Facetime on the Boardwalk

Approaching Sacramento, yet another landscape develops.  Grassland dotted with a new type of tree that boasts of an umbrella-shaped canopy.  Shot past our turn off, couldn’t see the small print “Capitol Freeway”.  Stopped at a gas station and called the Hotel for an exit number, turned around and made it!  We didn’t want to use G.P.S on phone due to roaming charges.  We had stopped at our home phone experts and bought a special package to use while in the States, but as far as we can tell we’ve already maxed out.  Data shut off!  However our texting option, alive and well, gave us the ability to tease Eric about getting lost and winding up in L.A.  Kidding!  Found out the Disney tour were just leaving San Jose about the same time we found our hotel.

Checked in and were told the Disney crew were arriving between 10:30 and midnight.  Went to bed, knowing Eric would probably call when he got in.  He did and we woke up around midnight and chatted on the end of the bed with Mariko and our son for about thirty minutes.  Next day, Eric, Lloyd and I had breakfast at Cocoa’s, but Mariko stayed in bed and rested.  Apparently, full week was had by their cast, with two days of triple shows, plus full day of presentations before that, where skaters performed character parts for principle and understudy roles.

Old Sacramento, Sacramento, California

We wandered over to a nearby mall, where Eric and Lloyd looked for shoes, and I found a Barnes and Noble where I bought “Home” by Novogratz!  Nike grey and fluorescent orange were purchased, size 9 1/2, for Eric’s visits to the gym,  then destination “Old Sacramento” thanks to his new iPhone 5 instructions.

Snapped all kinds of photos in Old Sacramento then returned to Hotel to get ready for dinner and pick Mariko up.  Dinner planned for the Delta King, an old paddle boat on the Sacramento River.

Highlights;  Meeting up with our son for the first time since August 23rd, face to face!  Facetime with Julie, back at work in Olds, Alberta, Facetime with Jordan Lehmann at Wycliffe in Calgary, Alberta while wandering the old boardwalk in Old Sacramento.  What a sense of humor!  Facetime with Uncle Jack on the Delta King, over dinner.

the Delta King Paddle Boat on the Sacramento River


Volcanoes Sleep Here

Arrived in Bend, Oregon, Saturday evening, population 80 thousand.  Checked into hotel, then down to Deschutes Brewery for a late dinner, Pork Tacos and Mirror Pale Ale – Wow!

Leaving Bend, Oregon was similar to leaving Banff, Alberta without the Rockies, and at first the trees looked as though they had more room to breathe.

Up ahead I spied a small rounded foothill which looked as if it were neatly wrapped in trees.  As we sped by, I was startled to find its south side nothing but black lava, with a high thick crust running along the highway – lava land.   Who knew?

It only made sense to read two or three signs for “crater” lakes, shortly thereafter.  Traveled through several different National Forests, and they did become thicker, more dense, the farther we drove.

Soon a heavy, thick fog enveloped us as we approached Klamath Falls, remnants of a shoreline made us wonder what we were missing and I checked the map to measure the lake.  Took a detour through town, searching for nostalgia, but found empty buildings instead.  No doubt the economy’s cruel fingertip had found this place as well?

Once again descending into a valley to cross the Oregon/California border, where we maneuvered through road construction, under a very warm sun, through a tiny town called; Doreen, felt like Mexico.

Miles of grass greet us, surrounded by desert prairie foothills and then a marker; “Butte Valley National Grassland” with another sign I’ve never seen back home – “Blowing Dust Area”.  What makes the soil here unwelcoming to even one tree root?  Perhaps it’s the wind that blows any potential seed away?

There to our left in the distance, an incredible surprise rises up to break the skyline!  A majestic King cloaked in a white cape, towering from his throne on the horizon.  I scan the highway for a sign, a name.  We are leaving the valley and ascending, climbing to 5,000 feet.  No doubt on the other side we’ll see.

Mt. Shasta, California’s Jewel in the “Ring of Fire”

Mount Shasta, California‘s precious jewel in the famous “ring of fire”, standing 14,152 feet at its summit.  We pull over to take a picture and marvel at the view!  Sunroof open we press on to Weed, California for lunch.

Across the Prairie, and Round the Bend

Having never set foot in this State, I longed to find a story, a picture of time passing.  Architecture never disappoints and always tells us something….I plan to look for a book that outlines architectural characteristics specific to the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s.

Abandoned Gas Station in Ritzville, Oregon


Leaving flat land behind, passing a Correctional Center, an Army Depot and an incredible Greenwood Tree farm, we begin to descend into the Columbia River Valley, with Washingtonon the north side of the river and Oregon on the south.  The strange broccoli shaped shrubbery continues to freckle the hills, some pink interrupting the mustard and sage.  Soon the rolling hills rise to barren cliffs on either side of us, and even through the rain and fog I can see a man-made plant of white metal, mammoth bowed branches waving in the sky,  swimming in the air, man and nature, windmills on rock.

down by the Columbia, Columbia River, Oregon


A left turn at Biggs winds us steeply through the cliffs to a plateau of mixed desert prairie and farm land.  I imagine covered wagon trains losing wheels on the rough terrain.  We tune the radio to KC 93.5, home of the Gorge’s greatest music from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.  “Jackie Blue” by the Ozark Mountain Dare Devils comes over the air as we pass two consecutive ghost towns.  Wish we would have stopped to take a picture.  I smell juniper and note a sign that tells us we have just crossed the 45th parallel, we are officially half way between the equator and the north pole.
We descend again and the clouds have lifted, the sun peeks through at 5:27 to say hello before it sets.  I scan the valley with its scattered pine and magical ranchero view, and think “Bonanza“, an old western series I watched as a child.  I could live here, how far away would we have to travel for food?
Temperatures are warm, but the wind is strong. Further down the highway a gas attendant in Redmond tells us Bend is the largest city in central Oregon, we soon shall see, or maybe not.  You can’t see much in the dark.

Polka Dots and Coffee Pots

A sign you might want to try and make, out of old license plates.
(from Marie’s Gift Shop at Lakeside Resort in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, USA

Nothing like lounging in polka dots at a friend’s kitchen table, nursing a third or fourth cup of coffee before breakfast.  Off to his office for an updated tour; personal touches by partners in ministry, vignettes of sunshine on every wall, soul friends and memories.  Keyboard settings; dual, piano and strings, for a song share Saturday a.m.  Last stop in Brian’s Mom’s chair,  framed yellowed sheet music overhead, watching timely touches, CD‘s burned, labeled and bundled for final workshop.

Noodle house, chopsticks and conversation for lunch, then a nap – all three.

Dinner with Alissa, hugs wrapped in red plaid before taking a trip together to meet more friends at the Coeur d’Alene Lakeside Resort, recently renovated, Operation; Dockside Cafe to indulge in their famous desserts.  Knickered parking valets smiling in the rain, glamorous lighting entices you through transparent turn style doors, taupe and mountain blue sparkle, and then; “Marie’s”.  A massive fish gallery boasting exotic swimmers, makes the perfect lobby jewel, but Marie’s Boutique?  To die for!  My favorite fairy tale walk through ever from the light fixtures that bling above to the baskets, buckets, trays, and counters of endless crafters’ eye candy, home decor and personal attire (notice the heart warming sign above).

Wove our way through Dockside Cafe to find a window table where glimmers of night lights reflected on the lake outside.  Slowly savored each tasty morsel of an over-sized chocolate peanut butter sundae, the locals call; gooeys!  Burnt off hundreds of calories with the best exercise known to man – laughter!

These are a Few of My Favorite Things!

Perky Pumpkins in Ritzville, Oregon, USA

On Vacation – Saturday, October 27th (posted Sunday because – we’re on holidays and we can post things late if we want to:)

From brown paper packages tied up with string at the N3 Project home base in Post Falls, Idaho to snapping a picture of perky pumpkins in the rain just outside of Ritzville, South on Hwy 90.  And in between, our brief pit-stop at the information center, where I found I had pocketed our dear friend’s camera by mistake.  If we hadn’t been so shocked by our klepto-caper, we may have snooped around more and drooled over the incredible faded brick backdrop of historic downtown Spokane.  The rock formations just south of the city gazed at me almost forlornly as we sped by.  If they weren’t so heavy, they could have hopped a ride.  Vertical gnashings sliced by hundreds of years of erosion, made their rock faces look weathered, wrinkled and scarred and …..sad.  A short distance further, on the other side of One Mile Lake, what looked like Ponderosa pine gave way to strange clumps of desert grass in shades of sage and mustard.  Let’s call it the desert brocolli plant!  Soon the grassy landscape dwindled to dust to reveal another type of rock deposit which resembled large mounds of fossilized manure, as if some large space creature had flown over head once upon a time and pooped out multi-layer cake.

P.S.  I will post a picture of Friday’s happenings (who says things have to be in order?), but left my camera cord at home, and my card reader, oh well – I’ll borrow one from our son – whom we’re meeting Monday a.m.

One Hundred and Two Souls on Board.

I stood at my studio desk watching a program stream on my computer, noise to keep me company.  I  assembled three pieces of art in the shape of a totem, and looked up from the table when a movie review caught my ear. A new film with Denzel Washington, called; Flight.  I heard just a few words, “one hundred and two souls on board” but that’s all it took for my spirit to identify.

That’s right, we are souls.  I had almost forgotten what was missing lately, from the daily equation.  We are not mere faces on Facebook, objects in magazines, titles on Twitter, widgets on websites.  We are SOULS.

Our spirits can’t be truly heard over a text.  Though we try to convey our feelings through the written word, our emotions, dreams, joy and pain cannot be shared through our devices, they must be lived, audibly spoken, welcomed, trusted, tasted, loved.

We’ve learned the art of creation or at least we tell ourselves we have.  We’ve engineered miracles of technology and sent man to the moon and we continue to strain to reach beyond, yet cannot reach each other, arms only long enough to pat our own backs and fill our own pockets.

We gloat of our accomplishments, persist in our pursuits and forget there is a law of gravity, an ocean, a tide – and now it grows between us.  Unforgiving, ticking time, and we race it as if we stand a chance to win.

We’ve drunk the serum of deception.  Infected with a virus, we are.  Discontented and distracted, wined and dined by a visible pulsing power.  Now, mostly blind to those who offer their love and who need our love.  Now, mostly blind to His redeeming power.

Reality eludes us and silence is no more.  We’ve been seduced by loud empty promises, that breed more loud empty promises.  They scream at us because they are afraid.  They’re afraid we’ll find out there’s still hope.

But – we can turn them off.  If the voice inside your head is driving you away from touch and breath, laughter and passion, from Truth and His purpose – turn it off.  You, my friend are a soul, not a number, nor a machine.

It is not in the midst of material we find ourselves, but in the midst of relationship.  And when we are found we can find others and free them.  Extend your hand.

Jesus, thank you for patiently waiting by the side of my life’s road.  For tirelessly calling my name, until I heard your voice over the noise of empty promises.  I turned and saw you with your arms wide open and the cross behind.  Your eyes smiled at me and I leapt into your arms.

I am a soul that has been saved.  I am yours!




Blood for the Backdrop, Death at the Door.

I sat in the dark of our tiny hometown theater, (to this day I don’t know who with) and salivated as “Julie” played by Amy Adams blogged about her adventure in cooking, inspired by the infamous “Julia Child“, played by Meryl Streep.  But the tantalizing aromas filtering through the silver screen were not the cause for my drool.

You know the story’s good when you forget the chair you’re sitting on is about as comfortable as making love on a bed of pine needles.  Oh yes, and the staircase scenario, equally as ridiculous.  But this idea of writing about something you’re passionate about turned on a string of light bulbs for me.  A thousand fire flies in flight!  I’ve always written lyrics and music, but never thought of myself as a writer.  I’ve poured out my thoughts to melody ever since my twelfth birthday present arrived in a guitar case, but never equated “songwriter” to “writer” much less,  “storyteller”.

You’d think I would’ve put two and two together when my Father said I was “yappy”!  What he labeled as noise, I now realize was the beginning of my lifetime love affair with words.  And now I know, not all of them have to be wrapped in melody.  However the story must be told, with or without it.

Once the truth is communicated, there’s no stopping it, much like a snowball rolling down a mountain side, gaining in size and speed, thunder bound. The sooner the message is shared the sooner the transforming power begins within the many souls who have ears to hear.

On that note; there’s a story evolving here, one that started eighteen years ago.  But before I go back and pull those memories forward, I wanted to pause and give you a “bird’s-eye” view of where I’m sitting. There’s a plank roof above me, rustic log wainscoting, and a tasteful jazz/folk combo playing through the speakers at the Sage Bistro in Canmore, Alberta, Canada, a touristy but quaint mountain town.  I feel like I’m living a dream it seems, it’s so magical here and unusually warm for an October afternoon.  I’m under no pressure and able to meditate on the Lord,  which makes the raw, tragic, yet triumphant story I heard this morning even more profound.  But before we go there, let me tell you where it started for me.

Once upon a time I stood in my daughter’s sunny bedroom, paint color “Philadelphia Cream Cheese“.  Her precious little arms stretched towards the sky, waiting for me to pull her sweater over her curly head and porcelain face.  Some where between her clenched fists finding the armholes and her head popping through the neck of the her sweater I saw a mother on the other side of the world dressing her child in the rain.  Blood was the backdrop and death loomed at their door.  It was 1994 and I was very much aware of the Genocide ravaging Rwanda.

That night, after I put our children to bed, my spirit was moved to write about the injustice of their plight.  Carefully I wove the lyrics and the melody together.  I had no pie in the sky hopes that my salty paper even stood a chance at changing a President’s mind, nor would it rally a neighboring army to their aid.  I offered up the only thing I had, a song and sang it as a prayer because I knew God would listen, and I knew He would do something.

“I live in a safe corner of the world, where I can close my eyes and go to sleep at night, but I still think of you all of the time, while my children laugh and play and your children die”. 

I never expected to meet anyone from Rwanda, but I did today, in Canmore, at the First Baptist Ladies Retreat, eighteen years after “evil personified” raped a country.  After hearing the first segment of her powerful story, I was prompted to share my old song with her just to let her and our Lord know, how touched I was to meet a survivor!  Because after all, hearing her survival story proves God answers prayer!

“Hold on, our God is faithful and mighty to be near to you in the midst of every storm, Hold on my friend hold on, I’ll keep the vigil strong, hold on.”

The lyrics fell short then, and they fall short now.  Are there any words in any tongue for that kind of anguish?  Even now,  hundreds of recovery and reconciliation workshops are just scratching the surface in Rwanda. But I’ll forever remember the Lord’s prompting and Regine’s story and the gift of getting to meet.  Only God can weave stories together like this.

Well, I’m off to dig up the song in its entirety, tucked away in my music files, expecting to see more of what God is going to do!




A Helping Hand or Shovel?

I’ve been devouring story, mostly in movie form, some in paperback or hardcover.  There’s so many out there, but I don’t want to settle for believing that I’m hearing them all.  I can’t be.  There are so many people who don’t get to tell their stories.  Very rarely are they given opportunity and the few who are, often don’t know how to tell them.

What’s more is, I want to pay attention to the stories that are happening around me, the ones that permeate my skin every day, and bubble under the surface.  It’s fine to watch something like “Blind Side” and be pumped for a day or two about the “Good Samaritan”, life changing opportunities around us, but what about getting excited enough to take one or make one, oh wha-ta-heck – what about recognizing one?

Recently, while seeking first the Kingdom, I heard two words “harvest field”.  I’m a visual person and expected to have my eye’s appetite wet with heavy wheat on a rolling hill, instead I saw a cemetery.  There was a fence right in front of me, kind of like the type you would tie something to, not high, not even a deterrent for entry, and yet a crowd stood behind it and observed people stepping into open graves.

I heard another word “help”.  I squeezed my eyes shut as tight as I could for fear one of them would turn and show their face.  I saw an arm, perhaps even mine, extending a shovel.

Now that’s a story that’s happening here.  Opportunities right before our eyes to love our neighbor and instead we’re allowing them to self destruct.  They need help, and instead of doing what ever it takes to meet their needs, to share with them, we’re handing them shovels to dig their own graves.

What are you offering today, a helping hand or shovel?




Absent Love, or Dormant? (facing family issues over the holidays?)

Got a hole in your heart?  I do.  It’s a fixing, but not by itself.  It’s healing to write and so I write.  Usually I get a whole page of what “they” shorten manure down to, and then it starts to settle in for the roots to show.  The surface stuff that sounds so “talk show” is just that, a surface conversation like the kind you have in the grocery store with someone you haven’t run into for a long time, and maybe really didn’t want to run into anyway.  But with me, even after the surface stuff is spilled out all over the floor or the page, the thoughts linger like an echo in a canyon, until my prayers follow, I go deeper and this time write with insight.

“What was I trying to say?” I ask myself as I meander through the word clouds that hang low enough to tickle my brow, like navigating through a forest of velvet covered willow branches.  I want to talk about the absence of love, but maybe it isn’t absent.  Maybe, it’s dormant.  I carefully reach up and pluck the word “love” from an invisible thread and bring it in tight – to my chest.   I embrace it like a child in my arms and run my fingers over the letters.  Do I really think I’m going to raise the letters from the dead?  Do I really think writing about my sister’s “family” sabbatical is going to change anything?

Why do we strive so, to reach someone, when in actuality they may not want to be found?  I think we do it for our self and tell ourselves we do it for them.  We do it because others do it.  We do it because we think that’s what family does, but for whom?  And it’s just like every other area in our lives, the same people reach while the other people watch.  Sometimes we do it because God tells us to.

Family’s different for everybody.  I’m tired of thinking mine should be like the Partridge Family, or Brady Bunch, God forbid.  But either one of those options would have been tamer than the one I lived through.  But that’s the strange thing, she remembers our childhood completely different, as if recalling the truth is an insult to our Father’s character.  But anything short of the truth is a lie.  Besides, even if the truth is ugly, it doesn’t have to be wasted.  We can learn from people’s mistakes as well as their triumphs.

Is it any surprise I’m thinking about “family” with Thanksgiving around the corner?  The Canadian Thanksgiving, that is.  The U.S. has their celebration in November, really close to Christmas so the shopping has a chance to blur out any meaning.  I’m sure there’s a reason, but I wasn’t any good at memorizing historical dates in Social Studies.

I’m not going to memorize the date she decided to go “off the reservation” either.  I’m not going to memorize the date she decided to stop picking up the phone.  I might memorize the date she resurfaces if I’m still alive – kidding.

I’m going to breath and once in a while I’m going to listen for the sound of my lover’s words.  He and he alone knows how to sew the grand canyon back together, like there never was a crack in the first place.  And if by chance he calls me to be part of the mending, I’ll jump up and grab a needle.  But until then I think I’m suppose to wait.

And if I have to cook and have Thanksgiving without her, I will.  I’m thankful her dropping off the face of the earth doesn’t mean her face gets erased from my heart.