Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Northern Exposure

Nothing feels better than getting away from the daily grind. There is much work and planning to be had in going away for a weekend, but it is so worth it. I only wish it lasted longer than 2 short days(*sigh*). We just got home from being 'up north', as we Minnesotans like to call it. My husbands' family has a cabin on a lake, about 3-1/2 hours away. We look forward to the trip each fall, taking in the transformation of the leaves, each tree a little different from the next. It is truly beautiful. I think the air is therapeutic in that you feel so relaxed--and sleepy--while you are there.

The guys love to fish and get out on the water. For some reason, time ceases to exist when you step in to a boat. It's like sailing into another dimension or something. What? It's been six hours and you've already eaten supper? That used to be how it was, before our kids stepped in to the picture. Troy has reluctantly given up some of his 'casting time' so he can teach Adrian the rhythms of fishing. I think he's glad our son is also intrigued with the sport. I can see that the two of them will be good fishin' buddies someday. We've also added in other fun things that the kids like: gator rides through the '100 acre woods', flashlight walks at night, playing hide n seek--jumping out and scaring each other! Lots of fun.

The experience of being up north has changed for me as well, now having kids to care for. When I would arrive at the cabin, years ago, I remember finding my spot on the couch and passing out for several hours, catching up on my sleep. I used to work, full-time, at an office that supplied plant material to contractors. We worked long hours during the spring season. It was a fast-paced job, to say the least. I was tired--and the air up there put me into a temporary coma of sorts. This weekend, I felt like I was walking around in a daze. It's hard to get that nap, now that we have little people running around. And then you stay up late, sitting around the campfire, letting the flames mesmerize you. It's interesting to hear what people will end up talking about, when you sit around that fire long enough. 

I went shopping with the girls at the infamous L&M Supply. They have everything there--yes, even clothes, shoes, and toys for kids. We had fun, walking around the store for an hour or so. Eventually, I found myself near the check-out, looking at bags of old-fashioned candies. My ears took notice of a hilarious conversation of old men, standing next to me. It was like a scene out of a movie: four middle-age guys in fishing hats, away for the weekend, without their wives. And what are they doing for fun? They are loading up on candy, drinking their coffee, talking trash to each other. It was so funny. One of the guys was a diabetic and he was the one holding about 5 bags of candy, muttering that he really didn't need any of it. The other guys prodded him on, informing me that they were on his life insurance policy so they wanted him to eat the candy--lots of it! I couldn't help but laugh, as I felt my face turning color. I could totally see my dad, in this bunch. You know, walking around a store, talking to people like they were your next friend in life. If only we all lived like that. 

I brought a book along that I would eventually finish, while away. There were just a few chapters left, so I figured it would be easy to get through it. While I could hardly put the book down, it was like having 'heart surgery', in a manner of speaking. Being away from the routine of life, with all this beauty surrounding me, I felt like I was in a place where change could, and did, take place. Do you ever have those moments when you realize that what you've always thought was true, simply was not so? Or maybe there is some truth to your ideals, but then you realize how judgmental and wrong your attitude has been towards other people...people who are different, but loved by God, just as much as you or me is. It was painful. I felt helpless to do anything about it. I saw my reflection--and it wasn't pretty; unlike the mirror image of the trees against the smooth surface of the calm waters. No, mine was rather ugly. My heart was answering back to me, begging for removal of this part of me that was no longer needed.

While we were at the cabin, the guys(and some of the girls, maybe) pulled this huge log out of the bay. It had been there for years, so I had been told. Apparently, wood doesn't go bad when it's under water like that. It was valuable for something; maybe they would take it back to a relative who does wood-working for a living and see what he could do with it. This log, free from the bark that once clothed it, now looked more like a short telephone pole. It had been in the bay for as long as Troy's Aunt and Uncle had the cabin...which would be a few decades...maybe even longer. It just happened to be in the right position this time, to get it out of the way. I think it was discovered under the dock when they pulled it out. 

On the drive home, I continued to think about what was happening to me, on the inside. Troy was my captive audience, which is the way it is when he is at the wheel. No where to go, except home--so he was my sounding board. I don't think he actually minds much. So long as I keep on topic and get to the point. I was sharing my thoughts on what I had read, how it was affecting me, and what now. We talked about the people in our lives, what we admired about them, how some times we do things differently, and how we fit in, somewhere, in all of that. We enjoy our drive times. It is very productive in that we get in to each others' heads and can gain more perspective that way. We agreed that we need to drive more often. Not really having anywhere to go, but just the distraction of driving helps our conversation along. 

I think what happened to me, this weekend, is that "the log" has finally been removed. I'm sure there will be more, along the way, but this was a big one. It was in the right place where it could now be taken out and evaluated. Some of my struggles: difficulty giving and receiving love, feeling unworthy, self-absorption. All of this, wrapped up inside a barricade, across the center of my heart. Only He can take this away and make something beautiful, in return. I love that being up north helps me feel closer to God. Maybe I'm too distracted, at home, to realize how much I need to spend time with Him. He has pursued me, but I have not returned His affections. Not really, unless there is something I want. Isn't that often how a person prays? I realize this may sound very strange...and it is. My only explanation is that my awareness of how wretched I can be, inwardly, also makes me aware of a love that is beyond human understanding. And that love is the only thing that will rescue me. 

On a lighter note, we made lots of memories this weekend. Adrian told his preschool teacher, earlier this week, that he was going up north--that he was going to sleep in the camper, and eat lots of different foods--LOL. All of this is true! We had jalapeno poppers--wrapped in bacon, mushrooms--wrapped in bacon, Alaskan salmon, northern pike, shrimp. It was a feeding frenzy and it was good. Samantha got car-sick, on our way up there. She doesn't like bumpy roads. Needless to say, her grape juice made it to the surface! Her poor dolly, who seems to need a bath regularly, ended up smelling like soured grapes all weekend long. Oh well. Nothing that the smell of a campfire won't cover over. No one cares how you smell when you're up north. Years ago, before there was electricity and water in place, all of us went several days without a shower. On the last day, before going home, we would wash our hair over the deck with heated water from a portable hot pad. Those were the days. I do like it better with modern conveniences, but there is just something about being away from all of that--you notice nature and not how you look. However, after 3 days without showering, you really do notice nature! LOL

Thank you, to Troy's family--immediate and extended--for sharing your cabin and this time with us. We love you all and look forward to the next time we're together. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Special Delivery

This morning, I slipped out the front door to enjoy my new patio and cup of coffee. The sun coming over the fields was so bright, with the promise of a beautiful day in store. I tried to read a little, but was distracted by a flutter overhead. I looked at the hydrangea tree, newly planted in the landscape. And there it was: a dragonfly, resting on a cluster of petals, as still as could be.

I was off the chair and back in a flash, with my camera in hand. It was still there, not moving an inch. That gorgeous little creature stayed in that spot for over an hour. I got some great shots, at many different angles. If you were to stop by my front door at that moment, you would think I was some nature freak, in her pajamas, with major 'bed head'! I would have been too engrossed to notice the obvious stares...hmmmm, maybe its a good thing my nearest neighbors are not right next door : )

The dragonfly is my favorite flying creature. I like butterflies, especially Monarchs, but the mysterious habit, and elusiveness, of dragonflies have always intrigued me. They fly by so fast and rarely do you get a chance to photograph one while it is still...well, I did earlier this summer, but it had drowned in the baby pool and so I had it 'set up' on different flowers to do pictures. Kind of weird, I know.

 A few years back, I stopped by the booth of a nature photographer, at a local event, who had the most amazing picture of a dragonfly. He had gotten up very early that day, knowing enough about them and where to find them. The photo he took showed drops of dew, kissing the lacy wings, with the sun shining through, just right. The colors were blues, greens, and purples. If there had been $80 in my pocket that day, I would've found a place on my wall for that one!

With each discovery in nature, I am amazed at how great our God is. I am taken aback when people believe that all of this creation had no plan or design. I imagine it would feel something like having designed a beautiful landscape(a-hem...like my front patio)and having people stop by, look at it, and determine that all the plants, paver bricks, and mulch fell into place on their own accord. That it was all by chance that the 'cool outdoor space' came to be and that it was meant for no one in particular. I would be crushed. I wonder if that is how God feels when we don't appreciate all that He has made for us. In the letter He wrote to us, we are told that not a sparrow falls to the ground without Him knowing about it. I suppose that every time my cat kills a mouse, He knows about that, too... I'm glad that my cats like to hunt!

As naive as this may sound, I know that dragonfly landed where it did so that I could enjoy it...on this day, and at that very moment. I've had lots of "visitors" since completing the patio: a squishy toad the size of my fist, slugs that never made it across the rough terrain of bricks, butterflies, cats who won't stop eating the ornamental grass, and ants that aren't supposed to get through the sand we used to seal up the patio...annoying little buggers! But this dragonfly--that was a special gift just for me. I take it as nothing less than that.

I believe that God wants to relate to us on a level we can understand. One of the ways He does this is through creation. His handiwork speaks a language all its own, communicating truth in simple ways that make sense for real life. The bible is chock full of examples on this. I'm not sure how flying insects communicate truth, but I do know this: God loves us. Even to the tiniest details of our likes and dislikes. It is confirmation to my soul of His existence, when I get to see a small desire of my heart, land right in front of me. When that canvas is printed and hanging on my wall, I will be reminded of God's faithful attempts to draw me in to an even closer relationship with Himself. Like a gift given by a dear friend, who knows me better than anyone else.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Driving through the Night

Isn't it funny how life can seem to go smoothly for awhile, and then you hit this rough patch, wondering where you went wrong. I don't know if it's just transition time in to fall or if I should be concerned, but I feel like I've turned in to a crazy, unbalanced person. I find myself snapping at the kids more than being kind. I hide in my office, plugged in to social media, while they crawl on my lap and climb all over my desk.

My mind is trying to filter out so many thoughts. How to deal with anger, unforgiveness, frustrations, discontentment. Before I know it, the clock reads 9AM and I feel like I've been dragging my feet all morning, trying to get ready for a day that has so little plans in it. My son will ask, "Where are we going today, Mom?" Most days, I don't have a good answer. It's then that I realize my need to get out the Map.

How did this happen? I try to put my life in reverse and think through what has changed over the last few months. Did I take a mental wrong turn somewhere? Did I forget to stop for gas or get the oil changed? I'm sure it's likely a combination of many things: I need a tune-up. My children happen to be passengers, looking out the window, simply asking where the next stop will be. I'm in the drivers seat, trying not to ask for directions!

The old cliche of making God my navigator, seems to be a logical explanation here. Thing is, I know He's been riding along the entire time, just waiting for me to ask for help. Here I am, shouting back, "I know where we're going, I don't need directions, thank you." Oh, but I do. Because honestly, I don't have a clue some days as to what is next. I'm such a plan ahead kind of person. I'm no good with not knowing where we're going.

However, I'm learning to be content with this stage of life, but still looking ahead to see what may be next. I want to enjoy the ride--not miss the scenery. Sometimes I can get too focused on the stops ahead and what is in the years to come. Kind of like 'destination vacations'. Simply driving to get somewhere instead driving to enjoy what you may find, along the way. I've dreamed of taking that kind of trip. Just driving across the country, taking the back roads, discovering those old little towns that are not accessible from the highways.

Looking back at the mileage I've logged, I see that there are some practical reasons for my temporary insanity. I haven't had a good night's sleep in over a week. My kids seem to be waking up, every night, tiptoeing into our room, long before the sun comes up. My daughter kicks in her sleep, rolls around, and sucks her thumb with an annoying rhythm that I wish were more silent. And there are the projects that beg to be finished up. The fall harvest that is right around the corner. And school is starting next week. I am happy for that, even though it means a new routine, at least it is a routine.

How about you? Can you relate to being on a journey, not knowing what the next stop is? Or maybe you've had some major detours, taking you off a course that you were certain of. I guess that is the reality of life on earth: potholes, flat tires, speeding tickets and getting lost. My comfort is that I am not alone and that someday, times like these will be memories in the rear view mirror: looking back, smiling..and then 'peddle to the metal'--hair blowing in the breeze, riding in my hubby's Cobra, driving off to who knows where...someday, that will be our reality! For now, we will remain uncool in our minivan, with precious cargo in tow, knowing that this ride will be shorter than we ever expected it to be.