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)

Baby Time

IMG_4726.JPGThis week, our resident swan pair debuted their newest brood of offspring, parading them very proudly all the way around the lake (for all the neighbors to see, I presume).  There are six cygnets, which might be their all-time record for family size!

There is a shy doe at the edge of the field, who acts very nervous whenever we come near.  I know there’s a tiny fawn hiding in the swampy raspberry thicket beyond where she lingers, though we have yet to actually see him.

After three known unsuccessful attempts (including inside the exhaust pipe of my husband’s truck), last year’s swallows have finally settled on a place to build a new nest.  Incidentally, it’s in the exact same place as they built the last one.  Silly birds.

A mother rabbit went bounding off from my parent’s garden when I was visiting there earlier this week, scared by the dog.  She left this wee cutie, with brown eyes almost as big as his ears, crouched obediently close to the ground.  He didn’t move a muscle, even when I took this picture:IMG_4752.JPGIt’s been baby time everywhere we look outside lately—and then, finally, at 6:45, just after the pearly gray dawn of a Wednesday morning, it was our turn.

A tiny baby voice cried out for the first time in the little house on the edge of a lake, while outside in the gentle rain the swan family paddled softly through the lily pads in search of breakfast and the swallows twittered busily around their almost-finished nest.

A woman has pain in childbirth because her time has come; but when she brings forth her child, she forgets her anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.” (John 16:21)

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. (Psalm 30:5)

Praise the Lord!

This is the Day

baby swallows in nest / rejoicing hillsIMG_8635 edit bandwOne morning a couple weeks ago I heard a great commotion of twittering and chattering out on the porch, and I ran out none too soon.  The first baby swallow had dared to fly from the nest to a nearby plant-hanging bracket, and his parents were circling the porch, excitedly encouraging him on.  By late afternoon, all four of them were gone, off to join the swooping scores of swallows that dance in the sky above our farm everyday.

It’s kind of a happy-sad thing to see them go.  Happy because that’s exactly what they’re supposed to do and I don’t have to clean bird droppings off my porch floor anymore;  sad because I’ll still miss their happy sounds, looking up to see them peeking over the edge of their nest at me, and watching them grow.  baby swallows / rejoicing hillsbaby swallows in nest / rejoicing hillsThis week, my baby turned one.  She also started experimenting in the realm of walking.  Right now she still tends to revert back to her (very skilled) version of a crab crawl after a couple wobbly steps, but I know soon enough she’ll be off and running, ready to explore the world.  These days of her helpless sweet littleness are flying by so fast.

Again, that happy-sad feeling.  The joy of watching her grow and learn and become her own little person is as great as the wistfulness I feel as I watch these precious baby years slipping away.  baby swallow / rejoicing hills

I thought about this as I watched those little birdies all fly away, and it was such a good reminder for me to cherish the sweetness amidst the chaos (because, yes, I have to admit that teething and dirty diapers are not always so sweet).  Tomorrow, next week, next year there will be new joys, new sorrows.  There will be new things to say goodbye to, and new things to welcome.  But today with it’s unique gifts, challenges and blessings will never come again.  David says it so well:

“This is the day that the Lord has made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it!”  (Psalm 118:24)

This is the day to savor the way she reaches up her little arms to be held, and the way she pops her thumb in her mouth and lays her little curly blonde head on my shoulder when she’s tired.  This is the day to rejoice in the sound of her chanting “ma-ma-ma-ma” like I’m the most wonderful person in the world and the way she squeals and giggles when she sees a furry animal (stuffed or alive).  This is the day to take videos of her trying to figure out how to put her own shoes on, and take pictures of the look on her face (very pleased) at her first taste of the frosting on her birthday cake, and write down that she said “uh-oh” when she dropped her ball over the edge of the couch.  Yes, this is the day.swallow nest / rejoicing hills

What has God given you today?  What fleeting opportunities are there for you to seize?  What precious memories are there for you to take joy in the making of?  May you find them and rejoice in them greatly!

(See here and here for the rest of the story and pictures of these swallows!)

Cradled in Feathers

baby swallows / rejoicing hillsThis shot of our baby swallows newly-hatched, still so tiny, cradled in downy white feathers has to be my favorite out of all the many photos I’ve taken of them.  It’s not the cutest by any means—those little naked birdies are pretty skinny and ugly at this point.  But I love how those helpless little ones are so lovingly cradled in the softest feathers plucked from their parents’ own bodies.  It so perfectly illustrates this comforting Scripture:

“He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust…  (Psalm 91:4)

In our weakest, most needy and helpless moments, our heavenly Father cares for us with all the tender love and care of a mother bird tending her precious young.  This is perhaps one of the most beautiful pictures of His love for us that I can think of.  Cherish that thought, and tuck it away to remind yourself of on hard days!

Porch Tenants

swallow on nest / rejoicing hillsWe’re happy to be the landlords to a pair of barn swallows this summer.  They’ve tucked their neat little mud nest snug up under the eaves of our porch upon the solid (?!) foundation of a single long nail, and don’t seem to mind our comings and goings below.  In return, we have chosen to overlook the mess they are making in favor of enjoying the sound of them twittering affectionately at each other in the mornings and being buzzed as they swoop through the open flyway around our heads.

Barn swallows often fall on the list of “common birds” for most people (you know, not nearly as exciting as, say, a purple martin or a bluebird)—but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know these ordinary little neighbors better this year.  For the first time, I’ve had a chance to observe their unique coloring and markings up close (really quite stylish!) and I maintain that there is no small bird quite so swift and elegant in it’s flight as a swallow.  We’ve (I hope) developed a bit of a bond over our mutual aversion for the red squirrel who lurks around the house—and they’ve even (I think) forgiven me for taking this picture: swallow nest / rejoicing hillsIf you will note from the first picture in this post, they built their nest just far enough away from the roof to allow their slim, stream-lined selves in and out.  They didn’t really take into account the fact that they were taking up residence on the porch of a photographer, and I was a little put out with them about that for awhile.  What’s the fun of having a birds’ nest next to your front door if you can’t even photograph what’s inside?  Then, a friend had a genius idea:  what about using a mirror?  (Thanks, Tami!)  I can’t believe I never thought of that myself! A few gymnastics with a small mirror and a camera on top of a dining room chair later, we got this peek at the five prettiest little freckled eggs you ever saw!

I went looking for a verse about birds to pair with these photos, expecting to settle on some kind of general reference—and was surprised and fascinated to discover that swallows are actually specifically referenced in the Bible.  And not just once, but four times! The following psalm was my favorite, but you can check out these links (Proverbs 26:2, Isaiah 38:14 and Jeremiah 8:7) to read the others!swallow with nest / rejoicing hillsHow lovely are Your dwelling places, O LORD of hosts!  

My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the LORD; My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.  

The bird also has found a house, And the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, Even Your altars, O LORD of hosts, My King and my God.  

How blessed are those who dwell in Your house! They are ever praising You. Selah.”  (Psalm 84:1-4)IMG_7318 editStay tuned—hopefully there will be a baby bird sequel soon!