Borrowed

IMG_0495.JPGMeet my borrowed kayak!

I can’t even tell you how excited I was the day it got dropped off in my yard.  I’ve been dreaming for a long time of being able to experiment with the versatility of a kayak, both for personal recreation (a vessel I could handle all on my own!) and the new world of photographic opportunity it would open up for me (high stealth waterfowl photography, coming right up).

But, of course, the catch is that it’s borrowed, so it comes with a time limit.  To make things even more interesting, I don’t actually know what the time limit is.  I have a few educated guesses as to when it’s owners are going to decide that they want it back, but I really don’t know.  It could be in my yard for as little as a couple weeks.  It could be in my yard for the rest of the summer.

One morning though, a week or so after it arrived, I woke up to the fact that it was still just sitting in my yard.  Wait a minute!  Time was ticking, but I hadn’t even used it!  How silly would it be, after all the excited intentions I’d voiced, to sheepishly admit to the owners when they came to get it that the only water that had touched it while it was in my possession was raindrops from a summer storm?  They would be quite justified in questioning the worthwhile-ness of the effort it took for them to transport it to me.

So, on a quiet Sunday as a hazy afternoon was fading into evening, I hauled it to the water and gave it a go.IMG_0519.JPGIMG_0565.JPGI slipped along past the water lilies, and brushed gently through the wild rice.  The water was like glass except for the artful zigzags of water bugs.  The mosquitoes stayed away, and I could hear a blue heron croaking in the distance.  Water dripped down to my elbows as I dipped the paddle up and down, and for a few minutes, the looming to-do list for the upcoming weeks faded away to the back of my mind.

It was every bit as peaceful and relaxing as I’d imagined; how glad I was that I hadn’t missed the opportunity!IMG_0542IMG_0549The quiet of the water was a peaceful place for thinking, and as I floated airily along in my orange pod, it occurred to me that the gift of life is a lot like a borrowed kayak.

I’ve heard people who were healed from cancer or survived a terrible accident call their life thereafter “borrowed time”.  They realize that they could/should have died, and whatever time they get after that feels like a precious gift.  They go on to live with much greater intention and with much deeper gratefulness for every breath they take.

Here’s the truth, though: Those survivors have had the advantage of a wake-up call to bring them to their senses, but you and I should be living with the exact same amount of appreciation and urgency as they are.  We’re really all living on “borrowed time”.  God gave us life, but none of us came into this world with an automatic 100% guaranteed Will-Live-To-Ripe-Old-Age warranty built in.

That truth can be a little unsettling, but living in denial of it never helped anybody.  Better to embrace the exciting part, that we’re all given the exact same chance to make what we can of our limited time of unknown duration—and we get to choose!  We can “leave it sitting idly in the yard”, or “take it to water and go somewhere with it”.  We can fill our hours with good intentions or we can buckle on a life jacket and start paddling those intentions into reality.  We can waste opportunities, or we can embrace them for their full potential.IMG_0571 My encouragement for the day?  If there’s a kayak sitting neglected in your yard, go use it.  It’s good for the soul.  And if your life feels a bit like a neglected kayak, go use that, too.  Spend it well–and when time is up and it’s time to give an account, you’ll have no regrets.

And that’s really good for the soul.

“For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.  It is written:

“As surely as I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow before Me; every tongue will confess to God.”

So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:10-12)

 

Milkweed

IMG_0171.JPGWe paused on our evening walk by a stand of sturdy broad-leafed plants, with their rounded flower heads bursting demurely into dusty pink.  It’s a habit formed in kindergarten for both of us, this annual foray into a milkweed patch.  After years of monarch caterpillar awareness,  we “knew” that it was just that time of summer that there should be some caterpillars in that milkweed, somewhere.  And we needed to say hello, show them to our girls, maybe remind them that there’s a nice little flower garden full of butterfly-friendly flowers in front of our house that they’re welcome to visit when they’re grown up.

But where were they?IMG_0168It was a delightful little game of hide-and-seek, peering under leaves, along stems—and it was a credit to surprisingly clever camouflage that we had almost given up when we finally spotted one.  But then it was like our eyes adjusted and we suddenly saw them everywhere!  Some tiny, some large, dressed in yellow, black and white stripes, far too busy eating to notice they’d been discovered by friendly nature enthusiasts.  Did you know that a Monarch caterpillar is capable of eating an entire milkweed leaf in less than five minutes?  Pretty amazing mouth-work for such a tiny creature!IMG_0160IMG_0169A few weeks later, walking past the same stand of milkweed, I witnessed a delicate orange and black butterfly flitting from flower to flower, graciously sipping nectar, and I found myself marveling anew at the beauty of God’s design for sustainability in creation.

The plant gives of itself so the caterpillar may eat.  The caterpillar, nurtured exclusively by milkweed, becomes a butterfly.  The butterfly, fresh out of its gold-flecked chrysalis pauses to pollinate the flowers of its benefactor, therefore ensuring that it will bear seed to produce…

more plants,

for more caterpillars,

for more butterflies,

for more seed next year.

IMG_0461.JPGAnd while we’re marveling over Monarch butterflies, let’s not forget how those gorgeously designed wings covered in tiny delicate scales will carry this creature 2,500 miles to Mexico come fall, to spend a warm winter on the exact same few trees its ancestors have spent winters on for ages before, and then all the way back again in the spring to lay the eggs that will become that next generation of caterpillars—because there isn’t any milkweed in Mexico!

There’s so much to marvel at in just this one amazing life cycle in nature!  Truly:

“…since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)

On the Seventh Day of Summer…

IMG_9652.JPG…my camera brought to me,

Seven juneberry slices.

But only after a couple hours of picking a lot more than seven juneberries* and a couple hours spent in the kitchen.

And only after a lot of purple-stained fingers, and gingerly skirting patches of poisin ivy, and stirring of bubbly pots on the stove.

You know, there’s nothing like first having to pick all those little berries painstakingly with your own two hands to elevate an otherwise delicious pie to pretty much perfect.

Wondering where that 8th slice disappeared to?  That went to my true love.  And the rest?  Let’s just say there are not seven pieces left anymore.IMG_9591.JPGIMG_9601“Tell the righteous it will be well for them, for they will enjoy the fruit of their labor.” (Isaiah 3:10)

*Fun fact: did you know that “juneberries” also go by “serviceberry”, “saskatoon”, “shadbush”, “chuckley pear”, “wild plum” and “pigeon berry”?!

 

On the Sixth Day of Summer…

IMG_9398.JPG…my camera brought to me,

Six cygnets a-swimming.

I identify quite a bit with this swan family.

All of our children have summer birthdays, and we seem to agree that birthdays are to be celebrated with great festivity.  The swans celebrate such occasions by taking the whole family on their very first loop around the lake to see all the sights; we celebrate by hosting picnics on the lawn, with doting grandparents, aunts and uncles galore, and plenty of homemade ice cream.  Sometimes these celebrations even coincide, and watching them glide gracefully past while we eat birthday cake is almost as entertaining as watching birthday girls in their best dresses get excited about gifts of stuffed puppies and tiny baby dolls.

We both get upset with birds of prey and the other assorted hungry predators who lurk in our neck of the woods when they threaten to eat our cygnets (or chickens).  I do wish I could match their gracefulness in expressing my outrage, however.  I mean, how much more sophisticated to trumpet and flap powerful snowy white wings then to run out into the yard shouting and flailing your arms?  I’m working on that.

We both live on the same lake, and think it’s a wonderful place to raise children.  We agree that being near or in the water as much as possible is an excellent way to spend a summer.  We both think that sunshine and fresh air is healthy for little ones, and that they should be out in it as much as possible.

Perhaps the most interesting thing we have in common is that we both enjoy foraging for food to eat in the wild.  Although, I must admit that other than wild rice, our tastes are somewhat different.  They like lily pads.  We like saskatoons.  Each to their own, of course.

We rejoice together.  We identify and call out evil together.  We have things in common, but appreciate and respect the beauty of our differences.  What does that remind you of?  It reminds me of this:

“Therefore if you have any encouragement in Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, then make my joy complete by being of one mind, having the same love, being united in spirit and purpose.” (Philippians 2:1-2)

 

 

On the Fifth Day of Summer…

IMG_9489My camera brought to me,

Five pink petals.

I was looking for five things for this project, but the only compelling things I could find were roses.  They were exceptionally pretty and summery, but all as solitary as could be.  This presented a quandary, until it dawned on me that there can be five things within one thing.  I had been so intent upon counting flowers that I had forgotten to count petals!  I was a little sheepish at the discovery that I’d been frowning in puzzlement at exactly five identical things the whole time, but was too blind to see them!

While we’re on the topic of roses, I have five rosy things for you, one for each of those pretty pink wild petals.  I hope one or two of them brightens your day:

If you’re feeling adventurous in the kitchen, a lovely recipe for chocolate pots de creme that includes a splash of actual rose water.  You’ll be surprised at how delicious it is!

A waltz, by Strauss, about roses.

A quote from a favorite childhood book that pretty much sums up this time of the year: “It was June, and the world smelled of roses. The sunshine was like powdered gold over the grassy hillside.”—Maud Hart Lovelace, Betsy-Tacy and Tib

The song about roses that always reminds me of my Grandma, right down to the Southern Gospel style she loved.

A verse, speaking of the glory of Zion: “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. (Isaiah 35:1)

 

In case you missed the other posts in this series, this way to the first day, second day, third day and fourth day.

 

On the Fourth Day of Summer…

IMG_9297.JPG…my camera gave to me,

Four tall white trees.

As all poplars know, white never goes out of style, particularly in the summer.

White bark,

white flowers,

white shirts,

white linens,

white dinnerware,

and, for the one victorious in Christ, gloriously, someday,

white robes.

“But you do have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments, and because they are worthy, they will walk with Me in white.  Like them, the one who is victorious will be clothed in white garments. And I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but I will confess his name before My Father and His angels.” (Revelation 3:4-5)

 

In case you missed them, here’s the first day, second day and third day!

On the Third Day of Summer…

img_9135.jpgIMG_9443.JPGIMG_9384.JPG…my true love gave to me,

Three turtles crossing.

That first mama snapper?  She was big and black and dinosaur-like, but kind of boring.  She lumbered up into the yard one morning, checked out our puddles, bulldozed through my freshly-planted bed of onions, then lumbered back off to the lake, without so much as doing us the courtesy of letting us watch her lay eggs.

The second painted turtle was mostly rather cross about being herded out of the way for departing Wednesday night Bible study traffic.

I’d like you to notice, however, that I switched to the traditional line “true love” for today, because the little snapper in the third photo was, literally, given to me by my true love.  She was handed to me by my husband after being saved from certain doom on a busy highway, because I was in the passenger seat and he was not, and driving a vehicle while holding a snapping turtle is not necessarily recommended in the books.  In hindsight, I’m really not sure why we didn’t just switch places so I could drive while he held the turtle, but he says he thought it would be good for me to brush up on my turtle handling skills, and I suppose he was right.

This was after a failed experiment of containing the creature in the only container we could find in the car, a (breathable) shopping bag, from which she escaped and was temporarily lost under the driver’s seat.  If you’ve never had a snapping turtle loose in your vehicle, you are really missing out, by the way.  It’s very exciting, and you will discover what you always wanted to know, which is how nimble people actually are at tucking their feet up.  It will also leave all occupants vowing to always keep A Proper Turtle Container in the trunk for future such emergencies.

So there was nothing to do but hold her, and I took lots of one-handed photos while she intermittently fought my grip on her shell with her powerful webbed feet, and hung submissively, eyeing me closely.

“She either likes you or she doesn’t,” Zach observed helpfully.  Then, as if to settle the question, she stretched out her neck very long and arched it menacingly back toward my hand, and I raised my eyebrows and said firmly, “DOESN’T,” followed with some urgency by, “Are we there [at a safe turtle launching point] yet?!?!”

“Hold on,” he said encouragingly, “We’re almost there.”  This was true, and I must say that I was relieved to hand her over to his much more capable hands when we arrived. 

But seriously?  Encounters with wildlife, even when they’re just a tiny bit too close for comfort, are one big reason why I love these summer months, right along with the rest of my family.  Each creature, in all the glory of their splendid masterful design, armored shells, powerful beaks, elastic wrinkles, inquisitive intelligent eyes, brings praise to their Creator as they move and breathe and go on that annual search for the perfect place to lay some eggs.

If we can help them out a bit, and get close up looks in the process, we consider it an honor.

“My mouth will declare the praise of the LORD; let every creature bless His holy name forever and ever.” (Psalm 145:21)

 

Did you miss the others in this series?  This way to the first day and second day.