A Passage Through Thorns

On the way to the vernal pond, I notice how we can’t even approach it unless we pass through the thorns.  There’s no way around them. 

These thorns tangle and form a crown above us. 

This Easter, I think of the passage Christ paves through that crown of thorns he wore at the crucifixion.  And today, that beautiful resurrection means I enter in, and I’m free. 

A paradise awaits, but I have to pass through the thorns. 

 
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Journal:  He is risen indeed!  Have I walked through that free passage, marked by the crown of thorns?   

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What to Do with Your Fear

Last night, my daughter can’t sleep because of nightmares.  She’s terrified.  I ask her to come beside me so we can pray for Jesus to take away all her fears.

“Don’t ask Him to take away all my fears,” she responds.  “I need some of them.” 

“Which ones do you need?” 

“The ones that keep me safe, you know, from bad places and dangerous things,” she explains. 

Some fear is good, I realize.

Just that afternoon at the pond, I find myself overcome by fear.  A snake slithers across my garden shoes, and I nearly run back home, leaving my children behind.  It moves into the water, and suddenly, the whole landscape changes.

Snake in the Pond

The beautiful pond turns ominous, deadly, haunted.  My beautiful secret pond has trees with claws and thorns set as traps for my arms and legs. 

I actually can’t breathe for a minute. 

The Trees Have Claws

Snakes!  They really are out here.  But then I find my camera, and I notice the way the late afternoon sun covers the whole place.  When I see what the sun reflects, I perceive beauty again.  It’s the kind of beauty that always lives alongside danger and fear. 

Put back in context, I realize that a little garden snake and an old tree don’t have any power here.  There’s something greater in these woods.  The fear is real, but there’s always something greater than our fear.  It’s the power of God.  It illuminates this path, covers everything, and lets us run with freedom. 

Running with Freedom

Some fear is good.  But when fear consumes and paralyzes us, we have to remember who is greater than our fear. 

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Journal:  What fears do I need to put in the right context today? 

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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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Listen to This Story

Vernal Pond in PA

Today, I had time to listen to different folks tell me a story.

I ask a neighbor to tell me the story about how she moved from one county to another.

I ask a complete stranger to tell me the story of how she transferred from one college to another.

Both women said, “It’s a long story.”

I said, “I have time.”

I decide I want to have the time in my life to listen to long stories.

I’m teaching memoir writing this month for the college seniors. They have incredible and beautiful stories deep inside that nobody has yet asked them to tell.

I wonder how many people we encounter each day who have incredible and beautiful stories deep inside.

They are in there, hidden away like a secret vernal pond.

Living with flair means I encourage others to tell the story inside of them.  It’s been an amazing day because I’ve lived the adventure of listening.

And here’s the picture of me listening to the sound of snow falling on the vernal pond.  Thank you, Jennifer, for being part of my story.

(photo taken today by Jennifer Kelly and her fancy phone)
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Journal:  What if I asked this person to tell me his or her story?

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You Can’t Touch This

It’s finally warm enough to visit the vernal ponds in the woods behind our house. 

A  Vernal Pond

Last week, I didn’t know what a vernal pond was. 

It’s a temporary pool of water, normally full of rain or melted snow, that lasts through the spring.  What makes a vernal pond so special is the absence of predator fish. 

Without fish, a vernal pond allows all the toads, frogs, turtles, salamanders, and newts to develop and thrive without being devoured.  You can go to the vernal pond, examine all the eggs, spy on tadpoles and baby turtles, and pick up salamanders. 

I learn that in Pennsylvania, nobody knows how many vernal ponds exist or where they are.   These secret ponds evaporate and hide. The PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources sends researchers deep into the woods to locate, certify, and protect these wondrous locations.

What child (and her mother) can resist the mission to discover a secret habitat? 

And how can I not relish the symbolism of such a beautiful concept?  Just as the forest depends upon that temporary safe haven that cultivates what cannot develop elsewhere, I might form my own vernal ponds–deep within my soul, secret and safe from predators–where the things of God breed and develop.

This new season of birth and growth in nature reminds me to protect my own inner habitat from things that devour my hope and energy.  And I want to be the kind of wife, mother, and friend that protects the places deep within the heart where others are growing and changing.  I ask myself and others what we need to thrive.  I live with flair by developing habitats where what needs to grow in us can and will.  Untouched by predators, not threatened by what devours, we have a season to thrive. 

(photo from Wikimedia Commons, Werewombat) 

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Journal:  What do I need to do to create a thriving habitat both internally and externally in myself and others? 

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