“We must try to take life moment by moment. The actual present is pretty tolerable I think, if only we refrain from adding to its burden that of the past and the future.”
~ C.S. Lewis in Letters to an American Lady
“In a world so wired and interconnected,
our anxious hearts are pummeled by
an endless barrage of troubling news.
We are daily aware of more grief, O Lord,
than we can rightly consider,
of more suffering and scandal
than we can respond to, of more
hostility, hatred, horror, and injustice
than we can engage with compassion.
But you, O Jesus, are not disquieted by such news of cruelty and terror and war.
You are neither anxious nor overwhelmed.
You carried the full weight of the suffering of a broken world when you hung upon
the cross, and you carry it still.
When the cacophony of universal distress unsettles us, remind us that we are but small
and finite creatures, never designed to carry the vast abstractions of great burdens,
for our arms are too short and our strength is too small. Justice and mercy, healing and
redemption, are your great labors.
And yes, it is your good pleasure to accomplish
such works through your people,
but you have never asked any one of us
to undertake more than your grace
will enable us to fulfill.
Guard us then from shutting down our empathy
or walling off our hearts because of the glut of
unactionable misery that floods our awareness.
You have many children in many places
around this globe. Move each of our hearts
to compassionately respond to those needs
that intersect our actual lives, that in all places
your body might be actively addressing
the pain and brokenness of this world,
each of us liberated and empowered by
your Spirit to fulfill the small part
of your redemptive work assigned to us.
Give us discernment
in the face of troubling news reports.
Give us discernment
to know when to pray,
when to speak out,
when to act,
and when to simply
shut off our screens
and our devices,
and to sit quietly
in your presence,
casting the burdens of this world
upon the strong shoulders
of the one who
is able to bear them up”.
This liturgy is from Every Moment Holy by Doug McKelvey.
Photograph by Jeremy Parker, Reno, Nevada
when changes and challenge hurt
help me remember the road goes on, that I may move forward
looking back does not let me see what I need for what lies ahead
give me awareness of beauty and meaning in beyond
When we began landscaping the large back yard of our current home 2 years ago, some of the plants I wanted to include were oakleaf hydrangeas. Unlike the pretty pink and blue mophead blooms, these flowers are greenish-white when they are young, picking up subtle shades of pink and brown as they age. After new flowers stop coming, the blooms stay on the plant and look lovely as they mature.
The foliage is different, too. Lobed leaves are bright green in spring and fall, turning brilliant shades of burgundy and orange as autumn turns into winter. They are also interesting shrubs in winter since the bark peels back, revealing the dark layer beneath. We planted several at the east end of our back porch where we could watch them as they changed. One plant did not survive the first winter which was more severe than usual. The others have come into their own this year. I almost missed the first blooms since I was seldom outside for weeks during the beginning of my recovery. Part of my determination to aid healing has been to go outside for a few minutes at least each day and walk on the porch if not in the garden. After I discovered the first tight green buds of beginning flowers, I made sure I checked on their progress.
Often, the smallest lessons learned on this porch and others we have called home teach me Garden Grace. While admiring the progress of these blooms, I remembered that these shrubs bloom on the prior year’s growth.
I may not feel very productive or useful in these days of being homebound and restricted, but the healing of bone, body, and spirit happening now may provide my ability to bloom in the future.
“If, then, we desire a simple test of the quality of our spiritual life, a consideration of the tranquillity, gentleness, and strength with which we deal with the circumstances of our outward life will serve us better than anything…It is a test that can be applied anywhere and at any time. Tranquillity, gentleness and strength, carrying us through the changes of weather, the ups and downs of the route, the varied surface of the road; the inequalities of family life, emotional and professional disappointments, the sudden intervention of bad fortune or bad health, the rising and falling of our religious temperature. This is the threefold imprint of the Spirit on the souls surrendered to his great action.” From The Spiritual Life by Evelyn Underhill
When rainfall dampens the brown, crusted, outstretched arms of these ancient oaks, a reenactment of beauty begins. Delicate green fronds curl around the branches. The verdant festoon is called “resurrection fern” because, in dry weather, the fern’s fronds curl up, turn brown, and seem to be dead—that is, until the next rain, when they turn green and spring back to life.
Resurrection fern is the common name of an epiphytic plant that in our part of the country grows most often on the massive limbs of live oaks..
I never tire of seeing this happen. As I write today, I feel as if it has begun to rain for me. My long absence from this blog as well as the two others I regularly write posts for has been a dry time for me, and I have missed both the writing and the exchange with readers.
During the past year, my husband, Joe, has lost most of his vision due to retinal bleeding and glaucoma. There have been multiple medical appointments, injections, and laser surgeries for him. Loss of vision is never easy. He has met challenge after challenge with courage but also great sadness.
In mid April, I fell, resulting in a compression fracture of a lumbar vertebra with subsequent surgical injections, hospitalization, some unwelcome complications, and an addition to my summer wardrobe: a molded brace. Uncomfortable? Pain? Yes. Restrictions, certainly. But also so much support and help from our family and friends. Since we live with our youngest son, Ben, his wife Kristen and their children, they added helping us with all we needed to their already busy schedules. Right now, Ben is making pot roast for our dinner while 2 preschoolers “help”, Kristen is working in the yard, and they will do our laundry tomorrow! Our oldest son and his wife, Sean and Teion, have helped so much in numerous ways, including hours in the ER with me. Our son in Nevada, Jeremy, calls and texts almost every day. Always attentive, our family has made sure we are cared for.
I had to hand over my calendar to others for all of Joe’s appointments as well as mine. Close friends from our church brought meals and coordinated driving in the early weeks, stayed with me during surgery, prayed for us, and along with our sons, daughters, and grandchildren have given help and poured encouragement over us. I cannot say Thank You enough. To all of them. To God, who blessed us with these dear ones in our lives to love us and care for us.
There is a great deal of healing and work yet to come. But there is also hope and always, God’s presence. Today I feel the rain begin.
This photograph might bring a different story to any viewer. Sit with it for a few moments and think of the message it brings you.
The pictured piece hangs from a strip of leather – a bookmark left in a poetry book. I thought of it when I received a note describing ways of looking at puzzling, hard to understand times. When I am open to the wonder and synchronicity of my surroundings, I find encouragement, illumination, and illustration everywhere. I am thankful for learning puzzle peace.
There is an old saying that declares you find what you are looking for. But there are times I find what I did not look for or expect at all. The times when I am surprised by grace. The cold, dark times when my face is lifted and lit up unexpectedly. This exquisite blossom almost opened and faded without anyone finding it. During an early but short spell of freezing temperatures, all our container plants were pushed near the house on our back porch, clustered together. The small pot containing this plant was in a dark corner with large pots in front. There has been joy and activity in our home this Advent and Christmastide, but the many cold, wet days have kept us inside more.There have been colds and flu in the family. There have also been elements of loss, darkness and uncertainty, threatening soul drought due to my husband’s continued loss of vision.
Our little succulent helps remind me that hope and beauty bloom in darkness. Indeed, this plant requires dormancy to bloom at all. It must have less water, cooler temperatures, and at least 12 to 14 hours of darkness at night. But this is not the only lesson – plants may also need dormancy to survive stress.
After providing us this pleasure and beauty, this blooming in the dark, our Christmas Cactus will drop its blooms, then return to light and growth.
As 2019 begins, may we turn toward Light and thrive.
Christmas Eve, 2018
Soon my 4 year old grandchild and I will add the last figure to our Advent Calendar that is also a nativity. This is my favorite of all our manger scenes, one I found years ago at an estate sale. It is a hinged wooden box with tiny wooden pegs for the members of the scene. Every year I enter the story more. With each Advent, I am more awed by the mystery of Divine love, this gift. Each year at this time I am learning a little better the work of Christmas.
The Work of Christmas
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart
Photograph by Maddie Parker, August 17, Reno, NV
all day, leaves chatter,
wave in bright sunlight
by night they fade and whisper
Maddie’s photograph helped me think about the way we look at things, and the choices we have about the way we see and remember.. C. S. Lewis wrote in The Magician’s nephew “What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.”
“I had been told how the old-time weavers, all the while they were making their beautiful and intricate patterns, saw no more than the backs of their shawls. Nothing was visible to them but a tangle of colored threads. They never saw the design they were creating until they took the finished fabric from their looms.
The parallel to the mortal lot is plain. Human experience appears to us – as the shawls did to the weavers – to be no more than incomprehensible tangles of colored threads, whereas in fact life represents the ordered threads in a great design – the design being woven daily on the loom of eternity.”
Source: Ernest Gordon, Miracle on the River Kwai