Exposed — all her extra-long needles and the ones missing too, her aging form and unpolished silhouette. She’s surprised and reminded too — the height to which she’s climbed, the scars that have healed, her fixed trunk, and the direction in which she is growing. This she can clearly see.
In the dark, in the place where she envied and made-up stories, she forgot about what made her green and hardy and beautiful. The sun faithfully brings clarity that feeds the heart within (her beautiful lined skin).
sly green leaves mingling in the mix, fitted within a brilliant vase, catching light, turning heads. But something was off.
My arrangement was tilting, tipping, falling. I hadn’t even noticed the shift. I began scrambling to see how to “fix” it — change the shadows and light, pull out some flowers here and add more there— in order to set it back straight and securely on the table, just like I sketched from the very beginning. But beauty came when I allowed it to fall. Those floral conversations separated. The angled leaves became wings. The gold vessel prepared itself for a blow on its end. The letting go gave way to a refined breaking of expectations.
I have a white-knuckle grip on the things/people I fear to lose, the things I believe are completely in my control. Holding loosely what I think is perfect or “mine” and allowing the tilting of my expectations causes me to see the beauty of the blows and loosens my heart to accept what is better, though it may be harder.
“I’ve learned that we must hold everything loosely because when I grip it tightly, it hurts when the Father pries my fingers loose and takes it from me!” -Corrie ten Boom
Cactus wren, together, looking after one another, communing.
I’ve been reminded over and over lately “it is not good for man to be alone.” Created for community. My weakness, broken wings, and chronic limps are not meant to be self-splinted and covered up in my aloneness. “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his friend. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has no one there to lift him up!... How can one keep warm alone?”
I’ve noticed lately, within our family, our tendency to fight battles on our own. No one sees. And in our self-sufficiency, we wonder how we’re failing to fly. However, we are caught, mended, directed, and strengthened when we open ourselves up to company, what a gracious glory to fight for the thriving of another.
This will hand in our home to remind: “Though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him — a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4)
I watched him all morning, raring up, wings beating in a frenzy, attacking his reflection in the window over and over. In his eyes this was a formidable foe, matching his unrelenting zeal and aggression and (suspiciously) the same offensive maneuvers. The battle was painfully long but necessary considering what was at stake... his home, his mate, his nest.
A true protector does not wait to be encroached upon but sits as a watchman, looking to divert danger before it steps into his territory. He positions himself between harm and home, as a soldier, risking life and wing to protect. Devoted to what has been entrusted to him, he will catch a flicker of light and red in a window and take those as fighting words. What glory that is to his home.
It was on a walk when I first encountered the confetti of Fall. Gold and gray feathered leaves were falling like tickertape on my parade, when I realized many of these “fallers” were flying... all around me. Snout-nosed butterflies, dressed like the leaves of the nearby shedding trees, were fluttering on the gusts of wind before my face and down my path on their sporadic migration somewhere north. I pretended to hear their pants as their ashy and rust feather wings beat against the breeze, dodging the falling obstacles near their size. I gleefully watched as hundreds and hundreds moved upward in joy when the whole world said “go south.” Not all things fall in the Fall.
Change has the potential to shed us from what seems stable and cause us to drift down into despair. But change also ushers in a breeze, a breath, on which we can fly... somewhere north. Flying is just a thousand little flits and flutters of faith - when you don’t know where the wind is taking you, but you trust the wind is good. (John 3:8)
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone...? (Job 38:4-6)
Tomatoes, the fruit of the season, bursting from flames and crushed. Jalapenos and serranos with their fiery seeds hidden beneath sunburnt skins. Onions and peppers, bearing their blackened scars that tattoo all that was once shiny and smooth and yet, in some miraculous way, also sweetened their bite. Somehow exposure to open heat gives way to glory. Roasted red salsa. It’s as if the summer’s fever has finally broken and its bounty gives way to irresistible sweat on the brow and lip.
Salsa is a staple in our home. We love the sacred heat on just about anything. I roasted, chopped, simmered, and preserved it in a dozen massive mason jars once only to have it shelved for just a couple week’s time. We drank it like water.
Interesting, isn’t it, how roasting is what brings the sweet and spice to sing? Tested with flame, fresh pain gives way to enhanced rich flavor. Somehow, in God’s superintending way, what seems to break us down is what is necessary for arrogance to release and a stronger more beautiful creation to develop. I’ve got the burn marks to prove it. Bursting, crushing, simmering, and then knowing that fiery ordeal was not in vain. Such a complex and pleasing aroma.
(Job 23:10 and 1 Peter 1:6-7)
It’s difficult to imagine any good from my prickly situation, but joy will come if I allow endurance to have its perfect work. Store up what I need, not in a fruitless panic, but steadily trusting the process of blooming in the desert. It may be a while before I see purpose in what I’ve stored, but joy will come. And every one of those gorgeous blooms will reflect the fruit and resilience of waiting.
I love the songs in Scripture. They have bound up wounds and resuscitated my weak heart when the burden was more than I could bear. We’d all be amazed to find out what’s covered up and bound to our backs. There are many loads, sometimes just an extra bag, that has sent this burro’s knees to the dust. It’s at this point I can’t seem to remember anything I’ve learned. I can’t see, get up, or even take another controlled breath.
But here is where the lyrics of songs and laments have made their way into my soul reminding me of what is true. Songs have such a unique way of speaking hard things into deaf ears. And like these light, provision-loving birds, a song will land and awaken what seems dead and show me where my rest is found.
A reprise is the repeated part of a song that seems to be so necessary to sing one more time if I’m to find my way.
“I have forgotten what happiness is. My endurance has perished; so has my hope. Remember my afflictions and my wanderings... My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end. The Lord is my portion, therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations 3, paraphrased)
What an unlikely pair, these two. One might think there’s nothing in common between this fierce brute with his horns and hard head and those flighty birds who seem quite a nuisance. But truth is their best life is in the company of the other. Here they set the terms of their journey together: One taking care of threatening invaders while the other provides the makeup of a nest. One kicking up the insects for dinner while the other cleans the coat. Seems like thriving on the plains requires opposites appreciating and gleaning from the strengths of the other.
I considered choosing a name for this piece from a list of dear friends I’ve had the privilege of knowing closely over the years -—people who were very different from me at the onset but proved to be the most amazing companions. I figured if I did use names, it would be a messy job clarifying who was the bison and who was the bird.