Peeks of Wonder along the Path of Ordinary

"He who seeks finds" Matthew 7:8

A Time For Everything/A Time To Uproot, A Time To Quit

Posted by on Oct 24, 2014 in Faith, Married Life, Mother, Seasons, Time | 46 comments

#74 final blog

 

Solomon, one of the wisest men who ever lived, said it best, “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens – a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

The past month has catapulted me into a season of sobering introspection. Watching my mother die challenged me deeply in unexpected ways. From how I use my time to examining my pocketbook – everything has been split open for scrutiny.

As a result, my husband and I agree it’s time for some changes. The “time to die” has beckoned us to “a time to uproot”.

Our first decision was to uproot from where we live. After four decades in the same house, we’re moving to a dramatically different community even though it’s only 10 miles away. We’ll be leaving the house we purchased when we first married to occupy the home my husband was born in. It’s actually quite exciting.

Leaving our safe, fairly static neighborhood with virtually no diversity to join a population with extreme diversity and non-stop activity should be interesting. I guess we’re doing it a little backwards – instead of moving from chaotic to quiet, we’re choosing to rev up the pace and dive into hectic.

Our new neighborhood is sweet and comfortable but the community it’s in is laden with people and with needs. We feel called to this new season and look forward to the integration.

The other significant uprooting for me is my decision to shut down my blog.

I have truly enjoyed the journey of blogging I began a little over a year ago. I’ve met amazing people and seen God do incredible things through it – but the season is changing and my keyboard will be closed for now. I hope to continue writing in other venues and plan to keep in touch with many new friends I’ve met here.

Please remember – it’s always my pleasure to pray for you – I can still be reached through the Let’s Connect tab on this website.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being so faithful to read and communicate with me. It’s been a blast but “the time to be silent and a time to speak” is now initiated.

Parting thoughts:

Go with God. Trust him like never before. Seize opportunities to listen and care. Guard your heart against callousness, envy and judgment. Treat the weak with respect. Cherish wonder. Find Jesus in the face of a stranger. Let children be children and adults be children. Be a child yourself – his child.

With Much Love, Pat

 

 

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This Week’s Task – The Obituary

Posted by on Oct 17, 2014 in Death, Life, Mother, Obituary, Remembrance | 18 comments

cemetary for blog

 

Overwhelmed, challenged, somewhat paralyzed – all feelings I’m struggling with as I labor to draft my mother’s obituary.

How do you sum up someone’s life in 300 – 500 words or less? The task of being factual and still descriptive seems not only challenging but somewhat unfair to the one who has no voice in the matter.

I pealed through online suggestions. Who knew there were rules and basic etiquette to writing an obituary. Once again, I’m faced with the blaring reality that one day someone will have to do this for me.

The examples were fairly generic. The deceased was usually spoken of favorably. Unless a tragedy or illness was to blame, their passing was described as “peaceful”. Along with a few sentences listing achievements or hobbies, the articles were merely simple anecdotal summaries.

I learned our one final published epitaph is nothing more than a short tidy biographical essay with many missing pieces.

We don’t read about the disappointments, failures or tragedies the person encountered over their lifetime, even though they’re usually the very episodes that shape us into who we are. Don’t you think those facts would be the most interesting to read?

How different an obituary would be if the lists were of our personal scars rather than our accomplishments or snippets of our ordinary days. It seems a shame to scan the peaks and miss the seemingly mundane.

We live in a culture that elevates success, especially after someone is gone. The longer our list of degrees and achievements the more notable we are. And when we’re gone, our failures are usually forgotten or downplayed.

Have you ever imagined writing your own obituary now so someone else doesn’t have to do it for you? In some respects, that’s exactly what we’re doing – every single day.

What a different scenario we’ll encounter when we cross from this life to our next. Not one minute will be missing from the perfect records kept on our behalf.

So what do you want said of you? With this – again, I feel overwhelmed, ill-equipped and paralyzed. I’m sure I’m not alone in wanting my life to matter – to be more than a simple statement lost somewhere in a newspaper or public record.

Today I choose to believe the truth:

The truth about who I am.

I was fearfully crafted and not one minute of my life is hidden from God. Psalm 139

The truth about where I’m going.

I will revisit every minute of my life when I leave this life for the next. Romans 14

The truth about what really matters.

Like Jesus, my scars will be turned into marks of beauty. John 20

 

THIS WEEK’S TASK – believe the truth and write a rich narrative for the story of our life, one we’ll be proud to re-read over and over again.

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Thoughts About My Mother and Pierced Ears

Posted by on Oct 10, 2014 in Death, Faith, Mother, Trust | 14 comments

Ears blog 2

 

 

It’s been two weeks since my mother died. In some ways it seems like yesterday and at other times – a lifetime ago. My brother told me he’s having a really hard time shaking images from his mind of her final days. The mental pictures are indelibly haunting to him.

There are certain images that linger for me also. They randomly surface like freeze-framed photos in my head. As strange at it might seem – today I couldn’t get her earlobes out of my mind.

I guess it makes sense since I spent a tremendous amount of time perched close to her face during that final week. I whispered words of encouragement into those ears as I washed perspiration from her clammy brow.

I recall one moment my mind took a snapshot of her ears as my eyes landed on them. Thoughts flooded and tears flowed while I stared at her.

Her ears had been pierced since childhood but were now void of gold or any other adornment. The discriminating earlobes that once only tolerated pure gold were now noticeably closed shut, leaving marks of surrender. The entrance blocked by scar tissue was evidence of her submission to the rules where she lived.

Several times during the last three years I bought inexpensive versions of her favorite hoop earrings trying to satisfy her desire to look pretty. But each time, a day or two later, the earlobes would swell and reject the cheap knockoffs, leaving a disappointed mom and frustrated me.

One item at a time – I watched her give up belongings she had enjoyed for decades.

The picture of her earlobes imprinted in my mind represent a deep level of trust to me – something I’ve never experienced. She fully entrusted her well being and her belongings to my care. It humbles me and pricks my heart with soulful examination.

Trust is letting go of our rights. Trading control for reliance. Trading shallow belief for deep faith.

It’s easy for me to confess trust with my mouth. It’s an entirely different matter to hand over my expensive earrings and live with the consequences of scarred piercings. The result usually isn’t pretty – but the act shines brighter than gold or silver. It’s pure. It’s holy. And it’s our blessed invitation as believers.

My mother’s trust pierces a deep place in my soul. I want to trust like that. I want to love like that.

Committed love depends on trust for sustenance and propulsion. Over time its scars become a sacred badge of honor. I hope that before my final breath – trust will leave its mark on me too.

“The things he planned for us, no one can recount. Were I to speak of them, they would be too vast to declare. Sacrifices and offerings he does not desire, but my ear he has pierced.” Psalm 40:5-6 (emphasis mine)

 

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Death And Living Responsibly

Posted by on Oct 3, 2014 in Death, Hope, Life, Mother, People | 16 comments

clean field 2

 

 

Responsible people understand the value of preparing for their future. For instance, responsible parents create college funds for their children long before they actually need it. Responsible people also open 401K plans early in their career so they can ease into a comfortable retirement when the time is right. But how many people pride themselves in properly preparing for their death ahead of time.

After all, who wants to think about death before you have to? And Hospice – that’s an organization we don’t need to know about until it’s absolutely necessary.

I find it rather interesting that so much of our planning gets invested in a future that may never unfold the way we envisioned it. College funds might disintegrate into emergency cash instead. Or a sudden lay-off end up depleting an entire retirement account. We have no way of knowing, because the future is unpredictable.

It makes me question – what do we really have control over? How many plans shifts into Plan B through circumstances out of our control.

Truth is – the absolute only thing we know for certain every person will face, is death. No one gets out of here alive. So why doesn’t that fact make us better planners?

Sitting by my mother’s side last week as she labored through her end of life experience left me facing the cold reality of my own certainty of death.

I learned death is a natural process of life and not perverse.

I imagine like birth, every end-of-life experience is different – some are more difficult than others. In my mom’s case, apparently she was text book in the progression process. It reminds me of the two distinct birth experiences I had with our kids. Although their births were different as night and day – both still involved labor and both had predictable components imbedded in the process.

Death isn’t something to fear, it’s something to embrace and spend our lifetime preparing for. From the moment we arrive on the planet we’re moving toward one common goal – our end.

The end is not final. Up until the day our breathing stops and our next destination is reached, whether we know it or not, we’re packing for the trip.

Responsible people consider the destination they’re headed toward. I wouldn’t pack shorts and sandals if I planned to vacation in Antarctica. And speaking of packing – I have a much healthier perspective about the importance of “stuff” after last week.

It’s God’s mercy to spare us a future view of our tomorrows. He’s the life giver and Sovereign ruler over our time – for all time.

A few takeaways from last week:

  • Hold loosely to the things of this world, they’re not worth grappling for or hanging onto. They really don’t go with us and usually become tomorrows trash when we’re gone.
  • Invest in knowing the one who holds your future rather than tirelessly planning for a future that might never materialize.
  • Prioritize relationships above things and heart over agendas.
  • And hug your mom – you never know which day will be her last.

 

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Gifts From My Mother – Through Life and Her Death

Posted by on Sep 28, 2014 in Death, Gifts, Humility, Life, Love, Mother | 32 comments

#65 Linking of Moments

 

This past week I had the sacred privilege of sitting with my mother while she slowly and bravely made her trek through the valley of death. Watching her tiny frame prepare for its final breath was a holy invitation to reflect and give thanks.

Her body may have been the instrument offered to deliver me into this world, but our shared experiences – both the good and the bad – were God’s favorite tools to shape us both for the next.

She left me plenty of gifts. Besides a great spaghetti recipe, lessons in sewing and proper table manners – I also received deep spiritual gifts I’m convinced I wouldn’t have found any other way. They were more powerful than sermons or books – and delivered straight from our creator to benefit us both.

Through her, I learned about faith and forgiveness. She taught me grace, mercy, service and humility. Through our journey together, I learned to see Christ in all things and in every face.

She confessed to be an atheist most of her life and worked hard to hide the fearful little girl she really was. And yet God chose her to teach me about forgiveness – how it easily flows to mercy. And how fear really can transform into trust. I learned service isn’t an action – it’s communion.

Our relationship caused me to face my own judgmental and religious self. The bright light of God’s resolute love and limitless grace poured out for both of us continues to melt my pious heart.

She was a good mom, a loyal wife, a talented artist and gifted seamstress. But everyone knows the simple kind of life she lived fades easily and for the most part, will remain unsung.

Even though – I am confident her life never, ever went unnoticed or was considered insignificant. I’m also certain it was joyously celebrated by the grand welcoming committee in her Savior’s Kingdom. She will cry no more.

Tears are for me – for those of us left in this temporal world.

I will miss the journey of faith we shared. And I know I will see her again.

 

A special thanks to Emily Snider Re who generously shares her gift of photography with me. I picked her puzzle picture because life is never how it actually seems. We only see a small piece of the bigger plan at any given time and do best when we trust the complete picture will be as it should be.

 

 

 

 

 

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Falls Imminent Arrival

Posted by on Sep 19, 2014 in Life, Mystery, Rain, Seasons | 22 comments

rain gutter for blog post

 

Confirmation of falls imminent arrival came in the form of a gentle rain last night and lingers still.

A soft damp blanket overlays everything – especially showcasing the transitional colors of our fruit trees. A few remaining figs and apples hang waiting to be picked, while surrounding leaves are beginning to let go. Our parched lawn welcomes the unfamiliar moisture.

Birds play in puddles, oblivious of tomorrow. Their songs are joyous, free and inspirational.

Time seems to stand still in the mystery of this glorious space in time we call fall.  It’s subtle, but intentional –  poised to abandon summer  while steadily marching on toward winter.

I smell the pavement and anticipate change.

Could it be the bulk of my days I call life, are much like today – a short pause between the luscious summer of youth and the grand finale of winter?

I see wonder in the merging of drips pouring off my rooftop. It satisfies, nourishes, cleanses, restores and subtly tempts my desire to linger.

In the stillness of this seasonal doorway I remember tomorrows bidding.  Fall is only a transition between my beginning and my end of seasons. Winter will come and go, but new life await beyond these harsh borders.

 

“Listen, you heavens, and I will speak. Hear the words of my mouth. Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants. I will proclaim the name of the Lord and praise the greatness of God!” Deuteronomy 32:1-3

 

 

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Search For Significance

Posted by on Sep 12, 2014 in Children, Extraordinary Everyday People, Truth | 22 comments

#3 framed

 

Our search for significance often begins on a playground sometime between the ages of 3 -5. It starts the day we first risk asking the question, “Will you play with me?” and then matures to even more vulnerability when we dare to add, “Will you be my friend?”.

 

Think about how many times over your lifetime you asked those questions – and how many times the answer either hurt or disappointed you. These encounters are the beginning of our shaping.

 

I watched my granddaughter try to approach a group of girls the other day at the park. The girls were fully engaged in what they were doing and obviously all knew each other well. At first, she stood a distance away from them – observing and waiting. I knew what she wanted and it was agonizing to watch. She inched closer and closer hoping they would notice her, knowing full well she had nothing to offer them but herself.

 

My instinct was to dive in, intervene, and help her out. But my heart knew better. It would be as big a mistake as helping a struggling baby bird out of its birthing shell.

 

There are things we need to discover and conquer all on our own. The shaping of our identity and the role others play in our significance are core issues we’re tasked to settle through a lifetime of experiences. It starts early and the lessons we learn early-on carry as much weight as the ones we learn later in life.

 

I’ve worn the same uncomfortable shoes my granddaughter did that day many times in my life. It’s risky business to seek an invitation into an established group. Do you remember your first day at a new school, or your first crush or first job interview? The playgrounds change, but the emotions are the same.

 

During the long quiet walk back to my car, I sensed the wheels turning in my granddaughter’s mind.

 

As much as I wanted to tell her this was an isolated experience or that she was the most special girl on earth – I knew there were other more important shaping factors in play.

 

Instead, we talked about compassion and empathy, about forgiveness and feelings.

 

The truth is, not everyone she meets will like her or want to be her friend (even though the sun rises and sets on her, in my book). Her significance is not found in the acceptance of others. It’s not even found within the security of her family. Her significance is found in Christ and who he’s created her to be.

 

He has given her, and us, everything we need to effectively (and significantly) join the game of life on any playground we find ourselves. We are secure, loved and equipped to be his. And that’s good enough.

 

 

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