In Praise of the Horizon

I live alongside a mysterious lake.  With volume enough to cover all of North and South American in a foot of water, Lake Superior is staggeringly in size, beauty and inspiration. Her scene changes daily: one day there are waves large enough to crash over the break walls of the harbor, the next day a perfect mirror reflects every cloud that passes overhead.

On this particular day, the day we were driving home from a family wedding in Iowa, the water couldn’t seem to tell itself from the sky.  Out my window was a blur of serene white, with no distinction between lake and atmosphere.  The two, stitched together with an invisible, binding thread, were like an obsessive thought that had no end.

To see the lake this way, undefined and virtually lost, was disorienting.  When my eyes span the vastness that hems in 150 miles of Minnesota, I expect to see the horizon, the edge that tells my brain here is the end of one thing and the beginning of the next.  When I don’t see it, I feel as lost and undefined as the water appears.


Because, as much as I might seem to be a free-spirit (whatever that means!) and as much as I am a person who appreciates days without agenda and home decor whose theme is ‘a lack thereof’, I have a deep and relentless need for boundaries.

I need to know one thing from the other.

I’ve learned that if I don’t know where I end and where my husband (my daughter, my friends, my family, my neighbor, etc.) begins, I lose myself and make poor decisions.  (I could dedicate an entire blog to my personal history’s outlandish examples of this!)

If I don’t know where the tragic news that defines our world’s reality ends and where God’s sovereignty begins, I am easily swallowed up and consumed by fear.

If I don’t know where tomorrow begins (all its demands & expectations) and where today ends, I become hopelessly blind to today’s moments of beauty, every small joy-detail, every fragile leaf that flutters in the ever-present breeze of grace.

If it all becomes a blur, I am lost.

This is a dire matter, as far as I’m concerned.  Because if I’m not careful, if I’m not vigilant about knowing this from that in the small things, I’m confident I won’t be able to tell this from that in the grand scheme.  If I can’t tell today from tomorrow, how can I be trusted to know the difference between truth & lie, immense life & utter death, the heart’s freedom & its enslavement?

This is a dire matter because this broken world is wrought with forces bent on blurring the horizon line between these crucial opposites. And left to its own devices, this heart of mine is bent on permitting this blur to such an extent that when I survey the vastness, no distinction can be made between these critical polars.

I trust the reader to understand the severity of the situation without the writer waxing poetic on the dangers of a heart not recognizing the distinction.


Before compasses, sailors relied on the horizon and a star’s finger-width distance from it to navigate accurately.  No horizon, no latitude measurement, no sure way of knowing which direction to go.  The horizon was also, and still is, a stalwart and unmoving assurance that helped keep the sailor’s stomach from churning right along with the waves. And I can imagine a horizon line was the promise that made them feel safe.  Like the strong arms of a mother around a scared child, the four walls of a house during a storm.

My journey as a human on this earth is akin to that of a sailor on an open-sea voyage. Where there is no horizon line to keep me sane and assured, there is only confusion, sickness and a desperate, fruitless clamoring to not get lost.

Fortunate for all of us on this rolling, watery tide called human existence, there is a Horizon.  And just because there is a force that delights in blurring Its edge, its existence is not negated.   Look for it.  Ask to see it.  Trust that it is there.

Then keep your eye steadily, determinedly on It.  Because where there is no Truth, no blessed assurance of salvation, no Promise Kept, there is only a vastness of lies, dashed hopes & death determined to ruin the vessel and drown the sailor.

The Horizon is the necessary distinction.



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On a Day Like Today

Holding this little chick in her little hand this morning, this little girl said, “When I hold them, I feel so much aliveness.”

IMG_9135On a day that felt brutally like any other, filled simultaneously with the tragic horrors of our current world and the monotonies of cleaning and breakfast/lunch/dinner.  On a day that was gray when I wanted sun.  On a day when I looked outside and realized my yard was actually a rowdy park for overgrown dandelions and Canadian thistle.   On a day when I’m not moving on to a new place when everyone else around me seems to be doing just that.  On a day when I moped around, mop in hand, and felt sorry for myself because who am I and what am I actually doing with my time on this side of eternity? 

On a day like that, I needed to hear those words from my unpretentious 5-year old more than I needed water or air.

Because, on days like today, my habit is to forget everything worth remembering.

Things like the importance of holding this day in my hand and saying “I feel so much aliveness in it!”

When she said those words, she meant: I feel their potential and their possibility and their promise.  I feel the importance of being right here, right now, witnessing this. 

She is so wise.  And for all my attempts to train her “in the way she should go”, I am ever humbled when she comes along side me and redirects my wayward path back to Truth, back to a narrow way filled with Light.

“At that time Jesus declared, ‘I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was well-pleasing in Your sight.'”  Matthew 11:25-26



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Seagull By Nature

This past week, my beloved in-laws were in town for a visit.  And, please, where I state beloved, read no sarcasm.  They are indeed beloved to me and as amiable a couple as can be found on the wide earth. A visit from them is a delight, an honor and a much anticipated event.

During a rare moment when Sparrow was not vying for Grandma’s undivided attention, my sweet mother-in-law, Linda, and I lingered over coffee at a local shop in town. Fortunate to have caught the otherwise rainy June sky in a state of sun, we sat outside and relished in the sights of the harbor.  Moored sailboats bobbed like apples in the calm water.  People ambled along the narrow path leading to the lighthouse whose paint and vibrance has worn thin by wind and too many tourist snapshots.

We spoke about critical things and nonsensical things; of love and its rewards and subsequent heartaches; of marriage and friendship and childrearing; of regrets and unequivocal grace.

And then we turned our attention to the sky.  Overhead, a seagull was attempting to chase a bald eagle out of its harbor territory.  Likely trying to protect its young, the seagull was relentless, pursuing the eagle so high into the sky’s endlessness that we could barely make out their silhouettes.  The eagle was ambivalent, easily staying just ahead of the seagull until it finally grew bored and exited the scene.

We went back to talking.  Moments later, the eagle returned and the whole desperate escapade resumed.  We watched the same scene at least three different times, each chase ending with the eagle disappearing only long enough for us earth-bound mortals to snag a sip of coffee and give our eyes a break from the sun’s glare.


Likely, I should’ve been disgusted with the eagle.  And in a way, I was.  What despicable behavior to taunt a desperate seagull determined to protect it’s young.  But, it was the birds’ movements that struck me.  For every nonchalant pulse of the eagle’s enormous wings, the poor seagull frantically flapped.  While the eagle effortlessly soared on invisible air currents, the seagull’s wings beat ceaselessly, pounding the air in search of a strength it never seemed to find.  The difference between the two birds was stark and staggering.

I will admit this: I’ve spent most of my life being a graceless seagull.  If you know me well, you will nod in agreement.  My default setting is frantic flapping; I find it virtually impossible to effortlessly soar.

And yet, I’m promised the ability.  I’m not sure how many times I’ve heard, read, written or sung the phrase from Isaiah 40 that assures that those who wait on the Lord will soar on wings like eagles.  But somehow, I’ve missed what this verse actually implies. Maybe it’s because the unfortunate counterpart to the eagle is missing.  If the verse had said “those who wait on the Lord will soar while those who choose to wait on their own strength, ability or gumption will tirelessly flap their wings like a seagull,” then maybe it would have dawned on me.

Or maybe I missed the implication because I just don’t want to admit that there is a better way to move through this life.

Those who wait on the Lord will soar.  They won’t be free of worry or heartache or tragedy or hardship or boredom or discouragement or, to be more concise, free of reality. But they won’t have to work so damn hard to get through whatever life is currently handing out.

He will exchange our inadequate, puny seagull wings with wings that can ride the air currents of His mighty strength.  

I’ve made a bad habit of control; it’s my drug and I’m disgustingly addicted.  I read once that gambling addicts will gamble in their sleep and wake up unaware of their behavior. I’ve been on this earth for 33 years and, looking back with honesty, I can say I’m right up there with my sleep-gambling friends.  Control and desperate attempts to muster through life on the merit of my own strength has defined me.  Just ask my mom.  Just ask my husband.  Just ask the God who sees everything I do.

So when I read this promise I think: Sweet relief.  Yes please. And then I immediately think how can I pull that off?  Oh irony!  Oh helpless human who doesn’t see the obvious error in her ways!  I can’t pull it off.  To pull it off myself would be to rely, as per usual, on my own strength.

But if I can’t do it myself, I’m not exactly sure how to do to it.  Maybe it’s as simple as waking every morning and asking pleading for my strength to fall away so that I will have no choice but to rely on His.

If I do this, I have a hunch He will do it.  My experience is that this prayer, the refine me, Oh Lord prayer is one that He answers almost instantly.  Just utter the words make me reliant on You and, if you have your eyes open, you’ll begin to see evidence of His response.

And, if you’re anything like me, when you start to panic and are tempted to revert toward bad habits of control and frantic flapping , meditate on the few verses previous, when the prophet reminds the reader that “The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.”  

My lack of understanding in His ability doesn’t render it less true or less possible or less wonderful.  Regardless of my opinion on the matter, His current can carry me.

Here’s to shedding my inner seagull.

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Eve, On Desire.

Over here, in the corner of my mind where I try to write poems that matter & poems that aren’t autobiographical (I’m sick of myself!), I’ve been pondering the idea of writing poems from the perspective of Bible characters.

Writing a poem in the perspective of another character allows, even requires, that the character become real to the writer (and hopefully the reader).  I often forget that the characters in the Bible were real and as a result, I usually fail to learn from them.  It seems an awful shame not to learn from the men & women whose lives help to tell the love story of the God I worship.  So, in an effort to make the characters come alive, I’m going to put forth an effort to write their lives in poem form.  Maybe I will learn a thing or two. Maybe you will,  too.  Maybe in studying those who came before us, we’ll learn more about the God who goes before us.  The God who was, is and ever more will be.

What do you think of this idea?  Have any of you done anything like this?  If so, would you be willing to share your character sketches?

Here’s my first, a short poem inspired by a comment my pastor made about desire and Eve’s tragic mismanagement of it.  It strikes me that her desire to see what wasn’t yet hers to see left all of us unable to see at all.  What a grave and horrible reality humankind as endured a result of her desire to know right now.  It leads me to consider where in my life I am guilty of pushing and prodding to see and know more than what God has given me right now. How does this practice hurt me?  How does it hurt those around me?


On its branch, the fruit
was nothing.
In my palm, it was a galaxy

and I needed
to see the stars up close.

Oh, how my retinas burned.

until all the children
went blind.


Artwork by: Denis Nunez Rodriguez


Posted in art, Truth, writing | 3 Comments

Fiddle-heads That Know & Hearts That Are Still Learning

We’ve been waiting.  And finally, it’s here.

Everyday (for the last two weeks), Sparrow, still in her pajamas and with sleep still clinging to her wispy hair, has tromped down the hill to the creek in search of marsh marigolds.  The first of spring’s yellow-eyed wonders, these whimsical flowers litter the lowlands of our property.  Drawing from the river that borders one side and the dappling creek on the other, the marigolds manage to hug the ground yet touch the sun.  They are delightful and an object of Sparrow’s constant attention.

And a few days ago, they arrived.  She’s picked them by the hordes, every flat surface of our house adorned with a vase.  I relish in her obsession.


And today, we took a much anticipated walk across the river in search of fiddle-head ferns. Until today, the river was too high to cross.  Certain that she would miss the glory of the fern’s unfolding, Sparrow fretted over the water level and even resorted to bargaining and pleading with us to ‘just carry her across’.  Somehow, she survived the perilous wait and somehow, the water level receded.  Today, we crossed and found, in abundance, the emerald heads of ferns tilting up and out to greet us.

She was obsessed and so was I.  I didn’t need to relish in her delight; I had my own.  A fiddle-head fern in its art of awakening is like a profound poem being scrawled on a page.


So spring has come.  And we are in rejoicing.  We aren’t just rejoicing.  We are in the rejoicing.  It has somehow become us and we it.  So that we cannot separate our bones from its song, our way from its way.

And through this, we are drawn ever closer to the heart of the Creator, who made it all for His delight and instructed us to rejoice in it.  How simple a command: rejoice in what I’ve made.  How simple to obey.

And yet, I find myself tripping over an aspect of this.  The Bible is riddled with verses reminding us to rejoice.  Always, in all things, in suffering, in the Lord, in today, in truth, in His word, in our salvation.  I could go on but will stop short and conclude that it appears as if we are to rejoice continually, because of and in spite of everything. 

Fiddle-head ferns?  Easy.  Marsh marigolds?  Obviously.  Spring?  Effortless.  Sparrow & her effervescent zest for all things flora and fauna?  Like breathing.


But praying for one thing and getting another?  I admit I’m still on the yellow-brick road to the Emerald City of Rejoicing on this one.

I do believe I ought to divulge to the reader what prayer and answer I’m referring to.  I hinted at it here but unless you are in my face-to-face community of friends and family, likely you didn’t know what I was referring to.  So I will tell you: I am pregnant.

Now, before you judge me and say under your breath, How can she find it difficult to rejoice in such perfectly wonderful news?  A baby!  New life!  allow me to share the back-story of my emotion.

Andy and I had been open to but not pleading for a second child for nearly five years.  In honesty, we always felt our family was complete as a unit of three but we felt uneasy about shutting off the possibility altogether.  That seemed too hasty and too short-sighted. So we said to ourselves if it happens, it happens.  If it doesn’t, fine. 

Those nearly five years passed by and lead to a conversation in which both Andy & I admitted to each other that we were ready to be closed to the idea.  After so much time never becoming pregnant, we felt it wasn’t in the cards for us to have a second child.  And frankly, we had great peace about that.  I dare say we even rejoiced in it.  We were blissfully happy, madly in love with our daughter and ready to move on to the next chapter of our lives (aka, the chapter in which we were parents of an independent, sharp-witted 5-year old as opposed to the chapter in which we were indentured servants parents to an infant/baby/toddler.)

So, (and I apologize if this is too much information), we agreed to use vigilant protection during intercourse while we looked into permanent solutions.

During this, we also determined that I had an abundance of free-time that would only grow as Sparrow did.   Believing whole-heartedly that time is a resource to be tithed just like money, we thought it prudent to ask God how He would like me to use my time.  So we prayed and prayed.  We fasted for many days.  We sought and asked for discernment.   I met with a dear missionary friend and talked about the needs in the over-seas mission field.  I researched various graduate programs awarding degrees in everything from Global Public Health to Seminary to Creative Non-Fiction and Poetry.  I reconsidered starting a wood-fired bread bakery.  I considered writing a book.  Writing songs.  Volunteering at the food shelf.  Starting a non-profit.  Pretty much anything.  And all the while, I day-dreamed about what the answer would be.

Well, friends.  God was faithful in answering our fervent pleas for direction on how to tithe my time.  Thing is, His answer wasn’t at all what I expected.  Nor was it what any where close to what I had day-dreamed.  And, to be dreadfully honest, I almost found His answer offensive.

After 5 years of nothing and 6 weeks of intentional avoidance, we were going to have a baby.

I can’t really express why this was so distressing to me.  But it was.  After holding out almost every option I could think of and saying pick one for me, God, the sovereign Creator of the universe chose the one thing I had left off the table and handed it to me. And forgive me for saying this, but I didn’t want what He had to offer.

I realize I can still do any of the afore mentioned things with a baby, albeit ever so much more challenging.  But, it was the principal of the thing that I struggled with.  I felt as though I had said: I can be anything, Lord! What do you want me to be?  And He (in His infinite wisdom) said I want you to suffer under the weight of pregnancy, the despondency of labor and the arduous, unforgiving and seemingly endless fatigue of parenting an infant….

when He was really saying I want you to be the mother of one of my precious, immortal souls. 

But I couldn’t see that at the time.  And, to be honest yet again, I am just beginning to see that.  It’s just in these days of spring, as I witness the world erupting with life and newness and the intended change of season, that my heart is able to understand that whatever my God ordains is right.  

He draws the fiddle-head from its slumber at just the right moment.  The marsh marigold opens at His beckoning call.  He has given the symphony of seasons a tempo and they have willingly followed since the beginning of time.  I have come to trust this.  Sparrow is learning this and trusting it, too.  Spring will always come after winter.  Always. Even if it appears hopeless.  Because He has ordained it, so it will be.


So, little heart of mine.  If He is the Gentle Creator and you are but dust, does it not seem that what you too will awaken from slumber at just the right moment?  Does it not seem that He knows what you need and when?  Can you not trust the symphony He is making of your life?

Friends, pray this for me.  Pray that I will trust, in abundance, the workings of His mighty hand.  Pray that I will rejoice in His perfect ways.  Pray that, since I had the nerve to ask, I would have the grace to accept His answer.  Pray this for me, please.  And I will pray it for you.  We are all learning, in various degrees, what the fiddle-head already knows.

“You visit the earth and cause it to overflow; You greatly enrich it; The stream of God is full of water; You prepare their grain, for thus You prepare the earth. You water its furrows abundantly, You settle its ridges, You soften it with showers, You bless its growth. You have crowned the year with Your bounty, And Your paths drip with fatness. The pastures of the wilderness drip, And the hills gird themselves with rejoicing. The meadows are clothed with flocks And the valleys are covered with grain; They shout for joy, yes, they rejoice & sing.” Psalm 65: 9-13


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Confessions of a Gift-Reciever

I’ve had a bitter heart these last few weeks. Described as ingratitude at best and at worst as blatant disdain for the circumstances God has given me, I’ve allowed myself to wallow in self-pity believing I would eventually run the bitter well dry and resurface in search of joy. The problem with a bitter well, however, is that it is bottomless. There’s always another cup to draw up.

Yesterday, while driving along the largest body of fresh water in the world, my heart realized this about bitterness. I’d been drinking poison while clear, cold water lapped at my feet.

The God I worship gives His children good gifts. I know this to be true. Even when what I’ve gotten isn’t what I asked for, I cannot deny that my life has been testament to this fact. Even when the gift is grossly different than what I’d been pleading for, even when it hurts, it has always proven to be right. I am the beneficiary of His perfect giving.

And still, in these last weeks, I find myself cursing what I’ve been given. Driving along that endless lake yesterday night, the verse about fish and snakes, bread and stones came into my mind. It says “Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9-11)

I thought about this verse and I wept. I’d asked, even begged and then, in my foolishness and sinfulness and conceitedness, had the audacity to curse what I’d received.

In the remaining miles of my drive, I wrote this as a confession and plea for forgiveness. Fortunately for me (and you and all who call on His name) “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12)


The grave assigned to me held
Your body, Your bones
while I staggered by the cemetery gates
wailing about my life–how it wasn’t
the life I thought that I should have.

And everywhere around me
the trees awoke. Birds pulled
the sun closer. Snow receded
in song. You rose like a crocus
from softening ground, reciting
a poem about Love. There was dirt
in Your hair and nails but no sarcasm
in Your voice. I memorized
the stanzas, wore them like jewels
around my neck.

You turned to go. I followed, a hungry child
begging for crumbs. From Your pocket, You pulled
a beautiful loaf and, reciting
the poem, held it out for me.

Forgive the child
whose mouth is saying stone
while her hands are clearly holding bread.


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Gleanings From the Syrup Season

There is a crystal clear sap hidden in the long, slender bone of a maple tree that holds the promise of a sweet, golden syrup.  This fact is reason enough for me to recognize and devote myself to the worship of One True God.

maplespilewildfoodism2That it takes hours of painstaking labor to haul the sap, patient and excessive hours of tedium spent over a wood stove and even more spent over a cook stove with sticky spoons and malfunctioning thermometers to behold a jar of syrup, is experience enough for me to realize the person this One True God has in mind for me to be is no where near the person I currently am.

IMG_8901To know that it takes 30-40 gallons of that clear sap to make one gallon of coveted syrup means I am learning to admit how much of me needs to be given to the fire before what is worthy can be revealed.


But when it is finished?  The hours, the labor & stress & time & energy & minutia of an endeavor that produces a small collection of maple syrup, this small life of mine…Was it worth the cost?

I am trusting the answer to be yes.  

A million times & eternally so.


And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.  Phillipians 1:6


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When the Stars Chide and the Rut Welcomes

Near the end of the phone call in which I was canceling plans with a dear friend, I finally worked up the courage to say what I’d wanted to say from the beginning.  “I know it sounds odd, but the state of my heart is such that I can’t image sitting in a chair for any length of time.  Even if we do have plans to write a song and work on others.  I’m just too on-edge to be still.  Is there any chance you’d want to come over here and go for a walk instead?”

Actually, all I said was “Do you want to go for a walk?”  She is such a friend that I knew she’d infer the former explanation.

It was 8:00pm, long past dark and not a particularly convenient change of plans but she said yes.  I’m an adventurer at heart, she told me when I nearly kissed her feet upon arrival.  I appreciated her humility and her refusal to name the incredible kindness she was selflessly giving me.

So we walked.  The snowy road welcomed us with little fanfare and the sky, clear and filled with pinprick stars, didn’t rejoice over us but looked on with curiosity.  Why, the stars wondered, are those humans always tromping around, hashing out problems and ruminating obsessively over small matters.  Why do they worry so much?

(I wish somedays that I was a star.  Their only task in life is to be a light.  If creation is a symphony, the stars were composed early on and having been told to shine, have done so with fortitude ever since.  I too, am told to shine.  But I, unlike the simple star, have the curse of free will coded into my DNA.  I know I’m supposed to be a light but I am almost daily whittled down to a bare ember by the burden of over-thinking and speculation. Free will is great but oh, how it causes me to stray.)


Maybe it was the cold air on my cheeks or the way my moon-shadow, always just ahead, compelled me to follow it, but I could have walked forever.  My feet could have continued on finding the next step until those obedient stars disappeared under the cloak of morning.  As it were, we walked for over an hour, taking turns being honest about how flawed we are, how we foolishly grasp and pine over untrue things.  She gave me her heart and I gave her mine.  We allowed our hearts to cry and moan before we scrutinized them, holding them up for comparison to the model of holiness we know to be their goal.   We offered them grace (abundantly because, let’s face it, my heart is light-years away from holy) as we’ve been taught to do by the giver of grace Himself.  We let our hearts feel the night air for a moment, let it remind them of how alive they are and then we  put them back in the protective cage of our bones.  I don’t know about hers, but my heart returned to its temporary home in this marred body a little freer, a little keener to the promise of eternity.

We didn’t come to any great conclusions or devise any fail-proof plans for not falling prey to our brokenness.  We just walked and received what the night had to give.

If you get the chance, walk at night.  Do it soon.  Walk with a friend or alone, whatever feels most necessary. Receive what that moment has to give you.  The stars may chide you, too, but that’s okay. You’re not alone in that.


Before I hit publish on this post, I feel the need to apologize.  I’m always waxing poetic about the heart and light and redemption and grace and joy amidst sorrow.  The reader might start to think me one-dimensional, and, insult of insults, a writer stuck in a subject-matter rut.  And maybe I am, both one-dimensional and stuck in a rut.  But it feels like the rut I’m intended to be stuck in.   When I move about my day, those words, the heart and light and grace and redemption and joy ones, feel like oxygen.  Reality is suffocating and if being stuck in a rut means I am able to breath, I will gladly remain stuck there until my literal lungs cease to function.

And, as I see it, the alternative is to be stuck in the rut of reality and we all know what that entails.

So forgive me, reader.  Better yet, join me.  Misery may love company, but those rescued from misery, those learning (and relearning and relearning) to navigate the beautiful rut of Christ’s redeeming work on the cross, we love it even more.






Posted in life, love, Truth, winter | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Trees of Wisdom and Strings of Light

Our weekend was particularly chaotic and emotionally heavy, passing by in a blur of too much sad news, run-down bodies plagued by winter’s endless viruses and cars stuck in the driveway when we needed to be on to the next thing.  By the time Sunday night arrived, neither Andy or I were surprised that we literally couldn’t see the stretch of highway that would lead us home, the only place we wanted to be.  Completely snow-covered and made worse by the continual falling of the same, the road was invisible. We drove blindly along, kept in line only by the scattered road signs that flashed in our headlights.   Our hearts, similarly lost, searched silently within themselves for some steadying assurance.

I went to bed pleading for renewal but doubting it would come.

My first thought, come morning, was that I could breathe.  I was strangely relieved and counted it as a mercy.  As a form of soul-medicine, Andy suggested that all members of the Schmidt household not leave the boundary lines of the property for the entirety of the day.  Eagerly, I obliged and, in fact, never got around to making the beds and ate artichoke dip for lunch.

Late afternoon, we went for a long snowshoe on the back side of our acreage.  I felt light, floating across the snow like a sigh.  It was the lightest I’ve felt in weeks; I rejoiced.  So often, I falter under the weight of my humanness, my stubborn skin like a lead jacket over my immortal soul and its longing to meditate on holiness and perfect love. It takes precious little for me to suffer under the reality of my brokenness, my pockets filled with the rocks of sadness, worry or fatigue.  My bones are a jail and, though the cell door stands wide open, I am often guilty of failing to see the obvious way out or, worse yet, willfully choosing to stay imprisoned.


But, in this moment, my feet strapped by thin strips of leather to my snowshoes, I was so light even the snowflakes bore my weight.  I bid my heart follow my body and it did, best it could.

Under the snow that had fallen, all the spruce and pine resembled old men dressed in sweaters of hand-spun, un-dyed wool.  They were remarkable in their wisdom and Andy, who wisely knows to long for wisdom, remarked that he hoped he would one day appear the same.

I, too, longed to be like them.  In all the ways I am not, they are unshakable in their willingness to bear the burden of winter, to wait patiently and silently for spring and the promise of renewal.

Sparrow, sweet thing, wrote later that the trees greeted her like soldiers.  Friendly ones, she assured me.  Ones that fight for what is good.



Sparrow had a few epic and hilarious falls along the way.  Our laughter joined the persistent twitter of the pileated woodpecker that seemed always just above us but never within in sight.  And, near the end, the haven of our house within view, we all flopped back into a small clearing to make awkward, snowshoed snow angels.



Inside, standing over the stove stirring milk for cocoa, the breathing came even easier than it had when I’d first woke.  Mercy given to the unworthy yet again.

There was still the heavy news I’d learned over the weekend and the shrewd promise of more to come.  There was still the obligations of the week ahead, the pins that I’m always setting up just so I can knock them down.  There was still the colds we are getting over and and the stomach flu and sinus infections and body aches that everyone else seems to be plagued with and threatening to give away.  And that is just the reality of my small life. There are wars and rumors of wars.  Desolation and loneliness, depravity and suffering the likes of which I’ve never known and cannot begin to understand.

If I let myself dwell on it too long, I am defeated before I even declare myself a warrior in the fight for redemption and joy despite circumstance.

It’s too much, isn’t it?  My heart and I may have floated for a moment with snowshoes, but let’s face it, that’s a metaphor that doesn’t seem to hold up most of the time.  This life, this world and the curse it’s held under, is Philistine in enormity and just as skillful in its war tactics.  All of us, weary from days spent wandering the desert of real life can scarcely muster the energy to believe the victory we’re promised.


That night, when all the rooms were quiet and all the objects in our house idle, I turned off all the lights except the string of Christmas lights above the windows.  In the dimness of this soft light, the furniture and books, the table Andy made and the unlit oil lamp on it, the unswept floor and the shelf of Sparrow’s toys, all seemed to flatten and fade into their own background.   These objects that make up my every day all but disappeared and I sat, alone and at peace in an empty room that asked only one thing of me: just be here.

I know sad news and physical ailments, cars stuck in the ditch and the overwhelming obligations of work, wars and famine are not the same as the over-stuffed green chair in the corner of my living room.  But in a way, they are.  If we can manage to turn off all the lights we are tempted to see by, all the suns and burning lamps that are not the true Light, the one radiating from the Risen King, I believe what we do not need will begin to fade away.  Not that the hardships will go away, but that we will fail to see the aspects of them that cause us to fret, fear and worry.  I believe if we see only via His light, our eyes will behold what truly matters, the Truth that is worth mediating on, the battle that is worth giving our precious energies to.

This, of course, is not something I’m that great at.  If it were as easy as flicking a light switch in the rooms of my heart, sure.  But it’s not.  I’ve trained myself to see by the light of some pretty hideous and garish sources.  And they’re so pervasive and permanent, I’m positive I don’t recognize most of them for what they are.  But, oh, to see only by the pure Light of purity Itself.

Have you ever noticed that everyone looks lovely in candle light?  Take that same person (myself included!) and put them under the fluorescent lighting of a public restroom, and the picture isn’t quite as lovely.  The world too, in the soft glow of sunset looks serene and sometimes so achingly beautiful it seems it can’t possibly be real.  This, in my mind, is what the Light of Christ does for a scene.  Beauty is never more fully manifested than it is in this Light.

How, then, do we do it?  How do we train ourselves to see only by His light?  I’m afraid I don’t entirely know the answer.  But I do know that I want to learn and practice.  Let’s ask Him how to do it.  Let’s encourage one another, keeping each other accountable by naming the false light we see and recognizing when True light is shining.  And when we’ve found it, let’s linger there, memorizing it, writing it in song and lyric on the tablets of our hearts so that we will not forget.

So that when the darkness of the world’s light is all we think there is, we will remember the words of the song we long to sing.

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 1 John 1:7


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On the Shore, We Shall Emerge

In many ways, I am my mother’s daughter.  We are joined by our tendency to spend hours in the kitchen and our propensity for crafts that involve wool.  Gardening makes our heart beat and our heads light.  We love butter and mud and wasp’s nests.  Baristas often swoon over how much we look a like. Waitresses say “you two look like you’re cut from the same cloth.”

We are always very polite and reply, simply, “Yes, it’s true.”  We never tell them we aren’t actually related.

Surprising as it often is for the unknowing, there is no blood between us.  She’s my step-mother and of no genetic relation. Oh, but we are among the lucky.  So tightly bound by love, even the features of our faces have forgotten where one ends and the other begins. This August, we will celebrate our 24th anniversary.  I am lost in my ability to comprehend where and who I would be were it not for her presence in my life.

Surely, I would not spend near as much time walking the pebbly shores of Lake Superior in search of intriguing stones or bits of wave-worn glass if it weren’t for her.  She is the impetus for my obsession with scouring the shallows for that which catches the eye.  I wrote a little poem about such things once.  It was in my days of self-loathing and general lameness so its not worth sharing in its entirety but I will parcel out just a portion for the sake of this essay.

There are trillions of rocks
in this small stretch of Superior shore
and for miles this cobbled landscape
rolls out like a narrative from the novelist’s
pen. Like Woolf, I am driven mad
by the chore of scouring endlessness
for small bits of beauty.  Every pocket filled with gray
before I clutch a glimmer.


This weekend, a dear friend and I introduced my daughter to shore scouring.  It was a gorgeous day, sun like an unexpected but pleasant call from a long-lost relative, sky like a contented sigh.  We wandered from her house to the old dock.  Cloaked dramatically in ice, it stretched out as far as it could before tumbling haphazardly into the water.


We intended to search leisurely for possible agates, smooth black worry stones or imaginative pieces of drift wood.  Initially uninterested, Sparrow poked at a patch of thin ice strung like a web between two stones.

DSCF0168But when I stooped to pick up a large piece of green (sea) glass, she perked up immediately.  She was quick to the obsession, shouting out with glee at each piece she found.  My friend and I were no less immature, exclaiming and pouring over each new find, our pockets delighted with the weight of our treasure.  It total, we found 38 pieces plus the 10 more Sparrow and I found the next day. Green, sea foam, pink, white, blue and brown; we found them all.  We were aghast at our profound fortune and the lake, with each small wave it threw on the shore, seemed to be laughing at us.  Silly humans. 

Maybe we are silly.  But sea glass (or lake glass, as it were) is magnificent.  Shards worn to nubs of translucent color.  Light you can hold in your hand.  Ice that never melts yet never freezes.  Treasure for trash.


This last descriptor bears the weight.  The transformation of one thing to another is what makes sea glass so charming, so magical, so beautiful.   Once a bottle in the hand, then a shattered and dangerous thing lost in the lake’s deep waters, now a strange and lovely jewel on the ragged shore.  This story of transformation is my obsession’s true impetus.

And I cannot help but compare it to the story of humanity’s fragile heart.  To my heart and to your heart and to yours, too.

Tonight, Sparrow prayed simply this: Lord, love everyone and heal all the hearts that are broken.

I am going to claim editing rights on her prayer, just for a moment.  Lord, thank You that You do love everyone.  Please, take all the pieces of the hearts that have broken and, in Your mercy and tenderness, transform each one into a jewel fit for the crown of Christ our King.

Friends, He is the maker of beauty from ashes, jewels from shards of glass.  Let your brokenness be lost in the deep lake of His love.  Let your brokenness be drowned in Him.  I promise, though the wave be rough, you will emerge as a delight on His shore.

“On that day the LORD their God will rescue his people, just as a shepherd rescues his sheep. They will sparkle in his land like jewels in a crown.” Zechariah 9:16


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