Introspective Insights

Introspective - adj: Examining sensory and perceptual experiences. Insight - n: The capacity to discern the true nature of a situation.

Seeking the Light

I recently wrote a post for my church’s blog. Read the introduction here and click on over to check out the full post.

There is a mourning, a fog of sadness that covers me when I take down the Christmas decorations. For five weeks the sparkling silver, red, and green have overtaken our house. Lights twinkling in the darkness, glowing, guiding me during my early morning reading. But today, it will all be put away. The white cold, stark days begin. Days of waiting until we can decorate again. And as much as a dread the undoing, I crave the cool, clean crispness of January unfolding forward into spring, summer, and beyond. [read more…]

Hidden Gems

I recently drove up north with my sister for the weekend. The leaves had not yet changed color in our area, but I was hoping to see glimpses of yellows and reds peeking out here and there along the way. On the way there, I distinctly remember passing a valley of trees shining in the sun on our way over a gradual, high dune. There was nothing remarkable about it, but I remember the spot well.

As we drove home two days later in the gray, misty cold, down that dune, we discovered a hidden grove of bright red trees. They were surrounded by plain green trees and there was something about the way we were driving down that hill that allowed us to see the whole lot of them. Shockingly, these red leafed trees went as far as the eye could see. We stared in awe and marveled over how we missed them on the way. I can’t say for sure what happened and I wish I had taken a picture because a part of me wonders if I truly did see them. But I was not alone and my sister saw them too.

Sometimes on these quiet, sad days, when we wish the fun would last and we wonder how God is going to get us to the next step, he reminds us of his glory, his faithfulness, his love – sometimes using a forest of blazing, red trees.

Autumn Peak

It is nearly fall color peak here in southeast Michigan and the leaves are breathtaking – oranges and reds and yellows of all combinations. I’m often shocked at the appearance of color in a tree that I pass daily during the summer when it blended seamlessly into the sea of green. Brilliant hues are my sunshine on a gray, rainy day like today.

Leaves and Feet

My favorite autumn days are where the sun shines fiery yellow orange so bright that you can scarcely take it all in. The air crisp, walking through the crunchy, colorful tapestry beneath my feet. But those days have been few since the colors turned and today was humid and warm and odd. The weather the last few months has been non-typical and it has challenged what I love about summer and fall and made me thankful for the typical days.

These days are the last hurrah before the icy blasts and white, gray days begin, bittersweet. So today I earnestly seek the turning leaves.

Songbird Surprise

One of our fall family traditions each year is walking through the local nature center to see the changing leaves and observe wildlife. Each year we see something new and one of our favorite activities is feeding small songbirds along the path. We put seed in our hands and stand as still as we can until they perch on the tips of our fingers to gather the bounty. Last year we found that the birds really loved a couple of us, but were skittish with the smaller kids. This year, they landed on all of us and we got some great pictures.

bird pic

Every time one of these little creatures lands on my hand, I am amazed at how beautiful and finally crafted they are and how each one looks a little different. From far away, there is no way to tell the small differences between them. They look into my eyes as if to greet me in their own special way. Some gather one seed, others fill their beaks until extra pieces fall out as they fly away.

Each one approaches us differently and quickly chirps to notify friends that we are there. We all learn to not jump when they land as they always seem to swoop in without us having a clear view of them. One perches on my phone as I take a picture. Some buzz by my hair, one lands on my arm, each amaze me with the vigorous flutter sound as they fly away.

The views gorgeous, the temperature just right, and these sweet, delicate birds – just the right therapy I need today.

Panoramic of Nature Center

Autumn Darkness

Summer used to be my favorite season, but as I grow older, fall has become my new favorite. Fall feels like every season rolled into one – bright, sunny, warm, cold, dry, wet, gray, tumultuous, impossible to predict. The crispness felt in the evening and morning, met by the impossibly orange sun warming us, coldness enveloping us as the sun slides behind the silver clouds. That last fiery red, pink and yellow slipping away, etched in our memories promising life that will return in the spring.

Today fall blew gray and serious and I paused to release summer to fall’s unstable grasp, autumn darkness falling earlier each day. Winter’s icy breath creeping in.

What a Bird Taught Me About Complaining

Winter in southeast Michigan brutally assaulted us this year. A constant barrage of snow storms, extremely cold temperatures combined with repeatedly negative windchills have left us housebound and generally at a loss for what to do next. Plans constantly changing, roads icy and impassable, cancellations and structure thrown about. Everywhere I look or listen, I hear whining, complaining, and general disgruntlement.
I’ve been doing my best to be quiet and accept each day for what it is, but this is not an easy task. This morning, I woke before dawn as I typically do. I peeked out the back window to the stone frozen quiet, stars glittering, silver, sliver moon above.
As I started getting ready, I looked outside again, dawning day in blue and yellow and I heard a rabble – quiet but steady. One bird – chirping, tweeting, singing. A single, solitary greeting to the day. I looked earnestly for that bird. Every few minutes listening intently as the tweeting continued – a full 45 minutes of uninterrupted singing, praising in this bitter cold – that still, small voice.
This unprecedented weather – it has stopped us, stilled us, slowed us down, turned us, slipped our focus, dulled our senses by the shear repetitive nonsense of it all. But this bird got up and sang anyway. This bird knows his purpose – to glorify his God – to sing his praises, to fulfill his calling – to sing. And isn’t that what we need to do? Why complain about something we can’t change?
If the sun rose this morning and you have breath, health and your family around you, aren’t you compelled by gratitude to your creator? Even if you don’t have those things, God isn’t finished with you yet and isn’t that enough to know that you – a work in progress – can humbly, quietly continue in the purpose you were given?

Holding on to Gratitude


Thanksgiving was a couple of days ago here in the United
States and I’ve discovered that with each passing year, this holiday becomes
more and more my favorite.  Most other
holidays have a commercial component to them now and each one involves gifts
except for Thanksgiving.  

Even though each year Thanksgiving grows on me on a bit,
this year I think I finally understood why. 
In church on Thanksgiving Eve, we were challenged to list all that we
were thankful for out loud.  Pastor
assured us to go on as long as needed and to not be shy.  As I started to say those people that I was
thankful for I realized that after a short time, I could no longer speak.  Tears streamed down my face because how can
you thank a great God who owes us nothing for everything we have?
  I am breathing right now because he allows
it.  Where can I even begin?  Pastor encouraged us to start small and
continue to live a life of gratitude.  I
was profoundly moved by this. 

Where do we begin? 
First, start with our smallness – start with the fact that we are dust
and then thank God for life and health and air to breathe.  Maybe family is next and then
possessions.  But here is the tricky part
– thanking him for pain and loss and all that challenge us in this life.  This is not easy, but if we are still
breathing, that means that God has a purpose for us and he promises to be with
us to help us.  

While the concept of constant gratitude is something I have
been studying for nearly three years, I realize that I have much to learn and will
probably never get it right in this life. 
But starting somewhere is all we have to do.

The food is gone, the family has left, and I have almost
recovered the kitchen from the madness. 
The kids want to decorate for Christmas. 
Me too…but I’m hesitating a bit. 
Looking around at the simple orange pumpkins, cornucopia, leaves, and
grasping the gratitude for just awhile longer. 

Labyrinth + A Snake = God’s Heart


I took a walk yesterday – in a garden – alone (except for
the snake) – isolated in the woods.  All
things about that statement pretty much terrify me.  I’m not a nature gal, but appreciate it.  I’m rarely alone…so much so that my ears ring
when it is quiet.  And snakes – don’t get
me started!  I drive into the gardens and trails with an air of fear agitating me.  I pay to park, seeing only a mother and her young
boys and the guide in the welcome center. 
He says, “Take this path to the labyrinth…it’s…um, just better…you’ll
see.”

I step forward, all fear dissipating…the beauty and wonder
before me.  It is a blue sky, breezy, sun
prism day – early fall, the crunch of leaves under my feet – not cool, not
hot.  I head down the path, past the
tended gardens, into the woods; enveloped in greenery overhead, beside, in
front.  I turn and see the wooden bridge
over the algae blanketed pond.  Noises of
crickets and katydids welcome me.  I
cross and enter the path.  I listen to the
babble of the brook, the steady rush of the waterfall into the stream.  

I almost step on his chain-linked pattern body – tiny snake
in the path.  He has heard me pounding up
and is still…head poised up, listening. 
I can’t resist him and stop to take a picture – the only picture of this
trip.  He enchants me and I whisper, “You
are so cute!”

I twist and turn on the path…the leaf and tree markers a
blur in my peripheral.  As much as I
would like to read them all and linger, I’m keenly aware of my mission and the
fact that the sun sets earlier these days and I’m alone in this desolation.
  

I approach the last bend before the labyrinth.  I pause at the opening and read –
instructions, etiquette.  Labyrinth – “an
intricate combination of paths or passages in which it is difficult to
find one’s way or to reach the exit.  A
maze of paths bordered by high hedges, as in a park or garden, for the
amusement of those who search for a way out.” (www.dictionary.com)  While this is the formal definition of the
area I am about to enter, I made the pilgrimage here to find something and rest
in the confidence that I am not lost.  In
fact, I am sure I am found.

I pray as I walk into the limestone labyrinth path…silently,
surely…trudging quietly; grasshoppers and locusts spraying outwards from the
prairie grass as I disturb their rest; sun warming my face.  I am euphoric in my thanks and praise – not
the usual tone of my discourse with God. 
I listen, crunching feet, sun hiding in a small rainbow behind a
cloud.  God tells me he loves me.  Of course, I knew, but like any relationship,
it is important to be reminded.  He keeps
saying, “Be quiet, my child.”  Why is
this so hard for me, for us?  I prattle
on in my mind.  I pray quietly and
slowly.  In the middle of my quest God
says, “I am mighty and strong and it would do you well to remember.”
  Oh how often I have forgotten!  Put God in a box – limit him to my own
understanding of the circumstances and situation.  And when we hurt – don’t we restrict him
further?  Our pain in constant focus and
his universe blurred, distorted…greatness lost in our human amnesia.

Somehow this makes me laugh – because I am his child and
there is a bit of scolding in his voice. 
I promise that I will remember.  I
reach the center of the labyrinth.  I sit
in the quiet – sun blazing past the cloud…I move to another boulder, to feel
the heat on my back.  

I don’t want to walk out, but I perceive the sun
sinking.  I am quiet now and I hear the
words to an old, old song my mom sang in church.  I see a shadow pass over me – a hawk.  The song echoes in my memory, “And he will
raise you up on eagle’s wings, bear you on the breadth of dawn, make you to
shine like the sun, and hold you in the palm of his hand.”  A reminder, promise, wonder, majesty, glory, our
smallness, his infiniteness.
 
 

I take the sunny path back through the prairie grasses.  I hear the crackly, ocean-like sound of the
breeze blowing through the birch trees. 
This experience so ordinary from the outward appearance, such mystery,
and over abundant gift to my inner psyche.

Sounds of Summer


The last couple of weeks have been agreeable and cool enough
to have the air conditioning off and windows open.  I love this time of year – mid August – sounds
throughout the day and night – creaking crickets, chirping birds, clicking
bugs.  These outside sounds enhance the
rhythm of our days inside and about.
 
These sounds remind me of moving into our much-too-suburbia home years
ago.  We were floored by how many
crickets we heard that first night – soft ones, noisy ones and the one we were
sure was living right outside our window gracing us in vibrant serenade.

I was pondering this morning that I have never spent so many
days outside as I have this year, playing, reading, running, eating, gazing,
and smelling the smoky goodness of a fire. 
Outside is the essence of summer. 
I recall the baby bunny and blue heron I saw this morning when running,
but it is the heavy, steamy smell of dew and the rhythmic thudding of my feet
on the pavement that put it all together. Sights and smells and sounds woven
into this summer symphony carrying me on.  

The other day we sat under trees at Independence Lake talking.  Before the park became busy and loud, I could
hear those familiar echoes from home paired with the soft waves and rippling
water in front of us.  As much as these
sights of summer serenity bring me peace, it is the sounds that link each day
and experience together into a seamless season of outside brought in, inside
brought out.

I think of the years I spent too much time inside working, closed
windows deafening the sounds, HVAC drowning out the life right outside. I am
grateful for everyday that I am here, listening, living alongside these
beautiful gifts of wonder that God has given us all.
 

Some days I crave the quiet, but when winter’s silent snow
falls, I will wish for the crickets, the long crisp call of blue jays, tweet of
robins and long to relive these summer days and nights.

When It Is Dusk

I’m sneaking away from bedtime for a moment…two little girls
aren’t ready to quiet down yet.  And I’m
looking outside at this hot summer day ending…orange light reflecting on green
leaves and baking on orange bricks and turning burnt grass to gold and trying
to soak in the last of this day.  When it
is dusk and the day is ending and the night beginning is when I recall all the
things that are finite around me.
 
Littles only stay little for a time and they are growing in
front of me quickly and quietly yet steadily and my mind is changing and
shifting and realizing that maybe I don’t really know what I should be focusing
on. 
 
I look around at the living room strewn with forgotten toys
left after play…the kitchen with never-ending crumbs…outside with toys peeking
out of buckets.  My everywhere is full of
little lives and here is my own life that I’m not really sure I’m living – but I
must be if I hear them laughing and playing and jumping and hugging me…feeling
their little arms around me.
 
This life – the days run together into a quiet rhythm of
cooking and cleaning and picking up and folding and sweeping so that all of a
sudden it is dusk and I realize that a year has passed since I have been home
with them.  I wish I had something
profound to say – a way to hold onto this day as the light grows dim – but maybe
that is the trouble with me anyway.  I
always know what to say and when to say it and I’ve found these past months to
be strangely without words. 
 
I write best when full of angst and this year has been one
of the most profoundly peaceful and joyful periods of my life and like this sun
fading I’m holding onto it with dear life unsure of how to process it all to
say what it all means and to fold it deep into myself forever.
 
I can only be thankful for it all.  But isn’t thankfulness everything?  The first stars are appearing and I look up
to them anticipating the gentle night ahead.