September Rain

IMG_7026.JPGI’m hurrying to finish my errands on a gray and rainy day, wishing I had brought an umbrella.  I’m focusing on the heavy clouds and the moisture seeping uncomfortably into my shoes.  I almost missed it.  But the tiny flash of color caught my eye as I passed and I turned back to look.  And there, out of the blue, in the last place a country girl expects to capture the essence of autumn, there’s this single leaf, liquid golden-yellow against a city sidewalk wet with September rain.

Before you know it, I’m running back to my car for my camera, ignoring the great drops splashing on my head as I lean in to capture this one small, brilliant taste of fall—and suddenly grateful for the rain that saturates the colors and makes it shine.  Even in the rain, He gives good gifts, if only we have our eyes open to see—and sometimes they’re all that much better because of it.

“…Rejoice in the LORD your God, for he has given you the autumn rains because he is faithful…” (Joel 2:23)

 

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Lessons from Grandpa

flaming maple / rejoicing hillsHe taught me that getting old didn’t mean you quit living—and that you could still go swimming every day and play volleyball and travel the world when you were going-on-90.red maple leaf / rejoicing hillsHe taught me not to be afraid to dream and to try new and crazy things.  Start a restaurant!  Convert a roller skating rink into a church building!  Plant potatoes a month earlier than anyone else in the county!  Invent an automatic bed-making machine!

turning leaves / rejoicing hillsmaple leaves / rejoicing hillsHe  taught how to put my own worms on my own hook and know how to tie proper knots so I could change my own lures. It was from him that I learned that lunch in a fishing boat could legitimately consist of a can of pop and a candy bar.  He also taught me the art of telling people how many fish we caught without revealing where we caught them, and how to sweet talk ’em when they weren’t biting.

maple tree / rejoicing hillsHe taught me that ice cream was a vegetable—and should, accordingly, be eaten as often possible, preferably topped with homegrown raspberries.  And chocolate and caramel and nuts and hard cookies.  But he also taught me that vegetables (the real ones) were pretty amazing, too.

fallen leaves / rejoicing hillsHe taught me that one didn’t need an advanced education to write witty and thoughtful letters in your grandchildren’s birthday cards.

He taught me how to judge a good dairy cow, and then how to care for her after I took his advice and bought her.

He taught me that it’s possible for a lame pun to be hilarious, when said with that much mischief twinkling in one’s eyes.

He taught me how to make Spanish omelettes.

He taught me that fashion statements can be made with coveralls just as well as bolo ties, matching belt buckles and fancy cowboy boots.  That having hard candy in your pocket is a great way to win friends and influence people.  And that a hearty splash of gasoline will cure a bad case of poison ivy (much to my mother’s dismay…).

You were only ninety-one young, Grandpa—not old enough to die.  I’m going to miss you!

“For You…O God… have given me the inheritance of those who fear Your name.” (Psalm 61:5)

 

For more memories of my grandfather, see here and here.

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End of Summer

IMG_9747 editThis morning, as the mid-morning sun was making the dew on the spider webs sparkle, I rode my bike down the bumpy gravel road to Sheryl’s house.  The bike trailer bounced behind me, heavy with my precious cargo of two little ones and a Bible tucked in the back pocket.  I hoped I had estimated how long the ride would take me correctly; I didn’t want to miss out on the sweet fellowship time beforehand!

This is the third summer we’ve spent studying the 23rd Psalm.  What precious times we’ve had together going slow through the beloved familiar passage, sometimes word by word, soaking it in, mining the depths of Scripture for quantities of treasure that we never dreamed could exist in the space of so few words.  And now it was all over until next year.  Today was the last day, our sweet weekly summer gathering coming to a close just as the calendar was gently finishing August.  The ditches were full of goldenrod and lavender clouds of asters, and the banks of ferns were curling up brown around their lacy edges.  Yes, my eyes told me, as I focused up on the landscape around me and away from the dusty road beneath my tires:  fall was really almost here.goldenrod / rejoicing hillsI’m really sorry to bid this summer adieu, because it’s been such a good one.  Beautiful fellowship with these dear sisters in Christ has been just one of the highlights of this season for me.  As I meditated back over the passage we had been studying, somehow the other happy memories and pictures of this summer seemed to intertwine in my mind with the words of the psalm.  And so in honor of the end of a glorious season and those precious weeks of study we savored together, I present this photographic essay of my summer and Psalm 23:

pie / rejoicing hillsThe Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want…herd of cattle / rejoicing hillsHe maketh me to lie down in green pastures…pine over lake / rejoicing hillsHe leadeth me beside the still waters…peaceful porch / rejoicing hillsHe restoreth my soul…country lane / rejoicing hillsHe leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…IMG_7262 editI will fear no evil, for Thou art with me;  Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me…tiny bee on cosmos / rejoicing hillsThou preparedest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies…droplet on petunia / rejoicing hillsThou anointest my head with oil;  my cup runneth over…summer sunset / rejoicing hillsSurely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Amen.

Light After the Storm

storm clouds at sunset / rejoicing hillsThis was the light that broke forth after the storm, making the fields sparkle golden-green and the daisies by the roadside glow shining white.  The contrast was spectacular between the lowering navy underbellies of the receding storm clouds, and the land beneath suddenly bathed in the piercing evening light.

We, on our walk through the fields, stopped and caught our breath in wonder.  The ordinary grasses and trees were highlighted in stunning relief, and for a few minutes, the landscape was almost surreal in its beauty.  The splendid effect of the most brilliant light is always the most striking when contrasted with the darkness it chases away.

daisy after storm / rejoicing hillsroadside daisies / rejoicing hillsSo was the coming of the Messiah into the darkness of our world:

“The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great Light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a Light has dawned.”  (Isaiah 9:2)swans on lake at sunset / rejoicing hillsAnd He, the Light of the world, continues to shine, the glory of His brilliance all the more breathtaking when contrasted with the darkness it chases away.  He beckons all to step into the piercing rays of His light, and let Him wash away their drabness, robing them in the stunning beauty of His holiness.

“I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.”  (John 12:46)

Come to the Light of Christ—it’s shining for you and no one is ever turned away.  And if you are already walking in it, take a moment to rejoice in the wonder that you no longer “walk in darkness, but have the Light of life” (John 8:12)!  How glorious to be His child!

Golden Slippers

small yellow ladyslippers / rejoicing hillsyellow lady slipper / rejoicing hills

Along a dusty meandering forest road near our home, I happened upon these lovely little yellow lady-slippers.

They were not hiding away safe in a remote bog or deep, dark forest as one might expect.  Instead, they were nodding along the edge of the harsh gravel as a growling grader moved past shattering the stillness of a quiet, rainy morning.  And they were popping up along the scarred ugly edges of last winter’s logging, right alongside the rejected fallen trees left behind.

Beautiful little princess feet of gold, spreading the good news of summer come even amidst the less-than-picturesque scenes of everyday dirt and destruction.  Good news of renewal and hope and redemption.

yellow lady slippers / rejoicing hills

So are the feet of all who proclaim the Gospel along the dirty and destructed ways of life—

“As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!”  (Romans 10:15)

It’s kind of like those people are wearing figurative golden slippers as they walk through those rough places, joyful royal ambassadors for the King of kings, bearing the gladdest tidings of all time.

The Gift of Violets

purple violet / rejoicing hillsFor years, it’s been my personal goal every spring to find every color of violet native to our area.  (There are actually up to 17 species, but I limit my goal to the four colors—lavender, purple, yellow and white.)  Some years, I have time to actually go search the woods for them, some years, I don’t—and this has been one of the latter.  So you can imagine my delight when, over the last couple weeks, I stumbled—sometimes literally—across every single one without even trying!

purple violet / rejoicing hillsblue violets / rejoicing hillsyellow violet / rejoicing hillsI was the most excited, however, when I happened upon the sweet tiny white violets, which have always been the hardest for me to find.  They are the smallest of the violet family, and the least showy—often their humble little faces are sweetly inclined toward the earth, hiding their purple-streaked hearts until you get down very low.  They are so diminutive and unassuming, it’s easy to walk right past them, or even step on them without realizing it.  But that makes them all the sweeter to me—and they’ve become my personal favorites.single white violet / rejoicing hillsAren’t they exquisite?

To me, the discovery of each of these little blossoms was a gift.  A gift from a loving heavenly Father who knows the desires of my heart, even the small ones, and delights to give His children good things.  I think He knew that all-four-colors-of violets were just what I needed to lift my spirits this spring.  Whether He caused them to grow just where I would look, or guided my footsteps and eyes to just the right place at just the right time, I don’t know.  But I do know that they caused me to smile and remember His lovingkindness as I knelt low to take their portraits.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights…”  (James 1:17)

What gifts has He given you lately to remind you that He loves you?

Marsh Marigolds

marsh marigolds / rejoicing hillsWell hello, pretty yellow marigolds!  One day that brackish swamp was dark and empty, the next day there you were with your bright sunny faces and skirts of purple-green leaves so delicately ruffled, nodding and smiling as though it were only yesterday we saw each other last and not a whole year slipped by.  I am so pleased to see you, too.

But you know what’s really lovely?  It’s that you’ll only be bright and pretty along the swampy edges for a couple weeks or so, and then you’ll be gone again until another spring.  No, I’m not really happy that you’ll disappear so soon.  But the fact that you are so fleeting somehow makes you all the more beautiful, and you are such a sweet reminder to me that “if God so clothes the grass of the field [marigolds of the swamp], which today is, and tomorrow [next week] is cast into the oven [fades back into the murky swamp], shall He not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?” (Matthew 6:30)  He cares that much for me?  Wow.  Thank you for the reminder, lovely little flowers.

P.S.  Also, thank you for kindly blooming near enough to the edge of the swamp so I could take your portrait today without getting water in my shoes.  Dry shoes are nice.