Walking the Sea

Walking the Sea: November 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Too Good of a Story

This is just too good of a story not to tell. It's a story about how God answers the unasked prayers we never think to pray in shocking ways. I'm still grinning.

The story starts a week ago on my birthday. I was meeting up with my mom to celebrate when she told me about a phone call several weeks prior with her own mother who told her about a second or third cousin who was having a book signing at the local Borders Bookstore. Neither of them attended the signing but my mom did look his book up online though she couldn't remember his name when she related this all to me. She did tell me it was a Christian book about addiction and depression. I thought about calling Borders to find out who this cousin was; I loved the idea of having another Christian author in the family. However, as it turned out, I didn't have to make that call.

When my Grandmother called later in the evening to wish me a happy birthday, she also told me about the book signing and she had a name: Doug Bolton. When I heard it, I thought to myself, "I know that name from somewhere. How do I know that name?" First chance I had, I looked him up on my computer starting with my e-mail first and sure enough, there he was.

Years ago I contacted a man to ask to be taken off a mailing list of an Oregon State University alumni newsletter. He noticed the reference to my books in the signature of my e-mail and as he was also a writer, we started corresponding once in a while over the years about our books but never met in person, though we live in the same town.

After learning of our connection, I e-mailed him immediately asking if we could meet for coffee and checked with my grandmother to make sure I knew just how we were related. He is my grandfather's cousin which makes us third cousins.

So today, I found a picture of my grandpa and brought it with me to show him. I hadn't said anything yet as I wanted to tell him we were family, not just friends, in person. We started talking about our books and found we have a lot in common already; he was brought up in a Quaker family, in a meeting that used to be in the neighborhood where I now live, where my great-grandparents lived, but a meeting that no longer exists. You can imagine my surprise right there but when I showed him his cousin's picture and told Doug I was Gib's granddaughter, he was stunned. I am sure he will be absorbing that news for days to come. It took me a while to get over the shock myself that I was related to one of my friends.

One of the most incredible things for me about this whole story is I know so little about my grandpa's family though I have been told by many I look just like the Woods. My grandpa, mom, aunt, and I share an uncanny resemblance and when my great-great uncles saw me at my great-aunt's funeral several years back, they took one look at me and said, "You look like our mother." So our "family look" runs very strong from one generation to the next and I got it. When Doug found out we were related, he said I looked a lot like his mom, who as it turns out, is still living in an assisted living home in South Salem. You know I will be visiting.

I feel so grateful God let us know of our connection, that we're family. As I said before in my post about our Hoggatt family reunion this summer, I didn't have a lot of contact with blood family beyond my grandparents growing up and was told little so knowing my more distant cousins and great-aunts and uncles means so much to me. I love knowing where I've come from and I love now having the opportunity to know much more about my grandpa's life and his family whom I so closely resemble. It's the prayer I never thought to pray.  I am so grateful God gives us what we need even when we don't realize we need it. He is so good to us.

Since I usually have a point to what I write on here, more than, "Isn't this an awesome story?", the moral of this tale is, "Be kind to everyone you meet. You never to whom you are related. (In our souls, we are all related, sometimes the relationship is just more obvious.)"

As an epilogue, Doug and I will now be working on doing events and signings together, probably in the spring. Meanwhile, on December 10th, I am going to support him at his next signing at Eola Hills Winery which, with all the additional music and artists, should be quite an event. The invitation is below. You are all invited to come.

Join us for entertainment and a book signing

501 S Pacific Hwy 99W
Rickerall, OR 

Doug Bolton will be there to sign copies of his new book, Signs of Hope: Ways to Survive in an Unfriendly World.

Performing for the evening will be the barbershop quartet group, Dave Chilcote and The Investors, plus recording artists Mindy Taylor Hersey and Julie Hoy. Both will be signing copies of their new CD’s.

And finally, guest speaker Laura Morett, star of the TV series “Survivor” will be doing autographs and showing clips of the series.

6-9 P.M.

Admission is free

There will be complimentary hors d’oeuvres and a “no host” bar
Please R.S.V.P. to rich-washburn@eolahillswinery.com

This is his website: http://dougbolton.com/

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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Happy Birthday!

I have been told by many adults older than I that their birthdays are just another day. When I was young, I was aghast at this idea. How could your birthday be just like any other? Now that I'm older, I have a better idea what they mean. It is an easy thing to do, once all those youthful parties and gift giving are over, to wonder what your birthday now means and to let that day go into the monotony of other days. It is easy to dread becoming older, to wish to put off the decline of our physical selves. And yet, I like birthdays.

I am now 31. My birthday was last Tuesday and every year I have to decide how I am going to treat the day. Thirty was a big year last year, I saw a lot of friends and enjoyed myself immensely. This year, thirty-one, for the first time, I was tempted by the "just another day" idea but I wasn't tempted for long. As a single adult, I have long since learned that if a holiday is going to be special, it is I and I alone who will make it so. If I want a party, it is usually I who has to plan it, though last year Cheryl hosted a wonderful breakfast and a bit of geo-caching (my very first outdoor event for my birthday, EVER). But a birthday, to be special, needs to be more than parties and gifts. What does a birthday mean? Beyond turning a year older, why celebrate our birthdays?

I think birthdays are still special as adults because we then each have a special day to honor who we are and to give family and friends the chance to celebrate us, to celebrate with us our lives and how precious they are. Birthdays are a way of loving ourselves and letting others love us as well. Birthdays are precious just as we are precious.

I can spend my birthday bemoaning the fact it's not like it was when I was a kid. There is no big family get together, no party hat with lime green fringe or a birthday cake I can stick my fingers into and lick off the frosting (my first birthday, and actually, at that time, it was my whole hand). Or, I can enjoy the day for the gifts that are there, make it special for myself, and to choose to have a good attitude, to delight in my own special day. It is a choice.

This year, God gave me his present first. It came in the form of a call from Kim asking if I was available to fill in for her at the elementary library where she and a friend work.  At that school, I know the whole staff and as I had helped in the office the day before, I knew two other staff had the same birthday as mine. It's my favorite place to fill in at. Working in the library was great. I got to spend the day with a friend, heard her read a funny book to the kids as only she can, and Kim even dropped me off a birthday latte. God gives the best birthday presents! He gave me the job I hadn't even hoped to have.

If we are to make our birthday specials, we have to enjoy the little things, the time with a friend, a latte, fellow birthday buddies, calls from family. By the evening, I was grinning. Not only did I have a great day, but both my parents had called and sang me their renditions of "Happy Birthday" and my sisters had called as well. My birthday is still special to them which helps keep it special to me.

Don't let your birthday just be another day. Even if it's a small thing, make it special and enjoy the moment. Let others love and celebrate you; celebrate yourself. Happy birthday!


Friday, November 19, 2010

The Story of Jonah

Dear Friends, Every once in a while I come across a story, song, or video that captures so beautifully the heart of God and I love sharing them with you.  This is one a friend posted on Facebook tonight and it is extraordinary.

A few years ago, I was at our local Jewish temple and the Rabbi did a midrash with the congregation on the story of Jonah. Throughout his telling, he would ask us questions as if we were Jonah, or the Ninevites, or even the whale and we had to answer from that person's perspective. I loved it. The story of Jonah has been precious to me ever since but this girl tells it like I've never heard it before. She's given me much to think about.

The story of Jonah from Corinth Baptist Church on Vimeo.

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Monday, November 8, 2010

"I've Been Busy" - But You aren't that Important

I cannot tell you how many times I have asked someone how they are doing and they reply in a variance of "I've been busy" as if this is a real answer to my question.  Are you happy?  Do you have joy?  Are you worn out?  Do you need rest?  How do you feel about being busy?  It's like asking someone if I can borrow a pen and they tell me what color it is. They reply they are busy as if that should satisfy my curiosity on their condition. To me, it feels as if people think being busy meets some unspoken goal of our lives, that if we are busy, we have achieved some greatness in our day.

While here in Indiana, not being busy, I have indulged in my friend Carole's library, a library after my own heart, and have been reading from there a copy of Eugene Peterson's The Contemplative Pastor.  Having struggled with this issue of being busy himself, he reflects, "It was a favorite theme of C.S. Lewis that only lazy people work hard.  By lazily abdicating the essential work of deciding and directing, establishing values and setting goals, other people do it for us; then we find ourselves frantically, at the last minute, trying to satisfy a half dozen different demands on our time, none of which is essential to our vocation, to stave off the disaster of disappointing someone." As a remedy, he suggests, "The trick of course, is to get to the calendar before anyone else does. I mark out the times for prayer, for reading, for leisure, for the silence and solitude out of which creative work--prayer, preaching, and listening can issue."

This is the very remedy my spiritual director suggested for me several months ago, a remedy to being busy, I admit, in which I haven't followed through.  But now I realize that after evaluating my priorities and saying no to everything else, my second step is to bring those priorities into balance.  Before I came here to Indiana, my life was insanely busy getting three books ready for the printer, my second priority after my relationship with God, a goal at which I succeeded.  But going back, I can't return to the same pace, it is draining and sucks the life energy out of my soul.  There are times, I know, that will be busy.  We all have seasons like that where one priority takes the most time, or even several.  But it can only be for a season.  For instance, Carole has been working on writing new syllabi's for several new classes she is teaching here at Earlham.  We have had many conversations about the books she is having her students read, the papers she is assigning them, and the projects they will complete. It is a busy time for her but it will not last.  She knows to take care of herself and to not put too many rocks in her jar. 

This is my lesson in returning home: Being busy is not a state of being, it is a state of dying.  Eugene Peterson observed how many of the things he did each day were superfluous to what was actually needed.  A church nearby had no pastor for a year or two and though they had someone stepping in to preach and another to conduct wedding, funerals, and baptisms, he noticed many of the things he did as a pastor were not being done at that church and no one minded.  So he stopped doing them at his church and no one minded there either.  He realized some of the things he thought were important were in reality, not needed. Reading that experience of his made me wonder how many things do I do in my life, how many things do we all do, that don't really matter?  Or how many things do we do because we think we are essential when in actuality, we just aren't that important? For example, I have taken photos for a theatre here in town of their shows, an activity I have found I have some talent for, but I realized it was one of the rocks that had to go if I was going to attend to the rocks that needed to be in my life's jar. The theatre was fine with my decision and they found other people to take those pictures. I'm just not that important.  If something really needs to be done, God will arrange for someone who is called to do it.

This time in Indiana has been a treasured, contemplative rest. It has brought me back to that centered peace I belong in.  I have had the time to read, write, and just be still. The busy, intense period is over and I now know what it feels like to have a life with a lot more rest in it, so I know I will be putting parameters in place to ensure I am not that consistently busy again. It is okay for a short period, but is not for okay for life.  Even Jesus, especially Jesus, took time away for quiet, both alone and with his friends. He is our example to emulate. However, it is because I first realized this summer how overrun my life had become, that I was able to come back to this rhythm so quickly.  Already having recalibrated to a slower pace, I felt the strain far sooner being busy than I would have a few months before.  This is a good thing. But I need to live in such a way that I find rest in my daily life, not to be extremely busy and then get away to rest. I already need to have that in my day.  But being overly busy for a time did teach me one thing: I know where my boundaries are. 

If we don't draw boundaries around our lives and energy, people will have no trouble crossing those boundaries and filling up our schedule. We have to get to our calendars first. Peterson has a great suggestion for this.  He tells us that we should schedule out blocks of time for God, ourselves, and those we love first. Then when someone asks us to do something that same night, instead of saying, "I was thinking of reading that night" or "I was going to take my wife out to dinner," both of which they might try to persuade you to reschedule, simply reply with, "My appointment calendar will not permit it." He claims people never argue with this answer and you are sure to keep those things in place that nurture you and give you breath.

I would urge you to take a hard look at your schedule. What things are you doing that need to be taken out, what things do you need to put your energy into instead? What space needs to be built into your day? We can't keep running from event to appointment to practice to work. We can't keep thinking about what is coming next, we need to be where we are.  We need air and breath in our day. You have to just do it.  There will never be a convenient time to change. But it's always appropriate.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Needed Rest

Once I was seated on the plane during my first leg of the trip, it didn't take me long to pull out a book to read.  I had been looking forward to that moment for two months.  Well, I would have been looking forward to it if I'd had the time.  I was so intensely busy I even let my dishes go and only washed them when I really needed to.  Most of the rest of the house stayed picked up. 

Do you remember me talking about the rocks in the jar?  It's a good thing I dumped out that jar before working on publishing the books because there is no way I would have been able to continue juggling everything, including this blog, and ready the books for printing at the same time.  My two poetry books are beautiful.  Through the work of Emily on the cover art and Janelle on the design, they look fantastic.  The insides too, have been redone, cleaned up, added to, and even a tad rewritten.  Christine's book is completely new so I had to lay it out, work with her on cover design, and we worked on all the edits.  It was a very intense two months of work.  Well worth it, but not a pace I can readily sustain for a long period of time.

By the time I gave the woman my ticket and carried my bags onto the plane, I was done, 110% done.  Not just done as in the books were at the printers being printed up, which they are, but emotionally and physically spent several times over.  I have had an image in my head of myself all dry and cracked, bleeding and parched.  Before I truly settled into my book, I talked to God about it and had the sense he was taking me here for awhile so he could rub some of that healing balm into my soul, that he would minister to me over and over again as only many repeated applications of balm would heal me. 

As I've said in other places, printing one book takes over your life--three are insane.  So now I am here in Indiana to rest.  Brie, the woman next to me on the plane, after hearing where I was going and for how long, was speechless for a second and then exclaimed, "Why?!"  But Richmond is a very pleasant town and a great place for me to rest and relax.  There isn't a lot of big things to go see so I can spend much of my time reading books I neither have to write nor edit.  Heaven.  I can write if I want, attend seminary classes if I want, spend time with friends, and cuddle a cat named Chub in what has quickly become my favorite house.  At this moment his head is resting on my elbow (Carole and he just came to a good compromise on who got that particular seat on the couch--they're sharing it.)

Yesterday I spent at Quaker Hill cuddled up on a couch downstairs reading a book about who really killed Humpty Dumpty when he fell off that wall.  Thinking about it, I realized I felt so raw, I needed to escape into a book as a kind of protective layering.  That and a lovely walk through the woods was exactly what I needed.  Today I spent at Earlham School of Religion.  It was really nice to meet some of the community there and see some of my friends who attend.

So thank you for hanging in here and still reading after this long break.  I really do appreciate it.  Now that the books are off to the printers, I will have a lot more time to write.  When I get home which won't be until late next week, I'll post pictures of the new covers.

I pray you too, are all finding the rest you need.

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The Flight from the Underworld

"I'm sorry folks, but..."  We heard a version of that several times on the second leg of my trip.  At first it was a mechanical repair, then it was our co-pilot being over his allotted hours, then having to run some diagnostics.  All in all, we spent about four hours waiting in our plane on the tarmac at the airport.  At one point, they had driven the plane to another gate to let the co-pilot off and wait for a new one and while we waited, they let us all off for fifteen minutes.  That's when one of the staff got on the microphone and said, "I know it's been a flight from the underworld for you all tonight..."  (Halloween no less.)

As far as I went, I was only concerned that it was going to be a very late night for the woman picking me up.  Other than that, I didn't mind too much.  Between being stuck overnight in Chicago once and having experienced Kenya travel myself and through the stories of others, I had other things to compare the flight to than ones that always left on time.  On top of that, I had no connection to make, I had been assigned a window seat in the emergency row with lots of leg room, a very nice and interesting young woman named Brie was my seat partner with an empty seat between us where we could spread out our stuff, and her delightful and funny mother and brother were sitting on the other side of the aisle.  All in all, I actually enjoyed it.  It was one of those moments when I got to decide what kind of attitude I was going to have.  I could be upbeat and laugh, or I could be grumpy and impatient.  Either way, we were going to be sitting there on the tarmac for the same amount of time.  I chose to laugh.

We laughed when they came over the intercom to tell us they were giving us each a voucher but didn't tell us what it was because my neighbors and I then came up with all kinds of things it could be: a free soda on our next flight or a dollar off our next purchase being our favorites.  We laughed again when the baby started making runs for the main door via crawling down the aisle at full speed with it's mother hurrying along behind to catch him.  We wanted to time him to see how long it would take him to get there or find another baby and hold races.  We laughed some more after leaving the gate again and then waiting, again, on the tarmac, without the pilot coming on to tell us why.  We figured he was too afraid to tell us what was going on after all the hours we had already waited so we entertained ourselves by coming up with all the possibilities of what could be causing our delay.  A new crew or new pilot being our top guesses.

There were some passengers who were rather irate by the end.  I can understand that.  I would have been far more upset myself if I had to be somewhere at a certain time or had a connection to  make that I would have certainly missed.  That's when the test of a good attitude really comes into play.  But as I didn't, I was fine and now I have some kind of voucher to use and since I love to travel, any help in paying for that is appreciated.  In the end, it's true what they say, "Good things come to those who wait."  Thank you God for a safe flight here.