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!)

IMG_3250

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

 

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!

IMG_3327

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)

Let the day end as at began…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you,” that would suffice.
Meister Eckhart

The day started very early. Before the sun was up, we headed to the airport to send off our Johnnie on a bit of an adventure. It was an easy drive despite the snow, only wet pavement with a salty road spray.

Around every turn was another vista of frosted trees and shrubs. In a magical, quiet way, the overnight snowfall sculpted the highway into something softer, a more ethereal version of an interstate.

On the way back into our neighborhood, I took a few pictures. Then a few more around our back yard. And all I could do was say, “Thank you, Lord.”

It was a long day. Lots of little issues, big problems, and heartfelt prayers. A hard day. But a good day. Let the day end as it began… where all I can say is, “Thank you, Lord.”

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  I Thessalonians 5:15-18

When less than perfect is… perfect!

IMG_0629

My travels today took me all over suburbia, from the newest neighborhoods with massive custom homes to the post-World War 2 bungalows. In the outer ‘burbs, there are many places where the agricultural community lives side-by-side with modern amenities. Driving on one back road, I chuckled at the sight of a herd of white-faced Herefords grazing in a field next to a large strip mall and posh tennis club.

And then, I saw this barn.

It was barely standing, with holes in the siding and the roof, and piled debris from the building on one side of the structure. (I actually did some fast and furious U-turns in order to go back and take a second look, and snap this picture.)

Directly across the street sat a “perfect” home with a wrap-around porch, vinyl siding, three-car garage and well-tended landscaping. (Even with the dregs of the recent snowstorm piled along the driveway and front walk, you could tell the hedges were clipped to perfection!)

Shack and Chic. Country and City. Cows and Suburbia. Dilapidated and Perfect.  The journeys they find themselves on are all different, and yet the same.

driving

Working in hospice, I become invested in the lives and needs of my patients. I listen to their stories, their questions, their philosophical reflections. I enjoy photos, listen to music, help write letters, and read Scripture to them. I learn so much. Oh, do I learn!

What you see on the outside can be deceiving. Inside the walls of beautiful homes, there are stories of great joy, worry and regret. Down the hall from a perfectly decorated game room, there is a hospital bed, or a countertop lined with bottles of pills. A camper may sit in the driveway, still covered in snow, the owner only dreaming of a drive to the Florida Keys.

Sometimes the contrast is quite striking. From outward appearances, they want for nothing: gourmet food, 24/7 private duty staff, gracious living with all the amenities. But once the door is closed and there is opportunity to share, there’s a different story. The ache of regrets and missed opportunities colors the few days a family may have.

In another home, you see there are needed repairs. It’s clear that the breadwinner is no longer working. The budget is shot after chemo and surgeries and hospitalizations, and there are grave financial concerns. The bills outlast the income, but laughter and joy color precious moments.

barn croppedOne really can’t tell from the outside what’s really happening on the inside. That family who looks perfect, is not…

And the impossibly dilapidated structure is actually quite beautiful…

And so, my chaplain’s heart stopped to wonder…

Do I see with an open heart and clear eyes what is truly going on behind the scenes? Or am I caught up in appearances and flashy “perfection?”

The bottom line is… we can never truly know what is going on in the human heart. I have learned this, to my embarrassment, when I make an assumption without taking time to really listen and absorb the facts.

Tonight I look around at our warm and inviting home, cats purring the couch beside me and many “creature comforts” at my disposal. Life is not perfect, but it is pretty darn good. May I not take that for granted.

Thanks be to God.

Little foxes

The day started with a sense that it was not going to be my day. SQUISH!  Yes, I stepped in a fresh pile of cat hork… and had to change my socks… and wash my feet…

EWWWW! Really, cat?

I cleaned up some of the mess and left the rest to dry. Not to worry, I was ready to leave on time and headed to the car. I was looking forward to going to church. Except… the battery was dead and my trusty, rusty Pilot would not start. Not even with the battery charger.

RATS.

I had two choices. I could sit and whine and grumble. Or, I could spend the morning in relative quiet with 2 cats, my Bible and some music and be thankful for a warm home and some lovely amenities.

I confess I started off grumbly. Reverend Chaplain Cranky Pants had to have a little pity party, and then get over it.

I mean, really. I wasn’t out on the highway. I had three or four electronic devices at my disposal, plus two cats and a warm afghan. And the last cup of coffee from the pot… and I realized what my problem really was.

Catch the foxes for us,
        those little foxes that menace the vineyards,
    For our vineyards are so vulnerable when they are in full bloom.
Song of Solomon 2:15 The Voice

My problem is called INGRATITUDE. It’s a picky, little, conniving thief of Contentment. It creates an issue when there isn’t one. It’s the kind of sin that creeps in and robs us of joy and the ability to see alternatives or options. My “little foxes” colored my perception of my health, safety and well-being.

I stopped and changed my attitude. Played my piano. Colored a labyrinth. Made plans for my Lenten discipline, a coloring template from Praying in Color. Prayed for my family and my patients. Held a purring cat.

This evening, (after we got the car started… fingers crossed for tomorrow!), I saw this lovely sunset.

IMG_0612

And even more striking was the reflection of the sky in the snow melt at the bottom of our driveway:

IMG_0608

 

Maybe that’s all I need to remember… to reflect back to the heavens the faithfulness of God. Even when I don’t feel like it. ESPECIALLY when I don’t feel like it.

1 Praise the Eternal!
All of you who call yourselves the children of the Eternal, come and praise His name. Lift Him high to the high place in your hearts.
2 At this moment, and for all the moments yet to come,
may the Eternal’s name ascend in the hearts of His people.
3 At every time and in every place—
from the moment the sun rises to the moment the sun sets—
may the name of the Eternal be high in the hearts of His people.
4 The Eternal is seated high above every nation.
His glory fills the skies.
Psalm 113:1-4, The Voice

Thanks be to God!

After the storm

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.