Waiting …

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Where’s my next step?

Don and I moved to a lovely over-55 community in September last year. Since October, the beautiful home we left behind has been on the market. We’ve had many people come through the house; comments have been extremely positive about both the main and the guest houses and the property itself, in a beautiful little hill valley five miles above Capitola Beach.

But to date we’ve received only one low-ball written offer. Dear friends are in the same situation, also waiting for a sale. This has become a stressor, and yes, we’ve been discouraged.

Don still maintains the property, pays taxes, insurance, and energy bills. We had hoped and prayed that the house would sell before he felt obliged to plant new spring flowers and re-beautify the yard. After all, we moved to simplify our lives and reduce some of those demands.

We’ve prayed for a good buyer–oh yes, we’ve prayed, as have friends and family. But at times it feels like our prayers have gone unheard.

Have you ever been there, wondering why God appears not to answer?

I prayed for my late husband’s recovery following dual transplant surgery, along with hundreds of others who knew and loved us. God’s answer was “not here.” Because he had accepted God’s promise of eternal life to those who accept the forgiveness and new life promised through Jesus’ death and resurrection, I am confident that Jerry is healed, whole, and is rejoicing in the presence of God. And while that gave me great hope, it did not remove the pain of loss.

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For God so loved the world that He gave His only . . . Son, that whoever believes in Him might have eternal life. John 3:16

And now, Don and I are again being stretched. Will I trust God in this long season of waiting, knowing many have far greater needs than ours? Or will I choose not to trust because things aren’t going according to my plan?

Will I believe and act on the truth that God is still, and always will be, my loving Father, or will I complain and allow bitterness to creep into my spirit?

I look back and recall God’s faithfulness in all the seasons of my life:

  • The times I’ve made mistakes that God has redeemed, and through which he has brought something good.
  • The breakup of a relationship I believed would lead to marriage but didn’t –and how grateful I am for that “no”!
  • Ten years of service and God’s protection as I served with a team in the L.A. inner city.
  • Healing from the stresses of those ten years.
  • Marriage to a wonderful man at the ripe old age of 36.
  • God’s faithfulness and strength and mercy and comfort, as we faced his death twenty years later.
  • In grief at other losses–of my nephew, grandparents, dear friends, my father.
  • The marvelous gift of a second love and life with my Don.
  • God’s promises of eternal life, of comfort and peace and Presence in all circumstances.

So if I complain now, it seems a bit–well, more than a bit–selfish. As I look back I can see how God led in each situation. Minister and author V. Raymond Edman once said “Never doubt in the dark what God has shown you in the light.”

Life is hard sometimes. It can be confusing. And we were created to love and serve and honor our God–not to understand Him. But He has given us His great and precious promises to help us in just such times as this.

So, despite moments of stress and lack of understanding; despite concerns about the house still being unsold, I will choose to trust for His best, knowing He loves me more than I can comprehend, and that His purpose for me goes far beyond the sale of a piece of property.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Isaiah 26:3

Are you questioning why your prayers seem to be unheard in any certain area? I’d love to hear how you’re dealing with your questions and doubts.

May you be encouraged by the peace and Presence of God.

Birds of a Feather …

Don recently put a bird feeder behind our house. We enjoy watching our feathered friends flit about. We’ve had up to 20 birds vying for spots on the feeder, sitting on the fence ’til one flies over to the feeder and bumps another off his perch. It’s been such fun! And they go through the feed fast enough that Don refills it every 2nd or 3rd day.

We’re both fascinated by the antics and the variety of our little friends. From the vivid blue of the scrub jay to the vibrant orange on the Spotted Towhee, the Black-Capped Chickadee with his cheeks lined white, the Oregon Junco with his rusty brown back and black hood, the grey-crested Titmouse, several kinds of sparrows, and beautiful little Red Finches, I’m learning to identify them.

And periodically a little bunny hops over to pick up the sunflower seeds the birds have dropped. He is so very cute and I love watching him scurry back and forth.

I am often in wonder when I watch God’s marvelous, varied and incredible creation. If Don and I delight in these beautiful little creatures and appreciate the variety, the diversity we see right outside our nook window, how much more does our God love and take delight in each of us, and in the diversity within each of the species in His world.

Matthew 6:26-27 (NLT):
Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?

Rainbows and Turtles

Rainfall was intermittent as we drove down the Hana Highway in Maui (if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes). At times it pelted down, the raindrops driven horizontal by heavy winds.

And then I looked up. All across the sky was a beautiful rainbow with radiant shades of green, blue, violet, red, orange and yellow. The symbol of God’s promise that He would never again destroy the world with a flood.

Sometimes I forget God’s good promises. I try to work things out on my own, to ‘power through’ on tasks without asking for His presence in all I do. And yet, He has given us great and precious promises:

  • Forgiveness of sins and a relationship with God (Romans 3:23-24, John 3:16)
  • Never to leave nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5, Deuteronomy 31:6, I Kings 8:57)
  • Abundant life in Jesus (John 10:10, NIV)
  • Eternal life for those who confess Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:9-10, I John 5:11-12)

And there are so many more promises. Don and I experienced some “abundant life” incidents on our recent anniversary trip.

We stood on the cliff in a bracing breeze, watching a few brave surfers in the waves. Below us a group of people appeared to be looking at us, or at least in our direction. We couldn’t see what they saw because of the cliff. What could they be looking at?

Getting into the car, we drove down the road, parked, and walked to the area where people stood. The beach was covered with large black rocks. I looked again–not rocks, but huge green sea turtles! I gasped at the unexpected, wonderful sight. What a delightful surprise!

Another day we were to meet Rodney, who was going to show us some grass woven handbags. We had walked by his kiosk several times when no one was manning the booth. This particular day we were to meet Rodney at noon in front of the Hula Grill, where he was supposedly setting up a display table. Nothing there. We walked down to the kiosk–no one there–so returned to wait by the Hula Grill. Then my phone rang.

“This is Rodney. I think I see you. Turn around.” Don and I turned from where we were standing and saw a man on a cell phone, about twelve feet away, facing the other way. “You turn around,” I said into the phone. “I think I’m behind you.” As Rodney turned and we looked at each other, we both began to chuckle as we realized we were indeed talking to each other–in stereo now, on phone and in person! Another fun moment.

We came back home to California and yesterday, as we drove to church, saw another double rainbow across the sky. And I thought “isn’t this like life. Sometimes it’s really hard, where heavy winds and rain attack and drench us; and then we have God-moments where, through God’s creative beauty in nature, fun surprises, the love of a partner, or re-connection with an old friend, we feel the grace and goodness and love of God.”

So I’ve seen about four rainbows in the past week, more than I’ve seen in a very long time, especially with California’s drought over the past few years.

Question: What lovely surprises have you experienced that reminded you of God’s creative, amazing love? I’d love to hear about your turtles and rainbows!

Agency

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Have you ever wondered how best to help a loved one or friend in a way that retains his dignity? While my brother and sister-in-law, Arnold and Carol, were here last week, we talked a good deal about the concept of “agency”.

Arnold’s definition of agency is “power and ability to do what you want to do.” He says “People with disabilities have lost some agency. People without power have lost some agency. Women have less agency in general than men because of cultural stereotypes and limitations. Prisoners have had agency removed from them by the courts.”

My brother has given a lot of thought to this topic because his wife, Carol, suffered a life-altering stroke six and a half years ago. There are things she can’t do herself any more; and activities with which she needs help.

Our mother has also lost some ability to do things she wishes to do, and therefore, some power. Mom’s mind is still quite clear; however, her legs are getting weaker. She’s fallen twice in the last two months. She has thought for awhile about possibly moving into the Assisted Living section of the senior manor where she lives.

Living independently at 97 is quite a feat, but we wondered if it was still wise for Mom. Of course we children want her to be safe. Arnold put it well when he said he sees his role with Carol, his wife, to be that of providing agency–or power, ability and environment for her to decide and to act as she wishes, rather than by simply doing things for her.

So this Christmas we, along with brothers Bob and Melvyn and their wives, talked with each other, and with Mom, asking questions like what situations would cause her to say “It’s time,” “I’m ready,” “I need to move.” She also asked whether we would be disappointed in either decision–to move or to stay. We set her mind at ease regarding that, and told her our desire is to help her achieve her goals, not to impose ours on her.

And she’s decided she’s not yet ready to leave the cottage which she loves and has decorated with precious mementos from the family home she shared with Dad. So our role is to support her, to help identify ways she can get additional help i.e. with taking care of her patio and plants, and to fill in some of the gaps for her on a more regular basis.

I appreciated Arn’s explanation of agency. When we help someone achieve their dreams, meet their own needs or make decisions that we then help facilitate, the person retains his dignity. He or she is acting rather than being acted upon, as it would be if we told that individual what to do.

There are certainly situations where safety or protection are so critical, or abilities so limited, that decisions must be made for another. But when there are still decision-making capabilities, how much better to help in that process.

Isn’t this what Jesus did for us? He took the penalty for my sins and yours, something we are incapable of doing for ourselves, and freed us, gave us the power and ability to walk with God through faith in Him.

Do you have someone in your life who lacks agency, or the capacity or power to act on his or her own behalf? If so, how can you help that individual identify or communicate their choices and then facilitate those choices to become a reality?

Steadfast Love

Psalm 103:17 ESV

“But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children…”

I hope you had a meaningful time with family over this Christmas and New Year’s season. While many are rushing about, shopping for gifts, preparing food for larger family groups, others are alone and lonely.

My family of origin celebrated Christmas together Saturday. We’re a smaller group than usual. The children and grandchildren of one family all live out of state. Three of four of my youngest brother’s children have moved out of state and were unable to be with us. Several others missed due to illness or personal circumstances. But oh, how good it was to be together.

We shared memories of my father and my late husband and laughed with the joy of remembering both funny and meaningful experiences. The day when Dad, a few days before his death from leukemia, asked me if I saw the man in the corner of the room. I did not.

He saw a man standing in the room

“Do you?” I asked.

“Yes.” He nodded.

I wanted so badly to ask what the man looked like, but felt like I was on holy ground and didn’t want to mess with that. So I didn’t ask, but have often wondered whether it was Jesus or an angel he saw in his room that day.

And the time Jerry, my late husband, was hallucinating in the ICU (common for folks in ICU because there’s no difference between day and night and they tend to get a bit loopy). “Carol, there are criminals here and we have to do something about it.”

I knew I couldn’t deal with him logically. That’s just not where he was. So I said “OK, I’m going to step out into the hall and call Bob (my younger brother, then a police officer in San Jose).”

I explained the situation to Bob, who was 3000 miles away, and said, “Help me here.”

His reply was instant. “You go back in there and tell him I’m on it.”

And I did.

And Jerry said “OK.”

And that was the end of it!

And oh, we laughed at the antics of the next generation, the teasing of nephew Kyle, the answers to questions about how our nieces and nephews met and what first attracted them to each other…

My brother Arnold’s story about being in a nursing home when an elderly woman in a wheelchair motioned him over.

“I have something to show you. Take me to my room.”

After asking where her room was, Arnold wheeled her into it. She asked him to close the door. Not knowing what to expect, he did.

“I’m so sorry I haven’t been nice to you recently. I’ve kept things from you … just take me to bed.”

He ran out of the room to the nurse’s station, asking them to care for the woman.

Afraid

And my oldest brother, Melvyn’s, tender story about a developmentally disabled boy who needed a medical procedure but was terrified. Refusing to go into the room where the procedure was to take place, he sat on the floor in the hallway. He already had a port in his arm, so Mel sat down on the floor beside him and talked to him, meanwhile inserting anesthetic into the port. When the boy fell asleep, Mel picked him up, carried him into the room and successfully completed the procedure.

Families experience both joy and sorrow. We’ve lost family members over the years–my nephew Greg, Dad, Jerry. We’ve lost others to geographic changes which are part of the natural course of life. While we miss these greatly, we also are happy, wanting what is best for each family.

We’ve also dealt with a few difficult, painful issues that have required support and/or forgiveness and reconciliation. But because at the bottom line we love and respect each other, we’ve worked through these issues to deeper understanding of and with each other.

“Bear with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgive each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” – Colossians 3:13

And while we’ve had our disagreements, we’ve also come together in significant ways to support, encourage, and love each other.

I am deeply blessed by being part of this particular family.

But what if you aren’t part of a loving, caring family? God has promises for you as well. Psalm 68:5-6 say He is

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
    is God in his holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families,
    he leads out the prisoners with singing;
    but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

For more insight about God’s promises to those who are lonely, see https://billygraham.org/story/are-you-lonely-this-christmas/ .

I pray God’s richest blessings, His faithfulness and encouragement, His hope to you in this new year.