The Jewel of California’s Central Valley

filled drinking glasses in tray

It’s going to be one of those over 100 degree weeks in Modesto – where we are known for water, wealth, contentment and health. I bet you’re wondering why I stay here, aren’t you? (Truth is: when I have to get out in this heat, I wonder why I stay here.) However, Modesto is a good town, mostly. We still smile at you on the street, most of the time. We still have an A&W. Our movie drive ins have given way to theatres with recliners. I wonder if that’s a response to the graying of the nation. We have a Costco and a Winco, and what else do you need? Gallo Winery is here and we’re in a valley that grows a good deal of the food consumed in the whole world. We have a junior college and the four-year is right down the road a bit. You can get frozen yogurt to beat the heat or you can swim in one a bazillion pools. And we’ve got a whole bunch of churches, I mean lots. All good.

But why I like Modsto the most, past that most of my kids, my friends, and my doctor are here, is that we look out for each other. I think that has to do a lot with there being a whole bunch of peope who love God in Modesto. We’ve got Love Modesto in April when thousands get together and do projects all over town. But that’s once a year. We also help relocate refugees through World Relief, care for the poor through a bunch of agencies. Lately, we’ve set up MOES, a tent city for the homeless, and people all over town support that, too. The Shower Shuttle folks, who offer free showers to the homeless in these really cool, decked out vans, have just added a laundry van, so the homeless can get their clothes clean. Imagine if you were on the street, how much those two blessings would mean to you. I like this part of us most because Jesus said to look out for the little guy, the one who can’t help himself. The one who, when you do something kind for him, can’t pay you back. We don’t need organizations to help us do that, by the way, or government. We can pull on our boots and do it on our own. Just a thought.

 

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Life

How’s that for a broad subject? Perhaps a little narrowing is in order.

The older I get the more I think I don’t know anything about anything.  Now there’s the topic.

grayscale photography of person using phone

This is not me, but it could be.

I’m a writer, at least most days. Sometimes I get published, and sometimes I don’t. Am I still a writer when I don’t? Should I just smile and wash the dishes instead?  And since the Bible says what pleases God is when we love each other, care for widows, orphans, immigrants, and so on; are slow to anger, etc., does writing – or any other occupation – even matter? Maybe I should just smile and feed an orphan. I don’t know. My mentor, Ethel Herr, who now looks at Jesus face-to-face, said our books can reach love, acceptance, etc. to a whole lot more people than our small circles of influence. So if I glue my face to my computer and knuckle down, what happens to the hubs, the kids, the friends? Ecclesiastes even says the writing of books is endless.

Maybe it’s about balance. Except, my days can blow up in a phone call. Sometimes the writing bite is huge, and sometimes the relationship bite is huge. Wait, am I starting to see something here?

Or how about truth and grace? I used to think telling the truth could hurt the people I love or cause them to get real angry. So I didn’t bother with telling it, thinking I was giving them grace. I guess I have learned one thing. Grace isn’t grace without truth, and truth isn’t truth without grace. Only, now I have to figure out how to tell the truth in grace, and I don’t even think I’m capable of figuring that out. Wretched woman that I am.

Maybe what’s really going on is that my plans aren’t God’s plans, and my understanding of life, or any part thereof, is way smaller than God’s understanding. What to do? What if I consider interruptions, not interruptions, but redirecting from on high? But wait, am I just making excuses? What if when I don’t have a clue what to do, I ask God? What if He doesn’t answer? Reminds me of when the grownups used to say, “We’ll see.”

Okay, here I go again. I used to come up with great ideas and go into implementation phase before checking in with Him. I’d look over my shoulder, having left Him in the dust, and say something like, “What do you think, God?” He put up with that for a lot of years. Over time, I found myself confused and exhausted a lot. What’s the verse, “Come to Me, you who are weary,” etc.?  I finally noticed the “Come to Me” part of the verse. Take it from an old broad, it’s much better to check in first, get your marching orders, and then strike out.  If there are no marching orders, stay put. That’s easy. Writing this conclusion at Christmastime seems supremely appropriate, now that I think about it. Merry Christmas, every one!

Late, Very Late, Midlife Crisis

flowers fun girl hat

It’s my sister’s fault. (Does this type look really small?)

So, she told me about this set up where you dress based on your personality. You do your hair and makeup that way, too. I took the test. OK, it hit me right on the money. It said I’m a crash bar person. I like to get on with it. True that.

So I watched the videos, and they made sense. So I cleaned out my closet and got some new colors of Crocs and styles of clothes. Then I got a new haircut that moves and changed my makeup away from old lady makeup. I feel good, nah nah nah nah nah nah nah. (Hear the song?)

People are saying, “Hey, you look good.” I’m responding, “I’m having a late midlife crisis.” I guess midlife really is determined by how long you plan to live. I do not plan to live to 140, so mine’s late.

Now, how much does this matter? It’s a good idea to put your best foot forward, and my foot is looking a lot nicer, especially in the dusty rose Crocs. However, I’m still me, a daughter of God, and inveterate crashbar person. I still put my pants on one leg at a time, albeit in deeply colored pants. I may, however, be loving my neighbor a little more than I used to because spending a little love on myself makes it easier to spend some on my buddies.

Thanks, Sistiyounger!

Planning

I love planning things–trips, parties, what I’m going to say. The other day, I said to Bake (my hubs) that I hope I don’t die suddenly, because I’d rather have a chance to plan it well. OK, you get the picture.

red roses close up photography

Photo by picjumbo.com on Pexels.com

So — our 50th anniversary is coming up in January. Let me digress momentarily. That fact is a miracle all on its own. I’m from a divorced couple, Bake grew up with beatings that kept him from going to school some days–broken folks. I never expected, ever, to make it past our 14th year, but God. So, here we are, anticipating our Golden Wedding Anniversary.

The kids did us a bang up party for our 40th, so I’m thinking I can plan this one. Hipdewoops. We’re going to dance. And dance some more, to songs that put the lyrics to our life. We’re going to renew our vows. (Over that I am sweating blood because Bake can say some of the sweetest things to me, and I so want to do the same for him.) And we’re going to eat cake, and toast every good thing we can think of in life and marriage. People we love have already agreed to help us put this shindig together and now I am purusing (incredibly expensive) invitations.

Back in the day, 1969 to be exact, I planned my wedding on a shoestring. Bake was headed for Vietnam, so we had two weeks to get ready. I used the leftover of what my dad had paid for my dorm room to fund the wedding, since we would be moving into our $75 a month apartment, the second floor of these old people’s house (criminy, they must have been about our age now). Their only stipulation was that we take our shoes off when we came in at night.

Back then, we had a dorm friend who agreed to take photos. Tuesday, my buddy Leslee, graphic artist turned prize-winning photographer, will take our anniversary photo.

My mom made my dress, knee length. The dress I wear to our 50th will be floor length. I made my cake. Our pastor’s wife, Heather, is going to make us a cake on the theme of a rose garden, and it will be a doozy because she’s talented beyond belief.

At our wedding, sisters who sang well rendered One Hand One Heart. At our 50th party, my buddy of years will sing a beautiful song about soul mates, and her voice is honey.

My grandmother played the piano at our wedding, and my dad flipped the lights off because he thought candlelight would be nice. Good thing my grandmother could play by ear. At our 50th, there’ll be a sound guy.

Bake’s dad, pastor and heroic POW, officated at our wedding. He’s gone on to live with Jesus. Our pastor, Jim, who explains the Gospel better than anyone in the world, will introduce our vows at our 50th.

There were no written invitations to our wedding. The guy who ran the dorm cafeteria stood on a chair and invited everyone, and the little mission where I first understood the Gospel overflowed with folks. They were even looking in the windows on a snowy day. There may be no invitations to our 50th if I don’t find some that don’t cost an arm and a leg.

We decorated my wedding with pine trees, silk ribbon and a set of candlelabras. My family lived in the Sierras then. My bff, Georgia, who can make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, will head the decorating team for our 50th.

The love Bake and I shared back in the day has blossomed and deepened, and I sure didn’t plan that. But I’m glad God did.

Weird

I’ve been reading this book called Weird. Its premise is that there’s a God kind of weird, like loving your enemies, and not working till you drop. Did you know that Martha’s problem in the Mary and Martha story was not that she was cleaning up and cooking her best for Jesus, but that she was ticked off at Mary enough to whine to Jesus to make Mary help.
Two principles:
Principle One: Don’t plan stuff you can’t pull off and then get your undies in a bunch because your designated helper won’t help. 
Principle Two: Sit your butt down and spend some time with the Creator of the universe. He doesn’t need cherries jubilee for desert or no dust on the door frames, he needs a living relationship with you. (Jane, are you listening?)
Soooo
There were these two ladies, Hattie Mae and Bessie Leona, and they were God-fearing, church-going, tough-love mothering daughters of the King of kings. Happened that though they went to the same church, Hattie Mae lived on the heights where the street lights were all still on at night and Bessie Leona lived in the bottoms where you better take a flashlight if the sun had gone down. And then,
The church decided to have a blow-out Memorial Day picnic and invite anybody who wanted to come. Hattie Mae was in her element. She had the gifts of hospitality, generosity, kindness, wisdom, self-control, teaching, preaching and faith. She volunteered to chair the picnic committee while in the process of listing the people whom she could delegate things to.
Bessie Leona thought the picnic might lead some folks to Jesus, so she sat down and talked it over with Him. It went something like this: “Lord, You know we’re planning a big picnic. Do You think that’s a good idea?”
“Anything’s a good idea, Bessie. You just need to make the Gospel the center, and don’t let the picnic get ahead of the people.”
“Well, how should I help?”
“You are good at making people feel comfortable, why don’t you serve food or go among the tables visiting?”
“Oh yes, I would love going among the tables visiting. I’ll do that.”
“Have a good time, then. I love you.”
“I love you, too, Lord. Thank you.”
“Don’t mention it. It’s how I roll.”
So Bessie went about her wifing and mothering until Hattie came over.
Hattie Mae looked a little worried about sitting on Bessie’s worn couch, but she started right in. “Bessie, I came today because I want you to chair the location committee for the Memorial Day Picnic.”
“Oh, I’d like to, Hattie, but Jesus thinks I should go among the tables visiting. I don’t want to get distracted.”
“Is that so? Jesus is talking to you, is He?”
“Yes, isn’t He talking to you?”
“Bessie, are you getting enough sleep?”
“I think so. Are you asking Him about these people you’re having chair the committees?”
Hattie twisted the hem of her blouse between her thumb and first finger. “There are things God just expects you to put on your big girl panties and do. I can figure out committee chairs on my own. I save talking to Jesus for the big deal stuff.”
“Why?”
“He’s busy.”
“I don’t think so.”
Hattie’s voice got louder. “Well, He sure was too busy when I asked him not to let my mother die. I had just had her first grandson, and she never even got to see him.”
Bessie breathed in. She hadn’t known  Hattie then.
“I’m so sorry, Hattie. These hard things seem so senseless.”
“You have not because you ask not, my foot.”
“You asked and asked, I imagine.”
“And He said no. He said no, Bessie.”
“You probably don’t even ask him about big things anymore, I imagine. You stopped asking and started working instead.”
“Yeah.”
“How long has it been since that happened?”
“Thirty-five years.”
“Can you tell why he said no?”
“What?”
“Jesus did answer you. He said no. Can you tell why yet?”
“She was real sick. I guess if she had lived she would have been one of those people who can’t get around and don’t know who anyone is. I guess.” Hattie looked down at her lap for a long time. “Maybe He was being kind, and I just didn’t realize it because I wanted so much for her to meet my Sam.”
“Maybe. Would you like some coffee or tea?”
“I would, coffee please.”
When Bessie returned with the coffee, Hattie was looking out the window. “How long have you lived here?”
“All my life.” Bessie handed her the coffee and sat next to her on the couch.
“Are you happy?”
“I am. I think it doesn’t really matter where you live.”
“What am I going to do about the location if you don’t chair the committee?”
“Why don’t we ask Jesus?”
“I guess it’s time I apologize for snubbing Him all these years, too.”
They bowed their heads together and Jesus wept.