Brown Moss

IMG_4830 edit.jpgHave you ever made a judgement of something or someone, only to find out later that you were entirely wrong?  I’m going tell you one of my own such errors, the tale of me and a bank of moss.

I’ve walked past this side of a hill many times.  It’s the kind of open spot in an otherwise forested area where it’s painfully obvious that it was at one time scraped into by some large piece of power equipment, leaving a gaping scar in the earth.  Over time, as God blessedly made it to do, vegetation had slowly crept back in to attempt to heal the wound.  In this case, that vegetation was moss.

But the poor, dry soil seemed had gotten the better of it, and it was mostly rusty brown, dead moss!  I always rather pitied that ugly mossy hillside and hurried past to prettier things.

And then, one day, I decided to take a shortcut to where I wanted to go and actually walk straight up that hillside.  I expected the wasting moss to crunch and crumble beneath my feet, my feet to slip in exposed clay.  But to my utter surprise, what I found instead was a soft, thriving, cushioned carpet of lush rusty-brown very-much-alive moss!  What from a distance had appeared brown and dead, wasn’t dead at all!  It just happened to be a naturally reddish-brown variety!IMG_4821 edit.jpgAfter that, I forgot what I was going to do on the other side of the hill.  I was down on my knees, then on my stomach (sorry, baby), an explorer in magnificent new miniature world.  I’ve always loved the world of fungi, and it was exhilarating to meet varieties I’d never seen before in person for the very first time.

And I felt rather foolish.  How many countless times had I walked past, loftily thinking I could accurately judge what I saw from a distance, never taking the time to actually get up close and fact-check my judgement?IMG_4826 edit.jpgThere is the judgement between right and wrong, truth and lie, meted out by courts of law, mothers weighing out eye-witness accounts and facts to determine who actually took the cookies, and by God at the end of the world.  This kind of judgement is good, righteous and necessary for order and justice.

Then there is this kind of judgement I made on this mossy hillside.  Not the justice kind, but the writing off kind.  That moss is brown, I thought, therefore it could not possibly be anything but dead.  I based this “fact” off of past experience and (what I thought) was a good understanding of moss.  But it was not a fact, it was an assumption—and even though it was an educated assumption, I was wrong.  This is called “leaning on my own understanding”, which the book of Proverbs warns against and is basically thinking so highly of our own discernment and knowledge that we ultimately end up making fools of ourselves.

I’d like to say this is the only time I’ve ever made this mistake.  That I’ve never misjudged anything or anyone more significant than a bed of dead-looking moss.  But I’ve made plenty of other such errors.

I’ve assumed I wouldn’t like certain foods because my parents didn’t.

I’ve “judged a book by its cover” without ever cracking it open.

I’ve failed to shop at a store based on it’s exterior, without ever entering.

Though I may have missed out on enriching experiences, these too-quick judgments will likely not affect my life negatively in the grand scheme of things, of course.  There’s one kind of mis-judgement that I truly regret, however.  It’s that I’ve sometimes based how I think of a person off of stereotypes, other people’s prejudices or my own pre-conceived notions instead of finding out what they’re really like for myself.IMG_4831 editI’ll never forget the time my wise father encouraged me as a young person to reach out to another new young lady at church.  Without having ever spoken to her, I had already decided, in all my youthful “wisdom”, that we probably wouldn’t have much in common and had foolishly written off the idea of friendship.  Out of respect for him, however, I agreed to make the effort to introduce myself, though I expected little to come of it.  And what do you suppose happened?  You guessed it: we not only met but became good friends, and a relationship blossomed that would be a tremendous blessing to me in upcoming times of unexpected loneliness.   I often think about how much I would have missed if I had followed my foolish inclination to write her off instead of stepping outside of my comfort zone.  It’s a lesson with a happy ending that I will never forget.

Can you think of something or someone in your life that you might be making this same mistake with?  If so, I hope my stories might make you consider going back to double-check your facts.  You never know: you might discover a new variety of moss or even make a new best friend.

“Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” (John 7:24)

“…you shall investigate and search out and inquire thoroughly.  If it is true and the matter established, [then]…” (Deuteronomy 13:14)

“…the honour of kings is to search out a matter.” (Proverbs 25:2)

A is for Acorn

IMG_1583I’ve been a bit missing in action for the last month or two, and for those of you who haven’t guessed, it’s all due to a bit of a recent career shift.  From here on out, if my posts start to sounding to you like those of a kindergarten teacher, you will be correct.  It’s an exciting new chapter for us, but a busy one, with lots of adjustments to new schedules and more time spent researching literature and art projects for unit studies than composing blog posts.  I hope to get back to posting more often eventually, but we’ll see!

Of course, I’ve always been my child’s teacher; that comes with the territory of parenting, as it does for every mother.  Who else will teach her how tie her shoes or to look both ways before crossing the road?  But choosing to be the one who also teaches her I-before-E-except-after-C (except for in a few odd cases, as I’ve been reminded!) and why mushrooms grow on trees, to take the full weight of responsibility for what the world calls her formal education, is another realm altogether.IMG_1491IMG_1464.JPGIt makes sense: who else in the whole world cares more about her success than I do?

It’s exciting: learning is an adventure I’ve always loved, and I can hardly wait to take her along to all manner of new and thrilling places.

It’s serious business: it will be my fault if some vital branch of learning isn’t covered.

That’s why my husband and I agreed that a few days retreat was in order for the teacher before this all officially commenced.  A working retreat, in which to lay out lesson plans and familiarize myself with workbooks, yes, but also to recharge myself for the important task ahead.

And the first thing I did along that order?  Take a hike.IMG_1527IMG_1449I sensed, going into the retreat, that my ideas were good but jumbled.  If you know anything about the world of home education, you know that the amount of resources available are both incredible and rather overwhelming.  I needed some vision to narrow my focus down from all those fabulous options to what would work best for us—and I always think most clearly while walking.  And if the walk winds through sun-dappled woodlands around the edge of a sparkling blue lake?  If there’s not a sound to be heard but the crunching of leaves beneath your feet and the wind in the oak tree tops?  All the better.

I took a book along, and on a short break, sitting in the warm grass with my back against a sturdy oak, I read these inspiring lines:

“Little by little,” an acorn said,
As it slowly sank in its mossy bed,
“I am improving every day,
Hidden deep in the earth away.”IMG_1469Little by little, each day it grew;
Little by little, it sipped the dew;
Downward it sent out a thread-like root;
Up in the air sprung a tiny shoot.

Day after day, and year after year,
Little by little the leaves appear;
And the slender branches spread far and wide,
Till the mighty oak is the forest’s pride.

IMG_1457IMG_1506IMG_1517“Little by little,” said a thoughtful boy,
“Moment by moment, I’ll well employ,
Learning a little every day,
And not spending all my time in play.
And still this rule in my mind shall dwell,
Whatever I do, I will do it well.IMG_1542“Little by little, I’ll learn to know
The treasured wisdom of long ago;
And one of these days, perhaps, we’ll see
That the world will be the better for me”;
And do you not think that this simple plan
Made him a wise and useful man?”—Author Unknown

The acorns rolled under my feet as I hiked on, and the seed of vision had been planted that I was looking for.  Jumbled ideas melded into a plan in my head, and far-sighted goals broke down into the steps A, B and C that would get us there.

It was in honor of the role this poem played in my lesson planning process, that “A is for Acorn” was chosen as the topic of study for our very first week of school.  For my students, it would look like nature hikes to identify oak trees, and making leaf rubbings, and listening to delightful stories about squirrels who love acorns.  We would find out what acorns tasted like and learn about famous oaks of long ago.

But for I, the teacher, it would be an inspiring reminder that the great task I was beginning would be accomplished just like that of a humble acorn becoming a mighty tree: little by little.  Letter by letter, number by number, line by line, book by book, concept building on concept, my young students would put down foundational roots, reach for the sky, and grow strong and mighty into a wealth of skill, wisdom and knowledge.  And for what?  The goal of the poem seems quite adequate to me, that the world will be a better place for having them in it.IMG_1499“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

 

Did you know?

…that multiple people groups consider acorns a delicacy (Korean, Greek, Native American)?

…that acorns have frequently been used as a substitute for coffee?

…that the name of the nut is derived from the Gothic word akran, which means “fruit of the unenclosed land”?

…that one of the greatest visionary statements of the Old Testament was made beneath an oak tree?  Read about it in Joshua 24.

“Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD!” (Joshua 24:15)

 

Before You Call

IMG_8864.JPGIMG_8858It was the fifth place I’d stopped.

The mosquitoes were getting a bit old.

I was soaked to the skin from refusing to sacrifice valuable time to take cover during the morning’s intermittent rain showers.

My legs were tired from tromping down forest trails and clambering through underbrush.

Water squelched inside my soggy shoes as I squatted wearily down near the head of this fifth trail, peering off across the forest floor, and said out loud, “Lord, I know you don’t have to give me a mushroom, but”—and exactly at that moment, before I could even get my request for help in finding “just one, please?” out of my mouth, my eyes rested on this honeycombed finger-like shape:IMG_8885.JPGA scoffer might call it a coincidence, but I know it wasn’t.  I labor under no delusion that just because I tell God something I want, He’ll snap His fingers and make it appear—but I also know that He can, and sometimes will.  I also know that I have never chosen to acknowledge God’s power and control, while admitting my inadequacy, without finding Him sufficient to provide the very best.  Sometimes His answer to our problems is different than the solution we visualized in our mind.  Sometimes, it’s exactly what we were hoping for—and more.IMG_8886-1.jpgI don’t know if anyone else within five lonely forest miles heard me yelling my excitement and thanks, but I know He did—and I hope it made Him smile.

And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.” (Isaiah 65:24)

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find.” (Matthew 7:7)

See photos from another successful morel hunt here, and from an unsuccessful one here!

An Autumn Hike

 

IMG_5179Where do you look when you are hiking through the autumn forest?

Do you look up at the soaring arms of the great pines raised to the sky in praise?  At the sunlight filtering in soft curtains of light down through the crimson and salmon maples?IMG_5190.JPGDo you look straight ahead, at the path winding mysteriously out of sight and beckoning you on?  At the receding layers of craggy barked tree trunks marching along its edges, with the occasional surprise mushroom accessory?  Or at the jaunty straw hat and satisfyingly fall-ish plaid shirt of a walking companion ahead?IMG_5193Or do you look down?  Down at the dainty trailing vines between the tufts of orange pine needles, and the tidily capped wee mushrooms springing whimsically up along the damp mosses of aging stumps?  At the calico of autumn leaves softly layering over the creeping cedar and wintergreen?IMG_5187While I was hiking with relatives recently, we talked about this, and discovered that our answers differed.  Some in our hiking party were more inclined toward one than the other, therefore each bringing their own unique perspective to the commentary that enlivened our exploration of the forest.

As I was thinking about this the next day, I realized that it was actually a pretty accurate picture of the body of Christ, particularly that living, breathing organism that is the local church body.  We walk the same trail as believers, reading the same Bible, loving the same Savior, but our perspectives can be astonishingly different.

Some are more likely to look ahead, seeing with vision and wisdom.

Some watch the edges and condition of the trail, wary of spiritual pitfalls.

Some are more likely to look up, calling attention to heavenly perspectives when other’s eyes waver toward the earthly.

Some look down, noticing the details that others forget or overlook, like the lonely newcomer or the overflowing garbage can.

IMG_5146 IMG_5181The Bible calls these things gifts, and they are.  Sometimes, though, I think we can lose sight of this in the nitty-gritty of real life.  It can be easy, for instance, to get annoyed with that other person who is always worried about mowing the grass (looking at mushrooms) when you’d rather be discussing the accuracy of the latest Bible translation (looking down the path)—or vice versa.  However the fact is that each perspective is valuable and needed, and they’re all meant to weave together in harmonious balance, not at odds with each other.

Or sometimes, even if we do appreciate the unique contributions of each person, we just forget to say so.  So since I’m being reminded, I’d like to say thank you myself.

Thank you for being you.  Thank you for the very special, irreplaceable gift that your gift is to your brothers and sisters as we walk with Jesus and endeavor to make Him known to the world.

Thank you for the things you do in private, the mundane and not-so-glorious, often unseen and unacknowledged.  Thank you for the things you do in public, against the odds of criticism, embarrassment, and greater scrutiny.  Thank you for speaking out to say the hard things, the kind things, the wise things.   Thank you for the quietness of your inner prayers, wordless hugs, silent generosity.  Thank you for perseverance when you’re misunderstood, for faithfulness when no else is.

And if you’re one of those hiding shyly in the corner, hesitant to use your gift, perhaps afraid to share it because it’s different or less popular than someone else’s, I hope this will be a gentle encouragement to you to be hold back no longer.  Please, in love, let it flow out for the enrichment of the Body of Christ, because it surely will.

We need you!IMG_5205“Just as each of us has one body with many members, and not all members have the same function, so in Christ we who are many are one body, and each member belongs to one another.

We have different gifts according to the grace given us. If someone’s gift is prophecy, let him use it in proportion to his faith; if it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is giving, let him give generously; if it is leading, let him lead with diligence; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” (Romans 12:4-8)

“And as each individual part does its work, the body grows and builds itself up in love.” (Ephesians 4:16)

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In Search Of: Morel Mushrooms

IMG_6237Ask a fisherman around here where he pulled in the latest big catch he’s been bragging about, and he’ll quickly turn vague on you.  “At an area lake,” he might reply, with a twinkle in his eye.

Ask the neighbor lady where she found the wild blueberries in that luscious pie that fetched $75 dollars at a local pie auction charity, and she’d reply with a smile, “Oh, just around, you know.”

Favorite fishing holes and wild berry patches can be pretty closely guarded secrets in our neck of the woods.  But I don’t think I’ve ever encountered secret-ism as great as those of mushroom pickers.  If someone really likes you they might offer a few tips on the kind of habitat to look for, but that’s about it.  If you want to go hunting for wild mushrooms, it’s a commonly accepted fact that you’re mostly on your own.morel mushroom / rejoicing hillsThe thing is—they’re not exactly easy to find, even if you’re fortunate enough to happen upon the right spot.  Check out the photo above, taken from a very short distance away.  Now imagine standing up and stepping back several feet, add in a generous tangle of thick forest, brush, foliage and sticks, and you might begin to understand what I’m talking about.  It takes patience and practice to learn how to spot them, and a lot of time spent crouching low, scanning the forest floor.  They don’t grow in rows or clumps (the pair above is unusual) but pop up from the forest floor at complete random.  Sometimes you’ll only find one, sometimes you’ll find a lot.  You never know.

But—it’s so worth it.

Morels are a delicacy in the world of mushrooms, and not just because they’re elusive to harvest.  They are also the most delicious mushrooms I’ve ever tasted. Granted, this statement is coming from a mushroom lover.  But I’ve even known firmly avowed mushroom haters to go back for seconds of morels.

Recently we spent the good part of a rainy afternoon crawling around the woods with some fellow mushroom lovers and empty ice cream buckets—and came home with these beauties:bowl of morels mushrooms / rejoicing hillsWe rolled them in a simple breading of flour, salt and pepper, with just a hint of parsley and cayenne, and sauteed them in butter.  The members of our mushroom picking expedition gathered around the platter with forks and you should’ve heard the exclamations of satisfaction as we savored the reward of our labors!  They were gone in no time, and plans were already being made to go in search of more.IMG_6286Some things in life are worth every bit of time, energy—and, yes, even the scratched ankles, sore backs and wood ticks—required to secure them.

Kind of like the Kingdom of Heaven.

Of course, morel mushrooms don’t even hold a candle to the kingdom of heaven in terms of value.  But as I scrambled over fallen trees, listened to the periodic triumphant cries of “Found one!” echoing from various parts of the woods, and scanned the forest floor with such intense scrutiny that my eyes hurt by the time the day was over, something occurred to me.  What if I put this much time, energy, enthusiasm, and even sacrifice into seeking the kingdom of God?  This man did:

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up.  Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”  (Matthew 13:44)

We’d do well to take a lesson from him.  Maybe you wouldn’t consider wild mushrooms worth your time;  if not, fill in the blank with anything you’d give a great deal to find or secure.  The bottom line is, earthly treasure, of any sort, is temporal and fleeting;  heavenly treasure is of infinite, eternal value.

Jesus said: And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried.  For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them.  Instead, seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.  Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom…Provide yourselves…with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroysFor where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  (Luke 12:34)

What kind of treasure are you seeking?morel mushroom / rejoicing hills