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We just moved into a house that we first made an offer on three years ago.

No, it’s not the world’s longest escrow.  But it’s a story about God’s faithfulness to give us the desire of our hearts in ways we coudn’t have imagined.

After we sold our home in Happy Valley three + years ago, we decided we wanted to buy a house with separate living quarters.  We looked at duplexes, mother-in-law units, loft apartments–but nothing suited us.  But then a good friend told us of a mutual acquaintance who had decided to sell her place–which had a separate living area (complete with a renter–also a friend) in the daylight basement.

We made arrangements to see the house.  And fell in love . . .

So we made an offer.  But several weeks and a flurry of inspections later, we realized the house would need a lot more work than we or the seller could afford at that point.  Extremely disappointed, we walked away, wondering why something that had seemed like such a “God thing” had not panned out.

But then our beloved agent took us to see the little house on the acre in Damascus.  Even though we knew it would be a ton of work, cost lots of $$ to get the property in shape–and was nothing like we’d been looking for–both Greg and I felt inexplicable joy every time we set foot on the property.  Our offer was accepted and we moved into a beautifully remodeled 1,100 sq. ft. House on an acre of fruit trees.

I’m certain some friends and family thought we were nuts at first (hadn’t we moved because we wanted to down-size? Wasn’t I still recovering from back surgery?), but we just threw ourselves gleefully into whipping the land into shape.  I took classes on how to prune/spray/fertilize fruit trees.  Greg waged an never ending war with moles and pine needles.  I became the queen of the burn pile and we turned that place into grandbaby heaven.   It was a labor of love and I felt like we’d carved out our own piece of paradise on those warm evenings as we sat in the glider and watched the reddening sun disappear behind the plum trees.

I may have loved that place more than any other home we owned.  But Greg and I both noticed something strange.  Whenever we drove through the part of town (Gresham) where the house we tried to buy was, we both felt a pang of loss.  Sometimes we’d talk about buying a place just like that when we were too feeble to care for the Damascus property.

Which happened way more quickly than we’d anticipated.

After a lovely trip to Maui in Septermber, we came back to a cold snap.  My back rebelled and no matter how strong the call of the burn pile, I couldn’t rake or do much of anything in the yard for more than a few minutes without experiencing severe pain.  I couldn’t keep up and we both wondered if it was time to find a place with less upkeep.  We told our beloved agent to keep her eye out for something “just like the place in Gresham.”

This is the part of the story where things get crazy fast . . .

Just days after we began discussing the possibility of moving, I had lunch with a friend.  D mentioned that they were getting ready to put their house on the market and look for a smaller place.

“What exactly are you looking for?” I asked.  “And where do you want to live?”

“We’d actually love something just like your property,” she answered quickly.  “A small house with an acre in Damascus would be perfect!”

*******************************

The very next day, D and her family came over and checked out our place.  She called that night to say they were working on an offer . . . So with no agents or staging or fixing or showing, we sold our house!

Later that week, my friend who rented the basement apartment of the house we loved in Gresham posted on FB.  She said her landlord has decided to sell her house, so she was looking for another place to live!   Our beloved agent quickly contacted the owner and we were back in contract again–nearly three years later!

The fact that this process started in October and just came to a close mid-March testifies to the fact that God-things aren’t always easy things–usually the opposite in our case.  But our friends moved into the Damascus house a few weeks ago and we are settling into the Gresham house–with its issues mostly resolved.    God’s fingerprints are all over this story–and I’ve prayed that everyone involved in this process felt God’s hand upon them in some way.

I am looking forward to seeing what stories unfold as we use this property to serve the kingdom.

(And if you need an incredible realtor, here’s the link to ours:  http://kriscochran.com/)

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Out of the salt shaker


I went to my first protest yesterday.  God was pretty clear that I wasn’t to march, but even clearer that I needed to go pray.  So I grabbed some adventurous friends and headed for downtown Portland.

I was a little nervous, since I’d heard from a friend in law enforcement that anarchists were planning on hijacking the even.  That made me even more determined to pray for peace and protection over the event–especially since my three daughters and their friends were marching. They’d spent days making their signs and praying for the Kingdom of heaven to come be established in these chaotic times.  I can’t really speak for them, but I don’t think they were protesting the president or even his policies.  They were speaking out prophetically, marching hopefully toward a day where the climate of love prevails so strongly that racism, prejudice, inequality and other forms of injustice cannot flourish.


They were dazzling particles of salt and light, speaking up for those who cannot speak up for themselves and hoping for a kinder, gentler world to raise their sons and daughters.  I couldn’t be prouder.


If you found yourself frustrated or angered by the march, maybe even a tad judgement all of those who participated, I wish you had been there.  Praying, hugging, asking questions, growing in understanding.  Building bridges and speaking peace.  You don’t have to be in agreement to love.  

The protest was 100% peaceful, even though it was the largest and most diverse March to even take place in Portland.  That is a good sign, friends.  I saw many photos of cops and marchers hugging each other.  Maybe we can walk into the future, working out our differences with respect and love.  

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Every Tuesday morning, I drag my bleary-eyed self out of bed and drive to my granddaughter’s school.  A few months ago, my daughter Danielle started a community English class for any parents interested in improving their skills.  At first, it felt like such a sacrifice, to wake up 30 minutes early and drive a half-hour to help with whatever Danielle needed.  

Little did I know that Tuesday’s would quickly become the highlight of my week . . .

As we gathered together on this tumultuous Election Day, my daughter did a little lesson on voting and emotions.  She asked the women to share with each other if they were able to vote in their country of origin–and how they felt about this election.

The conversations that unfolded were fascinating.  I sat across from Petra, whose family arrived from Afganistan only a month ago.  Her husband worked for the US military, she told me, and they were forced to flee their homeland because of death threats by their own government.

I asked Petra if she could vote back home, and she nodded.  “Yes, but no matter who we vote for, the same person has been in power for over 20 years now.  It is very bad.”

She is very excited to be in America.  They are safe.  She has a degree in electrical engineering and was not able to get a job in her own country because she is a woman.  She is excited about the opportunities here.

Next to me sat my friend, Bela.  She moved to the US from Somalia 20 years ago and planned to vote today.

“Who are you going to vote for?” I asked

“Not Hillary or Trump, I don’t like either of them.  Maybe Gary Johnson?  Who did you vote for?”

“Actually, I wrote God’s name on my ballot,” I told her, wondering how she’d respond.

“You voted for God?” Bela exclaimed, eyes widening.  “Of course!  He is in control of all this–He will set his person in office!”

We actually high-fived each other, right in the middle of English class in my granddaughter’s school cafeteria.  

How ironic that my Muslim Somali friend understood my vote more than some of my Christian buddies.  I’ve been shamed, badgered and even bullied because I “wasted” my vote on Jesus.  

But no matter who our president is at the end of this day, my hope will not be shaken.  

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in You.” Isaiah 26:3

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Made perfect


Thirty-two years ago today, our son was made perfect. His beautiful soul slipped from his precious body, but his memory and presence have remained strong all these years. I see Jonah in Ransom’s dimples and grin. I witness his fearlessness through Tribe. His inquisitive nature and love of music radiate through Margot. Some days Juba and Ramona talk as if they know their Uncle Jonah.The photos have grown dim, but we still see him, maybe even more clearly by the light of God’s glory. The ache in our hearts has slowly transformed into a longing for reunion. So thankful for this hope we have in Jesus!

See you soon, son!

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Tonight, I say goodbye to my fifties.  This past decade has been most excellent to me, filled with feats and wonders I never could have anticipated.  I became a grandma–five times!–and scaled my first mountain.  I started running (in those really weird toe shoes) and travelled to Italy, Indonesia, Africa, India, Cambodia and Spain.  I taught myself how to garden and then can the fruits of my labor.  I had several nervous breakdowns and experienced incredible emotional and spiritual healing in their wake.  This past year, the Lord healed me from a serious heart condition.  

I take nothing for granted anymore.  Especially the little things.

I’ve been thinking for a while about how to close out this decade.  How to paint the big picture while disilling all I’ve learned and experienced into snapshots of these amazing ten years.  But what happened today reminded me that the Lord cares about the most mundane details of my life.  And that knowledge gives me hope for the decade to come.

A few months ago, I lost my most treasured jewelry; earrings I’ve purchased on my mission trips or have received from friends who travel.  They weren’t worth much monetarily, but meant a lot to me.  How do you replace the horn and bone hoops from Africa?  Or the lava stone drops from Mt. Vesuvius?  Or the turquoise from my Native Amerian friends?  I retraced my steps to the place I’d last seen my jewelry pouch (a recent trip), but my earrings weren’t to be found.  I knew it wasn’t a big deal, but I was still sad over the loss.

Today, the very last day of my fifties, I decided to hit a few garage sales.  As I drove to the first sale, I told the Lord it would be awesome if I could find some earrings to replace the ones I’d lost.  I especially missed the turquoise stones, since I wear that color a lot.  I reminded Him my birthday was coming up and that the earrings would make a lovely gift.

But I hardly expected Him to answer such a minor request.

I breezed through a few sales without spending a dime and decided to hit one more before I leaded home.  The offerings on the driveway weren’t too promising, but then I noticed dozens of earrings dangling from a rack at the back of the garage.  Turquoise and coral and other beautiful stones joined with sterling silver in the simple style I adore!  They were only $5 a pair and as I picked out my four favorites, I told the lady who’d made them how these earrings were a direct answer to prayer!

She was so touched by my story that she threw in another pair of earrings for me and one to give away!  So I spent $20 and came home with six pairs of hand-crafted earrings that I really love.  And a sweet reminder of how the Father of Creation loves me.

I am ready, 60.  Bring it on!

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The medical journey I just experienced is so wonderfully bizarre that I want to record it for posterity.  And give God the glory.

Even though I turn 60 this summer and have a genetic condition that causes my liver to make WAY too much bad cholesterol–I now have the heart and arteries of an 18 year old!

********************

I never gave my heart health much thought until I had some bloodwork done in January.  I went to see a new doctor who supposedly specialized in sleep disorders.  I wanted to have my cortisol levels tested and try to figure out a way to get off sleep meds.  The doc told me about a research project they were partnering with, sponsored by the Boston Heart Lab.

“You’d get over $5,000 dollars worth of tests run for free,” she offered.  “It will show what’s going on with your heart and lipid levels.”

Not one to turn down free stuff, I accepted and gave six vials of blood.  Didn’t think much about it until I was out snow shoeing with friends a week later and started having chest pains.

“I think I’m having a heart attack!” I told my husband, as I slumped forward. on the steep incline, trying to get my breath.  Intense pain gripped my chest, radiated up into my neck and jaw and down my left arm.

Before Greg could even devise a plan to drag me off the slope, the pain vanished as quickly as it had come.  It was a beautiful day and the mountain beckoned so we finished our Trek without further incident.  I just figured it was indigestion or something . . .

But a few days later, I got the results of the lab work.  Everything looked great . . . except for my insanely high cholesterol, imflamation (which indicated the possible blockage of arteries), and a gene (APOE4) that predisposes to heart disease and Alzheimers.  The chest pain from our recent trek came back into sharp focus, as did similar incidents over the years that I’d ignored.  

Honestly, I was way more concerned about the gene’s link to Alzheimers than heart disease.  My uncle Pat died of ALZ at the very young age of 68.  The doc, however, brushed my worries aside with the statement:  “I’m much more concerned about you having a stroke or heart attack.  If you don’t get those bad cholesterol numbers down, you won’t have to worry about Alzheimers.  Unfortunately, the APOE4 gene causes your liver to overproduce cholesterol.  Diet and lifestyle changes don’t have much effect–even statins can’t always lower LDL to see levels.”

Since this doc wasn’t a heart specialist, she referred me to a naturopathic cardiologist.  I wanted to go a more “natural” route, since I’d read that statins had been linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s.  I really liked the guy, but after reading over my test results, he looked me in the eye and said, “You have to take statins.  You have Familial hypercholesterolemia, a genetic condition that makes you 22 times more likely to have a heart attack or stroke.”

After that sobering pronouncement, he referred me to another cardiologist for further testing (since we found out on the way to his office that our insurance didn’t cover him or any natural medicine practitioner). He also told me to limit my physical exertion, since I’d been experiencing increasing chest pain associated with exercise.  

“Only 40-60% of what you normally do,” he advised.  “And stop if you have any pain or discomfort.”

I made an appointment  to see Dr. Banitt this past Thursday.   I felt so crappy that morning, experiencing chest pain and shortness of breath while raking leaves, that I actually packed a small bag in case I failed heart tests and was admitted.  Extreme anxiety gripped my chest as we drove to his office.

He asked me the usual questions and expressed deep concern at my lipid levels and increasing bouts of angina.  At first he scheduled me for a heart stress test, to look for blockages, but then changed his mind.

“I have no doubt we’ll find blockages, based on your genetics, cholesterol levels and chest pain,” he stated.  “I think you should skip the tests and do an angiogram as soon as possible.  It will show us where the blockages are, and I can put in stents to open them up during the procedure.”

Greg, who’d been more concerned over the condition of my heart and arteries than I was, jumped at that option.  In shock and outnumbered, I meekly agreed and scheduled the procedure for Monday morning.

“And NO strenuous activities!”  The doc warned.  “Take it easy until Monday.  I’m calling in some nitroglycerin to your pharmacy.  Take it whenever you feel chest pain.”

I decided not to mention I was taking care of my grandkids all weekend . . .

We scheduled the procedure and headed home, getting caught in rush hour traffic.  The mild chest discomfort and anxiety I’d experienced most of the afternoon increased exponentially as we crept along the freeway.  I took half a Xanax, assuming the pain was stress-related.  The pain level kept increasing, so I told Greg just to head for the pharmacy.  Hopefully the nitro would help.

Poor Greg.  He prayed for me as he navigated traffic and tried to decide if he should just pull over and call 911 or get me to the nearest hospital.    In the end, we made it to my pharmacy and I popped the little white pill under my tongue as Greg drove home.  No relief.

“The pharmacist said you should take another after five minutes if you don’t feel better,” Greg told me.  “You can take up to three, then call 911 if that doesn’t help.”

We got home and I took another pill as I settled on my couch.   I let out a deep sigh of relief as the pain let up this time.   In fact, I felt so much better, we decided to head to food carts for dinner, to take advantage of this glorious spring day.

But the chest pain returned with a vengeance just as we pulled onto the freeway.   I popped a third nitro, but the pain and my panic increased.

“OK, we are going to the hospital,” Greg decided.   Adventist was just five minutes away, so he parked in front of ER and Walked me in

“This is probably just indigestion,” I protested.  “I can just wait until Monday.”

Ignoring my protests, Greg walked me to the registration desk and explained my symptoms.  Fifteen minutes later, I was hooked up to a heart monitor.  Even though the EKG and bloodwork came back normal, the cardiologist on call decided to admit me and move the angiogram up to the next day.   My chest pains continued, but settled down after a fourth nitro pill and baby aspirin.

As soon as I got to my room, I put out a prayer request on Facebook and emailed a few of my prayer warrior peeps.  My chest pain vanished and I felt a deep peace I hadn’t known for days.  I felt fine physically, too, and tried to talk Greg into springing me from the hospital.  But he insisted I listen to the professionals and go through with the procedure.

Surrounded by the love and prayers of family and friends, I actually grabbed a bit of sleep during the night.  I was wheeled into a room for the angiogram at 9:30, had a brief visit with my doctor, nodded off and woke to the words, “Everything looked great!  You have the heart and arteries of an eighteen year old!”

I was released later that day, but not until my cholesterol levels were checked again.  To everyone’s surprise, the numbers of the bad lipids had dropped significantly.

“You weren’t even fasting,” my nurse explained.  “The actual numbers are probably quite a bit lower.”

So, what’s the deal, then? I asked every medical person who would listen.  Why is there not the slightest build up of plaque in my heart or arteries when I have this deadly genetic condition?  What caused my chest pain and other alarming symptoms?  Why the heck have my cholesterol numbers improved so much without me ever taking cholesterol-lowering medication?

The lack of answers convinced me of what I already knew–Jesus healed me!  I am not sure why I had to go through that whole traumatic episode, except for the fact that my faith in the One who heals has gone from my head to my heart.

Literally.

  

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Better worlds to come


 

Midnight rider

I wish y’all had met my son.  Sweet, silly Jonah.  It’s hard to describe him–the photos, all at least 31 years old now–are faded and worn.  I have no video that captures his vibrant spirit, no recording of his lilting voice.  But I have memories, as strong and true as anything.

Just shy of three years old, Jonah was diagnosed with autism, a condition both mysterious and rare in those days.  We read the brochures, enrolled him in the special classes (although at that time, there were no real services for autistic children.  His first classroom experience was with Down’s syndrome kids) and prayed for healing.  Of all the great gifts Jonah gave me, he taught me how to pray.

 

siblings

 

As we studied our son, Greg and I observed that Jonah did not feel comfortable in his own skin.  Clothes hurt, sounds irritated and hugs felt like death.  His tongue didn’t take well to language, but Jonah’s sharp mind found ways to communicate.  Screaming was his favorite (cue the prayers), but I never ceased to be amazed at the creative ways my boy adapted to a world that did not accomodate him.

Jonah loved music.  By the time he was four, he could identify at least a dozen musical instruments when listening to a song.  He especially loved flutes.  One day I walked into our living room and found him dismantling our (relatively) expensive speakers.  The Color Song by Petra had been playing (very flute-driven) and Jonah was determined to find the source of such exquisite beauty.

“Jonah find flutes!  Jonah find flutes!” he chirped with delight, inviting me to join his adventure.

 

the hero

 

But what brought great pleasure sometimes caused pain.  When he was four, Jonah became obsessed with Bugs Bunny.  That summer, we took him and his sisters to an amusement park that featured the Looney Tunes characters and Jonah had his picture take with his hero.  He couldn’t even look Bugs in the eye, but hunkered down, his face a mixture of terror and rapture.  To make the trip home more bearable, we bought him a Bugs Bunny toy, the sort that when you pull the string, it utters familiar sayings.

“Ehhhh, what’s up Doc?” the toy chattered as we drove home, elicitng wild giggles from Jonah.  But when we got to our house, Bugs disappeared, never to be seen again.  At least not until several months later when I found him on the top shelf of Jonah’s closet.  (Don’t even ask how it got there).  I brought Bugs out and triumphantly handed him to Jonah, thinking I’d find favor with my son.

Instead, he shrieked with rage and grabbed the toy from me and rushed back to his room.  In shock, I watched Jonah toss Bugs back up onto the dusty shelf.  And there Bugs stayed–until Jonah’s funeral, where he was buried with his best friend.  It wasn’t until many years later, reading a book by Temple Grandin, that I realized that sometimes you could love something so much that it hurt.

 

turn your eyes upon Jesus

The photo above was taken just a few months before Jonah died.  I love how his gaze is already heavenward.  He knew this world was not his home.  He knew he didn’t fit down here, that there were better worlds to come.

If Jonah could speak to us today, on the 36th anniversary of his birth, I think he would encourage us with this truth.  He’d tell us about a place where it doesn’t hurt to love, where tears are turned to champagne and we are always understood.

Happy birthday, son.  See you soon!


What were you thinking, Lord, when this child you made?

You know it’s hard at times, but I wouldn’t ever trade him

for a million other children.  And though sometimes I cry,

I know that he’ll be perfect bye and bye.”

God bless Jonah . . . and keep him in Your care.

The world can be a cruel place when you hear a different drum,

But Jonah, there are better worlds to come.

If I could ask You, Lord, to grant one wish for me,

I’d ask to look through Jonah’s eyes and know just what he sees,

To understand the thoughts that must go through his little  mind.

Oh Lord, can You whisper what I’d find

God bless Jonah . . . and keep him in Your care.

The world can be a cruel place when you hear a different drum.

Dear Jonah, there are better worlds to come.”

June, 1984

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