A walk to our marsh isn’t anything new for me, nor is the view. Yet I wander down there regularly. You’ve accompanied me on a few occasions (here and here), following the trail and sitting on the bench beside me. The same path takes me past the same trees, footsteps cushioned with decades of fir needles and crushed cones. Ferns and mosses, leathery salal and the occasional huckleberry shrub return every spring under the same dense evergreen canopy.
Marshes don’t change much. There are always grasses emerging from their watery roots, ducks and geese diving for fresh shoots, swallows swooping after mosquitoes and herons stalking lunchtime morsels. I have photos taken fifteen years ago that I can’t tell from others taken last week except for the seasonal colour variations.
But each time I go, it feels different, perhaps because I’m looking with a different focus. This week it’s on the Canada Goose who, after a three-year hiatus, has returned to occupy her old nest on top of the beaver lodge.
She wasn’t there in the early afternoon yesterday when I went to check up on her, and I feared she might have abandoned it again. But no, soon she and the gander swam back from the deeper end of the marsh and she clambered up to settle in.
There are two pair of geese populating our marsh and they each respect their separate territories, although I occasionally hear a commotion if one meanders too close to the other’s domain. I assume it’s the same two pair every year, since geese mate for life and are relatively long-lived.
Do you suppose they have any thoughts about the recurring, never changing cycle of their lives? Do they ever experience the hamster-on-a-wheel sensation, as people do – the here-we-go-again, tied-to-the-old-survival-routine kind of monotony? Or are they even conscious of the renewal of a season? Geese are very family oriented. They show affection for each other, welcome each other after an absence. They defend their mates and their young. I wonder if they have any other emotions in common with people. I’ll probably never know, but I like posing such questions.
I do something similar when I’m establishing new characters for my stories. I want to know what they think, how they’ll respond, what personality traits they’ll display as the plot unfolds. Will routine bore them or help keep them grounded?
What kind of questions do you ask as you begin assembling a fresh cast of characters? Has the arrival of spring inspired any enthusiasm for beginning something new? How do you feel about the repetition of the seasons?
While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest,
and cold and heat, and summer and winter,
and day and night shall not cease.
To every thing there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven.
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It may have been a challenge, a climb, a race, a chase. Or maybe you were recovering from surgery and pushing yourself just one more step was part of your therapy. Whatever the case, the first step had to be taken, then another. Without making a start, there was no way to reach the top.
Yesterday I came across this poster on Facebook* and was reminded of how often we don’t make progress because we never quite muster the momentum that’s needed. We never succeed because we can’t accept the risk of failure. We never finish because we don’t start.
Writers face this every day. There are those who would like to write a novel but aren’t sure they can create 90,000 consecutive words. Or they have too many ideas and don’t know how to round them up into a cohesive story. Others have written their stories but aren’t able to share them with editors or agents, or even other writers, for fear they aren’t good enough. Some published authors fear their initial success is a fluke and whatever else they write won’t measure up, so they don’t try again.
I’ll bet you can think of times you’ve hesitated, turned aside from pursuing a goal or a dream for what seemed like a very legitimate reason. Did you ever return to it… eventually make the effort… or did you accept it wasn’t meant to be?
It’s never too late to try again. If the original dream is beyond reach, you can always modify the goal.
“Tip toe if you must, but take the step.”
“I don’t so much mind looking back on having lost the election,
or having been denied a role in the play, or having had my novel repeatedly rejected,
or having been turned down for a date,
or recalling laughter at my expense when I attempted some silly challenge.
Those things simply prove that I lived life.
What I do mind, however, is looking back on the lost opportunities
where imagined concerns kept me from even trying, lose or win.
I’ve learned that there is no regret in a brave attempt. Only in cowering to fear.”
Richelle E. Goodrich
“May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;
establish the work of our hands for us –
yes, establish the work of our hands.”
Psalm 90:17 – NIV
“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished
by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.”
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On my Flickr page last Sunday I posted a photo of a crown of thorns on a bed of palm fronds. It was one of the photos I took after the church service during which children had waved palms while parading into the sanctuary. Later our youth minister used the crown to explain how the king who was welcomed that day didn’t end up wearing a shiny gold crown as the people hoped, but a crown of thorns instead.
During the storytelling I heard again of how the Lord came into the city of Jerusalem riding on a donkey, and suddenly recalled that on the way to Bethlehem, cradled within the womb of his mother, he had also travelled on a donkey. Prior to both his birth and his death he arrived on a donkey. I’d never thought of that before.
Many things don’t happen as we hope or expect, but God has a way of giving each experience a purpose anyway. We may not always realize it at the time.
Inexplicably linked with this account is the ‘coincidence’ that there is a palm tree in my bathroom.
Each summer for at least a decade I’ve purchased an inexpensive Majesty Palm for our back deck. I don’t deliberately plan for it to die, but neither do I try to keep it alive through the winter. It sits as a backdrop to our water garden and various pots of annuals, and when the chill of frosty autumn nights signals an end to their season, the palm follows them into the compost pile. That’s how it’s been every year… until last year. Last year when I went to buy a palm, there was none to be found anywhere, and I reluctantly substituted a Yucca plant. It was too small, more expensive, very stiff and not at all the gracious backdrop I preferred. I muttered frequently throughout the summer while I deadheaded the flowers in nearby pots.
So last Saturday I happened to be in a garden shop, looking for something totally unrelated, and came across a dozen Majesty palms, much larger than I’ve had before, and for much less money than I normally pay. Naturally… naturally, I stopped in front of them, and couldn’t budge a step until my hubby agreed that since we happened to have the truck with us, it was the perfect opportunity to buy one. It was meant to be!
It didn’t occur to me that this is still March and the weather won’t be predictably warm enough to put it on the deck for two months. Even the garage is too cold. So for a few days it is residing in the bathroom, sitting in a bucket getting watered and adjusting to the different humidity here. Then it will find its way into the living room and fill a corner there until late May. (I’ve never tried to grow one of these as a houseplant — please pray I can keep it alive that long!)
It wasn’t until I photographed the strange new bathroom accoutrement and subsequently downloaded all the weekend’s photos that I suddenly realized the palms waved by our children during the Palm Sunday worship service were the exact same kind as I’ve been growing every summer. How could I not have known that before? And how was it that I found my palm the day before Palm Sunday? A coincidence? I doubt it.
I haven’t figured out what it is I’m supposed to be learning from this experience, but I can tell you I’ve been giving palm branches and donkeys a lot of thought this week, and I have a whole new perspective of that parade into Jerusalem.
Have there been any revelations for you lately… any new discoveries in your writing or Holy Week meditations?
They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the king of Israel!”
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“Spring is when you feel like whistling
even with a shoe full of slush.”
“Spring is God’s way of saying, ‘One more time!’”
“The day the Lord created hope was probably
the same day he created Spring.”
Sending a joyous greeting from my heart to yours this first day of Spring!
Do you have any favourite Spring sayings to share?
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Daylight Saving Time wasn’t a problem for us. My hubby systematically turned all the clocks ahead during the previous evening and we went to bed an hour early without really noticing. Judging by the attendance at church on Sunday morning, however, not everyone fared as well.
There were a number of empty seats, and I overheard a lot of mumbling about lost sleep, the struggle… the reluctance… to get moving in the morning, and more than the usual grumbling about the drizzle after a much-too-brief sunshiny Saturday. Then in the sanctuary I found this exquisite bouquet on the chancel. A small note in the bulletin said it was placed in celebration of a child’s first birthday. I don’t imagine those parents got any more sleep than the rest of us, but they had found a reason for joy and shared it.
The news broadcast last night told the story of a young woman whose joy was to sing. She has developed a rare form of throat cancer and yet she’s found a way to make the best of the situation while she waits for surgery.
I know people who are discouraged and/or depressed for many different reasons, but I also know others who are in equally difficult circumstances but still manage to find something, however small, on which to focus and glean joy. Ann Voskamp, author of ONE THOUSAND GIFTS, has suggested the answer to surviving our bad times is to express thankfulness. It sounds outrageous, I know, but she’s right.
“Eucharisteo—thanksgiving—always precedes the miracle.”
“…life change comes when we receive life with thanks
and ask for nothing to change.”*
Joy isn’t an emotion, it’s a choice. I remember first hearing that from Sara Frankl. If you don’t know Sara’s story I hope you’ll take the time to check out this Dayspring video, Sara’s Story – Final. For years before she died Sara kept a blog. At a time when she needed much, she gave of herself to everyone she encountered. Her blog is still being maintained by her family, but on its sidebar you’ll find Sara’s own words:
“I’m just a girl who used to write for a magazine to make a living, and now writes a blog to make a life. Extremely blessed, well-loved and choosing joy while learning that homebound doesn’t limit your life, just your location.“
Ann Voskamp talks often about choosing joy, too, and has created a Joy Dare Collection of little cards that you can print out for each month with reminders to search for specific joys each day… to help us make a habit of looking for the tiny moments of joy that otherwise may slip past unnoticed.
As I step into this new week I am once again aware that no matter the circumstances, there is always joy. The choice is mine whether or not I will look for it and be thankful.
How about you? Can you think of at least one thing for which to give thanks today?
“I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart.”
* Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are
Home. It means different things to different people. For some the word brings a building to mind, or perhaps a country. For others maybe it’s more abstract… a yearning for the place of a childhood long past.
For many more it’s a refuge from the demands of the world… somewhere to retreat at the end of the busy workday.
That’s my house up there on the left in the ‘Google Earth’ screenshot. I admit it doesn’t look like much from this perspective – a blob in a clearing carved out of our two-and-a-quarter acres of woods and marsh – but it’s our little sanctuary.
Last week my hubby was in hospital, and after a “Code Blue” episode I recall a moment when I prayed, “Please let him come home.” For me, home meant safely back within the security of our family unit. God could have interpreted that request quite differently. I’m very glad he didn’t ( ! ) and hubby is now here at home with us and recovering well.
We’ve lived in fourteen different places during our 50+ years of marriage – in an assortment of apartments, church manses, and houses that we’ve owned. Each one became our home. People like to say, “Home is where your heart is,” or “Home is where you hang your hat.” Personally, I think home is anywhere that God is a welcomed presence within the family, as he is here.
For those of you who are writers, whether you’re writing Christian fiction or not, what part does home play in your stories? Is it just a generic backdrop or have you established a personal sense of home for your characters?
Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.
My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”
John 14:23 - NIV
~ ~ ~
Bread for myself is a material question. Bread for my neighbor is a spiritual one.
Baking is a rarity around here. I haven’t pulled out a recipe book since before Christmas. When my hubby gets desperate for a homemade sweet, often as not he ends up baking something himself — his peanut butter chocolate chip cookies are wonderful!
My biggest effort is usually a loaf of bread. Admittedly, there’s nothing easier than tossing the ingredients into a bread machine and letting it do its thing overnight so we can wake up to the unbeatable aroma of a fresh baked loaf for breakfast. And yes, I’m sure the texture of a hand-kneaded loaf is finer than what I make, but a little arthritis goes a long way towards discouraging that kind of effort.
I admire those people who can live immersed in their kitchens, loving their interaction with flour, sugar, vanilla and the like. I really do. I wish I were like them. I don’t hate baking, I just seem to have other things I’d rather spend my time on. But Love Inspired author Ruth Logan Herne comes as close as anyone to getting me back to cooking adventures. I first encountered Ruthy on the Seekerville blog. From there I’ve regularly trailed after her and the other Seekerville authors who take turns posting recipes and links on the Yankee Belle Cafe blog. I think it’s their irreverent approach to nutrition, calories and cooking shortcuts that appeals most, but I’ve collected several great-sounding recipes from them. Besides being good cooks, they’re great authors, too. Because of them I’ve been coaxed into reading genres that I never expected to enjoy.
However, this morning I’m not reading. While waiting for another loaf of just-baked homemade-but-by-a-machine bread to cool enough to slice, I am about to tackle a real baking recipe. It didn’t actually come from Ruthy, but was a result of following one of her links. It sounds outrageous, but too fascinating not to try. Cinnamon Roll Sugar Cookies! Who doesn’t love Sugar Cookies and Cinnamon Buns, right? So who can possibly resist the thought of a combined version? It’s enticed me back into the kitchen. I’ll let hubby do a taste test later on today and if they turn out well enough to brag, I’ll let you know.
Meanwhile, do you like baking (or cooking in general) as much as you like your other creative pursuits? What’s your favourite thing to bake? And I’ve always wanted to ask… do you nibble as you read and/or write?
“People do not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
UPDATE – When Hubby says, “Can I forego lunch in favour of more of these?” you know these cookies worked out better than okay! I was a little generous with the icing glaze, but nobody ever complains about too much icing.
~ ~ ~
Writers know a lot about insecurity, rejection, disappointment and discouragement, but I don’t suppose there is anyone whose life at some time hasn’t dipped into the shadows. The reassurance and confidence expressed in this hymn remind us of God’s promises. He said he would always be here for us even when shadows make it difficult for us to see him. We can depend on that. Great is his faithfulness!
His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness.
How’s your week going? Some of you have been particularly on my mind, so this is just a bit of mid-week encouragement to keep you going until Sunday rolls around again.
Great Is thy Faithfulness
(Chisholm / Runyan – 1923)
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