“‘Til the Storm Passes By”

Runoff from our hill 

Bills must be paid, despite stormy weather, mudslides, downed trees. Driving to the post office yesterday to mail those payments, Don and I saw four waterfalls, not there before, cascading down the hills on our right.

California has been inundated with storms recently. Two hundred thousand residents were temporarily evacuated when breaks in the Oroville Dam spillways threatened enormous floods. Flooding has overwhelmed parts of Southern California. Mudslides, power outages, and traffic tie-ups have resulted in several deaths.

Trees have fallen across roads, onto houses and cars, and slid down hillsides. Unsafe. Highway 17 has only two lanes open. Our road, a main alternative to Highway 17, is closed indefinitely north of us. The road has already sunk at least eighteen inches in one area, while a sinkhole took out a fourth of the road in another. Unstable.

The storm offers some gifts. Staying home. Burrowing in with hubby and dogs, writing, reading, cleaning, napping.

It also offers challenges. Don has created a good drainage system under the house, and along the road, so the water will not threaten our foundation. He’s checking it and refining it again today. Early this afternoon, Safeway was quite full, people filling their carts in preparation for the next storm, starting later today.

Storms enter our lives in different ways. Years ago I was seriously depressed. No strength remained in my mind or heart. But I had a cassette (I know – almost prehistoric!) of a melodious male quartet. “My” song talked about the storms of life. Every night for three weeks I crawled into bed, depressed, fearful, sometimes crying, and played that song. My prayer was brief. “Lord, I have nothing with which to hold onto you right now. Please hold me.”

When the long night has ended,
And the storms come no more,
Let me stand in Thy presence.
On that bright, peaceful shore.
In that land where the tempest
Never comes, Lord may I
Dwell with Thee when the storm passes by.

‘Til the storm passes over,
‘Til the thunder sounds no more;
‘Til the clouds roll forever from the sky,
Hold me fast, let me stand,
In the hollow of Thy hand;
Keep me safe ’til the storm passes by.

Hold me fast, Let me stand,
In the hollow of Thy hand;
Keep me safe ’til the storm passes by.

And He kept me. Storms came, and went, and still do. But my hope is in the God who will hold me fast “’til the storm passes by.”

If you’re discouraged, caught in a storm you don’t know how to get out of, I pray this song will minister to you as it did to me. That it will give you hope, and truth to hold onto until your storm passes over. God be with you.

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Love’s Celebration

I trust in Your unfailing love. Psalm 13:5

I long for love. Don’t you? And I both give and receive it in a variety of ways and depths. I love, and am loved by, my husband; family; close friends; even my dogs.

While LOVE is one in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the same word is used in our culture for everything from admiration or appreciation, to a deep, self-sacrificing behavior.

“I love my husband”

“I love Gayle’s chocolate pie”

“I love the Warriors”

“I love my mother … children … siblings …. friends … pets … that song … these shoes.”

But the love that is above all, and is foundational to all other loves, is the love God has shown us in providing a way, through the Cross of Christ, for us to know Him, to enter an eternal relationship with the Creator of all. I’ve written about other loves … but today I want to celebrate God’s love.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16-17, NIV)

I once read a story about a man, let’s call him Richard, who was in deep despair, having rejected God in anger. He was staying with a friend who had challenged his guest to submit himself and give his anger and pain to Jesus. While the friend went out for a walk, Richard wrestled with God and finally released his pain to Jesus. He then sat down at the piano and began to play and sing an old hymn he recalled from his childhood. His friend returned to the house to hear his guest’s rich tenor voice, and knew God had met him.

“O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

O light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.”

(Lyrics by George Mattheson, who was inspired to write this hymn in 5 minutes during a time of distress.)

There was a very difficult time in my life when I had no strength with which to hold onto God. I was depressed, weak, and despairing. Hope was gone. But I asked Him to hold onto me. II Timothy 2:13 tells us, “And if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” I pray that this song will encourage you to trust in His unfailing love.

   “This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.”  (I John 4:10, NLT)

 

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Hairpins and Hope

The dual switchback gave us no visibility to what might be approaching on the one-lane road. What if a local driver comes barreling around that corner? We’re on the cliff side of the road! Much of the drive was enchanting. Every change in elevation exposed different flora and fauna.  Some areas were lush, some covered with red dirt. “Look at this plain,” I said at one point. After climbing mountains and traversing hairpins for miles, the flatland was a lovely surprise. We crossed narrow bridges and stretches where meeting an oncoming car required one of us to pull out or back up, depending on the amount of margin on the side of the constricted road.

Don pulled over at one cliff, where we looked down at the lava rocks below, and spoke at length with the artist recreating the pastel ocean scene. Near Annalise, spread over a rock and colored the same, was a wild pig skin. I didn’t realize it until I saw hooves and a tail … and smelled an odor that was ripe. Some “rite of passage,” according to Annalise.

We drove past a picturesque little broken-down church, heavy tile roof falling in on itself, that was once charming. It sat above cliffs that led down to roaring waves, tumbling waterfalls, and a little village. We’d seen a sign earlier for banana bread so we pulled over at Julia’s tiny green shack.

I stepped up onto the porch behind a young woman who asked about banana bread. “Last loaf,” was the reply.

“Oh no,” I spoke without thinking.

The woman turned to me. “Do you want to split it?” Her husband joined her. “We don’t need to eat the whole thing.”

“Really?” I asked. Really!

I thanked them, and we divided the bread and shared the cost. Waving goodbye, Don and I continued on our journey, enjoying the moist sweetness of the loaf, which almost melted in our mouths.

More hairpin turns. More one-lane passages. More  beauty—orange and yellow-leaved shrubs, magenta flowers atop trees, hot pink bougainvillea, and palm to pine trees. And lava rock, and some small rock slides, and cliffs that plunged into roiling waves below.

And I thought, kind of like life. There’s a great deal of beauty, enjoyment, ongoing blessing as we walk with Christ. At times we need to hear a brother or sister say “You want to share?” … or perhaps we need to offer the shared blessing to others. There is also challenge, and difficulty, and pain, and suffering. Sometimes the road we travel is smooth and lined with blessings of health and love and productive work and hope. At other times the road is dark, the switchbacks prevent us from seeing the next step, and we have to move forward in faith, our hand in the Father’s, knowing He has promised never to leave or forsake us.

Julia’s

I’ve had a few big switchbacks in my life, along with lesser ones. Threats of mutilation while ministering in the ghetto; pain following departure from a work I loved; some health challenges; the losses of a nephew, several dear friends, my father, my first husband. But I’ve also seen the beauty of being carried through those hairpins by a God who loves me and would not let me go; of loving and being loved well by two wonderful men, and by family; of the gift of travel; of the joy of ministering to and encouraging younger women in their faith walks.

And sometimes it’s the hairpin turns, the switchbacks where we can do nothing but pray and trust, that teach us most clearly that our Father is always there, loving, guiding, walking alongside as we navigate  day by day.

So, while there’s no way I want to suffer, I also don’t regret the times my road has been hard. Mixed with the joys, the difficulties remind me to trust and rely on God in both good and bad times. I can’t become an oak of righteousness, rooted and grounded in Him, without His love and pruning and deepening, the same One who promises to give beauty in place of ashes.

The prophet Isaiah recognized his anointing from the Lord …

” … to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” (Isaiah 61:2b-3)

What’s encouraged you during some of the hairpin turns of your life?

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Second Chances – Year Seven!

I wakened to look into my husband’s blue eyes. “Happy anniversary, honey.”

Seven years this week. Seven years with a man I love dearly, who is one of the kindest, most loving people I have known. In honor of him, and in thankfulness for this good gift, I am repeating part of an earlier post.

When God brought this lovely man into my life several years after I was widowed, I didn’t know if I wanted to commit to a new marriage. But Don was patient, consistent, kind. He told me he wouldn’t ask me to marry him until I was ready.  One day he stood by the kitchen sink as we prepared lunch together.

“I will never leave you,” he said. “You may send me away, but I will never walk away from you.”

I kept listening, watching. His love was evident in the ways he respected me, as well as my family members.

During a cruise with a girlfriend, I reviewed a list of qualities that were important to me should I consider remarriage. They described Don. It seemed I heard the Lord say “What are you waiting for?”

Several months later Don and I married in a small, intimate ceremony.

Don gives me flowers and cards, and shows me regularly how much he loves me. But it’s not always the romantic gestures that mean the most, lovely as those are. It’s the daily acts of selfless love that let me know he’s thinking of me and caring about my welfare. Things like …

… starting my car and warming it up when I have an early appointment;
… unloading the dishwasher before I’m awake;
… installing safety handles and smaller steps for my mother;
… supporting and believing in my call to write.

Don and I laugh at little things and enjoy life, whether we’re doing something special or nothing at all. And yes, we sometimes disagree, or have issues to work through. But we’ve also learned something, by losing our first spouses, about not sweating the small stuff and treasuring the time we have together.

double heartSo, husband, I love you on this special day. I love you every day. You complete me. Looking into your deep blue eyes gives me strength, confidence, and joy; and our shared commitment to Christ roots our love in the Rock of Ages.

Happy Anniversary, Don Victor Loewen!

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TEMPTATION

Ahhh … comfort!

Temptation–a lifelong struggle. Many of us impose external boundaries to help us resist. But often, “The moment those safeguards are needed, it’s too late. We no longer want them to help.”

I’ve struggled with losing/regaining those extra 20-30 pounds most of my life. As I read this quote from THE CURE this morning, I thought that’s what most diets do. They focus on the choices we make to eat or not eat something – whether it’s calorie-counting, portion control, or not eating certain foods and eating more of others. External control. They can help, but they don’t deal with why I eat. I’m a comfort eater. If I’m happy, let’s have chocolate! If I’m sad, how about cheesecake? Lonely? Ice cream and pecans. (Interchangeably, of course!)

But what I’m learning, with the help of a coach, is to listen to my body rather than just focusing on my actions. One of my favorite lines from her is “Honor your hunger; respect your fullness.” Hey, I’m still a novice at this, but I’m learning. I’m learning to ask “Am I hungry?” before eating. When I am, I need to eat. If I’m not, what is the underlying emotion? Is it boredom, anxiety, confusion?  And if it is, can I fill that need with something else– write; take a walk with my hubby (when it’s not pouring rain!); play ball with the dogs; make a phone call–before I succumb to the craving?

And when I eat, I try to stop when I’m satisfied, rating my level of satiation on a scale of 1-10, where 1 is starving and 10 is so stuffed I want to throw up. OK, it’s another tool–but it’s a tool that’s helping me look at WHY I do what I do in an area where I easily sabotage myself. And I feel hope!

So, I look forward to realizing the health value coming out of listening to my body–and also to understanding more deeply how fully, unconditionally God loves me and how overwhelming His grace, even when I fail.

Are you an emotional eater? How do you deal with that? I’d love to hear your solutions.

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