Wednesday, December 6, 2017


Sometimes, when we are diligently searching but looking in all the wrong places, the very thing we seek waits for us in plain sight. Things we don’t even know we need…

Glad to go out on a mission, I sought the variety of greens that I usually gather for holiday decorations. For cedar, I knew right where to go; the revered old tree had some lower branches that needed pruning. It was easy, using the long-handled loppers, to cut a couple of long branches off.
Once those were down, I pruned off the smaller branches and made a stack on the lawn to be retrieved later.
The Douglas firs were more difficult, as most of the lower branches were gone. Strolling the edge of the pasture, I searched for any possibility when something caught my eye.
Scattered about were many small branches blown down by a recent storm. I gathered them up and stacked them into another pile.
There is a spot where western white pine cones accumulate. It’s a bit of a mystery as there are none of these trees nearby that I can see, and now there were more there than usual and some unmistakable long-needled branches.
I made another pile. When I was finished, I had more than enough fresh greens to do what I wanted and to share with friends and neighbors.
After fifty years of marriage, my husband and I have reached a new plateau, of sorts, in our relationship. Gone are the rounds of endless discussions trying vainly to change a mind, the hurt feelings, the frustrations of not seeing eye-to-eye on an issue. We have always agreed on most of the important things, but have our differences, as everyone does. Perhaps the struggle to turn a partner into someone other than who they really are is a hallmark of youth, but it is one we’ve surrendered to time. We now truly value each other - “warts and all” – and with that acceptance comes a tremendous peace.
A few years ago, through a series of volunteer projects, I gradually became acquainted with a couple of remarkable women. One is a chatterbox - innately honest and a warm, caring person with a heart as big as all outdoors and a fierce enthusiasm to throw herself wholeheartedly into any endeavor she is a part of.  The other appears quiet and reserved and can size up a situation quickly, has an eye for detail, and a determined stubbornness when it comes to preserving the environment and all creatures within it.
One is a non-practicing Catholic; the other has probing questions on all things involving faith. We get together often, discuss anything, and respect each other’s opinions. Beyond a doubt, I have become better informed, stronger in my convictions, and more willing to act for causes I believe in because of their willingness to question and share. Ours has become a treasured friendship.
We had been without a dog for fifteen years when a series of circumstances led to our adopting our little rescue terrier, Scruffy. We wanted to find a dog locally, but we found him on the internet. We wanted to travel a short distance, yet we drove to another state to see him. We wanted an uncomplicated process - we visited him at an incarceration facility for young men, but still could not bring him home because the rescue group needed to visit and approve our home. Lord knows he has his issues, unique behaviors, and odd little personality quirks, but he has added a certain energy, challenge, and spirit to our aging lives. He makes us LAUGH harder than we have in years, gets us out of the house daily, and gives us a reason to look forward to every day. And we wonder – just who saved whom?

All of this is windfall - unexpected, unearned, a sudden gain or advantage. In one form or another it comes to all of us, but we need to open our eyes to see and recognize it. And when you do, acknowledge, accept, and value it – trust where it comes from and that there will be more to come.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.         Ephesians 3:20-21

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Acorns in Parking Lots

I’ll be right back…” I called out as I began crossing the large parking lot to the motel office where they kept hot coffee all day long. In the early twilight, I could see splotches of some tannish-gray material spattered across the dark pavement. My first thought was that someone’s tires had collected and dropped globs of mud, but they seemed to be the wrong color. Then I noticed odd little chunks and on closer inspection could see what they really were – acorns. The oak trees that had been planted in the median strips had produced dozens, which now were ripe and dropping to the pavement. Many had been smashed by tires, but some were still whole, scattered about with their broken-off caps. Quickly grabbing that hot cup of coffee, I set it down on a curb and began gathering up the acorns and caps into the front of my shirt. Gingerly balancing the hot cup in one hand and my newly-acquired treasure in the other, I returned to our room, joyful. “Look what I found – free decorations!”
I have always loved to gather nature’s bounty, which is everywhere you look and often free for the taking. Brightly-colored autumn leaves of different shapes and sizes, various seed pods and grasses, lichen-covered twigs, evergreen cones, berries, and nuts are abundant this time of year.  As the weather cools and dampens, I bring them indoors to add some color and cheer to the darkening days. Once collected, however, we need to see how they fit together and how best to use or display them.
And, if we pay attention, those are not the only free treasures to be found, combined, and valued. I remember the year, shortly after both my parents passed away, that I had the opportunity to attend art school (at the age of 50, no less…) and use my part of a small inheritance to complete the studies debt-free. Another time, while attending a community class and subsequently volunteering to use that knowledge, I met some women who ultimately became some of my closest friends. Asking for help on a local internet community page has resulted in meeting some incredible people, whom I would now not hesitate to contact for access to their unique skills. Serving on a local community committee has helped me become acquainted with members of different service organizations, educational institutions, and a local juvenile justice department. The exchange of information and knowledge with each of these people has enriched my life immensely and helped me connect them with others who have needed their expertise.
Those acorns – and their matching caps – returned home with me. The caps have been glued on and they are prominently displayed, along with other nuts and seedpods, as a reminder of the yearly harvest.  I’d much rather enjoy these real things than plastic imported replicas. Some years, I gather a small amount of evergreen huckleberries from our yard. They are small and there is never enough to do much with, but when combined with apples from my neighbor’s yard, they make a wonderfully tasty pie.
Many of us are not as close to the land and its abundant resources as our ancestors were, but it’s good to remember that all these things are timeless gifts from God. The harvest is ready – reap what you can, share the bounty, and be forever grateful.
Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. ~ John 4:36

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Ants Go Marching...

March verb: walk in a military manner with a regular measured tread.
  • walk or proceed quickly and with determination
  • force (someone) to walk somewhere quickly
  • walk along public roads in an organized procession to protest about something (advance/progress)
In these times of dissent and confusion, marches for various causes have become more prevalent. Those who march for their “cause”, and those who hold strong opinions about these marches, are as passionate and diverse as our nation itself. I find myself, at different times and in various situations, wondering just whose side I’m on and what I should choose to do. Then, I am reminded of ants…

 As a child, like many of my age, I spent a good deal of my time outdoors. In mild weather, with the screen door banging behind me, I roamed the immediate neighborhood seeking adventure (such as it was, in those days.) until lunch or dinner lured me home again for a short while. Growing up in a city, and being intrigued by all life, there was not much more than garden plants, weeds, birds, and bugs to investigate. The bugs were common ones – caterpillars, butterflies, moths, grasshoppers, beetles… and ANTS!
While I captured, studied, and played with all of these, I have especially strong memories of the ants. During several summers, I carefully dug up ant nests and set the tiny residents up in my own home-made ant farm – a large glass jar filled with soil with black paper taped around the sides. It never took the ants long to reestablish themselves in their somewhat abbreviated world of the jar. As they worked to create their myriad tunnels and living quarters, some which were down along the glass sides, I would remove the paper at times to observe them.
Some of the best education is personal experience; here is a small bit of what I learned about ants:
·     When a threat is perceived, ants respond quickly and with vigor.

·     There appears to be chaos and confusion at first, with scurrying about in all directions.

·     They quickly take up their assigned roles of defending, carrying loads of young and food, saving their queen, and seeking safety.

·     Often, when the threat has passed, they return to their nest site to painstakingly rebuild.

·     If deemed necessary (Who knows how?) they will rebuild their colony at a new site – marching steadfastly back and forth until all has been accomplished – and resume their lives.

·     In the greater scheme of things, they are teeny, tiny specks of life in a vast universe.

·     Within that universe, they are important and part of the wider-ranging web of life.

·     We are not that much different.
In times such as these, we each have our personal decisions to make as to our beliefs and associated actions. Study, soul-searching, diligence, and respect are needed for all of us. There has always been, and will continue to be, times of disagreement, distrust, and division among humans, and Christians are no exception. Among these Ds don’t forget dialog, discussion, and discernment. PRAY, especially for all those “others”- and don’t forget the ants…

God, when you took the lead with your people, when you marched out into the wild,
Earth shook, sky broke out in a sweat; God was on the march.
Psalm 68:7-8  (from The Message)