LaVerne’s Songline by LaVerne Biel

This is about my personal journey and hopefully is a chance for people to get to know me better.  I struggled with facts and timelines and quickly realized that those really didn’t define who I was or explain my worldview.  I loved Tina’s visual aids for her personal journey.  I realized that it is a little harder to do using Zoom. 

My walkabout is more of an Aboriginal Songline or Dreaming that meanders and intersects with inspiration and purpose (although you don’t know it at the time).  This Songline or Dreaming has no clear direction only an outcome.  Sometimes… just sometimes…. Wouldn’t it be great to start at the end! 

I recently took a facebook challenge from Mary Hansen that listed a bunch of words in a large block.  The first three words that you saw in the jumble were supposed to represent you.  My three words were:  purpose, connection, and strength.  (huh…… okay…..then) this was a great start.  Why were these words important to me? 

I have known some of you for many years, some for a few years, and some a few months.  I want this to be interactive.  Since I worked in technology, I thought I would put together a short game to see how much you really know about me. 

If you have a  Smart phone or smart device, you can go to www.kahoot.it on your internet browser if you want to play.  Ask if you need help.  It will ask you for a pin number and I’ll give it to you when I start the game.  Then it will ask you for your name. 

[Play game (questions on Kahoot!)]

  1.  LaVerne is:  ;
    1. The oldest girl of 3 children
    2. The oldest girl of 5 children – correct answer
    3. An only child
    4. The oldest girl of 4 children

 2. LaVerne was adopted (T/F):

True

Four of us were adopted and my youngest brother was born to our parents after they were married 21 years.  This picture was taken at Thanksgiving 1963.  This is the last family picture before my mom died from cancer June 1964. 

 3. LaVerne was raised primarily where ?

  • On a farm in Oregon
  • In a suburb of San Francisco, CA correct answer
  • Near Grant Elementary School in Spokane, WA
  • Outside of Tacoma

(although I did live in all these place and lived with my grandparents during the summers). 

 4. LaVerne’s birth name was (pick one)?

  • LaVerne
  • Audrey
  • Mary Jo – correct answer
  • Doris

(I learned about my birth name when I was 31 going through my adoption information.)

  •  LaVerne’s first job was: (pick one)
    • Working in a cannery
    • Washing dishes – correct answer
    • Working as a waitress
    • Working for a florist

(I worked all these jobs while I lived in Salem, Oregon)

  •  In my late 20s (as a single parent) I struggled with:
    • Depression
    • Finances
    • Finding employment
    • All of the things listed (correct answer)
  •  In what order did LaVerne perform office work (move colors in the right order and hit K to finish?
    • Data Entry
    • Receptionist
    • HR Compliance Officer
    • Finance/Sales (correct order)
  •  I was raised by:  (pick as many answers that apply)
    • Traditional parents (mom and dad)
    • Grandparents
    • Dad and Stepmother
    • People from our church (all answers are correct)
  •  I finished my undergraduate degree in 2003.  What was my degree in?  (pick one answer)
    • Management communication – correct answer
    • Theater Arts
    • Music
    • Accounting and Finance

Any surprises?

Finding my Purpose:  When I applied to Western Baptist University for my undergrad degree in 2001 they asked me to write a testimony.  I had the same struggle then as I do now with dissecting my life.  Now you know a little about my early family life I’ll read to you what I wrote about what happened after my mom died. 

I was 13 when my father remarried and we moved to the valley.  I was unprepared for my trip to the valley.  At first glance the Valley’s lush green walls, occasional blue skies, and running river were beautiful.  However, in time its high walls felt confining, the darkness oppressive, and the river turbulent.  The river divided my dad and us children offering us little protection. 

This described a harsh abusive household that was filled with mental illness, drug abuse, violence, and volatile rules.  Our family was shattered.  The good news was that God gave me hope during this troubled time.  (from my 2001 paper)

It was at his time that our church visited the Valley, and brought gifts of compassion understanding and love.  It showed me that Christ’s Church is really “the people”.  People who were Christ’s ambassadors.  They left me the gift of Faith. 

….I left the Valley with Faith alone. 

I left home at 17 and moved to Salem Oregon and then to Spokane when I was 20.  I had no other family here.  I wanted anonymity from my family and from God.  I ventured toward other faith practices and found them empty and meaningless.  I worked as a waitress for 10 years.  I believe I married in my early 20s because I thought it would provide me some stability.  I put my faith in a safe place but didn’t bring it out very often.  I thought I could pull the faith map out when I wanted it.  I discovered that the stability I sought didn’t come with love and acceptance.  The marriage gave me two wonderful kids, no self esteem, and no money.  This is another passage from my 2001 paper:

The isolation of the Desert appealed to me after my stay in the Valley.  It had vast open spaces, stark regal mountians, sparse plant and animal life, continual warmth from the sun and sand, and limited water. 

I had brought Faith with me to the Desert and my hat of Trust-in Self.  I left behind the armor of Trust-in-God because I believed that reason and logic were enough for my “walkabout”. 

I wandered in the Desert (although not for forty years) with my hat of “trust-in-Self” and discovered that the Desert is a deceptive place.  Its open spaces caused me to wander.  The place I was seeking turned out to be mirage.  Children were born, and my marriage dissolved.  The Desert mountains became unobtainable, and its insects crept into my camp.  In the cold and chilling evenings wild animals roamed freely.  Its sun and sand scorched me, and the water came only in drenching rains.  My hat of Trust-Inself had worn out. 

Armed with Faith alone, I crawled on my hands and knees out the Desert.      

Even now its difficult for me to read this.  I had been seeking God’s direction and putting together a plan on rerouting my songline.  My songline needed to pivot on God’s guidance, my children’s wellbeing, and obtaining some job skills.    

First I talked about my Purpose and now I’ll talk about My Connection:  I had people directing and guiding me.  One pivotal person was Larry Edmonds (he use to attend this meeting) who ensured that I got a job with the Soil Conservation Service doing data entry and directed me to this church.  From my 2001 paper:

During my climb to the mountains, I once again came across Christ’s Church.  This time it showed me the meaning of forgiveness, and I finally put on the armor of Trust-in-God. 

The view from the mountains was breathtaking.  From their vantage points I could clearly see the paths I had traveled.  They offered me protection from the winds, gave me warm rains, lush green valleys, blue skies, river lakes, and nourishment.  The mountains offered the safety that I had not known since I was a child.  …………….. With the armor of Trust-in-God secured, I began to freely walk around the mountains. 

I believe that God had his hand in me meeting Kent.  He was an answer to prayer.  We blended our two families, struggled with jobs, finances, starting a business, and mending deep wounds together.  We learned to lean on each other for support.  Connecting my past encouraged me to understand and love my step children unconditionally.  Looking down from the mountain I can see how every challenge brought me better understanding about myself and others in similar situations. 

Purpose, Connection and now Strength:  God continues to give me strength when I am weak, disheartened, and confused.  I love David’s imagery of the 23rd Psalms. 

Psalms 23 (my paraphrase)

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.  (because he is there to lead me)

He makes me lie down in green pastures,  (Really he forces me)

He leads me besides the still waters, (this was a lake chosen for me.  It was during my first visit to the Lake of beside the still waters that my relationship with Christ changed.  I had always known that Jesus was my Savior, but her he finally become my shepherd.)

He restores my soul.

He guides me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake (a pledge of protection)

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, (and the desert of trust in self)

I will fear no evil,

For you are with me;

Your rod and your staff, (will defend and carry on to guide me)

They comfort me.  (finally)

You prepare a table before me

            In the presence of my enemies. (in plain sight of the shepherd)

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows, (you protect and give me enough to share with others)

Surely goodness and mercy will follow me (God’s goodness and love will shadow over me.  It’s nothing I can produce on my own)

            All the days of my life,

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  (ahhhhhhhhhhhh home at last)

With Christ as my Shepherd I am free to continue my journey.  John 10:27-28 – My sheep listen to me voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, no one can snatch them out of my hand.  The Shepherd maintains infinite peace and protection for me and for all of you.     

My aimless walkabout has ended.  My dreaming continues because I can walk confidently in God’s grace and generosity.  I can move confidently with purpose, connection, and strength.  Or maybe (just maybe) the Shepherd wants me to reverse the order and have the strength and insights to maintain connections with people on purpose.  I must continue my journey because my songline is not finished. 

This message was given at Spokane Friends Church by LaVerne Biel on Sunday morning, August 30, 2020.

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