Oregon Gardens

My husband and I are enjoying the beauty and wonder of one of the most beautiful places on earth for a few days. This is a very welcome refuge in the midst of a chaotic era.  The pandemic has meant everyone is home, cooped up in a neighborhood we usually enjoy living in a lot. So getting away is ever so welcome. We are thankful for the small town we live in, though a change of scenery is good for everyone.

Eventually I will share some of the best pictures….this place is a photographer’s dream. It’s nearby our family farm, so coming here feels like home. Last evening, I sat in my power chair a few feet from a doe and her fawn, and they watched me as I enjoyed their presence. Humming birds fly so close to my head I can hear their wings and feel the soft breeze generated by their wings.

Too Many Noodles

Two years ago, right around this time, Jerry and I got the keys to this house. We had lived in my condo at Cinnamon Lakes for the first three years or our marriage. Though Jerry and I loved the wildlife and some of our neighbors there at the lake, it was simply too small for us. I had been working at home part-time before we got married. I had an office where I served a few individuals and couples for counseling. I had been trained in some faith-based healing approaches that were quite effective and loved seeing God heal and restore marriages and individuals. As soon as Jerry moved in, I knew working from home would not be feasible.
Jerry has a lot of hobbies–music, weaving, building things from hardwoods, art, and more. He’s a gifted man with a talent for language. He still takes notes in Farsi at church.  I have some hobbies, too. I do photography, make greeting cards, grow succulents, play the ukulele by our campfire, write devotionals, my blog, children’s books, and more. I retired early from my career in rehab counseling due to MS, but after leaving full-time employment, I wrote trainings for professionals and delivered them around the NW. God opened doors and for several years my part time business called Hope Beyond Words thrived. Then finally health declined enough that I had to stop working completely for several years. But I never stop serving God. I have skills to offer and love to help others.
Fast forward from our wedding day, a very joyous time in April of 2015, to April of 2018. I took a trip to China for about three weeks, with Jerry’s blessing. We married late in life and both of us understand that some time apart actually strengthens our relationship. My friend Janet and I taught some counselors in Yunnan Province some wonderful counseling approaches. Then my former student, Dr Annie Yi, who is a chief surgeon in her OB-GYN Hospital at Fudan University in Shanghai, invited me to do a talk for her doctors. I prepared a talk about the challenges faced by physicians in serving people whose illnesses are hard to diagnose. We had a wonderful evening, and for Dr Yi and I, it was very special. She had been my top student at Jiangxi Medical College as a young woman. I was in my twenties and we became very close friends. We’ve kept in touch all of these years, visiting one another when we can. Ironically, I caught an Asian flu just as I arrived in Shanghai, and felt like I’d been hit by a truck. The Ayi of my friends where I stayed knew an ancient Chinese healing method using a stone. She broke blood vessels a bit in the process and I was black and blue, but felt much better quite rapidly. Probably Ayi is needed in this fight against COVID. She’s a lovely person with strong hands and a sparkle in her eyes because of her hope beyond this life.
After I returned, Jerry greeted me at the airport, having prepared a humorous sign with some Chinese characters, welcoming Sue Kuenzi “Corn Dog” Sabin home. He loves corn dogs. I never eat them, but I figured it was a loving gesture and very funny. On the ride home to Salem, Jerry told me I had too many noodles in the pantry. I had missed him quite a bit, but he was quite OCD about the number of noodles I had on hand. This frustrated me. Not so romantic, Sweetie. I told him give away the darned noodles and let me get over jetlag!!! Within a few weeks, Jerry’s already questionable health got worse and worse. I told him he’d worn out his gall bladder. He said mockingly, “Yes, Dr Kuenzi.” That’s what he calls me when he thinks I am acting beyond my scope as his wife. But I was right. He came home from work looking jaundiced and green around the gills. He told me if he died in the night, that he enjoyed knowing me. I told him if he felt like that, the ER was the place to go. But of course he refused…until he was so sick he finally asked me to haul him in.
Once there, the hospital did a few tests and said he had some blocked ducts and his liver enzymes were super elevated. He had waited too long with his gall bladder looking like a bag of gravel, adhered to his liver. His Mom said I probably saved his life by hauling him in. Anyway, the hospital liked having him around and kept him for 5 days straight.  Two surgeries later, things were looking up a bit. They couldn’t just poke holes in him and scoop out the gall bladder. They tried. But the darn thing was stuck to his liver and very inflamed, so surgery took 4 or 5 hours. The surgeon came out, looking very exhausted, and told us he would live, minus his gall bladder, and gave me wifely instructions. To entertain myself at his hospital bedside, and because I had too many noodles to accommodate, I started looking at real estate on line.
I’ve always loved Jefferson. Jerry was working in Lebanon at the hospital so it would ease his commute quite a lot. Plus we were having some tough things going on at the condos back then. A mentally ill man with a criminal history moved in with his mother with dementia. He threw a boulder threw her window when she locked him out. He shot my van with a sling shot. He jumped out of bushes to threaten me. I had worked with prisoners early in life, and knew how to scare him back, so he ran and hid. But it was stressful having to carry mace just to get the mail. Then my van got hit in Salem by a hit and run. Then as we were about to move to Jefferson, a deranged employee at the Safeway gas station waved a loaded gun right at Jerry and I….Jerry said, “if things go south, get down.” I told him things already went south! That’s a real gun!! Jerry managed to get a picture, so we were prime witnesses. The police came and scooped him off the pavement after that had him lay face down so they could snatch that gun from him. Well, you can see, we’d had just about enough of the wild west in South Salem. Moving to the country suited us just fine.
(Of course, Jerry didn’t think that the dietary rules post-surgery applied to him. He bullied me into buying him a bag of jerky and ate the whole thing. His tummy got swollen enough above the incisions that I called the doctor. I asked if I had to haul him in again, and they said, “no, but that was stupid.”  Sweetie threatened to have the homeless man go to McDonald’s for him. I told him he was addicted to junk food and I wasn’t going to enable him. So things got heated in our beautiful little lakeside condo. I wondered if we’d survive. I won’t mention any names, but someone I love threw a full container of hummus which imploded like a bomb. That was the day we were moving the beds to Jefferson.)
I ended up sleeping at our new home alone the first night. Mr Rogers, a runaway rabbit, slept outside my window all night under the moonlight. He was something of an angel. The dear man I had married lived with two rabbits, Oats and Barley, in the yurt he had built. That was back when we met. So I knew God sent me Mr Rogers to remind me that I was not alone, despite the stressors of recent months. Jerry was thrilled that our house came with this big grey rabbit and spent time with him, hoping he’d just adopt us. Then we learned the little girl in a nearby home missed her Mr Rogers. After four or five glorious days with that plump grey rabbit, Mr Rogers moved back home to his  hutch, and we grieved the loss. But we were very busy renovating our new home. Jerry still had recovering to do from his surgery. We decided to install cork flooring in his Music Room and our Art Room. Sweetie only really likes hand tools. It’s romantic but a lot of work. So we sawed every board and installed them. But neither one of us could get off the floor very well, so that got a bit humorous and pathetic. Mission accomplished though. Memories.
Now we have an Art Room, a Music Room, and MBR, and my wonderful office. We have a woodshop area in the 4 car garage. I have my succulent adventure going on in the back yard, which is my domain, and lots of fruit and fresh veggies growing for us to enjoy. Life is improving, even though my health is declining. During COVID, we are forming deeper connections with many neighbors around here. God opens doors for beautiful bonds to develop during times of adversity. I hardly notice the pandemic now, except Sweetie works from home and now we hear that will continue into October. I am enjoying this arrangement again now. When I fell, I just called him on my cell phone and said, “Can you do a BRB and come pick me up off the ground?” Where are you? I told him my location, splattered between the raised beds bleeding a bit. He is really good at helping me when I fall. So I am thankful. God guides us, and holds us close to His heart.

returning to my farm roots

we live one day at a time…and handle life as best as we can. yesterday I returned to my roots. i drove around our three family farms, saw the barns and grass seed cleaner of my childhood. i touched the rocks that i had picked up as a kid, in the fields with my dad and family, and brought some home. i remembered who i am and what matters most to me. i am so thankful for our farm heritage and that this beautiful land remains in the family. i visited with cousins and a bee keeper who was my classmate. i remembered my 4-H steers as i looked in the barn. i remembered running the grass seed cleaner into the night. memories came flooding back, many of them wonderful, joyful times of hard work and being together as a family. of hauling straw and delivering it to the fairgrounds for a dollar a bale. we would throw the straw into each stall over the top of the doors. we were industrious, working hard to make a living. catching crawdads in the stream on a sunny day. frogging in the neighbors pond. root beer floats with the montagues, or riding their sow or one of the cows. playing cowboys and indians and leaving a hostage tied up to a tree for awhile. sending food up into the big tree by rope. jumping from the haymow with grain bags for parachutes. grinding our own wheat and helping mom bake bread and churn butter. hard times, too. trusing God in deeper ways, learning about His grace and love, His power. Memories. Fields of vivid green–new life. Riding my horse with Katie through the fields down in the draw, going so fast our hair trailed behind us. Loving life and freedom.

Be absolutely His: writing as worship, an offering to the Lord

After being with so many writers at the summer conference last week, I’ve pondered many things. Being a writer and responding to His leading raises a lot of emotions, doesn’t it? I appreciated how many of the speakers talked about the feelings we might have as writers. Sometimes we feel like we are “not enough.” Sometimes we wrestle with doubts or feel intimidated by the task before us. (I have 1 Chronicles 28:20 posted near my desk as a reminder not to be frightened by the size of the task, but instead to be strong and courageous and get to work because the Lord my God is with me, and He will help me.) We all have various motives for writing, but as believers, we write in response to His calling on our lives. We write as an offering to Him.

Many people I met last week write as an expression of who they are, and because they love to write. I’m sure some write with the hope of publication and some income. Then there’s a whole industry to try to comprehend … with a huge learning curve. Deadlines and improving our craft become vital. Some writers in this world write to make a name for themselves, but as Christians we ultimately write to magnify the name of Jesus, not for our own fame.

We are His Creation, and our identity is found in Christ. I pray that we never get lost in finding our place in the world or become too caught up in how to succeed in this industry. Yes, we have plenty to learn. But “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared forehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10 ESV). A text just arrived from my friend with a precious reminder: “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?  My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.”  – Psalm 121:1-2

My prayer is to never lose sight of writing as a way to honor and glorify the Lord, to somehow share His love and grace with a world that needs Him. Rather than feeling stress and pressure to perform well, I pray that I can abide in Him and that writing flows from abiding in the True Vine, my source of life and inspiration. Just as the cherry tomatoes grow and ripen on the vines of the sprawling plant in my garden, I pray that any fruit that comes from my efforts reflects the Vine. The power comes from Christ.

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.  John 15:4-5 (ESV)

While living in China years ago, I heard a tape of Jill Briscoe talking about how her writing only had power when it came from a heart already worshipping the Savior when she picked up the pen. Oh, Father, please help me to begin my days in worship, finding my identity and hope in You. Help me not to splash the page with ink before I have found myself hidden in You.

 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  2 Do not be conformed to this world,but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.    Romans 12:1-2 (ESV)