Thursday, April 28, 2011

Flood Waters

This is our ordinarily dry sideyard. We woke up to this watery sight this morning.

The waters are pushing toward the jacuzzi deck and the pump house. Everything has been unplugged. This was 2 hours ago and now the water is half way up to the deck surface.

This is taken looking north from on top of the tree fort. The waters are coming in from the south. All the way from the Currituck Sound in NC, to the Back Bay of VA, and now to our property. I would guess that about 8 of our 11 acres are covered in water right now.

I donned my gear to go do some photojournalism out in the street.

On my way to the street, I captured our front lawn, half of which is now under water.

In the bottom right quadrant, Joe placed a marker in the dry ground. It is underwater now.

This is our street. I know it looks like the Mississippi, but I drove down this street last night. But maybe now not  for a few days.

This whole thing has been caused by wind pushing water north. There is no place for it to go, so it overflows into the streets. The ripples are the evidence of the nice strong wind that's been blowing.

My neighbors' driveways are completely submerged. Some of them have lived here long enough to know the wisdom of  driving nice, high monster trucks. I wish I had a little rubber dinghy right now.

A look down at my booted fee so you can see how deep the water is. In many places it's 2 feet deep. I am avoiding those places.

This was taken from the street, looking south toward the house. You can see that the street water and the yard water are all the same body of water!

The water must taste good, cuz Cody's been slurping it up all day.

This is way back in our woods. I call this alley of trees the Chapel of the Pines. It's flooded.

From the woods looking out to the barn. Wow. It's close. But not as close as the other waters.

We have a moat around the tree fort now.

And you can see how high the waters have risen on the decks.

Another boot shot to give you a frame of reference.

Our biggest concern: the water is going into the crawl space under the house. Hopefully not enough to damage all the electrical and heating systems that dwell under the house.

The moat and the pond are only 10 feet apart now.

The front yard an hour ago. It is supposed to continue for three more hours. Hopefully that will be the end and the waters will begin receding. Sending up prayers for NO damage, and peace anyway.
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Monday, April 25, 2011


Very slowly learning this one.

I watched the PBS special on forgiveness last night. Did anyone else see it? Extremely well done. Moving. Thought-provoking. Perfect for an Easter evening.

Some unspeakable things have been done in this world-- betrayals, abandonments, genocides--all of which require painstaking forgiveness to move forward with life. I think maybe there is no greater courage than to forgive when you have been deeply wronged. It is not easy work.

I made a mental list last night and this morning of slights, hurts and offenses I was still carrying and laid them on the altar of forgiveness. What a relief. I also prayed that those who had been offended by me, the ones I am not aware of,  would be able to release those things and forgive me. I am truly sorry for messing with anyone's fragile heart.

It's work to keep the accounts in order, but it clears the soul for living life with faith, hope and love.
A new day begins.

    Mark 11:25
     And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.

Monday, April 18, 2011


I have found another way to get my pictures up. Not as easy, but it does the job. This picture was taken in New Zealand, just three months before Joey went to Heaven. We stopped to pick up some globally omnipresent Starbucks, and the clothing store across the street is named "Jay-Jays", which is my son's childhood nickname. Of course, I had to photograph it for him. As an adult, he no longer appreciated the nickname and liked to mock it, and therefore we relished teasing him with it. This was my idea of a joke. Yes, I am that funny.

I look at this picture now, and think, "Who is that smiling woman? I don't recognize her. She looks so happy. Carefree. Light. She has no idea her safe little world is about to come crashing down." Only three months later, my beautiful son's earthly journey was over. No warning, no preparation, no final words. If I had known, I would never have taken that trip. Like the mama kangaroos we saw in the nature preserves in Australia, I would have stuck my own Joey in my pocket, with huge legs and tail falling out, and made him stay there, forever, protecting him, no matter how heavy or uncomfortable it would be for either of us. I have never been good at letting go of my children. My happiest place in the whole world is right smack in their midst. I recognize that this may not be happy or healthy for them, so I restrain myself. Except for the time I went on my daughter's honeymoon to bring her the bag she forgot at home, and sat down to chat while her new husband was waiting for her in the other room. Bad form. But usually I do restrain myself.

It wasn't easy letting go of any of them. But with my son,  it was the hardest. I never stopped thinking of him, praying for him, being attuned to him. His two sisters were married to big, strong husbands, and I felt they were safe. But because of Joey's health issues, I always saw him as vulnerable. Even when his friends called him "Joe", and turned to him for guidance and counsel; even when his radiant smile, his smarts, his charm opened doors for him; even with his successful career and his confident opinions, he was always my sweet little Joey. We had a deep mother/child bond and my heart was always listening for his happiness and protection, or for any disturbance in the force.  He wasn't a mama's boy, but he was this mama's boy.

Protection. A normal request in a dangerous world. He didn't have a lot of seizures compared to some, but they did sometimes come at inopportune moments. Once in a public pool, where he had time to crawl to safety on the deck; once when he was surfing with his friend Kevin, who knew to grab him and paddle him in to shore;  once on a sketchy street outside his USC campus, as he was walking home from class one night, and beautiful strangers stopped to help him; once when he was alone visiting Notre Dame in Paris, and ended up being carried away by a French ambulance and spending the night in a French hospital. (He woke up in a panic the next morning, cursing his bad luck and wondering how he was going to pay the darn hospital bill, only to be told that the bill for everything was $35! One point, but only one,  for nationalized healthcare!) He also had a seizure one month before he died, and this one alarmed him enough to call me about it...which he almost never did. He downplayed his seizures, but they were always a matter of prayer for me. Every single day. God protect him, surround him, keep him safe. And God did.

Heaven is as safe as it will ever get.  I know that. Feel that. I've made peace with that. But he's AWAY. And it messes with me. When well-meaning friends are telling the bereaved to "get over it", I will say that you cannot imagine the longings that accompany the loss of a child. It is a physical craving. Visceral. In the chest, the gut, and on the skin. No matter what you know logically or theologically, it is a persistent force that doesn't let go. It drives you to sleeplessness, it crawls anxiously around inside your nervous system, it presses for reconnection, and it has to be forcibly blocked out with noise and diversion just to get some relief. How strange and surprising to find this out. It was never mentioned in the grief lectures I attended for my counseling practice. And now I live with that every single day, sometimes blessedly in the background, but often right in my face. And reminders of what might have been, and what will never be, and gatherings and holidays that will never be filled with total joy again.

Easter is coming.  It is my new favorite holiday. It used to rank well down the list behind Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, maybe even shady Halloween. As a Christian it was supposed to be at the top of the list, but now it actually IS. Not the eggs and the bunnies and the pastels. Not good enough. That clashes now. Easter and resurrection have taken on such power and meaning to me, that anything that distracts from its preeminence is  frivolous. For me now, it's a purple holiday, and velvet, and gold, inside a vast carved stone cathedral with towering spires, and symphonies, and angelic choirs singing alleluias, with music so loud it surrounds and swirls through every inch of space--from the dusty corners to the tiptop of the goldleafed and filagreed central dome. It is Michelangelo's exquisite Pieta, and the heavy presence of God, and hundreds of candles and a radiant sunrise that spills forth through stained glass. It is glorious   frescoes with the victorious saints alive, and Christ the ruling King on His throne at the center of it all. Anything less simply doesn't come close to reflecting the meaning of the word Resurrection for me now.

The day Joey died, it came to me in a flash that resurrection was the most important, life-changing truth ever delivered to me. Nothing else compares. Not "love one another", not the power of prayer, not even the forgiveness of sins. But Resurrection.  Eternal life. Eternal togetherness. Reunion. Life going on in two separate dimensions simultaneously, and someday all together in our physical bodies again. Eternal life bridges the great chasm between me and my precious son. Jesus' death made death die. It is the greatest gift, and the most hopeful truth in the universe.

It is the only one that can dry my tears and calm my fears. It is the resting place when I am weary from this sorrow-filled planet. It is the new song in my heart. It is the trumpet sound of hope.  And though I have to wait, I also know that no matter what goes the end, all will be well.

Thank you, Jesus for that HOPE. You didn't have to, but You did.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Norfolk Botanical Garden at Spring


Crab Apple Tree

Bald eagle nest up high

Cherry Tree

Up close

Joe peeking through cherry blossoms



One yellow tulip


Johnny Jump Ups
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Still working on my blogger picture function. This is a test. 

"No Man is an Island" by Thomas Merton

The Christian must not only accept suffering: he must make it holy. Nothing so easily becomes unholy as suffering.

Merely accepted, suffering does nothing for our souls except, perhaps, to harden them. Endurance alone is no consecration. Suffering is consecrated to God by faith- not by faith in suffering, but by faith in God. To accept suffering stoically, to receive the burden of fatal, unavoidable, and incomprehensible necessity and to bear it strongly, is no consecration. Suffering has no power and value of it’s own.

It is valuable only as a test of its faith. What if our faith fails in the test? Is it good to suffer then? When is suffering useless? When it only turns us in on upon ourselves, when it only makes us sorry for ourselves, when it changes love to hatred, when it reduces all thing to fear.

Faith knows that the mercy of God is given to those who seek Him in suffering, and that by His grace we can overcome evil with good. Suffering, then, becomes good by accident, by the good that it enables us to receive more abundantly from the mercy of God. Thus what we consecrate to God in suffering is not our suffering but ourselves.

What after all, is more personal than suffering? The awful futility of our attempts to convey the reality of our suffering to other people, and the tragic inadequacy of human sympathy, both prove how incommunicable a thing suffering really is.

When a man suffers, he is most alone. Therefore it is in suffering that we are most tested as persons. How can we face the awful interior questioning? What shall we answer when we come to be examined by pain? When suffering comes to put the question: "Who are you?” we must be able to answer distinctly, and give our own name. By that I mean that we must express the very depths of who we are, what we have desired to be, what we have become. All these things are sifted out of us by pain. But as we live under the grace of God as His child, our name and our work and our personality will fit the pattern stamped on our souls by the God who made us.

The saint is not one who accepts suffering because he likes it. He is one who may well hate suffering as much as anybody else, but who so loves Christ, that he will allow His love to be proved by suffering. If we love God and love others in Him, we will be glad to let suffering destroy anything in us that God is pleased to let it destroy, because we know that all it destroys is unimportant. We will prefer to let the accidental trash of life be consumed by suffering in order that His glory may come out clean in everything we do.

If we love God, suffering does not matter. Christ in us, His love, His Passion in us: that is what we care about. Pain does not cease to be pain, but we can be glad of it because it enables Christ to suffer in us and give glory to His Father by being greater, in our hearts, than suffering would ever be.

A selected reading condensed from No Man is An Island by Thomas Merton, 1915-1968
Thomas Merton was a Trappist monk and a Catholic writer who authored 70 books.

Blogger's note: I do not really understand the meaning of suffering in a Christian's life. I have spent the past almost three years trying to make sense of it. I have done some reading by Catholic writers that have helped me more than anything else I have read. This is one such reading. I post this for myself, and perhaps others who are searching for meaning. I love that he understands the isolation of suffering. It is difficult to explain suffering to others. It is also difficult to explain it in a way that is healing. I give him credit for his insights and his courage to tackle the most difficult of all human subjects. He at least dares to venture into the unknown and I appreciate that very much.  I am still sorting it all out for myself, and likely will be for a very long time.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Disappearing Act

My wonderful pictures are disappearing from my blog after I post them. Do any bloggers out there know why this is happening? I need help...