Archives for October 2017

31 Days of 5 Minute Prompts: Day Twenty-One — GIVE


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It is undoubtedly obvious to you by now that I love flowers. I find them to be among the most giving components of God’s creative imagination. You put a seed, a corm, a bulb in the ground, and out pops glory. Colors galore, sometimes knock-you-dead scents, sometimes tall and willowy, sometimes short and stocky, flowers are wondrous, inviting, giving.

This one was in a vase, in the center of a large bunch of ’em at a luncheon I recently attended. I wasn’t quite sure I even wanted to go to this event, to tell you the truth. I’ve been tired a lot lately and am becoming decidedly less social as I age! But I went. And I am so glad I did. These lovely, sweet-smelling lilies greeted me as I secured a seat for the program part of the morning and I gazed at them with admiration and gratitude for about ninety minutes.

They were HUGE, I tell you. Huge. This flower probably measured about ten inches across, maybe a full foot from tip to tip, so it’s giving was intense and powerful. A gift that . . . keeps on giving, right??

31 Days of 5 Minute Prompts: Day Twenty — DISCOVER

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Yes, the picture is blurry. But it is the best I could do with a phone camera, fully telescoped! These are spiny red sea urchins and they are our biggest discovery of the last few months. Now that we are walking at the marina several evenings each week, we enjoy watching the fishing boats unload their catch at the end of the day.

These guys are the single most lucrative ‘crop’ in the entire Santa Barbara seafood fishing industry. Who knew? Strange, spiky, and small, they carry within them liquid gold in the form of 5 small glands that are high on the specialty list of a lot of restaurants up and down the coast. Not something we have ever eaten — nor do we desire to do so, having been told their texture is akin to liver. Ah, no thank you!

They hang out in the gigantic kelp forests off our coastline and small boats with one captain and two divers go out several days each week and gather them up, bring them into the marina docks, where trucks are waiting to carry them up and down the coast. Most boatloads we’ve seen weigh in the vicinity of 1500 pounds. That’s a heckuva a lot of sea urchins, folks. A heckuva lot.

31 Days of 5 Minute Prompts: Day Nineteen — BRAVE

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See this cutie right here? She is one of the bravest people I know. Her name is Lillian (we call her Lilly) and she is 7 years old. When she was two, one knee began to swell up, causing a lot of pain and an obvious limp. Testing found that she had JIA (Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis – formerly juvenile rheumatoid arthritis), and over the next five years she suffered with her knee, her ankle and the lining of her eyes. A strong medicine, taken weekly – and used in larger doses as a chemotherapy drug (ouch!) – helped her to keep it under control for most of the first three years.

Then this year, our local Arthritis Foundation named her the youth patient of the year and she was a featured speaker at their big fundraiser, held at a fancy resort last month. That girl stood up in front of 300 people and gave an articulate, well-delivered, 3-minute speech and she did it flawlessly!

And to top it all off, at the end of July, after two years with NO flare-ups, she was taken off her medicine to see if her body is in remission. So far, so good!

We are grateful.

In case you missed it, Lilly is our youngest grandchild and with her sister, one of our only two grandgirls. We love her a lot!

31 Days of 5 Minute Prompts: Day Eighteen — SHARE

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Once a quarter, we do this. Only once a quarter. I knew it would be tough to get commitments for much more than that — everyone is super busy (maybe too busy?) and it is sometimes tough sledding to get sign-ups for anything too long-term or too often.

But once a quarter for two years now, we’ve done this. We’ve shopped for, prepared, schlepped and served Dinner-in-the Park to 60-80 of our homeless brothers and sisters here in Santa Barbara. The goal is to become familiar enough with someone to hook them up with other services available to them, with the long-term goal of finding housing for all.

It’s tough sledding, I’ll tell you. And there is a long list of reasons that is true. But this much we know: Jesus asks us to give a cup of cold water to those in need. So we try to do that. At least once a quarter.

My own balance issues preclude my being in a poorly lit park after dark, so I do the organizing, the shopping, and the food prep, with several friends. Together, we help load the cars/trucks that take all the food and equipment over to the park. We all chip in to cover the costs and we’ve now got a pretty well-oiled machine in place.

Maybe this next year we can make it happen bi-monthly? Well, we’ll see. Because sharing is a good thing, right?  

31 Days of 5 Minute Prompts: Day Seventeen — GROW

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When we began visiting the beautiful islands of Hawaii in 1980, one of my favorite things was the fragrance and visual beauty of hundreds of plumeria plants. I love them — and most visitors to that magical place agree with me. They grow like weeds over there and at least one variety is deciduous, even in the tropics. 

When my children grew up and got married, they all purchased some to grow in their yards and were very successful, even with the harsher aspects of a CA winter. (Which, lets face it is not even close to ‘harsh’ on world-wide scale of winter! It does drop below freezing in the inland valleys, and that can be problematic, however.) 

When we moved to this house two years ago, a friend of ours from church gave us cuttings from her gigantic plumeria trees and we have been nurturing them with gratitude and pleasure ever since. They have grown! And this year, the flowers have been prolific. And fragrant. And lovely.

I am not a gardener, not by any stretch of anyone’s imagination. But these babies? I love them so, I make sure they’re watered and fed (or more likely, my husband does!). 

What do you grow that brings you pleasure? For me, it’s these ‘useless’ things called tropical flowers. Can’t eat ’em. They’re seasonal. But when they’re thriving? Oh, their growth inspires me. And fills me with gratitude. And reminds me that God is faithful, even in something as small as a fragrant blossom or two.

31 Days of 5 Minute Prompts: Day Sixteen — READ

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This is just a small sampling of the things I need to read. Soon. Some of them, I’ve finished. Some of them, I’ve started and have yet to finish. Some of them, I have yet to crack open. And there are at least 20 others at various stages of being read or un-read. 

Oy Vey.

I’ve had friends tenderly explain to me that part of my problem with reading right now is grief. And I think there is truth to that statement. I can manage murder mysteries, but anything that requires thoughtful reading/underlining/note-taking? Not so much right now. I hope that ability — or even the desire for that ability — will return someday soon. But for now, it seems to have gone missing.

Reading has always been a huge part of my life and I hope that will continue to be true. But right now, if I’m honest, I can barely manage to read the news and the aforementioned mysteries. Give me a Netflix series, any day of the week, at least at this particular moment in time.

I am reading scripture each day, in small chunks — which is my preferred methodology, at this stage of my life. I prefer reading slowly, carefully, reflectively and smaller chunks lend themselves to that kind of reading much better than large swaths of chapters and verses. And I am finding comfort there — not always, but often enough to reassure me that some things have not changed, nor disappeared forever in the wake of losing so many people I care about in recent weeks and months. 

And so, I hold out hope that those books in the picture above — and maybe even a few more on that big pile that is not pictured — will land in my hands, head and heart. Praying in that direction.

31 Days of 5 Minute Prompts: Day Fifteen — REMAIN

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I love kites! Do you? I love to watch them soar and spin, sink and rise again. I love their bright colors against the sky. I love the feeling of freedom they elicit, deep within me. I remember making kites as a kid. My dad was pretty good at and we had a few grand kite-fests, back in the day. My husband and I flew them with our kids, and, later, with our grandkids; I often see them floating and dipping along the beaches of our city, especially on windy afternoons.

But here’s the thing about kites: they don’t stick around very long. They don’t know the meaning of the word, ‘remain.’ They’re ephemeral, chimeric, fleeting things. Here for a moment, then gone, until the next time the wind blows. Maybe that’s part of their appeal, I don’t know. But it’s not a exactly exemplary, is it? Here today (for 30 minutes), gone tomorrow!

What does remain? Mostly, I think the things that last are those things that we don’t see with our eyes, but rather understand with our hearts. Things like love, commitment, faithfulness, goodness, joy. And you know what? Those things cause my heart to rise, too. Just like a beautiful kite.

31 Days of 5 Minute Prompts: Day Fourteen — TRY

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Ya know, he was just trying to scarf down a bit of supper! Minding his own business, moving those glorious, bright yellow feet nimbly across the rocks, ever on the lookout for a succulent morsel or two. The sun was setting, and we were heading back from the breakwater, making a circuit around the marina that evening.

And then, we spotted this elegant fellow.

I love birds of all kinds, but have a special partiality for those with inordinately long legs and beaks. (always having had long legs and a big mouth, myself, I guess!) This greater egret is a common sight along our central California coastline, but this is the first time we’d seen one right out there with all the boats. 

And all he wanted was a bit to eat. We watched him for several minutes but never saw him catch a thing. I’m hoping that when he flew off, he found better fishing elsewhere!

I hope that for all God’s creatures — that we’ll all find enough to get us through. Generally speaking, most of us in the U.S. of A. don’t have to worry about finding food for our bodies. But for our souls? Ah, that’s sometimes a harder job, isn’t it? And whether or not we have glorious feet or not, we’re all just out there, lookin’, right??

31 Days of 5 Minute Prompts: Day Thirteen — INVITE

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There was a time in my life when water that looked like this felt inviting to me. As a teen, I loved big surf and could body surf moderately well. As I got older, had babies I felt bound to, then got even older and more easily bruised when bashed about, I decided that such waves were still inviting, all right, but not for swimming/surfing! 

Instead, I learned to look, really look, at the water and to thoroughly enjoy the muscularity of a pounding surf. There are still lots of folks who would find this water beckoning, with or without surf or boogie board. Not I. Nope. I will look, thank you very much.

And look, I do. And wonder all the while. I love the ocean — anyone who’s spent any time at this blog knows that already. And I love watching the surf. I enjoy remembering how much fun I had, even as recently as fifteen years ago. But looking is good, you know?

Looking and being overwhelmed by gratitude that God made the seas, that they represent life and strength, hope and respite. Did you know that scientists have discovered that something happens to the molecules of the atmosphere around water-in-motion? Well, they have. And those changes are known to induce feelings of contentment and pleasure in human beings. 

I am not in the least surprised! Are you?

In Praise of Light — SheLoves, October 2017

The theme of the month at SheLoves is ‘LIT.’ This is what came to me as I reflected on that interesting word.

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I love lights — strings of lights. I have about four long ones, composed of large, clear globes in three colors, strung across the arbor outside the back of our home. Every day at about 5:00 p.m., I turn the switch so that their blue, green and white sparkles can be enjoyed as the evening covers the day.

My sister-in-law gave me a string of lights hidden inside colorful paper umbrellas. I loved that little string so much, I immediately hung it above my baking counter in the kitchen.

Just last month, I found a new website that specializes in inexpensive strings of solar-powered white lights. I have woven 5 strands through the low hedges that demarcate the back edge of our property. Every evening, I wait for their twinkling to begin and every evening, I smile as I see them.

Don’t even get me started about Christmas lights, okay? I’ve got bits of light spread all around my house from early December through Epiphany — on the tree, to be sure. But also? Across the mantle, on a smaller counter-top tree, stretched along the top of my china cabinet, around my front door.

Yeah, I love lights. They make me smile, they lift my spirits, they give me hope when I’m feeling down, they remind me that the darkness does not and cannot win, even when all around me says otherwise.

I want to be a person of light, too. Someone who shines, even in the darkness, who holds on firmly to hope and joy, no matter what set of curve balls are being tossed at my head. I want to be someone who is lit from within, someone who carries light with me into every dark and difficult place life’s journey brings my way.

Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes, not so much. I wrote last month about lament and I sometimes think that I could write about that topic no matter what the theme-of-the-month might happen to be. After all, life is hard, people get sick and die, relationships fall apart, addiction is real and sometimes deadly, failure is endemic to the human condition. And our scripture gives us a language for these seasons of sadness.

But.

It is also important and necessary to acknowledge the flip side of that language of lament. It is good to sing songs in a major key, too, and doing so can help us acknowledge the presence of the Light, even in the midst of some dark and scary times.

So today, I want to sing a song in praise of light, to say thank you for the people and places, events and circumstances that have brought light into my life:

To see my list (and to add some of your own, in the comments) please follow this link and join the conversation over there.