The Art of the Detour

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I hung a wreath made of autumn leaves on our front door. Fall had announced it’s arrival by splashing the trees that surround our home with brilliant orange and yellow, and vibrant reds and rich brown hues. I was just beginning to enjoy the entrance of the new season when my throat began to have that old familiar itch. Ugh.

I immediately pulled out my arsenal of preventives and began a regimen of salt water gargles, zinc lozenges, and saline spray. The symptoms grew worse by the hour. My throat felt like it had been groomed with a metal rake, and my sinuses felt like they had been replaced with rising yeast dough. Reluctantly, I went to the cupboard and pulled out the nasal rinse bottle. I once wondered why anyone in their right mind would voluntarily bring themselves to near drowning by way of a nasal enema. Yet, desperate times bring desperate measures. As much as I hate this procedure, I have found that it often wards off a head cold and can also reduce sore throat pain. For me, it’s like bringing out the big gun. However, this time I lost the battle.  Along with my balloon head and raw throat, I felt like a rusting tin man who needs oil in every joint. I retreated to the couch and crawled under a soft, cuddly throw.

“I don’t have time to be sick!” I complained.

My husband has heard this at least a thousand times in the course of our marriage. One great thing about our relationship is that we usually know how to make each other feel better. He knows a great foot rub can tame the growling beast, so he served me hot tea and worked on my feet. The next morning he built me a warm, cozy fire in the wood stove before he left for work. Sweet guy. I hauled my blanket and pillow from the bedroom and sat in the recliner, with a box of Kleenex on my lap, and watched a gentle rain through the sunroom window. My energy was zapped. The week’s agenda came to a grinding halt.

But I found that there is something good that can come from sitting in a stationary position, and not wanting to move anything but your eyeballs. You start to notice things that you have missed. My gaze followed the length of the sleepy summer flowerbed. It made me a little sad that it was beginning to wither back into the ground. Then I saw them. Just beyond the glass umbrella table, grew three or four giant, deep purple and soft white, dahlia’s that gracefully balanced atop their tall, slender stems. Image                                                          It was an unexpected second bloom. I had walked by the back window all week without noticing this perfect work of art. If I hadn’t been curled up with my pillow in forced rest, and in full detour of the day’s schedule, I may have missed this completely. I couldn’t help but smile.

My friend, Sharon, has mastered the art of the detour. We often get together when my husband is away on business, or when he has retreated into the Trinity mountains to go hunting. I have learned the most from Sharon while on day trips to various places that we have read about, and then made plans to explore.

It has been my nature to take the shortest point from  “A” to “B”. My motto is: Get there. But when its Sharon’s turn to drive, she prefers to find little side roads that in a round about way will eventually lead us to our destination.

It was fall and we made plans to take our first long day trip into Northern California wine country. I had grown up in that area and absolutely loved being there during the harvest season. So I was excited to go back for a visit when grape clusters still hang on the vines and are surrounded by leaves that are tipped with a hint of fall color.

We left just after sunrise and Sharon was in the driver seat. She mentioned that she wanted to take a nice little drive on a back road that would eventually drop us into the Napa Valley. In fact, she thought it might even be a short cut. I had never heard of this particular route, but if it was short cut, I was all for it. Soon we were on a road that wound its way up through a wooded mountain range. Up and down, and around and around we went. I have to admit that I was a bit antsy to, well, get there, so after what seemed like days, I asked, “Are you sure you know where you are going?”

I was use to zipping down a four lane highway, then taking a short jaunt on a two lane highway – and “Ta-da!” I was back in the valley where I had grown up. We had been on that road so long I could swear we were headed to Canada. I began to wonder if we would be viewing the vineyards under the midnight moon.

“Yeah.” Sharon calmly answered. That was it. No explanation.

So stated that I had never heard of the route we were on – and I use to live in that valley. At least that was where I hoped we were headed.

She chuckled. Then she commented on how lovely the trees were along the roadside. I looked out the window and thought, we are so lost.

One thing I really like about my friend Sharon is that she can maintain a certain state of serenity, even when I am getting a little on the wound up side. It can have a calming effect on me…most of the time.

Another great thing about my friend is that she totally cracks up when I make sarcastic remarks like, “Excuse me sir, can you tell us where the Napa Valley is because we have no idea where we are. However, we are enjoying the lovely trees along the way.”

Laughter makes the heart merry – and sometimes calms a wound up friend.

The road eventually led us on a curving ride into the golden foothills and then dropped us into wine country – just as Sharon had said it would. I ate my words.

                                                  Image        Along the way, we passed by beautiful country vineyards that I had never traveled far enough north to see. Some of the vineyards were small and quaint and inviting. Others spread majestically over several hillsides. We rolled down the windows and breathed in the fresh air. I relaxed into my seat and soaked in the perfect scenery. It was indeed a lovely drive!

    Sharon found a small park off the beaten path where we enjoyed a picnic lunch, then we continued to drive along the back roads and found several smaller wineries with beautiful grounds where we could stroll about and snap pictures. And after a long day of exploring, wine tasting, and trying new foods, we got into the car and headed home. This time, we took the four lane highway. It was dark and late, and my eyelids were heavy. I arrived home under the midnight moon.

That day I discovered a richness that can be found in taking the road less traveled. It slows your pace, offering you a break from a high-speed world. Your breathing slows and your muscles relax. And the road less traveled often leads to new discoveries that you would have otherwise missed. Since that day, I have taken many more detours, and have enjoyed all that the backroads have to offer.

Sometimes I forget that the art of the detour isn’t limited to road trips. It can happen right here at home. Like stopping for just a moment to look out at the flower garden, where I may find something unexpected and beautiful. I have also come to realize that a detour may present itself in a completely different way.

Sometimes my plans are abruptly interrupted. Often times that can mean those plans go right out the window. I do not like it when that happens. In fact, I can down right resent it. When I have made a specific plan, I like to stick to it until I have completed it. There have been times when an interruption has changed the course of my life, and at the time I couldn’t see the good in it.

Yet I have found that those interruptions can often lead to a detour that brings hidden blessings that I would have otherwise missed. I have made different decisions that have yielded better outcomes. I have gained new perspectives on life that I may not have seen without the detour. I have found that some interruptions require selfless acts of kindness, which sometimes entails a major attitude adjustment on my part. Yet there is a goodness that comes from that, a goodness that reaches to the depths of the soul.

And at the end of the day, when my head hits the pillow, I sleep well.

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At Nest’s Edge

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      I gave birth to my son six days after I celebrated my twenty-third birthday. Although he came into this world four weeks early, while I was lying on the couch with my feet propped up, and staring at the basketball my belly had become, it seemed like an eternity before he would arrive.

     I had always looked forward to being pregnant and to becoming a mother, and to be able to experience all the joys I had heard were attached to those roles. Yet my first experience with pregnancy was anything but joyous. Two weeks into gestation, morning nausea rolled in, and soon stretched into the afternoon and evening hours. I kept hearing that it would end in a few weeks, but those weeks turned into months, and I felt like I had been given a permanent sentence on the deck of the Andrea Gail in the perfect storm. Everything came in waves. Waves of oatmeal and toast and peanut butter, waves of turkey sandwiches on wheat and yogurt with fresh berries. Endless, relentless waves. Even the suggested ginger ale and saltine crackers made their way up the shoot, and sometimes would bubble right out my nose, which felt like a vinegar and baking soda experiment was being performed in my nostrils.

     I dreaded climbing into our old Ford truck on work mornings, knowing that the storm would rise up as soon as I shifted into drive. It didn’t matter that I had already seen my Wheat Chex twice, there was always more waiting in the bilge. It was only two short miles to the office where I worked, and I would fight back the waves as I punched the gas pedal, praying that I would make it there before the second round of barfing would hit. It didn’t matter how fast, or slow, I drove, the nausea swelled up from my stomach and sloshed into my throat with every curve on the road. I would tense the muscles in my esophagus, and press my tongue tight against the roof of my mouth and fight it back. But like clockwork, I would make it to mile marker 1.2, where I would have to whip the truck over into the entrance of a dirt driveway in front of a cute little old house and barf in their ditch. I never looked toward the windows of the house, but I’m sure I spoiled someone’s morning breakfast more than once.

     I read all the books I could about pregnancy and delivery, and I took a natural childbirth class so that, despite my months of suffering with nausea, I would be fully prepared to experience a wonderful delivery. At least that’s what my natural childbirth instructor indicated. I admired this laid-back woman, whose belly bulged with third term pregnancy, and who had already delivered four children au naturele. She surely must know what she was talking about. I listened intently from her sofa as she took a squatting position, to keep her birthing muscles limber, and shared her labor and delivery secrets to a room full of wide-eyed, young women with swollen bellies, each having great hopes of an easy, pain-free birth.

     My co-worker had already given birth to a son and was pregnant with her second child. She told me that that woman was full of bologna and I was wasting my money. Then she said that I had better get ready for the worst pain I’ll ever have in my life. I didn’t like that she told me that. In fact, it really irritated me. I told her that she wasn’t being a very nice friend. She responded by saying that she was my only friend because she was the only one who was telling me the truth. I still didn’t like her for saying it.

     When my labor started I was a little anxious, but mostly excited. Soon I would be holding a new little life in my arms, and I could fit into my skinny jeans again. The first few hours were easy and I was proud that I had learned so much from my au naturele instructor. But as the hours passed, I began to wonder why the labor magic wasn’t working so good. By the time my labor pains were close enough that it was time to drive to the hospital, I wanted to slug my husband. I accused him of hitting every bump in the road, which intensified the pain of each contraction. Where did he learn to drive?

     When we arrived at the hospital, I was quickly rolled into labor and delivery. Everything hurt. Every movement of the bed. Every time the nurse checked my vitals and moved the monitor on my belly. Every touch. Every sound was magnified. I wanted to yell, “No talking!”, but all my muscles were contracted, immoveable, including my voice box, which was silently screaming. I finally was able to drum up a loud, “SHHH!!” The room fell silent. I glanced up at my husband and saw him looking wide-eyed at the nurse. Then he took a step back away from my bed. Smart guy.

     Then suddenly it sounded like all the bells and whistles went off from the equipment surrounding me. There was a blur of nurses and doctors entering and leaving the room. Baby was in trouble. I was being prepped for an emergency c-section.

       My concern for the little life inside of me surpassed the intense pain I was experiencing. It didn’t matter what I had to go through, the pain, the probing, the needles, as long as our baby arrived safely into this world. Through some quick maneuvering by the nurses, and with the help of two doctors, a c-section was avoided. I gave one last gut-breaking push and heard the first cry of our son. I had witnessed my first miracle.

       As they rolled me out of the delivery room, I thanked God for watching over our baby boy, then I wondered how I was going to break the news to my husband that I was never going to go through that again. Two years later I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl.  Then a few years beyond that, our second daughter arrived, adding to our joy. They say that time heals wounds, or sometimes bad memories, but I think God gave me a slight case of amnesia between births, so that I could have the little family I had always dreamed of. He has a way of knowing just what I’m going to need, sometimes in small doses, and sometimes in big doses. 

       Many seasons have come and gone since my husband and I entered the role of parenthood. Our son grew up and moved three states away. That made me cry. Our second child grew up and got married. I cried at her wedding. At least she stayed in town. Then she gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. I cried again. Recently, I hugged our third baby goodbye at the airport. She’ll be living miles across the Pacific ocean while attending nursing school. You guessed it, I bawled. She did too.

    Crepe paper streamers were left strung across our living room ceiling, and for days I tripped over balloons in every downstairs room of the house, all remnants of a surprise going away party given to our daughter by her friends on the weekend she said goodbye to our small town. I just couldn’t make myself take the decorations down right away. It would be like saying, well, that’s that – that phase of life is done. Mooovin’ on.

       There was a point in my life when I began looking forward to empty nest. In time, each child wobbled at the nest’s edge and I held my breath when I saw that they were ready to spread their wings and fly. But now that I was standing at the edge of the nest watching our last baby fly away into the sunrise of her new life, I wasn’t sure I liked it. I wasn’t sure that I was ready to leave behind a noisy house full of kids, and night-time talks, and mocha dates.

       The once full dinner table has been dwindling, but I have left both leaves in, because it is big and long and inviting. I like to remember how it was when it was crammed full of our kids, and the neighbors kids, and kids from the church youth group, and when our kids teammates gathered there for meals. It was exhaustive, yet fulfilling, and I really loved every minute of it.

       It didn’t matter that on one family vacation, while traveling across Utah in our minivan, with a whining two year old in the back seat, accompanied by her two siblings who were pushing each others hot buttons, that I had threatened to sell them to the nearest family, because people who lived in Utah liked lots of kids. It didn’t matter that there were years of clothes left on the floor, and a continuous parade of socks without a partner. It didn’t matter that I was a constant chauffeur to soccer games and baseball games, basketball games and track meets. It didn’t matter that I had spent hours sitting in the waiting room at the orthodontist office while awkward smiles were turned into lovely grins, or that I spent many long nights in our wooden rocking chair comforting a feverish child.

       There were late nights when I laid restless in bed until I heard our teenagers turn the lock on the front door. There were times when I prayed on my knees for them when they were struggling, and growing, in a very tough world. Sometimes I wondered if we were going to make it. But deep down I knew we would, and we did, and every minute of it was worth it.

       The day I took the crepe paper streamers down, I walked through the house and popped every colorful balloon while reminiscing all those moments, and days, and years that I hold like shining diamonds in my heart. And that’s the truth of it. I don’t have to leave them behind. They will always stay with me, and for that, I am truly grateful.

   

   

I’ve been thinking…

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    Hello there! I am back, and I’ve been thinking…

    When I was a child, life was simple and mostly sweet. As I grew into adulthood, I became aware of a much bigger world that was more complex and bittersweet. There were life-changing decisions to be made, and there were relationships that dissolved as others blossomed and grew into life-long friendships. 

    Along the way, I have discovered that the least expected can happen, like the loss of a great career, or the sudden death of a friend’s child, or that I would travel across the ocean and dance with the Banjara Indians, or that I would end up marrying my brother’s good friend.

    I have found that life is about the opportunities that God offers with each new day. It is facing the sunrise with arms wide open, and celebrating the goodness, and growing through the heartbreaks. It is my past, present and future all folded in together. It is love received and love given, and it is pressing in when life’s challenges become a jagged mountain and my feet become blistered and the air squeezed from my lungs. It is trusting and never giving up hope. It is gathering with family and friends, to share a meal together and to laugh and share stories, and sometimes, to weep together.

It is everyday that we are given breath.

It’s you and me.

This is life…

She’s Hot, Hot, Hot

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Please understand, it’s not that I don’t love my husband. It’s just that he simply does not understand what a hot flash truly is. I mean, I understand that being awakened in the dead of night by someone “kung-fu” kicking  your bed sheets and blanket to the South Pole can be a frightening experience. But, if he could just imagine how it would feel to have a blow torch suddenly ignited inside of him, and no fire hose to put it out, he might understand the panicked flinging of the bed covers and my sarcastic quips to his objections. One night, I awoke to find him completely exposed and curled up into a fetal position.

I gave him a nudge and asked, “If you are cold, why don’t you pull the covers over you?”

I heard a small groan.

“Because” he answered in a feeble, weary voice, “you keep ripping them off of me. I give up.”

I don’t know why, but his answer came unexpected. How many times had I actually deprived him of his protective coverings to warrant such a pitiful retreat? I was fully aware that I had sent the covers flying, only to sit up in bed and retrieve them five minutes later. In fact, in an effort to remain positive about my condition, I had decided to view this constant night time motion as a part of my exercise plan. Apparently though, I had not been effectively retrieving enough of the covers for both of us.

Seeing him curled up in a tight ball, shivering in the night, caused me to take pity on the poor guy. I crawled down to the bottom of the bed to reach the other half of the sheet and tossed it his direction. As it unfolded like a white parachute and settled over him, he quietly thanked me.

“Your welcome,” I replied, “But you may want to bolt that down.”

Confessions of an Island Tourist

    I relaxed in a patio chair on the lanai of an island condo, enjoying a spectacular view of the Pacific ocean while I worked on my writing. What more could I ask for? I watched turtles gliding through the waves, as near by snorkelers bobbed up and down, and an occasional whale would breach the surface and come crashing down into the deep blue water. While vacationing in Kauai, I was privy to a true Paradise. However, I have to admit, during my tropical get a way I made a couple tourist blunders that left me a little red-faced.

One of my favorite activities is swimming and snorkeling in the aqua marine water that surrounds the Hawaiian islands. One day my husband and I were snorkeling in a popular cove with our good friends, Mark and Beth. Eventually, we all drifted apart as we each followed different schools of tropical fish. Although I thoroughly enjoy participating in submarine adventures, in the back of my mind I am aware that I am sharing the territory with some potentially unfriendly creatures – namely, sharks.

                                                              Fool Me Once

A most brilliantly colored fish had drawn my attention and I had been following it for quite some time, when suddenly I felt something sharp scratch at my leg. An adrenaline rush hit my chest and spread pins and needles to my extremities. I sucked a puff of air through my snorkel as I jerked my leg up toward my chest and looked over my shoulder, hoping not to see my worst nightmare staring me in the face. What I found was the face of our friend – with a snorkel-clenched grin. I shot to the surface and pulled my snorkel from my mouth just as he came to the surface laughing. “You brat!” I hollered, “You’re lucky I’m not carrying a spear-gun!” I laughed as he popped back under the surface. Then I looked around for my husband while treading water and waited for my racing heart to slow it’s pace. Now you would think after suffering such a nerve-rattling offense, that I would never consider inflicting it on someone else. However, I have always thought that one good trick deserves another, so when I caught sight of my husband’s bobbing snorkel, I headed straight for him.

                                                               Fool Me Twice

As I made my stealth underwater approach, I made sure that I stayed directly behind my husband so that I could make my attack un-detected. I maneuvered carefully until I was close enough to see his blondish leg hairs glistening in the sunlit waters. Then I slowly reached forward and was just about to give those hairs a good pull when I noticed that my husband was wearing a different color of swim trunks. I jerked my hand back as one of my fingers just brushed the stranger’s leg and I saw him turn in my direction. I whirled a 180 and shot out of there like a sailfish! Did you know that sailfish can swim up to 70 mph? If they were land creatures, they could out race the average freeway driver. O.K., maybe my fins weren’t going quite that fast, but I was on the move and I never looked back!

                                                                        I Give Up

I decided to avoid pulling any more underwater pranks, although I just couldn’t help but being playful while exploring the underwater world. I mean, life just wouldn’t be fun without playfulness…right?

I had been chasing a cute parrot fish, that would teasingly stay just a few inches from my reach, when I saw my husband snorkeling close by. I did a quick scan to be sure it was indeed the man I married – same color swim trunks, same color snorkel gear, body build matched, and short spiked light color hair – yep, that was him. I was excited about the brilliant fish I had been playing with and wanted my husband to see it. So, in my excitement I quickly made a submerged swim toward him. He was busy studying a small school of fish at the time, so I playfully dove under him and popped up essentially mask to mask and gave him a big grin. He grinned back. It is amazing how different your spouse can look while underwater. Hello? It is also amazing how you can feel the embarrassed heat in your cheeks while you are submerged in

cool water…

 

…reverse fins…

                                                          

                             

                                     

                                                                   Stranger Alert

I had been thoroughly enjoying every aspect of my vacation, including all the yummy tropical desserts which were available, which meant I had to burn off those extra calories somehow. We had just returned from a wonderful day on the beach and I had finished washing off my snorkel gear ahead of my husband and our friends who were with me. So I left them at the outside water faucet in the condo parking lot and I hustled up the outside stairs for some extra exercise. I jogged up a couple extra floors higher than ours, then down a three and back up one to our third story condo, feeling pretty good that with all that I was still the first one back to the condo. I was breathing hard when I walked up to our door. It was then that I noticed that the outside privacy door was closed, but the inner security door was wide open. I dropped my gear and in full alert I cautiously opened the privacy door to find a man standing across the room with his back toward me. The stereo was playing and he was casually leaning against the edge of the  sliding glass door which opened to the lanai. He apparently was feeling quite at home, as he had poured himself a glass of wine and seemed to be enjoying the ocean view.

I don’t consider myself to be the bravest person on earth, but when it comes to fight or flight, I become a fighter. I took a quick breath in and held it as I planted my feet and clenched my fists at my sides. I was just about to yell, “Hey! What do you think you’re doing?” when I noticed that a different sofa was in our condo…then I heard the voices of my husband and friends echoing from the corridor on the floor below me. Really? I cringed and silently mouthed my panic. I had officially created an all new meaning to the word, dork. I took a cautious step back from the condo entrance and bit my lip as I carefully closed the privacy door in front of me, hoping that Joe islander would stay entranced with the scenic view. But the door clicked as it closed and he started to turn in my direction. I let go of the door handle, whipped around while scooping up my snorkel gear and shot out of there like a sailfish on land. Have you ever tried to run quietly on your tip-toes while wearing flip flops? The flapping sound reminded me of playing cards wedged into the spokes of a fast moving bicycle. The noise bounced off the halls of the corridor as I ran to the staircase and made my escape.  I didn’t slow my pace until I reached the condo with the familiar sofa, and a living room occupied by people I recognized.  My aerobics were done for the day.

Have you ever been, so to speak, caught with your pants down? I would love to know that I am not alone. Mahalo!

Cell Tower Melt Down

“Patience is the ability to idle your motor when you feel like stripping your gears”  Barbara Johnson

In thirty-six hours, I would be on my way to the airport to catch a plane destined for the Hawaiian islands. I had looked forward to this respite with my husband, but there were two problems that dampened my excitement. First, the list of things to get done before leaving town wasn’t shrinking fast enough. Secondly, cold and flu season had hit hard and seemed to be on a never-ending cycle at our house. I had just recovered from my stint of illness about the time it hit my husband – for the second time. Determined not to fall victim to the viral monster again, I disinfected all surfaces of possible contamination on a daily basis, and to be on the safe side, I abandoned my “chemical free air” motto and saturated our breathing space with an aerosol disinfectant. I gave my husband an arsenal of medicine and quarantined him to our bedroom, while I retreated to set up camp in the upstairs bedroom. Despite my Hazmat efforts, it seemed that my body had once again been infiltrated by “the bug.”

I called my friend, Lisa, who was a fellow mentor mom of a local young mother’s group, and lamented to her about my aching body. The group would be meeting the following morning, and it was my turn to bring a hot dish for breakfast. She listened sympathetically and graciously offered to prepare the casserole and deliver it for me the next morning. I felt the least I could do was bring the ingredients to her door step, so I told her I would drop by after dinner. I had not been to her house before, so she gave me directions and I made a note of it.

The next few hours passed by quickly as I moved at sloth pace to complete my check list. I had already cut the list it in half by asking myself, “If I died today, what items on this list would matter?” But the remaining number of “must do’s” made me groan. The clock struck nine and I still hadn’t dropped off the casserole ingredients. My body felt like it had been hit by a truck, so I swallowed a couple more Ibuprofen tablets and then asked myself, “If I died today, would I care about this list anymore?” After a short contemplation, I picked up a pen and wrote my kids a note. If our plane goes down, hire someone to clean the house, there is grocery money in the attached envelope, you know the rest. I love you!  Then I packed up the casserole ingredients, hopped in my car and headed across town toward Lisa’s house.

It was when I reached the half-way point that I realized that I had left the paper with the house address on my kitchen counter. I growled through clenched teeth. I just wanted to lay my head down on the steering wheel and go to sleep. I put my foot on the brake to slow my car while I contemplating what to do. I knew the general vicinity of where my friend lived, and the thought of turning my car around made me feel like either crying, or saying things I shouldn’t say, so I decided to wing it. Fortunately, my waning memory was able to bring me to the correct street. Great! I would just call her to get her house address. I took my cell phone from my purse to make the call. It was then that I noticed the no service symbol at the top of the lighted screen. I had forgotten that cell service was sparse on that side of town. Ugh! You have got to be kidding me! I shouted and squeezed the phone tightly.

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There are some great advantages of living in a small town that is nestled in the forested foothills. But street lights are few and cell service can be elusive. If you are in a poor service area, you may be lucky and find a sweet spot – if you are patient enough to maneuver your phone around until that one saving bar of service appears on your screen. Then you freeze frame your phone in that position, dial the number and contort your body until you can connect your ear to your phone.

I proceeded to drive slowly down the dark road, while holding my cell phone by my steering wheel and watching for a service bar to pop up. I strained my eyes to see out the side windows of my car, hoping I would find a familiar vehicle parked in front of one of the houses. Nothing. The long road seemed to be taking a gradual decent into the abyss and the space between houses had widened. I groaned. I had to find a sweet spot. So I shifted into reverse and slowly backed up the road, while I waved my phone across the front windshield area. My eyes shifted back and forth from it’s small screen to my rear view mirror. I was almost to the top of the street when a service bar popped up on my screen. I hit the brakes. The bar disappeared. So I shifted into first gear and slowly rolled forward a few feet. The bar popped up and disappeared again. So I shifted into reverse and inched backward. Voila! There it was! I held my cell phone above the steering wheel with clinched fingers, avoiding the smallest increment of movement. Then I reached across my body and pulled the emergency break with my left hand, wishing I would’ve thought to hold my phone in that hand instead of my right. I carefully dialed my friend’s phone number, then un-hooked my seat belt and pushed myself upward, twisting my body and tilting my head toward my phone. I heard a faint beep and the service bar disappeared. This is ridiculous! I shouted at my phone.

Over the next several minutes I repeated the same scenario, verbalizing my utmost frustration. I shouted that I hated small towns with tall pine trees and no street lights. I called my phone names that I would never consider calling people. I was in a state of rapid decline when at the far end of the road I saw something quickly moving in the darkness. It appeared to be bouncing down a slope on the right side and heading straight for the road. I drove slowly toward the moving object, when suddenly in the beam of my headlights I caught sight of my friend who was jumping up and down, waving her arms, as she ran down her long driveway. Apparently, the light from my bouncing cell phone had summoned an S.O.S..

When I pulled along side of her, my entertained friend was laughing. She had seen my entire in-motion saga. Fortunately, it hadn’t come with a sound track. I rolled down my window and admitted that I was going to have to go home and wash my mouth out with soap. She roared with gracious laughter. I shook my head in shame, but couldn’t help but smile. It’s good to have a friend who can withhold judgement and forgive your shortcomings – as well as laugh at your idiosyncrasies.

It’s hard to admit to such poor behavior when I would rather think of myself as one who has mastered patience – and can slay the drama queen despite my circumstances. However, I have found that confession is the first step toward change and it can bring accountability to my actions. I thanked my friend as I handed her the bag of casserole ingredients and then drove away. On the way home, I thanked God for the gift of good friends and for his perfect forbearance despite my daily failures. I also told him that I really didn’t mean it when I said I hated small towns with tall trees and no street lights. I was grateful to live in such a lovely place. But in my heart, I knew that He already knew this, and when my head hit the pillow that night I slept well.

I’m Tired

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I was in the grocery store when I observed a toddler walking behind his young mother. She was pushing a grocery cart that was laden with food items, along with an infant in it’s carrier that was positioned in the top section of the cart. As the toddler plodded along, I noticed that his pace began to slow, when suddenly, he plopped himself down right in the middle of the canned food isle. His mother noticed that he wasn’t directly behind her and turned to him and asked, “What’s the matter?” He leaned back on his elbows and answered, “I ti-yard!”

As I watched him recline on the tile floor, I thought to myself, “Little man, I’m right there with you!” Then I thought, if big people were allowed to do what this little one was doing, then there would be adults plopping themselves down in grocery store isles all across America!

This little guy was physically tired from walking, what was to him, a long journey through the grocery store. As we become adults, the tiredness that we experience becomes more than physical. There is a mental drain that comes with the daily stressors in our lives, which often transfers and taps our physical energy. It is often called “the daily grind,” but what starts as a small pack on our back can often build to a heavy burden we end up carrying on our shoulders – and we become tired.

Are you feeling tired? What burdens do you carry on your shoulders? A possible job lay off? Bills that surpass your paycheck this month? A negative medical report? Your child’s future? A failing relationship?

If you are like me, there are times when you feel the weight of the world on your shoulders. This isn’t what God planned for our lives. In fact, he says for us to bring our burdens to him, to give them to him to carry for us. He offers something that is humanly impossible for others to offer to us.

When I go to him and vent my worries and frustrations, he patiently listens. Then when I am quiet and ready to listen, he tells me to give him all my worries, all my junk, to lay it all down at his feet and leave it there. When I take him up on his offer, I can feel him lift the weight from my shoulders. Doing so gives me a sense of freedom that can’t be found in this world. A wave of peace washes over me and my restless nights dissolve away. Jesus tells us “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Because of what he has done, and what he continues to do, He has become my hope and my resting place.

Trash to Treasure

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Trash to Treasure

   I spent my childhood years making family trips to the ocean. We spent hours being chased by the crashing waves and warming our wet toes in the heated sand. Those were days that I looked forward to and they have left imprinted memories in my heart. Since then, I’ve married another beach lover and we have had our own family tradition of making summer treks to the oceanside. I’ve watched my own delighted children as they’ve danced in the ocean waves and let the cold sea foam roll over their toes.

One beach that we frequented over the years had an unusual characteristic. Decades before our arrival, the seaside town residents had dumped it’s trash over the cliff’s above this small beach. This was long before the birth of ecology awareness, at least for the general public. Amongst the garbage was tons of discarded glassware and pottery, along with appliances and old cars. Eventually, the dumping was forbidden and a long term cleanup of the beach was done. In the meanwhile, over decades, a wonderful thing happened to the broken glass that had been thrown away.  As the pounding waves cleansed the beach, they also transformed the broken pieces of glass, smoothing, and polishing them into thousands of jewels that washed up onto the shoreline. It became a treasure hunt for our family to find the perfect pieces to bring home with us.

Our children are now grown and several years have passed since we’ve walked along the pebbled glass shore together. A few pieces of those memories sit on my office desk for me to enjoy. When I look at the unique shapes and colors of glass, I wonder if they could speak, what would they tell me about their journey? I think about how these simple pieces of glass had become someone’s garbage that they threw out, they were considered as trash. Yet, here they are on my desk, and they have become my treasure.

I have made a small candle holder that is lined with some of my jewels and on dark days, I’ll light the candle and the colorful glass pieces come to life. Today is one of those gloomy days, and the rain is beating against my office window. I’ve lit the small candle in the holder and as I enjoy watching it’s light dance through the unique glass jewels, the thought occurs to me that there is a resemblance to humankind in this artwork. Each person has their own story of what has brought them to this place in time. Some have had a long and meaningful journey, others have hit rough waters. Then there are some who, as the glass on the beach, have been discarded as trash. But as the glass has been transformed into treasure by a majestic power that cannot be bridled, I believe that  we too, can be transformed. I believe that the One who moves the mighty ocean holds us as treasure in the palm of his hand, and says, “Look! Aren’t they beautiful?”

Bacteriology 101

“Don’t touch your face!” I constantly warned my children during cold and flu season. Children’s fingers tend to gravitate toward the nearest nostrils.  “Bad germs that can make you sick like to live in your nose,” I would instruct, “and sometimes in your eyes.” Then I would direct them, “Scrub your hands and don’t stop until you’ve sung the entire ABC song!” But somehow those little buggers made it to the gateway needed to set up camp in a nostril, or two, and then wreak havoc in our household. Out came the thermometer, Tylenol, cough syrup and case of Kleenex, along with a new set of rules. “Cover your mouth when you sneeze and cough!”

Today I sit with a box of Kleenex at my side, blowing and sniffling, while sucking on a Zicam tablet. While I don’t allow any of my fingers to nostril hang, apparently, at some point I broke my own proverbial rule and “touched my face,” or I was privy to someone’s uncovered cough, or sneeze. I’d like to believe that it was the latter of the two. Either way, an undetected viral organism made it’s stealth transfer into my body and has made itself at home.

When I was in college, one of my required science classes was Bacteriology. I learned more about bacteria than I ever wanted to know. The more I viewed the squirmy, crawly organisms under the microscope, the more I was aware of their encroachment of my surrounding environment. They became my invisible enemy. I envisioned them on my countertops, doorknobs and sink faucets. When I got into my car, they were on the door handles, steering wheel and stick-shift. I battled against them as I scrubbed and disinfected all surfaces of possible contamination. But when my husband took me out to dinner, they were at the restaurant too. I grabbed my little cleaning cloth from my purse and wiped down my fork, knife and spoon prior to use. The first time I did this, my husband took a quick glance around the room, then leaned toward me and whispered, “What are you doing?” I blinked. Didn’t he know the dangers that may lay on the surface of the utensils that he was about to put into his mouth? It was apparent by the look on his face that he did not, so I informed him. “You have no idea who has touched those, and whether or not they washed their hands first – they could be infected with E.Coli for all you know!” He rolled his eyes and retorted, “You are beginning to sound paranoid!” To which I replied, “I’d rather be paranoid than dead!” I’m afraid that it didn’t end there.

One day while working on my home decontamination plan, my husband said, “You know, you can’t avoid germs, they are in the air you breathe.” I promptly went to the closet and grabbed the Lysol spray and fumigated every room in the house with it. When I realized we were beginning to run out of oxygen, I relented to opening up all the windows.

I’m not sure when my germ paranoia began to fade. Perhaps it was my mother reminding me that I had made it through the first two decades of my life in good health. She informed me that in my first few years of toddling around on this planet, that I had eaten with dirty hands on more than one occasion and once had bitten a live snail in half. That totally grossed me out and I told her that she could have kept that information to herself. Perhaps it was reading health related articles about the overuse of antibacterials, that we were killing the good bacteria that protects us while trying to kill the bad stuff. Or coming to realization that mom was right (as well as my all-natural friend who refuses to use hand sanitizers), that we are made with an immune system that works, short of a serious condition, and some exposure to germs may actually be good for us. Eventually, my germ phobia dissolved. But I do have to admit that I still occasionally wipe down my steering wheel and stick shift in my car with an antibacterial wipe.

Yesterday my husband came home and promptly placed his work bag on top of the freshly cleaned kitchen counter. I asked him if he would put it on the floor instead since it wasn’t clean enough to be on the countertop. He said that it wasn’t dirty, that it had only been on his truck floor – and that was clean. I wanted to give him the entire run down on how bacteria is invisible to the naked eye, and how life threatening bacteria can be transferred to kitchen countertops and into the food we eat. But instead I replied, “Would you lick your truck floor?” Point made.

Old habits die hard.

Trust

I had an injury a few weeks ago that fast became a pain in the neck – literally. I was referred by my physician for physical therapy for pain reduction and correction of vertebrae position. I wondered silently if they could do wrinkle reduction and upward positioning of other body parts while I was there…But I knew that solution lay in an entirely different sort of practice, and after envisioning myself in tight-eyed surprise, with lips of an Orangutan in a permanent cock-eyed smile, and – well, I’ll stop with that, I decided to deal with old-er age and gravity as it comes.

So today my physical therapist decided to use cervical traction as a part of my treatment. He said most people either love it, or hate it. My mind flashed a scene of my body being pulled in two different directions and me screaming out for mercy. But I agreed to give it a try.

Once the therapist placed my head into the contraption that would soon be elongating my physique, he cranked two small, curved bars inward to the sides of my neck to firmly secure my condyle(s), which according to the Greeks, are a rounded projection at the end of a bone that anchors muscle ligaments and articulates with adjacent bones. I wondered if this was comparable to the Terminator taking a firm grip around my neck. Next, he started squeezing a hand pump that moved the unit which embraced my head upward. With each squeeze, my head was pulled northward as my body stayed at the equator. While laying there I began to think about what I was allowing this person to do. I had entrusted him with a very essential part of my body. Although I had never seen his credentials, or checked the America’s most wanted list for his name, I trusted that he was a competent, licensed physical therapist. A slight perspiration began in my underarms, and I wished that I had used deodorant. As my head continued to inch upward, I pictured it like a cork, stuck into the end of a bottle of champagne and at any moment it was going to pop right off my shoulders, bounce off the ceiling and roll out the door. But before that happened, the therapist asked how I was doing. I replied, “I think that’s good.” Fifteen minutes later, I felt like a giraffe and I was free to roam about the room. All in all, I have to say it was worth it. I had a better view of the world below me and I was in less pain.

On my way home, I thought more about the trust I had placed in my physical therapist. He said that he could help me, and without question, I believed him and placed myself in his care. I had put my faith in him. Then I thought about my life, my future, and those I love. I say that I believe in the God of our universe – the one that actually created it, yet so often I hesitate to completely place all that I am and all those I love into his care. When my physical therapist brought out the traction unit, I didn’t say, “Uh, I’ll take it from here”, I let him do what he knew best, even when I was feeling some uncertainty during the process. I didn’t know what the outcome would be, what the future would hold for me, but I had faith that he knew what he was doing.  As I write this, I can see a golden sunset on the horizon that lay in contrast to the dark grey clouds that dominated the day. In my heart I am resolute to give the God that I trust all aspects of my life. I give him the dark clouds that can hover over my day, I give him the good, the bad, and the ugly. I entrust those who are a part of my life to his care, and I look to the horizon of my life with the hope and assurance that he’ll be there with me.

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