a caring father

This evening after I finished mowing our lawn, I pulled a few weeds. I can’t balance well enough for long, so I’ll have to continue weeding another day.

I wanted to enjoy a little more time outside. Too tired and unsteady to walk, I took the power wheelchair for a spin. The gentle evening light and warm spring air felt so good. On a nearby street, I saw a family out for a bike ride. The mother was walking, and several kids were biking. I saw the father riding a kid’s bike, demonstrating how to ride a bike for his younger son. Then the younger boy got back on his small bike, but he couldn’t quite balance adequately yet.

His father straddled the back tire as he walked and leaned forward, steadying the handle bars for his son. He let go and his son managed to stay upright a little ways, and then as he toppled to one side, his father gracefully caught the bike and kept his son from hitting the sidewalk. His son smiled proudly as his father spoke words of encouragement. “You made it quite a ways that time. You did it!”

I smiled and heard the other kids praising him, too. Like seeing a toddler’s first steps, I had joy of witnessing a holy moment. I admired this father’s caring actions and the love on his face.

I thought about how we still need encouragement and support as adults. When we try to learn something new, or we simply get weary and lose our balance, we need to know that someone stands ready to help us right ourselves and try again.

I am thankful that my husband has never been embarrassed by my need for assistive devices. Some men, with a more shallow nature or fragile ego, might feel ashamed to walk alongside a wheelchair, or to walk beside their wife who is using a walker despite being relatively young. Those of us with multiple sclerosis don’t always have the luxury of being steady on our feet regularly enough. I felt very triumphant when I made it safely all of the way down the aisle on our wedding day. We placed seats for us to rest in during part of our wedding ceremony. Guests told me they were relieved that I didn’t have to struggle to balance and stand for a long time, as tradition sometimes suggests.

My husband sometimes holds my hand in the grocery store as I ride on the motorized shopping cart. I never feel any hesitancy to accept me with my mobility limitations. He encouraged me to buy a LifeGlider, which is a newer device that helps prevent falls, and it arrived a few days ago.

I really appreciate my husband’s support. He wants me to have what I need to live life as fully as possible. Today we took a walk together on his break. I felt so good walking alongside him with my hands free (rather than pushing a walker). I relaxed knowing that even if I stumbled, the LifeGlider would keep me from hitting the ground.

This evening I loved how the siblings and the boy’s mother and father all encouraged him with smiles and positive comments as he tried to learn to ride a bike. When this boy is older and trying something new, I think maybe the self-talk in his mind will be positive, too. How different it would have been if his father hadn’t been willing to patiently teach him.

I couldn’t help smiling as I saw this loving father model grace and support rather than criticism. I saw the joy on the boy’s face as he experienced a small victory and kept trying to balance on his bike a little longer and go a little farther.

Father, I hope I can trust You as I take risks and learn new things like this child trusted his father. Rather than being anxious and discouraged by the many times I fail or lose my balance, help me instead to celebrate the small gains and dare to go on risking. Help me to trust that You will help me not to crash as I attempt new things or walk on unsteady legs.

Help me celebrate my progress on writing a book, however slow the process may feel. Help me remember that You stand ready to help me, and that You cheer me on.

Thank You for the times I have fallen and You provided my husband to help me up, hold me close, and reassure me with his loving embrace and tender words of affection.

remembering the life of a cousin who reflected Christ’s beauty

Yesterday I drove down rural roads which usually bring such joy, and even peace, to my heart as the beauty of the fields, trees, and farms delight my soul. This drive felt so different.

Instead of passing by green pastoral scenes, fields, and lovingly landscaped properties, what I witnessed instead grieved my heart. I had to drive carefully to avoid debris still sticking out into the road.

I knew that the recent ice storms had been brutal for many. Locally, I had seen some branches down and a few toppled trees. But I hadn’t been out for a drive since the storm hit last weekend, taking down many power grids and trees with it, and leaving so much chaos in its wake.

Now, limbs and branches, and entire logs littered the side of the road, and many trees and scenes looked as though they had survived a war zone. The natural beauty, marred by a storm causing so much havoc, now bore the marks of anguish instead.

Multiple times flaggers asked me to stop and wait while the men working to restore the electricity to these rural homes focussed on their task at hand. They must be so exhausted after a full week of working long hours outside. I prayed for them. As of today, 10% of the customers will remain without power reports say. I know that my family who have endured a full week of outages are weary, too.

I saw a few homes with a tree still on their roof and a few with tarps seeking to keep out the rain.

Seeing so many trees scattered across the landscape, and branches that had snapped during that terrifying ice storm brought back other memories of my youth–helping my family or cousins store up some wood for winter with chainsaws buzzing as we cut trees into firewood.

But I had a destination in mind on this grey, rainy morning, and when I drove past my parent’s acreage I prayed that their power would soon be restored. I would visit them after the memorial and see if I could offer any help.

Whenever I saw familiar trees which had survived the storm without much damage, I felt a sense of relief. Somehow the trees have become part of us, just as the land in this beautiful valley holds a very special place in our hearts for those of us who grew up on these farms.

But then I arrived at my destination after a little less than an hour of driving. The Apostolic Church in Central Howell had their electricity restored in time for the memorial of a very beloved man, my cousin Lynn Kuenzi.

The sweet refrains of a cappella hymns filled the narthex and sanctuary, and I instantly relaxed, thankful to be in this place that Lynn loved so much.

Memorials at this church always bring me back to my early years in life. Memories of growing up with many of these cousins come flooding back.

The loving words of the men sharing from the front about Lynn’s life followed another hymn. The man we had come to honor had lived a life that left many with warm and life-giving memories as they paid their respects and shared their sorrows together in this place.

A humble man who didn’t draw attention to himself, who loved so well. A man who had used a wheelchair for decades, but lived a life rich in meaning and relationships.

Lynn loved his Savior, and he treasured his large extended family and Swiss heritage. Most of all he lived a life characterized by joy, a focus on those things that are lovely and worthy of good report (we listened to Philippians 4), and on the gospel. Though Lynn lived with physical affliction for much of his life, he found his strength in the LORD as this passage reminds us to do.

One man, Don Sinn, recalled singing tenor with Lynn and how he loved the hymns of their faith tradition. The focus of the reflections magnified the Lord Jesus whom he lived for. Don shared how Lynn had come to know Christ as a young man, and others observed a new joy in his life. Lynn’s changed heart and life drew Don to embrace Christ and the gift of eternal life, too.

Lynn loved to share good farm cooking with his wife and kids. He loved to gather at the table with family and friends, and he savored good food. He often wrote about these times (and the menus) in his weekly missive he called the Monday Morning Mumblings. He wanted to share the things he loved with those who lived far away. He wanted to share the simple beauty of home, faith and family. He loved watching birds and the activities and beauty of the farmland around him through each season. He treasured his large extended family and his church family, which has kept many traditions and lived in ways intentionally set apart from the chaos of our times.

Completely unaffected by the events of recent days and unaware of the purpose of this gathering, a tiny girl peaked over her father’s shoulder from the pews ahead of us. She seemed to have discovered her tongue recently, and with a satisfied grin she stuck it out a bit as she made faces at other children and those of us sitting behind her. Her contagious joy reminded me of the way Lynn had managed to connect with his faith and loved ones during this sometimes tough life, and how he didn’t focus on politics or negative things. He truly focussed on what is good, honorable and noble as the passage encourages us to do.

As I listened, the scenes of the aftermath of the storm faded away, replaced by the wholesome memories and the lives touched by Lynn’s faithful walk with God.

Even in really hard times, Lynn always seemed to find something positive to say, reminding us all to look up and to look ahead to our eternal hope.

I worked in counseling, and in the past I’ve met with people whose spirits seemed marked by the trauma they had endured. Much like the landscape littered with limbs and downed trees, their internal landscapes often lack peace. They need healing and often I led them into the Presence of the LORD who heals and restores the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

Today, in the presence of many cousins and others who attend this church, we remembered a man whose life instead reflected the beauty of the LORD who saved him years ago.

Many of us reflected on our hope as my cousin Harvey spoke of the passage in Acts 3 where the man who could not walk waited by the temple gate. This man who had been lame from birth encountered the healing power of Jesus as Peter prayed for him. Rather than handing him silver or gold as he hoped, Peter prayed for him: “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Then, taking him by the right hand, Peter helped him up, and “instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.”

I grew up with Harvey, and listening to him so lovingly share from God’s Word gave me peace. This story from Acts 3 means so much to me, too. I smiled as Harvey commented that Brother Lynn was now walking and jumping and praising God in the Presence of His Lord and Savior.

The cares of this life faded away in that moment. The walker beside my chair will one day be completely useless. Walking and jumping will be easy again! One day I will join Lynn in enjoying fully restored health as we who know Jesus as LORD will worship Him with deep and lasting joy.

Ouch!

I watered the succulents on our front porch this morning and as I was returning, I sprained my ankle as I fell. I landed in the flowerbed and couldn’t get up. My face rested softly in the mulch and pain shot up my ankle.

Concerned that no one would know I’d fallen for awhile, I waited. My husband was working on the other side of a window located down the front porch but I didn’t think he’d see me. As I laid in the dirt, I noticed the front door was still open. So I called for my husband, Jerry, and my friend who was helping clean the house, and they came and helped me up. Olive went and got the manual wheelchair from the garage.

I was frustrated about falling, and having more injuries to contend with. This is the fourth time this year, and living with MS sure doesn’t get easier over time.

Unlike last time when I fell on a sidewalk in Salem, hitting my face on the concrete (and no one helped), I was home and they heard me and helped me.

My husband took a break from work and he got a bucket of warm water, and with a towel, he gently washed the dirt off. His kindness touched my heart. I thought of the Savior washing the feet of His disciples. I am thankful God picks us up from the dirt and brings a warm cloth too and washes us off, tending our wounds.

This evening we heard the doorbell. Jerry went to answer the door, and I joined him soon, using my manual wheelchair since I can’t stand on that ankle yet. A young boy from the neighborhood with Christmas lights shining on his cap handed us a tin of cookies, a Christmas card, and a glass jar of hot chocolate mix with a festive ribbon over the top. We were so touched by the kindness of these neighbors. His grandma was with him, and I think his mom was pulling a wagon and waited out by the sidewalk.

This brought back memories of when we were kids and Mom would make all kinds of cookies and goodies and put them on a tray (with our help), and we’d deliver them to many of our neighbors out in the country. This kind gesture meant so much, and when I asked if they lived nearby, his Grandma said, “This is Bailey’s younger brother.” Then I recognized him. Bailey helped me plant succulents and more than once she came to the door with other girls this summer asking if we needed help with anything. She’s a treasure, and we have such great kids in this neighborhood.

This family touched our hearts this evening on a dark winter day. Thank You, Father, for the beautiful ways you remind us of Your Presence and love.

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.

let’s go down to the river to pray…

Blood running down my shins. Pain, fatigue…sweat pouring down my face and down my neck onto my back. Heat causes my nerve conduction to short out, so I can barely navigate on my feet. Weary of MS and limitations that worsen on hot days. Finally home with a few more rubber mats for the garden paths, so my wheelchair can carry me around the raised beds more safely. Trying to unload the heavy mats with Sweetie, both of us too tired. His hands need surgery, so gripping anything really hurts. So I lift things and grab the dolly. We wrestle the big mat and 5 smaller ones out of the back of the van. Frustrating words fill the air, two people in a lot of pain doing the best they can. Never enough, though. Blood drips down my shin and I bang it for the third time on the edge of the dolly. He expressed frustration that I wasn’t home to help him build a ukulele. Never mind the tasks I wanted to finally accomplish. Too tired for a cool shower yet, so I heat up some leftover GF pizza. Sweetie pours me a cold ginger drink which refreshes me. Then I remember the baptisms today. Singing “Let’s go down to the river to pray…” before heading for the waters. The harmonies echoing under the oak grove where His Presence feels like the balm of Gilead to my weary parched soul.
Seeing Rich and others baptized after sharing their testimonies…a precious joy. He raises his arms in triumph after coming out of the water. His children and wife rejoice, as do his friends and church family. Suddenly the cold shoulders of people nearby our home, the harsh words and glares fade away. I belong to Him. The accuser of the brethren has been cast down, we overcome by the Word of our testimony and the blood of the Lamb. We all sin. We all fail. But the beauty of belonging to Jesus is that our sins are washed away and forgiven, removed as far as the east is from the west. Washed away as we are identified with His death and resurrection. Made new, clean, pure once more. Raised to new life. Transformed by His love. Able to forgive those who hurt us, disappoint us. Ready to let go of those wounds of recent times. Not ready to trust those who have so little compassion and only think of themselves, who kick you when you’re already hurting, but ready to forgive and let go of the pain inflicted by their behavior and words. Ready to eat my delicious pizza with fresh kale, feta cheese, and other fresh garden delights…and read The Baggage Handler for book club tomorrow night. Thank You, Abba Father. You love us so. I snuggle into Your Presence for the evening, safe, secure and beloved.

Isaiah 58 “Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
    Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
    and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.
For day after day they seek me out;
    they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
    and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
    and seem eager for God to come near them.
‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
    ‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
    and you have not noticed?’

“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
    and exploit all your workers.
Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
    and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
    and expect your voice to be heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
    only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
    and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
    a day acceptable to the Lord?

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness[a] will go before you,
    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
    with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
    and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
    and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The Lord will guide you always;
    he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
    and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
    like a spring whose waters never fail.
12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
    and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
    Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

13 “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
    and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
    and the Lord’s holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way
    and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
14 then you will find your joy in the Lord,
    and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heightsof the land
    and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

(Isaiah 58 from the NIV.)

celebrating our days on earth

This weekend, as I was returning home at the time of day when the light becomes magical, I saw a round faced little girl hopscotching along the side walk. She had the sweetest smile on her face, and a look of pure delight in her eyes. Life in a small town holds a variety of things during a pandemic, but simple pleasures are among those things we’ll remember. Butterflies seem to abound right now out here. The grass seed fields are swathed and the golden rays of evening sun dapple the ground with filtered light. The morning sun holds a different splendor. Today we celebrated a beautiful woman’s 80 years on earth so far. She’s a very beloved friend and the joy in her face as she looked around at her family tonight was echoed in her loving words. One day we will see Jesus face to face. We will be transformed fully in His Presence if we know Him. In the meantime, allow the ups and downs of this life to refine and shape you into His image. Until then, rejoice in the LORD always, again I say rejoice.

The Little Girl from Somewhere and the Maple Tree

Tonight I asked the Little Girl from Somewhere if she noticed anything different when she paused on her bicycle near our driveway. She said, “no.” I smiled and asked if she remembered the tree there before, and she smiled wistfully. We had to cut it down today, I said. It got a disease and was dying. But I’m going to miss that tree.

The little girl in her colorful clothing that lit up the evening as the sun was going down said, “don’t be too sad. The tree will be in heaven now.” Tree heaven. She continued with a smile and her lively way of communicating, “We can tell stories and remember the good things about this tree. Then you won’t have to miss this tree or be sad.” The wisdom of this caring little girl touched my heart once again.

We’ll plant another tree for the birds to enjoy, maybe a fast growing tree that does not lose its leaves in the winter. One that one day can give it’s life so that Jerry can create beautiful musical instruments. Then when the birds can no longer sing in the branches of this next tree, the music of the tree, from deep down in the wood, will resonate joyfully in our home, or around the camp fire. We can tell stories of the maple tree that greeted us when we first moved to this home two years ago. The changing seasons she accompanied us through, and the children who planted succulents with me during the pandemic, enjoying one another as the sun set each evening….we can remember, so we don’t need to be sad.

Trapped

Today my husband and I awoke at the Oregon Gardens, and after a delicious breakfast at the lodge, we went for a roll/walk (I roll, he walks) around the gardens. We saw a doe and two fawns, hummingbirds, and other wildlife. We saw the rising sun cast soft filtered light upon the gardens, and I recalled how it all began in the Garden. Coming here is like going home for me, and time in the Oregon Gardens is so renewing. Since our family farm is just up the road, the woods and the hills feel familiar, like the land we farmed as a family in my youth. In fact, I can see part of our farm from these gardens, off in the distance. That part of the farm, on Hibbard Rd, has been farmed by the Kuenzi family for 102 years now.  The land is part of us. After Jerry and I went into Silverton to buy him a hat, we had some lunch and a nap. Much needed rest felt so good to both of us. COVID has been a stressful season of time, and life in our small town has held both joys and trials.  In the afternoon, I drove over the my Mom and Arie’s to pick up a prescription I really needed which my friend had kindly gotten for me today. I didn’t feel up to driving downtown Salem to get it, so I had run out and her kindness meant a lot. I told her sometimes I feel trapped in this body, and pain and limitations can make daily life hard and wear me down emotionally.

A few weeks ago, I fell in our garden, spraining several limbs and my wrist and knee, gashing my leg on the cinder blocks, and reminding me that indeed the secondary progressive stage of multiple sclerosis can be quite discouraging. My legs give out randomly and the treatment for MS no longer is effective. The nature of the progression is such that the deterioration is not in the brain and spinal cord so much as it is in individual nerves. So simple tasks like swallowing my food or vitamins can result in heaving. I’ll do speech therapy for that problem, but again there’s not a lot that can be done. Medically speaking, I’m told just to adapt our lives to the power wheelchair, so ramps and home modifications have occupied our days in recent weeks. I started PT and an OT came to the house to help me figure out adaptations that need to be made as soon as possible. The health crisis that has been steadily approaching for the past nine months is here, and likely here to stay. The OT told me it is important the my environment support me. I am extremely grateful for long time friends and new friends who have helped out with doing dishes and cleaning or organizing while we work out better ways to get things done at home. Jerry continues working at home during COVID. He couldn’t get time off to run me to the doctor the day I fell, so a friend from high school kindly offered. Every genuine need that arises is met by a loving God who sees me. He knows. He understands. I can’t balance well enough most of the time to do all of the house work.  This is hard for my husband and me both. We do the best we can.

I think about that phrase, “when your environment supports you, life will get easier.” To be honest, lately I’ve noticed the things around us that not only don’t support us, but at times attack me and kick me when I’m down.  I don’t have the energy for drama in our neighborhood and I will not be engaging with any of that from here on, either virtually or in person. We will build a fence and set appropriate boundaries emotionally and physically because healthy boundaries matter.

We managed to stay neutral for two years for the most part, but we moved into a neighborhood with some lovely people who also had long standing strife between them. The police get called, and people tell us about their conflicts, and we have simply responded that we are praying to be able to love our neighbors, to remain neutral. When we left for this little vacation, however, my heart was grieved. Not only did our neutrality vanish when someone chose to verbally attack me and say horrible things (which were not true) in front of children that I love, but I will never again trust the people who chose to treat us in this way. I will forgive them because Christ forgave me, but that does not mean I will ever be required to trust them unless they earn that trust. In fact, I have chosen to forgive them already. I stood in the Secret Gardens, with my power chair a few feet away, and watched the stream flow under the little bridge. Like it says in Job, we can recall our troubles as waters gone by. I choose to forgive. Not because it was okay to treat us this way, but because we have a living and true God who loves us. He forgives us and forgives those who condemn us and speak lies about us to others. God’s Word says that He restores unto us the years the locust has eaten. I feel lately as though a swarm of locusts just ravaged our fields and home.

Home hasn’t felt comfortable recently. It’s rough living each day in a body that is not only struggling but declining in terms of  health, mobility and balance. Strife among people around us and anger directed and us didn’t feel good. But over and over God spoke these words to my heart:  The battle belongs to the LORD. There’s a verse that says, “Do not go into the fields of the fatherless for their Redeemer is so very strong.” I don’t need to defend myself against lies and mistreatment. I have a Savior who was betrayed, and misunderstood. He knows what it is to be falsely accused.  Yet Jesus humbled Himself, even to the point of allowing those angry mobs to crucify Him. He went to the cross for me and for my neighbors, and for each person we love or struggle to relate to. He desires that none would perish. John 3:16 talks about how  He extends His love to all of us. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so whoever believes on Him would not perish but have eternal life.” My identity has nothing to do with the false things someone said about me two days ago in front of children that I care about. My identity is found in the love and acceptance of Jesus Christ, who gave His life for me and for those same people who feel justified in treating me this way.  God knows the truth. I need not defend myself to anyone. One day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is LORD.  I will bow my knees now in gratitude and humility. We all need a Redeemer.

Forgiving others doesn’t mean that we will trust them necessarily. We can allow them to earn our trust, and that may never happen. That’s okay. We know the truth and we rest in the Way. the Truth and the Life.  Colossians 3 says to set our minds on the things above. Paul goes on to say that we rest in our identity and position in Christ. The things of earth grow strangely dim when we are able to do this.

I am loving time with my husband in this beautiful place. He is sleeping peacefully now. This morning a doe and her two fawns walked very close to us, at peace and accustomed to human beings coexisting with them in the gardens. When we moved to Jefferson, we hoped that we would feel that way, safe and accepted in our community. (Sometimes living there has felt a bit like the wild west. When we first moved in, the SWAT team was in the neighborhood several times. A suicide devastated a family. We heard other stories that brought us to our knees in prayer. We grew to love many in this rural community.  We’ve made some beautiful friends, and I am very grateful.)

Recently, that feeling of peace and comfort was disrupted in a big way. But we know that in Christ, we can abide in Him and be at peace, no matter what is going on around us. In Revelation, it says that “they overcame the accuser of the brethren by the Word of their testimony and the blood of the Lamb.” The enemy of our souls seeks to steal, kill and destroy. Whether I am bleeding from crashing into a mailbox, or bruised and battered after another bad fall due to MS, I know that some people will respond with great compassion and mercy. Others will not. That will hurt. It’s okay, though.  I am called to keep my eyes on Jesus and to recognize that only then can I live at peace among people who wound others by their words and actions. Wounded people wound people. It’s an age old problem, ever since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. I will not be relating to anyone in our neighborhood via social media or going out without my phone in the future. For one thing, when I fall I need to call for help. Jerry came out and scooped me up when I fell in our garden a few weeks ago. His arms felt so good around me. Some other loving friends have been helping us adapt our home and make everything more wheelchair accessible. I remember how Corrie ten Boom spoke comforting words to her sister Betsy (before Betsy  died in the concentration camps where they experienced the most brutal abuse imaginable and inhumanity from other humans). Corrie comforted Betsy with these words: “Underneath are the Everlasting Arms.”

When I fall, whether people nearby criticize or speak to me with accusations, or whether they pick me up and hold me close like my husband did, I can be at peace. Because although I do need my environment to support me more, God is at work. The ramps are getting built and we have a few more to set up. I will get a different kind of walker that we hope will prevent at least most of the falls. The bruises and sprains will heal. The gashes from the cinder blocks and also the rusty mailbox near my flowerbed are healing. So is my wounded heart. I have released those who hurt me most by forgiving them. I will fix my eyes on Jesus and abide in His love. I am planting succulents and dreaming of a service dog who can help me with mobility and getting up when I fall. A dog’s unconditional love can be so healing. I am blessed by friends around the globe who truly love me and support us in this hard time.

For momentary light afflictions are producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.  Paul’s words resonate with my heart in a deep way tonight .  The eyes of the LORD search to and fro throughout the inhabited earth to strongly support those whose hearts are fully His. Really, Paul experienced shipwrecks and assaults both physically and emotionally. He counted all things loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus our LORD. He considered those things he lost as rubbish in contrast to the wonder and beauty of knowing the Redeemer. I think about people around me who are afraid to attend church or really explore who Jesus is because of the way some who profess to know Him have treated them. Granted, human relationships can get complex, and in this fallen world, conflicts arise. But that’s a tragedy. My prayer is that those who call upon the name of the LORD will live in ways that honor Him and that we will be ready to give account for the hope that is within us. Romans 8 says that we have been set free into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We are adopted, loved, treasured, and nothing can separate us from His love. I cannot fall from grace or lose His unconditional love. Nor can I do anything that would separate me from His lavish grace and precious love. So if I bleed a bit, or get bruised and beaten up emotionally, I can count it joy as I encounter these trials. To suffer for His name is not a disgrace but an honor. I am His and His banner over me is LOVE. Underneath are the everlasting arms, and soon I will rest next to my husband, peacefully sleeping in His lovingkindness and Hesed. His steadfast covenant love holds me close when I am hurting. No matter how I am treated in this life by other people, I am fully loved, fully accepted and fully forgiven. His banner over me is LOVE. As far as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness towards those who fear (revere, worship) Him. I am so thankful God gave Jerry and I these four days in to walk (or roll along in a power chair) in the Garden with our Creator.

May you rest fully in His love, be at peace and strengthened by the joy of the LORD, which does not depend on circumstances. I am my Beloved and He is mine. His banner over me is love.  Sometimes I feel trapped by my body as MS progresses. I get tired of falls and pain, limitations and the harsh realities that come with this. A few days ago I felt so weary of living among human beings who aren’t always kind to one another. I felt claustrophobic and so eager to get away from a culdesac where struggles wearied my soul. I am stuck living in this body which isn’t easy.  In a few days, we will return home and resume life together, trusting God’s grace to be sufficient. We can trust that His power will be made perfect in our weakness.  Though being away is wonderful, I am no longer dreading returning home. I will keep my eyes on Jesus and we’ll be okay. Life with MS and other health issues we face together will never be easy. We’ve been dealt a very tough deck of cards between us. We are so blessed to have friends and family who love us and help us. I still look forward to eternity where no more tears and no more suffering will exist. In His Presence is fulness of joy. And, I can enter into His Presence as I worship and explore the beauty of these gardens with my husband.  I am free in Christ. Now to go and lay down beside the one in whom my soul delights and join him in peaceful slumber.

health CARE

Today I saw my neurologist. She was wonderful, her caring evident as she tried to adjust my mask so my glasses wouldn’t fog up. We talked about recent months, and it felt more like having tea with a friend than a doctor’s visit. But we still accomplished the necessary business at hand–my ongoing care as I live with the challenges of multiple sclerosis. She feels the progression is now secondary progressive and has been for awhile. That means that the nature of the deterioration is no longer due to lesions in the brain and spinal cord as much as it is damage to the axons and dendrites in nerves. As a result, the MS medication I’m on may not be very effective. Really, there isn’t a lot that can be done about it at this point…that is, in human terms. God can sustain me day by day just as He always has. She prescribed a ramp for the front door, so we can use our flex spending account if needed as we improve accessibility for my power chair in this home. She wrote a note saying a mobility service dog would be beneficial so I can get on some lists for a future dog to join my team. We compared notes about hot flashes that disturb our sleep and she told me that she uses a fan clipped to her headboard. We laughed together, empathized, and talked about dogs and husbands, and the common ground we share in this season of our lives. I left with a smile as she said I had brightened her day. She made my day pretty great as well. God, thank You for a caring neurologist and such sweet moments in the midst of this journey with MS. Thank you for Kathy, who so kindly drove me to the appointment and then stopped for produce at some great stores in Corvallis afterwards. Her fellowship blessed me. Life in this pandemic is made sweeter by time with her and others. Vicky biked over with her two adorable children and some donuts for Jerry and me. I sent her home with violas and yellow and purple flowers will grace her yard as a result.

gang activity during the pandemic

We live in a neighborhood with lots of gang activity. A gang of little girls, all quite young, like to knock on our door in the evenings lately. Their voices and smiles have become familiar. Their eyes sparkle with hope and expectancy. “Do you need any help?” I have tried to give them something to do in the area I’m landscaping out front, so they’ve planted many a succulent in recent days, often with the warmth of community and joy reflecting in their young eyes. When I answered that I was quite tired tonight, so maybe not, their sweet freckled faces fell in disappointment. The littlest one’s dimpled smile didn’t appear as usual.

“Oh, okay, I can show you girls where you can plant some succulents.” Their bicycles were already parked by the newly landscaped area next to our driveway. The sweet voices of little girls echoed in the cool evening air as they each grabbed a succulent start from the bigger planter and found a spot to poke a hole with their finger like I had shown them before. Then they carefully poked the root into that hole and patted the cold black soil around it, tucking the chicken and hens into the soil that will nurture life. One girl smiled brightly and said, “When you come out in the morning, you’ll find all of these small ones planted for you.” She looked so proud to be helping and others cast knowing looks.

In time these succulents will spread, and the pandemic will be behind us. Life will take over where only weeds once invaded the dirt and bark dust. The girls will remember these shared moments of joy and purpose when they ride their bikes past our place. I’ll smile, too. The red dirt rocks I brought from our farm near Silverton will remind me of generations of Swiss immigrants farming the hill country together.  Memories of working side by side as a family on the farm that Kuenzis have farmed for 102 years and counting will come flooding back when I see those rocks. The discarded utility sink I brought from my grandparent’s farm house will have succulents hanging over the side, and a clematis climbing forth and blossoming later this summer. Those memories of my Swiss heritage and being part of a hard working farm family will belong to me. But this small garden will belong to our neighborhood, planted together by a gang of kids and some adults who also volunteered (or earned a bit), enjoying the wonder of working side by side to create beauty that endures.