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Norma’s Friend God

Then
It was evening,
That magic, in-between time
Of the cricket,
the evening star
The song of the settling birds.

I walked out into
The last red glow of sunset-
Soft light bathing the earth.

I walked out and looked around
And there was God,
Crouching on the hilltop
And I said, .”Good evening, God.”
And God answered, “Good evening, friend.”
And I sat down on a tree root
And watched the fading red rays in the sky,
And the lightning bugs,
And I listened to the crickets.

“Sure is mighty pretty, God.
You sure fixed everything up mighty pretty.”
And God kind of smiled, crouching up there on the
hillside,
Gazing off like He could see the whole Universe
with one look.

Then He looked at me
With that same kind of smile.
Then I knew.
He knew.

Norma Parham

Rest in peace with your friend God, Norma. I will miss you.

What Are My Treasures?

A Devotional Booklet asked this question today.

I knew right off that my first treasure is my relationship with God through Jesus, because every other treasure, no matter how wonderful or beloved, can be lost in this lifetime.

Tied for second are both my husband’s and my kindness and humor, which are the ways we express our love for each other and everyone else. Those are the two traits I value over all others.

Third is my eyesight that enables me to see the beauty of nature, whether a snow capped mountain, a star filled sky, a sunrise, a tiny Spring flower, a bright colored bird, rainbow raindrops clinging to branches when the sun comes out or even a really good painting of nature.  This is a treasure I can enjoy even when alone.

Fourth are my grandchildren. My relationships with them are far less complex than with my grown children. I can value their talents and goodness and just delight in them without any feelings of guilt about their human shortcomings. (I can always blame those genes on someone else!)

Fifth are my children, my brother and those they love. I am grateful and humbled by how well they all turned out by the grace of God in spite of my less than perfect human mothering. They have all loved me even when I have been difficult to like and they and their spouses have all been there for me in my hard times and illnesses.

Sixth, I treasure friendships, particularly two women who are like my twin sisters, Myra Berghane and Pat Wheatley. They share my strengths, some of my weaknesses, my humor, my history, and my faith. No matter what I am experiencing or feeling or thinking, they understand.

Seventh, I treasure my moments of graced inspiration that not only help me grow, but give me something hopefully helpful to share with others, which in turn gives me a sense of purpose.

Eighth, I treasure my opportunities to share my faith by leading worship, proclaiming the scriptures,  sometimes teaching at my church, speaking to women’s groups and blogging.

Ninth, I treasure my women’s groups: The Doves – a church group who study together, pray for one another and those we love and rally to help each other in times of crisis, The Study Group- a group that is very diverse politically, religiously and in age, who value each other across our differences. The Review Club, women who gather to hear speakers that challenge us to keep growing intellectually. And the Dickson Writers’ Group who both critique and encourage one another in our attempts to write for publication.

Tenth, I rejoice that I have lived long enough to experience the riches of the internet that bring the far flung parts of the world and the knowledge of the ages to my fingertips.

I am truly rich with treasures.

A Buddhist Christmas

I found this quote on the blog, Make Believe Boutique. It’s Buddhist, but the only difference I can see between this and Christianity is our recognizing that we personally fall short of the glory of God and need the saving grace of Jesus. Otherwise it beautifully describes our human experience, hopes and spirituality.
From Waylon Lewis:
I love Christmas: I love simple, personal presents. I love coziness, and world-quieting white snow, which slows us all down and makes even bustling cities feel like they were Norman Rockwell 1940s landscapes. I love fires, and dinners, and parties with old and new friends and children and elders, people I wouldn’t ordinarily get to talk with much. I don’t see my family, these days, they’re all spread about the US, and money is tight, and that always tinges this time with emptiness. But I love sadness, as my mom’s Buddhist teacher said it’s the most genuine of human emotions though we’re not to covet it. I love, at this darkest time of the year, remembering that life is short, and it progresses quickly, and memory fades and all that really matters is being a good person, and making the better of two iffy choices every step along the way. It’s a wonderful life, after all. So let’s put the ‘holy‘ back in the Holidays. Let’s buy gifts that better the world, and support good people doing good things. Let’s put away our phones and laptops and TVs—if only briefly—and make some eye contact, and say the obvious: ‘I love you, and this is why.’ Or, ‘I’m sorry things have been funny between us. Let’s be genuine, and have a good talk.’ Because, before you know it, one third of your friends will have divorced moved away lost their hair become old people or even died of accidents or dis-ease or, you know, life. I’m still only 35, but I lose a friend a year, whether in China to an avalanche or right here at home, just a month ago, an only-recently-perfectly lovely healthy powerful friend of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer, stage IV. In Buddhism we say: this precious human birth is fragile. Make good use of it. Think about others as much as you do yourself and you yourself will find that elusive happiness. Meditate a few minutes, at least, each morning, before the ephemeral to-do lists that seem so important, the lusts and the anxieties, clutter up your snowy peaceful dozy mind. Don’t chase after the fast food of life: sex, bad food, money, big houses, cool cars. They don’t make you happy, the only thing that makes you happy is you sorting yourself out…

Old Age : A Dangerous Excuse for Congenital Flakeyness

I was born lacking a sense of direction, blind to physical details, and inclined to value feelings more than logic and intuition more than facts.
The up-side of this is a gift for seeing creative possibilities and having the motivation to implement them for making people happier.
The down-side is having to always leave the house early, because you know you will end up taking a “scenic” route no matter how many times you’ve been there before and the odds are it will take at least fifteen minutes to find your car to get home from any parking lot.
When my friends and I began hitting retirement age, even those who were born with internal GPS’s and a penchant for noticing and remembering the exact number and level of parking spaces, seemed to be “losing” those enviable talents.
“Hooray!” I thought, “I can finally blame my inadequacies on age and won’t have to put up with my friends rolling their eyes whenever I get caught wandering about in my usual fog.”
My children have always said that no one will notice if I am losing it, since I never had it together.
I can still drive, while two friends, who were there for me when my life was in crisis years ago, no longer are able to drive. One lives with her daughter out in the country. Her daughter works full time, so Barbara is house bound all week.
My other friend, Hilde, lives fifty miles away in a very nice nursing home. Her daughter also works, so she spends most of her time reading in her room alone.
I have felt so blessed that I have the chance to be there for them by taking each of them out to lunch, window shopping, to a botanical garden, or art museum at least once a week. Both of them need to use a walker and I sometimes also need one for walking very far. Because of the distance between their residences and the complication of so many walkers, I usually take each of them out separately on different days each week.
Last week was shortened by a holiday with family and a trip out of town, so I decided to attempt taking them both out to the delightful Aquarium Restaurant in a huge mall about sixty miles from my house.
Whether from delusion or the onset of senility, I decided that I would be able to find it easily since I had been there several times before. NOT!
I parked close to what I thought was the mall entrance closest to the restaurant.
We just took their two walkers, because I wasn’t having any pain that day.
Naturally, I had mixed up the entrances and we found ourselves with a longer walk than we usually attempt. Since it wouldn’t take much longer than going back to the car, reloading and then unloading the walkers again at the next entrance, we made our way slowly through the crowded mall, with a few pauses to get our breath. But our two hour lunch made it worthwhile. The food was delicious and the fun of watching all the unusual fish was an interesting change from our normal days.
To save my friends from the longer walk, I positioned them seated on their walkers at the nearest exit, while I walked back to get the car. About the time my hip began to protest my pace, I realized that I had turned the wrong way and needed to retrace my steps back to where I left Barbara and Hilde and then go on to the next exit where we had parked. By the time I got back to Barbara and Hilde, both my hips were protesting painfully, so I just went on without stopping to tell them what I had done. A big mistake.
As I headed back through the mall, the pain became so severe that I had to find a chair and sit down for a few moments. Neither of my friends has a cell phone, so there was no way to let them know this was going to take a much longer time than we expected. The pain would let up and I would start walking again as long as I could bear it. Then I would find something to sit on for a few minutes. I finally made it to the right exit and went bravely out into the hot sun. No car anywhere. I felt sure I had parked very close to the door and in plain sight from it. By now sweat was running down my face and my hip pain was tempting me to sit down on the pavement until someone offered to help. As usual I had waited until I despaired to begin praying.
As I finally prayed, it occurred to me that a large SUV had pulled in between my car and the entrance and was completely blocking it from view. Thanks be to God! I made it to the car and turned it toward the exit where I hoped my friends were still waiting.
I thought I remembered a Mexican Restaurant at that entrance, so I watched for the sign. And drove and watched and drove and watched and drove and watched, until I realized I had no idea where I was or where my friends were. I turned around illegally, then noticed the police car stopping across from me. I just kept going, driving slowly and praying desperately that I could find them without having to call in the police. I finally spotted them still waiting inside the doors to an entrance next to a Macaroni Grill, not a Mexican Restaurant.
Well they both start with an M.
They wheeled out to the car at warp speed, asking anxiously if I was all right. I threw the walkers into the back and sped off, determined to put distance between me and the police. As I described my adventures, my friends nodded empathetically.
I asked Barbara what she would have done, if I hadn’t returned when I did. She said there was a security policeman near-by and she was getting ready to give him my cell phone number and ask him to call me. I breathed a sigh of relief. The oldest of us three, Barbara at ninety, still had her wits about her.
Of course, when I finally got home, I realized that I hadn’t turned my cell phone on that day.
The challenge now is to convince their daughters that I’m not losing it. I’ve simply never had it together, but somehow I’ve always managed to get us all home safely as long ago as Hilde and my adventures getting lost consistently in our twenties and my doing the same with Barbara in my fifties.
If they think I’m senile, our days out may be cancelled. No more using age as an excuse for natural flakeyness.

The Gold in the Golden Years

From the poem Time on the blog: poetry, photos, and musings, oh my –  by lea

Whatever time is left

Use it up

Wear it down

Regardless how thin

The fabric becomes

It is rich with the sounds

Of laughter

Salty with tears and

Friends.

This excerpt from Lea’s poem describes my life at seventy-nine perfectly.

On Wednesday, my ninety-one year old friend Barbara, who is on a walker from a painful hip surgery, admitted her despair from feeling useless. But as we shared lattes with a younger friend, who lives with a slow growing cancer, we laughingly imagined walkers like baby walkers and crinoline skirts to hide them, perhaps even small secret porta potties built in. Then, in the parking lot as we attempted to help Barbara into the van, somehow she got stuck bent over half way in. We tried to gently boost her backside without hurting her hip, until the giggles overtook us. Frozen in place, the three of us laughed helplessly, humor overcoming even our fears of age weakened bladders. When I called Barbara the next morning to make sure she hadn’t been hurt, she started laughing all over again, insisting she had been laughing all morning just thinking about it, and even wished we had a photograph.

Thursday, I visited with my friend with dementia in a nursing home in Nashville. She had once again dreamed of her parents’ death as a present day event, and waked up frantic about funeral arrangements.  Each time she grieves anew, I can only hold her hand and ache for her endless losses. But later, seeing the wonder in her eyes, when she listens as I tell one of the caregivers about her courage and faith and her kindness to so many in her life, I recognize a moment of grace even in the now worn fabric of our lives.

Friday, my alarm went off two hours early at four a.m. and I had the coffee made before I finally noticed the actual time. Later, I realized on my first stop of the day, that I had my coat on inside out. That night at a my sister-in-law’s birthday celebration in an upscale restaurant, I managed on my second trip to the bathroom, to go into the men’s room.  Then, somehow I lost my coat check number in my tiny purse. Unfortunately, I don’t drink, so I can’t even blame it on something temporary. At least it’s fodder for blogs.

The Gold in the Golden Years are our friendships and shared memories, but perhaps most of all, the freedom to laugh at ourselves.

Laughter is carbonated grace.

Hilde

Hilde, my old friend, my sister-in-Christ
lost and fragile in your fog of confusion,
let me lead you, carry you even
back in time to the truth of you.

Of you rising like a phoenix from the ashes
of a broken heart from a failed marriage
inspiration for us all, a mother of two
starting over, learning to restore the voices
of the silent young, the broken, the old,
your gifts lavished on the least of His,
bringing to life the Good News of God’s love
for those with simple minds, but open hearts.

Hilde, my old friend, my sister-in-Christ
lost and fragile in your fog of confusion
let me lead you, carry you even
back in time to the truth of you.

Grace for the Hard Times

I’m seventy-five now and once again, I can walk, climb a hill, and even dance a little. In my late fifties, I was dependent on a wheelchair to even get across my house. It was a long house with a lot of two stair changes in levels, so it wasn’t really handicapped accessible. The house, designed by my architect husband to uniquely suit our own way of living, was in the middle of our hundred acre weed and rock sanctuary, almost fifteen minutes from town, down dirt roads, and through a creek. It was my idea of heaven, until I ended up in a wheelchair.
My five children were grown and gone and my husband worked long days, six days a week. So, I was pretty isolated. I put a roll away bed in the middle of my kitchen, where I could spend the day, and usually manage to cook meals and load and run the dishwasher and the washer/dryer.
Two fairly new friends began bringing out delicious lunches and delightful movies twice a week. They also took me in the wheel chair to events at Museums and even Christmas shopping at a Mall. These visits and outings were filled with laughter and special treats of Caramel Frappuccinos and White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies, that quickly became traditions.
One of the movies we watched was a Canadian film, Strangers in Good Company. This was about a tour bus of elderly ladies getting stranded in the Canadian woods. The younger woman bus driver had a sprained ankle, so the little old ladies had to rally and organize for survival. The women became quite resourceful in finding food. They stretched the rather large bus driver’s panty hose open on shrub branches, and held it across a creek to catch small fish. Another woman showed how to go frog-gigging with sharpened sticks. Shared leftover cookies, apples, and candy bars helped supplement foraging. The women bonded, sharing life memories, and renewing their spirits through taking time to just soak in the beauty surrounding them. Of course, at the end, they were rescued, but it was what they made of the time together, that was the point of the movie.
In spite of my friends helping me, I did struggle with depression over my situation, fearing it was permanent. But the movie made me re-evaluate my priorities.
Nature was really a source of connectedness to God for me. And my house was open to the woods around us through walls of glass doors. The kitchen was open to the great-room, so from both my bed in the kitchen (my “bitchen”) and my bed in the master bedroom, I could see and hear birds of all kinds, watch the hummingbirds kama-kazi diving at each other, and even watch a doe and her brand new fawn in the small clearing outside the windows. She brought the fawn just as it was learning to gambol and play. For several weeks she and I would both lie contentedly watching the fawn play. Other times, a male wild turkey would do his awesome dance in courting a couple of “ladies” in the clearing. A possum came in the evening and scratched on the screen door. A crazy, but beautiful cardinal, fixated on his reflection in one of the glass doors, spent days flying into the door and then regrouping in the plum tree next to it. Cardinals in the snow whitened winter landscape or among the spring dogwood blossoms were among my favorite things.
The movie made me realize that I experienced the presence and grace of God most in two things: the beauty of nature and in relationships. And wheel chair bound or not, I was blessed with good friends, a husband that loved me, and surrounded, up close and personal, by the beauty of nature. Even in a wheelchair, I had a bubbling spring of grace around me.