Memory

The summer air is tangible, thick,  heavy on my skin. Humidity hangs visibly in the hazy air.

The wind is blowing; it never stops blowing here. There is a restlessness in this place–a constant motion and sound cutting through the trees, bowing the prairie grass gently from side to side.

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Everything seems bigger than me–the grass to my waist, the scruffy trees I climb barefoot and brown, the sky stretching out in ocean spans above the endless rolling farmland. I disappear into the cornfield, feeling smaller still with prickly stalks over my head pressing in around me.

I find a dusty bare spot in the field–a circle of dirt where the tractor turned and no seed was planted. I can smell the corn, sweet and tangy. Everything smells green here–did you know green is a smell? I can remember it–the green–the smell of green grass, green crops, green trees. Everything was green and brown and blue— the sky, the dirt, the oceans of prairie grass swaying in that humid Midwest wind.

My bare feet are brown and dusty, callused as leather and as good on gravel as any pair of shoes. You don’t need shoes here–you can climb the trees better without them–toes moving confidently against scratchy bark and branch.

I was a tomboy then. A little bit wild. Scrappy. A girl… not a wife, not a mother. A wildflower and a dreamer making plans to leave and go somewhere bigger. I did not know then how hard it might be to find a place bigger than a Midwest summer–bigger than that sky or those swaying fields of crop.

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I left. I married. I became a mother. I saw the worlds I dreamt of under apple trees and night sky.

It’s good. I’m happy. I’m proud.

But I’d give almost anything for one more day under the Missouri sun–barefoot, brown, laying in a cornfield watching the clouds roll by. I’d lay there til the stars came out. I’d watch the fireflies dance in diamond bands across the still-hot night air. I’d listen to the peepers and crickets sing their song in chorus with that ever-moving breeze. I’d hold on to the smell of green–breathing a little deeper and tucking away that Midwest magic in the pockets of my heart and soul. I’d whisper to my tomboy heart, “You’ll need these someday so hold on.”

Talk About the Weather

I open the front door at 6:30 AM and already it’s hot outside. I tiptoe barefoot across the front porch down into our dusty, brown yard; grass crunches under my feet. This is strange for New England where all summer we’re accustomed to the reprieve of cool mornings and evenings.

I try to avoid talk about the weather; it seems cliché and so remarkably dull to say in winter, “it’s so cold!”—as if we’re astonished that it could be cold in winter. Or in the summer, “it’s soooo hot!” when obviously, of course, it’s supposed to be hot in the summer.

But THE WEATHER is a difficult topic to avoid when the heat or cold wrap around our temperamental bodies in waves of humidity or shocking gusts of artic air. We humans can’t help ourselves, we must talk about it, must say something against this demigod—THE WEATHER.

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I sit outside in the sweltering heat. My lawn chair is positioned carefully in the shade and I do a dance with the sun getting up and pulling my chair back little by little as the sun advances and eats up my shadowy reprieve. I’m trying to remember that I love summer, that summer is ever so brief, that all winter long I stand dutifully at the windows willing winter to die and go away so that summer might come. I’m not going to complain, I say, because I like summer.

But it’s hot, it’s sticky, and unless I’m sitting on the front porch in a lawn chair like a hillbilly, it’s too hot to be outside. My son, barefoot and shirtless, brown as a chestnut, is unmoved by the weather. He would spend every moment outside if his mother would stop complaining about the heat from her hillbilly perch. He fills buckets with water and gathers rocks; he reminds me of a busy little squirrel prepping for winter. He wants me to come play with him, “No”, I say between sips of iced coffee. “Bring mommy the ball.” “Bring mommy the truck.” “Mommy is melting; go away”, I say.

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Let me tell you what this post is supposed to be about: It’s supposed to be about living happily in our present circumstances and not wishing life away for the next best thing—in this case, fall and apple cider. But I’m afraid I may not make it to the moral of the story this time; it’s hot outside and ain’t nobody got time for that.

Fallow Ground

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Last night we worked on the yard, raking and turning up the soil for spring. I knelt in the dirt, gathering rocks into the wheel barrow and enjoying the cool spring breeze whisping through my hair.

We set out the boundaries of our garden and I dreamt while I worked of vine tomatoes and itty bitty strawberries ripening in the sun.

Roman helped gather rocks, huffing and puffing to assure me of his labor and brute strength. Even when he bent to lift a tiny shred of paper into the wheel barrow, he grunted and moved slowly to prove the weight of his task :] How I love him; how I have learned to love him after struggling and finding our way into and through toddlerhood this winter. He is strong, willful, completely sure of what he wants. I see myself in him, I see his dad, and I am both terrified and proud.

I thought last night as I worked the soil into soft, plantable rows, about the parable Jesus gave of fallow ground—dry, hard, unworked ground—where though the seeds may fall, nothing grows or changes in such unattended soil.

I wondered about my heart, the soil of my heart, and if this ground is turned over and ready for growth or packed down in stubborn defiance, refusing to grow, refusing to change.

I have felt a bit like a rock in a tumbler these last two years since Roman came. Around and around I’ve gone, having my hardness and rough edges worked down into a softer more desirable form. Last night, working the ground, it made sense to me–all the tumbling and falling–perhaps it was meant simply to turn up the fallow ground, to plant and build new life, to grow and harvest new fruit in soil that was once packed down and useless.

So today I hope not just for those sun ripened tomatoes and strawberries but for fruit in the softer soil of my own heart as well–that I would not be dead and useless but alive and growing into what God desires me to be.

What a gift it is that God works our hearts as we do the soil, that he does not simply drop seeds on hard ground but kneels in the dirt and works on us until we are made soft and useful for new life and purpose.

Frosty Enchantment

God says we are made in his image—we humans somehow carry with us the likeness of the God who made us, in part, like himself. But it is in nature I best see the breaths and fingerprints of my God. That’s not to say I don’t see God’s handiwork in people—it’s just that people are always in motion, and for me at least, more difficult to study and learn from. But nature moves at a steady pace and watching the stars drip evening light out of the night sky or listening to the magnificent roar of thunder rumbling down around us somehow speaks far more deeply to me about the things of God.

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We are just two steps into November and already frost kisses the brown and gray things with glittering light—robing all that now seems dead in one last moment of beauty and enchantment.

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It’s a rare moment these days when I find time to pull my camera out. But sometimes the light or the shadow out my window pulls too strongly to stay busy inside and I find myself instead kneeling close to the ground, enjoying the weight of the camera in my hands, and trying click after click to capture what it is that brought me outside searching in the first place.

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Today, it was the frost sprinkled like star dust through the grass and leaves and the way the morning light danced in rainbows through the frozen drops of dew. And it’s here, knee-deep in grass, camera chasing the sun through frost, that I see God in my midst. I see him making dead things beautiful and breathing glittering light into things we might think are done and gone and no more needed.

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I see God making me new and somehow beautiful in his sight when I would be dead and useless apart from his light. I see the enchantment of frost sparkling on leaves and in that light, I see his light, shining too in you and me.

He can make you new. He can give you life. He can make all things beautiful in his time. I know, because he’s doing so in me.

Chasing the Light

Yesterday I woke to the most magical morning light; golden fingers dancing across autumn leaves lit the day with fire. I don’t like peeling out of bed in the morning—the covers are so warm and the world so cold—but I would wake with the dawn any day to catch the world clothed in amber.

Today the morning sky blushed in pink—deeper and richer shades melted into each other until the sky reached a grand finale of gold.

I suppose I didn’t notice the morning sky before we moved here—the trees blocked my view or perhaps the house faced the wrong direction. But here, in this house we’ve worked so hard on for these last two years, I feel like I’m dancing in a painting as the sun comes glistening across the field and, for a moment, every leaf and blade of grass drips in glitter.

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I have thought many times over the last few weeks, that perhaps God knows me quite well and hand-picked this small corner of the earth for me. I feel as if this picture I’m dancing in were painted by him, etched out by his finger and left as a package waiting to be opened with each new day.

I grew up in the wide open prairies and often I have missed the grassy fields and endless spaces. Here, an open field sits directly across from us and I always think as I watch the light dancing through the tall grass that it looks very much like the home my heart knows. A row of maples stands at the back of the field and before their leaves gave way, they stood together in red and orange and gold. Now the leaves are gone but evergreens stand behind the bare maples and oaks and make the view out my window look always a little green—green—such an important thing to my soul.

So I see God in this place—in the grassy field, and colorful maples…in the evergreens and the fog rising from the wetlands like feathery magic lacing through the trees.

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It’s not so bad waking up and facing a new day, a new challenge, or even the same monotony if you can at least start that day with the fresh, brand new morning light.

God is light and I see his fingers painting light all around me, ever reminding me that he is there—he is here—with me always.

Look Up

We just celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary, Darren and I. We sat trying to decide how to celebrate. All either of us wanted was to get away for a few days—away from work, and house remodeling, and life’s routine. We talked about Quebec City or Acadia or Niagara Falls. And we talked about fresh air, and crisp river water, and camp fires beneath the stars. And that’s when we decided camping would be the very best celebration this year. So we packed, and goodness, I’m amazed how much stuff it takes for us Americans to sleep on the ground properly. This was Roman’s first time camping in a tent and it takes as much stuff for one baby as it does for 8 adults I think. You should have seen our car, loaded down with tent, and pack n play, and bike rack, and a million other things to help nature out with our high maintenance ways. And then we were off, up to Vermont, to the woods and river and biking trails—up away from work and routine and all that wears us down these days. The sky was playing games and just starting to spit rain when we arrived. We moved fast, taunting nature back, and got our tent up just before the heavy rain came. We stay huddled together in our tent that evening watching Roman run from one end of the small space to the other. We made sandwiches for dinner and went to bed as soon as it was dark, listening to the sound of the rain beating against our little shelter all night long like a song. setup DSC_0468 We woke to a cool, foggy morning. We and everything else felt damp but how good it was to wake up with the sun and our baby boy snuggled between us on the floor. A crackling campfire was built and soon red potatoes and kale were cooking for breakfast. DSC_0330 I like the pace of nature and our pace in nature when we work with instead of against the morning light, and dew, and cool air wrapping around us before the heat of the day comes and pushes us back inside. So we took our time that morning, tasting our breakfast not just eating it. We took sauntering walks and breezy bike rides and looked at each other, not past to the next item of business. DSC_0763bikecarrierDSC_0815 DSC_0817 We filled our hearts, and lungs, and minds with all the good thing of nature and quiet time together. We held hands and held our son and snuggled close together around campfires at night. DSC_0436 One night, our last night, I walked back to our tent alone in the dark. I thought about the sweet days we had enjoyed and was sad to see them ending. I tried to soak up everything around me one last time–the smell of the woods, sound of the river, feel of the night air wrapping around me—and the stars, I thought—don’t forget to look up at the stars one last time for they look nothing like this back home with all the other lights hiding them. So I looked up at the night sky and all the millions and billions of tiny light freckles poking through from heaven to earth. How enchanting the night sky is and how mysterious. When I got back to the tent, Darren traded watching Roman with me and started to walk the dark path himself. I told him, “Don’t forget to look up” —and off he went with eyes to the sky. I watched him walk away and heard those words echo back to me in my head— “Don’t forget to look up.” momandrome DSC_0417 Don’t forget to look up. I have thought about that phrase many times over the last two weeks since camping. I’ve thought about it when the waves of life have washed our feet out from under us and brought us humbly to our knees. I’ve thought about those words when I’ve grown overwhelmed or discouraged and can’t find my way. Don’t forget to look up—not just to the stars, but to the God who made the stars. Look up to the God whose light shines through to us, not just in a million freckled bits of light but in our hearts and lives every day. Look up to the God who is present and in control and loves us even when we think perhaps he has forgotten. Don’t forget to look up—first, always, to the God who is there in every bit of light in the world, for he and he alone is The Light of the world. Look up.

Patience.

I’ve watched the rain fall and freeze these last few days. The sky is moody, unable to decide if it’s winter or spring. Fluffy white clouds are pushed along by chubby clouds of slate brimming with rain one minute and sleet the next. The sun breaks through now and again, threatening rebel patches of snow and inviting the timid little birds to sing. The flowers are not so brave and have yet to poke their little heads up through the cold sod.

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This world ebbs and flows in the rhythm of seasons—the hot days of summer are caught on fire by the burning leaves of fall, fall gives way to winter as the last leaves drop and tuck away beneath a wintry blanket of snow. Winter holds on forever and every year I forget spring will ever come again.

And then, just when the last shred of hope is slipping through our cold fingers, the birds come home and the snow gives way to rain and we are reminded once more that nothing in this life truly last forever—however good, however bad—this life is made up of brief, ever-changing seasons of warmth and rain, of heartache and hope.

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Life in New England teaches me patience. Through the long winters and slow advance of spring, I learn to wait. Missouri was not this way. Missouri winters yield to spring in violent cracks of thunder and electric fingers of lightning stretching from heaven to earth. The warm and cold air spin and dance in confusion knowing one must win and the battle will be fought out in violent tornadoes that ravage and forsake every bit of ground they touch.

Missouri springs are not quiet, not safe, and certainly not slow. Spring in the prairies feels as though the very land you love is trying to hurl you off of it, trying to crush and destroy you or eat you up in its loud, rumbling belly of thunder. I’m not being dramatic; I thought more than once that I would die in a Missouri spring and never see another summer.

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Sometimes, in New England, I think I will die in the winter and never see another spring—or perhaps the whole earth has died and there are no more springs to be had—now I am being dramatic.

Through His Eyes

I sort of hate winter. Like, I fall apart and have a really bad attitude about it not unlike a toddler throwing a temper tantrum–it’s bad. So it makes sense that I would live in New England, hating winter and all. Fortunately this post isn’t actually a downer about things I hate, it’s a shameless excuse to share cute pictures of my baby. And to say that even though I still hate winter, this one has actually been kind of fun because I get to watch it through eyes that have never seen snow before. I mean look at his face…I really can’t hate something that leaves him filled with so much wonder.

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And then there’s this one which has nothing to do with winter, but isn’t he cute? I love him so much. That’s all. Carry on.

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The Golden Hour

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 There is a certain hour in the day when dead things come alive again—resurrected by the sun. Grays and browns are robed in light and the landscape drips in gold and glitter.

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The winter earth is not dead; it’s resting, waiting, anticipating when life and color will open before us again.

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Here’s to finding new life in a new year.

Not Alone

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10735788_10152432829691517_710490961_nTonight I sat outside in the dark looking at the stars. I felt small here on earth looking at all the light poking through from up there. Roman was with me and fussed if ever I took my hand off of him. So I rested it on his head or chest and he quieted back to sleep with his mittened fingers wrapped around mine in the cold. He just wants to know I’m there, still holding onto him in the dark. Maybe that’s why I look at the stars, even though they make me feel small—I just want to know God is watching over me in the dark.

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Psalm 19:1 {ESV}