Receiving God’s Bear Hug in Las Vegas, Nevada

Little girl in purple shorts and t-shirt bends over with blue shovel to find shells.
We “planted” shells in Vegas.

My birthday milestone was an excuse for a family reunion. I pictured three generations enjoying a Florida beach and gathering seashells. Can you hear the screech of protest tires? Here’s how we ended up in Las Vegas.

Florida to Las Vegas Is a Long Tale Trail

One family member: “Florida is too far. We can’t take off that much time.”

Me: “I understand. So, how about somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, close to home?”

Silence.

An aerial view of snow-covered mountains under a deep blue sky.
Rocky Mountains in March–Brrr.

And then from another loved one: “Remember the altitude sickness and migraine headaches I had the last time we visited Colorado?”

Yes, I remembered.

What to do? Our memory-making destination needed to be reachable for all, at sea level, and affordable.

How About?

Eight-year-old girl is in sand along a tropical pool with palm trees.
Just give me a pool!

“How about Las Vegas?” I was thinking cheap airfare, food, and lodging; sunshine; and low altitude. Just give me a pool!

At first, came the sound of silence again.

Then, one by one, adults offered unanimous approval.

Two girls in shallow water with sand shovels in their hands.
Happiness is warm water, sand and sunshine.

Last month, our family of nine gathered in Las Vegas to celebrate my birthday three months ahead of schedule. We found a family resort with no casinos. Lovely Tahiti Village even offered a lazy river for tubing, sandy beach, and pool.

God’s Bear Hug

My birthday cup was full, I thought, and then I was bear hugged by God right in The Venetian!  Let me tell you there is no greater experience than a God hug, and I wish I could transfer one to you, but that’s not how it works. He’ll deal with you as is fitting on his timetable. But here is my hug experience:

A six-year-old girl poses in front of an iron railing by canal water, Italian store fronts and a cloudy faux blue sky.
A little of Venice at The Venetian

Part of The Venentian is a mall called The Grand Canal Shoppes. The stores look like Venice nestled along a canal complete with gondola rides under a faux, but tasteful, blue sky. It is probably the closest I will come to the real thing, and the granddaughters and I wanted to do it.

The family split into two groups.

Gondolier stands in boat waving while one grandpa waves, his granddaughter smiles, his daughter takes a photo and her boyfriend laughs. All in the Gondola.
Four members of the tribe with Gondolier Luca from NYC, who sang “That’s Amore.”

Potty Break. No! Two Potty Breaks!

My group included favorite daughter-in-law and the three- and six-year-old granddaughters. Just as we were getting into the roped off line the six-year-old winced and whispered: “I have to go to the bathroom.”

The two of us hoofed it and returned to our group. Then, the three-year-old was holding her crotch plaintively.

Not sympathetically, I said, “You’ll have to hold it.”

Her little face melted me, and I pleaded,  “Can you hold it?”

“She can’t,” said Mom.

We got out of line. The gatekeeper was understanding.

By the time we were back with empty bladders we were assigned gondolier Francesca, from Naples, Italy.

Francesca, the Gondolier from Naples

 

Francesca!

Her accent gilded the glide down faux Venice. Francesca was so sweet to the children, even singing an Italian nursery song. Translation, she said: “Papa, I have to go pee pee.”

A little girl and her mom sit happily in a gondola.
Enjoying the ride with lots of smiles

As our gondola entered a circle of water in a holding area, I noticed the Japanese woman at the railing snapping photos of us. The sunset’s window light did create a soft glow, I thought.

And then, suddenly I was spiritually bear hugged. I felt total love, total peace. All was well. And all is well. I was in a thin space between heaven and earth. Time seemed irrelevant. Love embraced everything. I was teary-eyed from this surprising birthday touch from God. No words can capture the experience, but it was very good and too quickly over.

“Happy Birthday, Grandma!” declared the six-year-old.

In that circle of water, Francesca sang Happy Birthday in Italian to the German American “Nona.”  She then rowed us to the dock, and we hugged when I got off the boat.

All was well indeed.

the parchment sign says "All shall be well, all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well." Julian of Norwich

 

A three-generation family sits at a long outdoor restaurant table waiting for their food.
The Birthday Party Tribe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

KAPOW! That’s the Power of Love!

The exercising women had just finished a 60-minute “strong bones, strong muscles” work-out. As a Valentine’s Day salute, they brunched together and toasted love with sparkling apple juice. While munching on deviled eggs and coffee cake, each woman shared a personal anecdote about the power of love. Here are their contributions with names changed.

Power of Love in Sickness

Vows of “in sickness and in health” hold fast under love’s power.

Sadly, one of the instructors was missing from the brunch, because she needed to be with her husband in hospice care. His long struggle with Alzheimer’s would end later that morning. Our hearts were with Ann and Bob. Instructor Georgia said Ann’s loving example was the love story she wanted to contribute to our brunch conversation.

Georgia recalled, that when Bob started wandering away from his exercise class, Ann brought him to our class. She kept him active,  taking Bob  on vacations; they even skied together with Ann’s leadership. As Bob became more and more dependent, Ann didn’t complain.

Last fall, Bob could not attend his daughter Kara’s out-of-state wedding. A few weeks prior to the celebration Kara put on her wedding dress, and Ann and Bob (then in a wheelchair) dressed up for photos. We agreed that Ann’s love set the high bar for vow-keeping “in sickness and in health.”

Tragedy to Transformation

Two of the exercisers, Sarah and Louise, shared how they were advocates for sexually abused victims during lengthy court proceedings. Both women said the circumstances were heartbreaking, but the good news was their loving assistance resulted in the groundwork for healing. Friendships developed. Decades later, both families are thriving.

Love in Surprising Actions

Blue-eye tiger striped kitten with white paws lays on some bricked while looking at the camera.
Furry cuddles and a generous Mom accomplish much.

Smaller examples of love’s power were also shared around the table. Jenna told of her husband making a surprise dinner for their first-year anniversary: steak , potatoes, and salad. Debbie remembered her Mom, who disliked cats, allowing her to keep the kitten a boyfriend gave her.

Becca marveled at her grandmother’s intuitive love. When Becca was confirmed at age 12, Grandma wrote a poem for her entitled “Springtime in Colorado.” At the time, Becca had never been to Colorado, but in her twenties she took a vacation to a Rocky Mountains dude ranch, fell in love, and made the Centennial State home.

Child Love Power

Children sometimes give the best heart-felt gifts, said Hannah. She shared how daughter Lizzie, age nine, called her into the bathroom.

A red bowl holds water with white and pink daisies floating in it. Red painted toe nails on two feet are raised above the water.
A surprise pedicure from a daughter shows love’s power through serving.

“Take a seat Mom,” Lizzie said, pointing to the closed toilet lid, with a footstool placed in front of it. Lizzie proceeded to give Hannah a homemade pedicure with a bucket of water, bath towel, fingernail file, and polish.

Love is not Arrogant or Rude

Remembering cordial courtesies of love was Denise’s contribution. She was thinking about a retired apartment president.  She recalled: After each meeting, he always thanked the officers by name for their hard work. No one does that anymore. We all just get up and leave. I miss him.

“Lose, Lose” Story

Two boxers in a ring are going at it with boxer on the left jabbing at the chin while boxer on the right delivers a blow on an anguished face.
Johnny gives Freddie a bloody nose!

The funniest story came from Jessie, who declared, “This is a lose, lose.”

She continued: In high school I knew a boy named Freddie, who liked me. I was interested in Freddie, until I heard Johnny also liked me. He was a nicer fellow.

Freddie found out about Johnny’s interest in me and wanted to beat him up.

The basketball coach found out about the fight and had Freddie and Johnny put on boxing gloves in the gym to settle the matter.

Horrified and worried, I watched from the gym door as Johnny gave Freddie a bloody nose.

After that, Freddie was mad at me. And Johnny wouldn’t have anything to do with me because his brother advised, “Stay away from her. She’s trouble!”

A six-year-old and her grandma take a selfie with green facial mask on their faces and sliced cucumbers on their eyes.
The facial idea came from a Hello Kitty book–a little work and a lot of fun!

A big red heartPut Love to Work

We each have our Valentine stories, don’t we? They are fun to remember and share during this holiday of the heart. For Valentine’s Day, may win-win love wrap around you and may you, too, spread that power of love.

 

Love in rust font is slanted sideways on the left of parchment paper. First Corinthians 13:5-8a is printed on the paper.

 

 

Repentance and Refreshment

I sure appreciate readers of “There’s a Blog in My Eye,” because you regularly  have enough faith to read my blog even though you haven’t a clue what the topic will be. Thank-you. Here’s a secret: a few days before Friday’s deadline, I must muster a little faith too. Many Mondays I’m blog topic clueless and have to ask myself, “What is hitting the eye, over and over again?” This past week the whammies came—about five in a row on the out-of-fashion topic of REPENTANCE. Please read on, because the flip side of repentance is REFRESHMENT. Who doesn’t like that?

The Problem

Dr. Mateen Elass, head and shoulder short of middle aged man, round face, cropped, thick hair, and green eyes, smiling with mouth closed.
Dr. Mateen Elass

I was at a spiritual retreat last Saturday with a wise theologian, Mateen Elass. He spoke on what it means to be created in God’s image. Dr. Elass had a q. and a., and I popped out the question, “Where does repentance fit into the creation and redemption story? I mean, how do I incorporate repentance in my life as well as in my community? It’s difficult, because we live in a culture where that word ‘repentance’ seems almost obsolete.”

Dr. Elass quoted Jesus’s words in Mark 9:29: “This kind does not come out without prayer and fasting.” I was teary-eyed. He was succinct and right.

Distraught man kneels in mud and asks for forgiveness from those around him.
Repentance and forgiveness in the 1986 movie The Mission.

A Child’s Story

Children's book cover shows a cartoonish white rooster leaning against a tree next to a red barn in the mountains with evergreen trees in background. Rumor Rooster by Jessica Johnson are printed on cover. Rumor wears brown cowboy boots.
Both this art and the above one of Rumor Rooster’s skeleton are use with permission from Jessica Johnson.

Following the retreat I drove to Golden, Colorado, for the Rocky Mountain Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ annual conference. Among highlights, I had dinner with writer/artist Jessica Johnson. Jessica gave me her cute children’s book: Rumor Rooster. Rumor lives up to his name, spreading lies about the barnyard kitty. Then, Rumor doesn’t feel well, and Wise Woodpecker nails the problem: “Maybe you opened your mouth just a little too much, Rumor! What hurts is not your nose, not your toes, not your bones, but your heart.”

Rumor Rooster is a great little parable about confessing wrong,  turning away from it, and making right. Although Jessica doesn’t use the word repentance, the story was a neon light for me.

Pastor Tim’s Message

Arriving home from the writer’s conference late Sunday my husband told me I missed a great message at church.

“What was Pastor Tim’s topic?” I asked.

“Repentance,” my BFF said.

Hmmmm.

Monday, I listened to Dr. Timothy McConnell’s message online.

Dr. Timothy McConnell has a friendly, open smile at camera. He has black hair parted on side, dark eyes, is caucasian. He wears a dark blue jacket and light blue open button shirt. Blurry green folliage is behind him.
Dr. Timothy McConnell

In a nutshell, he, with Apostle Peter, teaches that repentance brings refreshment. Tim advises the first step is to be truthful with Jesus. Then, leave behind what trips you up. Repentance means turning around in the other direction. Tim said:

“Jesus doesn’t need perfect; he needs penitent; he doesn’t need powerful; he needs prayerful….Peter learned Jesus doesn’t need force; he needs faith.”

Pastor Tim pointed out that Peter knew the agitated Jerusalem crowd he preached to on Pentecost could experience what he had received. Fearlessly, Peter told them:

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord…” (Acts 3:19, NIV).

Time for a Little Refreshment

There have been other neon signs this week about repentance, but I thought you might find value in the ones mentioned. Have you ever thought that personal repentance can lead to refreshment? I had never put those two words together, but they fit.

As Pastors Mateen and Tim advised, I will do some penitent prayer and fasting. Perhaps you will commit to doing so too–to the best of your ability. Then, together, we will experience times of refreshing, and that will be very good.

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Jessica Johnson’s website: www.jessicapublishing.com

Dr. Mateen Elass’s website:   https://mateenelass.wordpress.com/about/

Click and then scroll to the minute number 44 for Dr. Timothy McConnell’s September 18, 2016, sermon: http://www.first-pres.org/index.cfm/PageID/1123/index.html

Finally, enjoy two songs about repentance and refreshment: “Clean” from Natalie Grant at:

 https://youtu.be/ulf4PXuNV3w

And, “How Can It Be” from Lauren Daigle: