the unknown

19DEEF51-CD17-48AF-83F0-78B6886C8543For the most part we are surrounded with that which is familiar— family, friends, hobbies, books, habits, work, neighborhoods. Not much surprises us. Our lives aren’t so much predictable as they are routine. Never boring because our perceptions continually change or adapt.

There are things that happened this year I could not have foreseen. Rescue dog Lily’s two knee surgeries and remarkable recoveries. Political ‘resistors’ in America who violently attacked innocent individuals. New neighbors next door who turned out to be a dear, kind couple. My son calling a few days before Thanksgiving to let me know he will visit me.

0537814D-DD4E-41AB-9168-347F036FC7B0Some pathways are clear. There are boundaries to keep us in a safe area. We know to follow this. Well, mostly. I can remember driving home after a day’s work with my free-spirited father who had salvaged a small business in receivership. In the companionable silence he’d suddenly brake the car, saying something like, “let’s see where this goes,” turning off the highway onto an obscure road, not really concerned whether we’d wind up lost. Dad was never lost. He had the strongest centrifugal force of anyone I knew.

Those adventures translated into other life decisions which I suppose taught me no matter what your decision, things can be worked for good.

0A3CE1C3-C245-4451-A364-CD4101A1C000So though at times the curve up ahead may appear at first to be a dead end, keep moving forward. There are many forces —mostly good— that travel with us.

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I wish everyone a Happy New Year.

 

gifts, 2

So the first round of gifts were store-bought. My favorite shortbread cookies, packaged chocolates. I included a lovely card with my name and address with the festive bags. Yet the second round of gifts were received much more readily than the first.

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These included homemade sweet banana breads with walnuts, and delicious cookies from a blogger family I follow who often post wonderful recipes. Here is a link for the ones I made which were raved about. I recommend you visit their blog. Always informative and interesting:

Kitchen Sink Cookies

Anyway, these treats went to a nearby fire station and my local post office. The best thing about these kinds of presents was the look of happy surprise when I handed them over.

IMG_0338.JPGhappy ladybug resting in the notch of a small tree

I still have one more delivery, a pecan pie and a festive box of Hershey’s treats to my other local fire station. I will take these on Christmas Eve because they are there working on Christmas Eve. Not with their families. Maybe the firefighters there that day are all unmarried people and volunteer to work over the holiday, but maybe not. Beside, it makes me happy.

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So whatever your plans, whomever you will have near and hold dear, whatever you celebrate I wish you love, joy, peace, and wonderful friendship.

 

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shadows under the door

So… family vacations. As my brother said, he couldn’t have planned it better if he’d tried.

Day 4 of our week my brother was not feeling well. And this is someone who never feels something to the point of concern. He forges ahead and gets through it.

We drove to a small emergency room not far from where his family and I were enjoying our annual beach week. After a ct-scan he was rushed to emergency at the larger hospital. Two a.m. he was put in a hospital room waiting for surgery.

Irony: They wake you about every half-hour through the night for something. As soon as daylight touches the edge of that windowsill they leave you alone.

So he dozed, on and off. I watched the shadows of medical people’s feet walking past his door. Waiting for those that would stop and take him to surgery. To healing.

Me: “Do you have any Bibles?”

Gift shop person: “No, sorry.”

Me: “Is there a chapel?”

Pink Lady: “I don’t know of one.”

Me: “Are there Bibles, anywhere?”

Pink Lady: “Not that I know of.

I remembered my Bible in the glove compartment in my car, reluctant to leave my brother should those shadows stop for him I ran outside to get it.

He kept dozing. Shadows kept walking. He woke.

Me: “Can I read you a psalm?’

Him: “Sure.”

Me: Psalm 91… basically assuring anyone frightened beyond their wits that God will keep you under His wings, under His feathers.

Comfort.

The shadow stopped. A strong, young man opened the door, asked my brother to give his name, birthdate. Correct patient. My brother heroically gets up out of the bed.

Orderly: “Uh, nope, not having you flashing people down in surgery. Get back in the bed.”

My brother: Laughter.

So he goes. I breathe a prayer to follow him, through pre-op, anesthesia, the cutting, post-op, recovery.

God heard me.

I walk down the hallway toward where the same strong, young man is bringing my brother back to his family, back to consciousness, back to life. I follow them to his room where his wife, daughter, my son are waiting.

Groggily my brother says, “Did he…” can’t finish.

Understanding, I respond: “Laparoscopy.”

Repeat: “Open cut?”

Me: “No. Laparoscopy.”

Brother: “Guy’s a genius.”

My brother is there, he can hear us, he responds, slowly as one coming out of deep sleep would. I joke that I have never in my life seen him inebriated. His wife, “Oh, he’s a happy drunk!”

My brother: “I drive better, too.”

Laughter.

We stay to visit as his nurses check his oxygen saturation which rises and falls like my emotions.

“I’m not going to code,” he says.

We laugh, but cautiously.

He needs sleep. We exit for the night hugging as best we can through tubes and wires promising to return in the morning.

“Love you.”

“Love you.”

Goodnight.

simple gifts

As I began the slow climb up the mountain Aaron Copland’s “Simple Gifts” played on the car radio. Appalachian Spring is a favorite composition of mine. . .  “‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free, ’tis the gift to come down where we ought to be, and when we find ourselves in the place just right, ”twill be in the valley of love and delight… ”

I thought of a favorite author, Ann Voskamp’s book “1,000 Gifts” where she found herself at a place I reach occasionally… I can no longer see beauty for the mundane I have built in my own presupposition. So in her book Ann seeks to find gratitude in the hard, unpleasant times in her life. She finds beauty in the angry, strength in the weak. She finds God in her gratitude when she would perhaps find discouragement, instead finds courage.

So I became overwhelmed by that which I had lost sight of, what I failed to notice… rescue dog Lulu tickling me with her whiskers when she hopes to be noticed. Rescue dog Lily slathering my face with a slobbery kiss. Birdsong echoing in the pine thicket where my dogs and I walk at sunrise during summer. Tiny frogs in the eave of my house croaking loudly after a rainstorm. Puddle shimmers on the walkway reflecting under the porch ceiling. The sun gleaming on pine needles. Water droplets edged on grape leaves like tiny crystals.

During my time away I relished the sound of lively conversation and laughter among random small groups chatting happily on the lodge veranda. The gentle creak of rocking chairs as I watched a deer delicately pick her way along the edge of the woods munching leaves. The soft hum of crickets outside my open window where rainwashed, cool fresh air gently blew over my toes. Up the mountain the clouds hovered just below the peaks, hugging the light mist that floated below them. Plodding up each switchback I offered to God my challenges, cares, fears, and a few  tears. I thanked Him as I walked down the mountain, for the answers He would bring, for the comfort I already knew, for the peace over that which I cannot control.

Hope is a simple gift of the heart. It grows through faith and through my answered prayer. When allowed its freedom hope is indomitable, strengthening, comforting, and offers freedom from whatever tries to contain me. I can overcome it, whatever it is.

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Thank You God.

— Shaker lyrics, “Simple Gifts” written by Elder Joseph Brackett, 1848