Savoring Summer #38: Quadruplets

IMG_2627 edit.jpg“Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, through our Lord Jesus Christ and through the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in prayers to God on my behalf.” (Romans 15:30)

Is there an any more beautiful thing than when the body of Christ, one in spirit, strives together in prayer for one another?  Today, I want you to know that I am praying for you who will read this, that “the God of peace be with all of you.” (Romans 15:33)  

P.S. See this original post for info about this photo challenge and more about this reading plan I’m using this summer for the book of Romans (and I’d love to have you join in!)!

About the photo: You knew the resident swans were going to make their annual appearance on the blog at some point, didn’t you?  I know you can’t quite see them all here, but there are four cygnets this year!

Borrowed

IMG_0495.JPGMeet my borrowed kayak!

I can’t even tell you how excited I was the day it got dropped off in my yard.  I’ve been dreaming for a long time of being able to experiment with the versatility of a kayak, both for personal recreation (a vessel I could handle all on my own!) and the new world of photographic opportunity it would open up for me (high stealth waterfowl photography, coming right up).

But, of course, the catch is that it’s borrowed, so it comes with a time limit.  To make things even more interesting, I don’t actually know what the time limit is.  I have a few educated guesses as to when it’s owners are going to decide that they want it back, but I really don’t know.  It could be in my yard for as little as a couple weeks.  It could be in my yard for the rest of the summer.

One morning though, a week or so after it arrived, I woke up to the fact that it was still just sitting in my yard.  Wait a minute!  Time was ticking, but I hadn’t even used it!  How silly would it be, after all the excited intentions I’d voiced, to sheepishly admit to the owners when they came to get it that the only water that had touched it while it was in my possession was raindrops from a summer storm?  They would be quite justified in questioning the worthwhile-ness of the effort it took for them to transport it to me.

So, on a quiet Sunday as a hazy afternoon was fading into evening, I hauled it to the water and gave it a go.IMG_0519.JPGIMG_0565.JPGI slipped along past the water lilies, and brushed gently through the wild rice.  The water was like glass except for the artful zigzags of water bugs.  The mosquitoes stayed away, and I could hear a blue heron croaking in the distance.  Water dripped down to my elbows as I dipped the paddle up and down, and for a few minutes, the looming to-do list for the upcoming weeks faded away to the back of my mind.

It was every bit as peaceful and relaxing as I’d imagined; how glad I was that I hadn’t missed the opportunity!IMG_0542IMG_0549The quiet of the water was a peaceful place for thinking, and as I floated airily along in my orange pod, it occurred to me that the gift of life is a lot like a borrowed kayak.

I’ve heard people who were healed from cancer or survived a terrible accident call their life thereafter “borrowed time”.  They realize that they could/should have died, and whatever time they get after that feels like a precious gift.  They go on to live with much greater intention and with much deeper gratefulness for every breath they take.

Here’s the truth, though: Those survivors have had the advantage of a wake-up call to bring them to their senses, but you and I should be living with the exact same amount of appreciation and urgency as they are.  We’re really all living on “borrowed time”.  God gave us life, but none of us came into this world with an automatic 100% guaranteed Will-Live-To-Ripe-Old-Age warranty built in.

That truth can be a little unsettling, but living in denial of it never helped anybody.  Better to embrace the exciting part, that we’re all given the exact same chance to make what we can of our limited time of unknown duration—and we get to choose!  We can “leave it sitting idly in the yard”, or “take it to water and go somewhere with it”.  We can fill our hours with good intentions or we can buckle on a life jacket and start paddling those intentions into reality.  We can waste opportunities, or we can embrace them for their full potential.IMG_0571 My encouragement for the day?  If there’s a kayak sitting neglected in your yard, go use it.  It’s good for the soul.  And if your life feels a bit like a neglected kayak, go use that, too.  Spend it well–and when time is up and it’s time to give an account, you’ll have no regrets.

And that’s really good for the soul.

“For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.  It is written:

“As surely as I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow before Me; every tongue will confess to God.”

So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:10-12)

 

Blooming Butterflies

IMG_6385IMG_6388Last weekend, we went to the zoo.

Papa was excited about the big snakes in the rain forest exhibit.

The oldest daughter was in awe of the coral reef tank and the lovely little sea horses.

The middle daughter loved the playful monkeys swinging on their ropes, exclaiming excitedly when she first spotted them:  “I find a monkey, Mama, I find a monkey!”

The littlest daughter was just thrilled to be out of her car seat after the long drive.

But I loved the butterfly house best of all.

IMG_6457Unlike most of the animal exhibits, which required you to observe them through glass or behind fences, the hoop house containing the butterflies was completely interactive.  They were free to flutter all around us and even land on us if they wished as we wandered along little pathways through a maze of wonderfully fragrant flowers—and short of actually touching them, we could get as close to them as we wanted, too.

There were butterflies of every shape, pattern, size and color, from all over the world, each one a miniature piece of exquisite fluttering artwork.

IMG_6459-1IMG_6453IMG_6451IMG_6452IMG_6455There’s something wonderful about kneeling beneath the sweetly scented white trumpets of nicotiana to show your wide-eyed two-year-old a blue Doris Longwing straight from the Amazon jungle, slowly opening and closing its stunning wings—and be reminded in yet another new and exotic way of what a beautiful world our Creator has made.

“All this also comes from the LORD Almighty, whose plan is wonderful, whose wisdom is magnificent.” (Isaiah 28:29)

 

 

Foreign Soil

rocky point / rejoicing hillsred rock / rejoicing hillsRecently we took a short weekend trip to our neighboring country to the north, and it got me thinking about being a foreigner.  

Granted, driving across the border into Canada doesn’t involve a lot of culture shock.  They dress the same way as we do.  They drive cars and have ordinary looking houses. They speak English.  In some ways it feels very much like home.

But then you’re driving down the road and you start getting a headache from repeatedly having to convert kilometers to miles.  You keep gasping at how much things cost, and having to remind yourself that it won’t be nearly so bad once you apply the exchange rate.  There are maple leaves on the flags fluttering in people’s yards instead of stars and stripes.  You hear about people eating their french fries with gravy and cheese curds, and calling diapers napkins.  My husband even claims the walleye taste different up there.  And they won’t let you take eggs across the border, no sir.  Even if they’re beautiful big brown and green eggs from the farm down the road.  (I learned that lesson the hard way.)

And so, in the midst of many similarities, the feel of the foreign seeps unmistakably through.walleye art / rejoicing hillswater lily / rejoicing hillsisland / rejoicing hillslichen / rejoicing hillscrown vetch / rejoicing hillsWe really had a great time while we were there, even if we did have to eat Canadian eggs.  It was the kind of weekend where your favorite memories are things like waking up to the fragrance of coffee perking and grandma pulling fresh orange rolls out of the oven, sitting with your feet up reading good books in the fishing boat between bites, and the feel of sun-baked lichened rocks on bare feet.  We spent mornings drinking coffee on the deck, hot and humid afternoons soaking in the lake, and cooler evenings around a roaring fire.  We fed the seagulls, made barbecued ribs and ate fresh bread from the resort bakery next door.  It was wonderful!

fishing with grandpa / rejoicing hillsorange rolls / rejoicing hillsrock jumping / rejoicing hillsfeeding seagulls / rejoicing hillsYet for all the wonderful memories we made, we still got excited when we drove back to the border at the end of our visit and spotted a familiar red, white and blue flag fluttering proudly above the brick buildings at the crossing.  The line was long, and we slowly inched our way across the river, suspended between two countries on a bridge of steel.  A sort of happy, content feeling prevailed.  That was home over there and there were no doubts about whether they’d let us through or not, because we were citizens!

We still had to prove it, of course.  We had to hand over our US passports and birth certificates, and they had to examine them with care, comparing the photos on each one to the corresponding face in our vehicle.  They looked in our coolers, too, and took all of our leftover red and yellow peppers in case they were carrying some kind of bug that might infest American pepper crops.  (Or something like that.)

But after all that, we drove on through the gate, and suddenly we went from being foreigners to being citizens with rights and privileges.  The speed limit signs made sense again.  Things cost exactly what they said they did.  They served us ketchup with our fries when we stopped for supper.  Everything felt somehow right and familiar again.evening light / rejoicing hillsI like to think that’s how heaven is going to feel someday.  We’ll cross that great divide between this life and the next, and suddenly everything will feel right and familiar in a way it never did here on earth.  We will be home, and it will be a lot more than just a happy, content sort of feeling—it will be glorious.  I don’t know about you, but no amount of enjoyment I feel in this life can take away from the excitement I feel when I anticipate that border crossing!

“For our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”  (Philippians 3:20)

Are you a citizen, too?  I hope I see you there!