Sunday, September 20, 2020

Fire Storm

 




Twelve days ago a firestorm changed my life and that of everyone else in my small community of Glide, Oregon. Since that terrible day I've struggled to understand the gnawing sorrow inside me. I'm beginning to understand some of it and hope that writing this post will help me and possibly others who are struggling with some of the same questions.

September 8th a fire called the Archie Fire stormed across thirty miles of the Umpqua Forest and in less than 12 hours it exploded on the ridge above my  house. It is burning still.

My family and I got out before it burst over the ridge.

With a few of our most precious belongings and our travel trailer, kids and grandkids, dogs and cats we trekked down our hill and then hunkered down in a small town nearby where we waited for word. 




At around 10:00 PM the call we feared rang through on my husband's phone. Our home and all the homes on top of our hill were burning.

That night we went to bed but didn't sleep. We prayed for a miracle.

The following day our youngest daughter and a friend had to know what had happened and they dared make the trip back up the road. Fires were still burning. Smoke was thick. And fallen, charred trees blocked the road. With the help of experience and a chain saw they kept going. 

Sarah called from our property. "Mom. The house is still standing!"

How could it be? People saw the fire charge over the ridge and explode on the top of our hill.

We rejoiced, but any joy we felt was tempered by the news of many others who had lost their homes. Sorrow burrowed into our hearts.

Such devastation. So much loss.

Two days later Greg and I made our way home to see what had happened. Fires still smoldered, open flames sought fuel, smoke was choking and firemen defended our homes. When we turned onto our driveway we immediately saw our home standing in a fog of smoke. Everything around it had burned. How had it survived?


Our woodshed, with a winter's supply of firewood, was gone along with our tractor, a riding lawn mower, Greg's motorcycle, and a variety of other farm tools stored there. Strangely, a lawn chair stood only feet away, untouched. Fires are weird. We had cardboard boxes still on our porch from our recent move. There was soot and ash and burned leaves inside of them, and yet they had not burned.



We lost several outbuildings, including my chicken house. My sweet hens perished. A garden shop and another shop that contained a long list of tools and other items that we had accumulated over the years were now a pile of smoldering rubble.

They seem trivial in light of what our neighbors lost. We still have our home. I grieve their losses, but I am also sorrowing ours. It doesn't seem right, but my feelings are my feelings. I can't change that. I am trying to understand it.   



Greg and I built the chicken house together. We had fun doing it even though we squabbled a bit. Lonnie, a good friend who passed away a few years ago, made a shingle to hang. It said, Gregland's Best. Every time we looked at that sign we thought of him.

A wood shed doesn't seem like much, but many memories abound there. It's silly, but I used to love to chop and stack wood. And when we prepared for winter, we did it together as a family. Some sawed wood, others chopped and stacked. In recent years my job has been more about supplying hot coffee or cocoa to the workers. Precious days still. 

And there was our jeep. It was just a thing, but we shared good times together in that jeep. It was beloved by our family and there was some vying over who might inherit it one day. But it's gone now.


Also gone are the young fruit trees we loved and the blueberry plants and grapes we put in just this year. Not important, really, but we loved planting them and watching them grow.

My husband spent decades accumulating tools of every kind. There wasn't much he didn't know how to do and all those chores required a tool. He had something for everything and most of the tools had a story to tell. When we went through the rubble, trying to remember what each building had contained, he couldn't disguise the loss he felt.

  

We didn't lose our house. It is still standing there in the meadow. We are SO grateful and at the same time we can't help but feel we don't deserve it. There are so many mixed feelings floating around. We tell ourselves there is no reason to feel guilt, but feelings are sometimes hard to control. At present count at least 109 homes were lost. That is 109 families who are suffering a loss we can't fully comprehend. We grieve for them. And it doesn't seem right, but God is sovereign. I don't have to have an answer as to why my home still stands. But I will do my best to honor God's mercy toward me and my family.

I've puzzled over why this grief is SO powerful. I've known this kind of thing can happen, but I didn't expect that I'd feel it so intensely. After all, it's just "stuff" right?

When my husband and I walked to the back of our property and then drove up to the end of the road, the devastation was shocking, incalculable. The forest is decimated. Huge towering trees stand blackened. Many are dead. More will die. Some of the trees are burned from the inside and many have roots that are still burning. Acre after acre, mile after mile the forest looks dead. My mind tells me it will come back, but my heart sees the death of my wilderness home. And I think that this is the key to the depth of sorrow I feel. This place, not the wood and mortar structure standing on my property, but the forest, has been my home for more than forty years. The beauty and wildlife have nourished my soul all these years. 

The logical part of me knows the forests will return. I wait in anticipation to see the first new green sprouts that emerge in the blackened forest floor. I will take photos and I will share them with you. In the meantime I marvel at the miracle that so many homes did survive and that flowers still bloom around my house, and some of the neighbors chickens are clucking, and the wild mama turkey and her nearly grown chick still visit. And I will never forget the joy I felt when I discovered the three little goats from next door had survived and found their way to my scarred garden.



The people of Glide will never be the same. We have survived. We have a long, painful path to walk, but we are loved by God and we are pulling together, as we always do, and we will be better and stronger than we were.

The first day Greg and I went to the house we saw something on our way back down the road that stirred my heart. Many months before someone built a bench, a place to rest and take in the beauty of the forest. When we came around a corner and saw it there amidst swirling smoke I was awestruck. Fire above and fire below destroyed the forest, but the bench remained. I like to think it is there, enjoying the beauty of the forest it once knew and imagining the woodland that will return one day.


Grace and peace to you from God,


Bonnie 

Monday, July 13, 2020

To Speak or Not To Speak




In the book of James chapter one verse nineteen we are told this - "Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry."

Oh, how convicting are those words. I have often done just the opposite. I am working toward getting that under control, but am certain I'll never perfect it. 

I am left with a question. When is it appropriate to speak out?

In these days of Covid-19 and political unrest passions run high. And with the availability of social networking we have an avenue where we can be heard. However, being heard may be more limited than we might think.

This "speaking out" issue is something I struggle with. 

I am able to respond to a post if I choose, but should I? I have no qualms when posting encouraging or supportive words. But what should I do if I truly disagree with a post or the writer has stated something that is patently untrue?

I've heard people say God doesn't need us to speak up. Really? Then why did God raise up the voices of his saints throughout the ages? Some of those voices were truly harsh. The Old Testament Prophets could be downright terrifying. And even the Prince of Peace called the Pharisees hypocrites and said they were like "white washed tombs." That's strong speech.

So, what do we do? We're scrolling along on Facebook or Twitter or some other online network and we come across a statement we feel compelled to respond to.

Let's go back to James. He says first, to listen. I'm thinking we need to be thoughtful and not fire back with the first response that comes to mind. Maybe we should consider why we feel we must speak. What do we want to accomplish? Will it be of benefit? 

Then James says be slow to speak. Clearly we should take time to examine our hearts and to temper our responses with God's wisdom and grace. And perhaps we will come to the conclusion that a response is not in the best interest of others in the conversation. Just take time to consider it.

He goes on to say be slow to anger. That's pretty clear. We should be careful not to go off like a firecracker and attack. I've seen so much of that in recent years, and especially the last few months. It is rarely helpful and more often than not it causes hurt followed by more mean spirited postings or replies. It's not the best way to find common ground. And in the end those who might benefit from a rich and congenial conversation will simply tune out.

So, does all that mean we need to remain quiet and keep our thoughts to ourselves? Maybe. Sometimes. But I'm convinced God wants us to be speaking truth and love to the world. We've been commanded to tell others about Christ and the gift of eternal life that he offers humankind.

We have been given the gift of the presence of the Holy Spirit, who indwells us. He gives wisdom and understanding and we have instructed to rely on him. Christ would not have told us this if the Holy Spirit were unreliable. With caution and good will we should speak out. The world is dying for the lack of the knowledge and truth. 

As we step out, remember the fruit of the spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Wouldn't the world be a more beautiful place if more of the spirit were evident in our daily lives?

Jesus tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves. Maybe if we keep that in mind the next time we feel we must contribute God's truth or our opinion or perspective on a topic there may be a better response.

Keep praying for one another. Love one another.

Grace and peace to you from God,

Bonnie

Monday, July 06, 2020

Father Knows Best


Life is filled with big decisions. How often do we move ahead with some plan or other without taking the time to stop, contemplate, pray, and then wait for God's direction?

Do you remember the television show from the 60's called Father Knows Best? I loved the show, though in hindsight I can see its many flaws. In its day the father, Jim Anderson played by Robert Young, his wife Margaret, oldest daughter Betty, son Bud, and cutie pie Kathy played out what we all hoped and even believed was what a real live family should look like, a father at the helm who could be trusted to always do the right and best thing for his family.



Those were good days, full hope.

Fast forward to  2012, with Father Knows Best so far in the rear view mirror it was barely remembered. My mother had been very ill after going through open heart surgery, which was followed by a life threatening staph infection. While still recovering we moved Mom here to Roseburg.

Part of the process of getting reestablished in a new town included finding physicians to help care for Mom's health. A cardiologist was one of those on the list. We got into one of the best in our area. We really like him and he clearly knew his job. However, something he said back then caught my attention in recent days. When he learned that my mother had open heart surgery the previous year at the age of 87 and the terrible recovery she endured afterward he was angry and said that her surgeon should never have done such a procedure on a woman my mother's age, even though not doing it meant she would have died in a few short months. I agreed with him, but now looking back I think he was wrong in my mother's case. I'm grateful the doctor who performed my mother's surgery took the risk.

It's true, Mom did suffer through a five month recovery, but she was resilient and continued to love life and was thankful for each new day. And those of us who love her were also grateful. She made a difference in the lives of those she touched during those six additional years.


Mom having fun at her 80th birthday party.

We, humans, think we know best. Certainly there are times when we are fearful and uncertain in our decisions, but all too often we step forward with more confidence than we ought to have. There is only one who knows what's best every time. God knows best. Our Father knows best.

I once told a woman, who had been diagnosed with a very serious cancer and had been working through some of the decisions she needed to make, that perhaps she should consider simply making the most out of what time she had left. That's not what she wanted. She wanted to live and to spend all the time possible with her loved ones. And that's what she did. We had that conversation about twenty years ago, and she is still a vibrant part of her family. I was SO wrong. Every time I think of that moment when I stepped out with advice that couldn't have been more wrong for her I feel ashamed. I didn't take the time to check my plan with The Father's. 

When faced with consequential decisions we need to listen to experts and to our loved ones ... but we should never, ever leave out God. He's the one who knows the whole story. 

So, what can we do that will help us make better choices?
     
  • Wait - Don't be in a hurry.
  • Pray
  • Go to God's Word - Read it. Contemplate on it.
  • Pray
  • Imagine what might be.
  • Dare to hope.
  • Pray   
  • Worship - Music - Dance - Nature - Beauty.
  • Remember there is a big picture.
  • Steer clear of Eeyore thinking.
  • Pray
  • Trust God

There is more that can be added to this list. And I'm sure you noticed that I included prayer more than once. It's something we can't do too much. If you have something you'd like to include let me know in a comment.

We are imperfect human beings and no matter how hard we strive to get things right, sometimes we won't. But that doesn't mean God will desert us. He'll stay with us, catch us when we fall, set us back on our feet and continue to breathe life into us.

Even in dark days, life is good and God is good.

Grace and peace to you from God,

Bonnie
    
  



Monday, June 29, 2020

Best Worst Thing



While reading through my morning devotional, which happened to be titled "best worst thing" a question nudged me. What was my best worst thing?

I have many. But this morning I was carried back to a June day in 1991. My daughter and I were headed up a road that winds along a local tributary called Little River. We were singing along to the radio and enjoying the rush of summer air coming in through our opened windows. I needed to deliver a meal to a home bound couple on the river. We were about six miles up when a fully loaded log truck with a second trailer approached us from the opposite direction.

I noticed that as it came around the corner its outside tires were lifted up off the pavement. It was going to tip over!

And it did. 

The truck spilled giant logs onto the roadway and down the bank in front of us, then the trailer barreled at us. My mind searched for a way to survive, but no idea seemed to be enough. Certain my daughter and I were facing our last moments on this planet, I slammed on my brakes, hoping to diminish the impact and steered as close to the edge of the highway as I dared. And then ... amid the screaming sounds of screeching breaks, shattering glass and grinding metal the truck trailer slammed into our van.

That was a worst moment, worst day,  and what followed were the worst months of my life.

My daughter Kristi and I survived that terrible accident. Kristi was physically uninjured but she still carries emotional scars. Me ... well I'm thankful for my life. I had a number of injuries, some that never healed. 

My life changed dramatically. I couldn't return to work. Couldn't clean my house. Couldn't cook meals. Couldn't buy groceries. And a lot more couldn'ts. In the early weeks, I thought I would recover, but I never fully did. When doctors told me I would have to accept my painful condition and go on with life I was pretty devastated.

But that's just the worse part of the story. There are a lot of those kind of stories in the Bible. Something terrible happens to one of God's people and it looks like the worst thing ever, but God steps in and uses it as a best thing.

Because of my injuries I couldn't return to work and I slid into a deep depression. The darkness drove me to search for the Light. I needed God so badly and knew He was my only salvation. I prayed that He would reveal His plans to me.

Before the accident I'd played at writing. It was a fun little hobby. But God wanted it to be more than just a pleasant pass time. He stirred my heart into a fervent desire to create with the written word. With courage given by God and with guidance from other authors I stepped into the writing world with a first book, The Journey of Eleven Moons. 


It was part of my best thing. Incredibly it became a best selling book. God is so good. 

He opened doors and I kept moving forward. I've never had a big footprint in the writing world, but I've had a grand time creating stories - twenty three so far. It hasn't been easy but the rewards have been huge.

I've worked hard, trusting God, and he has blessed me. I hear from people nearly every day who have been encouraged or uplifted by reading something I've written. It's gratifying to know that my small footprint is having a big impact in some people's lives. 

When I look back and remember that what I originally thought was my worst thing was actually a best thing. It was and is all because of God. He helps me along my way every day.

What about you? Do you have a worst thing? Believe God is in the midst of that and it can be your best thing.

Grace and peace to you from God,

Bonnie

Monday, June 22, 2020

imperfect?




This morning when I reached for a pair of earrings I wondered what is was that I liked about them. They were purposely made imperfect. The round spheres are not truly round. That's okay with me. I like things that are "flawed".

Imperfection surrounds me. Some of it is done purposely. For instance, I don't like items lined up in a perfect row. I want my treasures displayed in a random pattern. When my granddaughter sometimes cleans my house I always find that she's lined everything up "perfectly". I follow behind and place the items the way they were. I almost never hang paintings on the wall in a row - they go up in a random pattern. And I prefer writing that is a bit flawed. I enjoy the flavor and texture of a story more than a perfectly constructed sentence.

Does this mean I'm flawed? I certainly am. But none of us are "perfect".

I've always been the one to stand up for the underdog. I even cheer for the football team that is supposed to lose.





What about this incredible creature? The way it's put together doesn't seem to make sense. Why the long neck and long legs? Of course there is a reason, and in spite of its gangly appearance it is a gorgeous, powerful animal. God knew what he was doing when he created it.




The earrings in the photo above are one of my favorite pairs, but I never receive compliments when I wear them. Perhaps that means I'm the only one who likes them. But that's okay. I believe we sometimes need to embrace imperfections. I'm not saying we ought to go out and purposely cause destruction or trouble. And certainly shouldn't purposely sin against God. But we are each created as individuals. We're not cut out by a cookie cutter. God created us perfectly imperfect. And He loves His creation. 

Let's embrace who we are. We were sculpted by the Hands of our Creator to be an individual with our own voice and our own way of seeing the world. 

If He loves us as we are, maybe we can love ourselves and others just as they are.

Grace and peace to you from God,

Bonnie

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

News From Deer Creek



On March fifteenth I had a successful launch for my most recent book, One Hundred Valleys. Though I must admit Covid-19 did complicate things a bit. Still, I was able to get the word out and heard back from many of you. It's loyal readers and followers who keep us writers going. Thank you.

The fun's not over yet. I will be posting a newsletter in a few days with news and updates. Make sure to sign up for my Table Talk newsletter so you won't miss out on what's up. You can find the button on my home page of this website at https://www.bonnieleon.com.

I'm celebrating summer with a GIVEAWAY! So, check it out. News is coming your way soon.

If you read the book One Hundred Valleys, you'll know this character. She is the beloved Margaret Clark. She really is a lovely person and a good cook. 




Margret owns the Deer Creek Cafe and there's always something delicious cooking in the kitchen. She makes especially good pies. I thought you might like to try her apple pie, it's a favorite at the cafe. I've included it below so you can give it a try. If you do, I'd love to hear from you and know how it turned out.

Margaret's tasty Apple Pie



Crust:    2 cups Flour
              1 teaspoon salt
              2 tablespoons powdered sugar
Cut in:  2/3 cups Lard (shortening)
             2/3 cup water – sprinkle it over the dry ingredients and work into the dough.

Do not overwork the dough or you will end up with a tough crust.

Divide the dough in half. Gently work both halves into a round shape. Sprinkle flour on a kitchen counter and, using a rolling pin, roll out to approximately a 10 inch circle. Drape dough crust in a 9” pie pan and let it set while you prepare the apple filling.

Filling:   6 – 7 crisp, flavorful apples, peeled, halved and sliced thinly.
      3/4 cup sugar
      1 tsp. cinnamon
      ¼ tsp. nutmeg (optional)
      ¼ cup flour or 3 Tablespoons corn starch.

Mix the filling in a large bowl. If desired for more tender apples, let it set overnight on the counter (the night before you prepare your crust). Pour filling into the bottom crust.

Place the 2nd portion of pie dough over the top of the filling and press down gently until it touches the apple mixture. Fold the dough around the edges (the top crust over the bottom crust), so it is well sealed, then crimp between your fingers all the way around. Use a fork to poke several vent holes. You can whip egg white and use a pastry brush to wash it over the crust if desired.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pie on a lower rack in the oven and bake for 45 minutes. To ensure the bottom crust is well done you may want to add an additional 15 minutes baking time, but do not overcook the top crust.

Enjoy.


There's still a lot going on in Deer Creek. I'm working on a sequel to One Hundred Valleys. There are lots of adventures to come. 






I pray you are doing well. 

A Word from the Lord.

"I am the Lord your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you." 

Isaiah 41:13

Grace and peace to you from God,

Bonnie

Tuesday, June 09, 2020

A Mile In Your Shoes





The last four months I have felt as if I were living within a category 5 hurricane. Covid-19 struck and spread across our world locking people in their homes. Hundreds of thousands have died. George Floyd was murdered by a police officer, and we watched his agonizing death on television news. Outraged Americans joined together in protest, united. And then militant groups hijacked a heartfelt and significant movement. In the midst of looting, destruction, more murders and beatings, George Floyd's death was diminished.

I've posted my thoughts about all of this on my Facebook page but today I want to bring our focus back to one another. We are all related, one family - humankind. 

When I was young and sometimes made judgments about others my mother was always quick to correct me. She would say that I couldn't truly understand what was going on inside another person's heart. She would add, "You have not walked a mile in their shoes." How right she was. She knew and understood the pain of discrimination. She'd grown up poor and native in a place that saw her as less valuable than others. And even as an adult she could be brought to tears by the memories.

You may not know what it is like to live as a Native Alaskan. You may not know what it is like to be told that one day you will be blind. You  may not know how difficult it is to live as a fat person in a world that detests and judges fat people. (I have stories) And you may know the pain of losing a young and vibrant father when you are only twenty-three. We don't share all the same experiences, so how can we know?

I do not know what it is like to be Black in America. And there are thousands of other experiences I can't fully understand.

However, we all know what fear is like. We know pain. We know sorrow. We know rejection. And because we know we can empathize ... if we choose to. We can listen and have open minds. God tells us to love one another ... all others.

This storm we find ourselves in can destroy our world as we know it. But we don't have to let it. We can place our hurts and disappointments and our fears in God's hands. And most of all we can hand over our hate. The enemy loves hate, and he will use it to destroy us if we let him.

As the weeks have passed a song has been playing through my mind. It's one we all know. And I post it here to remind us of its simple but profound truth.

"Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white they are precious in His sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world."

In these difficult days let's sing that song and pray that God will help us see one another through His eyes of love.

Grace and peace to you from God,

Bonnie

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