Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Cross Stitch as Therapy & Another Kind of Cabin Fever

Here in the US the west and northwest are still in the midst of unimaginable wildfire conditions.  Truly, the reports on the evening news are incapable of transmitting what is happening here this summer.  

After so many years of restrictions on the healthy harvesting of timber which weakened them and made them susceptible to all sorts of insects and also simply were allowed to die and fill the forest with fuels, combined with very dry conditions, what we feared would happen has happened and we find ourselves in a 'perfect storm' of wildfires.

This is what our normal view from Gracewood looks like and oh how grateful I will be when it returns.

Normal View from Gracewood
And this is what our sunrises look like now, day after day the sky is filled with smoke turning the sun and the moon blood red.

Smokey Sunrise

Every morning we check the sites reporting the fires and often find they've doubled overnight.  We are praying for rain but also that the lightning that comes with it won't start new fires.

So many have found themselves in worse conditions than we have, the fire just 5 miles from us started a month ago and being one of the first we had immediate response from the professional fire fighting teams and we're very thankful to say that it is 80% contained and not expected to grow.  Those whose fires started after that often found that there was no one to come when they called for help.

8 miles southeast of us a much larger fire complex has grown to 11,000 acres with just 5% contained.  Finally some military personnel arrived this week as well as some fire fighters from Australia and New Zealand and even though this particular fire has a lot of potential for growth, now at least we have more resources to fight it.

The air has been exceedingly bad, they are measuring levels in Spokane more hazardous than they've ever recorded.  Having asthma I have been confined to the house with air conditioner, air purifiers and humidifiers running around the clock.

And that is why I said that cross stitch can be very therapeutic!

I never have 'cabin fever' in winter since even if it is a little stroll I love to be out in the cold and snow, but now we are experiencing another kind of 'trapped' feeling as we sit inside surrounded by choking smokey skies.

Stitching the model of 'Kyoto' has been a great way to get my mind on something else and I've found cross stitch really can take you to another better 'place' while you are working a project.


I wasn't able to get a good outside photo of Kyoto, the background is much lighter and brighter than this photo shows, but I am very happy with these three shades of blue which are close to correct in this pic.

Jasper's 2nd Birthday

One of the sad things in all of this has been the animals who can't get in out of the smoke or who have fled one area of fire to find only more fire.  We've seen an increase in deer and bear visitors to our bird feeding area and we've been stripping our apple trees to pile them up for whatever animal comes by needing a bite.  The birds are cleaning our feeders out daily since they are finding it difficult to find their usual food in the forest.

It has also been a challenge to keep our Chessie, Jasper, in the house and out of the smoke when he is a rambunctious two year old who needs lots of exercise.

This has definitely been a stressful time, with suitcases packed if we have to evacuate and the challenges each day is bringing, but I'm reminded of the most oft mentioned phrase in the Bible - 'and it came to pass' - and am grateful that this too 'shall pass'.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Wildfire Near & a Beautiful Reminder of 'Things Unseen'

One of the great concerns of living in the mountainous west is wildfire.  After almost 30 years living here in northeast Washington state we've had some lovely wet and relatively cool summers and others that were dry and hot and this year has been one of the hottest and driest and that concern about the possibility of wildfires that are too near has come to pass.

A fire now named 'Baldy Fire' since it is on Mount Baldy began on Saturday and is now about 5 miles from Ione and we are about 1 mile south of Ione.  All weekend the helicopters and small planes flew over Gracewood and dipped into the Pend Oreille river to try and pour enough water on the fire to contain it.  It hasn't worked and quickly has grown from 50 acres to 300 yesterday and this morning the teams of special wildfire fighters are arriving and setting up a command post to determine how to fight the fire.  We're waiting for the next update this morning to tell us how much it has grown and if it is still continuing its path towards us.

We're hoping we won't have to evacuate but of course all day it runs through your head how to go about such a problematic event.  In the midst of this I read something this morning that just seemed to suit my needs at this moment and I wanted to share it.

From a new book, Things Not seen, by Jon Bloom, I found this excerpt and the whole book is available in paperback or can be downloaded as a pdf for free from this link ~

I once heard of a man who split black ash and wove baskets.
And he wove prayer through every basket.
The man wore faded plaid and old denim and lived alone high up in the Appalachians where the dirt didn’t grow crops, but it could grow basket trees.
He lived such a distance up in the hills that he really didn’t think the profits from selling his baskets would exceed the cost of transportation to some Saturday morning market. Nevertheless, each day he cut trees and sawed them into logs and then pounded the logs with a mallet, to free all the splint ribbons from those trees. Splint slapped the floor.
And the basket-making man, he simply worked unhurried and unseen by the world, his eyes and heart fixed on things unseen.
“When the heart is at rest in Jesus — unseen, unheard by the world — the Spirit comes, and softly fills the believing soul, quickening all, renewing all within,” writes Robert Murray McCheyne.
Day after day, the man cut ash, pulled splint, stacked baskets. He said that as he held the damp splint and he braided — under and over, under and over — that God was simply teaching him to weave prayers into every basket, to fill the empty baskets, all the emptiness, with eternal, unseen things.
It was as if, under all the branches of those basket growing trees, he knew what that clergyman James Aughey wrote, “As a weak limb grows stronger by exercise, so will your faith be strengthened by the very efforts you make in stretching it out toward things unseen.”
Come the end of the year, after long months of bending over baskets, bending in prayer, when his stacks of baskets threatened to topple over, the man kneeled down under those trees that grew baskets — and lit those baskets with a match.
The flames devoured and rose higher and cackled long into the night.
Then, come morning, when the heat died away, satiated, the basket-making man stood long in the quiet. He watched how the wind blew away the ashes of all his work.
To the naked eye, it would appear that the man had nothing to show for the work. All the product of his hands was made papery ash — but his prayers had survived fire.
The prayers we weave into the matching of the socks, the working of our hands, the toiling of the hours, they survive fire. It’s the things unseen that survive fire. Love. Relationship. Worship. Prayer. Communion. All Things Unseen — and centered in Christ.
It doesn’t matter so much what we leave unaccomplished — but that our priority was things unseen.
Again, today, that’s always the call: Slay the idol of the seen. Slay the idol of focusing on only what can be seen, lauded, noticed. Today, a thousand times again today, I will preach his truth to this soul prone to wander, that wants nothing more than the gracious smile of our Father: “Unseen. Things Unseen. Invest in Things Unseen. The Unexpected Priority is always Things Unseen.”
“Pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret . . .” (Matthew 6:6)
“The things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18)
It’s the things unseen that are the most important things.