gravel road girl

Archive for the category “perspective”

Boots By the Side of the Road

Boots by the side of the road,

why are you here?

Here at the severe curve

where every driver must slow

nearly to not-moving.

Did they pause to set you out

for smell of foul feet?

Or bad behavior,

if that is possible for such

durable, salt of the earth

work wear.

Are you the last straw

of a bad day?

The finality of a job

never returned to?

I must think, though,

that you wait here,

doggedly loyal,

sure of your master’s return.

I applaud and admire you.

Good boots!

(Not) A Poem a Day: Swans

photo: Drazen Neske, Unsplash

Because writing time has been at a premium lately, I’m posting a recently written poem. As we here in the Midwest impatiently wait for spring, the gathering of eagles near open water and the flight of swans makes things bearable and gives us hope.

SWANS

written Friday, March 4, 2022

Two pair of swans,

couples,

flying swiftly

to the northeast

as if sprung from a bow

arrow straight.

Me

below them

limited by where the asphalt

could take me

wished to reach up

to fly away with them

free of roads

free of fences

free of my own

expectations.

Poem for today: Snapshots

photo credit: Denise Jans, Unsplash

SNAPSHOTS

–written Monday, Feb. 28, 2022

Like a small child,

weaving together a story

simply by looking at the pictures,

I, too, create my life

in pictures.

Full scenes,

simple snapshots,

dim black and whites

roll through my mind

like a shuddering movie projector.

All reminding me

of the pieces

that are me.

Poetry Monday: Cavalier

cavalier

I feel this poem warrants some context. The story, the words, are true. As I drove on a warm day last fall, I listened to a news update. It was brief. It was basic. In a few heartbeats, in as many breaths this information came to me, swirled through my thoughts like leaves in a dust devil, and settled just as silently.

In these days of covid-19 and quarantine statistics, we are overwhelmed by numbers and news. Tragedy and heartbreak, loneliness and loss become second-hand stories. It has become too easy to drop this data into yesterday’s memories like pennies in a bank. Do they add up in our hearts and minds? Do we feel the weight? Do we see the people and all the lives, like dominoes, effected with each death? Or maybe we’ve all become a bit cavalier.

CAVALIER

The news relates the death
Of two lives taken
When a car
Crossed the center line.
The collision was
Head on.
Both
Dead at the scene.

It will rain tomorrow
With winds from the north-northwest.

In other news—
Gas prices are up
Sharply.

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.  Psalm 90:12

 

 

Monday Poetry: Contrails & Headwind

Photo credit: William Seidle, Unsplash

Photo credit: William Seidle, Unsplash

Contrails

Contrails

Stripe the sky like pink clotheslines

Pulled taut to the setting sun.

Like tattered lavender shirts,

Clouds are tethered to dry

In the cool, night

Air

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Photo credit: Annie Spratt, Unsplash

Headwind

I opened the door to
this new year
and stepped into the brightness
of January.
It took my breath away–
So still, hopeful,
Crisp and untrodden.
I stood,
sheltered and expectant,
weighing the options
of my journey.

Four months now,
walking into a headwind,
eyes down, jaw set,
I only allow momentary
glances
toward a distant horizon.
Biting questions
whip at my mind
and make my eyes
water.
Press into it.
To stop would be
to go backwards.

 

“The years teach much which the days never new.”  –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Soul Cleansing

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I just got home from a weekend away, and it was lovely–mostly. We were in Branson, Missouri. We got one of those “deals.” Never do that. Just don’t.

But we did go on a gorgeous hike after eating donuts for lunch. We found a great bbq place and enjoyed The Baldknobbers–a famous Branson show. Buuuut, yeah, Branson is not my spirit animal home.

Anyway, I’m not here to reminisce about the Las Vegas of the Midwest–and I mean that in the nicest Midwest way. But I realized that as refreshing as it may be for my body to get away and step out of life’s routine, it’s often hard on the soul.

I LOVE routine. I set my coffee maker before bed so I can come down, fill my cup, and settle into ‘my chair’ without having to hardly open my eyes in the morning. My Bible and journal are there along with my foot-warmer, Marmalade-the-giant-cat. My cup is half-empty before I pick up my journal and pencil in the date. And I usually need a refill by the time I open my Bible. I’m very slow at waking up.

So when I’m out of my routine, I struggle to be in the Word, to find time to pray, to meditate. I usually manage some shortened version of my normal routine often read on my Bible app. If I failed to grab my journal, then I’m lost for writing down my thoughts. And, if sleep was evasive (read: not in my own bed with my own pillow), then time in the Word may not happen at all. Just being honest here. But I also know that by the time Monday rolls around, I’m going to need a good soul-cleaning.

This morning as I sat down to write and read, I thought, “I needed a good brushing and flossing of my soul.”  That was my brain picture.

           Brain picture: my need to create a mental picture of what God is teaching me.

My daily cleansing had been interrupted, and I was feeling the distracted effects. My morning moments of gratitude and reminders of God’s faithfulness had given way to irritation, discontentment, and envy. And there were the nitty-gritty pieces of accusation and self-condemnation that quickly became imbedded in my spirit. My soul ached and my mind grumbled.

But the Word always refreshes, always cleanses. My heart and mind settled into the promises of Lamentations 3:21-25

This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The LORD’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.” The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.

Simply to meditate on God’s lovingkindess–a term that encompasses His love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, compassion, and faithfulness–is overwhelming and humbling and most certainly soul-cleansing. Contemplating the depth of His love for me turns my mind from thinking about myself and toward praise and gratitude for who He is and His complete faithfulness in all things.

It’s so important to speak the truth about WHO God is and HOW that impacts who we are as believers.

  • His forgiveness is complete; I am not condemned.
  • His love is boundless; I can not earn it.
  • His mercy is new every morning; I am filled with gratitude.
  • His grace is bountiful; I am humbled by His goodness.
  • His compassion is without boundaries; I am compelled to love recklessly.
  • His faithfulness is enough; I am able to rest in Him.

This was the brushing, the cleansing, that I needed.  A refocusing and refreshing of my heart. A flossing out of the untruths that wedged into my thoughts.

What cleansing does your soul need? What refreshing words of truth has He spoken to you lately?

 

Empty Nest?

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I’ve been asked several times these past few weeks how I like being an ’empty nester.’ I’ve hesitated to answer because, if we’re going to continue this analogy, technically, I have hatched four birds in my lifetime and just recently nudged the last one out hoping, with all my bird-like instincts, that he’ll take flight never to return.

I realize this sounds a bit snarky, and ’empty nester’ is a simple handle for saying, “So, after 28 years of having kids under foot, what’s it like to have an empty, quiet house and all that time on your hands?”

Yeah, ’empty nester’ softens the blow, I guess.

But is there anything more sad than an empty nest? I mean a literal empty nest. I have several empty nests that I’ve picked up after storms have knocked them out of trees on our property. Often, they are spring nests–delicate, unfinished, routed out of the tree by a blustery March wind. But sometimes in the golden aftermath of a gusty October day, I’ll find a round nest, heavy with mud and well-used. Perhaps a feather leaves a clue as to its long-gone occupants. Most likely a robin or a blue jay. Cradling it in my hands, I wonder how many eggs once clustered there? How many happy, little chicks took flight from its twiggy edge? Did the parent birds sigh wearily as the last awkward chick cautiously dropped off the edge only to reappear in the next tree over? Probably not–just my odd imaginings.IMG_5992A favorite childhood book of mine and also my children is P.D. Eastman’s Are You My Mother? In the book, a mother bird leaves her nest briefly to procure a worm for her soon-to-be-hatched baby. In her absence, the baby bird hatches and, perching on the nest’s edge, looks for his mother. Unfortunately, he tumbles out of the nest and down, down, down (so the story goes) to the ground below. Unhurt but unable to fly, the little chap wanders the countryside asking all sorts of animals and machinery, “Are you my mother?” With each answering, “No,” the little bird becomes more desperate in his search. Finally. . .

Well, because I hate spoilers, I won’t share the dramatic yet satisfying ending. You’ll have to read the book. But as I considered this simple story, I realized a few things–

1. The kiddos need to be prepared to leave the nest. Obviously, this little guy
wasn’t. Mine, thankfully, have–mission accomplished.
2. The nest is a great place to come back to, but there’s a big world out there–
people to meet and places to see. They were meant to be a part of it!
3. Finally, my nest isn’t my world, and it’s not about me. The empti-ness is not
about me. Step up. Step out.

I watched a compelling and convicting video by David Flood, a former trouble-maker turned teen-advocate and speaker. It’s worth the five minutes it will take you to watch, but in it he shares these words, not necessarily profound but certainly true, from his 82-year-old mother, “Your life’s not about you.  .  . It’s about your family, your friends. . . Stop thinking your life’s about you. . . Your life’s about all the people around you. That you can teach and touch and impact.”

For 28 beautiful, hard, life-changing, God-trusting, prayer-filled, glorious years, I got to teach and touch and impact the lives of those most dear to me–the children who were simply gifts from God. They’ll always be my children–you never stop being a mom! But it’s time for them to teach and touch and impact their own piece of the world. And it’s time for me to shift my focus, not to me and what is missing, but to who God will place in my path now to teach and to impact for Him, for His glory, and for His kingdom.

For several years now in anticipation of this season of life, I’ve been prayerfully asking God, “What’s next?” And as is usual of my prayers, He did not send me a text, an email, or even a verbal whisper. But in the richness of His Word, He said, “For [you] are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that [I] might walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10) As one who knows Christ as my personal Savior, I rest in the promise that He has a purpose and direction for my life, and that purpose is for His glory and for my good. (Being mindful that “His good” does not always look good to us.) I also know that plan won’t be revealed in one fell swoop or in some grand unveiling. So, I will continue to pray like David in Psalm 5, “For to You I pray. In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice. In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.”

I’ll pray and eagerly watch with expectation for who God brings into my life, and what circumstances prompt me to step out in faith and in action. Now that my “nest” is empty, I’m pretty sure it’s time for me to look beyond it and step out trusting God for the next thing.

What is pushing you out of the nest? How are you being drawn out of your comfort zone and into a place where you can teach and impact others for good?

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”   ~Corrie Ten Boom

 

 

 

 

SLIVERS

wood 2

The rough spots catch me–

Piercing painfully, I

Draw back quickly and inspect the wound.

The sliver is easily seen, easily extracted.

It’s a good sliver—

if there is such–

obvious and intrusive,

simply plucked from beneath the skin.

But the bad sliver—

Deep and small—initially unnoticed,

but festering with time and avoidance–

too sensitive to touch,

too painful to ignore.

It affects the whole body despite its size.

I must tend to it.

Silly, how small it is

Yet it can distract me from the most important things.

 

I have slivers in my heart, too.

The pains of my youth have,

thankfully,

been plucked—though not painlessly.

They were obvious and ugly.

Garnered from rough choices and youthful ideals.

Now the deeper slivers, though less obvious,

Reveal themselves.

Slivers of fear,

Shards of discontent,

Slender slips of doubt that resonant

the hurts of why, the aches of when.

In the wisdom granted in the asking,

He shows me the painful changes He needs to make.

Extracting the invasive slivers of selfishness.

Gently, yet firmly, working out pride, fear, worry.

They are so deeply imbedded

I have almost become accustomed to their pain.

But He reminds me,

“They distract you from the important things.”

 

 Watch over your heart with all diligence; for from it flows the springs of life.

Proverbs 4:23

 

Waiting for spring

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“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.”    ~Anne Bradstreet

I’ve thought this true so many times. I think that’s why I love Iowa and partly why I love winter. Because. . .

it’s not that I ALWAYS love winter. In those long, gray days of

February or March,

I know soon–very soon–a warm wind will blow,

a daffodil will poke its green finger out and

push away

the icy wet of winter.

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The tug ‘o war between warm sunshine and

frigid blasts will,

eventually,

end in a victory of

puddles and tulips and dandelions.

But victory is always sweeter when the battle is

hard fought and,

perhaps,

the outcome is doubtful and

 tests your metal.

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And sometimes that testing is all about

waiting. 

“Waiting on God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon one’s thoughts.”  ~Elisabeth Elliot

Even as we wait for the warmth of spring to

overwhelm winter’s cold, 

God asked me to wait

much

this year. 

To wait with purpose and understanding

is a doable feat,

not easy, but doable.

To wait with questions and doubts and 

unanswered prayers is,

most certainly,

“always winter but never Christmas.”

There is no doubt that God calls us to

wait. . . 

“Wait on the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage. Yes,

wait

on the Lord.”  Psalm 27:14

What do you do when your heart has no courage?

It’s still and icy

like a January garden.

16527_10200198558358437_1429993100_n                photo Tricia Stevens

My courage, my strength were there

because I believed my 

God was there.

But sometimes that belief was

fine and fragile and nearly

fractured.

I ached for the warm winds of 

healing and purpose amid the frustration and fear.

Instead,

He sent wisdom in the words

of friends;

He sent compassion in the hands

of helpers.

He did not send healing–

in my time.

He did not send purpose or answers–

to my heart.

But in my waiting He sent

grace.

“I am sure God keeps no one waiting unless He sees that it is good for him to wait.” ~C.S. Lewis

386134_2551689243311_224484761_nphoto Tricia Stevens

Like a thawing wind,

the depth of His grace gave me purpose.

If nothing else,

grace is always enough

to give purpose

to give strength

to give courage

to allow us to wait. . .

for spring.

“My grace is sufficient for you; for my power is made perfect in your weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

 

The Season Between Weddings

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I’m in a season between two weddings. I’ve never been here before, and I doubt that I will again. It has been strange and wonderful and a little stressful. Not because of the weddings but for various other reasons.

I say strange because this earth-loving, weed-pulling, flower-plucking nature girl has been slightly house-bound and quite negligent of her yard duties. But the amazing thing is that God hasn’t.

Finally, today, I went out with clipper and wagon and wandered the yard in a way I hadn’t for quite some time. Never in all my gardening years do I remember roses scenting the air or nasturtiums overwhelming the walk at the end of October.

It was a quiet blessing to see that, despite my inattention, God and nature carried on quite well.

Nasturtiums

Sea Oats

Roses still in bud and blooming!

Hydrangea, foxglove, and the last honeysuckle on the vine.

Bonnie and Libby, always my gardening companions.

An explosion of pink. . . the last daisy and a solitary zinnia.

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No need for embellishment.

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The only way to wrangle rowdy pumpkins.

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 Audrey Hepburn once said,

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.”

That really is the joy, the magic, the excitement of gardening:

to believe that tomorrow, the next season, the next year will be

better. And the next step outside the door will bring you

~a new delight.~

“she breathes in dirt and exhales flowers.”   ~unknown

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