Camping in the Woods

There is nothing quite like the smell of the woods! Earthy and old, all-knowing and rich. Divine creation.

Deep inhalation floods the senses with all sorts of stimulation and primal memories; life, connection, ancient Earth rhythms.  There is something nourishing here that feeds the soul; rejuvenating, expansive, positive, and elemental. Back to our roots.

The canvas camp chair nestled in just the right spot under a giant Redwood beckons – “Come, sit, be!”

The pace of these old, wise trees slows the heart and busy mind; infuses stillness and awareness and a lovely sense of restful calm.

Leaning back and looking up, the eye sees the forever journey upward of these majestic trees; always yearning and following their source of Life – the Light. But not in a helter-skelter, chaotic way. No. The trees are stately, purposeful and fierce in their growth. Some have grown around, over, under or through whatever obstacles keep them from their Source. They know how to get there and do it unwaveringly, without frantic attempts and harebrained scheming.  There is a lesson here in the trees for me. I feel it in my bones.

Life in the woods, on the surface, can seem frenetic, but a deeper, more careful look reveals the opposite. The birds, squirrels, raccoons and other scurriers, big and small, are actually quite organized and methodical in how they go about their Creator-given tasks. Fascinating. Humbling. Teachable. Complete trust.

My Creator has given me a specific task. Am I frantic in the doing? Can I trust that by ever following my Source of Light, I will accomplish my aim? I will be enough?

If one is truly quiet, even for a moment, one can hear Nature growing, doing its nature thing; cracks and snaps of branches bowing under the weight of a naughty, scolding Jay; the tiny rustle of a fern frond, as an invisible creature winds its way on a well- worn path; the sibilant splash of a hidden stream flowing from its source high above – who knows what adventures it experienced on its way down stream.  The imagination can run wild here! That is healing.

Dusk deepens in the woods and Nature’s life sounds change from the busy afternoon.  There is a shift in the light and the night dwellers begin to venture out with different calls and purposes, as the day timers wind down and begin their settling in. Perfect rhythm. All in alignment.

Time for a campfire!

Sticks, old dried leaves and moss from the forest floor, make a perfect bed for the larger sticks and logs to rest upon. Fire!

Slowly it ignites and consumes the small sticks and random pieces of detritus that were thrown in the fire ring.  The fledgling fire is mesmerizing to watch, as flames lick and snap and dart through the wood, finding the best route and igniting all in its path.

The warmth and the crackling, snapping and popping sounds recall happy memories of camping trips gone by; of long hikes and fishing, stories and laughter by the fire late into the night or of simple, quite evenings of lulled conversation and companionable silence, as each one is captivated by the warmth and mystery of fire. 

The forest is just as active at night as it is by day, but one must listen more carefully and purposefully to know it. Nocturnal hunters, prowlers and the curious are all around, going about their business. I wonder what they imagine, as they watch us, undetected, from the dark woods.

Sleep beckons, so off to bed, soothed to sleep by the living forest.

Morning comes very early in the woods. Creatures up early to welcome the new day and begin again their Creator-given work.

Bird calls sound joyful and insistent as day breaks. “Up, up, up!” They seem to shout. Nothing is wasted, every minute important in its own way, because this is survival. This is life.

So again, begins another day camping in the woods. The adventures are endless and so are the lessons.

What will you come back with? Peace? Purpose? A reset spirit? I believe the forest is one of our Creator-given ways to rebalance and reset from our frenzied attempts to create a path we were never meant to travel…

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Heart Words

Psalm 27:8 – My heart has heard You say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”

Challenges. Distractions. Life; with choices to make, priorities to set, goals to reach. Is life what makes some days hard to get through? Maybe no calamity befalls me or mine, maybe nothing life or death happens in a given day, but sometimes it does. Some days I feel a little hollow, disappointed, irritable; short changed, overlooked and misunderstood. I find myself spending time, probably too much time, pondering these hollow, worn out feelings, wondering who, what, why, when, how and where they are coming from and how to get rid of them.

So, I endeavor to “set aside” time for Jesus each day and fix this dilemma. I will read my Bible these many minutes or read X number of chapters and pray for this amount of time and then all will be well. I will start with thanksgiving, move on to confession and praying for all the needs of others, then I will pray for God to orchestrate my time and talent and use it for His good and glory.  That is the formula.  Right? There is absolutely nothing wrong with focused Bible study and structured time with God. Isn’t that what “everyone” says is the way to do it? So why is the formula not working? Why is the simmering, brewing frustration still there? Why is the discontent and irritation still bubbling and buffeting my heart and my spirit? It is a vague, foggy sense of something being off; like a miniscule rock stuck in your sock that you can’t quite find, but is so bothersome that it becomes the only thing you focus on, but never quite find.

With French Roast and some creamy foam in my favorite “ I LOVE MOM” mug, I found my spot at the patio table, with my Bible and all the necessary accompaniments at hand…and sat there. Nothing. Huh. As I sat, I noticed birds darting all over my yard, so content going about their business, exactly as God designed them to do and exactly how He created them. They sang. They squabbled. They moved on. They came back at a better time, to grab an open spot on the feeder. They didn’t sit and feel sad that they didn’t get the ideal spot on the feeder. They were creative in how they forced themselves into a space that at first glance, didn’t look possible.

This brought to mind Matthew 6:25 – “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? …But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Seek first the kingdom of God. Seek. How do I do that? My careful formula isn’t easing those feelings and isn’t filling those voids. And the formula isn’t always genuine. Ahhhh, there it is. Genuine. Real. Raw. Unscripted. These words are the exact opposite of formula, yet pierced my heart. I long for these words to be real in my relationship with Jesus. As the light breeze flipped the pages of my open Bible, Psalm 27 shows up. Specifically Psalm 27:8 – My heart has heard You say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” My Father is asking me to come and talk to Him and my heart is leaping at the chance to do that! Nothing needs to be scripted, plotted or planned. There is not a wrong way to come before my Daddy in heaven. He said, “Come and talk with me.” That speaks of intimacy, closeness, trust and desire to be fully known. This is what I really want, deep down inside of my essence, to be known in all the goodness, ick, loveliness, confusion, humor, talent, fear, failures, victories. Wouldn’t it be lovely to just be sometimes and not need to have a constant dialogue pouring from your mouth? When my son was younger, he often told me I use too many words and it exhausts him. It was funny and still is, but wow… that is truth right there! Too many words. How lovely, peaceful and restoring to be in the presence of my Father and not have to say words? Isn’t that what the heart is all about? Not words, big solutions and hour long flowery prayers, but presence, depth and intimacy that doesn’t always need an audible voice? Deep calling to deep; deep restoring, healing and transforming deep. I think I am finding my answers as I write this out. Yes, life is going to happen and I can’t do a thing about it. The balm that I need to soothe and let go of those hollow, disappointed, irritable; short changed, overlooked and misunderstood feelings is not going to be found in a rote formula and in getting the amount of time spent doing x,y,z just perfectly. No. My Father showed me His formula this morning on the patio in my everyday life, with my dogs nosing around the flower beds and birds scolding and singing. He asked my heart to come and hang out with Him for a bit and share what’s up. So, I will and I won’t say a word.

Just some truth…

Good morning friends, old and new! As I sit and drink my lovely coffee this morning in my quiet house, listening to snoring dogs and calling birds, some thoughts are hovering on my mind and heart. As I settle them in and begin to absorb and ponder them, I know that these truths are definitely a reminder for me; but I also wonder, if maybe, you need to hear this, too.

God loves you. He made you, He knows everything about you and loves all of it. Every single inch. Your weaknesses and struggles are not driving Him away from you. He is there always, as close as your next breath. Go ahead, inhale. You are seen and known; you have God’s undivided attention. You have tremendous value and purpose. You are here for a reason; you are not a mistake or a random happening. There is a path carefully laid out for you. It for you and no one else. The heart of the Father knew exactly what He was doing when you were created to walk that path and make a difference to those in your sphere. You are needed. Do you know that there are conversations happening, in heaven, about you? You are always on His mind, engraved on His hands and His heart.

Those places in your heart that hurt; the place in your soul that has been so wounded, has not gone unnoticed by God. He saw, He knows and He grieves. If you give it to Him, He will take it and redeem it; He wants to do that for you. Don’t you know that is why He came? For you! He can restore and transform those places that seem too lost, too broken, too ugly. Those places will become places of beauty in His hands. The secret hurt isn’t hidden from Him. He knows all about any anger and hatred; injustice, bitterness and resentments; failures and victories and joyful A-ha moments. He was and is there for every single moment. You are not alone.

He looks on you with eyes of love, compassion, joy and mercy. You are His child. Talk to Him. He loves to hear our voices; like melodies and harmonies in His ears. To our ears, the song may sound dreadfully out of tune, but the sound of your voice, my voice, is like incense to our Father. It is a thing of beauty when we speak to Him and He responds; deep calls to deep; Spirit speaking to spirit. It is a holy communion, because even when we do not have the words to speak, His Spirit is there and He knows. He hears. He understands. No big words, wild gestures, loud voices are needed with your Father. He is there in the silence when there are just no human words. Sometimes just speaking His name is enough.

“The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

Traditions

With the holidays in full swing, I have been thinking about traditions and the place of importance they often hold in our lives.  It made me stop and wonder why? There are holiday traditions I definitely look forward to and work hard to make happen, just the way I remember them. Beginning in November, I feel that twinge of anxiety, mixed with great anticipation about how Christmas “should be.” That last part, “how Christmas should be”, becoming my focus. It brings with it a whole lot of expectations, which often lead to feeling disappointed and let down, because things rarely go as planned, right? My tightly controlled ideas of how things will be, how people will act and the expectation that everyone feels the same excitement, rarely come to pass. Someone gets sick, finances are tight, the weather does not cooperate, kids grow up and don’t react the way they used to, it’s a no burn day, so the roaring, cheery fire doesn’t happen, cats destroy carefully wrapped packages and the list goes on and on of things that sneak or blast their way in to our well controlled plans for the perfect holiday.

I have expectations of yummy goodies baking all season in the kitchen, making my house smell festive; I imagine Christmas parties with good friends filling the house; I dream of evenings spent by a warm, cozy fire with my family, pets, hot drinks, movies and all the warm fuzzy togetherness we can stand; a night of hot cocoa, while driving around looking at festive Christmas lights with everyone loving every second of it, with not a fight to be had. This fantastic list goes on and on, of things that are wonderful and exciting and lovely, but not very realistic. These expectations leave NO wiggle room for life or messed up plans or teenagers who don’t want to drive around looking at houses with lights on them.

I asked myself why I get anxious, letdown or sad if things don’t play out the way I expected. What will it mean if none of these traditions I hold on to, with such a white knuckled intensity, come to pass?  Interestingly enough, the first thought that came to mind was “it won’t be safe.” Safety. I can see that. It makes sense in an odd sort of way. Feeling safe is something I have always craved. Remembering back to my childhood Christmases, everything felt predictable, controlled and orderly. It was safe. Secure. All wrapped up tightly. I knew what and who to expect, when and how to expect them.  It was all lovely and predictable. I’m certain that things didn’t go perfectly all of the time; plans were changed, people got sick and life disrupted, as it often does, but as a child, I don’t remember any of that. I remember feeling safe; protected and wrapped up in traditions, knowing that my family would be surrounding me, we would have festive meals and there would be baking and delicious smells; there would be the anticipation of Christmas Eve candle light services and carols and everyone smiling; there would be lights on our tree and evenings spent sitting in the glow of those lights. The anticipation of Santa and listening for reindeer filled my heart with joy and wonder and predictability. What great memories. I love them. There were things in my childhood that were not happy and safe. Christmas and traditions held such importance, because I knew that during the holidays, I would feel safe and things would be predictable and in control. I wonder if that holds some truth for all of us? Do traditions give us predictability, safety and the feeling of being in control in an otherwise unpredictable, uncontrollable life? Is that why there are such feelings of letdown and depression for some, come Dec. 26th?  Unmet expectations? Things not ending up as planned? People not behaving the way we had hoped?

Maybe this year will be different. Can I shift my focus to what is in front of me and embrace and enjoy it, allowing something new to become a great memory, instead of relying on what happened in the past to happen again? Can I celebrate Christmases past, yet open my heart to the here and now?  I want the season to be about gratefulness, focusing on what I have and the season of life I’m in; finding peace in that. I want the season to be more about Jesus and the joy of knowing how safe and loved I am. God came to Earth, in the flesh, to be part of my world, to bring me everlasting life. The King of Kings, the Prince of Peace, Almighty God, Warrior, Lover, Savior – He came for me. He came for you. How’s that for feeling safe! Come, let us adore Him!

Autumn in the Park

I love how the autumn light filters and dances through the red and gold leaves; a light, pixie-like breeze gently rustling them, sending a few floating lazily to the ground.

Standing still for a moment, taking in the smell, the light, the feel of that breeze lightly brushing my skin, I feel my shoulders relax and drop down a bit as I smile and breathe deeply.

The packed dirt and gravel path looks so inviting; it’s already claimed other nature loving souls this morning, who heeded the call to get out and be refreshed; joggers, walkers, meanderers; their faces reflecting the serenity that I’m desperate for today.

Preoccupied squirrels with fluffy brown tails are busy with their autumn tasks; digging, ruffling, burying their treasures. They make me happy. In an odd way, it is calming and peaceful to see them hard at work, yet seeming to revel in the autumn air and changing season as much as I am; their purposeful movements interspersed with dramatic bouts of scampering, scolding and tail waving.

The crunch of small rocks and dried leaves makes a pleasing sound as I walk the park. Haphazardly scattered along the pathway, among the rocks and sticks and other seasonal detritus, I am delighted to find bright red and orange leaves, which at first sight seem random, yet cause me to marvel at Mother Nature and the seemingly perfect placement of her handiwork. Lovely. A bright spot on the path, a reminder to be alert and observe, “there is beauty on your path but you must watch for it.”

What else might I be missing? I still my mind and watch and listen and smell; I observe with eyes that are looking for small joys and beauty; the things so ordinary that they are overlooked, yet are packed with meaning, novelty and beauty.

Laughter. I hear it. Toddlers so delighted with their game of hide and seek that they shriek out their joy and reveal their hiding spaces; feeling confident and protected as they run full speed through the grass, filling their young lungs with air and collapsing in a giggling heap with their gasping parents close behind. This. This is living. Exhausting oneself with pure happiness!

There is the man on the shady bench with his dog; a picture of contentment as he strokes the white head of his poodle and talks gently to it. His face is serene and his posture relaxed; the dog lying still observing us walkers, joggers and meanderers. Easy companionship.

I see the determined jogger, who runs past with heavy breathing and intense focus on her path, yet takes a moment to make eye contact, smile and chuff out a hello! Determined, yet aware.

From one vantage point at the far end of the path, I see the entire park open up in front of me. I feel joyful. I can’t help but smile wide at the deep green of the grassy area, where delighted dogs romp and chase far flung Frisbees, frisking around their guardians; where an older couple strolls hand in hand, taking in the park and all its beauty, totally unhurried; the huge mix of old trees that offer shade and respite for those enjoying the morning – pines, oaks and other varieties – the playground with excited children busy at play, imagining themselves invincible as they climb the slide ladder.

This morning walk in the park helped me shed a feeling of heaviness I did not realize I had been hauling around with me. I feel relaxed, open and so light; aware of just how much the ordinary is designed to bring joy, peace and a sense of centering, but we must have our senses ready to receive it. Our Creator knew just what He was up to, down to every slight detail; so intricate, yet so often overlooked, as we search out something huge and wild and shattering to bring back our peace and our sense of normalcy, when all we need is right in front of us, waiting to be seen with new eyes and fresh appreciation. Nature is calling, can you hear her?

Autumn

We lover’s of Autumn have a sixth sense about us; a knowing when that first revelation of summer’s end has arrived.

It is felt on the skin in that barely discernable nip and twinge of air, charged with the slightest of chills; awareness that the atmosphere has changed just a smidge.

Autumn’s scent is unique and mischievous. Earthy and deep; wise, pungent and bold in the way brown leaf tips, restless trees and fading flowers bend and drop to the Earth, daring the one watching to stop them; to impede the ancient progress of a slow, yet lovely descent into quiet and rest.

That spritely spurt of wind, which tosses and dances fallen leaves and finished flowers round and round, is delightful. What is it about piling up crispy, browned leaves and then dashing them about; flinging them from orderly piles into random and untamed flurries of color? A new beginning; a tossing and mixing up of the old, lazy routine into something new; a plan to disrupt the status quo and wait patiently through the Winter, as that plan takes on form and substance. Somehow the chaos of it is lovely and energizing; part of the ritual. It is one more wild streak before the settling and simmering of Autumn moves on to the mystery and silent brooding of Winter.

The discerning observer will witness Nature’s response to the shift from the indolent, dog days of summer to Autumn’s call to let go; the song of quiet purpose and intention, as Mother Earth whispers it’s time to fold in, cozy up and allow rest to perform its miracles and the deep, sweet slumber of Winter to wait in the wings.

There is something inspiring and invigorating in this call to purposeful letting go; an anticipation. Is it the definitive color changes and that unmatched fall scent in the air that feels like a new beginning? Is it the crisp sensation of fall air as one breathes it in?

Welcome Autumn! Come and show off your colors and dare us to think about the dead or dying places that we need to let fall; not with sadness or fear; but with an anticipation that a season of silent regrouping, where new life starts to bud,  will soon break free with the coming of Spring.  It’s coming and it will be glorious!

Call Upon the Lord

Call Upon the Lord

The song Call upon the Lord by Elevation Worship has been on repeat for a few weeks now (lyrics below).  I cannot get enough of it. I play it over and over again. Its theme will never get old, out dated, or worn out. Call upon the Lord and He WILL rescue and save; He WILL bring peace and healing.

“We need no other hiding place. Our hope is safe within Your name.” This is so beautiful. When we are tired, worn out or weary, Jesus is our hiding place.  His covering blocks out the noise, chaos, fear and uncertainty that the world relentlessly shouts. In His presence, we don’t have to listen to it. Our hope for safety, to be rescued, for healing and restoration, for receiving forgiveness and offering it to others, is all safe with Jesus. He won’t crush our hope; He restores it.  He won’t dash or mock our dreams; He planted them inside us and expands them and opens doors that only He can; He doesn’t withhold and punish; He died in our place, so we could have life with Him forever.   The hope and faith that He hears me, sees me and knows me; every single situation, wound, heart break and victory, which fashioned me into who I am, kept me hanging on through some heavy trauma and pain I have experienced.  Knowing that what He began He WILL sustain; knowing that Jesus has a plan and purpose behind my wounds brings hope. Those wounds are now scars, because of His healing.  I’m not anonymous, forgotten or forsaken.  In fact, I am so deeply known that I am free! Jesus’ name heals.  He alone is strong enough to save. There is power in the name of Jesus.

At His name “every enemy will flee, as we declare Your victory!” Jesus is our victory. He defied death, defeated the enemy of our souls once and for all, and He offers life to all who call His name. He is right there next to you, as you read these words. He is the breath in your lungs, the beat of your heart. There is nothing about you He doesn’t already know. No secrets with Jesus. He sees you; He sees me. He alone breaks down every stronghold we erect to protect and wall ourselves away from pain. He knows why those walls were erected. He was there. He watched us build them. The pain you and I try to hide with our walls, break His heart. Your walls probably look different than mine. A wall could look like pride, arrogance, self-reliance, fear, needing to be right, promiscuity, coldness, being shut off from others, sarcasm, humor, obsession with our looks, weight and appearance, and the list could go on. Jesus knows better than we do, why we felt we needed those walls.  He waits to be invited into our lives. He is a gentleman.  He doesn’t force Himself. Jesus will meet every need we have, even that niggling, ever present pricking, that we don’t fully understand; He does. He is enough.

In my own life, I have experienced healing and restoration from things so broken and devastated, I honestly never thought any of it could be healed or restored. I heard Jesus speak to my spirit and say words so similar to these lyrics, “RISE! Your shackles are no more, for I (Jesus Christ) have broken every chain!” He has, He did and He continues to do it. I found freedom.  Those lyrics mean so much to me. I am not sure I can accurately describe the beauty of it, the freedom, the peace and safety that I feel way down deep. I’m not sure it is describable, honestly, because we have all walked different paths and experienced different wounds,  but let me assure you, once you let go and allow yourself to experience His healing, you will never be the same. Yes, you will come face to face with pain, disappointment and fear, because that is life on this planet. But know that Jesus is right there with you, as close as your next breath and will cover you with peace that passes all understanding, if you allow Him in. If you ask Him, He will give you wisdom and guidance to navigate everything life will throw at you.  He will take your ashes and give you beauty, He will give you joy for your sadness and change out that robe of heaviness for a light and lovely garment of praise. It really is supernatural, and guess what? It’s a gift!

I would be honored to hear your stories of Jesus’ saving, healing, shackle- breaking power in your life, if you would like to share.

“I will call upon the Lord, for He alone is strong enough to save….”

Call Upon the Lord by Elevation Worship

We need no other hiding place                        All of the heavens and the earth

Our hope is safe within your name                Announce the fullness of your worth

This we know, this we know                            This we know, this we know

You promise never to forsake                          And every enemy will flee

What you began you will sustain                    As we declare your victory

This we know, this we know                           This we know, this we know

I will call upon the Lord                                     I will call upon the Lord

For he alone is strong enough to save           For he alone is strong enough to save

Rise your shackles are no more                        Rise your shackles are no more

For Jesus Christ                                                      For Jesus Christ

Has broken every chain                                       Has broken every chain

Jesus’ name will break every stronghold

Freedom is ours when we call his name

Jesus’ name above every other

All hail the power of Jesus’ name