Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Part Four. . Reflections on Retirement After 20 Years

2008 - 2012

In 1999, I had the joy of meeting a man who had been my mentor for many years as a writer and a soul-traveler in the world of chronic illness. Tim Hansel ( You’ve Gotta Keep Dancin’ ) and his wife, Anastasia, had moved from their home in southern California to his childhood home in Seattle, Washington to care for his bedridden mother. We met. We all fell in love with each other! Tim’s abundant passion for his Lord and for choosing joy in spite of living in excruciating chronic pain for 25 years (at that time), left an imprint -- or as he would say, a Him-print --  on me and countless other lives he touched. 

I bring the Hansels into these reflections as they exemplify to the maximum people who are friends of the heart -- not an occasional passer by -- but deeply tuned in friends who we need in our lives at all times and especially during the tough times.

The Hansels moved back to California in 2006, after Tim’s mother died. We kept in close touch. Anastasia has had some occasions to fly to Seattle and she sleeps on my couch when she is in town. When I was slowly getting my life back and she was in town, she scrubbed my kitchen, bathroom, and ironed my shower curtain all out of the love and the joy of giving. Friends of the heart are also practical! Along with her ever encouraging words to me, she helped me to see with her eyes what I was unable to see with my own. Though set apart and isolated most of the time within my four walls, she believes I am doing more from my couch than many folks out and running around helter-skelter. She dubbed me, Couch Ministries. She on the other hand, crowned herself, Run Around Ministries. I would add that she is accomplishing quality encounters as she goes!
Tim and Anastasia Hansel - Seattle - 2000

I’ve mentioned Rest Ministries in past postings. My friend, Mary Lou, suggested in 2008 that I write devotionals for that ministry. I had been receiving them daily for years. I submitted some work and was asked to join the online writing staff. The people I have met from my couch  have changed my life: their courage, their stories, their inspiration. To combat extra dizziness when using my laptop computer, I have to lie down on my couch to take the pressure off of my head. I have worn out one couch ( my friend, Anastasia, reminds me ) and am on my way to wearing out my second one!

Over the past 3 and one half years I have compiled some of my writings into a manuscript along with my photos that image the message in each text. I am seeking publication but part of this writing journey took me to southern California. In 2010, I took yet another step in faith when I attempted air travel for the first time since the events of 2005. A major remodel of my apartment required that I be out of it for one month. A few places where I hoped to stay in my area did not work out. I called Anastasia who said, “What time can I pick you up at the airport?” 

Tim had died in 2009 but I sat on his couch in their home amidst many of the loving mementos that had been a part of his earthly life. I worked on my manuscript knowing that his inspiration was still making a Him-print in my life. It is not the book we had hoped to write together. Then again, it may just be!
Hansel Home - September, 2010 - Southern California

A noteworthy friend re-entered my life in 2005 after years of our being out of touch. He, as a heart friend, holds a place all his own deep in my life, one of God’s treasures to me. He was broken in spirit as he gradually came to know of particular events in my life. It got us to sharing, in our writings to each other, of God and hope and how one keeps trusting when life has not worked out according to our plans. We shared of other things, as well. He  encouraged me to get back to my writing and, gradually, I was able to do that. A few years into our correspondence, he opened up about significant pain in parts of his own life. 

Soul connections and heart connections go deep. Unconditional love can take time to receive when one has never experienced it before. What a glorious gift it is to both give and to receive it, to find oneself turned in to somebody loved. We carry this mutual connection, thankful to God who ordained the timing of when and how it evolved. Our prayers continue daily for one another’s needs, hopes, and the acceptance of what cannot be changed. They are wrapped up in prayer kites -- his term -- that we launch into the skies and right into God’s embrace until the time when He reveals His answers.

Thank you for walking with me through my post-retirement musings and some life events. I end these ocean meditations, from a couch here in Oregon, with thoughts of not only the friends literally mentioned in these blog entries, but many others who brighten my life and who inspire me to look forward to what God will be doing beyond this milestone year. 

May you each know the joys of being somebody loved, by the God who holds each one of us close if we let Him, and by those He places in our lives to help us draw closer to the image of Him. Him-prints -- may we leave them wherever we journey. They are written in the covenant He has given to us. 

Grab one and share it as you love someone today!
Beth Nielsen Chapman

Click on song title to hear song. . .Lyrics below the photo

Life has taught me this
Every day is new
And if anything is true
All that matters
When we're through
Is how we love

Faced with what we lack
Some things fall apart
But from the ashes new dreams start
All that matters to the heart
Is how we love

How we love
How we love
From the smallest act of kindness
In a word, a smile, a touch

In spite of our mistakes
Chances come again
If we lose or if we win
All that matter in the end
Is how we love

How we love
How we love
I will not forget your kindness
When I needed it so much

Sometimes we forget
Trying to be so strong
In this world of right and wrong
All that matters when we've gone

All that mattered all along
All we have that carries on
Is how we love

Monday, August 27, 2012

Part Three. . .Reflections on Retirement After 20 Years

2005 - 2008

Journal Entry - August 1, 1992
“. . .I don’t know what lies ahead but I know that You hold it and me in the palms of your hands, ready to give abundantly when I am ready to receive.”

I have rallied from many set backs during these 30 years with vestibular dysfunction. I was not prepared for the depth of the set back that befell me in May, 2005

For background, I take you to July, 2003 and a referral to a neurologist having success working with vertigo patients. He shared his victory stories. He outlined the steps and stages it would take, possibly two years. I prayed and was open to risk trying one more road to healing.

In August, 2003, I started work with a physical therapist. Her goal was to realign internal areas in my body, twisted from the 20 year struggle to maintain my balance. I saw her once every three weeks. I checked in with the neurologist every eight weeks. I would share how I was feeling weaker and weaker. Both said I was doing great, give it more time. 

In May of 2005, my body literally collapsed, The compensating mechanisms I had been using for twenty years had been realigned to a point where I had no crutches to rely on. I came to find out that the physical therapist had never worked with a vertigo patient. She believed she was doing the right treatment for what she diagnosed. My only means to try and get counsel was to make phone calls. The neurologist had nothing to offer and took no responsibility for what had occurred.

Where was God, the God I had prayed to as I entered in to this healing plan? Where was God, the God of the blessings you just read about in Part  Two of these Reflections After Retirement postings? He had not left me. He asked me to dig down deeper to where He was at work within me. 

The first work was to forgive the neurologist for his negligence. That negligence covered more areas than I’ll waste time mentioning here. That was done. My church community? They offered to pray for me and hoped I’d hurry back soon. No one came to pray with me. No one brought casseroles. Another work of forgiveness was needed there! 

I did seek practical help. Thank yous to the women in my prayer group  who worked out a monthly schedule for what turned out to be the following 7 months. They did my weekly grocery shopping using a list I compiled and brought a few meals. I accessed community help to supplement with Meals on Wheels. 

It took weeks, but very slowly, just as I had done with learning to look at a computer screen, I was able to walk from my apartment unit to the mail box. A trusted osteopath referred me to a colleague of hers who did acupuncture. More thank yous to a few faithful friends who came to take me to appointments. I made progress from walking to the mailbox to being able to ride in a car. 

Nine months of acupuncture, every three weeks ( 8/05 -  5/06 ) had no measurable effects. A therapy group for individuals with TBI ( Traumatic Brain Injury ) offered their help after an evaluation determined I fell into the category for the kind of help they give. With sets of home exercises to do, I eventually found myself whirling into vertigo attacks with those efforts ( 6/06 - 10/06 ). They dismissed me from their program but referred me to a neurologist/osteopath. She felt confident she could help (so did I) and efforts were made (10/06 - 11/07) to no avail. 

Though praying about each of the above involvements and feeling hope-filled, I came to the conclusion that I was to be in God’s rehab program. Together we would work in His time and on His timetable to bring restoration. I am grateful for the progress made.Though not back to where I was before May of 2005, I am not where I was when I collapsed that same month. 


5/05 I cancelled the Oxbridge trip. A friend who did attend, arranged for flowers to be sent to me the opening day in Oxford and the opening day in Cambridge. I have made friends for the journey among my C.S. Lewis companions.

5/05 A manuscript I had been diligently working on for five years was put on the shelf. Only now am I able to take it down and revisit the work that has remained a passion. I have more to bring to it after these seven years.

1/06 I was able to walk into a grocery store without going into a vertigo spinning attack. Very slowly, I attempted the .3 mile drive from my apartment parking lot to the grocery store across the street. I could once more do my own grocery shopping! 

3/07 I asked my neighbor if I cold ride to church with her. The church is 1 mile from my apartment. Within a few months, I had the confidence to drive there on my own.

7/07 I was able to drive to Seattle (18 miles from my home). A next level of independence was accomplished.

10/07 I joined the women’s Bible study group at the church. One more step!

6/08 I celebrated my 65th birthday during an evening study with this group.

Along these miles of months, many friends came alongside me to help. Adequate thank yous will never be enough to convey my appreciation for the input of love they poured into my life. And to my God who guided and never forsook me, our relationship and walk was never in jeopardy!

How do you measure, a year in the life?

How about love?
How about trusting the One who is Love?
How about surrendering to a plan beyond what I may ever know?
Yes, that is how I am measuring my life.
In His time, each song I have been asked to  sing, will be a lovely thing!

Click on the title below for this message in song!  

“He has made everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11a).

. . .next . . . Couch Ministries is being birthed. . .

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Part Two . . .Reflections on Retirement After 20 Years

1992 - 2005

Journal Entry - August 1, 1992
“The sun is out! I am sitting at a picnic table with the ocean roaring, ebbing, flowing below. I can smell that unmistakable fresh saltiness of ocean air. Praise You, Lord, for your Creation. Thank You for bringing me here -- not only here to the Oregon coast and your ocean -- but here to this time in my life. I don’t know what lies ahead but I know that You hold it and me in the palms of your hands, ready to give abundantly when I am ready to receive.”
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?

In daylights, in sunsets
In midnights, in cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife
In five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, a year in the life?
Jonathan Larson - from his musical, Rent 

How can I encapsulate the wonder of my experiences during these 20 years? Without dwelling on every step being taken while in constant dizziness, let me get past that reality and concentrate on what God helped me to do in spite of this condition. Yes, there were countless medical tests, evaluations and therapies accessed with none leading to any resolve. Besides these times and when not in set backs, I embraced the following joys, among others. These are highlights.

How do you measure, a year in the life?

 I am going to “measure some years” 
as they lie within the fabric of a few of my favorite tee-shirts! 

 I remained active in Alpha Delta Kappa, an international honorary organization for women educators. Besides involvement with my local chapter and work on state committees, there were opportunities to travel to a few conventions. I got to Nashville, TN and Toronto, Ontario in Canada.Toronto was close enough to New Hampshire that I spent a week  with dear friends in Hanover after the convention. Naturally, I checked out Dartmouth college’s bookstore. Along with great memories, some books  and a tee-shirt were packed into my suitcase to bring home!

Although I got my BA degree in Education from the University of Washington, I had a double major in Drama with a focus in Children’s Theater. Live theater and musical theater has always been a passion for me. Thus, I make note of  times I have shared with friends and family finding joy in attending the theater.

Les Misérables

Crazy for You

My life changed for the better when, in 1972, I read C.S. Lewis for the first time. The book was Mere Christianity. More of his books followed throughout these years ( a bookcase full )!  Seattle Pacific University has been acclaimed for its C.S. Lewis Institute. For many years of summers the institute presented a month long course on Lewis’ life and works. I had attended free lectures during some of those summers. After I retired, I had the time to attend the course. How fortunate I waited. In 1998, the one-hundredth anniversary of Lewis’ birth, SPU presented this course as a study tour to England -- specifically Oxford and Cambridge. I was in. I was in for more than I could have ever imagined.

                                This tee-shirt has traveled many a mile and place with me! 

The Narnia Window
  Holy Trinity Church - Headington, Oxfordshire

I learned of the C.S. Lewis Foundation. This group had purchased the home where Lewis had lived: The Kilns  Over the course of ten summers, with volunteer help, the home was restored to an elegant circa 1950 look. It is being used as a study and resource center. In 2001, they held their first summer study week. Along with 7 other participants I was blessed to be in that group. staying there for the week, filled with informal lectures, fellowship, lots of touring about, and fun!

Lynn peeking out of the dining room window at the Kilns!

The timing of this event was an added  blessing, coming just months after my mother’s death. I stayed on in Oxford after the study week for another two weeks. I rested and browsed the city. I journaled and let God help me walk out some unfamiliar but necessary steps. 

Triennially, the C.S. Lewis Foundation organizes and presents an Oxbridge conference -- one week in Oxford, one week in Cambridge. Each conference has a different theme. The conference attracts those who admire Lewis' faith, works, and scholarship. I attended the conference in 2002. I was scheduled to return to Oxbridge 2005. That was not to be.

Two more highlights to go!

 Reaching my 60th Birthday - 2003

My step-sister, Nina said we needed to do something really special for this important event. With her excellent research and planning, I headed, first, to her home in Arizona to spend a few days with her family. Then it was sister time in Las Vegas with our end purpose to see Celine Dion in concert. All goals were joyfully met and never to be forgotten.

With the Wichmans in Tuscon: Jake, Glenn, Caleb, Lynn, and Nina

This remains my favorite photo  of me with Jake and Caleb.

Sharing in Central Park  at the New York! New York! Hotel in Vegas

Have SPU tee-shirt, will travel! 

May, 2004

The only time I have been to Hawaii was for my niece, Tracy’s wedding to Jeff. They were married on the beach in Maui. Her father, my twin brother, David and I were able to attend as were a few other family members and friends. David and I stayed on for a week to enjoy more of this area.

Lynn with nieces, Tracy and Kelly in Maui

Tee-shirt from Napili Shores Gazebo Restaurant

Lynn with brother, David -- Maui Airport

How do you measure, a year in the life?

How about love?

Yes, I'll measure it in love!

August 9, 1992 - Yachats, Oregon - Journal Entry
“I love you, Lynn.”
“I love you, too, Lord”

August 25, 2012 - Yachats, Oregon - Journal Entry
“I love you, Lynn.”
“I love you, too, Lord.”

. . . then came 2005. . . more reflections to come

Monday, August 20, 2012

Reflections on Retirement After 20 Years - Part One

Twenty years ago (1992), I took an early retirement option that was offered to Washington state employees. It was a decision bathed in God’s peace. Given my own decision making skills and deep love for my career, I’d still be sitting at the desk in my elementary classroom wondering if this teacher should or shouldn’t close up her lesson plan books after 27 years. The reality in question was a 9 year battle (at that time) with vestibular dysfunction (constant dizziness and flare ups of internal vertigo). That condition still exists. God’s peace to retire in 1992 is one place I often return when the longing for that career gets strong.

The option came quickly - April of that year. The transitioning to the new held many questions. After all was packed up and moved out, goodbyes and hugs given and received, I headed to the Oregon coast that summer to ponder my life. I have returned to the same spot this year and am writing this blog entry as I do some reflecting post these twenty years that seem to have gone by in the blink of an eye. 

In 1992, my Mom (Maggie) helped me to load up my car for the journey to the coast. At that time, she lived in a different unit in the same apartment complex where I live.

This year, I slipped my laptop computer into the lovely leather satchel that she had given me as a retirement gift. She knew I was going to pursue writing in my retirement years. I would be easing out of focused curriculum writing for my school district and, at times, for the state of Washington, to concentrate on inspirational writing. Whenever I carry the satchel, I carry her with me and her hopes for the fulfillment of my writing goals.

In 1992, I could not look at a computer screen without spinning out into a vertigo attack. 
In 2000, I was given a used computer by my step-sister, Nina and her husband, Glenn. Cautiously, seconds by seconds, minutes by minutes, over months, God helped me to desensitize to the triggers the flickering screen and visual tracking can bring. It took me spinning out and landing on the floor a few times, but together we got there! I now can work at a computer as long as the screen is small, and I am careful not to overdo.

Post 1992, as my Mom began to have health problems, I was near to help without my teaching career challenging me to divide my attention. I was with her in 2001 when she died from complications after a massive stroke.

This year as I drove south for my time at the ocean, a place that my Mom loved with a passion, I was thinking of the amazing sunsets that she, as an accomplished artist, painted. I believe that God has put her in charge of touching up the sunset skies when He wants to really show off!  I put in my order for some beauties while I am here in Oregon. Sure enough, my first night, this one appeared.

August 19, 2012 - Yachats, Oregon

Because I unpacked my computer, pulling it out of the lovely leather satchel that still holds my my mother’s love, I was able to import the photo to the computer for me to see and for you to enjoy! 

This is just the beginning of a week where I will be reflecting, resting, thanking God for so much that has happened during these twenty years - both the good and the challenging. 

The ocean waters ebb and flow. Each sunrise is the promise of a new day full of possibilities. Each sunset is its ending when we can give thanks for the gift of one more day. If you should find a sunset brightening your eventide, you can thank God and Maggie!