You Will Show Me the Path of Life

October 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

Psalm 16

11   You will show me the path of life; *
in your presence there is fullness of joy, and in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.

I’m looking down the path of life. Low light conditions call for minimum speed and a sharp eye on the road. Life does not stand still. I don’t understand this fragile thing. It’s persistantly merciless, yet brittle as a butterfly. A few moments are spent aloft, juggled on it’s fingertips, and then it flutters away.

Today, it was back to work. That was the plan, anyway; but the unyet-smoothed-out wrinkles of the only income-producing project I have turned out to be still in turmoil. We scooped up our Kris and took to the streets.

I didn’t take my camera out today: too much rain. Kris strolled as if through sunshine, her shoulders dipping and swaying just like they did in high school. The swagger possesses the street, and radiates the energies of her perceptions.

Driving through the rain, she showed us something of the city. She patiently laid down pathways, and explained local traffic customs. It was a rainy day in Washington, with my sweet babe and our bosom companion, Kris. We possessed it with purpose.

Kris escorted us to a local Indian restaurant. To be honest, when the food touched my mouth, my body cried out. It is more than food; it is diversity. Many different kinds of people are evident here.

Part of the trip was about storage, another about hungry animals, and  yet another part, a chance for old friends to be together and new friendships to form.

All day came the call of, “Kris M–??” followed by an inquiry or request. “NOOOO! Let Kris do it!” was the demand upon exiting the car. Two new friends walked hand-in-hand, through the rain, while I ran for cover. “You better get used to it!” Kris called out.

We need to break the ruler out. This space is all about up or under. all the unused space under things becomes fodder, as do all the unused spaces up high. We have some customizing to do, but I can see the goal.

I’m excited to explore new landscapes. Corn rolled into sand,plains, mountains, and then volcanoes. It was a taste of life as we rocketed through; catching mainly the love on the breeze as we went. Movement and connection were the only requirements.

This, however; is immersion. The wind brought our tiny seed to this soil. I try not to get anxious the path of our growth.

Matthew 6:34

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

We have made it, this far, on faith. We’ll make it a bit longer. It’s a good time for reflection, and for prayer. The unanswered question still echoes from within. It reaches forward, down the path, and keeps on asking.

Father, may I grow towards the answer in faith and Good Will. Amen.

.

 

 

 

Tiny House Plan

October 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

When the tree fell on us, we went to live at our church. Saint Ann’s has been, and continues to be through the friendships forged there, a turning point in our lives. While at Saint Ann’s, a plan began to take shape.

Weirdly enough, when the tree first fell on us, we saw a documentary called “We the Tiny House People“. It was about a movement of people miniaturizing their lifestyle’s, as statement about excess, debt slavery and waste in our culture. Great statement.

So here we are, with a chance to put the idea to the test. How can a mother and young son live functionally and contentedly in this space? Perhaps, with the help of craigslist, it could be done.

One thing we needed was a sink. I started shopping for an old-fashioned water basin and pitcher; and found  reproduction with a stand for $25. We were about to traverse Portland by highway. We would see the Promised Land.

As much as we ran, we were also driven across. As a person who doesn’t easily fit in, the chance to be somewhere more relaxed and accepting was as much a matter of survival as it was a lifestyle choice. Living on the edge, on the outskirts, can be lonely and tiring.

Descriptions of the area in and around Portland, and the pacific northwest in general, made me think we’d be more comfortable here. The chance to be in this area was a realized dream.

Back out on the road, I felt free as a bird. Body slung low (comparatively) in my family sedan, I accidentally found myself going faster than necessary. I had to check myself several times. We felt almost propelled by wind, floating behind the nearly soundless engine of our car. It reminded me why we fixed it before we left, rather than abandoning it.

I read ahead on the directions, and put my mind to the road. Some part of the directions said Exit 1B. A 1B flashed up prematurely, and my panic button sounded the alarm. A sharp twist of the wheel removed us from the highway and we found ourselves in the middle of town.

I turned only to turn around. From a distance I said, “Can that really be what I’m seeing?? Is that the old red-white-and-blue??”  By “red-white-and-blue” I mean the colors of the Episcopal Church. And yes, I was seeing exactly that.

Curiosity drew me to follow the arrow. At the end sat Saint Luke’s, established in 1853.

Back on the road, we pressed on towards our new “sink”. I didn’t expect my reaction when I caught that first glimpse of Mount Hood. I screamed out loud; and J did, too. It was a focal talking-point as we made our plans. We’d seen many pictures of this volcano.

This hasty shot grabbed with my camera does nothing but help deliver the emotion of the moment.

“We made it!” I cried, stunned with emotion. As many questions as there are yet to answer, there we were. And here we are.

Sorry about the poor photos. They are all quick shots with my phone.

Explore

October 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

Everyday has chores. I hate that. Life is so full of the laborious. Just having a body, feeding it, cleaning it, dressing it, a thing limp and helpless without all of our nervous gestures; it’s tiring.

Today was more labor. I am feeling tired and frustrated, so it all seems hard. Trips to the store, to the post office; I watched the gas gauge and pondered work. I was offered a few hours at half-pay; so we start there.

Today was also one of those sunny days. That means it was a park day, so we rushed through the chores to get to the good stuff. We like to walk, and our local park is a nice jaunt for us. The boy was ready to run free.

I rode the jiggler until the ground felt wobbly. I could be talking about the play structure at the park, or that moving van. I tried to stay in the moment and not think about the endless ways in which I had just changed our lives.

A rainy day in Washington

The park was a great chance to let out some energy. Conservative living spaces requires more exercise.

We relaxed and let our legs unfurl. We even discovered a huge blackberry bush right along our walking route. We literally ate our fill and still left some on the vine. Apparently, they are so abundant and they simply cannot all be consumed.

One of the greatest stressors in our new, communal living space is my butterbean’s fear of Kris’s four large dogs. They are Kris’s dearest friends, where my own babe can’t be near them unless he’s borne up high in my arms.

She and I reassure one another that he will adjust while doing our best to support the doggies, too; and then suddenly, it was like magic. We were hurrying through the gate so as not to let them out when Boomer licked the babe right on the face.

“I don’t like doggie kisses!” was the immediate cry. “I know,” I told him, “but they are going to do it, anyway. It’s how they say they like you. They can’t help it.”

I gave my babe sympathy in expression and tone, while being honest about the circumstance. Just then, another dog thrust forward to lick his face.

“I don’t like it!” he cried, again. Then, an instant later he started petting dogs. Their backs almost level with his armpits, he fluttered his young wings around him, over the backs of three very attentive dogs.

“I love these dogs!” came his cry. It was clear that it came deep from within. Surprised by his own admission, his face shown with wonder. “I want to play with these dogs! Will you let me? I want to, because I never did!”

He threw a ball I knew would never be fetched, and insisted on staying outside with them while I filled a jug of water in the kitchen. He wanted to pet and play with them.

When I came back out, he was still petting dogs. “I want to hug these dogs!” he declared, “I never did! First, I’m gonna hug that one!” Max was cuddled to my son’s young chest, both pleased and bewildered by the sudden rush of affection.

“Now, I want to hug that one!”  It was Boomer, the one who looks most like my own sweet Cheeps. He even reminds me of her in his mannerisms. I think my love for Chicken is what ultimately broke through J’s own fears. His arms around sweet Boomer, he reached a new personal height.

It begins this way, with simple steps, simple friendships, the grace of an abundant blackberry bush. Little signs light forward our way. I found a great wash basin on craigslist. I hope the people call me back. With simple gestures, we expand our world. Whatever is coming, our arms are open.

Boomer

Arrival

October 17, 2012 in Uncategorized

Escape from Yakima was peaceful; and we hoped for smooth sailing ahead. After a long road and a disappointing wind-down, we were anxious to see some friendly faces. Still, I vowed to enjoy the drive and be patient about our arrival.

Gas prices did not improve. I saw something under $4, and jumped at it. Since we were next to a very local looking diner, I couldn’t resist going in.

J overheard a conversation at the next table. It was a family, with a boy about his age. They had talked about the little boy drinking tea, and then a few minutes later said that he needed to go to the bathroom. My babe leaned into their table and said, “Tea makes you pee because it’s a diuretic.”

Life with my babe never gets old.

We came around a bend to find ourselves staring at the Columbia River. It was clasped in the arid hands of two volcanic mountain ledges, textured with what looked like desert plants.

Columbia Rivere.

mesmerized as he was by the sand, it was hard to get J back in the truck.

 

Washington State is something to behold. Because my looked-up-on-my-phone directions said go over the mountains, I did. I didn’t know they were mountains; I was told it was the shortest way.

I don’t regret it for one second. The mountain scenes were breathtaking, and the humming in the air, sublime. The mountain air cleansed and refreshed us, worn and overwhelmed from the road.The views were breathtaking.

It was humbling to enter this place. I felt privileged to see it, let alone live near it. It was the high note of a long and arduous trip.

Settling in has not been easy. It took two days and many painful hours at the return counter to be free of that truck. There has been so much to do just to settle in, and difficulty with sorting out the wifi, that there has been no time to share this part of our trip. We are tired.

Today was another day of working. I wanted to get my boy’s books unpacked, as soon as possible. I thought it would make him feel at home to see all of his favorite books after so long. The tree dislodged us in late June, so it’s been quite a long time since we’ve read the classics. To the frustration of us both, we didn’t have time to read them all. We were low on supplies. It was off to the store.

Exhausted, I pushed J in the cart and wondered how I was going to find the strength to bring this all together. Were we going to even like it here? As late in the game as it is, the question was still on the table.

We found ourselves very fluidly engaged in a conversation with two women. The crackle of human connection lit up the air. We talked about how raising children in a more peaceful, centered way can lead to a more peaceful society. They reassured me that our move here had been a wise one, and that we’d be among friends.

About 30 minutes later, a clerk came running towards me. From the other side of a large display he called, “Do you have a young son!?”. I was almost alarmed! Wasn’t he right next to me? Indeed, he was at my hip.

‘Right here!” I called back.

In a few strides, the clerk approached. “It wasn’t easy to find you! They said look for the woman with the tattooed face and the young son! Anyway, here you go. They said to give this to you.” It was a $20 gift card for the store.

I cried. I hugged the man who handed it to me and thanked God above. Affirmation. Kindness had wrapped itself around my weariness and doubt, soothing my aches with a gesture of love.

I have some great plans for the tiny house. On our way out here, we stopped by 1880 town in South Dakota. They demonstrated well how to have a complete existence in a very small space. I am borrowing on their ideas to create our own miniature world. I’ll be sure to update you on our successes and failures as we learn to live a life in miniature.

We also plan to tour the churches in this part of the country. I’m sure there is a decent handful to see in a two-hour or so radius.

Tonight, in case more affirmation was needed, the lovely ones of my dear soul sister, Kris, embraced me when I went in to talk to her, this evening. I was beset from all sides by animals who are coming to love me. It is challenging living with a large family like this one, but enough cannot be said about being flanked on all sides by gentle dogs and cats welcoming me home.

 

 

Saint Michael’s in Yakima, Washington

October 14, 2012 in Uncategorized

I would have luxuriated in some extra time in Wallace, Idaho. The town was adorable, the people were welcoming and the facilities at the church were as comfortable as home.

Historic Wallace, Idaho. We will be back!

Unfortunately, our schedule doesn’t allow for exceptions, so we were back on the road before dawn. Mist hung low in the crevices of the mountains. The air buzzed with ozone and the smell of pine.

I called Reverend Harrelson at Saint Michael’s about 3 hours outside of Yakima. The only number I had was the one for the church. I left a message with an estimated time of arrival, and we pressed on through the mountains. It seemed impossible to climb more, but climb we did. I think the end of my toes are flat from pressing on that gas pedal after nearly 3000 miles of travel.

I want to say that I enjoyed our arrival in Washington, but I didn’t. The seeming endlessness of our ascent was stressful and worrisome. The price of gas shot up to over four dollars a gallon as we headed towards the center of the state. I tried not to stop for gas, hoping to see lower prices; but as some point there was no choice. We tried to get just enough to make it to Yamina. At $4.36 a gallon, I was loathe to spend more than absolutely needed.

Riding had gotten old for my boy. We stopped more than once to dribble gas into our tank before getting back on the road. One frustration after the other arose. At one gas stop, we had to wait for over ten minutes for one customer to finish so that we could use the only pump we could access with our rig. Just as the people drove away, another moving van towing a car passed us on the right to steal our spot at the pump. I was ready to cry. At the point, we parked so J could eat some french fries before getting back on the highway. If this was Washington…. Negative thoughts snapped at me from the rear, fed by tiredness and frustration.

I called Reverend Harrelson to explain our delay. We weren’t yet due at the church, but I knew we were running behind. I got the voice mail again, and started to worry. Still, we pressed on. With a tightly scheduled journey like this one, there is no choice. An ugly feeling began to rise up behind my anticipation. Had Reverend Harrelson forgotten about us?

When we caught our first sight of the Columbia River, we had to pull over. There was a look-out at the edge of the mountain valley. Other people milled around, snapping shots into the gorge. My babe ran and skipped, flinging rocks and winding through what looked like desert plants. We even met a few new friends and had a chance to share our project with them. Maybe the day was looking up.

The road took us across the great river, past a wind farm that got J yelling with delight. I fed the energy, trying to keep the day positive and fun. My efforts sagged, but I was tenacious.

The climb to Yakima shredded my nerves. Populations had become more dense since entering Washington, so I hoped to find gas after pulling off of 90 on to 82. No such luck. We dragged our rig up volcanic slopes as the gas gauge slipped lower and lower. Fifteen miles from Yakima and the needle was nearly glancing E. I dropped my speed and coasted on the down slopes. It was their sister up slopes that kept my stomach in knots.

We drifted into the outskirts of Yakima on fumes. I was nearly prostrate with relief. My constant prayer of “Get us to Yakima” ended with a shout of triumph as we maneuvered into the small gas station. We’d made it! I was starting to feel hopeful and excited about seeing Saint Michael’s.

Doubt returned as we pulled up to Saint Michael’s. I didn’t see any cars in the parking lot. Could they really have forgotten us? I didn’t want to accept it. What a horrible way to end this tour of churches. Reverend Harrelson must be parked elsewhere. We approached the parish house.

Ringing the bell of the parish house

Our fears were mere fears no longer. Locks were fastened at all Saint Michael’s doors. I sat down on the grass to come up with a plan. J let off some steam while I considered alternatives. This is a very sparsely funded trip. A night in a motel was the most logical move, but being in a city made me worry about cost.

I tried to speak to neighbors around the church to ask for recommendations. “Excuse me, sir…” didn’t get results. People seemed to willfully sift out the sound of my voice. The coldness in Yakima was making me regret selecting Saint Michael’s for our project. Was this what Washington had to offer us?

My heart ached for the friends we’d met along the road. This was nothing like our experiences with them. I found a road lined with hotels, and started dialing them from the center turning lane as we passed them. This motel insisted I could get turned around in their enclosed parking lot.

My frustration and anger began to rise as two men steered me into a trap. The parking lot blocked on one side by a low car port, they guided us forward until we could go no farther. Then, the thing you are not supposed to try to back up got backed up about 17,000 times.

A stranger took the wheel of our rig. I was in deep doubt that he could accomplish what he claimed. An inch this way, an inch that way, I saw in his muddled good intentions the thrust of his plan. I commanded him out of my truck and took the wheel. In the confines of the parking lot, I let my frightened, tired, hungry, over-stimulated son sit next to me in the driver’s seat. His excitement helped shift my focus–a speck. Honestly, I was hot with worry and anger. The whole situation was just getting worse.

I did get my rig turned around. I drove right over one of their bushes, but it survived it. Curiously resilient, it sprang back upright the second I got my car off of it. I wish I could boast the same claim.

After my struggle to get our contraption into a spot where we could exit, the manager of the motel put the kibosh on our stay. We were in the way. In our time in the parking lot, I’d started to get a not-so-good feeling concerning our surrounding. I vented my frustration. “This is absolute CRAP!” I shouted. “Absolute CRAP!”

I sent a text to our friend, Debby, back at Saint Ann’s. Saint Michael’s had forgotten us. We were lost. Back on the road, we went to the motel recommended by the Bali Hai, which we had just left. The Knight’s Inn was just down the road.

It was even worse than the first. The room smelled like dirty bodies and the sheets had not been changed. My child was not going to stay in that filthy place. We were getting back on the road–right now.

My phone rang. It was Debby and her husband, Clive. They were worried about us and didn’t want us to be stranded. Experienced travelers, they found our location and found us a place to stay. Not too far down the road we found a clean, safe place for the night.

Thank you, Debby and Clive. You came to our rescue, today. Even more, you were a loving voice on a dark day. The value of that cannot be measured. Also, thank you for sharing what Linda said about missing my babe. He asked that both she and Elise eat one communion wafer each when they restock the containers to remember him by. Please pass on the message, dear friends.

At the hotel, someone was genuinely warm with us in Yakima for the first time. “It’s going to be o.k.,” the desk clerk’s smile was of that same pure energy you recognize in like souls. The voice of the Lord came through in her gentle voice. I soothed my own hurt feelings by saying, “From our experiences so far, we’d say Yakima is more like Yuckima.” J soundly agree.

The heavily gated gas station next door said we could park in their lot. They have hourly security rounds at night, which gives me some comfort. I’ve seen enough to recognize a neighborhood with a drug problem. Security is good. We are so thankful to the gas station for tolerating our truck.

Tomorrow we arrive at our destination. Still, that is not the end of our journey. We have a wide area to explore, churches to see in and around our new home.

The road through the red doors doesn’t end at a shore. A faith journey, I’d hope, is one that lasts a lifetime. We’ll travel a little lighter without that moving van, but the traveling is far from done. There are friends to discover, a lot to learn, and a message to share.

Tomorrow is going to be a heck of a day. We’ll be arriving at the tiny house and unloading this truck. I’ll get to see my soul sister, Kris, for the first time in decades. The Mormon missionaries are coming to help us unload, and then we have to get that truck back to the rental place. I wish it wasn’t an hour from home, but at least that will be the last of the heavy driving.

I’m going to try to sleep. I am so grateful that my boy is warm and safe. Now, let’s all pray that his piano is still there in the morning.

 

 

Holy Trinity in Wallace, Idaho

October 12, 2012 in Uncategorized

In the pre-dawn darkness, we packed our gear. After a night at Trinity Episcopal in Ennis, Montana, we headed for Idaho. My babe was the brightest light in the twinkling dark of Montana’s broad skies.

“Mama, you talk the Moon. …Moon? Do you want to dance? Me, too; but first, let me put my coffee down. Moon? Are you dancing? Mama will put some music on so we can dance.”

I didn’t know what to expect of Idaho. When I marked Idaho on our map, I started in Coeur d’Alene. Not finding an open door there, we were led to Wallace, Idaho and Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.

Perfect fit.

Holy Trinity in Wallace, Idaho

This inviting brick and stone church, built in approximately 1910, frames the corner of it’s small-town block. Flowers hang from the light post, making this one of many astoundingly cool looking places in Wallace.

It’s hard to know what to expect when you traverse these mountains. It seems impossible that we have descended, since most of our trip still seemed to either point skyward or skirt mountain tips too impossibly sleep to traverse. Having grown up in West Virginia and lived in New York’s Catskills, I am no stranger to mountains. These however, are of another variety altogether.

It’s the stuff movies are made of. My sad phone pictures can’t even begin to approach the majesty of these impossible slopes. Areas made entirely of boulders, impregnated with pines, made us shriek with the wonder of the impossible while my young one weathered the nearly six-hour trip.

We played games in the car.

“Mama, what is water made of?”

“Well, do you remember how we talked about how stuff could be either solid, like poop; liquid, like pee; or gas, like tootle-oots? Well, water is actually made of two different kind of gases.”

Once he had the concept of two gases combining to make a liquid, we played a game. “Mama, I have two hydrogen; what do you have?”

“I have one oxygen!”

“Let’s mix ‘em!”

I put my one oxygen in his open hand and he stirs. Then drinks the imaginary water from his hand. Somehow, these kinds of games never become redundant.

We met our new friend, MaryKay, when we rolled up to Trinity. We parked down the block, in front of a Methodist church, and then walked around the corner to trinity.

The interior of Holy Trinity kind of reminds me of Saint John’s in Crawfordsville. Clean white walls are dressed with wide, dark wooden window frames. I love this look. Surprisingly, I love the clear and amber glass of these windows.

The bold, dark frames of these windows reminds me of Saint John’s in Crawfordsville, Indiana

I’ve stopped waiting for the deaths to appear. Now, when we go to a new church, the first thing I ask is if they have dedications to children. Before I even asked my question, I found a plaque at the base of this font dedicating it to Leslie Winfield and Perceval Woods, children of Mayor and Mrs W. W. Woods, Easter, 1895. No one can tell me who these children were or why they died, but their presence becomes my focus while in Holy Trinity.

To the Glory of God and In Loving Memory of Leslie Winfield and Perceval Woods children of Mayor and Mrs. W. W. Woods. Easter 1895

The direct feel of this style of architecture gets me focused quickly. Even these radiators gave presence and comfort to the atmosphere of this great church.

Next to the altar is a tribute to the area’s original five Episcopal Churches. The alarming rate at which our church is shrinking asks us to find new ways to reach out to others.

Another of Holy Trinity’s representatives showed up later. Knowledge in all aspects of the church, Dorothy was more than mere historian. In fact she was another sister just waiting to take my hand. Her own sweet babe, Diane Leane, was stolen shortly after birth.

My grief has run me down like a wild animal. Across the corn, across the plains, across the sand hills, across the mountains, it has eaten at me. Over these vast, nearly treeless lands, it pushed me repeatedly to my knees, like the winds force our rig to the shoulder of the road. The animal that howls in me is part of a chorus. Something in this world feeds and thrives on pain.

I need to show up with some joy, and quickly. My sweet boy is brand new to this world. We are about to experience another coast, another way of thinking and living. I am so lost; but my future is rushing towards me, so I better grab on. Doubt had a great place a few weeks ago, before we took to the road. Now, pure hindrance.

I have to remember to keep it simple, and keep it light. My babe keeps me humble and real.

Thanks to our friend, Donna, he has his own camera for this trip. It takes both still and video. Yesterday, after a quick parking job and a mad dash for the bathroom, he got a chance to make a video of me at the mercy of diarrhea. Not to squelch his ideas, I didn’t protest. A few minutes later, as I was getting my coffee, I heard my sweet boy behind me sharing my poop video with a group of bewildered and bemused cowboys. Whatever lies ahead, I think it’s going to be interesting.

Trinity Episcopal Church in Ennis, Montana

October 11, 2012 in Uncategorized

This whole are has the flavor of 1880 Town. Ranches line the roadways, cattle grazing on every level piece of ground. Images of elk and bear are everywhere. It is a natural wonder.

We’ve seen a bird called the black-billed magpie. Related to the raven, it is black with bold, striking markings in both white and blue. Look it up. They are so beautiful. I wish I could say I have a picture of my own, but I don’t.

I do, however, have this quick shot of the view headed towards Ennis.

It was great to get out of the van. I can’t believe I’ve driven this thing almost all the way across the country!

This rig went 40 up a 70 mph mountainside.

It was past time to get out of the car. J was ready to run, and so was I. Father Keith met us as we pulled up to the church. My babe shared our drive with the piano, who he wanted to show the sights.

“You talk the piano,” he instructed. This is a game we often play. I am the voice of something else, an object or living thing. J then talks to it like he would a new friend.

“Hey, look, piano! Look at those mountains! Are you peeking out, piano?”

“Yes, I’m peaking. I see! These mountains are HUGE!”

“The piano is peeking oooout! Uh oh,” J says, “The piano is all the way out. It’s rolling.”

Actually, after this game of pretend my babe recalled that we had the young Mormon missionaries to thank for having our piano, at all. It is my son’s, from his grandmother; our debt to you, friends, comes from deep in our hearts.

Let me show you a better view of Trinity.

Trinity was built in 1902. The interior is all original. It is living history.

This picture doesn’t really impress upon you the enormity of those mountains. It looks like a movie set, almost, through the haze left in the air by the recent rash of fires.

Trinity boasts some pretty significant pieces of Episcopal history, and history in general. This cross hung above the altar in Saint Paul’s Chapel in New York where Washington went after his inauguration in 1789.

The narthex of Trinity Episcopal Church. The cross hung in the chapel of Washington’s 1789 inauguration.

This organ is the original used in the church. It’s a museum piece!

Trinity is bedecked with beautiful, personal touches added by her devoted members over the years.

Created by a member of the congregation, some years ago. Two of her pieces hang in the nave.

These cushions at the altar are beatifully embellished with needlepoint

I can’t imagine the enormous undertaking of getting Trinity’s stained glass here all the way from Europe. The thought of bringing that over these mountains, over a hundred years ago, gives me shivers.

The rose window at Trinity Episcopal in Ennis, Montana

These windows add amazing color to the dark wooden paneling inside this church

The recessed aumbry is another one of Trinity’s beautiful touches.

Thank you, Father Keith, for entertaining my babe so I could get some pictures; and thank you for your hospitality and warmth while we were here.

Tomorrow is going to be a long day on the road. According to best estimation, our next stop is over five hours away. I’m not sure how i’m going to make the day bearable for J, and still get to Wallace with enough time to visit with our friend, MaryKay.

The mountains we climbed today were higher and steeper than any we’d climbed before. I’ve driven 2500 miles with my middle toe. I think my right leg has grown at least an inch, but something else has grown as well: community.

I recently read that the best way to change our world for the better is to foster connections among people who share our values and goals. Together, you will lift each other up and help each other develop the ideas you need to bring about positive change.

As we’ve joined hands with sisters and brothers across the country, there have been sparks visible in darkness. Out here on the road, we’ve discovered the depth of love some souls so readily offer. A network of shining lights pierce the dark cloak of this world with their outstretched hands and open hearts. Your love nourishes us, friends, both new and old. Thank you for offering your hearts.

 

Calvary Episcopal Church in Red Lodge, Montana

October 10, 2012 in Uncategorized

Around 4:15 a.m., J sat up. Dressed in moonlight, I could see the shine of his eyes. He said, “That’s enough energy. Time to get up!”

I can’t say that I was quick to agree; but I thought about the mountains ahead and, after about 30 minutes, conceded to his better plan. Stacks of bags sat by the door for a quick departure; so we were filling the truck with gas, yet again, by 5:30.

At about 100 dollars a day in gas, we owe a deep debt of gratitude to those who have helped us with gas money. We literally would not have made it this far without you. Your love has transported us, and we are deeply grateful.

I thought we had climbed the day before. I was in for a wilderness adventure. We reached ever up, going about 15 miles an hour under the speed limit as we pulled our load.

In this part of the country, large parts of the landscape are silent–save the sounds of the earth. Even cars on the road are few. Often, there is no cell signal. As we pressed on, my little boy and I stepped off of the edge of our personal maps. We’d entered the part of the map usually decorated with monsters. The unknown: we were in it.

After about four hours, snowy peaks broke through the horizon. Still climbing, cattle began to appear. They grazed on mountain plateaus, along with large numbers of horses. We’d found the edges of another shore.

Red Lodge, Montana is a very pretty little town. Close to prime skii areas, there is lots to enjoy. We agreed that a walk-about was a must, but needed to get the pictures while the light was good and Reverend Joan was available.

When I saw Calvary, I let out a holler! “That’s, IT!”  I laughed, then laughed at myself. Another gem on the National Register of Historic Places, Calvary radiates charm. One congregant checked the weather, which was warmish, laced with snow.

Calvary Episcopal Church was built in 1900. It replaced a log church previously used.

Everything about Calvary offered charm and beauty. I was taught by Sue in Grand Island, NE that the round pieces meant European glass. They were called “jewels”, and only made in Europe.

Doesn’t this rich color just make you want to go crazy?

Look how beautiful the leaves outside look through this glass. How can you not leap inside at the view.

I also loved the hardware the affixed the kneeling benches to the pews.

I love the detailing in the pews at Calvary.

Let me not neglect to mention that Calvary is also a member of the esteemed group of Episcopal churches included in the National Register of Historic places.

I was glad to discover that Calvary doesn’t mind candles left burning.  we lit one for Arthur, one for Erik, one for J, one for me, and one for my dog, Chicken, who passed away a few years ago.

We shared some of the chaplets from Saint John’s in Glenwood, shared prayer and hugs with Reverend Joan, and took off on down the street to enjoy an afternoon at the park, and the town of Red Lodge.

Lucky for us, they had dug up the street. A churning cement mixer glugged concrete into a trench. We shared a bench with a man already taking in the action, and he shared his chocolates with my little boy, who’d refused food all day. Not sure, but I think he was a touch out of sorts from the altitude. We’re at 5500 feet.

Back at our motel, my little one fell asleep on my arm an hour before his bedtime. I think the altitude will be slightly lower tomorrow, so we’ll see if that perks up his appetite.

I had more to say about this day, and about this stage in our mission, but now a certain set of very big eyes is watching me, waiting for my company in bed. He can’t go back to sleep without me, so I’ll have to go, for now. As the end of our journey draws near, the butterflies are beginning. We’ve just gotten our sea legs. What will it be like stepping ashore…

 

Saint Luke’s in Buffalo, Wyoming

October 9, 2012 in Uncategorized

Cradled in perfect darkness, we woke in the extremely cozy bed of our friends, Julie and Steve. I’d spent the night before working on the pictures and writing for the blog, hanging with Julie while I did the nonverbal part.

I loved her company. It was like talking to an old friend, natural and real. Bonds form on the road. One day can seem like many when you really connect. I’d swear we’d spent a month at Rosebud. I indulged in another rich experience with Julie, meeting a sister I’ll have eternity to know. Awesome.

I also found out something really cool about Steve: he’s studying to be a priest. He’s going to serve at Good Shepherd! A serious high-five to you, Steve. It was also wonderful of you to spend time with J, showing him the wonder of your land and giving of your loving time. You people are great.

This was our view as we enjoyed coffee.

Sundance Mountain, as seen from Julie and Steve’s kitchen

Before we got back on the road, I got one more picture. The bottom of the baptismal font bowl is engraved with a tribute to three children. Julie is going to research this so she can tell me who they are and what happened.

Engraved for Freddie, Susan and Steven

About an hour outside of Sundance, we needed to stop.

“I need to poop,” J told me. “Could you find me a really really dirty bathroom? A super dirty one? I never used one like that! I never did!”

“Babe, why do you want to use a super dirty bathroom?”

“Because I never did! Please, Mama, won’t you let me? Find me a super, super dirty one, please! I never tried one like that!”

“No way am I letting you poop in a super dirty bathroom, Babe. No way!”

“But I need to, Mama! Mama, please, a super super dirty one, because I never did!”

“Do you want to sit in a whole bunch of other people’s poop and pee, Babe?”

“Other people’s?” Now it was time to think about it. “No, no. No poop or pee. Just super super dirty.”

“Like with mud?”

“Yeah!”

We settled for fairly clean with a well-covered seat. Is it being three that makes using the bathroom such an adventure?

Today’s trip was an endless ascent. At the top of each rise is another rise, and the landscape transforms with each new vista. The clumsy shots taken with my phone can’t even touch what we are really seeing. This is a photo of the snow-covered Rockies coming into view.

“HIGH” indeed

Challenges arose as we approached Saint Luke’s in Buffalo, Wyoming. After a needed stop for a second camera card and a missed exit, we finally arrived late. I was immediately sorry for the shortness of time when my eyes met those of Louise. I instantly wanted more time with this kind, peaceful woman;, but the light was already behind the church, so I hurried to get some good shots before the sun moved anymore.

The 1888 church was built of locally made bricks, and exudes the love and craftspersonship that created her. The wood on the interior was all sourced from local timber and carved by hand.

Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church in Buffalo, Wyoming

One of the exquisite touches of Saint Luke’s are it’s ceiling windows, similar to those I saw at Good Shepherd

Louise shared a book with me that gives the story of each of Saint Luke’s stunning windows. This one is dedicated to a young soldier who survived war only to drown at the age of 30.

I wanted a shot of the window near the sanctuary lamp, but it wasn’t lit. Father Doug stepped up to shine the light, as he does regularly at Saint Luke’s.

Father Doug Wassinger keeps the candle burning

Louise made sure to point out these awesome pieces. Hand embroidered by a member of the church, they fit perfectly into the back altar piece that used to be used in the church. They were brought out each Easter season.

Louise was proud to share with me one of Saint Luke’s ministries. Their Bread of Life program has made them the number one food pantry in the area. This was one of the rooms of supplies she showed me. They are recent donations that won’t last long.

More of the beautiful glass at Saint Luke’s:

The nave at Saint Luke’s

Our visit felt like a whirlwind, which I really regret. I had a few moments to connect with Louise before she left. She wasn’t familiar with our history, and wondered about the passing of Arthur and Erik. I started with the abuse and brought her forward to the moving van parked on the road. I thought she might cry as I told her about the events that led me to stand in front of her that afternoon.

“You’re amazing!” she told me as she hugged me to her chest. I rested there, broken-hearted and full of hope. She said, “God has a great plan for you.”  I leaned into her words as if into my mother’s own breast.

I had prayed just a few days before, “Show me the purpose of your plan, Father.” His loving hand came through the ether, comforting me through Louise. That old voice snarled from the darkness behind me, “Who are you to get up off the ground?”  Voices like Louise’s reach out to help me up; offer a fierce, quick hug; and then cry out, “Now, run, sister! RUN!”

Sun setting on our room at the Mansion Inn, an amazing historic hotel and motel in Buffalo, Wyoming

Good Shepherd in Sundance, Wyoming

October 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

Unloading the donations from our van yesterday was one of the highlights of our trip to Mission. After much debate over where the objects would be stored, we decided on the unused double-wide in front of the Noah Broken Leg House.

Unfortunately, neither Mikayla nor Kieran could produce a key. We tried and retried the doors and windows before I finally used Mikayla’s craft club card to jimmy open the door. Thank you to the suspicious friends of my twenties who taught me that awesome trick. Indeed, God’s plans are complex and amazing. Who knew there would be a practical use for that skill.

J’s reaction to unloading the van was electric. His far-beyond-three-year-old comprehension of what we were doing had him racing from truck to house with all he could carry. “Look at all these GIFTS!” he shouted at me. The joy of giving, the joy of collecting all the wonderful gifts in our van, none of the details escaped him. As his tiny feet raced back and forth across the sand and rocks, his soul flew high above him. The great moment had arrived. All of the donations we’d collected had come home, and he was a part of it. He celebrated with us.

Donations unloaded at Rosebud

In the things we unloaded were contributions of my own. Several bags of brand new baby clothes and Erik’s car seat were among them. I placed them along side the other things, but I couldn’t let them go without a word. I told our friends, “These are my sons’ things. I just need you to know.”

Kieran and Mikayla took my hands. A sickening ripple went through me and I crumpled into my chest. Unwanted sobs shuddered out of me as I sat in the open mouth of the van. With all the strength I had, my weak words reached out, “Show me the purpose in your plan, Father.”

Thank you so much to all of you who gave of yourselves to this mission. To all the churches and people who participated, I give you my deepest gratitude. Because of you, an idea grew into some tangible and real. You’ve blessed many people with your generosity.

Mission accomplished at Rosebud, we traveled on. From the textured plains we passed through the Bad Lands, and then on to the Black Hills. Today’s time on the road was an experience to be savored.

The Black Hills in Wyoming

After two hours of billboards seducing us, we couldn’t resist a stop at 1880 Town. Meant to take visitors back to the old west, all of the tiny houses only reminded me of our own future.

Good Shepherd was waiting for us when we turned off the highway at Sundance, Wyoming. Our hosts, Julia and Steve, were standing outside of the church as we rolled up. Before we could even get out of our van, they crossed the street to us.

It was quite a scene, really. Good Shepherd is in the process of undergoing some long overdue renovations. Workers were on the roof, tools were set up all over the sidewalk and yard, and scaffolding stood against the west side of the church. Lucky for me, the unadulterated east side offered a great view so that I could get this awesome shot.

Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Sundance, Wyoming

Built in 1890, this church has some amazing architectural details. Notice the small, triangular windows along the roof. They lend a spectacular magic to the way light plays inside of this beautiful place.

The nave of Good Shepherd under construction

And here, for now, is the inside of this beautiful place. the tongue-in-groove ceiling is down so the roof can be insulated. Good Shepherd is going to be much cozier this winter for all of this good work. Can you still see the triangular windows up on the ceiling?

Door to the parish house at Good Shepherd

Since the church is being renovated, the parish house is serving as their temporary church. The door to the parish house is appropriately outfitted with lovely stained glass, setting the mood for what you find within.

Good Shepherd temporarily set up in the parish house for renovations

I think they have done an amazing job of making a cozy church out of their parish house. If you didn’t know any different, you might believe this was their regular church building.

One of the missions of the church are the sewing projects done by the Sewing Ladies. They make these lovely dolls in both large size and miniature for distribution to highway patrols, orphanages, hospitals and others.

Forgive my sideways picture of this adorable doll, a gift to my son. I thought i fixed it, but it’s still sideways. It’s getting late and I want to be sure to post tonight.

They also make pillowcase dresses for children in Belize, which is where some of the dolls are sent. Additionally, the women sew gift stockings, quilts for rest homes and quilts for local new mothers. As I have discovered, it is these small, dedicated churches that are doing some of the most beautiful, personal outreach. They gift the gift of their skill, love and time to be the hands of Christ in the world. They make me proud with the ways they show their love and service in such tender service to the church.

After I took my pictures, we jumped in Julia and Steve’s car and went to their house for dinner, and to stay the night. Their friends from church, Marcie and Stan, also joined us. I was honored to learn tonight that they wanted to meet me after hearing about our project. It seems people think me brave, which kind of makes me wonder if I might not also be a little crazy.

Our time with this warm, personable group of people could not have been better. Steve took my little one and I on a walk up the hill behind their house. We got to put our feet on the Wyoming soil, experience it’s terrain, find a turkey feather and even see a deer. My son, cheeks rosy from the chill and the climb, called out, “This is great! I’m having fun!”

And we did. Easy people with open hearts shared conversation with us over a few glasses of delicious wine. After the Riesling, I was treated to rhubarb wine from a local winery. After a glass or so, my cheeks were as rosy as my son’s, and the smell of the spaghetti cooking made me feel like I was home.

I shared our project, and some of our experiences along the way. In almost every church there is a window, a font, a pew, or even a grave that belongs to a young child. At each one of these stops, my grief rises up to choke me. It seems that I am brought to my knees daily by the tributes left to little ones gone too soon. Each time, I live through the death of my own sons. Each time, I live the grief of each child’s parents. I am being forced to feel, over and over again, grief that I try to hold at a distance. Grief for a child is too raw and ugly to ever find a place of peace or beauty in one’s life. As these awful dates assault me, again and again, I struggle to find meaning and purpose in my loss.

Tonight, when I shared this, Marcie shared her own grief with me. She, too, lost a young child. Her own precious son, Noel, passed away when he was only three. Though it was decades ago, she still is held in the crushing grip of grief. There is never a way to make peace with the loss of a child. “There is a reason we’ve been brought together,” she said, her hand on my arm.

As I hugged her to me through my tears, my heart both broke and opened. I felt like I did that day, long ago, when I prayed into the emptiness, so broken, faith in nothing. All I had was a willingness, and a need for rescue. I have it still. We’ve made it this far on faith, love and willingness.

We’ve made it halfway. The road stretches on in front of us, but it is a road lined with friends. In each of them, we find a measure of God’s love. In their loving arms, we will make it. I am still open. Father, teach me the lessons of the road.

Marcie and Stan. Stan was the former rector at Good Shepherd. He served there for ten years.

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