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Archive for July, 2014

I was eager to see Mt. Baker again. The day before it was magical! The sky was a cloudless blue, and it’s snow cover was glistening white. When I see Baker, my spirit says, “I lift my eyes up to the mountains, where does my help come from?”

Baker is a beauty from many vantage points in our area. But one of my favorites is the view I see as I am on the ‘return’ of my trail walks. It’s view is one that energizes me to reach my halfway point, and preoccupies my mind (from my aching muscles and joints) as I am on my return. Every day that I see it, it looks different, and the anticipation of seeing it’s sights is like a child’s eagerness to open Christmas presents.

But, as I drove down the road, I was experiencing an overwhelming sense of … overwhelming. And I was seeking the wonder of Baker to lift my spirits.

It had been a very busy, a very people-filled day (this is not a bad thing, but fatiguing for those of us who are more introvert than extrovert), and my cup was bone dry.

So, as I drove to my favorite trail, down by the river, with my favorite beast I ‘cried out’ … I just needed head-cleaning.

Now, there were no tears, there was no wailing, no gnashing of teeth, just a moaning, a groaning of my heart …

“to the river”

“slow my mind”

“I need grace”

“I need a refuge”

“I feel so weak”

“I feel so dry, so empty”

“protect me”

These words of my groaning heart made no sense, were not moaned in any special order … they were just the raw cries of my weary heart.

Then a song started on the radio, and I heard it … all. The aching cries of my heart were being responded to … on the radio.

I immediately made an iTunes purchase. I was now even more eager to see the beautiful Mt. Baker … for I was already experiencing a sense of wonder.

The beast and I parked, peed (she, not me) and I set my phone on repeat. Then we walked, and I listened, and listened, and listened. I was in awe at how every time I heard the song, another of my groans was

related to … responded to … heard.

And Baker … she was a spectacular, fully unwrapped gift.

And even in ‘it’ … a pile of stone … my groans were heard.

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.”

Psalm 121

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Sometimes … the past comes back to haunt, and once in a while … it comes back to soothe and reassure.

It was a sunny, warm spring day. Hubby and I had packed our modern picnic lunch (also known as fast food, picked up en route to the park), and were heading to a local park with our 20’ish month old daughter.

We drove until we found a park that we had not been to before (and I do not remember ever returning to again). The park was large, with a soccer field and baseball diamond towards the back. Parking was at the front, near the street. Also, towards the front was a small playground area with swings, and a sandbox. And near the playground were just a few picnic tables and benches.

Our daughter was very eager to get to the sandbox … we were very eager to eat our fast food picnic lunch, before the hot and crisp fries became cold and flopsy. And so, she played, and we ate … all of us enjoying the respite that a park provides.

And then, there she was …

A little girl had arrived at the sandbox, seemingly out of nowhere. She was a blond pre-schooler, who seemed older than her years. As quickly as she appeared, she befriended our daughter, and the two of them played, in the sandbox and on the swings, as though they had known each other all of their lives.

As we enjoyed watching their play with each other, we finally realized that this delightful little girl did not seem to have an adult with her. When we asked her who she was there with she pointed to the baseball game, happening towards the back of the park, and said, “they’re over there.” Although we thought it odd for her parents to allow her to be so far from them, at such a young age, we felt we had no alternative, but to believe her.

The two girls sat on the swings, and we responded to their requests to push them. As hubby and I pushed, we marveled at how the two looked so similarly, they could be sisters. Their blond hair swaying in the breeze, and their blue eyes shining with delight, their contagious giggles. Why, they could be … sisters …

And it hit us both … they could be sisters. They looked so much alike, their age difference … why that delightful little girl could be the same age as our first baby, who had never made it to live with us.

It had happened over three years before. At four months into our first pregnancy … the baby, our first baby, died (this wasn’t to be our first such loss, as over the years it was to happen four more times). We never knew the gender of that child, but we had named it, to provide for ourselves some bit of identity. We had decided on the name Alison, because it could be a boy, or a girl’s name. The name is an old one, meaning noble or truth.

The two girls continued to play happily, until it was time for us to leave.

Then we asked the little girl her name … and she smiled at us, and replied, “Alison.”

 

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I actively look to see what I can learn from all created around me. If you have read enough of my posts, you will know that I am a dreamer, I am terribly immature, and I love wonder (like I love chocolate … and that is saying something). I hope that, when I die, I am even more of a dreamer, more immature, and that I can even see the wonder in the leaving of this Earth for my Foreverland.

The photo to the right is of a pond I frequently walk past with my beast (either beast #1 … the dog, or beast #2 … the hubby). One day, as I glanced towards the pond, I could see something in it … moving (and no, it wasn’t a bear). Upon investigation (and much squinting), I saw that it was a beaver. It glided beautifully along the water, then … flop … with a flap of it’s tail, it submerged. I was delighted with my ‘find’, which now gave further significance to the fallen tree a bit beyond the pond.

This was about a month ago, and I still look to that pond, every time I pass, for Mr. Beaver. I keep looking, because he showed himself to me once, and now I know he is there … somewhere.

Along my walks I also frequently see horses in a field. Their grace and beauty bring me to a place of awe, every time I see them! But sometimes … most times that I pass their field, I do not see them. Still, because I have seen them in the past, I know they are there, so I keep looking.

Along my walk I also get beautiful, jaw-dropping views of local mountains, that even I can snap a great picture of. They NEVER look the same, because the amount of snow changes, and the sun shining on them, from different angles changes their appearance. But some days (really, if you look at the 365 days of a year, it is most days) they are covered by clouds, and they cannot be seen at all. That fact does not mean I do not still look for them. I always look for them, because I know they are there … just hidden from view.

One day I saw something I had not seen before (and did NOT want to see any day). A snake (ewie)! And I guarantee you, I will be looking for him EVERY time I am on that part of the path, because I know he is there (and he is waiting for me. I looked back over my shoulders for at least a mile after seeing this guy, certain that he was creeping up behind me like Fred Flintstone … but I digress). I have seen him, once, and now I will be watching.

The beaver in the pond, made me consider how God, and his comfort, are not clearly, obviously, in your face visible every moment of every day. But, if you have ever known His comfort, His presence, His answers, in your life, you know He is there. Sometimes He is there in a piece of music, or a hug from a friend, or in falling rain, or an eagle soaring in the sky, or a buttercup, or … a beaver in the pond.

And, I think the message might be … keep looking. He has revealed Himself in the past, He is there/here … keep looking. Because it is in looking for Him, when we do not expect to see Him, that we are enabled to BELIEVE.

Music moves me, and, the first time I heard the following song, on a day when tears were leaking from my eyes, I was moved by how the lyrics spoke the words of my heart. And I pray, because I have seen Him in the past, I will die saying, just like a child, I believe …

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This is the first post in a series, about a woman named Amara. It started as an idea for a short story, and it grew as I grew to love this fictional character. There are 20 parts on my site (linked at the bottom of each segment). This summer I have been re-posting from my first year of blogging, so as to avail my writing time to working on the completion of this story, hopefully in book form. I’d love to know what you think.
CW

As Amara sat behind the steering wheel of her car she got increasingly frustrated.

She looked around her empty front passenger seat for clues as to why she might have driven to this professional building, in the middle of her small town. She could not remember why she drove there, all that she could remember was steering her Oldsmobile into this parking lot. It was as if in turning her wheels towards the lot, her purpose for being there had disappeared completely from her memory.

She tried to look around, hoping to see if something around her might twig her memory as to why she had driven there. Nothing sparked her memory.

Maybe if she retraced her steps, but all she could remember was the moment her front tires turned into this parking lot. ‘Oh, what is happening to me? I cannot even remember any other part of my day, and here it is already eleven in the morning!’ The last thing that Amara could remember was climbing into her bed the night before.

That memory was vivid. The striped bedsheets had felt cool on her skin, as she had climbed into her side of the bed. Her side of the bed … after almost ten years of living without him, she still had her own side of the bed. She started every night there, and she would awaken in the morning, never having passed the invisible center line of the mattress. Once, having given herself a talking to, she purposefully lay in the very middle of the bed … and awoke the next morning where she always awoke, on her side of the bed.

As she pondered thoughts of him Amara’s anxious heart ached for his presence, for his companionship, for his wisdom and laughter in frustrating circumstances like this one. He had a way of seeing a lighter side to the tough stuff of life, and he had a way of lightening any anxiety that she was feeling.

But, he was not here with her, and Amara sat feeling more and more frightened. She wanted to let the tears that were filling her eyes fall down her cheeks, but that would be ludicrous for a woman of seventy-two crying like a baby where anyone could see her.

There must be a sensible reason for this odd bout of forgetfulness …

Unfading – Part 2

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*This is a post from three years ago, but it is one that is relevant to ‘swim families’ past, present and future. I miss such regular reminders of grace and love that swim people show.

Well, like a bowl of bad clams (I just love this saying) we’re back! Back to what? Early morning practices, afternoon practices, wet towels, broken goggles, last spring (where I live there has been little ‘spring’ anyway) and summer weekends … SWIM CLUB.

About nine years ago, our family entered the world of competitive swimming, through our oldest daughter, then nine. With the exception of a year, SHE has been part of the speed swimming community, as a swimmer, and as a coach. Her younger sister, took a longer hiatus … about four years. But she’s back … therefore WE are back.

I was rudely reminded of what I haven’t been missing on Saturday morning, when my alarm went off at 6am … I was so hoping it was just a bad dream! And, really we were lucky … it could have been (and will be in the weeks to come) earlier … much earlier!

So, off we went, for her 7:10am warm-ups! (Yikes, throw me into a swimming pool at that hour and ‘cool down’ might be a more accurate reflection of what I’d be feeling). I drop her off, and go in search of swim meet survival tactic #1 … coffee! And once that essential need is met, I am ready to cheer, towel off, and sign up for timing races (this has two benefits .. one is it makes the time go faster, and two is it gets you involved).

The meet begins … late (I sometimes have thought that is part of the meet … starting late), and the first race is IM (Individual Medley). Now in IM there are four strokes that are to be done in a particular order, and this is how I was taught the order … butter (butterfly) your back (backstroke), your breast (breast stroke) is free (freestyle, or front crawl, for those who are old like me). So, depending on whether it is 100m (one lap for each stroke), or 200m (two laps for each stroke), the number of swimmers, and the age of the swimmer (could be as young as six years old), this race takes a long time.

There was one heat that reminded me of why I love swim club. There were boys swimming the IM, and they were about thirteen years old. When the second to last swimmer touched the pad, to complete his race, there was still one swimmer left slogging away. And he was only halfway through backstroke! So we watched, and we waited …

Watching him swim was … painful! My first thoughts were, ‘he must be a new swimmer … poor guy … how humiliating.’ But then, as I watched his arms and legs flail (and I do mean flail), I recognized how VERY uncoordinated his movements were, and I wondered, if the boy struggling in the pool (with all his might, I might add) might be one with a disability.

Then … it happened … the thing that happens at EVERY swim meet I have ever attended, when a particularly slower swimmer is coming to their finish … the crowd began to cheer. No, the crowd began to chant … his name. The building was booming with the chant of this boys name, over and over … to the finish. The crowd of family and friends and strangers, his teammates and all the team, the officials … everyone in the building was chanting and cheering him on. When he finally touched the pad, you would have thought that Michael Phelps had just broken another world record! The smile on his face said that he felt as though he had just broken a world record (and that he had given it his all). Fellow swimmers were giving him high five, and patting him on the back.

I spoke to the mom of this boy, later in the day. Indeed, he was new to competitive swimming, and indeed he lives (and she, who lives with him) with asperger syndrome. He told me he loves swimming, as he headed off to marshalling for his next race.

It was all worth the early morning practices, afternoon practices, wet towels, broken goggles, lost spring and summer weekends … just to have that taste of being part of the lives of others who struggle … not that we all share the same struggles, but that we are all struggling to give it our all.

And that boy, and all cheering him on that day, gave it their all!

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I know I experience beauty.

I know I experienced joy.

I know I experienced peacefulness.

And, I KNOW I experienced … WONDER.

I know this from a day off I had one spring day. It was on my favorite trail, with my favorite beast (next to hubby), on a SUNNY day (I got a tan … I was beginning to think I would turn green with mold, before I would turn golden brown), enjoying every step I took.

And I really mean that I was enjoying every step I took. Now, most of the time, my walks are walks with a purpose (jiggle the cellulite into submission), but this particular day, I felt compelled, no, insisted upon, by someone much greater, to just enjoy the journey … and so I did. And it was wonderfilled!

There was the dandelion, gone to seed …

How is it that something that, when in flower, can cause me such frustration on my own lawn (and disaster once it’s gone to seed on my lawn), can bring me back to sunny childhood days, when future planning, and dreaming was only a breath away?

Or the tree, bent over right to the ground …

How could such a strong and beautifully created thing, looking so hopeless, from the strong winds of life, still live, and show signs not just of blossoms, but of new life in it’s leaves?

Or the bright, beautiful blackberry blossoms …

How could something so beautiful, so eye-catching (and foretelling of the juicy, sweet berries to come) also be so damaging to the wetlands, to other plants and trees, to streams that it’s ‘mother plant’ drinks dry?

Or the beaver …

How could such a visually adorable, brilliant builder, who really knows how to sink his teeth into his work, be so destructive to forests?

I learned that day that things are not always what they seem. That beauty and evil can be in the same place. That blessing and curse can be wrapped up in the same package. And, maybe even, that good can even come from something that also is, or seems to be, evil.

Ah, so much to wonder …

“I wonder,

as I wander,

                                                                       out under the sky”

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Well this has been more difficult than I had counted on, when I first embarked on a five part series called ‘what women want’. So … if I, as a woman, struggle to know what it is that women desire most, maybe it is unfair to expect that mere men would know what we want.

To recap my five part series, what women want is …

– to be known

– to be pursued

– to be loved … and told so

– walk in my shoes … to be understood

– forever … happily ever after

Really aren’t all of those things desired, yearned for, wanted by men as well? Although it might be easy to write off all males in the stereotype of all they want is sex (and there are a few who fit that box … as there are women, who also fit into that box). I believe that the majority of men do want what women want.

For anyone, to be known (as in knowing HIS most desired success, or knowing HER greatest fear) is something that can only come from being a student of that person. To be truly known does not happen because a person ‘advertises’ his or her deepest desires, it is instead, the one person studying the other so consciously that they can know intimacy with the other.

To be pursued, although I do believe that men are more naturally the ‘pursuer’, is something that both sexes respond positively to. Ladies, send your guy a suggestive text message, one day he is out (at work, at ‘the game’, at a meeting, with the guys), and just see how well he responds to being pursued … just sayin’!

I love you is a non-gender-specific phrase! It can be said by both women AND men. Now, I expect it might be ‘easier’ for women to say (maybe because we often ‘give’ to others what we desire to receive) … but guys, we need to hear it! And ladies, you are so not on easy street yet … try a new variation of ‘I love you’ to your sweetie … try saying ‘I so respect you when/for/because …’ For a man to hear that he is respected, is probably the equivalent to a women hearing ‘I love you when/for/because …’

So her shoes have pointy toes, and high heels (which you guys so love I’ve heard, because of how it makes the female leg look) … walk in those pretty babies … So his shoes … STINK … ladies, you will never fully understand why they are in the shape they are, if you don’t get to know how your own feet feel in them! Really ladies, that sullen, wordless, grumpy, male that walks in your door tonight might have had struggles and problems (or maybe he’s happy … TOO HAPPY for you at that moment … maybe he’s experienced the greatest successes, passed the greatest tests) that he will never open up and tell you like YOUR girlfriend would. If you don’t know the details (and oh, how we women love the details) of why he is the way he is, try to understand how you might want to be received if you’ve had ‘a day’. Put those over-sized, smelly shoes on your feet, and start sharing his burdens and joys.

Happily ever after … nope, I’ve never heard a male EVER say, hint or insinuate that he desired that! But the security of a mutually beneficial, mutually loving, mutually cared for relationship … where HE can be the HERO, the STUD MUFFIN, the MAN … now that is something a man could want. But for him to be all of that means that … we (gulp) women need to make sure he is feeling like ‘the MAN’ … and that responsibility, ladies, is on our shoulders. Sure we appreciate what our guys do for us … but do we tell them? Do we sing their praises? Do we pump up their egos? Ladies, if we want happily ever after, we need to communicate that forever with us is not a life sentence, but a lifetime achievement award … and that winning it requires the concerted efforts of two!

And that is really what it comes down to … two very different (often very opposite) individuals, who express themselves, and their needs in very different languages trying to find a place, somewhere in the middle, where both persons needs and wants and desires can all be met. It is a juggling act … and one that (from my pointy-toed shoes) seems to be an awful lot of effort, with no guarantees of success. But, I am confident that when the efforts are coming from both side, eventually they meet somewhere in the middle. And a brand new (often far better than ever dreamed or imagined) entity is formed … and it is good!

And that is what women AND men want …

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