Scraps of Life Part 2

What Happened after IT Happened

So there I was, down on the ground with an oddly swollen and painful ankle, and no one was responding to my calls. (FYI, if you ever find yourself in a similar position, don’t call for a person – yell HELP!  My neighbor later told me he heard me called ROB! and thought to himself, boy that Rob sure is in trouble!)

I called again, and one of the neighbors finally looked over.  When he did he started running towards me, as did the others.  Bless their hearts!  They came with eyes wide and asked “what should we do?”

It’s funny now to think back to that moment.  There I was laying on the ground obviously hurt in some way, and they were asking me what to do!  I have Red Cross First Aid training and if I was the one coming to aid I would have done things differently.  But that never crossed my mind in the moment.  My only thought was to get in the car and get to the emergency room that was a little more than a mile away.

“What should we do?”  “Get my husband,” I replied. “He’s in the house.”  They did and together they half carried, half walked me to the car.  I think someone pushed a little too hard on a rib and I felt it give way, but that was the least of my worries.

The ride to the emergency room seemed SO SLOW!  So much TRAFFIC!  I was breathing in and out slow measured breaths to keep the pain at bay, protecting my swollen ankle from touching any part of the car.

FINALLY – the emergency room!  Someone saw us coming and came out to greet us, bringing a wheelchair.  But NO PAIN MEDS until the x-rays were done.  And they had to MOVE MY ANKLE for some of the x-rays. They also confirmed my right ankle was sprained, and my back was fine. But then – morphine!  And as I felt the morphine move into my body – RELIEF!  I was more myself again – I could joke – and express my gratitude for the help I was receiving!

first ER

My ankle was carefully placed in a splint and I was sent by ambulance to the hospital emergency room where ortho people could set the ankle and place it in another splint.  My first ambulance ride! (wow those gurnys are narrow!)

ambulance

And then two ortho interns – a first year and a fifth year – forced my foot back into place using their bodies to do so.  I was expecting a great deal of pain (think Gray’s Anatomy ortho adjustments) yet it wasn’t terrible.  With the x-ray confirming my bones were where they needed to be, I then waited, and waited to be released to go home, which finally happened by 10:00 pm.  I was to be scheduled for surgery that next week as hardware was needed to put my bones back where they belonged.

Below are the xrays taken before they set the bones.

Xrays of broken bone

xray 2

On all these trips my husband and daughter followed me and sat with me, keeping me company during the waiting, and showing their care and love.  I am so grateful to them, to the ER staff in both places, the ambulance folks, and to my neighbors who gave me their aid that got me going in the right direction!

2nd ER

waiting to be released

Reflect:

The worst has happened.  An accident, a misstep of some kind.  A diagnosis. A shocking revelation. The unexpected.  Maybe it happened a while ago. Who helped you during that time in your life? Who can you thank God for?

Maybe it is happening now.  Who has God placed around you who could help?  Are you willing to ask for it?  There are times when we simply aren’t able to help ourselves.

66 times in the book of the Psalm the word “help” is spoken of.  God is also your help.  Take a little time to reflect on Psalm 22:24 below.  Talk with God about what you notice.

 Psalm 22:24 (NIV)

For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.

 

 

 

 

 

Scraps of Life, Part 1

What Happened

I was ready to turn a new corner at the beginning of my 60th year.

I had re-arranged my life; organized the house making space to create, minister, and time to help my aging parents.

I had just come off of a very busy June of birthdays, our anniversary, Father’s Day, a family reunion in Canada.

Now I was home to begin this new phase of my life.

And then it all came to a crashing halt on a Saturday afternoon, July 7, 2018.

I was doing what I’ve done many times before; stepping onto a stepping stone in my yard near the water faucet on the house I use to water my flowers, but this time I was careless.

I stepped only partway with my right foot onto the stone which was raised above the ground some.  I immediately twisted my ankle and fell back hard on my other leg. I don’t know exactly how I landed but I remember feeling my rear hit the ground. My leg must have been under it. Here is a photo reinacting my mis-step.

footstone

It all happened so fast I had no time to catch myself.

As I write this now in February 2019, my heart is beating a little faster just thinking about that moment.  It felt like I was being pushed down.  The ground was packed hard underneath me and as I peeked through my bent legs I could see that the ankle on my left leg was unnaturally swollen.  I knew immediately that I could not step on that leg – something was seriously wrong.

My husband and daughter were in the house so I began to call for my husband.  Rob!  Rob!  I called and called but no one came.  I saw two of my neighbors across the street but no one was even looking my way.  I stopped calling and began to worry that I was going to have to move – could I crawl to the house?  And the words formed in my head…Really God? Now this? Really?

Reflect:

It is very natural to question God when the unexpected happens.  Whether you are in a season of unexpected happenings or not, I invite you to take a few moments and read slowly through the scripture below, talking with God about what you notice.

But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord

who created you.

O Israel, the one who formed you says,

“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.

I have called you by name; you are mine.

When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.

When you go through the rivers of difficulty,

you will not drown.

When you walk through the fire of oppression,

you will not be burned up;

the flames will not consume you.

For I am the Lord, your God,

the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.’

 Isaiah 43:1-3a (NLT)

 

 

Honoring Influencers

I promised that I would begin a series entitled “Scraps of Life” in my last blog, particularly my experience of the past six months or so.

However, a few interruptions have kept me from that promise. Like last weekend. Two individuals who greatly influenced different phases of my life passed away within 3 days of each other.  And I’d like to stop to honor them.

On Friday, January 25, 2019, at the age of 85, Roland Reimer passed away.  Roland was the pastor of the church where my husband and I met as single young adults.  Roland and his wife Lois, who happened to be a relative of my mom’s, did our pre-marital counseling and Roland married us in 1985.  It was under his pastoral leadership that my husband and I began to transition into becoming active church members.

After our wedding, I volunteered for two years as a church wedding coordinator. Roland and I worked many weddings together during those years.  In fact, the singles group was nearly emptied out and we sometimes had back to back weekends of weddings. We shared many fun memories, like the time Roland raised his hands to bless the couple right at the end of a wedding and his Bible dropped out from under his arm and thudded loudly to the floor. Roland and Lois led a young married Sunday School class that started the class both my husband and I attended and served in for many years to come. And it was under his pastoral leadership that I eventually served on church staff as part-time Director of Kids Ministry in the late 1980’s – a first for that church. We moved away from that community for a few years, and when we moved back, our paths did not intersect as closely.

On Monday, January 28, Mr. James Thiessen passed away at the age of 91.  Mr. Thiessen was the superintendant of the christian high school I graduated from.  Our family moved to that community in 1964 when I was 6 years old and my dad was the high school music director there for 10 years.  Mr. Thiessen began his tenure at the school a few years after my dad, and remained there for the rest of his career spanning the years of 1966-1994.

When I was finally in high school I was a little in awe of Mr Thiessen. He represented a great deal of authority and I didn’t want to get his attention for the wrong reasons! Upon reflection I remembered his favorite chapel topic and the sound of his voice as he preached on the topic of our “verticle and horizontal relationships”, and how our vertical relationship affected our horizontal ones.  While I might have rolled my eyes upon hearing this message for what seemed like the umpteenth time in highschool, I now realize that repetition is good for long term memory!

It struck me this week that both of these men, by following God’s call in their lives, were instrumental in creating environments in which I lived and grew.  They weren’t perfect individuals, but they provided stability, guidance, care, role models, and a place to flourish.  They put up with a lot – particularly Mr. Thiessen who guided an institution that attempted to provide a biblically grounded education to hormonal and anxty (is that a word?) teenagers from the 60’s through the 90’s. Church life also has its challenges, and Roland saw many changes throughout his ministry, providing at cricial times much needed words of wisdom and faith.

I am reminded of all those “heros of the faith” as listed for us in Hebrews 11.  Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, and the list goes on.  We know their stories are filled with examples of their humanity, but they are commended for their faith.

Sometimes we don’t fully appreciate what we have until we have a chance to look back and review how God has worked through individuals like these two men. It might be a good exercise for you to think back to who influenced you in your journey of faith. I pray God’s peace and comfort to their families now as theyse two men have gone on to the place where “faith becomes sight”. Hope in God’s gift of eternal life was a strong theme for both men.

At the funeral of Mr. Thiessen I was introduced to two pieces of music that I want to share to end this blog.  I was touched by the message of both.  I leave you with Psalm 23 – Surely Goodness, Surely Mercy by Shane and Shane, a 2017 release.

And The Mighty Flood that Rolls, a hymn by Leach published in 1883 and used as a funeral hymn for many years. This link takes you to a website where you can listen to it. https://hymnary.org/hymn/HPEC1890/page/439. We heard a grandson lovingly sing this song while accompanying himself on his other grandfather’s guitar.

Hymnal and Canticles of the Protestant Episcopal Church with Music (Gilbert & Goodrich) page 439

Thank you Roland Reimer and James Thiessen for your faithful, servant leadership and commitment to the Lord. Those of us who knew you and who remain, wait with anticipation as we continue to walk our own path with God, to that great reunion around the throne of God, singing and praising our great Redeemer.

 

 

Scraps of Life, Introduction

My mom was a seamstress.  She sewed all our clothes when my siblings and I were growing up.  Here we are in some of her creations. You can see that my sister and I are not twins.  She just liked to dress us alike.

scan0669

jennysusanatpiano (2)

scan0608

Some of my earliest memories are of standing on a table in a new dress mom was making for me, trying to hold still so she could mark the hem, and having difficulty with my part of that task!

Mom sewed this cute jacket for my brother and he won a prize in a local photo contest with this photo!

scan0617

My mom also sewed for others as a small home business.  She took sewing classes and learned to sew new fabric, making lingerie, t-shirts as well as men’s suits – yes my dad was the recipient of those lovely leisure suits men wore during the 1970’s, made by my mom.  Too bad I don’t have any photos of those!

Her skills developed to the point that she sewed the bridesmaid dresses, flower girl and ring bearer outfits, and even my wedding dress for my wedding.

wedding party

All that sewing left many scraps of fabric, which were gathered up and put into boxes to be used for potential new projects.

Maybe you can’t relate to fabric and sewing, but many other activities leave scraps or leftovers; building, writing, painting, scrapbooking, collage making, wood working and cooking to name a few.

This morning I was reflecting on an idea that has been in the back of my mind for a while.  How to begin to blog about the last 6 months of my life.  Months of not doing what I had planned.

Then the idea of scraps came to me. Like random leftover scraps of fabric, what I was experiencing seemed to have very little purpose. Yet, I believe that “with God nothing is wasted”.  Can this season of my life, that wasn’t what I planned, that wasn’t very productive or seemingly useful, serve some purpose?

When mom retired from sewing I inherited 7 boxes of fabric!  They have been sitting in my basement for a few years.  I took a class in quilt piecing back in the early 1990’s and loved it.  I told myself then that when I was “old” and “retired” I would go back to piecing quilts. This year, I had to face the fact that I was turning 60, and when I finally faced it, I embraced that this was the time to get that fabric organized and start sewing.

Believe it or not, the most fun I’ve had so far with that fabric, is pulling scrap pieces out and sewing them together to make quilt blocks. These will be designed into baby quilts, doll quilts, lap quilts, place mats, and whatever else I think of. I’ve completed one or two doll quilts with these scraps.  Here is a photo of one:

doll quilt

Scraps, the leftovers, the pieces that didn’t fit into the orginal garment or quilt, now being used to create something new.

What if, in our lives, the parts that seem like scraps, not what we purposed to happen, can actually have a purpose?  Can I do what Ignatius of Loyala did and “find God in all things”, even the in the scraps of life?

I plan to explore this idea in my next blogs. If, that is, my plans go forward as I think they will.  Who knows – something may come up and then we will go with that!  Stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

Another New Year’s Post

Yes, it’s that time again…the end of the year…the time when you see a lot of blog posts about New Year’s resolutions, new opportunities, setting goals, etc., etc., etc.

I don’t really do this much, setting New Year’s resolutions, mostly because when I did, I couldn’t keep up my resolution to exercise or diet or whatever it was for more than a few weeks.  Doomed to fail….so I just don’t do it, much.

But many people use the end of the year as a time to evaluate the past and look forward to the new year with new resolve.

We are at the end of another year.  What does that mean?

I have been struck recently with a passage in Psalm 65 and want to offer it to you as a different way to think of the passing of one year into the next.

Psalm 65:11-13 New Living Translation (NLT)

11 You crown the year with a bountiful harvest;
    even the hard pathways overflow with abundance.
12 The grasslands of the wilderness become a lush pasture,
    and the hillsides blossom with joy.
13 The meadows are clothed with flocks of sheep,
    and the valleys are carpeted with grain.
    They all shout and sing for joy!

 

Notice who does the action here; “you”- God crowns the year.  God crowns it with “harvest.” Harvest; receiving the fruits of planting and caring for crops; something that happens at certain times of the year. Farmers and gardeners are well acquainted with this concept.  Others, not so much!

And not just regular or minimum return, but “bountiful harvest.” There is a natural rhythm of life when one thinks of planting and harvesting.  A bountiful harvest is always desired, but not always achieved.  But seeds are planted in soil that is appropriate to grow the crop. Time passes, the crop is weeded and watered and fertilized, yet it seems as if not much is happening for a while.

“Even the hard pathways overflow with abundance…the grasslands of the wilderness become a lush pasture.” What a beautiful image – that hard pathway and wildnerness landscape – places where one doesn’t see beautiful plants – produces lush blossoms and is eventually carpeted with grain.

I can’t help but relate this to life….there are times when we feel like we are on a hard path in life. We are wandering in the wilderness and nothing is making sense.  What a beautiful hope we have that with God, reflected in the seasons of planting, growth and harvest, the hard places we find ourselves in, the wilderness we are traveling through, is not the end of the story.

No matter where you are in the cycle of the seasons of life, I invite you to trust that God will bring about an abundant and amazing harvest. That God will “crown the year” with a harvest that will give you cause to “shout and sing for joy” as you keep the “seed of your life in the soil of God’s love where the roots of your life can grown down deep.” (Eph. 3: 17)This is my prayer for you in 2019.

My New Year’s resolution for 2019? If I had one, it would be the same resolution I try to make each day – to live life with God – to follow the leading of God’s Holy Spirit – to watch and wait for God’s movement and join God in what God is doing – to keep the roots of my life down deep in the soil of God’s love so God can produce a truly amazing harvest in and through my life.

 

 

He Came. Part 4

Have you ever wondered at the fact that the God of the universe, creator of heaven and earth, entered into our world…

so very humbly,

….born of a shunned young teenage woman who found herself pregnant with the Son of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Who’s fiancé was going to divorce her quietly, which was the kindest of his legal options, yet was told by God in a dream to marry her because she was carrying the Messiah…

so very weak,

….born.  A human baby.  Unable to care for his own needs. Totally dependent on the care of the adults in the situation….

so very unnoticed,

….Jesus was born away from his earthly parent’s home, in the discomfort of a smelly, dark, damp cave that was home to animals, unknown to the general population, except announced by angels in the middle of the night to lowly shepherds who were sleeping outside with their sheep.

in the company of animals?

And have you ever wondered why all this glory was witnessed first by animals and shepherds? What was going on?

I’ve never taken much stalk in the children’s books about the birth of Christ where the animals are talking to each other. Seemed a bit ridiculous to me. My Christian up bringing did not teach me to value nature and animals as something that God practically cared much about.

But over the years my views have been changing on that.  I won’t go into the hows and whys, except to say that I’ve been reminded that God’s main job for the first humans was to care for the garden and to multiply.  Care for the garden – care for God’s gift – their home. That included caring for the animals.

And Jesus was born among animals….hmmmm.

There is a time when Jesus will come with power and glory – His 2nd coming.  And all will be made right.  All of nature is waiting for that moment….

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerlyfor our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. (Romans 8:18-25 NIV)

So as we approach the Christmas celebration of Emmanuel, God with us, we continue to wait patiently for the coming of God when “creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God…we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait patiently for it.” (Romans 8:21, 25)

Reflection:

Are you waiting for this liberation?  Do you have hope in the God of creation, that God will one day release all of creation from “its bondage to decay and be brought into the freedom of glory of the children of God.”  Talk with God about what comes to the surface for you.

 

He Came. Part 3

Part 3: He Came. Why?

He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”   John 1:11-13 (NIV)

In retrospect, I should have probably started this He Came series with this post – Why did Jesus come?

James B. Torrence, in his book Worship, Community and the Triune God of Grace writes that Jesus’ life on earth, his death and his resurrection was vicarious – it was in our place.  It was God’s response to human need.

And what need is that?  It takes going back to the beginning of the record of God’s revelation of God to God’s creation, the Holy Scriptures – or Bible.

The first words of the Bible are found in the book of Genesis chapter 1 – “In the beginning, GOD…” Here we understand that God existed before all that we know – and God was the instigator in creating all that we see in the natural world, including humans.  That truth is expanded upon in various places throughout the scriptures.

By the third chapter of Genesis we find that the humans, who God created for the purpose of love and relationship, chose to live apart from God’s love and design, and that brought forth all kinds of hardship, wounding, and suffering into their lives and into the lives of the subsequent human race.

In response, however, also found in Genesis 3, God promises a deliverer – one who will set things right once and for all.  Because the truth is, humans more often than not choose their own way, not God’s.  You can read through the rest of the Bible and study history to confirm that.  Time and time again, human relationships have deteriorated to selfishness, cruelty and ruling each other for one’s own gain.

Many of God’s spokesmen have tried and continue to direct people back to God.  Here is what the prophet Isaiah had to say about humanity found in the book of Isaiah chapter 53, in the New Living Translation;

All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
    We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
    the sins of us all.

This passage is couched in the chapter that predicts the coming of the deliverer announced by God in Genesis 3:15. The prophecy included the details that this deliverer would suffer and take on the punishment for the sins of the straying sheep – humans – you and me, vicariously, in our place. What greater love is there than someone lay down his life for another (I John 3:16)?

This is God’s response to the human condition.  Emmanuel, God with us. With love and humility, God set aside God’s glory (Philippians 2) to become one of us; to come to us through Jesus Christ, who was “very God of very God” (Nicene Creed).

What a gift of grace, that God continues to offer God’s presence through Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

What is your response to God’s response?