Friday, July 25, 2014

West Virginia Morning: How Passion Pierces




On the days I don’t work at the hospital, I still rise first. There are things to tend, thoughts to capture, prayers to see. This week, Jeffrey started band camp at the high school, so it’s packing the lunch; making sure he eats a good breakfast. Of course he could manage on his own, but when I was his age I would eat a pop tart alone while watching the morning news—leave the house without ever seeing my mother’s face.

The time will come when I will once again gather the moments for only myself. Until then, I treasure the early hour alone. Today I see my gladioli are blooming pink. These beauties are named for the shape of their sword like leaves—the Latin word gladius means sword. It has been said that they represent infatuation, because they pierce the lover’s heart with passion.

Yes, I think, as I study from every angle the way they drink the morning. She leaves her traces on their blushing cheeks and I am in love.


Good morning to you. May passion pierce your heart today.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Garden Notes: Grow




This morning, a saucy summer rain drums through and leaves just as quickly as it comes. Without so much as a by-your-leave.  I walk Bonnie through the aftermath and we are smitten with the glossy sheen left behind; the spider webs glisten and every leaf bends its neck—heavy with droplet baubles.

My noticing eyes open to the garden and I see that my snow peas are ready for picking. It’s the first time I’ve grown these lovelies, sown out of the desire for something new.  All my reading tells me to harvest the pods early, before the peas get too mature, but I am reluctant to break up the composition.

They climb, all delicate vine and flower, where last year my pole beans twined heavily and as I peer into their green I name them beautiful. I spy on the secret ways they curve into one another, see how they tendril—every reaching vine grasping and turning until leaf and flower, stem and vine are all one.



It’s no wonder Gregor Mendel, the one we call the father of genetics, turned to peas for instruction when the bishop of his abbey objected to one of his friars studying animal sex. Mendel began his studies by breeding mice, but turned to plants after the bishop’s objections. Over a period of seven years the good friar tested roughly 29,000 pea plants.

I am about thinking how we can choose to replace one thing with another. This morning, in my quiet time I read Matthew 12: 43-45. Barclay calls this passage “The Peril of the Empty Heart.”
 ‘When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, it goes through waterless places, seeking for rest, and does not find it. Then it says: “I will go back to my house, from which I came out,” and when it comes, it finds it empty, swept and in perfect order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and take up their residence there. So the last state of that man becomes worse than the first; so it will be with this evil generation.’ 

Barclay says this passage illustrates for us that any time a change is made; a new behavior must take its place. Otherwise, the old will keep returning. Don’t I know this first hand? Haven’t I been struggling with these thoughts that won’t leave me be—pulling at my heart and gripping me, pinning me stuck in places I shouldn’t be?

I stare into the mass of pea vines and see how a blossom still clings to a pod. I know that when the pea has grown enough, the fingers of that gentle flower will let go—drop off into the soilbed beneath where it will slowly slip away, becoming fertilizer for more growth.





I close my eyes and imagine these thoughts that cling to me as a flower. How they have twined into my heart and become a part of me lately. Only growth will loosen the grip, one thing must be replaced with another.

I let the thoughts flower for a moment; feel the beauty of soft petals cupping me. And then, gently, ever so gently—because part of me doesn’t yet want to be free—gently I insert a prayer where those thoughts and images are.

Peas for mice. Pod for flower. Prayer for thought.

Grow. And let the soil enrichen from all the fallen flowers; all the things that used to hold me.



Monday, July 21, 2014

Playdates with God: Family Reunion



When I was a girl my Aunt Effie’s big yard hosted our annual family reunion. My brothers and sister and I waded in the creek and caught crawfish with the multitude of cousins.  Grandpa lived close by—in a trailer between my aunt and her daughter. He lived there by himself until he died at the age of 100. Aunt Effie’s house was convenient and fun and I’ll never forget how our cousin Martha Ann led us on an adventure far up the creek bed one year.

Grandpa has long passed and Aunt Effie is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s now and we’ve been meeting at a community center for many years. We traded the creek for a ball field and the homey comfort for convenience but we still gather every summer to hug on each other and reminisce and break bread. The community center has become our new tradition and my children remember no other way.

So this past weekend I made a Texas sheet cake and a cucumber salad and we packed the cooler and I drove north to feed my roots.  I always anticipate time with my family in a healthy mix of dread and longing, and this time was no different. So before I left, I prayed, “Lord, show me something new. Open my eyes to all the beauty you have made here.”

I drove up alone a day early so I could spend some time with my mom and my sister. Jeff and the boys planned to meet me at the reunion the following day.  It’s a three hour drive to Farmington so as I drove I listened to some new music, let myself remember being small—the taste of watermelon on my tongue and the feel of slippery wet rocks beneath my feet. And I kept my eyes open for beauty.

We are all grown now, my cousins and I, with children of our own—some with grandchildren even. Seemed like we were chasing babies all weekend long and I kept checking in with God, kind of like, “Ok, you can show me that special bit of delight anytime now, Love. I’m ready. Eyes wide open.”

It wasn’t until the drive back home, caught in a drenching downpour that I got it. My heart was full of all the moments—watching the kids play baseball, chasing my little nephew around, laughing with my sister, a long talk with cousin Walter, the bowl my Aunt Martha gave me that is “just like one your grandma had,” and the way my heart gave a little leap when my husband walked into the room.

All these ordinary moments. Isn’t this the beauty? Isn’t God there, breathing in and out with each one? I was just like those Pharisees and scribes, asking Jesus for a sign when the Sign was staring me in the face plain as day.

New. Every moment.


May I have eyes to see.

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The winner of Emily Wierenga's book Atlas Girl is Mari-Anna! Congratulations! I'll be in touch, my friend.

ALL proceeds from Atlas Girl will go towards Emily’s non-profit, The Lulu Tree. The Lulu Tree (www.thelulutree.com) is dedicated to preventing tomorrow’s orphans by equipping today’s mothers. It is a grassroots organization bringing healing and hope to women and children in the slums of Uganda through the arts, community, and the gospel.
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Every Monday I’ll be sharing one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find Him. Be with Him. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us:


The Playdates button:

Friday, July 18, 2014

West Virginia Morning: Island Precepts



Jeff keeps saying that he doesn’t remember a July like this—the air a cool caress. I wear the days like a second skin but the mornings awaken my soul.  In the mornings we step out into wonder—every dew-drenched blade of grass a world of its own.  I wiggle my toes in lush universes.

When we were at the beach I read Gift from the Sea by Ann Morrow Lindbergh.  In it she struggles with finding a balance between “solitude and communion, between retreat and return.”  It’s everyone’s struggle, I suppose, and I found comfort in these words originally published over fifty years ago.

“In my periods of retreat, perhaps I can learn something to carry back into my worldly life. I can at least practice for these two weeks the simplification of outward life, as a beginning. I can follow this superficial clue, and see where it leads. Here, in beach living, I can try.”

The world has not changed so much.  Since my return from Haiti, I’ve been in constant motion. Even our time by the sea required bending to the desires and expectations of others. I returned less refreshed, less still than I have in the past.

It’s the season of life we are in, and Ann Morrow Lindbergh speaks to this in Gift from the Sea also. We are moving from the “morning of life” to the “afternoon”—that place of natural slowing that creates in us a sense of anxiety and awareness of the dwindling nature of time.

But what if we looked upon middle age, the author asks, not as a time of decline, but as a time of “second flowering, second growth”?  When I hold on to the seed of eternity planted in my heart, I can almost feel it burst forth through the dark soil of this life, breaking free from the bindings this world places on my growth.

I have to make room for contemplation to hold on to this truth: I was made for more. Ann Morrow Lindbergh’s island-precepts are helping me to make that kind of space on a daily basis:
 “Simplicity of living, as much as possible, to retain a true awareness of life. Work without pressure. Space for significance and beauty. Time for solitude and sharing. Closeness to nature to strengthen understanding and faith in the intermittency of life: life of the spirit, creative life and the life of human relationships. A few shells.”


A morning in July. New worlds open up before me. Life begins anew with each breath.

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Psst ... did you hear? I’m giving away one copy of Emily’s book Atlas Girl. For a chance to win, just leave a comment on this post before next Sunday (7/20). I’ll announce the winner on next week’s Playdates with God post on Monday. 
ALL proceeds from Atlas Girl will go towards Emily’s non-profit, The Lulu Tree. The Lulu Tree (www.thelulutree.com) is dedicated to preventing tomorrow’s orphans by equipping today’s mothers. It is a grassroots organization bringing healing and hope to women and children in the slums of Uganda through the arts, community, and the gospel. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Garden Notes: A Summer Story





Last night when I went running I couldn’t help noticing how the Queen Anne’s Lace is crocheted into all the in-between places—softening the thistle and chicory, weaving delicate places through rough edges.

Since I’ve returned from Haiti I haven’t had time to breathe.

I had one week of home and then we packed the minivan and headed to the sea for our family vacation.  This week I look around and see that the world hasn’t waited for me to catch up. Summer is in full story and my garden tells the tale.

Before I left for Haiti, I harvested the broccoli; did a quick blanch and froze the florets individually. Jeff made a casserole with some of it Monday night and it tasted fresh on the tongue. 



While we were at the beach last week, there was little rain here. My mother-in-law was kind enough to water for me, but the tomatoes still look a little peaky and there were a dozen cucumbers on the vine—all past prime with tough yellow skins and chewy seeds. I’ve been eating them anyway—peeling away that outer shell and letting the cool of the fruit speak summer to my body. There will be a second crop for pickle making.

But the bush beans were the surprise. When I pushed aside their viney leaves yesterday, I saw the first crop—ready for picking. What I love about picking beans is how it’s so much like a treasure hunt. Just when you think you’ve found the last, just when you’ve given up—something new appears.



But you have to keep looking.

This morning in William Barclay’s commentary on Matthew he says, “We hear only what we’re listening for.” If we don’t practice listening for God’s voice, if we don’t practice looking for goodness and truth ... we can lose the ability to hear and see it, he says.

Yesterday, I gave into the grief that I am not enough. We had gotten up early to drive Teddy down to St. Mary’s for a surgery we’ve had scheduled for months. It’s the same procedure he had done on his right ear last summer and we were hopeful this might put an end to these ear troubles that have plagued him his entire life. But he woke up with a cold and when we arrived at the hospital the doctor decided we should cancel the surgery. He didn’t want all the delicate work he needs to do on the tympanic membrane to be undone by sinus pressure and the like.

We are all disappointed, but what can you do? It was the right decision. But now some other plans will have to change and our schedule is always as tight my jeans the first time I put them on in the fall.

That afternoon, I sat on the couch and thought about the mounds and mounds of laundry waiting for me, of my family reunion this coming weekend and how my sister wants me to drive to Clarksburg early to spend some time with her. I thought about that trip to Connecticut Teddy and are planning to visit colleges and meet up with his best friend. I thought about band camp starting next week and how school begins early this year. I thought about that article waiting for me to edit—the one that needs a lot of work and I thought about my upcoming book release and how I’m not ready for that. I thought about that promised endorsement that was never delivered, and how I wanted to get my novel ready to release as an e-book. I thought about Teddy’s college search and the Jumping Tandem Retreat and that preaching engagement I have coming up, and all the difficult, heartbreaking patients we have on our caseload at the hospital right now. And then I took Teddy to the pediatrician to get an antibiotic and I took Bonnie for a walk and I fought back tears all day long.  

Because I’m not enough.

And when Jeff came home from work he said, “Just go.” So I go for a run. And I can’t help noticing how the Queen Anne’s Lace is crocheted into all the in-between places. Giving beauty to the harsh edges, creating a soft place for the tiny songbirds to land. And because I’m looking, I see an Indigo Bunting light on a crusty cattail—his brilliant blue a sudden shock of delight.

And today I am thinking that this is how God weaves beauty into life—in the in-between places. But, just like picking green beans, I have to keep looking.

Because He is the soft place for me to land, my sudden shock of delight.

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Psst ... did you hear? I’m giving away one copy of Emily’s book Atlas Girl. For a chance to win, just leave a comment on this post before next Sunday (7/20). I’ll announce the winner on next week’s Playdates with God post on Monday. 
ALL proceeds from Atlas Girl will go towards Emily’s non-profit, The Lulu Tree. The Lulu Tree (www.thelulutree.com) is dedicated to preventing tomorrow’s orphans by equipping today’s mothers. It is a grassroots organization bringing healing and hope to women and children in the slums of Uganda through the arts, community, and the gospel.