Monthly Archives: April 2012

Old Jackets, Etc.

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“Hey, Laura- I have this jacket, do you want it?”  My jean jacket was a hand-me-down from my beautiful fashionista daughter-in-law, Heidi;  She wore it in high school- circa 1990’s: The Era of Sparkly Everything, including denim. Like the skin horse in The Velveteen Rabbit whose fur rubbed off from so many hugs, the jean jacket had lost much of it’s youthful glow (glitter), but a softer, almost flannel patina remained.  With just enough latex to stretch at the back, but not so much as to look like a pair of biking shorts for my arms, it was the Mother of All Jean Jackets, and  I wore it everywhere.  I mean, every single day.  I even wore it around the house, under my apron, which explains its permanent yet subtle Eau De Bacon appeal.

It was my jacket/security blanket: Anxious in a crowd, I’d thrust my hands into its deep front pockets and silently worry the frayed strings. Frayed strings are very easy-going and endure that sort of thing patiently.  It was my jacket/safariwear:  Okay, I never actually went on a safari per se,  but if I had, that jacket would’ve courageously toted camera, binoculars, compass and air conditioner.

One day, without warning, I slipped into my jacket and the poor thing gave out, just like that the latex quit and I heard an undignified rip at the elbow. I stood sideways in the mirror, arm raised, hoping I could somehow rally the threads to pull themselves together and continue on, but to no avail.  I performed emergency surgery, cutting off the sleeves.  Recovery was quick and I wore my “new” denim vest another year, until one morning the duct tape sustaining the right shoulder had enough and said, “Seriously?” (Never buy reflective tape).   A sad day, indeed. With a reluctant sigh, I retired my jacket to the Hall of Fame of favorite attire.

Many  jackets have done nobly, but you surpassed them all.  

Like my jacket, there are things in life I rue to relinquish:  relationships, homes, jobs, ministries,-and sometimes- more subtle things like moving from the role of parenting toddlers to teens to launching adult children.  Letting go is not my forte’, but when I stand before the Lord, maybe a handful of sepia-toned 3×5’s will slip from the Book of Life- photos of jackets I once wore.     

Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness And rivers in the desert. Isa 43:19

In Hiding

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Hiding Places have always held an attraction to me.  When I was ten, I convinced (hounded, begged, bugged) my mom to let me sleep in a box on the front lawn.  I climbed into my cardboard bed before dark, accompanied by the necessary pillows, blankets and peanut butter. I slept, interrupted only by the exuberant snuffling of a dog (this was before leash laws, or any laws prohibiting people from sleeping on cardboard in public places).  He yelped, undoubtedly delighted at discovering a box of child, like one giant kibble. To my mom and siblings, the neighbors and now this dog, it was obvious:  I was an odd child.  But years passed, and by the time I married and had kids, I’d morphed from odd child into odd adult, never outgrowing my love for hiding places.

With eight kids and homeschooling, hiding places were as scarce as eight hours of sleep.  Every mother who’s ever aspired to rise early in hopes of squeezing a few minutes of Bible calm before breakfast storm, knows that built into every newborn is an “iMom” implant, with technological capacities greater than any espionage tracking device, by which any slight change of the mother’s aspiration signals an “iWant” and “iNeed” alarm emitting instantly from the newborn. iSigh.  Eventually, I honed the science of keeping my breathing pattern in rem sleep mode,  innoculated all door and cabinet hinges with WD-40, and readied all tea and devotional supplies the night before, so I could belly-crawl to my newly secured childproof hiding place/sanctuary:  the family van.  This worked as long as I resisted a sideways glance at the whole family peering, noses pressed against the van windows, holding placards of “What’s for breakfast?”  and “Honey, do I have a clean pair of socks somewhere?”

Things have changed in the last few years, yet in spite of six of our eight kids married, hiding places are still required.  Life requires them.   “Jesus said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.'”  Mk. 6:31 Hey, I figure if Jesus needed them, so do I.  It’s a comfort to know I’m like Him in some way.

John and I are in a hiding place right now:  an off-season cabin next to a stream.  Burrowed like two groundhogs, we sit by the fire and write and read and think, popping our heads out only to sit in the sun or run down the hill for something to throw on the barbecue.  I have time to think.  So I’m thinking about hiding places, and at the moment, I’m thinking of marriage.

My marriage is a hiding place.  “I am my beloved’s and he is mine”.   Genesis says of Adam and Eve, “…and they were both naked and unashamed.”  That makes some people squirm.  Me, for instance.  I had to think about this.  Why am I uncomfortable with this thought?  Well, because nakedness is so…um..so…well, naked.  Even the word naked sounds naked.  I think that’s called an “onomatopoeia”- a word that sounds like what it is; like quack, hiss and buzz.  And naked.  But Genesis says that before those two had an apple feeding frenzy, Adam and Eve weren’t ashamed.  Eve never asked Adam, “Babe, does this fig leaf make my thighs look fat?” And Adam never pretended he wasn’t flexing his muscles when he folded his arms across his chest. They wore nothing- yet felt safe.  So I guess we have them to blame for every conceived bodily flaw.

But there’s something more here.  Nakedness (squirm) also means laid bare in other ways.  I’m thinking of the fact that John knows me better than anyone else, knows my weaknesses and could use them against me, but he doesn’t.  Even when he doesn’t understand, he’s is understanding.  I know his vulnerable spots, too.

We know pretty much how we react to stress.  He becomes faster than a speeding snail (but not much faster), and I’m a runaway train, going a hundred miles a minute (at the mouth, anyway).  When faced with decisions, he’s a processor, I’m a reactor.  Oh- and get this- He believes everything our teens tell him!  I don’t believe anything they tell me.  But I guess we balance each other out even in that, because we both believe in them.  He knows my odd little quirky habit of thinking that the car two lanes over is going to side-swipe us before I can finish this sen- JOHN!!! LOOK OUT!!! HE’S GONNA HIT US! …okay…where was I?

Oh yeah- well I know some things, too- about him, I mean- but I’m not tellin’ cuz like I said, we are each other’s hiding place.  In other words, when it comes to those personal insanities, we should be each other’s confidante, i.e. “Your secret is safe with me.”    I guess another way of putting it is, Love covers. 1st Peter 4:8 says we are to love each other deeply because love covers a multitude of sin:  John’s love for me covers my sin, my love for John covers his sin.  We compensate for each other.  Please note:  I’m NOT speaking of blatant sin issues here-those are not safe anywhere but nailed to the cross.

Of course, none of this is possible without  the presence of Christ in our lives.  Isaiah says the place where He dwells “will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding-place from the storm and rain.”   (Isaiah 4:6)

Okay, so I’m done now, I’m gonna go practice being naked and unashamed.  Wait…did I just say that out loud?!  I’m SO ashamed!


All We Had

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“Laura, you look like you’ve lost weight, you have a beautiful smile and you smell good.”  Said John.

Really??!!  Thank you so much for saying so,  my love.”  Said I.

“Yeah, I read somewhere that those three things are what a girl wants to hear.”

I burst out laughing at this honest man.  A man with no guile, my husband.  He rescued himself by explaining, “Well, I read that article and thought, you really are those things.  So there you have it.”

I just love this guy.

Today is our 466th wedding month-a-versary, as we call it.  I greeted him with this news today.  He looked a bit crestfallen that he hadn’t said it first.  I thought I’d one-upped him, but then he left the room and came back with an envelope (see card above).

How did we get so blessed?

Well, I know for sure it’s not because we’re alike.  He is coffee to my tea, I’m rabbit to His tortoise, steel to wool- but hey, steel-wool is useful!  We are consistently inconsistent in who is which.

I also know life has not all been Comfy beds and Venti Mochas.  We had $200 dollars to throw the wedding of the century, and nothing for a honeymoon (we camped out at a lake).  My Mom and Dad did not come to the wedding.  Mom was really sad about that, but my dad was pretty sure this marriage was not a good thing.  About 200 others thought differently, and our wedding was an amazing celebration at the park.

That first year of marriage, John had surgery for a golf-ball size lump that screamed “Cancer!” to the docs, but ended up mysteriously benign; and, we lost a baby to a late miscarriage.

We both worked- I, at a school for Special Needs kids (days), John at a cable T.V. station (nights) and  full-time student (days). We didn’t meet the requirements for low-income housing.  The Housing People did not believe anyone could live on our income. So we lived in a very retro trailer before retro even existed (always ahead of our time, John and I):  A 10 ft. wide, 45 ft. long, metal house, conveniently located a few yards from the railroad tracks lest we ever felt the urge to hop a train and travel the world-not via the South Pacific, but the Union Pacific.

John rode his bike to school (a Schwinn, not a Harley).  Our car, a 1963 Lancer (nicknamed “The Potato) gave up the ghost before our first wedding anniversary, so we bought me a  bike:  $65 on credit, $5 per month.  The only thing we bought on credit for a very long time.  We did it so we would have some form of credit rating.  I rode 8 miles to and from work, initially stopping every half-mile to keep my heart and lungs from pummeling each other. Eventually twelve pounds lighter, I breezed down the road, enjoying the ride.  Except on rainy days when my fashion statement was an ugly gray plastic poncho.

So what did we have?  

We had people who loved us: John’s family, my siblings, our church and the college Inter-Varsity  group.  All these supported us just by living.  We watched them and learned:  My sister Peg and her husband, Curt showed us how to work toward a goal.  Curt started and completed a degree from Fuller Seminary while my sister stayed home to parent (what a novel idea!) their baby boy.  Did they struggle?  Yes.  Did they finish well?  Yes, and to this day.  We had older, seasoned couples in the church that demonstrated what a Christian marriage should look like.  They even allowed us to minister with them, resisting the urge to drop “helpful hints”, allowing the Holy Spirit to speak to us through their example. I eventually did start wearing a bra, and John started wearing shoes to church.

We had contentment.  Our idea of an AWESOME DAY that first year was the closing of the local White Front store.  We walked to the store, bought 2 pairs of black low-tops for 2 bucks, and a basketball for the same amount and played Horse at the school playground all Saturday long.

We had purpose.  We worked together to pay our bills, looking for the best deals for food (one time getting a free chicken at Safeway, then going behind the store and picking wild mustard greens to complete our dinner- boy, did we feel smart!)

We had ministry and service.  We tithed, knowing that it was to God we gave, regardless of the quirks of our church body (they put up with ours, so it was only fair).  John and I  sang in pretty much all the local churches, the hippy Jesus Freak coffee houses and we front-lined for the newly formed Maranatha! Music Concerts.  We offered our home to whoever needed a place and were richly repaid in many shared stories of life and faith, “and then God did this” experiences.

We had faith.  A young, naive, shaky strand of faith became a three-cord steel cable as we simply did what we knew to do:  We prayed feeble prayers, went to church and small group studies, read the New American Standard, and mostly just fumbled and stumbled while learning to walk in Christ, but kept it up, or I should say He Kept Us.

It is true that God is faithful, even when we are faithless, and 466 months later, we are living proof.  God is faithful to teach, to grow us up, to show us a better idea, to say, “I don’t think you should do that”, to give us a new perspective, a different way of thinking, a better way to live.  He is faithful to show us the way of love.  Sometimes, it’s all we have.  And all we need.

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.   2Pe 1:3

Keeping up Appearances

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In the book of Acts Chapter 5, the first Calvary Chapel experienced a “vival”- we can’t call it  revival, as the church had never been alive before. Amazing growth and amazing grace ensued, and then, amazing housecleaning. A couple in the church are literally “slain in the Spirit”, all because they lied about what they gave in the offering.  Imagine the soberness (and healthy fear) that ensued at the news of Ananias’ and Sapphira’s deaths!  These  two wanted to look as good, as spiritual, as generous, as committed to Christ as the next guy- and died trying.  It’s enough to sober me up fast!  Do I appear to give more, be more, do more, than the books in heaven record?  Then maybe I’m in danger of exiting the church in a most embarassing way:  “Wow!  Laura was fine a minute ago!  Here, you grab her feet, we’ll get her arms.”  Lookin’ good ends up lookin’ really bad. But that’s the whole problem-it’s not about appearances, God looks on the heart.  That should be enough to make me squirm.  And, pray for revival.  A revival of one.

Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”  Acts 5:4

Working out the Harmony

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Before dishwashers, there was singing.  My sisters and I had evening kitchen duty for our family of nine.  One of us would scrape and stack the dishes, another cleared and wiped counters, one washed, one dried, one put away-something like that.   Unless one of us said “Shut Up!” to a sibling that day in which case the whole shebang was ours alone (as you can imagine, we devised some clever alternatives like, “Shut Ut” or Up Shut”, but my mother wasn’t stupid).

We literally sang through the work- well, when we weren’t arguing about someone being “as slow as molasses in January,”  or another kitchen-related mortal sin.  It really didn’t matter what song was sung, as long as we could come up with awesome harmony.  Some of our favorite titles were, “Bluebirds Over the Mountains”, “Poor Man Lazarus,”  and  “I’m Gonna Ride the Chariots.”  These were songs my older sisters brought home from high school in the 60’s. Us younger kids were in awe of them, their bubble hairdos, and any songs emanating from that mysterious place of higher education.   With damp muslin dishtowels as props, we twirled our way through the myriad of dishes and songs, honing both our  housekeeping and musical skills.  Performing 365 evenings a year at our kitchen venue was significant practice and we became good at singing.  Really Good.  We hear a melody, we know the 3rd and 5th harmonies like the back of our melmac dishes.

Once I encountered a gal who was taking professional “harmonizing lessons” so she could sing on a worship team.  She asked me where I’d learned such harmonies.  I was astonished!  I’d never even thought of having to learn how to harmonize!  But come to think of it, I had learned in the best way:  doing it, practicing it, going over it again and again and having my other sister’s lead the way;  experiencing not only hours of labor, but hours of joy, learning to work and sing together.  We didn’t notice the process- only the  moment we knew we had “gotten it right”: sung our parts without leering away into someone else’s, nor falling off in confusion, and we’d hold the last note out long and longer to enjoy the magic that is good music.  It’s called glory.

I have been thinking lately about the Bible verse that tells us to “live in harmony with each other.”  To live in harmony means we  don’t all sing the same notes; we sing complimentary notes.  We may even sing dissident notes as long as we resolve the tension in the end. We don’t all sing at the same time, we wait for our part.  We listen, we do our part, we fit in and allow others to fit in, too.  Learning to live in harmony is a process, whether in marriage, the church, or the guy next door, but when we get it right, it’s glory.

Aspiring to Painthood

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I live in a big house. All the walls are a very pale gray. I’ve tried to like the color, mainly because I hate painting. I’d like to think the name on the paint can was “Tahitian Sand” or something as exotic, but “Leftover Oatmeal” or “Albino Elephant” is probably more realistic.

“It goes with everything,” I tell myself. Well of course it does. It’s tofu.

I consider myself a rather adventurous person. I like to kick rocks just to see what’s living under them; I like a straight shoot-out rather than sneakin’ around corners; so I find it odd that I’m very afraid of a paint can. I get all trembly with questions like, “What if I spend forty dollars on “Moss Green” and it turns out to be “Mold Green?” “What if my mother-in-law doesn’t like it?” Where did that come from? I have the best mother-in-law in the world. She wouldn’t care if I painted it “Baby Poop”-especially now that she’s in her nineties.

My daughter Grace has been encouraging me to add some wall color-maybe a coffee or taupe sort of thing. Well, she’s right. I should have. But yesterday, I looked at those walls and decided “You’re So Boring You Make Me Want to Vomit” was the actual color, so I did the only reasonable thing: I went out to the garage and dragged in a few cans of leftover paint a friend gave me (who, apparently, is not timid about her walls). So I tried the goldish color on a small wall. It turned out to be the exact color of my oak cabinets. It reminded me of an outfit I loved in 2nd grade: green pants with a green shirt. So I popped open the other can and cautiously peered inside to the inch of red paint at the bottom. I took a rag and dabbed it on the gold. Oh my golashes- I totally love it (see picture above)! There’s just one little problem. Everything else needs painting now.

I’m an idiot. I deserve to be sentenced to “Tofu” the rest of my life without parole. Someone save me from myself (or at least offer some interior decorating advice).