My Blog List

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Moment In Time

I LOVE our two lilac bushes.  I love their beautiful color.  I love their wonderful fragrance.  I love how they are so cheerful to look at, but most of all, and I love how they reassure me that spring has really, truly arrived.  (In our corner of Northern Ohio, this is a genuine concern.  Sometimes, our winters seem to have no end!)

The only thing I do not love about the lilacs is how short of a life span they have.  About the time I notice the bush is in full bloom, I had better act quickly if I want to bring any inside to enjoy.  In a period of about two weeks, the bush goes from just a hint of color, to full flower, to nothingness.  Once the flowering has ended, the bush becomes quite unremarkable.  It has literally transformed from an object of beauty and happiness, to a nuisance to mow around in the summer.

The lilacs remind me of how brief our span is, as well.  Although we live much longer than two weeks, when compared to all of eternity, our 70, 80, or even 100 years, are very slight.  Yet, despite this “moment in time” that we inhabit, we are a thing of beauty, much like the lilac bush in the spring.  I am humbled when I consider that the God and Creator of the universe knows my name.  I, who am here today, and will be gone tomorrow, am not only known, but beloved.

But, unlike the lilacs, we never “fade.”  Even as we age, and are perhaps not lovely to look at by the standards of beauty that the world espouses, we remain precious and beautiful to our Father.  I am challenged by the examples of many of the older persons that I know.  While many fear the process of aging, there are those who look it square in the eye and determine not to become bitter because of lost youth.  I greatly admire their courage, and the graciousness with which they face health challenges.  But, most of all, I feel blessed when I observe their spirit.  They are not “useless” or a “nuisance,” like I jokingly referred to the lilac bush when it had faded.  Rather, they shine with the light of God, as they continue to look for ways they can serve and give of themselves.  Many who are confined to bed at home, or in a care facility, can still pray and be an encouragement to others.  I truly believe that there is no such thing as a useless life.

I have often commented to my better half that, “I want to be just like ____________ when I get older.  She is so amazing!”  Several times, my husband has gently commented, “She spent her life serving.  It was not something she just decided to do when she got older.”  In other words, these women that I admire were amazing long before their elder years.  The kind of person I want to be when I am old begins right now, and is the culmination of the kind of person I am throughout my life.  The challenge is to make good use of the “moment in time” we have been given.  Questions to ponder:  What habits am I cultivating right now?  What qualities do I want to nurture in our children?  In myself?  How can I serve God in my “moment in time?”  What will you do with yours????

In His Peace,

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Of Clotheslines and Henri Nouwen . . .

Late this afternoon, it was pleasantly warm and quite breezy, so after I washed a load of towels, I hung them out. This morning, I had been behind my desk at work.  This afternoon, I was behind the wheel dodging construction on my daily visit to see my mother.  Later, I was at the counter chopping onion and carrots for the stew pot, when the stopped washing machine finally coaxed me outside.

With the basket of heavy, damp towels balanced on one hip, I started across the grass toward the clothesline in bare feet, feeling the breeze and warm sun on my face.  As I hung the towels, all of the stress of the day seemed to be forgotten.  Being outside, even to do work, was like a soothing balm.  My mind wandered, and I thought about how there is something profound and holy about the experience of hanging clothes outside on a line. It was so nice to enjoy all of the beauty around me, as I reflected on my busy day.

We have a hammock stretched from an old maple tree on one end, to the clothesline pole on the other.  Dinner was simmering in the pot on the stove, husband still at work, children all occupied elsewhere, so there was no hurry to go inside.  As I relaxed for a moment in the hammock, I could hear the crack of the towels blowing in the wind.  Looking up into the canopy of branches above, I spotted a few red-tipped leaves.  The cicadas cried in a loud chorus that summer is fading, and fall is beginning.

As the wind rocked my hammock back and forth, I thought about how hanging out the clothes today was God's invitation for me to slow down and savor His presence in nature.  There is simple beauty in the ordinary, and majesty in the everyday.  It also reminded me of a book that just I finished reading last night - Henri Nouwen's "Our Greatest Gift:  A Meditation on Dying and Caring." 

I had checked out this book from our church library recently.  I felt drawn to it by the title, and I imagined it would speak to me in the season of life I now find myself in - providing support for my mother as she is slowly dying.  And while the book was exactly that, it also contained simple yet profound truths which applied to more than helping others along their final journey.  One of my favorite passages was Nouwen's description of mealtime at the community for those with mental disabilities in which he lived and served as chaplain at the time this book was written ( 1994 - L'Arche Daybreak in Toronto). 

"Meals in our houses are the high points of our daily life.  They are like small celebrations.  Food is eaten slowly, because many of us cannot eat by ourselves and need to be fed.  Conversations around the table are simple, because many of us cannot speak and those who can, don't use many words.  Often there are candles and flowers, and on special occasions there are banners and balloons."  (Nouwen, 99)  

The simple act of eating together became such an important part of the day because the staff recognized it as a holy moment in time.  In the same way, the seemingly mundane act of hanging clothes became a moment in which I sensed God's presence in the wind blowing the towels and branches, in the sounds of birds and cicada, and in the cool shade and soft grass.

Take some time to be still today.  God speaks to us when we slow down long enough to listen.

In His Peace,


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Ahhhh - it's great to be back!

It has been a LONG TIME since my last post.  Life has been quite hectic at my household, as I attempt to balance raising our family, driving to the next town each afternoon to check on my mother at the nursing home, a part time job, responsibilities at our church, etc, etc, etc . . .   One day about a week ago, I really felt like I was "losing it."  The stress of trying to keep up with everything was really wearing me thin.  In the midst of my tears as I confessed all of this to my husband, I used the analogy of trying to keep way too many plates spinning at one time.  I realized as we were talking together that I was feeling overwhelmed, and also that I had not been taking very good care of myself physically, mentally/emotionally, or spiritually.  So, I am determined to make a fresh start and spend some time each day doing something nurturing that I enjoy. 

One of these nurturing activities that I have found is taking photos.  Disclaimer:  I have had no training, do not own any fancy equipment, nor do I intend to "quit my day job" and become a photographer.  However, I do find enjoyment in attempting to capture the beauty and wonder around me.  One of my favorite subjects is nature.  The picture posted here is from earlier this summer.  We live on a "flight path," of sorts.  The reservoir for our town is across the field behind our home, and there is a creek that cuts across the front of our property.  As a result, we get quite a bit of "traffic" from various water birds who divide their time between the reservoir and the creek, flying back and forth (usually in the early evening) over our home and yard.  We have had a White Egret who used to live on the banks of the creek, but I haven't seen him/her for a long time, so I guess there was a relocation.  Currently, we have a Great Blue Heron who visits us often, and also Canada Geese at times.  Although we see anything from one goose to an entire flock of them, one thing we have not seen until this picture was taken was baby geese.  The momma goose was very protective of her little ones.  I stood quite far back and zoomed in, fearing for my safety if I ventured any closer!  :)

My prayer is to continue to devote time and energy to nurturing activites such as photography.  When we forget to rest and play once in awhile, I think our temptation is to become so busy with "stuff," that we lose sight of what's truly important in our lives - our relationships with God, our family, and others.  May you find your "sweet spot" this week, and spend some time doing what nurtures and inspires you.  Rest is good for body and soul.

Grace and Peace,

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fall Beauty

It's mid-October, and that means gorgeous fall leaves here in northern Ohio.  Although my allergies are less than pleased with this time of the year, my eyes and soul are soothed by time outside to enjoy all of the beauty.

As I think about the four seasons that we experience here, I believe that I resonate the most with spring and fall because they represent the greatest feelings of change to me.  In October, evidence of summer is fading.  Although the grass is still green, it does not grow as quickly (thank goodness!), and is it speckled with crunchy leaves in hues of brown, yellow, red, and orange.  Even on warmer fall days, there is just a different "feel" to the breeze, and a nagging hint in the mind of colder weather to come.  The sunrises and sunsets are richer, more vivid, and bolder during the fall.  As I look through nature pictures I have taken over the past few years, the most impressive-looking skies are always from this time of the year.  Fall is also a preparation time for family gatherings, and especially as the colder days creep upon us, a reminder of the Holy Season in the months to come.

There is much to be said about the renewal and rebirth of Spring, but I will let those thoughts and inspiration muddle around in my brain until the time comes.  These days, I want to revel in the now, and simply "be" in God's presence, straining to hear all that He is whispering on the autumn wind, as the leaves swirl around the base of the trees.  I also want to be fully present in the gift of my mother's final months - to learn and absorb for future use, her courage, her grace, and her strength.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Yep - I'm Still Here! :)

Wow - cannot believe I have not posted since March!!!!  It is certainly not due to a lack of interest in blogging, but rather, a change in the focus of my life.

Several weeks after my last post, my mother became acutely ill, both mentally and physically.  The past 5.5 months have been a rollercoaster ride of emotions and a flurry of new activity, as I tried to make sense of the "new normal" of our life.  Caring for and supporting my mother during what is likely her final months, have definitely taken their toll on my creative juices, and hence, no posting on this blog.  I have been writing daily, but it has been on my mother's Caring Bridge blog, with the purpose of trying to make sense of it all, and also a desire to keep family and friends updated as to her condition.   

Now, on to the latest Wonder . . . . .

For the past few evenings in a row, we have a seen a very large white water bird sitting on the bank of the creek that runs through our front yard.  We regularly have Canada Geese drop in, as well as hawks,  buzzards, and other large birds.  However, this one is pretty special.  The picture quality is not too good, unfortunately.  I was reluctant to get too close and risk scaring the bird away, so I had to rely on my camera's digital zoom, which is pretty dependent on my holding the camera VERY still to result in a clear image.  At any rate, what you'll see in "blurry vision" below is our lovely friend the crane.  Because he/she has been in the exact same spot each evening, we are guessing that he/she has a nest (or perhaps a family!) nearby.  More on this story as it develops . . . .

Yours in Wonder,

Friday, March 18, 2011

Lenten Exercise for Body and Soul

This week, I finally hit my stride with exercising and made it to the gym three times.  For those of you who are in better shape than I, this is not much of an accomplishment.  However, for a non-exerciser like me, it is a BIG step!  It was tough to go, especially today when I had a busy and stressful morning at work, stayed late to finish something up, and left the church office feeling tired and ready to put my feet up.  It took a great effort of the will to drive to the gym instead of heading home, but I am SO glad I went.  I cannot begin to describe how good I felt afterward, which of course made all the effort worthwhile.

I am also enjoying my Lenten commitment of using my workout as a time to make space for God.  I began by bringing along a card with a few requests written on it.  As I exercised and prayed my way through the list, I found God prompting me to remember many other persons and situations as well.  I quickly realized that I need to always bring more blank cards and a pen!  What I am learning is that the more I pray, the more I feel the need to pray, and the more requests impress themselves on my heart.  This discipline of body and soul is a good one on many levels for me, and I am excited to see how God will use this time to stretch (literally and figuratively!) and challenge me.

Today, I also brought along a devotional book about finding God in the silence, and I read a few pages as I pedaled on the recumbent bike.  As my legs worked feverishly and my heart pounded, my mind was quieting itself.  An amazing sensation. . . .   It made me wonder at how many other points in my day could I listen to God while going about seemingly mundane tasks.  I have a quote on my fridge from St. Ignatius Loyola that sums up how I am feeling today. . . .


"To lift up the hands in prayer gives God glory.
But, a man with a dung fork in his hand,
and a woman with a slop pail
give Him glory too.
God is so great, that all things give Him glory,
if you mean that they should."

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Beginning the Journey Through Lent

Lent has begun. For some, it is the beginning of a season of "giving up" a desired food, activity, or electronic device, as a time of preparation for Easter. While I think Lent certainly encompasses this theme, I have a slightly different take on the season. Let me say first that I have tried (and usually failed) at "giving something up." Perhaps I am just not disciplined enough, or that I'm too weak-willed. Or, maybe it's even that I don't fully understand the intention behind the act. Whatever the reason, my perspective on Lent has undergone some radical changes over the years.

One of the first times I ever tried to participate in the Lenten season, also happens to be my most memorable time of "failure." When I was in high school, one of my best friends was very serious about giving up something meaningful each Lent, so I decided to join her. My beloved item to leave behind was chocolate chip cookies. We had cooks at our high school who made WONDERFUL homemade cookies! I should know because I enjoyed one each day for lunch. Also, we had a vending machine featuring a number of tasty snacks, one of which was also chocolate chip cookies. When I had an after school practice, meeting, or activity, it was not unusual for me to help myself to yet another cookie from the vending machine. So, this giving up of the chocolate chip cookies was a very big deal indeed to me, and I thought, an excellent choice for my experiment in self-denial. It was easy to remember NOT to get a cookie at lunch, I must confess, after the first day or two. It did take some effort to avoid the vending machine after school, but for a time, I did an admirable job at staying away. About halfway through Lent, however, my experiment came to an abrupt end. One day, for no apparent reason and completely without thinking, I helped myself to a cookie from the vending machine. As I was absentmindedly, but happily, munching away, the thought of what I was eating finally entered my brain. I was horrified that I had so easily consumed what I had been so actively trying to avoid. My next thought was, "Oh, well. I tried, but I just couldn't do it. What's the point anyway?"

For many years, I felt discouraged from attempting the discipline again, and I think it was partly due to a lack of understanding of the purpose. I wonder how true this feeling is among others. How many persons go about a Lenten period of denial simply because "that's what you're supposed to do," without fully grasping the deeper meaning?

In recent years, I have come to a much different place in my thinking about Lent. For me, Lent is less about "giving up," and much more about intentionally making space for God in my life. That may mean cutting back or withdrawing from time-wasting activities, which is essentially "giving something up." However, I see it more as a process of ADDING God-honoring books, music, devotional time, etc . . . in places where I previous had other things scheduled.

One of the commitments I began just prior to Lent is to engage (again!) in some form of regular exercise. I have started and quit exercising many times out of frustration. This time, I have joined a local gym and I am having a much better experience. What I believe I am doing right is starting out SLOWLY. I go every other day, and only for a short period of time. My plan is to gradually increase the amount of time I am on the treadmill, stationary bike, and elliptical, and also gradually increase the intensity of the workout. I am hopeful that approaching it at a slow, but steady pace will make for a very different experience and a regular habit of exercise.

One of the other aspects I am including into this Lenten exercise commitment (which I am planning to continue long after Easter is past!) is to use the stretch of time while I am exercising as a space to meet God. I am learning that workouts can be pretty boring mentally, even while my body is physically active. What better use of my "mental down time," than to create a space for prayer, reflection, and communion with God? Updates on this ongoing spiritual and physical discipline in future posts. . . .

I recently read a short prayer by Dr. Ray Pritchard that seems a very fitting final thought.

"Lord, as we begin this Lenten journey, purify our hearts so that we will not be satisfied with anything less than you. Amen."