Sunday, August 28, 2016

How to Find Hidden Treasure (#SmallWonder Link-up)


Our giant black chicken stood outside the open kitchen window clucking with vigor yesterday afternoon.  Despite the high heat and humidity, she marched back and forth in the green grass busily squawking with an air of self-importance, a clear sign she’d just laid an egg. 

I dropped what I was doing and rushed outside.  “A-ha!” I thought.  The day before I’d gathered a measly four eggs. I knew the hens were holding out on me and I walked slow searching circles around the yard in the afternoon and early the next morning hunting for their secret nest. 

Our sixteen hens have a total of seven nesting boxes spread between two coops and one “alternative” nest tucked in a pile of hay on the garage floor.  They have plenty of good places to lay their eggs.  But once a month or so first one, then three or four find a new place to lay. 

The first secret nest we found was tucked under a piece of abandoned plywood lying at the base of our largest pine tree.  In the sheltering shade of the old wood, resting in a shallow depression between two roots, lay a clutch of eighteen eggs.  Since then we’ve found clutches on wooden shelves in my husband’s wood shop, in dark corners of the garage, and in the middle of a much-trampled flowerbed.  The nests are cleverly hidden and nearly impossible to find, although they have hens sitting in them and coming and going for most of the day.   

When I suspect the hens are hoarding eggs, I prowl the yard looking around the base of shrubs and trees, I roam the garage looking for secret corners and shadowed shelves.  Most importantly, I start listening to the chatter among the birds.
 
Every chicken we have, save perhaps for the shy Polish hen, announces her freshly laid egg with a puffed chest and wide-spread wings, her beak opening to pronounce pride with a voluminous round of “bawk-bawk-bigawk.”  This announcement can go on for a good five or ten minutes as the hen boasts and elates over her own great deed.  If I’m paying attention, then I notice this cackle of delight and quickly head toward the loud-mouth hoping to catch her red-handed at the scene of the crime. 

Yesterday when I heard “Thunder Storm” (as my daughter calls her) or “Darth Vader” (as the boys call her) clucking up a storm I ran outside and checked closely in the weedy flowerbed beneath the window, pushing aside leggy Cone Flowers and Daisy stems that refuse to yield more buds.  I scanned the base of the overgrown shrubs that need trimming but found nothing.  Lately I've noticed the hens hanging out around the old well-house just beside the kitchen window but I’ve checked the ancient trellis there with its climbing vines and knew, just knew, there was nothing there.
 
Still, I paused and scanned low again while the black hen with her feathers that shimmer iridescent blue and green chattered on.  Then my eyes caught it, just a glimpse of brown tucked in below the trellis, behind winding vines hidden in shadow.  Kneeling, I tenderly pulled back vine to reveal a sheepish brown hen who, startled by my abrupt arrival, decided she had sat for long enough.  Tottering off, she too began to boast about the egg just laid and I stared at the pile of eggs, treasure revealed.
 
I called the kids outside to witness my discovery and we started counting the brown, white and blue eggs I pulled out of their secret shade.  “Eleven eggs!” I shouted, delighted with my find. Then I ferried the eggs into the house in the upturned hem of my shirt.
 
In the kitchen, I eased the eggs gently onto the counter and sent my husband a text, “I found the secret nest!”  Then I washed the eggs, checked for freshness and slid each into its own slot in a new carton.  
  
//

I don’t know why the hens change their laying habits, why they refuse to utilize the seven perfectly good nesting boxes.  I suppose it has something to do with hiding from predators and other ancient longings they could not quite articulate even if given the gift of human language.  I want those eggs, though, as much as any fox or raccoon in the wild might, because they’re of value to me and since I feed and shelter the birds (as much as they’re willing to comply) I feel entitled, you might say, to certain benefits.
 
I find it tempting, then, to accuse my birds of hoarding their gifts and from there it would be an easy leap to turn this into a reflection on hiding one’s talents under a bushel basket and the likes.  Some of us do hide the gifts we’ve been given and hoard them to the detriment of ourselves and those around us.  But the truth is, many of us have a hard time finding and claiming our own nest of gifts.  Many of us spend weeks and months circling our lives waiting to discover what it is we have to offer a needy world.

I could tell you not to hide your talents, but I bet most of us know that’s a no-no already.  Instead I want to offer this to those who are hunting and seeking for the hidden nests among us, the places of fertility and fruitfulness, the places of hidden treasure: 

I never found a hidden nest by shaming a bird.  

I’ve never sat a chicken down and had a stern talk eye-to-eye and told them they really should be more compliant.  (But I have a hunch the effort would be wasted.)   

What I do, when hunting hidden treasure, like a nest or a talent or a sense of true vocation in this world, is listen for the song.  Look for the place where joy and pleasure abound, splitting the air on even the hottest of days, the place where you sing loud enough that you can be found.  

*   *   *

Author, Shawn Smucker and I are offering a one-day retreat this coming October 15 in Carlisle, PA.  Titled, Writing As Witness, we will explore the ways writing can position us to witness the presence of God in our own lives and in the world.  Visit link to learn more.  
*   *   *



Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.  


What if we chose to deliberately look for small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God?  


That's my proposal - that we gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days.  You're invited to link-up a brief post about a small moment of wonder.  Don't worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right - you're welcome to come as you are.  


While you're here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment.  Thanks for being part of our community!  








   

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Life Sends Us Out, Love Binds Us Together (#SmallWonder Link-up)


(My kids don't start school for two more weeks, but many in our area start tomorrow.  I'm praying for and thinking of all those kids and Mamas tonight and wanted to re-share this post from fall 2015.)

All four kids took turns rummaging, elbow deep, in the large metal pot that holds rusted nuts, bolts, washers and nails.  First they made robots, tiny friends composed of wing bolts and screws.  They each made three or four and named them based on appearance and abilities. 

Then Solomon made a “weapon,” something like nunchucks, by tying nuts on either end of a piece of string.  He practiced throwing it until he could get it to wrap around a tree.  Then the other kids caught on and started in with their own string and nut creations. 

This morning he tied a washer in the middle of the string and, pulling the two ends taunt, observed the washer spinning first in one direction, then another.

//

This fall my four kids will be spread among three different schools.  Two will climb on separate buses within minutes of each other, heading in opposite directions.  Then the other two will ride with me in yet a third direction for drop-off. 

I have three separate Back to School nights listed on the calendar, all requiring babysitting, and two more Meet the Teacher events that include some, but not all, of the kids.  A large sheaf of papers pinned to the bulletin board announces teachers’ names, room numbers and other pieces of essential information.  

I feel something like that nut tied in the middle of the string, spinning in one direction and another as my kids fly out into the world.  How lucky we've been, piled together for the summer, like those nuts and bolts in the pot.  We've clattered around the house and yard together, merging and separating at will.  With fall, we will be flung a bit wider, but I'm grateful, always, for the cords of love that bind us together.  


*   *   *

Author, Shawn Smucker and I are offering a one-day retreat this coming October 15 in Carlisle, PA.  Titled, Writing As Witness, we will explore the ways writing can position us to witness the presence of God in our own lives and in the world.  Visit link to learn more.  
*   *   *



Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.  


What if we chose to deliberately look for small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God?  


That's my proposal - that we gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days.  You're invited to link-up a brief post about a small moment of wonder.  Don't worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right - you're welcome to come as you are.  


While you're here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment.  Thanks for being part of our community!  








Sunday, August 14, 2016

Un-Disciplines: Do Something Foolish (#SmallWonder Link-Up)


I loaded three cartons of eggs and three ice blocks into our straight-out-of-the-eighties rolling cooler this morning.  We inherited the cooler from a friend because she didn’t need it anymore and we didn’t want to spend $20 on a cooler for eggs that might not sell.  Once the eggs were tucked in, I hauled the cooler out the front door to the little farm stand in front of our house. 

My husband built the stand, out of an old door and leftover lumber, at the end of June and we've kept it stocked with garden surplus ever since.  The hope was to keep from wasting the abundance of our little corner of Eden and make some spare change in the process.  We live on a fairly busy state road and I thought a farm stand would do well here. 

This morning I was surprised to find a dollar sealed inside a plastic bag at the stand.  I had left the Ziploc bag there with instructions for anyone who bought cherry tomatoes to “leave the container,” implying (I thought) they could use the bag to corral the tomatoes.  But someone bought tomatoes and left the money – a crisp dollar bill – in the bag instead.  

I'm happy to report that this new development doubled our year-to-date farm stand income.  That’s right, doubled it.  As in, we've made two dollars over the course of a month.  I quickly sent my husband a text with the heady news and started dreaming of a spending spree . . .

Not really.  

But I did feel a small spark of hope, which is no small thing when most days I feel like abandoning the stand completely.  

A few weeks back a woman stopped by the house unannounced and asked whether the stand itself was for sale – she thought it quite clever and said it would look amazing standing outside her store.  I told her no, the stand isn’t for sale, but took her number saying my husband could build her one of her own.    

We’ve yet to call her back, but in the weeks since her visit I’ve done the math - we could surely make more by selling the stand itself than we hope to make keeping it stocked by the road all summer long.  I thought about that math this morning as I loaded the eggs.  Maybe we should just be done.

But then there was the dollar and when I came inside carrying the overripe zucchini that didn’t sell, the tomatoes that aged beyond use in the carton, I found myself sorting more tomatoes for the stand and wondering what else I could set out.  Even now, I want to go cut fresh Zinnia bouquets to sell and gather some of our just-picked violet potatoes into a carton too.
 
I feel foolish most days, tending the stand while cars speed by.  There is, for me, a naked vulnerability in selling things along-side the road.  And, minor income aside, that’s why I persist in doing it. 

When I become aware of feeling foolish and vulnerable my tendency is to want to draw back and hide.  I'm not much of a risk taker by nature, not much of a let's-see-what-happens kinda gal.  But lately, when I feel foolish, some wisdom inside me awakens.  

//

"Ah," wisdom says, "what's this?"  

"I don't want to cut flowers that won't sell, don't want to pack and haul eggs fifty feet to sit all day by the side of the road," I snap.  

"Why?" wisdom asks, curious and eager. 

"It feels too much like waiting to be picked in gym class," I say, "I don't like the risk, the uncontrolled exposure.  I feel foolish."

"Oh, now that's good," wisdom says, fully awake now and delighted with my predicament, "that's something we can work with."  

I don't want to listen, but curious now, I do.  

"This stand is giving you something invaluable," wisdom continues after a moment of thought, "the opportunity to feel foolish."

//

What wisdom knows is that things like hope and faithfulness often feel foolish.  They aren't, but they feel that way quite often.  By practicing the ability to endure negative sensations, like foolishness or vulnerability, we forge a deep resilience that can translate to other areas of our lives as well, areas where the risk and reward are much greater.  

Somehow I know that voice is right.  I load the eggs, cut my lovely flowers, gather the red and orange tomatoes and offer them to the world.  Not because I want to get rich, but because I want to be enriched.  

*   *   *

Author, Shawn Smucker and I are offering a one-day retreat this coming October 15 in Carlisle, PA.  Titled, Writing As Witness, we will explore the ways writing can position us to witness the presence of God in our own lives and in the world.  Visit link to learn more.  
*   *   *



Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.  


What if we chose to deliberately look for small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God?  


That's my proposal - that we gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days.  You're invited to link-up a brief post about a small moment of wonder.  Don't worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right - you're welcome to come as you are.  


While you're here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment.  Thanks for being part of our community!  




Monday, August 8, 2016

We All Shine Like the Sun (SmallWonder Link-Up)


I returned home from the God's Whisper Writing Retreat in Virginia last Sunday, driving my husband's rattly old pickup truck through four hours of heat and humidity.  The truck lacks AC and I swear it was hotter inside the cab than out.  By the time I hit our driveway I was spent.  I was also greeted by the usual signs of my absence - an empty refrigerator and mountains of laundry.  So I dove back in to home and put off reflecting on the weekend away until now.    

It's always a gift to be among other writers and more and more, three years into this writing life, I find myself thinking, "These are my kind of people."  Friday night 20+ writers gathered in the barn before dinner, mingling awkwardly like sixth graders at a dance.  Dinner helped us shake off our nerves and then, after introductions, we took turns reading at the open Mic.  

Writers, at their heart, long to connect, to be known.  So, one-by-one we stood and read from finished and unfinished pieces, each person revealing a small square of their heart to a roomful of strangers who waited and welcomed with awe.  

Saturday was long, lovely and exhausting in all the best ways, full of connection and reflection.  I re-discovered my fear in Shawn Smucker's workshop and others rediscovered their bodies in Andi's.  Some writers became unstuck, others learned how to write safely about vulnerability.  In the evening we were all captivated by the only woman I know whose reading can compete with a flash-flood. Author, Sharon Morgan, drew us in with stories of life and love in Paris, she reminded us how good storytelling can bridge continents and help us connect like strangers gathered for a moment in time around a shared meal.  

Sunday morning, as many as wanted, started the day with silent meditation.  Then we welcomed a presentation by Jane Friedman on publishing.  I sat in the back because I have "issues" with discussions of publishing - I'm just not there yet and not willing to get myself tangled in knots before I even have a manuscript to submit.  

But, Sunday morning as 20+ writers in every stage of the game sat listening and calmly asking questions I realized the weekend had accomplished exactly what Shawn, Andi and I hoped it would.  The writers in attendance asked good, solid questions in voices that revealed a healthy awareness of their own location in the greater scheme of things.  I didn't hear a whisper of panic, a breath of anxiety.  I heard writers who, through the course of two days of balancing words and silence, were deeply in touch with the truth of their own situation.  

Did most of us have a lot of work to do?  Yes.  

Did current publishing trends leave us with more options and less clarity than ever before?  Mostly, yes.      

But I sensed in myself and in those around me a deeper connection to their own abilities and desire - two tools that equip every writer to move forward even when the way is not quite clear.  

We closed the retreat with a sharing circle and I was so grateful to hear how each participant would take some small piece from the weekend with them.  Over the course of the weekend I marveled at the beauty of human beings and how we open so beautifully to each other when time and circumstances allow.  

Sitting in that circle, I remembered Merton's famous vision,  

“In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness… This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud… I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.”  

For a few days last weekend in a barn in the mountains of Virginia, a handful of writers came together and found that we're not so separate as we imagine and for a few moments we all shone like the sun.  

*   *   *

Author, Shawn Smucker and I are offering a one-day retreat this coming October 15 in Carlisle, PA.  Titled, Writing As Witness, we will explore the ways writing can position us to witness the presence of God in our own lives and in the world.  Visit link to learn more.  
*   *   *



Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.  


What if we chose to deliberately look for small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God?  


That's my proposal - that we gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days.  You're invited to link-up a brief post about a small moment of wonder.  Don't worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right - you're welcome to come as you are.  



While you're here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment.   

 


Friday, August 5, 2016

A Word May Come


If you’re lucky enough to be listening,
a word may come in the night while you
wrestle with tangled sheets and
the window unit AC throbs. 

When you’re wide awake 
past your bedtime, 
you might remember 
a line you used to know 
by heart.  

Whether it rises or descends, 
I cannot say, only you will know 
its arrival by a quiet hum
of recognition that strikes 
like heat lightening,
quiet and bright.  

Then you must go
to sleep and in the morning 
the word will still be there
running straight through 
the heart of you, 
like the needle
of a compass.  

You will know, again, the way. 
All that remains is to walk in it.   

Monday, August 1, 2016

In the Garden (#SmallWonder Link-Up)


I'm just home from the beautiful writer's retreat at God's Whisper Farm.  As I settle in and look ahead to what the rest of summer entails, enjoy this post from last July.

//


Riding the old yellow Cub Cadet, I mow long rectangles around the back fields.  Out in the garden, between me and the road, my husband works with the kids, tying short, thick tomato plants to their stakes with long strips of cotton.

From where I sit, rattling and humming along on the old mower, the boys are bright, little flowers that have sprouted legs, walking, tumbling, running through the garden in their shirts of bright teal and red.  My husband is the tallest flower, an iris perhaps, overseeing the work and play.

The twins flop and hop climbing and falling on each other and by the time I move on to mowing the front, circling the overgrown bushes, they’ve pulled my husband down to the green grass.  He is a horse now, crawling along with two cowboys astride until they all tumble again to the earth.

There is such beauty there, in that wide open space, under the bright sun and blue and I am so thankful, for those flowers that grew in my body, for the legs they run on and for their father who plays with them there in the garden.   


*   *   *



Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.  


What if we chose to deliberately look for small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God?  


That's my proposal - that we gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days.  You're invited to link-up a brief post about a small moment of wonder.  Don't worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right - you're welcome to come as you are.  

While you're here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment.   

Sunday, July 24, 2016

We Didn't Keep Score (#SmallWonder Link-up)



The thought never would have occurred to me.  

The teen behind the cash register at the local Sport’s Emporium asked, “Are you going to keep score or not?” and I said, “Yes.”  This was after we picked our ball colors, before we chose our clubs. 

“Western theme or Castle?” she asked.

“Castle,” I said, which is what we’d agreed on, although I knew my eight-year-old son was awful curious about the Western course.  She reached into a bin and handed me a piece of card stock folded with a sharpened golf pencil tucked inside.  Between the folds were tidy squares for keeping score and the par expectations for each hole. 

Leaving behind the video games, laser tag and AC, we set out across a concrete wasteland toward the putt-putt courses.  Alone with our older two kids for the night, we were happy to be doing something that would’ve been impossible with two four year olds in tow.  Sophia and Solomon loped along, their spindly legs flashing new sneakers, hers a neon sherbet and his navy blue. 

We were sweating already and yawning in the early evening light, but strategically placed waterfalls and a breeze pulled us up the hill toward hole #1.  The cashier had planted a seed in my mind and so I asked my husband, “Do we want to keep score?”  

“Do you guys want to keep score?” John asked the kids. 

“No,” they called back over their shoulders.  So we didn’t.  The tidy little pencil and its accompanying card stayed buried in my bag.  It was a good thing, because right off the bat at hole #1, Sophia’s sent her ball flying directly into the water.  We laughed and, noting how hot it was and how far away replacement balls were located, fished the ball out of the water.

“Can I try again?” she asked.  Of course. 

And so it went.  Two gawky kids in new sneakers and two almost forty parents spinning along through 18 holes of minor mishaps and triumphs.  We took turns, mostly, and refrained from “walking the ball” when a shot proved too tough, mostly.  Solomon consistently sent other people’s balls flying with inadvertent taps from his big, new shoes.  He tripped over his own club at least twice and, around hole #10, sent his own ball arcing though the air into the water.  We all gave-up at one point or another and then, at the next hole, got back into the game again.

We had fun, which was the point.


Around hole #15 it dawned on me that perhaps, because we weren’t keeping score, we weren’t really trying.  Then I got a little tense and tried to focus on the shot at hand.  It didn’t seem to make a difference.  

I realized then that I was trying, only my effort was turned in a different direction – away from perfection and accomplishment, toward fun and enjoyment.  As far as I know, there isn’t a score card for that.  

*   *   *   *


Only 10 spaces left!  I'm super excited to be joining with Andi Cumbo-Floyd and Shawn Smucker to organize a weekend writer's retreat this summer at God's Whisper Farm in the beautiful mountains of Virginia.  Visit Andi's website for more info!


Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.  


What if we chose to deliberately look for small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God?  


That's my proposal - that we gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days.  You're invited to link-up a brief post about a small moment of wonder.  Don't worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right - you're welcome to come as you are.  

While you're here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment.