Monday, July 27, 2015

Cutting Loose (#SmallWonder Link-up)


I don’t generally recommend camping out, alone, two states away from home, in the yard of someone you met online. 

No, generally, I would say that sounds like a bad idea.

But . . . that’s what I did last summer.  I practiced pitching my tent, then packed it along with a sleeping bag, my journal and a couple of pieces of writing and drove far into the winding hills of southern Virginia. 

Last summer I attended my first ever writing retreat mostly because it was inexpensive and being hosted by a woman whose kind and caring nature was palpable in her online presence.  Camping made the whole trip more affordable and I booked my stay after confirming I’d be able to catch a shower and a good dose of caffeine each morning in the main house. 

It felt like a big adventure and it was. 

This past weekend I packed up again.  My husband topped off the fluids in his old Ford pickup truck.  He seemed confident I would make it there and back.  I felt a breakdown was likely, if not imminent.  

I headed south on Rt 81 without A.C. and, except for stalling out a time or two, arrived without incident.  

When you're accustomed to living your life tethered to others, day in and day out, as I am, it's good to cut yourself loose sometimes.  Despite the sweat dripping in the 90+ degree heat, I felt pretty cool, rattling along in that little red truck.  

I don't have words yet to describe the weekend, except to say it was good, so good, for my soul.  

When I got home, my kids were flesh-hungry for me, climbing and hanging from my limbs.  I threw down my things and dove into the dirty kitchen, the dirty kids, the empty refrigerator.  

In the evening John hitched a small wagon to the back of the lawn tractor and pulled it, full of kids, through the lawn.  I roamed the yard gathering yellow tennis balls from the green grass, then hid behind the house waiting for the tractor to whiz around the corner.  

When it came, I lunged, letting loose a loud viking roar and a volley of balls aimed at the kids whose mouths hung open in delight at the sight of their roaring, running mama. 

They screamed. I screamed.  And we played the scene over and over until I was again dripping wet with sweat. 

Yes, my friends, it's good to cut yourself loose sometimes.




*   *   *

Welcome 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 gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days.  

You're invited to link-up a brief post 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.  

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







Monday, July 20, 2015

Taste of Green (#SmallWonder Link-up)

These are the blossoms for the Dragon's Tongue beans. Photo Source

And for all this, nature is never spent;
there lives the dearest freshness deep down things . . . 
- Gerard Manly Hopkins

Bean plants grow low and lazy, leaning.  Standing above and looking down, there are only leaves, a canopy.  But kneeling and brushing them aside, shifting and lifting the plants, reveals the long, lean beans.

This year, unbeknownst to me, my husband planted Dragon’s Tongue and Royalty Purple as well as our regular green beans.  Dragon’s Tongue produces long, light-green beans with purple stripes.  Royalty Purple yields small beans in a velvety shade of violet.     

Purple beans, striped beans – imagine my surprise!

Snapping them from the vine, the kids and I sampled. 

We chewed on sun, on dirt and the heavy rains of summer. 

I hand them out to visitors, “Have you ever seen a purple bean? Try one!”

On my knees picking for a friend, I tell her a secret. 

“The green ones still taste best,” I say.  “I’m not sure why.” 

Moving from Dragon’s Tongue to Royalty, my children follow like hungry hens, snapping beans out of the colander as fast as I can pick them.  They never pick more than they eat, there is no storing up, no stockpiling for them, only pull, snap, crunch under a blue sky, crisp breeze and sun. 

Last, I arrive at the green beans which, tasting, yield a revelation. 

“I know!” I cry, “They’re better because they taste like green!”

“They taste like green?” my friend replies, laughing.

“Yes! Like green!  The purple ones don’t taste green, that’s why they’re not as good.”

“What does green taste like?” she asks.

“Like freshness and vegetable.”  Like something essentially green, I think to myself as my hands continue plucking strings from the vines; like spring rain and the "dearest freshness, deep down things."

 *   *   *

Welcome 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 gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days.  

You're invited to link-up a brief post 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.  

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



Monday, July 13, 2015

Vacation (#SmallWonder Link-up)


We're officially on vacation this week in sunny Florida.  We drove down Saturday in one long haul.  Our kids did amazingly well and my husband drove for long stretches like a champ.  I kept myself awake, driving while he slept, by carving baby carrots into little totem poles with my teeth (whatever works, right?).  

The reward for our efforts came yesterday when the kids ran into the Gulf of Mexico and smiles spread as they discovered the fun of riding the waves.  We dug and dug in the sand and shells, hunting for shark's teeth and came away with a healthy haul of black bone triangles.  

Standing at the ocean's edge as the waves rolled in, I realized they would not end.  Each follows one after the other in a never-ending stream of rise and fall, crest and crash.  Watching, I heard the words of one of my favorite hymns in a new light,

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward, to Thy glorious rest above!

This - these waves, spacious, incessant, without end - this is what the love of God is like.  

Samuel Trevor Francis' hymn makes prolific use of exclamation points throughout.  Standing at the ocean's edge, I can understand why.  

Do you have a favorite image that speaks to you about the love of God?  I'd love to hear about it!

*   *   *

Welcome 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 gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days.  

You're invited to link-up a brief post 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.  

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


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Playing With Fire

See the Mama wren? She's fussing at me for being too close to her babies 
who're tucked inside the bird house. 

Discarded shoes litter the grass around the pine tree; two bright blue Crocs, a pair of canvas sandals.  

When the kids are missing for a while, I step out the back door and call to the tree.  Before long, small faces peek out from among the greenery.  They're perched a good fifteen to twenty feet up.

Their faces and arms bear scratches from their climbing, but no one’s fallen yet.  

//

The other night, eating at the picnic table, I asked the kids what their favorite thing is about me.

My oldest son replied, “You let me do dangerous things.”

I had that in mind a few days later when he asked if fire would spread on rocks. 

Fire questions deserve follow-up, so I investigated his plan which was to make a fire on our driveway using his magnifying glass and leaves.  Playing with fire, I guess, is a no-no.  But we’re reading Gary Paulson’s adventure novel, “Hatchet” about a young boy stranded alone on a beach in Northern Canada.  A small hatchet is the boy’s only tool and eventually he discovers how to make sparks by scraping the hatchet across some flinty rocks.  Using the sparks and birch bark he is able to make fire.  

My son doesn’t have a hatchet, but he does have a small pocket knife that he bought with his own money at Lowes.  The other day he came down from quiet time with a heavily shaved pencil.  “I think I’m going to like carving when I get older,” he said, pocket knife in hand.

I imagine he wanted to be like the boy in the book in some small way, so I let him make the fire.  And it worked.  He used flower pots to perch the magnifying glass above a small pile of leaves and bark so he could “watch from the shade.”  The leaves smoked and smoldered and I reminded him not to stare at the sun’s reflection and to keep a big glass of water at his side.

I stayed nearby imagining the fire somehow catching, then spreading.  All it would take is a gust of wind at just the right moment, just the right angle. 

But I let him have his fire while his little brother squatted nearby taking it all in.

//

“Don’t drown in the pool tomorrow,” I announce into the van’s rear view mirror.  Four blank faces stare back at me.  We’re running errands and I’m thinking about their much anticipated day at a friend’s house tomorrow – the one with a pool. 

This is my backhanded way of expressing worry and fear, the by-products of my fierce love for them.

//

The tiniest of wrens built a nest in a small bird house in our yard.  It sits under a metal windmill, in the middle of a round flowerbed.  I love to see her little face peeking out of the small, round doorway.  

When I hang laundry nearby, she flies a few feet away to the Japanese Maple.  From there, she scolds me with fierce chattering – she is trying to get my attention, to draw me away from her babies.  Inside the bird house, tiny voices whirr with excitement as she comes and goes, her beak carrying food.  

In the evening I sit and watch her fuss.  Our clueless tomcat wandered too close to the nest and she is frantically trying to lure him away.  She flits across the lawn, swooping low before resting in a shrub, her machine-gunning chatter calling incessantly.   

“She would climb inside his mouth just to get his attention if she could,” I tell my husband. 

She tends her little ones with love that is both gentle and fierce.  

But a time will come, not long from now, when they will leave the nest.  Then what? 

Maybe she will sleep for a hundred hours, relieved.


Monday, July 6, 2015

The Worst and the Luckiest (#SmallWonder Link-up)


Only the worst kind of parent hopes that the slow, cold, July rain doesn’t let up in time for fireworks.

Or maybe it’s only the worst kind of parent who decides, even after the rain lets up, not to take the kids to fireworks after all.  And, in fact, declares an early bedtime for everyone.

Either way, my daughter proclaimed in bitter tones as she marched through the kitchen, “This is the worst fourth of July ever.”

The worst.

“What did you say?” I asked, my back turned to her.  The comment wasn’t aimed at me, but I took the bullet anyway.

She toned it down, but marched out of the house, tears streaming.  Later, when she came in for a shower, she was still sullen and snarling and I was rolling those words around, that one word in particular, like a jaw breaker. 

It wasn't the worst day ever.  It was cold and rainy and we were all very, very tired.  But it wasn’t the worst, not really.

I was afraid it was, though, and her comment struck at a vulnerable place in me, the one that feels like it’s my job, my pass/fail, to make sure everyone has fun.  What kind of parent can’t pony-up to take their kids to the fireworks? 

The worst.

Sitting on the couch after everyone was in bed, I heard neighbors start celebrating.  Sharp cracks, pops, zings cut through the night and it felt like every single one was aimed at me, the great party pooper.  It felt like hiding inside on Halloween when you’ve run out of candy and little kids come knocking even though you’ve already turned out the porch light. 

I sat on the couch soaking in shame.  The seconds ticked by with agonizing slowness.  When would it all be over?   

We turned on the TV, but still, the fireworks sounded. 

Then I thought I heard my daughter in the hallway upstairs.  I asked John to pause the show and went up to check on her.  She was turned sideways in bed, eyes wide open. 

“Are you ok?” I asked, “I thought I heard you in the hallway.”

“I was cold, so I shut the window.”

I checked the window, made sure the cats were in for the night (they like to wander the roof).

“You know what?” she asked.

“What?”

“I can see fireworks from my bed.”

I crossed the room to the other window and knelt with my head tilted.  Waiting, I was rewarded with sharp sparks of white light rising from a distant neighbor’s house. 

“I get to see fireworks after all,” she said, with clear, sweet delight, “from my bed.  I’m the luckiest girl.”

The luckiest.

“Yes, you are,” I replied, relieved the storm was past. 

Back downstairs I struggled, still, to let go of the day, to allow myself to be moved from the worst, to the luckiest.  The two are not always so far apart, sometimes all it takes is the opening of our eyes in the dark, the turning of one's head toward the light. 

How was your fourth of July?  Somewhere between the best and the worst?

*   *   *

Welcome 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 gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days.  

You're invited to link-up a brief post 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.  

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

    


Thursday, July 2, 2015

Brave, Like the Color Pink


“What do you think of the pink room?” I ask my daughter. 

“Every time I walk into it I think, ‘Well?’, like I expect it to say something to me, to tell me why it’s so pink,” she replies. 

Snuggled together on a sunny Sunday morning in bed, we laugh because it is so pink

She was with me when we picked the paint color at Lowes.   While I gathered a bouquet of pinks from among the paint chips, she made her own collection of beautiful, bold colors in the bottom of the shopping cart. 

“I’m making a color collection,” she said and I smiled to see her perusing the rainbow, listening to her own internal guide as she gathered colors. 

After narrowing it down to three shades of pink, I leaned toward the lightest, but asked her to help me make a final selection.  She picked the slightly bolder middle shade and I thought, ‘Well, why not?”

My husband said he didn’t care.   Even on the way home, when I teased him with paint chips in deep shades of magenta, he held his ground.  But when he opened the can labeled “Pink Taffy,” the words, “Wow! That’s PINK!” shot out. 

Seeing the primered walls begin to blush, even I had second thoughts.  I’ve always leaned toward neutral shades in paint and clothing – tans, beiges, straight up blues and creams.

“There are people,” I said, “who would paint their dining room pink. Why can’t I be one of those people?”

“You are one of those people,” he replied.   

//

I’ve recently developed a thing for pinks and purples, oranges and fuchsia – all of the bright colors.  I bought purple nail polish a few weeks back.  Not long before that, a flouncy orange skirt – the color of sherbet.  Walking the clothing aisles of the local Salvation Army Thrift Store, I pass by the browns, whites and blacks, heading straight for the bright delights of chartreuse, purple, pink and turquoise.  I even bought a pair of pink shoes recently and I'm secretly on the lookout for a pink pair of skinny jeans.

Do you remember the scene in the movie The Wizard of Oz when everything turns from black and white to technicolor?  This change in me feels something like that.  Or maybe like the pink Zinnia I planted on the side of our house.  The first blossom opened this weekend.  The plant, once just one shade of green among many, was transformed by its opening, set apart by a brilliant splash of joy.

As we worked our way around the dining room, hesitancy gave way to joyful delight.  “It’s such a happy color,” I said over and over again. 

//

Last month I sat in my Spiritual Director’s lovely white meeting space – a space filled with the gentle greens and browns of nature. 

“I’m in a period of consolation,” I said.  A friend recently described the spiritual state of consolation as a time in which one feels an “overwhelmed awareness of the love of God.”

She asked me to tell her more, to give story to the definition and I unpacked all of the lovely little things in my life, the places of grace and love, laying them out between us. 

“What does it feel like to be love so well?” she asked.

I closed my eyes and thought. 

“It feels like a bouquet of beautiful flowers.”   

“What color?” she asked.

I closed my eyes and thought, felt, again.  “All of the bright colors,” I replied.

“That sounds lovely,” she said, nodding in recognition of the joy and love in my face.

//

If you come to my house and see the pink dining room, sour apple green kitchen, the purple and turquoise accents, please know that what you are seeing is an extension of my heart. 

I am, like my daughter, making a color collection.  As life deepens and widens, so also does my palette. 

People tell me over and over again that I’m brave to speak about my struggles with anxiety and panic attacks, they tell me I’m courageous.  But for me, talking about the darkness comes naturally.  For me, choosing the light, no matter what its hue, is a far more courageous and vulnerable thing to do.

Sometimes brave is a brilliant shade of pink.  

Have you noticed changes in your color preferences over the years?  What are your favorite shades these days?  What color would YOU love to paint your dining room?