my new coworker

Maybe, Jerry working from home is now my “coworker.” On breaks, I hear the happy sounds of him playing the ukulele. He just ordered another one which arrived today. I’m thankful he doesn’t have a more destructive or expensive addiction, though we have a lot of musical instruments and the number keeps growing. I console myself that many men want boats or motorhomes, or motorcycles. Jerry wants banjos and ukes, dulcimers and psaltries. And music adds a lot of joy to our days. Today was garbage day, and he took pictures of the big event in color and black and white. I went to the local lumber store to get some of the wood they have in the free scraps box. Got some nice wood to build some planter boxes. But really what I wanted was to get out of the house. And, I will get out the power tools and create some places to plant the myriad of plant starts that won’t fit in our existing raised beds. Quarantine gardening is picking up speed as the sunshine warms the soil beneath our toes.

There are some pros and cons to having Jerry working in our living room. He doesn’t like me to make noise much. I love it that he doesn’t need to commute. Jerry hogs all of the internet whenever he gets calls over VOIP, so we’re going to arrange a different provider so we can both function at once (hopefully!). I am afraid to breathe lest his work call get dropped. But he gets paid for working, I just fiddle around lately.

Jerry cooked a delicious lunch for us today, while suggesting I have lunch ready for him to save time in the future. He’s ordered breakfast, too, but so far this short order cook isn’t at the grill. It’s an adjustment having him around 24/7, maybe a bit like retirement might feel. Sometimes I call him “Sargent Sabin, Sir!” He really likes that and relives his army days as he tries to whip me into shape. I fetch him coffee or tea, and sometimes at the watercooler, our conversations become very deep. Today I told him I had a few bug bites (or just irritated skin) on my abdomen. He said that’s what happens to grouches. They are “Groucho Marks.” Well, I must admit, things are more interesting than when I was home by myself all day. We’ll probably write a song together soon called, “The Quarantine Blues.” Hope you and those you love are doing okay. Let us know how we can pray or help somehow.

 

the same power that raised Jesus from the dead, lives in me! and I am set free

Sometimes we get depleted and even though we know

the Truth, the Way and the Life, and who we are in Christ,

in this fallen world, we remain human and at times very vulnerable.

I used to fear allowing others to know my inner life,

nd pride kept me from opening up.

But now I have experienced anew the humbling reality that sometimes I need help, and being human, struggling and even hurting emotionally isn’t something to be ashamed of in any way. It’s okay to be completely real, and when God calls me to share my journey so that others might feel understood, seen, heard, validated and valued…I pray God will help me to obey willingly as a sacrificial offering to Him, for His glory, and for the healing of the nations and those struggling to make it through their days on earth.

A sense of adventure in times of adapting

Today I was pondering how similar this world-wide event is to adapting to living in a foreign land. Just like when I lived and taught in China, we have to learn a whole new way of doing almost everything. We have to wash our hands and use many precautions to avoid contamination or spreading the virus, and there we had to use great caution on eating foods or drinking water that hasn’t been boiled. A few key things I learned: flexibility and adaptability are crucial. A sense of adventure and sense of humor make life so much better than complaining or getting frustrated or down. God is giving us unbelievable opportunities to share His love and the gospel in a hurting world. Let’s make the most of the days He has ordained for us to live. We are alive for such a time as this.

Living in “unprecedented times”

As the world reels from the impact of the pandemic, I know that many around the globe are facing extremely stressful situations.  For those who have contracted the virus, to those fighting for their lives, and to those on the front lines of this battle, these are incredibly hard times. How has your life been impacted? How are you doing emotionally, physically and spiritually?

I am hoping to write a short series of posts about helpful ways that we can respond to hard times. My graduate training is in Rehabilitation Counseling , and I used to develop and offer trainings for professionals around the NW on the topic of addressing vicarious trauma (also known as compassion fatigue) through increasing resilience.  Also, living with MS and other adversity has given me personal perspective.  I have gained skill at doing “HARD” things over the years. This experience also reminds me of adapting to a new culture and way of life, such as when I lived and taught at Jiangxi Medical College in China for two years. Perhaps I can offer a few Pandemic Pointers, especially when it comes to mental health.

At the moment, I am thinking about how stress impacts sleep. Tonight, I am not feeling stressed, and sleep has been reasonably good for me in recent weeks.  I woke up at 2:30 am, and though I’ll soon go back to sleep most likely, I decided to try listening to some deep sleep music a friend recommended (thanks Kimberli .  I’ll let you know if it was helpful. I needed to open FB to get the link she sent on messenger…I know that screens are the wrong thing for sleep and will dim the light and put the laptop far from me in a moment. But first, I decided to write a few minutes.)

Sometimes in the night watches, God encourages my heart deeply. Recently that has been the case when I am awake even for a short time. We are living in “unprecedented times” as the media so often reminds us. Around the world, many are suffering. We see images of patients in overloaded hospitals and hear interviews of health care workers faced with the anguish of this pandemic and all the suffering has brought in various places. But we also see images of nurses gathering on the helipad to do battle in prayer together, and of people in quarantine singing in harmony from their balconies. We see Christians responding to the call to help in a culture that so readily attacks them for doing what honors God. Mike Lindell, a man whose life has been redeemed by God, has rapidly transformed much of his factories into making urgently needed face masks for health care workers and others during this crisis. Because he acknowledged God’s grace in his own life as he was speaking with President Trump, and encouraged people to use this time to read God’s Word and spend time as a family, he faced vicious attacks from the media and others. We are truly in a spiritual battle as well as a fight in the physical  and emotional realms.  God’s Word speaks of this, and reminds us that nothing can separate us from His love.

 I am so thankful that His Presence brings light and hope into my days. So thankful that “the eyes of the Lord search to and fro throughout the inhabited earth to strongly support those whose hearts are fully His.” That verse was a great comfort to me when I lived in Asia years ago and encountered health challenges or other daunting things. Lord, may my heart be fully Yours. Another verse that I treasured then and now says “as your days are, so shall your strength be.” 

What are the challenges you currently face? What are the gifts of this time in your life, even in the midst of these challenges?

My friend wisely said, “Never marry someone you wouldn’t want to be quaranteened with!’ I am thankful for my husband and the sweetness of our days shared recently.  During a difficult fall and winter in our lives, Jerry has really proven his love and maturity in deeper ways than ever.  I am really more in love with him than ever, aware that he is our spiritual leader in our home, and a covering over me in some ways. He has been working from home and in his free time planting vegetables and building a ukelele. He has encouraged me in my walk with God and I am so grateful for him.  God continues to strengthen us and enliven us to hopefully bless others during this time. Be safe, and be well. Abide in His love, whatever each day brings.

LOVE in the time of Corona Virus

Yesterday I needed to pick up a few things at the local grocery store. It was early and almost empty aside from employees. I wore a mask and gloves. I ended up having a deep, powerful conversation with the checker who was a beautiful sister in Christ I’d never met before. We talked about the very broad impact this is having around the world,  God’s Word and what the Bible says about times like we are living in. We talked about things with spiritual and emotional depth and will pray for each other. A beloved friend in Hong Kong is sending some masks, and her sister contacted me yesterday saying she had mailed us a large number of surgical masks. I am so touched by this expression of  love and compassion for the needs locally from this beloved friend.  This truly reflects God’s love.

Another friend shared with me this morning that she is experiencing panic attacks when she is off work. As a CNA she provides hands on care for some COVID patients in ICU and elsewhere, so while occupied with her work she does better, but other times the panic sets in. We prayed for one another and I will continue praying for her and all of you on the front lines, sacrificially doing your job in a way that reflects the Lord’s mercy for us despite the costs. Yesterday I had the chance to make eye contact with a few loved ones beyond my household, at a safe distance outdoors as I wore a mask and gloves when needed. How I treasured seeing the faces of a few people I love (without a computer screen making that possible). Our brains need this kind of opportunity to flourish.

Today Jerry asked me to call an insurance company (which serves veterans and has wonderful staff) and after attending to business, the agent, Cassie and I had some very precious fellowship in Christ. I’d never met her before but she commented how encouraged she felt as we talked, and again we went deep. Christ’s presence with us was evident to both of us, despite stay home orders and being in different parts of the country.

Interactions have potential to be such a blessing and God is enabling connections through many forms of technology. This morning I joined in the 5 Days of Prayer at Jefferson Baptist via Zoom. As I listened to the prayers of these dear brothers and sisters, I heard words that reflect the redemptive ways God is at work in these times. I heard prayers and compassion for all those impacted, and concern for hurting people in need. So many need protection and comfort. Tragically, people in our community and around the world are losing loved ones. These are truly painful, harsh times and even people who have lived through great adversity have never experienced anything quite like this. And yet, in the midst of it all, God is doing what He does so well–redeeming the suffering, transforming hearts, extending His love and offering eternal life for all those who embrace the gift of His Son, Jesus.

My husband is working from home right now, and our marriage and our health have been blessed a lot as a result of some resulting changes to routine. Look for the hidden blessings, and cultivate a grateful heart. Gratitude has powerful effects on our brains. When we give thanks to God and interact with Him, it turns on our relational circuits in the brain, and makes relating to others or even tackling tough issues much easier and more feasible.  Remember that God is love, and He invites us into His Presence moment by moment. Two years ago a friend and I had the joy of teaching some students from various countries about Immanuel Prayer, a way of enjoying Christ’s Presence and inviting Him into our days. Immanuel Journaling teaches our brains just how truly interactive God is, and the depths of His love and care for us. We can cry out “Dear Abba Father…thank you for how you are at work in this time of pandemic. Thank you for moving in hearts and lives and comforting and protecting many around the world.” He responds, “My dear child…” Through this interactive gratitude, God turns on our relationship circuits. Then we might imagine how He responds to our hearts in these ways:  “My dear child, I see you. I hear you. I understand how big this is for you. I AM glad to be with you and treat your weaknesses tenderly. I can do something about what you are going through.” Though this is just a glimpse of what we taught these precious believers, you might get some idea of this way of relating to God. As we journal or pray, we can connect with our Redeemer and also develop neural pathways that bring healing and deeper intimacy with the Lord. God often speaks powerfully to us through His living  Word, and knowing that He is with us in the midst of whatever we face makes such a difference. Having hope that transcends the harsh realities of life sustains us.

We are praying for all of those on the front lines. God is moving powerfully in hearts in the midst of all of this. Grieve when you need to, reach out for support when necessary. Pause and treasure the connections God makes possible. Life is fragile. You are loved. As much as you can, remember to lift your eyes from the fear-invoking media and the harsh losses and realities. When you fix your eyes on Jesus instead, peace can reign. Remember that in Christ, we are safe and secure (and Colossians 3 in the early verses may be really helpful right now), and neither life nor death nor principalities nor things present nor things to come can separate us from His love (Romans 8). Treasure these opportunities for reflection, a slower pace, and deeper connections with people and God. Life is uncertain and brief. This pandemic brings many things into perspective and reminds us what matters most. Let us know if we can pray more specifically for you or with you. God is worthy of all praise and honor, even in troubled times. His comfort transforms us and prepares us to share His powerful, genuine comfort with others.

Meaningful, Enduring Relationships

beinspiredThis morning I read a very heartwarming email from my dear friend in Japan. Tomoko and I were college roommates at Pacific University several decades ago. The two of us forged a lasting bond in the months that we lived in a dorm room in Walter Hall.

A few years ago, she and our friend Keiko and I had a reunion in Portland, Oregon at her former host mother’s place. Bev lives in a very lovely neighborhood of gracious older homes, and the four of us had such a marvelous visit. We had wonderful long conversations, lots of laughter, and we went out for some delicious meals together. We also cooked frittatas, and made Dutch baby pancakes with fresh blackberries. As we listened to Keiko playing the piano, the melody of our memories transported us across the years. We visited the Farmer’s Market at PSU. Bev took us back to Pacific University where we had first become close friends. We remembered joyful times, and supported one another as we recalled tough times. During these days together, we shared our hearts, our tears and our lives.

I feel so blessed to have these women in my life. Having met Tomoko when at 19 or so, we really didn’t know what was ahead for us. She remembers me bringing her an avocado as a gift, which she loved. I told her years later that meant I really valued her friendship, because I love avocadoes! I had a few roommates from Japan my second year at Pacific, and I had so much fun helping them learn English. In fact, I thought to myself if I weren’t going to be a Physical Therapist, I would enjoy teaching ESL. I took them home to my family’s dairy farm. They loved my Mom’s delicious farm cooking.

When the time came for Tomoko to return to Japan, I missed her. She loved Oregon and we kept in touch. Some years later, she brought her husband to visit me. At Pacific, I spent a lot of time with Asians. On my wing in Walter Hall, we had a large contingent of Hawaiian women. Many of them were of Japanese descent. My roommate my first year of college was a Hawaiian of Asian descent, and Cathy taught me a lot of pidgin.

My Mom wasn’t too happy about the slang I learned at college when this English major came home speaking Hawaiian pidgin English with my friends. But Mom also really enjoyed the friends I made. Thankfully, I didn’t forget how to write or speak proper English!

God knew that in those years at Pacific, He had a clear purpose for these relationships. I planned to be a Physical Therapist, and I took all of the challenging science classes needed to enter that program. I did an honors project on Therapeutic Horseback Riding for Individuals with Cerebral Palsy. As part of my research, I spent time in British Columbia doing an Externship at an amazing place for riders with all sorts of disabilities. I watched in amazement as a young woman jumped a challenging course on a horse despite being blind.

I eventually got accepted in the Physical Therapy Program at Pacific, and loved learning about this field. Sadly, some health challenges interrupted my studies, and I had to leave the program feeling lost and devastated.

However, God kept reminding me of my love for people of other cultures, and right at that time He planted within me a desire that just wouldn’t leave. I felt inspired to go and teach in China, and despite precarious health, that is exactly what I did a few years later. Had I known that I would eventually be diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, the organization probably wouldn’t have sent me. But by His grace, I didn’t know yet what the source of my intermittent health challenges actually was. I just knew that life would get really difficult at times, and the various symptoms would interfere with daily life a lot. So, I took the risk and those two years in China transformed my life. I discovered my love for teaching, and I found renewed purpose for my life. I taught English to medical students, and to this day the friends I made are so precious to me.

Now, as I look back, I see God’s hand guiding me through all of those years. Tomoko and Yumiko (another roommate at Pacific) were the first of many Asian friends who would bring joy to my life. I loved teaching in China, and made many lasting friendships. Just last year, I spent time with several of those dear friends when I returned to China for about three weeks.

After I finished my two years of teaching in China, I returned to Oregon, and I spent some years teaching international students from all over the world. I opened my home to these students, and often rented out rooms to people from various places. Genevieve, from Belgium, brought a lot of joy to my life when she rented a room in this house I had built on an acre. I also hosted a number of Japanese students. During those years, friends and students from Sweden, Japan, China, Taiwan, Belgium, Korea, Brazil, Panama, and Russia enjoyed spending time with me. I still have a network of friends around the world from those years.

When I think about how much friendships with students and others from all over the world have enriched my life, I feel so blessed. I am a writer and we hear a lot about building a platform. Traditional publishers require evidence of connections that might prove very valuable when marketing a book. So, we are taught strategies to build a network and establish a platform.

While I understand this need, and do whatever I can to continue making connections with others to create an email list, I smile when I think of the actual network of friends I enjoy. My years as an ESL teacher and later as a counselor provided me many opportunities to build deep, meaningful relationships with a large variety of people.

Even when health led me to stop working full-time, I developed trainings for professionals and offered counseling to others part-time. During seasons when I had to stop working altogether, I had the gift of time to cultivate relationships with many people in my area, and to stay in touch with friends far away. I believe one reason we are alive is to know others and to encourage and strengthen them. So, I have lasting friendships.

When I met my husband early in 2012, we took time to get to know each other well before we got married. When we got married about four and a half years ago, Trinity Covenant Church was filled to capacity with hundreds of friends who shared in our joy. I wouldn’t trade these real-life friendships for anything.

I love Psalm 37:3-5 which says, “Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him and He will do it.”

Years ago, I had the desire to learn to relate to others well. I wanted to have meaningful relationships with people from many cultures. I also hoped to have my own family someday. How faithful God has been to fulfill these desires in such vivid, transformative ways.

 

 

 

 

a Rumi quote about Sorrow

Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.   –Rumi

Peppermint Sunsets

This morning, when I went outside, the air smelled delicious. Nearby peppermint fields were being harvested this week, and I loved the minty fresh morning air. This evening, we saw the brilliant light in the sky and knew the sunset would be amazing. So, I grabbed my camera and my husband’s car keys, and went for a quick drive.

The bridge across the river silhouetted against the bright colors of sunset looked stunning, and as I crossed over the river the pinks and blues of the sky reflected on the surface of the river. I couldn’t stop safely at that point, so I went further.DSC02239DSC02291DSC02218DSC02213DSC02205 I stopped at the wide driveway to a quarry, and parked while I watched the sunset. Afterwards, I drove home past the peppermint fields, and the sky still glowed. The fresh minty scents with the warm remnants of the sunset were so inviting. I feel so blessed to live in the country where summer evenings sometimes dazzle the senses. The heavens declare Your glory, LORD.

 

Comfort Shared

Recently I sensed God leading me to start a new group (using Facebook) for people who live with health issues. I just set it up a few days ago, and we have a little under 30 members so far. I am not concerned about numbers, except God put it on my heart to create a safe place where people could be honest about their struggles and encourage and strengthen one another.

It’s a joy to interact with these men and women who live with significant challenges each day, and yet they persevere. I’ve known some of them for years, while others I am just getting to know. In our midst are some talented writers, grandparents, parents, people struggling to continue working, and those who are retired or no longer in the work force. We range from the west coast of the US to Florida so far. We have many different health conditions among us, too.  I love hearing each person’s story as they open up, and I enjoy watching them minister to each other. Sometimes the comfort they share with one another has come from receiving deep help from God.  This is just like 2 Corinithians 1:3-4 says:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

Together, we will draw strength from our faith and from one another. We’ll grow  and deepen our connections as we share our hearts and lives transparently. The group is called:

Hope Shines-Comfort & Encouragement for Those Living with Health Challenges