“Love isn’t love until it costs you something.”
-Ivan Chupp, Love One Another
August 24th, 2014
Messiah AM Church

As the days flow so also the variety:
The pack of grocery lists are different,
Packages of food vary as the sky,
As well as alternating sets of clothes.

But some things about her never change:
Hair falling and thin,
Teeth missing in her smile,
Skin sagging on her bony frame.

Yet these will all pass away someday, eventually.

But she has friends,
Oh, so many.
They live behind windows and doors, in beds, on chairs,
rarely going outside.
Every morning, she goes.
Goes to see them,
make sure they’re okay, pantries and fridges stocked.
Her footprints stamp the sidewalks with change.
Changing lives by loving and caring.
Including mine.

(Written about a dear charming lady who comes to Walnut Creek Cheese several times a week to buy groceries for her friends from the retirement home. She has no idea the good she does to everyone in this world. Why can’t I be like her?)

The Hills I Haven’t Hoed

When a friend calls to me from the road
And slows his horse to a meaning walk,
I don’t stand still and look around
On all the hills I haven’t hoed,
And shout from where I am, “What is it?”
No, not as there is time to talk.
I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,
Blade-end up and five feet tall,
And plod: I go up to the stone wall
For a friendly visit.
-Robert Frost
A Time to Talk

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The dishes were done, suds still in the sink, as I thrashed around the bottom of the closet for footwear. My family sits at ease on the porch, but I am majestically standing tall on the pedals of my bike, flying down the drive. I ride for a mile one way, crossing the intersection in a wide curving arc across the tar. Past cornfield, fencerows, and pretty roadside flowers I pedal, eyeing the goal — the turning point ahead in the grass. Then the tires are perpendicular and I lean sideways, the bike turning tightly and this time, I didn’t wobble one bit. Crossing the intersection again, going the other way this time, over the little hills, and I’m just speeding up for the next one when I see him.

Forearms on the wheel, he sits on the gator seat, facing his backyard gully where a stream is singing happily. At my greeting, he waves, and my tires squeal loudly. Next to his immobile vehicle I park, and feeling the weight of his thoughts, we watch the water, talking small. Wanting relief and forgetfulness, he looks my direction and asks about me. My answers please him, but when his wife steps out to the garden, he says, ‘Go, talk to her.’

He’s 81, and she’s not far from it, and their faces are robust and wrinkled. Their bodies are stout but flexible. His hair is gray and curly, but hers is thin and falling. They have woven their lives together, into this tiny farm. They have poured into their children all the love, support, and decency they had, but none chose to remain like them. Alone together they keep house, and tend the cows. In their conversation, they forget themselves, their burdens, and sorrows, telling only the stories of their loved ones.

Her knife harvests the lettuce while she talks about our families and their tapestries. Her daughter’s vacation, my widowed great aunt in Tennessee, Neighbor Morris’s family in Kansas and all their recent weddings.

Not a half hour ago, after supper, Mom told us about our neighbor’s cancer. The lump on her neck, the tests she was pushing off (‘I won’t be here! We’re going to Kansas for Heidi’s wedding! That’s next Friday!’), the mystery surrounding it, and the small hope of complete removal.

‘Anna, I hear life isn’t the easiest for you right now, but I want you to know that I’m lifting you up in prayer.’

‘You know, the hardest part is not knowing. They want to do tests and tests and more tests, and it’s just scary. But if this what God wants for my life, then let Him have His way. Just this morning, I flipped the calendar page, and there it said that sometimes God allows hard things to come our way so that we can be drawn closer to Him. And I just thought, well that was great timing. And if that means seeing Him in person…well that would be nice too.’

I was the passerby tonight, my bike and I. We overheard something about a faith that will land someone safe home, and we are converts. To the front of the tent we come, my bike and I, to sit and ponder a while about our own hurriedness, to wonder over the safety of cars and Instagram, too much music and books, and our own distracted enjoyment. Turning our tires to face the pulpit, we contemplate the evangelist: a man and his wife, who have lived eighty years on this planet. Their old bodies fade into a good reality, from inside them coming a radiance. Wrinkles this deep lie like maps directing us to heaven.

OREGON – The Food

Come with me, and let’s go back to Oregon and think about the great food there is to experience.

Our first restaurant experience was Old Town Pizza, right across from the Lan So Chinese Garden. The pizza was amazing, but the Italian sodas topped it. My future Italian soda experiences will be judged by this new standard.

Here we met an amazing girl named Jessica (who totally looked like a Jessica) from Texas (could have predicted that) who is working as a nanny in Portland. She sweetly asked us about our dresses, then shared that she often feels like she was born several centuries too late. Then she politely asked if she could have our leftover slices of pizza (there were only two left, and we didn’t want to carry them around all day, so we’d left them on the table), so that she could pass them out to homeless, hungry people. That was so challenging, and I was blessed by her courage and inner strength.

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Our next experience happened on the steps of our favorite church in Portland – St. Sharbel’s. We bought pita bread, hummus, cherries, apples, and Arnold Palmers at World Foods, then topped it off with chocolate. In such a peaceful setting, listening to the neighbors’ birthday party, and waving at the cyclists, our dinner was elevated to a whole new level and it was glorious.

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Another memorable experience was at Newport in a little hole-in-the-wall bakery/restaurant. I don’t even know the name of the place, but it was one of my favorite memories of Oregon. There was barely any standing room in front of the counter, and the rest was all workspace for delicousness. We took our food outside to the porch, and enjoyed watching Newport’s gentle seaside life.

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On Sunday, we drove around to find a crepe food cart we’d spotted earlier in the weekend. It was located among other food carts boasting of other specialities, surrounding a courtyard of picnic tables. We were there mostly by ourselves, except for a 12-year-old street child and a few grown-ups. So one kind lady took our picture, and asked a few questions.

But our next witness was pretty memorable. The girl, after obviously talking to her guardians about us, eventually danced her way over to us. The beautiful child had curly brown locks, was wearing a long, flowy skirt, and possessed a bold, free spirit. She immediately asked us about what was on our heads, and frankly, where do you start with a 12-year-old? I’m not used to witnessing to preteens, but Heather and Barbara were quick to step down. They explained simply about God’s command in the Bible, but it seemed she wasn’t concerned with spirituality or religion. To her eyes, we were wearing something she’d never seen before, and she, of course always looking for the next trend, wanted to know where she could get one and be part of this new ‘look.’ She was earnestly curious and had lots of unexpected questions, and I hope she never stops searching for Truth. May she find Him someday.

Anyways, the crepes were amazing, and the girl who made them had a cute, bookish face. I know it sounds weird, but it was totally legit.

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Newport’s candy store had saltwater taffy, ice cream, and espresso. How do you decide?

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A Starbucks stop where we saw a mischievous side of Barbara, when she coolly answered the barista, “The name is Megan.”

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