Best of Both Worlds

IMG_6148.JPGIs it Christmas lights?  Is it snow?

Yes.

Inside the house, our Christmas tree with the big white origami star brushing the ceiling is twinkling bright; outside the snow lies “deep and crisp and even”*.  In the reflection of the cold windowpane, I can see both at once.  It’s the best of both of my December worlds: all the warmth of a joyful holiday celebration mingled with the wide white expanse of winter’s best accessory, now richly blue in the falling dusk.

It’s also an appropriately symbolic picture of Christmas, considering that the One whose birth we celebrate this week was also the very best of both worlds.  Not of indoors and outdoors, but of heaven and earth.

If I could show you a picture of Him, you might ask:

Is He God?  Is He man?

Yes.

May the marvel of this mystery fill you with thoughtful joy and wonder this Christmas!

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

 

*From the carol “Good King Wenceslas” by John Mason Neale.

 

Winter Fun

IMG_5779-1.jpgRun, slide, repeat.

That’s what I and the otters did last week, I on my skis, they out on the ice, each in our own way celebrating the return of glorious winter to the northwoods.  That early November snow was some of the finest I’ve ever been privileged to make a trail through, and judging from their antics across the lake, perhaps the ice was, too?  Anyway, we certainly seemed to be agreed on the idea that all this cold stuff was meant to be enjoyed!

Then, as the sun lowered on the horizon, they’d run off in a companionable row, as you see them above, straight into their cozy den, and I’d swish my way back to my warm little house to wrap my cold fingers around a hot mug and sip steaming sweetness.  IMG_5812.JPGAh, winter with all your juxtapositions of icy beauty and cozy routines—how glad I and my sleek fun-loving neighbors are to welcome you back!

And speaking of fun, thank you to each one of you who played along in my little guessing game a couple posts back!  In case you forgot or missed the post, I asked people to guess the book of the Bible where the “psalm” I used in the post was found, as well as which photo was taken in the city rather than the country.

The correct answers were: 1) the book of Daniel (2:19-23, if you want to look it up!) and 2) the first photo of bright red snake root vines.  Unfortunately, nobody quite managed to guess both correctly, so I shall have to reserve my promised prizes for a later date!  (So if you’re terribly disappointed about that, I’m sorry, but stay tuned for another chance!)

If nothing else, it was just fun for me to see who actually reads my blog.  And, by the way, that goes for every time someone takes the time to comment, whether here or on Facebook.  It’s a tiny bit of thoughtful encouragement that always makes my day, and I’m grateful!

“A man has joy in an apt answer, And how delightful is a timely word!” (Proverbs 15:23)

 

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.

Ice Skating

IMG_9956One of my favorite things about living on a lake in the winter is having unlimited ice skating access.  Getting to walk straight out your door right onto your own private skating rink?  To a girl who had to hike a good half mile for such a privilege when she was growing up, this is a luxury I don’t take for granted.  That is, except for when the weather doesn’t cooperate, like this year, and it freezes and snows at the same time, effectively ruining the ice for the rest of the winter.  What a disappointment!

When I was growing up, my siblings and I would solve this fairly common problem by clearing a giant, hockey-worthy rink by hand with the big snow scoop we dragged that long half mile down the road.  Then, we’d drill a hole with an auger, from which we pumped lake water to flood the rough surface and make it smooth again when it froze.  And did we ever have fun on the finished product!

These days, though, I’m the only ice skater in our young family, so all rink-creating ambitions have been shelved until the upcoming generation I’m helping to raise is old enough to join me in the effort of shoveling for the joy of skating. Thus, when the lake froze rough during a November snowstorm, I just figured skating was out for me this winter and turned my attention to other recreational pleasures of the season.

But I was wrong.IMG_9952February had a change of heart and decided to surprise everyone with an uncharacteristic thaw.  That thaw lasted long enough to melt the snow cover and create some pretty massive puddles of water on top of the ice.  Then, the thermometer plunged and it all froze solid again.  Then, the wind drove tiny particles of ice and snow across it for several days straight like a giant sand blaster, smoothing rough spots, scouring it largely clean of snow.  And when the sun blazed up out of the east one morning, I saw a glassy surface shining beneath it—and all my skating dreams buried since the beginning of winter rose up and wooed me out the door.

My oldest daughter, curious to see what I was going to do with those white boots on shiny silver blades, begged to come along to watch.  When we got down to the edge of the lake shore, though, she wouldn’t come any further.  “I’ll just watch you from here, Mommy,” she said.

So I picked my way out to the edge of the frozen grasses and weeds by myself, where I began the process of standing on one leg while wedging my sock-encrusted foot into a snug skate with the other.  Because, of course, in my hurry to get out there I had neglected to bring anything along to sit on.  How do blue herons do it, anyway?  In my defense, having to put something on the foot while holding it up does complicate the matter.  IMG_9884“Are you going to fall in, Mommy?” I heard the little voice call from the pink-jacketed figure perched on the bank, concerned.

“Nope,”—grunt—“I’m not going to fall in, honey.”  But I might fall over, I thought wryly to myself.  I had gone a little overboard on the warm sock layers.

But I was determined.  Stamp, stamp.  Loosen the ties again with numbing fingers in the subzero windchill.  Stamp, stamp, thump.  There.  Loop the laces, tie them tight.  One down, one to go.

“Are you sure you’re not going to fall in?” I noted that the concerned little voice in the pink jacket was closer and observed that she had moved from high on the bank down to the very edge of the lake.

“Yep”–grunt, grunt, stamp, stamp, thump.  “I’m sure, honey.” 

And I was off.  My little girl cheered.

Back and forth I went for a while, round and round, my audience of one as riveted to my performance as any Olympic crowd .  “Can I come out to you, Mommy?” she finally asked.  What she really meant was, “I believe, but—help thou mine unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)

“Yes, come!” I said.She made her way out to the edge of the weeds, all the way to the very edge of that great, shiny sheet of ice—and then she stopped.IMG_9881IMG_9950.JPG“Can I touch it, Mommy?”

But this time there was wonder in her voice, and by now I had stopped my skating to come near and watch.  I had forgotten that she hadn’t been on a frozen lake before, at least that she remembered—and the innocent, wide-eyed first-time experiences of a child are some of the most beautiful things in the whole world to stand audience to.

“Yes, you can touch it,” I said with a smile.  And in faith and wonder, she stepped—and the sound of her laughter and joyous delight echoed from shore to shore.

IMG_9880Funny, how my delight over getting to ice skate this winter after all managed to pale next to her delight when she overcame her fears, believed, and walked on water.

“Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.  When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified… but, immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”  And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. (Matthew 14:25-29)

Thankfully, we didn’t attempt replaying the rest of that story.

 

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.

The Light Has Come

img_8625“The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined…

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” (Isaiah 9:2, 6-7)

Praise the Lord—because He came, we can each truly have a…

Merry Christmas!

 

First Ice

img_8327The ice is in.

We watched it form all day long yesterday as a snow storm whirled, the stretch of open water slowly but steadily narrowing throughout the day.  The otters were out having a Last-Day-Of-Open-Water party along the slushy edges and the swans trumpeted restlessly through the night, clustered to the creek outlet on the south end, instinctively knowing it would be the last spot to solidify.

img_8320Today, all was still and silent.

The swans are gone, probably to the river, and will likely not be seen here again until spring.  The otters are hidden away somewhere in a cozy den.  And so winter has placed its last seal on the landscape—and then in a brief, glorious five minutes before it set, the sun blazed out from behind a cloak of heavy clouds and kissed it with fire.

And there I was, standing on the shore, breathless with wonder that I was in the right place at the right time to see it.

“Out of the south comes the storm, and out of the north the cold.  From the breath of God ice is made, and the expanse of the waters is frozen.” (Job 37:9-10)

 

And Then Came Winter

img_8273One day it was fall, the next morning we awoke to winter.  A world of brown suddenly transformed to a world of white.  Just like that.

My oldest daughter came walking out of her bedroom, eyes sparkling. “It’s SNOWTIME, Mommy!!!”

My two-year-old, upon being lifted up to a window so she could see, exclaimed in wide-eyed, sincere amazement, “Oh. My. Goodness.”

img_8270IMG_8260.JPGIt was wonderful.

I love how every year the beauty of winter manages to take me by surprise, evoking the same kind of childish wonder in my soul that I saw on my children’s faces.

I could hardly wait until later, when I was finally able to slip on my skis and go out into it.  I glided over the unbroken surface, daring to cut a crisp twin track through the artful riffles of drifting snow.   The evening star winked at me in the lavender sky above the snowy pines, and the lake, still unfrozen, glimmered pale gold and pink—and silently I breathed thanks for the glory of a new season.

img_8373And for something else, too, because there were two things to be thankful for, really.  The pure clean snow, yes—but, even more, how it symbolized the state of my heart.

“…though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. (Isaiah 1:18)

Once upon a time, my heart was stained with sin, glaring crimson as the most brilliant maples of autumn—but then came the day I gave it all to Christ, and the transformation was just as sudden and wonderful as this overnight advent of winter.

 

Farewell, Golden Autumn

img_8161This was a November unmatched for beauty, as autumn lingered gloriously long—and these are the quintessential pictures of it in my mind.

The landscape awash in rich browns and golds…img_8002the rustle of drying grasses in the gentle breeze as the sunlight gilded it all to royalty…IMG_8121.JPG the frosty mornings…img_7920img_7911followed by warm and golden days…img_8119But kind as it’s been to us, November is still a month of transitions as it must be, a split personality, if you will, bridging the gap between autumn and winter—and “they say”, whoever they may be, that the time of the inevitable change is at hand.  There’s a winter storm warning for the weekend, and it’s time to finish that project of putting small girls’ mittens on strings that I’ve been putting off because we just haven’t needed them yet.

So, gladly anticipating the approach of a new season and a world of white on its way, I take a moment to bid one last adieu to autumn.  It’s been lovely—see you next year!

“O God…You have established all the boundaries of the earth; you have made summer and winter.” (Psalm 74:17)

(And the seasons in between—and I’m grateful!)


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