An Embarrassment of Flip-flops


‘Tis the Season. Of cheese graters and power sanders on the gnarly heels of women everywhere. Of pedicures and fresh nail polish. Of creams and lotions. And of flip-flops and sandals.

I went for a pedicure with The Jobnnie when she was home for spring break in March. We were in between snowstorms so it was only fitting that we allow ourselves a bit of pampering. A pedicure was just the ticket. And I thought we’d just grab flip-flops on our way out the door. Except… I could not find a single pair of flip-flops anywhere. Not a one. Not in my closet. Not in the garage.

How could this be?

Well… When it was snow boot season, we put all the boots in easy reach. And I, being logical, tucked all of the warm weather foot gear into the boot bin.

And we found them ALL today. Right where we left them. Because I was putting winter boots away and…

Sigh…

You know how there’s collective nouns? A murder of crows… a herd of cows… and I’ve decided it must be an embarrassment of flip-flops.

Breathe. Even when it hurts. Just breathe. 

  
There is laundry to do. Dishes. Vacuuming. Dusting. Reading and studying. A book review (which really must get bumped up on my priority list!) The list is actually quite long, and just a wee bit annoying.

Being productive by striking things off my to do list was not what I needed to do this morning. Instead, I put on my gardening shoes, walked out into my muddy yard, and enjoyed some moments of beauty. The birds were singing their heads off. The violets were peeking out beside newly sprouted grass. And my grandmother’s peony bush shows the first signs of blossoms!

A week ago this area had snow showers. Today I don’t need a jacket, and I’m swatting at gnats.

The headlong, crazy rush of one week into the next is almost overwhelming. And while I have plenty more yardwork left to do, the most productive thing I did all morning was to sit on this bench, breathe, (and sneeze!) and hear the sound of God’s love deep in my heart.

Find a moment, grab a moment if necessary, and just breathe. Be. Beloved. 

  

Baby Goats and Sunshine

kid
Cute kid! (Photo credit RevDebVaughn)

Friday afternoon I snuggled a kid. She nuzzled into my arms and contentedly looked at the world around her.

I didn’t know goats would cuddle! I thought of them more as the Tigger-y type, bouncing and jumping around. And they do. But they also snuggle.

Her owner-shepherd had hoped to bring the kid inside to see his mother, who is a resident at the facility where I was seeing patients that afternoon. Unfortunately, she was not a “therapy goat” and so she and her owner hung out in the parking lot.

There was a parade of people who came to pet the kid. The little goat must have wondered what all the fuss was about as she looked at all these smiling humans… Ears wagged. The occasional bleat. And then she contentedly snuggled and snoozed in the midst of the hubbub.

I drove home thinking about my day… It was warm, sunny and breezy. It’s spring. The season of new life, new growth. (And allergies!) Yesterday’s brown branches show new buds today. Flowers that I didn’t see budding have popped open in all their glory. Overnight, I see the differences in my yard. It’s invigorating!

It’s easy to see change as the seasons flip from winter to spring. But in the every day moments where my calendar is full of routines and phone calls and errands and charting… I don’t see growth. I forget what things were like just a few weeks ago. I doubt that things will EVER be different.

There’s a parallel here between the changes we notice in nature, and the ones within us. Changes from the work of God’s Spirit in us. Changes from within our hearts where our attitudes, our dreams, our words are transformed. Much of the time, the work of the Spirit is slow, gentle and inviting. And other times, like the blast of an icy wind gust, we are dramatically and utterly different.

And in those in between times, when we’re not sure what’ showing on, or what crazy change is coming up next? It think that it’s not a bad idea to snuggle a goat… 

 

From winter to almost spring

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours in the yard raking up leaves, trimming some storm-damaged branches, and walking the yard to start compiling my spring to-do list. Overall, we have survived a cold and snowy winter. (Cold and snowy by Mid-Atlantic standards!)

Part of my Lenten discipline is a goal to take time to notice the beauty around me. To SEE, not just walk/drive through the touches of beauty that are everywhere.

Late winter and early spring is not exactly a lovely time of year from a gardener’s perspective. Many plants are dormant, and the weather is usually too cold and windy to work outside for very long. But these last two days we had a short warming trend, with temperatures in the 60s! I enjoyed the opportunity to do a little yard work.

I noted my hollies will need some judicious trimming from the “freezer burn” of the polar vortex.

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There’s several large pine branches that fell during the ice storms. I’ll either be sawing and recycling or composting these.

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I found lots of mud. LOTS. With more to come.

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I noted that the snowdrops are blooming. I’m waiting to see if the squirrels left my crocus bulbs alone or not. I found the “skins” of several crocus bulbs near the root of the large white pines. (Grrrrrrrr.)

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I walked my labyrinth, noting that the bricks are beginning to meld into the grass and mud, blending nicely. I will have some grass seeding to do soon, but it’s great to see the bricks again. There’s still LOTS of leaves to remove and branches down all over the course. But it felt good to feel the earth (mud) underfoot after walking it on snow and ice for the last few rounds.

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There’s ALWAYS something to do in the yard. Always something that needs weeding or pruning or something. But even in the work, there is beauty. And quiet. And peace. And God’s Presence.

I’m so grateful for a place to be still. To know. To hear. To experience.

)

In full bloom: a season of growth and change

Every year, it happens. Every year, usually the end of March, it seems impossible. Spring shows up in all of its hyperactive glory! What a wondrous thing!!

A hydrangea bush, which 2 weeks ago was timidly peeping through the mulch, today has burst through the supportive wire frame and is working at setting buds and sprouting new branches. Though it’s chilly today, the pollen count and fresh growth in my garden tells me that spring is definitely here.

There’s lots of change ahead for our family. The Johnnie is about to graduate. Reedy Girl will soon head to college and become our second Johnnie. I am taking two courses between now and the end of July, one on-line and one at a conference, and continuing my per diem chaplain work. (And, Lord willing, a job interview…) Bearded Brewer has new assignments and challenges at work. We will have a summer of change, moving, packing, shopping, new jobs… and it will require a lot of flexibility and patience with one another. (I tell myself this because the carefully orchestrated life of the public schools will be gone, and in its place, four busy adults, 2 young and 2 not-so-young, will take its place.)

Change is wonderful. Change is exciting. Change can also be… terrifying, inconvenient and unfamiliar.

If I take each day in this season and enjoy its newness and delight, there is much to be excited about. Consider this photo of our crabapple tree in the front yard, bursting with loveliness:

Crabapple tree at its peak.
Crabapple tree at its peak.

Just a few short weeks ago, it looked like this:

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Even as the petals fell off, I enjoyed the final kiss of blossoms on our sidewalk:

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In all three, there is a burst of beauty that lasts only for a moment. And in our lives, there is much of the same.

Recently, when I held the hand of a patient, she asked me to pray that she would “love life as long as I’m living it, and show my love to my family every moment.” She, who has multiple health challenges, some of them life-threatening or at least “life-limiting,” had a joyous perspective and understanding of the fleeting beauty of life around us.

I too often take it for granted. So this afternoon, as I watched the rabbits trim down the dandelions, and the squirrels chase each other around the oak tree trunk, as I listened to the cardinals and wrens singing and watched the hesitation of the hummingbird as she came to the nectar feeder, I wrote this prayer of thank you’s…

For trees with new leaves
And hummingbirds whispering by
For crabapple blossoms carpeting my sidewalk
And maple blossoms twirling in the air.
For bird song and blossom,
Tree, root, leaf and flower
In every moment,
In every hour,
May I not forget to say
Again and again,
“Thank you, Lord.”

A Psalm of New Growth

One of the reasons I love spring so much are these days of fast growth and change in my garden. Things that were brown vines and naked trees are shoving out new growth. This vine for my trumpet vine was literally brown and dead-looking a week ago. I walked out onto my back patio this morning to pray and saw a sudden burst of green!

New life, New growth
New life, New growth

Over the last several days, as I watered, weeded and mulched, I wonder if it “hurts” to have this new growth come so quickly. And I’ve decided, based on my own life, that it just might.

Today’s post is a Psalm of praise to God in days of growth, challenge and beauty. May it nourish and encourage you in your spiritual “growth spurts.”

A Psalm of New Growth

by Deb Vaughn

Lord of the roots and vines
Lord of the skies and trees and birds
Lord of the wind and thunderstorms
Join us here
On this tender plot of our lives.

You have guided us
You have prepared us
You have nurtured us
You have turned us back to the Trellis of your ways.
We praise you.

Spirit of transplanting
Spirit of fertilizing, pruning and mulching
Spirit of weeding and clipping
Meet us here
As leaves unfurl and blossoms dance.

You have guided us
You have prepared us
You have nurtured us
You have turned us back to the Trellis of your ways.
We praise you.

Redeemer of the healing rains
Redeemer of the land and heart
Redeemer of the luscious harvest
Join us here
On this tender plot of our lives.

You have guided us
You have prepared us
You have nurtured us
You have turned us back to the Trellis of your ways.
We praise you.

Even when the blossoms fade
Even when the harvest is stolen
Even when there is an early frost
Even when we long for your healing rain
We praise you.

You have guided us
You have prepared us
You have nurtured us
You have turned us back to the Trellis of your ways.
We praise you.

You are welcome to use this Psalm with credit to the author, and to God.