We Come Upon a Little Pond

I take a walk with a friend out in the country. Just around the bend from my house, you find nothing but farmland and ponds.

We pass a little house that used to be where folks cast their ballots in elections.

We come upon a little pond.

That’s all. A walk out in the country, along a winding road, is what life is like here some days. Even at my age, I look for turtles and scan the banks for duck nests. I watch for minnows and muskrats. I can recognize the deep call of a bullfrog.

We walk and talk and promise to return later to see the geese with their goslings.

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Warning: What Not to Do With Your Restless Heart

Every few years, I grow restless.

I begin to believe that a more exciting life exists in another town or in another career. My soul feels sick inside, and my imagination tells me I’m living the wrong life. My instincts tell me to beg my husband to take our family and flee. Everything in me believes something must change. 

This week, I hear the gentle admonition, Do not flee. Do not change.

I’m learning instead to settle deeper into my own soul. The restless heart isn’t a cry for new and different; it’s a longing for truth. It’s a longing to go even further into the restlessness till you strike pure gold.

I’m not there yet. I write things in my journal about whether I’d stake my life on the truth that Jesus brings the life that is truly life; that you lose your life and find it; that you come to God and never thirst again; and that the restlessness is there to drive you to a different kind of vibrant living.

Yes. Yes, these things are true.

Do not flee. Go deeper in. 

I’m wandering the garden, and I see the stakes around my blueberry bush. I observe the impenetrable netting that keeps the birds away. The beautiful bush is trapped on all sides except one: beneath her. So she sends down roots so unimaginably strong. And within the cage, she produces the kind of fruit only possible here.

After all, these boundaries are protection. They exist to ensure her fruitfulness.

When I feel restless, I send down roots instead. I go deeper into the very soil I think holds me back, and I rejoice in the pleasant boundaries around my life.  

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Do you have restless years?

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A Simple Pleasure in Your Home

Finally, the lilac bush blooms.

We bring some into the house, and already, the wafting fragrance greets anyone who enters. It’s gentle, sweet, and calm.

I love thinking about the simple pleasure of it. I want to build more simple pleasures into my home environment: gentle, sweet, and calm things that waft about soothe and delight. Music, great smells of baking things, the swish of a cat around our ankles, the crinkle of a page turning in a book. . .

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What’s a simple pleasure in your home?

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Something to Enchant the Rest of Your Life

Today I recall  E.O. Wilson’s confession in his memoir, Naturalist, that his searching the sea for mysterious creatures was really about something else. He says, “I also hoped for more than sharks, what exactly I could not say: something to enchant the rest of my life.”

Aren’t we all searching like that? Aren’t we all secretly hoping to come upon the sort of mystery and beauty that will fascinate and enchant our whole lives?

As I think about my love of art, music, poetry, and theater, I know I love it because it fascinates. It enchants. But it cannot be the end. I remember the way C.S. Lewis came to know Jesus. He was searching for a form of enchantment he called Joy, and he says this:

I saw that all my waitings and watchings for Joy, all my vain hopes to find some mental content on which I could, so to speak, lay my finger and say “This is it,” had been a futile attempt to contemplate the enjoyed. All that such watching and waiting ever could find would be either an image (Asgard, the Western Garden, or what not) or a quiver in the diaphragm. I should never have to bother again about these images or sensations. I knew now that they were merely the mental track left by the passage of Joy — not the wave but the wave’s imprint on the sand. The inherent dialectic of desire itself had in a way already shown me this; for all images and sensations, if idolatrously mistaken for Joy itself, soon honestly confessed themselves inadequate. All said, in the last resort, “It is not I. I am only a reminder. Look! Look! What do I remind you of?”    ~~ C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy

When I encounter beauty, I remember it’s a wave’s imprint. It’s a reminder. Everything we experience–the best of it, the absolute most enchanting thing–is simply a signpost pointing to God. 
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You Won’t Miss It

All month, I’ve been searching for a new robin’s nest. Ever since the chipmunks ravaged the nest outside my window and destroyed those lovely eggs, I’ve kept my eyes open for a new nest to enjoy.

This morning, while searching for climbing roses at the local garden center, my daughter points out a curious sign:

Retail suspended: Robin Eggs Nearby! We look down and see them within the roses.

I chuckle at the sign and the unlikely nest. I love that it didn’t require any work on my part to find it. The sign pointed the way.

I want to remember that I can relax into God’s love and wait. He knows what I’m looking for and won’t let me miss it.

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Isn’t it true?

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It’s Happening Whether or Not You Know It: The Update Walk

The youngest and I take a walk around the garden once a day now. We have to provide updates for the rest of the family.

Miracles are happening, and we realize that they’ll go on without us whether or not we attend the show.

So we must attend the show!

The strawberries are coming along.

We’ll have to net the blueberries soon to protect against birds.

Best of all, we report that we love the beautiful color of pink!

At least on this day, we saw it all.

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Do you have things you’re checking on each day?

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Making Time to Get Lost in Books (and Other Joys)

We find cozy places to read in our home so we can get lost inside of a book. Reading–as one of life’s greatest pleasures (at least for me)–allows new worlds and experiences to open for us, and I love encouraging it now that every family member can read.

“Go to the bookshelf and find a book to get lost in,” I tell the youngest. She snuggles up by the window with a big pillow beneath her head, and she goes inside the book.

Just yesterday, a friend’s older daughter gave my daughters her old books from her pre-teen years. Driving away from her house with a treasure box of books, I can hardly wait to introduce my youngest to new characters and new adventures: Winnie Foster in Tuck Everlasting, Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables, and more of Nancy Drew.

I lose myself inside of a book. I love that feeling that time has passed, and I’ve been somewhere else, unaware, at peace, and full of joy.

It’s that way with writing, too. My oldest says she feels that way working on a certain school project or with knitting. For my husband it’s woodworking and gardening.

But for all of us, it’s reading.

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What’s on your summer reading list? I like to reread my favorites from high school including A Separate Peace, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Great Gatsby. Throw in some Steinbeck and some poetry anthologies, and I’m one happy reader!

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10 Things You Learn About Healing When You Raise a Wounded, One-Eyed Cat

A few nights ago, Jack starts pushing his nose against us and rubbing our legs with his face as we approach him. As a classic cat declaration of ownership, this behavior is Jack claiming we belong to him.

It’s authoritative. It’s bold. It’s a way of leaving a territorial mark upon us. He never did this when we first took him in.

If you remember his journey, healing came slowly and curiously. With one eye, a broken tail, an infected mouth, and no interest in being his true cat self, he seemed half-alive.

And then, then!, he learned to purr again. He figured out how to meow and finally spoke to us one day in the kitchen.  Then, he began caring for another cat. One day, he stood up to our dominant cat. A month later, instead of moping, I found him basking. Sometimes, his wounded eye would leak, and I felt like we were back to square one. He then learned to do things normal cats do that he had forgotten. Then, he bonded with our cat, Snowflake, began napping only with her, and seemed he had found his true love.

And now, he’s rising up and declaring what belongs to him.

As I think about healing processes, I’ve learned some things from Jack:

1. Wounded cats–and people–slowly find their voices.
2. They’ll cry out when they’re ready.
3. Part of healing is caring for others.
4. You have to stand up for yourself and your needs.
5. Begin to worship again. Let yourself experience beauty.
6. You’ll have setbacks.
7. You’ll remember what it feels like to be healthy.
8. You’ll find friends.
9. You’ll let yourself love and be loved again.
10. And finally, you’ll be strong enough to claim who you are and where you belong with a particular type of authority.

I love my little wounded cat.

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Have you learned something about yourself from animals?

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Are You So Offended?

Today, I remind myself and my family from Proverbs 12:16 that “fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult.” Likewise, in Proverbs 19:11, we learn that “it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.”

My dear neighbor reminds me of these verses at just the right time this morning. She has children, too!

I realize how much time we walk around in this house with hurt feelings. I think about the number of conversations I mediate between offended children. It seems like it feels good to always be offended. It makes us feel important, entitled, and right.

Always being offended and hurt can quickly become a way of life, like an identity you choose.

With sibling rivalry at an all time high these days, I smile when I hear my husband tell my daughters, “You don’t have to always be offended.”

It’s true. It’s a choice to overlook an insult or offense. It’s the sign of a wise, patient heart who entrusts herself to God’s care. It’s the mark of love which is not easily angered and keeps no record of wrongs.

Oh, to be so free that we might live this way!

We can. We can because we operate in another economy and by a different law.

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How would you advise a child that’s easily offended?

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A Happy Little Morning

The poppies have popped in my neighbor’s yard this morning.

That’s right! They just sort of pop out in fireworks of color.

How can we not smile?

They simply burst forth; there’s no middle ground, no in-between state for a poppy. Poppies live vibrantly, dramatically, largely, colorfully, unapologetically, and beautifully.

They bring us a happy walk to school.

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I want to live more like a poppy, don’t you?

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