Tired and Mossy

Just in front of my parking space yesterday was this mossy trunk of a stately oak tree. The grass wasn’t sprouting yet. The branches were bare, and last year’s leaves blew around on the ground beneath her. No sign of spring anywhere…

I had a moment of familiarity. The cold, dark, and windy days we’re having, one after the other, are getting to me. I don’t mind the cold so much. It’s that grey and gloomy sky that seems to be stuck behind a blanket of clouds forever. I’m feeling tired and mossy. It’s true.

Ok, Ok. That’s a bit melodramatic. But that’s March in the MidAtlantic. The weather flip-flops between cold and grey, and has just enough peeks of sunshine to remind us that winter will, eventually, go away. But what seems to predominate are the gloomy, rainy, sleety days. It’s… tiresome.

I drove around, a little grumpy, a lot discouraged. I had received news lately (for myself and people I care about) which have not exactly been something to celebrate. Then there’s the general muck-and-mudslinging of our political mess here in the US. It was all getting to me.

At just the right moment, God seemed to weigh in, just to remind me that I was not traveling alone. I spotted these beauties later in the day while waiting at a stoplight. (It’s a little off-kilter, but I only had one shot before the light turned green!)

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Just a bit of color. A patchy blue sky. A reminder that, yes, I can get through this day/season/struggle. And you can, too.

Yes, you will go out with celebration,
    and you will be brought back in peace.
Even the mountains and the hills will burst into song before you;
    all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
Isaiah 55:12 Common English Bible

 

Before the wind hits

I enjoyed the frailty of the blossoms with the sturdiness of the trunk and branches. For a few, brief days, we are blessed with this display of beauty.

We always wish the blossoms would last longer. They are a brief, shining, stunning moment that fades all too quickly.

Enjoy the last bits of loveliness before the wind hits… and ponder, if you will, how much of what we call “life” is far too quick to fade before our eyes.

 

Blue Christmas


Diana Butler Bass writes in a recent article in the Washington Post about the emotional stress that has filled the days and weeks since the Presidential election. Not just stress from who won or lost, but the increase of uncivil behavior towards one another. 

It’s wearying to the mind and the Spirit. 

(I’m not immune to the fits of snarkyness on Twitter. But I have not threatened anyone’s personal safety or denigrated their faith.)

Diana writes: 

“Advent recognizes a profound spiritual truth — that we need not fear the dark. Instead, wait there. Under that blue cope of heaven, alert for the signs of dawn. Watch. For you cannot rush the night. But you can light some candles. Sing some songs. Recite poetry. Say prayers.”

So for Advent this year I am going to Watch for the Light. I will be posting photos on Instagram (@HolySpoons) and will occasionally write here on my blog about the places and scenes which give me glimpses of God in this Advent season.

You can join me in this exercise. The liturgical season of Advent begins tomorrow, November 27th. Let’s find those points where God breaks through and use them to encourage one another.

Pax vobiscum.

Back to my roots

 

Old Man’s Cave trail, Hocking Hills, Ohio

 

 A wise woman once said to me that there are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these, she said, is roots, the other, wings.

Quoted by Hodding Carter in “Where Main Street Meets the River”

We had our annual family reunion last week. It was full of pun-offs, adventures, and close living quarters. We feasted on fresh Carolina peaches, sweet corn and brick oven pizza.

A bodaciously awesome pizza, if I do say so myself!

I realized as I listened to the laughter and conversation swirling around the dinner table that our stories are entwined in so many ways. We share history as well as DNA. We share losses and joys. We fight to the death to keep the essential, clarifying, and off-debated Oxford comma. (See what I did there?)

We shared peaceful views at sunset. Hiking at childhood haunts. Competitive card games. And hugs. Lots of hugs.

The genealogists in the family (my mom being the most experienced) will share interesting bits of family trivia. Through years of research, Mom, (as well as my Dad and maternal grandmother) have uncovered when a specific ancestor emigrated to the US, what wars  they fought in, how they worshipped, and where they homesteaded. The ancestral “fan chart” is impressive with the names and dates going back to ten generations!

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Ancestral Fan-Chart created by my grandmother, Lura Morrow Hickox

For my daughters, I wish for them this same sense of rootedness and belonging. A place to be accepted and encircled with love. A reminder that they are loved and prayed for daily. A retreat from the world when its suckiness seems to out-weigh the promises of the future. A secure take-off. A safe landing zone. And enough love in their buckets to spill out into the world around them.

It’s something I wish for all…  Not a wall. Not belligerence and hate. Not ridicule and judgmental scorn.

It’s really quite simple:

Roots. Belonging. Acceptance. Love.

The true mark of someone who loves God is one that demonstrates their rootedness in the Divine. And the fruit that grows from it.

Jesus said:

You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.

Matthew 7:16-20 (NLT)

After the storm

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In case you hadn’t heard, it snowed. It snowed A LOT. For about 36 hours, we watched the piles grow taller and taller. It was beautiful.

After about 16 hours of shoveling, first the driveway and then the leavings from the snow plow, we were back to a regular schedule. But life, for just a day or two, was artfully interrupted.

 

 

The Movement of the Spirit

I was running to my car in the rain, doing my best to not get completely drenched. The promised wind and rain arrived and that meant traffic would be worse than usual.

Lovely. My shirt and hair were drenched, my glasses smudged, and my shoes squished. I hate seeing patients when I’m little more than a frumpy, wet noodle! Grumbling, I took a deep breath and tried to re-focus. The last visit was very taxing on me emotionally and spiritually. I leaned back against the headrest. And there it was…

One maple leaf, just turning golden, plastered on my windshield. The raindrops around it glistened, and the sun peeked through the clouds, illuminating from behind like a stained glass window.

My car became a cathedral, and my heart was encouraged. God’s Spirit blew in through that mystical moment and lifted me up. “I can do this work… God help me, I can do this!”

Words from Henri Nouwen’s book Life of the Beloved came to mind:

The movement of  God’s Spirit is very gentle, very soft… but that movement is also very persistent, strong, and deep. It changes hearts radically.

I had multiple reminders that day to stop, rest and see God’s Spirit at work. This was the first of many. There are times my work is exhausting spiritually and emotionally, but God’s Spirit is always there to guide, change, and move.

Blessed be…

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The work of the Spirit photo credit: Rev. Deb Vaughn

Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see — how good God is. Blessed are you who run to the Lord. Psalm 34:8 (The Message)