My Darkness Into Light

It’s true that when it rains, it pours.

Or maybe in the midst of great loss, when we are at our most raw and vulnerable, we feel things with greater clarity but less coping skills.

I don’t know.

But I can tell you that in this month of sorrow, life has gone on. Annie graduated Pre-K, which means come the Fall, I’ll have three kids in all day school, three kids doing homework, three kids playing sports.

I made a major job decision that requires 150 hours of licensing.

And two weeks from now, I am in charge of Vacation Bible School, a function of my asking the director of ministries at our church “Hey, why don’t we have VBS?”

“No one to run it, ” she said. Then she crossed her arms, raised an eyebrow, and waited.

That’s worth a reflection. Months and months ago, God told me to say yes to VBS, even though he knew that at this very moment, my heart would be broken. I am on the lookout for why. Be where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there and God will do the rest.

Which leads me to this post.

This is our third Spring in Oregon, the place we believe we were called to move. The previous two Springs have been pretty and worthy of note.

But this Spring? This particular Spring that has been so, so hard?

This Spring has been MAGNIFICENT.

The sound of the wind in the leaves outside the kitchen window.  The tulips and hyacinth that surprised us in April. The tree that leaved into a giant sentinel in the backyard.

The lemon balm that sprouted in the garden area, good for stress and anxiety.

The green hills and full creeks. Fields full of calves and lambs. Poppies. Dogwood. And sweet Mother, the roses.

Can I tell you how Sue loved her roses?

I didn’t even realize how much I was relying on the nature around me to soothe my heart until Saturday, when I was sitting at the winery five minutes from my house and this view brought me to tears.

IMG_20170610_181926_815

And then I thought about how many times in the last few weeks, Gabe has said “Mom, it is so pretty here.” Or Annie has picked some lemon balm and walked around the house, breathing it in. How the girls headed out to the backyard with their friend Sarah to cut fresh bouquets of roses for our families.

All of those things bringing simple and pure joy.

This Spring has sheltered and fed and lightened us, a bountiful grace for which I am thankful.

IMG_20170410_171240_886

This was filtered using Prisma, which is why it looks like a painting instead of a picture

IMG_20170612_083145_216

IMG_20170611_122048_508

 

You, Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light. 

Psalm 18:28

 

Rolling on the River.

On Saturday we rafted a meek portion of the Rogue river, with some local friends. Marcy grew up rafting the Rogue and her girls are pretty experienced on the water. They’re a water family, since her husband Kevin is an ocean fisherman by trade.

I also have experience rafting and love it–although I have always done it with a guide. Kate and I rafted the whitewater on the Rogue just a few weeks ago. My motto while rafting is “No Swimmers”. Once on the American river, when we went high on a rock, I reached back and kept the guide in the boat while letting one of my friends go in. I have never fallen out.

We set off in two boats—Marcy and me in one with the little girls and Shea and Gabe with Kevin and their older daughter Sophie.

This part of the Rogue is class 1 to 1 ½. Whenever Marcy talks about rafting the river, she always says some form of “You have to be careful”. You’d never know that from the rafting companies that shuttle anyone 10 miles up, give them a boat, a life jacket and some oars and tell them “Be back at the landing by 5 or there’s a late fee”.

I wasn’t worried at all because Marcy is exactly like a rafting guide, and gives directions in a voice I am pre-programmed to obey. The girls were having a blast with the water guns, the river was packed and the sun was warm.

And then.

I don’t know how it happened. We were trying to go right and Marcy told me to dig in. It was shallow and my oar got stuck but I didn’t feel strain, leverage, anything.

I was just in the water.

Facing the wrong way. Mashed against a boulder by the boat. And the water was COLD.

Later Marcy told me we were in the Rock Garden, a section of the river where there’s a wide, rocky and shallow sand bar that falls off into deep, fast moving and boulder-y water.

“It’s the very place I didn’t want to dump anyone.”

I had a hold of the side rope, so when the raft pushed me off the boulder, I was able to turn and get my feet out in front of me. This is super important–to go feet first and flat down the rapids, like a paper boat.

Marcy made the right choice to let me ride so she could get us through the next fast part and keep me out of the blackberry bushes along the bank. A guy died in the blackberry bushes last summer, although he didn’t have a life jacket on, and I sure did.

Once we hit calmer water, I had to get back in the boat, with only 50 yards to go before the next shallow part. I still couldn’t touch the bottom, so Marcy and I were going to have to haul my butt in together.

There was praying. And cursing. Actually, it was all mixed in together, but God knows how Marcy and I roll and He loves us still. She pulled and I pulled and my body was not working right from the cold but I hooked a leg and then between the two of us, our guardian angels and three years of yoga, I got back in the boat.

Marcy and I laughed hysterically for a good two minutes. Then we decided we are Amazon sisters for life.

I tend to see the beauty of the river, its calm implacability, the way it can adjust to and overcome obstacles. I identify with the strength of the river, mighty and eternal.

But underneath, the waters are roiling and dangerous. If we had ignored the danger, been drinking or not wearing life jackets—like so many boaters we saw on the river—things could have gone very differently.

I know that somewhere in this story, there’s a lesson to learn. I’m not ready to think about it yet. For now I’m content to count my blessings—I was never really in any big danger—and ice my knee.

DSCF08421

 

Oregon Trail, Part 2: The First Six Weeks

The first morning we were here, Shea went outside to get something from the trailer. Since we arrived before the moving truck, and all he had were flip-flops, that’s what he wore.

Icy sidewalk + flip flops = We’re not in California anymore.

That was only the first lesson Oregon taught us. Since then we’ve learned…

…that there’s something to the old wives tale that if you don’t wear a coat, you’ll catch cold.

…to keep the dogs’ water bowls in the house, or they’ll drink out of the toilets—either because they’re too lazy to go out in the cold or the water has frozen over.

…while living on the hill overlooking town will be cool 90% of the time, the other 10% we’ll be in danger of sliding down the hill on the way to school.

Among other things.

But we’ve also been here long enough for the kids to make new friends in the neighborhood, new friends at school and be invited to four birthday parties.

(However, not long enough for this mama to find a gym. Ahem.)

It’s hard for me to explain the way people are friendly here, because California is an awfully friendly place. But when folks in So Cal are friendly, it’s more like an “I’m going to be friendly next to you” vibe. It has solid personal space.

And up here, the friendly reaches out and grabs you, includes you. Kate’s new teacher wrapped her in a great big old bear hug on the first day they went to school. The director of ministries at our new church wrapped me in a great big old bear hug the first time she met me in person. It’s like that.

I am not a hugger. I have big personal space. BIG. Even after four years in New York, I never got used to how people hugged and kissed each other hello. Hugging is a joke between me and Amy because Amy hugs everyone and it took me months to hug her back without feeling awkward.

But I once I realized that hugging could happen in Oregon, I decided we have to be open to our new life.

So I am open to hugging.

In California, it’s common for folks to head bob a stranger or offer a “Hey, what’s up?”. In New York, I had to adjust to the expectation that less words are better and no words are best.  That stuff doesn’t fly here. When people ask how you are, they’re prepared to listen to the answer. There may be follow-up questions. It’s a small town and there’s nowhere that anyone has to be fast. This is part of the slowing down.

Gabriel has the run of the neighborhood with some other boys, including right on up the hill into the trees if he so desires. There’s lots of open land and not a lot of fences. I was scared for poison oak, and then someone told me “Honey, it’s not if he gets poison oak, but when” and I shook it off.

We’ve eaten at all the restaurants we came to love on our trips up here to see my husband’s folks, and discovered some new ones. We’ve been to museums, a working water-powered mill from 1872 and I even went on a Mom’s night out with the first grade moms. You never know what you’re getting into with a group of first grade moms, but I shouldn’t have worried. These are Catholic school moms, after all. Half went home at ten and the other half went upstairs to dance.

It’s quiet now that the holidays have ended. We’re settling into the dark peace of winter. But then, oh my goodness. There will be so many festivals and fairs and markets that it almost stresses me out when I look at the community calendar.

We can’t wait to explore our new home state. The trailer will come out of hiding in the Spring and off we’ll go to the coast and over the Cascades and north to Eugene. Everything is new: new stores, new parks, new museums, new towns. And all of it is beautiful.

My kids are content here, even though they do miss their friends. My husband, who really thrives when he’s helping people, is content in his new job. And I am content. My mama’s heart is quiet and thankful that this prayer was answered.

Some pictures of our new life:

This is the view off our back patio.

This is the view off our back patio.

Here's another one. The sunsets over the mountains look different every day.

Here’s another one. The sunsets over the mountains look different every day.

This is Butte Creek, home of the Butte Creek Mill

Butte Creek, home of the Butte Creek Mill

I took this at a local park.

I took this at a local park.

Dutch Bros is the local drive-through coffee joint. We love them, not the least because of their awesome coffee lids.

Dutch Bros is the local drive-through coffee joint. We love them, not the least because of their awesome coffee lids.