Why Summer Matters

A tiny ball of feline fluff has taken up residence in our garage. She moved in at the invitation of our youngest, herself a petite bundle of boundless energy. Our girlie made the little grey cat a bed, set up a feeding station, and installed a litter box, and then she set up a pup tent for herself. For two weeks she slept in a sleeping bag on a concrete floor because right now her energy is focused on waiting for the arrival of the summer’s kittens.

Kittens don’t always arrive in the long glory days of summer. Sometimes they’re born in September and in September there would be no sleeping on the concrete floor. In July, though, she can afford a few fitful nights. She can sleep late because summer, with its long, school-free days offers up time to her–and to us–as a gift.haybales

September’s song tells us that there’s too much going on, too much need to wake early, ready for school, for dance, for whatever the calendar says is next. Summer sings a different melody, one of space, of simple pleasures, of growth. While it’s a different song, it isn’t always easy.

It takes an effort to, as Emily Freeman says, take the changes of the seasons and apply them to our lives.

Sometimes it seems easier declare an immediate “no” to tents in the garage and  “later” to twilight walks with the family and impromptu conversations on our rock wall with my husband. Sometimes it seems more important to keep on doing All The Usual Things and just try to balance all the summer extras on top. And sometimes, when the end comes–whether it’s the end of summer or a little one’s childhood, I wonder why I feel as though I missed it. Or lost it. Or wasted it.

Summer’s not gone. It’s still offering up long days, warm nights, time in a different form. We can still take the changes of summer and apply them to life, to today and tomorrow.

Why does summer matter to you?

For everything there is a season

Sharing Why Summer Matters at Small Wonders and Thought Provoking Thursday.

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.

Celebrating Spring

Mossy Tree at LeHardy Rapids

Spring is well under way and I’m celebrating. Some of these celebrations are borne from intention while others occur as naturally as breath. They are, in random order:

Color

Green grass and leaves, flowering trees and shrubs are here. They’ve created a feast for my earth-tone weary eyes and I am grateful.

Time

After a long too-busy season, life for our family slowed enough for us to take a deep breath. That same season, known at our house as robotics, may come again. We’re trying to decide whether or not to say “yes” to that and, if so, how we’ll approach it so that we’ll live closer to thrive than survive.

Celebrations

Yes, we’re trying to celebrate celebrating at our house–more joy in simple pleasures. I’m trying to reestablish the habit of using the good stuff because it’s not that much extra effort and they, my family and the others who come to our house, are worth it.

One easy celebration: Saturday morning brunch. Gingerbread for my son. Paper straws, cloth napkins, and proper tea cups for my daughters.

Graduation

I’m not celebrating the fact that my oldest is leaving us; I’ve ticked off (read mourned) lots of lasts since he was tiny. Right now I am celebrating that fact that he’s healthy and strong and ready to move on to the next phase of his life.

Natural Music

I heard my first bird of the season as I walked toward church one Sunday morning and the song lifted a ten pound burden from my soul. Weeks later, the frogs joined in. The warmer the day, the louder they chirp. Natural music gives me hope.

The Table

It’s the season for meats and veggies grilled on the deck. Indoors, this recipe for Carne Asada Nachos in the crock pot has become a versatile staple for our springtime table. Beyond nachos it’s perfect for burrito bowls or wrapped up in a tortilla. A fun morning celebration: a Marmalade Roll, straight from Narnia, or at least from The Unofficial Narnia Cookbook.

And you? What are you celebrating this spring?For everything there is a season

What If?

My husband was away recently for a few days of out-of-town work and instead of going to sleep at reasonable hour, I stayed up and binge read the blog of a writer I’d heard interviewed earlier that day. I read her entire blog–all five years of it–over the course of two late nights. (Because what sane woman would need a good night’s rest when everyone in the family is just a wee bit off because a Key Member of the Household is gone?)

On the bleary-eyed morning after the first night, I staggered down the hall, through the dark living room, and before my foot hit the kitchen’s wood floor, my apparently alert brain asked me a question: What if {a situation I’d been discouraged about} isn’t actually {the name I’d given it}? 

What if?

Back in college, my Children’s Lit and Creative Writing instructors said that the What if question is the basis for a compelling story. What if water from a spring hidden deep in the woods made people live forever? (Tuck Everlasting) What if an American man from the 1800s found himself in Arthur’s Camelot? (Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court) What if a mysterious wardrobe that transported children to a magical world in which an epic battle between good and evil took place among mythical creatures? (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe)

Compelling stories have all the usual elements of fiction: characters, setting, theme, conflict, and plot. Our stories, the ones we live out every day, are no different. Every element is there and together they give shape to our story.

Our lives have characters (family, friends, neighbors, enemies), a setting (the unique circumstances and situations in the places where our lives are lives out), conflicts, overarching themes, and plot (what the story is really all about and who the enemy really is). Our understanding of every one of those elements is affected by that simple question: What if?

What if I took a risk?
What if I waited?
What if I stayed calm?
What if I just took a walk? or a nap? or a bath?
What if I wasn’t distracted?
What if I listened?
What if I loved?
What if I believed, hoped, and endured all things?
What if I believed, period?
What if I didn’t worry?

Who of us doesn’t want to live a good story, one that matters?

To ask the What if question isn’t all that difficult. To answer it, though, can be the starting point of a transformational journey, one that begins at the fork in the road between The Way I am (or even The Way I See It) and The Way It Could Be.

The way I am is familiar and comfortable. The Way It Could Be requires a step onto a foreign and strenuous path covered with trip-hazards and obstacles, a trail that will surely leave us bruised and maybe even a little bit broken. It is, however, the starting point of the most compelling stories.

So let’s ask. What if?

Sharing stories today with the writers at Small Wonders.

 

 

 

 

One Step Toward Perspective

 

It’s early April, and here in the midwest, already spring’s verdant march across the lawn toward the front door is more than a hint or a dream. The bright landscape leaves no question that winter, though it could at any moment clench its frosty fist, has lost its grip. A new season is under way.

Here at Along This Road and in my life, it’s a time of quiet, a silence I’m breaking for a moment to ask about your season. I ask because I believe there is a time and a season for all things and, for me, remembering is one step toward perspective.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

What is it time for in your life?

For everything there is a season

The Wonder of Winter

Chico Candle There is a time for everything.

I know this. I believe it. The thing is, when a sliver of life overwhelms me, I forget it.

I tend to operate on the assumption that whatever is going on in my life–good or bad, joy or sorrow–will last forever. The seasons, especially as they change, remind me that this is not true. Seasons give me hope. They prompt me to take stock and be grateful. These are the silver linings, the small wonders, the little comforts that have contributed to my sanity in this season of cold, of short days and long nights.

  1. Snow. Just snow. It makes it so much easier to endure the cold.
  2. Darkness. A blanket of comfort.
  3. The fox who regularly treks across our frozen pond, occasionally diving below the snow.
  4. Wood burning in our stove. (And the men who provide it.)
  5. Indoor hot dog and marshmallow roasts. Just for fun.
  6. Sunshine. Especially after long strings of grey and gloomy days.
  7. Snow days. Every single one of them. They were gifts of unexpected time, even–or maybe especially–the ones that pried my grasping fingers off of the Very Important Things that the snow interrupted.
  8. Bananagrams. We play after lunch, after dinner, or when it just seems like a good idea to circle the wagons for a few minutes of lighthearted together time.
  9. Homemade marshmallows. This recipe is simple and delicious. Also, molten when roasted: consume with care.
  10. Crockpot Chicken Wild Rice Soup. So much more manageable to make a quick roux at dinner-time than to begin anything at that weary time of day.
  11. Birdsong. I heard it on Sunday morning, an unmistakable reminder that spring will come.

What comforts or wonders or silver linings has winter brought your way?

For everything there is a season

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