Your Best Habit

On the walk to school, my rurally-raised neighbor (who knows everything about the land) comments upon the beauty of various trees’ habits.  She informs me that a tree’s habit refers to its overall shape.

She identifies trees by their habits.  Some trees squat and spread lower to the ground:

Others rise tall into the sky as perfect vase shapes:

Some grow into beautiful ovals:

And some unfold against the sky like Japanese fans. 

But as I look around me, I notice something astounding.  Some trees in the forest don’t squat or unfold.  Some don’t rise up and spread their arms wide.

I learn that if other plants or objects crowd a tree, the intended habit changes.  It diminishes.  Stunted and pressed upon, the tree loses potential somehow.

I think about the simple and natural need for space.  We have an intended shape–our best habit–but when crowded and pressured, we change. 

I think about making room for my husband, children, friends, students–and myself–to unfold, to stretch wide.  Do I stifle?  Do I crowd?  What would it look like to give everybody some breathing room? 

Today, I’m making space for my best habit to take shape.  I want to unfold like a bright yellow fan.

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Journal:  Do you feel like you’ve taken shape into your best habit?  What allowed this?

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Positioned to Dance

The grove of trees behind my home stands completely still this morning. 

Except for one little tree.  That tree’s bright green leaves shimmy and shake as if tickled by unseen fingers.  Her branches lift and fall, and the whole tree turns and glows in the new sun.  She’s animated–breathing–and dancing to the wind. 

The other tall trees look on with doubt. 

I can’t figure it out: Why would only one tree blow in the wind while the other trees around her, bored and exhausted, drop their boughs in silence? 

A wind current I cannot perceive ruffles the leaves of that one tree.  I’ve seen this sort of thing before.  In a forest, sometimes only a few trees catch the flow of the wind.  The others–too short or too tall, too near or too far–remain unaffected. 

I want to be that little tree positioned in the current of God’s spirit today.  Let us breath and dance like that even in a crowd of doubters. Let us shimmy and be tickled.  

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Journal:  What do you do to “keep in step with the Spirit?” 

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After a Rain Shower

It stops raining, and so we go outside just to take a look at things. The peony might just bloom this weekend.

Peony Soon

And maybe the yellow iris. 

Yellow Iris Almost Here

The weeping cherry won’t bloom for us again this year, but if we part the leaves like a great green curtain, we can enter a secret chamber.  The limbs embrace us, hanging low to the ground.  I’m a grown woman, and yet I can’t resist burrowing deep within the tree.  From the street, you’d just see a tree with blue garden shoes sticking out from below.

Within the Weeping Cherry

Living with flair means going outside to just take a look and finding yourself inside a tree. 

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Journal:  Do you have tree memories? 

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A Glorious Death

Autumn Leaves

I’m looking up into the autumn leaves, and I realize I’m watching a glorious death.  These colors–this vibrant display of glory–come at the point of death (technically the disintegration of chlorophyll).   This beautiful moment represents the end of life for these leaves.  I don’t name it as tragic.  I revel in this autumn landscape.  I take a picture and marvel.

What forms of death are glorious?  When, like these leaves, is death a moment of glory?

A Glorious Death

I think of when the will bends to God in a moment of surrender.  I think of what it means to become absorbed in divine purposes–letting my right to my own life, my own plans, and my own demands disintegrate like chlorophyll.  Like autumn leaves, I am most beautiful when I’m at the end of myself.  The Christian life might be seen as a glorious dying–a surrender of self–to become a child of the one whose Glorious Death wasn’t tragic but victorious and radiant.

Decaying Tree

Later, I hike through a forest and come upon a massive decaying tree.  I think of this as a glorious death as I imagine the refuge and nourishment such a dying tree provides for the ecosystem.  Might I see my own life as a fallen tree, bowed down, dead to self, so that I might find the life that’s truly life?

A life surrendered might feel tragic and painful.  But not for long.  It’s nourishing, radiant, glorious.  We see and marvel.

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