Archive for June, 2011

We were nine and she was a machine.

One week’s- sometimes two week’s worth of clothing, but she had no fear.

Three or four of us trailed behind while she heaved bag after bag upon her shoulder and up to the commercial washers.

I cringed as she started pulling out the filth (sand went flying with the unfurling of smelly socks).

I went into cardiac arrest when she unabashedly held up Dad’s bright red union suit,  (a.k.a full-length long johns), complete with flap in the back, buttoned in one corner and the other corner dangling to expose an all- too- real visual of my father’s derriere.  WHY, in the name of all that’s decent, did she examine them with outstretched arms, turning them this way and that before finally (after what seemed like an eternity) flinging them into the circular tub?

Was she aware that underneath the fresh green grass stains on the boy’s jeans, still lingered grass stains three washes old?  I asked myself why she bothered.

Bothering was one thing.  Making me participate in the spectacle was a senseless cruelty I couldn’t understand or accept.

Head down, face scowling, I never knew where to stand or stare.  Falling into a deep well of embarrassment, I was clawing the walls, never able to climb out.  I knew, with the certainty of a hot faced eleven year old, that every mouth in the laundromat was dropped and gaping in shock and terror at what this tiny woman from the mountains drug in.

We were nine.  Seven children, two parents, and never less than seven bags of the dirtiest garments that were ever slapped down in a public wash house.

We lived a hard life in the remotest part of the mountain with our males as wild as the terrain they wandered.  Humble, as they were, cleanliness was never in their thought process. Nor, quite frankly, was it ever within their grasp.  We slept outside, or in a large green army tent and even the girls raced an uphill battle against dirt floors, muddy river beds, and smokey campfire lights.

I was afraid to breathe.  I busied myself supervising my younger sister, trying desperately to keep her out of the space of the other patrons.  I didn’t possess the wisdom to know that I was drawing even more attention to our family than had I just let her be.

I could play in happy forgetfulness with my siblings until my eyes caught a glimpse of any one of our four large dryers.  Then I would get a sickening feeling in my gut and fly into fretful panic.  They had been washed, but you would never know it.

Everyone else’s laundry was tumbling in joyful rhythm and I swore I could hear the pristine whites singing in unison with the fluffy towels that looked like they just floated out of a Sears store.

Not so the four dryers on the end.

Mama pulled out the thin, tattered towels and tried to find a straight edge to match up with another straight edge to no avail.  And as our gruesome gray-white socks continued to bounce up against the heated glass, I was constantly trying to will them to the back of the drum.

When Mama called me to help with the folding, I whined and hissed quietly under my breath.  Oh the monotony of those folds!  In the stifling heat of a building with no air conditioning, even the doors, flung wide open, offered little relief.

Laundry days were, without a doubt, one of the great tragedies of my youth.  But in retrospect, they were also one of the richest experiences of my life!

She was a machine.  I just didn’t get that back then.  Every ten days or so, like clock work, she showed up with half of her children in tow and did, without complaint or scorn, what she had to do.  She didn’t have a choice in the matter. If she loved us (and she did), she would see to it that we had “clean” clothes.

Funny thing, I love doing laundry today.  It is a very complete therapy for me.  I learned to press through the bad and find the rainbow at the end of it. Beautiful little mystery there…some of us can relate that to dish washing as well.

I learned patience, compassion, diligence (sticking to a job until its done) and creativity. Eventually, I learned to hold my head up high and not worry about what other people think.  In time I also came to understand that Mama had to bring me with her on laundry days to keep me safe.  It was extra work for her having us all there, but our well being was always more important than her work load.

I thank God for laundry days, memories that linger of laundry days, and above all, I thank God that I had the kind of Mother I did.

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Just don’t mess with him.

I’m not talking about steering clear of that 6’3”, 210 lb. frame, or sidestepping his blistering right hook that my husband swears will collapse a lung.  Nor am I alluding to the fact that at twenty- three he has jumped out of an airplane at 5,000 feet, hunted bear and venison with bow and carried them home on both horse and shoulder, hiked a 12,000 foot summit for the thrill of the conquer and the rush of her beauty, survived, with elation, a 75 foot drop from the steel arches of the city bridge, and floated like an eagle off cliffs 65 feet up before dropping like a bullet into the icy green waters below.

In his presence, I’d watch my words and my step if I had any inkling of what was good for me.

But for all that- that’s not why you don’t want to mess with him.

Before I approached  Jordan, I’d be more inclined to check my sincerity of heart.  I would examine very closely, motive.  And surrender to the better angels of your nature, giving yourself fully to genuine compassion.  Because he will demand this of you.  His spirit will demand this of your spirit.  And he will accept no less.

The greatest crime, the most grievous injustice, and the hugest disappointment that you can bring to Jordan (and the only reason for you to put a wide berth between yourself and him) is if you are foolish enough to bring a half truth or a watered- down love.

His piercing eyes will assess you while you speak.  He is gifted to discern the unseen with brilliant clarity at lightning speed.

And then he takes the high road.

It isn’t his nature to go looking for confrontation or a quarrel.  (In fact he’d rather be high on some mountain, sitting on his favorite rock, praying).  But in response to his Commander-In- Chief’s call to courage, this valiant gatekeeper challenges, then blocks, your smuggling of hypocrisy- or concedes, after careful inspection of the pure jewels you are carrying to the king, to let you pass.

Even though he is a man of great physical strength, his greatest glory lies in his yielding to the greatest strength in the universe.  The star of Truth, the absolutes of Faith, and the eternal wings of Love.

Proverbs 4: 5-13

5 Get wisdom, get understanding;
do not forget my words or turn away from them.
6 Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you;
love her, and she will watch over you.
7 The beginning of wisdom is this: Getwisdom.
Though it cost all you have, get understanding.
8 Cherish her, and she will exalt you;
embrace her, and she will honor you.
9 She will give you a garland to grace your head
and present you with a glorious crown.”

10 Listen, my son, accept what I say,
and the years of your life will be many.
11 I instruct you in the way of wisdom
and lead you along straight paths.
12 When you walk, your steps will not be hampered;
when you run, you will not stumble.
13 Hold on to instruction, do not let it go;
guard it well, for it is your life.

Proverbs 8: 10- 13

10 “Take my instruction and not silver,
And knowledge rather than choicest gold.
11 “For wisdom is better than jewels;
And all desirable things cannot compare with her.

12 “I, wisdom, dwell with prudence,
And I find knowledge and discretion.
13 “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil;
Pride and arrogance and the evil way.

I am proud of you son.  Continue in who you are and the calling on your life.

Remember the words the Lord gave to Joshua:

Joshua 1:  6-9

“Be strong and courageous ….Be strong and very courageous….. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

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I remember singing, with great wistfulness, as a teenager a song by Paul McCartney called One of These Days.

The lyric goes:

One Of These Days
When My Feet Are On The Ground
I’m Gonna Look Around And See

See What’s Right, See What’s There
And Breathe Fresh Air, Ever After

One Of These Days
When A Job Just Takes Too Long
I’m Gonna Sing My Song And See

See What’s Right, See What’s There
And Breathe Fresh Air, Ever After

It’s There, It’s Round
It’s To Be Found
By You, By Me
It’s All We Ever Wanted To Be

One Of These Days
When We Both Are At Our Ease
When You’ve Got Time To Please, Yourself

See What’s Right And See What’s There
And Breathe Fresh Air, Ever After

It’s There, It’s Round
It’s To Be Found
By You, By Me
It’s All We Ever Wanted To See

One Of These Days
When My Feet Are On The Ground
I’m Gonna Look Around And See
See What’s Right And See What’s There
And Breathe Fresh Air, Ever After, Ever After
Breathe Fresh Air, Ever After

You can hear the song here:
One Of These Days

I really got that song.  I understood that it was something to aspire to- something mostly out of reach.  I loved the lazy and patient melody.  I loved the surety of of his conviction that, indeed, such a utopian day could arrive for each of us if we sought after it.  If we believed.  If only the world stopped for just a minute, or if all of our ducks miraculously lined up in a row.

If we believed that we, ourselves, would be the one in one hundred thousand to find that fountain of youth where time stands still and where we could breathe fresh air ever after.

I picture a sunny day whenever I hear that song.  A lazy day fishing – birds twittering stilted melodies.  The children chasing butterflies in the grass.  Wild rose scents inebriating with every inhalation.  Blue skies soothing- calming,  like the lullabies in the water they store.

I’m not sure I really believed, though I may have, and maybe that seed of faith found its own way and brought me here today.  Or maybe it was hope.  A hope that dared to hope even when a jaded world laughed it off.  Or even those times when my own jaded heart did anything but believe.  Or maybe it was something as simple as serendipity- the good life that happens when we are busy making other plans.

But there is also another presentation: The grace of God in all of its unmerited favor.  I’m just going to settle on that one and say a hearty, “Thank you Father.”  (Though I believe the other explanations also have a place in this story).

You know how they say that one man’s garbage is another man’s treasure?  Well how about, one woman’s dingy, one-horse-town is another woman’s heaven on earth?  Sometimes I think the path to peace/contentment are hidden. Hidden well.  But I believe that peace, joy, and contentment are achievable here on earth.  And they begin with a journey of the heart.  A courageous heart.  A thankful heart.  A humble heart.  A truthful heart.  But mostly, a courageous heart.

“Every place of which the sole of your feet treads, I have given it to you….” Joshua 1: 3

“Only be strong and VERY courageous [and follow God], so that you may have success wherever you go.” Joshua 1: 7

“Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous!  Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  Joshua 1: 9

God has put a song in your heart.  It has a one of a kind melody.  What if, in heaven, we each sing back to God the true melody he predestined each of us to sing?  Because it is perfected, it is beautiful to his ears.  A “new song.” Like nothing ever before heard on earth.  (Revelations 14: 3)

What if He (God) believes and hopes that we have the capacity and are able to sing this same song here on earth?  What if He has asked us to do so?  How about doing the best rendition of that song we possibly can today?

What if finding your song and creatively (and boldly!) plucking her chords (and ultimately fulfilling your God-given destiny) is the path to peace, joy, and contentment?

Oh yes, I know the legalistic church will tell you to conform.  Society will tell you not to color out of her lines.  The sheep who are spilling over the cliff will insist you follow the rest of the herd. (whether that herd is in a church building or on the street).

Jesus was rejected by the “church.”

Jesus was frowned upon by society.

Jesus never traveled with the sheep.

You might argue that he couldn’t have possibly been joyful, nor could he have been contented, or a man with a peaceful heart given his tumultuous circumstances.  But I argue that it would take a great deal of contentment (grounding), joy (knowing the bigger picture), and peacefulness (being SURE of who He was and sure of the calling on His life) to endure the physical and mental anguish he subjected himself to.

You see, when you KNOW who you are (and in Whom you believe), and you walk in that calling boldly, courageously, creatively, with freedom and abandon the world (yes, the whole world) sits up and takes notice.  Your wellspring of joy runs deep.  Your song is unique and captivating.  Your toes are wise enough to sink themselves in the tall grass.  Your ears take the time to revel in the Robin’s song.  And you are able to see what’s right, see what’s there and breathe fresh air ever after.

God has brought me to a unique place.  I’m kind of liking it.  You could say that I am truly content for the first time in my life.  Well, the second time in my life, really.  I have vague recollections of bliss and unconcern from my infancy to age seven.  Don’t we all?  Those were the days when we took joy in the little things.  The dark emotions hadn’t yet settled in and made their dwelling in our spirits.  And each new day, every new hour, every moment, was lived entirely in the now with exuberant wonder and delight.  Tomorrow wasn’t fretted over- wasn’t even entertained, really and yesterday was forgotten.  We always moved on.  Our physical bodies were relatively unpolluted and our spirits high.

I started a journey a few years back (was it seven?) to achieve that child-like joy and contentment.  I was on a quest to find it.  Some of you may recall my mentioning that a time or two.  I had to find it.  Because it was the one era of my life where I was singing my song close to perfection.

I wasn’t following a crowd.  I was stumbling in.  Awkward and beautiful.  My cheeks were flush.  My eyes shining with a million love lights.  I was who God created me to be. I was breathing fresh air.

And then one day in grade two, she disappeared.  I miss her.  So I went looking.

Forty-one years.  That’s how long it’s taken me to get this close.

My hands are in the dirt. I intern at an organic farm two days a week.  I sit in silence in the fields doing tedious work under the hot sun. And the ground speaks to me.  I work with young adults hungry for the lessons of life.  Where will their journey take them?  Can I offer a hand up?

I’ve seen the land owner’s finger nails long ago succumbed to their ever present half moon of soil.  I’ve seen the veins ripple down his arms and spring forth into his hands giving testimony to the many hours flexing with the harsh realities of nature.  I’ve seen him running at full speed with his young interns enjoying a moment away from the rows.

I’ve watched his wife wrestle with Llama, sheep, ram, and goat, rosy cheeked and glorious hair not erased from under her arms.

I’ve delighted in the sixty-eight year old sweetheart who rides her bike through this one horse town stopping to chat with young and old alike.

I walk silently through the sweet smelling orchards, watch the sparrows dip and turn and dive along the cliffs, and kiss my husband long and languid on a bridge over the river.

My daughter calls with delightful interruption, and I marvel at my grown son’s integrity.  Life is good.

It simply doesn’t get any better than this folks.  For Me.  But it didn’t come without the tenacity of following my heart and the courage to answer God’s call on my life.  Is my call different than the call on your life?  You bet!  Does it appear strange to you?  Probably.  Did I suffer ridicule for it?  How could I not?

But oh the benefits I have reaped!

One Of These Days
When My Feet Are On The Ground
I’m Gonna Look Around And See

See What’s Right, See What’s There
And Breathe Fresh Air, Ever After.

What is your song?  When is the last time you sang it?  Truly sang it?  I challenge you to ask God to reveal to you what your song is (I did!), then I pray for you the courage to sing it no matter what ANYONE else says.  Remember to be strong and VERY courageous!

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