I'm honored to be guest posting today at Anita Mathias' blog, Dreaming Beneath the Spires. I’ve both enjoyed and been inspired by Anita’s writing on life and faith.
Posts tagged ‘God’
How often do we recognize the miraculous in our humdrum lives? Everyday? Every so often? Once in a lifetime? I’m a big fan of Oswald Chambers and have been ever since I purchased My Utmost for His Highest when I was in college. He has a way of stripping away the unnecessary and handing you, the reader, the bold, sometimes uncomfortable truth. One of my favorite things about Chambers is his recognition of the importance of living out faith in the ordinary things, in the day-in day-out life on planet Earth. Read more
The dark path is strewn with shades of brown and ochre; fallen leaves sacrificed by trees overhead. The forest canopy blocks out rays of warmth. Boulders fallen upon each other line the rocky trail, pebbles in the hand of the Divine. A steep rock face, time etched in sandstone layers, rises straight out of the forest floor to one side of the dark path. A shock of color clings to the rocks; lush emerald moss and ferns cover rock and root. Deep forest mesmerizes, enchants with the sound of a bubbling brook nearby. Water slips over pebbles drifting autumn leaves to an unknown destination. An enormous boulder stands guard over the meandering path, blocking vision to what lies ahead.
The last week has had me wondering about the circumstances in my life. I’ve been contemplating the why’s, which is never a good thing. I know better than to give mental space to questions that cannot be answered.
Why did the chicken cross the road? This morning I was given an answer to this question: To get away from the crazy lady trying to snap a picture with her iPhone.
If you’ve visited Bella Verita before, you might be aware I live in what I affectionately call “the woods.” I’ve named my driveway (an understandably odd thing to do) “The Road Less Travelled,” which isn’t entirely accurate. Anytime we leave our house or come home, we travel the well-worn gravel driveway. Yet something about the name conjures up images of a far away, distant place and given the length of our driveway, it seems fitting.
Living in the woods, we’ve realized over the years we’re not alone. We’re surrounded by wildlife – deer, chipmunks, squirrels, raccoons, possums, woodchucks, field mice, frogs, turtles, the occasional (thankfully) coyote, hawks and all kinds of birds, even wild turkeys. I’m no stranger to opening my back door only to find some animal peering back at me. I’m not usually taken by surprise, until this morning.
Driving down our long gravel road, something was bobbing around, a bit flustered in the brush on the side of the road. I slowed down, in an effort to respect the wildlife. At first glance, I thought it was a wild turkey. Then I got a closer look and heard the faint sound of clucking. This was no turkey. It was a bona fide chicken.
Never in the nine years we’ve lived in “the woods” have I come across a wandering chicken. I’d recently read in a Country Living article that chickens are somewhat friendly creatures. Armed with this knowledge, I parked my car and walked in the direction of my feathery friend to get a closer look.
At the realization I was approaching, the poor bird immediately became panic-stricken and began clucking loudly. She darted furiously, bobbing side to side down the road, before crossing the street, to get as far away from me and my pint-sized camera as possible. Back to the car I went, somewhat sad to have frightened the hen. I drove a few feet down the road and parked again, hoping to catch another glimpse unnoticed and maybe even a picture.
The chicken had sought refuge under a grove of pines and I could hear her nervous clucking. As the clucking subsided, she peeked out and seeing me, once again, headed in the opposite direction, as fast as her spiny legs could carry her. With no hope of catching her on film, I gave up, picture-less and retreated to my car. I drove away leaving the terrified bird seeking solace in the shade of the pines, hoping I’d not driven her into a molting frenzy.
Jonathan & His Armor Bearer
Later in the day, I was reading 1 Samuel 14. King Saul and six hundred Israelite soldiers were encamped on the outskirts of Gibeah, at war with the Philistine army. While Saul was apparently staying “under a pomegranate tree,” his son, Jonathan, decided to get a closer look at the enemy encamped nearby. To do so, he needed to climb up to their outpost, which was perched up on cliffs above the Israelite camp. Jonathan is accompanied only by his young armor bearer, to whom he says, “Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised fellows. Perhaps the Lord will act on our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or few.” His armor bearer responds without hesitation, “Do all that you have in mind. Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.”
Jonathan climbs up to the camp, with his armor bearer right behind him. Spotting them, “the Philistines fell before Jonathan, and his armor-bearer followed and killed behind him.” In this one attack, the two men overcame twenty. Then a panic sent by God struck the whole Philistine camp, so fierce that the ground shook. Realizing something was up, Saul roused his men to battle. “They found the Philistines in total confusion, striking each other with their swords.” Many of them ran away with the Israelites in hot pursuit. 1 Samuel 14:23 says, “The Lord rescued Israel that day, and the battle moved on beyond Beth Aven.”
Insights from a Chicken Encounter
I’m moved by the bravery and courage of both Jonathan and his young armor bearer. Jonathan’s actions were based on the solid faith he had in his God. He knew if the Lord was for them, no one could act against them, regardless of the odds. The Philistine soldiers he surprised “fell” before him. Not because of who Jonathan was, but because God was with him. God already had a plan in this battle on a cliff. He gave Jonathan the victory.
In discussing how the armor bearer was committed to Jonathan’s authority, Beth Moore in her study, David: Seeking a Heart Like His, makes the point that the armor bearer did not get to choose the battle. His master did. The young man trusted him and followed closely behind. Jonathan went before him to take the blows of the enemy. Moore states, as followers of Christ, we don’t get to choose our battles. But we can be confident that if God calls us into a personal battle, He is leading the way and the enemy is powerless before Him. In Him, we can have victory.
Like my friend, the rusty hen, I sometimes find myself fighting the urge to run the other way when faced with the looming giants in my life. Battles not of our own choosing can send us running haywire down the road like scared chickens. Jonathan and his faithful armor bearer inspire us to stand strong in the faith, in the midst of our trials. After all, if the Lord is for us who can be against us.
Photo courtesy of PhotoXpress
The last week has been a difficult one. One that just doesn’t make sense. The kind when you wish for a do-over, as if in some way, maybe things would have turned out differently. My last post was a tribute to one of my closest friends, Suzi, who unexpectedly passed away just over a week ago. With her passing, the questions arise. Read more
The other night I went to bed thinking about grief, trying to understand why it’s so elusive. Knowing the end is in sight for a loved one, but not knowing how long. Anticipatory grief is what they call it. With a disease like Alzheimer’s, it’s a grinding process – grinding away at your spirit and your knowledge of who that loved one once was, before illness robbed them of their mind and personality.
Last week we moved my mom to a new room at her memory care facility, at the advice of one of the care managers. “I’m sorry to say, but I really think she’s crossing over into the last stage of the disease.” Hard words to hear, followed by even more difficult words. “You and your family might want to start looking into hospice for her, for comfort care.” And there it was. The finality of the situation summed up in a few words. My ears heard, my mind understood, even rationalized that this is the inevitable outcome of such a debilitating disease. But my heart…my heart felt like a dishtowel being wringed out, the last bits of hope falling to the floor in drops.
Grieving after a loss is normal. But this loss has been an ongoing process over many years. Twelve years filled with little losses popping up out of the blue, hitting hard. And now this. Is anyone ever really ready to hear words of such finality? Maybe it’s selfish. I’m just not ready to let her go and so I’m struggling to get a handle on this thing called grief.
The little grief’s began years ago, when she was first diagnosed. We were forced to face the reality that life would slowly be stripped away from her. Then, grief again from the realization that she was once able to help care for her grandson, a boy she loves deeply, but now no longer recognizes. Sadness from knowing she’s never really gotten to know her grand-daughter. Knowing that the woman who was the primary influence in my life and faith, long ago lost her ability to speak into my life. Yet I still find myself wishing I could seek her out, to get hold of who she is and hear her words of wisdom and affirmation. Watching a vibrant, independent, fun-loving woman turn childlike before my eyes. Seeing her give up things she once loved, like gardening. The scent of peonies on a warm breeze, a reminder of well-cared for blooms in a garden. Her garden. A garden she can no longer tend.
Four years ago, it became important to me to see their blooms again, nearby. As though some piece of my mother was still the same, captured in the beauty and fragrance of those flowers. My husband obliged and we transplanted root pieces of my mother’s peonies to a sunny spot next to our house. The following spring, I couldn’t wait to see them. Lush leaves came first and I waited patiently for buds. I waited and waited. No buds appeared. Maybe the shock of transplanting was to blame and it would just take another year before buds arrived. We waited for the next spring, only to be disappointed again. I began to think they simply wouldn’t bloom outside of her garden. “You probably planted them too deep,” said the garden expert. “Bring them up higher to the surface.” We did. We moved them and waited. Still no blooms, just leaves.
I nearly gave up hope on those peonies. Then, days after speaking with my mother’s care manager, I began my ritual march to their verdant bushes, filled with anticipation. Pulling the leaves back, I saw it. One little bud peeking out at me. In disbelief, I carefully brushed more leaves aside. There they were – a multitude of little buds, ready to burst into an explosion of multi-petalled beauty. To say I was excited is an understatement. I was ecstatic.
“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the kingdom of Heaven is theirs. God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted. God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.” Matthew 5:3-5 NLT
God’s timing is so perfect, isn’t it? His comfort is balm to a wounded heart. When my heart needed assurance of His hope, He gave it. When I’d nearly given up on seeing those blooms, after four long years, He gave me peonies, just when I needed them most. A reminder of who my mother was and still is in His eyes. Thank you for that, Lord.
Spring ushers in some of my favorite things: sunshine, warmth, birds singing and a multitude of flowers peeking through muddy ground. This spring the birds have been singing, flowers have begun their ascent into full glory, but the sun… ah, the sun. Maybe it was sleeping hard after a long winter and couldn’t be bothered to show its’ face. Until yesterday.
Yesterday, the sun came out to play. Finally. Ecstatically happy and in celebration of the sun, I spent as much time as I could outside. I hiked through the park, attempted to garden a bit, even walked down our lengthy gravelly driveway and road, up the hill to meet my daughter at her bus stop. Normally, I’d drive. Not yesterday. Not a chance. Didn’t even mind pushing her enormous, ancient jogging stroller up the big hill.
Delighted to see me and the stroller, she couldn’t wait to take a ride. She loves taking walks. She loves riding and loves walking. Used to be, she was a bit too unsteady to walk for long on the gravel. She’s grown considerably in strength, in a year’s time. After riding to our driveway, she promptly asked to walk. “Out, Mama. Wanna walk. Please.” Absolutely. Down she went, ready for her hike up the hills in our drive.
Five year olds are inquisitive creatures and my daughter is no exception. With eyes focused on either side of the drive searching for birds, deer and chipmunks, it didn’t take long for her to take a spill. Footing lost; down she went, both hands hitting hard on gravel. Her little face belying shock over what happened. Frustration. Then, the cries of pain. Scooping her up immediately, holding her close to soothe her tears, she calmed. Tiny scraped up palms and sadness in her eyes. It’s heartbreaking to see your child in pain, even if it’s just over a few scrapes.
Scraped hands are brushed off. Tears wiped away. We turn to continue our walk. Afraid to take another step, my daughter moves slowly. Cautiously. “Sofia, do you want to hold my hand?” I ask. “Yes,” she mumbles through left-over tears. I hold out my right hand to her, which she grasps solidly with her left. Tiny hand in mine, I begin to take a step. Before my foot hits the ground, another little hand shoots out, desperately grabbing for my hand. Two little hands tighten their grip on mine. The ferocity with which she holds on startles me. It’s as if she doesn’t trust herself. One hand holding on is good, but two are better. Both hands in mine, I steady her for our hike home.
As we walk together, I’m reminded of the times in my life I’ve been walking along, enjoying the scenery, unaware I’m about to lose my footing. Then, the fall. Painful, surprising spills on the road of life when I’ve longed to hold on to someone bigger and stronger. After falling, I’m stunned and shocked by the hurt of whatever’s thrown me off balance. At times, I’ve been afraid to keep going. Over time, I’ve learned to raise my head, tears falling and hold out both hands reaching for the God who offers me His right hand to steady me.
I walk in His strength, in the knowledge He can lead me safely on my journey. I’ve learned I can’t make it alone. So I reach out and grip with both hands, the hand offered me. I take it, hopefully without question. Sometimes, with questions nagging. I’m grateful for the help. He’s always been faithful. He always leads with love. I can only hope that’s what my daughter sees, when she reaches out to me. And that, in turn, she’ll learn to reach out for Him.
“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 NLT