This Could Be Your Shell of Protection

Well, it finally happened.  I found an eastern box turtle!  She was crossing the street, and after observing her in our backyard, we delivered her to her original habitat.  She was headed for the wooded yard of a neighbor (who just installed a lovely garden pond and lots of landscaping perfect for a turtle), so we brought her there.  

We watched her for a long time.

Eastern Box Turtle © Live with Flair 2011

The eye color and shape of the shell tells us that this turtle is female.  I can’t stop looking at her shell because it reminds me of something.

It looks like tiny children were finger-painting and made hand prints on her shell!

Eastern Box Turtle © Live with Flair 2011

As my own children romp and jump about me, I consider that I too have a home covered in hand prints (dirty walls, the sticky refrigerator door, the smudged table, and as art projects in frames).  I, too, am an aging woman with bumpy thighs (have you seen me in my bathing suit?).

And like the designs on her shell, I’ll carry the marks of motherhood–in its broadest sense–forever.  Hard and all consuming, you wear it like a shell you cannot shed.  On the worst days, it feels like a prison. 

But that’s what it means to choose adulthood, to choose to care for the next generation, to choose to nurture everyone in your path.  It’s not a prison.  It’s protection.  

She’ll keep these markings forever.  When I look at this turtle, I see impenetrable strength and resolve.   We let her go into the neighbor’s yard.  I’m not worried about her.  She has places to go, and even if it takes her a lifetime, she’ll get there.  She has the protection, now, to do so. 
   
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Journal:  When I see myself imprisoned by my circumstances, can I instead see them as my shell of protection?  

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Can You Guess What This Is?

It’s my daughter holding the remains of a turtle egg.

Turtle Egg

This weekend, I went for a walk along the Rappahannock River.  As I walked along, I started to hope–against the odds–that I might find a turtle.

On the Banks of the River

I always look for turtles.  I rarely find them.  (There was that one strange day when I tried to lure a turtle out from under my porch.) Turtles and I have a strange history.  I can remember every single one I’ve ever found.  When I think about turtles, they symbolize all the Good Things, all the Enchanted Wonder, all the Beautiful Hope of childhood.

Have you found a turtle and felt this way?

So I’m walking along the river, hoping for something as silly as a turtle.  

And lo and behold! 

Turtle Laying Eggs

 The whole landscape becomes a turtle heaven!

Turtle Eggs

The mountain laurel hides their nests. 

Hiking Through Mountain Laurel

I look down, and I find another one. 

Turtle Hiding in the Leaves
Mountain Laurel Blooming

 And then another. 

Another Turtle

 It was a great day.

Then, as if those turtles weren’t enough, I saw three more when I went on a walk with my sister in another part of the state.

Those turtles remind me of abundance and delight.  If I hunt, I will find. 

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Journal:  Do you remember finding turtles?

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When You Stop Resisting God

Last week, I was asked to write a piece on depression and Lent for The High Calling.  At my lowest point, I imagined God asking the question, “Will you live the life I ask you to live?”  I was humbled and so encouraged by the comments on this little essay called, The Best Question.  (Click the link and enjoy.)

Yesterday, I’m walking to the vernal pond and recalling that depression.  I remember how many years I resisted the reality of my life.  It didn’t look like it was supposed to.  But God knows what I don’t know; He sees what I don’t see.  But I wasn’t ready to surrender. 

Humbled again, I’m silenced as I walk in the woods.

We find our secret pond, and on the surface, I see the blue sky reflected. 

My daughters peer deeply, waiting patiently.  All of a sudden, we see the new frog and salamander eggs.  They might even be turtle eggs. 

Then, the water’s surface trembles:  little salamanders, spotted bright red and orange dart beneath the leaves.

Can you see that one hiding?  

I look out, and I see an entire pond filled with eggs, and tiny creatures move about everywhere. Those white cottony puffs are great big globs of frog eggs.  Next week, we’ll see unimaginable numbers of tadpoles.

As I think about my life (the one I resisted all those years), I hear another whisper of the Spirit.  I look deep into that pond, and I see how fertile, how bountiful, how rich and teeming this exact spot is.

This very spot where I find myself (no matter how wrong) will produce life in abundance as I cooperate with God.  And when nothing seems to be happening, I just have to look beneath the surface.  

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Journal:  Will I live the life God asks me to live? 

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