One Ordinary Summer Night

IMG_5315 edit 2.jpgAs the coral sun sets in a sea of softly apricot sky, I drive down the familiar bumps and curve of our own driveway after a long day in town.  Three small girls, happily sticky with the residue of free Dumdum suckers from the bank, tumble out of the car and I herd them inside to put on pajamas, brush teeth and crawl into bed.  We kill all the mosquitoes in their room, say prayers together, turn out the lights.  And then, I go back out to unload the groceries, a flat of plants from the greenhouse, and a newly repaired  bicycle that’s ready for a six-year-old to learn to pedal.  It’s late and I’m tired, but suddenly I pause in the midst of my trips up and down the porch steps, because—

There’s a milky half slice of moon in one half of the sky, a nearer-than-usual planet blinking like a solitaire diamond in the other.

The barn roof and my bridal wreath spirea in full bloom are glowing pure white in the gathering darkness.

The heady fragrance of lilac is on the breeze, perfuming the night.

I hear the whistle of a woodcock’s wings,

the hoarse voices of frogs along the shore,

one loon calling to another,

then a deep boom from beyond the trees on the other side of the lake.  Somebody, on this ordinary Monday evening in June, is shooting fireworks up into the perfect night sky.  I stay paused, whole watermelon cradled in my arms, to scrutinize the horizon and see if I can catch a glimpse of the sparkling explosions above the treetops.

And then, like a bit of falsetto to offset all the bass, comes the whine of a cloud of mosquitoes who had taken a surprisingly long time to realize there was human flesh waiting to be sampled in the great outdoors.  I hurry inside, grateful that they stayed away just long enough to give me time to savor what I’m too often in a hurry to discover:

that even when you’re tired and to-do list is long, or maybe especially then,

there’s incredible beauty and wonder to be found in an ordinary moment in time,

if you just take the time to pause and notice.

“Cease striving, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Morning

img_9137Stopping by the woods on this snowy day did not start out to be quite as idyllic and simple as Robert Frost first painted it to be.

The truck fishtailed the tiniest bit as I gingerly stepped on the brakes, just enough to send my heart into my throat.  A giant yellow semi bore down on me from the north, leaving the truck shuddering in the wake of its pass, and me clutching the steering wheel, as though I might hold the vehicle on the road by the whiteness of my knuckles.  An icy blast of sub zero air blasted my face as I rolled the window down, fogging the camera lens.  Was it worth all this?

But the way the tall smoothly scaled red pine trunks contrasted against the feathery spruce boughs, freshly highlighted in snow, had been catching me eye. Quiet beauty was calling to me from the edges of the road, right there in the midst of my hurry to get down the middle of it to check all the little empty squares on my shopping list in town.  Surely I had a minute or two to spare?

“But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep…”
The to-do list and ticking clock of the day nagged, but I pushed it aside.  I would stop, briefly, if only to save myself from driving off the road with all the neck-craning I’d been doing.

And after the roar of the yellow semi subsided, it was true:

“The only other sound’s the sweep, Of easy wind and downy flake…” 

img_9143For a few moments, I was still, and the woods were still.  There was not another car on the road within sight or earshot.  The long list for the day faded away to the back of my mind.  A tiny bit of sunlight twinkled through clouds above, kissing the forest in soft, warm light.  The beauty of creation, which in turn pointed my heart to the beauty of its Creator, steeped into my soul.  And I remembered this story:

“And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind:

and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake:

And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire:

and after the fire a still small voice.” (1 Kings 19:11-12)

I am told that the term “a still, small voice” falls down somewhat in translation, that the idea is more that of a silence alive with His presence. It’s a truth supported elsewhere in Scripture, too, in other familiar lines such as:

“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

God is not to be found in the rush and busyness and chaos.  God is to be found in the stopping, and in the still and quiet places.  It was true in my soul that morning. It will be true wherever you stop to listen, too.

P.S. Want to read this well-known poem of Robert Frost’s in it’s entirety?  Go here.