Pruning

Summer is drawing to a close. The months of bright, festive flowers that beckon and sing to the pollinators and picnickers is dwindling down. There will be a few days of heated fury and defiance, where summer rebels just a bit – blazing hot and fierce. Time is almost up, and it knows.

The garden knows, too, and begins the descent into autumn. The spring and summer flowering plants and bushes slow and droop, dropping dried blooms, except for those that flourish and delight in autumn, bringing fresh color and excitement to a waning garden.

With this changing of the guard comes a season of pruning.  Much needs to be done to keep the garden looking loved, cared for and peaceful. Garden shears, trimmers and trowels are still needed.

Upon close inspection, one sees the stems, leaves, vines, and small branches shut down, wither, and die back. The perennials need this season of pruning for survival; they need someone to cut away and remove those areas that are no longer serving them or the garden. At times the pruning seems brutal, harsh, and perhaps cruel as some parts are cut away so severely there is hardly any of the original plant left.  All is cut away that is not actively helping, nurturing, and stimulating growth in the plant. Those dead and dying off parts suck vital nutrients from the healthy stems, branches, and leaves. A good gardener knows that they cannot be left to compete with and deplete the healthy plant.

Bending close to check each branch and stem, the gardener determines where best to trim and cut away. At first glance, a stem or branch may look completely wasted away, yet a closer look reveals tiny, minute new growth attempting to push its way out. The gardener values this new growth, barely visible except to the one who actively seeks and delights in nourishing this fledgling sprout of new life. All that is above it will be removed and tossed away, allowing plenty of room and careful tending to encourage the new life.

Do you see how this imagery of a master gardener lovingly tending his or her garden applies so beautifully to how the Creator loving and intentionally prunes, tends, and cares for each of us?

The pruned plant may look bedraggled and worse for wear, hacked and shorn off, appearing vulnerable and fragile. But this is where the unseen work takes place in the root system below the surface.  With the dead and decaying parts pruned away, the roots are free to prepare and strengthen the fragile plant for the new life waiting for rebirth when the season is just right; when spring comes and the time for its new beginning arrives. The quiet season of strength building is vital for this plant and is vital for us, too. When the Master Gardener deems it is time, new life will burst up, break forth and take its place in the Garden of Life, amid humanity, where the plant and you and I will live out our purpose, delight those meant to encounter us and be deeply nourished from a root system well established and fed by the Master Gardener and His living water.

The pruning season is hard. It hurts and can leave us feeling like there is nothing left of us but stumpy, stick-like nubs that are ugly, barren and have no purpose. But we can’t see with the eyes of the Master Gardener, who sees these shorn off places as a thing of great beauty and Divine Purpose, because He knows what’s coming. He sees the pruned places for what they are; stealers of joy, a heavy weight of bad habits, bitterness and anger, idols we erected in our search for happiness and value, and greedy competitors that robbed precious energy.  I imagine Him smiling and laughing in anticipation of all that He is doing below the surface to the root system of our lives. Every nip, cut, snip and prune hold tremendous value and purpose. So, can we endure for a little while, during the quiet autumn of the pruning season, to see the joy, delight and surprise that will spring forth?

Roads and Rivers

Isaiah 43:19 (MSG) “Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands.”

This is a favorite verse of mine. I love the themes of hope, adventure, new beginnings, and provision.

I tend to revisit the past and analyze it to death. I become consumed with situations, words spoken that hurt (either by me or to me), and actions that I fear will happen again and again. Isaiah’s words say to forget about reliving all that and be alert and present. I do not want to miss the brand-new things God is planning to do. God is not saying, “I’d like to do something new” or “I’m considering it”; no! He says, “I am about to do something brand-new!” It is a promise! I can feel His excitement breaking through when He says, “Don’t you see it? There it is!” The Lord is wild about us and loves the plans He has so masterfully created for us. I imagine it brings Him such pleasure to surprise us with His purpose for our lives and to whisper into our spirits, “this is the way, walk in it.”

If I stay tangled up in the past or worrying over the future, I will miss what He is doing right this minute. I want to fully experience the road He is making through my desert; the obstacles He will move and the ruts He will smooth over. Imagine looking back and seeing how it all unfolded! Some days it feels like I can’t find the road because there are too many off shoots and rabbit holes that distract and keep me spinning. If I stop, breathe, and give myself space and permission to spend time with Him, He reveals the path and gives wisdom about how to get back to it. He helps me over the ruts, around the boulders and through the brambles. He reveals the beauty that is there.

How bleak to miss the rushing river of blessings and revelation that He is creating in the badlands I often roam! How quickly I forget that water is the source of life. Where there is water, there is often beauty, refreshment, life, and provision. Jesus is my river in the badlands of humanity. He is beautiful, my strength, my peace; He refreshes my soul and provides everything I need. He is the source of life, and He is enough. How wise I would be if I lived with this mindset every day. So, let’s be alert! Let’s watch and wait on the Lord to see what He will do in our deserts and badlands. There is joy and beauty He wants to show us on our journey. May we live in watchful expectation.

Living with Hope

1 Peter 1:6-9 (NLT), “So be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead, even though it is necessary for you to endure many trials for a while.  These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold – and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold. So if your faith remains strong after being tried by fiery trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him, you trust him; and even now you are happy with a glorious, inexpressible joy. Your reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.”

These are hard words to read during a painful trial that seems to have no end. Sometimes it blindsides us and we reel with feeling overwhelmed, unprepared, and out of control. Maybe this trial was caused by the result of someone else’s choices that we didn’t see coming.  Maybe it stems from our own bad decisions, and we are left stumbling through consequences that we brought to our doorstep. We have all been there at least once and it hurts. It is confusing and frightening. It feels like there is no way out from under the damage. We feel helpless. How desperately we want Jesus to take it all away!

A few things I have learned about trials is this; oftentimes God uses the trial we are walking through to change us. When we are living unchallenged, complacent, comfortable, and self-reliant, He may use a tough situation or circumstance to move us away from destructive patterns and steer us in a new and healthy direction. After a breast cancer diagnosis, my world collapsed in a matter of moments. Everything I thought I knew and understood was destroyed. Nothing made sense. Never had I felt so vulnerable, helpless, and terrified. No one could walk this path for me or take it away and there was no one, but God, who could carry me through this. I had a choice to make at that moment; allow despair and terror to reign in my world, or choose to put it at His feet, extravagantly hope and believe there was a purpose somewhere in this. I chose hope and it was my lifeline. I did not know His plans – would I survive? Through the two years of treatments and surgeries, hope and unexpected blessings, pain, and fear, I discovered that feeling helpless is NOT the same as being helpless. With God we are not helpless. He is always as close as our next breath and never leaves us to face trials alone. He is the source of all hope.

I truly believe He uses our pain and rough seasons to purify and beautify us and our faith, so that one day he will clearly see His image in us. Self-reliance, pride, and self-righteousness have no place amid a life altering trial. It is surprising and beautiful how compassion and empathy are born during difficulty, pain, and loss if we choose to trust ourselves to the One who created us.  He will make a way. We can be confident that God will separate something priceless from the dross of our experiences.

Imagine God’s joy and delight as He skims off the gunk and begins to see HIS image in us; something priceless!  I hope it makes you smile knowing the Creator of galaxies is so invested and in love with each one of us, that He takes all the time necessary to allow us to feel the heat of trials, so that He can one day bring forth, for the world to see, the radiant beauty of our life testimonies. We can be a beacon of hope, salvation, and love to a world full of hurting humans who need to hear a word of hope and see a life redeemed.

Taking up Space

When I hear the phrase “taking up space” it automatically sends out a negative vibe.  It speaks to being too much, useless, unnecessary and in the way. It calls up feelings of being unwanted and blocking or taking away from someone or something else of more value and importance; that what is being offered is of no consequence, and the need to be silent and unseen.

I wonder how many people go about their day feeling like they take up space. I have and sometimes still do; like the air we breathe in was really meant for someone else and our presence is a nuisance. It is hurtful, dismissive, and lonely.

So, what if we turned the narrative around and thought of taking up space as a positive and important part of living, the very thing we were created to do?

I love how God weaves unconditional love, purpose, and immense value into His narrative about each of us. It isn’t selfish or arrogant to believe what our Creator says about us! It is hard to live in this world and He knows that. He knows what it’s like to be us because He became like us, lived among us in a physical body with all the good and bad that goes along with that.  Fully man and fully God. He knows how rejection, cruel words, dismissive attitudes and being unvalued and hated feels. He knew and knows the way it wounds and taints everything when you are told or made to feel that the physical space you occupy is wasted, unseen and not accepted – as if you have no voice and will never be heard.  

I came across these Bible verses and believe they are a beautiful example of how important we are and how much the world needs us to take up space.

Luke 12:7 NLT “And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.”

Psalm 139:13-14 NLT “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.”

Isaiah 40:31 NLT “But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”

2 Timothy 1:7 NLT “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”

Joshua 1:9 NLT “This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

John 10:28-29 NLT “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand.”

Isaiah 46:4 NLT “I will be your God throughout your lifetime—until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.”

Do you see how treasured we are and how very valuable? We were created to fill a specific place in this world; to use our voices. God commands us to be strong and courageous! He promises to never leave us, to carry us and care for us. He assures us we will never be snatched away, shushed, pushed to the back, ignored, or minimized in His sight.  We are seen, known, and deeply loved.

So, let’s find courage to take up space in a bold, strong, and kind way; to no longer apologize for our voice, our breath, our strength, and our calling. What if we help others take up space? We can focus on loving ourselves in all our quirky, weird beauty, trust God with the details and hang onto Him when the road gets bumpy. Watch what happens when we sing the song He put in our spirits to bless and enhance our spaces and the space around us. It will be a thing of beauty.

My Garden

My garden is a quiet place; a tranquil oasis that beckons when my mind and body are overwhelmed, parched and in need of peace.  The haphazard, random way I choose the spot for each plant may feel a bit chaotic to the more organized and regimented soul, but for me, I find immense peace and joy in the random and untamed order of it all. There is peace and rest in the chaos. 

The purple Catmint and Lantana along with the bright yellow Yarrow are a riot of tumbling blooms that spread as they wish; seeming to luxuriate in their boldness to overtake what they will. The white Guara, reaching high, looks like little butterflies dancing about on the wavy stems. The gentle Lavender is unassuming and lovely yet dominates its corner of the garden. The Sage, Fuchsia, Freesia, Primrose, and Geranium show off gorgeous splashes of purples, reds, pinks, and yellows, while the stately ferns are calming with their greenery.  A favorite scent of Jasmine wafts on the air as it climbs the fence and trellis.

There are fairies, angels, memorials to beloved pets and random garden décor that also grace my garden. Seeing them peeking out from around a mass of flowers makes me smile. The unexpected amid chaos and beauty…

Chattering and bubbly, the 3-tier fountain splashes and soothes; water cascading down the pineapple top tier, beckoning birds to take a sip and a bath. It’s calming to watch and listen as they bathe, call, and survey the garden, hunting for choice grubs and seeds. Two more birdbaths are placed throughout the yard to host birds, as well as squirrels, opossums, bees, and the occasional neighborhood cat.

The tall, purple-bloomed Butterfly Bush and the Fuji apple tree provide shade for the stone bench underneath their branches. It’s in another part of the garden which provides a different perspective; one can feel hidden, and a bit removed while resting there.

When it’s time to do some pruning, the honeybees and large black and yellow bumblebees allow me access to their plants while keeping a sharp eye on my activity.  Some fly up near my head and hover there, inspecting me and gauging my intentions. Respect and harmony in the garden.

Sitting at the wood picnic table I watch all the garden life and activity. Nourishment, community, rest, and safety happen here, as God’s creatures bathe, pollinate, eat, and gossip, doing what they were made to do. I love being part of it all, in my little slice of nature.

Perhaps if you close your eyes, you will hear the chatter of the birds as they gossip, sip and search for breakfast along the fence and under the flowers. Maybe you will discover a hidden fairy or turtle and see the busy bees flitting with purpose from bloom to bloom. The perky splash of the 3-tiered fountain might soothe and restore peace to your soul. Some of the heaviness you carry might lift, as you listen to the bold, russet squirrels scolding the big, black crows over peanuts; the scent of Jasmine swirling around you on the puffy breeze.

The tinkling wind chimes add their flavor of peace, as all the elements of the garden blend beautifully, order yet chaos, to bring serenity and restoration to a tired soul. The Creator uses this small oasis, in the middle of a neighborhood, to blend the right mix of joy, rest, peace and chuckles at creature antics to refresh and restore the spirit. Now it’s time to begin the day and hide in my heart the peace and refreshment I found in my garden.

Soul Garden

In the early light of this Spring morning, I survey my garden. Hot coffee warms my chilled hands. Birds line up along the edge of the fence and sit in the leafy, budding plum tree. The squirrels peer and chatter from the branches of the fig and apple trees, letting me know I’m late. They wait for the thistle, peanuts and cracked corn they expect me to toss out for them.

From my seat at the patio table, I see that the new plants I have carefully placed in the earth, along with the returning perennials, are thriving and sending up their tender shoots.  The time, energy, sweat and joy that fertilized them is paying off. It is exciting to see new life and growth return after a season of quiet resting.

Mother Nature begins her whispering and coaxing, and the tender new growth responds. So much happens below the surface, before these tender stems and leaves are ready to push upward and outward. Root systems are established and require a certain amount of strength and depth before sending up the shoots. It’s all carefully orchestrated and set in motion when the Creator determines the timing is just right.

As I admire my garden, a thought begins to take shape in my mind, and I wonder where Jesus is going with it. What if the fellow humans I encounter in life, are like a garden of the soul? I start with a plot of earth and carefully turn, work, and fertilize the dirt with time, tears, laughter, and love. As I bump up against these people, I smile in delight as I find just the ones to add to my soul garden. They fit perfectly! I scoop them up, carefully and gently planting them; nurturing, and tending, removing weeds and obstacles, giving time and attention. I watch as tendrils of common interest, branches of stability and longevity, flowers of laughter, buds of adventure, and the fragrance of kindness and vulnerability perfume my garden. Everything blends well and the beauty is nourishing to my soul. Peaceful. Safe. I belong.

However, not all the flowers and bushes are thriving and healthy in my soul garden. Some are old, spent and have lived out their flowering season, taking up the space where another might thrive. The annuals were there for a season and won’t return but leave behind nice memories. Some have become hardened, woody, and impenetrable, no longer blooming, or showing any growth.  Others stubbornly resist any sort of pruning, fertilizing or change and stay stumped and thwarted, no longer lovely.  The Master Gardener says it is time to begin weeding.

Weeding the soul garden can be sad, hard, and frightening, but necessary. I get to choose, and so do you, who and what is allowed to take up space there. These choices can mean life, joy and flourishing for our souls or stunted growth, disappointment and hurt.  There is a lot that is bound up in the roots of who I allow in that sacred place. Layer upon layer of energy, laughter, tears, shared history, and effort are mixed and blended to keep it all alive. The dying back, pruning and even the uprooting of those that were carefully planted, can be brutal and harsh, leaving a hole and a void for loneliness to sprout up.

I believe that Jesus views that hole and the loneliness as a prime plot of land in which to plant Himself. It is impossible to have a need that He cannot meet. In the loneliness of the weeding season, He will pour into us all of Himself.  He is enough.  We are seen, we are safe, and we are known. Our needs will be met, and our roots will be strengthened and built up for the growing season that is to come. The dirt in our soul garden will be nurtured and watered with His wisdom, healing, and joy, but He will sift, filter, and discard all that is not in sync with His master plan. That is painful, yet we know there is beauty in this pain. He knows why a once vibrant and healthy-looking part of our soul garden now needs to be pruned or uprooted and completely removed. He sees all that is going on underneath the surface, where growth takes place and roots either thrive or rot.  He knows when our souls need a respite from nurturing others, so we can be nurtured, replenished, and tended to with love, attention, and mercy by the Master Gardener. The world and all that is in it, is still at His beck and call. He is fully aware of those others who are coming along in the next seasons; those who will once again cause us to gasp, smile and make room in our garden for a bloom with the exact fragrance needed, in just the right season, for our souls to thrive. There is peace in knowing that after an anonymous winter of quiet cultivation by our Father, a lovely, bursting spring is waiting to captivate us with the joy of new growth and unexpected blooms. Psalm 126:5-6 (New Living Translation) says, “those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.”

Look to the Clouds

The summer morning is warm with a brilliant, Robin-egg blue sky. The warm dirt under my young back is soft, yet bumpy with divots, small rocks and tamped down grasses. It smells comforting, earthy and old. It feels safe.

The air is warm and a bit close, broken up by the occasional snippet of breeze, that lazily puffs over me in my earthy spot; grasses and wildflowers tossing and bobbing as the breeze slips through them, forcing movement on this indolent summer morning.

I fancy myself a cat; lazy, snooze-y and hidden from view; yet spying and aware of all that is going on around my little nest.

There is a Blue Jay, raucous and naughty, dipping and darting as she looks for her breakfast in the oak trees. She is not afraid of disturbing the more stately Robins and Sparrows that are seeking out their morning meals. The birds do not notice me in my lair and continue about their morning business; or maybe they do…

A variety of ducks and some Canadian geese glide by on the rippled water of the canal just a few feet away from me; blackberry brambles and other sticker bushes guard its banks like stubborn sentries. You can get through to the water, if you dare to pass through them. Brave creatures have carved paths under and through these sentries, to make their way to the water and safety. Their dens are cozy and well protected. Easy access to tiny fish, frogs and maybe crawdads.

Ah! There is the distinctive splash of the muskrat, slipping through the cloudy waters of the canal. His path can be traced by following his bubbles, as he searches below the waters for his breakfast. Routine. Safe. Ordinary.

Looking to the sky from my child-sized hollow in the summer faded grasses, I notice the white, marshmallow-like clouds floating past. They are fascinating! Some are huge and billowy, while others are small, wispy and seem to vanish or meld into bigger clouds nearby; as if swallowed up.

Imagination has free reign while cloud watching. My mind can wander and make up all sorts of fantastical stories. I see one cloud that at first glance, is just big, fluffy and non-descript; but then it emerges; a boat with a crooked, tilted mast and a scraggly, wispy sail. Peeking over the side of the boat, is a horse’s head and strange looking bird. What stories that boat has to tell! Another cloud is almost perfectly round, except for one edge that has a thin, feathery tail wafting off to the right; like a child’s balloon rushing off in the wind on exciting adventures.

Breaking up the daydreams, the sleek, black cat saunters into my grassy hideout, curious and nosey; casually attacking a random leaf, sniffing around my hideaway; demanding pets and chin scratches. Having determined a spot near my head as acceptable, she settles in for a drowsy rest, as the warm morning is becoming a hot, summer afternoon. The shade is moving with the shifting sun, flooding my little earth-nest with a bit too much heat and light. Maybe it’s time to get the sprinklers out, as another dreamy, lazy, hot, Northern California summer day plods along into the next one.

Summer as a child was pleasant and predictable with routine, yet full of adventure by the canal behind my house. Lovely memories of feeding ducks and meeting the new ducklings each summer, picking blackberries and making pies, cobblers and jams, taking long walks along the grassy, wildflower laden paths near the canal bank. It felt joyful, exciting and new; yet familiar and safe in that familiarity. I recapture bits and pieces of those feelings, when as an adult, I revisit the canal and all its creatures, scents and sounds, as I relax and observe from the patio swing or from the lone bench nestled under an old oak, with a blue wind chime tinkling; ducks, geese, river otters and muskrats going about their business. The familiarity soothes and calms. Tilting my head back to feel the sun, I allow the warmth to penetrate and loosen the chilled, hardened, practical places my adult mind has created. Sometimes life forces that on us, just to survive the onslaughts of life. Peering up through the gnarled, old branches of the oak tree, I see clouds. Puffed, billowing, white clouds and I remember my child-self lying in the tall, warm grasses, surrounded by the stout wildflowers and nosey cats. Content and care-free. I remember the day dreams and simple joy of seeing life, nature, and me in the cloud shapes, imagining the Creator with his paintbrush, delighting me with adventures and laughing as each stroke of His brush changed everything. There is peace and contentment for an exhausted, stressed, adult mind, when I simply look to the clouds and allow that child-like joy and imagination to have its way for a bit, and laugh with my Creator as He fills the sky with Himself.

Blessed

My new coffee mug has the word Blessed inscribed across the front of it; letters big and bold, like a confident declaration. When I saw that mug on the shelf, it called out to me. I had to have it; I want to feel blessed and be blessed.

This New Year’s morning, I sat at my favorite spot at my table, where I look outside my slider and watch the morning unfold. There is often a variety of early birds at the feeders who are singing, as they jostle for position, waiting their turn; sometimes with nice attitudes and other times, not. There are the other birds, scratching and scritching among the garden debris, ferreting out whatever treasures are hidden in the rich dirt. Watching these birds go about their daily business, I began to think about the word blessed. The dictionary says it means consecrated; holy; sacred; blissfully happy or contented. These words are beautiful. I do want to be these words, feel these words, live in these words.

I have often thought of living blessed and being blessed as something elusive, more like a thought or an elevated idea, than something I could truly capture, do and live inside of each day. As I pondered my birds and the beauty of a new morning, in a new year, I  began to see that the word blessed is not a higher thought on a difficult to achieve spiritual plane.

Imagine a typical day, in which you wake up and grab your coffee in your favorite mug. Perhaps you watch the morning unfold in front of you on your patio with a soft breeze floating past you; all kinds of sounds and scents in the air. What if during this peaceful time, you began to feel grateful that you are alive; able to see and smell and experience nature going about its business in the Divine order of things? Is that not be sacred and pure; bringing you bliss and contentment? What if during your ordinary day, you witness a startling and unusual act of kindness, that causes you to pause, maybe tear up and have your faith in humanity and goodness restored, if even for a moment? Is that not holy? Is that intersection of the Divine and the human, not sacred ground? Hmmm. I wonder when I’m making dinner, if I play worship music that brings me into the Divine presence of Jesus, or when I pour out my heart to my Father – the good, the terrible, the truth of my heart – on a walk in my neighborhood, if those places become sacred, holy, and divine. Blessed. Blissful happiness, contentment.

But…what if the day isn’t full of things that make me blissfully happy and content? The car accident that totals the car, the child that makes a very poor choice that has lasting ramifications and you see no clear way out of it. Maybe cruel words were hurled in the heat of the moment and they can’t be taken back. Maybe there is a diagnosis you never saw coming. Is there room here to declare “I am blessed?” Yes. Yes, you can declare yourself blessed. Some blessings come after the hurt and wounds. The Divine often shows up in miraculous ways, turning devastation into glory, failure into victory, wounding into strength and the impossible into something to be remembered in awe and reverence, because there seemed to be no good ending, yet there was.  I truly believe that to live blessed, one has to be alert and try to find it. It won’t always show up immediately and may not be dressed up in blissful happiness and a cute outfit. It may come dirty, scuffed up, straggling and a bit off kilter, but I do believe it will come. I have seen it come in both forms and both are equally holy, sacred, consecrated. Blessed.

At this start of 2020, I want to live expecting to be a blessed person. I’m not good at it yet, I confess, but I want to be. I want to bloom where I am planted and thrive there, no matter what it looks like. Maybe we can do this together? I absolutely believe that the holy, divine, sacred and blissful happiness is all around us, waiting with open arms for us to slow down and seek it. What is sought will be found. May we see it, grab hold and never let go!

 

Something About the Rain

There’s something lovely about the rain, isn’t there? That moment when the first anticipated drops touch your face, hair, eyes.  Refreshing. It brings joy, despite a fully or partially cloud-hidden sun, trying to peep through. You know it’s there, the sun, but it’s hidden. It’s a bit mysterious to wonder what the sun might be up to up there, veiled from sight.

Or hearing those first drops on the patio cover in the wee morning hours; pattering, plopping; like a sky-song flowing down. So soothing, as I lie in bed. The blankets covering me, I am enveloped in warmth and safety, listening to nature’s lullaby.

Sometimes the dreary sky and rain damp air offers the unmistakable scent of clean; washed and rinsed; a sort of gentle, yet sometimes fierce and unrelenting, opening of the heavens; as if Creator is gifting a new start, a clean slate. All is well, the old is gone and here is the new.  Life giving water. Living water. Ancient and elemental.

The sound of the faithful pattering, dripping and beating of a good steady rain soothes and gentles the spirit and often my hectic mind, with nature’s rhythms; like an intentional chorus put on repeat. Truly one of my favorite sounds and scents.

Something about the rain dredges up childhood memories of wildly exciting, yet terrifying thunder and lightning storms, windows rattling and trembling. Such an electric feeling of exhilaration and fear, joy and safety; intertwining emotions that shouldn’t mix well together, but they do, when nature moves and does her thing. It is deep and wild. I love it.

Memories drift up of hot summer days, when a sudden rain storm cools and refreshes with the unforgettable scent of rain on hot sidewalks. That is childhood.

Something about the rain and wind and the slashing at trees, rose bushes and the apple tree reminds me that not everything in life is predictable and controllable. It’s not tamable and quieted and soothed, but roars and bucks and thrashes at the whim of the One who commands it. There is such beauty and raw power there. It is thrilling and terrifying; beautiful and fierce and unrelenting as it does the Creator’s bidding, yet it draws me in. Nature, all of it, in its pure undiluted elemental form, nourishes my soul like nothing else. It’s a God-gift I treasure and ponder. The mystery of it speaks depth to my soul. I will never get enough of it. There is just something about the rain…

Perspective

Complaints. We all have them, don’t we? Some complaints are minor, daily life annoyances that come on strong, but fade quickly, such as; irritating drivers, long lines at the Starbucks drive thru, internet annoyances and teenage attitudes. Then there are those other complaints. The ones that stem from something deeper than mundane irritants; like unmet expectations, disappointments, loss, festering, soul deep wounds, simmering anger, injustice, illness and the list goes on.  Personally, I have experienced all these deeper complaints and some are still ongoing.  The feelings of frustration, anger and resentment that well up from these complaints can easily taint every interaction, every experience and every relationship. Our filters get off kilter and life becomes skewed. This is a hard and debilitating way to live.

Recently, I came upon this jewel.  It leaped off the pages of my Bible, like it had been waiting between the closed pages for the perfect time to reveal itself. I read it and gulped in a breath, and read it again. It spoke to my heart.

Habakkuk 2:1

I will climb up into my watchtower now and wait to see what the Lord will say to me and how he will answer my complaint.

I love imagery and so I sat still, closed my eyes and visualized myself actually climbing up into a watchtower. I noticed as I ascended, that things began to change. I wasn’t looking at the landscape in the same way, because my perspective was changing as I went higher up.  Mind you, the complaint was still the same, the geography of the problems hadn’t changed; however, the way I saw them, did change. In the watchtower, I am safe, secure, protected. I have a 360 degree view of the terrain. I see how the landscape melds and molds together, how certain things have to happen and have to “be”, before other things can exist. If there is a mountain, there is often an uphill climb that must take place, before one can reach the pinnacle, just as there is then a descent, sometimes into a valley or depression, that must be traversed, before coming into a wide open place; a space that is a bit easier to walk; safer, restful perhaps…

As I saw more of the surrounding land, I realized it was quite beautiful, how it all ran together in a sort of harmony. Rugged and dangerous mixed in with lovely, breathtaking, restful places; places that were safe and easy; places that were dangerous and even treacherous in spots. It all worked together, somehow, to be beautiful. Never minimizing or mocking the pain, the hurt and the loss that life and situations bring us, but focusing on a different perspective; like a tapestry that takes shape and becomes lovely, when all the threads are woven together just as they need to be; even if the process is long and tedious and often unclear.

I believe God wants us to bring all the hurt, rage, fear and injustice straight to Him. He already knows.  When we lay it before Him, and go up into our watchtower and wait for His answer, He gives us a new view; His divine perspective. Yes, the problems are still there; yes it still hurts and frustrates and enrages, yet…when we get just a glimpse of the full picture, when we look behind and see where we have come and remember all He HAS done, it gives all that lies ahead a new hue; a new filter through which to view our current complaints. He is with us. Always.

I picture the watchtower and the idea of going up into it, as a symbol of leaning into Jesus and getting closer to Him. There is safety there in Jesus, our watchtower. As we lay all the junk out before Him, saying “Well, here You go. This is all of it. I’m tired of trying to make it on my own with this stuff. I have no idea what to do with it, why You have allowed it, but here, please take it.”, that release allows Divine Perspective to come in. It allows it to heal, mend and counsel; to comfort, love and change the view of the landscape, to one of hope, healing and transformation. It takes time and patience and will produce a whole new level of trust. I have found immense comfort and even joy, yes joy!, when I head up into the watchtower and wait. Peace is always there. Beauty will follow. When I see from a Divine perspective, I become aware that nothing has been wasted. It was all necessary for what is to come, to unfold. Alpha, Omega; beginning and the end.