For the last few months, I’ve had a broken molar tooth, which I’m finally going to go get fixed at the dentist this week. It’s funny how my tongue keeps investigating this broken section in my mouth, as if a new discovery will come of the exploration. It has struck me that I have lived too much of my life like this, worrying about the gaps, about what is “wrong” in the world and in my day. How do I identify myself? After my last blog post, my friends gave me a bit of a nudge, suggesting that maybe I’ve been over-identifying (ok, even obsessing) with my body. There are some famous verses from Jesus’ sermon on the mount which often come as a reminder to me when my lens on life has gotten skewed.
Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. So don’t keep worrying about what you’ll eat and wear, for God knows exactly what you need. Matthew 6:28-29; 32
So I have been “considering the lilies”, thinking of all the ways that this summer has been a “Yes”. In short, where has God shown his face to me.
- Hospitality of friends – I remember reading long ago that true hospitality invites someone to be truly themselves. In July, Lyle and I experienced true hospitality when we were graciously invited to join our friends Dave and Lorna at their rented cabin at High Lake. The trip was just one short day after my school year had ended. Typically, I am burned out by the end of June, and this year was no exception. I hadn’t even felt clear headed enough to clean my room decently before leaving. So I went to High Lake feeling that I wouldn’t be good company. But I needn’t have worried as our dear friends told us they had no expectations, and just to relax and be who we were, warts and all. It put me in mind of that A&W jingle from my childhood, “Hop in the car, come as you are…to A&W.” Come as you are. Hilarious jokes began tumbling out of us, no doubt as a response to the process of winding down. We laughed, we had some meaningful talks, and saw beautiful nature (including an army of mice in the cabin who were taking advantage of that hospitality as well.) Dave and Lorna’s hospitality reminded me of the God who loves us unconditionally, and provides restoration to the soul when it is needed.
- Hammering with Habitat for Humanity – Some may wonder why I volunteer for part of my summer. When it’s hot outside and I’m sweating under my hard hat, I sometimes wonder too, but I really believe that, if you can, volunteering is a great way to spend time. It has been a win-win situation. I contribute, but I receive just as much or more. I have met so many great people, many of whom give up even shorter holidays than I have to volunteer. My idea of fun is talking to someone about their lives while our hands are busy with a meaningful task. I have felt very privileged to meet with Fana, my friend from Sudan who is one of the homeowners. She said to me last week in her gentle voice, “You and I will remain friends after Habitat.” I often remember the quote: “A vision without a task is but a dream. A task without a vision is drudgery. A vision and a task is the hope of the world.” (from a church in Sussex, England, c.1730) To me, Habitat brings together a vision and a task.
- Raising monarch butterflies – For many years now, I have this unique hobby (obsession?) in the summer of raising butterflies. I do it for my own enjoyment, but also to share with the Monarch Teacher Network workshops I have become involved with. I also love to involve others in their care and release, at the seniors home, my son’s old daycare, or with neighbors. It is a perfect blend of a vision and a task, especially when I can bring this beautiful part of nature to my students in the spring and fall. With every butterfly’s release, I have begun to say prayers for people I know who are suffering or struggling in some way. I really believe that the best motive for us to take care of God’s earth is by nurturing a love of it.
- Focusing on the good in life – I know I’ve written about it before, but I have seen God’s face in the senior’s home that we sing at. These dear people, incapacitated as they are in so many ways, still show that they respond to life and love. At our last visit, I brought along my cage of 6 monarch butterflies, which had emerged just that day. After our singalong, we walked and wheeled into the courtyard downstairs to release the butterflies. Though we didn’t bring a camera, the picture of all of us enjoying this symbol of freedom gives me much hope and joy.
- Reading – Summer brings with it more space to read. I love how books can take you to a different place, expanding and deepening your world. It’s actually a discipline for me to take time to read, being the “doer” that I am. I’ve enjoyed Half-Broke Horses and am presently reading The Help. I’ve been reading a non-fiction book for our Wednesday night Bible study on the book of Samuel by one of my favorite writers Eugene Peterson. It’s called Leap Over a Wall.
- Bird Watching and Saved Trees – This summer, we had to make a decision about our backyard trees. We have 3 beautiful old maples, and 2 are showing signs of aging. One of them particularly has a huge rotting cavity in the trunk, a result of an improper pruning from years ago. I procrastinated and was already mourning what I thought was the inevitable, but I finally called in Kildonan Tree Services, assuming they’d tell us to take them down. To our surprise, he suggested that we be creative with the tree, doctoring it so it can last longer. Since bird watching is one of my favorite pastimes, we were thrilled to hear it. I have loved watching the blue jays, chickadees, woodpeckers and nuthatches while reading or writing out on our balcony, but the blue jays have got to be my favorite. I have marveled at their many different calls, which include whistles and clicks of the oddest kind. It’s almost like having a parrot as a pet (no, I haven’t taught them to talk…yet :-)). I have often reflected that God treats us the way the tree guy treated our trees. God sees difficulties and imperfections in our lives, and lovingly tends us, finding creative ways to make beautiful what was once diseased.
- House Church Meetings – I know I’ve written about my house church Watershed. It’s difficult to explain to people how this faith-based community is one of my greatest blessings, because churches these days are often considered irrelevant for day to day living. We meet together every Wednesday for study night, every other Sunday morning and for monthly movie night, where we watch and discuss meaningful movies. But we are also a community, supporting each other through the thick and thin of life as we eat, walk, email, phone, work, laugh and just hang out together. Unfailingly, whenever we meet, it is like refocusing a camera because I come away encouraged and with my outlook on life somehow restored. God renews us with rich meaning, no matter what we are going through.
So I invite everyone to slow down and consider the lilies of your own life. Where has God led you to see the “Yes” of life? Where or when do your worries and cares dissolve or at least lose their importance in the greater vision God has for us? My hope for us all is that God grant us a greater and greater consideration of our identities in God’s depth and goodness. “Consider the lilies.”