Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A Family Heirloom

If you're still looking for something very special to give a certain someone for Christmas, have I got a deal for you! Last year my brother and sister-in-law gave my parents this beautiful throw, which has a photo of the whole family woven into it. The picture was taken at a family reunion at our house (Ashberry Lane) the previous summer.

I just Googled "blanket made with photo on it" and found a list of companies offering this product. The best part is, they say they can still deliver it by Christmas. My parents liked it so much they had it made into a wall hanging, which now graces their entry way. (In case it's too small for you to read, the writing at the top says "All because two people fell in love ...")

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Car, a Restroom, and an Attitude

About three weeks ago I had an unusual problem with my '95 Thunderbird. It's a pretty cool car for a grandma--even my teen grandkids think so! I had to make a stop on my way to town that day, (25 minutes from our house) but when I took the key out of the ignition, the car kept running! I tried it several times, but no matter what I did with the key, the car kept doing its own thing. I called my husband, who said to bring it back home. John, who is known for his ability to fix things, met his match with this challenge. He disconnected the battery, but the car kept purring along. It was like the Energizer Bunny on Viagra! Unstoppable!!

I had 3/4 of a tank of gas in it, so I was very thankful John was able to finally do something to make it quit before going through the whole tank while just sitting in our driveway. He's been working on repairing it as he's found time over these past few weeks. (He had to take the steering wheel column apart and find a missing bolt or something--don't ask me to explain it all.)

Today I wait for 40 minutes while he finishes putting in all the bolts before I'm able to leave to do some errands in town. I get a bit frustrated at having to cool my heels while he finishes up, but try to handle it gracefully. He finally gives me the go-ahead and I take off. I have actually managed to smuggle something out of the house right under John's nose to get worked on as a Christmas gift for him. (I can't say what, just in case he reads this.) Halfway to town I notice that my signal lights aren't working. If there's one thing I hate about other drivers it's when they don't signal their intentions. I call John to tell him that he hasn't fixed everything right. He apologizes for not checking that out, then says, "I've taken note of your complaint and I'll fix it this afternoon. Just use hand signals."

But it's cold and looks like rain is imminent. I don't want to use hand signals! I give a curt goodbye and hang up. After all, I need to keep my hand free to stick out the window and make signals! I flop into a bad mood. Even talk loudly to a driver who pulls in front of me and doesn't speed up. I go to the shop where I need to take the gift for John to get fixed, and they're closed on Mondays. But of course! Stop at the Dollar Store and look for Christmas decorations, but because of my mood can't find anything I like. So it's off to Wal-Mart--surely they will rescue me. As I get out of my car and walk across the parking lot I notice I'm about the youngest person around. Oh, no, it's Old People Day! The first business day of the month. Now don't get me wrong; I have nothing against old people. Some of my best friends are old people! I just don't like to shop when every aisle is full of them.

When I get into the store I head straight to the bathroom. Maybe an empty bladder will improve my snotty mood. As I sit there I realize I have a choice to make. I can either dig myself deeper in a hole of discontent, or I can choose to let the Lord change my outlook. I pray and confess my negativity and ask for joy.

Do my circumstances change? No, the toilet won't flush and the soap dispenser doesn't dispense. I grab a shopping cart whose left front wheel roves as much as the eye of a guy on the prowl. The white-haired crowds in the aisles don't part like the Red Sea at my approach. But it's okay. I'm able to smile and interact with the people around me, sharing a bit of the joy God's given me. There's plenty to go around.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Don't Take a Peek!

Yesterday I posted about a blog Christina and I had written for author Jennifer AlLee to put on her blog. It was entitled Take a Peek! and was based on a talk Christina and I had given recently at a women's breakfast, having to do with pursuing the dreams God gives us. I had a link to Jennifer's blog, and this morning a lady named Karen wrote me here at The Mother Blog to say she had followed that link and it took her to a naughty site!! Obviously, that's not where I want my readers to end up! I'm so glad Karen told me about the problem. So I'm removing that post until I can get my daughter to help me figure out a solution. "Take a Peek" was definitely an appropriate title for where the link led, but today I say "Don't Take a Peek!"

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ever Feel Like An Idiot?

It's been one of those days!!

I decided to do a load of laundry this afternoon. Stripped our bed and took the sheets into the laundry room. I have the convenience of having my dryer stacked on top of the washer, making the most of the available space. I stuck the sheets in the machine and closed the door, then added laundry detergent, bleach, and fabric softener in the little receptacles in the washer, and started the wash cycle.

About 35 minutes later I heard the buzzer that signifies the washer is through with the load. I went in and opened the dryer door, only to be amazed that the sheets were already in there! "That's funny," I thought. "I don't even remember putting them there! More time must have passed than I realized." I reached for the sheets, but they were cool to the touch. Hmm, they should be warm! I brought them to my nose to inhale the fresh scent of bleach and fabric softener, only to get a whiff of sleeping bodies.

Yep, you guessed it! I had put the dirty sheets in the dryer, closed the door and hadn't started the cycle. But I added all the cleaning necessities to the washer, and put it through an entire cleaning cycle with nothing in it! (Kinda like my brain, I'm thinking!!)

I exited the room and said out loud, "What an idiot!!" And there was my son-in-law, standing there at the perfect time to have his suspicions confirmed. "What happened, Mom?"

"You don't want to know, " I said, hoping to keep a modicum of dignity intact.

"Oh, but I'm sure I do," he replied.

So, I told him the whole painful story. (The reason it's painful is because he laughed so hard I think he got a stitch in his side.) He asked, "So if you do stuff like this now, what are you going to save for when you're senile?"

"I'm doing it now, while I can still get a good laugh out of it too!"

Now wouldn't you feel like an idiot if you'd done that? Well, I have no shame and love a good laugh, so at AWANA tonight I was telling one of the ladies about this stupid thing I'd done this afternoon. As we were both laughing about it, I looked down at the new cardigan I was wearing, and noticed it still had one of those 6-inch long clear tags running down my bosom, with the size "Large" clearly marked on it. And I've worn it around town all week!

There's nothing wrong with me that half a brain wouldn't cure!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Happy Is The Bride The Rain Falls On

An outdoor wedding in November is pretty iffy. An outdoor wedding in November in Oregon is nigh impossible, as we proved this past Saturday.

My nephew and his fiancee honored us by choosing to get married at Ashberry Lane, the combined home of the Ashcraft and Berry families. A week before the wedding the bride and groom came to choose which part of the house they wanted to use. After scouting out the different locations, they selected the upper level, which is the Berrys' part. The covered deck off the family room would be ideal, they decided. That way if it were raining, the guests and wedding party would still be protected from the elements, though it might be a tad on the cool side. But the beauty of the forest would make up for that, and people could gather inside for the reception and thaw out as necessary.

Saturday morning we awoke to the sound of rain pelting against the windows. Vertical rain, we could handle. But horizontal precipitation brought with it problems we couldn't overcome. The outer half of the deck was soaked, which cut seating for the guests in half. Unless the bride decided to wear a raincoat over her wedding gown, she was going to be wet, cold, and uncomfortable. We don't usually get wind around here, but it was blowing about 20 mph, which would make it hard to keep candles lit along the railing. (Besides, the rain would put them out.)

So when the bride, Stephanie, arrived nearly three hours before the ceremony, we showed her the situation. Any other bride I've ever met would have been near tears and pouted. But not Stephanie. She just laughed, said, "I really wish we could get married outdoors, but obviously that's not going to work," and then got started getting herself ready for her big day.

Thus began Plan B. Most of the furniture was removed from Christina's living room, a focal point was created and decorated, and candles found new homes along window ledges. Guests began to arrive--fifty of us in total. An intimate, simple wedding ceremony, performed by my husband (a former pastor) united Gabriel and Stephanie in holy matrimony. Her face glowed as she looked up (he's 6' 7") into the face of her husband and he choked up as he repeated his vows. It was all very sweet and meaningful.

In thinking about it, I realized it's pretty appropriate for some rain to fall and wind to blow on a wedding day. It's a realistic picture of what the bridal couple will face in real life. Things don't always go according to plan. People lose their job, money gets tight, or illness strikes. Rain and wind sweep in under the guise of the newlyweds' unmet expectations of each other, or their disappointment that the work of marriage isn't as easy as they'd been led to believe. But if Gabriel and Stephanie can hold tight to the attitude she exhibited on Saturday, they will be well on their way to a successful marriage.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

You CAN Have It All

I don't know about you, but one of the high points of my day is to get the mail. The excitement of unlocking that little cubicle at the post office and withdrawing who-knows-what is almost intoxicating! What treasures lie inside? Yes, it may just be a bill for weed killer we purchased last month, or a brochure from a political candidate begging for my vote. (Oh, wait--that's over for now!) But it could be ... a new magazine to read, or even better, a book I ordered. Yesterday I actually got a hand written thank-you note from a friend I'd invited over for dinner a week ago. In this day and age, that personal touch from her was very meaningful. In my heart of hearts, when I open our mailbox I think there's always the chance that there's a multi-million dollar book contract offer that somehow bypassed my agent and came straight to me. Okay, so I'm delusional, but it's a great way to live!

I had to laugh the other day when I extracted the envelope pictured above. It was addressed to my mother-in-law, and was from a credit card company. It promised great rewards and a low rate. Not to mention the freedom to overspend, incur debt, and worry about how to pay it off in this slow economy.

But the part that made me laugh was that their enticement of "You CAN Have It All" fit my mother-in-law much better than most people they sent this invitation to. You see, her address is no longer the same as ours. In January of this year she moved to heaven. She is enjoying her great rewards, accruing lots of frequent-flyer miles in a place of supreme love and peace, praising God continually.

She DOES have it all.

Friday, October 31, 2008

A Trip Down Memory Highway

Last week was absolutely gorgeous here in the Pacific Northwest. My parents and I decided to take advantage of the weather before the notorious rainy days would overtake us, so we set off on an overnight mini-vacation.

We left Thursday morning and headed south to the Eugene area before taking Highway 126 along the McKenzie River. Jack Frost had danced through the region, leaving wide swaths of his footprints behind. I imagine the colors weren't as intense as those on the East Coast this time of year, but they were more than enough for this Oregon girl! Our hearts kept praising God around each new turn in the road.

Back in the 1950s my grandparents had built their house, along with four cottages, at the river's edge. They called them Woodland Cottages and rented them out like motel rooms. We were able to find the obscure sign along the highway and turned in to look over the old homestead. Like many things, it has decayed over the past five decades, but we were able to meet the current owner and share some family stories with her.

We continued climbing higher, driving through the lava fields over McKenzie Pass. United States astronauts trained there in preparation for walking on the moon. There is a desolate beauty to the jagged rocks, punctuated by scattered juniper trees, and encompassed by some of the most beautiful snow-capped mountains in Oregon.

We spent the night smack-dab in the middle of Oregon in the town of Prineville, which is where I was born. The next morning we drove the seventy miles out to Rager Ranger Station, which I believe is the most remote Forest Service station in the US. There were only three families and some single men on the crew that lived there in the 1950s. That lonely outpost held many memories, as that's where my parents lived when they became Christians, where I lived for the first six years of my life, where my brother was born at home (in 1953) in the middle of a December blizzard with the help of my McKenzie River grandma, and where I accepted Christ when I was five. The trip from Prineville, which now takes a little over an hour, used to take two-and-a-half hours on a rutted, unpaved road. We had a great visit with several women foresters who work there, identified my bedroom window in the last house we lived in while there, and pumped water from from a pump at a nearby campground, where I remember my dad holding me up so I'd be tall enough to reach the handle.

I'm sure I'm not the only one with fond memories of a childhood locale. What's your favorite one?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Review of MY SISTER DILLY, by Maureen Lang

This book by Maureen Lang grabbed me from the start. It's about two sister, both women in their own right, but coming at life from two different perspectives. Hannah, who could hardly wait to leave the hog farm and move to California, has returned to help her sister Dilly reintegrate into society upon her release from prison. It reminded me of the story of the prodigal son, or in this case, the prodigal daughter. One daughter who has lived by the rules, and the other who has done the unthinkable and chosen an act that sent her to prison.

Dilly has changed while incarcerated, which is hard for Hannah to understand. As the women rebuild their relationship, several issues arise. Hannah is living in a prison of her own making, tied down by the chains of responsibility and false guilt. Unless she realizes this, and makes some changes, she may miss out on the love of a good man and end up living in an emotional solitary confinement.

I have read several Maureen Lang books, but this is my favorite. The storyline is unique and thought-provoking, with characters who reach out to the reader from the pages of the book. In my rating system of one to five mochas, I give My Sister Dilly a four-and-a-half. Pick up a mug of your own mocha and settle in for a great read.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Dog Days of Summer

My husband met me at the garage, machete in hand. Was he protecting me from a home invasion? Or perhaps Bruce Willis was filming his latest action movie in our house and John was making an appearance as a movie extra.

My dream of being the wife of the newest cinema heartthrob was dashed when John answered my unasked question. "Shadow's stuck in the blackberry bushes by the orchard."

Shadow and her sister Jasmine are three-year-old purebred black labs that belong to my daughter's family. Their whole lives, the dogs have had to stay inside a nice kennel my son-in-law built for them, as they were always running off our property (fifteen acres isn't big enough?) and bothering our neighbors. Just the past few weeks they have started sticking close to home when let out of their enclosure.

I asked John how he knew Shadow was stuck. "Jasmine came up to me while I was working in the garage, and told me 'Timmy fell in the well.' She led me through the forest, toward the neighbor's cherry orchard. I could hear her whining up in the blackberry bushes, so I came back to get something to chop my way to her, as the bushes are really overgrown in that area."

I'm not a great dog lover, but even I was moved by Shadow's plight. I followed John into the forest so I could watch my man at work. He started at the foot of the slope, hacking his way toward the yelping dog, but after fifteen minutes became stymied by growth so thick he couldn't penetrate it.

Back through the woods to put on clothing that would be better protection from the thorns--his thick coveralls and a hat-- and find better tools in the garage. He decided that between two machetes, hedge clippers, and the lopping shears, he should be able to rescue the dog. He used a different approach this time, taking the high ground along the fence line. I stayed down on the pathway, content to call out sweet nothings to Shadow while I tried to keep an eye on John's progress. That word, progress, may not be the right one to use, as it was extremely slow-going on John's part. I soon lost sight of him in the jungle of the Oregon forest, though I could hear his thwacking and every now and then see a bush quiver in fear as this armed man neared it.

After nearly an hour of arm-numbing work, John was able to spy Shadow under some bushes, with her sister Jasmine keeping her company. Turns out she wasn't trapped by the blackberry bush, but had caught the clasp of her collar chain on the wire fence of the orchard, and was unable to move. If no one had been home to hear her pathetic yelps and reach her in time, she could have faced a dire (or should I say die-er) situation.

John finally unhooked her from the fence and both dogs followed us home, eager to lap up two bowls of water, lie down in the shade, and fall into an exhausted nap. But first they had to listen to a lecture on how bad it was of them to run off, that Shadow had a natural consequence for what she had done, and that we never wanted them to do it again!

That experience got me to thinking about how we humans put ourselves in the same kind of situations. God gives us directives about how we should live our lives.("Stay home. Everything is provided for you here.") But we decide that the orchard on the other side of the fence looks like a much more exciting place to be. And the sin that so easily besets us hooks us around the neck, immobilizing our lives, choking off the purpose of our life. It is only when One comes to seek us, clearing away the brambles and reaching down to loose us from our entrapment, that we are able to see that if we follow Him, we are able to lie down and rest.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Book review of Long Journey Home, by Sharlene MacLaren

For those of you who don't already know her, I'd like to introduce my friend, Sharlene MacLaren. As you can see from her photo, she is a beautiful woman with a bubbly personality and zest for life. I met her last fall at the American Christian Fiction Writers conference and have kept in touch with her throughout this past year.

Shar has written several novels and her newest one just came out in stores this week. Whereas her other books I've read have been set in a historical time period, Long Journey Home is a contemporary book dealing with issues rampant in our society.

A young pastor whose beliefs are failing the test of tragedy. A young woman who has dissolved her relationship with an abusive, cheating husband. These two characters, Dan and Callie, are brought together as neighbors, but their proximity leads to a tenuous friendship. Dan battles his anger, guilt, and addictive habit, while Callie is forced to face her lack of trust, which affects her life on many levels. Will these two hurting people be able to overcome the pain in their past? Is it possible to rebuild their lives and walk with the Lord, as well as each other?

This was my favorite Sharlene MacLaren book to date. She captures Dan's and Callie's characters and makes them believable. Throughout the book, the reader is aware something bad is headed down the pike, but never sure of when it will hit. One yearns for Dan to realize how little control he has over life, and for Callie to let down her defenses to the right man.

I give this book a four-mocha rating. It kept my interest and captured my emotions. Pick up a copy at your nearest bookstore and settle in for an enjoyable read.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Men Are From Cyberspace, Women Are From Venus

I've been married for nearly 38 years. You'd think I'd have it down by now. Be aware of the differences between men and women. Able to correctly interpret the secret language that men sometimes speak. But no, not me!

The other morning my husband walked into our bathroom as I was applying my makeup. We hadn't said much more than "good morning" so far that day, so I was surprised when he started a conversation that sounded like it could be pretty serious. He said, "You know, sometimes when we don't seem to be able to connect very well ..." My mind immediately turned to issues that seem to make us out of sync. Those problem areas where it seems we may never completely agree. I was impressed that he would be doing such deep thinking so early in the morning, and even more, that he would want to share his feelings with me.

I listened intently, wanting to savor his openness. "...when we don't seem to be able to connect very well, it's usually because the router isn't going to the computer the right way."

So much for my vision of a heartfelt disclosure. Yep, men are from cyberspace, women are from Venus!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Wisdom From the Back Seat

The other day my 9-year-old granddaughter, Andrea, and I went to pick up her friend and bring her to our house. I had thought her younger brother and sister would be joining us on the play date, but when I arrived, the mother said the two younger ones wouldn't be able to come.

As soon as Andrea and Annika got settled in the back seat, their conversation began:

(Annika) It's really too bad my brother and sister couldn't come, but they weren't acting very nice.

(Andrea) My foster brother will be sad, because I told him we were bringing your brother.

(Annika) But Mom and Dad couldn't let them come, because we have a new rule that if we can't treat each other nice and be friends, then we can't go to a friend's house.

(Andrea) That's a good rule.

(Annika) Yes it is. My brother is usually the one that starts the problem, but then my sister makes it worse. She has the choice of whether she will do the right thing or not, and lots of times she chooses the wrong thing.

(Andrea) That's really too bad. We always have a choice to make.

(Annika) Yes, and that's something I'm really trying to work on. I used to make the wrong choice a lot. But one day at church as I was listening to my dad preach, he said that we all need to learn self-control. And that we can ask God to help us learn that. I've been doing that ever since then, and it has completely changed my life! (Yes, those were the words she used!)

(Andrea) That's great, Annika!

Their conversation segued into who would play with which Barbie, but I was lost in the simple honesty of what I'd just heard. These girls have been best friends their whole lives. There's a trust between them so they're able to share areas they're struggling with and testify to the Lord's power to "completely change" their weaknesses. Maybe we adults should be more like them.

Monday, August 18, 2008

I Knew It Had Been A While, But This is Ridiculous!

Most mornings when I get up, I think, "Yes, this will be it. This will be the day I blog again. After all, it's probably been several weeks since I last wrote. Maybe a month. Possibly two?" Imagine my chagrin (I feel like the Veggie Tale characters that are "shocked and slightly embarrassed" in the Hairbrush song) to find that it's been nearly three months since my last post.

But I have a good excuse! I've been frantically puttering in my laboratory, trying to discover the cure for cancer as well as find a solution to global warming. I'm close, but not quite there.

The reality is, I've spent the summer goofing off. Having fun. Enjoying family. Traveling. Camping. Seeing my best friend from high school. Working on the staff of Oregon Christian Writers Summer Conference. Being a grandparent to my daughter's foster children. Babysitting my five-year-old twin grandkids in Eastern Oregon. Planning and executing a surprise birthday party for my dad's 80th birthday. Celebrating my own. (No, not 80th!)

So that's why you haven't heard from me in days ... weeks ... months. I know if I were more committed, I'd write in the midst of my busyness. That's an area in which I need to become more disciplined. Help keep me accountable!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Slug Vision

While this term isn't something you'd probably be diagnosed with by your friendly neighborhood ophthalmologist, I'm here to tell you it's a very real concept. I should know, because my seven-year-old grandson, Joshua, told me.

This afternoon he was on my porch and came running in to ask for some salt. "Grandma, you have a whole bunch of slugs out there!" I was afraid he'd dump the entire salt box on the critters, so I went outside with him. The slugs on the porch and walkway were easy for me to see, but Joshua explained that there were some hiding in amongst my flowers. I could see their slimy trails, but not the dreaded bodies themselves. He tried his best to point them out to me. "Up there, Grandma, between those two flowers. More to the right." Most times I'd eventually see what he was talking about, but I think there were a few that got away because I couldn't see them. "Joshua, you're really good at spotting those," I said. He replied, "That's because I've got slug vision!"

His response has stuck with me all afternoon. Our sin can be like a slug. It's small, ugly, and out to ruin the growth taking place in our lives. If we ignore it, it will only get bigger and cause more damage. But in all honesty, sometimes we're not able to see it ourselves--it takes someone else to point it out to us.

Jesus said we're the salt of the earth. I've always heard that salt helps to preserve and give flavor, but I think there's another benefit of it too. Just as a light sprinkling of salt will eradicate the slug, so our lives should help eliminate the sin around us.

May we all have someone in our lives with the gift of slug vision!

Friday, May 23, 2008

My Apple Pie in the Sky Guy

Have you ever seen a better looking apple pie? Me neither! John, my husband of thirty-seven years, has become famous for his homemade apple pies, lattice crusts and all.

It's not that I can't bake one myself, but why should I when he does such an outstanding job? I'll continue to cook meals, clean house, and do the gardening, as long as he makes those pies! (This man can do just about anything. Years ago, with no experience, he made a prom dress for our daughter Christina's junior year. She was so pleased with the result that she had him make her a new dress the next year! He's a former pastor and electronics engineer. He built our house, plays in a local symphony with a violin he built, and rides a motorcycle. Oh yes, and he loves to play golf. Quite the well-rounded guy. He can figure out a way to fix nearly anything that breaks. I think I'll keep him for at least another thirty-seven years!)

Last week he did something special for the seniors he teaches at a nearby Christian school. In addition to showing them fabulous pictures of different galaxies and nebulae and presenting his insights on how God created the world out of nothing, he baked a couple of apple pies for them to enjoy during his presentation of "Apple Pie and the Universe."

I'm not sure how much those teens understood concerning the dancing quarks, parity, and creation rings, but I know the apple pie message came through loud and clear. I wish my high school teachers had thought of bringing me a piece of apple pie, rather than expecting me to bring them an apple!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Interview with author Camy Tang

Welcome to my first-ever interview! I'm delighted to be able to spend a few
minutes with my friend, Camy Tang. I first met this woman at the Oregon Christian
Writers Conference last summer. She refers to herself as "that loud Asian chick"
and while that is true, I found her to be a warm, gracious lady.

Her second book,Only Uni, was recently released. I had the pleasure of reading it
last week. You have to realize that I'm a generation removed from Camy's target
audience, and yet I was still drawn into the story. The issues her main chaaracter
deals with are very real and gritty. And like any good book, the tension builds
as the story unfolds, leading to a satisfying ending.

If your name couldn't be Camy, what would you want it to be and why?

Confession time: when I was young, fanciful, and reading lots of
Sci-Fi/Fantasy novels, I wanted my name to be Silver. I really don't
know why except for the fact I liked have a V in my name and I like
the color silver, although I hated how it tarnishes.

How do you see your characters when you write? Do you find pictures
in magazines of what you want them to look like or do you see them
walking around in your head?

I don't actually visualize them, I usually see them as a certain
personality or even as a certain song. For example, for my character
Trish, I don't think of her as a visual picture--instead I see her
dancing around to the song, "Brave" by Nichole Nordeman.

I love the way you can write a humorous, chik-lit book and yet address
deep issues. Do you know what issue(s) you're dealing with before you
start writing, or do they just develop on their own?

The issues come out of the characters themselves, and I developed all
the characters before the first book in the series was even written.
The only issues that are more personal are probably Trish's issues
with liking herself and reclaiming who she is. Lex and Venus's issues
aren't really from my personal experience--they're more from what each
character is like and what their fears and weaknesses are.

Where's your favorite place to go or thing to do to relax?
My bed. When I got married, we got this nice futon bed with cherrywood
frame and a luscious down comforter. We also have an electric blanket
with dual control, and my side usually gets turned on more often than
my husband's. LOL. I love sitting in bed to read or write on my

If you were stranded on a deserted island, who would you want with
you--me or Christina? (Captain Caffeine is not an option!)

Hmmm, tough choice! I'd probably live longer if you were with me, but
Christina and I would giggle a lot together. No, but Christina's prone
to ACL injuries like I am, so if we both tore our ACLs, we'd
definitely die--so I'll choose Sherrie!

Good answer! Good answer! You should be on Family Feud. Thanks for
stopping by, Camy. It's always good to talk to you.

Readers, go out and buy a copy of Only Uni then settle in for a
good read.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Lonely Walk

"No matter how many good friends I had, there were aspects of my life I needed to deal with alone - heart issues and attitudes that could not be wrestled with in a Bible study...They had to be confronted by the Holy Spirit in the privacy of my own soul."

~ "A Glimpse of Grace" by Mary Forsythe (with Beth Clark)~

I appreciated this quote I read the other morning on ShoutLife friend Bonnie Winter's site. It instantly brought to remembrance the months of soul darkness I experienced about ten years ago.

I had it all--a loving husband, grown children who were happily married, a job, an active role in the church where my husband pastored, a beautiful home. But something was missing. Something gnawed at me from the inside out, and the dark pit of depression swallowed me up.

I began to doubt the existence of God (and remember, I was a pastor's wife) and His work in my life. I lost joy in my family, job, church, and life in general. Desolation overwhelmed me. My husband gave up his pastorate, telling me I was his main ministry. But even that was not enough. I quit my job, thinking the stress of managing an Alzheimer's unit was the cause of my despair. If anything, things just got worse.

My turnaround came when I spent time by myself. We were empty-nester's by then, so I made one bedroom into my sanctuary. Only I was allowed in there. I wasn't interested in reading the Bible at the beginning of my journey, but spent hours reading through a book my Christian counselor recommended, journaling, and crying. Lots of crying. It was during those weeks of finding out who I really was on the inside, rather than what I portrayed to others, that the hard work of the soul was accomplished. I began to see that my Christian life was tied up with trying to earn approval from God and other people, rather than just resting in the mercy and grace of Christ.

Once I got that figured out the depression lifted. I now try to not accept responsibilities simply to please others, but to do ministry if I believe that is what the Lord is asking me to do. I'm living in freedom.

But as the opening paragraph stated, there was work that had to be done in private in order to have an authentic life to be lived in public. How thankful I am that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus provides all I need to live in security rather than scrambling to earn God's favor.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Stick It To Me!

Those of you who were readers of my blogspot postings before I joined ShoutLife know that in October I started acupuncture treatments. I won't post the picture again of a foot being invaded by needles, as it made some people a wee bit queasy!

I sought out this alternative medicine due to decades of insomnia and Restless Leg Syndrome, as well as developing peripheral neuropathy in my feet a few years ago. Medication helped with the first two conditions, but was very expensive as our insurance doesn't cover them.

Acupuncture treatments became part of my schedule once a week for the first couple of months, but then I was able to lengthen it to two weeks between sessions. I'm here to say I've had fantastic results with the insomnia and restless legs and rarely have to use any medication. The neuropathy has been more resistent, but at least it hasn't got any worse.

I was very sad when my acupuncturist left her practice in January. But her replacement, Dr. Lise Harrington, has been awesome. Not only does she load me up with needles, but also does chiropractic adjustments and massage! It's like a one-stop, full-service office visit. When she's through working on me I feel like I'm just a melted mass of relaxation and can hardly slip off the treatment table and drive home!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Who me? Housebroken?

This past weekend I had the privilege of being the retreat speaker for the women of my church. We journeyed over to a beautiful beach house on the Oregon coast. The view was spectacular, with nothing but a little sand between us and the ocean. Thirty of us gathered together as we learned more about how to tame our emotions. Have you ever wondered if that's even possible?

As women, we have a myriad of emotions to deal with, including those brought on by PMS or peri-menopause. The dictionary defines tame as "reduced from a state of native wildness especially so as to be useful to man." And don't our emotions sometimes make us feel like we're in a state of native wildness? Where we have this primal urge to go running through the jungle (or down your block) screaming at the top of your lungs?

The thesaurus gives other word possibilities such as subdued, submissive, harmless, civilized, and housebroken. Housebroken? That's really not such a bad idea. When you have a puppy or kitten that's not housebroken, what do you end up with? Yep, and we can do the same thing when we're not housebreaking our emotions. We can leave stinky, messy piles of anger or discontent or worry in the corners of our house. Other people may not even be aware of them, but if they spend much time with us, the stench will show up.

We spent time looking at the topics of fear, worry, depression, disappointment, and anger. These all interact and often one leads to the other and we end up in a vicious cycle. It was exciting to remind these women that we always have a choice to make--either going by our feelings or by the truth of God's word.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Wacky, Wonderful, Writer's Weekend

What a fun weekend we had when multi-published author Donna Fleisher (middle of back row) put together a writer's weekend for a small group of us. In the back row, left to right, you see me, Donna, and Miriam Cheney. Across the front row is Kristen Johnson, my daughter Christina Berry, and Judy Gann. We stayed in a lovely suite at the Sandcastle Beachfront Motel in Lincoln City, OR, about ninety minutes from where Christina and I live. Poor Donna lives right across the street from the motel, with the boring view of crashing ocean waves always available from her living room window! It's a shame the way some people have to suffer!

Our weekend consisted of talking about the various aspects of writing, eating, talking about how we'd eaten too much, critiquing some chapters, eating, complaining about how full we were, sharing life stories, seeing anew God's presence in the whole writing process, eating...

There is something special that happens when a group of authors get together. It must be that quirkiness gene one needs as a writer, and non-writers just don't quite understand us. They don't get what makes us tick and why we're so driven to pursue this life. (Sometimes I wonder myself!)

It was an invigorating weekend, while at the same time, relaxing. You don't often get that combination. Here's to many more such occasions.

Friday, February 1, 2008

The Final Goodbye

My heartfelt thanks to those of you who have expressed sympathy at the loss of my dear mother-in-law two weeks ago. Your email notes, cards, and prayers have meant a lot.

Mom would have been pleased with her going away party. She had lived most of her life in Phoenix, AZ, until we brought her to Oregon three years ago when her Alzheimer's became so bad. She was laid to rest back in AZ beside her first husband, John's dad.

We were surprised at how many elderly friends of hers came out to the viewing that Monday evening. Most of them were from her old church, which has now disbanded because they had no young blood to carry on. They said the only time they get together now is at funerals. Sad.

I was moved watching my grandkids walk through the whole ritual of death. Both Andrea and Joshua were able to be in Mom's room and watch the proceedings when the mortuary came to remove her body. Not many American children are able to experience the reality of death at that level. They were in Phoenix for the viewing and then the graveside service the following day, sorrow evident in their tears and demeanor. This is something they will not forget.

John was strong as he arranged flights for the extended family to get to Phoenix, rented a house that all fifteen of us could stay at, and officiated at his mother's service. But I was glad to see him be emotional at times, not trapped in his role as her pastor, but able to experience it as her son.

This past Sunday we led a memorial service for her at the care facility here in Oregon. We were touched by the number of staff who came in on their day off to participate in honoring her life, who shared memories of their time with her. They don't often get a chance to say a final goodbye to residents they lose, so we were blessed to provide that opportunity to them.

This has been my first experience with the loss of someone so close to me. I know I've been fortunate in that respect. It has given me an even greater appreciation for salvation, family, and faith. That's a good thing.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Safe in the Arms of Jesus

Tuesday, January 15--The call comes during breakfast. John answers it, only to find his mother is non-responsive. They think we'd better come. The day is spent at her bedside, watching for any signs of improvement, but seeing none.

And the morning and the evening were the first day.

Wednesday, January 16th--Her frail shoulders rise in quick, shallow jerks with each gurgly breath. Her ninety-one-year-old cheeks glow a soft pink, the color naturally applied by the brush stroke of fever. Her eyes are closed, always closed.

"Mom, we're here. John and I are here." Our kisses elicit no response. I stroke her hand, the skin on the back of it tissue-thin, barely protecting the veins that form the relief map of the life she's lived.

Thus begins Day 2.

Thursday, January 17th--It's 2 AM and the vigil continues. She's working hard for each breath as she enters her third day of actively dying. Each exhalation sounds frothy--like a child blowing milk bubbles through a straw. Her lower cheeks are sunken around her mouth, giving her the high cheekbones of a model.

And that's what she is. The model of a godly Christian woman walking the final steps down the runway of this disease called Alzheimer's. She has walked it with grace, never losing her trust in God, love of family, or sweetness of character.

Sweet. That's the refrain that has run through each story the caregivers and hospice nurses have shared with me these past two days. "She is the sweetest lady I've ever known." "She's always so sweet. Not a mean bone in her body."

They are all shocked by the sudden change in her health. One by one, or sometimes in groups of three, they come to love on her. They gently bathe her, carefully reposition her arms and legs, and cover her face with kisses. "I love you, Marjory," I hear them whisper before they leave.

Hours pass. A thin hint of daylight sneaks through the fog outside as the thin hint of her spirit lingers in the room. When will it happen--that nanosecond when she leaves our presence and is immediately in His?

She tip-toes through yet another day, her footsteps so light they can hardly be heard, her spirit poised on the edge of eternity, patiently waiting for her body to catch up.

Family has once again been in to tell her goodbye; to spend precious hours with her. They reluctantly leave for home. I alone am left to stay at her side throughout the night. Her breathing, though still rapid, quiets. I scoot the chair as close to her bed as possible, place my head on a pillow next to hers, my hand resting on her shoulder. Surely I will feel if there's a change. Thirty minutes later I awake with a start, realizing the noise in the hall is louder than any Mom is making. I go around to the other side of the bed to make certain my suspicion is valid. Only her shell remains.

I tell her once again what a precious woman she is to me; what a wonderful mother-in-law she has been. I make phone calls to family before leaving the room to inform the staff of her passing. I listen to Beethoven for the next hour as I sit beside her, my palm resting on her cooling forehead. I hold myself together. It's not until an hour later, at 1:08 AM, that the tears come, brought on by the simple action of me removing a pillow from under her legs.

I place a praise CD in the player and cry through every song, the words impacting me in a different way than ever before. When I think of Mom standing in the very presence of God, gazing into the eyes of Jesus, it's almost more than I can bear. There's such an intensity to my sense of awe at what she is experiencing.

I sit beside her for eight hours, continually resting my hand on her forehead. Through the tears I talk to her as I have for the past three days. My pain is outweighed by joy, but nevertheless, very real. I will miss her. I already do.

Through the window I see the rest of the family pulling into the parking lot, ready for one last visit before her body is removed. As I leave her room to meet them I turn to say, "Now you're the 'you' you've never been, but were always created to be."

Her life has been a gift to me and all who knew her.

In loving memory of
Marjory Ashcraft Peterson
October 25, 1916--January 18, 2008