Around the Bend

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The woods that my Labrador and I walk in on a daily basis just threw us our annual curveball. Throughout the winter and early spring, we have been able to see far ahead through the leafless trees. Being able to know exactly what was ahead gave us a sense of security, comfort, and control. In the last couple of days, the leaves have matured to full capacity and have blinded us to whom or what might be around the next bend on our winding path.

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These newly flaunted leaves bring a touch of the unknown to our morning ritual and the unknown brings a bit of anxiousness. My dog likes to run ahead to make sure that the coast is clear. Lately, she has been giving me this look like “Oh my gosh something big is ahead of us… Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” (Yes, we are one of those families where the dogs are almost considered people.) With our sight impaired, we walk more cautiously. If we sense danger, do we retreat, change direction or proceed ahead?

Our path is traveled by hikers, cyclists, runners and dogs of all shapes, sizes and temperaments. (Note: the temperament of the dog often matches that of their owner) and the woods are inhabited by all sorts of creatures great and small. Only occasionally is there any kind of strange animal threat. A few years ago a bear was spotted around our neighbor’s bird feeder. (Very rare) Last year we had a coyote that stalked and attacked one of our sweet neighborhood dogs (He’s ok, in case you are worried). This morning, in broad daylight I heard an oddly, screeching fox sound getting louder and louder. I had to make a choice. Do we remain on course or do we retreat? I chose retreat, sensing that dealing with a rabid fox could put a damper on our day. I’m grateful the little fox gave us a warning.

shutterstock_111819521.jpgIn addition to the people and animal adventures, nature often delivers the unforeseen as well. Have you ever heard the old riddle: “When a tree falls in the woods when no one is around does it make a sound?” I’d say, quite confidently, yes! When walking with my kids on this same path an enormous tree suddenly toppled…BOOM! Its tippy top was about five feet in front of us. After the wow factor and thanking God for keeping us out of harm’s way, I thought… Phew! No warning. If we were ten paces further….

We don’t like to be caught “blind-sided”, we prefer to be “bright-sided”. (Good news only please!) How about an early warning system for life to give us a heads up when something scary is coming our way? But that’s not how it works, does it? When life’s toughest challenges sneak up from around the corners on your path, (poor health, death of a loved one, addiction, depression, chronic pain, divorce, wayward child, loss of a job, etc.) are you prepared? While there never is a perfect picture, a perfect life or a perfect person, there is a perfect God. It is during these precarious times in life that we most need to know and understand our faith. God’s word tells us that He will never leave us or forsake us. A friend said to me the other day, there is no better news than the “Good News”. (Amen!) When you are steeped in God’s word, the Holy Spirit is able to fill you with that lovely peace that surpasses all understanding and gives us power to endure.

This week is a good time to meditate on scripture that grounds you in your faith. No matter how dark or how bright your path seems to be, the God of love is right there with you. (Note: You don’t have to be a Bible scholar to do this.)

Write your favorite verse(s) on an index card and put it in a place where you can see it. (I will put one on my dog’s collar.)

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

“It is so strange. Everything can be going along just great, and then one day, WHACK, you’re blindsided – a lousy, crummy blow you didn’t see coming.” James Patterson, Author

“Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Thirsty?

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“These flowers are not from the hot house.” said Miss Marianne of Willoughby’s gift of wildflowers.

“Ahh, I see that my offering is not as grand as the one you already have. I’m afraid I obtained these from an obliging field.”

“Beaming with delight, Marianne replies, “I have always preferred wild flowers.”

Sense and Sensibility

Ever think you were meant for a different century? Being a Jane Austen fan, I say… “Yes, yes, a thousand times YES!” Minus all that spinster talk and women not being able to have a profession or inherit the family fortune, I would love to jump into an Austen novel. She knows how to bring us in with her dynamic and quirky characters, the poetic English language, and breathtaking landscapes. She sweeps us up and into a world of Saturday afternoon picnics on your front lawn, reed gathering for basket weaving, spying on siblings from tree houses, chasing the sunshine and, my personal favorite, picking wildflowers.

shutterstock_439136608What intrigues us about all of this? Why do I have a thirst for a time without a laptop computer and a smart phone? Could it be the raw beauty and simplicity of the picture Austen is painting? Even though most of her characters and their predicaments are anything but simple, something about it all makes me want to move to the English country side, start buying up sheep and write a thesis on why wildflowers are indeed, the superior choice in floral arrangements.

Snapping back into reality; it’s spring here in the Nation’s Capital. Native wildflowers are dotting our non-English landscape with their little hopeful spring-forward faces. My Mom and I are indulging ourselves with fresh bouquets of spring beauties, violets, and buttercup related species. We like to put them in little bud vases to cheer up our homes after winters chill. Recently, I was in a hurry and popped my two little bouquets into their vases and went on with my day. When I came back, one vase was completely wilted while the other one was perfectly beautiful. “Oh, no! I didn’t put water in that vase.” While I have had worse problems in life, I felt guilty. Sort of like Charlie Brown when he brought back the Christmas tree and, it too, wilted. “I killed it!” shutterstock_403780948After administering water and CPR, I waited. Sure enough, their thirst was quenched by the one thing necessary for their survival…water.

We all know that water is crucial for our survival as well; making up anywhere from 55% to 65% of our bodies. Without it, we will die. If we follow health guidelines, we are supposed to be drinking (8) eight-ounce glasses per day. If you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Sometimes when you feel hungry, the truth is you are really just thirsty. Paying attention to our physical thirst is very much like paying attention to our spiritual thirst. Our spiritual well can run dry when too often distracted by, as Austen would say, diversions.

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There is not a day that goes by when I am not thirsty for God’s wisdom on any given subject in my life. Somedays insights flow like waterfalls; while others, radical dehydration. (Note: The parched days tend to be when I am not centered in prayer or scripture.) Are you thirsty to know God?  Good news…He is all around you!

 

In one of Jane Austen’s surviving prayers, she writes. “Thou art everywhere present, from thee no secret can be hidden. May the knowledge of this, teach us to fix our thoughts on thee, with reverence and devotion that we pray not in vain.”

 

Jesus says in Matthew 6, “Consider the lilies of the field. See how they grow. They do not labor or spin. How much more will God take care of you?”

Hold onto that this week as you tend to your spiritual well. Now go pick some wildflowers.

“And the Lord will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.” Isaiah 58:11

 

“Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” John 6:35

 

“The key to Christian living is a thirst and hunger for God. And one of the main reasons people do not understand or experience the sovereignty of grace and the way it works through the awakening of joy is that their hunger and thirst for God is so small.” John Piper