Wednesday, September 6, 2017

God Is Good

I ran into someone I know at the grocery store. She was getting out of her car, wearing a large back brace contraption. I asked what had happened? She shared that she'd fallen, and broken a vertebra. I responded with "Ouch, I'm so sorry." and she replied quickly "God is good!" I was taken aback at first, and in hindsight wish I would have said "I never said He isn't! But broken backs are painful!!" Instead I moved the conversation along and walked away...pondering.

Why do we think we have to defend God? Like if we feel pain or any type of suffering, and anyone else knows about it, we have betrayed Him? Why are we so quick to try to appear strong and perfectly faithful? Why are we ashamed of our humanity? Humanity which includes weakness and frailty and brittle bones as we age? Why did her comment make me feel the opposite of the warmth of God's grace and love for her? Why did her "faith statement" bother me?

I came into "Christianity" or whatever the current term is (got saved...came into the knowledge of Christ...whatever) later in life. I was in my early thirties. I was a mess. I'd lived a lot, and been through a lot of ugliness and heartache. Fair to say I was a really broken woman who had denied her heart in order to survive. After being welcomed into a wonderful church family, I continued to deny my heart and my past and my pain and my wounds...because I was so thankful to find grace that I didn't want to mess it up. As if I could...ever...mess it up. But what I was being taught said to not be ruled by my emotions, to pray hard and God would answer, if He didn't I was doing something wrong, I was given a new life and the old had passed away (even though thoughts came up to torment me)...all of the usual good Christian teachings. Just praise God and power through.

This all worked perfectly for me for a few years. Until I started to have anxiety attacks (even in church) and one day found myself screaming in the shower (at first not knowing where the sound was coming from...)

Up to this point, following all of the rules and being a good Christian girl had worked. Until it didn't.

A couple of years of sickness, tears, brokenness, submitting to SOZO (deep healing ministry) and getting to all of the pain so that it was dragged into the light instead of hiding inside me in darkness, brought me to a place of understanding who I am, and understanding I Am in ways I never had. This healing empowered me to endure even more tragedies and pain in my life. But now I was different. I was able to feel the pain, to cry the tears in the appropriate moment, and to trust that even when I am a complete mess God isn't. And He loves me!

I prefer this kind of testimony. I prefer the real, sometimes snotty...angry...weak...broken yet leaking glory kind of faith I have come to know.

Yes, God IS good. And even when we are hurting He remains good. He doesn't need us to defend Him. He's OK with our weakness and pain and transparency. His goodness shines anyway.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Not Every Hour is Happy

Well, it's been almost one month since we left our beautiful home behind for motor home life. It has been great so far. We have stayed in some beautiful RV spots, had some great Happy Hour food. But lest you think that retiring in an RV is all wine and roses...there are some things you should know.

THERE ARE YAPPING DOGS. DOGS THAT YAP FOR NO REASON. AND THEY WILL LIVE NEXT DOOR. ALWAYS.

Sometimes your neighbor might work swing shift. And when he comes home anywhere from 11:30-1:00 and decides to talk on his phone...outside...loudly, he quickly changes from "that nice guy next door" to "WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH THAT GUY NEXT DOOR?"

Other animal noises can be expected. Or the occasional skunk roaming around outside your rig. There is currently a bullfrog living in the wet area behind us. He is a loud croaking bullfrog. He is quite proud of his croak, and likes to share it all...night...long. If I had a BB gun and could find him we'd be having frog legs for dinner. (OK, maybe not because that would involve frying. I don't do frying in the RV "kitchen" and I use that term lightly.)
I love all of God's creatures, so I really wouldn't shoot a frog. It's just that living in an RV could possibly turn one into a sniper. (Yeah, that's right. Better stay off your phone at night, noisy neighbor. Never know when I'm gonna snap!)

It is interesting hearing people's conversations so clearly...even when we are in our home and they are in theirs. The whole illusion of personal space and privacy quickly gets thrown out the window. (No, don't actually throw anything out the window, it could very well land in your neighbor's living room.)

The RV is smaller some days than others...depending on what activities are going on inside. If hubby and I are both home and both trying to do different things, it is a true test of marital endurance. I find that my quick wit and loving nature are true assets.

Other days, when the weather is nice, are lovely. Sitting outside in lawn chairs snoozing has become a favorite past time. We aren't lazy, mind you. We are relaxed. We have no lawn to mow, yard work to do, home repairs, painting, cleaning or any of the myriad of chores which keep the homeowner busy. We laugh with sinister delight at the thought of the busyness of others. Then we clink our wine glasses and toast "the good life." Then we nod off again until we wake ourselves up with a loud snort.

We really do appreciate the perks of living in this frugal manner. We are thankful for our vacation home in Arizona and look forward to wintering there. We look forward to other adventures which might not be affordable at this stage of life.

As I type this, I realize that phone-talking neighbor hasn't gotten the "no yell-sneezing" memo. And I'm smiling to myself...

We do love to go to Happy Hour though...is it 3:00 yet???









Sunday, May 28, 2017

What Do You See?

I'm thinking this morning about Portland's most recent violent murders. Men who came to the defense of 2 young girls who were being harassed and terrified by some wacko's fearful prejudice, were stabbed and killed..

When I first heard of the incident I was rocked to my core. I have 3 sons and a husband who each would have done the same thing. And I became thankful in that moment, realizing how beautifully amazing it is...that these men whom I love so much, are each men of deep character.

In Christianity, at least the stream in which I was taught, there is a huge focus on praying a prayer and asking Jesus into your heart, or inviting Him to be Lord of your life or some such thing which must be done in order to secure one's place in the hereafter. I'm not saying this is bad. I just wonder, all these years down the road, if this has become the "thing" taking our eyes off of seeing Jesus in the people all around us? I can even imagine conversations regarding these Portland heroes, where Christians might be thinking or saying to one another "I wonder if they were Christians? I hope they were saved..."

And it causes me to pause. Scriptures say, "There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends." What kind of love then, would quickly jump in and lay down its life for a stranger? Wouldn't this kind of love, the life-risking kind, have to originate from a source outside of itself? Doesn't this kind of love originate in God and flow from God?

Some of the men in my life, whom I love so dearly, do not openly profess Christianity. Some have potty mouths, or drink too much, or party too hard. To many on the outside, they would be judged "ungodly." Yet I know them as loving sons, husbands, fathers, and friends. And I take great comfort in the certainty that each of them would quickly jump in to defend any woman, man or child who is being abused or mistreated. I know each one would lay down his life for a friend or stranger.

And I certainly see God in them all...

Sunday, May 21, 2017

RV Life

Now that we are back living in an RV, we thought we might share some tips for anyone who is considering this lifestyle.

1. First off, get rid of anything you haven't worn in a year...(better yet 6 months)...because you will find out quickly how very little storage space you have. You will end up packing the storage space you do have with so much clothing that you will never see the things that end up toward the back of cupboards and drawers anyway. Most of your previous wardrobe will become lost forever. You will quickly adapt, learning to wear the same things over and over. Having no washer and dryer, you will also learn how many times an item of clothing can be worn before washing. (This number varies between the male and female RV'er.)

2. You will soon find you have a lot of extra time on your hands. With such small living quarters and no yard maintenance, the hours in your day seem to multiply. This can be a good or bad thing, depending on where you are parked, and what there is to do nearby. You will also find looking through your cupboards and closets to locate things takes up a lot of your newly discovered time. Your mantra soon becomes "I know it's in here, somewhere..." and rarely will you locate the searched-for item on the first try. Do not despair. You are sure to remember where you put it at some point, usually during the night when you no longer need it.

3. We like to come up with little nick-names for other people in the park. We don't do this to be mean, it just helps identify the people around us in conversation. Example: Instead of saying "The people in the Airstream" we simply refer to them as "the Twinkies." You will find there are "Twinkies" at every park. Different people...yet very similar...and they seem to have their own secret club. (This is a club in which we will never belong, since one of us cannot even stand up in an Airstream.) We do admire their shiny metal exteriors from afar.

We like to call the people who have the nicest RV, matching outdoor chairs, BBQ, matching rugs, canvas hats, canvas vests, matching shorts..."the Patagonias." You will often find them (when they aren't out hiking) cleaning up around their RV. Mr. Patagonia can usually be seen on a step ladder cleaning the windows of their $100,000 rig, sometimes daily. We find the Patagonias to be friendly, but not overly. I choose to believe that it isn't because they are judging us...but only because they have much to do keeping their beautiful new RV sparkling.

4. There is always one person in the RV'er relationship who rises up as the "leader." Some would call him bossy, but for the sake of keeping the peace, let's say "leader." This person is very helpful with many suggestions about how things should and shouldn't be done, throughout the day. Especially anything in the kitchen or cooking realm. I have found ignoring the "leader" can be helpful in maintaining one's sanity.

5. Learning to sneeze without yelling is something that can be practiced before setting out on your RV adventure. If not, you might alienate any possibilities for future pleasantries with your neighbors. You may even alienate your co-RV'er to some extent. Yell-sneezing and RV life just simply don't mix.

6. Showering is an art, depending on your RV amenities, such as size of your hot water tank. If it is on the small side, your best bet is to get wet, turn the water off, soap up, turn water on and rinse. Be warned that the water usually turns back on cold, and has to heat up again. Yelling after being caught under a cold tap is frowned upon. Shampooing hair is also tricky, but it can be done applying the same method as above. Go easy on the conditioner. The hot water tank isn't that large, and remember yelling is frowned upon.

7. Bugs can be an issue. You will find different bugs at different locations. It is nice to have 2 fly swatters, so each person has their own. Keeping the screen door closed is most effective. Reminding your other RV'er to close the screen is a fun activity that can help to utilize the extra time.

8. Cooking is a learned experience also, depending on your particular set up. The more of your cooking that can be done outdoors, the better. Whatever you do cook indoors will likely permeate your towels and clothing with it's sumptuous aroma.

9. It is nice to have an ice chest to fill with beer and other drinks you would like to stay icy cold, since your RV refrigerator won't be too spacious, and also won't keep things quite as cold as you are used to. This might surprise your co-RV'er the first time he tries to drink a less than ice-cold brew...and complaining will ensue. Better to be prepared with that ice chest than to endure this...for the next half hour.

10. Finally, resist the urge to begin drinking early in the day. The danger of RV life is that cocktail hour becomes the focus. It is a nice and relaxing part of the day, but if abused you can leave the realm of full-time RV'ers and enter into the realm of "old homeless drunks" in which case RV life will lose its glamour. Self-control and restraint must be used in the area of alcohol and also snack foods. It may take some time to find your perfect balance. Resist the urge to monitor your co-RV'er in these areas, your loving suggestions could cause animosity. Remember, tight quarters require tight-lips.

This concludes today's tips. We are less than 2 weeks in, on our current adventure. We will revisit this subject as we grow in greater knowledge and experience. Please feel free to contact us with any questions, and the one of us who knows everything and is always right will be happy to help.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Pioneers

Years ago, we made a decision that altered the course of our lives forever. We were sitting in our home in the country, the one Craig had rebuilt and added onto over the course of 20 years. We loved it, and finally it was exactly how we wanted. The boys were grown and gone...and here we were in almost 3,000 square feet of perfection, on over 5 acres. We could picture ourselves growing old there...sitting in our rocking chairs on one of 3 porches, and enjoying the beautiful country views. But...was that what we really wanted? Did we want to settle in and be porch rockers? Or did we want some adventure? We chose adventure, and what an adventure it has been!

Grant's wedding day
 

We sold the farm and moved into Eugene. Oh the comments we heard from our Junction City friends. "Eugene? You're moving to Eugene? Why, it's so...liberal. There are so many hippies and strange people! I could never live there!" We would smile and assure them that we were looking forward to a little diversity and adventure in our lives.

We found the perfect house, almost half the size of the farm house. But it had a huge back yard and total privacy, which was a must-have as we were used to our no-neighbor lifestyle. It was perfect! We bought bikes, and explored the bike paths by the river close to our house. We rode all over Eugene, exploring the neighborhoods and waving to those "strange" people we were warned about. We loved living so close to downtown and all of the culture...and great restaurants. We bought a hot tub for the back yard, and really settled in. Again. Until...the company Craig worked for closed down. What? Oh no!! There were no other jobs in the Eugene area, so we put our house on the market while he looked for employment, and found it, in Portland. Portland! Talk about a big move! What will we do? Get an apartment until we see if the job works out? What do we do now? Lord?


Our Anniversary on Sunnyside

   
Well, we had recently purchased a little 5th wheel for travel and camping, and there it was in our driveway. One day we looked out the window and thought "We could live in the 5th wheel!!" It was a brilliant idea. We would have our own space, and we would be able to scout out the land up north while he figured out if his new job would work for him. So, we sold our little house, bought a storage container and had it parked on a lot we owned, put all of our worldly goods in it, and headed up north to another adventure.


Our little Sprinter

We had driven around looking for RV parks in Portland...an expedition which reduced me to tears. Trust me, there was a bit more diversity than we were quite ready for. RV trailers with tarps for roofs, pit bulls chained up outside guarding the pile of empty beer cans. A lifestyle I couldn't quite imagine. But, I tried to be open to anything, and "I will do this if it is what You're asking of me, Lord..." became my mantra. Then we (literally) happened upon a beautiful RV park on the Sandy River. Someone had just vacated a spot right on the river, and we took it! Oh it was such a wonderful place to live! We spent the first summer enjoying the river...friends and family came to visit and enjoy it with us. It was a great time. Until...Craig's job started turning into a different job than he'd signed on for. He was working 12 hours in a sweat shop. This was not what we'd signed up for. He began looking for employment elsewhere.

The commercial printing industry in Portland seemed to be as dried up as Eugene. He broadened his search and found an opening in a little Mom and Pop shop in Medford Oregon. Medford? We had only ever driven through there on our way to California...what was it like? After taking a trip down to investigate, we fell in love with the area and he accepted the job...taking a huge cut in pay and benefits. We decided it would be worth it, and since we lived in a 5th wheel, we wouldn't need much.

Off we went to Southern Oregon. After staying a couple weeks right on I-5...(I mean, it sounded like we were parked in the median)...we found a beautiful little mobile home park near Jacksonville that also had RV spaces, and one opened up for us. Moving there was heaven after our time on the freeway. It was a 55 and over park, and we barely made the cut. We enjoyed a wonderful season there, exploring Jacksonville and Ashland and everything southern Oregon had to offer. Our little "camper" was getting a bit tight, so we bought a 40' 5th wheel. It was amazing...sunken living room, washer/dryer, big kitchen, two comfy recliners and a sofa bed for guests. It was everything we needed, and life was good.


Our 5th wheel upgrade

Still...we looked at real estate. Because that's kinda what we do. Oh how we love houses! We found a beautiful mid-century modern that reminded us of the houses we remembered growing up in California. The price was right, and we decided to go for it. What a great house it was! We had 3 guest rooms plus a basement apartment. We filled that house with friends and family. We settled in again...

The Love Shack
The Berkeley house in Medford



But after a couple of years of Craig's being laid off every Friday, our savings was about gone and we knew we had to do something. We were nearing retirement age and needed to be planning for our future. He began to look for jobs again, and found one in Vancouver Washington. By this time we had already sold our big, beautiful 5th wheel because it was taking up precious space in our driveway.So when he found a job in Vancouver Washington, we decided we needed to find another RV to live in. This time we wanted to try out a motor home. Craig happened to find one about a mile away from where our kids lived in Springfield Oregon. We bought it, and began again the arduous process of drastically downsizing into an RV.

Winnebago

Our soon-to-be home again


We made our way up north, and back into the RV park on the Sandy River. But alas, it was winter, and while we were familiar with the high winds that can whip up through the Columbia River Gorge, we weren't prepared when one day the wind blew a wooden picnic table into our RV. Craig came home from work and saw that it was blowing the roof off, and we had to quickly pack up and get out of there!

Coming over the river into Vancouver, we stayed a couple of nights in an over-packed RV park while we looked for another option. We settled in a motor home park which had a few RV spaces. Craig worked, I walked and prayed and we looked at houses online. It took a long time, and finally our search brought us to our beautiful little home right across from the Washougal River.

Washougal house


Washougal River


We have enjoyed just over 3 years here in Washington. Our little house has been perfect, hosting many gatherings with family and friends. Once again, we are living what seems like the "good life." But wait. Just when we got the house like we wanted it, we started to explore the possibility of "early retirement"...could it be possible for Craig to retire at 62? How would we live? Would we have enough money?

We explored the possibility of an RV lot at the coast. We love the ocean...but alas, the cloudy wet days do get to us.

One day, while my hubby was perusing properties for possible retirement, he happened upon a little town just outside of Yuma, Arizona, called Wellton. And he also happened upon a great deal on a little house there. That week, the very week before Christmas, just a few short months ago...we flew to Arizona on a whim, and checked it out in person. It was perfect, so we bought it. Wait, did that just happen?

Casita in Wellton


OK, so now we have a place to live in AZ for the winter months. Where will we live here? Everything is so expensive! Are you thinking what I'm thinking? What about we live in the RV while here in the summer? We have properties we can still develop. We have rentals to manage. We have friends and family. It won't be so bad. Let's put our house out there and see if it sells?

It sold. We listed it on Thursday, and accepted an offer on Monday.

And now...here we are. We have to be out in just a little over 2 weeks.

After our house sold, we discovered our new adventure is going to require a lot more than we first imagined. We discovered that there must be waaaaay more people choosing to live this "snow-bird" lifestyle now than there were last time we did this 4 years ago. We discovered that there are no long-term RV spots available in Washington or the Portland area. We have 2 cars, a truck and an RV to transport somewhere. We have stuff to put back into storage. We have stuff to take to Arizona in the fall. We have stuff to cram back into a not-so-big RV. Stuff, stuff, stuff...(how did we accumulate so much stuff after downsizing so many times?)

We discovered that there are soooo many little details to take care of...like Post Office box, change of addresses and mail holds, insurance, moving stuff, selling stuff, transporting vehicles, selling vehicles, deciding if we will be driving the motor home to Arizona when we go, or a car, or flying, figuring out what we will need there and here, guest accommodations since our little casita has no spare room, wondering how we will live with no income until we get SS in October, what to keep, what to sell, what to buy, what not to buy, where to go in our RV, needing a tow car, bedding, towels, clothes (do I get rid of all my winter clothes? Will I ever get to wear my boots again? What are we doing have we totally lost our minds?????)






Craig's last day at work is next Friday. Wow. This man who has worked 12 hour days, 2 jobs, too many weekends, and faithfully provided for his family the past 40 years is going to be jobless. This is a first.



There is a great big huge unknown stretched out before us. We have learned a few things over the years. Life is an adventure. Truth is, we all have big unknowns stretched out before us. Sometimes when we are secure in our jobs and houses, we think we have things handled. We think we are in control. I'm not sure we ever really are. But adventures make great stories and our lives are all stories...each one wrapped into the bigger story being written by a great big God who loves to lead us every step of the way. We have learned how good He is. We have learned how to hear him, and that He is a trustworthy guide. We have learned that the adventure is worth the work, and worth the risk. We're excited for this next leg of our journey!!! (What am I doing here, I need to get busy!!!!!)








Wednesday, March 15, 2017

No Longer Afraid of the Dark

It's been a really hard week so far. Really dark. I don't know if any of you ever experience darkness, but I do...more often than I'd like. And honestly, way more often than I'd like to admit. That's the thing, isn't it? We love to give testimonies of wonderful things God has done, and how He has answered our prayers. We love to feel God's presence and sing about it and tell about it and enjoy it. All of this is great, and good, and needed. But we rarely talk about the times when we don't feel His presence. Times where it feels like the lights have been turned off and we are left alone in our misery. Sometimes it is physical pain. So many of us who love God and believe He heals suffer with relentless pain. We cry out, we wonder why He isn't answering our cries...and we choose to go on believing that He does heal...and maybe He will heal us some day.

There are other forms of darkness...darkness in the mind. It sneaks up on me out of nowhere...like a storm front coming at us from the west on an otherwise sunny day. Surely it won't land here. There are blue skies and warm sunshine. When the dark cloud comes it feels like such a betrayal. And even though I know the thoughts I'm having aren't really my thoughts, they plummet me..."Maybe I have mental illness. Maybe I will never see the sun again." Dark thoughts that rain down on me and soak me in pain and self-pity. "God, I need you!!! Where are you???"

I think of a technique I saw on some nanny show...where the parents are trying to get their kids to sleep in their beds, to feel secure enough to fall asleep on their own. She has one of the parents sit on the floor of the child's room, in the dark, facing the door. The child is in her crib crying...often screaming...and the parent is to just sit there. The child knows the parent is near. She isn't particularly happy that Daddy isn't picking her up and getting her out of bed. But...ultimately she knows Daddy is near. And after a lot of crying and not getting the results she wants, she finally falls asleep. After a night or two of this training, the child is able to be put to bed in the dark room with little or no fussing.

Over the years, through many seasons of darkness...physical and emotional darkness and pain...God has shown me that He is with me. It may be dark, and I may be crying out and definitely not at all happy with my situation...but He is here with me. I know that now with certainty. I also know that while I don't understand yet...He is training me for something. So in the midst of the darkness, I no longer  fear that He has left me alone, or that He doesn't exist.

I still don't like the dark. But I am no longer afraid. It makes all the difference...

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

My Person

A popular way of saying someone is your good friend, is to say they are your "person". And we all need to have people that are there for us. We all need our people, or in some cases our person. I have been so thankful for the people God has brought into my life over the years. I am so thankful for my dear friends. I'm so grateful to have many people who have helped me do life.

But when I read Job's story in the Bible, I realize that his friends were unable to help him in his very darkest time. They tried, but they just didn't get what he was going through. And I see now that God sets it up that way. Our friendships can only take us so far.

When I went through one of the darkest periods of my life, my best friend was unable to be there for me. And strangely enough, my time of darkness caused her much pain and difficulty in her life. I was unable to turn to her, and she was unable to turn to me. We were both very much without our "person"...and it was really hard. For both of us.

Looking back on that time, we realize that God was in the entire process...the hurt, the struggles, the pain...He was there. And in it all, He was becoming our "Person" in ways in which He never could have if we'd had each other to turn to and rely upon.

There are times, dark and difficult times in our lives, that only Jesus can help us through. He will always reach into our pain and allow us to feel His presence, His love, His strength...and ultimately, He will use those times to prove that He is a friend worthy of our trust. The thing is, people we love will always let us down. Because they are only human. But instead of harboring anger and unforgiveness, remember this:

"And the LORD changed the fortune of Job, when he prayed for his friends; and the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before." (42:10)


Many relationships have led me to my friendship with Him. I am grateful for each one.

I'm so thankful that He gave me back my "bestie"...though the truth is, she never really left.

It's just that for a season, God needed to show me...show us...that he is the only best friend we need.

Over the years God has multiplied my friendships, and deepened them in ways I never could have...and probably never would have known before encountering true friendship in Him. 

Jesus is my Person.