Monday, September 5, 2011

Orange Poppies

Orange Poppies

It's been a long time since I have written. Life just keeps happening and I am continually amazed at how much time can go by with lots of intents and never any follow through.

Been thinking of that young woman I originally dedicated this blog first born daughter, Sophie... and now my youngest girl is also married and so really do need to stay faithful to writing....because as time marches on....distance and busy lives can often keep us from really having heart to heart talks and I know being a young woman and a wife and a mother can be so overwhelming at times.

Orange Poppies is what comes to mind when I think of the first church we pioneered in Keizer Oregon back in 1991. Over 20 years ago and I still love orange poppies and am continually reminded of our first real convert, a beautiful Native American woman, Dawn Washington and her five children. Dawn had a wonderful spirit and teachable heart.

That little pioneer work, was a hard two years for us... that started with all four of our children and John catching the chicken pox. We had our share of hardships, self inflicted trials and demonic attacks, that included John falling asleep while driving home from work and almost being killed on Interstate 5 where he commuted everyday at 4am to Vancouver, Washington. After that accident he was laid off from work and we had to live off unemployment while he looked for a new job... all while we were struggling to build a congregation. It was the victory sapping humiliation of applying for food stamps, while ministering to new converts bound in poverty.

Everything that could go wrong, went wrong and yet It was also the year of orange poppies. I love those California poppies... the ones you see growing in empty lots and roadsides and near abandoned buildings. I remember them from my childhood when we lived in Northern California and I have always delighted in seeing them as they flourish with sunshiny bright citrus colors in the midst of rubbish and desolate, barren... hard as rock, gravel and dirt.

Dawn was an orange poppy. Her life was transformed in that short time we knew her and she thrived when we often felt like we had nothing to give her and she flourished despite our shortcomings and struggles and failures.... And because she loved Jesus ... she loved us.

God blessed us with a 1950's ranch home that was in need of work...a definite fixer upper with a huge fenced back yard and a landlord that charged a reasonable rent and even let us pay late. Their was much to be desired in that home, more problems then we knew how to keep up with, but we were surrounded by older couples whose children had grown and moved on with their lives....and they delighted in our children and they continually blessed us and kept an eye out for our babies.

Good days, bad days and lots of endless in-between days. I was often lonely and overwhelmed with raising four children under 8 years old. On top of everything else, my sister for a variety of reasons including an unsaved husband that hated the Potter's House churches.... finally decided to leave our mother church in Newberg and attend another church. This along with most of my family thousands of miles away and very few friends...was compounded by a miscarriage at three months pregnant and an emergency trip to the hospital because I was hemorrhaging.

Needless to say between exhaustion and loneliness, I was depressed. During that time, I often packed my three little girls in a bassinet stroller and with David marching along side me, through rain and sleet and snow...we walked everywhere and explored neighborhoods, and parks and libraries and vacant desolate fields where nothing grew but orange poppies. I read books, collected brightly colored plates and vases and kitschy fifties style ceramic birds and fishes from second hand shops. I wrote poems and sang my heart out and prayed at the top of my lungs and I let God heal me and deliver me of my past and childhood wounds and let Him transform my life.

The summer of our second year in Keizer, was a real disappointment and often our services included just us, our babies and our one crop of orange poppies... Dawn and her little troop of five children. I often took Dawn shopping as she didn't have a car and at times, John and I bought her groceries when we knew she was struggling as a single mom to make ends meet. Dawn and I had a number of conversations over those two years about God's kingdom as well as everyday things, like babies and art and homemaking.

One late sunny summer afternoon, I was sitting in that backyard and thinking about all we had struggled through. All I could see was that empty football field of a backyard and how little we had accomplished. Our church was struggling to grow, our medical debt was climbing and I was being harassed by a bill collector... my siblings back on the island were feuding about long forgotten childhood memories and violations....and I was tired, unsure of why we were giving our lives to a people we didn't know and in a land that wasn't ours...and I was mad at God but too deceived to admit it. I was struggling to pray, distracted and irritated... and then up drives Dawn Washington in her sister's van....

That late summer afternoon... Dawn dragged out of that van ... 8 or 10 .... maybe more... huge, overflowing, uprooted, roadside plants covered with orange poppies. She plopped those drooping flowers in my backyard and proceeded to dig up the barren dirt beside my fence and planted those sunshiny bright citrus orange poppies right where they my barren, empty, hardened, vacant soul.

She didn't know we were struggling with the idea of returning home....she didn't know we were discouraged or that I was lonely and depressed.... She simply saw an opportunity to express her eternal gratitude for what God had done in her life and for our willingness to come to a barren empty field like Keizer and plant a seed of hope in her heart. Dawn had no idea what her elaborate, gracious act of kindness and gratitude meant to me that day.... but that day... God smote my heart with his tender mercies and I cannot see an orange poppy without being reminded of Gods love and concern and I can not see an orange poppy without thinking of her.

I wrote the following poem during that time of struggle and I dedicate it to my daughter Sophie... I pray your life be filled to overflowing with orange poppies and you always see Gods hand in your life and His smile in your children's eyes. You are greatly loved sweetheart and I am not only terribly proud of you but so honored that God continues to use our lives through our children. Just think of all the barren desolate lives you have touched... You are surrounded by the fruit of your labors ... Not in well manicured lives and polished neighborhoods but in the abandoned roadsides and discarded lives that you and John touch everyday.

Jesus was There

With the touch of a hand, in a sisters smile, in a look and a hug, in the eyes of a child.
He was There and He knows after all these years.
He knows that I cry when no one can hear.
He was there. My Lord was There.

In a brothers laughter, a child's face, in a look and a hug, in a sisters embrace. In the touch of a hand, in a fathers smile, in a word, and a hug in the eyes of a child.

Through the smile of a friend, in mama's hug, in a look in a word in a child's love. He is there and I know I can still feel the pain, and sometimes there's days of mud and rain.
But He is there. He's always there.

In a hug, in a word, in a husbands smile, in a look, in a touch, in the eyes of a child. In a prayer, in the dark, on the night I cried. In a heart, in a life, in this child's eyes. Through the smile of a friend, in mama's hug, in a look, in a word, in my child's love.

He is there. Jesus is always there.