Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Traveling Mercies

I usually pray for safety when I travel.  But I’ve heard others ask for traveling mercies. I finally understand that means  unexpected goodness in the middle of unfavorable circumstances.
The night before a recent trip I discovered that the route took me into La Guardia in NYC, and out of Newark, NJ.  In a panic I called the booking company. Sorry, they couldn’t do anything about it. I called the airline. Sure, they could find me a more direct route--for an additional $600!  Finally I found a shuttle service that ran between the airports, and I could probably make the cross town trip in the three hours I had between the flights. I prayed that I’d make my connection, and went to bed. The next day I checked in and hoped for a complimentary reroute. No go. 

The flight departed on time--a good start. Even better, the small commuter jet flew up the Hudson River close enough to the Statue of Liberty to wave. What a thrill!  On the ground, I found and paid for the shuttle--on my way within minutes. This was going great. 

Plowing through traffic I felt prompted to pray for the multi-cultural people and neighborhoods I passed, the skyscrapers and the businesses inside of them. I felt connected to the city. Enjoying my mini tour, I laughed at the sign threatening a $350.00 fine for honking horns. Really, are there cops with time to run down a blaring Buick? And the guy wearing a shirt that said “New York City eats its young.” What's with that?

Mercy transformed my mistake into fun, and made me glad I’d missed another boring connection through Atlanta.

Six weeks later I headed west again. This time weather delayed my departure, and after two hours I knew I had missed my connection. I fretted, I stewed, I imagined that the subsequent flights would be full and I would be stranded.  I wanted God to fix it. 

The man sitting next to me stayed calm even though his cellphone conversation revealed he'd miss his connections to Belgium and Africa.  Intrigued, I asked him the purpose of his trip.  He was a pastor going to continue community development work in rural Africa that his church supported. I admitted that I believed in God, even though wasn't acting like it.  I poured out my frustration and fear that I'd get stuck in New York. He said he would pray for me. Then, for a couple of peaceful hours, he answered my questions about the community development.  The deprivations those people faced put my inconvenience in perspective.

Twice I experienced "traveling mercies." 

Next trip I'll ask for the grace as I zip my suitcase, and look for it along the way.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Are you a cupcake, muffin or biscuit?

Are you a cupcake, muffin, or biscuit?
Before I'd heard of personality inventories I contrived my own system to peg the women around me. Of course it's unscientific but I found a certain homey truth to it.  It's no more far-fetched than answering questions in a teacher in-service to determine if my mental operating system was like an oval, triangle, circle or square. 

I typecast a "cupcake" based on her big smile even though standing next to a car with a flat tire and a screaming baby in the backseat.  Could I call her "Honey" or "Sugar" without offending her?  I imagined her inner resolve to be light and easily squashed.

That was a long time ago, and maybe it had to do with our youth and the misguided mission to conceal inner junk.  I can't think of a woman I know today who I'd call a cupcake.

The muffins are unadorned, hearty and appealing. They  take more risks than the cupcakes. They are discerning and speak their minds without being unkind. My friend Florence is a muffin. She suggested that despite my zeal, teaching vacation Bible school wasn't my strength.

Most of my friends now are muffins: dependable and accepting. They don't worry about looking as good as cupcakes because they have developed substantial inner beauty. 

I label myself a biscuit--crusty on the outside, but softer on the inside.  Biscuits will stick to your ribs, they’re basic, no surprises.  Not so good alone, better with strawberry jam added. We do tend to be frank, sometimes, unpalatably so. But you know a biscuit won’t sugar coat the truth to keep from hurting feelings. 

My daughters and I tried to explain our system to my son-in-law. Then we asked him what his old girlfriend was. He thought about it and answered “unbaked cookie dough.”  Gooey.  He made a wise choice with daughter number one, a tasty muffin.  

I never bake cupcakes, can’t make a decent biscuit. Here are two of my favorite muffin recipes, which I admit are more like cupcakes than biscuits. Maybe I'm getting  sweeter with age. 


Friday, August 17, 2012

Gratification in a Laundry Basket

There aren’t many household chores I relish. But today I hung small clothes on the tree-tethered clothesline. 
Grandson Sam, 8, is visiting. When he dressed for church  I discovered every shirt was dirty. In desperation I grabbed one of my white T-shirts for him. It wasn’t ridiculously big, but it was long, and when I tucked it in it made a snake sized tube around his hips. So I took the least soiled shirt from the pile, washed the worst spots by hand, and dried them with my hair drier. Bingo.

    Later, after a Sam-load of dirty clothes, I smiled to see the boy-sized swimming trunks and shirts next to my husband’s tee. They reminded me of hundreds of loads that I pinned outside under the Colorado sky. The air is so dry there that I could hang clothes out even in winter.  One day with temps in the low 30’s I hung out a load of cloth diapers that froze as soon as they hit the air. But they were dry by twilight. 
   Laundry can create enviable line art.  One neighbor had a large family and her wash was color themed--jewel tone blouses and dresses swayed one day, grey and khaki trousers danced like phantoms in pants the next.  Yet another load would be white sheets and shirts, wind-filled sails on a boat going nowhere. 

This summer we installed a new rotating contraption at the family vacation place. I was tired of trying to dry wet towels on the shady side of the barn. I can stand in one place and swing it around around to fill the lines supported by four orange arms. Quick and efficient. But living green is a minor goal.

     I love the warmth of sun-soaked garments, the matchless scent of meadow-dried sheets and the sound they make snapping in a brisk breeze. The ritual of transferring wet laundry from my woven basket to an outdoor clothesline and looking up to the sky pleases me. 
   I hope you find gratification in some simple task today.


Monday, August 6, 2012

Time Bridge

     I married into a family whose legacy is 30 acres of forest perched beside a small tidal cove on Puget Sound. 

My grandchildren are the sixth generation to spend some part of their summers here. 
     Throughout our stay we bridge the past and the present for the children.

We sleep in a hundred year old barn built by a homesteading Swede. Some time ago my mother in law had the barn's massive square log walls restored and the interior retrofitted as a rustic living space.  Our beds sit where there was once hay.  A fire in the small wood stove chases the chill away, and its crackling is a gentle wake-up call.
    Hiking through the woods on the unpaved path we refer to as Norrie's road  we tell a story about the great-great grandpa for whom  it is named. On the way to the beach we point out the site of  Aunt Jane's wedding thirty years ago  and describe to the kids what their six year old mom wore.  My husband teaches the kids to catch crabs, poke gooey ducks (a type of clam), and build forts to be defended against the incoming tide the way he did.
   The grands are seven and under so their conception of the past is fuzzy. Currently their memory bridge is like a primitive jungle vine V stretched over a ravine. They need more afternoons pouring over photo albums learning the who's who of the family tree. They need more raucous dinners shared with second and third cousins, great aunt and uncle and lots of story telling.  
    We're building a bridge from Now to Then, and someday--to the future.