t take time with others for granted at all right now. We do what we can to protect our health. But we also know that these interactions are good for health, and we trust others are encouraged as well.

Feeling Overwhelmed? These ideas might help:

I heard from a friend yesterday who shared that she felt overwhelmed with all that’s going on right now. I think this is common. In terms of major stressors, most of us have a fairly significant list right now. Here are a few thoughts on things you can do which might help:

Be kind to yourself and others.

Recognize that some people are grieving significant losses.

Honor the grieving process and don’t invalidate the emotions others feel, or which you are experiencing.

Be curious. Look into the truth and go beyond the surface. Don’t assume.

Some people feel very concerned about what’s going on politically, morally, and in many other ways right now in the world. Validate those concerns.

Take an interest in learning the truth–go beyond the narratives that the world is pushing so hard.

Many voices clamor for your attention. Listen for God’s still small voice. Ask Him for wisdom and discernment.

Disengage from the news, social media and instead connect with loved ones face to face. If that’s not possible because of the pandemic or life circumstances, find ways to connect which are life-giving to you.

Journal. Pray. Re-create.

Spend time in solitude and nature. Today fog hangs in the air outside. I’m going to take a shower and then go for a drive with my camera. Fog creates some beautiful scenes in the countryside all around us. Barns and trees hold a mysterious beauty as the mist shrouds some of the landscape.

I’ll listen to some worship music and God’s Word.

I’ll allow Him to infuse my spirit with His hope, His transcendent peace, His joy.

The joy of the LORD is my strength.

Thanksgiving Day 2020

I’m sitting by our fireplace, enjoying the warmth. Outside, the sunrise brought light to the day, and some blue sky. While we won’t be gathering with family as planned, Jerry and I will enjoy a restful day. A friend of ours picked up a free Thanksgiving meal for us from a nearby small town cafe. We’ll see what’s in that package and probably add a few things. I also picked up cod for fish tacos and Jerry wanted some ham, so this weekend we’ll enjoy a variety of healthy foods.

While many people traditionally feast on Thanksgiving Day, and enjoy time with family and friends, this year the pandemic has impacted the usual routine. Just for fun, I started a 1000 piece puzzle a few days ago, and have enjoyed praying as I’ve put together this beautiful puzzle of Oregon. I feel like life this year has been a puzzle, too. The pieces haven’t always fit together easily, requiring patience and resilience to cope.

However, I enjoy a challenge. I patiently work on the puzzle for as long as it takes to bring this chaos into a clear picture. There’s something soothing about doing a puzzle once in awhile. My late friend Cordelia Pinner used to be a prayer warrior, and she was very gifted as a spiritual director and faithful friend. She taught me to pray as I do a puzzle, so I always think fondly of times shared with this dear saint as I try to put the pieces together. As we continue to adapt to changes and losses in this pandemic around the globe, and the changing political landscape in the United States, prayer remains most vital.

I am very thankful for the Bible study we are doing in the book of Daniel this year. Daniel and his friends were forced to adapt to many tough things after being taken from their homes into the service of the Babylonian king. They faced tremendous adversity, including the threat of death if they would not follow the king’s edicts or do as he wished. Yet they remained faithful to the Living and True God despite threats and fiery furnaces. I pray that we would also rest in His sovereignty in these troubled times in which we live.

This year, our Oregon governor has threatened jail time or a large fine for anyone violating her mandatory freeze during this pandemic. While precautions are necessary to try to avoid the spread of this insidious virus, many of us believe she takes a little too much delight in wielding power. She has delighted in protestors and riots destroying property while putting limitations on churches despite not having the constitutional authority to do so. Our freedom to worship comes from God. We can worship Him despite the threat of jail. We must look to God to guide us, not this power hungry woman who embraces Marxism.

Thankfully we can worship God every day, and giving thanks remains part of our daily worship of our faithful Lord and Savior. We had looked forward to a small gathering for a turkey dinner today with our family. However, due to circumstances related to the pandemic, our family plans had to be delayed. That’s okay. Jerry and I will enjoy time to rest, re-create, and give thanks for His faithfulness and grace. We’ll gather in a couple of weeks.

You are our resting place. We seek Your face, O LORD.

longing for comfort and truth?

We live in bizarre times. If you’re looking for comfort and truth, you won’t find these in the news.

The government won’t provide it. The media won’t either.

They can’t give you what they don’t have.

Expect adversity, but hope for peace.

The world doesn’t have a lot of peace to offer right now. In fact, the whole earth is in distress.

A pandemic rages.

Storms, fires, and political turmoil have ravaged many places. Entire countries are in crisis.

Seek His face. Seek His face continually. Then you will be like a well-watered garden whose springs do not fail (see Isaiah 58). In the midst of great turmoil, God still remains the only enduring source of hope, peace, truth and comfort.

Run to Him.

Find refuge in the shadow of His wings.

Perilous times lie ahead, too. But He already knows the outcome. He will accomplish His loving purposes ultimately.

Almighty God. Abba Father, our covenant-keeping Redeemer, we choose to seek Your face in these troubled times.

We trust in You alone.

Be Still

In a world flooded with words and opinions, find time to be still and know that He is God.

Remember, when we pray we can simply listen to God, as Mother Teresa once said. When asked what God does then she replied, He listens, too.

Companionable silence.

In a world where quiet and solitude so often get neglected, be still.

Connect with the peace and sheer power of our Almighty God who knows the future. He holds the Present. He heals the past. Gentle is strength under control. Marvel in His gentle beauty, His tender compassion and grace.

Cease striving. Quiet your heart.

Rest. Be renewed.

walk quietly

“The soul is like a wild animal—tough, resilient, resourceful, savvy, self-sufficient. It knows how to survive in hard places. But it is also shy. Just like a wild animal, it seeks safety in the dense underbrush. If we want to see a wild animal, we know that the last thing we should do is go crashing through the woods yelling for it to come out. But if we will walk quietly into the woods, sit patiently by the base of the tree, and fade into our surroundings, the wild animal we seek might put in an appearance.”– Parker Palmer

In this information age when people are bombarded with words, news, social media and way too much stimulus for quiet reflective lives to prosper, solitude demands intentionality. We have to plan for it, fight for it, withdraw from the rat race, and revel in it whenever we can. But more than that, we have to choose solitude and find ways to “walk quietly into the woods,” as Parker Palmer so wisely wrote.

Father, help me turn off the distractions and come to the secret place to meet with you each day. Renew me in Your love. Transform me into Your image. Refresh me from the chaos of this world as I seek Your face continually.

the verboten TV

Long ago, I remember sitting with my Swiss Grandma Tillie in their farmhouse up on the hill. The sound of her clock ticking on the fireplace mantel marked the seconds audibly. Her long silver hair always looked tidy under the net that kept it styled neatly above her shoulders. That evening, she asked me to turn on the verboten TV (I pulled the button out as remotes weren’t how she operated that black and white screen), and after a few minutes of world news, Grandma made a face and said, ‘That’s ugly! Turn that thing off!”

She and Grandpa and Aunt Velma didn’t usually watch TV. Grandma had a little electric organ she played hymns on. We would gather around and sing off key. Happy memories with my family. Now that Grandpa had passed away, her organ and the TV were still considered worldly, but she kept them around anyway. She understood God’s grace, and she wasn’t bound by all of those legalistic ideas. But unless you turned on that TV, it simply collected dust. She preferred it that way. The violence and chaos of the world beyond their hillside farm didn’t often reach her eyes and ears.

Unlike most people nowadays, Grandma hadn’t grown desensitized to the images and noise of this world. She simply couldn’t endure watching much news. I feel that way about social media and some of our news nowadays. I seldom turn on our TV. I can read enough articles to stay abreast of things well enough to pray. My husband informs me of major things in his good natured way, inserting humor to lighten the mood as needed. Life’s too short to spend all of our time captivated by images and words on a screen. I’d rather look into the eyes of someone I love, and plant succulents, and spend time with lambs in the spring. I love to go for a drive and look at the fall colors with my Sweetie.

If Grandma Tillie were alive today and saw all that’s going on in our state and world, she wouldn’t be spending much time with the news on. She’d read her Bible. She liked to grow African violets. She’d visit over a cup of tea with her large extended family and neighbors. She liked to ask us to weigh on her old scales when we came in the sliding glass door. She probably missed her calling as a nurse. Grandma never learned to drive a car. She had Mr. Kuenzi drive her around in their huge old light green Chevy Impala (with a white hard top and 400 engine) until he died. Then she’d get rides from family or have us pick up groceries for her in Silverton. She would rather can green beans and serve up some vanilla wafers with pudding. She’d lift the lid of her cookie jar and offer us an oatmeal cookie (often a little hard), and visit about something positive, like the new baby a cousin just added to the family. Somehow she kept track of our hundreds of cousins and delighted in their news, sharing this joy with a twinkle in her grey blue eyes.

Grandma understood that what we focus on influences our outlook and quality of life. Granted, we need to understand what’s going on and do what we can, and certainly pray. We are called to pray continuously. But, we live in a fallen world, and our hope just isn’t here. In Christ, we have a hope that transcends all of the things going on. One day, this upcoming election won’t be so crucial. Fires won’t fill the sky with dark clouds of smoke and ashes. None of the social chaos and pandemic will be able to disturb us. Not when we see Jesus face to face. The things of earth really will grow strangely dim as the hymn says. Our citizenship is in heaven, and we’re passing through this life as we hopefully grow to be more like our Beloved Savior, by His grace. Left to our own devices we’d be such a mess.

Even if you feel like a mess, take heart. God is in the transformation business…from ashes, He brings beauty. From filthy rags, emerges a garment white as snow because of His sacrificial gift of eternal life and forgiveness. We have reason for joy and peace despite this very messy world we live in. As Abbott Marmion wrote, “Joy is the echo of Christ’s life in us.” Now that’s beautiful.

after the rains

This evening, for the first time in about two weeks, the air was fresh enough to breathe outside without a mask. I saw the sky after the heavy rains, the lightening and thunder that rumbled through our area last night, and I felt so relieved. I went out to get some fresh air and watched the sunset at my friends’ waterfront, enjoying the clean Oregon air with a very grateful heart.

The air quality in our area has been among the worst in the world these past two weeks. So, the big storm with heavy torrential rains and water washing away that smoke, and hopefully putting out more of the remaining fires that have been ravaging our state….that storm felt so welcome.

Last night the thunder and lightening lit up the sky so brightly that people said it hurt their eyes. I had room darkening shades and an extremely tired body. I slept through it all. The loud rumbling thunder. The bright lightening strikes, and the winds…none of it woke me.

Maybe I felt a bit exhausted from these two long weeks. Praying for God to spare the homes of people I knew, to spare our family farm and my hometown, and the farms and homes of cousins and friends…I felt like I fought the fires along with the brave men and women who were out there on the front lines, but I fought through prayer. God heard our prayers, and in His sovereignty we saw Him answer many of those heartfelt prayers. Homes were spared. Lives were spared. Winds turned the fires, miraculously sparing the Christian Renewal Center and other very beloved places like my friends’ cabin up on the mountain.

So does it mean God did not hear the prayers of those who lost their homes? Does it mean He does not care? God loves each one of us, and somehow, in His sovereignty, He sometimes allows people to experience very painful losses. He doesn’t love them any less. In fact, I think we confuse the reality of His unconditional love with our human nature. We’re finite in our perspectives and often don’t see beyond today and beyond ourselves. He’s eternal. He’s never in crisis, never worried or scared. He is Almighty God, Maker of Heaven and Earth.

If you have lost your home and things very dear to you, I am so sorry. I visited my parents last weekend. My husband and I took them a pizza and salad for dinner. My Dutch Father, Arie, sat and wept over the loss of homes and properties. He felt so sad about the losses people were experiencing. I was touched by the compassion of this godly man. He cried, and many of us felt like crying often these past two weeks. Our beautiful state has been ablaze. By God’s grace, some of the fires are now under control or contained. Some homes were spared. Lives were spared. But our vulnerability as human beings remains vivid in our minds.

Two weeks ago, on Friday night, not many suspected these weeks would hold so much tragedy. Not many suspected that we were going to be at war with infernos blazing across our state, and that some of those fires would be lit by arsons. We were about to hear about a huge windstorm, blowing in the opposite direction as usual, and dry hot conditions that would soon place many of us in the path of danger.

So often life is like this…we don’t know what is around the corner. A resilient person knows that something bad might happen at any time, but just as likely, something good might just happen, too. Despite all of the fires and sad stories I heard, I saw God move mightily. Often in hearts and families.

Tonight the sunset spoke volumes to my heart. The beauty along the waterfront, the beaver swimming across the waters, the geese and hummingbirds flying around in the newly washed fresh air…all of it seemed to worship the Creator. In front of me, a hummingbird paused midair, hovering with its wings moving so fast they were almost invisible. All creation testifies to His goodness and grace.

Thank You, Father, for sparing our home and community. Thank You for your promises that you will never leave us or forsake us. Thank you that you instill hope in our hearts and renew us in Your love, just as the torrential rains washed the smoke out of the air. You wash our filthy hearts clean. You make us white as snow by the cleansing blood of Christ. We worship You tonight, and thank You for Your enduring steadfast love and care.

The Oregon Spirit

This is Oregon, my friend said when she came to pick up some clothing for friends who have evacuated and still don’t know if their house remains standing. Not the things that hit the news across the nation, like the unrest, the politics, and other things. Somehow the things that loomed so large a few weeks ago pale in significance. Instead of stories of crime rates rising, we hear of the beautiful hearts of folks. People helping others. Rescuing horses, cattle and other livestock, sharing quilts, eye drops, and shampoo for those evacuated. Loaning a barn or a trailer to help evacuate some cows or a border collie. Privately owned excavation companies sending men and heavy equipment to save whole communities from the consuming flames, and the Redneck Crew fighting fires because somebody has to save these homes. Helping others even when they might have suffered profound loss themselves.

This is our beloved Oregon. Pulling together to fight fires and then to recover afterwards, when the smoke begins to clear, and some are able to return home. Those with pioneering spirits and a work ethic, who live faithful lives and love their families and others well. Those who pray through the night hours for the winds to shift and for safety for those fighting fires, and for homes to be spared. They are the salt of the earth who don’t assume the government needs to take care of their every need, and who sacrificially care for others and accept responsibility for the people and land they love…who roll up their flannel sleeves and get ‘er done, trusting God for the endurance needed in times of crisis….this is Oregon.