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Friday, January 25, 2008

Winter day

Snow geese in Skagit Valley

The snow geese and trumpeter swans gather in the Skagit Valley fields as the wind and rain storms beat upon the Northwest coast. Winter is here. No hurry to get to the ferry line ahead of time, just “locals” riding the ferry. The tides are high and the passage is often rough but all of us depending on the ferries have done this for years and just consider it part of the seasonal change.
There are more winter ducks appearing every day near the shoreline of the bays. The easily noticed abundant birds now are the Oregon Juncos, Chestnut-baked Chickadees, and Flickers. Just lately the temperature drops flocks of robins from higher frozen elevations to congregate on our unfrozen lawns, searching for worms in the deep earth or any plant with berries. I need to plant more berried bushes, such as cotoneaster, pachysandra when the weather warms.

To celebrate Robert Burns Day, Jan 25, and since the days have been cold and crisp and snow capped mountains spectacular, four of us took the ferry to Orcas Island, we made the ferry at the very last minute, and hiked the trail to Turtleback Mountain. We don’t do this enough, stop everything and head off, to forget the lists of chores and capture a day that will not be anymore, with friends to share the fun and beauty. We hiked to over 900 ft elevation enjoying the crisp of weather and spectacular views. We are all thankful that this beautiful 1575 acre piece of land, which was designated a conservation area last year, has public access and will remain this way for future generations. I can look at a beautiful old garry oak, one of the few that survived the shipbuilding era, and know that it will not be cut down unless naturally. I can look at the high grassy meadows that frame the amazing view of the Gulf and San Juan Islands, and know the view will be unhindered. The patchwork quilts of farmland on Orcas may change with new generations and perhaps the sparkling waters will be filled with more than just the single ferry we see ducking in and out from view, but we were grateful for the day to appreciate God’s beauty and good friends. We hope you can do the same this week.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Change

Park renovation started
At our town home in Seattle we awoke last Friday to notice we could suddenly see the lights of the town instead of trees; and upon reflection, the town could now see us. Just the morning before, the trees in the park across the street provided us a sense of privacy, muffling the sounds from the main street beyond. These 80+ year old healthy trees were felled while we were at Neil’s aunt’s side. It was her last day on earth too.

In the past, when loved healthy trees were cut down, I’d be outraged that such beauty could be instantly removed for “progress”. If they were also trees that sheltered and protected, I’d feel exposed to the world, vulnerable. But this time, I was upset about trees only momentarily; the loss of Neil’s Aunt, created in God’s image, immensely outweighed the loss of trees and privacy. We held a memorial service for her a week later and I am still outraged at a death of a loved person, even though she was 92. Although she was not a protector or shelter to us, any loss of life of someone you love still leaves you feeling vulnerable.

The trees removed for park renovation confirm a change in me as well. As a previously private person, exposure of any kind is difficult. Now the lights of the city and traffic remind me to be more at ease with my visibility in the community at large, including this blog. In the beginning, I felt God wanted me to write this blog in spite of fear. Now again He confirms, “Let your light shine before men." I can’t see my own light, not even sure that it is there. But because I can no longer hide behind old trees, the people on the main street can see it coming from my window. My hope is that you might see a little of it shining from this window too.

1. Matthew 5: 14-16

Friday, January 11, 2008

Promise

Worn and old but full of promise


We are in grief. Neil’s 92 year old Aunt Maine, us at her side, stopped breathing life giving air, Wednesday January 9 at 5:30 pm and passed to the other side.

We headed back to the city from the island on Tuesday morning and spent time with her until the end. I grabbed an American Bible Society “Promises of God” booklet and read portions of scripture from it to her. She remained attentive with eyes opened whenever we spoke.
Whenever her breathing became labored, I prayed out loud for God to give her peace and a sense of His Holy presence and that she would have no fear. I held her hand and she held mine and the labored breathing stopped and she breathed more peacefully. I felt it a privilege to be there as I was not able to be there to the end with my mother.

Neil and I took turns sitting by her side and talking to her and just sitting quietly. When she was attentive to Neil or resting, I took the elevator to her apartment two floors up to clear out her room as we knew she would no longer return. and others were waiting for it. While cleaning out drawers and shelves, I found a small well used book as well as some notes with scripture verses, the same that I had read earlier, confirmation that we were on the right track. I also found cards with questions on them. Just then Neil came in to the room wondering what he might read to her. I said to him, “There is no coincidence that I found these notes in the desk drawer. Take these and answer them for her.” On two 3X5 cards she had written, “What does it mean to be born again?” and “What does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit?” We both felt a clear directive from the Holy Spirit to give her the answers for which she had been waiting and encouragement for us that she was and would continue to be in His hands. She attentively listened to Neil’s answers and seemed content and peaceful when I returned. I brought her old small frail well used book, much like herself, Ave Maria, from her room. Again, she turned her head toward me and opened her eyes and I read from the most worn pages “Morning Prayers.”
“O my God, my only good, the Author of my being and my last end, I give Thee my heart. Praise, honor, and glory be to Thee forever. Amen.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I will raise myself up from this bed of sleep, to adore my God, and to labor for the salvation of my soul. Oh, may I rise on the last day unto life everlasting. ...Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts!" I ended by saying, "You will soon be with your Lord Jesus." Within an hour she was praising God on the other side and we were grieving only because we will miss her.
Hebrews 9:23-25; 10:19-23

Friday, January 4, 2008

Winter

Red Oak in Winter

Winter seems the time of letting go. Even the leaves that cling past their time to the red oak have fallen and scattered with the wind of winter. The last of the unclaimed apples still cling to the branches but every day another drops with the temperature. The died back perennials have only the hope of roots and bulbs below the surface keeping life going to sprout up again in spring.

Neil’s 92 year-old, aunt, who never had children is letting go of visible life as well. She lives in a three tiered retirement home near our condo in Seattle. Moving out of her home to ours and then from our home many years ago to independent living she moved to assisted when she could no longer remember medication. Two months ago after breaking her arm in a fall, she moved to the health care center. She now has given up, “failure to thrive” they said, refusing to eat or drink. In her medical directive she adamantly stipulated that she did not want to be kept artificially alive, no feeding tubes, nor IVs. A hospice team has come in to assure her comfort and she has round the clock nurses. We go and sit by her side. We put salve on her lips and do what we can. She mainly is unresponsive but hears us.

I talk to her about heaven and her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ whom she will meet on the other side. She looks my way. I tell her about the book I read "Heaven", she who loved to read listens. I talk about the new heaven and earth that is promised to believers where there is no failing body nor pain nor sorrow. She can see her beloved dog Pepper again. I talk about the hard to imagine beauty of an unspoiled earth. She with a photographer’s eye understands capturing a moment with camera before it fades or passes. No more waiting for that right moment, it will be there all the time, yet unending beauty to capture. She can play her violin in the greatest symphony orchestra ever.

She may be dying, but like the perennials, with her root in Jesus, she will spring up on the other side in full blossom never to die again. And we who wait and watch and care are saddened. But because we also know Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we have hope we can meet her on the other side when the winter season of our life says it is now our turn to let go.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die…”