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)

On the Third Day of Summer…

img_9135.jpgIMG_9443.JPGIMG_9384.JPG…my true love gave to me,

Three turtles crossing.

That first mama snapper?  She was big and black and dinosaur-like, but kind of boring.  She lumbered up into the yard one morning, checked out our puddles, bulldozed through my freshly-planted bed of onions, then lumbered back off to the lake, without so much as doing us the courtesy of letting us watch her lay eggs.

The second painted turtle was mostly rather cross about being herded out of the way for departing Wednesday night Bible study traffic.

I’d like you to notice, however, that I switched to the traditional line “true love” for today, because the little snapper in the third photo was, literally, given to me by my true love.  She was handed to me by my husband after being saved from certain doom on a busy highway, because I was in the passenger seat and he was not, and driving a vehicle while holding a snapping turtle is not necessarily recommended in the books.  In hindsight, I’m really not sure why we didn’t just switch places so I could drive while he held the turtle, but he says he thought it would be good for me to brush up on my turtle handling skills, and I suppose he was right.

This was after a failed experiment of containing the creature in the only container we could find in the car, a (breathable) shopping bag, from which she escaped and was temporarily lost under the driver’s seat.  If you’ve never had a snapping turtle loose in your vehicle, you are really missing out, by the way.  It’s very exciting, and you will discover what you always wanted to know, which is how nimble people actually are at tucking their feet up.  It will also leave all occupants vowing to always keep A Proper Turtle Container in the trunk for future such emergencies.

So there was nothing to do but hold her, and I took lots of one-handed photos while she intermittently fought my grip on her shell with her powerful webbed feet, and hung submissively, eyeing me closely.

“She either likes you or she doesn’t,” Zach observed helpfully.  Then, as if to settle the question, she stretched out her neck very long and arched it menacingly back toward my hand, and I raised my eyebrows and said firmly, “DOESN’T,” followed with some urgency by, “Are we there [at a safe turtle launching point] yet?!?!”

“Hold on,” he said encouragingly, “We’re almost there.”  This was true, and I must say that I was relieved to hand her over to his much more capable hands when we arrived. 

But seriously?  Encounters with wildlife, even when they’re just a tiny bit too close for comfort, are one big reason why I love these summer months, right along with the rest of my family.  Each creature, in all the glory of their splendid masterful design, armored shells, powerful beaks, elastic wrinkles, inquisitive intelligent eyes, brings praise to their Creator as they move and breathe and go on that annual search for the perfect place to lay some eggs.

If we can help them out a bit, and get close up looks in the process, we consider it an honor.

“My mouth will declare the praise of the LORD; let every creature bless His holy name forever and ever.” (Psalm 145:21)

 

Did you miss the others in this series?  This way to the first day and second day.

The Voice of the Turtle

painted turtle / rejoicing hillsWe like turtles around here.  However, I must say that the biggest turtle enthusiast in our family is my husband.  He’s the one who knows the interesting facts, has found rare turtles species in the wild and knows how to pick up a snapper without getting snapped.  It’s an affinity that began for him in his childhood, and was one of the things I immediately liked about him when we first met—and still do.

If we’re lucky, one will come through our yard at some point around this time of year, looking for that perfect place to lay her eggs, and he’ll take the girls to trail along at a respectful distance to watch in fascination.   He’ll turn our vehicle around when we pass one along the road, and go back to get a closer look.  If said turtle happens to be toiling across the middle of a treacherous highway, he’ll help it the rest of the way across in hopes that it will avoid getting crushed by a car.  Sometimes, if we’re not along, he’ll even bring a particularly interesting one home for the rest of us to see.  I’ll hear him drive up, then call in through the door, “Hey, come on out here girls!” and I’ll know without him saying another word that he has a turtle to show us.  He was totally using his I-found-a-turtle tone of voice.  He’ll show the girls their pretty painted shells or how they can snap a stick in two, and then he tells them stories about the turtles he caught and saw when he was a boy.  (Yep, he’s pretty cool.)

snapping turtle / rejoicing hillsBut me?  While I do have nice childhood memories of watching for turtles sunning around the edge of a pond we passed during family walks, oddly enough, the first memory that comes to mind when I see a turtle is also one of the biggest Biblical disappointments I ever received as a child.  There was a verse my mom would read us in the spring, from the beloved lyrical King James Version we were raised on.  It goes like this:

“For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.” (Song of Solomon 2:11-12)

As a child, my imagination was completely captured by the idea that a turtle could have a voice.  The turtles I knew did not make any sounds, so I imagined that the author was referencing some sort of exotic Middle Eastern variety of turtle, or even perhaps a variety of turtle that has since gone extinct.  And since it was described as “heard in our land”, and referenced in poetry, surely that must mean that it was a distinctive and compelling voice.  I imagined it as some cross between the sound of a crocodile and a frog, but a bit more musical.painted turtle shell / rejoicing hillsImagine my disappointment, then, when one day we decided to dig a little deeper into the actual Greek behind the Scripture reference and found out that “turtle” was just an abbreviation for “turtle dove”.  Of course that made more sense, but my childish fancy had been crushed.  I never quite got over the disappointment.

Until—

A few years later, as an adult, I discovered that the Bible did support the idea of talking turtles.

“And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13)

And just like that my fanciful notion became a future reality, and I went from being charmed by the idea to sort of quaking in my shoes at the awesomeness of it.  One day, the voice of the turtle will be heard in the land, along with an innumerable host of others that are currently voiceless (skunks! salamanders! butterflies! etc!).

Now think about that.