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!)


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


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

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… 


Here’s to Mud on Your Boots

PRE-mud on my boots!


Winter is over. The sounds of birds singing (and the gardener sneezing) fill the air. Time to set up the water feature in the back yard, clear away fallen branches, attack the early crop of weeds, and think about the growing season.

The hours I have spent raking, hauling and pruning are part of the groundwork for the lush flowers of late spring and summer. I remind myself that it’s worth it… At one point, I stopped to rest, stretching out in the sunshine, reflecting on the seasons, each with their unique challenges.

Last month we still had snow to shovel and windows to scrape clear. This week I navigated pot holes and downpours. In just a few weeks, I’ll be swearing at the mosquitos and humidity. Each season has it less than lovely moments. But each one also brings breath-taking beauty, memories worth celebrating, and moments of sweat equity.

So here’s to mud on your boots and a tissue in your pocket. It’s (finally) spring!

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The last days of Lent

It is only mid-April. We have the hints of spring here and there. Last night we had a hard freeze, which meant that the most vulnerable of my plants needed protection from the cold. While I could move the planters into the garage or cover window boxes, I couldn’t move my prize peony, one that is from a start from my grandmother’s garden. (I admit. I baby it!)  Since the peony has just sprouted, it is a little more vulnerable to the frost. I put a box on top of it, weighted it down with large rocks, and hoped for the best.

This morning, I checked the plants, and they are all fine. But the rocks, frozen solid into the top of the box, were stunning. It looked like a modern art piece. You know. Something like “Rocks on a Box.”


It was lunchtime before the ice had melted enough that I could pry the rocks from the ice. We’ll have to set the box back over the peonies tonight, but for now, the plants are enjoying the sunshine of a fine spring day.

I thought about the changes that have come over my yard since Lent began. When I first walked my labyrinth in the early weeks of March, there was snow…

2014-01-23 21.59.12

In between snow storms, there was a fine sea of mud…

2014-03-30 13.32.47

And now we have the hints of green. It’s time to brush away the leaves, pick up branches and start really looking for signs of spring. Like the forsythia. And the vinca. And the daffodils. And the oak and maple trees.


Life and growth return slowly when things have been dormant. This is true in the cycle of winter to spring, and it’s true in my own spiritual life.

Change and growth never seem to be fast enough, at least, not for me. The process is not a linear one, it’s more in fits and starts. And it is only looking back, thoughtfully and kindly at ourselves and others, that we see change.

In my Lenten disciplines, I’ve tried to be more intentional about what I eat, and how I spend my time. I’ve worked on mindfulness of my self care and my awareness of God’s work in my life. The changes are slow, but they can be seen.

Thanks be to God.

New life, New growth
New life, New growth

Love lives again, as with the dead has been. Love will come again as fruit that springeth green.

Friday Five: Signs of Spring

I’m hosting the Friday Five over at the RevGalBlogPals blog. You don’t have to be a RevGal to play! Join in the fun!

THIS is spring?

As spring slowly begins to bring a thaw to those of us in the northern part of the Northern Hemisphere, I have been watching for signs of renewal and rebirth. It is also part of the season of Lent as well. This week, let’s focus on the signs of spring within us and around us!

Share with us:

1. Your favorite spring flower. (Is it blooming yet? If so, share the joy by posting a picture of that loveliness with those of us still waiting!)

Spring is far from us right now. The only buds that are swelling are on the maple trees… But I do love when the forsythia breaks open, because it is the first sign in my yard that spring WILL come. Right now, the buds haven’t even started to open. March has been a cold, snowy month, and the forsythia is having NONE OF IT. And my wisteria is sleeping…

2. Your spring cleaning routine. Do you have one? Is there a family memory or tradition around it?

It is my family’s LEAST favorite task, but they know it’s coming: CLEANING OUT THE GARAGE! This year it will be delayed because of the construction and remodeling of our bathrooms. Our garage is full of contractor equipment, supplies and trash. With that piled on top of our usual set of  junk, (aka “I’ll keep this until later”), it’s pretty much a disaster area…

3. A personal area of growth where you have seen some success lately. It can be personal, physical, spiritual or familial.

Me and my FitBit! I’m walking more than before, and I lost another 3 pounds. 3 with many to go. But still. Progress!

4. When does “spring” usually arrive in your area? Are you holding out for late May? Or are you one of the lucky ones who has already put away her sweaters and mittens?

It should arrive in April sometime. Until then, it’s the mutated wardrobe of “too hot for wool and too cool for tank tops.” I usually wait until mid-May (after Mother’s Day) to plant my annuals. There’s been too many years where that last storm of the season has killed off my newly planted, tender plants!

5. A verse or set of verses from Scripture that speaks “new growth” to you.

One of my favorite verses is 2 Corinthians 5:17. The preacher in me must give it in context…  🙂

16 We are careful not to judge people by what they seem to be, though we once judged Christ in that way. 17 Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten, and everything is new. 18 God has done it all! He sent Christ to make peace between himself and us, and he has given us the work of making peace between himself and others.

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:


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


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.”