The Comfort of Link

I was thinking the other day about keeping upbeat during these days of hiding away from a virus and masking away any possibility of meeting and connecting with new friends.

I hate these blasted masks! It thwarts my desire to connect with others at church, in the marketplace, in the neighborhood.

So I spend extra time at home. Besides having Bruce at home, I have extra time to read and study, pray, write, and FaceTime with some of my remote friends.

I also find solace by cuddling with my funny and outgoing cat, Link.

Link is a large marmalade cat with longish fur and an especially luxuriant tale. When he walks he uses his tail like a dancer’s scarf, gracefully waving it from side to side over his rump.

When he stretches, he brings his lithe tail up so high, it arcs over his body, touching the back of his head. He knows this impresses me because he looks at me after his stretching as if to say, “Ill bet you can’t do that.”

His orange eyes look just like a tiger’s, and when he walks toward me, eyes fixed on mine, I feel a little thrill of danger.

But in the morning, when I open my bedroom door, he’s waiting for me. He immediately says, “Prrt,” and rolls over onto his back, stretching his impossibly long torso out like a slinky.

I can’t resist the bate, and he knows this. I bend to rub his belly. And he bites me.

He’s learned not to bite hard.

He’s also learned to head butt my forehead. When he jumps onto the couch, I say, “head butt,” and lower my head. His little furry head meets mine with a gentle thump, and I can’t help laughing.

He comes when I call him. If I’m downstairs when I call him, I laugh when I hear the bump of his feet hitting the carpet– he’s on someone’s bed or dresser–then the horse-like gallop down the stairs and the quick search to find me. I love that because I’ve never having had a cat that would come when called.

When I’m in the bathroom, he, outside, meowing for me, slides an inquisitive paw under the door, feeling around. As many times as he does this, I always laugh.

Sometimes he forms his body into what my oldest son describes as a “kitty loaf,” folding his paws underneath, eyes half open, slowly blinking, sometimes purring.

When I say his name, his eyes open a bit wider and he gives me what I can only describe as a cat’s look of love. His tail, warming his haunches, perfectly molded to his side, twitches slightly, then stills.

When I sit at our kitchen counter, he jumps up and sits at another chair, watching, his twitching nose or tail asking questions.

And I thank God that I have this little attentive, affectionate, orange creature who follows me around, offering his companionship. Filling me with delight when he ‘talks’ to me with his mrrrrows, prrrrts, kick, kick kicks, meows, and purrs.

Yes, I sorely miss people, but for the time being, I have the comfort of Link.

Don’t these photos make you feel a little more peaceful?

“Pangur, white Pangur. Oh, how happy we are. Alone together, scholar and cat.” 

Embrace Your Elements

We’re in the process of making a transition from the wet, but beautiful northwest  to cold and windy southeast Wyoming.

Each year, in the state of Washington, I geared up (literally) for the onslaught of constant rain and dark during the fall and winter and spring days. It seemed as if as soon as October arrived, so did the gloomy weather.

Now, before the covid lockdowns this wasn’t much of a problem. I’d just load up my backpack with writing supplies and my laptop and head on over to my favorite coffee places. I’d sit by the fire, with my laptop, enjoying its warmth as I occasionally gazed outside to watch the boats glide by in the harbor. 

I found ways to enjoy the rain. And sometimes there’s something kind of romantic and mysterious about the cloudy weather that lends itself to imagining all kinds of potential stories to be stored away for future writing days.

But in Wyoming, dark clouds are rare (yay!) and sunshine is plentiful (big yay), but wind is an almost daily occurrence.

And I don’t mean whimpy wind. I mean WIND. The kind of wind that knocks semis off the interstate, and makes  walking a challenge of strength just to maneuver in a straight line. The kind of wind that screams around building corners and sends clouds of dust powerful and gritty-sharp enough to scalp a hatless man or woman.

I woke up this morning to another windy onslaught and gritted my teeth. Another day of wind? Oh no, God. Please make it stop.

But the wind is not going to stop. This is the way of Wyoming. The high altitude and treeless prairies invite the wind to fill the empty spaces. And the wind obliges, with gusto.

I saw some pronghorn antelope recently. I’m amazed how these creatures survive out in the open range during the cold and wind.

We’re building a nice, big house on acreage where we intend to plant fruit trees and berry bushes and anything else that is able to stay grounded. Everyone around here with land plants wind barriers of bushes and evergreen trees on the north and west of their property to shield their home. Good idea!

So, what’s good about the wind?

  • It cleanses. Not too much air pollution around here!
  • It brings good things like much needed precipitation from the west.
  • It gets my imagination rolling because the wind sounds like music, and music is the brain’s  great motor.
  • It makes me strong. Otherwise I’d blow away!
  • It reminds me of the power of God, and calls me to pray.

The Gospel of Christmas Carols

 

 

My mom was part of an organization that helps young women go to college. One of her duties during the holidays was to find musical talent to perform for their local chapter.

My four brothers and sisters and I were the talent on three different years. None of us danced, and our piano talents weren’t developed enough for us to be effective entertainment.

But we all had good voices, and with my mother’s considerable pianistic talent, we rehearsed and prepared a sweet program, complete with three-part harmony and even solos.

Oh, I wish I had a photo of the five of us standing in front of my grandmother’s grand piano, dressed in our cute Christmas outfits, singing our Christmas carols. Those are
precious memories.

Most precious of all to me as a five-year-old was learning the words to the carols:

“Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the new-born King. Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinner reconciled.”

As a five year old I  wondered, how can a newborn baby be a King? I thought kings were old men with beards and crowns, wearing royal robes.

We sang: “Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head. The stars in the sky looked down where He lay, the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.”

Wow, this King lay in a manger, not a soft crib in a palace. Why?

I wondered a lot as I learned my carols.

For instance, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come. Let earth receive her King. Let every heart prepare Him room, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven and heaven and nature sing.”

How can a heart let Jesus in? Oh, I wanted to know. And so began a quest to find out more about this Lord Jesus and how He can come so close that He can be inside of me.

The beauty of the music touched my soul. Such beauty would have to fit a great and good King.

And the words of the carols created beautiful images in my mind of this baby King. Angels announced him. (He must be very, very important!)

And shepherds left their sheep so they could hurry to Bethlehem to see Him. (Again, He must be way more important than most people.)

Wise men from the east followed a bright star. And when they found the baby Jesus they worshipped Him. How did they know Jesus was Someone to be worshipped? (I wondered this when I was seven, and preparing for our second Christmas performance.)

I mean, we’re supposed to obey a King. But worship Him? Only God gets worship. (Somebody told me this; I can’t remember who.)

So this baby Jesus was more than a king? He must be God?

No one in my family could answer my question. I didn’t have a Bible, and even if I had, I wouldn’t have known where to look in its pages to find the answer.

Jesus is God?

He must be. All those Christmas carols we were learning affirmed my question. And those wonderful words comforted me and let me know that there is a God who knows me, who came to make things right, who is worthy of worship as truly God.

Years passed, and with each Christmas holiday I sang those carols. And each time I did, the truth of the words drew me toward Jesus. I didn’t know Him, but I knew of Him. I wanted to  embrace Him, but there was no one to tell me how.

Finally, as a teen, a Sunday school teacher explained how to turn from all the bad things in me, and invite Jesus into my life.

Whenever I think of how Jesus used Christmas carols to prepare my heart to receive Him, I tremble with the wonder of His love.

I think this is the essence of Christmas, at least for me. That God looked down from heaven and loved this little un-churched girl in Rio Vista, California, and made a way through music to teach her and draw her to Him.

Oh, thank You, thank You, thank You, Lord Jesus!

Best Laid Plans

Here’s the inside of our cute Winnebago. We named her Winnie. Not very original, but it works for us.

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We planned to go camping near Mt. Rainier last Friday. We had reservations at a very nice RV resort and fully stocked our trailer fridge with goodies for breakfast, lunch and dinner for four days under the shadow of the sublime mountain.

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But on Wednesday, I woke up with a sore spot on my head, right in front of my ear. About the size of a bean. But quite sore.

Hmm. well, it’ll go away in a few days. I ignored the sore spot.

Until Thursday. This is what the pain looked like:

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My painful spot had grown from a bean to a small plum and was approaching the early stages of agony. I told myself, “Doggone it, this thing must go away on its own. I’m not going to miss our camping trip.”

I took a couple of ibuprofen and went to bed. The pain had now grow so bad it was like someone had bludgeoned me with a two-by-four.  But I’m a stubborn gal. I toughed it out until 4 am.

“Ow, ow!” I can’t stand it anymore,” I told my husband. “I’m going to the ER.”

I thought, maybe I’ll get right in and the doctor will say it’s nothing: “It’s just a bug bite. Here, take some aspirin.”

Bruce dropped me off in front of the ER entrance and went to park. After the guard at the ER entrance took my temperature and asked me if I had any of “these covid symptoms” and I said, “no . . . no . . . no . . . no, ” etc. to his list, he let me go inside.

Amazingly, they took me right in and the intake nurse did all the usual intake stuff. Another nurse put me in a ‘room,’ and asked me more questions. Finally, the ER doctor came in and I told him how painful my plum-size spot was.

“Hmm,” he said, “yes, it does look significantly bigger than the other side of your head.” Then he pressed firmly on my spot. I’m usually very spartan about pain, but the doc’s poking felt like another wham of the two-by-four.

“Ow, ow, ow!”

At my outburst, the compassionate nurse made a compassionate sound and the creasing of her skin above her mask told me she understood. The doctor said, “You’ve got an inflamed lymph node and you’ll need a CT scan with contrast so we can see what’s going on in there.”

The nurse gave me two oxycodone for the pain.

They gowned me and rolled me on a gurney through a labyrinth of halls until we reached radiology. After that was done, we rolled back to my curtained cubicle to wait for the doctor. And the whole time, I was thinking, “Doggone it, I’m going on this camping trip if it kills me. We’ve been waiting for months to do this and I’m not gonna let a little lymph node boss me around!”

Bruce came inside and sat down to help me wait.

“How’re you doing?” the nurse asked me.

“I’m feeling no pain. in fact, I feel kind of wonderful right now.”

“Yes, that oxycodone is a very effective painkiller.”

Just then the doctor arrived. “Well, it looks like you’ve probably got some sort of infection somewhere in your body and the lymph node is trying to fight it off. So, I’m going to write you a prescription for an antibiotic . . . oh, and some more oxycodone.”

“Ok, ” I said kind of meekly, “but I still wanna go camping this weekend.”

The doctor’s eyes went round and his eyebrows shot upward. “Well, I guess you can go, as long as you’re pretty near a medical facility in case you need it.” He handed me the prescriptions, and I thanked him.

I changed into my street clothes and followed Bruce out. That’s when I realized I could barely walk straight under the influence of the oxycodone. Plus, nausea was threatening to send me running for the nearest restroom.

What was I thinking, insisting on camping while popping pain pills? Bruce helped me down the steps and into the car. “Bruce, I’m so, so sorry for this, ” I said as I struggled to buckle my car seat. “I know you were really excited to go camping.”

He smiled kind of sadly. “That’s ok. You get better and we’ll find another weekend to go camping.”

So our lovely Mt Rainier trip got cancelled. Actually, we postponed it till next summer.

And I spent the weekend sprawled on my bed, ‘watching’ TV. And Link stayed close by as my feline personal nurse.

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I don’t know why the Lord allowed this to happen. Yet, it’s not the end of the world, just a minor disappointment.

However, I learned a bit more about making plans.

Life is uncertain. Yes, I know that. Plans can fail. Yep, I know that, too. God has not given us the gift of seeing what’s around the corner. Uh huh. But He has given us the promise of His abiding presence and never-failing love.

I felt Him near that weekend as I slowly recovered. I read the Word and prayed for others, and slept for hours at a time, like a two-year-old.

That was God’s plan.

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Summer Netherton Doings

Around the Netherton household, it has been wonderful to have Bruce home during this time of shut-ins and cautious outings.

Here he is in the new cap that our daughter in law, Danielle knit for him. Isn’t he—and the hat— cute?

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We’ve adorned the front deck with tons of potted fragrant flowers. Then, in the evenings we barbecue something and enjoy dining alfresco. In the morning, it’s a lovely place to watch the birds, read my Bible, pray, and enjoy being surrounded by God’s glorious creation.

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Our neighbors are doing big things in their backyard, which abuts our backyard. They tore down our shared fence and while we’re waiting for it to be rebuilt it’s been interesting to see all the landscaping things they’ve added. Although I was sad to see my arborvitae trees go, my neighbors have assured me they’ll replace them once the fence is in.

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Bruce and I did our annual Cascade loop trip. It’s a full-day trip where we begin our eastward journey on highway 20, passing beautiful waterfalls, climb higher and view scenes like this:

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Then, on the east side of the cascades, we meet the giant fruit industry: apples, peaches, apricots, plums! We stop at a roadside stand for peaches, then on to Wenatchee where we have a nice lunch. We usually get home by nine or ten at night, tired and sore. But it’s a good kind of tired.

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We’re going camping again next week in our new trailer. Somewhere near Mt. Rainier. Next month we’ll head to Yellowstone National Park. We try to go there about every other year. What a magical place. I can’t wait to meet up with my son and daughter in law and three grandchildren there.

In August, I begin my duties as the new president of Northwest Christian Writers Association. Please pray for me, that I’ll be a good vessel for what God will pour through me for the blessing of our writers. I’m so excited to join with the other board members to continue to build this wonderful group. You’re welcome to join us if you’re visiting this area.

I’ve shopped out two novels and am working on a new one. We’ll see how that all turns out, hopefully soon.

Y’all have a wonderful summer.

Seeking the Creator in nature and the arts

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