Benched!

Life’s journey will bring us all to this place – eventually. A place of being “benched” either by unexpected circumstances, physical/mental health issues or just simply being sidelined by life in general. Being benched is a place of reckoning. It’s in this place, you will determine to either stay in the game or on the bench. Your mindset, your strength of heart and the people you surround yourself with will aid you in that determination.

With almost 90 years under his belt, this photo of my Dad taken last year, warms my heart and makes me smile for so many reasons.

It wasn’t until I had gone on “walkabout” (to coin a good ol’ Aussie phrase) for a number of years, fought my way out of some hard knock alleys and dead ends, that I eventually came face to face with myself. It all started with a letter that I wrote my dad in my late twenties. Seeking to set things right and find a way back to moving forward.

We exchanged letters and phone calls for a number of years, me truly learning about this man. Eventually understanding and letting go of what had been and what would never be again. Fourteen years of talking and writing between Australia and the USA. Then came that day. It was one of those airport reunions, where as others hurried by oblivious of anything but their next connection, my Dad and I came face to face. Holding back our tears, we fell into a fierce hug. My love for this man, my dad, is deep and will last a lifetime, his and mine.

It was in his time with me that I saw the depth of my dad’s passion to serve and care for those with physical limitations, as he took care of my second Mom. I witnessed the strength of their love for each other in the smiles, the gentle touches, the tears and especially in the laughter. Like the time I was helping Dad get Elaine into the back seat of our van so we could go out. Dad had lifted Elaine out of her wheelchair and was halfway in the van with her on the back bench seat. He instructed me on how to lift her feet and swing her legs. What I didn’t account for was her weight … or the lack thereof. So when Dad said lift, I did, and he went flying back on the seat with Elaine landing on top of him! I couldn’t believe what I had done! Standing there with my hands over my face, from underneath his wife, I heard my Dad say, “Really Elaine, not here!” We all lost it. When Elaine laughed that sweet soundless laugh, her whole body shook and her face was covered with absolute joy! Elaine though physically “benched” never allowed the illness to steal the joy of the relationship and life she shared with my Dad. After caring for her for seven years, she eventually went home to a far better place and I ached for my dad. After a time, Dad began to share with me of his travels, the golf games he played, the rugby (Go Wales!) and football games he watched. He kept working, wherever he found a need for a first class physical therapist. Five times he said he was going to retire. Five times, he was celebrated and fare-welled. And five times, he returned to the work he loved! I know he just did the retirement thingy for the parties!

A couple of illnesses and a pacemaker in his mid eighties slowed him down. If not for his best friend and companion, dear Rosemary, he would have found ways to keep carrying on! Rosemary seriously deserves a medal. I mean, seriously! While we are giving out medals, lets give one to his doctor too. I mean who schedules a pacemaker battery replacement appointment 10 years out? My dad, that’s who! The doctor said, “But sir, you’ll be in your late nineties at that time.” To which he replied, “I know, I plan to live to 100!” And he probably will. Me too, Dad!

So here is this picture of my Dad sitting on a bench, learning to regulate his breathing, rest and slow down. You seriously don’t believe that bit about slowing down, do you? Well, truth is, he did. Until this year, that is, when he discovered motorized scooters and bought two of them! One for home and a light weight one for when he and Rosemary travel. I laughed so hard at the video he sent me, of him grinning from ear to ear, doing his royal wave, with the Welsh flag flapping on the back of his new scooter, as he zipped by going a whopping three miles per hour!! LOL

Oh Dad, what a journey your life has been …. and continues to be … I want to be just like you when I grow up! 😉 And just so you know, no matter my age, the little girl inside me will always want to tell you just one more time, I love you so very much!

Exodus 20:12

Posted in faith, hope, leadership, perspective, Uncategorized, women | 8 Comments

Turtles On A Log. Balance.

I could start this post out with – wow its been a while since I wrote anything. But honestly why would I? Its kinda obvious, right? So I won’t.

Since moving to Washington – life has been a fast paced jumble of finding jobs and somewhere to life, adapting to a different culture in community and church and eventually starting my own business. A business I never imagined myself in by the way, but now feel so passionate almost three years later. All of this bought with it an intensive season of learning to adapt.

Bring on the turtles!

Kirkland, WA has a myriad of parks, where animals and their humans go, families get together for play dates, and quieter parks where people can walk without talking in the wonder and beauty of creation. On occasion, these free roaming created beings we observe in the quieter parks talk to you in ways you least expect – cue Dr. Dolittle!

That’s how it was with the turtles. From the observation deck, I could see them, sitting there on a log, sunning themselves, oblivious to this amateur photographer trying to get her best shot. Some on other logs, were respectably distanced from each other, others not caring how they ended up, just pile on! Then it happened – middle picture above.

Everyone was happy, until that guy at the bottom decided he wanted to take a dip. As he slowly turned to get off the log, it set off a rock and roll motion. As he slide off sideways, the motion of the log increased. As he hit the water it increased even more. He started to turn back to the log, saw what he had done and disappeared under the water, gone from sight.

Meanwhile, the next guy up, had shot his legs out at angles, anchored himself and hung on, the three in the middle just rolled with the flow. The next one I think woke up when he flipped and landed in the water. And that smallest one at the top end. Seriously, he should have gotten some kind of award! He had it down, roll to the left, slide to the right, lift your head. But promptly lost it as he tilted to far and catapulted off the end.

The four of us humans, strangers bought together in a wordless interaction, all laughed with delight, at this 16 second interruption to the surrounding quiet.

As I turned to walk away, it struck me that I had just witnessed a word picture of how I often act in the rhythms that make up my life. Sometimes I quietly slide out of situations not wanting to rock the boat, but doing so with my absence. Other times I hang on for dear life when a rough waters try to unseat me or immediately lose my grip and wake up when I hit the water. Still other times I just find a good stance and manage to come out unscathed. I want to be like the three turtles in the middle.

Finding enough balance that allows me to roll with the ebb and flow, the high and lows. Knowing that when stuff happens, I am secure in the place I have chosen to plant my feet. That I am anchored in this solid, albeit rocky place. Anchored in the place of an everlasting hope that propels me through life toward a destination that will bring me to the place of perfect balance.

How about you?

(Romans 8)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

… and now it’s December!

Its been a while … no explanation for the long absence, life happens! Started this in November …  and now its DECEMBER already! Christmas is how many days away?             O silent night, let your glories fall!

Mid November found me moving back to the “unforced rhythms of grace” that cover my daily life.  After a crazy busy, emotionally, spiritually charged two weeks, finding the norm of the “rhythm” I started to linger in a season I had visited a year ago.
Looking for answers, questioning the way of the path I was traveling, not knowing what lay ahead after so much exposure and vulnerability over things of the past. How interwoven it all appeared to be! The past, the now, the future.

On the road daily, driving from city to country, I found Autumn, more alive and vivid than I have ever seen or been a part of.  Yet, the earth seemed to be turning within itself. Laying down its outer layers, colors fading. Dormancy and stillness willing it into a season yet to come.  So it was with me!  A turning within was happening.  An awareness of the demands to know the whys, to have answers to the questions. The dormancy started creeping in, bringing with it an unwanted settling. Till I arrest it!

My mind’s eye catches a glimpse of a leaf falling to the ground.  Arrested, the demands begin a downward spiral. An unseen hand guides them to a space on the ground, prepared for them. As they settle, as movement comes to an end, a response rises up. Don’t race ahead, stay within the unforced rhythm, linger long enough to learn something new, lean into the waiting, embrace the stillness. Learn to follow without having plans. Trust and go, not knowing the chosen course or direction. Let go, let the unforced rhythm steer you to what was planned long before a leaf ever fell to the ground.

Then, a four page newsletter came in the mail. Four pages about life at the medical mission, Loma De Luz in Honduras (http://www.crstone.org/). In it, Dr. Jeff McKenney,  shared about an encounter in a forest, while attending a conference in North Carolina.         “At first, these were all the sounds I could hear in my head – that and my footsteps disturbing this year’s crop of gold and russet leaves. But as I walked, I gradually began to hear more of the forest around me, hear the sounds of God’s breath. And, as I looked up, I became less concerned with calculating how many more minutes I had left before my next obligation and more in awe, struck by the sense of joy and reverence for being allowed to pass through one of God’s great cathedrals. How quickly transformation took place. How quickly my entire perspective had changed from inward (the noise my feet could make and the noise inside my own head) to outward: listening and observing the wonder of God’s works, feeling His presence, and the privilege of a travel stained pilgrim being allowed into this holy place …….. So take a walk in the woods and listen for God’s voice and keep walking until you hear it.”

Look up, look out. Hear the sound of His breath. Listen for His voice.                               Keep walking, travel stained pilgrim.

With love, Ava

Posted in faith, hope, leadership, Uncategorized, women | Leave a comment

Life choices and Refugee Camps

Know that feeling?

That sick to the gut, head hurting, feeling?  Or maybe that “oh no, what did I do?” sick to the gut thought! Or what about that deep, ache in the heart feeling that leaves you in tears over words said, exchanged or heard.

It was that deep, heart-ache feeling that got me, as in it I felt a sound that rattled me. Though voiced by many, it was a single solitary cry, as people walked for what they believed in. Their rights, the rights of others, the rights of the living. I saw it on the faces, heard it beyond the chants, and read it on the flimsy poster board signs. The cry came at me from all sides. And I ached. Deeply.

With open admission I can say my feet have walked in those places too, albeit independently, but just as intentionally as the crowd. Numbly moving through what was believed to be the right thing to do at the encouragement of others.  It was the cry of humanity, resounding wordlessly from those surrounding a surgical table and from the one laying on it. The loudest cry coming from the smallest of those present, hidden from sight, and heard only by One.  A cry so loud it would later echo in the emptiness of grieving.

I asked a friend if she had heard the cry. And she had … overseas where the presence of a people group had drawn worldwide condemnation and angry misunderstanding. Where for the people, the fear of the unknown had been swallowed up in the fear of the moment as mindless escapes took place. Where a breathe once held gave way to hesitant relief. Only to have anxiety’s stranglehold tighten as fear of the unknown resurfaced. It was again the cry of humanity, yearning for life and release from hopelessness amid the deafening roar of war and death. The cry dressed itself as a widow, an orphan, sitting in the dirt of a foreign land. Exiled, far from all they knew, owning nothing, save the timid laughter that echoed out into the absence of a once familiar roar.

As the cry finally quieted down to a whisper,  I heard …. “and such were some of you”*. Only then did I understand what I had been given to hear.

In a middle ground place called choice, decisions were made. Viewed through the shifting lens of human perspective it became the difference between living and dying. Then  knowingly or unknowingly, allowing the decision of that choice to inherently affect all that is stepped into … today, tomorrow, forever.

Can I ask you to do something?

Don’t listen to the loudness and clamor of the collective cry, listen for and lean into the whisper.  But then again that’s up to you. After all, it’s your choice. Right?

On a journey till next time,

Ava

*1 Corinthians 6:11

Posted in faith, hope, leadership, perspective, Uncategorized, women | Leave a comment

Sounds like …

Did you know that a charade was a form of literary riddle popularized in France in the 18th century. In the early 19th century, the French began performing “acting” or “acted charades”with the written description replaced by dramatic performances as a parlor game—and this was brought over to Britain by the English aristocracy. (www.wikipedia.com)

Or in my mind it’s that game that causes obvious frustration as highly exaggerated body gestures attempt to convey to onlookers words that cannot be spoken!  Recently a word come up on a page that gave me a moment’s pause …. it has three syllables and sounds like ….. jour.ney.man.

The dictionary defined it as a person who has served an apprenticeship at a trade or handicraft and is certified to work at it assisting or under another person; any experienced, competent but routine worker or performer; a person hired to do work for another, usually for a day at a time.

In this new year and new season of my life, no matter what I am “apprenticed” or “routinely” asked to do,  I am going to be the best journey (wo)man I can be!  What is that going to look like, how am I going to act that out?

As 2017 defines itself through yet to be known scenarios, circumstances and the vague interpretations of what I hope will be, I will trust in the plans my employer has for me. Plans for my good that will build strength of character, integrity, endurance and perseverance.

My daily worth or pay will be found in the summation of who I have become at the end of that day. As belief in what I have been entrusted to do unfolds in my life, my character and personality will become as it was visualized when I was first chosen to be a part of this corporate body.

To truly do this, I can’t approach this as a charade, a dramatic performance for the benefit of those who look on!

This has to come out of the genuine overflow of a heart committed to the best interest of my employer. Being single minded in every avenue I go down, never being satisfied with half measures or the progress already achieved. Ever pressing forward to complete the work assigned. Would my employer expect any less of me?

See you soon,

His journey(wo)man,

Ava  xo

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Crows, Keys, and Lights.

Sixteen days in Seattle! Feels like forever. Time, days, time zones have all melted together since leaving the Gulf Coast just a month ago. I’ve loved this city from afar …. and now to be here, well it’s almost natural!

When I think of all we’ve done in the past 16 days … waiting in lines, waiting in traffic, looking for jobs, waiting for interviews, looking at houses, waiting on application responses, the refined art of waiting has kicked in. It flows from that slower southern pace of life that will always be a part of me. I mean, really!  Come on now! Where else can you put a jar of water with teabags in it outside in the sun, go tend to other things, as you wait on the sun to heat the water and brew the tea?  Life speaks and moves and goes on its way, even in the waiting times.

img_7147Take the crows for instance. Monday morning as I pulled the bedroom curtains back I saw three crows land on the roof of a house.  Watching them walk along the ridge-cap in a stiff legged, single file march I couldn’t help but smile. Going upstairs, at another window, I see them land in the backyard. It’s the strutting that captures my attention and I stifle a giggle.

With an unobstructed view from the sliding door, they show me their pattern of life. Walking in straight lines, then in eccentric circles all. over. the. yard! Looking down their beaks for whatever they can find. Rigid movements, head down, peck, peck, head up, move to the left, strut, strut, strut. Repeat right. Like a haphazardly choreographed dance.  Then one comes up victorious, something in its beak. The other two start circling in an attempt to get closer. To late. The victorious one quickly struts off in a straight line, head high, seeming to say “find your own!” Then just like that, they take flight, up over the fence. Gone.

Sunday’s message from church, circles through my mind about the religious leaders back in the day. Not willing to bend low to hear the voice of the people, to feel the heart of the people. Head high, strut, strut, keep moving. Pass them by. Unclean.

The message moves on to the woman who lost a coin, sweeping and searching, holding her lamp low, shining it into the dark places. This is likened to God drawing near, stooping low, casting the light of His love over all the peoples of the earth.  Searching to bring the lost one home. Searching intently in the cracks and crevices of every life.

It was after dark on Friday when I remembered to check the mail. I unlocked the box, dropped down the door …… and heard the ‘clink’.  In the silence, I felt the darkness hide the key from my vision. Oh no, we’d been entrusted with this key, now I’d lost it. There in the rocks and the dirt. I turn on my cell phone light, shining it all over, lifting rocks,  putting them back. Futility strikes. I can’t see it’s too dark, the key too small. I need help, more light. Going inside, I call to my man … I’ve lost the mail box key!  He says that’s funny, I thought I would lose it last night! Getting two flashlights from the car. More light, more rocks moved, then there at the back my man sees it, wedged sideways. Relief comes as I gather up the scattered mail and lock the box. Grateful words on my breath.

Then came Sunday. Oh, the tug on our hearts as in our seats we edged closer together, not saying a word, but knowing and listening. Intently.

In the waiting, Life was speaking. Loudly.

Would there be flight under the intensity of His gaze?  An urge to keep moving, up over the fence, gone?

Or would there be an upward glance directly into the gaze of His unconditional love?            A response to the urging to draw closer to Him, for the sake of those lost in the darkness.

p.s. the key now has a blue ribbon tied to it.

Posted in faith, hope, leadership, perspective, Uncategorized, women | 1 Comment

The Steadiness of Faith

Cannot begin to tell you all how much this got me this morning as I read it … reduced me to tears.
And as we continue on with this journey, my man goes to check out of the hotel where we have been for the past seven days..this happened – he reminds the receptionist of the $50 discount on check out. She says actually, its a 50 PERCENT discount. He says are you sure? She checks again and says yes, sir its a 50% discount!
It’s in stuff like this we see His provision, caring and love, encouraging our faith …..

The Edges Of His Ways

I was revisited today by an illustration I heard years ago about a ship and a train.

My pastor was sharing about living by faith, and illustrated his thought by contrasting the experience of traveling somewhere on a ship versus on a train.

As most of us have discovered, when you’re on a train the feeling underneath your feet is very certain, secure, predictable, and reassuring. You can sense that you are clearly moving forward in the direction you are intending to go. There is no back and forth, or side to side–just forward.

However, when you are traveling by boat, your experience couldn’t be any different than that of a train. The feeling underneath your feet is unpredictable, uncertain, and even anxiety-producing at times. Furthermore, there is just water! There are no indestructible steel train tracks, no visible markings indicating that you are connected or harnessed to something stable.

View original post 451 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Listening to the whispers.

Saturday night. I lay down, reading until sleep starts to overtake me.  As I go to put the book aside, a group of words capture my attention. Speaking to me.

img_7014Sunday morning. I see the sun come up over the mountain and watch as it’s light breathes on what the darkness had covered. And in a different book with a different author, there it is again, the same words.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us….” Hebrews 12:1

We go to Zootown Church – yes, that’s really its name, look it up – on the way I say to my man “You know I read that verse about throwing off the stuff that so easily entangles and persevering in running your race both last night and this morning.”Uh huh” his response, as he sips his coffee and follows the directions of the GPS.

I go on, saying “Wouldn’t it be something if that was mentioned again at church?” His response was a ditto on the last response! 🙂

Our first time in a gathering place with His people since leaving that coastal town that now seems so far away.  After being greeted at the door by the smiling faces of the generation rising up – a voice says “Hey, I know you! *smile* Your Casey’s mom and dad, how are you? *Hug* We are so glad you came! Lets get a picture.” Welcomed and Embraced.

The worship songs pour down over my head, like the rain that fell on our way to this place. Refreshing happens and I feel His welcome as I enter that special place of His presence.  Then comes the message. A series from the Old Testament. This one – Moses and the Ten Plagues.

Words echo and bounce off the hearts of men and women as plagues are likened to the sins that so easily entangle our lives. What more is left to be said?  Throw aside your sin, run and receive the bounty of grace and mercy that is offered. img_7028

On the way back to the family house, a rainbow is seen, appearing to rise up from the valley floor, where clouds have misted it, trying to shadow what the rain and light have brought. That ancient sign of promise.

 

Sunday evening. Hearts are quieted as thoughts turn to what it lies ahead. Goodbyes are said, with the knowing that the miles between the visits are so much shorter. I sit on the side of the bed, book in hand, and begin to read.  And in the quietness, a heart tunes in.

img_7037“If anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will. He hears him.” John 9:31

“My will is not a place, but a condition. Do not ask Me where and when but ask me how..”

Whispering I respond with “I don’t know how You are going to do all that we are asking, but I know this, I trust You.”

The words continue “You will discover blessings in every place, and any place, if your spirit is in tune with Me.”

“…. you have put your life into My keeping, and because you are depending on Me for guidance and direction, I shall give it. Move on steadily and know that the waters that carry you are the waters of My love and My kindness, and I will keep you on the right course.”

My eyes fill up, profound gratitude fills my thoughts. I share it all with my man and in the quietness he too hears.

Monday.  It’s almost one a.m. and I really need to sleep. We are leaving at 8 a.m! Ha.

Where is that card I was using as a book mark?  There it is … and with it one more whisper.img_7036

“Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1

Missoula, Montana …. this place of rest, before the final leg of this journey. How loudly I have heard His voice in this place. And now we move on.  Over the mountains and on into Washington State to what He has readied for us.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

H2O

On this journey …we have left behind the waters of the Gulf Coast, seen the lakes of Northern Michigan, beheld the evergreen and colorful beauty of well-watered Wisconsin, passed through Minnesota, the land of 1000 lakes, with its cranberry farms. And this night we arrived in South Dakota …. miles and miles of barren rolling hills and gully’s in between, acres and acres of corn and sunflowers …. and how do they grow? No apparent lakes or irrigation systems that can be seen as we fly by on Highway 90 … side note: the highway speed limit is 80mph and everyone sticks to it!  Yet these crops grow and thrive .. what’s the rainfall quota for SD?  Who knows.

But you know what I have noticed though, in each state the water is different. Yes, there is a difference in the water … and in what it does to the covering on ones head! My hair can testify!

Before I go there, let me back up a few days….to Michigan. After six days with my man’s mom, the day came to leave … and we forgot a few items in her fridge, she says, wanting to make sure we would eat on our travels, so we go back. A few more hugs, a tentative see you later, teary eyed smiles and love you’s all over again. Leaving the familiar once more …and this verse on my day planner …

img_6802

Simply love, as you leave what you know.

Simply love, before you go, uncontaminated by self interest, like a rain soaked landscape, it will  create all kinds of beauty as the seasons change.

86 years of living and she’s tired of letting go, but she does.

Because she loves, uncontaminated.

..and so our journey continues.

New sights to see, places to visit, laugh about [the corn palace?!], and talks about the unknown of the days to come.

Another waitress, opens up and shares her dreams with us, as kindness and encouragement is offered and is taken in like water to thirsty soul. She finishes her shift and comes back to talk. She’ll go far, she’s on the right track … and with only 18 years of living, at that.

What is it about water, though?

Apart from the fact, as over the years as we have traveled around this nation, my hair has felt its effect from state to state! From being unable to hold hairspray from the time I spray it to when I walk out the bathroom door. To needing one short spray and staying styled for days. And I totally get why women in Texas have big hair!

So much grows from water, in it, and around it,  it can be still or in constant motion.  It’s just like that love uncontaminated, its living and giving, its touch can be seen and felt, its tested and tried and always comes out the same in its purest form.

It’s a source of life that we all need.

All of us.proverbs-2719

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Finishing well, Festus & French Toast

Lets get on the road by 7am they said. We stopped 5 minutes after pulling out of the driveway, to clear the leaking eyes, all started by my man,  yes, he man-cried …gah!             It was a slow start.  Then came the wrap around the building line.  Great place for learning patience, states my man, he just wants coffee! We finally really get on the road, heading north at 9am.

It was good and it was hard – like a bungee jump, positioned at the top, straining and waiting for the release. All those last times by here, over there. Oh and the remember when’s, accompanied by smiles and sighs. As the miles click by, the places familiar disappear from view, all behind us now. They’re still there, still breathing, just minus us two.

And its okay.

img_6721

Finishing well is ingrained in all things, a passed on trait. Clear the air, hug one more time, speak love, offer up kind words, bring laughter. Work hard. Let the tears fall, but finish the course.  Give of yourself, even when there is nothing left to give. It will come back, like bread across the waters. Know when to finish a chapter, don’t try to force another, just gently close the book.

The highway gets wider, the scenery changes and with it comes the chatter about this and that, laughter over silly things. Then there’s the embracing, that companionable silence that comes with knowing the one you are traveling life’s road with.  In a 5′ x 3′ space extremes of life come fast, from words read and talked about from ‘If’ by Mark Batterson to road signs that bring impromptu Elvis impersonations!

Positioned to face forward, rarely reaching back, except for a bottle of water or apples. The road ahead offers up traffic, detours and closed roads. All negotiable, keeping us on track, being directed due north on an external map, while following the guidance of an internal beat.

Festus – a place to rest for the night. Its meaning: joyous, festive. The young waitress, bringing that Broiche French toast with Bluberry Compote. Serving it up with a smile, compliments and a quick wit as my man challenges her for her lack of compliments toward him – the tip giver. He says she’s just like that for the tip, then a quick look around the room shows that not everyone there is joyous. Its one of those finishing well things… end the day with laughter, a quick smile and bring joy to someone else’s world. My man gives her a compliment about her sense of humor as she brings the check. Her smile lights up our table. A moment shared, at an intersection on a road of many miles traveled.

Oh and that French toast, best meal all day … except for that wrap around the building line coffee.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment