When Life Begins

IMG_4643.JPGLife didn’t begin when the crocus burst open to the sunshine early this week, purple pinstriped petals unfolding to reveal delicate saffron orange stamen.

Life didn’t begin when the tiny green points of slender pointed leaves pushed up through the earth, slowly widening, curving into maturity.

Life didn’t even begin this spring when the lengthening of days and the moisture of melting snow and the warming of the soil caused the little white bulb to send hopeful little roots downward and slowly swell with the development of a plant at its heart.

No, life began last fall, when I knelt by the edge of a flower bed, when the holes were dug, and the hopeful bulbs were dropped one by one.  Seed and soil met, and life was conceived that chilly October day.IMG_4744 edit.jpgScientists have found that when this occurs in a human womb, a literal spark, imperceptible to the naked eye, occurs.  They also say that to dissect the event down to the exact moment in time when two separate entities become one is virtually impossible.  The fertile seed is dropped, meets fertile earth, and it is done.

It’s hard to imagine anyone feeling anything but awe that when fertile meets fertile in the depths and safety of a womb, in one split second there is life.  That just as that day when the earth went from formless and void to full of light, God speaks and something springs into existence that was not there the instant before. 

It’s even harder to imagine feeling anything but wonder that just as then, each time this happens, God beholds what He has made and pronounces it good.  That, regardless of messy, complicated or even sinful human circumstance, He always, without fail, in the business of redeeming the human race and loving their souls, one individually orchestrated, precious conception at a time.

It’s especially hard for me to imagine, when I listen to the sound of a tiny heartbeat fill the microphone in my midwife’s office, 158 beats per minute strong, and that little one gives a feisty kick back against the pressure of the instrument.  It’s a life beloved by God, spoken into existence sometime in January,  that will blossom forth sometime around the time of the next bulb-planting this coming October.

We can’t wait to meet you, Baby #4!IMG_4743.JPG“For You formed my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Marvelous are Your works, and I know this very well.

My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in secret, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed body; all my days were written in Your book and ordained for me before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:13-16)

Leafing

IMG_8464-1.jpgIn the golden light just before sunset, the baby leaves and buds are like haloed clouds resting across the branch tops. IMG_8466-1.jpgA little closer, and they are like green and gold lace and perfectly strung strings of peridot amidst the twigs and stalwart browns of the forest.IMG_8473.JPGUp close, there is a tiny world of intricate unfolding beauty to discover.

Meanwhile, I can hear nothing but spring peepers and the occasional haunting call of newly-returned loons on a nearby lake.  After an intensely busy week, the wonder of it all quiets my soul, drawing me into worship, gently smoothing away the tensions and distractions.

The truth is, sometimes we just need a few minutes to be still and meditate on His wonderful works to fully restore our souls.

On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.” (Psalm 145:5)

Harbinger

img_8262-e1525044489798.jpgI thought it was high time a robin put in an appearance, both in my yard and on this blog, but they took their sweet time this year.  I was hearing all sorts of sightings reported by friends and family, and I was seriously beginning to wonder if these little harbingers* of springtime were even going to show me their faces this year.  And if they didn’t, would it even really be spring?  I’m sure I don’t need to remind you that robins are about as quintessential to the advent of spring as pussy willows.

But, one bright morning this week, I heard a new yet familiar bird call through the window, and spotted a pair of handsomely erect rust-breasted worm-hunters running and hopping across the yard.  I melted a dark spot in the frosty grass sitting perfectly still until one (skeptically) got close enough for this shot.  So, just in case you needed reassurance, I thought I’d pass the news on to you that all is well, after all.  Spring really is here.

*Harbinger: “A person or thing that announces or signals the approach of another.”

How beautiful…are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” (Isaiah 52:7)

A Simple Recipe for Spring

IMG_8148.JPGStep 1: Bathe everything in a very generous amount of warm sunshine.IMG_8060-01Step 2: Wait for an awful lot of all this to melt.  Allow it to soak in thoroughly.IMG_8136.JPGStep 3: Enjoy the results, springing up from the sun-soaked, well-watered, nitrogen-infused happy earth.

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
            And do not return there without watering the earth
            And making it bear and sprout,
            And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;

So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;
            It will not return to Me empty,
            Without accomplishing what I desire,
            And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”

(Isaiah 55:10-11)

The Sound of Returning

IMG_8040.JPGEvery time I drive over the bridge there are more of them there than the last time.

The returning has begun.

In the car, though, you miss the sound of it.  On a blog, you do, too.  There’s just nothing that replaces the physical act of standing on the bridge, leaning into a square wooden beam, and immersing yourself in a few minutes of that wondrous cacophony of honking, quacking and trumpeting.  It’s the music of spring migration, and it’s enough to infuse any year-round resident who has weathered yet one more season of long nights and sub-zero temps with hope.

I heard them chattering in the church foyer last week, too, as the winter birds gathered round, tired faces relaxing into welcoming smiles for these forerunners of the much-anticipated annual migration.  The sound of the returning was never so obvious, however, or so beautiful, than it was in the swelling fullness of the opening hymn.

Welcome back, snowbirds.  It’s good to hear all your happy voices again.

“Even the stork in the sky knows her seasons; and the turtledove and the swift and the thrush observe the time of their migration.” (Jeremiah 8:7)

“For, lo, the winter is past…the time of the singing of birds is come.” (Song of Solomon 2:11-12)

 

 

Pussy Willow IV

IMG_7561.JPGWith all these thirty-ish degree days we’ve been having lately it was bound to happen, just like it does every spring.  And yet it still took me by surprise, when I glanced up from picking my cautious way across an icy patch on the driveway, to see this happy sign of spring in the ditch.  The bursting forth of these furry little buds is so predictable, yet they always manage to catch me unawares and are always, suddenly, the most wonderful thing ever.

You’d think that after thirty-some years, I’d get used to it.  But I never have, and I like it that way, so I probably never will.  I love the surprise awakening of wonder in myself, and I love that each one is a soft pearly gray little reminder of an ancient promise, a thousand repeated little bursts of assurance all across the willowed edges of the wetlands.

“While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” (Genesis 8:22)

(Since I get so excited about them every year, I have to take pictures of them every year, so if you missed them, check out pussy willows from other years here: 2015, 2016, and 2017.)

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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