Friday, July 15, 2016

Those Daily Miracles

“There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.”

~  Albert Einstein

Amazed. It is a word which today is over-used and has lost much of its meaning. But on this day I truly was - amazed. Before me stood a minor miracle, a small plant which only the day before anyone would have taken for dead.

I had recently purchased my yearly supply of garden plants; most I had planted, but this one had somehow escaped me. I thought I’d gotten six lovely coleus plants, but when I planted them I only had five. Thinking I had simply miscounted, I thought no more about it. But now I remembered that before planting we had found one of them lying on the porch deck. It had been dry and therefore very light-weight and we assumed either the wind or a pesky squirrel had knocked it off the ledge where it had sat. I watered it well and planted it that very day.

Unbeknownst to me, another coleus lay nearby, but out of sight. A week later I had found it, pot and all, lying on its side on the ground, bone dry with withered leaves. In fact, about half of its leaves were brown and crunchy-dry. I nearly threw it out, but I had spent good money on those plants and decided to do what I could. Setting the plant in a small bowl, I thoroughly watered it and set it on our kitchen window sill. The following day all three of the plant’s stems stood straight up, its remaining leaves full and healthy looking, with bright green and rich rust coloring. I will plant it in a larger pot and nurse it along until it has fully recovered before planting it outdoors. I call it Lazarus.

“The only way to live is to accept each minute as an unrepeatable miracle, which is exactly what it is: a miracle and unrepeatable.” ~ Storm Jameson

Recently, a family friend had a horrendous bicycling accident and suffered a traumatic brain injury. He lay in the intensive care unit for days with bleeding and swelling on his brain, no memory of the accident, and questionable prognosis for recovery. Doctors were guardedly encouraging, friends and family were in shock, and the patient himself had no idea of what was going on. But those close to him were always there with him – sitting next to his bed, holding his hand, praying, crying, staring off into space, occasionally nodding off – keeping watch by simply being present. But in a situation such as this, it is never simple.

After a couple of weeks, he was released from the hospital and admitted to an in-patient rehab center. After another few weeks, he was allowed to go home with continuing out-patient rehab. Fortunately, he is able to walk, talk, and communicate, although not as well as he did previously. Some of his memory has returned and his functioning has improved, but he still has a long way to go. No one can say, with certainty, if he will recover fully and how functional he will end up being. However, he has made great strides in a relatively short amount of time, which is a positive sign. He might have died, but here he is one short month later. Again I am – amazed.

Whether you believe in them or not, miracles do happen every day. Many are seemingly insignificant, some mind-blowing - ALL are evidence of something far greater than ourselves.

Remember His marvelous works which He has done, His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth.
Psalm  105:5

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Repairing Damage

I’d been watching for her, so when the tall, long-haired woman walked across the small parking lot, came in through the door, and immediately approached me, I was not surprised. “Are you Barbara?” “Yes, you must be Kristin?” And so it began.

We all know about Internet dating, but this was something different. Still, with my age and experience, it is not something I ever could have envisioned myself doing. But I’ve learned to never say never, and in this instance it was a sort of modern day miracle – and yes, thanks to the Internet.

We climbed the stairs to the second floor and settled ourselves into the only couch in this small, cozy, eclectic coffee shop. It was the idea place to meet – casual, easy to find, and centrally located. After a bit of small talk to acquaint ourselves with each other, I pulled my treasure from the large bag I had carried in. Before us lay the white, hand-crocheted coverlet that my mother-in-law had painstakingly made back in the 1940s, lovingly created of thin cotton thread with a variety of intricate stitches. “I lied” I said. “Instead of four or five areas to fix, there’s more like twelve…” Kristin studied it carefully. “That’s OK” she said “let me go get my kit.”

I had packed this coverlet away, safety pins marking and holding in place the areas that had unraveled. I had considered repairing it myself, even buying a “how-to” book on crocheting. It did not take long, however, for me to decide that this was not something I wanted to attempt. Asking around for someone who might repair it gleaned no results, so I finally submitted my request to a local group via the Internet, complete with a couple of photographs. Someone who saw my plea asked for permission to share on a local needle crafters' site which is how Kristin heard about it. She responded immediately: “… I have experience repairing vintage crochet and knitting work and it's something I really love to do. I love that you value the piece for sentimental reasons and I would be happy to help you keep it around for many more years…I will bring my kit, if the picture shows the full extent of the damage it's possible that I can fix it then and there for you.” She included some references, we discussed her charge, and agreed to meet.

Her repair kit included different spools of cotton thread, in various shades of white, and a selection of crochet hooks. Carefully, she held the different threads against the coverlet and crocheted a few stitches, meticulously comparing the different shades and sizes of the work – asking me what I thought – until we were both satisfied with the results. Then, she settled in to do her work. For the rest of the morning she worked, while I sipped my coffee and visited with this most interesting and talented woman. When she was done, the final results were more than satisfactory – the heirloom looked as if it had never been damaged at all. I expressed my gratitude, paid her what we’d agreed upon, and we went our separate ways. Perhaps our paths will cross again – perhaps not – but we agreed that we’d enjoyed the time together and we are both richer for that brief time we shared.

Our lives are much like this aged coverlet, intricately stitched together in different patterns, textures, and subtle colors. Often, we experience a closeness and tight-knittedness which strengthens and melds us together; in-between spaces allow for variety, independence, and breathing space. There is a rhythm and a beauty which fulfills us and keeps us on an even keel.

Some relationships may be delicate and can break on minor issues and simple misunderstandings. Others, although strong, may suffer major damage through severe trial, tragedy, broken trust, or a myriad of other situations beyond our control. When damage occurs, it threatens to destroy all that holds us together. We must admit the relationship is broken, slowly start to rebuild it by tackling each small problem, and create a stronger foundation. Mending broken relationships is never quick or easy, but over time, it can be done. Sometimes, we can do the mending ourselves – and sometimes we need help. Trust that it’s out there…

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.   Colossians 3:12-13

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Those Small Rays of Hope

"Hope is being able to see that there is light
despite all the darkness."
Desmond Tutu

As this new year progresses, we are ever more aware that we truly are a part of a greater global community. Degradation of our environment, poverty, war, pestilence, hatred, and violence seem to be unending and it is easy to allow that to dominate one's thinking. Indeed, the world can seem a very dark place with evil rampant. The problems appear myriad and the solutions hopeless. After all, what can each of us, alone and insignificant, do?

I believe we need to look for those small, bright rays of goodness and action that we see in those around us. Begin locally and then widen your circle of awareness. We all may look for different things, and not agree on all of those, but here is a sprinkling of what gives me hope:

  • One of our High School's recent graduates has begun college with plans to study engineering and develop prostheses for those with physical disabilities.
  • A neighbor helps sponsor a local gathering each November where the sole purpose - besides having fun - is to collect gifts for the needy. This year that was just under $4,500 in cash, food and toys. Each year, I see more people responding to the needs of those less fortunate.
  • One of my friends has worked diligently for years on generating no waste. Through her creative re-use, far-reaching recycling, and non-judgmental example, she has inspired many others to lessen their impacts on our environment.

  • One of our county's residents publically offered to run errands for or accompany any Muslim citizens who were feeling threatened or afraid because of outrage aimed at Muslims over recent violence. Many others have agreed to help in this way.

  • The Washington governor's 2016 budget addresses urgent needs in the state’s mental health system, including new spending on mental health programs.

  • The endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales have eight new calves this year.
  • 70% of Washington voters enacted a state law banning trade of parts or products made from elephant ivory, rhino horns and other species of endangered wildlife, including lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, pangolins, certain marine turtles, sharks and rays.
  • A 21 year old Dutch engineering student is working to develop technologies to extract, prevent, and intercept plastic pollution in our oceans. He plans to initiate the largest cleanup in history.

The answer, I believe, is in holding tight to HOPE and basing our actions on that, for without it we truly are lost.

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future."
~ Jeremiah 29:11

Sunday, November 15, 2015

In the Blink of an Eye

It was odd that it caught my attention at all, but at the same time how could it not? It was so completely unexpected and foreign to my eyes that, even though it was nestled unobtrusively among the still-green leaves, it literally took my breath away.
About five inches long, it hung as a tightly-packed group of dark-colored, woody pods, each one containing a brilliant, shiny red, plump, bean-shaped seed suspended from the pod by a single, white strand. I'm not kidding about the color - identical to the red of M & Ms, I'd say! If this plant had produced this dramatic show of fall seeds before, I somehow had missed it.
The plant is a saucer magnolia tree, which we planted back in 1988 as a memorial to my mom whom we lost that year.
It is slow-growing - only about eight feet tall after twenty-seven years of growth - but faithfully produces huge pink blooms each spring.
Whether it was the unusually warm, dry summer, the tree reached some certain level of maturity, or other unknown factors, it lavishly produced five or six of these hanging seed clumps this year. Maybe I just happened to be working in its part of the yard at the right time. Whatever it was, because I think of it as "Mom's tree", it stirred up all kinds of memories of her.

It is often so easy to take those closest to us for granted. Precisely because they are so near and dear to us, they become a part of the fabric of our everyday lives, woven in so tightly and secure that we forget how precious they really are.
If we are fortunate, and fully aware, age and experience teaches us that life can change in the blink of an eye and we should NOT take anything for granted - least of all those we treasure. I have been reminded of this time after time, but more so recently...

·         My loving husband - best friend ever, stalwart partner, robust worker, now facing physical challenges.

·         My sister - living close by for the first time since I was two years old, facing failing eyesight, hearing, and the fragility of aging.

·         Our adult son - struggling with mental illness, substance abuse, and unemployment.

·         My youngest niece - dealing with health issues, unemployment, her Alzheimer's-affected dad, and a sister with mental illness.

·         Our dear friend - solid presence and confidante, widower with young-adult children, who recently escaped serious injury from a falling tree.

·         My "Coffee Klatch" ladies - each facing their own unique challenges with family members, health, disability, and aging.

·         My community volunteer friends - dealing with family issues of dementia, addiction, failed relationships, worries for grandchildren, spouses, and their own declining abilities.

·         All of YOU - whom I know, love, appreciate, and consider part of the greater family.

I am not alone in this; I only listed those above as a reminder that all of us carry burdens of concern for those we care for and love. Let us remember to be thankful now for those we hold dear - circumstances can change in an instant and tomorrow may never come.

I view the magnolia's brilliant red seeds and remember my mom's bright red lipstick, geraniums, and apple pie. I'm ever so thankful to have had her in my life...
I always thank my God
as I remember you in my prayers..
Philemon 1:4

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Keep Your Tail Waggin’

Entering the woods this day, I am once again intrigued by his single-mindedness. That being to fully take in and enjoy every single bit of ground that we cover and, looking forward only a limited distance, that which lies ahead. I observe his steady gait – the little trot-trot with a bounce in every step.
The alert expression on his face – head and tail held high, ears forward, nose twitching, eyes continually scanning.
Rather small, he is close to the ground and the grass is high, so his vision is limited. But for him the nose rules all, and his senses are constantly inundated with scents I can only imagine: mice, moles, squirrels, deer, raccoons, and dogs – always there are dog scents… To him, they are all good and exciting!
This little rescue dog is new to our family and in some ways he had changed our lives. Sure, he has some “baggage” – some we know about, some not. There have been challenges – some we have overcome, some training is in progress, some we are still figuring out how to deal with. The upside continues to be his unique little personality. So often, there is a joyfulness about him that defies explanation.
He enjoys playing with his toys, but the small rubber ball trumps all. He would go to the moon and back to retrieve this ball, chews on it, rolls it around with his nose, squeaks it, and holds it between his paws to keep it from being taken away.
Each morning, or on our return from being away, he greets us with such enthusiasm – tail wagging his entire body.
He enjoys his cuddle time, curling up tightly against each of us in turn, sometimes under a quilt or blanket.
He loves to be brushed, stroked, scratched, or to have his belly rubbed - yawning, stretching, rolling onto his back, and surrendering to the enjoyment. I swear this dog actually smiles with pleasure at it all!
Anyone with a dog understands and I think we all could learn something from these loyal companions. That would be to simply welcome each day as it comes and to make the very most of it; to have a true interest in our immediate surroundings and the people we encounter.
To take life in with all of our senses: to clearly see the eyes of those we meet, hear the nuances of the music we listen to, smell the mudflats at low tide or the fresh air after the rain, taste the dinner someone else has prepared, touch the shoulder or hand of someone who needs to know we care.
To be aware of our demeanor and what it says to others, whether we look fretful and busy, or enthused and energetic.
We should not ignore the future, but also not look too far ahead, as we can only adequately deal with today. If we enjoy our leisure time to the fullest, throwing ourselves into whatever our interests are, could we not do the very same with our work?
What if we gave those we associate with our full attention and those we’re closest to our total commitment? When was the last time we really ENJOYED this life – every single day of it?

Of course, not every day is pleasant for us because life is full of hardships, uphill battles, pain, and grief. No one ever promised us that it would be easy. All these trials can wear us down and before we know it we can become locked into the negatives more than the positives. I think it is important not to forget that there are always some positives and that it would be good to celebrate those while we have them.

As you head out on your path of life today, remember that you will never pass this way again. Although the trail may be rutted, rocky and muddy, there are many interesting surprises along the way.
As best you can, try to keep your head up, your step lively, and your senses fully engaged. Don’t forget to walk with those who love you and keep your tail waggin’… there is rest later and tomorrow is indeed another day.

 This is the day the LORD has made;
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118:24