Lent 2020

I’ve been reading, studying, digesting, listening to and learning from the Bible over my entire life. I’ve been glad and mad, confused and convicted, by its words. I’ve had conversations and arguments with God and others about what it says and doesn’t say. I’ve read scores of books about the Bible. I’ve attended Bible studies, taken classes on the Bible—I have a seminary graduate degree—and written about the Bible.

One of my goals for 2020 is to interact with a different translation of the Bible. I need to shake things up. I’m still studying and reading and writing about the more traditional/adult versions of the Bible, but the Spirit is nudging me to bring some joy back into my dedicated time with Him.

So here I am, during Lent, picking up one of my very favorite Bibles: The Jesus Storybook Bible.

We discovered this Bible when our youngest son was four years old. As I read the first few stories aloud to him, I delighted in the words and illustrations. This is no ordinary kids’ Bible. This is a work of art.

I have since recommended this Bible to everyone I know who is even slightly at all interested in the Bible. Because of my enthusiasm, our church preschool gives one to every graduate and our sanctuary pew racks contain copies, indicating to families that children are always welcome. It is also our go-to new baby gift.

This Lent, I’m going to read for five minutes a day, as many stories as that allows, and then write for another five minutes about what stood out to me, and then I’ll share posts a few times a week. A sort of lectio divina light, playing and creating with God. Play with me?

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Reconnect

I graduated from a small, private, liberal arts college in Santa Barbara, California, in the early 90’s. During those college years and for a while after, I lived with a fantastic group of gals. This weekend, for the first getaway since graduation, nine of us gathered in Santa Cruz, California, to reconnect.

In so many ways, we picked up right where we left off. It helped that some of us have kept in better touch than others, but our essential personalities and ways of interacting were established long ago. 3 decades x 9 women = a lot of ground to cover. We may only have scratched the surface, but we went deep fast.

We shared stories of marriage and divorce, birth and kids, jobs and pursuits, loss and death, home and travel, where and how we’ve found meaning in life, and lighter topics such as favorite books and movies and Saturday Night Live skits. Tears were shed, but we enjoyed way more laughter.

My family asked, “What did you do?” Simple: walked on the beach and talked. Ate and drank and talked. Walked and talked some more. Mostly we talked. We slept a little.

Though we are the same age, our children range in age from 4 to almost 25 years old. We are mostly married, some divorced, some blended families. One child is married and another engaged, a couple more in significant relationships.

I’m impressed with these gals, what they’ve done with their lives, the families they’ve grown, how they’ve invested in society, and how they’ve handled life’s inevitable challenges. I’m amazed we coordinated nine schedules to get time away, and I’m grateful for the chance to listen, to exchange ideas, to encourage one another.

My heart is full, and I can’t wait to do it again.

Exact

The one-word writing prompt—exact—reminds me that I am not one for exact-ness. Numbers require precision, and I am a Word Girl who prefers not to deal with numbers. Even when I’m looking for just the right word(s), I could be convinced of any number of synonyms that would carry the meaning and lend a nuance. When I dabble in art, I try to stay open to the creative process which almost never looks exactly like what I had in mind. It’s part of the joy.

And yet, there’s one Exact in my life for which I am forever grateful: my Guy. I have the exact right husband for me. He’s it, my one and only.

He’s been my Valentine for 30 years. We had our first date a few days before Valentine’s Day. Thirty years ago, he gave me three yellow roses and one red. A nice guy, he gave a few yellow roses to other friends as well, but I was the only one who received a red rose. He’s been bringing me flowers ever since.

Today I received a delivery of 50 red roses.

He’s not perfect, but obviously neither am I. Still, we compliment each other in all the necessary ways. He’s an extrovert and I’m an introvert. He engages with everyone, and I remember their names. He gets me out, and I keep him grounded.

We share the same interests (animals, the outdoors, stories) and values (God, family, friends). We expand each other’s perspectives in important ways. We make each other laugh and dry each other’s tears. We’re best friends and we hold each other close.

I cannot imagine having done life with anyone else. My exactly right for me, darling Valentine.

Surprise

Some surprises you do not want. The extreme opposite of entering a darkened room to discover it filled with expectant people ready to shower you with love, my friend returned to her car after a fun night out to find someone had broken the window and made off with her valuables. Invasion. Destruction. Hassle on so many levels.

We cancelled a long-planned get-together for the next day, which we made up last night. With a grimace, she showed me her car window. I had a Sharpie. I asked for permission…

…and I drew little hearts all around the window tape. Maybe it seems silly, but I wanted to do something to help redeem the wrong. The broken window reminded her of disaster, one she has to deal with, but I know her heart sinks each time she sees it. My hope was that my little hearts would remind her that she is not alone. That she is loved. That she can choose to respond with grace and love.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. —1 Corinthians 13:6-7

Ponder

I read today’s one word writing prompt yesterday—ponder—and woke in the wee hours pondering the word, chewing it, twisting it this way and that. It reminds me of wonder, only one letter different, and the comparison delights me as word play often does. I see ponder in neon flashing through the dark night, leading me to wonder, to wander, to meander.

Now daylight, I leash up the dogs and meander our wonderfully walkable neighborhood. I notice two hawks, spiraling through the sky above me. NorCal is experiencing a remarkably early spring; likely it happens every year but it always surprises me with joy. I don’t even need a jacket. A light breeze sometimes strokes my skin, yet warm sunlight permeates everything. The grass is green. Trees have buds, and bulbs push their green fronds through the ground. Those lucky to have sufficient exposure already bloom in yellows and pinks. I stop to take pictures.

Ponder: to think about carefully, to consider, to meditate. Ooh, I like that last one. I sometimes refer to my dog walks as “moving meditation.” I ponder, wonder, wander, meander, meditate. I pray.

Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them. —Psalm 111:2

They Made It

Two weeks ago today my Guy, Son (C21), and Brother-in-Law (BIL) returned from their adventure in Tanzania, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and enjoying a safari through the Ngorongoro Crater.

They made it to the summit, 19,341 feet above sea level. It took six and a half days up and a day and a half down.

Guy said it was the hardest thing he’s ever done, physically and mentally. The key word is polepole, Swahili for slowly. You go up slowly, one foot in front of the other, allowing your body time to acclimate. Guy said he never felt the physical exertion one experiences on a typical hike, where you move quickly to cover mileage and get to your goal. This hike wasn’t about the sweat. It was all about reaching the summit.

Their group of 12 hikers had 49 porters, carrying not only their backpacks but also sleeping and dining tents, tables and chairs, food and cooking supplies, and a port-a-potty (pity the guy who carried that). As they got closer to the summit and met up with other groups ascending along different trails, camp held as many as 500 people. Apparently, this hike is more popular than most of us reckon.

Summit day begins at midnight and hikers climb through the dark to reach the top at dawn. While hiking in the dark seems counter intuitive, apparently reasons include limiting the time spent at extreme altitude, the incredible dawn view from such a great height, and the possibility of storms at the peak later in the day.

By far the most difficult leg of the trip, Guy said it required more mental than physical strength. He stumbled several times. He had hot tea and caffeinated snacks and forced himself to sip or nibble every few steps. Fatigue and altitude working in tandem to shut down his brain, he wasn’t sure he’d make it. Yet he did. Their whole team made it to the summit.

And then, the best souvenir beyond achievement itself: group pictures at the summit.

After all the hard work, the remainder of the trip makes for a satisfying reward.

They trained for and achieved a personal high. They shared the experience with family and made new friends. They’ve experienced a part of the world they’d never seen before. They returned with greater self-confidence and a richer sense of what it means to be alive. Their lives have changed. Guy is ready to go back. C21 think he’s done with Kili, but talks about what else he might do.

Those of us who stayed behind feel solidly convinced that the only part of this adventure we’d choose would be the safari. However, we’re having conversations about what might be next. Challenged by their achievements, I have my own goals, physical, mental, professional. Guy and Q15 may take on a Scouting high adventure trek this summer. We all may take on shared endurance efforts of some sort.

We inhabit a great, big, wide world. Let’s explore!

Love Strength

Sleep used to be my superpower. I could fall asleep within minutes of my head hitting the pillow. Even if the pillow itself were on a couch. Or in a car. Even if the pillow was a wadded up sweatshirt.

These days, sleep toys with me. Either I can’t fall asleep, or I fall asleep without trouble and wake up too early, too hot or cold or a little of both, mind flooded with a litany of adulting concerns.

Our bedroom clock broke and we haven’t replaced it, because we haven’t gotten around to it and because checking the clock in the wee hours isn’t helpful. So I have no idea what time I awoke, but I know it was darker than it should have been. I tossed. I turned. I put my arms over my head and pulled them back under covers. I kicked a foot out, then rolled over to kick the other foot out, then pulled them back in as well.

I am not a morning person but, since this morning began in pitch black, I decided I might as well get up when the alarm sounded even though at that point I could have tumbled back into slumber. Instead I tugged on multiple layers of workout clothes, slurped down a quick mug of coffee, grabbed keys and leashes, and off we went, the kiddo to school and us to walk dogs in the park.

On the way, I read Biblegateway’s verse of the day: But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. Psalm 59:16

Emerging from our warm car, my skin tingled with cold. My cheeks felt like they might shatter. My ears ached. My fingers numbed when I couldn’t hold them in my down pockets (and I live in California…). And yet I felt alive.

I felt grateful for God’s love and protection. Grateful for dogs that need a walk as much as I do. Grateful for my husband. Grateful for our town and neighbors and a beautiful morning. Grateful for the hawk perched on a branch; silly, scampering squirrels; a canary, yellow as a canary should be; dew shimmering on the long winter-green grass like confections; the blue sky.

Hours later and this day hasn’t gone as expected, which makes me even more grateful for the good, if early, start. God’s love encourages me to rely on His strength.

Oh, and the dogs pulled me over to a plaque I’d never noticed before. It read: Nature stretches out her arms to embrace man. Only let his thoughts be of equal greatness. Ralph Waldo Emerson

This gal can’t think of much greater than focusing her thoughts on the evidence of God’s love revealed in nature.