We Went Driving

Up the rugged Superior shore,

To where two countries meet;

Through the golden Sawtooth hills,

With the waves at their feet.

Along the pebbled, craggy edge,

Where restless waters stretch,

All the way to meet the dawn,

At a line so faintly etched.

Through the forest silent,

To where the roaring water falls,

Beneath the gentle mountain peaks,

Where the soaring eagle calls.

Spires of pine were pointing up,

While fluttering leaves fell down,

To grace the humble forest floor,

In a multi-colored gown.

A journey up the North Shore in October is about as lovely an autumn experience as it gets—and if you can get fresh coffee and cardamom rolls to eat while you drive, even better.

“Bless the Lord, O my soul…who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Psalm 103:1,5)

Stand Still and See

IMG_8295.JPGIf you walk out into the middle of the woods and stand very still for a while, a very delightful thing will happen.

The forest will slowly come alive around you. You may have thought it was alive before that, but the truth is, you haven’t actually experienced the half of it.

First, you will become more distinctly aware of the sounds of the more extroverted creatures of the woods.  A woodpecker beating sharp staccato, the twittering of newly-returned robins, the distant honking of geese.

But keep waiting, because there is more to come.

After a few minutes, a grouse will drum on a nearby log.  A stick will crack in the woods, then another, as the cautious deer who froze at the sound of your footsteps decides it’s safe to move on.  And then will begin the rustling in the leaves, and you will realize that it is not the breeze at play, but squirrels and mice and tiny birds.

As your ears become more attuned, your eyes will also become more aware of details.

You’ll realize that there’s delicate frost from a chilly spring morning lacing the strawberry leaf by your feet that you very nearly trampled.IMG_8293 You’ll note a tiny clump of British soldier lichen clinging to the edge of a mossy stump that would have only registered “green” in hurried passing.IMG_8300-1.jpgYou’ll tip your head up and see the beginning of the swelling red of the maple buds overhead, fanned against the sky.IMG_8283.JPGYou’ll notice the delicate lacy veins of last year’s leaves, splendidly illuminated in the morning sunlight, and also the way a certain flap of simple birch bark is catching the sun just right to make it glow.IMG_8290IMG_8286.JPGYour eyes will follow the slant of a fallen log down to a hole and, well, look!  The very culprit of the rustling himself appears.IMG_8311There is no shortcut to the gifts that come from being still, but they are always incredibly, beautifully worth it.  And, incidentally?  The same is said for the soul and the best gift one could ever ask for.

“Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD.” (Exodus 14:13)

No doing.  No striving.  Just simple, trusting, expectant stillness.

Foreign Soil

rocky point / rejoicing hillsred rock / rejoicing hillsRecently we took a short weekend trip to our neighboring country to the north, and it got me thinking about being a foreigner.  

Granted, driving across the border into Canada doesn’t involve a lot of culture shock.  They dress the same way as we do.  They drive cars and have ordinary looking houses. They speak English.  In some ways it feels very much like home.

But then you’re driving down the road and you start getting a headache from repeatedly having to convert kilometers to miles.  You keep gasping at how much things cost, and having to remind yourself that it won’t be nearly so bad once you apply the exchange rate.  There are maple leaves on the flags fluttering in people’s yards instead of stars and stripes.  You hear about people eating their french fries with gravy and cheese curds, and calling diapers napkins.  My husband even claims the walleye taste different up there.  And they won’t let you take eggs across the border, no sir.  Even if they’re beautiful big brown and green eggs from the farm down the road.  (I learned that lesson the hard way.)

And so, in the midst of many similarities, the feel of the foreign seeps unmistakably through.walleye art / rejoicing hillswater lily / rejoicing hillsisland / rejoicing hillslichen / rejoicing hillscrown vetch / rejoicing hillsWe really had a great time while we were there, even if we did have to eat Canadian eggs.  It was the kind of weekend where your favorite memories are things like waking up to the fragrance of coffee perking and grandma pulling fresh orange rolls out of the oven, sitting with your feet up reading good books in the fishing boat between bites, and the feel of sun-baked lichened rocks on bare feet.  We spent mornings drinking coffee on the deck, hot and humid afternoons soaking in the lake, and cooler evenings around a roaring fire.  We fed the seagulls, made barbecued ribs and ate fresh bread from the resort bakery next door.  It was wonderful!

fishing with grandpa / rejoicing hillsorange rolls / rejoicing hillsrock jumping / rejoicing hillsfeeding seagulls / rejoicing hillsYet for all the wonderful memories we made, we still got excited when we drove back to the border at the end of our visit and spotted a familiar red, white and blue flag fluttering proudly above the brick buildings at the crossing.  The line was long, and we slowly inched our way across the river, suspended between two countries on a bridge of steel.  A sort of happy, content feeling prevailed.  That was home over there and there were no doubts about whether they’d let us through or not, because we were citizens!

We still had to prove it, of course.  We had to hand over our US passports and birth certificates, and they had to examine them with care, comparing the photos on each one to the corresponding face in our vehicle.  They looked in our coolers, too, and took all of our leftover red and yellow peppers in case they were carrying some kind of bug that might infest American pepper crops.  (Or something like that.)

But after all that, we drove on through the gate, and suddenly we went from being foreigners to being citizens with rights and privileges.  The speed limit signs made sense again.  Things cost exactly what they said they did.  They served us ketchup with our fries when we stopped for supper.  Everything felt somehow right and familiar again.evening light / rejoicing hillsI like to think that’s how heaven is going to feel someday.  We’ll cross that great divide between this life and the next, and suddenly everything will feel right and familiar in a way it never did here on earth.  We will be home, and it will be a lot more than just a happy, content sort of feeling—it will be glorious.  I don’t know about you, but no amount of enjoyment I feel in this life can take away from the excitement I feel when I anticipate that border crossing!

“For our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”  (Philippians 3:20)

Are you a citizen, too?  I hope I see you there!