NaBloPoMo: Winding Down

I spent most of Thanksgiving Day sleeping, recovering from a nasty GI bug that totally flattened me. It was NOT what I had planned. My family rose to the occasion and set a spectacular table!

TurkeyDay2015

Amazing. So much food!

IMG_0015What did I do? I slept. Took a shower and slept some more. Had some ice water and slept some more. And then capped off Thanksgiving Day with a delicious bowl of applesauce (it was all I wanted) and slept…

Two purring cats tended their very warm human and made sure I was not left alone.

Today I’m feeling better… a little more energy and a little more interest in food. And counting again all the blessings of my family and friends. (And praying that my self-imposed isolation means that no one got this particular version of the plague!)

There’s plenty more to blog about. NaBloPoMo just got me back in the habit of writing more consistently, And that’s a good thing!

 

NaBloPoMo: Good-bye, Raincoat!

raincoatIt weathered four years of seminary and 5 years of ministry (including all-night on-call chaplain shifts.) It was stuffed in countless suitcases, overhead compartments, trunks and closets. It had been through the washer and dryer many times.

In short, it was not pristine. But it was a raincoat. And on this cold, blustery day, I needed it!

I started the day at a peaceful gathering of clergy and laity counter-protesting the crazy hate group that carries signs and proclaims judgment on the world.* We stood in the rain and mist, umbrellas and smiles everywhere. We laughed. We had coffee with the local police who showed up en masse. We offered each other encouragement. We were a loving, laughing presence of about 30 people, diverse in age, race, gender, and religion, while 4 angry white people stood with signs in front of a local high school.

After the protest, we all headed out our separate ways. I started with some paperwork at my office and then travelled around seeing patients and families and other clients.

I met up with one client at a local coffee shop. But I left this well-traveled coat behind! By the time I realized my mistake, I was headed to another appointment and, while frustrated, decided to hope it would be waiting for me when I looped back around.

It was not to be. No one had turned in a lost coat, according to the barista. I sighed, wrapped my colorful scarf around my neck and went on my way.

Grumble, mumble, grumble, snarl… Yeah, I felt pretty stupid. Fortunately my favorite gloves and cell phone were NOT left stuffed in the pockets as is my usual habit.

As I drove to my next appointment, I saw a figure, huddled over a grocery cart, with the hood of her coat pulled up over her head, her shoulders hunched, and looking very cold. And she was… wearing what looked like my coat!

Was it? Maybe. Maybe not.

With a sigh, I stopped at a discount department store and bought a raincoat. Not that fancy or expensive, but one that served my needs. I thanked God that I could afford to go get a new one when I left my old one behind for… someone who really needed it.

I write this from my warm home, an afghan on my shoulders and a cat competing for proper attention. I am indeed blessed.

* About that hate group? You know who they are. They hate a lot of things. And I won’t give them any press in my writing. It’s time they went away!!

NaBloPoMo: Not on the Digitized Road

Photo post time!! Take a picture of something you see all the time- the simpler, the better. Write a little about what the thing means, symbolizes, reminds you of… Give us a little glimpse into your world.

Have GPS… will travel!

Welcome to my office! My trusty Honda Pilot with 170,000+ miles on it. (Lord willing, it will stay on the road a little longer, as we can’t quite afford to replace it!) My day is spent driving from place to place, seeing patients, families, and caregivers. While I do have a “real” office, the bulk of my day is not spent there.

My must-have “desk accessory” is the car’s GPS. I have learned many different ways to get from A to B to C… and my GPS is indispensable, though it is frequently overly enamored of expressways in its algorithms! I discovered less-used back roads that I did not previously drive in my 20 years of living outside of DC.

Perhaps you noticed that comment, “NOT ON THE DIGITIZED ROAD”… 

I often travel in places that are not programmed into my GPS. The roads are there, but the digital roadmap doesn’t know them. It occurred to me as I sat at the side of this particular street that many times we don’t know where we are going, and what is happening to us. Particularly for my hospice patients and families, it’s as though they are traveling down a road at 90 miles an hour in heavy fog. It must feel to them like they have no brakes, no shock absorbers, and no sense of direction.

I travel with them… sometimes at a distance. Sometimes they are driving crazy, and I long to jump out of the car. Sometimes they are utterly lost but won’t stop and ask for directions. And sometimes, they ask me and my hospice co-workers for advice, or perhaps a better route. We can’t drive it for them, but we can be present and guide them as best we can. When we hit pot holes, we wince and hang on… not knowing when they will finally arrive in the journey from this world to the next.

I remember that none of us know… For none of us have travelled this way before. But there is a lodestar for us all, and that is the Holy Spirit, the Source of hope, truth, and light. It’s where we hear words full of Promise. It’s the quiet Voice that offers reassurance. It’s the Song in the night when our voices are worn thin by tears and grief.

Life that is “not on the digitized road” is full of traffic jams, frustrations, fears and confusion. And yet, we are never alone. I believe that with all my heart.

His Name is John.

Recently, I wrote about the man who frequents an intersection on my daily commute. (See the blog post here…)

I saw him again today, and again reached into my lunch and handed him some food. Today it was two peeled oranges and a bagel with cream cheese. And I asked him, “what’s your name?”

He looked up, startled. “John,” he said.

“Well, John, I’ll be watching for you.”

He tilted his head, smiled, and said “thanks!” and moved on down the line of cars.

It’s a cold night here… please remember John and people like him who may not have a warm place to spend the night. I’m grateful for a furnace that works, a warm bed and safety.

Raking Leaves: An Exercise in Gratefulness?

leaves

 

That, my friends, is the culmination of about 2 weeks worth of raking, mulching, composting and bagging some of the leaves in our back yard. 16 containers/bags of leaves! Both compost bins are stuffed to the max (twice). With the weather forecast heading to below-I-don’t-wanna-know later this week, I decided to try and make a little headway.

I don’t mind yard work, as a rule. It’s a great excuse to be outside. We have multiple bird feeders, dens of rabbits and the occasional fox, hawk and possum. In the middle of suburbia, there’s a lot to see.

This year I realized how lucky I am. I am physically able to rake my leaves. So many of my patients are exhausted, unable to handle the smallest of chores around their homes. Laundry, groceries, cooking and cleaning are beyond them. They are dependent on friends or pay out large chunks of cash.

So as I raked and stuffed each bag, I thought about them. Named them. Prayed for those who help them. Each time I hauled another bag to the curb this afternoon, I wondered who would be handling their leaves and (too soon) shoveling their walkways.

I walked my labyrinth afterwards, letting my body cool down from the exertion. So much to be grateful for… and I am.

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-2

Everything on earth
has its own time
    and its own season.
There is a time
for birth and death,
    planting and reaping…

Tchaikovsky – The Seasons – Autumn

The Crumbs from the Table: Food for Thought

Shrimper coming in with a catch to St. Helena Island, SC
Shrimper coming in with a catch to St. Helena Island, SC

One of my favorite parts of our annual beach trip is getting stuck on the drawbridges.

Yes, really!

Sitting between sea and sky, water on all sides, and no way to move, I  can turn off my car’s engine and just drink in the loveliness.

Last August, as I sat and waited for the traffic to move, I watched with amusement as the last shrimper chugged along through the channel, followed by a crowd of seagulls. They were fighting for the best positions in the air over the back of the boat as the chum (unwanted fish and aquatic life of various kinds) were tossed out into the ocean behind them. This was a seagull’s dream – a rich scavenging area. Add to that the small fish and other food that can be churned up by the  boat’s propellers, there was plenty for easy pickings.

But the birds that amused me the most were the ones that had been hanging out the whole time at the docks. I could see them sitting on the end of the piers, the prime piles occupied according to some sort of seagull ranking. As the catch was off-loaded and the shrimp cleaned, those birds had a front row seat to the leftovers. The late-comers (who had followed the boat) were chased off by the larger, seemingly healthier birds.

Then I thought of the story of the Canaanite woman and her encounter with Christ in Matthew 15

Jesus left and went to the territory near the cities of Tyre and Sidon. Suddenly a Canaanite woman from there came out shouting, “Lord and Son of David, have pity on me! My daughter is full of demons.” Jesus did not say a word. But the woman kept following along and shouting, so his disciples came up and asked him to send her away.

Jesus said, “I was sent only to the people of Israel! They are like a flock of lost sheep.” The woman came closer. Then she knelt down and begged, “Please help me, Lord!”

Jesus replied, “It isn’t right to take food away from children and feed it to dogs.” “Lord, that’s true,” the woman said, “but even dogs get the crumbs that fall from their owner’s table.”

Jesus answered, “Dear woman, you really do have a lot of faith, and you will be given what you want.” At that moment her daughter was healed.

Matthew 15:21-28 (Common English Bible)

There are those who, either by reputation, power or rank always have a seat at the table. And then there are many who are outsiders, left to beg for the essentials of daily life. We provide food almost begrudgingly, it seems. Or it seemed that way to me.

This week in my commuting around the county to visit my patients, I went by the same intersection four times in  one day. The same man was there, walking up and down the median strip on his crutches, one leg amputated below the knee. The sign around his neck said simply, “Hungry. God bless.”

I didn’t know what led him to that point, but I knew I had plenty of food, and he didn’t. I didn’t want to give him money.  (It’s a matter of principle, I don’t know how the money will be spent.) But I had my lunch in a cooler on the seat beside me. I had food.

The first time I was stopped on his side of the street, I offered him a bottle of water and some peanut butter crackers. They were “extras” I had on hand in the car, usually for when I forgot my lunch. I’ll be honest. I felt pretty good about it. I patted myself on the back and drove on.

But later in the day, he was still there panhandling. It had rained and was cool and breezy. All I had left were two small clementine oranges, the perfect, sweet treat at the office as I finish up my charting for the day. As I handed them over, he looked in at me and said, “Fruit? It’s been a long time.”

IMG_6751I watched him in my side mirror as he moved down the line of cars… And then I  realized as I drove away I had been giving him crumbs, so to speak, from my table.  I’d give him the parts of my meal that were not things I cared about. They were the least of what I had. But giving him something I had reserved for myself… I had given him a seat at the table.

It was, indeed, food for thought.

As the last leaf falls…

IMG_6762

As the last leaf falls,
I bask in the shorted hours of sunlight,
soaking up the rays
that so quickly shift to twilight.

As the last leaf falls,
I watch the squirrels rush for food
and stuff the tree tops full of leaves
against the autumn winds.

As the last leaf falls,
I stop to catch the leaves,
dying, yet full of color,
drifting down in a backlit haze,
painting the ground with gold.

As the last leaf falls,
I remember that life is sweet
and the memories I made in the shade of that tree
will warm my heart and soothe my soul
until slowly, comes the spring.