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MP900313893[1]April in the Pacific Northwest – a season where every day is a surprise package to be opened while doing early spring gardening in a short sleeved shirt or huddled in flannels around the fire.

Since there’s no snow on the ground, April is also Harley riding weather for my bike addicted husband. And, because six days of my week are crazy busy coming and going while trying to catch quick conversations and hugs with him along the way, Saturday is togetherness day. And you can’t get much more together than paired up on a Harley Davidson motorcycle.

We’ve been out a few times this year and come home exhilarated though chilled to the bone. But this past Saturday topped them all.

The weather forecast was not promising, but who trusts the weatherman? Standing in the driveway and doing a 360 degree scan was a bit disheartening. Dark clouds pretty much defined the landscape in every direction.  But dark clouds don’t always produce rain, right? Things can change, right?

Change they did. Within the first fifteen miles of the ride I accepted that the several layers of clothing I had on were not going to be enough to keep me warm.

The wind picked up a few miles after that, building from strong gusts to gale force.

The rain hit shortly after that. Not a deluge thank goodness, just the miserable drizzle that collects on your collar and drips down your neck. Oh the glory.

And the crowning jewel of the day – a stinging hail storm. Is there anything worse than hail hitting you in the face as you fly down the road with no choice but to keep going until you can outrun it?

To add insult to injury, we couldn’t take our normal route home, meandering along the river where you might at least see an eagle, a herd of bighorn sheep or a graceful doe sheltering under an evergreen. That route was closed for an annual marathon. Instead, we were forced to take the freeway.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned before how much I hate traveling the freeway on a motorcycle. I don’t like the speed, the traffic, or the fact that you can’t see much because you are going too fast and paying too much attention to that traffic. I will always choose a slower, winding route if I have a choicem which I didn’t.

As rides go, this one had everything – everything I dislike anyway. In fact, on a scale of one to ten, this one was too far below the line to register. Somewhere in the last half hour of that ride I promised myself a new Saturday entertainment activity. I said to myself I would never climb aboard again unless the stars came together in perfect alignment and guaranteed 80 degree weather and a cloudless sky. I decided then and there to sell my backseat to some other woman with the fortitude and tolerance to take my place.

But once home and ensconced in front of the pellet stove, a hot cup of coffee in my hand  and blood finally flowing again, I started to remember things like:

  • Landscapes seen from the back of a bike where the colors are more vivid because of the overdose of fresh air coursing through my veins
  • Surprises like spotting a wide eyed fawn peeking out from behind a tall stand of grass, an osprey dive bombing a trout and flapping its wings in victory, sunbreaks through clouds, swaying grain fields, …
  • The euphoric feel of sunshine on bare arms that are wrapped around my one constant in life – a man who loves more than anything just having me there with him
  • Laughter and experiences shared with traveling buddies that are retold and elaborated upon year after year
  • New roads we’ve never traveled and old roads that hold familiarity like long time friends  

We’ve had so many great experiences from the back of that bike that far outshine the few wet, cold, miserable rides which I’m sure are thrown in to help me appreciate the others.

Here’s to another season of road miles and smiles, sunshine and shadows, good friends, long days and lots and lots of memory making.

“On a good day, enjoy yourself; On a bad day, examine your conscience. God arranges for both kinds of days so that we won’t take anything for granted.” Ecclesiastes 7:14 (msg)

 

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Attractive Woman Holds Her Cap Isolated on a White Background.Took our first bike ride of the year on Monday and let me tell you, it was cold. Your first clue that the picture to the left is not me is the smile on her face. Let me admit right up front I am a fair weather rider. I hate being cold. My brother in law has suggested electric gloves and vest but I am resistant. Riding is a hobby. Hobbies are supposed to be enjoyable. What is enjoyable about riding in weather so cold you have to plug yourself in to survive? Nothing!

The only reason, and I mean ONLY reason, I ride when it’s cold is because it’s important to my husband and he is important to me.

To make this ride especially memorable (not in a good way) our power went out in the house just as we were leaving. We noticed the neighbors didn’t have power either so just figured it was a little glitch and would be back on before we got back.

Four hours later we returned, chilled to the bone, and discovered we still had no power. No power means no heat, no hot coffee, no hot shower. I was not happy. Anyone who rides knows that if you are cold on the bike, you will be twice as cold when you get off. The chill really sets in and you find yourself shivering from the inside out.

So without removing any of my seven layers (undershirt, thermal shirt, long sleeved t-shirt, sweater, vest , wool zip up sweater and leather jacket), I pulled a blanket around me and still couldn’t stop shivering.

I finally suggested we get in the car and take a drive with the heater at full blast, which we did. After about an hour I felt sufficiently thawed. When we returned home we still had no power – for probably another two hours. We managed to survive and once it came back on we cranked the stove, huddled around it and drank hot coffee.

I was telling my story to friends at church on Tuesday evening and received an email a few hours later. I thought she voiced a great point so I’m sharing it with you.

Her email asked this question:  Have we gotten so bad about not wanting unexpected visitors that our friends will drive around for 45 minutes to warm up? Have we made people feel so intrusive that they can’t stop at a friends house and say our lights are out, our heat is off and we’re freezing, could we bum a cup of coffee off you?

Do you know that it never entered our mind to call a friend? How odd is that? Her email assured me we would have been welcome and I have no doubt about that. But for some reason “dropping by” isn’t something people tend to do anymore. We feel like we have to give advance notice, either out of respect for the friend who might want to pick the dirty underwear up off the floor or out of fear that we might be putting the friend on the spot to come up with a good excuse for why they aren’t available.

It’s like when someone is walking down the sidewalk, stubs their toe and falls. Their first reaction is to jump up and look around to see if anyone saw them make a fool of themselves. But if you’re the person walking down the sidewalk behind them, your first thought isn’t “what a fool”. Your first thought is “I hope they aren’t hurt” and you run to help.

When I hear of someone stuck without power or with a backed up septic or similar crisis, my first thought is to offer my home as a respite. But when I’m the one in the crisis, my first thought is “don’t intrude on someone else”. Why is that?

Look around you.  We have become so isolated in our social activities that we actually believe we can maintain relationships without ever having to find ourselves in physical face to face interaction. Instead, we do facebook, email, text messaging. What started as a fast, efficient method of communication has morphed into evasion interaction.

Here’s what my friend said at the end of her email:  So why do we wait or not ask or just stop by? You still can at our house and if we have to leave and you’re still cold, you’re welcome to stay, sip your coffee and warm up before you leave.

My guess is she’s not the only one with that attitude. I challenge you today to push through the wall of hesitation and step over the threshold of invitation.

Drop in on a friend just because you feel like it.  Call a friend if you need something (I said call not text). Make it clear that you are available for them anytime they need you.

How can we practice the gift of hospitality if no one gives us opportunity?

“Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”  Romans 12:13

Thanks , Carol, for this great thought. And by the way, I have no idea what I’m fixing for dinner. Thought maybe we’d stop by unexpectedly and see what you’re having.

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Rose On Wood BWIt’s the day after Valentine’s Day and wherever you go you will hear mixed emotions and contrasting expressions of how love was or was not expressed.

A few at work received flowers, a very visible expression of a relationship.  Or is it? I have known women who received flowers at work from a spouse when everyone knew their relationship was in shambles. But, sending flowers was the expectation so he did it.

Fancy dinners out are a topic of conversation today. Candlelight, soft music, expensive menus and muted conversation – those certainly express a deep love and commitment, right? Yes, but not always.

Candy? Cards dripping with mushy phrases? Hugs and kisses? Well of course, that’s what Valentine’s Day is all about. At least that’s what those on the commercial end will tell you.

Today there will also be much disappointment expressed. Someone’s spouse forgot, another was expecting much more than was given, another has no one to share the day with.

We live in a world that pushes us to twist and turn an idea into to something it is not. St. Valentine was a Catholic priest who it is said was imprisoned for ministering to persecuted Christians. This is a far cry from today’s commercialized version of his designated day.

Originally it was a celebration of sacrifice, mercy and reaching out to others. It has become a celebration of romance and a pressure filled time of striving to outdo, out give, overspend and meet or exceed impossible expectations promoted by the florists, card designers and stores.

Let me tell you about my perfect Valentine’s Day. It started with a phone call at work from my husband apologizing for forgetting to put my gift out before I left that morning. He was worried that I would think he had forgotten all together. To tell you the truth, I’d not had the slightest twinge of being forgotten. But his call gave me a great big burst of being remembered. All day I kept thinking about how precious it is that he worries about my feelings.

He did take me out last night. But it wasn’t for a candlelight dinner. No soft music or expensive menu and certainly no dressing up in our finest. You will laugh at this but here’s the story.

First he took me to Goodwill to see if there were any cheap movies we might want to grab. Since we don’t have television, we watch a lot of movies and some of our favorites are ones we’ve already seen and remember enjoying together. Those are the ones we peruse the Goodwill rack for. Not that we always have the same taste, because we don’t. I hold up one and he rolls his eyes. He holds up one and I give it the thumbs down sign. Last night we did find a couple and paid our ninety nine cents apiece, walking out to the car holding hands and carrying our Goodwill bag of entertainment.

 From there we moved on to the local drive-in that makes awesome BLT sandwiches. We slid into a booth like teenagers, listened to the jangle of the video machines under the not so subtle florescent lights, drank from straws and talked.

Looking at him across the table I just kept thinking, this is what 45 years of marriage ends up being – comfortable, no pretense, no pressure to prove our love. There’s not much we haven’t been through and we’re still together –proof enough.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the mushy card and the chocolates he gave me later. It’s not to say I don’t love a romantic, candlelight dinner. It’s certainly not to say I don’t get excited about flowers and jewelry and other girly stuff. I do. But it’s frosting to me, it’s not the cake.

Last night was the cake. Him, me, a BLT and words of love expressed in laughter, hands touching, simple conversation and a Harley shirt staring at me across the table.

Proverbs 15:17
A bowl of vegetables with someone you love is better than steak with someone you hate.

 

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My heart broke this morning when I heard a report on the local news of a fatality accident that took the lives of a mother and her 14 year old daughter. They were hit head-on when another vehicle crossed the center line.  The cause of the accident was reported as inattention.

I wonder how someone left behind after such a tragedy comes to grips with that conclusion? How do you process through such a deep loss when you know it was completely avoidable?  How would you, as the driver of the other vehicle, live with the fact that your split second distraction took two innocent lives?

All morning I’ve been thinking of the phrase “but for the grace of God, there go I.”  I confess, I have picked up my cell phone to check a message I heard come in while I was driving – a split second of inattention. I have opened a piece of mail while sailing down the freeway – a split second of inattention. I have reached around to hand something off to a grandchild in the back without pulling over – a split second of inattention.

It’s interesting that shortly after the news report this morning our local station had a technical glitch causing the sound to fade out for almost a full minute.  Just as it came back on the voice of one of the favorite morning show hosts was heard blasting out the expletive “sh_t”. He apologized profusely once he realized his message had been broadcast to his listening audience – a split second of inattention.

Those two incidents have had me pondering all day the many ways our distractions can result in serious outcomes.  They may not be as tragic as causing a death and maybe not as wide reaching as to get the attention of an entire listening audience, but certainly they can be every bit as sobering.

As bikers, traveling hundreds and hundreds of miles on our Harley, we are fully aware of what a split second of inattention can do. We hear about the accidents all the time. We’ve been lucky, pretty much due to the fact that my husband is ever vigilant and aware, never taking his mind off his job as the driver.

As parents of small children we learn early that once they begin to roll over constant care must be taken to assure their safety. We also learn quickly how children learn what they see and hear.  A split second of inattention in our language and invariably we hear our profanity repeated from the innocent mouth of our toddler.

Living a Christian life requires constant attention also.  If we don’t walk the talk, the damage is extensive. A bit of inattention in the way we handle a store clerk, a family member, even another vehicle on the road is a lesson in hypocrisy, the kind that has for centuries given the church a bad name. We speak kindness but model impatience when the clerk won’t let us return the item without a receipt. We preach compassion but treat a family member with disdain. We claim tolerance but lay on the horn when the guy in front of us is too slow or doesn’t signal for a turn.

A split second of inattention can make us the person who crossed the center line and killed a gentle spirit or a childlike faith. Distraction is a favorite tool in satan’s hand. It happens when we haven’t taken the time to school ourselves for vigilance and practice minute by minute the Christlike qualities we strive to emulate.

In memory of a mother and daughter I didn’t even know, I’m putting my purse with my cell phone in the back seat of my car from now on so I won’t be tempted.

In memory of a Christ who died for me, I’m putting my Bible on the front seat of my life so I will be watchful at all times.

What will you do to protect yourself and others from your split second of inattention?

“Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning,” Luke 12:35

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Yesterday a friend shared that she felt her life was just a series of “starting overs”.  Her heart was heavy and her soul was discouraged.  Things weren’t working out the way she’d planned – again.  My heart hurts because her heart hurts and I wish I could change her situation.  I wish I could tell her what to do to make it miraculously better.  But the truth is, there are no quick and easy answers.

Isn’t that just the way of life?  Are any of us where we really wanted to be today?  Has anyone not seen dreams die or goals remain unreached?  When I was in 8th grade I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would become a nurse.  Instead I became a wife.  When I lived for riding horses I never dreamed of a day when my pasture would be empty but my motorcycle shop would be full.  When I was pregnant for the first time I never imagined that my son would never take a first breath.  On my wedding day I didn’t know marriage would be so hard, or for that matter parenting, keeping house, keeping my sanity. 

We’ve all had to readjust our plans along the way.  Sometimes it was by choice and we looked forward to an exciting venture.  Other times it was heartbreaking and seemed unfair and impossible.

But at least for me, and I’m relatively sure for the rest of you, it was a time of growth and discovery.  Even the most painful times in our journey give birth to a fresh awareness of how strong we are, how amazing a right turn can end up being, and how, regardless of what was left behind, there are treasures to be had up ahead.

Starting over points make us see again and again who is really in control.  We think that we are and we make choices, good and bad, but God channels them both into the direction He wants us to go.  When it seems all is lost, the one thing we can hold on to is His wisdom and His grace. Only God can turn a loss into a win, a seemingly fatal mistake into a life giving lesson, a brick wall into short pause. 

Each time we dissolve into tears and think we’ve failed, God turns our tears into a river of opportunity and provides a boat.  We just have to get in and start rowing.  The most important thing though is letting him set our course.  Most of our “starting overs” come from a lack of seeking direction in our past endeavors. That’s not to say that tragedy beyond our control doesn’t strike us now and then because it does.  The race we run as citizens of this world is a grueling one. Even the most athletically fit will stumble and fall along the way.

The falling down – the divorce, the bankruptcy, the loss of a job, the parenting disappointments, the damage we’ve done – those aren’t the climactic moments in our book of life.  The fact that we keep on going, keep on singing, keep on believing and keep on starting over are the page turners. 

In the end it doesn’t matter that we aren’t where we expected ourselves to be.  It only matters that we end up where God planned for us to be.  And do you know where that is?  At the throne of grace, forgiven of all our sin and failure, shining with the light of Jesus and surrounded by the people who watched our journey and were inspired to follow along.

For my friend whose broken heart inspired this post, you are at one of the most beautiful places of all, the place where you choose to fall into His great big, comforting, safe and secure hands so that He can pour His love out upon you, whisper His promises into your heart, put your broken pieces back together and set you on your feet again, down a fresh new path that leads to joy.

Today, tomorrow and the next day will be hard for you.  Count on me to walk alongside.  I’ll buy the Starbucks, listen to the problems, pat you on the back and take your phone calls.  But He is the one who will actually take your fractured pieces and form the work of art you will become as you take this turn and navigate your way down the path.

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.  Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you. Psalm 9:9-10

 

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Our autumn rides hold a special place in my heart.  While the air is crisp, requiring an extra layer of clothing, the view from the back seat is glorious.  Here in Yakima and the surrounding countryside the trees are fighting each other for attention, flashing their shades of gold and green, russet and rose.  Along the river the sumac is dressed in red while the birch trees have chosen bright yellow gowns.  I can smell the fall and it’s moist and earthy.

The autumn season is short and I always feel like we have to hurry and enjoy it before it’s gone.  There is such a contrast in the blinding sunlight and the cool air, almost like a warning.  If you’re inside looking out, it appears to be warm.  But step out the door without a jacket and you’ll shiver immediately.

Huddled on the back of our Harley with my leather clad arms wrapped around my guy my thoughts are bittersweet. I wouldn’t trade the beauty of autumn for anything but I’m sad for the signs that our riding season is almost over.  There’s always that distant thought of what will next year bring? 

Having recently experienced the sudden and unexpected loss of a good friend, it’s hard not to reflect on the uncertainty of life and the certainty of death.  The trees know truth – our life is for a season.  Autumn comes and the best thing they can do is go out in a blaze of glory. The most beautiful, eye catching time of their existence is the beginning of their death – not forever but for a time.

What a lesson for us.  We won’t be green and full of energy forever.  We must take all we can from the joy of our branches dancing in the breeze, birds singing us a morning song, friends relaxing in our cool shade.  At the same time, we must make plans to go out in a blaze of glory.

Is your house in order?  Have you served in such a way that people remark on your golden generosity?  Are you touching lives and sharing some of your rich red life lessons, your russet blessings, and your bright yellow joy of a life well lived? 

We don’t know for sure what tomorrow will bring but we can certainly take measure of what impact we had yesterday.  I want someone to reflect on their ride though the canyon of life and I want a memory to flash back of me beside the river reaching out with beauty and thoughtfulness, making their day a little richer.  I want them to hear the roar of a Harley and smile because it brings to mind a picture of Christ shining like the autumn sun from my face.  

And when my glorious colors fade, please remember I have died not forever but only for a time.  My resurrection colors will make the autumn season look like a black and white movie!  Praise God for that promise.

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.  Isaiah 55:12

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Living next door to three of my precious grandchildren is a wonderful thing.  I love that they bop in and out daily, help themselves to my cupboard, refrigerator and sometimes even my closet (usually when they need a costume item).  I just didn’t realize early on I would also become the homework helper.

The second grader I have no problem helping.  For the tenth grader I’m limited to a couple of topics and neither of them is math.  With the nineth grader my limiting factor is how quickly I become motion sick.

My Bailey is beautiful, smart and a barrel of laughs.  But she has a body that must be in motion.  I don’t mean a little bit of motion, I mean a lot of motion.  There’s no sitting down with her on the other side of the table.

This is how it usually works.  She sits on the couch, I sit in my chair and we begin.  By question number two she is sitting on the floor.  By question number four she is laying on the floor.  After that she’s under the chair, over the couch, wrapped around a pillow, feet in the air, feet in my face, feet in some painful looking contortion behind her back or around her neck. She’s up, she’s down.  She’s moving to the kitchen and back.  She’s stretching.  She’s dancing.  She’s doing some kind of twitching that I think has to do with unheard rap music.

At the same time, believe it or not, she is actually concentrating, listening and answering questions.  Her constant gyrations drive her grandpa crazy.  This is the child that he swears jumps rope or something when on the back of the motorcycle with him.  He never has to worry that she has fallen off.  Believe me, he can tell she’s back there.

I’ve learned to ignore the body in motion as long as I’m sure the mind is engaged.  The only time I came really close to losing it was when she had 100 questions on a piece of paper and needed me to quiz her until she had every answer correct.  (She is pretty much a 4.0 student.)  By the time we’d gone over the questions at least twenty times, she had covered every inch of my living room, stopped just short of straddling the exposed beams holding up the ceiling, and actually managed to do a back walkover in front of me while quoting answers flawlessly!

She is energy times fifty.  She can do things with her body that should be impossible. She can wear out your last nerve faster than you can say STOP! But she can also take that ever gyrating body and worm her way into your heart faster and deeper than you would believe possible.

I’m glad God didn’t give me cookie cutter grandchildren.  I’m thankful He made each one unique.  I love my graceful, quiet Beth.  I adore my creative, way-too-smart- for-her-own-good Grace, I treasure my sweet, little-going-on-big Brinkley. I have a dream-it-and-it-will-happen Ashley, a Chase who’s mouth and brain are constantly in high gear and a Sean who is the precious recreation of his daddy as a toddler.

And I have my Bailey – who drives me crazy, tests my patience, makes me constantly motion sick and never bores me.  I know the minute she’s not in the room and I miss her if a day goes by without seeing her. I hope she never outgrows her contortionist tendencies.  And I hope she someday has a child just like her! That will be poetic justice.

For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 1 Timothy 4:4

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