Friday, November 23, 2012

Sincerity Like a Jewel

“Lois wore sincerity like a jewel,” said Jo. 

It was the loveliest and most original compliment I’d heard in a long time. Jo was her close friend and caretaker, and she was speaking at Lois’s memorial service. It was the first of two tributes to Lois that especially caught my ear.

I’d met Lois a few times but did not really know her. She was an anchor and a beloved matriarch to my friend Markell’s family, so I went to the service to support Markell.

During the celebration of her life, I learned that Lois had poured her energy into friendships, nieces and nephews, travel, teaching, and learning. She loved Jesus, loved her friends and family, and knew how to have fun. She was known for the twinkle in her eye and her laughter. Lois would call her friends, reaching out just to check on them and see how they were doing. She never stopped learning and growing, even in the last few years of her life.

Although Lois and the love of her life (Ed) were married for over fifty years, they were not able to have children. They were both teachers, and when they saw how much trouble other couples had adopting children, they decided to pour their energy into loners, their students, and other people in their lives.

As I’ve realized over the past several years that I won’t be having any children of my own, I’ve wondered what kind of influence I have. Don’t get me wrong – I love my two stepsons, and I happily claim them. (Not to mention that cutie-pie grandkid!) Still, Brandon and Wes were twenty-two and nearly seventeen, respectively, when Bill and I married. It’s not like I raised them. So when I see the pictures that my friends, cousins, and siblings post of their kiddos on Facebook, I sometimes wonder what effect my life has. A little voice in my head says, Who will miss me when I’m gone? Who will worry about me as I get old and feeble? Who will choose my nursing home, gosh darn it?!

Because no one has more impact on other people than a mother does on her children, I can be tempted to believe that because I’m not a mom, I have no influence, no effect, on other people, that what I do does not matter.

The celebration of Lois’s life reminded me that that’s not true. As I watched the slide show and video and listened to people speak, I thought, Look at all the lives Lois touched! Look at all she gave. . . .

In Luke 6:38, Jesus said, “Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”

Lois gave a lot, and she was loved and appreciated in return.

The second tribute that stayed with me was from my friend Markell, Lois’s niece. Markell said, “She is gone, but she left my cup full.” 

Now that’s a good way to go.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Kitties Missed Us

I love going on trips, and I love coming home. I love coming home to my own home, my own bed, my own kitchen . . . and my cats. 

Our son Wes (who's 22) took good care of Millie and Mollie while we were gone, although you'd never know that to hear them tell it.

Not enough lap time?
He didn't maintain your feeding schedule of smelly food at precisely 4:30 p.m. every day?
He set your tail on fire how many times? 
Oh, my . . . 

As far as Mollie was concerned, things did not improve once we arrived home. It was less than a week before Halloween. Because Mollie's been known to disappear for days at a time, we decided to keep both cats inside until after the festivities. 


You're never, ever going to let me go outside ever, ever again, are you?

I didn't think so.

Poor kitties. I don't think they understand the concept of later.

Our other cat, Millie, could hardly wait until I sat down and put my feet up so that she could sprawl along the full length of my legs.

Comfy there, Millie?

Gee, if only I could be certain that she's relaxed . . . contented . . . sleeping well . . . feeling loved and pampered . . . 

Little cat feet! 

Somehow that's not quite what I picture when I read Sandburg's poem.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Deer Are Back

I took a little walk around my neighborhood today. 
I wasn't the only one. 

The aspen are nearly naked.

Other trees have just a little bit of orange and gold left.

The deer are back. 

Bill says they're migrating east to their winter grazing areas at lower elevations.

Interesting contrails today, too.


I think this will be my last post about the hunting trip. But no promises.

During our trip, Bill found this moose paddle in the woods. (And I learned that moose antlers are also called paddles. Did not know that.)

Oh—and my sister-in-law gave me this cool T-shirt. 

Can you read it okay? Here's a closer view:

She sent it along with my brother-in-law so I could wear it on the trip. What's funny is that she'd bought it for me a couple months earlier—long before I'd decided to go on the hunting trip. She had planned to give it to me during our girls' week, but it ended up being much truer than she expected!

One of the most exciting things about the hunting trip—for me, at least—was that we saw three moose. I'd never seen one outside of a zoo or wildlife park.

(Yes, the plural of "moose" is "moose."
Not "mooses."
Not "meese."
And yes, I did look it up, thank you very much.
That's what copy editors do.)

Bill took these pictures while I was hogging the binos. They're a little bit blurry because our camera doesn't have a very powerful zoom, and the moose was waaaaaaay up the hillside.

I'm glad he took those pictures of the first moose, because I didn't do nearly as well when we saw the second one. It was later the same afternoon. Bill was driving, so I had the camera. The moose was kind of jogging down the side of the road in the rain. By the time I had the camera turned on, my window rolled down, and took the shot...

This was the best of the four pictures I took.

What, you don't see a moose? 
He's right there in the middle! 
Right there! 
Okay, I'll crop it...


We didn't get any pictures of the third one, the cow. We were driving back to camp along a rough logging road in the dark. It was snowing. We saw something at the edge of the road up ahead, walking. My first thought was that it was a hunter—we'd seen one in the area earlier, and this looked like a two-legged critter. But it wasn't wearing blaze orange, and it was too tall for the hunter. (He'd been kind of a short, wiry old guy.) Then the walker at the edge of the road stepped into the woods, and Bill and his brother shouted, "It's a moose!" 

I was driving, so I slowed down and we stopped about where she'd left the road. All three guys in the backseat could see her; neither of us in the front seat saw her once she'd left the road. 

But I got to thinking...that could totally be what's behind some Bigfoot sightings. She was so tall and narrow. I never did catch a profile view of her. She looked, at first glance in the dark and the snow, like a really, really tall person walking alongside the road. So if someone, especially someone who was a little bit  inebriated or disoriented, caught sight of her...Sasquatch!

When we told our taxidermist about this, he agreed. He said that even from the front, in the dark a cow moose would just look tall, dark, and shaggy, with big, dark eyes.  

I was so pleased with this explanation for Bigfoot sightings until our son Brandon said, "Yeah, but what about the footprints?"


I thought I was really onto something there. 
Oh well.

Monday, November 5, 2012

. . . and Monday Evening Contrails

(Pictures taken from my driveway and cul-de-sac.)

Monday Morning Contrails

(Pictures taken from my driveway.)

Lots of people—and maybe freight?—going places today.

There's a plane now. Moving fast!

I'm going back inside. 
Not moving so fast.
Need coffee.

Happy Monday, friends.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

More on the Hunting Trip

(No More Carcass Pictures, I Promise)

You may have noticed a photo of a bear's paw at the top of my last post. Yes, my brother-in-law shot a black bear during our hunting trip. They got one last year, and the meat was smoked and processed into pepperoni and salami. It had a good flavor - not nasty and gamy, which is the reputation of bear meat. So he's doing the same with this year's bear, and  the hams are being smoked as well. We'll see how that turns out!

My sweetie got a four-point whitetail buck. It was a 234-yard shot. He'd been chasing a three-point closer to camp for several days and could never get a good shot at him, so to get a four-point was particularly sweet.

All four guys had deer tags, so one deer split among three families is less venison than we'd hoped to have in our freezers. But we're grateful for what we got! I don't think any of us will go hungry.

I have photos of both animals, but I realize that some folks are squeamish and some find hunting distressing. So I'm not planning to post any of those to my blog or my Facebook page. Let me know if you particularly want to see them.

Before we ever saw the bear, we saw evidence of bears.

Although the weather was mostly gray and rainy, 
the hillsides were lit up with aspen leaves and tamarack needles.

There was some orange amidst the green and brown, too.

 I was surprised to see bluebells still blooming so late in the year.

Bluebell bud!

Another bluebell.

And another!

Two on one stem! At dusk! 
Okay, so I got a little bit carried away by the bluebells. Sorry about that. 

Sometimes it spat snow or hail at us. But mostly it rained.

The day after Bill got his deer, we woke up to snow. Time to go home!

By the time we were 15 miles out of camp, we were out of the snow. Still time to go home.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

My October Surprise

I spent two weeks last month on a hunting/camping trip.

That’s not how October was supposed to go.

My sweet husband was going to go hunting with his brother and two nephews, and I was going to spend a week in the big city shopping, drinking frothy coffee, and watching chick flicks with my sisters-in-law. (I even had a nice little wad of cash to spend at an outlet mall on the way.) That’s been the tradition for the past few years, ever since my brother-in-law retired and the guys started hunting together again.

The morning I was to leave, I wrote in my journal, Getting ready to leave for sister-in-law girl time! :) Feels weird to be trying to get out the door when Bill is here.... I’ve seen him so little over the past few months. I just want to cuddle up with him.

See, it had been a busy wildfire season here in the northwest. Like many U.S. Forest Service employees, Bill fights wildfires in addition to doing his regular job. (He’s a surveyor and the boundary manager for four national forests.) From July 19 – September 29, Bill had forty-five days fighting fire, fifty if you count travel days. That’s fifty days away from home. Now, that’s nothing compared to the separations many other couples endure, especially in military families, but for us it’s a lot. Between fighting fire and doing his day job, he averaged just one day off per week. He loves to fight fire, and I’m glad he could go. But I’d missed him a lot.

Still, plans are plans. I love my sisters-in-law, and I’d been looking forward to this girl time for months! So I packed up the car with all my cute going-shopping-with-the-girls clothes and headed out of town.

About forty miles down the road, I thought, What am I doing?

I pulled into a Safeway parking lot and called my sweetie. I told him I was half tempted to turn around and go home. We talked about options, that I could always go to the girls’ week for a few days and then, if I still wanted to, I could drive across the state and join the guys at hunting camp.

So I thought, Okay, I’ll drive on....  Gee, chips and a Dr. Pepper sound good!

I trotted into Safeway and realized, Wait a minute...I just had lunch about an hour ago.
I’m not hungry.
Why do I want to eat?  
Because I’m unhappy.

I bought a bag of Doritos and a bottled water, went back out to my car, cracked open the water, and called my dear friend Markell. I burst into tears as soon as I started talking to her.

“What does your gut say?” she said.
“Go home!”
“So go home.”

So I did.

I stopped on the way and spent half my clothing cash on jeans, flannel shirts, long-sleeve Ts, and long underwear.

I called my sisters-in-law, who responded with kindness and grace to being ditched at the last minute.

I unpacked my cute red polka-dot suitcase full of sparkly girly clothes and soft sweats, and I filled a black duffel bag with warm socks and clothes that could layer and get grubby.

The next day, we headed out for hunting camp.

I donated the Doritos to the camp food supply. But over the course of two weeks, I ended up eating them all anyway because I was the only one who liked Cool Ranch Doritos. Oh well.

I’m glad I went. Even though blaze orange is not my color. (One of the nephews commented that my hoodie was so bright, it looked like its own light source.)

Hunting camp with my husband was where I wanted to be and where I needed to be this year.

Next year...I’ll decide where I need to be when the time comes.

In the meantime, I’ll share a few more pictures in an upcoming post.

Happy November!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Day After Good Friday

Today is the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. I suppose it has an official name, but I don’t know what that is. But emotionally, spiritually, I think I’ve spent a lot of time here.

It is a day I face wearily, warily, after the drama of loss has receded, and a new day dawns cold and gray, utterly bereft. The life I had taken for granted is gone, never to be the same again. It is a wonder that planes still fly overhead, that people are driving around, hurrying, distracted, living everyday life with a thousand other things on their minds.

Auden’s poem about putting out the stars, dismantling the sun, pouring away the ocean and sweeping up the wood—“for nothing now can ever come to any good”—captures this day so well.

But Easter shows that these days are not the end of the story. Or rather, they don’t have to be, unless I choose them.

It’s possible to choose them. Do you remember the dwarfs in C. S. Lewis’s The Last Battle?

But eventually, after “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” and “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” come “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” and “Up From the Grave He Arose.”

Thank You, Father, for not letting the story end on Saturday.

Thank you, Jesus, for Your obedience, even in humiliation, torture, and death.

Thank You, Spirit, for walking with me through my life’s own little Saturdays—even the ones I linger in for years—and for comforting me, for reminding me that the story doesn’t end on Saturday.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Cranky Girl Mix

Okay, Lord, choose my songs for me.

My iPod was set to shuffle, and the playlist was called “Cranky Girl Mix.” Please don’t for a second think it was a collection of upbeat, encouraging music chosen to pull me out of a bad mood. It wasn’t. So even as I challenged God to choose the songs, I had stacked the deck against anything uplifting, edifying, or encouraging.

The sky was gray, and although it wasn’t that cold, it was a bit windy. I was feeling kind of under the weather. I didn’t want to go for a walk, but I had committed to walking every day. And two of my friends were sure to check up on me, per my own request. So when I had noticed the sun peeking his sad little face through the clouds, I figured I’d better get out the door before the sky went all gloomy again.

I sulked and felt sorry for myself, but I walked. And I listened, off and on.

Toward the end of my walk, three songs got me thinking about spiritual warfare.

The first was Switchfoot’s “This is Your Life (Are You Who You Want to Be?).” My sister used to have it as the “hold” music on her voicemail. That one line always stopped me in my tracks, silenced the churning chatter of my thoughts, and made me consider whether I was living deliberately at all or just lurching through my days, reacting to the demands life threw at me.

The next song was “Hit Me with Your Best Shot.” I know, I know—frothy, silly snark. “Well you’re the real tough cookie with the long history / Of breaking little hearts, like the one in me / That’s O.K., lets see how you do it / Put up your dukes, and let’s get down to it! / Hit me with your best shot!”

Sir Thomas More described Satan as a “proud spirit [who] cannot endure to be mocked.” So if Satan (or any other demon) had this Pat Benatar lyric flung at him, would he be provoked to attack or insulted into retreating? I couldn’t help but snicker at that idea. (Okay, so deep inside, some part of me is still fourteen. Big surprise.)

The last song was the Eagles’ “Heartache Tonight.” I remember roller skating to it during junior high. “Somebody’s gonna hurt someone / before the night is through. / Somebody’s gonna come undone. / There’s nothin’ we can do. / Everybody wants to touch somebody / if it takes all night. / Everybody wants to take a little chance, / make it come out right. / There’s gonna be a heartache tonight, / a heartache tonight, I know. / There’s gonna be a heartache tonight, / a heartache tonight, I know. / Lord, I know.”

I had a hard time arguing with that. (Except for the line “There’s nothin’ we can do”—and even that seems true sometimes.) We’re all broken. Somebody’s always coming undone. Sometimes it’s us; often it’s someone we love. We live in a fallen world. We all struggle with temptation and with sins for which we have an innate inclination. We watch people we love suffer, get beat up by the world, and make destructive choices—in spite of our best efforts to protect them and influence them (or even control them!). We work to untangle lies and beliefs in our own hearts—the lies we soak up from the enemy, our culture, and even our own families versus the truth of God’s Word, the truth that He offers love, mercy, light, healing, creativity, redemption, and transformation. He pours them out, sometimes without our even noticing.

I was mildly surprised but pleased that God had, indeed, chosen some songs to float me out of my sour mood and self-pity.

Then about an hour after I returned home from my walk, a friend called. She felt like she was under attack. She was about to step into a bigger role in ministry, a position where she’d be instrumental in helping a lot of hurting people. So Satan was trying to derail her. He was pushing her buttons like nobody’s business, using things she’d struggled with in the past—and made tremendous progress with—to distract her, undermine her, drain her energy and focus, and pile on the guilt. I listened, and we talked, and I affirmed that she was right. She was under attack! We prayed together on the phone.

When we hung up, she went away encouraged. And I was humbled. Those songs I heard on my walk and the idea that they all related to spiritual warfare—that was a gift from God. But the gift was not intended just for my own encouragement or amusement. It was preparation for my friend’s phone call, preparation for prayer. It was not, as I’d thought, just lightweight, enjoyable reflection on spiritual warfare, but rather a call to awareness of spiritual warfare so that I’d recognize it when I saw it and be able to lend a hand. It had been a call to arms.

Isn’t God amazing? He turned such poor raw materials, my crankiness and a few pop songs, into an opportunity to prepare me for prayer, for battle. Surely He is our Creator still. Who else could do that?

Thank You, Lord.

Question: What has God given you to pass along to others?