This is the devotional that came into my inbox as I settled into my room at the Portland Airport. I did not find this all that amusing, but I did find it thoughtful.
You see, after two delayed flights, I was on my way to Bend finally last night to be with Jonas when he woke up for his fifth birthday this morning. After we boarded the flight to Redmond, the pilot came out to apologize for the delay. They’d been behind all day because of the fires near Ventura. He had yet more disappointing news–a huge fog had engulfed the Redmond airport, and we were unlikely to be unable to land and would be diverted to Portland.
Needless to say, I spent most of the flight praying the please God please God please God prayer. I listened to my Brave Still playlist created after the second Houston flood. The songs are all about God being present when things don’t go as planned. Thinking about not being with Jonas when he woke up on his birthday filled me with sadness.
I’ve walked this walk with God long enough to know that prayers aren’t magic, but that God is always present.
So here I sit in the Portland airport the morning of Jonas’ birthday. I saw a beautiful sunrise as I boarded the shuttle to the airport from my unexpected sleeping place.
I’ve had the best flat white ever at the airport and a marionberry muffin besides.
And I remember.
Life is like the fog. We can only see a few feet in front of us. All we can do is put one foot in front of us and see what us revealed.
Though I am still hoping that the fog will lift, and I will be able to fly my diverted to PDX flight to RDM to see the grandboys today.
Most of my friends are putting up Christmas trees and adorning their homes with festive decorations. The photos they post and share are exquisite.
For a number of years I’ve had a different. practice. At Thanksgiving, days before the beginning of Advent, I walk down to the lake at my mother’s farm and clip blue berry laden juniper branches to take back to Houston to prepare my home for Advent.
Before Christmas arrives, I love observing Advent. The image I’ve held in my heart for years is a very pregnant Mary pondering and waiting, with hope and uncertainty held together in open hands.
Blue being the color of hope, and being the color Mary most often is depicted wearing, for the first twenty four days of December my home is full of blue.
Yesterday I clipped and arranged juniper branches gathered at Thanksgiving last week. placed them in bowls and vases, on table, buffet, and mantle throughout my temporary home in Tomball. It’s nearly Advent!
However, this year I had not gathered the branches my self. My injured ankle prevented me from walking the uneven terrain to clip the branches. Instead I remembered to ask for help. My nephew and niece and brothers lopped off limbs of brown, green, and blue for me.
This year my Advent preparations are a concrete reminder that we are invited to not wait alone. Together we hold hope and uncertainty in shared and clasped hands
God set me on the path of healing again. Turn me to the rising sun when I need to be inspired. Turn me to the wilderness when I need to be lost. Turn me toward the world when I need to work. Turn me toward the mountain when I need to retreat. So that on turning I find Your loving grace all around. (Prayer by Becca Stevens in Love Heals)
A week ago, walking on uneven ground, I sprained my ankle. The pain of healing has slowed me down. The injury is not a surprise as I walk in the wilderness of this second flooding in less than two years.
Several people have commented that it must be easier handling the second flooding of my home. Some say that since I know the drill it must not be as difficult.
These are very kind and very caring people, and because they love me I think they may hope it’s easier.
But as a friend commented, a second broken arm hurts as much as the first. You may know better how the healing process goes, but the familiarity does not make it easier.
As Becca Stevens writes, I am back in the wilderness again. I am lost, but I learned tools in the last flood that assure me that what is lost will be found. I do know from the first flood that there is great beauty in the wilderness.
I wish I were not back in the wilderness, but I know I am being found. I also know that there is the beauty of love, companionship, unexpected gifts, and abounding grace.
Yes. It hurts. And still I am thankful.
I’ve been so very aware during my time in Iceland of the juxtaposition between my life this past two weeks and the hardships folks were bearing back at home. In the midst of receiving two weeks of beauty and care, I’ve been listening for what God is giving me to share with others.
Having lived a year of rebuilding on every level of my life this past year after the Tax Day Flood, I knew that I would need to rest deeply to prepare for what was ahead. I did not deserve the trip; I hadn’t earned the trip. It was pure grace.
I am grateful for this birthday gift as I see what God has in store until the anniversary of my birthday this time next year.
Tomorrow is my birthday. I am remembering all of the homes where I have lived. They are each places tied to important moments in my life.
A little rent house in Waco where I was brought home from the hospital. A house on Colcord in Waco where I met my brother, Austin.
An apartment in south Dallas while waiting for our new home to be completed. Our home at 1808 Swansee, Dallas 32, Texas, where I met my other brother, Richard. My home at 4012 Fountainhead, Dallas 75234, where I was married.
An apartment on South Oak Cliff Boulevard where my daughter Lisa was brought home from the hospital.
An apartment on South Walton Walker where I commuted to college.
A townhouse on Olde Forge where I drove to my first teaching job.
My first house I owned on Valleywood in Carrollton.
My new home in Houston on Beechmoor where I brought my son Jacob home from the hospital; where I was made a postulant for Holy Orders; and where I served in my first parish.
St. Mary’s Rectory on Laneview where I’ve lived the past 20 years.
And in the past year, I’ve had seven temporary homes as a result of two Houston floods. I am very grateful for each of these temporary homes and the hospitality each represents.
However, I’m a person who values finding a place to live and staying put. Benedictine spirituality calls it stability.
Even when I travel, I usually look for a home base and day trip out so that I go back to the same place, my away home, each night to rest.
I do not like to move. Yet changes and chances of life have given me new homes that have each been a part of who I am becoming.
Yesterday, at my hotel home in Reykjavik, the hot water in the bath wouldn’t turn off. The staff tried to fix it three times, but it only seemed to get more scalding. The staff asked if they could move us to another room. It would be an upgrade.
My friend was concerned I wouldn’t want to move, but we had to be able to take a shower.
So we stuffed all our belongings into bags and suitcases, and the staff came to help us relocate.
Instead of a lovely, small, but more than adequate room, we were moved to a luxury suite on the top floor with a terrace. I must add that my friend had used points from a credit card to book our four nights, and we had paid nothing for our more than fine room. Now we had a suite with an amazing view, and still it was free.
Rachel Sage sings a song about home:
Home is where you’re taken in.
Fearlessly breathing with the wind.
Home is where you set your spirit down.
I’m at home in all this beauty.
Everything about it moves me
I may be from another place but home is where I am now
Where I am now.
For now, I am learning for home to be wherever I am now. I am learning how to put my spirit down and make any place a home.
When I return to Houston on Thursday, I will move to another home.
The truth is, all homes this side of heaven are temporary. They are only places to prepare for the home with a view beyond imagination. Everyone will be upgraded, and it has already been paid for. Free for us all.
Photos are from my travels around Iceland yesterday and today. My heimili or home for now.
Today is church. My friend and I walked the half mile uphill in the cold and rain to worship. It was glorious.
As I entered the nave, the choir was practicing. As beautiful music surrounded me, I lit candles with prayer intentions for friends, family, and neighbors.
The liturgy was in Icelandic; however, the usher gave us a warm welcome and handed me a guide to worship in English.
Grateful for the printed guide, I thought of Molly and Jennifer back at home. I was appreciative for the difference it makes to have a person sitting right beside who is familiar with the service to guide us through. The paper, though very well-intentioned, is not as helpful as a neighbor.
Worship, no matter what the language, is still centered with God, and I knew pretty much what was going on and could chime in English at appropriate moments. The sermon was preached with enthusiasm, but except for hearing Mary and Martha mentioned, I hadn’t a clue.
After worship, we walked around the corner for cappacinos and a light lunch at our favorite local coffee spot, Reykjavik Roasters.
It was a good morning.
Yesterday I stopped. Stopping allowed some time for feelings to rise about flooding–my own and the many, many more from places near and far. The smaller sadness of my heart being broadened and deepened by the greater sadness of my neighbors flooded throughout our world.
Recently I’ve thought of the words of a friend who flooded for the first time from Harvey. My friend said that he had always loved the sound of waking to rain–but that quotidian joy had been destroyed by the new association of that sound and the feeling of stepping off his bottom steps into the waters of a flooded home. That’s what disasters and tragedies can do–take something we love and pair it with something painful.
When my friend wanted to go visit nearby waterfalls yesterday, I decided to stay in our lovely hotel and knit and tend to some flood matters in Houston.
As we approached the stunning beauty of the falls, I could feel my heart and soul fill with sadness at the same time my eyes were filled with the extravagant view of waterfall after waterfall after waterfall. Pain and strength and healing all at once.
This is where I stand. Between the suffering of Jesus and the light and joy of the resurrection. It is the place I am, and it is holy.
As we waited and waited and then waited some more for dessert to be served, good conversation with laughter was enjoyed. Turns out, the chef really did have to bake my cake! Halfway though enjoying it’s luciousness, we saw two photographers running through the lobby and outside the front door. Hurrying from our table, leaving our food behind, we went outside to see the green swirl and dance of the Northern lights.
If the cake hadn’t needed time to bake, we’d have missed the lights.
The suffering Jesus. The resurrected Christ.
And the place in between.
A Sabbath is different from a day off. It’s even different from a vacation day.
It’s a day to stop. To cease. To allow God to fill in the spaces and allow the world go on without me. It may be the most challenging spiritual discipline.
It is fall in Iceland. One of my most favorite seasons. Vegetation tends to huddle close to earth in this rugged clime, even the few trees. The fall color this creates a foundation for the soaring landscape and sky.
I began this day, after breakfast, sitting in a lounge area, with a symphony of voices of folk from all over the world chatting as they ate and visit. With the voices of God’s people surrounding me, I prayed Morning Devotions to be posted later by Rev. Alan.
I’ve loved beginning the day this way.
Now what will happen today as I Sabbath and God does the rest?
My friend Betsy has something her family calls an anything can happen day. It’s a way to travel without any set plan and respond to opportunities rather than planning an itinerary.
Yesterday was an anything can happen day.
We arrived at the small local grocery store right after it opened to look for something for breakfast. The gracious staff at the market opened up the closed for the season dining room so we could sit and eat our skyr and what the Scots call digestive biscuits (i.e. cookies). One of the employees carefully made us the best cappuccino and latte we’d had in Iceland, served in lovely cups and saucers. She then made our takeaway order, and refused to take payment. The kindness of strangers
In Iceland, hotels offer amazing and abundant breakfast buffets. This simple breakfast with what was available was as wonderful as any of those served at heavily laden tables.
Looking at maps, my friend and I created our own Ring Road to circle the Westfjords in cold, rainy, and windy weather. It was a perfect day for experiencing Iceland’s stunning and rugged beauty. We came upon a local handcraft cooperative where I found some handknit slippers to replace mine damaged beyond repair in the flood. We had a picnic overlooking a moss covered lava vista.
Driving anything can happen gravel roads in the rain can turn a white car brown. Since the car was too dirty to even see out, we stopped at the car wash near our night’s resting place. Car washes in Iceland are free, and consist of a brush attached to the end of a hose. While we waited our turn for the one brush hose, a fellow traveler from Maine found another hose and proceeded to rinse our car while we waited. The kindness of strangers.
Much has been said about the extraordinary response of stranger to stranger since the flooding in Houston. I know that I experienced it time again from both friends and strangers that became neighbors, in the Jesus sense.
I continue to experience this in Iceland. I think of one of my favorite hymns:
As Christ breaks bread and bids us share,
each proud division ends.
The love that made us makes us one,
and strangers now are friends,