Friday, June 6, 2014

*Thirsty

My youngest sister lived for several years in Colorado. While there, she wrote longingly of the bodies of water that she missed, rendering to them an almost human status. She spoke of the blue waters of our lake welcoming her, holding her, buoying her, embracing her. While I agreed with her on the necessity water to our existence, I really didn’t understand what she meant about the dryness of her soul that resulted from living so far from the sight, sound or influence of water.

Now I know. Although I never saw the ocean until I was quite old, I lived within easy distance of some lake, stream or river. New England is abundantly blessed with water, a liquid portion of the country, so as an adult I have almost always been near enough the ocean to at least see it or drive to it.

I remember our first experience actually living where I could see ocean every day. I think it was then that it became a necessary component to my “soul health”. From our front window was a vista of such changing and magnificent splendor that I rarely grew tired of gazing at it. I wasn’t a native, but I grew to enjoy the deep, almost cobalt blue of the Atlantic on a sun drenched morning; the churning green when the wind strove against it; the stormy gray of a late winter afternoon. I sensed a powerful presence and sweet peace just by being near it, or even looking at it from afar.

A move overseas to New Zealand in the 1990’s impressed on me the sheer magnitude of the Pacific and acquainted me with a variety of different waters. The Pacific proved a sensual, warm and sometimes pushy companion, while the Tasman was boisterous, even aggressive; colder and darker. Lake Taupo was a silent deep inscrutable place that seemed alluring yet aloof. These waters affected the daily weather patterns and general atmosphere of the area with a drenching, sometimes overwhelming presence.

For the last five years I lived close enough to a particular lake, the lake of my sister’s longing, to understand the connection between that body of water and her soul. Whenever I felt disturbed, needy or anxious, I found tranquility there by the lake. The lapping of the waves, the expanse of calm blue on a quiet morning, the smell of the water as I indulged in a canoe ride across the cove, the twilight call of the loons as the sun was setting, the solitude of a frozen winter there – these all lodged in my heart as rich and lustrous components of every day.

Now I have moved to the Midwest, a needful move but difficult. In seven months I’ve seen less than seven days of rain. The landscape of Oklahoma is as foreign as if I’d gone to Mars, and as just dry. Winter has enhanced that sensation with the grass a dull brown, the trees bare of leaves and the soil a rusty red color. The air lacks moisture so that even my husband, who has never had a problem, has dry skin. Getting up from our microfiber couch charges us enough that we might be able to power a small city. Did I already say that it’s dry?

We were heading south to visit family in Texas and I saw on the map that we were approaching the Canadian River. That sounded promising. Visions of a sparkling blue jolt of color through the forever brown filled me with anticipation. Perhaps a cacophony of white water tumbling over boulders awaited as we crossed the bridge. I think I actually slumped when I saw the pittance of meandering red-brown water that was barely more than a slick of mud. Maybe the ones who named it the Canadian River were ever hopeful.

I’ve read enough about the Dust Bowl to be profoundly thankful that conditions are much improved. Technically there is drought here, but not so severe as in years past. There is a mighty aquifer, the Ogallala, that stretches from South Dakota down through Texas. It supplies my drinking water, and that of almost everyone who lives in this High Plains area. I believe it’s there, however, I can’t see it unless I watch it come out of my tap. Somehow sitting by a bathtub of water will never compare with the powerful sense of calm and inspiration that comes from a sojourn beside my lake.

I fully understand now that thirst that seems to pervade the soul; the sense of longing for a glimpse of sparkling whitecaps, the sound of chuckling waves or the particular heady scent of a New England lake surrounded by pine, cedar and spruce trees. In our town here in Oklahoma there is a small man-made pond of limited proportions and tea-colored water. If I squint in the sunlight, it almost looks like…well, definitely not an ocean, but nearly a lake. I’m so dry…it will to do for now.

*This post first appeared on Mainecrimewriters.com as a guest blog.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Christmas Shoes

I was going to apologize for disliking a Christmas song, but on second thought, I'm not sorry.  When I first heard The Christmas Shoes, I cried (not good, I was driving) and I went home and told my husband about it. But then I thought...wait a minute...what?!

Did you ever actually listen to the words?  A little boy whose mother is dying is sent out by his father to buy her new shoes.  A possible scenario, but I doubt it.  Wait though, because it gets more complicated.  This little one, all alone doing his shopping, at night, doesn't have enough money!! What kind of a parent does that?  He's filthy dirty.  Why? His mother could die any minute and he's sent away.  Again, why?

The writer was obviously ratcheting the tear jerk factor extra tight.  This is a song written purely for an emotional reaction.  A rational person cannot listen to it without, at the very least, some pertinent questions.

I don't mean to hurt anyone's feelings, like the said writer of that song. (The song was #1 on the Adult/Contemporary chart in 2000, and has been made into a movie, so I don't feel too terrible.) But really, have we become so jaded and so cold, that we have to make up ridiculous stories to feel good about?

Isn't the truth of Christmas poignant enough? Do we need to do this to ourselves for the sake of "Christmas spirit"? 

This is the truth: we were dying, without hope of rescue. God, who had this idea all along, set in motion a plan to purchase our salvation.  He sent his son to mix with the dregs of humanity in a complex and daring (to me) mission. He was sent with everything he needed to complete his mission. He did what he needed to do, so we...so I, don't have to die. Little Mary, brave Joseph, baby Jesus. These very real historical figures bring tears to my eyes.


I am tenderhearted. I cried during Titanic, when Secretariat won his race, for the accomplishments of athletes and educators and at graduations. I get goosebumps when I hear the National Anthem, and I thrill to hear the laughter of my grandchildren. But if you see me dry-eyed during even the most heartfelt rendition of The Christmas Shoes, now you know why.

Friday, September 6, 2013

*Leaving Maine


The improbable has happened, just as it has to so many regardless of age, experience or tenure.  Russell, at age fifty-five, lost his job.  A neater, less personal way of explaining it: his position was eliminated.  But the cost to us – very personal and kind of messy.  Because he worked for a non-profit organization, we didn’t even have the miniscule advantage of unemployment benefits to fall back on while we floundered our way along on my part-time wages.

The end result is a bittersweet one.  He has a job now, doing what he loves and what he is supremely gifted for.  But that job is in Oklahoma.

I remember King Theoden’s words in the epic novel “The Two Towers” by Tolkien: “How has it come to this?” and I wonder (dramatically, I admit)the same for us. I try to temper my self-pity by calling to mind the myriad of people who have done this before us; gone where the work is.  But…well…it’s Maine we’re leaving. We will be joining the throngs of those who toil through the year, yearning for a few sacred weeks spent in the best state in the country.

I may be biased…well, I am biased.  I grew up in Maine, as did my husband, never appreciating it fully until we had to leave it.  We spent thirty years away; some of that time in one of the most beautiful countries on this earth, but still… we longed for Maine.  And for almost five blissful years, we were actual residents again. 

What is it that draws us?  The cool coastal waters and deeply shaded forests; the lakes set like gemstones in velvet; the peace of a starlit night away from any city; the cry of the loon that evokes some sense of the wild in us?  

Or is it the people – capable, independent, loyal, humorously self-deprecating?  Maybe it has to do with the food – fiddle heads, potatoes straight out of the Aroostook dirt, Whoopie Pies, fresh blackberries, or white perch and bass fresh from the lake. All of these, I guess, but also, for us Maine represents what is dear and familiar.  We have a history there that includes family, place and roots.


Everywhere that we've lived, I've come to see and love the beauty and the people of that place.  I have no doubt this will happen here in this vast Western landscape, given time.  But right now it’s September, the forecast is for 90° heat for the next ten days and Maine seems very, very far away.

*This piece was written about a week after moving to Oklahoma. I was obviously  homesick, and hot! See my other blog, Okay in OK, for posts about our adjustments and observations about our move.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Year 2012

Year 2012

We are still here!  The world hasn't ended, as predicted, but many things have changed!  How comforting to know that God is changeless and his faithfulness is great. 

Russell will be changing jobs.  Since finding out that his position as Stewardship Coordinator was being eliminated, he made the difficult decision to resign also from his position as Area Director for Africa/Europe with ACGC.  For many reasons he has decided to try to find work in this area, and didn't feel he would be able to find a job that would allow for the kind of dedication that position requires.  He also has been working with his brother, Ernest, to plant a new church in Big Lake Township and committed to be involved with that just before we learned of his job loss. So he's been back to school at Northeast Technical Institute and is waiting to take his final test to get his commercial driver's license.  He's had many opportunities to share his faith with his classmates and has found this to be a great blessing.  He did travel to Africa in May and had his best trip in seven years; productive, inspiring and instructive. 


I published a new book in October called Light Over Water.  My sister Sandy helped me with the cover design and it's available in both paperback and electronic form.  I have previous blogs with links for both.  About a year ago I finished writing my third book which was finalist in the Women of God Novel contest.  I'm not sure how this book will be published but I'm hoping for a new venue in the new year.  I've continued to work at Faith Family Health Care.  The majority of my work there involves insurance and billing and I love my co-workers and my job.  Since Barbie, my cohort, has semi-retired, I'm actually working four days per week now and have taken on some of her responsibilities too.

Peter has had a tough year with disappointments at two schools he tried to transfer too.  You may recall that just before Christmas last year he was moving to Michigan to go to school at University of Michigan.  They have a renowned business school.  His understanding when he went was that by going for a semester in the regular classes he stood a better chance of being accepted into the business school.  They decided to wait until he had transferred and was registering for classes to inform him that NO transfer student had ever been accepted into the business school.  Probably they were hoping he'd decide since he was there to enroll anyway.  But he didn't. We're thankful for two kind uncles in the area who helped him through Christmas and get back home! Then he was accepted at New York University provisional to passing one class he needed.  He went to New York City in the summer to take that class and didn't pass it.  So he's taking a break from school.  Actually he went to Northeast Technical School with Russell and is also working on getting his CDL.  His plan is to work for a couple of years to pay off his accumulated school debts, then resume his education. 


Emily and Chris lived with us for awhile this year while they were trying to find more permanent housing.  Several leads fell through, which was the Lord's protection - we know now!  They are renting the home right next to Emily's new place of work and continue to enjoy their life together.  She began working at Murray LaPlant & Sons, a trucking and logging company,in July and enjoys her position there.  They just learned that Chris needs some dental work done that will be pretty costly, so they're thankful that they're not trying to pay a mortgage and other housing expenses right now!

Ryan and their family visited in September and we had a lovely long visit with them.  We enjoyed the lake together with fishing, canoeing and campfires.  We played a lot of badminton and the girls and I worked on their sewing projects when I could get them to sit still long enough.  They are all doing well in home school.   Ryan has a permanent shift at his armed security job.  He and Crystal are both going to school; Ryan is working on a master's of divinity and Crystal continuing her EMT training.


Russell's mother, Joyce, also lived with us for some time in the spring after she broke her foot in a fall at her home in Florida.  We learned a month later that she also suffered a subdural hematoma in that fall.  She was hospitalized a couple of times but has fully recovered and is back in Florida.

Campmeeting this year was busy and happy with twenty-nine campers and more than twenty-two members of a work team that came from Stroudwater Christian Church to accomplish a work project in conjunction with campmeeting.  With the staff included, my sister Lois, brother Tim and I fed over eighty people each meal.  The work was finished, the campers enjoyed a great week and in November the tabernacle got a new roof - so great work was accomplished by the Lord's mercy!

As we look forward to new things in the new year, our prayer is that you will see the hand of God in your life: his faithfulness, his mercy and grace.  We're so grateful for where we are and what he allows us to do here.
Love from Noelle and Russell

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Yippee! Here's the link to my new book, Light Over Water,
in electronic form:http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009NJ7692#_
Please pass it on...thanks!


For those who want "a page turning real life book in my hands" (as my Mom says), here's the link to 
Light Over Water in softcover:
http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/3609364


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Year 2011

Our new screen door
Next year's wood
 Russell traveled around the US but didn't have to take a trip overseas this year.  He was scheduled to go to Eastern Europe but that trip was cancelled because of some difficulties in our churches there.  He's enjoyed some new power tools and tried his hand at some woodworking.  Our new screen door is one of the results.  In the summer he enjoyed snorkeling, presided over Big Lake Campmeeting, and we were able to enjoy some fishing and canoeing.  Recently he finished cutting and hauling all our wood for next winter.

Mud Room Floor
Living Room










Together we've continued renovations on our house.  We found out that our furnace was not going to last, so we made the switch from oil heat to electric in the spring.  With our wood stove this is a very economical and comfortable improvement.  We got our living room finished and painted the floor of the mud room.

I started working three days a week at Faith Family Health Care in March and having been pretty well trained in the billing and insurance end of the practice.  I enjoy my work there, but also have time to work on writing because of my schedule.  This year I worked with another author doing some editing work, and have also just finished my third book! I'm working with Sandy to publish my second one through Blurb.com, and am going to be looking for an agent for this third book. I had a great time cooking with my sister Lois and brother Tim at campmeeting.
Gracen, Naomi, Zoe 
We vacationed in Texas in November.  Our granddaughters continue to thrive and grow, and are the smartest and prettiest girls ever!  Ryan and Crystal and all suffered through a terribly hot and uncomfortable summer, but November was pretty nice!  Crystal finished her EMT course and is going on to finish Paramedic training.  Ryan is going to be starting school again also, working on his masters of divinity.  Gracen had her first piano recital while we were there.  Zoe has lost her barn doors, and Naomi had some minor surgery on her mouth but has recovered well.

Gracen's First Piano Recital
   Emily and Chris just celebrated their first wedding anniversary.  We love living so close to them!  Chris is a clever mechanic and helped us buy and fix up a Ford Explorer.  Emily started a new job in the summer at Calais Regional Hospital where she works in registration, on the switchboard and sometimes in the radiology department.  They love her sense of humor and her friendly manner.  Bear (our grandcat) is thriving.  He comes to visit us once in awhile!

Peter finished his first year at UMO with high marks.  He made it into the National Collegiate Honor Society and also received a nice scholarship from a business foundation in Texas.  He's doing well so far this fall.  He has transferred to the University of Michigan in hopes of ramping up his business academic record.  We miss him here!

Last canoe ride in October
12-22-11










The lake is frozen now and the campgrounds are quiet.  We feel privileged to be witness to this time of year that boasts its own unique enchantment and wonder.  We're thankful for the blessings of each day and pray you are seeing the hand of God in your own life.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Go Now (A Poem for Autumn)

Go now.  You
say there's nothing for you here -
but look - the black vault of sky,
the still earth preparing,
to hold for awhile,
its breath.

Go now.  You
see - it's only a slow fall,
revealing and baring
their stark and lovely forms,
to stand for a time,
unveiled.

Go now.  You
miss the iron rising,
bracing and shrouding over -
moon spilling to earth,
alike for these days,
in white.

Go now.  We
are swaddled, protected,
safe - and in wonder, sparing
no thought for the day,
we must, no doubt,
go too.