Friday, December 31, 2010

Julie Hoy, Mall Cop

“Oh my gosh, I thought to myself, she’s stealing!”

One night I accompanied my son to the mall. He needed a haircut. While he was old enough to take himself, I thought I would tag along, and shop around a bit.

I headed down to the closest shoe store. Not really looking for anything in particular, I landed in the ladies section. I scanned the various styles and prices, but my eyes paused at the mirror hung at the end of the aisle. I was interested to see the reflection in the mirror was not mine, but that of the woman in the aisle that ran parallel to mine. Just a little curious, I watched her for a moment.  She was probably about my age, heavy set and wearing a robins egg blue sweat-suit. I was blown away when she took a pair of running shoes off the shelf, and in an instant shoved them, box and all, into the big shopping bag on her arm.

“Oh my gosh, I thought to myself, she’s stealing!”

My heart pounding, I thought, “I have to do something.”

As I pretended to be interested in a pair of shoes close to where she was squatting, I casually said,

“You should really put those back.”

“What?” She said in denial.

“Just put those shoes back and I won’t say anything to anyone.”

“What shoes?!” She said angrily. “You don’t know what you’re talking about!”

“Yes, I said, I DO know what I’m talking about. I saw you take those shoes off the shelf and put them in your bag. You know it’s not right, and you should put them back right now.”

Well… as she launched into a round of expletives that would have made a sailor blush, I quickly stepped away and told the manager of the store he should go and see for himself what was going on.

Thinking the woman would be too embarrassed to stick around for anything further, I headed to the men’s section. My heart was pounding too hard to even think.

There she came, stomping at me, yelling her head off and shaking her fist. She announced that “I was crazy” and how she was going to kick my - you know what.

When she stood outside the mall entrance and continued her tirade. I knew she was really crazy. I wondered, “What had I done?”  As she headed for the main entrance of the mall I knew I had to make a plan. Mall security was quick to stand at my side. They were ready to do whatever they could to help me feel safe.

Fear took over and I worried, with the mall being only a mile from my house I knew I would never be safe. I just knew that woman would wait for me, follow me home, kill my pets and burn my house down… or something like that.

I calmed myself and decided to call my husband. Already nestled in his bed, he reluctantly brought a second car to the mall. I met him at another entrance, and drove his car home. He and our son left from the main entrance, hopefully unnoticed.

My son wanted to save me. My husband, God Bless him, wanted to sleep.

Q. Should I have confronted the woman?
A. Considering her obvious mental instability, probably not.

Q. What do I know to be true?
A. Thou shall not steal. Deuteronomy 5:19

If there is one thing I cannot stand, it is people who deny what they know to be true. We are what we are. If we cannot accept who and what we are, and love living it… we should change.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Turned Upside Down

         Our family got a glimpse of the true meaning of Christmas one year, when without warning, our Christmas was put on hold, and our traditions turned upside down.

Christmas 2002 we bought our tree from a lot not far from our house. We brought it home, fit it into the stand and dragged it in the living room. We gave it plenty of water to drink and planned to start decorating the next day. Out of the blue, we received a phone call that changed everything.

My husband’s Grandmother, Florence, was living in southern California in a mobile home retirement community on a golf course. She was hospitalized and would no longer be able to care for herself. We were surprised to learn she had sold her home and was moving back to Oregon. Adding to the urgency, the people buying her home were traveling from Minnesota to sign the paperwork. They would be arriving there in two days. There was no telling if Grandma would be released from the hospital in time -- or if she would be of sound enough mind to take care of the business at hand. 

With no one else to help, we packed up our van, our kids (seven and nine years old at the time), and right after the school Christmas program on December 7th we headed for southern California.  We left our beautiful Christmas tree naked and alone, not knowing when we would return.

As it turned out, we would not only be responsible for closing on Florence’s home, but also for packing it and moving her back to Oregon. 

I have the world’s most flexible, understanding, and gracious children. They were away from home, in an unfamiliar environment, and without many choices for activities. God’s grace was evident, but it’s not easy being a kid in a retirement community. The rules are strict. It seemed the residents were watching and just waiting for us to break one. Some of the people there made it really clear they were not comfortable with the presence of humans under the age of sixty-five being "in the neighborhood.”  There we were, faced with a seemingly impossible task, and no choice but to buckle down and get the job done.

I thought I would die, when I looked up one sunny afternoon and saw the kids dashing passed the third hole of the golf course. They were sporting Grandma’s teapot covers as hats, at least a dozen of her scarves flew behind them as they ran with the mink heads from her stole like puppets on their hands… priceless. I quickly ushered them back into the house and took a bunch of pictures.

Florence’s place was filled with a lifetime of treasures. The treasures were mixed with a bunch of stuff that just needed to go. We gave to the needy what we knew Florence would not want or miss. There was still so much to pack. 

My husband and I took turns working through the night. As I worked, my mind wandered to the Christmas tree we had left behind. I knew it was probably all dried out and dead by then, and if we ever did make it out of the hell we were in, it would simply be fodder for the yard waste container. I tried hard to see Christmas in the desert, but in the midst of our circumstances, shiny red balls stuck to a cactus just didn’t do it for me. 

I think the hardest part of our adventure was having Grandma Florence around when she returned home from the hospital. She didn’t understand what was going on. She had forgotten what she had done. The day before we left town she asked for the 14th time,

 “Who are you and what are you doing here?” 

I reminded her again she had sold her house and wanted to move back to Oregon. She turned her head in disgust and as though it was my fault said,

 “Well, no one told me that.”

It was the day before Christmas Eve when we finally set out for Oregon. Thank God for our van (which was packed to the gills).  Grandma rode shotgun. The kids took up the middle and I sat in the way back. There was a little hole just big enough for me to fit in. I didn’t mind; I had a small patch of window to look up and out of, and through it I could watch the sky. The limited nature of my surroundings gave me plenty of time to sleep, and pray that we would make it home in time for Christmas.

We drove 10 hours the first afternoon. We spent that night in a little motel in a town called Weed. Early Christmas Eve we set out once again. With 12 hours left to drive, we were hopeful we would make it home late that night. 

From my little space I made a few phone calls to my sisters and my mom. I told them it looked as though we might make it home for Christmas. I begged them in desperation to please run over to the house and pick things up a bit. Grandma Florence was coming to town, and we had left the house a complete disaster! My family, being who they are, happily jumped in to help.

At 10:30 Christmas Eve night we arrived home. I could not wait to get in the house, no matter what it was going to look like. As we walked in the door, we heard the sound of Christmas music coming from the stereo. No one was there, but there were fresh baked Christmas cookies on the dining room table and the house was spotless! I will never forget the moment when I stepped into the living room and saw the tree we had left for dead. I was overcome with emotion. There it was, decorated more beautifully than any tree I had ever seen. The presents I had gathered in the months before Christmas were wrapped and waiting. There was no holding back the tears. We had made it home in time for Christmas, and my family had taken their Christmas Eve to give us a moment we would never forget.

The gift my mom and sisters gave us that year is what Christmas is all about. Selfless giving, willingness to serve, and sacrifice are the most important Christmas traditions we can pass down through generations.

Our Christmas turned upside down, and had an upside that would bless us forever.

Grandma Florence settled back in Oregon, and a few years later moved on to Heaven. I hope when she arrived she finally realized the truth…  the move from southern California really was her idea.  

Monday, November 22, 2010

Big Kids and Pediatrics

     I'm not super big on change, but something happened today which brought to mind the inevitability of it, whether I like it or not.

     Our son is soon to be 18, our daughter just turned 16.  I had them both at the doctor's office today. They have had the same doctor since birth. Tiny babies shared the waiting room with us this afternoon. So sweet, so vulnerable, so stinkin' cute!  Our kids used to be like that, but not anymore. Oh, they're still cute... but strong and very outspoken. They drive themselves around now, and dare to call ME old.

     As we drove the 40 miles or so to the clinic I listened patiently to rap music on the radio. It was really loud and most of the lyrics were just for the sake of a rhyme, certainly not any reason. I said nothing. I was so pleased when they both admitted, before I did, that the booming bass was too much to bear. THEY turned it down. HA! One for me!

     I asked the doctor... "How much longer can we come to pediatrics?"

"I saw a twenty-three-year-old just the other day, the doctor said. I'll see them just as long as they want to see me."

     Sounds like were good through college.

     Change has been taking place since our kids were just little peanuts. There are times when the depth of that change is more obvious, and the next steps, which you cannot see or predict, are both exciting and a little uncertain. One thing is for sure... God is in charge.

Romans 8:15-17 (New International Version, ©2010)

15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.[a] And by him we cry, “Abba,[b] Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

     They are ours to love and care for on earth, but ultimately they belong to God.

     Sometimes it seems... our kids are growing up. Who knows, maybe I am too.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Always Amazed!

I am always amazed at what God can accomplish... even through me.

God is good. He is in charge of everything... including me... and the plan that He has for my life. I surrender all. (She said, waiting for lightning to strike.)

I wrote that the other day... then this happened...

I recorded three original Christmas songs. The songs sound great... with harmonica, bass, drums, vocal and guitar. Doing this project has confirmed that we need to get the rest of the new music recorded... sooner than later.

One leap of faith leads to another. Too cool. Thank you God. I am always amazed at your power. By the way... you are really fun to watch. I trust you.  Let's go!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

What Do I Do?

My name is Julie Hoy.
As I was designing the poster for my upcoming concert, I began to wonder...
What do I do?
I'm a wife and a mom. I sing. I play guitar. I write. I tell stories. I create. I help where I can. I make good soup. I clean house. I raise my voice sometimes. I've been known to swear on occasion.
I laugh a lot. I cry. I worry.
I live with my eyes open and my heart on my sleeve.
I pray.
I trust... God.
I have hope.
I dream.
I seek to do as I was born to do.
I encourage others to do the same.
My list might grow longer... or perhaps you know me and wish to add something.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

How Can I Be Sure?

"How can I be sure... In a world that's constantly changing." Don't know why that song is in my head this morning. Good thing God is for sure.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Darts For Beer!

     "Darts for beer?!" I exclaimed.

     I had never seen anything like it.  It was the first booth I came to at the fair in Juchitan, Oaxaca, Mexico. Wanting to support the local economy, I had to try. My dear friend Josefina and I did very well. We each walked away with a six pack!

     Mexico is just different. Darts for beer would never happen at a county fair in the United States of America. But then a lot of things that happen in Mexico would never happen here. Thank goodness. There is so much to pray for in Mexico and other developing countries. Please join me in prayer and remember that there are many more good people than bad ones.

     Taking the good with the bad, beer as a prize may not be the best idea, but it sure made the bumper cars fun!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Relatively Miner or Minor?

     I remember the smell of dirt and the fear that no one would ever find me.

     One time, when I was a little girl, my brother thought it would be a great idea for me to hide in a posthole for a game of hide and seek. Arms down at my sides, he put grass over my head so no one would find me. At the end of the game he told the other hide-and-seekers I had gone in the house for the night. My brother was right, nobody found me. When he thought I'd had enough, he came back to set me free.

     Almost 40 years later, I still don't like it when I feel trapped. I don't like the feeling of not being able to move freely. I realize we can all be trapped at any moment, past or present. We can be trapped in something or by something, the impact is the same. When I can't seem to find my way out of the uncomfortable place I'm in, I want to scream and run. I want to fix it, to change it, or make it better. Waiting for God to bring me out of the place where I am stuck can require a great deal of patience and faith. I must do my part to help, but sometimes I have no choice but to wait.

     The Chilean miners trapped underground for over two months have inspired me. I realize that my "trapped moments" are relatively minor compared to their ordeal. They have proven that if we can remain calm in any given situation, organize ourselves, keep our faith and find joy, we can survive anything.

     Dear God, please help me to... remain calm no matter where I am, to organize myself and my thoughts, to keep my faith and find the joy in each and every circumstance. 
Help me Lord to be free!

      Some would say I should find a posthole, get inside and break through the fear. Just so you know, that's is not going to happen. These days, it would be hard to find a posthole big enough anyway.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I really blew it this time...

     Suddenly I found myself with a child who doubts the existence of God, because as he put it, "God really doesn't care about us." "If this is His plan, it sucks, and I don't want any part of it."  

     My son, Alex, was having a hard time. He's a senior in high school. He's ready to be done with it. I was doing my best to motivate him when I suggested he find one thing he feels good about and looks forward to each day. He chose football. I said, "Great! Put your hope in football. Know that you have to go to school and get decent grades in order to play football."

     Child motivated... I thought that would be enough for a while. The very next day... in a simple weightlifting class... hamstring torn. Physical therapy started right away, but he's out for minimum three weeks. Senior year, that's a pretty big deal.

     All by myself, I had a few choice words for God.  The hamstring has been an issue since it was first torn 5 years ago. For a natural born athlete that's a real bummer. We've done our part. What could God possibly be thinking taking away the one thing that brings my son joy right now?

    In a flash I realized I had done my son a terrible disservice. God hears us. He just doesn't want us putting our hope in football... or anything other than Him.
     Sometimes when we are hurting... or tired of waiting... it's hard to keep our faith. I thought my faith was stronger than this. The lesson for me is in the advice I give. The lesson for my son is much harder.

     I'm sorry, Alex.
     I'm sorry, God.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Reality Strikes

     We went to our first high school football game of the season last night. Our son plays for Banchet Catholic. He is a senior this year.

     Reality struck me last Wednesday afternoon, when I stopped by the practice field at the school. One panoramic view of the property was a sudden snapshot of our life in football over the last 5 years. In one field were the mid-high boys practicing in full pads. They were dressed in white, looking rather innocent for football players, I thought. In the other field, were the high school boys. They wear black. I remembered when my son was little and the big boys looked so big, now he is one of them.

     I remember when the older boys, especially the seniors, seemed so grown-up... like men.

     I knew we'd get here someday. I just didn't think it would happen so fast. What seemed like it would take forever is upon us. We've had our last, first game, of high school football. My son played great. He carried the ball a few times for a total of 59 yards, and made too many great tackles to count. I didn't cry once. I just had a hard time cheering because of the great big lump in my throat.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The potter a world away...

    When I traveled to Ethiopia from Oregon in 2004, a good friend of mine, a potter, sent one of her bowls with me. It was to be a gift to a potter a world away. “Just find a potter and make a trade,” my friend said.

     Our travel group made time one afternoon and visited the regional marketplace. I waded into the sea of humanity in search of the unknown recipient of the bowl, the gift I had carried so long and so far. Our guide knew I was looking for just the right person. Together we found her.

     She had walked for two weeks to bring all that she had to offer that day. We stopped to talk. I knew she was perfect for the gift. I told her through our guide about my friend, the potter, and how that bowl was my friend’s gift to her. The woman was moved to tears. She was surprised and thankful when we bought everything she had brought to sell that day, all four bowls. She blessed us many times over, and happily began the long journey back home. She had no shoes on her feet but a beautiful gift in hand.

     I not only left with shoes on my feet, but the woman’s pottery, which I shared with my friend back home, and an even bigger gift in my heart, the smile of a potter a world away.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ouch! That hurts.

     I really don't like it when people I love are hurting. Those moments when all we can do is pray and wait really suck sometimes. The good news is, God is there. God is with us all in every moment of every day. He knows where we are at, and why we are there. The sign at the church down the street today read, "God won't bring you to... anything He won't bring you through."

     A memory comes to mind. Don't know why it is this one, but here goes...

     When my son was maybe four he caught me staring at him. It was one of those moments when you just can't get over how beautiful your kid is. He looked back at me and said, "What Mommy?" "Alex, I said, I thank God for you." He replied, "You're very welcome."

     God Bless all who suffer today in body, mind or spirit. Help us all, Lord, in those moments when we just don't know what to do. Please give us grace and strength whether we are the one suffering, or the one trying to help. Amen.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Bad Jokes at a Yard Sale

     Our yard sale was an immense success! Had a neighbor of ours come by and didn't recognize her. Maybe it was the heat, or the fact that I was exhausted. Still, I felt like a dork.

     We sold a ton of stuff, and could not have done it without the help of my family. Whenever help is needed they jump right in. The best part is, my family can turn just about anything into a good time, and there really is nothing quite like people watching at a yard sale. Even better is when you realize that the people you love watching the most are your family. We laughed and laughed.

     Our inventory was a collection of things from several different sources, some of it had belonged to my father-in-law, John. He passed away last summer. It was great to see his things go to those who needed them most, and for such great low prices!

     I was shocked and a little frightened when I realized one of John's items was a nasty joke book. It had sat out in the open for two full days and the first hour of the last as though we wanted it to be there! I wondered what it was that so many people were reading for so long in the book section. Such filth! Most of it didn't even make any sense. I remember toward the end of John's death he would tell me jokes. I thought he was confused, forgetting punch lines, and unable to control his "appropriateness filters." Now I know that was not the case. Just about every joke John told in those final days came straight from that book!  I'm sure he must have been laughing in heaven knowing that we got to hear them again.

     I know we can't take our stuff with us when we die, but I think John should have been required to take that book.  Come to think of it... where is the author? He's the one who should have to take every single copy as a punishment of sorts.

     Our yard sale was an opportunity to learn something about ourselves and our family. We saw our stuff laid out before us, and reminisced about when and why it was purchased. In the end we took back what we couldn't part with after all, and donated the rest. It was a wonderful way to spend the weekend.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Yard Sale!

     Yard sales bring out the best and the worst on both sides of the fence.  Well, we've got great weather, that's good.  Last summer I learned that death is a process. This summer I am learning, so is life. Yard sales are just part of the process of both I guess. We all outgrow our "things."

Friday, August 13, 2010

God in Las Vegas

     My mom, my brother and I hopped into the back of a cab on the strip in Las Vegas. On the way to our next appointment with fun and craziness, I noticed the driver's name, Habtit Michael Zere.

   Are you from Ethiopia? I asked.  "I am Iritrean" he said politely. (There is a big difference where he comes from.) I asked if he spoke Amharic, the primary language spoken in that part of the world. He said, "Yes." Unable to control myself. I told him I had a song for him. God's Spirit welled up inside of me. I knew somehow there was no turning back.

     You see, a little over a year before that trip to Las Vegas, I had traveled to Ethiopia to witness the beautiful work of Project Mercy, an organization started by Marta Gabre Tsadick and her husband Demme.  Marta was the first female Ethiopian senator under Haile Salasse in the seventies. When communism took over she and her family were forced to flee. To make a long and faith filled story short, they ended up in the United States making parachutes for the US Navy. After years of hard work and constant prayer they began making trips back to Ethiopia to help with the Refugee situation there.  Since that time they have saved hundreds of thousands of lives from certain death.

      I heard Marta speak at a hotel in Portland, Oregon in December of 2003. It was meeting her that inspired me to have one of my songs translated into Amharic.

  "What can I possible do to help?" I asked her, after the program had ended. I don't have any money to give you, and what good would it do to write a song?"

     Marta replied, as she touched my cheek, "Oh my dear, a drink of water for the soul does far more than a drink of water for the body."

     I was inspired and moved to the impossible.

     Less than than two years later there I sat crammed between my mom and my brother in the back of a cab in Las Vegas. In Amharic, I sang:

I have found that in this world
there are those who give
never thinking that they will receive.
They seem to know and have the heart of Jesus.
They give their love without condition.
In their eyes I see the heart of Jesus.
Through them God has touched the heart of man.
Though them God has touched this heart of mine.

     I don't know if a pin has ever dropped in a Taxi in Las Vegas, but you could have heard it that day.

      Habtit Michael was moved to tears.  He asked "How is this possible?" "God has sent me a gift!" "You are an angel!"  Well, I'm no angel, as evidenced by the amount of fun I can have while in Las Vegas, but in that moment God did something good.  In spite of myself and all my failings I did as I felt called to do and God's Spirit moved in us.

     When we arrived at our destination we slid out of the cab.  Habtit Michael met me at the curb. We hugged and he thanked me.  I asked for his address to send him a CD with that song on it, he most willingly wrote it down for me.  My mom and my brother stood on the sidewalk shocked and a little embarrassed, I think.  My heart still pounding, my brother asked, "What just happened there?"  Knowing only this, I replied, "Oh that's just God, gettin' stuff done in Las Vegas."

     I sang for Habtit Michael's wedding a couple of years after our meeting.  We were just chatting on facebook last night.  I call him my brother.  He calls me, "Sis."

Project Mercy's website.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Window

      Perhaps you have opened a window to my heart. Where God says, "I know you don't know how or why, just keep doing as I am calling you to do."
     My whole life has been filled with inspirations and faith, inspirations and faith... over and over again. I resign myself, every day, to the fact that I create because I am inspired. While discernment, right judgement and a modicum of good taste are underlying and necessary, it is not for me to reason why. That's why God gave me my husband.

     That was my first blog. I think I can do this.