GPS

IMG_1282.JPGIt all began with a few simple needs that could be easily taken care of at a Walmart.  It would be a quick errand, I thought.  The only (small) problem?  I didn’t know where Walmart was in this unfamiliar city.

But that’s what GPS is for.

“Take me to Walmart,” I said to my phone as I contemplated the less-than-exciting but unavoidable prospect of backing an awkwardly long truck out on a blind curve.  “Okay, go now—FAST!” my husband shouted from the curb.  I stepped on the gas and watched his eyes get big as I came to a halt on the other side, mere inches from a signpost.  IMG_1311.JPG“After 50 feet take a left turn onto 8th Street,” the confident feminine voice instructed.  Still rattled from the close call with street signage, I sailed right past, missing my very first turn.

“In half a mile, take a right onto Center Street,” the voice calmly redirected.  At the intersection of Center Street, I found myself facing a road under massive construction.  I didn’t really want to go down there, so I picked a different road, hopeful that the voice would redirect me around the construction area.  No such luck.

“In one quarter of a mile, take a U-turn at the stoplight,” the voice instructed, not to be dissuaded.  I got to the stoplight, where two things became clear.  1) This big awkward truck was not going to be making this U-turn, and 2) getting to Walmart in an unfamiliar city was going to be a lot more complicated than I’d ever imagined.IMG_1303.JPGBut we eventually got there, that big truck and I, surprisingly all in one piece.  We went around the block to get back on track instead of making the U-turn.  We survived the road construction.  The voice from my phone carried me through, calm and unruffled through all my missed turns and second-guesses.

“Destination reached,” it informed me cheerfully as I pulled into the big store’s parking lot.  So, it really had known where it was going.  Well, that was a relief!  Now was the time to admit that I would have gotten there a lot faster if I’d paid closer attention and trusted it more implicitly—but what can I say?  I may be a millennial, but I’m still a little distrustful of allowing a robot to tell me what to do.

IMG_1355.JPG IMG_1406.JPGIMG_1380-1.jpgSometimes, the right way to go in life is a little like that, too.  You know, not quite as direct and smooth as we’d like?  And sometimes, even if you’re asking the right One for directions, it’s easy to mistrust and question whether He really knows where He’s taking you.  Sometimes we even go so far as to strike out on our own, hoping He’ll change his mind to suit our preferences

But if we know God and His Word, we also know that, unlike a GPS system, He doesn’t fail or make mistakes.  Our human feelings and inclinations may tempt us to question, and even lure us off track, but His ways are perfect and He remains faithful.

And loving.  Loving enough to patiently, persistently reroute us in the right direction after every foible.  Loving enough to stay with us every step of the way, right through the missed turns, road construction, and awkward U-turns.

It’s the ultimate GPS system, really: God’s Positioning Service

“If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13)

“He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.” (Psalm 23:3-4)

(P.S. Photos not taken while looking for Walmart.)

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)

 

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)

 

 

The Colors of Summer

IMG_4098-1.jpgWhether the calendar says so or not, the last day of August always seems like the last day of summer to me—and seeing that always makes me kind of sad.  Nothing against fall or even the coming winter, mind you.  I truly love the changing seasons.  It’s just that summer in Minnesota is somehow just a little briefer than the other seasons, and I never quite manage to get in all the swimming and fresh peaches on ice cream that I want to before it’s time to pull out the sweaters and hot cocoa again.

As sort of a solace for this, I decided to look back over my photos from the summer months to remind myself of what we did do—and in the process, I found a rainbow.  See if you can see it, too!IMG_2193.JPGIMG_3463.JPGIMG_1792.JPGRed is for ripe wild strawberries discovered along fence rows, sweet and warm with sunshine…

and roses outside of bakeries that smell of gingerbread

and poppies along the chicken coop.

IMG_4030.JPG img_2209.jpgIMG_3892Orange is for a monarch butterfly, minutes old, clinging trustingly to my wide-eyed daughter’s finger…

and the one weed in my yard that I don’t mind…

and flower arrangements in my mother-in-law’s bathroom.

IMG_1811.JPGIMG_3920.JPGimg_9624.jpgYellow is for the elegant beards of irises…

and the freckled faces of the lilies along the porch…

and the not-quite-so showy roadside weeds that nevertheless delight the avid, amateur flower-pickers in my family.IMG_2944-1IMG_2226IMG_4721.JPGGreen is for sun-dappled woodland ferns…

and black-eyed Susans not quite open…

and water droplets on nasturtium leaves.IMG_1629.JPGIMG_4065-1IMG_2420.JPGBlue is for swan families floating on riffles of water…

and plump round berries the color of the sky going plink-plunk in pails…

and bobolinks singing on telephone wires against the morning sky.IMG_4096IMG_2882IMG_2300.JPGPurple is for brilliant masses of fireweed…

and stormy skies at sunset…

and blue flags along the creek.

“You [O Lord] have established all the boundaries of the earth;  You have made summer and winter.” (Psalm 74:17)

Goldeneyes and a Chimney: a Birthday Tale

IMG_1966“Why are there ducks zooming around and around our house?” I asked my husband between bites of pizza.  It was our youngest daughter’s first birthday, and we were celebrating out on the porch.  There was a chocolate cake resting in state on the kitchen counter, awaiting its demise, and the sunshine of a splendid June day was slanting long across the green fields.  She was grinning happily as blueberry-purple-carrot puree dribbled down her chin onto her bib, oblivious to the fact that this was all supposed to be about her.  “It’s almost like they’re playing or something.”

We see plenty of ducks flying around here, but they’re generally zeroing in on the lake–so this was odd.  Around and around they went at top speed, wings whistling, tilting around the tree tops.  I’ve never been to an airshow, but this kind of seemed like one.  I moved my camera setting to Sports and attempted a few flying shots in vain.  I couldn’t even find them in my viewfinder, let alone get a clear photo!

Then, as I stepped off the porch in hopes of a better vantage point, I noticed something else.  Whenever they’d pass the garage, they’d kind of pause and flutter in around the chimney before taking off to resume zooming again.  Not just once but every time.  Now my curiosity was definitely piqued!IMG_1943I began creeping my way across the yard, in hopes of catching a photo during one of these chimney pauses.  And then the plot thickened: as a couple of them were fluttering about, one landed…IMG_1935-1poked its head in the chimney…IMG_1937.JPG…and then disappeared!  What?!

One of the other ducks fluttered confusedly about and then landed on the ridgepole.  It eyed me suspiciously as though to inquire, “What did you do with my friend?”  I took advantage of its distraction to get a good close shot before I ran back to the house.

“I think one of those ducks just went down the garage chimney,” I informed my husband. We both went to investigate. He opened up the chimney pipe and peeked inside.  Nothing.  He shrugged.  I shrugged.  Maybe I had been mistaken.  We waited a few minutes, then turned to leave.

Ka-boom!

Without any warning, one winged body exploded from the chimney pipe, followed by another.  Two ducks!  In the garage!  Bang!  Crash!  Suddenly everyone was ducking and running, yelling in excitement.  A crack in a garage door was all they needed, however, and then they exploded out into freedom.  I watched them settle onto the mirror glass of the sunset lake, shaking their little bodies as though to rid themselves of the memories of claustrophobic chimneys and dark unfamiliar garages.

Well, that was exciting.  And now that we’d had our free entertainment for the evening, it seemed like a good time to break out the chocolate cake and the bird identification books and find out what kind of ducks they were and what they were doing.  Did you know that common goldeneyes (the identification we finally settled on) are some of the few ducks that are considered “arboreal” which means that “much of its nesting is done in cavities found in mature trees”.  Did they think that our garage chimney was a just another hollow tree?  Seems like a reasonable explanation.  But why so many of them interested in it all at once, this late in the season?  This answer was not to be found in the books.  If you know the answer, let me know!

Moral of the story:  Some birthdays might just unexpectedly be for appreciating the sometimes taken-for-granted fact that on the fifth day “God said…”let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” So God created…every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and…let birds multiply on the earth.” (Genesis 1:20-22)