Bridges Between

IMG_0828One fall, when I attended the University of Iowa, I went a few weeks between visits home. When my parents drove me to school, the fields were full  and green. When they brought me home, the fields stood empty. Even the combines and trucks had gone home.

Growing up in rural Iowa, I’d never experienced fall without seeing harvest, that gradual dismantling of the familiar, fertile landscape one field at a time. It was unsettling. I’d seen empty fields before, with the stubbly shave they wore between fall and spring each year. The problem wasn’t how they looked. It was that, while I was insulated in the city, fall had stolen in without me noticing. I’d missed it, and now I felt out of sync, like something was wrong in the world.

Twenty-five years later I can look back and recognize harvest for what it was, a long event that was part of my transition from one season to another, one that carried me from the verdant warmth of the growing season to the stark beauty of winter. According to merriam-webster.com, one definition of bridge is “a structure carrying a pathway or roadway over a depression or obstacle.” Another is “a time, place, or means of connection or transition.”

Harvest. It’s more than the gathering in of carefully cultivated bounty. It’s a bridge, a steady, unfolding process that I fail to notice until I miss it, one that spans the chasm between heat of summer and the chill of winter.

The measured pace of the seasons is a hidden bridge which carries me gently from where I am to where I need to be. It extends some space to prepare, not just to enter the coming season but to let go of the best parts of the one  fading away.

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Life offers other hidden bridges, simple, vital, nearly unnoticed parts of our days.  These are structures that carry our path, that support us along our road, that make the impassable way possible, that provide connection and transition. Stopping to look closely enough to actually see  helps me to understand these three for what they are. Gifts. Helpers. Graces.

Fatigue: That I want to do just one more thing before bed prevents me from either getting up when I should or being at my best for the people around me. That I get tired insures that I lay down for the rest I need. Fatigue furnishes a daily opportunity for fresh starts and new mercies.

Hunger: Because my body needs fuel, I get to pause, body and soul, not for only bread but also for breath. Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner.  Hunger bestows three chances to pause between where I’ve been and where I’m headed next. Three opportunities  to gain perspective before launching into the next item on the list. Three occasions for thanksgiving.

Slow Fades: Under the influence of the hardest part of any season, I think that when I’m done with the season, I am done with the season. As in, I think I could switch from one hundred degree days to fifty degree days. I can’t. It takes time to shift between the long, hot days and the short, cool ones. My body isn’t ready and neither is my mind. The seasons’ slow fade offers transition time, a space not just for hello, but for goodbye.

BridgeAnd you? Are there hidden bridges carrying your path along right now, supporting you, making a way for connection or transition?

 

Linking at Kelly’s Small Wonder
and Lyli’s Thought Provoking Thursday.

Roads in Transition, Part 2

haveyoubeenaskingOn December 12 the National Park Service posted a news release to inform the public that Yellowstone’s interior roads would open on December 15, just as predicted.

Yellowstone’s fall and winter travelers knew when the road crews would start to let the snow build, when they’d get dangerous, and when they’d be safe for snow machines.

They knew.

Sometimes I wish I knew. You know, about changes, about transitions. About the things I’m waiting for and the ones I’m dreading. I imagine that a little more information would help me hang on. Often, a more accurate assessment would be that I desperately crave more information because, well, because I want to know. Just a little more.

Just a little more information. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Maybe.

But maybe I know enough. Maybe we know enough.

We know that our little ones grow older before our eyes. We can’t miss our body’s intermittent reminders that we’re doing the same thing. We see our children go through rough patches just as we did, and we know that, like our parents before us, we’ll tread some deep water.

Advanced notice doesn’t seem to help. Knowing there’s a baby on the way or the nest is about to empty doesn’t make it easy.

We live lives of constant fluctuation. Change lurks somewhere around the bend. Either the road will begin to clear or begin to get rough, at least until the next transition brings more change.

We also know that there is only One who never changes.

Every January these words from Oswald Chambers turn me from what I want to know to what I need to know: Have you been asking God what He is going to do? He will never tell you. God does not tell you what He is going to do— He reveals to you who He is. 

And that’s enough. All the rest? That’s too much to handle.

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Read part 1 of Roads In Transition here.

Sharing Roads In Transition, Part 2 at  Unforced Rhythms and Thought Provoking Thursday

Roads in Transition

IMG_1511The sun dawned in the steely sky and peeked through trees veiled by the falling snow. It had begun the night before and lingered, fine and heavy, through the day. “It’s slick,” my son told me when he returned from his mid-day Calc class. I must have looked concerned, because he amended his statement. “The roads were fine. It’s the parking lot that was bad.”

Of course the roads were in better shape than the parking lot—the DOT turns the crews loose before the first flake hits the ground. They work to keep the roads neat and tidy, safe surfaces for us to navigate between where we are and where we need to be. Their trucks and plows spread through the area with sand, salt, and blades.

The forecast called for snow in Yellowstone that same day, but there no one bothered much about the roads.

It wasn’t because of a strike. It wasn’t because of a government shutdown. It was because–with the exception of the fifty-two mile stretch of road between the North Entrance at Gardiner, Montana and the Northeast Entrance at Cooke City–Yellowstone’s roads are accessible only by snow machine during the winter.

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In spring and summer and the early months of fall, Yellowstone’s roads are just roads. They have their seasonal dangers—potholes the size of small cars, thermal mist which ices the surface on cold nights, wildlife lallygagging just around the bend—but they are roads, meant for us to drive. We belong there.

During the winter they consist of snow, groomed smooth enough by the same machines that tend to downhill ski slopes, their edges marked by tall orange stakes rather than the familiar white line. We can belong there, too, on snowmobiles or in Suburbans retrofitted with treads.

But for a few weeks in between they are roads in transition.

They’re messy. They’re dangerous. And they’re fit for neither tires nor treads.

Some of the people who live and work in Yellowstone’s interior drive them anyway—to the grocery store, to visit a friend, to their winter’s work assignment. Park employees tell tales of white-knuckled travels over slippery, snowy roads. It’s what their life requires while they wait for the snow to build up so that groomers can carve out a smooth surface for them to get from where they are to where they need to be.

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Some of ours are roads in transition.

Stretches are messy. Sections are dangerous. And sometimes our vehicle feels like no match for the way ahead.

Our kids get older and what once worked suddenly is a cumbersome, clunky way that doesn’t get the job done. Our marriages reshape themselves just as we do, and so do our friendships. Our jobs change, and sometimes even the place where our key fits the lock.

In the midst of it all, we keep going. We make our way over roads that are messy and dangerous, in vehicles that feel like no match for the terrain. We wait for the day when it will smooth into a neat and tidy surface, one that feels safe to navigate–even if only for a little while. It’s the process life requires and the way it gives for us to get from where we are to where we need to be.

And while we wait, beautiful encouragement from a Psalm of David: For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.

No matter the condition of the road.

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Sharing stories at Thought Provoking Thursday and Unforced Rhythms.

 

 

 

The Road Ahead: Giving Thanks

Happy November!
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November’s road leads to Thanksgiving’s table, a bounty of traditional foods and sometimes–when we remember to fit it in–a moment of reflection on all that we have to be grateful for. As we walk our road this month, may each step we take bring us closer to thanksgiving as a way of life, a moment by moment habit of the heart rather than a yearly ritual, over as quickly as the big game. And, in our thanksgiving, may we find joy.

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

 

The Road Ahead: October

DSC00827My oldest childrenwere six and three when Jonah—A Veggie Tales Movie came out. When we went to see it, they hopped down the street toward the theater with glee. All their favorites were on the big screen: Bob the Tomato, Larry the Cucumber, Junior Asparagus, and Archibald the, well, we never did decide what Archibald was, but he played Jonah.

The movie featured a new character, a decidedly non-vegetable named Khalil, a little guy who struggled to find his own road and turned to motivational tapes to help him find it–tapes which featured a soothing voice that told him useful bits of insight such as, “You are a skilled metal worker.”

“I am a skilled metal worker?” said an amazed Khalil. “I did not know that!”

The Veggie Tales creators know their audience. The kids loved it. They thought it was hilarious. They repeated it for months.

One morning after going through a Khalil-and-the-motivational-tape routine, my son stopped suddenly and said, “It’s funny that Khalil has to listen to those ear muffs to know who he is.”

Even as I exchanged one of those he’s-so-funny looks with my husband and laughed with our kids, I knew my son had given me something to think about: How do I know who I am?

It’s a question I have to revisit occasionally, often because I’ve fallen apart a little—evidence that I’m listening to the generic and useless and dated information.

As we step out on our road this month, may each of us know who we are based on today’s truth rather than yesterday’s worn out distortion. May we disregard the voices that know just enough to be dangerous and heed the One Voice that knows us. And through the trials that come our way, may we seek to know Him.

Sharing stories with the writers at Unforced Rhythms.

 

The Road Ahead: September

 

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One Sunday I walked out of church into the late morning sun and noticed a friend’s sweet daughter prancing around near the street. She skipped right over to me when I called to her.  I got down on one knee so that we could see each other’s faces and we talked about the dangers of the street. At the end of our conversation, she looked at me with big eyes and said, “I like your mouth.”

Um, what were we talking about again? Neither of us knew.

Distraction is sneaky that way.

As we enter this season of school and sports and everything else, may we each live free from distraction, free to keep our eyes on the most important things, and free to take our road with purpose and determination in the knowledge of who made us and why we are here.

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Linking this week at Unforced Rhythms and Coffee for Your Heart.