☕️ Contented Longing

A Saturday Caesura

Another winter storm blew through and returned the snow that a chinook licked up last week. The landscape is smooth and soft and clean again, which feels more February-ish than puddles, half-frozen mud, and patches of gravel. I bought more bird seed the other day because of the new snow, but couldn’t resist buying a few packages of garden seeds because part of me is beginning to yearn for spring. Another part of me just wants to soak in the pristine white fields and cerulean blue skies forever. Don’t leave me just yet, I want to tell them. But then, I can’t wait to start the geraniums soon, and then the tomatoes and peppers, and hello Green, I’m so glad you’re back.

Life exists in this tension between yearning and contentment. Sometimes I forget that I can feel both at the same time and this is okay. I can know both great joy and deep sorrow in the same moment. I can disagree with someone and still love them. I can experience solitude without resenting the loneliness of it. I can enjoy the job that often exhausts me. I can engage fully with a beautiful and broken world and yet cry with all my heart, even so, come Lord Jesus.

☕️ Lilies

A Saturday Caesura

Almost ten years ago, someone brought several potted lilies to our son’s funeral service. After everyone had gone home and the other bouquets of flowers had faded and withered, I planted the lilies beneath a cluster of trees in our backyard. It was an act of hope that they would survive the winter — that I would survive this loss.

Since then, the lilies have bloomed every year, and each year I have learned more about living with grief.

In preparation for this year’s Great Backyard Redo, I moved the lilies last spring — built a raised bed specifically for them, watched them bloom in early summer, and then worried that their roots would be too exposed to survive the deep freeze of winter.

I began looking for signs of life as soon as the snow melted this spring. For the longest time there was nothing. I started to consider that these lilies could actually die and the thought began stirring and renewing the grief that had brought them to us to begin with.

I began breathing again when they began poking up green.

They had survived another winter.

The lilies are now thick with golden blooms. The taller ones will soon add splashes of burgundy red and I’ll keep breathing in the beauty and breathing out gratitude that although death is inevitable and grief is inescapable, life is full of unfathomable generosity and goodness.

☕️ Seasons

A Saturday Caesura

Spring has finally settled in to stay. The snipes are back, the trees are leafing green, night temperatures are staying above zero. The sun-snow-rain-freeze-thaw-frost of the past few weeks felt too much like the in-school-online-school-open-close-isolate-vaccinate of the ongoing coronavirus season. So much tossing to and fro, back and forth, in and out. It feels like rest for spring to just. stay. put.

This past week a friend and I met in a park for an after-work picnic and overdue visit. The summer-haunted warmth of the evening mirrored our friendship, one that has found deeper roots while standing together through a particular life-storm. I love that the all-season friends in my life come from all seasons, ages, backgrounds, experiences. I am grateful that they embrace relationships in ways that promote beauty and unity in a world increasingly prone towards the ugly and divisive. It feels like a settling and a hope-sprouting spring.

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day and whatever else it is for me, this day usually becomes a reflection on all the seasons of motherhood. So much delight and pain wrapped up in a single role. I have regrets. I have treasured memories. I have tears. But I am grateful for this season of being a mother to adult children. It feels like a settling and a fresh-washed spring and a joy-filled grief-tinged blessing.

Tomorrow is also our 40th wedding anniversary, and if motherhood has predicable seasons as children grow from newborn to adulthood, marriage seasons come and go with regular unpredictability. We grow, storm, stagnate, forgive, compromise, love, laugh, cry, cling, withdraw, pray, pray, pray, give, cherish, for better or for worse. Forty years. Two-thirds of our lives. We are not the same people who pledged to have and to hold till death to us part all those years ago. And yet we are still uniquely us, aged and shaped by forty years of individuality and togetherness. I’m grateful for this season of continuing to grow in oneness. It feels like a settling and a long, languid summer and a rich undeserved blessing.

He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty…and fills your hearts with joy. Acts. 14:17

☀️Dear Author of Life

I’m noticing the fine details you have woven into your Grand Story, the one that begins and ends with you, but somehow includes plump pussy-willows and robinsong and purple prairie crocuses blooming in the midst of April snow. I love how these details matter to you.

I’m wondering if you were thinking in hyperbole when you introduced the stars, the galaxies. Did you craft their far-reaching layers just so that we would have a visual metaphor for infinity? You established the motif of light and dark very early in the story, but the way you nuance it by scattering a shimmer of aurora borealis across the night sky is an extravagance of poetic language beyond words. Was this to remind us that light and dark aren’t mere symbols for good and evil, but the foundational syntax of beauty?

However, I am somewhat befuddled that you would actually add characters such as myself into a setting so vastly creative and finely tuned. Pardon me, but don’t we just deface the setting, complicate your story line? Haven’t we pretty much blown up your original outline for how this should all go? Your devotion to keeping us in the story is staggering. In human terms, an author who inserts her/himself into their own story seems a bit narcissistic, in need of a cameo appearance so we don’t forget that they are the mastermind behind the craft. But you insert yourself into your story to remind us that we are necessary and dearly loved and redeeming us is the only way for the story to end as you have always planned. This has been a love story all along, hasn’t it?

Today, I see trees waving tiny new leaf buds and in that intricate detail, I glimpse the height and width and depth of your love and I respond with humble praise that I am here in this particular place, part of your ongoing story, flawed but not written off the page, a redeemed character within your story of redemption.

With sincere gratitude,

One of your beloved

☕️Anticipation and Delight

A Saturday Caesura

I spent the month of April anticipating spring, watching with delight as snow white gave way to earthy browns, and most recently, to hints of green.  And now spring is here.  The anticipation is over.  Life continues.  And isn’t that how it goes? We look forward to something – graduation, career, marriage, children, travel – and when the waited-for-thing arrives, we celebrate and then pack up the party hats and slip into something more comfortable and ordinary and continue with life, and sometimes in that ordinary continuing we stop finding delight.  

At some point everything we wished for in spring seems humdrum, run-of-the-mill, so what, or whatever. We anticipate the fresh new leaves of spring but complain about raking them in the fall.  We delight in lush green lawns but are annoyed at having to mow them each week. 

Occasionally we’ll do or see something that sparkles with delight – an evening BBQ on the deck, a drive in the countryside, a hike in the mountains – but mostly our days are smeared with the nondescript colours of ordinary.  So we make sparkle our quest but too often lose the ability to discern between what is real and meant for delight and what is illusionary and results in despair.

We live as if wonder and delight cannot be found in the mundane and exist only in the extra-ordinary, the superfluous, the majestic, the miraculous.  But what if wonder and delight are woven into the fabric of creation?  What if we took our eyes off the Big Shiny Things and found delight in something as ordinary as a cloudless sunrise, the gentle touch of a spouse, a moment of laughter with a friend, a muskrat swimming in the ditch. 

We live as if anticipation is not a sustainable emotion, its life-span restricted to that liminal space before the big events, significant changes, momentous moments.  But what if we stopped reserving our anticipation for the Big & Memorable and lived each day as if it is in itself an anticipation, a continual expectation of yet another day and another and another.

What if the reality that life does continue is extraordinary and delightful and wondrous and anything but ordinary.

🌿Puddles ‘n Boots

A sure sign that spring is a thing

is the proliferation

of puddles.

One such puddle on our street

has visions of being a pond

or even a lake. With a name.

We’ve been gingerly skirting it,

but today I encountered

a mom and son

wading, wandering right through it,

holding hands. Smiling.

“We just wanted to try our

rubber boots.”

Her explanation, sheepish.

As if being caught enjoying

spring is a thing

of shame.

Unfolding

The geese come first. A few random stragglers glide in early, braving late snow and still-frozen lakes, followed by gaggles more, gathering in fields like concert-goers waiting for the show to begin.  

Soon saucy, raucous gulls flash black-tipped white against spring-blue skies.  

The ice begins to recede from puddles, ponds, and lakes, and the ducks quack their way back. The marsh behind my house becomes a constant cacophony of waterfowl-speak.  

As if all previous arrivals were simply the opening act, the majestic and stately swan gracefully soars in, its deep, bass trumpet resonating across the bulrushes.

Robins are the next to trill their way north, filling the early morning sky with their song long before I actually see the familiar red breast. 

One calm evening, the frogs, almost always unseen, add their gurgly, bubbly, throaty croaking, and I wonder again at their ability to survive beneath the ice and cold of winter.

Leaves bud and spread green, first just a light frosting dabbed on tree tops, then a full-blown bright new green that embraces the landscape. And the wind, alternating warm and cold, has something new to play with. Leaves flutter a melody no longer silenced by winter.

After a brief pause, the red-winged blackbirds fill the song spaces with their riffs and rills, spreading wings and strutting red and gold epaulets as they stake out their territory in the marsh.  

Grackles, elegant heads shimmering green-purple-blue in the spring sun, chirp conversationally as they forage for spring food.  

And then, it comes….high in the air, the unmistakable winnowing sound of the snipe. I don’t know why, but I find something comforting about the return of the snipes.

Spring is still unfolding… terns will soon be be performing arial acrobatics around the gulls. The warblers have yet to bring their cheery song and constant flitting to the willows in the back yard. Yellow-headed blackbirds always trail behind the red-wings, as do the orioles with their crystalline call and brilliant orange plumage. Clever little marsh wren hasn’t returned to stuff my birdhouses with sticks – yet. Quiet, unassuming and shy sora will probably return completely unnoticed.

I like tracking the unfolding of spring. In the midst of a world that seems increasingly unpredictable, where so much of what could be counted on as true and right is being upended and distorted, it anchors my soul to be reminded through the gradual process of spring renewal that God’s order still supersedes man’s designs.  

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’ ” (Lam. 3:22-24)

If the unfolding of spring is so glorious, how much more the unfolding of the plan of God for our world – for my life.  

Yes, I will wait for Him.