Standing by your bed (poem)

Standing by your bed
Watching you breathe
Holding your hand
Preparing to grieve
As slowly your life
Is slipping away
It may be soon
Or some other day
The gift of your life
Brought me my greatest joy-
(I’m the lucky girl
That married one of your boys)
Now as you embark
On this journey unknown
That probably soon
Will carry you home
Please know you are loved
Know how much we care
Know the God who made you
Will greet you there

Uncle Ralph….and the politics of nothing new

Amazing what you can find out about your family (and politics) when you start sorting and shredding the collected documents of the last 50 years….

When I was a kid, I knew Uncle Ralph had died in a logging accident. When I was a teenager, I found out he had had the audacity to run for governor. I also knew this was not looked at as a good thing in the 1950’s-people from our side of the tracks weren’t supposed to dream that big or do anything that noticeable. I was very surprised when my brother told me Uncle Ralph had actually gotten 3000 votes. (Judging by the level of family embarassment, I had expected it to be 3 or 30 votes-not 3000). But it wasn’t until today (stumbling across a couple of articles from the Seattle Times) that I found out why he ran, what he was about, and why there really is, like Ecclesiastes says “nothing new under the sun.”

Uncle Ralph had concluded elections were mainly popularity contests and that the party who wants to get elected makes extragant promises to get elected, then when they’re in office, finds they can’t deliver what they promised without raising taxes, even if they meant to. Then, according to him, the party who’s not currently in power does the same thing and this goes on, and on and on and now it’s 60 years later and it still goes on……

My uncle had some unique ideas….having been really really poor, he was sympathetic to poor people. He thought there should be surplus stores (food banks?) where poor people who needed food could get food and pay whatever they could afford (even if that was nothing) and that they should also be able to get help heating their homes. He thought some of the things being wasted should be turned into other things (recycled?) so people who needed them could use them ….. he thought there should be a limit on campaign expenditures ($1000 tops) so rich guys couldn’t just buy the office.

Uncle Ralph paid his whole life savings ($200) to file as a candidate because he thought doing something was better than just complaining about what wasn’t being done….

Not sure what Uncle Ralph would say about today’s political insanity-my guess is he would probably say taking care of the poor is important and remind me of the words in James 1:27 “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” God, please help us be the change we want to see!

Betrayal and Job’s Friends (poem)

One of my favorite relatives sent me a message last night that it was her cousin whose ex-husband  killed her at a church in Federal Way this week.  A mom with three little kids….a big loving extended family in SO much pain….what can you say?

If one of the lessons in the Book of Job means anything, it might best to not say too much.  Not think there is an answer to why, or what it means, or how this could happen.   Job’s friends came to “comfort” him and ended up making him feel worse.  They talked too much.  Said things they had no right to say.  In the end of the story, God toasted them for misrepresenting His heart.  The only time they really did Job any good was when they sat in the ashes with him as he grieved.  There is a lesson there about presumption and talking way too much….there is a time to talk and a time to listen.

Years ago, I was present at court while a young friend told of her step-dad’s crimes against her humanity. Going home from that experience, I was struck silent by the depth of his betrayal of her and of her mother.  As a person of faith, I wanted to encourage, but words seemed so USELESS!  This poem was the result…..

The Betrayal

The night is dark and stormy
There’s a cold wind in my soul
Seems like I’ve been torn apart
And never will be whole.

The suffocating weight that rests
Upon my broken heart
Holds me in my silence–
Lord, when will the healing start?

I cast about in frantic hope
That there might somehow be
Someone who can reach out
To break these chains and set me free.

But who can know the torment?
Who can really comprehend
Unless they too have been betrayed
By lover or by friend?

As I cower in desperation
And in fear of what shall be,
A picture comes to mind
I know that You have given me…

I see you hanging on a cross
In agony betrayed,
Naked, torn and bleeding
So from sin we can be saved.

The one who lived and walked with You,
With whom You shared Your soul
Was the person who betrayed You—
All my agony You know!

©Teresa Norman 1988

Daffodils and Uncle David

Easter always reminds me of daffodils.  Daffodils always remind me of Uncle David. When I was about 4 or 5, Uncle David gave me a beautiful book of poetry (it had daffodils on the front and lots of pictures of beautiful flowers).  I was trying to learn to read at that point, sitting on the couch, when I asked my Mom, “What is d-o-g spelled backwards?”  She told me that was God.  I knew this was significant.

It’s even more significant that Uncle David is thus directly tied in my little kid brain to finding out about God.  Uncle David was not on everyone’s A list.  He was, in the terms of the day, “slow” or “different” (not dumb, just not quite functioning at the mental complexity his particular decade and community preferred.  He had gotten in some pretty awful spots when someone misunderstood his assessment of different situations (think “padded room”).  Uncle David spent a good part of his later life shuttled off to a halfway house on Capital Hill in Seattle.  Some of the relatives breathed a sigh of relief, and except for coming to the island to pick blackberries and thimbleberries and huckleberries once a year so I could make him a pie, we didn’t see much of him for quite a while.

Uncle David died quietly at home.  A funeral was planned for our little community, with some folks figuring immediate family would be the only ones who showed up.  Boy, were we surprised!  From David’s delightfully diverse community, carloads of people came to our small town and filled the funeral home.  After the formal part of the service was over, someone from the back spoke up and said, “We would like to say something…..”  The minister let her come to the microphone.  One by one, a parade of people came forward to speak about how David’s simple ability to love and encourage those around him, to do practical things, to serve, to help in any way he could had blessed their lives over and over again.  We sat their dumbfounded, humbled and incredibly grateful for the profound lesson unfolding in front of us. God, in typical fashion, chose the humble of the world to teach us that his ways aren’t our ways.  That we had missed the point entirely by talking more than we listened.  That there had been much to learn from a humble man with no guile who sought to love his community.  I am grateful each Easter, especially, as I think of the lessons Uncle David gave me on living in the grace of God.

The Many Voices and Choices of Christmas

Christmas brings up a lot of stuff for me this year.  We have three wonderful adult children, a brand new healthy grandson, and some Buddhist friends (a dad and two young daughters) who will be spending their first Christmas here in America.  What should I be trying to communicate to each of them as someone who loves them? How do I explain to our Buddhist friends that the American Christmas craziness doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the baby in the manger, but that the baby and the manger are really really important?

 Memories of Christmas past play in my head….my brother and I under a Christmas tree gleefully getting a bunch of stuff we may or may not need/want or use but that Mom was really excited about.  Christmas shopping leading to outbreaks of violence, name calling, threats and adult temper tantrums, robbing some of the joy from the gifts we received which seemed so grudgingly given. 

As a little kid, one of the best parts was always the Christmas program at our church.  Little old ladies dressing up us kids in weird nativity costumes to stand around a little manger and sing and recite poems about the little baby Jesus….That was always good.  The truth that Jesus came to a poor, seemingly unimportant family (not just important people), in a country where life was hard and that God was there even in less than ideal circumstances.  God noticed the oppression of His people and sent a deliverer ‘cause life was meant to be different and peace on earth was part of the plan, even if it wasn’t yet a daily reality in the lives of His people.

As a grownup and a mother, Christmas didn’t become magic to me until the year my husband’s mother passed on some of her Christmas ornaments to us.  I had no idea what the treasured strings of gold beads, some red velvet bows, and some ornaments that (part of a family’s rich history) could do to bring such joy to a little (really little) wood-warmed cabin in the woods and to three little kids watching the “twinkles”  in their daddy’s eyes when he looked at the tree and told stories.  He told us about his Christmases as a boy at his aunt’s huge house playing with her five sons and all the other extended family; about putting olives on all his fingers and making the grownups laugh.  It was like life on a different planet.  The “twinkles” in his eyes helped the magic spread to my hearts too. 

My friend, Mac, taught me years ago that one way to redeem (buy back)the memories of the holiday season was to do something nice for someone else that you WANTED to do things for–not just the ones you HAD TO do for.  That trick has always helped.  This year it meant giving a gift to Heal Africa and One 4 One  (folks that hang out with their non-housed friends in Nickelsville). 

The cute little grandson and his parents are going to Montana to totally surprise the other grandma and grandpa.  It should be pretty awesome.  I get to rejoice in how blessed I am that they live within a one hour drive from us, and in how excited his Grandma Norma is going to be!  I’ll miss them, but thinking of the joy they are spreading there makes me very happy too.

For our Buddhist friends, I’m letting those who have a better grip on Christmas cheer (and a more positive attitude) do most of the explaining and just taking them a couple of small gifts.  Open to conversation, but not sure how to proceed…. What I most hope to communicate is how thankful I am for the gift of their friendship, while each day I pray that the amazing love of God revealed in Jesus will become part of their life.  That they will come to know, as I have, that life is not a random accident, but that He has a plan for each of us.  May His kingdom come and His will be done.  Peace on earth.

On the sea of doubt….(poem)

My boat seems very little, Lord,
And the waves are very high.
The clouds are moving crazy fast
In an ominous looking  sky.

Can’t find a sheltering harbor
In this sea of constant change.
Holding course by years spent knowing
My anchor is in Your name.

So many life transitions
Swirling in this sea of doubt…
Do You have some new directions?
How are things supposed to work out?

Will valuable things be strengthened
Or is meaningful service done?
You know our hearts
You know Your plans….
Lord, let Your kingdom come.


Baby dedications

A couple of weeks ago, there were two baby dedications/baptisms at church, and I was surprised how spun out I got watching this.  I always love those moments, watching people make public the commitment that they will seek to raise this precious child to know God.  SO important!  But watching this from the perspective of  being brand new grandma, it impacted me at a whole new level.

The first thing I noticed this morning, was that the mom and dad and cute little bundle didn’t have any family present for this event.  There could be many reasons for that (work schedules, living in a different city or continent, family issues, not Christian….and many others), but my mind and heart contrasted that to some of the other times where we have seen the podium filling up with grandmas and grandmas who have come long distances to witness this moment.  It made me sad for the parents (whether appropriately or not), and made me take it very seriously as a member of the church who would be saying, “Yes, we stand beside you and pray for you and are so glad you are choosing to walk the path of faith as a family.”

It also took me back to when we dedicated our children, and I never realized til then, our families were not with us.  Mine wouldn’t have come (our church at the time was too “expressive” for them), and my husband’s family was not familiar with why we would be doing this in the first place.  It was our church we were counting on at that point to help us learn to do this amazing privilege of raising our kids, surviving new parenthood, and teaching them to know God.  There were some amazing “adopted” grandparents in our church who were there for me in ways I want to be there for our grandson.

This service made me rejoice, but also made me incredibly sad for those who do not choose to be part of a faith community,  and therefore, do not have this incredible resource of potentially mentoring, praying, supportive people to draw from. (Ya, I know sometimes a church is a little like granola-you get fruit in with it, but also some nuts).  If they are not in a church, it made me very conscious of how much young parents need their family to walk in faith around them, to spend time loving, giving, listening and praying….

As a grateful new mom, a long time ago, I wrote this poem for our first daughter…

“Like Hannah in the Bible promised long ago
If she could only have a child, she’d given him to the Lord.
I prayed that God would give to us a baby girl to love
And I promised we would care for her and teach her that He is good.

Lord, I give to you this child that you have given me.
Please help me mold and shape her into what she’s supposed to be.
Keep her safe throughout each day-keep her in your tender care.
No matter what may happen, let her know You’re always there.

So God, in love looked down on us and brought you to our lives.
I’ve thanked Him everyday since then.  I’ll thank Him all my life.
I pray that you will know Him too as your shepherd and your friend,
Because, little one, Jesus loves you, with a love that will not end.”


PS  It also made me very grateful that even though the church I grew up in had some very toxic people running rampant over the lives of children, God’s Word can still take root in a young life willing to trust Him.  A child hearing that God loves them, has a plan for their life, and has a purpose bigger than the valley full of shadows they may live in, can still believe and find hope even when life is hard.  (Yes, circumstances for that child need to change, but God is unchanging).

The unexpected catch

One night, shortly after he returned from his first season as a crew member on a purse seine boat in Southeast Alaska, my 17 year old son came tearing into my bedroom about 2 in the morning with his eyes about as big as dinner plates.  “Mom, didn’t you hear that?  You’ve not gonna believe what just happened….”

Before bed that night, he and I had been talking about personal choices (temptation, in my outdated terminology).  Like any Mom who loves her kid, I had been trying to explain how important it was to make choices that get the kind of results you want (not ones that get you over your head in messes you can’t get out of).  I think my message had been falling on somewhat plugged ears.  After all, he’d just been in Alaska all summer.  He was all grown up now:)  He’d heard all this before….(lots of times).  He was being nice about it, but he still wasn’t listening….but that was around 10 pm.

My husband had built us a beautiful house on 5 secluded acres at the end of a dead end road called “Sanctuary Lane.”  It was a sanctuary….there were deer, blue heron, occasional stray cows and horses, coyotes, owls, eagles, and a lot of other wild or semi-wild critters in the neighborhood.  Also, seven of our kid’s closest friends, and some of our closets friends, ones  we had purposely bought property with and chosen to raise our family next to. Being a commercial fisherman/boat builder, it seemed there was always a bit of spare fishing net around.  Don’t know why he first thought of it, but the extra fishing net made a really good “pick it up and get it out of the way to weed eat around it” fence around the beautiful, big raised bed organic garden.  We had an incredible raspberry and strawberry patch…

Anyway, while I slept peacefully in the room on the back side of the house, our son had gone to bed and been woken up by the horrible screaming and thumping out in the yard outside his window.  He was a really sound sleeper usually, but this woke him up from a dead sleep with his heart pounding.  He looked out his second story window and could see a ruckus in the moonlight – a couple of big critters running through the yard.  Our little dog, “Jumbo”, who was always up for a good chase, was going nuts running back and forth around whatever was in the garden.  Then he yelped in pain.

Sounds pretty eery at that point.  (Of course, neither his sisters nor  I heard a thing).  He went running downstairs and turned on the porch light to see what the big commotion was.  There were two deer running around outside the fishnet fence, and a horrible noise coming from inside, with Jumbo barking frantically.  Someone had forgotten to shut the gate.  A baby deer, who did not listen to his mom and dad when they said to stay away from the human places, had gone into the garden to get some of the nice tender strawberries.  He now had his head caught in the net and couldn’t get out.

Mommy and Daddy deer were trying to keep Jumbo from hurting their baby, but there was nothing they could do to get him out of the net.  He was caught tight.  If he hadn’t screamed, he was either gonna die there, or stay stuck for a good long time.  But their baby hadn’t listened and he was now going to deal with the consequences of his really bad choice.

Our son went and  got a big knife out of the kitchen, got a flashlight, and went and sat on the terrified little deer and cut him out of the net.  The baby deer was unhurt and managed to scamper to safety, hopefully thinking more of listening to his parents and less of the taste of fresh strawberries.  Maybe he learned something that night? Wonder what the conversation was like in his neck of the woods after that close call…..

So, as my wide-eyed son sat on my bed, I was overwhelmed not just at his quick thinking creativity in saving the baby deer, but with the faithfulness of God.  Even if just for the moment, it didn’t need further explanation that sometimes we can’t get ourselves out of the messes we make.  Sometimes we need to humble ourselves and ask for help.  Crying out for someone bigger than us to come and save us from our foolishness and give us another chance is a great start.

God is not limited, like us parents are, at finding ways to make a point.  Still think someday, I’ve got to find a way to turn this into a children’s book, at least  for the children, and grandchildren of Sanctuary Lane.

Sometimes I don’t like God

It was a shock last week, to admit to myself, that there’s times I don’t really like God.  Our C-Group (community group) was reading a bunch of passages out of Jeremiah as part of our One Year Through the Bible thing, and I was starting to get bummed.  As a Christian, I’ve always known I’m supposed to love, honor, fear, reverence, worship, obey and respect God.  But I had to admit, reading some of the verses about the times God said and declared awful catastrophes for all kinds of people-it seemed so random and unfair! Where’s the justice in all that?  Still, I was pondering this with a little a bit of emotional distance left….until Wednesday.

Tuesday morning, our beautiful little new grandson, Austin, made his entrance into the world.  Strawberry blond, crying, wiggling….all those cute little newborn things.  I was privileged to be there to watch the miracle of new life as he made his entrance and to rejoice that even with all the unexplainable ##*#* going on in the world, God still seems to be in favor of life.  Things were good, and the gratitude level was high, even though there was this nagging question about whether or not it was blasphemy to admit I had some issues with Jeremiah.

Wednesday morning at 4:40 a.m., our daughter called to say their  precious little guy had just been airlifted to a city hospital in severe respiratory distress.  My voice and my words told her we’d be there as soon as we could catch a ferry to pick her up and bring her over to the little man (her husband drove ahead to meet the chopper but she had to wait for the doctor’s to come in and release her).  My heart, however, did a quick trip back to Jeremiah and the God who isn’t always very nice and prayed (begged) with all sincerity, that He would be the nice, kind, loving, life-giving God this time to this one little family who has waited and longed to meet this precious little guy we’ve all already loved for nine months and one day.

Pulling my head and my heart out of maternal/infant mortality statistics I’ve read and focusing on what was instinctual, needed and helpful, my inventory of my available faith level at that point was on empty.  So, I texted some people I knew would wake up, see their messages and pray.  Then we got out of here and went to be with the Mommy.

At the hospital, while we waited for doctors to show up, get out of meetings, and get Mommy on her way, I used Facebook to put the word out to pray. People who don’t even know our daughter and her truly wonderful husband responded and there were prayers going up for this little man, and people sending words of encouragement and hope.  Thank you!!!!!

As much as I would like to pretend that I was full of faith and knew God was gonna make things Ok, I wasn’t and I didn’t.  I was AFRAID that maybe, like so many other people in so many other places who live with loss and disaster each day that has no explanation, that this little family might have to experience that because God was doing something else.  Gratefully, my fears did not materialize and Austin’s doing much much much much better….

Lesson learned:

  1. There are times when your tank is empty, and that’s when the prayers of others who aren’t on empty can help carry you, if you just ask.
  2. The community of  faith will respond if asked and their prayers may touch God’s heart, and keep yours from breaking.
  3. Pray.  Ask others to pray.  Pray some more.
  4. You don’t have to go through it alone….ask for help!  Others can believe even when you can’t.
  5. Don’t forget to give thanks, regularly, privately, publicly and every other way as a matter of habit and discipline.
  6. Maybe, for now, I’m gonna focus on gratitude, and quit reading the Jeremiah sections (one of our amazing friends-a spiritually wise lady I really respect, said there was a time in her life where she couldn’t do a bunch of Psalms at once-they were too violent, and the priest just told her to pick a different reading….God bless him!)

To the two or three people who might read this, thank you.  To all those who prayed for Austin and his family, THANK YOU SO SOSOSOSOSOSOSO MUCH!

Maybe there are times when the fear of God takes precedence over the love of God….and maybe whether or not I LIKE Him is irrelevant?

(PS  I printed out the six pages of comments and prayers ya’all put on Facebook for Austin and his family and gave it to his Mommy and Daddy for his baby book)

Reasons to Swear

I stopped swearing once, for a really long time.  I thought it was the thing to do.  You know, Christians are supposed to talk nice, and not use bad words with a lot of gusto and expression?  But there are no nice ways to say the guy threatened to kill his girlfriend and then spent some time pounding her in the stomach and dragging her around the house with their toddler screaming while Mommy got beat again.  There’s no nice words!  There are also no nice words to describe the actions of a stepfather who took a heavy object to his 15 year old stepdaughter’s head and left her needing 20 staples and stitches.  Some of what people do to each other is indescribable!

I suppose there are people who have never known a victim of domestic violence.  To them, that’s just a news story, a statistic, or something that happens to some unknown little understood “other” out there somewhere.  This week, I see the faces, the arms, the stomach bruises of the friends mentioned above.  I give thanks that they are alive with minimal permanent physical damages.  I give thanks for the community that is surrounding one of them and loving her and walking with her through this stage of her life, and look for opportunities to encourage the other one to look towards faith-that she is a child of God, imperfect but of infinite value,one who deserves way different than she has accepted from this #($&^! who broke his promises yet again.

The Unite To End Violence Against Women Campaign of the UN (click on the link) states that the most common form of violence against women is the one inflicted by an intimate partner–that women aged 15-44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, motor accidents, war and malaria, and that half of all women who die from homicide are killed by their current or former husbands or partners.  It is so widespread, we ALL probably know victims, even if we don’t know it.

I loved hearing Pastor Eugene say in last week’s sermon that a woman who is being beat doesn’t have to stand there and take it.  That SHOULD be a no brainer, but too often churches have blamed the victim (and guys can be victims too-my Dad was).

I know swearing doesn’t really help.  But, I’m not sure what other kind of words to use expressing absolute frustration, outrage, and powerlessness to God on this one.  Would rather stick to the important words–like “You don’t deserve this!” and “WHAT CAN WE DO TO HELP!!!!!?”

(Too little, but better than nothing?: Childcare while Mom goes to counseling or court, help with paperwork, drop off a meal, help find a new apartment….listen, love, listen some more, speak truth, include her and the kids in your family, pray, provide bus passes)  Ideas??

How to help?

National Domestic Violence Hotline (resources and contacts in all 50 states)

Because It Matters (resource site for those in the church experiencing domestic violence or other forms of abuse)

I think this is a Sabbatical (personal musing)

You can figure your life may have been a little out of balance if working 40-45 hours per week seems like a sabbatical.  Been figuring that one out the last couple of months, as responsibilities have changed in some areas.  Finding out how many uncompleted tasks I had stacked up, dusting them off and starting to catch up.  Instead of aiming for burn out, blow out or freak out, accepting the gentle hands of God putting me in time out for six months before I compulsively engage in taking on any new projects (even good ones).  This is a new discipline for me.  It seems I’ve spent the last six years trying to gobble up all of life I can possibly participate in, and while it has been incredibly meaningful, it hasn’t necessarily been the most effective.

While I sometimes miss my friends and the community I came from, I am also incredibly grateful for the new community here that has enfolded me and made me a part of their lives.  The past few years of over-active living has been richly peopled with some of those who are effective in making a difference in people’s lives and providing practical help in a variety of ways to those in some dire circumstances. I have been privileged to listen to the stories and learn from the lives of those who have lived meaningful and well and demonstrated their faith in practical action.

As I approach the end of month 2 of my time-out, I find my life has still been very full.  For example:

  • Spending time some weekends with much loved adult children
  • Sometimes helping with major carpooling of refugee community to church in Kent
  • Going to hear friends from other parts of the world speak in different churches in the area while they’re home on Sabbatical
  • Hanging out with new young friends (thoroughly enjoying being unofficially            adopted as a grandparent)
  • Watching God work even in the midst of the Intensive Care Unit in my Mom’s life and giving thanks for the angels that work in hospitals with the desperately ill
  • Parenting parents, through a variety of crises
  • Finishing up previous privilege of being a non-profit bookkeeper for 6 years and attempting to hand it off to the upgraded version (a retired CPA)
  • Learning new techy skills to finish some long neglected projects for my kids
  • Working on getting the rest of my songs together for home-recording another CD for kids/family (before I’m too old to remember what I wrote)
  • Handling paperwork for parents through changing circumstances, challenges, insurances and learning more about Medicare/Medicaid and the American medical nightmare than I ever wanted to know
  • Giving thanks for the buyer of my parent’s condo (two year project finally finished!) and our amazing friend/realtor (Shellie) who got it done
  • Participating in major software upgrade/transition at work with related stress, and liking it:)
  • Finishing several whole books without falling asleep just ’cause I sat down (the latest: Little Daughter by Zoya Phanhighly recommended)
  • Giving a few piano lessons to new little friends
  • Exercising more, drinking coffee less
  • Catching up on bookkeeping for our business
  • Doing things “almost grandmas” are supposed to do:) (crocheting baby blanket, etc.)
  • Visiting a major event in our old community and spending time with people I haven’t seen in quite a while
  • Trying to recognize those moments when you hold someone’s heart in your hands and praying for the grace to respond in a way that brings hope to them
  • Spending time listening to those around me, and trying to be present in that moment instead of reaching towards the next one
  • Missing Rich and counting the days til he comes home from Alaska (5 to go!)

So….nothing profound, just trying to reorient the compass to measure my life not just by the tasks completed but by the relationships nurtured and formed-taking the time to try to notice, give thanks, and pray for those who come across my path each day….remembering to breathe….and literally, stopping to smell the roses, (or pet the kitties) when I’m out for a walk.

Poverty’s Stereotypes

The healthcare debate opens up all kinds of cans of worms.  It challenges our politics, our pocketbooks, our stereotypes of those people on public assistance or those who are “choosing to go naked” (not buying health insurance, which of course they could afford).  It challenges our view of poverty American style.

Poverty comes with many names and faces.  I have the privilege of seeing some of them each day at work, as people seek “affordable” dental care.  As I screen calls and try to steer people towards the most effective solution to their need, I hear all kinds of stories, and get all kinds of responses.  Some people thank me for the information or the connection, and others occasionally cuss me out for not having an easier path to point them towards.  Sometimes in mutual frustration, I acknowledge that the system is imperfect and broken, and if they want to fix it, suggest talking to their Congressperson.

This opinion piece from the New York Times talks about the power and limitations of community during personal or national economic downturns…all too true!  And we are all elgible.  It’s not just those other people who can get in a bad spot.  Many of us may not be that many steps from the wrong dominos lining up and flattening us.

31 Years Happy

The man I love
The man I love

Today is our 31st anniversary….I have had the privilege of living more than half my life with this guy.  Every couple has their love story, and their sad stories.  I’ve had time recently to think about ours, a lot.  The guy had me at “hello.”  The gentle eyes with the cute twinkle in them sucked me right in.  I was the church secretary, and he was new to faith and the church.  I watched, hoped and prayed for the first seven months he was there, that maybe something wonderful would develop.  I fell in love with him when I saw him holding Daniel, his friend Bill’s newborn son.  A guy who could look at someone else’s kid the way he so lovingly looked at Daniel like a precious treasure was a guy who would make an awesome Daddy some day.  (I was right on all counts!)  I got to be there the night he was baptized, meet Bob Olson, the halibut fisherman who mentored him, lived his faith,  and helped grow some of the wonderful common sense loving qualities in him that I benefit from every day.

Now we’re farther down the road on this journey, parents of three and almost grandparents.  Amazing how quick this all happened!  Our stories became our story, and I am grateful and amazed to get to share my life with him.  For the summer, he’s in Alaska, and I’m here.  Miles apart but still joined together as our shared story continues to get written each day….

Happy anniversary, Rich.  I love you.  It’s been an amazing journey so far!

( Pictures of the journey) (have to log into facebook to see them)

A tribute to my Mom (poem)

You taught me the power of words-
You made me a poet.
You taught me compassion-
To see and to love those who are in pain.
You taught me to value diversity-
Helped me understand how it felt to be different.
You taught me the value of community-
Helped me learn to notice the lonely and left out.
You taught me to love mercy-
To treat people how I wanted to be treated.
You taught me to love my children-
To value who God made them as individuals.
You taught me to listen with my heart-
To hear the wounds of others that were hard to express.
You taught me that you don’t always
Get to choose how the lessons come
But to keep my heart open to God
And try not to miss them.
You taught me to value humility-
And to seek to do justice.
You helped me learn to look for the “jewels in the ashes”
and light in the darkest of places.

Today, I am grateful you’re still with us.
Out of CCU, still on the journey.
I love you, Mom.

Struggling towards the light (poem)

You never learned how to swim
But in my dream, I see you trying hard
Fighting your way towards the light.
Swimming for all you’re worth
Trying to get back to the surface
Of this somewhat murky pond.

Never realized how hard it was-
What effort it took to focus on the task
To collect the necessary resources
To be present for just a moment….

You’d be there for a while
But like a timer going off,
You’d be gone again
Decorating beautiful fantasy dwellings
(Which, sadly, only you could see and appreciate).
I’m sorry i was impatient.
I didn’t understand.

If you make it back to the surface,
I’ll try harder. Be more patient.
Visit more often,
I love you.
Be at peace.