For When We Suspect Nothing is Happening

Cool mountain air drifted in through our open window, carrying high-pitched beeps and deep rumblings that broke into my slumber. I lay in the dark of our tiny room at the back of the lodge and tried to place it. A tractor? A road grater? I recognized that sound. I knew what it wasn’t but not what it was. And then I remembered.

It was a snow groomer.

I recalled seeing one as twilight settled across the mountain the afternoon before, its headlights flickering between the distant trees as it lumbered across the slope like something straight out of a Star Wars movie. But snow groomers aren’t science fiction. They are tools. Machines meant to move and manipulate snow, they transform crusty, slick, worn sections of ski slopes into something smooth, navigable, and safe.

I’d forgotten about them, about how they spend the overnight hours when the skiers are sleeping and the slopes are quiet doing their restorative work: crushing and grinding away the scurf of the day—the icy slopes, the washboard wear—rearranging the snow to create the best possible surface by morning.

Corduroy

When the sun rose, the groomed surface, aptly named corduroy for its evenly grooved finish, glowed fresh and smooth, inciting us to hurry to get out the door and onto the slopes. By afternoon, however, every groove was worn away and the snow polished to a slick sheen, transforming what had previously been easy and enjoyable into exhausting, sometimes frightening labor.

We spent only one night in that tiny room on the back side of the building. The next morning, I woke early again, this time on the front side of the lodge, lay in the dark, and listened. But there was only silence where the previous morning’s beeps and rumbles had been.

With no fresh snow on the mountain,  the sound of the groomer instilled hope for the best possible conditions. Its absence boded the opposite.

It had been eighteen years since I’d skied this mountain or any other. Memory told me that grooming was an ongoing process. If it was needed, it happened. Maybe, I thought, the weather indicated that is would be a bad idea to groom. Or unnecessary. Maybe snow grooming practices had changed in the last eighteen years. Other things certainly had. Or maybe I just remembered wrong.

As I waited for the sun to rise, I didn’t just wonder about the silence. I worried. A groomed surface made—for me, anyway—the difference between a good day of skiing and a survivable one. I wanted emerge from the lodge in the morning and find smooth, navigable, safe snow where crusty, slick, worn slopes had been. I wanted to see the mountain transformed.

Eventually, the sun rose and rest of the family woke. We ate, donned our gear, and climbed the little hill to the path behind the lodge, where I saw a snow groomer trekking across the face of the mountain, returning from its pre-dawn work. The path and every slope I could see was covered in corduroy.

A freshly groomed path

I’d made the mistake of believing that just because I couldn’t hear the work being done it wasn’t happening.

I stood on the freshly worked, inviting snow and saw that I too often do the same thing with my life. When I’m waiting (and aren’t we almost always waiting for something?) I hold tight to an underlying suspicion that if I can’t  perceive progress there must not be any. And that just isn’t true, because walking by faith more often involves what we can’t see than what we can.

This is true: Sometimes, maybe even often, the transformative work on our hearts that make us navigable and useable and approachable often comes from the unmistakable, crushing weight of the heavy and the hard.

This is also true: Sometimes it happens silently, in the background, without us even noticing, until we look back and see it. The change is evident, but the work is a process played out in quiet moments of walking by faith, one sometimes-faltering step at time.

And this is true, as well: God doesn’t act in the nick of time. He acts in His time.

When we pay attention to the path that brought us from where we were to where we are, we find a series of small steps and long stops. We see progress in what felt like paralysis. And we discover purpose in a pace that was once unfathomable.

The work is being done—whether we perceive it or not.

And you, fellow traveler? Are you waiting and holding onto a suspicion that nothing is happening? What truth can you speak to yourself to encourage your own heart today?

Beginning Again

Oh, I have something special to share with you today: a guest post from one of my favorite writers on the internet: Tresta Payne. I was encouraged and challenged by what she’s offered here, and I hope you will be, as well.


All creation groans for a new beginning, and here we have January–the clean slate of new calendars and new planners and new expectations. The two-week period after Christmas, when we take down the tree, pack away the Christmas decor, give everything a good cleaning and prepare for a new year, is my favorite.

Often my own groanings are more about regrets and missed opportunities, though, rather than an earnest expectation of glory to come, and a new year can look like the false hope of The Year We Finally Do Things Right.

The trap is in thinking that new equals better, that starting over fresh will create an opportunity to live failure-free. When I wake in the night with the crushing burden of all my shortcomings–some of which are real and true and some of which are just the enemy’s rummaging through my garbage–the way out of the trap is not to develop a new plan or system or list, though I try.

The way out is only ever through Jesus.

If everything had gone perfectly this last year, my eyes would not be refocused on the Jesus Who takes me out of the wilderness where I wander. I would be tempted to think my plans had succeeded, my ideas were brilliant, my life was under my control.

This means that failure is actually a gift to me.

For every time I have asked the Lord to remind me of HIs presence in my life, failure has been readily available to do the work. I am only just beginning to see it that way, and certainly the Lord has given successes and blessings beyond measure; but when I wake in the night under the heavy oppression of failure, I can sometimes manage to turn that sword of accusation back on itself and proclaim the goodness of a God Who even gives a crown to losers.

When all else fails: God is my hope. When everything is a success: God is my hope.

What I always need this time of year is some truthful reflection. Some things worked for me, some things didn’t. In the end, did I learn some lessons and draw closer to Jesus, or did I strive and micro-manage a life that had no margin for error?

Big-picture living keeps me sane in the moments when life wants to boil me down to This Most Important Event or Thing or Success or Feeling. I can pull back from all that and rest, again, in the work that is already finished on my behalf. I can rest, even in my failed attempts to do better and be better and live better, knowing that Jesus is loving me just the same and giving me the strength to begin again.

I am more likely to make a “more/less” list than a particular set of goals for the new year. It will inevitably look something like this:

  • more printed pictures
  • more whole foods
  • more Sunday dinners with the grandparents
  • more nature in the house

 

  • less clutter in the living room
  • less sugar and bread
  • less spending
  • less mindless internet

I do have actual, real, tangible goals to accomplish this year, and I am making plans for them, but these general guidelines of more/less are simple enough to be reviewed monthly without making me feel overwhelmed. Because there are no specific quantifiers, I can adjust expectations according to the need of the moment, rather than trying to live by some lofty ideals I set in January when the whole year was nothing but blank pages and possibility. And when I’ve added the right things and subtracted the wrongs things, I have more space for those goals.

Beginning again is the story of my days: each January, the change of every season, the first of every month, every Sunday, every morning before the sun–and if I’m careful, even every first minute of the hour–I can recalibrate my heart and mind to the work that is already done and the gift I have to spend in this moment.

It is too easy to be tied down with the pursuit of more and better, even in our quest for godly living. But God has sent Jesus into the world that we might live through Him (1 John 4:9), not that we might strive endlessly to do more and be better for Him. All creation groans for the new world of kingdom-come when things will be set right, but we also have the kingdom-now, Christ in us, the hope of glory and new life. Every moment we surrender can be a relief of the burden of our failures.

This very moment is new and Christ gave His life so we could live it through Him. this is the best beginning ever, and it’s endless and always available.


Tresta is a lifelong-learner who lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and 4 kids, surrounded by mountains and rivers and the best little community one could ask for. She writes about balance, perspective, and simplicity at trestapayne.comInstagramTwitter and Facebook.

Sparkling in an Unfamiliar Life

My great-grandma was a woman of summer. She kept a garden. She grew the flowers and vegetables that graced her table. She picked the berries that topped our ice cream. Once in a while I helped her in the garden or the berry patch and it always shocked me when she showed up wearing slacks. The garden was the only place I ever saw her dressed that way and even there she wore a dress over them, with a long-sleeved shirt and a wide-brimmed hat. She was dressed to work.

Right there are four important lessons she taught with her life: Wear appropriate attire. Protect your skin. Shade your eyes. And, of course, keep a garden.

I should have paid more attention.

She was teaching all the time. She just wasn’t obvious about it. Maybe she wasn’t even aware.

Grandma knew how to respond to her circumstances. In the garden, she wore slacks. In the face of a deer standing in the yard looking like dinner, she became a hunter. After an unexpected move, she looked to Jesus.

She’d moved before, first with my great-grandpa from the river valley to a rural acreage and then alone to a tidy mobile home on her daughter’s farm. When her health failed she moved again, this time to a nursing home.

Her sorrow hung in the room as we stood with awkward smiles, trying to make conversation while she arranged her few belongings on top of a dresser. She’d been there just a day or two and it was through a set jaw that she mumbled something about trying to make the best of it. I knew she wanted to. She wanted to even in the midst of her mourning.

It wasn’t long before she noticed that there were other people there with her, people who might not know Jesus. That was all it took. She got up, left her room, and went out to where the people were.

Life in the nursing home gave Grandma something she’d never had, something none of us expected: freedom. She’d never driven. She relied on her husband, and later her daughter, to take her where she wanted to go. In the nursing home she needed neither car nor chauffeur. She had shoes and a Bible, and that’s all she needed to carry out her purpose in that place and season.

Her favorite hymn was “Trust and Obey” and that is how she learned to live an unfamiliar life. She trusted. She obeyed. And it was enough. She was free to be happy, not in her circumstances but in Jesus.

My husband and I have lived in four different cities, which is exactly three more than I imagined we would. Each move was unexpected. While some have been like coming home, others were a step into an unfamiliar life.

My grandma’s quiet lesson about how to live with trust and obedience is another one I should have paid attention to long ago. It’s one I need every day, especially as I step into the unfamiliar areas of my actual, everyday life.

Not long after her move, Grandma made a small change to her wardrobe: She began to wear bead necklaces. I noticed but never asked why. At the time it seemed simple. They were pretty and she liked pretty things. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to believe they were more than mere adornment. Each was a badge of contentment. When the direction of her life’s road led away from her garden and her home, she found freedom to thrive, not in her circumstances but in Jesus. And that, like the necklaces which graced her neck, made her sparkle.

How about you? What do you hold onto as you step into unfamiliar places in your life? Where do you find freedom to thrive? Do those things give you sparkle?


 

“Sparkling in an Unfamiliar Life” is an edited version of an earlier post.

Christmas In August

 

Yellowstone Christmas in AugustSteamy air radiated from the asphalt as we crossed the road in front of the diner. Dad and I had traveled to Yellowstone for a nature writing seminar and a quick stop at Mammoth Hot Springs for an ice cream cone marked the transition from our leisurely tour of the park and three days of learning at the Lamar Buffalo Ranch. Huckleberry ice cream cones in hand, we wandered over to the hotel to see if Randy Ingersoll  was playing that evening. Inside the lobby, cool air carried the sound of music and slowed the purple flow of ice cream down our sugar cones. I could see Randy, but he wasn’t playing one of his original, Yellowstone-inspired compositions. He was playing something different, something I knew but couldn’t quite place.

We wove through the people milling around the more heavily decorated than usual lobby and into the Map Room where Randy sat at the piano. I waved and at the end of his song he stood and gave me a hug. He was wearing a tie.

I’d never seen Randy in a tie.

It was a Christmas tie. The song I hadn’t been able to place? A Christmas carol. And the overly decorated lobby? Christmas greenery. In August.

It was August 25. Christmas in Yellowstone. I’d forgotten.

Once upon a time, Yellowstone had a summer snowfall. Actually, Yellowstone gets a lot of summer snowfalls. This snow, however, fell on August 25. People—park concessionaire employees, probably—got a little festive. They celebrated and they decorated. Now, every year, Yellowstone’s establishments celebrate Christmas. It’s not about commerce. It’s about tradition.

According to park lore, for a lot of years, park concessionaire employees forded the Firehole River, hauled themselves up onto a boulder to decorate a tree which had managed to carve out space for its roots and its existence on top. The decorating was reportedly then undone by rangers who subsequently crossed the river and climbed the boulder themselves. It makes sense. There’s nothing natural about a Christmas tree in the middle of a river.

Christmas in Yellowstone. I’d forgotten. Actually, some days–the balmy ones and the cloudy ones, the snowy ones and, maybe especially, the scorching ones–I forget about Christmas.

That makes me sad, because Christmas forms the bedrock of my actual, everyday life. It’s as much the foundation in the middle of summer’s hottest months as it is  in December. Christmas is a celebration of a birth and a life, of a death and subsequent resurrection, of rebirth and new life. Christmas is not a one day deal.

It’s a celebration of a baby, God’s son, who came to earth to grow up, as baby boys do, into a man. He lived a fully human yet sinless life. He bore sin on his shoulders and suffered separation from His father. He died an unjust but necessary, sacrificial death to pay the debt for our sin so that we could—once again—be in relationship with God. And after three days, God raised him from the dead.

That’s something that matters every day. I live with the mercy and grace  of Christmas every day, but sometimes I forget to remember Christmas. And Christmas is worth remembering all year long.

If you’d like encouragement to remember Christmas in the coming months, I have something for you: I’ve recorded three short Christmas audios that can be delivered right to your inbox on the first of October, November, and December. If you’d like to receive these, just email me at natalie at alongthisroad dot com (or click the email icon at the top of this page) to let me know.  I’ll get you all set up.

Linking at Lyli’s place today.

Seeing Blue Beyond the Grey {and Welcome!}

Because it intersects with two subjects which fascinate and teach me,  the rhythms of the seasons and Yellowstone, I bought a book, For Everything There is a Season: The Sequence of Events in the Grand Teton-Yellowstone Area. Through it, I see the general happening of Yellowstone’s year from afar. Week by week, it lays out which birds generally return when, the expected arrival of the young of the year, when a particular wildflower will bloom.

Week by week.

Except for December. Not too much happens in December. Twenty-seven of its days get one chapter, six pages, to themselves.

And the stretch  we’re in? January 1 – February 26 warrants only one page, a paragraph. One. Ninety-two words describe the happenings of eight long, cold weeks.

 One of the first bird species to re-establish and passively defend a nesting territory will be the ravens. Paired ravens may be seen sitting side by side on days when the weather is fair and their appetites satisfied, a situation that occurs more frequently as spring evolves. With spring in the air and time to spare, the ravens play, a luxury most species do not have. Red crossbills may initiate nesting during any month of the year. Boreal and great horned owls may be heard calling, this being their courtship period. ~ Frank C. Craighead, Jr.

Apparently Yellowstone doesn’t see much change in the during deep winter. It’s loveliness walks alongside a sometimes cruel companion of cold, windy days under a stark, steel sky.  It’s a quiet time, stagnant even.

It looks like not much is happening. And not much is. There. In the park or on the surface.

But away from the park migratory birds are living a temperate life. The elk have wandered south to a reserve. The bears have denned, sleeping their way through winter and giving birth to tiny offspring who will do nothing but eat and grow through their mother’s slumber.

We can’t always see what’s happening but deep winter reminds us to hope.

The raven operates by instinct. It knows that even though it’s winter on the ground, spring is in the air. In the space opened up by the absence of activity, the raven, mascot of hope, is satisfied to enjoy the little luxury afforded by the sameness of the season. It doesn’t just endure its environment. It more than survives its season. It plays.

Sun sightings and blue skies have been rare this winter, each one a relief and a reminder. No matter the color of tomorrow’s sky, the seeds of spring will sprout from today’s frozen ground and these words from Isaiah are true: Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

He’s always doing a new thing. Even when the grey keeps us from seeing it. Maybe especially when the grey keeps us from seeing it.

And like the blue sky is a gift, so is the journey to learn to embrace the truth that what believing what we can’t see is as important as seeing what we can with proper perspective.

And you? Are you in a crowded season or one with a little open space? What helps you to see blue beyond the grey?

Sharing stories with other writers at Jennifer Dukes Lee’s #TellHisStory linkup.


Welcome to Along This Road’s New Home.

Do you remember when I mentioned that because I want someday to publish a book, I needed to make some changes to help myself and my cause? Here they are.

The biggest is the domain name.  Since I’ve never even given my last name on my blog, this feels kind of weird. But, it’s how it is and after too many years of ignoring how it is, I’ve complied and now it’s out there for everyone on the internets to see. Less obvious is that, because I want to publish a book, I need a way to get in touch with people–outside of my blog –interested in either in  me or in reading my work. (The FCC has rules about how one goes about these things and I am all about following the rules.)

The best way you as a reader can support me as a writer would be to subscribe to an as-yet-unnamed quarterly(ish) newsletter. If you’ve read here for long, you’ve probably noticed I have a thing about seasons. Quarterly fits me best, even though the blog-world experts say that you’ll forget all about me if I don’t contact you every week. I think you possess better memories than that.

If you’d like, you can subscribe in the sidebar, where it says Subscribe to Quarterly(ish) Newsletter. Thanks! (Also, if you’d rather not receive notifications of blog posts any more, you can click the envelope icon at the top and send me an email. I know the weight of an overflowing inbox. I’ll take care of it.)

Thanks for reading, for your encouraging words and kind comments, for sticking with me during these years after I stumbled into blogging, and as I figure out the next steps.

 


 

All Because of a Little Fire

After the Burn by Courtney Celley/USFWS                                                                                                                                                               Source

The springtime landscape in rural Iowa wears a mosaic of ever-deepening swaths of green broken by plots of freshly turned fields and charred black ditches. Growing up, I saw the burns and wondered why people, including my farmer-grandparents, endured the stress of trying to contain a fire they’d set themselves.

They serve all manner of useful purposes, these controlled, or prescribed, burns. They break down dead plant material and return nutrients to the soil. They help with reseeding. They even control ticks.

My dad explained it to me when I was young, but it wasn’t until my family and I took up residence in the country that I began to understand. A long strip of grass lines our driveway. It bears the marks of once being a flower garden–a rosebush lost in the jungle of tall grass, a peony, clumps of black-eyed Susans, and a sea of towering, sunset hued lilies.

After we moved here nine Februarys ago, the melting snow revealed a tangled mass of the previous year’s grass. So we burned. We burned that year and the year after and the year after that, and while it wasn’t beautiful, it was uniform and green and sprinkled with blossoms.

And then we got bees.

They live just beyond the strip of dilapidated garden. When their first spring rolled around so did the mat of long dead grass, but we didn’t feel comfortable burning. For three years, a little fresh greenery but few flowers emerged through the snarl of brown grass. It was ugly and depressing.

So last spring we burned.

Bees orient themselves to the sun, leaving the hive only after sunrise and returning by sunset, so we waited for the sun to disappear, soaked the hive, and struck a match. The grass, cured by days of withering sun and drying wind, carried the fire from one end of the garden to the other while my son hovered over it with a hose.

We discovered, as the flames opened up space where the dead grass had been, interesting bits in the ashes: singed but living lilies, the charred remains of a  poison ivy vine, a couple of pop cans left behind during some day of outdoor work.  Our cats, always after a meal, crouched as closely as they could to the flames, watchful and ready to pounce on any unfortunate–and to my way of thinking, unwelcome–field mice displaced by the heat.

The fire consumed the remains of the grass, the trash, and the vine. It exposed the pop cans and the mice. What it didn’t do was destroy the lilies. And of everything we saw when the flames cleared, only they belonged in the garden.

The fire burned right over them.

It’s the same with us. Fire consumes and exposes the decaying remains, the trash, the weeds, the litter, and the vermin that clutter our hearts and our souls and our minds and sap our strength. It eradicates the things we don’t want and makes space for the things we do.

Not that that kind of heat is easy. The fire burned hot enough to keep us at a distance. Only after it passed by could we get close enough to examine what it left behind.

Spikes of green poked through the charred soil within days, the first hints of what became uniform waves of grass with a few black-eyed Susans around the edges. The lilies, singed but unharmed, stretched toward the sun and presided over the driveway. All because of a little fire.

campfire

And you? Might the heat you’re experiencing be opening up space for something important by burning away the things that don’t belong?

 

 

Sharing this week with the writers at Small Wonders, Thought Provoking Thursday, and  Weekend Whispers.

 

 

 

 

 

Where She Belonged

Path through the trees

I woke, just after midnight, to contractions. Forcing myself to remain motionless under the covers, I tried to convince myself that it was nothing more than a long series of Braxton-Hicks and go back to sleep. But the contractions were strong and regular, each one arriving with just a little less time between it and the one before, and the baby wasn’t due for another six weeks.

When our previous baby made her entrance into the world, she’d been in a rush. Not the early arrival kind of hurry—she’d been overdue. No, she’d arrived just moments after my husband and I walked through the door to the OB unit in a hospital a mere three blocks from our home.

With that in mind, I imposed a deadline of October 31 to complete my out-of-town Christmas shopping. I had no desire to be on the road when I went into labor. I wanted to be where I belonged, close to home,  near my own doctor and the hospital where he practiced.

On the day of my final shopping trip, I drove to the mall with my four-year-old daughter, whose short strides matched my waddling steps. We walked the full length of both floors of the mall. We stopped at Target and Lowes and strip mall stores I can’t even remember. We put in a long and slow-moving day, but when it was over, we’d finished the shopping. But then I found myself, just an hour after laying my weary head on the pillow, awake, uncertain, and lamenting the fact that I had overdone it.

A few hours in a softly lit room hooked up to a monitor  gave me time to consider the uncertainties of life in light of the first Christmas.

Did Mary hope, I wondered, she and Joseph would make it to Bethlehem and back before the birth of the baby? Or did she know that the baby would arrive on the journey? Like me, she probably wanted to be at home, where she belonged, with the village midwife and familiar women to help her. But unlike me, she didn’t have the luxury of deciding when she would and would not leave town. Mary left for Bethlehem regardless of her own desires, comfort, or plans. She went because Caesar decreed it.

At least, that’s what it looked like.

Mary, along with her countrymen, were part of Caesar’s Rome, a government which controlled their lives and their finances, one which they looked to the promised Messiah to save them from. They had no choice but to go wherever and whenever the expansive Roman Empire ordered. Even women who were great with child.

But Rome wasn’t the ultimate authority.

Mary made the uncomfortable journey to Bethlehem–the city of her husband’s ancestors–in the final days of her pregnancy, not by choice, not by coincidence, not even because of Caesar’s edict. She went because that’s where she belonged, because that’s how God said the Savior’s arrival would unfold.

DSC_0954

The contractions faded away to nothing but doctor’s orders for bedrest and the baby held off until days before Christmas, just like she was supposed to. I was glad she waited, grateful for the memory of those unexpected hours in the hospital, a memory which surfaces once in a while to remind me of the truth of the first Christmas–that God wasn’t bound by Bethlehem’s city limits to choose the mother of Jesus, that he could turn even the heart of the mighty Caesar, that even through all the years of his people waiting and all the miles of Mary’s uncomfortable, uncertain journey he had a plan and the power to bring it about.

He knew where Mary belonged and how to get her there. He knows where we belong, how to get us from where we are to where we need to be. We wait. We wonder. Sometimes uncomfortable. Often uncertain.

He, however, is not uncertain. He is unbound by all the things that bind us, able to turn hearts, able to bring about his plan–both for forever and for tomorrow– for you, for me, for a broken and hurting world. That is a Christmas reality to celebrate.

Merry Christmas to us.

The King’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord;
He turns it wherever He wishes. Proverbs 21:1

Sharing Where She Belonged at Small Wonders, #TellHisStory and Thoughtful Thursday.

It Changes Everything

 

20150716_210530The pontoon pulled away from the dock and turned toward the open water where we drifted past brown and pastel cabins tucked into the trees along the shore. Under the influence of the overcast day, that was all there was to see. The sky, typically the star of our evening cruise, offered nothing but dismal grey gruel. Gloomy clouds stacked up overhead, familiar companions for some part of every day of that week.

We were grateful the weather allowed us to be out at all. Between downpours and thunderstorms, electricity-eradicating straight line winds and near-misses with tornadoes, it had been a weird weather week.

Out on the lake,  with its ducks and herons and loons, its reed beds and lily pads, we floated along, satisfied with the knowledge that there were fish below the surface–fish that some of our party hoped to catch the next morning. When my young nephew took the helm, he brought us alongside an island with a fawn on the shore. We watched until it turned and bounded a few feet inland. There, hidden behind a bush, stood its mother. We’d been so busy watching the fawn that we hadn’t noticed her.

Content with our nature sighting on this grey evening and aware that to make it home before that awful hour when the mosquitoes came out en force, my nephew accelerated and turned us toward home.

That’s when we noticed the sky.

Blues and pinks haloed a molten glow, spreading from one side of the sky to the other. Behind us and to both sides the day remained as dingy as when we’d set off, but before us it was vivid and lovely and full of life.

Perspective, I remembered again, changes everything. The fruit of the setting sun had been there and we hadn’t even noticed it. It was behind us as we lamented the grey we cruised into. It was above us as we observed the fawn and the doe.

We didn’t see it because we didn’t look.

Sometimes I don’t see things because I don’t pay attention. Sometimes it’s because I’m looking the wrong direction. Sometimes it’s because they’re still out of my range of vision. What I fail to remember that just because I can’t see it doesn’t mean that it isn’t there.

When I forget this, I lament life’s difficulties the way I despaired the sky.

Sometimes, though, when things aren’t going the way I wish they would, I remember. I remember that there is a time for everything, that almost everything changes, and that the changes begin long before I ever see them.

Because He’s always at work. 

When the woods are thick and the way is uncertain, He’s at work. When life is dry and the soul is parched, He’s at work. He’s always at work.

The way will clear and the river will flow. Sometimes I remember this first, and I am grateful.

Sharing It Changes Everything at  Thought Provoking Thursday and Small Wonders.

Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
Isaiah 43:19

The Bird and the Wire

Bird in flightSummer mornings, I walk the gravel line between the drone of highway traffic and the twitter of birds in the pasture. A road that knows few cars and fewer houses, its ditches prosper rabbits and bees and the birds which lay down my morning soundtrack. I rarely notice the animals when I walk. Because I’m prone to tumble, I tend to keep my eyes fixed on at the ever-changing place where my feet meet the road. It’s hard to watch with my eyes glued to the ground.

Even so, one morning I noticed a movement in the ditch. A bird flew straight up the front of the fence barrier that separates our rural road from the local four-lane. She fluttered up, past row after row of squares, squares not wide enough for her wingspan. After passing the top one, she squeezed underneath the sagging barbed wire strung across the top and continued her ascent on the other side.

She could have avoided that precarious squeeze. There was plenty of space on the country side for her to rise into the air, space which looked safer, smarter, and better. In just a few inches she could have crossed over without wedging herself between the wires, if only she had looked up instead of straight ahead.

Because I tend to anthropomorphize the natural world, projecting onto it qualities which belong to humans, I wondered what she was thinking.  Why would she make that squeeze when she would have been free to fly wherever she wanted had she waited just a second longer? Why would she take what looked like a dangerous way when safety waited just inches above? Was she trying to challenge herself?

A bird’s life doesn’t require additional challenge. It revolves around survival. Find food. Avoid danger. Evade predators.

It looked to me that maybe she flew just the way I walked, eyes fixed just ahead, just far enough to see the next thing, oblivious to all the rest.

Like the bird, I’ve sometimes got my eye open for the first out. In marriage, in motherhood, and even in own my mind, I’m tempted to look for the easiest way through even though I know that in everything that matters there is no easy way and the first out is almost always a bad idea.

The bird made it through the barbs and on to freedom. She avoided the hazardous wires. She survived.

That was enough for her.

But you and I were intended for more than a song bird’s life, crafted for more than mere survival. We were made to sing, but when our vision is focused on finding the first out, the song can get lost–if ever it is sung at all.

A bird’s song is its song. It can’t sing a new tune. A cardinal sounds like a cardinal, a chickadee like a chickadee.

We, however, can sing most any tune we want. Often the most beautiful melodies are hard-won, springing from waiting places, dark places, places of weariness and discouragement that try the soul, the ones where the temptation to take the first out is strong.

But we weren’t made for escape. We were made for something more, to be drawn out by the God who loves us and to sing his song. And sometimes, it’s in those hard places that we discover the melody.

Bird New song

Grown up life brings with it more hard places than easy ones. What is the nature of your place today? What is your song?

Linking this week with the writers at Thought Provoking Thursday and Small Wonders.