Category Archives: Notes from the Apex

The longer we live, the more we realize our entire lives are like hiking through a series of peaks and valleys. Going downhill is easier. Getting to our peaks requires more energy. But once we reach the apex we can relax, catch our breath and take in the view.

Our Place

Over a particularly fast-paced phase of my life, for my boys and me every facet was remarkably intense.

How I remember my boys and me on most school/work day mornings.

I gave my life to Jesus at the peak of that tiger-woman, super-ambitious, take-no-prisoners season. I did so realizing I would have to read the Bible and learn everything to know about God. I had no idea when I’d find time, but I believed I could do it. I had no idea I could actually know Him.

I remember doing my best to make a place for prayer wherever I happened to be. At first whenever all my wheels completely stopped moving, I’d close my eyes and focus my thoughts on Jesus for whatever moments we could steal – traffic signals, school pick-up zones… That worked for me.

Until it didn’t.

Jobs, kids, and more responsibilities than one working, single mom should bear made my prayer-on-the-run kind of belief system seem necessary. Soon the church became a second home. I took on yet another job in the church office. I began understanding some Scriptures and became more religious than I never imagined I would ever be. I soaked it all up like a sponge.

Essentially, I blended in to Church World. Though I felt as tired and worn as ever, people told me Jesus was doing something amazing in me. Secretly I had no idea what.

In reality I was broken, the pieces had begun falling apart. Soon I couldn’t find my mental prayer places anymore.

God changed my circumstances. My mind and my spirit began healing, but not before a heart attack forced me to either stop running or stop living. I laid down and gave God all the pieces of my heart.

As I recuperated I came to appreciate making a designated place to pray, be quiet and listen for God. At times that was a corner of a closet or a chair next to a window in the garage. Wherever it was that place became my sanctuary.

Eventually my boys accepted the new me wasn’t going away. They became comfortable with my occasional pauses, my long talks to God deep in the nights and my occasional far-away gaze (imagining the happy, carefree world I kept hearing about). Before long they stopped wondering about my new, mostly quiet demeanor and eventually they too would visit my prayer place.

The boys made homes and families of their own long ago. And that prayer place now takes up my entire home. It’s Our Place – mine and God’s where everyone’s welcome.

Are you feeling shattered? Is your life too intense?

“I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.”

Ephesians 3:15 – 17 (NLT)

 

Tiger image courtesy Imgaram

Breaking woman image courtesy Pixabay

Featured Image courtesy Pixabay

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Ups and Downs

What a remarkable morning it’s been!

A fellow blogger at Life Continues shared some vintage photos complete with captions. I enjoy photography and I relish those times when someone else’s mind wanders in some of the same ways as mine. And I especially enjoyed her closing shot. Happy sigh.

I needed that. During the short, dark winter days we can be more sensitive than usual. Isolated by weather, spirits can easily take a nosedive.

For example, lately I’d nursed the sting of a clearly unintentional offense from DearFriend (not to be confused with DearOldFriend 😉 ). In fact, because of something else DearFriend said offhandedly a couple of times, the molehill had become a mountain in my mind. Soon I had to “walk it off” before I could spend my usual quality time with God.

Some days finding the peace that passes understanding* takes longer than others. ‘Ya know what I’m saying?

But this morning I was free of any gloomy feelings and was determined to not allow any negativity about anything – period. Then what promised to be a sunshiny day turned dark and overcast before I loaded the days’ firewood. With that disappointing change, once back inside I went to the WordPress Reader instead of working, seeking fun and lively headlines.

Comically, I was going to skip over that post. The title was a tad ambiguous so I kept scrolling. As I scrolled, I began to feel the days-old sting – DearFriend saying in passing that one of my post Headlines as it appeared on Facebook sounded negative to her. Since she’d just been through one of life’s wringers, she didn’t bother to read it.

Ouch!

But the timing this morning couldn’t have been better. I sure showed DearFriend… I scrolled back and read that new post. So there!

In that unfortunate conversation with DearFriend, time restraints did not allow for us to address my concerns for her – or her opinion of my writing. Later in my unchecked imagination, since one of my biggest fans no longer read my work I was ready to throw in the towel!

‘Fact is, I’m blessed with great friends that are consistently supportive. They understand that if I’m out of sorts there’s a good reason. DearFriend never implied she didn’t read any of my posts or that the one actually was negative. She said she had an issue on that one particular day.

Working through CPTSD issues, it’s easy to get stuck in a present day scenario. Often a moment can last for hours or days. Unable to see through the temporary fog – what would otherwise be a natural, reasonable response to new experiences – sometimes survivors can quickly slide down a slippery slope into the profound sadness of a past event or depression.

In those situations forward motion can falter and the joy of life can seem temporarily absent.

This is why friends, community, support networks, (ahem) the blogging community are essential to healing and recovery. One hand washes the other, people.

So, something I’ve learned this past year is to roll with occasional negativity, but don’t run with it. I’m learning to ask myself what I’m feeling and why. Often all I need is a simple momentary distraction:

  • Toss a ball – even better when there’s an obliging dog to chase it,
  • Positive affirmation. Say out loud, “I can do this,” “I can look from another perspective” “This is a test”
  • Step outdoors for a minute or two, loose those endorphins.

If in moments some happy possibilities don’t emerge,

  • Pick up the phone and shout out a simple, “Hey.”

Most times only God knows the grief or fear one may have just relived. More often than not with the sound of a safe, friendly, familiar voice, I’m happy to simply be alive and far happier than I imagined I could be.

Now and then we all need a little help and simple, healthy distractions may not always be ideal. Most of the time everyday life on the ranch keeps me in balance. My methods are by no means a cure-all to traumatic events or depression and sometimes distractions don’t help in the long run. After years of working with experts I’m learning to recognize when I need a life-line, so I don’t hesitate to ask for help.

I’ve also learned I actually can handle sad times. What happened back then was then. It’s not now. I can now enjoy today. The sorrow, terror and pain doesn’t actually last forever. By learning to help myself back up, I learned to help others up too.

 

What’s more, when the time is right I can enjoy acting silly with my friends, at ease with the rest of the world. Of all God has shown me over the years, I am most assured that nothing can interfere with His plans for my life – not even me.

 

“O Lord, if you heal me, I will be truly healed; if you save me, I will be truly saved. My praises are for you alone!”

Jeremiah 17:14 (NLT)

 

* “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6,7 (NLT)

 

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Invaluable Beauty

About the time I feel entirely unproductive and worthless I find I’m in exactly the right place. When beauty grips me in the most remarkable places I can feel God nearby.

At the woodpile, for example:

 

 

“Prosperity knits a man to the world. He feels that he is ‘finding his place in it,’ while really it is finding its place in him.” C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

 

The one thing I ask of the Lord
    the thing I seek most—
is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
    delighting in the Lord’s perfections
    and meditating in his Temple.

Psalm 27:4 (NLT)

 

All images (c) 2018 Rapture Practice! Publications

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Sparkle

 

I don’t mind the cold. Even without sunshine the ranch sparkles!

 

“God’s breath sends the ice, freezing wide expanses of water. He loads the clouds with moisture, and they flash with his lightning. The clouds churn about at his direction. They do whatever he commands throughout the earth.”
Job 37:10-13 (NLT)

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Acceptance

I love it when You take over my mind as I wake.
Sincerely.

And usually I love Your perfect timing, especially with the extraordinary things You bring to my mind.
Seriously.

You consistently guide me toward peace in the madness. And You let me think its all my doing. You lead me to build and cross bridges I could never do alone. Your peace reigns freely in my otherwise nonsensical world.

You are marvelous.

And yet, to be honest I was angry and upset most of yesterday. I got used to Scout popping in after his “property inspection” every morning. All summer through late autumn I enjoyed his visits. Come winter, I liked opening the door to find him waiting to be let in, and how his circling through the cottage and then leaving again became welcome recesses.

You are Faithful.

Of course You know, me constantly missing Seagh had subsided. Then yesterday I remembered how every day he’d open the slider bringing Scout in the main house for his early morning nap. I cried and then laughed at how that routine – scant minutes after I’d finished cleaning the floors from the night before – annoyed me back then.

You are patient.

Now that I think of it that was all You, gently reminding me I’m actually not the boss of me, to take a break.

You are gracious.

And now that we’re talking about it – okay, now that I’m venting at You – I realize that was also You yesterday:

The storm broke just long enough for the sun to irradiate the landscape. In that breath before twilight my body seemed to become weightless – an answer to other post-holiday prayers, by the way – and I was transported almost into the blinding light, but stopped short of it.
All in a single, timeless heartbeat Seagh was walking with extraordinary ease away from me, just out of my reach. Scout trotted along at his side, tail wagging, ears up, lips stretched back and tongue dangling in happy anticipation. They were like two stark silhouettes against the brilliance and yet I saw their every detail. I wanted to walk with them, but without stopping Seagh turned to face me, one flat hand raised to his waist indicating I should stop. Walking backward he lifted his head in an upward nod. In our wordless manner I understood him, “I got this.” I raised my arm to wave an acknowledgement, but couldn’t move it any more.
Then he turned around again as Scout too did a full spin. I could feel their delightfully pain-free exhilaration. In that same instant they walked away together as their forms vignetted into the glorious light and then disappeared again.

 
You are indescribable.

I trust You understand my sob and those tears. I completely appreciate You giving us that wonderfully unexpected, but final goodbye. I understood instantly that I won’t see them again until heaven. And in that same instant Your amazing peace returned to me.

You are gentle.

So now I see how You consistently layer all the loss and heartaches throughout my life with immeasurable joy. I get it; the harder the hit, the greater the glory. Looking back at my tantrum over the previous day, I’m humbled – yet again embarrassed.

I am loved.

“Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.”
Romans 8:18 (NLT)

Feature Image by permission, (c) 2018 Julie Wetherby not for duplication without written permission.

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Resignation

You know, Ol’ Man, this morning wasn’t as awful as I expected. For a few heartbeats I was angry with Cole for not calling me up last night, but I can’t stay mad at him.

“Ol Man” Scout in a happy, albeit inelegant moment.

I’ll bet you chuckled to yourself that way you do, on and off all night about how we want to change things up this year. I tortured you with my ideas, chattering the whole week before New Year’s. You have always been a good listener. I still have some more ideas to run by you, but that can wait.

Cole surprised me this morning slipping quietly in the door instead of his usual boisterous entrance. I started to tease him but stopped abruptly. I can’t remember exactly why. Perhaps it was the uncharacteristic way he held his coffee mug against his chest. I offered him the tropical green smoothie I’d intended to take up to the house to him – you know, changing things up – but I carried it to the door. Since you didn’t come in with him I went to open the door for you the way I always do.

I surprised myself asking Cole as I turned from him to the door,  “Did your roommate’s grandmother die?”

I never noticed how cold the metal of the doorknob is until I heard Cole respond, “No. Scout died.”

I turned on my heel gasping, feeling Brother’s pain more than mine. The Ol’ Man’s been my friend these five or so years, but he and Cole have been inseparable since Scout was a tiny pup. Silently, I held my face between my hands a moment to keep back the sob and the tears that surely wouldn’t help him that minute.

Cole tried to put a log I’d intended to take up to the main house in my little stove. I held my words until he clearly realized the log was beginning to smolder but wouldn’t fit. Then I said gently, “That one’s for your stove. Let me take it up.” He handed it over but continued staring into the fire.

I found you there where Cole laid you, on your travel blankets in the dining room. You looked peaceful, as if you were napping. I rubbed behind your ears and your throat remembering how we got to play yesterday under clear, blue skies on a perfectly comfortable winter day. It had been weeks since you felt up to playing, but yesterday you moved painlessly once again. You got to greet a new visitor and then we played some more just because the weather was so perfect.

This morning I let you rest when I saw NewOldFriend arrive. Like you, I like her very much too. Cole had already brought the quad up to the house to carry you and some tools. I walked around to tell the neighbor ladies you’d laid it all down and apologized for all the commotion so early in the day. I’m sure you know how they are also fond of you.

Certain the fair weather would not hold out, Duck and his nephew showed up with the back hoe. Ninety minutes later Cole finished packing rich topsoil back over that high spot in the north pasture with the tractor. We all felt we were finished and should go but we couldn’t. Then we heard the horses in the surrounding pastures begin to neigh and whinny, bobbing their heads in a country chorus. Then we said our good-byes too.

We solemnly returned to the main house. It wasn’t one of the rare occasions Scout stayed home alone and he didn’t greet us as if we’d been away for days rather than hours. We toasted our dearly beloved friend and a life well lived. Cole commented that from the kitchen window we can look out onto his spot in the pasture, near the youngest of the trees.

Later, the pasture drew me back before returning to my cottage. Without Scout along it felt colder and empty. I didn’t hear him approach, but as rain began to fall Hero the steer gently nosed me from behind. Taking that as him telling me to stop being a silly human, I returned to my cottage to reminisce on my time with Scout, our dear Ol’ Man.

Scout
September 2005 – January 4, 2018

“Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God.”

Philippians 1:3 (NLT)

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Uncontainable

Best wishes to all for a warm, happy and prosperous New Year!

“… If I say I’ll never mention the Lord or speak in his name, his word burns in my heart like a fire. It’s like a fire in my bones! I am worn out trying to hold it in! I can’t do it!”

Jeremiah 20:9 (NLT)

 

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Contented

My heart goes out to Hero these days. The yearling steer lived his first eleven months happy with his mother, the other cattle, the mare and my daily visits to walk the pastures. Now with his second winter in full force, but for the neighbor’s bull and sheep nearby, he occupies the pastures alone.

Three months into his solitude, he’s taken to charging me.

Hero at a dead run from the back of the south pasture

 

 

 

 

 

Chomping away, Hero watches me steadily, happy for my company I’m sure ;).

 

 

For me, adjusting to living alone was a long process that I occasionally made unpleasant by demanding old expectations. I also raised my fair share of males, so my heart tells me the adolescent steer is simply frisky, excited to have company.

Still, I’ve seen him slide the last foot or so to a flake of hay. His 800-plus pounds thundering scant feet from my 140-something pounds demands prudence. Now I carry a whip or a stick in the pasture.

Missing loved ones during the long, dark winter makes for bouts of feeling isolated and lonely. This year I’ve been exceptionally blessed by not only Cole and his companions, but a steady stream of texts and phone calls from my loved ones far from here. All help serve to remind me I am never alone.

I’m grateful to be so fortunate. It helps me feel the Everlasting Arms that keep us warm and safe from harm – on any side of the pasture fences.

I’ll lean on these treasures long into the New Year.

“So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” 1 Peter 6, 7 (NLT)

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The Person in the Title

As he often does, Mitch says my thoughts exactly. Merry Christmas one and all. Peace on earth and good wiil to all.

Mitch Teemley

WinterI love Christmas. And with all my heart I love the One whose birth it celebrates. But it wasn’t always so. I grew up in a nonbelieving home. Yes, we said “Merry Christmas!” but for us it was a secular occasion, a time for family, food, and gift-giving, but not for the Person in the title. Hence, to me, there’s nothing life-changing about the words “Merry Christmas!” But there is something life-changing about Christ. So, whatever words I use or hear, it’s my joy at Christmas time–and throughout the year–to show people the Person in the title. You?

“In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

~John 1:4-5

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Christmas Eve’s Eve

A repost from What’s Next, Texas, USA, December 2015.  It’s hard to believe that was two years and two states back.

Merry Christmas to all!

 

angel wing cloud nancy

Our Christmas celebration this year will consist of Candlelight Service (maybe with Sister), an actual sit-down dinner together and all three of us taking a restful day off work together, probably with popcorn and Netflix, maybe darts.

The plan was in place.  Sister and I left the house together to do the last minute shopping.  This was an event.  I’ve missed her.  I see her every day, but she’s mostly been away for a few years; discouraged, disappointed, heartbroken and confused, essentially shattered. She holds the pieces of herself so tightly she can hardly do anything else but work. I get it. People we love often hurt us at some point and knocked us down at others. So I stay close and in case of a crash.

Sister, Opal and I move about in the world and live our lives together from behind our walls.  Occasionally, I can’t contain the spirit inside me.  It escapes and preys upon any unwitting subject on my way.  I felt a breakout coming.  “Let me get that door for you…” and the next thing you know I’m engaged in conversation with a friendly, talkative, complete stranger.  Sister usually loathes it, but being so far from friends and other family too she understands – and suffers through my social gushing.

Happy to be out, invigorated by the warm Texas December weather, we were on our last stop for the day.  A seemingly familiar woman approached the door the same time we did.  I actually felt like I knew her from somewhere. Even if I didn’t, I greeted her cheerily and sprang to get the door for her.  “Good afternoon.”

As if she didn’t notice us before that moment the lady straightened very slightly. As I swung the door open and stepped aside, she looked me in the eye like she saw into my soul, “Oh, thank you, Baby.  Good afternoon” she replied warmly, then turned to watch where she walked.  Something clicked – I didn’t know what.  I didn’t care.  I felt alive and fully connected to the world again.

The lady adjusted her large purse and a hobo bag as she reached forward.  The interior door opened into the vestibule so I awkwardly stepped around her to hold that door open for her too.  I was probably overreaching, but I had to.  She was one of those strong women, so knowing her actual age was tricky. The touches of grey in her hair and brows told me she was slightly older than I, but fit and sharp, if slightly preoccupied.

With that she looked into my face again.  Entirely unintimidated – and unannoyed, she responded, “Why thank you, Baby.”  Baby, again, but as if she knew me.  She seemed to start to say something else, but only nodded and began walking away.  Strangely, my heart wanted me to walk with her, but noticing Sister’s expression I checked myself. Instead I said, “Of course.  You have a wonderful day.  Merry Christmas,” and in exaggerated civility took Sister’s arm, walking her inside.

Now smiling, Roan and I entered too as the lady walked away. She glanced back saying, “Why, God bless you.  Merry Christmas,” stepping toward the back of the store and out of sight.

Sis and I shopped around for a nice little something to put beneath the tree; a two-foot paper and wire figure sitting on the television cabinet in the den. Searching around we wound up looking through blouses; something I never do.  I can’t wear off the rack without alterations. Sister can wear whatever she wants.  To make her happy I went along enjoying the feel of the fabrics.

“What are you looking for today?” came the voice from behind us.  I turned to respond and was delighted to find the lady from the door.  Now smiling broadly, wearing a plush red and white Santa hat on her head and a lanyard of key cards around her neck.  As she wandered away I finally recognized her; polished orthopedic shoes, black patterned stockings over support hose, a stylish, upscale, conservative skirt, comfortable, but immaculate.  A shell and cardigan tastefully accessorized, every hair neatly in place; she was a Momma.

Not the same as somebody’s mother, though she possibly was, she’s a Momma.  You’ll find her at the job, at church every Sunday and mid-week service, at the local free day care, senior care center, food pantry, often a volunteer at the local hospital or hospice.  You see it all over her, confidently owning whatever space she occupies.  Calm, collected, always busy, but quick to help wherever she can.  She never misses the slightest nuance, takes life head-on, living comfortably, modestly and entirely in love with people.

Over the years Mommas have been my lifeline.  Commuting to work in Los Angeles, often stuck in traffic, my boys knew if I was late to go to the church office where Momma D volunteered every afternoon.  She’d welcome them in, get them started on their homework and usually have snacks when I got to the neighborhood, worn and often on the verge of panic.  “Don’t you worry, Baby,” She’d say, “They’re good boys.  You can remember me when the offering plate comes around.” A Momma.

As a missionary, the only pink face in a volatile neighborhood, Momma Gen would often be “taking a walk” (in her house slippers) when I left the church building where I worked to walk home after dark.  Nobody messes with a Momma.

Working for an inner-city grass roots community center, putting in 50 hour weeks, Momma Cece would bring plates of dinner for the boys and me at least twice a week, knowing I wouldn’t have time to cook a dinner. That’s a Momma.

Sis and I kept sliding hangers. “Momma Burke” (we’ll call her as I didn’t see a name tag) held out a blouse to each of us. “These colors are perfect for you two and they’re very popular.” Before I could gracefully refuse, she added, “It doesn’t cost but a moment and it’s good to look at yourself in something new.”

You don’t argue with a Momma.  Sister stared me down as I took the beautiful blue, flowing top and stepped toward the fitting room.  I smiled back at her saying, “We’ve got a minute. You might as well.” Momma Burke pushed the rusty red shirt at Sister saying, “Now don’t waste time thinking about it. The store is going to get busy fast.”

Moments later I heard Sister gasp in the room next to me. Both the blouses were perfect.

Sure enough, when we stepped out of the rooms the store was full and noisy. Momma stepped up out of nowhere, smiling. “I knew you’d like ‘em; the colors suit you both and you can either dress them up or down.”

Sister agreed, thanked her and wandered away.  Clearly she was ready to leave.  I thanked Momma and explained I liked the blouse, but it isn’t in my budget until January. “Did you even look at the tag?” she asked, giving me “that look” over her half-frames.  I hadn’t.

It actually was that rare find from the clearance rack.  A second by most standards, but on me it draped perfectly, for $5.61.  I almost giggled.  Momma just smiled and went on to help other customers.  I wanted to hug her tight but snatching up the other blouse from the go back rack I hurried to catch up with Sister and bought both blouses.

We practically flew through the rest of the shopping and were home before we knew it.

I couldn’t stop thinking how God places exactly the right people in my life at the perfect times.  I’d longed for something new to wear for months.  With bills to pay and paying gigs scarce, I’ve made due with what I have.  What I have often isn’t a big deal. But it is today.

As I readied for Christmas Eve the next day, the mail brought a cash surprise. Immediately I thought of the leggings Sister wanted – and Momma Burke.  I couldn’t get to the store fast enough.  I found the leggings straight away and then went to the fitting room to find Mrs. Burke.  The woman that also worked there yesterday was absolute that she’s never seen anybody over twenty-something working in the store and she’s worked there almost two years!

Perhaps Momma Burke is a new hire starting late into Christmas season.  Maybe not.  I won’t be surprised to confirm sometime in the future, that Momma Burke is one of those angelic beings that appear and vanish when we actually need a little special help.  I shall look forward to seeing her again wherever it happens.

candles and nuts christmas

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

“Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters. Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!” Hebrews 13:1, 2 (NLT)

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