R.O.Y. G. B. I. V.

ROYGBIV

October 1st in the desert. Those of us who live here know that the last few months have been brutally hot. This heat tends to send things hibernating and the weak of heart only come here to escape their own weather when things cool down.  There are those who say there is no beauty in the desert. They say you can count on the heat and only two colors—the brown of the hard packed earth (and smog) and blue of the sky that for months and months won’t witness a cloud or rain.

 A storm is coming.

They’re calling this one Rosa— I don’t know how they pick those names but I’m thanking Rosa this morning because she has brought clouds to the blue sky, rain to the brown and my ability to go out for a run today without fear of perishing from heat exhaustion. Temps have plummeted form 105 degrees to a mere 75 degrees today. It rained through the night and had stopped for now, but they’re predicting such tremendous precipitation that flooding is imminent for many communities. I’m not thinking 40 days or anything, but it sounds like it’ll last several days into this week.

Of course, before I could make it out the door, I had to rub the ointments on my foot for the pain, and I also had to don my prescription glasses in hopes of seeing where I’m going. (The desert in the summer AND this getting older thing isn’t for the weak of heart.)

Speaking of heart—You could say I’ve been struggling with joy in my heart these dog days of summer… As a Christian, we’re told (and I believe) that since we believe in Jesus Christ, we always have joy.  I carry that hope that I have eternity with Him to look forward to and it keeps me smiling and pushing on, but sometimes things of this world just get me down…It’s just not a “Joel Osteen”-kind of day today. And, with the way things looked last week in our nation, it’s not a “J.O.” kind of week.

I can point to a myriad of things getting me down besides how sad I am about how we treat each other:  the heat has been exhausting, that micro fracture in my foot that kept me from running for several weeks, the inability to see clearly without eyeglasses, the eye infection I am still struggling with caused by the devastating fires this summer, and all that training for a half-marathon that got cancelled because of the other hurricane (Florence.) And that storm also affected a friendship in my life — I don’t understand why, but it would seem that things beyond my control are pulling me down.

And my cat is sick. So, I turned to where I’ve found joy before; running and being outside in God’s earth.  I do believe He still speaks to and through His creation, so I went out for my run and was praying to God for a hopeful glimpse at some Joy….

About 2 miles in, the pain in my foot started to dissipate and I grew more aware of the things around me. I thought about the two colors of the desert—brown and the blue—But, as my focus shifted, the vision of the desert before me was alive with more colors than I could name! From Mr. Hensen’s Jr. high school science class, I remembered the acronym R.O.Y.G.B.I.V. The color spectrum with each letter representing a color that is illuminated in a rainbow.

“A rainbow is a meteorological phenomenon that is caused by reflection, refraction and dispersion of light in water droplets resulting in a spectrum of light appearing in the sky. It takes the form of a multicoloured circular arc. Rainbows caused by sunlight always appear in the section of sky directly opposite the sun.” – Wikipedia

And also from Wikipedia—“The rainbow is an important symbol in the Bible, representing a promise of peace from God to Noah…”

Even though there wasn’t enough sunshine today to create a real rainbow, I thought I would look for the representation of that in the colors around me.

So I put it out there— “Okay God, it would plant some joy in my heart to see ALL the colors of the rainbow.” —And I began focusing on things around me (instead of my pain…)

First there was the Red Baja Fairy Duster— (I just love the names of the plants in this desert)— Then there was the vivid orange blooms of the Honeysuckle. I didn’t see the Y – yellow, so I moved on to the G in green—Well, that was everywhere! Supporting the blooms on the leaves of all these lovely shrubs and plants, but also unlimited shades of it on all the Saguaro, Agave and Prickly Pear Cacti. And still, I found no B – Blue. I quickly located the Indigo and the Violet attracting all the bees and hummingbirds on the numerous blooms covering the Arizona Sage bushes. So, it just got down to needing to see some yellow and some blue. With each step and each color I could check off in the rainbow, I felt a little more of my Joy returning. 

Violet

I decided to stop focusing on everything that was just on my side of the street, and as I looked to the other side, I found it!  A beautiful stucco home with yellow blooming Brittle Bush and Arizona Yellowbells punctuating it’s landscaping.  

Yellow

“Wow Lord,” I thought, these colors are amazing, BUT I still hadn’t seen blue yet…

However, as I continued on, I was mesmerized by mom many more colors—the bright pinks and fuchsias of the Oleanders and Bouganvilia and adorable little white blooms of the Flattop Buckwheat. But I was still holding out for the blue. 

colors

So disappointing. 

And then, no lie, a blue car drove by. I laughed — “Really, God?” Then I doubted. Was that really blue?—It was really more gray.  I’m not counting it. I continued on… But my throat was bubbly with the tinges of that laughter, my feet were lighter; I felt supported by everything around me. My vision of the world started to look brighter, even though the clouds of Rosa continue to build in the sky.

I was about 4 blocks away from my destination and a bright blue Nissan SUV pulled out into the road- traveling the same direction I was going. I had to laugh again. Okay that’s for sure blue. No mistaking that.  I even looked it up—Nissan calls that color-CASPIAN BLUE.

Then I thought, “Is this really God speaking to me through all these little things? Am I just looking for God to speak to me to lift me up??!” 

Earlier this week I saw this quote from Fred Rogers…

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Fred Rogers

I believe there are scary things in the news, but, like Mr. Rogers, I believe in looking for the helpers. I believe what I believe. The more I thought about my search for ROY G BIV to provide me with hope, the more I realized what I was missing. 

The Blue. It’s always been there—One of the two colors we’re most known for here in the desert southwest-that brown and blue. The sky, now temporarily masked in white and grey clouds bringing the impending storm, yet most always can be counted on to reflect it’s blue in Arizona.  

Sometimes the storms of life and the pain in our lives changes our focus from what is always available -The Blue Sky of Joy we always have available to us. By Faith, I know I always have that joy and today God made it feel so real, so alive, so all encompassing, personal, and so vibrant. And I thank Him for that. I know, and I know, and I know, and my joy is returning.

I guess the question is, “What do you look for?”

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Smiley Miley, Rick Springfield and Letters from the Past

March 7, 2015-My lucky day!

March 7, 2015-My lucky day!

Smiley Miley, Rick Springfield and Letters from the Past—

“Dear younger me,

Where do I start?

If I could tell you everything that I have learned so far…”—Mercy Me

It is 1:00 a.m. on Saturday night. My new husband and I’ve not been up this late since our wedding night. 😉

I’ll bet you wouldn’t guess what it is we’re doing?! (Keep your mind out of the gutter.)

We are cleaning out the office.

Our work began at 7:30 a.m. that Saturday morning. We pulled every file folder, office supply, box of junk, memorabilia, photo and book out of the closet, off shelves and desks.

It was devastation.

DEVASTATION

DEVASTATION

I once read that your home environment can reflect and impact your internal environment.  So, in effect, cluttered house = cluttered brain. And with all the busy-ness in this last year (and in life in general!) my new husband and I, over the last four weekends, pick a room and dig in. (And later dig out!) We want to start our married life together uncluttered.

We–

Organize

Re-sort

PURGE

Clean…

The recycle container was filled by noon. (More evidence of my box-a holic recovery!)

AND the garbage is 80% full at this point in time.

Yet, while the rest of the nation is plummeted in this Siberian Cold Front, it’s a beautiful 75 degrees here in the valley of the sun. And we’re stuck inside, buried in clutter, old bank statements and boxes containing so many irreplaceable memories.

I sneeze from the dust– evidence of the time passed and lack of attention to these areas.

As I open and sort, I travel back in time. I find a picture of Kelly D. and me from one of those old photo booths at the Westminster mall arcade. We’re wearing our Ralph Lauren polo shirts with the collars turned up and have perfect banana curls and Farrah Fawcett-like feathered bangs. Then, I come upon the mountain of letters that Leenie and I wrote throughout our college experiences between KU to CU—easily a letter a week and 5-8 HANDWRITTEN pages each chronicling our journeys, boyfriends, struggles and victories. I guiltily look at my husband across the room working through his paperwork.  I set these aside. (And remind myself to get a locking safe!) 😉

“Dear younger me,

If I knew then what I know now

Condemnation would’ve had no power

My joy my pain would’ve never been my worth…”—Mercy Me

 I become paralyzed looking at the years the surrounding clutter represents: metal champagne flutes from my first marriage, a rock my father kept from a camping trip, letters from old boyfriends…

Holding on to the past can prohibit us from moving ahead.

“Dear younger me:

It’s not your fault

You were never meant to carry this beyond the cross…”–Mercy Me

I move those college letters to the pile to be ceremonially burned with Leenie next time we meet up.

In the very back of the closet, I come across a 4 x 5 x 3 ft box of items my mother cleaned out from my old childhood room long after I’d graduated college and moved out. I’ve never gone through it. I’m tempted to just purge it but something impels me to dig in.

Contained inside I find a treasure trove!

SMILEY MILEY!

SMILEY MILEY!

I rediscover my “ultimate roommate”—Smiley Miley, my old stuffed, grey mouse given to me at Christmas when I was six by my precious Grammy -may she rest in peace. Smiley attended college with me, was my co-camp counselor at my first lengthy stay away from Colorado, and he adorned every bed I slept in until marriage. (Notice his smile is gone!) I come across my old RECORDS-actual vinyl-Night Ranger, Prince, The Hot Ones… I delight at finding the complete ATARI set with all the cords and every one of the coolest games-Frogger, Pac Man, Qbert…AND THEN, a Relic of a more innocent time, taking me back to my first BFF, Jenny, and our first love– Rick Springfield!

Some things must be held on to.

I dig out other items of extreme value: a silver coin collection of my fathers, family photos from before he passed away. I look over at my newlywed husband.  I watched as he sorted his memorabilia. He kept the baby blanket his mother made, two boxes of photos and about half of his medals, trophies and letters. He reduced his boxes to one box.

ONE Box?!

Some things need to be purged, some items held on to will increase in their value, while other things we hold onto, their value may yet be determined. I flip through the now priceless photos of Marne’s mom before Alzheimer’s overtook her-I know these are newly valued to her and set them aside to keep for her.

Holding on to lessons and things of importance, yet not allowing the past to hold you back, to cloud and clutter your present—that is the goal.

This “sorting” requires discernment and making peace with some things.

At this point in our project, we take a break, decide to go for a run. I am engrossed in the memory lane that I have been on, I barely notice our journey, and I just follow my husband’s lead.

Along our route, he stops to pet each dog that the owners allow.  My heart is lifted by his joy and I take a moment to thank God for this person by my side.

On our last mile, my husband laughs and points out—“Funny…That sign says ‘Desert’ and points that way down the street,” He stretches both his arms out and looks around, “but it’s all around us!”

I sheepishly smile and begin soaking in what is all around me: the blooming agave, the chirping birds, and the family of quail running along the path, the puffy white clouds in the blue sky.

Returning to work, I am refreshed.

As I dig back into the “junk” of my past, I reflect on how these have impacted me and how they make me aware of areas I need to let go. I also remember the importance of salvaging and protecting the items of value –Smiley Miley, my Rick Springfield poster, a few select letters– Some things are worth holding on to, even without a dollar value associated to them.

Our project has been therapeutic—As we’ve worked together to relieve our closets, folders and space of the clutter of old, we make room for what the present  holds, to go forward into the future unhindered by old baggage, yet holding to the values and lessons and improving our vision to see what’s in front of and ahead of us.

“Dear younger me,

You are one of the redeemed

Set apart

A brand new heart

You are free indeed

Every mountain, every valley

Thru each heartache you will see

Every moment brings you closer

To who you were meant to be”—Mercy Me

When we let go of the past and allow others to help us sift through the clutter of our lives, or to bear some of the burdens our world stacks on us, it frees us, allowing us to grasp the new things God has for each of us.

Opportunities to love the person right beside you;

-To hug a neighbor in need;

-To share a smile with someone who desperately needs it;

-To encourage another who is on their last nerve;

To just be PRESENT: a witness to the magical palette of God’s beauty in a sunrise or a harvest moon on the horizon; the desert in bloom all around you.

Or, maybe even to spend a weekend with an old BFF reliving some of the past and creating some new, priceless memories…

RICKY signing that poster March 7, 2015!

RICKY signing that poster March 7, 2015!

(LIKE HAVING RICK SPRINGFIELD SIGN THAT POSTER!)

And since this room concludes our purge, the next project will be an all-nighter with my new husband–playing ATARI!

😉

Seriously, keep your mind out of the gutter.

DIVINE IN THE DESERT

THE DIVINE IN THE DESERT

I have a friend who hates the desert—it’s extreme temperatures, the unfriendly cactus, trees with hidden thorns and landscape filled with animals and bugs that makes you go–”Hmmm?—What was God thinking when He created the hairy, snouted, smelly javelina (a.k.a. the skunk pig)? Or those seemingly death-defying, flying, hissing cockroaches?”

I have heard several unhappy desert dwellers say, “There are two colors in the desert—brown and blue.”

And when my flip-flops nearly melted as I walked across the parking lot the summer when temperatures approached 120 degrees—I get it.

Being from Colorado, I am used to beauty. The Rocky Mountains, soaring bald eagles, the four seasons that create and renew the landscape every year—I respond to Dumb and Dumber –“John Denver isn’t full of sh@*?”

However, after nearly 30 years there, with its eight months of winter, my new reply is, “You can’t shovel sunshine!”

“He holds in his hands the depth of the earth and the mightiest mountains. The sea belongs to him, for he made it. His hands formed the dry land, too.” (Psalm 95:4)

The desert is different. I am in awe of the extreme beauty in the desert; rugged and rough. Take, for example, the jumping cholla that shoots out spiny chunks of itself to ward off predators when triggered by vibrations. A plant with a self-defense plan against a smelly javelina or a burrowing bird?! Wow.

Right now in the desert, the “winter rains” have filled the desert landscape with a rainbow of colors. When I go out running, I witness blooms covering and spilling off of those thorny trees, callous cactus and barbed bushes bright with blossoms in every shade of the rainbow.

When I studied nutrition and holistic health, I learned that a plethora of these desert plants are components of many natural remedies. It would turn out that, living in these rugged extremes actually creates healing properties in the organism. Western medicine and science often attempt to chemically reproduce the healing capacities of these plants. 

Remedies are often found in the most unlikely…

When I moved to Arizona from Colorado, I remember driving down HWY 87.  Alongside the road, lined up in formation, stood a multitude of the cactus most associated with the Sonoran Desert–the saguaro. I later found out these massive structures are protected by law. Crews working to expand and repair the highway couldn’t just remove these prickly plants but had to ensure their survival.  If a person is found cutting one down or harming it, it is a felony offense.

According to Wikipedia, this special species of cactus are only found a few places in the nation and the Sonoran Desert boasts the most and the largest saguaro in the nation measuring at an impressive 45 ft high and with 10 feet across.

To survive the extreme desert conditions, this plant has adapted a system of survival. When it rains, it absorbs and sucks up into its body and woody internal system as much moisture as possible.  The saguaro swells and expands and stores away its life blood. It had learned from the desert droughts. As it swells and stores, it also blooms with its reproductive flowers and will often house the desert dwelling springtime birds.

The saguaro seems to understand life’s extremes; the droughts and the downpours. Because it takes nearly 100 years for a saguaro to grow an arm, when you see the portraits of the standard saguaro, with its two arms reaching out and up, stretching toward the sky, these giants have stood the test of time. With or without their legal protection, they not only survive, but these kings of the desert thrive in the parched, rugged environment.

And when the landscape around these dwellers is changed over time, sometimes (like the photo) they get by with a little help.

I think we have much to learn from this God-given example whose life-span nearly mimics ours. As we experience the extremes of life, suck up the goodness, it will be your lifeblood when the droughts come. As the landscape of our lives change, we will be protected. Our God is ever-present and He might just send help, cleverly disguised in the form of a friend, to support us when we have been shaken through to our very core. But the best example is, through the storms and the extremes, as we thrive and adapt and grow, let our own arms reach out and up and praise the very One that provides us with everything we need.

 

“Let every created thing give praise to the Lord, for he issued his command, and they came into being.” (Psalm 148:5)