Forget Not His Benefits

IMG_5257 editSometimes, when you’re sick in bed, watching the world go by without you outside your window, it’s good to do something other than focus on how sore your throat happens to be.  Or maybe, for you, it’s more like sick in heart and focusing on how deep your hurts happen to be.  Either way, they can end up feeling pretty similar: discouraging.

I’ve found myself in both shoes at various times in my life, but for the past couple weeks, it happened to be in the physical realm, when my body decided to ignore all the items on my to-do list and important things I had on my schedule and sent me to bed instead with barely a voice to ask for a drink of water.  This was not in the plans, not to mention how many well-laid plans it managed to throw awry.

These are the times, I’ve found, when it’s time for a good dose of Psalm 103 right along with all the Vitamin C:

“Bless the Lord, oh my soul, and forget not all His benefits” (vs. 2)

It’s called turning my focus from all the things I’m missing out on to the gifts I have been given, which are many but too easily forgotten in the trouble of the moment.  Sometimes I think that’s one of the main reasons I even take pictures: so I can look at them later, remember, and be thankful.  That’s also one of the main reasons I keep a journal.  I think everyone should have some tangible way of remembering the little and big things God has given them, even if it’s just a running list on the counter.  Because we are oh, so prone to forget, but what incredible healing and uplifting there can be in the remembering!

So from my sick chair one afternoon, I scrolled through my photo files for the months of June and July, and remembered some of His benefits.

I remembered how we held our breath, waiting for the strawberry blossoms to turn to tiny nuggets of red sweetness in the canopy of the field grasses,

and how the butterflies danced amidst the short-lived lilacs, then moved to the field flowers.IMG_5210 edit.jpgIMG_5199 edit.jpg IMG_5768 editIMG_5809 editI remembered exhilarating cannonballs into cold lake water on a sultry day (or timid tiptoes in, as the personality went),

how we welcomed the first clouds of dragonflies zooming in to bring welcome relief from too many mosquitoes,

that day we swam with turtles.IMG_5726 editIMG_5702 editIMG_5887 editI remembered the spotted fawns trailing their mamas, stopping to stare wide-eyed at us from the edges of the forest,

watching from a respectful distance as a brave mama turtle left her eggs to the fates of nature,

that morning we got fresh doughnuts from a bakery and stopped to watch goose families paddling down a winding green river.IMG_5360 editIMG_5339 editIMG_5279 edit.jpgI remembered how the wild roses bent along the lake edge to almost touch the lapping waves,

the day I sat on a lake shore in a gentle rain of mayflies and thought how wonderful it was to be covered in bugs that didn’t bite you,

the day I and a three-year-old chased a brown-eyed cottontail through the field grass.IMG_5751 edit.jpgIMG_5559 edit.jpgIMG_5676 editI remembered the fish we saw, and the fish we caught,

the evening we celebrated our first summer birthday girl,

and waking up in the middle of the night to hear the loons yodeling and see the fireflies dancing outside my window like a thousand elusive stars.IMG_5763 editIMG_5457 edit.jpgIMG_6022 editI remembered eating ice cream in a shop that smelled of vanilla and waffles,

tiny birds carefully held by a small girl with a hole in her smile,

the way dandelions gone to seed look in the sunshine.IMG_5389 edit.jpgIMG_6062 edit.jpgIMG_5271 edit.jpgI remembered climbing among quiet pools and granite boulders along the Bigfork River,

the day we finally found the robin’s nest’,

and watching the full moon rise up over the flower garden.IMG_5851 edit.jpgIMG_6124 editIMG_6118 edit.jpgAnd, as is often the case, it was easy to go on from there and remember the things I didn’t have photographs of, like…

healthy baby kicks in my womb,

soothing tea with honey,

and my husband and dear friends who washed my dishes, cared for my children, and brought me food and medicine while I was down.

And you know what?  I wasn’t healed when I was done.  I was coughing as much as ever.  But in my soul, there had been a healing shift from the mentality of “poor me” to “wow, look at all my blessings”—and sometimes, I think we actually need that kind of healing more.

“Bless the LORD, O my soul; all that is within me, bless His holy name…

He who forgives all your iniquities, and heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the Pit and crowns you with loving devotion and compassion,

who satisfies you with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Psalm 103: 1, 3-5)

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)

 

On the Eleventh Day of Summer…

IMG_9493.JPG…my camera gave to me,

Eleven butterflies a-sipping.

A tiny parable for you:

“Come with me!” called one butterfly to another as she floated past on the soft breezes of a bright June day.

“Where to?” the other asked from her perch on a clover bud, “Why should I leave this perfectly good flower?”

“Because I want to take you to the most wonderful flowers I’ve ever had the pleasure of landing on,” she replied joyfully.  “They’re like big round tables spread with the finest lace tablecloth, with room for the largest of nectar-sipping parties.  The nectar served is the sweetest for miles—and it’s free for the taking!”

She believed her friend, and followed, and having reached the patch of cow parsnip and finding everything just a wonderful as she had been told, never once regretted the clover bud left behind.

And, so it is for us, when we take God at His Word, and forsake what does not satisfy for that which eternally does.

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!  Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.  Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?  Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.  Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live…” (Isaiah 55:1-3)

“Jesus…cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink... (John 7:37-38)

“…whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)

 

 

 

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 First Day of Summer…

IMG_9316.JPG…my searching brought to me,

A droplet on a lady slipper.

An alternate caption might read: “You know it’s really summer when…”Go take pictures of ladyslippers” makes the Top 3 on your to-do list for the day.”

As we all know, summer in Minnesota is furiously fast and fleeting.  Every year I vow to slow down and savor it better; every year, I promise you, it’s shorter.  But the faster it seems to go, the more determined I am to enjoy it, and so in that spirit, I’d like to announce the first in a series of a summery, illustrated version of “The 12 Days of Christmas”!  Stay tuned!

“So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)

 

Emerging

IMG_3594It’s the best part of spring, that brief period of time when life begins to reemerge from the bare branches and brown earth.  The world is exploding almost visibly with life, and I hardly dare blink lest I miss something.  Everywhere I look there are buds bursting open, leaves unfolding, new scenes unfolding and an unending number of discoveries to make.

Across the lake, that first cloudy mist of soft green is enveloping the poplars, contrasted stunningly against the deep evergreen of the pines.

There are the gardens to examine, where I eagerly check to see if my plants survived yet one more winter, greeting the ones who do like long-lost friends.  The ones who were just planted last year and have just passed the big test of surviving their very first Minnesota winter create the most excitement.  Sometimes, I’m disappointed (never mind, foxgloves, we’ll try again); other times I’m pleasantly surprised (hello, strawberries!).IMG_0518Then, there are the woodsy pilgrimages to make, traditions dating to my childhood, like going in search of the dainty lavender and white hepaticas that are so absolutely quintessential of a Minnesota spring.IMG_0743IMG_0741And, if I’m paying attention and watching my step as I go, there is almost always something new to discover.  Something unexpected, like the strange forms of emerging horsetail at the edge of a gravel country road.  Or a pair of sandhill cranes, flapping their half-graceful, half-ungainly way out of the maze of last year’s cornstalks.  Or a fisher bounding across a lonely, narrow, backwoods road, stopping just long enough to glance back at us curiously.IMG_0494Beauty in the expected and familiar; beauty in the unexpected and unfamiliar.  Truly,

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

But I must say that I think this may be especially true in the spring.

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