Category Archives: A Door Ajar

Relationships are like doorways to our lives. When we close our doors fresh air, light and fresh perspectives don’t get in. Sometimes it’s best to leave the door ajar.

Too Hard

The newest addition to the lots is a little S10 pickup truck. It arrived on a crazy-busy day so the movers left it (tow strap and all) at a perpendicular angle across the line of other project vehicles. This was not an issue for Cole, but the rude angle disturbed both Izzy and me. Daily. Seriously crazy making.

Over this weekend, Izzy and I decided to restore order to the universe starting with the S10. As Cole moved lengths of pasture fencing (truly, much higher up the priority ladder than the lots), Izzy circled the truck, eyeing the best destination with minimal effort. I unlocked the steering column, checked the hand brake and put the gearshift into neutral. Then she and I began pushing the little truck over the sandy soil.

Neither of us commented on the surprising exertion required from both of us to make the slightest advancement. Seriously, nudging the empty mini truck a few inches took our combined maximum effort.

Immediately I wondered when I became such a weenie. I prayed Izzy wouldn’t realize how daily my list of can’ts grows exponentially. As if.

YoungerMe pushed or helped push vehicles since I was tall enough to see over a steering wheel and I proficiently “popped a clutch” in grade school – a very long time ago. This week those days seemed like someone else’s life rather than mine.

But when we paused that morning Izzy also seemed irked. I assumed it was because we had to take a breather so soon into what we thought would be an easy task for the two of us. I mean, we’re tough. Right?

As we panted, I ever-so-slightly began to slip into an I’m-a-useless-old-woman puddle. Unwilling to accept that inevitability yet I walked through our task again from the top.

“For crying out loud!” I blurted out as we heard the familiar “pop” after I tested the hand brake release…

Ever gracious Izzy laughed aloud. Moments later, the task completed, we exchanged hi-fives and toasted the newly restored universal order.

Naturally I’m mulling over the experience today. Like in The Man and the Bolder story, God didn’t tell me to move the truck. He told me to help Cole and Izzy. My big ideas thumbed a ride.

But here’s the thing I almost missed – God saw that whole scenario before any of us were even born. He saw I would immediately condemn myself and that I would not consciously think to ask Him for help. Instead of brow-beating me or allowing me to, He led me to retrace my steps.

Sure I felt silly – again. So what else is new? I’m thankful God gave me a sense of humor that allows me to enjoy myself – literally. Bit by bit He’s teaching me to trust Him more in the most subtle and unimaginable ways.

“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”

Philippians 4:13 (NLT)

 

Angle chart courtesy Khan Academy, Free Google Images

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Weddings, Funerals and Games

Each day during this past week and two weekends I’ve felt as though I was being pulled in every direction, my emotions jerking me around substantially. To cope I’ve been hanging out with my blogger friend Christi at Feeding On Folly more than usual.

For much of my life overwhelming, upsetting emotions was my normal – disappointments, heartbreaks and tragedies continuously shaking my foundation. Thanks to God I developed impressive sea legs early on and became very good at the hiding my feelings game. I got so good playing mind games I wanted to be a contestant on The Price Is Right. I would have seriously rocked that!

Image courtesy CBS.com

Jesus becoming my best friend, the Holy Spirit my closest companion was my game changer. Now God’s got me to where I enjoy relationships with my family and friends without the old, dramatic crash-and-burn episodes that once hobbled me.

I cherish my family. Being scattered all over the country as we are, I’m simply not used to talking at such intimate levels, each day with so many loved ones. But it’s what you do before, during and after weddings and funerals – right?

Most people I know embraced this reality in their 30’s. And if you’re like my family, at each wedding and funeral everyone’s astounded by how quickly the weddings and funerals thing is becoming their reality. The farther we get from thirty-something the more we gather for the latter.

So this morning as I resisted getting out of bed, I primed myself just in case I make the cut for The Price is Right. I crunched numbers on how many hours I’ve been on the phone as compared to how often I converse with extended family other than for weddings or funerals:

Big surprise this morning: not only has CBS NOT called me, but my mind is slightly scrambled, I can’t brain. Very old memories (good, bad and ugly) continue to surface at not-necessarily-opportune moments. My emotions range from deliriously happy to prickly-volatile as I’m sure the most former  more mature – fine, the older members of our tribe are experiencing as well.

Though the Bible says we actually are fearfully and wonderfully made*, the fearful thing for me is a no-brainer, the wonderful, well, let’s just leave the emphasis on the wonder. But while I am indeed special, I am not so unique. I imagine this sort of thing happens to most people reaching these milestones.

“Mortals, born of woman, are of few days and full of trouble. They spring up like flowers and wither away; like fleeting shadows, they do not endure.”

Job 14:1, 2 (NIV)

Honestly, with Jesus I feel so much better in my reality. BIG PLUS – I get to choose:

Option 1 – We can continue the practice of keeping our focus upon God, trust Him to carry our concerns, fears, upsets as well as our grief and pain. When we do, the darkness recedes, we can feel hope springing eternal again, and the worst of times (that actually are not a surprise in the grand scheme of things) become a milestone instead of a stumbling block.

{Insert audible Ooohs-and Aaahs here}

-OR-

Option 2 – We can wear ourselves out trying to figure it all out without God, carrying burdens He ever intended for us. While it’s an impressive work-out, it also stresses the mind, body and soul to unhealthy degrees and steals joy from our lives. I certainly don’t want to pass that example on to my loved ones…

{Insert audience “Oh…” here}

I’m gonna go with God’s Overcoming Power in my life, Bob. (Drew, Dennis, Tom, Whatever).

Dunt – ta-da-daaaah!

Oh my God! I get heaven too!! Wowee!!!

“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”

1 Corinthians 15:55 (NIV)

 

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
1 Corinthians 15:58 (NIV)

*Psalm 139:14

Raise challenge image courtesy Pixabay

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Run Away Brain

Before I was fully awake I stumbled over a toy that my most recent house guests had left behind.

 

 

Moving forward regardless, even before I prepared the trace amount of caffeine I allow myself, I was fussing and fuming over something else – it doesn’t take much. I’m often amazed how, at my age and with my wealth of experience, even now I can go from quiet tranquility to untamable shrew in 4.0 seconds*.

As happens sometimes, something reminded me of a fragment of the dark, sad past. Today, instead of reminding myself that was then and this is now, and without the little dogs to remind me Someone is always listening, I soon forgot I’m not actually alone here.

Heartbeats later I gave voice to the thoughts blowing through my mind like the gale force winds that uprooted the tallest tree from the yard, and tore away half the roof on the hen house.

Yep, suddenly angry words busted outta me like a runaway train.

Annnd once again I soon came to appreciate another of the advantages of life here in Our Place: as I worked up to a full-blown rage over ancient history Jesus’ warning from Matthew came to mind – hitting me like a board across the face:

“But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.”**

Like a muzzle check on a firing range, that advice shut my mouth and reset my reality in a heartbeat.

I no sooner confessed the open sewer line of thoughts I’d spewed into the air, asked forgiveness and then begged God to reverse any evil I caused, than the cottage radiated peace again.

With that, my latte and I found today’s place in Jesus Calling*.

Even now I am astounded by how, from the beginning of infinity God knew this morning was coming. Not only so, He also had His plan in place to comfort and help me – today and forever:

“When you focus on what you don’t have or on situations that displease you, your mind also becomes darkened. … You look for what is wrong and refuse to enjoy life until that is “fixed.”

When you approach Me [Jesus] with thanksgiving, the Light of My Presence pours into you, transforming you through and through…*”  (Genesis 3:2-6; 1 John 1:7 ) Sarah Young

Thank God we can stop run-away brains – restarting from right here and now. Oh, and can we keep early today and the rest of our pasts between Jesus, us and these walls?

Thanks!

“Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.”

James 1:26 NIV

 

Featured Image courtesy Pixabay

2016 Camaro SS image courtesy of Jalopnik

*(c) 2004 by Sarah Young, Published by Thomas Nelson, Inc. , Nashville, TN, USA

**Matthew 12:36 (NIV)

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Bright Week

Spring, even Easter can be like a two-edged sword in my family. I doubt we’re so unique that this should surprise anyone. At some point in life most every body I know tires of winter’s short daylight hours and long, dark nights.

Even so, my family seems to have had more than average trouble getting through to spring – so much so that several times some of our loved ones didn’t make it. My siblings and I for example lost a parent, a cousin, and two siblings before spring.

These, our first losses were when we were all very young and somehow nobody explained what happened. So, understandably our history set up my siblings and me for a sneaky darkness to come creeping around in  early March. Typically that gloom lurks in the shadows until early April. Remarkably, none of us recognized that particular annual happening until we were all grown and set in our individual ways.

Since that realization we learned to reach out to one another about the time our spirits began going down for the second time. Regardless of which of us start it, we team together to help one another through, one way or another. We celebrate the good aspects of our family and we rationalize the bad, the sad and the painful. Mostly by Easter we’ve all beat it.

This year Easter came early so my breakthrough exploded into Easter Monday.

I’m glad to have celebrated the Resurrection, our hope in glory* with extended family this year – people who know my family, our history and they’re as glad to see my siblings and me get through our struggles as are we.

 

 
 

Today I determined – yet again – to continue my campaign to celebrate Bright Week. Essentially borrowing from the Eastern Orthodox tradition, only I’ll continue to observe through to Holy Week next year. Embracing the pain and rising above it, I’m confident God shall carry me through the joy of Easter Sunday all year.

I’ll let you know exactly how this goes after I finish sorting through last weeks’ photos.

“To them [the Lord’s people who are the church] God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

Colossians 1:27 (NIV, [addendum mine])

 

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No-mo

Thursday this week was monumental for me.

I ignored my phone.

Believe it.

This alone is epic. I don’t actually suffer from nomophobia. I unintentionally walk out of the cottage without the phone more often than I like to admit. Doing so not only causes Brother Cole undue concern every few weeks or so, but it forces me to shop without my lists, I miss Kodak moments, and mess up my step count (but there’s an app for that).

Still, ignoring a notification is difficult for me. It’s not a mom thing. I admit its about living alone and sometimes needing to be needed – moreover remembered.

Astounding as it is, I’ve only recently come to fully appreciate my personal space. Until some weeks ago this strange aloneness took me to such extremes I looked for – and found – things to keep me busy.

There were chores – laundry (for one person), cooking, dishes (again, it’s just me), dusting, tending livestock (ahem, that aren’t actually mine)…  Seriously, who dusts a barn? And yet I struggled getting around to organizing, decorating or (gasp) my job!

Unsettling as this was I thought my prayer life was good – while I was actually praying. But when all my other personal needs took a back seat to anything anyone else may have wanted, any time – and there’s nobody else to blame – forget Houston, Heaven, we have a problem.

Immediately I prayed for help with this. God’s response came quickly – and actually annoyed me initially.

During my quiet time early on Thursday the phone sounded repeatedly. I assumed Cole was in a mood – it happens. We have an understanding – when he actually needs me he can call.

Hard as it was, I ignored the phone.

Later I found that not only the earth still turned without my help, but the text was actually DearFriend sharing Scripture God put on her heart for me.

The breakthrough? I realize I must choose to constantly make my relationship with God my highest priority. As I practice doing this, I get to see myself the way Jesus sees me – beloved. No matter what else. And I adore Him right back.

Ridiculous as it is, after trying to run the universe for the first part of my life, this relax-and-let-God-be-God thing is still a challenge. Still, after diligent practice, on Thursday DearFriend helped confirm I am beginning to grasp the handle on it.

So, occasionally pity parties leave me feeling slightly disappointed that I wound up living alone. Fact: God is always with me – even when I try to ignore Him, run or hide from Him. And He always graciously reminds me, this story’s far from over.

I am God’s beloved. That’s enough today.

“Praise the Lord! For he has heard my cry for mercy. The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.” Psalm 28:6-7 (NLT)

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The Flu

Weeks after everyone else on the property shook off the flu, my rendition of the bug now has me stumbling around in a fog. As Roan describes it, “I have dumb. I can’t brain.”

Fortunately the animals are unaffected. I gather the fortitude to take scraps to the chickens, skirt around all the puddles and mud on the property from all the pre-spring rains. Annnd then I return to vegetate and recuperate in my cottage.

What’s more, my sense of humor remains intact. Each time I rise and feel my brains drop to my feet, the big screen in my mind replays the “Post Mud Slide” scene from My Cousin Vinny.  The hens will at least appreciate all my efforts more than Judge Haller – or not.

Enjoy the 50-second (G rated) YouTube replay while I get some tea and a fresh box of tissues.

 

Have a happy, well weekend, bloggers!

“Three different times I begged the Lord to take [my infirmity] away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” 2 Corinthians 12:8-9 (NLT)

 

Sniffle. Snort…

Images courtesy Pixabay

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Hide and Seek

I’m very careful of myself in public – in fact, leaving the ranch can sometimes be so overwhelming I will avoid it altogether. Leaving the routine, the comfort and safety of the ranch – my hideaway – to face people, to be seen or worse, to be judged can sometimes feel like too much.

‘Fact is, over the years humans hurt me so that occasionally I avoided the species entirely. I’m glad to say those few seasons were short. And the older I get they become farther between.

Truth: I actually enjoy people as much as I adore my feather and fur friends.

Over these long winter nights I came to realize that this reluctance to leave, the instinct to hide is about my secrets:

  • I desperately want to belong
  • Sometimes shame seems to choke me
  • My beloved family is a big, hot mess
  • I’m broken
  • I’m vulnerable

More important than anything else I may feel is what the Bible tells me:

“All y’alls messed up somehow. Ain’t nobody’s perfect. Nobody.” *  Paraphrase mine.

The pivotal point here being All.

Some flaws are more visible than others is all. The strongest, most organized, confident and fashionable people are messed up somehow. That includes me! So my secrets are no more offensive to God than anyone else’s. “All” is everything Jesus took to the cross. All includes every single mistake, ill deed, every bad knee-jerk response, intentional or otherwise, victim and perpetrator. Every. Single. One.

More importantly, “..now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.”**

So, compared to God’s opinion of me nobody else’s matters. What’s more, I can dismiss my worst feelings and opinions of myself. When God looks at me, all He sees is Jesus. I can now focus on seeing myself the same way.

Sure, I realize this is a process. I’d been seeking out hiding places longer than I can remember. I still have so far to go to get an edge on seeking God’s truth first, but when I make Scripture my focal point and not my fears or feelings the sky’s the limit. My friends can vouch for that.

Do you ever get to feeling weighed down, tired of trying or reluctant to try again? Come on by Our Place and let God’s peace help you.

* “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.’ Romans 3:23, 24 (NLT)

** Romans 8:1 (NLT)

Images (except for chickens) courtesy Pixabay

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Drama

How strange is it that with many of my simple dreams coming true, now that I’m back living in a place of my own, my tangible daily needs all provided, every week or so I go off on a tizzy fit?

Stranger still, If I pursue the alarming issue it usually boils down to doubt or distrust. Crazy is how I still go there after three-plus decades of daily practicing God’s presence (emphasis on practice).

Fortunately, that typically takes me to Our Place where God takes over. There He reminds me:

My brand of crazy includes a flair for drama.

 

Early on in my walk with Jesus, after a dramatic run-through of an upset I would initially feel relieved. But the more I studied Scripture, put what I learned into practice and developed a relationship with the Holy Spirit, catching myself in a full-on rant would embarrass me – secretly or not.

Later I’d feel humiliated. For years I repented of my life-long habit of talking, often yelling at people not present – essentially the walls – at least a few times a week.

Too much alone time on my hands, perhaps. Whatever. Did I stop the practice?

Not hardly.

Eventually I realized something else. I relish my offspring’s (nieces and nephews’) dramatizations – especially school-age ones:

  • their experiences – upset or otherwise excited,
  • plays and pageants,
  • reenacting the day’s happenings,
  • describing events and especially movie scenarios – don’t get me started on the boys’ renditions of Monty Python movie segments.

To me these are all delightful.

My Sage Someone counselor pointed out to me how in much the same way, Father God enjoys watching His kids’ dramatics too. In most cases my personal brand of ranting is basically okay – healthy to a degree: generating fewer loops, no bloodshed, no foul.

When my present-day scenes wind down I realize I must exhale more of the past, breathe in today and trust God will work it all out as He does best, in His good time. I must daily (hourly sometimes) seriously get over myself and stay finely-tuned in to God. That way if He brings an issue back, I’ll be ready to respond as He teaches, to act, speak or silently pay close attention. We can hope. The more I embrace that reality the less often I entertain Daddy-God with a one-woman episode of Grey’s Anatomy.

I look forward to always meeting challenges or the emotional surge du-jour with, “No worries, God’s got this,” instead of scenes rivaling Survivor.

I like to imagine a someday when the pressure’s on: I’ll make a bowl of popcorn for my Audience of One. Then instead of enduring another of my spontaneous spectacles, we’ll hang out. I’ll get to watch where that episode takes the story and enjoy the live show. I can even invite friends, supporting actors…

Yeah. I’ll be good with that.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. … Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27 (NLT)

Featured Image courtesy Pixabay

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Thaw – Walk #22

Here in our little corner of the Northwest we’re beginning to sense spring is near. My walk today was to the western rise of the north pasture and back. On the way I noticed even the ground seems to be awakening from winter rest.

Last year’s 70 Challenger project out of mothballs by sunrise.

Sunrise makes its way down the trees behind the shop.

Grounds around the pasture fence begin awakening.

 

Gravel foliage springs to life

 

Steely Dan the lawn art, weary of holding down tarps on the wood cribs.

 

  “Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.” Hosea 10:12 (NLT)

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Response

I didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back I now marvel over how quickly I’d reacted.

In the moments leading up to reaching my coffee pot I went from motivated to a mess. And I admit, I wanted a villain, someone to blame for my upset, let alone the difficulties that were certain to snowball.

Yes, friends, although I kept my bright red espresso grind coffee container out on the counter for two days – for the sole purpose of reminding me I must grind more coffee – that morning the stark reality that I’d entirely run out of coffee blindsided me.

It got worse. Not only was the strongest caffeine source in my kitchen some aged (however delightful) white tea, Deadline had advanced from the shadows of the cottage and towered over me, sword drawn over it’s obnoxious head. Annnd we had a villain …

Duh – duh – dunh.

This was quickly developing into one of those emotion/hormone-packed, full-on-drama mornings. I had already suspected that in hindsight I would wish to somehow erase it all from the eternal hard drive as if it never happened. A wise woman would have paused the whole day there. Not this one. Not that day.

Still, two mornings back I’d added coffee to my Needs Now List. For the subsequent forty-eight hours I planned my run to town between breaks and staring blankly into space. I try to economize wherever possible and make the most of the trip. This usually works very well. Until it doesn’t. Until that morning.

So, there I was, bravely forging onward sans caffeine, thinking I had a good handle on everything within my ken. Strangely predictably, it became the worst morning ever, something unexpected had happened. Forget happened – I felt like someone hit me across the abdomen with a five-foot long 2 by 4.

The car was gone.

Duh – duh!!  {Roo jumps behind the wall as if sensing a predator nearby, but seeing and hearing none, she then lets out a loud, agonizing shriek, “Why God? Why, without coffee?! scaring away any other life forms from the area…}  Okay, I sighed deeply but imagined screaming loudly.

Assumption:  Since Brother sometimes changes our arrangements, routines and moves things without telling me or giving me a heads up first. He took the car for the day without telling me.

The Lie: Brother doesn’t actually give a care about me.

Reality: The evening before Brother had used his vehicle (ahem, that he keeps mostly for my use), parked it in the back of the lot, and then forgot to press “send” after composing a text to me. Therefore, I didn’t receive his text advising me the night before.

Reality Check: Even though Brother’s mordant veneer momentarily confuses me and annoys me often (like most siblings I know), he also surprises me with thoughtfulness and sensitivity on occasion.

Granted, me without morning caffeine is scary, but it is not the end of life as we know it. Not hardly. However, for those few minutes that morning, before the exchange of texts set me back on track, I had wasted a morning’s worth of energy being extremely upset. A black hole sucked a huge chunk of my life away from us – over nothing.

Later, with a triple-shot/double vanilla latte in hand, I took a time-out with God. Deadline would just have to chill. After some needed time by the riverside I was actually glad for that wake up call.

Roo 1995 Columbia River

There God showed me that with my roots now beginning to unwind I have a better grasp of life than ever before. And yet, once a year  week  occasionally I jump to conclusions, assume the worst, and quickly follow with the big-ol’ lie at the core of it all that God really can’t care for me.

Silly ol’ Roo.

My eyes watered from what felt like a stinging punch in the face. Seriously, I checked for blood. Finding none, He then went on past my faults, deep into my needs. He showed me I have indeed come a long way in every facet of my life. Even so, I lived so long in darkness, ignorant of His love for me, we must also allow for time to adjust to light. Whatever my degree of healing, I was severely damaged back then and I am still quite human now.

He went on:

He noted how I now recoil far less frequently than ever before, that I now voice my upset feelings too – mostly appropriately. Then He assured me that some day soon fear, sorrow or anger will not overtake me with the mere thought of darkness. Then I’ll have learned to respond rather than react.

God says so. While I continue to trip up, and can’t feel it yet, I can believe it.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)

I can believe it for me as well as for my siblings, other brothers and sisters on their healing journeys.

Today you and I are the only ones to know how short-sighted and down-right silly I was earlier. Shhh…

“Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.” Rom 5:2 (NLT)

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