Inviting Peace into Summer’s Wilderness

There is a peace that comes after vacation, after three continents, after plane, train, boat, and car. After seeing all we can see of the world, so big, and us so small. There is a peace that I control very little. It’s a relief, I tell you.

I do not control my children. I can try, but I don’t. I do not control my husband. I can try, but we all know how that ends! I do not control delayed flights, gate changes, long lines, or traffic from Hades. I have no influence over city-wide parties almost locking us out of a parking garage for 24 hours! Little ‘ole me does not bear weight upon the arrival of my own President’s arrival changing our travel plans. I absolutely cannot make the day longer or shorter, change the outcome to suit me, or miraculously make our rolly luggage appear on the other side of a Venice bridge with a million steps.

What I can do is invite peace. The kind acknowledging limits and the freedom of focusing on what I can do. Peace comes in being honest: this is what I hoped for,  but this is what happened. Peace is rooted in reality and has faith in provision. So what happened made me feel this. Is that true? And I will choose to trust.

Where does my help come from? It does not come from myself. It comes from soaking my life in God’s ways.

One of our last days in Israel, we drove through the desert, which in Biblical times was the proverbial wilderness. In the wilderness, it’s a big dust bowl of mountain, sand, and dirt. Canyons of rock and sand shift with the wind and once a year onslaught of water. Deep dried up rivers shape the landscape, determine the placement of roads, towns, and industry.

There is a certain uncertainty there, a flexibility and acceptance of the unexpected. We drove into a po-dunk town named after Israel’s founder: Midreshet-Ben Gurion. Using trusty Google coordinates, we drove into a random neighborhood and tried to find our B&B. We parked in front of a house with a retro green door. Kids on rollerblades and hockey sticks raced past on the sidewalk. “This is not it,” we said. This cannot be it. We drove around for another half hour, trying to find a phone signal, and trying to figure out why no one was in a hurry. Adults and kids alike walked slowly by. Bikes everywhere in these run down dust covered homes. Like a bowl of sawdust had been dumped on a Floridian retirement village. That was the color.

We drove and finally got to the outskirts of town next to a run down warehouse and a chain link fence. As we sat there, the phone finally reached the British B&B owner. He informed us the green door had been it. He told us he was coaching those kids with hockey sticks in the desert. That we were there and we just hadn’t known it.

As he navigated us back to the green door, we realized all the buildings and coordinates couldn’t help us find this ramshackle home that was the spitting image of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. The owners 10 year old daughter checked us into our bungalow with a coy pond (under construction) in the courtyard. We had entered a strange paradise owned by people who knew the uncertainty of life in the desert, which is indeed, the wilderness.

Sometimes summer feels like wilderness: no schedule, no control, no rhythm, no expectancy. Just when you get in a groove, something changes, you go on vacation, the air conditioning breaks, or you realize you have very little time to write any more.

So you invite the peace, the peace that is the canyon of colors a few yards away from the green door. The dawn of a welcoming college town that is in no hurry, because it knows God gives and He takes away. He provides a way for a beautiful peace to supplant the control we cling to like sand.

Just follow the green door.

If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s givingMatthew 6:30 MSG

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When Comfort Calls (a poem)

//Laying on my white bed, I listened to the voicemail.

A friend talking sense and love and reason,

Things I couldn’t keep gathered in my own arms today.

I kept dropping them, like trying to hold a laundry load of socks

Me, tripping over them, as I climbed stairs,

All. Day. Long.

Some days the chemicals in my brain misfire, swirling in a strange cocktail of overanalysis.

My body responds in tension and pain

And the mystery of being a woman turns me inside out

Like a wrinkly shirt, arms knotted together, front button holes clinging to the wrong buttons.//

Her words were a balm to my wounded spirit, spread three feet in the air,

Maybe it was the blue of my bedroom walls,

But suddenly I was floating in the clearest blue pool

On my back, a girl again.

I closed my eyes and felt warm sun on my nose, wet hair swirling round my ears,

I leaned back, laughing,

When I opened my eyes, my dad was lifting my weightless body up and out of the water

And he threw me in a great arc.

I made a splash,

Went completely under,

Wet-faced with comfort.

She kept talking.

I laughed, crying,

Knowing I’d have to replay the message later

To hear what it was she said.

This post is part of the Five Minute Friday community. This week our one-word writing prompt is COMFORT.

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When You Can’t Muster a Reason Why

“Everyone comes to Israel for a reason. What’s yours?” Marla asks. Her mannerisms are purposed as she pours me a glass of wine. There is strength in asking questions in this rocky land, of God and ourselves. Israel is a land of sojourners, people scattered and regathered under great doubts and hopes probing all of us. Who am I? Why am I here? I look out beyond the deck railing, past the cows contentedly lowing among stones, dirt, and scrubby plants. My eyes stare out at the hazy blue of the Sea of Galilee. I wonder how one happens upon such an answer, unless it’s given divinely.

Abby and I had ridden horses earlier up the hill sloping below us now. It was her first time on a big glorious beast, and she barely said a word as our young freckled guide led us over the arid, stoney terrain. Buckthorn burrs stuck to our socks and scraggly branches poked our thighs. Abby’s horse Goory (pronounced like “gooey” while flipping the “r”) attempted to forge his own path to the left, while mine pushed forth to be lead of the equine herd, his black mane shining in the harsh setting sun.

I can make any journey into hard labor, whether on a horse or off. Before the trip, I had obsessed over losing a kid in the vast Frankfurt airport. I awoke to blackness under perspiration-damp sheets, my subconscious desiring to know whether we would all be more at peace, more ourselves after the trip. I’ve got to have a reason.

Sometimes though, because you’ve been overthinking and overdoing for so long, you simply want to do something you love and forget the reasons why.

Losing myself in the ride was part of what made it perfect. The Sea of Galilee spanned beyond the hill. The horses wove between happy cows munching their dinner. Birds twittered and landed on the rocks. The clack of hoof against stone jostled a memory loose in my mind.

When I was a few years older than Abby, I had ridden a chestnut brown horse as it clomped through a Colorado stream, peaks towering around me as a girl, and my family, together, and perfectly content in adventure. The sublime moment was a flashback of freedom and comfort granted only with the push of our thighs into the now and our bodies prodding the horses up the sloping hill.

Here our guide granted us liberty to let go. “Push your heels hard and make the clicky noise,” referring to the constant clacking we had to make with our tongues to keep the horses motivated to move at all. We dug the back of our feet into the animals’ sides. They moved quickly, ears perked at the excitement. Dust and sweat kicked up in the air. Our backsides bounced in the saddles. My hand pushed my sliding sunglasses back up my nose again and again.

As we pressed our legs harder into the horses, the easier it was to surrender to the jostle and speed. When we finally stopped, joy unlooked-for spread grins wide across our faces. Abby was quiet, but I knew her silence meant she was beaming inside, internalizing the sensation of riding near-glory.

After a surge of joy, reasons sometimes have a way of working themselves out. They let go of us a bit, shaking out the brilliance behind our questions. I see the golden light on the rocks as the horses mosy up the path toward home. Behind me, purple sky wipes night into my hand, slowly. Later I hold her glass stem in my hand. I swirl her black expanse with the Cabernet.

I feel the dust under my nails, the bouncing sensation still stirring in my chest, the way the corners of my mouth turn up as I answer carefully, as not to shatter the memory of the day, “Maybe I’m here to become O.K. with not knowing.”

Enough of a reason, for now.

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Free to Run and Play

This poem was inspired by an impromptu outing in Tel Aviv, Israel. One evening, the kids and I walked from our apartment down the noisy street, through parking lots, and finding our way to Metzizim Beach. With no agenda, we leaned over Tel Aviv Port to feel the water splash up the side of the wall and onto our faces.

Then we walked down to the protected cove, waded in green mossed shallows, and stayed on through til sunset. I sat on the sand and tried to warm myself with my sweater while the kids bounded through shimmering surf.

“Don’t get your shorts wet!” I shouted over the waves. Of course, they did.

There weren’t supposed to be any shells. Of course, they found plenty.

Across the little cove was a peninsula with rocks and a post flying the Israeli flag. I reflected how safe we felt here in a country with a slight reputation for being quite the opposite.

The kids embraced the chilly night like a new friend, which she was. As they splashed and sanded themselves, I surrendered motherly control of clothing and wetness to the wind. Therein, I felt the sharpest pang of delight.

Run and Play, Dear Life

// If you could do anything, be anything,

What would you do? Who would you be?

A mathematician?

A painter of portraits?

A belly dancer?

A shaper of ceramics?

A tightrope walker!

An instiller of dreams into the minds of children, fully awake.

You could play with this idea as I do.

You could sift it through your fingers like sand,

Beg questions from the endless draught of ocean,

Waves breaking round your ankles,

But all you see are the shells where none should be.

You hold them delicately in your palm,

A crown of flowers adorns your head,

You, on hand and knees, shape sand as you and the idea play.

There is no need to decide, if ever.

No matter, you are secure in love.

It will always be standing here, posted into rocks,

Waving the colors of your truest country.

//

Because you God have always stood up for me, I’m free to run and play. I hold on to you for dear life, and you hold me steady as a post. Psalm 63:8 MSG

I’m writing this post with the Five Minute Friday community. This week our one-word writing prompt in five minutes or less was PLAY. (// indicates the start and stop of five minutes.)

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The Blessing of Uncertainty

//

Photos from four years past popped up in my Google feed before I sat down to write this. Pictured: our family on Day 2 of our first ever epic road trip. We woke up to an expansive view of mountains and a horse ranch, our campsite situated in the midst of Estes Park, Colorado. The day before we had stood precariousy under our car trunk in the pouring rains as the kids yelled at us in the tent, “We want out!” and no dinner prepared at 8 p.m. Yet that morning we awoke to the view you now see and a fox trotting right by our campsite, a limp mouse, breakfast, hanging from its jaws. It was just a few feet away from us.

To me the photos are proof of blessing: proof God provides beauty, expereince, and life when I don’t know what’s next.

God knew way before modern neuroscientists mentioned the science of possibility: we are wired for hope. And when we lean into that realm of not yet and what could be, our minds and bodies are triggered to live well into the extraordinary.

One way to do this is by remembering magic moments when uncertainty faced us: a rainstorm, a bad camping trip, or even, not knowing where dinner would come from. Then recall the blessing which came from it.//

In New Testament Greek, blessing is makariosthe belief God will expand faith He has already given you as a mark of His favor. I look back on that initial trip and see how God guided us on the most incredible road trip we’ve ever had (and we’ve had a lot!): waterfalls, caverns, swimming holes, seashores, and hidden coves.

I look at these pictures alongside the blank days of summer, fall, and the whole year to come. I get scared sometimes when I forget God and His presence. I recognize it a bit late like the two friends of Jesus did on the road to Emmaus.

He’s with me and you now as we think back to the blessing of how He paved a way through the mountains. The fox knew what she’d been given would come again—she pounced on the blessing and took it home to whomever dwelt in her little den, and so did I.

This post is written with the Five Minue Friday community. Today our one-word writing prompt was BLESSING.

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Steady Is As She is Known

Steady is as she is known,

As fireflys lighting hedgerows,

Candle-creatures flickering the only knowledge they own,

As bats gathering the night to save the world from bugs and bites,

A greater purpose I cannot know.

 

My mind flashes to my smallness riding on dinosaur Daddy shoulders,

His strong forearms and legs swaying with steadfast strength

Though the earth rumbles

And cries behind closed doors.

Then it is me, near tears, standing over

My infant’s son’s carrier.

How can such tiny eyes stream such steady light,

Telling me he will be with me when I pass into next life?

 

Go on and ask God, “What is to come?” and, “How will I know?”

“Steady as she goes,” is not how a one of us lives,

Truly.

Steady is as she is seen and heard.

 

We are creatures crying out in the dark for food, flying in circles,

Coming home only when our bellies are full.

This poem is part of Five Minute Friday. Join the 5 minute weekly writing challenge this week as we write on the word STEADY. More info here.

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