Life Is But A Preface

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Life is but a preface

To a never ending tome.

A story yet unwritten,

Waiting to unfold.

There will be no epilogue,

“The road goes ever on,”

As someone wisely wrote

Not so long ago.”

Our short stay here on earth is like the preface of a book. Short and sometimes sweet. If we stand back and put our years into perspective of just known history, our lives are very short indeed. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” As my parents have gotten older just like when my grandmother and great aunt had aged, I seem to be walking through the valley of the shadow of death. I am surrounded by their mortality, and reminded of mine.  One day, it will be my turn. And for the record, no one knows when it’s their turn. I don’t like to presume I have thirty more years, we’ve all learned, sadly, that some will go sooner than expected.

So somber, so sad…especially for those who left unexpectedly. But…as believers in Jesus Christ, the good news is that life really is just a preface, a short introduction to the complete story, the purpose of the literary creation. A preface to a wonderful story yet to be written by the One Who created the beautiful heavens and the luscious earth, the One Who wonderfully and fearfully created you and me. This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

I have come to accept the finish line of this earthly race, whether it’s far ahead or near, I can’t tell. My eyesight has worsened since my 40’s. My hare-like nature has wizened up a bit, and is trying to apply some tortoise-shaped brakes to the break neck speed I’m used to. Always in a hurry. Time to slow down and ponder this short brief “vapor” of a life I’m living.

What is life all about? Is life nothing more than a library of stories of those who came before us, those who share our point in time and those who are to come? Our brief tango with time. Will our accumulation of experiences and memories only disappear after our deaths or, at best, linger in the memories of our family and friends? What’s it all about, Alfie?

When I was a young adult, I struggled with these questions. I struggled to find my place in my family and in this world. I sought for truth. The true understanding of what this life was about. I found the answer in Jesus Christ. He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”  Coming from a catholic background, it wasn’t hard to personally embrace the teachings of the New Testament. Being born again was and continues to be the prime reality for me. Yay, Jesus lives! There is eternal life, and there is meaning to our lives here on earth. And there is Someone Who loves us beyond our imagination.

So after I made this decision, my life was perfect, right? Hahaha…ad infinitum. No, it wasn’t. I was still saddled with this human, sinful nature. I’ve made my share of mistakes, poor decisions and sins of omission. I’m at a place where I look around at the landscape of my past and try to understand my present. I am thankful God in Christ has forgiven me, and for all that is in Christ which is now mine. It’s taken me a long time to apprehend the treasures we’ve received as Christians. I hope I can redeem the remaining time for the benefit of my kids, to provide a somewhat sturdy, albeit at times stumbling example to walking in His steps.

Moses is attributed to writing Psalm 90. In this lovely piece of Hebrew poetry, he writes, So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.As I look forward (meaning looking forward (ahead), not looking forward) to the conclusion of my preface, however long that might be, I look to Him to teach me to number my days, that I may present to Him a heart of wisdom. Something I can take from this life, and hopefully, something that will linger in the memories of my family and friends to point them to the Ancient of Days, the only true God and Jesus Christ Whom He had sent.

Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith “A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!”
-Robert Browning

A Thing of Beauty…

FROM THE SHOE

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December 24, 2019 – Our gift from God is not only redeeming, reconciling and resurrecting; but our new relationship with Him through Jesus Christ is also a Thing of Beauty. Merry Christmas, and “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!”

August 2015

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever,” so said Mary Poppins. Well, she borrowed that line from John Keats who wrote a poem about “A thing of beauty…” Many nights I get the privilege to drive by the ocean. Each time I am overwhelmed by its beauty and majesty. Tonight’s sunset was especially beautiful.

One of the wonderful things about beauty is its ubiquitousness, its omnipresence. It’s everywhere. You just have to look for it. The flowers blooming along the path, the smell of newly cut lawns (not much of that now though), someone’s kindness, a favorite song, sound of water rippling over rocks, I could…

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Count Thy Sunbeams Now!

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This morning I drove my son to work early. I got a good night’s sleep…thank you, Lord…and was listening to this new song I discovered from one of those corny Hallmark Christmas movies. It’s a sad Christmas song, and I think if the songwriter added an emotional bridge, it would be a classic.

Anyway, this song reminded me of a very painful Christmas sixteen years ago. There was a fight, and me and the nine kids (I was pregnant with the caboose) left and went to my parents for the holiday. It was the beginning of many low points. It was the beginning of the end.

The song reminded me of the days of many children. The days of many regrets…not regretting the kids, but many of my decisions during those years. Normally this line of thinking would land me in the “depths of despair” to quote Ms. Shirley, but not this morning, I just left it for what it was. Mistakes were made, but there were some good memories.

After I got home, I read today’s devotional in Mrs. Cowman’s Streams in the Desert, Vol. II. She quotes Psalm 92:1, It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord. She starts the devotional with these lines:

The remorse of memory is the pain of having failed to enjoy yourself. Have you ever felt that kind of remorse? Have you ever come to a time in which you looked back upon the past, and learned how little you valued it? To find that days were happy when the days are gone, to learn that one is passing through Elysium and not know it, to see the light on the hill only when it is setting – that is one of the saddest of all experiences. It is the climax of pain when I say with the poetess: “Oh, while my brother with me played, Would I had loved him more!”

I had read that quote before and didn’t understand it, until this morning. When we add gratitude to our lives, gratitude for the good and the bad, we create appreciation, value if you will, to those times. As I look back at that painful Christmas, I realize how good my kids were, for enduring what they did with resiliency and grace. They were and continue to be good sports.

Below is the rest of the devotional, which I must add because it is written by George Matheson, one of my favorite brothers in the Lord. I am looking forward to meeting him when I go….

My soul, wouldst thou be free from that pain — that remorse of memory? Thou mayest be so; live in present thanksgiving! Count thy sunbeams now! Treasure today the gems that are strewn upon thy path! The love that is merely retrospective is a very painful thing. I would not have thee wake to the glory of a past only when it is past —  desire one of the days of the Son of Man after He ascended. If thy days of sorrow at any time should cloud thy days of joy, I should like thee to be able to say, ‘Well, while they lasted, I did appreciate them.’ There are some who want to feel at death that their life has been a vain show. I would not have it so with thee, O my soul. I should like when death comes, to feel that I had thoroughly enjoyed life —  taken the honey from the flower as God meant me to take it. I should like to know that I had not defrauded myself of my birthright, that I made room for others because I had had my share. The cup of gladness which my Father has given me shall I not drink it, even unto the dregs!

I shall thank Him for every bird that sings. I shall praise Him for every flower that blows. I shall bless Him for every stream that warbles. I shall love Him for every heart that loves. I shall see the sparkling of the cup ere it passes to the hand of my brother. There shall be no remorse of memory when I have thanked God for today.                                              — George Matheseon

Hallelujah, and thank you, Lord for this chilly, wonderful Day.

 

 

A Trembling Reminder

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A couple nights ago, the East Bay was rocked by a nice size earthquake. Long enough to fear that it could be “the big one”. Strong enough to remind me of the many earthquakes I’ve been through.

I was born in San Francisco back in the late ’50’s. You’d think I would’ve become accustomed to this Bay Area phenomenon. Nah…I still don’t like ’em. I still have memories of the many I’ve experienced.

Fifty years ago this month in Santa Rosa, a pair of earthquakes seered into my childhood memory, into my being. And to this day…yes, even now…I often get chills around 10:00 PM…remembering that night. Thirty years ago, today, I remember the Loma Prieta quake, but it didn’t have the same effect on me as the quakes of 1969. Across the decades, I have a spattering of memories from the little quakes that have peppered the area.

In 1969, I was a ten year old tomboy sleeping in my top bunk bed. I was transitioning from consciousness to that wonderful place of slumber when the house violently shook like some giant grabbed it and shook it like an Etch-A-Sketch, and then put it right down. I remember being terrified, I remember my father running down the hallway, I remember hearing swearing, no doubt when my dad stepped on a tack from the fallen bulletin board. The only physical injury sustained in the Moore home.

“What was that?” I screamed. “An Earthquake!” someone replied. That earthquake and the two that followed were the most fearful things I’d ever experienced. Afterwards, most of the neighbors gathered in the middle of the street…very unlike our 4th of July celebrations when we would close off the entire street and celebrate. We all stood around in our nightgowns and pajamas…parents wondering what to do next.

By the time we had settled back into bed, around 11:15…bam came the second quake. That’s it, I’m sleeping with my parents. I don’t know when I feel asleep…but eventually did. I woke up when my dad did sometime after 5, just in time for a powerful aftershock. I’ll never forget that day…the absolute fear and helplessness of being confronted with a natural event so powerful.

Loma Prieta….luckily for me, I had just hopped into my nice little Honda to drive to the Mission District. Turned the key just at 5:04 PM….why was everyone running into the street? My little boy sat near my friend’s front yard palm tree with his sister while my sister, friend and their kids rushed to the street. Then I felt the tail end of the biggest quake to hit the Bay Area since ’06.

“Oh…it’s ok, it’s just a little earthquake.”  as I got out of the car. I assured everyone in my smart alecky way. The looks I got spoke otherwise.

“Oh no it wasn’t, that was a big one!” Bonnie said just as her husband rushed out of their house still covered in soap. “I saw the street rippling.”

It wasn’t until I got home did I realize the magnitude of this earthquake. The broken water pipe was a little inconvenience for my family, the furniture could be picked up and broken things could be replaced. When the images of the damage started to flood the news stations, it is remarkable that more folks were not killed.

My husband and my father were both stuck in Oakland, not arriving home until after 11 having to travel through Marin to get home. I spent that night, sleepless of course, with Dennis and Elaine…praying with them as recovery efforts continued for days at the Cypress Structure. Forty-two lives were lost when the Cypress arm of 880 collapsed. It Was Apocalyptic.

Over the years, there have been many small quakes. Little fake ones in Daly City which were really sonic booms in March 1971, the day we moved into our new home. A few more there over the years. None in the Pacifica house since it was built on rock…how many piers did Papa say were driven into the rock, Katie? My mom, in 1989, thought a large truck had driven by. A few scary ones when we lived in Berkeley, thought I was safe when we moved to San Pablo only to find out we were sitting on the Hayward Fault…site of the next big one. Great!

As my phobia of earthquakes ebbed and flowed over the years, I realized I’ve always lived on a faultline. I’ve always been in danger of these unpredictable seismic events, these trembling reminders of the kind of geography we inhabit. These trembling reminders that our lives can change in a matter of seconds. These trembling reminders that our lives are short and the future is uncertain.

So teach us to number our days,
That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.

Psalm 90:12

 

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Frolicking in the Autumn Mist

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Every year it seems, I write a blog about autumn. Last year I wrote The Warmth of the Sun, the year before, The Intimations of Autumn, and others that include Autumn Days are the Best, Autumn and Joe Montana and Delicious Autumn! My Soul is Wedded to it. There may be others as well. Evidently, I love autumn. What is it about this season that produces such nostalgia, such longing, such remembrance of things past?

Monday I was in a kinda funk. So to feel better, I played around on my phone, checking out social media. I posted some of my favorite pictures, and updated one of the aforementioned autumn themed blogs. Still feeling a little out-of-sorts, maybe I was looking for “my own spot to stand,” to quasi-quote Jim Weatherley lyrics. I stumbled on some very cool Autumn themed Facebook pages, joined a few and was greeted by other fall-a-philes.

Finding these pages reminded me of my love for this season and some of my favorite memories. As I frolicked, like Puff, in this kind of autumn mist of misty-colored memories of the far past, my out-of-sorts sorted itself out. When I reconnected with things I loved and others that loved them too, I got re-grounded. There’s more than just memories here.

I consider myself in the autumn time of my life, being past 50. And as I age, I appreciate this season more and more. I know my autumns are numbered, as all of ours are, and I’m determined to extract all the joy and pleasure I can from its colors, its celebrations, its sensations, its weather and its memories. True pleasures are few and far between.

However, C.S. Lewis said something interesting in The Weight of Glory, when speaking of a universal sense of elusive longing, a longing which appears to be related to nostalgia, but not necessarily so:

We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name. Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter.

Wordsworth’s expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past. But all this is a cheat. If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering. The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing.

These things – the beauty, the memory of our own past – are good images of what we really desire….For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.

I believe this is what autumn does to me…those good memories I have are really like beautiful phantoms. If I went back to those days, granted many joyful moments remain, but the beauty that Mr. Lewis speaks of, the longing, the saudades is elusive; it is a reminder and longing for something else. It’s the thing I long for when I look for a home.  Mr. Lewis continues:

We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is a bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words – to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become a part of it…

For if we take the imagery of Scripture seriously, if we believe that God will one day give us the Morning Star and cause us to put on the splendor of the sun, then we may surmise that both the ancient myths and the modern poetry, so false as history, may be very near the truth as prophecy.

At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendors we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumor that it will not always be so. Someday, God willing, we shall get in.

In the meantime, and during my remaining autumns, I will frolick in the autumn mist of my happy childhood memories of Santa Rosa, my summers at the Russian River. I will remember school, mud football, Halloween, Thanksgivings and Christmases with my grandmother. The old memories. I will also remember, misty-eyed, the lean Christmases with my babies, listening to Evie’s Come On, Ring Those Bells while decorating the house and making homemade Christmas presents. Running around now with three grandchildren, I have NO IDEA how I managed to tend to ten kids. Grace abounding.

And as I remember, I understand swirling about those memories are gleanings of a far away country, a place where He is preparing for me an eternal abiding place. Something wonderful this way comes….

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”

Revelation 21:1-5

Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

C.S. Lewis – The Weight of Glory

 

 

Something Wistful This Way Comes

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Man, it’s a hot one…like seven inches from the midday sun…” Yeah, that’s the Bay Area these past few days. If I was on the coast like I was before I moved, I would bemoaning the heat and anxiously awaiting our lovely natural air conditioner. But I’m not. I’m in Concord. No hope for fog out here. Hang in there, Donna!!

Concord…not where I expected to end up. I knew a move was coming late last year, and I had hoped to move up north where I’ve been trying to relocate for decades, probably deep down since 1971 when my family moved from Santa Rosa. In 1993, my own family and I tried to get situated up by Windsor near a small church we wanted to minister with. But no such luck…no such opportunity, no door opened. Again in 2006, after my divorce, I wanted to take the profits from my East Bay home and buy a place in Santa Rosa. I put an offer on a little home (with lots of rooms), counter-offered even and still none of my offers were accepted. I ended up back on the Peninsula….not where I wanted, but definitely where Providence led. Definitely, Donna!! (See other blog – Positively Providential)

Finally, last winter knowing that my SSF job was ending in the spring, and, coincidentally (providentially if you will), my apartment lease was up at the same time, I became proactive for the first time in my life. I took the reins. All the kids got on board to move up to Santa Rosa. I knew a firm that I was SURE to get a position, a position with comparable pay. I was looking forward to returning to the quaint town I lived in as a young girl, all my fond memories of holidays, seasons, schooling and community are rooted in Santa Rosa. I was pretty happy that I was finally planning and doing things the “right” way. I even had my finances in place for this move.  Go Donna!!

However….it did not happen like I planned. I don’t know now…with three strikes against this desired move…if I will ever get up there. Let me tell you what did happen. I didn’t get the job nor the others I applied to and interviewed for. No job, no move. Only one promising job prospect came my way, and that was in Pittsburg. Pittsburg, really!!? I didn’t want to go to the East East Bay…I wanted to return to a place that had the elements of home to me. I wanted to be near the river, where I would feel close to my dad. But after all the Santa Rosa efforts failed, I just told the Lord, I will go where you lead. Yay, Donna!!

Once I yielded, things fell into place quite quickly and perfectly. The new job was available the day after my limited term position at SSF ended. An apartment was secured with ease. Ellie finished her course work right before our move, so she didn’t have to commute to Baden, and Eloisa was able to get into an independent study program to complete her freshman year at home. And away we went! Bye, Donna!!

We’ve been here for almost two months. I thank the Lord for the cooler weather we had through May, and I am so thankful for the crisp, cool air conditioning at my new job. I feel the Lord has welcomed me over here. My first day at work, I went into the break room only to be greeted with a coffee aroma, an aroma just like the one at my first construction job 40 years ago, a job I worked at with my dad. I’m sure it was just a plain pot of Folger’s, but it smelled like that old brand, Farmer Brothers. One of those deja vu olfactory experiences. Very cool, Donna!!

God knows I love bluebirds, and in Pacifica, I took lots of pictures of our Scrub Jays. Right before I moved, someone posted a pic of a Western Bluebird. I didn’t know there were any bluebirds over in this part of the state. So I looked them up and found that some were nearby in Antioch. One lunch I took a jaunt up to the Black Diamond Mines Regional Park camera in hand, and I wasn’t even in the parking lot, when, lo and behold, there’s a male Western Bluebird perched on a fence post just waiting for me to take his picture. Welcome, Donna, bienvenidos!!

Finally, something wistful this way comes…so, this morning. I’ve been taking public transit to work since we’re in between cars, and this morning I took the local bus from Concord Bart all the way to work, two buses, lots of stops. The AC on the bus was freezing and looking out through the bus’s tinted windows to a slightly overcast sky, I was somehow transported from being in late Spring to feeling like I was in late Fall. It was weird. And, then, all of a sudden, all those lovely, wistful sensations of my most pleasant memories, many of which come from Santa Rosa, splashed over me. As I enjoyed and bemused this very pleasant experience, I thought, maybe, maybe God is bringing me home, bringing me to a place where those feelings and sensations reminiscent of late ’60’s Santa Rosa can be cultivated or experienced over here. Maybe my home is forward not backward, maybe….something wistful this way comes. Maybe, Donna!!

“The belonging you seek is not behind you – it is ahead.” 

Maz to Rey, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

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She Walks In Beauty – My Mother

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I looked over my blogs and noticed I hadn’t written a lot about my mom. My dad, yes; but my mom, not so much. As much as my dad was formidable, boisterous and gregarious, my mom was the opposite. She is quiet, hardworking and constant. And funny. But her humor is subtle and understated.

One of the funniest stories I remember I wrote in another blog: My sister and I were at my parents’ house one day. Standing at the kitchen counter, we were engaged in a serious and riveting conversation about what we all discuss in the kitchen: hemorrhoids. Who knows who was the afflicted, but our conversation covered causes, symptoms, side effects and various and sundry methods of treatment. My mother entered the kitchen while we discussed the burning, itching and pain. She listened for a bit. And, in a humph, she pronounced her expert therapeutic remedy: “Just put a little Vaseline on it; and, for Pete’s sake, stop licking it!” No, Mom, we’re not talking about cold sores. Although she didn’t intend that to be funny, it certainly was.

Living with my dad was no picnic. I remember the tumultuous times which she endured with dignity and strength…but there were times when he pushed her across the line. That’s when the plates and pots began to fly. I’m sure that quieted him down. I suspect she regretted those times, but she was human…she is human.

My dad liked to be the center of attention, and I think my mom was content to be in the shadow. As I remember all my dad gave me, all that I attributed to him to the creation of my personality, I realize the things that are the dearest and the most important to me are the qualities and characteristics I received from my mom.

Three biggies I got from my mom – faith, family and literature – continue to dominate my world. Her faith in her church is such a stronghold that it even kept me grounded, well as grounded as I could be (as a restless and reckless hare) until I found my own faith. Only God knows how much I owe to her prayers. My mom is so Catholic…not the devout zealot who prays and penances painfully, but the one who echoes and reflects the beauty and joy of the old denomination though aware of its shortcomings. A sensible saint.

My mom taught us “Ohana”. Family…like what little Lilo said, “Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.” My mom taught me Ohana generosity. When a neighbor girl would come over hungry, I thought my mom may shoo her away, but she didn’t, she invited her in and fed her. That one act of kindness taught me to always keep my door open. Even when there were times when I didn’t have enough, I tried to exhibit her Ohana generosity.

Growing up there was one book – one book –  that I remember reading, my Mom’s literature book from her Honolulu Catholic high school. In this book, I discovered Shelley and others whose poetry became seeds, seeds which would bear fruit in my own writing and can be seen in my little library that I am creating. One of my favorite poems from that book, She Walks In Beauty, defines my mother:

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.
And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!
-Lord Byron

My beautiful mother’s raven tresses she cut after she got married. But her cheek and brow remain “so soft, so calm, yet eloquent” and her smiles still win and her tints still glow as she embarks into her ’90’s. Now she has some peace, and her love continues in innocence.

Thank you, Mom, for these priceless gifts. Gifts I hope to pass down to my children. Happy Mother’s Day.

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