The Way of Things

In just one day, the hummingbirds have disappeared.

I’ve done everything correctly: I’ve changed the sugar-water; I’ve left the backyard alone; I’ve waited patiently.

But still.

They’ve migrated on, perhaps perished, or have simply chosen other yards.

You can’t control anything.

It’s the way of things: Just like that, the iridescent joy lifts and moves out of reach.

I stare at the full but empty feeder. I sigh out a goodbye.

What can I do but remember the emerald, the ruby, and the purple?

What can I do but then seek new hope and new joy? What can I do but then turn to the vegetable garden and note the bright green basil, the emerging Roma tomato, and the coming eggplant, as shining purple as no vegetable should be, that I’ll slice together with parmesan cheese and broil for our meal?

I think of all the ways I turn toward new light.

I think of iridescence.

Turned towards the light, and suddenly, you have everything you thought you’d lost.

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10 Orderly Relationships

Today in church, I find myself praying about all the ways God restores right order and right relating. I normally think about relating to God and then others, but I consider this:

I pray for a right relationship to my work, to the earth, to my own body, to objects or possessions, to money, to my past, to my future, and even to my own mind. 

I pray broadly for God’s good and right order in areas I hadn’t considered. For my family, especially my daughters, I pray that God restores a right relationship between them and each new category. 

Put us in a right and proper relationship to You, others, ourselves, our pasts, and our futures. 

People rightly related would experience that shalom peace of God on all sides. For us, I pray for these orderly relationships:

To God

To others

To work

To money

To the mind

To the earth

To the body

To the past

To the future

To objects or possessions 

I want orderly relationships. I’m excited to search the scriptures to see God’s instructions for each category. I see evidence all around indicating disorder and wrong relating, so I’m eager to think more deeply about this. 

I take notes: a disordered relationship to the past, for example, showcases bitterness and anger; a disordered relationship with my body might reveal any host of unhealthy behaviors; a disordered relationship to the earth might mean exploitation or harm; a disordered relationship to my future places me in fear, anxiety, or selfish ambition. Oh, the things I’m now wondering! 

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Telling Your Story of Place and a Lesson on Listening

Last night, my husband and I had the best time sharing our stories of meaningful places with our dear friends who invited us for dessert. They were such a blessing to us because they listened.

They didn’t just listen the way you normally think about listening–with polite nods and smiles and then a moving on to the next topic or their own stories. No, they listened. They listened until all the juice of my story was wrung out.

They listened with curiosity, rapt attention (rapt means completely fascinated), and patience. I realize in the telling of my story of place what a profound act of love it is to listen to other people like this.

Now I know what it feels like to be loved through listening like this. Now I know how to listen like this. Rapt attention means nothing else matters in that moment but this story, these words, this meaning, this person. Nothing else matters but what they must communicate and why.

I shared all about my childhood on Little Hunting Creek, and my husband and the other husband actually drove back to my house to get the panoramic picture, taken in the 90’s, of my backyard that my parents recently mailed to me.

Fishing on Little Hunting Creek, High School

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They asked questions; they celebrated with me; they mourned with me since it’s a time gone by; and they rejoiced about closure. My husband shared his own story of place–White Lake–and they listened with the same rapt attention.

Next time, I pray and hope I can listen to their stories of place with that same kind of love.

Telling stories of place–those physical locations that shaped you and why–felt so bonding, satisfying, and important. What did this place mean to me? How did it contribute to my sense of self and my purpose? Are there sites I should return to–like Charlottesville or Ft. Lewis–to think more carefully about what this location meant? Do I need others to celebrate, mourn, rejoice? Do I just need to tell the story for some unknown reason that may make itself evident in the telling?

My friend says, “I’ll go to Charlottesville with you. Whatever you need.”

(I realize that if you begin to tell stories of place, you might want to start saving funds for road trips!)

When you gather with friends, ask, “What places shaped you and why? Tell us about your childhood places!” Then listen with rapt attention. You’ll will learn beautiful things about others and yourselves.

And don’t forget to bring pictures.

 

 

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Making the Soul Home Again

You know that experience of returning from a long trip away back to your little home? You walk in, and you need to reinfuse something, set it right, get its scent back. It’s dark and dead, but you flip on every light. You open windows or turn on air, you light a candle, and you settle the family in. 

The stale air leaves, and it’s like the spirit of the home returns: laughter, music, baking things, the sound of little feet on the stairs, lavender on the pillows, petting the cats, suitcases back in storage. It’s not a home without all this. 

This morning I thought of the stale, dark state of my own soul if I’ve been away from connecting with Jesus for too long. Every morning, it feels like coming home to myself after I’ve journeyed away, and the scriptures and prayer must set things right, infuse me with fresh Spirit, and illuminate. 

I read David’s cry and lift up my soul: “Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I call to you all day long. Bring joy to your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.” (Psalm 86:3-4)

Reading the psalms each morning is a flipping on of the lights, a swirling of fresh air, and the beautiful movement that makes my soul my bright, joyful home again. 

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Summer Reading

I’m happy to report I’m reading! There’s time for reading again! We love the Summer Reading Program at the public library. We log books we read; they give prizes! 

In my stack by my bed, I’m diving into these authors recommended by various people:  Marisa de los Santos (Falling Together), Marilynne Robinson (Gilead), Italio Calvino (If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler), Edward Abbey (Desert Solitaire), Anthony Doeer (All the Light We Cannot See) and David Foster Wallace (Infinite Jest).

It’s a feast of words here! 

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As Simple As Sleep

Today I hear how a labor and delivery nurse tells a new mom what to put on her list of Things to Do each day after coming home from the hospital. 

Sleep eight hours. It doesn’t have to be all at once, but you must fill up your sleep tank. Each day. Check it off the list. An hour here, an hour there. Sleep until you have eight hours each day. Then start again on your eight hours the next day. 

I imagine little boxes–eight little boxes representing one hour each–that a new mom checks off and tracks, making sure she has enough. 

Just like 8 glasses of water: 8 hours of sleep. Maybe it’s spread out with a million little naps, but you eventually fill the tank. 

Sometimes I wonder how much easier life would have been as a new mom–or at any other time really–if I had just paid attention and tracked something so essential as sleep. And, apparently, if you sleep when the baby sleeps, it’s possible to fill your sleep tank. 

But I didn’t, and it was terrible. 

So I nod in fierce agreement with the new mom about checking the sleep boxes off the list. 

I love adding simple but essential things to a list of what to do each day. The sleep wisdom applies to new moms and old moms, too! 

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The Feeling People Get When They Are With You

Today I learn in a meeting all about the emotions people experience when they think about certain brands. When an organization decides what kind of emotion they want to invite, they begin to make branding and marketing decisions that cultivate that emotional experience. It was fascinating how the participants in this meeting all knew what words they associate with certain brands or organizations. (Volvo = safe, Disney = magical / happy, Apple = cool or hip.)

As I thought about what I was learning, I wondered about people, not just companies. I wondered about how I organize my own life and what feeling people have when they spend any amount of time with me. Or, to put it differently, is there a word that summarizes the emotional landscape of my writing, teaching, parenting, and friendships?

And, more importantly, what word would I choose? And how would I make different choices to reflect this word? I thought about how, for example, I want to be a delight to others. I want my family to experience delight and my students and neighbors to feel delight after spending time with me. Perhaps this means I make more room for joyful, rather than frantic or hurried interactions. Perhaps this means I choose activities and media that foster delight rather than negativity.

I could choose different words, too. Words like creative, loved, understood, inspired, or empowered.

I decided to ask my oldest daughter what emotion she experiences after being with me. “Be totally honest,” I said.

She said, “Accepted.”

And I realized that I like that more than even delight. And now I’m wondering what it means to make choices in my day to allow others to feel completely accepted.

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Securely Set on High

This morning I read a verse I’ve passed by many times. In Psalm 69:29, David writes, “I am afflicted and in pain; May Your salvation, O God, set me securely on high.”

I consider how David doesn’t ask for healing or an end to his affliction. He doesn’t ask for a change of circumstance, a new calling, or even rescue at this point. He instead asks that God’s salvation simply and powerfully “set [him] securely on high.”

I think of David resting securely, high above his distress.

To be “set on high” means to rest in an inaccessibly high place. I think of how the verb in translation–that inaccessible high and secure setting of a person–provides the image of somehow living above our distress or above our circumstances because we experience another secure reality.

May Your salvation, O God, set me securely on high. 

I think of floating on water and how, beneath the surface, a turbulent undertow of debris swirls. But I’m up here, floating securely on a different current of God’s great, refreshing care for my soul. Or I think of a kite catching an unseen current and flying high above whatever’s going on beneath her. Set me on high! Set me securely on high!

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Saying Goodbye to My Creek

For years, I’ve been hoping for a chance to say goodbye to my childhood home in Virginia that my parents sold in 2009.

Whenever I pass through that old neighborhood, I wonder what would happen if I just knocked on the door and begged for a few minutes alone with the creek out back.

But it always seemed too odd and intrusive to do so. Today, when in Virginia once again, God answered my prayer. The house was for sale with an Open House sign and balloons welcoming me. 

So I stood there and finally had my moment, too deep for words. 

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Wherever You Are: Settle In, Cultivate, and Protect

I read Genesis 2:15:  “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” I look up the language in translation and find three beautiful verbs: God settles the man down; God instructs him to cultivate the land and to guard the garden. 

I think about a life’s work and how God settles us in places. We inhabit the location and begin the work of cultivation and guarding. We cultivate–preparing for fruitfulness in our literal work but also in people. We guard–protecting from harm in various forms both in our work and in people. 

What and in whom shall I cultivate today? How are my words and actions helping prepare for fruitfulness? And how can I protect more and more my work and those around me from anything seeking to harm and destroy?

Wherever I am, I settle in, cultivate, and guard. 

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