Musings: May 2018

Every spring, property owners here in Maine cede our rights over to the blackfly population. With their serrated jaws and overwhelming numbers, they swarm by the hundreds, drawn by breath and body heat, and driving even the most determined souls back into the safety of our homes. When my four sons were all small and yearning for the great outdoors after a long winter, I would pile them into the car and drive to a playground in town, just to escape the bloody, itchy, swollen mess the black flies inflict, aided by their buggy-brand of saliva which is both an anticoagulent (so the blood flows freely!) and an anesthetic (so you don’t realize they’re feasting on you!).

Apparently, early settlers here in Maine welcomed spring in spite of the blackflies, because it meant an end to their diet of un-refrigerated bear meat. The first dandelion greens were perfect medicine for the bleeding gums and boredom that accompanied the winter menu. The local lore is that black flies disappear after the first thunderstorm of the season, and, while I’ve never verified that scientifically, I can attest that they are usually still in full swarm mode when we begin planting the garden at the end of May.

On the Hill

Graduation

Our number two son graduated from University of Southern Maine in May, and it was delightful to celebrate that rite of passage with him and his lovely wife.The college guy is home, but working 60-hour weeks at his summer job and taking an on-line class, so it’s a stretch to call this “summer vacation” for him. On the home front, the school year is winding down with year-end concerts and an end in sight for the homeschooling routine. Meanwhile, the lawn-mowing business is booming.

On the Blog

Caregiving, Sandwich generation, Elderly parentsOn the first anniversary of my mum’s passing, I was invited to share my caregiving story at The Perennial Gen. It was so encouraging to hear the experiences of many others as they offered insight and support in the comments there and also here at Living Our Days.

Taming Anxiety over the UnknownAs a Redbud Writer, I contributed an article to the May Redbud Post, and enjoyed interacting with that community around the topic of Taming Anxiety. The truth is that whenever the unexpected happens, I’m thrown against the framework of my theology. Will it hold? Does what I believe about the sovereignty of God accommodate a veering turn that was not anywhere on my road map? With anxiety over the unknown comes a greater need for and reliance upon a sinewy faith in God’s good intentions toward me in this following life.

Resolve: The power of God is at work within my will, but it does not take the place of it.

 

And then, I was grateful to contribute to the daily conversation over at (in)courage with this post about the partnership of obedience that characterizes this following life.

 

Book reviews continue to be a great gathering place in these parts, and it was a delight to feature four books in May:

Katherine Clark’s story began on a routine Friday, volunteering at her son’s school. However, when she rounded the playground equipment in a schoolyard game of tag, one of the children bounded into the air from above and crashed into her head. She landed on the ground, paralyzed from the neck down, and Where I End: A Story of Tragedy, Truth, and Rebellious Hope is her memoir of that collision and of her faithful response in the re-telling of it.

The Clarks learned that grief is “the faithful response to loss.” (211) In excerpts from Care Page posts that were written during Katherine’s hospitalization, John Clark (Katherine’s husband) shared the family’s story of laughter and tears. Their grief over all that was lost with the accident was tempered by hope and gratitude, “the sense that God [was] not only near, but that He [was] doing something mighty and altogether lovely in [their] midst.”

 

It was a pleasure to review Lewis on the Christian Life: Becoming Truly Human in the Presence of God (Theologians on the Christian Life). Author, Joe Rigney presses into Lewis’s expression of his theology and considers its outworking in life on this planet. While it is true that C.S. Lewis was careful to remind his readers at every opportunity that he was not a biblical scholar nor a theologian, nonetheless, his writing has had an almost unparalleled impact on the way we think and talk about the Christian life. It is at this intersection of theology and practice that Rigney engages with Lewis’s words.

One of my favorite characteristics of Lewis’s thinking and writing is his ability to turn ideas on their heads until they suddenly–and unexpectedly–become very clear. Rigney’s goal in writing is not to explain Lewis so we don’t need to read him, but instead to create an appetite for his work, which he has definitely done in my case by quoting from The Weight of Glory, reminding me of the brand new copy that’s waiting for me on my bookcase.

 

I had been waiting for the release of Leslie Leyland Fields’s new book, a collection of 40 essays written by and for women over 40, and since I’m doing my own personal research on that season, it was a joy to read and to review.

Leslie Leyland Fields has hung a glorious and fitting banner over these years past the mid-point: The Wonder Years! With gathered wisdom,The Wonder Years: 40 Women over 40 on Aging, Faith, Beauty, and Strength shares insight from warrior-women who have lived and loved past the mid-point, offering both a resource and a tribute to women over forty.

 

In Almost Entirely: Poems (Paraclete Poetry) the reader is treated to the process of a woman becoming. As one who is “predisposed by nature to question everything,” (17) poet Jennifer Wallace reconciles her doubts with the presence of a God who is well able to take in hand her persistent wondering. In the process, God shows up in both surprising and ordinary ways, and the reader wins and is blessed by reflections that excavate grief and plumb the depths of disappointment with God and the journey toward peace and hope.

On My Mind

Memorial Day weekend was a busy time here on the hill. Trumpets are in demand, so our youngest participated in two different events, and we all managed to gather for the traditional hamburgers on the grill followed by apple pie. In all the rush, it’s pretty easy to forget the main reason we celebrate patriotic holidays. Even so, I wonder if patriotic holidays might be a great excuse for a little “peace seeking,” a perfect opportunity to fly the flag, sing the songs, and practice a little “irrational optimism.”  G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy is still on my night stand, and I shared thoughts here from chapter five on patriotism and “irrational optimism.” When our love for country is formed around a deep belief that God is at work in our circumstances, we are better equipped to look for Him to be at work in our country and in our world.

Patriotism, Pessimism, Church, Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton,

When the family gathered on Memorial Day weekend, we planted all the seeds and set the gardening process in motion for another year. It was an amazing gift to receive so much help this year! My garden is one way that God really demonstrates that He is at work, and I’m looking forward to participating once again in the glorious rhythms of seed time and harvest.

Thank you for the encouragement of your company and the gift of your time here,

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Musings — August 2017

Loon call trills through the open window just as the rain begins to fall.  I leave the sash thrown wide because, I ask you, who could close a window on a song like that?  And as summer draws to a close, I am reluctant to close the window on a season that has been so short and yet so beautiful.

In August, we’ve enjoyed family time in all its chaos and delight and also had the experience of a day at the ocean with friends — and no kids!  One cooler and a few beach chairs!  Unimaginable simplicity!

 

 

We also visited Peaks Island with our son and his new bride. Riding the ferry from Portland, Maine’s largest city, and then walking the island gave us the opportunity to gulp in all the gorgeous views.

On the Blog

There’s a whole lot of truth to the idea of discovering the right book at the right time.  Jayber Crow was my introduction to the writing of Wendell Berry, and I was doing a lot of studying and teaching at the time.  It was exciting to be digging into Scripture and pondering the ways of God.  Of course, nobody warned me that there’s no end to the questions; and the more we search, the more there is to find.  Jayber’s questions ushered in a series of events that led him from theological training to the barber shop, but don’t for a minute think that this was the end of his ponderings about God.

Wendell Berry has created a fictional world in Port William, Kentucky and then populated it with the poignant, the hilarious, and the mundane.  Throughout my first reading of Jayber Crow, I found myself checking the back cover and muttering, “No, this is not a memoir by a real person.  This is fictional.” He’s a poet, too, and it shows — Berry, I mean, and so maybe . . . Jayber is, too.

Whether you prefer to gobble your books whole or to enjoy a more leisurely read, you are invited to participate in our reading and discussion group focused on Jayber and his Port William customers and friends.  Fair warning:  if your reading experience would be ruined by coarse language and obnoxious name calling such as you’d find in an old-timey barber shop, you may want to sit this one out.

If you love to talk about what you’re reading, OR if you would rather read the thoughts of others and just add them to your own quiet pondering, you are welcome.  I’m hoping that some of you will be inspired to write your own blog posts about your reading and ruminating and then to share a link in the comments.

Our leisurely and joyful discussion will begin on Thursday, September 7th when I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the first three chapters and inviting you to do the same. Here is the schedule so that you can plan accordingly:

september 7………………..chapters 1-3
september 14………………chapters 4-6
September 21………………chapters 7-8
september 28………………chapters 9-11
October 5……………………chapters 12-14
october 12………………….chapters 15-17
october 19………………….chapters 18-20
october 26………………….chapters 21-23
november 2…………………chapters 24-26
november 9…………………chapters 27-29
november 16……………….chapters 30-32

On the Monday following the tragic mayhem in Charlotesville, Virginia, SheLoves Magazine shared my essay addressing our spiritual blind spots through the retelling of a famous story about an elephant.  When the issue in the room is wide, gray and heavy, when it trumpets its voice and silences everything else within hearing distance, what is my right response? Will I lay confident hands on one aspect of the issue and announce that I’ve discovered its essence based on my own precious piece of the elephant?

 

The August book review that seemed to resonate with the most readers was Glory in the Ordinary by Courtney Reissig.  I think this may be because we all need reassurance that there is meaning in the mundane tasks that are stuck on replay in this mothering life.

 

Several months ago, Jerusha Agen wondered if I would be willing to contribute an article for The Fear Warrior Blog.  Of course I would! So, I shared a recent experience of God’s amazing ability to overcome feelings of insecurity and inadequacy in the context of ministry.  Greater than the reality of my fear is the promise of God’s presence and a moment-by-moment faith that allows Truth to inform my feelings. If you head over to Jerusha’s place to read more, be sure to scroll through other helpful articles — especially if fear is something you battle on a regular basis.

 

Just for Joy

 

We marked another milestone around our dining room table when our third towering son packed his belongings into his faithful truck and moved north to attend college in Bangor, Maine.  I miss him already.

Our oldest son celebrated five years of marriage to his lovely bride, giving us the excuse to nab precious time with their boy — our grand boy with the mischievous smile.

Homeschooling has begun for my high school boy, and it seems good to be returning to the rhythms of “normal” life.

August has landed hard on this pot of summer beauty.  A gift from May, I’ve watered through June and July, deadheaded, chased the sun, or moved the plant to shade as needed . . .  I thought.  But on this end-of-August day, I find myself snipping off dead stems, plucking away the brown and lifeless, trying to get back to green again.  Thanks be to God, there’s always a way back to life.  There is always enough grace, and my smallest movement along “paths of righteousness” is met with God’s unfailing supply of grace for the next move.

My prayer for you is that you are finding this to be true in your own following life.

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I’m joining Emily Freeman and Leigh Kramer in sharing my monthly musings.

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.