Musings

Barnyard Bling

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I’m a girly-girl at heart. There’s nothing that makes my heart flutter more than a tiny bit of bling. Shiny, swirly, rings and things that go round and round and catch the sunlight, and make me smile for a while. Even better when that little something is accompanied by a word or two, an “I love you” or “I’m sorry”.

It’s a story worth telling since it still makes me chuckle. A former boyfriend erred by spouting words that were less than complimentary to me. Clearly, the memory is blocked due to trauma, but it involved a reference to a barnyard animal. Perhaps I was munching or crunching something with a bit too much enthusiasm. I hope I never recall. But he was rewarded with the opportunity to restore my smile that day with jewelry. We wandered into a sterling silver shop, picked out a bracelet, and together decided it was a bit of Barnyard Bling. Whenever that bracelet manages to spin about my wrist, I don’t recall the offense as much as I recall the apology. It was sincere.

I don’t own a lot of jewelry, but I treasure some of the pieces I’ve collected. A periodot from an antique shop at Five Points, NC. An amethyst from Basel, Switzerland. Two wedding bands from my Grams. A swanky 60’s necklace from my Mother comprised of blue glass ‘fingers’… fabulous. None have much financial value, and needn’t have, for the pieces I like the most are those with intense or unusual color.

The emerald-cut peridot is of the palest green. I like to flutter my hand in the sun and watch the room glitter with refracted rays piercing through it’s planes. The amethyst has a triangular gold ring band. It was one of the first pieces of jewelry I purchased for myself. When I wear it, I’m reminded of my jaunts to Europe. The old, yellow-gold wedding bands are chock full of family history, and remind me of my darling grandmother. She always wore one of them on her middle finger, and it seemed so classically handsome to me. Mother’s blue glass necklace speaks for itself as one that enters the room before its wearer. It’s dramatic and heavy, but lovely.

Color is provacative. It’s characteristics, whether brilliance or pallor, demand a response from their observer. Our minds make mental and even emotional connections with colors. The beautiful thing about color is that we are forced to engage with it, to really see it, and to let it affect us.

A man is never more masculine when his boyish grin flashes at the sight of a bright yellow biscuit joiner. They make power tools in canary yellow for a reason. A woman is never more feminine when she utters that childlike, “Ohhh LOOK!” and flutters over a proffered daisy with petals to ponder, “He loves me. He loves me not. He loves me….”

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Keeping Trista

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The Oxford Dictionary defines the word tryst as “a private, romantic rendezvous between lovers.” It further states that ‘tryst’ comes from the Latin word trista, ‘an appointed place in hunting’.

An appointed place in hunting…I like that.

So much of life’s journey has been filled with uncertainty, survival, longing, searching for, and choosing the narrow gate of life.

There have been a few occasions when my life has spiraled out of control, in terms of the demands it made on me.  During those times I would say that I had lost sight of who I was, and what was really important. I would find that I had not kept tryst with myself. Perhaps I kept the same routine and relationships, but I know that I had lost my footing. My ability to be at rest.

It seems like my best work, whether through employment or in the home, is directly rooted in a place that might be called a tryst, or even a sabbath. There must be a time and place where my creative energies are renewed, and I am allowed to simply be. I could venture into the spiritual aspects of this place but its deeper than just a quiet time alone with God. God is absolutely in the midst of a sabbath. He created it. But abiding in this place is more about my willingness to release all of the demands on my time and attention….my willingness to lose my identity in all of the externals, and retreat to that quiet place within.

As a follower of Christ, at times I have leapt to the erroneous conclusion that if I spent too much time in that place with self, I would become self-centered, or (gasp) “New Age-y”, and depart from the ways of God. The truth is that if I pause there, I might discover that my religious veneer is pulled away, and the gritty substance of my self glaringly evident. What if my networking and e-connecting has resulted in poverty of self? Avoidance prevents disappointment. Sometimes we convince ourselves that we’ll never lose our way if only we maintain a religious routine of prayer with God, and reading Scripture. It’s really our religious answer for the problem of substance. 

C.S. Lewis, in his book,  Letters to Malcom: Chiefly on Prayer, says

“What seem our worst prayers may really be, in God’s eyes, our best. Those, I mean, which are least supported by devotional feeling. For these may come from a deeper level than feeling. God sometimes seems to speak to us most intimately when he catches us, as it were, off our guard.”

A deeper level than feeling…God seems to enjoy the “off guard” me. This comes through when I push away the veil of life’s superficial demands, and simply sit. In this window of time I can come to terms with who I am, my circumstances, and the possibilities. The cry for intimacy that God has placed within me is stirred, if I let it. I naturally cry out to Him in the stillness, renewed in the knowledge that nothing else fulfills me and no one else knows me like He does. It’s here that I exchange ashes for beauty, and poverty for joy. I become a wellspring of life for those around me.

There is no substitute for keeping tryst…

Keeping Hope

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What is it about the rain that it seems to wash my soul, along with the landscape? It rains and I’m suddenly motivated to clean and organize and set things right. The Vibrunum in the front yard received an extensive haircut but I managed to hold off on the Hydrangeas that have refused to bloom in two years. I adore Hydrangeas. Obviously we’re not getting on well, however, and the rain makes me decisive. They need to go.

If I blame the rain for this piercing sense of direction, what is it that keeps hope alive? My experiences and memories as I trip-trop through life fan the flame….and bring desire for tomorrow. This collection of sensations and perceptions are stored far from my loping shears. Imagine if I went foraging through my soul with this same kind of tenacity – snip, snap, snipping away at this precious pile of moments. You see, the courage for the days and weeks to come is fueled by knowing that I am loved, seeing my breakthroughs in the past, believing I am safe….free to fail.

Hope fuels courage.

Hope’s flames are fanned in the smallest furnaces. I’ve been hearing a woodpecker in my yard. I suspect that he was responsible for drilling the substantial hole in the bird feeder. But I was fond of his contribution, nonetheless. He makes me smile as he rat-a-tat-tats. The poppies I’ve recently planted are just beginning to come up. Soon they’ll swish their fancy skirts in the breeze. I caught a glimpse of a robin yanking a worm from the ground …half its bird-weight in worm! What a catch! Seriously now, that’s akin to finding a pair of lovely heels on sale! Or  arriving early for a library book sale.

Hope. It’s not joy. It’s hope. It’s the visceral belief, a sub-conscious knowing, that my contribution matters.

Yours does too.

The Most Important Thing

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When I was growing up, one of my favorite books on my parents’ shelves was The Family of Man, a compilation of photographs created by Edward Steichen for the Museum of Modern Art. In my family, reading is a rite of passage. We’re the type that would ditch the heirloom china but nearly come to blows over the tattered copy of Harper Lee’s legendary book, To Kill a Mockingbird or a first edition copy of Chaim Potok’s The Chosen. So it was a bit surprising to learn that this tattered book of photographs had not yet been spoken for, by one of my siblings.

This past week I leafed through the scotch-taped pages of photos. Would that I had Carl Sandburg’s skill of describing the intensity and the atrocities, the deep love and profound beauty expressed here! There is one photo in particular that has lingered in my mind’s eye throughout my life. It’s a picture of a naked baby sleeping on a bed while her mother hovers nearby, gazing at her. The adoration in the mother’s eyes is unforgettable. She closely resembles my own mother, when I was small. In the center of the page is the timeless passage,

Bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh . . . Genesis 2:23

Imagine the wonder of a young child as she looks through a book and sees this mother saturating this wee one with love. Amid all the hustle and bustle of life, a little girl forms her own beliefs about love and belonging. She becomes convinced that she is pictured there, along with her very own mother. That is how this book came to speak to me so much. If this publication really depicted Family, and captured foundational truths like Love and Beauty through the simple and wordless medium of black-and-white photography, and I was pictured in the book (…smile) then naturally I was part of the Family, and I was loved. And beautiful. Isn’t it amazing how we form our belief systems?

It makes me wonder how we communicate these foundational truths to those around us?

In her book, Teaching a Stone to Talk, Annie Dillard writes,

“I meant to do a bit of good today. Instead I keep thinking: Will the next generations remember to drain the pipes in the Fall? I will leave them a note.”

Ms. Dillard has aptly captured the essence of the things that so often fill my thoughts, the need to drain the pipes. In an effort to break away from the mundane, part of me wants to shout, “I’ve seen I AM! Now I know that I am Loved!” And then, too, I want to create quiet moments. I want to hover over the babies in our lives, gaze into their eyes and saturate them with love.

For now…

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Remember your mother’s distracted promises, “We’ll see…” or “Well, we can’t now but perhaps later…” And then you wondered exactly when ‘later’ would come to pass?

Seems like I haven’t changed much from when I was a kid. “Later” means this afternoon possibly, yet still today. Certainly not into next week or, God forbid, next year. There’s no time with God, don’t ‘cha know? He created everything! Time is like a play-thing to Him. So when we stand around stamping our feet, and I know I do, He smiles at me. One of those long blinking smiles, in the way that you know that He’s got a totally different grid on this thing than you do…always. And, to be fair, He has a delightful way of making you forget the long weeks, months, and years of waiting and growing into the shoe size He’s got in mind.

There’s something to this idea about resting in my Father’s purposes. I remember when I was a child I used to walk with my Dad, standing on the toes of his steel-toed boots. Hand in hand, I’d ride while he’d stride. Yup. It worked. It took effort from both of us to pull this off. I had the tricky part of balancing. He had the difficult part of essentially carrying me. Hmm. My heavenly Father is much the same way. I have to keep my eyes on Him, and not try to pull my own weight. To rest is tricky. It’s not unlike waiting.

One of my favorite authors, Bob Sorge, said of waiting,

“How to wait: Run after Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Waiting is aggressive repose. Waiting is stationary pursuit. Waiting is intense stillness. Waiting is vigilant listening.” [italics mine] — The Fire of Delayed Answers

Stationary pursuit.

Intense stillness.

How does one stand still and still pursue? And how did stillness become intense? This reminds me of how things become upside down in the economy of God. The last shall be first. The weak become strong. It’s here in the Kingdom of God that pursuit is stationary and stillness is intense. May we pursue Him with all that we have, all that we are, and He’ll meet us more than halfway.

“May the beloved of the Lord dwell in security by Him who shields him all the day, and he dwells between His shoulders.” — Deut. 33:12

May you dwell this night between the shoulders of God.

On His Mind

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Have you ever been close enough to a person that you can feel the next topic of discussion before you hear it?

I think that is often how the Lord speaks to me. I can feel what He’s saying. I just know.

So my friend’s reminder the other day really shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me. Yet, she gently mused about the way in which we sort squelch the Lord’s desire to talk to us in the night hours, by either demanding our sleep or suggesting someone else to chat with Him. It’s true. Somewhere along the line, I’d told the God of the Universe, “Go away. Can’t you see I’m sleeping?” Upon realizing my gaff, I apologized to the Lord and what do you suppose He did? Of course! He woke me in the middle of the night! When it finally dawned on me that He wanted to speak to me, I looked at the clock and it was 2:22 a.m. So I looked at Psalm 22:2, thinking it was a decent place to start…

“O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer; And by night, but I have no rest.”

Well, aren’t You just the funny One?

And yet, taken more seriously, I realized that He wanted my complete attention when He told me that He hears me crying out for breakthrough for things in my life, for my family and friends. It’s true that I do not see fulfillment of things in the natural realm just yet, but He so wanted me to know that He hears me. After I giggled through the latter part of that verse I realized that He’s serious about wanting the opportunity to speak with me – when He can have my complete and undivided attention – and He’ll make up for the gaps in sleep. He can. He’s the God of the Universe, and the Lord of my life.