Between Seasons

This season we’re currently in is always one of unpredictability. It’s that time in Minnesota when Winter and Spring have a playful little spat over who’s going to be in charge, and my children never know if a day is going to be the sort that requires snow pants or mud boots or tempts them to go barefoot.

One day the trail is muddy, the next day it’s icy. Some days it’s softly carpeted in pine needles and sunlight.

One day, the sunshine is warm and caressing on pale winter skin, and the next the wind is whipping snowflakes at sharp angles along the ground.

At the beginning of the week, the lake is frozen clear across; by the weekend its waves are free and wild again.

But in spite of all the apparent indecision, there is no doubt that this is a time for irreversible change. For every one step back, there are two steps forward. From a distance everything may seem as brown and barren as November, but if you look closely, the buds are swelling and bursting, and there is sweet sap dripping into buckets in the maple groves and being boiled down over late-night fires. If you stop to listen, the grouse are drumming in the forest, and twittering flocks of cedar waxwings and snow buntings are taking rest stops in yards on their way north, and there’s the sound of running water through a culvert that was frozen solid a week ago. Last night, I heard the first loons calling to each other.

It’s coming,

it’s coming,

spring is coming, sure as the dawn, and I think every stalwart winter soul is ready to welcome it with open arms. This week, the April showers have been gently and generously soaking the thirsty ground—and now we await the imminent first flush of green!

“Drip down, O heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness. Let the earth open up that salvation may sprout and righteousness spring up with it; I, the LORD, have created it.” (Isaiah 45:8)

A Child Is Born

On Christmas Day 2019, with doting aunties and grandmas hovering round, my firstborn son turned two months old.  I’d spent the previous weeks nursing him beneath the lights of the Christmas tree, often twinkling over us in the wee hours when the rest of the household was slumbering.  And on those nights, as his little head nodded downy and drowsy down onto my shoulder, I thought a lot about the first Christmas.  I feel like I understand how it might have been for Mary so much better now because of him.

I had it all planned out, you know.  Our fourth child would be born peacefully at home, surrounded by the birthing professionals I had carefully chosen and built a relationship with over the last nine months.  The birthing pool was sitting in the living room, ready for the moment I told Zach, “It’s time!” to be filled, tiny cord clamps and other medical supplies waiting in a box nearby for the midwife’s arrival.  A pretty robe was hanging up, waiting for me to slip into after labor for first pictures with my new little one.  Our bedroom was clean and ready, tiny baby newborn-sized clothes laid out on the changing table, one small pile of pink and one small pile of blue, and a pile of neutral in between awaiting the big gender reveal.  My mom was ready to drop everything when the phone rang to come whisk our other children away until after the birth.IMG_5349 editI imagine that Mary had plans, too, those 2000 years ago.  She, too, probably envisioned her child being born in the comfort of her own home, perhaps assisted by the wise old midwife who had helped every baby in Nazareth enter the world for the last 40 years, her mother nearby to hold her hand and offer encouragement during the frightening pangs of her first labor.  The swaddling clothes were laid out next to the beautiful cradle her carpenter husband had crafted, and certainly, she had dreamed that the event would be at least nine months after her wedding day to her betrothed.  

But things didn’t go according to plan, mine or hers.IMG_5127 editFor me, what was supposed to be a trip into town for a routine prenatal turned into a trip to the hospital for induction after an unexpected diagnosis of preeclampsia.  We arrived weary, after midnight and a long evening of testing and being shuffled between towns and hospitals.  A doctor I had never seen before agreed to make room for me in her schedule because the situation was considered urgent.  The unexpected circumstances were such that I arrived with nothing but the clothes on my back and my purse.  No camera, no toiletries or changes of clothing, none of the small comforts and baby things I had so carefully arranged back home.  I gave birth in a borrowed gown, surrounded by more strangers than not, an awkward but necessary blood pressure cuff attached to my arm and the foreign sound of monitors beeping.  My firstborn son was wrapped in a hospital-issued swaddle instead of the little clothes sitting back at home.  He was laid in a rolling baby cart of stainless steel and plastic labeled “Baby Ender” instead of the wooden-spindled cradle under the window in my bedroom.IMG_5356 editFor Mary, the honor and wonder of being with child by the Holy Ghost looked unfortunately too much like a shameful out-of-wedlock birth to her neighbors.  She received snubs and nasty gossip instead of congratulations.  The wedding—after the fact—was very nearly called off.  Caesar Augustas in Rome did not take due dates into account when he ordered an empire-wide census.  A long, arduous trip kicked off labor.  They arrived weary in an unfamiliar town where they knew nobody, too late for a premium room at the inn.  They were stuck sleeping with animals on a night when she labored as a first-time mother, undoubtedly longing for comfort and familiarity more than any other night in her life.  If anyone assisted her in birth besides Joseph, it was certainly a stranger, pulled in at the last minute for the emergency.  A manger stood in for the hand-crafted cradle back home.

And yet in both of our cases, in spite of all the upset plans, the most important thing did go as planned:

A baby boy was pushed safely out into the world, opened his mouth with a healthy squall, and blinked his sleepy eyes to look up into his mother’s face for the very first time.  The pain was forgotten.  It didn’t matter who was there, or where we were, if there were monitors beeping or animals lowing.  All that mattered was that our child was born.IMG_5118 editAnd all was well, because God was there.

For me,

For Mary,

For you in whatever unplanned circumstances you didn’t ask for this year, like celebrating the holiday in isolation, sick in the hospital, or mourning the loss of a loved one.  God is with you.

Never forget that this is the true meaning of Christmas.IMG_5325 edit“Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” (Matthew 1:23)

Savoring Summer #41: Beach Harebell

IMG_2033 edit“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” (Romans 16:20)

Looking back over what I read this week—and over ALL the last six weeks!—this comforting statement of victory seems like a good way to sum it all up.

Stand fast in all these things, persevere, endure with joy…because we know that in the end, truth will triumph, and Christ will reign victorious!

AMEN!

P.S. See this original post for info about this photo challenge and more about this reading plan I’m using this summer for the book of Romans (and I’d love to have you join in!)!

And, as promised, here’s another “bonus post” for you, featuring photos from our trip to the Black Hills last fall!

Savoring Summer #38: Quadruplets

IMG_2627 edit.jpg“Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, through our Lord Jesus Christ and through the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in prayers to God on my behalf.” (Romans 15:30)

Is there an any more beautiful thing than when the body of Christ, one in spirit, strives together in prayer for one another?  Today, I want you to know that I am praying for you who will read this, that “the God of peace be with all of you.” (Romans 15:33)  

P.S. See this original post for info about this photo challenge and more about this reading plan I’m using this summer for the book of Romans (and I’d love to have you join in!)!

About the photo: You knew the resident swans were going to make their annual appearance on the blog at some point, didn’t you?  I know you can’t quite see them all here, but there are four cygnets this year!

Savoring Summer #30: Freshwater Clam

IMG_2248 edit.jpg“Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2)

But oh, but how this “age” (or “world” or “pattern/standard of this world” in other translations) we live in begs for us to conform, and how quickly and easily our minds are clouded by its alluring priorities, causes, and agendas!

Something that stood out to me in this verse that hadn’t really before:  it suggests that perhaps the first step to understanding the will of God—something many, many people desire—is to check on your conformity versus transformity status.  Hmmm…

P.S. See this original post for info about this photo challenge and more about this reading plan I’m using this summer for the book of Romans (and I’d love to have you join in!)!

Savoring Summer #26: Muskrat

IMG_1988 edit“Now if some of the branches were broken off, and you, though a wild olive branch, were grafted in among them and have come to share in the rich root of the cultivated olive tree, do not boast that you are better than those branches. But if you do boast—you do not sustain the root, but the root sustains you.” (Romans 11:17-18)

When I read this, I remember my grandpa doing an actual grafting demonstration in the church basement one Sunday evening to help us visualize what verses like this meant in the Bible.  He and my grandma were both passionate about praying for “the cultivated olive tree”, God’s chosen people, humbly and gratefully recognizing them as “the root”.

It’s a sweet memory of him, and the memory was a good reminder to me today to pray for the Jewish people (may they finally recognize Jesus as their true Messiah!) and, as the psalmist exhorts, the peace of Jerusalem!

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.” (Psalm 122:6)

P.S. See this original post for info about this photo challenge and more about this reading plan I’m using this summer for the book of Romans (and I’d love to have you join in!)!

IMG_1980 editAbout the photo:  When you discover a muskrat sharing your swimming space, you either panic or count it as the highlight of your day.  We chose the latter!

Savoring Summer #21: Field of Flowers

IMG_1627 edit

Memory verse: “But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

The third step on the Romans Road is the solution to the problem.

P.S. See this post if you’re unfamiliar with the Romans Road!  Also, see this original post for info about this photo challenge and more about this reading plan I’m using this summer for the book of Romans (and I’d love to have you join in!)!

About the photo: I have never seen the fields near our house as completely covered in flowers as they are this year—and other people are saying it, too, so I know I’m not imagining it.

Savoring Summer #17: Clear Lake

IMG_1661 edit“For in my inner self I delight in God’s law, but I see a different law in the parts of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and taking me prisoner to the law of sin in the parts of my body.

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:22-25)

Isn’t it nice to know that even the great Apostle Paul found himself caught in the war between the flesh and the Spirit?  That all of us, from the so-called greatest to the so-called smallest, struggle and fail in our humanity?  But even better to know that victory can be ours, not by our own striving, but through the power of Jesus Christ which is freely and equally available to all.

P.S. See this original post for info about this photo challenge and more about this reading plan I’m using this summer for the book of Romans (and I’d love to have you join in!)!

Savoring Summer #9: Noma Lake

IMG_1375 edit“[Abraham] did not waver in unbelief at God’s promise

but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God,

because he was fully convinced that what God had promised, He was also able to do.(Romans 4:20-21)

Are there any of God’s promises that you have a hard time being “fully convinced” that He is really able to do?

Maybe it’s that one where He told you that He will save you by His mercy instead of your good works or behavior?  Or maybe it’s the one where He promises to never leave you or forsake you?  Or that one about how He will provide for your needs?

Let’s face it:  We like to cling to the tangible—what makes sense and what we can DO.  He often asks us to cling to the intangible—the supernatural, that only HE can do.  There’s no way around the fact that this takes a whole lot of faith.

Abraham was asked to believe the promise of an heir when he was too old, and descendants like the sand of the seashore before he even had one son, and the Messiah to come through his line, the last two which he would never see fulfilled in his lifetime.  He literally had to die still believing in the unknown.

But he did—and “it was credited to him for righteousness.” (4:22)  The only thing more amazing than this verse is the next: “Now it was credited to him was not written for Abraham alone, but also for us. It will be credited to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.” (4:23-24)

The next time you are tempted to doubt the promises of God, remember that when you choose to take God according to His Word, no matter how crazy it might seem, He esteems your faith so highly that He does the same amazing thing for you as He did for Abraham: credits it to you for righteousness.

Wow.

P.S. See this original post for info about this photo challenge and more about this reading plan I’m using this summer for the book of Romans (and I’d love to have you join in!)!

 

Savoring Summer #5: Liquid Birdsong

IMG_0919 edit“What then? If some were unfaithful, will their unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness?  Absolutely not!  Let God be true, even though everyone is a liar…” (Romans 3:3-4)

Have you ever had someone use the excuse on you that they won’t become a Christian because they knew a Christian who was a hypocrite and it turned them off to Christianity?  God forbid that we who claim to follow Christ would turn people away from Him by our actions, and I believe we will be held accountable for it if we do—but the fact remains that Christians are human, and they do sin and fail sometimes.  So, keep this verse in your back pocket for the next time that excuse comes up.

Truth: the unfaithfulness of one of His followers does not disprove His faithfulness!

P.S. See this original post for info about this photo challenge and more about this reading plan I’m using this summer for the book of Romans (and I’d love to have you join in!)!  Also, if you’re reading along, feel free to share your own thoughts from today’s passage in the comments!

About the photo: Anyone else love the song of the red-winged blackbirds as much as I do?  It’s one of my top-favorite things to look forward to each spring!