No Anchor But Jesus {{#backtochurch}}

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Crocosmia in my front garden

“Where do people put such things when they live by Plan? Our entire plan is simply Miscellaneous.” -Gladys Taber, Stillmeadow Seasons, 1950

Last Sunday was our first time back in a building to gather and worship for church since March of this year. I refer to that time as “2020 B.C.” as in Before Coronavirus.

Guided by our pastor and staff, we were properly spaced in family or couple groups, masked up and elbow-bumping our hellos to one another. It was….. weird. And it was somehow wonderful at the same time. Why? Because we were together again with our brothers and sisters, standing in the same room with live music. No more screens with live streaming church services…the body of Christ was re-membered–put back together again.

But yes, it was weird. Not the church part, but the whole year part.

For instance, how is it almost July?

It seems like 2020 should only have two months–January and June. Or better, just two parts–Then and Now. The plans in my Daytimer were thankfully in pencil (I’m old school like that) and erased easily enough. But instead of checking off or crossing out events and tasks, January through June just became one gaping hole.

Weeks have turned into months, days are jumbled together in no particular order. I wake up nearly every morning and wonder, “Now is it Tuesday or Friday?” Without Sundays set aside to be in fellowship and worship, weekly anchors that held my life in place disappeared almost overnight.

Yes, there has been little to plan on in these days of #coronavirus. Facts change overnight, what was for sure and for certain and familiar has vanished. I have been forced…. goaded? nudged? into facing the one fact that remains–God’s word is the only anchor I can count on. His truth centers me, His spirit fills me and His daily faithfulness in the world around me has continued to save me.

I am forever grateful that this pandemic and isolation came when Spring in our corner of the world was just waking up. Now here we are in the thick of Summer and flowers and trees are lush and vibrant, my potato vines are flourishing, the bees are busy in the lavender. Life continues in God’s creation whether there’s lockdown or not. You can’t quarantine nature, that is for sure.00100lrPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20200629121951486_COVER

The nudges I feel in this season were summed up beautifully the other morning when I read in Psalm 143 during my quiet time.

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.

Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. Psalm 143:8

I so wish I could actually make plans in my Planner. That I knew what was going to take place in the next month or two. But the Holy Spirit is continuing to remind me that we are only given one day at a time and our days, whether we acknowledge it or not, belong to God.

I can’t think of anyplace safer to be right now than listening and looking into the coming year one day at a time. That is God’s saving grace.

Tell me, what’s saving your life right now? I’d love to hear in the comments.

Accompaniment {a #poem}

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Birds, their tones both winged and bright
Harmonize from branches out of sight
Know their parts, score memorized
Flash and zoom before my eyes.

Soprano, alto, second, bass
Throaty praises from branchy place
Echo, float, reverberate
A pause, then celebrate

Mornings’ rise first slow and quiet
Against dull backdrops now a riot
Their songs a span of treble and bass
Background my day, this hallowed space.

*****

The daybreak song of birds seems brighter and more clear than ever before. Have you noticed? I tried to to capture their music ((impossible)) by playing around with meter and rhyme. I hope the joy comes through the verses.

{{Also? I’m working on my second book, a self-published volume of poetry. Working title: “Hearts on Pilgrimage~a Poetry Collection.” Stay tuned & in the meantime, you can click HERE to read more of my poems.}}

When You’re Drowning in Words

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My friend Kim and I were talking about words the other day. She mentioned a haiku she’d written, following the form of three lines of verse and a pattern of syllables- 5 in the first line, 7 in the second and 5 in the last. We discussed the simple fact that when you are limited by form it forces you to be concise. Word choices become intentional in order to convey meaning and evoke an image for the reader.

When I ventured out to my garden with this in mind, I took the above photo to discover via PlantSnap (my plant ID app) what this white-petaled flower was. My husband asked a neighbor who was renovating their yard if he could dig up the unwanted greenery–‘yes, of course’- and successfully rehomed them in my perennial bed.

I didn’t know what the plant was named and was delighted to learn something new.

Annual, family ‘lunaria’, common name ‘honesty.’ A plant named honesty. Well, that’s something to ponder.

It seems like we’re drowning in information in this #lifeinthetimeofcorona. Yes, that’s a hashtag; you can Google it.

Everywhere you turn online there is someone else with another opinion about What’s Really Important to Know Right Now. It’s overwhelming. Should I wear a facemask in public or not? How is this virus actually spread? Should I wipe down my plastic bags when I get home from the grocery store? And how long are we going to be asked to #stayhomestaysafe?

It’s hard to be brief when we want to communicate what really matters–we’d rather just talk on and on. Or maybe that’s just me. Experts in every field have an opinion to pay attention to these days.

The overwhelm is real, and leaves me feeling like anything I have to say doesn’t really matter. In a weird way I feel like I’ve run out of words… so many syllables swirling in the atmosphere, they’ve all been used up. Or the virtual air is overcrowded and my thoughts seem unnecessary compared to everyone else’s.

In this season of self-isolation and social distancing, my soul can feel squashed. There’s extra mental energy required to cope with simple daily tasks like grocery shopping or going to the drugstore, and I easily feel like I’ve run out of creativity of any kind. The subtle lie creeps in that seeking to create is a waste of time when people are dying. 

But creativity is often an act of defiance. To choose to find beauty in the middle of a pandemic–whether it’s noticing the way one enjoys the budding of spring or the joy in a baby’s smile–can feed the soul. Penning a few simple but purposeful lines to capture that beauty is a choice I’m willing to make anyway.

We are makers, God’s poiema–His ‘made thing’. 

Even small bits of creating–trying a new recipe, writing a note to a friend, sending a text, beginning a piece of handwork, planting seeds–anything that honors and affirms life right now is an act of defiance, a way of using our words (and actions) to declare what really matters.

Let’s be honest. Let’s be makers.

****

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What’s in a Name? Only Everything {an Advent Post}

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There can be no manner of doubt a name is more easily remembered when its meaning is understood.  –A.J. Macself, from the Foreword, “Plant Names Simplified”

I forgot to plant my amaryllis bulb the week of All Hallow’s Eve. I wrote about the practice in my Christmas season book, how planting a crinkly, brown bulb with antenna-like roots can be a lesson in patience and waiting during the Advent and Christmas season. But I was too busy to remember. Goodness.

So, I potted the inglorious bulb the other day after soaking the accompanying ground-up coconut shreds in warm water, watching them miraculously expand and nearly overtake my 32-ounce glass measuring cup. Amaryllis duly snugged into plastic container, I pondered something while I cleaned up the mess in my sink.

What does ‘amaryllis’ mean, anyway?

I’m fond of learning the Latin for plant names, shrubs and trees. As an amateur gardener, I pride myself on the pronunciation and meaning of the various denizens of my yard and garden. And some of the names are not Latin at all, but simply named for people or a place.

Amaryllis. Well. I went to the bookshelf and took down my slim green volume of “Plant Names Simplified–Their Meanings and Pronunciation,” (A.T. Johnson, 1931, W.H. & L Collingridge, U.K.) No matter the book is missing pages 51-82, duly noted on the inside cover by me in July 2012. (It’s a very old book and was gifted to me when a friend found it at an antique store.) I needed only go to the beginning of this plant dictionary; I knew the A entries would all be there.

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Of the two names given to each plant, the first, which may be likened to our surname (or first name) is the generic, or group name. This can occur only once, as a group name, but the second, the specific (or species) name is only given to one plant of the same genus, as is a Christian name in a family, and may occur in many different genera. (From the Introduction).

The elegant amaryllis, I discovered, has only one name and is neither Greek nor Latin, but a “classical name after that of a shepherdess in Theocritus and Virgil, Greek and Latin poets.” I was pleased to find this entry as I’m an aspiring poet and also was taken by the fact that it is after a shepherdess. The final bloom of an amaryllis can nearly be equated with the crook of a shepherd’s staff, I suppose. And, there is the occasion of planting an amaryllis, during that season that precedes the birth of Jesus, our Shepherd.

I think about the name Christian, which “occurs in many different genera.” ‘Genera’ is of course the root word of generate and generations.

The generations of Jesus have continued for hundreds of years. and beginning with the first root of our family, that stump of Jesse-Jesus, will continue to grow. I am forever grateful to claim Jesus’ name as my own, and identify with the Christ, my Saviour.

The name above every other name.

The Light that is coming in the dark days of Winter.

Emmanuel–God with us.

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Leafworks {a #poem}

Like the bound bud in the almost

bloomed magnolia, there is life

ready to burst, tight secrets

on the God side buried within

these cool, bright days.

I’m waiting, watching, counting

the sleeps until a quiet

wonder world awakes. Amazed,

I waltz between the longest watch

from each dormant doorway,

through the chill and darkened

mornings to a heart like an open gate.

Ear cupped, poised for my next

birth, I linger for delivery

of the morning’s message–

free and God-breathed–

a silent, green unfurling.

——-

January Bird {a #poem}

Where have you been?
Out of town like those who flee
our chilled clime and metallic skies?
Elsewhere, warming up your voice to
herald today’s sunrise with your song?
I welcome your morning melody
making its way to my ears,
stirring memories of other songs on
sullen, silver days when
your music was my only companion,
a balm for the emptiness at the edge
of my days.

 

Begin Again {a #poem}

2015-10-09 07.06.05.jpgSeptember’s singular day arrives with the turning
of many pages, paper or otherwise. Limbs of another
rich and growing year branch upward, leading
to vistas bright and unknown. An imaginary climb,
I’m grateful for handholds, eyes on the open, azure sky.
Did Eden’s first morning in that tree-filled glade
startle the couple awake, their eyes on a new dawn?
Burst with the gift of hope, that unknown need of a
fresh start? I say yes.
This new day, like that one, rich with possibilities
awaits as we journey. Now at a walk (or sometimes fly)
and fall, sure of a steady Hand to right us.
Our steps re-turned to the Kingdom, the sound
of that Voice birthed anew in the blazing
blue that calls towards home.

 

The Ministry of Trees {a #poem}

Autumn morning, my eyes are trained
through windows to the shadow
show on tree trunks, crayon box

of colors falling through space

from newly-revealed branches.
Creator comes to mind, how He
carries us, colors us, covers us
with His power, tree-like arms our
strength, raising us Heavenward.

Aware that sap is invisible, a pulsing, sticky
river, carrying nourishment in its wake while

eyes are trained on cottonwood, maple,

Evergreen. I rarely wonder at their

hidden strength, seldom stop to remark,

Would you look at the energy feeding those trees!?

And still it flows.

Likewise we fuss and worry
that God may not be at work
while we grow our leaf-filled days.
Falling we wonder, ‘where is He?

why isn’t He doing something?’
And all the time His constant
reliable reach pushes up and
out, earthborne sap that cannot
be stopped, no matter how our
lives fall out.

Sabbath Equation in the Garden

my perennial bed

I drag my green plastic chair across the lawn out to the garden.  The orange bucket is upended and covered with an old towel–my ‘end table.’  I place my fresh cup of warm coffee on top and settle in with my camera over my shoulder.

I am waiting for the hummingbird.

I’ve noticed her from my kitchen window, stopping at tall spikes of Cardinal Flower, relishing the nectar feast as she drinks from red trumpets.
I am determined to capture this in a photo.

There are so many other things I could be doing–organizing papers and kid files from school, entering the obligatory data in the computer program for teachers.  Computing, typing, printing, copying.  Necessary school tasks that have spilled over into the weekend.

However.

However, it is an amazing, glorious, sunny last day of summer day.  And there is this book, ‘God in the Yard’ by LL Barkat–which I’ve written about here and here.  Because of what I read…because I am learning to slow and listen, I hear a still, small voice say, “just stop.”
Get off the wheel–savor this Saturday sunshine, sit and soak in the sights and sounds. The work can wait.

The hummingbird never comes.

But oh, there’s a show–chickadees swimming through the air, breast stroking their way from the trees to my deck.  Clusters of busy bees swarming the purple asters, feasting and gathering, doing their bee-like job.

purple asters

A dragonfly zooms close to the ground, his right angle flight pattern cutting the empty space above the grass.  He’s landed and I lose him….probably on the rhododendron.

From this vantage point I can easily glance up at the trees.  My eyes register movement.  There are two young gray squirrels playing trapeze with the clusters of maple tree “helicopters.”  The seed pods provide handy hanging places for playing.  Suddenly the young’uns are stopped and stretched on a branch, their feathery tails at rest in the shadows.

My eyes drink it all in–I snap photos up close and personal of the summer-end colors in my yard.

Not once do I think of the work I must do that awaits me inside.

coreopsis (tickseed) and seed pod

 

borage

 

cotoneaster berries
I am fully in the moment, confident this Sabbath time is the rest and refueling I need for the task ahead.

There’s an equation in LL’s book which makes no mathematical sense but works ‘on the Godward side’ (Spurgeon? Murray? Edwards?).

“In a way, this is how Sabbath works.  One day out of seven, or 1=6 is an unexpected equation,
but it seems to work miracles in our lives.  Still, many of us have difficulty
granting even one day of rest to our six days of work.
Just why do we shun giving up one day? 
Are we in need of claiming all the accomplishments for ourselves,
when Sabbath suggests they might come from God and open space as well?
Sabbath relieves us of our illusion and burden
that we are the center of all our accomplishments.” “God in the Yard” p. 79

So how did all that weekend work work out in with this new math? Tasks accomplished? Jobs completed? Welllllll….
Pretty much all the t’s were crossed, all the i’s were dotted, AND I had time left over. I found the equation held true with God in my yard….and my Sabbath stop was the proof text.

How about you?