Monday, July 28, 2014

Playdates with God: Yes

My playdates have been small lately, but rich. So many things tie me to the house—this new puppy, a boy in band camp, the garden in need of tending. This is the in-between time, the time of waiting for summer’s end when the earth and I can breathe a deep sigh.

For Father’s Day, the boys bought their dad a hammock and isn’t that just perfect? It’s where Bonnie and I have been grabbing our dates with the Father lately. Every afternoon or early evening we recline under the Maple tree, listen to the meadow grasses offer a shooshing to the wind, and memorize the way light falls through reaching branches.

Bonnie stretches out beneath the cupping cloth; she finds a stick to chew or digs for grubs in the grass. And I just listen. The sounds the ear tunes out in the course of a day amaze. It is more than birdsong; there is the steady ticking of metal on wood as the wiry fence gives sway, the sounds of distant traffic, the bark of a dog, squee of a young child ... and if I listen closely, I can hear the buzzing of my friends the honeybees.

When I was a girl, this was what the end of summer looked like. Exhausted by the spending of all those long, hot days, my sister and I would rest on our backs in the high grass, stare up into the sky, and study the clouds. This was true extravagance, I know, and how my heart longs for that kind of freedom once again.

In his book My Bright Abyss, poet and essayist Christian Wiman says, “To be innocent is to retain that space in your heart that once heard a still, small voice saying not your name so much as your nature, and the wherewithal to say again and forever your wordless but lucid, your untriumphant but absolute, yes.”

This is what the Sabbath moment restores to me. Innocence. A naming of my true nature. Space to say yes to a God who is always asking.

Yes. Yes. A thousand times, yes.

This week at The High Calling, we're talking about the importance of the work we do. Every. Little. Bit. Join us?

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 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.


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 ( 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.

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.


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 ( 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.