Monday, February 28, 2011

Toil in Springtime's Beauty

Clouds move in, low and pearly grace.  Earlier in the day the sun dominated a brilliant blue sky dressed in gorgeous festoons of clouds.  The winds issued a challenging game of tug of war, threatening to wrest control away.  The winds won, bringing in a blustery interplay of warm and cool.  The light jackets we wear are on, then off, then on again.   Tis the season of light layering and umbrellas at the ready.

Pretty pinks and purples, brilliant whites and golden yellows have burst into bloom over the grasses, trees, and bushes within a matter of days; sometimes it even seems to happen overnight.  The faded deep greens and browns of our winter months sport the spiked bright green of fresh leaves and blades.  The artist’s eye falls upon this inter-seasonal mix with appreciation, finding that which bears both the mark of what has endured and that which is just beginning.

Last week was a really good week for me as a parent.  I have been sowing seeds and tenderly nurturing what has sprung up, pushing its way to the surface.  I thrilled as I watched my efforts bring forth fresh life and goodness.  These are the moments that oxygenate my blood and passion for that which I pour my heart and soul and life into on a daily basis. 

But when sudden winds blew with unexpected bluster and intensity, my brow knit at the intrusion and I hunkered down in bodily protest.  No, this is not what I ordered.  Warm balmy days and soothing sprinkles of rain falling gently, all perfection and consideration for the new shoots I have planned, those are my desires.  And just like that, a cumulus of despondency settled upon my soul, darkening my eye and threatening to steal my joy at the process underway.

How is it that I still can get so carried away as to be broad-sided by the challenge sure to arrive on the next wild wind?  Childish enthusiasm, I suppose.  I can smile now, a few days later; I have stepped back to look with a more appreciative perspective, attentive to the Master Gardener.

I am reminded that this is a season of changeability.  What I see outside now can shift and vary within the hour.  Sun chases clouds, or billows of blue and grey pull like blankets over the day and block its brightness.  Back and forth, up and down, this way and that.  I attend to my seedlings: sun exposure, water, soil, and covering mulch for weed protection. Frosts might very well threaten; it is my duty to think and prepare them for surviving what would truly harm them.   I must also trust that they themselves can and must learn to withstand some of the difficulties and challenges that come their way. 

Delight applauds the blush of spring, all that is new, fresh, and bright.  But I am finding that I am looking at the hardy grasses beneath, the bare and naked branches bringing forth life once again – the faithful backdrop to the splashes and bursts of color.  And the heart of my eyes smiles in appreciation of that which has endured, survived, and continues on.  Exuberant energies notwithstanding, I am not a child.  I am a mother, and I will keep on learning even as I train up, so long as I am given the gift of seasons upon this earth.

To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.                                                                                        ~George Santayana

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Led to a Window

I have often said, I am not a very good sheep.  I don't tend to go with the flow, or the crowd, or the fad, or the in-thing.  And normally, when everyone is doing whatever it is my response to stalwartly set my face in the other direction and start walking.  It's a bit of a point of pride I confess, with no intent to boast - more of a confession.

So when the author of one of my favorite blogs, Holy Experience, recently published a book, my natural instinct was to not buy the book.  Would I appreciate that, myself, were I to get such a sweet deal?  Of course not, and I knew it was a petty and immature response.  So when a friend invited me to join her in getting the book and meeting to discuss it, I put away my small-minded conceit and said yes.  It has been a joy.

We have spent time discussing the Lord, His character and ways, our own lives, and Ann's craft and style of writing. She has a way of putting things down on paper that is like needlework.  The slim, silver point goes in at one point with a stream of blue following through, and then it resurfaces further down the pages with the brightness of connection showing up again.  And she does this with different threads throughout the chapter in varying colors of floss.  As a writer I marvel and envy her talent; as a sister in Christ I consider and ponder how these flashes and shades interweave with the story He braids from my own life.

Last week we were in chapter three.  On page 59 I came across something that struck me with a luminosity of understanding.
   "This thanks for the minute, this is to say the prayer of the most blessed of women about to participate in one of the most transformative events the world has ever known. Mary, with embryonic God Himself filling her womb, exalts in quiet ways:  "My soul doth magnify the Lord." (Luke 1:46 KJV)...
   So might I; yes, and even here.
   Something always comes to fill the empty places.  And when I give thanks for the seemingly microscopic, I make a place for God to grow within me.  This, this, makes me full, and I "magnify Him with thanksgiving."  (Psalm 69:30 KJV),....   I say thanks, and I swell with Him, and I swell the world and He stirs me, joy all afoot."
I grasped at this novel hue.

I have always been leery of anything smacking of Mary worship (again, my skeptical nature showing up), so at mention of her I took a step backward.  Yet as I read these reflections, I was struck not so much by Mary, but by God, and what He chose to do with a mere woman.  I'm not certain my former pastor, Alan Hawkins, was the originator of this quote, but he once said, "the natural demonstrates the spiritual."  The way Ann describes Mary being blessed to carry the Christ opened my eyes to a new layer of understanding of what God was doing in the incarnation.

I know what it is like to be with child, the miracle it is to carry the life of another within my body.  I further know what it is like to have the Holy Spirit dwell within me.  I know the triune nature of God in the trinity.  But for the first time it clicked within my heart and mind what was being illustrated in the immaculate conception - Not only God with us, but God in us - His Holy Spirit,

We read, 'The angel answered (Mary), "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  So the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God." Luke 1:35 (NIV)

And, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witness in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Acts 1:8 (NIV)

Sometimes revelation comes like a window opening up to reveal a new view of color and wonder I've just never seen before.  This gives me a deeper appreciation for this amazingly creative God we are blessed to call 'Abba,'  who leads with cords of loving kindness even headstrong little sheep like myself.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Of Stock and Substance

We are a two car family, and as our children have gotten older we have sometimes found ourselves with an unequal ratio of drivers to cars.  One morning I found myself having to chauffeur my husband in to work, and as I returned home I used the time to lift others before the throne.  At the end of my prayers I just had to laugh out loud as I referenced my youngest son to the Lord, using a phrase I have often used regarding him, "he is just so full of pepper!"

Its a good thing I was nearing the end of my prayers, as this sent me on a mental tour of my kitchen in a spontaneous game of association with each one of my children.  Come on, am I really the first?

In no particular order...

R - was the easiest for me as I have long known he is pepper (this includes chilis.)  He is full of the zest and spice of creativity. He can get me hopping, that's for sure; and like pepper, he might not be the first you reach for, but can be counted on to always add an unexpected zing to things.

L - was a bit tricky.  I began thinking of sugar, brown or white, or even honey, but was not settled on any of these possibilities.  I wound up hitting upon molasses!  In addition to the familiar metaphor "slow as....", molasses has a sweetness with a bit of bite and creates warm homey desserts like gingerbread.  Settled.

Q - clearly is salt.  Scripturally this goes without saying, and just as no kitchen or meal would be complete without salt, so our family would be incomplete without him.  Salt brings flavor and depth to things, can be overdone, is missed when it is absent, compliments and embraces.

A - a knotty one to match.  I toyed with balsamic vinegar for a while, but that was not quite right.  Then I hit upon chocolate - of course!  She loves all kinds of chocolate, but this child, while she would want to be white chocolate is instead dark.  I could write a dissertation here, but I'll just allow the sweet savor of it to settle.

D - the most difficult to pin down.  Capers, pickles, ginger, olive oil?  I had almost despaired of his culinary counterpart.  Then I knew.  He is wine - sophisticated yet earthy, both dry and sweet, the stuff to mellow your bones and loosen the imagination.  Requires time to reach fullness and to breath. (In a deep voice with arched eyebrow:) Complex.

Not an exhaustive nor necessarily final combination of child/staple alliances - I'm tossing around the likeness of one to an orange at this very moment; but for now this will do.  Its funny the things we consider when we're thinking about our kids.  They are my "fruit", if you will.  I am blessed in abundance.

I've always loved this blessing given in the movie It's A Wonderful Life.  We'll just have to imagine that they included all the staples I've concluded with as well, and that George and Mary Bailey were speaking to us:

Bread... that this house may never know hunger. Salt... that life may always have flavor. And wine... that joy and prosperity may reign forever.  Enter the Ruiz-Esparza Castle. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Please Stop and Think

One of my goals for this year is to attend a writing seminar.  The other day I was browsing for possibilities and came across a blog called She Speaks.  This was one of those fortuitous stumbles, the kind where you read in black and white something that you just knew was true, but the whole world seems to be ignoring it and so it almost seems like its not true.  Like this one. I mean, didn't we all have the common sense to know this before the U.S. Surgeon General came out and announced it?

So, back to She Speaks.  While it wasn't really what I was looking for, it was a clarion call I readily have taken in hand to join in sounding out.  We have virtually created a world in which we pickle ourselves silly.  And while we might not care enough to make changes for our own sakes (mostly because we're either lazy and/or 'too busy', if we're quite honest), perhaps the fact that we are now so soaked in this "stuff" that our bodies harbor it while we carry our children, maybe this will be enough to prod us to change.

In this day and age, we have absolutely inundated ourselves with an environment of chemical exposure. From our non-stick pans that make our foods slip out easily, to the makeup we feel compelled to slather and lather ourselves with on a daily/nightly basis, to the invisible fumes emanating from our walls and floors and furniture, and on and on and on. 

I know, I know - we have grown up in an environment that grooms and caters to cultivate within us an expectation that what we need will be provided before we even quite know we need it.  With each successive generation, this is becoming more and more "natural" and it is more and more difficult to believe it is for anything but our good.  For those of us who see through this Matrix-like web, it remains a challenge to shake off the lies.  Fortunately for us, there are others who have braved the trail before us and offer hope and encouragement in our attempts to get real and pull back.  Hard choices, difficult decisions, deliberate and intentional efforts are all a part of this way - but we know it is worth it.

I'm like you - I would rather kick back than work; I'd rather have it all figured out and spoon-fed to me than do all the thinking and comparing and deliberating required; I'd rather pamper myself in a bubble bath every time than deny myself and serve.  But I've learned that I can't always have what I'd rather, and sometimes what I'd really truly rather have is the latter... I've found that there are some things that are worth all that working, thinking, comparing, deliberating, denial of self, and servitude.  Sticking our fingers in our ears and covering our eyes isn't going to work for very much longer.  And lest you think I'm all doom and gloom, take the time to read this article that offers ways in which you can begin making changes for your good, the good of those you love, and others.  Just start somewhere, please.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters,
in view of God’s mercy,

to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—
this is your true and proper worship.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Then you will be able to test and approve what

God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

~ Romans 12:1-2