Thursday, January 29, 2015

Snow Days


But Sarah's heart was full.  It was as full as when the sounds of her own children had filled her house. - in "The Mitten Tree" by Candace Christiansen

Everywhere I look people are writing about the silence, the quiet hush of these snow-covered days.  Upstairs alone for a few brief moments, the fluffy, white duvet on our bed fills me with longing to be covered also, to lay down under a blanket of white.  Two full walls of windows fill the room with sunlight so inviting, but I turn and head downstairs to the kitchen, the heart of our home. 

Snow brings silence, peace, stillness, they say, but our house hums like a hive on these winter days.  School is canceled or delayed and four little bodies fill every corner with motion and noise, the steady, spinning, thriving sound of energy bottled for a time. 

A whole beautiful day of giant fluffy flakes passes without a moment to pause. 

No sitting quietly by the window with a steaming mug. 

No time to marvel much as the setting sun paints the landscape pink with long steady strokes.   

We twirl through these days like so many snowflakes falling, carried along by the weight of who we are.  It would be a lie if I were to claim an unwavering contentment about this – about the noise and motion, the constant clutter and chaos.  

But I’m learning to love what is rather than longing for what is not and that in itself offers a silence of sorts, a settling-in to the falling, swirling journey of these days.  I know now that this too shall pass.

Piled on the couch with my boys, reading "The Mitten Tree," it comes to me: the silence and the sound, the stillness and the humming hive, they are but two sides of an ever-changing coin.  In welcoming one, I prepare myself to welcome - embrace - the other; the key to contentment and joy is hidden in the surrender to what is, rather than in the longing for some preferred alternative.  

Linking with Jennifer Dukes Lee.  Photo credit: Here.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Small Wonder Link-up


Most mornings I’m up by six with the goal of ingesting equal amounts of caffeine and silence before the clock strikes seven and the kids tumble down the stairs.  This morning when I plopped down on the love seat with the first warm cup of coffee, it was nearly seven.  

The sky was grayed by a blanket of fog, the world pale and shy through the windows.  I sat facing the stairs and for the briefest of moments the white balusters supporting the handrail appeared to be floating in mid-air, foundation-less. 

Light from one window lit the curved spindles highlighting them while light from another colored their small square bases exactly the right shade of gray to blend in with the paneled wall behind.  It was an optical illusion that lasted a minute or less as the morning light shifted quickly and I was there to see it. 

This morning the light is slow to come, the wind is howling and the online forecast suggests the next few days will keep me busy feeding the wood stove to stave off the cold.  So far January has been gray and damp and I'm learning to find a certain comfort in the fog, aside from its obvious beauty. 

I don’t like not being able to see very far ahead in my own life, but the fog seems to tell me it’s ok.  The whitened landscape reminds me that there’s often a gentleness in not knowing and a gift in having no other option but being fully present right where we are. 

I was there on the couch at just the right moment to observe that small and fleeting wonder – wonder right in front of me, inside my very own little house. 

This is what I’m thinking about these days – these small wonders, moments that open and close like so many flowers blooming and fading throughout the garden of my day.  

*   *   * 

Welcome, friends, to the #SmallWonder link-up.

What if we chose to deliberately look for the small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God?  


That's my proposal - that we would gather together here each week (or as often as we're able) to share one small moment of Wonder from each of our days. 

You're invited to link-up a brief post of about five hundred words or less about a Small moment of Wonder.  Don't worry if your post is too long, too short or not just right, you're welcome to come as you are.

Looking for Unforced Rhythms?  We're a community in transition.  We invite you to consider whether this new link-up meets your needs and to participate as you're able.  

While you're here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment.  




Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Turned and Turning

Me and my "bitty-boy," enjoying the rope swing.

She asked what my sense of God was and it came like a flash in my mind.

Levi is my “uppie” boy still at three and a half.  Lately he’s taken to bargaining to achieve a place on my hip.

“If you take me uppie, I will give you a kiss,” he says with his face lifted and searching.
 
Lifting him to sit on my side or to straddle my belly, he presses his chapped lips to my check all satisfied sweetness and light with his short skinny arms twined back beneath my hair – he clings to my neck like heavy fruit hanging on the vine. 

I don’t know why he’s obsessed with being “up,” except that he’s the youngest (by nine minutes) and that it probably has to do with being, for a brief while at least, on eye level with those who so often tower over him.  He’s not so easily dismissed this way and that boy, he wants to be taken seriously almost as much as he wants to be babied.
 
His eyes have changed lately, though I couldn’t tell you when.  Once a pale blue, they're now a deeper shade, something between blue and green.  Sometimes when he’s telling me something, pressing his words on me with a sense of urgency and importance, I get lost in his eyes and the long gently curved lashes that frame them. 

Fine blond eyebrows follow the curve of his brow and I watch for the wrinkle he was born with, the furrow that shows itself sometimes still on the inside end of his left brow when he scrunches his face in play or in pain.  Lost in his eyes and face I stop listening to the words and marvel somehow at the fullness of him.  

Sensing the shift, he doesn't let me get away with it for long.  When he's riding high on my hip and my attention wanders his little hands reach up, firmly framing my face, one on each cheek, as he turns my head, not gently, toward himself.  With his hands, he shifts my focus and – should I persist, say, in talking to my husband or checking on dinner by turning my head away - he reaches out again and again to turn me back toward himself. 

"This is my sense," I say, "of God right now."  

God who speaks at eye level as I listen, drawing me into his eyes, the fullness that exists beyond individual words.  God who reaches with a hand, persistent and demanding, like a child, turning me again and again to himself.
 
“If you take me, I will give you a kiss,” God whispers and I am forever turned and turning toward those words and the eyes beyond them, turning toward the heart that seeks me, that turns me toward itself. 

How does God get your attention these days?
I'm happy to be linking up with #TellHisStory this week. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Welcome: Small Wonder


Today I'm grateful to welcome the Unforced Rhythms community to my little space on the internet - Welcome, friends. 

This past year was a real doozy for me personally, full of all sorts of unexpected ups and downs.  2015 has me feeling glad to embrace something new, ready to look ahead and move on.  As I do, though, there are a number of things I will carry with me from 2014 - two, in particular, that I'd like to share with you.

The first is that years like the one I had in 2014 have a way of revealing your real friends - periods of sickness and struggle have a way of highlighting who it is that really helps you carry the burden of your own life. 

These friends, whether near or far, tend to stick around for both the ups and downs, and if you're fortunate to have some very old friendships (as I am) these people bring the extra special gift of knowing your history.  Armed with that knowledge they're able to see beyond the present circumstances and remind you of your own story, to tell it back to you when it feels like you've lost your way or run into a dead-end. 

This is one of the things I see and appreciate in the Unforced Rhythms community which originally grew out of Michelle DeRusha's "Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday" link-up before being passed on to Kelli Woodford.  As a participant in both link-ups, I've noticed that while there are people who come and go, there's also a core of dedicated people who make up this network of grace-seeking, spirit-listening people. 

You, my friends, are the "old friends," the ones who know the history and can tell it back to newcomers like myself and who hold the life of the community steady as it waxes and wanes.  You've stayed steady, faithful, as we've rounded bends, hit dead-ends and generally journeyed together. 

Thank you for being here, for your faithfulness, commitment and dedication. 

Thank you for visiting other links, for commenting and sharing, for praying for each other. 

This community is more than just a gathering of links and names, more than the digital code that ties it all together - beyond all of that is real flesh and blood, body and spirit that knits it all together.  This is a credit to Michelle DeRusha, Kelli Woodford and others who led and made space for community to grow. 

As I look ahead to hosting this link-up I'd like to again ask for your grace as I humbly make some tweaks and changes.  I'm grateful to welcome you here and I want to welcome you in a way that reflects who I am and the core of what I value here at Wild Flowers. 

Sometime I'll tell you more about that - how I came to be here, how I live and breathe and write here in the midst of a very ordinary life, but for now I want to keep it simple and let you know about something else I learned in 2014 and how I hope that will give us vision and energy as we connect in the year ahead.

I'm a dreamer, a planner, a girl with big expectations when it comes to life.  But I'm also very limited in all the common ways that make us human - I have less time, less energy, less resources than I think I should.  I'm not always able to follow through with my own big ideas - whether for my family, church or professional life. 

Limits are a gift, though, a reminder of our common humanity and an invitation to embrace the small moments of joy, wonder, grace and even sorrow that fill our daily lives.  There are lots of groups, lots of blogs and speakers out there encouraging us to "think big," to "dream" and "extend our reach," in short, to "overcome our limits" and while there are times for stepping out, there are also times for embracing the small things, for observing and savoring the moment.  In fact it's the ability to see and savor what is that most often leads to something more. 

Seeing what is.

Now that's an interesting invitation. 

What if we chose to deliberately look for the small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God?  

Isn't it possible that when we look for Wonder, we start to see it more and more?  That small wonders might pile together on top of themselves into a lifetime of grace?

What if we choose to be a community of wonder-seekers who live and write with open hearts looking, listening for the breath of God in every moment, every place, every person?


That's my proposal - that we would gather together here each week (or as often as we're able) to share with each other one small moment of Wonder from each of our days. 

In the weeks ahead I want to invite you to link-up a brief post of about five hundred words or less about a Small moment of Wonder.  Will you join me in that, in cultivating a space for and celebration of wonder?  

Think about it.  Pray about it.  Let me know what you think. 

For now, this week, link up what you have done already.

But next week and in the weeks ahead, keep an eye out for the little moments of wonder when the very ground you stand on opens up to reveal the Something More your heart is longing for.  Then jot it down quickly.  Briefly create a little word picture as a way of pressing Wonder deeper into your heart and then stop by and share it with us here.



Friday, January 16, 2015

She Wore Red (a poem)


She never wore red, although
it was her favorite color. But
when she died, her coffin was
draped with red roses, soft
as velvet.  And so in the end,
dressed in a soft pink
housecoat, she wore red
and I stood over her casket
in black with a red leather purse
tucked under one arm.  

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Ruby Year (on our Fifteenth Anniversary)


He gave me
a red stone.
A ruby pendant
dangled, round
and full like
a pomegranate,
wrapped
in the Sunday
comics, the only
colored pages 
in the midst
of stories told
in black and white. 
"I thought
you'd like it,"
he said,
and I did.


Photo source HERE.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Wild Flowers Book Club (Spiritual Misfit: A Memoir of Uneasy Faith)

Did you know that A Field of Wild Flowers hosts a private online Book Club?  

You can read more about it HERE.  This past fall 18 people from all across the States (and one from New Zealand!) participated in a six week discussion of Parker Palmer's wise little book, Let Your Life Speak.  

This week I'm excited to announce our second book and offer you a chance to win a free signed copy.  



That's my oldest two posing with Michelle DeRusha's book, Spiritual Misfit: A Memoir of Uneasy Faith.  Michelle's book arrived at my house while we were in the middle of packing up, changing schools and rewiring the house of our dreams.  If anything tells you how good this book is (and how enjoyable to read) it's the fact that I found time to read it and write a review right in the middle of that crazy time in our lives!  

You can read my review of Michelle's book here, where I list three things I liked about the book.  The one thing that excited me most about this book (that I didn't include in my review) is its potential usefulness in starting conversations.  Michelle's writing is so transparent and human that it easily sets the table for talking about our own experiences and struggles with faith.  

I'm excited to explore this book with you - it's suitable for those who lean steadily toward belief and also anyone who struggles in making sense of "Christian-ese" and wonders what this "Jesus thing" is all about.  Another bonus?  Michelle has agreed to join us one week for an "ask the author" session. 

Interested?  Here are the details:

The book has eleven chapters and our book club will run for about eight weeks (depending how things unfold) so there will be some weeks when we read more than one chapter, but never more than about 30 pages.  It will be hosted in a private Facebook group so our conversation will not be public.  Those who want to participate will need to "friend" me on Facebook so I can add you to the group. 

Monday, February 2 will be our official start date, which should give plenty of time to order, win or borrow a copy of the book.  We'll plan finish up by the end of March. 

Every Monday I'll post a quote from the chapters under discussion as a starting point for conversation.  On Wednesdays it'll be your turn to lead by posting a quote you especially liked or any questions you want to raise.  The best part about online book discussion is that you can check in and comment or reply at a time that works for YOU. 

You're free to comment as much as you like or be a "stalker" if you're more shy.  Some weeks you may not get to the reading, but you're still welcome to participate as much as you can.  The main rules will be that we will all show grace and compassion in regard to each other's experiences and opinions.  

You can find the book for sale on Amazon here for around $12.   

Now, (drum roll, please!) I'm grateful that Michelle has agreed to mail a FREE signed copy to one lucky winner.  To be entered into the drawing for the free book, just comment below by 12 midnight on Thursday January 15th indicating your interest in participating.  To have your name entered a second time in the drawing, you can also comment on or like this post on the Wildflowers Facebook page (this will ensure that more followers see the post).  All names will be put into a bowl and the winner will be picked and announced by Friday the 16th. 

I would love your help in spreading the word!  Please share :) and let me know if you have any questions!


This post is linked with Playdates With God and Unforced Rhythms.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Welcome (Five Minute Friday)




Perfect, our lanky kitten with white paws and chin, welcomes me to the day.  I carry her tucked under my arm and close to my chest and she rattles and shakes with a crackling purr as we descend the stairs together.  

I welcome the day with a large volume of caffeine, darkness and silence, drinking them each in steady gulps, but it isn’t long before little feet patter and pound through the upstairs hallway.  Three little boys pop out of their beds in turn like popcorn kernels heated to bursting.  They take turns running to the potty and standing in the darkness calling down the same question again and again, “When can we wake up?”

“It’s early,” I say, “look how dark it is.  Go back to sleep.”  

Blankets are tucked and kisses exchanged with promises of more kisses later.  

Darkness lingers as the day creeps across the snow white field.

They continue to call and slowly my responses shift, “A few more minutes,” then, “just five more minutes, you can turn the light on now and talk quietly.”

I suck the marrow out of each morning, savoring the cool, quiet darkness that welcomes me and once I've had my fill I turn at last to welcome these warm, loud, little lights as they break into the day.  

Photo Source: Here.
This post is linked with Five Minute Friday

Monday, January 5, 2015

Outlaws and Rebels (for "Black Hats" Everywhere)


Don't you just love this old picture I stumbled across online?

[The holiday break's officially over and as I headed out to wait for the bus with the older two, the twins were ecstatic to have a few moments to themselves to "steal" something from the kitchen.  I knew this because they announced their plan over and over again all morning long, eagerly anticipating the moment when they would scavenge for gum and candy in the kitchen cupboards.  The thought of getting away with something gives them such a thrill and, since half the time it's a bag of bread from the drawer or a giant stalk of broccoli when my back is turned, I often let them get away with it.  Ah, such is the luck of youngest children.  

This weekend we shared dinner with friends who also have four children spread in age just as ours are, but their twins (girls) are about a year younger.  It's always good to be with them, good to remember how it was (just a year ago), to feel that things have gotten a little easier and commiserate on how hard it all continues to be.  All of this brought to mind this old post from 2013.  Enjoy!]


"They crucified two rebels with him, one on his left and one on his right." Matthew 27:38
 
My 18 month-old twins saunter through the house with swaggering bravado like two black-hats straight out of the lawless west.  Together, they form a mafia-esque crime-ring, a rebellious conspiracy against law and order and decency.  Trafficking in black market goods pilfered from the pile of floor-sweepings in the kitchen corner, they gather on the back of the love seat, perched in the window to inspect and trade their haul.  

They rip the heads off of their sister’s dolls and leave graffiti on the living room walls and every time I kneel to zip Isaiah’s coat, Levi circles around behind me and roots through my purse.  A gifted pick-pocket, he snatches my wallet and phone with such speed, stealth and precision that my frustration is mixed with marvel. 

When one's finally caught, red-handed, and placed in solitary (ie. the corner) the other comes quickly to the rescue, crouching down beside him, chattering about what I imagine are plans of daring-escape and revenge.  Like true accomplices, though, they quickly turn on each other when caught together at the scene of a crime – a mutually enjoyed destruction turns all finger-pointing and tears when the "fuzz" shows up.  

The other day I watched Levi running through the house with what appeared to be a little shiv.  It sported a jagged, plastic tip and seemed capable of inflicting real harm, so I quickly confiscated it, tossing it into the trash.  

Lying in bed at night my husband and I hear a “scritch, scratch, scritch” on the bedroom wall near our heads.  Levi’s crib sits just on the other side of the wall so we sleep head-to-head, divided only by a few thin inches of plaster.   

We tell ourselves he’s rubbing the nubby bottoms of his footed pajamas against the wall, but listening late into the night, I think of that little shiv and wonder if he isn’t tunneling his way to freedom in a scene straight out of The Fugitive.  Chipping away, one tiny scratch at a time, I picture him tumbling through into our bed some night, his face full of surprise and disappointment to find us there or, more likely, delighted.  

These boys are outlaws, I tell you - how can ones so little, so cute, already have a rap sheet a mile-long?   Looking at their round little faces, their hair all downy-fluff, I'm reminded that we’re all thieves, all outlaws of one sort or another, every last one of us.  We’re all Davids and Delilahs, Judases and Peters bent on greed and self-preservation.  We're all convicted, but not condemned, chiseling our way toward freedom, one tiny crack at a time, until at last we fall through the wall to Love.   

//

What's the worst trick you played as a child?  Did you get away with it??


Linking with the community at Unforced Rhythms.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Scrappy



My husband made a shovel for gathering the ashes out of our wood stove in the mornings.  Before that we were using my son's plastic beach shovel, but hot coals and plastic, well . . .  

He made the scoop out of a tin can which, up until dinner time held creamed corn.  The handle was cut from an old wooden dowel, something I salvaged from a broken roller blind left here by the previous owner. 

We spent a few minutes laughing about the shovel the other night after the kids were in bed.  I asked if we could hide it when company comes, he said he might write Heloise with the idea. 

The other day one of the older kids asked what the word "scrappy" meant and I was at a loss.  That night, had they asked, I could've held up that shovel.  John and I have always been scrappy, trying time and again to turn a sow's ear into a silk purse.  

There was a time in our country where the ability to scrape things together from scratch was seen as something like a virtue or at least a great asset.  I think of my Grandmother's drawer of lightly-used tin foil, the balls of saved rubber bands and I remember learning to darn socks with her, using careful stitches and an old wooden heel form. 

These days, though, there seems to be a bit of shame that lingers around both the need and ability to scrape things together - or is it just me who feels the shame of not enough? 

We can't afford to buy a shovel and we're keeping the ashes in old tin coffee cans donated from my husband's co-worker.  Firewood sits in a plastic five gallon bucket near the stove.

I guess, if we had the money, we'd pull up amazon and order one of those fancy fireplace sets, all of the manufactured tools to do the job right and look good too.  Or maybe we wouldn't.

The Merriam Webster online dictionary tells me scrappy, as an adjective, can mean 

1. consisting of scraps (as in that shovel my husband made) or
2. having an aggressive and determined spirit 

I don't typically think of myself as aggressive and it would be the last word anyone would use to describe my husband, but somehow, that second definition seems to fit and I like it.   

What do you think?  Are you scrappy?  If so, are you proud of it or embarrassed?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Mind the Gap (on crossing into a new year)



The illustration showed a picture of a duck standing over a crack in the ice, one webbed foot on either side.  My son, who picked the book, exclaimed over the image on the way home from the library and later, as we read on the couch, his hand reached out to touch the page.  

I woke yesterday morning with that image in my mind – the crack in the ice and the duck spanning the gap.  To me it represents the time we’re in right now, one foot planted forward in the year to come and one still hesitating on the edge of the one just passed

//  

It was the best of years, it was the worst of years.  

At the beginning of 2014 we were waiting, caught between homes and anxious to be under contract in what appeared to be the home of our dreams.  Then the news came and we lost the house and stayed stuck where we were for a month before “way opened" and we finally moved forward.  

The year we left behind (2013) was filled with shadows and light and the year ahead held more of the same.  Had I known last January how 2014 would unfold, I don’t know what I would’ve thought.  I suppose, maybe I would have been like Mary and the shepherds, caught between a mix of awe and fear or perhaps, like the wise men, knowing more, I would’ve taken another road home.  

//

A prayer from the New Zealand Prayer Book closes the day with the following words, 

“What has been done has been done; what has not been done has not been done.  Let it be.”  

These are wise words to carry with us as we lay 2014 to rest, as we mind the gap between what has been and what is to come.  

And yet, the past is always with us.   

It's the ground upon which we stand, the compost heap that feeds the future.  To “let it be” is not to simply forget, but to let it be what it will be, let it unfold, decompose – the good, the bad and the ugly – into something more fertile, more useful, adding wisdom and depth, riches to the year to come.  

//  

Two nights ago we impulsively started tearing out a wall in the bathroom.  This is the first of many steps involved in adding a fourth bedroom to our house.  There are holes in the plaster now, gaps revealing the things between – between walls, between ceiling and floor.  The whole project is a little crazy, a little overwhelmingly bold and, with a hazy sense of direction, we plan to move forward one step at a time. 

This, I think, is the best we can hope to do – to move forward, minding the gap between what was and what will be as the New Year unfolds in ways and directions we cannot foresee.  

Moving ahead, I think of these words from the late priest, Henri Nouwen, most importantly, the ones in bold, 

To wait open-endedly is an enormously radical attitude toward life. So is to trust that something will happen to us that is far beyond our imaginings. So, too, is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life, trusting that God molds us according to God’s love and not according to our fear. 

The spiritual life is a life in which we wait, actively present to the moment, trusting that new things will happen to us, new things that are far beyond our own imagination, fantasy, or prediction. That, indeed, is a very radical stance toward life in a world preoccupied with control.  - Henri Nouwen 

May you find yourself radically positioned, friends, actively present and trusting God's great love for you as you enter 2015.  


Photo source: HERE.

I want to thank each of you who've read, commented, shared and encouraged me in my writing over the past year.  Soon, I'll have a few announcements about some new and exciting things coming in 2015.  I'm grateful to have the honor of journeying with you!