Waiting Out Florence: Painful but Grateful

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As Florence battered our coast and I sat–listening to the wind howl and the rain pound—I tenaciously typed, thinking about “Blasts from the Past”–like Fran and Charley and Hugo, that had come our way.  I sipped my coffee and wondered when the power hit would come.

Almost miraculously, my home escaped long term outages and severe damage this go around—but thousands around me did not.  And many of those folks will be in long term recovery, especially our friends and relatives closer to the coast “down East”, as we say in North Carolina.

Today, almost a week after Florence hit, waterways all the way inland to Raleigh are still cresting—though this morning the sun shone again, bringing that wonderful sense of hope.  We will all remember Florence for one thing: she brought new meaning to the old phrase…“It ain’t over till it’s over.”  Who knew a hurricane could move so slowly–good grief?!!

But EVERYTHING isn’t bad—things like feeling humbled–and talking to neighbors about how to help each other—that’s the good that lasts.  And seeing all those first responders, poised and ready—spring into action to bring the help folks need at crucial moments—that has been downright inspiring.

Of course, with every hurricane we lose some battles.  And any loss of life and homes is tragic—there’s no way to sugar coat that.  Yet, somehow the strength of spirit we feel as we pull together is good. And we know it would be much worse without everyone chipping in to help—before, during, and after.

In the end, when the work to rescue and rebuild has subsided, those stories of heroism and sacrifice will slowly surface, being sown in the throes of common hardship.  And, yes, there will be tears—but there will also be unexpected joys.

So, let us pray we face painful days with hope–whether it be a hurricane day, or a cancer day, or some other pain that comes unbidden–but still remain grateful for each other and the beauty of a blue sky on a Carolina morning.

 

“A Room Called Remember”

 

Sometimes there is a simple path to a profound truth.

     In my last post,  Sorrow and Solitude  , I shared my need to take time away because of the sadness that had come to people I love. And hence to me.  I needed time to feel the sorrow–to reflect on things–and let God speak to me.

During this time I read a book by the wonderful writer, Frederich Buechner, called The Remarkable Ordinary.  In it he tells of the healing that comes when we pause the rush of life long enough to remember–and reflect–on our lives.  So that we begin to see our “story,” and perhaps find that our “ordinary lives’ may actually be weaving an extraordinary tale.

Then, says Buechner, one can begin to see a “stream” of Grace, that flows through our life–almost hidden, but really there–just as real as the rest of our life.  It will be that we can hear it, feel it, and see it–if only we take time to listen (which is the hard part).  But if we do–reflect, remember and listen–the story can lead us to places where we catch a glimpse of God–reaching out, as it were, to intercept us.  A little push in some direction, or a “clue’ that He is there–watching–and working out a redemptive story for all the sorrow that crushes in on us–and everyone else–in this broken world.

For your story is also my story, Buechner reminds us, quoting Maya Angelou.  Though the details, of course,will differ.  They are the same because, somehow, we all must work our way through life’s heavy loads–but we need not do it alone, nor without moments of joy that help heal the sorrow.

And that is where “The Room called Remember” comes in.

Beuchner tells how this came to him in a dream–where he found himself searching and longing for a certain room in a large hotel.  He knew only one thing about this room, only that he always felt perfectly at peace there.  But after leaving it,  he could not find his way back.  So, in the dream he inquires at the desk for the room number, but the clerk tells him the room does not have a number– only a name.  But that he can go back there anytime he wants–he only needs to: “Remember.”   And so, it is “The Room Called Remember.”

This so touched me I began to cry.  Because, even though I did not have traumatic childhood memories to work through (as Buechner did),  there is so much in life I NEED to remember–to go back and truly feel and experience. Because life has been so busy–well, since forever–as it has for almost everyone.  And yes, even for those of us with “ordinary childhoods” there are hurts left in closets.

It’s as if we live life without feeling it most of the time. Always moving on because of the pure busyness of it all. As if joy and revelry and delight in the sunshine of the day is only for children.  But remembering and feeling, smiling and laughing have their place–and it’s a healing one.

Truly, we must remember–and feel again–or die inside.

So because of the sorrow I took this time.  And then–“out of the blue” I had this dream (I am one of those rare folk who sleep like a rock and seldom dream at all, much less have “meaningful” dreams, so this is a first…).  But, in this dream my deceased father appears. Out of nowhere he is there; we are just standing, facing each other at the end of a road.  In the dream I know he is not supposed to be there, so I just stare at him and think…

“Dad, you’re dead–you can’t be here!!”

He looks over at me and smiles.  Then, very characteristically, with his slow deliberate walk, comes over and puts his arm around my shoulders and gives me a good hard squeeze.   He looks me in the eyes and says, “I just came to give you a hug.”  He smiles his mischievous smile again and then he is gone, just like that.

The dream woke me up with a start.

“Wow. Dad came to give me a hug!” That was all I thought, but it was like shot of pure adrenaline.

No plot, no nothing else.  So maybe it was more like a vision than a dream? I wouldn’t know.   But regardless, I knew that it MEANT something.  I knew that as clear as day–which was very odd.

Buechner writes about how a dream can be at the same time, a “word from you and a word to you,” and I think that was true about this dream. It was a revelation of sorts–a message I needed to hear.

Later on that day as I thought about that dream, I asked God to help me know what the dream was to show me.   It was a simple reminder of the Father love of God–something to REMEMBER: We don’t just serve God, we are to enjoy His love.  That was it–the delight of a Father who just wanted to hug his daughter–pure love–nothing to prove.

God delights in me simply because I am His… What a thought to think on.

So take time to reflect on the ordinary things in your life–and you might catch a glimpse of that quiet, grace of God on a simple path called Remember.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sorrow and Solitude

 

 

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Life has gone sad lately.

And I’ve been craving the quiet—still paths to ponder and think.

It began to happen all at once.

My daughter was pregnant, and then she wasn’t–she lost her baby–our first grandchild.

😦

Then two of my best friends had sudden, close deaths in their families.

So much sadness at once!

I find myself  longing for music–long, low songs filled with emotion.  Most any kind, as long as it calls to the heart.

I want to feel the pain, the sorrow, the missing someone I never really knew, yet loved. I want to feel the hurt for friends, and my daughter, who are on journeys of grief, deeper than my own.

I have decided grieving is a journey with no destination–for sorrow has a home all its own.  And for everyone it is unique, and there is no way to know when you are there, or if it’s good to arrive–or not.

It is like traveling in tunnel, with only windows that others peek in.  They try to come in, but they can’t–for your sorrow is yours, not theirs.

How can another know the love you lost?

Yet, in the dark, still of the quiet night—I found there is One Who walks beside me.

And so I rest in His arms, this God in flesh, the “Man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief…” He knows. (Is. 53:3)

Alas,  we women often cope with pain by staying busy; I can’t do it this time. So, I will be taking a break from regular blogging, to find solace in the silence, solitude with God, and time with family and friends.  Though I will be perusing others’ posts to find inspiration and the joy of community…hopefully the desire to write will return in time!

My many thanks to the WordPress Community 🙂

Weekly Photo Challenge: Beloved

Dad and Mom

* “Dad” – the one who made us smile

Beloved – “dearly loved, cherished, treasured…prized.”  The dictionary defines it.                                                            But only people can embody it.

To share a photo of someone or something that is beloved.  Now that’s a hard challenge– because there are many.  But since this is February I chose my Dad.

Echoes of his voice, his piercing whistle and the scent of his pipe filter in and out of my thoughts this time of year. It was a February four years ago I got the call.  You know the one–when someone leaves this world for another–and you aren’t ready for it.

Yet, it was in my loss that I learned how MUCH I’d been loved.

Yes, my Dad was truly beloved.  Not just by me, but by many.  My brothers, my mother, grand kids, friends at his morning coffee spots and business associates… It is easy to say why.  In a quiet and unassuming way, he made you feel as if you mattered–valued, important, and heard–as if you counted.  Believed in.  Some people go their whole lives and never feel that.

Yep.  Beloved is the best word for a man like that.

 

*Photo credit for the collage goes to my younger brother, Jeff Vestal

 

 

 

The Wonderful Winter of ‘77

 

It was 1977–the winter of my 13th year.  You guessed it—not a great year:                                                          Eighth grade.  Junior High.  Need I say more?

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I’ll add that I was nearly 6-feet-tall, a GIRL, gangly, with B-R-O-A-D shoulders, glasses, AND braces. Oh, and short hair that was supposed to be a cute “shag,” but mainly caused folks to mistake me for my older brother.  Ha-ha.

But then, a miracle happened.

Just before Christmas break ended—a snow blew in. The dreaded return to school (and all that yucky PEER PRESSURE) was delayed!!   Not only did it snow once– on it came, snow upon snow, until we missed six straight weeks of school! For middle Tennessee–where a couple of one or two-inch snows per year is the norm…

            this was incredible.

What a glorious gift those weeks were—a last chance to press pause— before re-entering  teen life.  I don’t know when puberty hit me, and have no idea when it left.  But like everyone—I knew when I was in the middle of it—and it wasn’t good. But oh, those 6 weeks were like an instant rewind to being a 9-year-old again.

                                                                 A gift from heaven.

There was nothing to do but simple chores and play in the snow with my brothers and the neighbor boys. No worrying how your hair looked, or if you had a pimple, or what clothes to wear.  No worrying if you were “good enough” or if so-and-so liked you.

No one cared!

We were too busy finding the best sledding slope, daring each other to catapult over the creek, or hooking up the round silver sled to Sugar the pony and trying to sling each other off–as she galloped giant pony donuts in the pasture. We went to bed aching and sore from bumps, crashes and laughter.

And once again..who cared!

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Some days we’d slide around on the pond, if the temperature stayed well below freezing, or hike through the woods with BB guns, shooting at squirrels–as if we might hit one. When we were frozen, we’d stomp back inside to play long games of Monopoly, Crazy Eight, or ping pong in the garage. Maybe read a book by the fire–or watch old re-runs  (selected from one of our 4 attenna-TV stations!).

We didn’t know it then, but how lucky we were that there was…

No internet.

No cell phone.

No video game.

No cable TV.

Because we played together like children–and laughed—or sometimes argued!  But still together.  And together might not have happened much–were it not for the pure simplicity of those weeks.

Now, the memories feel as close as the winter snow outside my window today —        fresh, cool, and enticing.

And I’m left smiling…and longing for a simpler time.

 

 

 

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Facing the Unknown…enticing, yet Frightening

As I drove to work one cold, foggy morning, I looked in my rear view mirror and saw the road disappearing behind me.  I literally stopped in my tire tracks.

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Facing the future…enticing, yet frightening.

 

Here was the perfect picture of the beginning of a New Year…walking into the unknown.  It can be so enticing, beautiful–and yet frightening.  To me, anyway!

Especially as I age, marching even further past the ‘back side of fifty’ (as I like to call it).  Quite honestly, there are a lot of changes I really don’t like.

     But if I embrace the “not so good”, along the with the good–and don’t try to face things by myself–then walking through the fog, I find you can actually see one step at a time.

And I suppose that is all one really needs.