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)

Spring Ice

IMG_8231 editEveryone around here seems to have spent the last couple months and weeks waiting eagerly for the ice to break up.  And by “everyone around here”, I mean us and our feathered neighbors.

The swans have been patiently spending their days here for almost two months now, two faithful white lumps out on the ice standing guard over their nesting grounds.  The eagles began checking in next, periodically soaring in to keep tabs on the status of the frozen mass obscuring their fishing grounds.  Then the geese arrived, honking in and out (far less devoted than the swans), and the ducks, squeezing in to paddle around the tiny puddles opening up along the edges. 

And finally, just yesterday, the loons arrived with their wildly haunting calls.  They never show up until there’s a long enough runway open for their lengthy takeoffs, so it this was the surest sign yet that ice out was imminent.  IMG_4490 edit.jpgIMG_8325 editToday, there’s a giant pancake of ice floating out on the lake, and around it’s edges, the waves are moving again for the first time since November.  The wind is shifting it from one side to the other, slowly crushing, consolidating and wearing away at the ragged edges.  I’m watching it recede before my eyes as the day wears on.  In a day or two, or maybe even by morning, it will be gone. 

I can feel the exuberance of the waterfowl in my own soul as I watch the lake come alive after it’s long winter’s sleep.  I, too, have missed the twinkle of sunny waves through the shoreline trees, the soothing movement of the ripples reflecting the colors of the sky, the energy of the waves driving before the wind, and the smooth glimmer of its liquid mirror on still evenings.  I think I am surely just as happy as they to know that the reward of our mutual long and hopeful wait is right around the corner.

But I wasn’t worried that it would come, because the promises of God are always true to those who wait for them.  That goes for the change of seasons, as well as a lot of other things too numerous to list here now.  It’s good to remind ourselves of that, especially right after Easter.  The story isn’t finished yet!

“Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9:28)

Pussy Willow V

IMG_8341 edit.jpgOf course it’s the most appropriate thing in the world that we look forward to the formal celebration of the Resurrection at exactly the same time we are watching the natural world around us spring from dead and dormant to vibrant and alive.

Outside the maroon points of tulips are pushing through the cold, sodden earth within inches of residual snow banks and the pussy willows are making clouds of lace above the thawing murky swamps.  The swans circle in daily, checking the state of the lake ice, and the robins are hopping around, drumming for earthworms.  Inside, I’m writing “buy the biggest ham you can find” on my grocery list, taking stock of white tights and practicing a new arrangement of “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” on the piano.  Some of the most wonderful days of the entire year are almost upon us and, to me, the very air is weighty with anticipation.

Considering how I feel about it, I can only imagine how those last few weeks before Easter must have felt to Jesus Himself.  In hopes of catching a tiny glimpse of this, I’m planning to do something a little bit special on here this year.  Starting on Palm Sunday, I’m going to be posting daily for the week leading up to Easter, highlighting the actual Biblical events that led up to Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Some days I may just share Scripture, which we all know speaks for itself and requires no embellishment.  Some days I may add a few of my own reflections and thoughts.  It will be like an Easter devotional, a countdown to this upcoming highest and holiest of days and a sort of heart-preparation to bring deeper meaning and understanding to the celebration.

I hope you will join me!

“When they gathered together in Galilee, Jesus told them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill Him, and on the third day He will be raised to life.” (Matthew 17:22-23)

 

 

On the Sixth Day of Summer…

IMG_9398.JPG…my camera brought to me,

Six cygnets a-swimming.

I identify quite a bit with this swan family.

All of our children have summer birthdays, and we seem to agree that birthdays are to be celebrated with great festivity.  The swans celebrate such occasions by taking the whole family on their very first loop around the lake to see all the sights; we celebrate by hosting picnics on the lawn, with doting grandparents, aunts and uncles galore, and plenty of homemade ice cream.  Sometimes these celebrations even coincide, and watching them glide gracefully past while we eat birthday cake is almost as entertaining as watching birthday girls in their best dresses get excited about gifts of stuffed puppies and tiny baby dolls.

We both get upset with birds of prey and the other assorted hungry predators who lurk in our neck of the woods when they threaten to eat our cygnets (or chickens).  I do wish I could match their gracefulness in expressing my outrage, however.  I mean, how much more sophisticated to trumpet and flap powerful snowy white wings then to run out into the yard shouting and flailing your arms?  I’m working on that.

We both live on the same lake, and think it’s a wonderful place to raise children.  We agree that being near or in the water as much as possible is an excellent way to spend a summer.  We both think that sunshine and fresh air is healthy for little ones, and that they should be out in it as much as possible.

Perhaps the most interesting thing we have in common is that we both enjoy foraging for food to eat in the wild.  Although, I must admit that other than wild rice, our tastes are somewhat different.  They like lily pads.  We like saskatoons.  Each to their own, of course.

We rejoice together.  We identify and call out evil together.  We have things in common, but appreciate and respect the beauty of our differences.  What does that remind you of?  It reminds me of this:

“Therefore if you have any encouragement in Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, then make my joy complete by being of one mind, having the same love, being united in spirit and purpose.” (Philippians 2:1-2)

 

 

A Psalm for Spring

IMG_8807.JPGBlessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, IMG_8502-1.jpgnor stands in the way of sinners,IMG_8506.JPGnor sits in the seat of scoffers;IMG_8650.JPGbut his delight is in the law of the Lord,and on his law he meditates day and night.IMG_8554.JPGHe is like a tree planted by streams of waterIMG_8520
that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.IMG_8830In all that he does, he prospers.IMG_8497-1
The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.IMG_8352Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
IMG_8236.JPGfor the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”

(Psalm 1)

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)

 

 

Black and White World

IMG_5685-1.jpgI’ve been seeing this black and white photo challenge happening around social media that sounded like fun.

Seven photos, no people, no explanations, just something from you life, all black and white.  These are the rules.

I suppose I’m kind of breaking one of those rules by saying even this much, but when we woke up to lowering gray skies and the first snowfall of the year, I knew it was time to take a walk and do the challenge myself.

After all, when is it easier to compose black and white photos than when the landscape has already been turned black and white for you?

IMG_5692-1.jpgIMG_5686-1.jpgIMG_5706-1IMG_5711-1.jpgIMG_5723-1IMG_5716-1And speaking of contrasts, here’s verse that contains a truly glorious one:

“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

Now that’s a black and white picture that takes my breath away.