Scratch, scratch, scratch. I have arrived home from our church's family camp covered with mosquito bites. I tried to prevent getting bitten, for I react pretty severely to bug bites. My skin gets all red, swollen, itchy, hot, and I sometimes feel feverish and fatigued. I mixed up a blend of oils - citronella, peppermint, lemon balm, and witch hazel and faithfully sprayed my exposed skin, especially at dusk. I also have a specially treated bandana that is supposed to repel insects. I wear that around my neck. I've even got a large netting - it kind of looks like an upside-down mesh laundry bag that I wear around my whole head. And, I faithfully whip up my pillows and shine my reading light under them before getting into bed each night. You never know if a spider might be enjoying a warm nap under there!
Now, before you laugh too hard, you have to understand that for some reason, God created me to be bait (or should I say, food?) for any and all insects - spiders, mosquitos, wasps, ants, and my all-time favorite, the dreaded no-see-ums. You name it, they seek me out by name. I'm just minding my own business, not even thinking about bothering them, yet they still persist. I don't know how many times I've woken up covered with spider-bites, but Rich gets zero! When we're outside, I'm the one that's usually flapping my arms around shooing them away, while Rich calmly relaxes and enjoys the scenery.
So as I sit here trying hard not to think about my itchy ankles, but the more I try NOT to think about scratching, the more itchy they become! I got to thinking about how much these irritating bites are like sin. No matter what I'm doing - eating breakfast, typing on my computer, driving, talking with Rich, the itch is ever-present; never far from my thoughts and attention. I find my hand drifting down to my ankles especially when my mind has shifted into neutral - when my defenses are down. And once I give in to that first little scratch, I've got to repeat it, for now the itch has intensified. And I scratch again, and again, and again. And now, far from being satisfying, it's beginning to hurt a little. And bleed. And I must scratch harder and harder to satisfy that intense itching! Aargh! The only time that I don't hear the call to scratch is when my mind is completely engaged in something like trying to play my viola, or driving our large van in Seattle's rush hour traffic.
It's the same way with our fight against sin. Even though I am a new creation, I daily battle with sin. The temptation to give in to sin is always there - calling me; tempting me. And it grabs me when I let my mind shift into neutral. And once I give in to sin, just a little, it demands more. But it never satisfies. Sin costs. And the end of sin is death. James says, "But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death."
I'm learning that a key to battling sin is my mind...what am I going to feed it today? When I choose to soak my mind in the truths of God's Word, I don't notice the temptations to sin as much, for my mind and soul is filled with God and His great love and grace toward me. "Therefore, gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ..." (1 Peter 1:13)
It was an evening that I had been looking forward to for quite awhile, although another part of me was hoping time would stand still and the evening would never arrive. But arrive it did and with great excitement, as this year Jonathan would be able to join us once again for our (9th? 10th?) annual Mother/Son Baseball Night to cheer on the Seattle Mariners.
We arrived at the Bainbridge Island ferry terminal with time to spare, paid our $11 parking fee, and made our way up the ramp to board. A beautiful, sunny afternoon with a slightly cool breeze buoyed our already-high spirits. Jairus was wearing his Mariners cap and a too-small navy shirt with forest green stripes, Aaron had his Japanese Mariner's cap and a blue shirt, Jonathan sported a white cap, and I had on my #1 Mom Mariners shirt. We were all set.
It was then, as we waited in line, that my mind began to take me back in time . . . .back to 2006 - eight years ago, standing in the very same spot with a then 13-year-old Jonathan and a 5-year-old Aaron and a 7-month-old Jairus still in the womb. I remembered the harsh, disapproving stares I received as if to say, "What do you think you're doing, being pregnant with another child when you already have two boys?!?" Where has the time gone? I've traded in my very-pregnant-body for an aging, arthritic one. My sons tower over me (most of them.) Jonathan is 21 and off to law school, Aaron is now 13, and Jairus is almost eight!
How did my boys grow up so fast? When did that happen? I joyfully savored each fleeting moment, simply watching them as we stood in line. And like Mary, I pondered these things in my heart. I willed myself not to cry, though, for that would confuse and spoil our excitement. And, as all of our children know, I do not cry pretty - the first, telltale sign is my big, red nose. And it gets worse from there.
Once we docked in downtown Seattle, we faced about a mile walk to the ballpark. Even though I had been exercising and wore my good shoes, I was apprehensive about keeping up with the guys, but I was determined to try my best. Jonathan asked, "Which way should we go, Mama?" to which I replied, "Go ahead and take the lead, Jonathan, and I'll follow along." Holding on to Jairus' hand, I expected the guys to surge ahead, looking back every now and then to make sure I was coming. But after we broke free from the crush of the crowd, Jonathan directed, "Go ahead and set the pace, Mama, and I'll be behind you." So I did. We walked up the hill, and down 1st street in the heat, block after block. It was the same route that we took eight years ago . . . and try as I might, I got tired in the very same place. "Sorry guys, is it okay if we stop for a rest here?" I inquired, taking note of each of our son's responses to this halt to their plans. Jairus sat down next to me, happy to have a chance to snuggle close. Aaron willed his strong, limber body into neutral. Jonathan took advantage of the pause to take a few photos with his cell phone.
It's the afternoon before Jonathan's departure for Virginia (via Texas), where he'll begin his first year of law school at Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. The air is charged with anticipation and tinged with sadness as we all know, but no one is really talking about it, that Jonathan's departure is imminent. His flight to Texas leaves tomorrow morning, where he'll pick up his things and his commuter car, and drive to Lynchburg with his friend, Micah.
Our grain grinder has been working pretty hard today, as his sisters express their love for Jonathan in a very tangible way - freshly made cinnamon rolls for breakfast, cupcakes, hashbrowns, pasta salad, and more. The kitchen is grand central station today.. I'd forgotten how much Jonathan loves to eat good food, so his sisters have chosen a good way to communicate their love for him.
Once again we're all crowding around each other again, playing Uno, watching old videotapes of when the children were little, talking a whole lot about nothing of much consequence. I think we all just instinctively know that we just want to be together and savor each fleeting moment that we have left with Jonathan.
Jonathan's small roller suitcase was stacked about 10 inches above the top, so I asked him if he'd like some help packing. That's something I always helped him with - packing two, fifty-pound suitcases when he left for Cambodia, packing all he needed for a 7-month internship back in 2012. And I always cry as I pack. I take note of the sizes of his shirts and pants, and note his style and color preference in anticipation of his upcoming birthdays and Christmas gifts. I try to pack with as much love and care as I can. Although I really don't see a way that he can fit two suitcoats in that little roller bag - guess he'll be pretty dressed up tomorrow as he flies.
His Cambodia trip was on for 2.5 weeks, his internship for only 7 months, and then he was gone interning and working for another full year, all leading up to what he's been planning for all along - law school, which God has so graciously provided for. So this time, when we say goodbye at the airport, it'll be more permanent - he truly is off, making his own way in the world. It's just like the illustration I heard recently: our children are like a rocket ship on the launch pad with many large fuel canisters attached to it. It takes a tremendous amount of fuel and power to break free of gravity and get that rocket flying straight upward. But fly, it does, but not without cost. As the rocket finally breaks free of the earth's gravitational force, the empty fuel canisters are discarded, allowing the rocket to soar to great heights.
While not a perfect illustration, I think this illustrates Jonathan's life - he's soaring now - a young man, under God's authority. We've given him all we can, and our time of great influence in his life has come to a close. And it's with great joy that I get to sit in the stands and watch the rocket soar.
Goodbye, Jonathan. I love you and always will.
I'm peering out of our 7th floor window here at the Baranof Hotel, gazing at the majestic Mt. Juneau on this grey, cloudy, rainy, cold summer day. Wispy clouds gently float down the valley between Mts. Juneau and Roberts. Bethany is practicing for tomorrow's Empty Chair Dedication ceremony. She will be performing a violin solo, "Furusato", a Japanese song which talks about one's hometown It's a beautiful, wistful, slightly haunting melody; a perfect selection, offering both a little bit of hope and remembrance.
All thirty-three of us met downstairs in the lobby this morning at 8 to go on a Auntie Alice and Auntie Mary's living history walking tour. We walked up the steep hill to Gastineau Avenue where they showed us the area where an avalanche came down many years ago. We saw the empty shell of a building where the Tanaka children used to play, and the house of a young friend, right up the hill from the Baranof Hotel.
The highlight, in my opinion, was seeing the Tanaka Family's old house, literally built on the side of a mountain. We saw the perfect sledding / skiing driveway, the area where the garden once was, and the steep stairway which led to the house. Rich and I got to take our picture just outside the front door on 334 Carroll Way. The house has basically no foundation - it looks like it's just built on a few 4 x 4's, but it's still standing after all of these years. It must be so healing for Rich - to see the views that his father saw, to walk the same steps that his father must have walked a million times.
Thursday Morning, July 10th
It's our first full day here in Juneau, here in the land of the (almost) perpetual sun. It was finally fully dark by 11pm last night, and Rich said that it started getting light at 3:30am. Thankfully, Bethany, Kristi, and I slept with eye shades, but Rich was up before the crack of dawn exploring his father's boyhood home, the downtown area, and trying to find the trailhead to Mt. Roberts. We've got a small suite here - a very small bedroom with king bed, and small sitting room with pull-out couch for the girls. It suits us well here at the Baranof Hotel.
We enjoyed breakfast downstairs in the Capitol Cafe - packed full of tourists all busily planning their days. Since we're eating only two meals today to save on costs, we each had a hearty breakfast - pancakes, scrambled eggs, spinach, mushroom, and tomato omelet, hash browns, and OJ. The star of the meal was reindeer sausage - must be a specialty around here. Rich must be rubbing off on me - I went ahead and ordered it in my omelet,..and...it was very good! Even better than the usual cow or pig fare, I must say.
So the plan is to see if the fog has lifted enough to warrant the $32 it'll cost to ride the tram up to the top of Mt. Roberts. If it's too foggy we'll just walk around downtown and see what there is to see. We would like to hit the Empty Chair Display at the Juneau Museum today as well.
It really must be a thrill for Rich to walk the same paths that his father must have walked many times over and to see the same sights that he saw. Revisiting history - paths that Rich now gets to experience as an adult. The last time he was here was 42 years ago. His excitement is contagious, and understandably so!