Friday, November 11, 2016

Dinner in a Helmet



            

            The morning shone with the glory of late spring. The birds high in the oaks and the firs sheltering our home had awakened early with a chorus of songs.  Mid-morning had come but they still sang their joyful song.

            I stepped out the door and looked towards my garden where overgrown cabbages were waiting to be gathered.  Just then, Morgan, the granddaughter of our next door neighbor came running into my arms, a small white daisy clutched in one hand. “It’s for you,” she exclaimed. “My Grandpa, says it’s a wild one. He said you’d love it.”

“And I do,” I told her. “I love wild things.”

            She let the small daisy kiss her nose then thrust it into my hand. “Do you like to eat them?” she asked.

            “Well no, not particularly. But some wild plants are edible. When I was little I used to pull apart the tall grass stems growing in our yard and nibble their tender soft ends. Of course that’s something you don’t do unless you know for sure they're safe to eat.”

            Morgan cocked her head and frowned. “What about dandelions? I touched their little itsy bitsy petals with my tongue once and they felt so soft. Like silk maybe.”

            I twirled the daisy in my hand as memories flooded through my mind. My husband Bud had kept himself alive by gathering wild things and cooking them in his helmet while he was a prisoner of war. Miners lettuce, Lamb’s Tongue, Sour grass, even stinging Nettles. And dandelions. He ate them raw; sometimes he scrubbed their roots and cooked them separately, at other times he boiled the leaves, flowers and roots all together.

            “My husband taught me lots about wild things, Morgan. He showed me where nettles grew and how to gather them when they were young and tender. Once I cooked them up the same way I did spinach. By then they tasted awfully strong but Bud showed me how to cook them twice using different water each time. That helped.”

            But Morgan wasn’t interested in my prattle about nettles, or spinach. “Did you eat the dandelions, too?” she asked.

            I nodded. “Mostly in salads though. I mixed them up with water cress and added tender new nasturtiums—those yellow and orange flowers in my garden—and the wild violets that grew underneath the oak tree. My children loved it. The grandchildren, not so much.”

            But Morgan was no longer listening. “My Daddy’s calling. We have to go home now.”  She took off running. I saw her stop at the corner of our yard and look up at the alder trees bordering our driveway.   I knew she'd be asking her grandpa if they were edible.

           She stared for a moment then pulled several leaves off a low branch; smiled, then tucked them carefully, one by one, into her pocket. Like my memories, I thought and sudden tears filled my eyes. My childhood floated before my eyes as I remembered roaming through the woods gathering blackberries for dumpling and even rose hips for tea.

            I remembered back to my early marriage--the day I was pulling the aged cabbage from our garden to be boiled for our supper.  Cooking it was no easy task, toughened as it was by lack of water and spending long hours in the August sun. But I did it, slice by slice, and into the pot it went. I covered it with water, and set it on the burner.

            Gradually the pungent smell of cabbage filled the air. But the fork I tried to poke it with refused to penetrate its rubbery surface. I replaced the lid and turned up the heat.

            And then it happened. I heard a cry. Bud had come home from work; he stood crouched on the other side of the counter holding onto his stomach, his eyes wild with horror.

            “Take it away!” He shouted as he gestured towards the stove where the cabbage blissfully boiled. “Please, please. The rotten donkey meat. The cabbage. They added lots of water— but the smell. I can’t stand it! I can’t stand it!”  My strong husband quietly murmured, “Will I ever forget?”

            And then I knew. My heart pounded as I turned off the burner and guided him into our bedroom at the back of the house. I returned for the pot of cabbage and carried it into the garden where I dug a deep hole and covered our supper with sweet smelling soil.

            But what about the kitchen? The pungent smell of boiling cabbage still lingered in the air. Vinegar, I’d sweeten the errant pot with water and the last cup of vinegar in the bottle. 

            I’m not sure now what I served for dinner that evening, but it seems we ate applesauce covered with a thick cream. I know we never did discuss the offending cabbage I'd cooked. What I remember most was the tremble in my husband’s voice as he told me and the children stories about the food he'd eaten while he was a prisoner at Bad Orb in Germany.

            My dear husband stayed alive by boiling greens he found in his helmet to make soups of wild things.  His stories touched me deeply. He said he tried to share his knowledge with his comrades, but most refused to eat it even when he offered it to them.

            He tried to explain. “I don’t know why they didn’t, but I know my mother’s teaching and showing us kids how to fill our stomachs with wild edibles is what enabled me to survive.”

            I shuddered. “You were skin and bones when you were liberated; a mere 98 lbs.”

            “Yes," he replied.  "But I’ll never be that again, nor will anyone in my family. I promise you, Eva. No matter what it takes--neither you, nor our kids will ever go hungry.” And we never did.

            It was only a few years later that he came home from the mental hospital where he worked. Right away I noticed a change in his demeanor; his eyes shone and he held his head high as he announced, “Today I was in charge of helping the patients assigned to the ward kitchen to set up the trays for the evening meal. And—are you ready for this—the main dish was sauerkraut..

            “Something miraculous must have happened.”  Bud smiled, “I–I took a deep breath, then speared a strand of cabbage and twirled it around my fork. I took a bite and—guess what?  I can't say I liked it particularly, but it was okay.  It even reminded me of Grandma Bray and the big crock pot she used to fix her famous sauerkraut we kids used to swipe when she wasn't looking.”

            Just writing these words now, brings tears to my eyes; the stroke that took Bud’s life stole his ability to speak and to swallow—to taste.  I thank God for that long ago day when that miraculous healing came and he could eat boiled cabbage again.  How I thank God for what he did for Bud.  My husband is strong and well now—in heaven where the fruit trees bloom…

            The evening he died, his hand closed over mine.  He was telling me good-bye in his own way. He loved me with a forever love which had no ending. 

             I am grateful for the sacrifice my husband made--fighting for our freedom a world away.  I am proud of him and thankful for his life and the lives of so many others--many have died, others live among us.  God bless these dear men and women and their families with peace and love, especially in these hard times.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Walking Through the Shadows

            My husband laid beside me on our bed, his hands; his fingers spread wide into what appeared to be an open cup. I said his name softly, “Bud.”

            There was no answer. He lay on his side, his gray eyes wide open and I knew. My husband had gone back to another world on the other side of the planet which I could neither see, nor enter.

            His words came in broken bits and pieces as though he probed the darkness for insight. “We were prisoners of war. We were hiking uphill through the snowy forests of France. My legs shook. I couldn’t feel my toes. I heard the shout, ‘Halt!’ My stomach growled. "I was so hungry. Would there be food?"

            For a moment his eyes closed. He breathed a sigh of relief. "The clearing where we were was crowded with snow covered logs. I chose the nearest one and though it was icy and cold, it felt good to sit down. I reached for the stale bread I was handed by a guard and shoved it into my mouth. But as I licked the crumbs off my lips I looked down and saw a frozen hand, the fingers stiff and spread wide reaching out to me.

            “It was horrifying. The log was a dead man--only his hand stuck out of the snow. Just moments before, I’d sat there glad for a place to sit and eat my lunch. But this man would never move again. Death found him. His life—gone forever.”  His eyes squeezed shut for a moment, then opened. 

            “Bud, I love you—I...”  But he still stared into that dark place, lost in a world I could not see, or comprehend.

            “I hate my hand.” His voice dropped to a whisper. “This hand; it’s done awful things—these fingers pulled the trigger and one German after another fell face down in the dirt. But I had to do it. They told us...” His voice rose to a shout. “Shoot anything that moves!’ And so I did.”

            Bud was only 18 when he was drafted and thrust into battle.  He was just a boy.  My thoughts of the war; the awful Battle of the Bulge with bombs bursting over head and firearms repeating their sentences of death over and over again. Almost I could hear the screams.

            Too late, I thought. World War II is over, but it still whispers its message of hate into the fragile minds of brave soldiers who, though some survived, were marked for life with scars marking both mind and body.

            “Bud,” I whispered, “it was war and you told me you fought for your family and country, and you always said you’d do it all over again if another Hitler rose to power sending innocent men, women and children to the ovens where they died by the millions.”

            I reached for his curled hand, but still lost in the past, he pulled away from my touch. Hurt twisted in the deep places of my being. How could I find words to bring comfort to his soul and to mine?

             “Bud, you have beautiful hands and a brave and tender heart.” Tears trembled in my voice. “Why, I’ve watched you cradle your fingers beneath our little ones' chins and gently wipe their tears away. I've watched you build our home, plant a garden. You’re a good husband and father. We love you so much. We always have. We always will.”

            His face softened—a small smile.  His eyes closed, he finally let me hold his hands in mine. 

            Then I reached for the lamp switch.  I tried to swallow the lump building in my throat. “Bud,"  I said softly.  "You always said things were worse in the darkness. Both of us, you and me, we’ll feel better in the morning. The sun will light up the tree tops and we’ll smile at each other while its rays touch our faces.  We have God’s promise. ‘Weeping may endure for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning!’

            Not long after this my husband suffered a stroke and a few months later, he left this world for the next.  I miss him more than I can express in words—yet I know someday I will see his dear face again.

            Some of you are walking through the shadows—caught in the mire of darkness and grief.  Reach for the light, dear ones. You are not alone. God loves you and Joy truly does come in the morning.

            “For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning.” ~Psalm 30:5

Saturday, October 8, 2016

To the Uttermost





There's something special about earthly fathers, especially those who show us glimpses of our heavenly Father.

My own dear Daddy met Jesus when he was in his late thirties—it was he who led my mother to his Lord; it was she who was the most verbal of the two. Daddy only had an eighth grade education and I think it was hard for him to put deep thoughts into words. Maybe that was why I always listened when he had something to say.

I'll never forget the day he became so excited about the word “uttermost.” An unearthly joy sparkled in his brown eyes as he entered the back room where I lay curled upon the bed, reading.  He carried his open Bible in one hand and something about him almost seemed to dance where he stood.

“Jesus saves to the 'uttermost,'” he exclaimed. “To the uttermost'. Do you see? The 'uttermost!'”

The way he said, “uttermost” caused me to picture a curling wave holding a sailor in its grip. I imagined Jesus leaning down and snatching the man from the foaming sea.

Then Daddy said it again, “Jesus saves to the 'uttermost.'” The way his tongue rolled around the word “uttermost” made goose bumps pop up on my arms. Suddenly the small child I was realized being saved to the “uttermost” meant something much more than a helpless swimmer snatched to safety.

I knew instinctively that “uttermost,” the way Daddy said it, was something mysterious and wonderful--something which embraced forever. “It went far beyond space and entered eternity. “Uttermost” had something to do with being near the heart of God and to my child's perception that was a glorious nearness and my heart was filled with awe.

Many years later, I stood beside my father's bed at the VA hospital.  It had been eight years since Daddy had recognized me as his daughter. But that day—four days before he entered heaven—I  saw something in his eyes. I leaned over the railing and took his hand. “Daddy,” I whispered, “it's your Eva Jane.”  

He beamed, but no words came as I began to share the things I hadn't been able to tell him during his years of darkness and confusion. His eyes twinkled as I told him of my growing family and how my first book for teens was being published that spring.

I remembered that long ago day from my childhood.  Holding his hand, I read the 23rd Psalm. “You know Him, Daddy," I said.  "He's the Great Shepherd who saves to the 'uttermost.'”

His fingers tightened around mine.  I saw recognition and a little smile flash into his tired brown eyes.  I saw peace.  My Daddy was ready to see His Jesus.

As I held his gnarled, work-worn hands, I thought about the verse he'd read to me.  It was from Hebrews 7:25 KJV “Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.”

It has been well over 30 years since Daddy went to heaven. I think of him often, and I smile.   In my mind’s eye I see his eyes sparkle, and I hear the excitement and wonder in his voice—his words echo down through the years to find their home in my own heart and soul… God, who saves to the “uttermost.”



Monday, August 1, 2016

Wings of Hope

  

          One of the highlights of my summer was when my son’s wife Jane, asked me to tell her family my favorite story their Grandfather, my husband Bud, told from his days as a prisoner of war during WW2.

            I stumbled for a bit, because over the years Bud’s stories had been told out of order, piecemeal, covering a span of some fifty years—and I, a chronological thinker, was unsure of the timing of the stories he told.

            Then my daughter assured me, “Grandpa’s stories don’t have to be told, or even written in the order in which he experienced them, to be valuable to us, Mom.  We just want to hear them. We want to remember.”

            Her words so aptly spoken, became a deep conviction, a charge, to preserve his stories. Those of us who lived through those years must preserve and tell the stories of men like Bud.  To unfold what happened for future generations, those true experiences too real and valuable to be forgotten.   

            Our generation has a responsibility to fill in the gaps of our missing history and to give voice to those who can no longer speak for themselves.  My husband has been gone now for three years.  One of his great legacies are the stories he told.  Some of the most poignant came from his experiences as a prisoner of war in Germany during WW2.

            And now for a moment—imagine that time staggers a moment…then slowly slips back to the day my husband’s mother, Leola Gibson, a weary mother of seven was preparing a meal in the kitchen of her Oregon City home.   

            So many mouths to feed, so many to care for, she was tired—so very tired.  But she must go on.  Sweat rolled off her forehead as she stoked the old fashioned wood stove, then punched down a mound of bread dough resting beneath a freshly laundered dish towl.  Her strong capable hands quickly formed it into loves which she placed into greased bread pans darkened by many bakings.

            A sudden knock—she wiped her hands on her apron and hurried to open the door.  The uniformed man standing there, held out a telegram.  “It’s for you, Madam.”

            Leola’s stomach tightened into a knot.  She took the telegram and thanked the man, but her heart cried out.  Telegrams always brought bad news.  No God.  Not my Bud.  Please God, please.  Let him be alive.

            Speechless she unfolded the paper with trembling fingers.  The words were capitalized and they burned into her heart

            THE SECRETARY OF WAR DESIRES ME TO EXPRESS HIS DEEP REGRETS THAT YOUR SON PRIVATE ORAL D. GIBSON HAS BEEN REPORTED MISSING IN ACTION SINCE SEVEN JANUARY IN BELGIUM. IF FURTHER DETAILS OR OTHER INFORMATION ARE RECEIVED YOU WILL BE PROMPTLY NOTIFIED =J A ULIO THE ADJUNTNT GENERAL.

            It could only mean one thing.  No one knew where her eldest son was.  He was missing in action.  She bowed her head.  Why he could be lying alone, wounded, on some distant battlefield. 

            A picture of her boy, covered with blood while bombs exploded overhead burst into her mind.  No, no, not my son, my first born.  He can’t be dead.   More than anything she wanted to believe Bud was still alive.

            That night she lay on her bed and cried deep soul tears until there were none left to shed.  She hadn’t yet told her children and her husband was away seeking work in a far away town.  “Morning will be soon enough,” she whispered.

            At last she slept.

            And then in the stillness of the night her son came and sat on the edge of the bed.  He leaned forward and took her hand.  “Mom, it’s me, your Bud.  I’m okay.  I’m alive.”

            He told her of the places he’d been; the small towns beside the river.  The Battle of the Bulge and where he’d been taken at Bastogne as a prisoner of war to Bad Orb, a Nazi prison camp not far from Frankfurt,  Germany.

            “I’m coming home, Mom.”  He lifted her hand and brushed her swollen knuckles with his lips.  “We only have to wait.”

            Leola awakened with a start.  Her son no longer sat beside her—had he really been there?  Was he alive?  It had all seemed so real.

            Deep in her heart she knew it was true.

            Hope bubbled up inside her as she pushed back her blanket and hurried to the kitchen.  Her eldest son was missing in action, but he wasn’t missing to  God, or to her…his Mother.

            She smiled as she mused.  Today’s family breakfast would be a celebration of words and food.  She took several loaves of the fragrant bread she’d baked and the fresh laid eggs her eldest daughter Ada, had gathered from the chicken house, and set them on the drain board.  There would be bacon her husband had bought to surprise the family, the week before.

            It was only when the food was cooked and the children gathered around the table that she told them the news.  Their beloved big brother serving on the other side of the world was safe.  He’d come through the Battle of the Bulge where he’d been captures; then endured the long trek through ice and snow, through the forests, where he was now a prisoner of war in Bad Orb, Germany.

            He was coming home.  She’d dreamed he had come to her and she knew it was real.  They only had to wait.

*      *      *

            Bud Gibson lay on his narrow hard bed, his nose close to the wires of the bunk above him.  The Nazis had housed their captives in a dank, cold building set aside for prisoners of war.  The wires stretched beneath him held no mattress, only a threadbare blanket way between him and the biting cold and the soldier above him.

            The man beneath him, a new prisoner, coughed and gagged.  Sometimes he whimpered like a small child.  At other times he shouted at those who had captured him.  And then the yelling began.  Strange, one could still hear the rustling sounds of mice—or were they rats, or stray cats prowling tin the darkness?

            Bud twisted this way and that as he struggled to pull the thin blanket higher on his shoulders.  His back ached, his feet throbbed and the aroma of unwashed bodies, blood and filthy debris shoved into every corner, assailed his senses.  What a terrible world of dirt, cold and pain it was.

            Gradually the night deepened and suddenly he felt as though he was airborne.  The cold still embraced him, but now it didn’t seem to matter.  

            Suddenly, he knew.  Somehow he was going home.

            He stepped into his mother’s room.  Sat down on a soft blanket at the edge of her bed and reached for her hand.  “Mom, it’s me, Bud.  I’m alive.  I’m okay.”

            He told her of the places he’d been:  Bastonne where he’d been captured, the snowy forest they had marched through to arrive at last in Bad Orb--Stalag B, a prison camp near Frankfort…

           I think of that 18 year old boy, drafted and thrust into the middle of a terrible war.  Bud saw and experienced things no human being should have to endure.  Yet, in the midst of this horrible ordeal, God was merciful.  God allowed my husband to fly through the night on wings of hope to let his beloved Mother know he was alright--to assure her that he was coming home. 

All they had to do was wait.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

His Mountain Song


My family and I are hiking along a mountain trail.  They are excited and happy, but I struggle with dark feelings of failure over my son's decision to live apart from God.  The sun shines, the trees seem to clap their hands and the meadow grasses bend to sing their song.  But I cling to depression.

We set up camp, then climb a ridge to discover what is on the other side.  the trail is backbreaking  We are tired and thirsty, but still we climb upwards and discover a lake of shining waters hidden in the folds of the tree clad mountains.

We drink deeply, catch frogs and admire dragon flies.  But it seems my Lord is trying to tell me something.  I cannot quite make out what it is. 

I leave my family and cross to the other side of the lake.  I walk along the lake's edge, where I meet a mother ewe and her lamb slaking their thirst in the cold glacial waters.  

Suddenly my  Shepherd is there.  His eyes shine with love.  He sees my bitter self-inflicted wounds, my sadness and hurt.  With gentle hands, He tenderly touches my pain and I begin to learn His beautiful mountain song.

--His Mountain Song, copyright ©1981 by Eva J. Gibson

Would you like to read more?  This is an excerpt from a manuscript written long ago.  I am considering re-writing it as an allegory to submit to a publisher.  What do you think?


Friday, January 30, 2015

Unexpected Beauty and Joy




 A few days ago I looked out my window in the early dawn and saw the branches of the dark fir  trees pressed against a sky of gold. 

Suddenly my mind takes me back to the day our house was so badly damaged in the 1962 Columbus Day storm. The roof over our living room and kitchen had been rolled up like a scroll and tossed into the neighbor's field, shattered windows left shards of glass covering our floors.

The months that  followed were difficult; I was pregnant with my fourth child and money was scarce as we repaired the roof, windows and walls.  It was all we could do to purchase food and the supplies we needed to live. 

That was when a friend slipped a ten dollar bill into my hand; "You need to do something for you, Eva  Use this to get yourself something beautiful to give you joy."

The Sunday after that our little country church on the hill had a guest speaker; a WW2 veteran whose airplane had been shot down  during active combat over Germany. This man escaped capture by hiking across Europe.  Back home he felt led to give his life to traveling across the United  States, telling his true-life stories of God's miracles.

As my family and I got ready to leave, I strongly sensed  God wanted me to give this man my 10 dollar bill. I hesitated, but the feeling wouldn't go away; I walked over to where he stood at the door with his Bible in hand.

"For you," I said, as I gave him my gift.  Although God gave me peace and joy at that moment it was no comparison to the joy I felt when received a letter from several months later. 

"Dear Sister, I experienced a great blessing and thank both God and you for it; These past few weeks have been difficult for me and this morning I woke to the realization that the only thing in my cupboard was 2 cans of corn. But I couldn't eat it because I had a medical issue;  First I prayed and then I reached for the old Bible I used when I spoke at your church. I opened it and there on the page lay the ten dollars you gave me that Sunday morning." 

After I read the letter, I wrote on the page in the front of my Bible, "It is more blessed to give than to receive. Lord, I don't want to ever forget."

Have you ever felt a nudge to do something out of the ordinary?  Or to give, when you are in extreme need yourself?  Pay attention.  When a person is obedient to God's direction—miracles happen.  Sometimes we get a glimpse of what God was doing, yet in other circumstances, we may never know. But there is always a blessing when we are obedient to our mighty Creator. 

My friend had told me to use her gift for something beautiful--something which would bring me joy.  In my obedience to the Lord, I found both beauty and joy.

Isaiah 55:12 - "You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands."


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

About Waiting...



Why is it that it is so hard for us to wait?  I don’t like to wait.  When I want something, I want it now, and more often than not, it just isn’t God’s plan.

I have been waiting on many things, for a very long time.  Frustration sometimes clouds my vision. 

I remember when I was young and seriously ill following the birth of our first child, Beth.  I cried out  for God and at the same time reached for my Bible which was lying open on my bedside table.   Did God have something there to help me?  Oh, God please help me.

I turned the page and read, “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage and He shall strengthen your heart.  Wait I say on the Lord.”  (Psalm 17:14 KJV) I turned the pages, “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.” (Isaiah 40:31 KJV)

Sometimes waiting is like looking at the fruit of a walnut tree.  The outer rind is bitter and as it weathers into the ground, it can become ugly.  Waiting is like that, too--from the outside, there's nothing beautiful or Good about it. 

Yet inside, the walnut kernel is refreshing and strengthening.  “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

God bless you dear ones, as you wait.

 (About the photo.  This was taken by Beth's friend Catherine Mitchell.  this picture is of a Mama Eagle teaching her baby how to fly.)

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Little Girl Who Got Back Up


This morning as I prepared to teach my Writing Your Life Story class, I found a story from my childhood I had written years ago.   It would be perfect to use for my class, I thought.  

But as I read I was caught back through the years.--back to when I was just a girl.  As I watched through my child's eyes I was deeply touched.  The truth the little girl learned that day was exactly what I needed to pull me up out of the pit of depression and fear where I had been wallowing.

I thought perhaps this story might touch your heart, too:

I’ll never forget the winter I was nine; the year Daddy bought our John Deere tractor. I remember the excitement I felt as Mother, Daddy, Dale, Lawrence and I crowded around the kitchen table, the John Deere catalog open in front of us. 

 “Picture yourself on this seat,” the caption commanded and I could see that was just what my brother, Lawrence, was doing.

That spring Daddy pulled out the red cigar box and counted out the bills. We could scarce believe it; soon that tall green John Deere would be ours. No longer would we need to hire the neighbor to plow our garden plot. Never again would Daddy have to scythe the hay by hand. That wonderful John Deere tractor meant all our needs would be met. We could hardly wait.

It was summer when John Deere came to live with us. With Lawrence at John’s wheel, our fields were plowed and disked and harrowed.  Dale and I even got into the act as we rode atop the harrow and disk as weights to help break up the clods.

One day when Dale and I were acting as weights an unexpected jounce jarred my grip and tossed me over the top and onto the ground in front of the discs.  

I have no memory of the fall, but I heard a horrible scream—it was my own voice. John Deere jerked to a stop. The disk rested on top of me and I saw my brother’s face as he turned.  He leaped from the tractor seat and lifted the disk from my back.

I sprang out, unhurt. “I’m all right,” I said.

My shirt was uncut. Lawrence brushed dirt from it and wiped my face with the corner of his. “I’ll take you to Mother.”

I shook my head. “I’m all right,” I insisted.

My legs shook. My mouth tasted funny. But I had to get back on the disk. I had too.

Lawrence understood. He smiled reassuringly as I climbed back on beside Dale.

As we rounded the corner of the field, we saw Mother hurrying toward us. We lifted our hands and waved.

Mother frowned.

We smiled.

We didn’t come in until the field was free of dirt clods.

As I relived those heart-stopping moments, the little girl I had been spoke truth to my heart.  I had forgotten the importance of getting back up to face my fears.  Fears which had plagued me since the death of my husband.  I had felt especially paralyzed when my computer crashed and I was faced with the loss of the original copy of the galley proofs of  A Stitch and A Prayer.

As I struggled with trying to master a new computer and the challenge of marketing my new book, I grew even more fearful and weary.  I had  lost sight of the courageous little girl I had once been.  That girl who had bravely climbed back up on the disk to finish the task she had been given to do.

I do not want my fears to keep me from what the Lord has called me to do.  Just like that clear-eyed girl I once knew, I need to get back up, hop back on, and find strength to finish the job.  

But I don't have to face my fears on my own.  A verse calls to me from my Bible. It is God’s message for me: I have not given you the spirit of fear but a spirit of power, love and of self-discipline. (My paraphrase of 2 Timothy 1:7).  

As I forge through my day, seeking to honor God in all that I do, I will cling to God's promise of living fearlessly through His power, with love and self-discipline.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Herman's Song


 
The cool of coming Fall hides in the shadows of the trees.  I look out the window through the rustling leaves--today I open my journal where I have recorded grace notes our faithful God has so generously scattered throughout the month of August to bless my heart.  Many came from His creation.
  •  The evening I saw dragon flies dancing high above the road at twilight.  As I watched their glory dance it became a grace note, a song of God’s glory.
  • The sweet twitter of a solitary bird hidden in the bushes announcing the arrival of autumn and a multitude of red winged blackbirds soon to gather in the cottonwood  trees. 
  • Just last night I heard the call of geese flying low over our house. They turned in the direction of the beaver ponds deep in the wood and I suspected they already knew it to be a safe place to settle for the night.
Thinking about God’s wonderful creation brought back the time a skunk came to live under the woodshed we had converted into a bedroom and office where I did my writing.  Bud and I named him Herman and he soon became my special friend. 

Herman grew so familiar with us, sometimes in the late evening when I fed our black and white cats on the back porch he joined them. Imagine my surprise when I stepped on Herman’s bushy tail.  I screamed, but he didn’t seem to mind. We didn’t see him often in the daytime, although sometimes I met Herman at the steps---him coming out, me going in.

One hot summer night I couldn’t sleep, so I made up an old army cot in the yard nearby.  Sometime in the night I felt a soft touch like a kiss on my hand.  I opened my eyes and there was Herman.  Once again he touched my hand with his nose. It was a gentleman’s kiss and I would remember it forever.

As time passed, troubles came to our family as they often do, and a dull darkness settled over my spirit.  When I went to bed after one particularly trying day, my mind wouldn’t slow down and sleep didn’t come for a long time.

I was awakened suddenly in the middle of the night.  Music?  A song—could it be a night bird? I had never heard anything like it before. The sound was so beautiful, as it drifted through the open window.  I pushed back the blankets; my bare feet touched the floor and I seemed to hear a scratching sound outside. I leaned out the window and gasped. There Herman stood, with his tiny paws braced against the wall, his white strips shining  in the darkness. His small nose pointed upward as he sang.

I listened in awe and amazement. Herman's song was for me---my Father God had sent the little skunk with his incredibly beautiful song, to dispel the sadness and confusion which had gathered in my mind.  God was sending me songs in the night and I knew I would never forget that holy moment.

As I write this, I remember these words I paraphrase now, from Psalm 4:6b-8. LORD , you have lifted up the light of Your countenance upon me. You have put gladness in my heart, . . . I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; For You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. 

Note:  In his Book How to Understand Animal Talk, Author Vincent Brown writes of the song of the skunk.  He describes it as a sound rarely heard by people, a “whistling in the night—something like the cooing of a dove, only higher…going up and down the scale, at last ending in a long-drawn and soft purr like a cat’s.”

Sunday, August 3, 2014

God's Grace Note



Earlier this week when I was cleaning out my old office I found a book I didn’t know I had. As I turned it in my hands I read these words on the back: “Based on the actual experience of Christian Reger during World War 11.”  The prisoners are inspired by a mysterious encounter with a light no darkness can extinguish..."

I opened the book and was caught by words of the main character.    “ . . . Grace sometimes comes to us in small things.” 

I couldn’t read any further; Somehow I knew those words were God’s grace note to me. Then a verse: “And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9 NKJV).

Today God played His love notes to me in new ways: A silly blue Jay perched on a branch in the birch tree tried to imitate a tree frog’s croak; a wild Queen Anne’s Lace displayed her tall majestic beauty as she caught the breeze and waved her fronds high above my head. The pungent smell of the cedar in the yard tickled my nose, and the small green cross  growing on the limb of a fir was caught in the lowering sun for a moment of glory.

These golden moments were God’s grace notes revealed to me in the small  things,  and I was both refreshed and blessed.   

Psalm 43:3-4 (Amplified): Oh send out Your light and Your truth; let them lead me, let them bring me to Your holy hill and to Your dwelling. Then will I go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy; yes, with the lyre will I praise You, O God, my God!