We got by with a little help from our kids and they soared with a little help from us. David got us online with email; Jean revved up our health and nutrition; Rhonda’s book signings inspired my writing; she and Duff rooted us in family and church. Our joint memory bank deposits grew on visits with family in Washington NH, Bethlehem PA, Hayesville NC, Blacksburg VA and Newfane NY; golden times with just the two of us included Chincoteague and Thousand Islands; we visited CRCs in four states plus our home church where I was a greeter, Jim was in my Sunday School class and we each took a turn leading Friendship Bible Study. In dawn love letters to Jesus I wrote: “Thanks for being all things to all people; teach me my limits but stretch me out of my comfort zone too; guide us in this huge and wonderful responsibility to care for Judah.”
Infinite Love, You grew our love for each other and so many others. Home for good in Greenbelt we welcomed transient family and overnight guests, celebrated Judah’s first birthday at Greenbelt National Park.
Home with Jim usually at 4E Crescent but also in Bethlehem PA, Blacksburg VA, at Penn State and Calvin, we read the Couple’s Devotional Bible from Grandma Evelyn and bedtime storybooks together. With all the kids in our living room at Christmas we wrote and gave one another notes of appreciation. Home at DCCRC where Jean still worked and Duff was a deacon again we welcomed Norm and Barb Steen. Daughter-in-Christ Jamima and her husband Suman loaned us their clothes on our Ohio visit. Son David and other family joined us in Chincoteague on days following our first anniversary.
Dear One who makes all things new, what joy to review that year full of newness! Praying daily with Jim on phone or in person Welcoming grandson Judah to heart and home Meeting each other’s families and friends Attending each other’s churches Jean working as secretary at DCCRC Jamima and Roseline free of oppressive live-in jobs Valentine Day engagement L’Arche Story Theater at Potter’s House Renewed devotion to Love Alive in Covenant Discipleship Group in barbershop trips with Dick O’Connor even in my left breast leakage medically unexplained sign of my bonding with baby Judah What wonder to discover Greenbelt! Finding 4E Crescent, moving there alone first Our marriage at DCCRC and Chincoteague honeymoon crowned the year
Fifty dawned in lonesome mystery: if Jesus was my shepherd why did I still want? How could I shepherd others without following the good shepherd? Jubilee clues unfolded sometimes in Shalem prayer movement classes and walks, in journal prayers with Nouwen’s book, Inner Voice of Love, in noon prayer circle and monthly vigil at Festival Center. But presence was lost in fog of impulse identifying with or judging family, friends, clients, everyone. Voice was drowned in multiple, ever-new scripts: Daylines newsletter mailings, family letters; Arts for Aging depictions of Grandma Moses, Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, Katherine Hepburn; Shakespeare acting class; Call to Commitment dramatic reading, spiritual autobiography, poems, prayers, even two sermons preached at Potter’s House. Pregnant Jean did Calvin’s Oregon Extension; Rhonda found a coauthor for In Their Own Voices; Duff moved in with me for six months. I sketched a word-a-week book for Mom’s 75th Birthday.
Sensing a new call, I started classes at Wesley Seminary. Disappointed with “Spiritual Singles” events and people I tried Single Adult Fellowship at McLean Presbyterian where Jim Gray caught my attention by showing up for the time of praying for our children before Bible Study.
Was my life a charade? Who did I want to be? For whom was I acting in Side Door’s fall show or in Communion of Saints at Potters House? Jean was a freshman at Calvin, Rhonda finishing her Masters at Michigan State, Christopher his Bachelor’s at Maryland. Their absence and my parents’ presence was jarring at times. It was You I addressed in all those journals Mother/Father God, Brother Jesus, Holy Spirit; You whose scriptures I wrestled with, pled by, copied and posted on van and car dashboards. You led me to the Simple Lifestyle Class, Kerygma Mission Group, intern membership at PHC. You showed up each day: I recognized You in deer sightings, in seniors’ smiles, in voices or writings, whenever I stopped showing off. You nurtured my desire for a good man, a friend, a companion and co-parent.
Family seemed real only in milestone photos: birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, reunions. Hien Mai, Gian and Dao shared our home four months, then Don and Nina till that house was sold— no more swimming pool and utility maintenance! Campbells went back to Guinea; Jean and I moved to the Silver Spring townhouse.
Diverting romantic urges in dramatic roles, I played a cleaning woman at Riverdale Presbyterian’s Side Door, raccoon at Dayspring, homeless intruder at Potter’s House. Was ecstatic when my new crush sang at our housewarming. Wonderful Counselor spoke through Church of the Savior people and places; Prince of Peace led me in daily practices of centering, walking, piano-playing. Dayshare clients became friends; friends became clients. Trips included Longwood Gardens and Virginia Beach with the Vietnamese, Washington NH with old friends.
Lifespring courses wound me up like a top. I spun from Anti-Racism Team to tennis lessons, Meals-on-Wheels to apple-picking to flea market sales. Holy Joy Spirit, I tried to do too much; lost sight of You except for Dayspring glimpses. Yet You breathed full-time life into Dayshare with group home exercise classes, one-on-one car or wheelchair-lift van rides and door-to-door planned routes for group outings especially with the Vietnamese Seniors. Thanks for safe driving all over DC, MD and VA, plus Baltimore, Lancaster PA and even NYC. Thank You, Abundant Provider, for countless hours of help maintaining pool, house, cars and van. Jesus, how You blessed that last year with daughters home and deacon son nearby! God forgive my dozens of whirligig church visits; thanks for Servant Leadership School, Compassion Group and caring women friends.
Came to my senses at Dayspring through yoga prayer; sensed shalom with Ruthie’s last words “It’s so beautiful” same words my heart sang on each Dayspring visit. Yet lacked a sense of direction at work though I was Activity Director at Bedford Court; at home, though daughters and others thrived there; at church, though I attended two or more most weeks. Lacked common sense to slow down and grieve: kept square-dancing, going to concerts, plays, movies; all my senseless yearnings centered on one man who gave me a sensible diagnosis after ten months— “no chemistry, too judgmental”. Meanwhile I bought a 15 passenger van and built the Dayshare Newsletter mailing list. Renewed friendships at 25 year Calvin College reunion and grew new ones with Margee Iddings at Rising Phoenix.
Worked six months at Great Oaks as Recreation Therapist for nine developmentally disabled adults. Drove Jean to Montrose Christian, friends’ homes, the mall, Ted and Le’s; Ruthie to medical appointments. Found a new church home, worshipping in the round at Silver Spring Presbyterian, receiving my first starword. Lived for evenings, weekends, trips, retreats, reunions.
Duped by ISOs, yearning for companionship, dabbled in dating. Relieved Ruthie could return to her New York apartment, but—-oh no! Her cancer came back. By then I was Activities Director at Sylvan Manor, facing state inspections, resident and family expectations. Sad I couldn’t attend but so grateful for Rhonda’s Calvin graduation, first of the fourth generation before Grandma Ribbens died. Brought Ruthie to her Pocono cottage in August; Rhonda moved in with Jean and me in September.
Single, but not singleminded; divorced, needing to reconcile with kids; dependent on Aunt Ruthie who bought the house (and full backyard pool where she and Mom hoped to swim). Jean was back with me finishing 8th grade at WCS; a basement renter helped with expenses those first months. Seniors Ministry gave me a thirty-hour week but with DC Department of Aging providing meals, Ella as site manager, three potential directors and plenty of volunteers, I was job-hunting. Newly retired, Ruthie was diagnosed with colon cancer; lived with us after weeks in NYC and DC hospitals. Newt’s summer repertory (including Duff) blessed church and community with one more wonderful show — Into the Woods — which affirmed my affinity for trees.