When Through the Woods…

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Frost sparkles on my neighbour’s roof this morning. Usually I sigh and complain about the first frosts that signal the end of summer. But this year I say thank you.

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It rained yesterday, a cold rain that makes you wish you had put on another layer before walking to the mailbox. But for this I am also thankful.

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This morning the skies are clear except for a thin line of dark smoke drifting north from the forest around the lake. I can see the snow on the mountains.

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The wildfires that prompted so many people in this province to flee their homes are starting to die down. The cooler temperatures and rain bring relief. They are moving back.

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I love this place, these woods, these mountains, these valleys. I know that fire is one way the forests are renewed, but I mourn for their loss. I mourn for the lost summer days spent inside hiding from the smoke.

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Somehow my appreciation for the areas that survived increases though. In the way antiques and ancient artifacts gain value merely by surviving,  the old growth forests become all the more precious to us.

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Today I am thankful, thankful for green things, for quiet forests with their deep mysteries, thankful for beauty which survived and beauty that will be restored.

forest green 3 DSC_0137 Thank you, Lord.

It’s Not the End of the World

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Two years ago, after the roads were re-opened, we drove home through a valley burned by a devastating fire.

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The formerly lush green landscape consisted of ash and blackened tree trunks at the time. It looked and smelled like death – the death of a forest, the destruction of homes, and the loss of wildlife.

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This week we passed through the same valley. In the place where ash and charred debris once covered the forest floor, wild flowers and green grass sprang up in an unrestrained chorus of colour under the old black stumps.

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Children in the campground squealed with delight when their moms said they could play in the cool water on the river’s edge. The smoke smelled like sweet barbeque sauce this time.

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Five years ago a microburst wind downed hundreds of trees in our area. Century-old fir trees leaned on telephone wires and giant blue spruce snapped like twigs, crushing cars and houses and garages as they fell. It was a disaster at the time. I mourned over the loss of our big shade tree. It used to cover nearly half the backyard and was a perfect place for tea parties and splash pool swimming with the little ones. When the trunk split in the wind and the tree tipped precariously over the garden we had no choice but to cut it down.

Today, if you wander around town, there are few signs of the storm that ravaged our neighbourhood that day. Roofs have been repaired and trees replanted. I now have two May trees springing up from the healthy root system the old tree left.

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Sometimes after a devastating loss, we feel like things will never be the same, and the truth is, they are not. tree crash IMG_8683But things would have changed had the disaster not occurred, just more gradually. When people visit a town after moving away the first thing they notice is all the changes. There’s a parking lot where the hardware shop used to be and the public works department cut down the big willow down by the park because its roots were getting into someone’s plumbing. But there’s a new wing on the hospital now – and a new recreational climbing facility by the soccer fields. We’ve adjusted. They haven’t.

People lived through both disasters (and a few more I haven’t mentioned). It could have been a lot worse. It was not the end of the world. We felt relieved that we had survived, then came the clean-up and labour-intensive rebuilding. Work crews restrung power lines, tromped through broken homes, cleared trails and rebuilt bridges for months.

Sometimes loss clears the way for something new, something different or even something better. When an old forest burns, it opens up the forest floor to light where seeds, long dormant, can grow again. When my big shade tree came down I had more light so I planted a vegetable garden. We ate some of the tomatoes today.

I was thinking about unwanted change as I looked at photos I took in the fireweed- covered Kettle Valley last week.

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I had good news and bad news after specialized medical scans in Kelowna (which was the purpose of our trip.) The good news is that although there is more than one tumour they are in the same area and the doctor thinks the cancer can be treated with surgery alone. It has not spread to major organs! It is treatable! Thank you, Lord! This is not the worst case scenario. This is one of the better scenarios!

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I felt so relieved and grateful that it took a couple of days to realize, hey, wait a minute… The good news is that I get a free complimentary appendectomy with the removal of parts of my body I’ve thus far been rather attached to. Removing this bit means that bit and that bit won’t have adequate blood supply anymore, so they have to go too. That doesn’t feel like good news today. This will be the third “…ectomy” this year. It feels like autopsy by installment. It’s like being rescued from a burning building or yanked out of your car before a falling tree smashes it like a coke can. It’s a much better than the alternative, but still, when the dust settles, something hurts.firewee vertical ch rs IMG_8517

Don’t get me wrong. I am very grateful that the outcome of the tests was not as bad as feared. But can I admit I’m tired of loss? I’m tired of the work of restoration. Our house has still not been repaired after the flood in March. I don’t want to take more time to recuperate. I’m finally able to get out for a walk in the woods after two surgeries earlier this year.

The hardest part for me is needing to ask for help. I’m the one who comes to the rescue when other people need me. I don’t like needing. I don’t like asking. I don’t like depending. I don’t want to have to trust someone else’s judgment. I want to do the driving.

God is still working on my heart. I whine, then I realize that if I want Jesus’ promised peace that passes understanding I need to give him my right to understand.

I look at our restored city with streets lined with young trees and rain bouncing off sturdy new roofs. I see the ash in the valley replaced with wild flowers and horses and cattle grazing in the newly fenced fields. I see tomatoes and beans and peas growing in my backyard where there was too little sun to grow before. I see change that came about in a way nobody wanted but they appreciate now. There is joy in the journey.

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Again, I have to say, Lord, help me to see from your perspective. I’m going to keep asking for total healing, but I choose to co-operate with you, however you want to do this. I would rather have an instantaneous healing miracle but if surgery is the way you are going, well okay. Let’s do it. I am thankful for physicians with skills. Because you have shown me over and over again that the gold lies on the other side of the valley of shadow, because letting go of my own plans allows your brilliant purpose to shine in dark places, because you have kept your promises and always been faithful (even when it didn’t look like it at the time). I trust you. You give love, joy, and peace. I know you will provide everything I need when I need it.

It’s not the end of the world, but even if it were, you would still be there with your arms open wide.

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You point the way to limitless possibilities.

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And thank you for fireweed. It’s beautiful.

 

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Making a Comeback

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“If a man just stops to think what he has to praise God for, he will find there is enough to keep him singing praises for a week.”
-Dwight L. Moody

Two years ago the leaves on our double flowering plum suddenly started shriveling up. Within a week most of them had fallen off. Many of the trees on our street suffered the same fate. Leaf miner bugs staged an invasion while we were out on the porch enjoying our ice tea.

We sprayed and fertilized and watered, but it was too late. It was a sad sight. On her way to her car after a visit, my friend Rhonda stopped and held the tip of a barren low-hanging branch in her gentle hand. I knew she was praying for the tree’s recovery. Rhonda is sensitive to nature. She could feel the tree’s pain and she had compassion.

Last spring the tree sprouted leaves, but there were no blossoms. My husband suggested cutting it down, but I couldn’t bear to let go as long as long as it still lived.  I pruned it back and fertilized hoping for revival even as more leaves browned and blew away.

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The thirty-five-year-old double flowering plum made a dramatic comeback this spring. We marvel in the show because we feared we had lost her.

This week also marks the fourth anniversary of our son-in-love returning home from the hospital. He was miraculously healed after doctors gave him a 0% chance of survival from flesh-eating disease. We thought we had lost him too. But God had other plans, and we still marvel.

To be honest, this has been a year of set-backs. Half of our house is still uninhabited and awaiting restoration after heavy snow-melt floods destroyed the renovation work barely finished. Just when I thought my nagging health issues had finally been dealt with, the tests say ‘not so fast.’ This will require more treatment and more recovery time.

You may be in a season of hope deferred as well.

One thing I have learned in my life: Complaining attracts spiritual forces who are quite willing to help you with dismal projections and align to undermine hope. Praise attracts the angels who live in the atmosphere of worship of the God of Love. They align to bring about God’s purpose – reconciliation between the Father and humankind and restoration of all creation.

Today the plum tree is vibrant with petal colour and birdsong and the hum of honey-makers. Today I have a reminder right outside my window that God is still in the restoration business and there is always, always something to be thankful for.

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After the Rain, After the Flood

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Can I be honest? I am disappointed. Not devastated, but disappointed.

Only four months ago we finally finished a big renovation project. My Dad, who perfected the art of frugality, left me a little money after he passed away. We used it to do long needed repairs to our house and to completely re-finish the lower level. It’s taken nearly three years, but by Christmas it was finally done and I loved it. Our son spent many long hours away from his own wife and children to use his creative carpentry skills and give me the home I always wanted.

And now? Now, like many people in our town, I stand in my own house in rubber boots and wade through water that ought not to be inside our beautiful warm home with its new flooring and freshly painted walls and white trim. Water swirls around the new freezer and washer and dryer.

I’ve not been writing much this week because I have, with friends, been pumping water out the back door for seven days. When the huge dump of snow we had this winter began to melt, it had no escape route. Many of the houses in our town are filling with icy cold water flowing into low places and bubbling up from sewers. It seems the only place the water has not ventured is into the room with the drain installed in the floor to deal with such things.

Wonderful friends jumped in to help last Saturday. Then one by one our friends jumped out to bail out their own homes when the water reached them. Some of them are now in  deeper water than we have been. One brave guy came over and emptied an 1100 square foot pool with two shop vacuums all by himself – two days in a row! I am so grateful. But it filled up again within a couple of hours.

My husband’s mother is ill and needs help, so he flew up to her place in Alberta on Sunday. I am here. I’m still supposed to take it easy after surgery last month but there is really not much choice but to bend and lift and bail and do the best I can.

It’s not enough. There is really nothing I, or anyone else, can do. I have to let it go.

My Facebook friend has been posting pictures of the horrendous flood in Peru, where he lives in Lima – without access to water, ironically enough. Another friend posts photos from a famine in Africa and another pictures of the destruction in the Middle East. My problem is pitifully insignificant in comparison. No one has died here. It’s just property damage.

Yet as I heard a young woman say, “If you have no right to be sad because someone has it worse, you have no right to be happy when someone has it better.” Feelings are feelings. Like the feeling of thirst the feeling of disappointment carries no shame. It’s what I do with that disappointment that matters. If I fail to hold these things in an open hand and give my right to own nice stuff back to God it could congeal into bitterness. I’ve known that heavy entrapment before. I lost years to it.

The night before my husband first stepped on an unexpectedly cold soggy rug in the middle of the family room I had a dream. In this dream I was driving on the top of a snow-covered dike that ended near the river. I needed to turn around, but the trail was very narrow and a deep pool of water surrounded the dike like a flood plain. I almost made the turn, but then my car began to slide into the water. I knew there was nothing I could do. I felt annoyed and resigned, but not particularly upset or panicky.

As my vehicle began to sink I knew I had to give it up. (I love my little Honda Insight). I exited through the window and swam toward the snowy dike. By the time I touched the shore it had become a solid rock beach. People who hadn’t been there before waited with warm blankets to cover me. I saw men attaching cables to my car and salvaging it before it was completely submerged. Someone behind me, wrapping a warm hand-made quilt around my shivering body, whispered in my ear, “This looks very dramatic and like it’s a big deal, but it’s not. You’re going to be okay.”

~~~~~~~~~~~

My feet are wet and cold. I watch the water lap up against the new library shelves. They are already warping. It’s only stuff, I know that. But it’s a loss, and I’m sad. And that’s okay.

In January I asked the Lord to give me a word about what aspect of himself he wanted to show me in this season. In a vision in the night I saw the word “berit” written in the sky. I wrote it down and looked it up in the morning. The first article I found said it was a form of the Hebrew word for covenant promise – a one way promise from God that is not conditional on his people conforming to a code of behaviour to bring about fulfillment. It’s simply part of his faithfulness to keep it.

rainbow square mountain pass IMG_9852 chSomeone asked me if I’ve seen any rainbows lately, considering all the rain that was melting mounds of snow. I remembered seeing this word written in the sky. In Genesis a rainbow is a berit. I saw a literal word of promise taking the place of a rainbow in the sky.

You know, it shouldn’t surprise me that as I write this I am remembering that today is the anniversary of the day our daughter was told she couldn’t have children. It’s also her daughter’s birthday, the first of three miracle babies.

Today is also the anniversary of a terrible day when our son-in-law crashed after surgery for flesh-eating disease. The doctors didn’t think he would live. On this date a year after that he and our daughter celebrated his miraculous better-than-before recovery by going on a mountain bike adventure.

Shortly after that our son and family experienced a flood far worse than this one. Their house sat in a lake of water and they were displaced for months. This week marks the completion of the restoration of their house to better-than-new condition, it’s sale, and the beginning of a new project.

I guess if you want to see miracles you’re going to find yourself in situations that call for them. I am disappointed, yes, but not beaten down, not without hope, not without other treasures. We have wealth in caring friends, in family, in the laughter of grandchildren. We also know that God never allows something to be removed without replacing it with something better. I am anticipating that he will do it again.

A song has been going through my head this week. One line in particular seems to be on repeat:

After the rain
After the flood
You set your promise in the sky…

God is good. Still good. Always good.

Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will exult in the Lord,

I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
The Lord God is my strength,
And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet,
And makes me walk on my high places.

(Habakkuk 3:17-20 NASB)

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Too Good To Not Be True

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With my whole heart, with my whole life
And with my innermost being,
I bow in wonder and love before you, the Holy God!
Yahweh, you are my soul’s celebration;
How could I ever forget the miracles of kindness you’ve done for me?
You kissed my heart with forgiveness, in spite of all I’ve done.
You healed me inside and out from every disease.
You’ve rescued me from hell and saved my life.
You’ve crowned me with love and mercy and made me a king.
You satisfy my every desire with good things.
You supercharged my life so that I soar again
Like a flying eagle in the sky.
You’re a God who makes things right,
Giving justice to the defenseless…

(Psalm 103:1-6 The Passion Translation)

There are passages of scripture some of us have learned are part of our inheritance. We keep running into them  at crucial moments in our lives. They show up when we most need them. Psalm 103 is one of those passages for me.

The irony is that the Lord brings it to my attention when I feel least likely to be able to declare it without engaging a considerable amount of faith. Circumstances would seem to point in another direction.

But we live by faith and not by sight.

So today I stand and declare: You supercharged my life so that I soar again like an eagle flying in the sky!

It’s about His faithfulness. Therefore I have hope, the evidence of things not seen.

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Proclaim

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Sometimes we walk on sunny mountain tops. Sometimes we walk through stormy valleys.

Lately it feels like another storm hits before our shoes have had a chance to dry out after the last one.

Can I be honest with you? I don’t feel like I’m doing a great job in this season of my life. I’m so far behind I don’t know if I’ll ever catch up to my expectations for myself. Sometimes the closest I come to resting in the Lord is pulling the blankets over my head and ignoring the clock in the morning.

This morning I had a dream that describes what I have been feeling. I was rushing around in a house (similar to ours in real life but with more stories) that needed work and preparation for the next season. Someone came to the door. I felt grubby, dusty and sweaty and not in the mood for company, but I invited the young girl who waited there into my mess.

She whispered something about wanting to make a proclamation. Before I could say anything another person showed up who needed my attention. As I went to look for something he wanted more people arrived – all in some sort of need or crisis. My house was noisy and confusing and full of people poking into all my private not-so-impressive spaces. I wanted to be hospitable and make something for them to eat, but everywhere I looked something in the house needed to be cleaned, trimmed, painted, organized, or repaired. Too many voices asked questions at the same time.

I felt overwhelmed.

Then the girl who had arrived at my door first put her hand on my arm and said in the sweetest gentle voice, “Can we proclaim now?”

I woke up, the word “proclaim” still ringing in my ears.

All day I’ve been thinking about this. Then I stumbled on this video by a group of young singers called “Proclaim.” The first young soloist looks like the girl who came to my door in the dream.

Okay, Lord, you have my attention. I’m listening.

I will call upon your name when everything has failed.
I will lift my weary eyes to that place where my help comes from
and I will not be afraid
and I will run to you in my time of weakness
and I will remember your unfailing love for me

You are my help, Lord!
Your right hand will hold me when I stray.
You are my help, Lord.
There’s no fear in me.
I will rise again.

I proclaim the glory of the Lord.
I will remember Your unfailing love for me. There is no fear in me. I rise again!

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