Margie Hord

Expat by Default

Category: Meditations (page 1 of 2)

Blind Curve: Expect the Unexpected

“Blind curve ahead, trail users exercise extreme caution”, says the sign. True, there are bushes in the way and you can’t see what might hit you if you don’t stay on the right side. Joggers don’t want to smash into speeding bikes, or vice versa! There might be other joggers, skateboarders, or even a coyote or bobcat… The asphalt trail is also open to maintenance vehicles, which would be more dangerous indeed. Caution is a must.

I’d never seen such warnings on a trail before, but I had run into them on highways plenty of times. All the same, it’s pretty obvious you shouldn’t switch lanes on a two-lane road when you can’t see whether traffic is coming in the opposite direction!

In the case of the road or path, a blind curve is a warning sign in itself, telling us to prepare to avoid an undesirable accident.

A curve in an asphalt road in the mountains

But what about those blind curves in life? Don’t you wish there were warning signs? A lot of times it doesn’t happen. Bam! You run right into things like “It’s cancer”, or “He up and died”, or “She left me”. Just in case, should we always “stay in the right lane”? It helps, but doesn’t guarantee zero accidents. Continue reading

Reflecting on How to Answer When Told “You’re a Strong Person”

When my husband passed away after 36 years of marriage, several friends encouraged me with the words “You’re a strong woman!” In other words: “You can handle this.” Much as I was thankful for their trust in me, more than once I answered: “I’m weak, but I have a strong God!”

Strength Doesn’t Appear by Magic

When friends face tragedies, a common response is to console them by exhorting them, “Be be strong; have faith.” But strength and faith aren’t resources we can drum up as if by magic. They aren’t innate in us; the truth is that they grow in the middle of challenging experiences. In the long run, I’ve found, my true strength is God-given.  Continue reading

From Mourning to the Morning Light

“O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?” These words came to mind as the sun and wind caressed me there in the cemetery. Not in traditional mourning garb, I wore a long, loose white native “huipil” with small colored designs woven into it, one my husband had loved. The workers had begun the long process of filling the grave, as off and on friends sang beloved hymns and choruses of hope.

Just one day after my life companion took off on a new journey, I was overwhelmed by the loss, but at the same time upheld by those “everlasting arms”, sensing the freedom that Refugio’s soul now enjoyed.

It was the rainy season, and in the afternoons a downpour was almost inevitable, but my heavenly Father cared enough to make that day different and the sun shone gloriously.

Divine “coincidences”

There had been innumerable “divine coincidences” that had come together to cushion the blow. Knowing that my husband’s health was fragile with a chronic disease, I had asked if he thought I could visit my aging mother, for those last years can be so unpredictable. He felt he could get by without me, so the long-distance tickets were bought… and not long afterwards my Mum passed away! The memorial service was set for a few weeks later, when I had already planned to be there.

Two weeks after my return, our daughter and family arrived from afar, by surprise. Their presence was so special and perfectly-timed. “Pa” decided to leave us the day before their departure was programmed, just a month after my arrival. Well, our heavenly Father had his hand in it, of course, and they changed their tickets to be with me for the funeral.

These incidences and more have helped to bring rainbows to my life as the sun– and the Son– shine through the tears.

Person waering neutral colors walking through a field of wheat

Only Smiles?

This week I shared a Scottish poem someone had posted in social media about losing a loved one but instead of crying, smiling with the memories of their life. It seemed appropriate. Then a friend commented, “Doesn’t the author accept the reality of grief?”

He’s right. Denying the reality of sorrow, in fact, the need for grieving, is hurtful in the long run. It may mean pushing down those feelings that are natural, real, profound. Releasing those emotions in the form of tears is part of the healing process.

Even so, the glimpses of light filtering through the darkness are more frequent, I believe, when you can cling to the Easter message of resurrection. This is not the end. This life is, in fact, only the Shadowlands, as C.S. Lewis called it, where we prepare for true Life.

Lessons on Mourning from the Word

  • Mourning and grief are an integral part of this fallen world, with the inevitability of death. I am always touched by the tears Jesus shed upon the death of his friend Lazarus. Surely he, who promised eternal life and indeed was LIFE, knew the end of the story. Still, he understood pain. At the same time, he showed there could be victory over death when he raised Lazarus from the dead… a foretaste of his own more permanent resurrection.
  • Two people in mourning or grieving on a couch in a living room

 

 

  • God is with us in the process, and can show us “the light at the end of the tunnel”. Much as there may seem to be no end to our pain, there is hope:

 

You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
    You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,”

 

  • The “nighttime” is real; the weeping should be allowed to wash the soul. There is a “morning” ahead:

 

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

  • It is natural to mourn, and it is a time in which our presence is most needed… much more than words. Even crying with them is identifying with their loss.

 

Mourn with those who mourn”.

 

  • Those of us who are people of faith do not make light of grief, much as we hold a hope beyond this life’s sorrow.

       “Godly men… mourned deeply for him.”

 

The day of the funeral, I was able to catch a glimpse of the light beyond the grave. In the days following, there have been tears, often at unexpected times. Friends have been a strength, as has been God’s Word. Joy is not a stranger, however, and is richer now that it can be sensed in counterpoint to the grief.

May you who mourn… find there is “joy in the morning”!

Spring in Narnia… Will it Ever Come?

Snow in April… and even up through April 20! This year, jokes and groans abounded in northern climes as March 21 came and went with no sign of what is known of as spring. Easter, for some, meant Easter egg hunts in the snow.

Those who still hoped for its arrival felt like unrealistic dreamers. My son in Canada posted sarcastic comments about the joys of yet another snow-shoveling adventure ahead as he repeated the mantra, “It’s spring!” I had hoped that upon my April visit such weather would be long gone.

Not a few fellow-sufferers made reference to living in Narnia, where “it’s always winter but never Christmas”, as lamented Mr. Tumnus, of C.S. Lewis’s classic “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”.

Close-up of a lion staring off into the distance with rocks in the background

In Narnia it had been winter for “ever so long” since it had been under the spell cast by the wicked White Witch. The beloved lion and “true King” Aslan had been banned from its territory and his followers were constantly at risk. As his return was hastened, the dripping of melting snow increased as a sign of the coming “spring at last”.

On April 21—a month after “spring” was official– sunny skies returned to Quebec after what seemed like “ever so long”, blue interspersed with clouds. Today, one day later, the sun was truly in control of glorious cloudless skies. The clumps of snow remaining in yards and roadways have gradually begun to melt away. The weather beckoned us to walk; even without gloves, we could feel the blood still warming our fingertips.

Soon, everyone hopes against hope, buds will swell on the tips of trees. Cheerful crocuses, like the handful that surprised us today, with their purples and whites, will push through the ground. Spring rain will further soften the earth to make way for what should be reality: “April showers bring May flowers”.

In church today, this message suggested by nature was echoed by the worship leader, who reminded us that as Christians we are those who ever hope for Spring: for God’s total redemption, for Christ’s second coming, for the final defeat of sin and evil. Of course, we know they were defeated on the Cross, although their presence was not yet banned.

Earth has been under the spell of the Evil One ever since the Fall. The initial blow was dealt with Christ’s coming, but we look forward to the final victory.

Spring is coming.

King Aslan is coming…

Christ is coming!

Jogging: Lessons for the Spirit

Walking alone down a foggy country road

It’s cold out today! Am I getting a sniffle? Do I really need to do this?

I drag myself out of bed, try to overcome the excuses, and pull on my jogging clothes. After a few minutes outside, my attitude has changed. The bracing air wakens my mind. The pink clouds make me wonder at each day’s new artwork. Trees, birds and flowers delight the eye, as well. My heart, lungs, and muscles thank me for the chance to pump and stretch more.

Others have hit the trail as well. Most joggers pass me by; I am tempted to feel that my pace is inadequate. Sometimes I slow to a walk. No one will be impressed, but in the end… I did it! And when I return, reenergized, it’s hard to believe I faced this as a chore. Still, it’s a challenge to do this regularly, as I know I should.

Surely I’m not the only reluctant jogger. Similarly, I doubt I’m alone in struggling at times with my “spiritual disciplines”. Perhaps even the phrase is inadequate, too harsh, or too legalistic.

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Several waterfalls cascading down in a tropical forest

When I was single, I had the adventure of a lifetime, at least for me at that point in my life. Sarah, a woman of perhaps 70 years of age, was heading to Colorado from North Dakota, and since I needed a ride south, she invited me along. She was such a free, loving spirit! It was fun learning to drive her small RV. The highlight of our journey was a drive through the rolling Black Hills of South Dakota and a visit to the towering monument of Mount Rushmore. As we left, I confessed to Sarah, “I’d like to come here for my honeymoon!” Sarah laughed, and said, “You don’t need a honeymoon as an excuse to come back!” She had never been married, but that didn’t stop her from doing what others might relegate to “someday”.

Most of us have a mental list of things we’d like to do… one of these days. When we find the time, we’ll drop in on some of those lonely elderly friends. Perhaps when we retire, we can volunteer to build houses for Habitat or go visit the Iguazu Falls in South America. Then there’s “Someday I’d like to write a book”. But those things are so relegated to “the land of maybe” that they never happen.

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Faith Fights Fear

The cooking fires had been put out and only the omnipresent, acrid smell of smoke remained. Bright moonlight fell on the huts of a tiny community in southern Mexico, and filtered through the cane walls. From time to time, the mournful howl of a dog sounded, breaking the silence.

Stretched out on my rustic cot in a sleeping bag, protected by a mosquito net, I awaited, unable to sleep. At any moment I knew the peaceful scene would become, for me, one of terror. Little by little, the scurrying of feet in the rafters and the squealing of invisible creatures began to torment me.

Days beforehand, one of them had tasted the split-open, poisoned squash we had left out; the next day we found its body outside on the path. Its companions, with their surprising instinct, no longer approached the mouth-watering bait.

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Food: ‘Tis a Gift to be Simple

Resultado de imagen para comal

If I ask, “What’s your favorite food?”, some people will conjure up images of elaborate dishes that are prepared for special celebrations. Others, however, may reply with something amazingly simple.

It’s pretty hard to come up with a single answer. I used to say “lasagna”, which I occasionally make but find somewhat painstaking. Those noodles always tear apart on me, for example. At least now it’s possible to find the pre-cooked kind. The variety of cheeses, the color and texture of spinach, when included, the tomato or white sauce and its condiments, all blending in with the simplicity of pasta are a delight to the senses.

A dish from central Mexico that fascinates me is “chiles en nogada”, stuffed poblano chiles in walnut sauce. Their confection involves chopping up a variety of fruits as well as almonds. The sauce itself is a challenge to make from scratch, from soaking fresh walnuts to peeling off the skin, famously leaving one’s hands darkened. Some recipes include goat cheese and white wine. The peeling of the chiles and removing their seeds and veins is painstaking, as is beating egg whites and dipping them in batter for frying.

All the same, isn’t simple food wonderful, as well? Who can resist the smell, the taste and texture of warm bread, shortly after it is popped from the oven? With or without butter melted on it, this is the staff of life, and our whole being says, “Yes!”

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65 Years Young

A white old woman wearing a sweatshirt and circular earrings smiling.

In 1875, age 50 was defined as old by the Friendly Societies Act in Britain. Now, the World Health Organization has declared that 65 is still considered young. After that, until the age of 79, people are “middle-aged”. Times have changed.

Though I recently turned 65,  in many ways I feel better than I did in my 20’s. Back then I struggled with my weight and seldom got much exercise. In addition to that, there were insecurities about my appearance, my timid nature, my future… and more. Now my weight has been pretty stable for years, and I’ve been getting out to jog and walk more. I’ve gotten to accept the effects of aging on my body (aka wrinkles, spots and sags), and have been fortunate not to have any major physical complications. Besides that, I have a decent network of friends, which I’m told is an important aspect of emotional health.

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Cupcakes and Cash

Homemade chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting and rainbow sprinkles

It’s my granddaughter’s turn to raise money for her sixth grade science camp. Her brother faced that challenge two years ago, and collected gazillions of bottles and cans to exchange for money. He even finished way before the deadline!

Let’s call my girlie “C”. She likes cooking, so has made cupcakes and sometimes jellos to offer the neighbors. The deadline is all too soon, and this time it was my privilege to give her a hand with preparing her goodies. As might be predicted in a kitchen that’s not my own, things didn’t go all that smoothly. I didn’t realize the stove went off when the timer dinged, so the second batch of cupcakes wouldn’t rise and took forever to cook… till I realized my mistake. Those guys were mostly edible, but not winners.

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