Sabbath Moments

I sit under the patio umbrella as the white sky begins a gentle mist. I do this every day after work, this sitting. It’s a deep breath, a time for soul to catch up with body. This ritual helps unite the stories of the day’s labor with the other stories of my life—stories of family and laundry and cooking dinner and sipping the wine of each ordinary moment.

Who knows how many times she stealthily visited while I sat just so, eyes blind? One day she flew too close and, surprising us both, hovered just at eye level before ghosting away—flash of emerald and blurred wings. A Ruby-throated hummingbird. Only the males have the ruby throat, this is how I knew her gender. For, she often hovers before me, in-between floral draughts, exposing her white neck unapologetically. Does she know she is beautiful, even without a ruby necklace? The very air under her wings draws breath when she appears.

I recognize her voice now. Before each dip of her long beak into nectared vase, she breathes a tiny chirrup, a gentle inhale before sipping deeply. I barely dare to breathe, for she is timorous and if I move too much, she might startle away.

Today, I wait for her the way I wait for dolphins by the sea, the way I wait for falling stars: still, expectant. When finally she comes, wings thrumming in the rain, I am happy. Soul and body are one again.

On Full and Empty Nests

Five: the number of baby robins in the nest. It was atop the garden shed on the patient patio at the hospital where I work. One morning one of the techs pulled me down the long corridor to the copy room window. “Look! Babies!” He pointed. I glimpsed silhouettes of rounded heads, sharp up-turned beaks.

Every day we gawked. I took a patient outside to see, bumping his wheelchair along the noise-absorbing tiles of the patio. Mother bird took flight at our presence, sending the chicks into a frenzy of chirrups. This quieted us. “We should leave,” he said.

After that, we peeked through the glass from behind the copy machine. The birds were forgotten when I went home at night, but every morning, the patient reminded me. I studied his face as he watched the chicks. It reminded me of how I would watch my children eat when they were small—every bite a celebration. Open the tunnel for the train!

“Do you remember feeding your children when they were babies?” I asked him. He’s a grandfather now. A great grandfather, even. “Yes.” He smiled, never taking eyes off the birds.

The past week, our own nest brimmed full again: the youngest back from his first year at university, the eldest home from a semester studying abroad.  A long weekend, a distracted—but happy—mama.

When I returned to work, the nest was empty. I found the patient in his room, leaning on his walker.

“We watched them fly,” he said, eyes gleaming.

Things Held and Let Go

The tree swallows built their nest in early spring. The female waited for her lover at the top of our plum tree, beside the nesting box. He came, carrying the night sky on his back—sleek and graceful in his wide-swooping flight. She met him in the air. Their bodies touched, like a kiss, a moment’s hesitation, slight hover of wing. Then he circled back around—made that wide arc around the yard. Over and over I watched their love play, beside myself with joy. I would count the eggs. I would watch the transformation from pink mounds of lanugo-furred flesh to this: flight acrobats.

The male would visit us as we lingered on the back deck in the slow-cooling air of night. He sat atop my shepherd’s hook—cocked his head to the side as I whispered sweet words to him. His mate peered from a distance, a beautiful, glistening face waiting in the nesting box.

Every day I checked the box. Two weeks: no eggs. The yard was flooded with starlings. They made noisy chatter. They pecked at the nesting box with the missus inside. Soon, my midnight-backed lovers were gone. I waited until the neighboring baby robins fledged—until I heard their high-pitched squeaking under the maple tree. Then, I opened the box and removed the nest: a loose weave of dried grass with five soft, new feathers on top. I held a downy white feather in the palm of my hand.

The wind lifted it and carried it away.

How to Land Softly (When You Come Down from the Mountain)

all photos by Bruce Davis

It’s been raining for two days and I can’t help but smile because I am picturing God watering all the seeds we planted at The Seed Conference over the weekend. It seems like those seeds quickly take root in my heart but my mind is slow to follow. I’m still processing, asking God what He wants me to take away from the weekend.  There were so many things.

I sat in the back pew in church on Sunday and worship seemed to fall flat. It wasn’t anything that happened or didn’t happen. My heart was just still on the mountain. I went home and planted the flowers I left the conference with and did some laundry and worked with the numbers on the Vibella jewelry sale. I felt restless and tired all at once but I couldn’t seem to settle down.

So I went to my prayer place and asked God about it. Here is what I heard:

Be gentle with yourself.

This weekend was such a precious time. My heart has been so happy and I’m so grateful to Jesus for the ways He drew us nearWhen we started planning for Seed over a year and a half ago, our goal was to be a blessing to the women in our community. We had no idea how blessed we would be in the process.

But I don’t want Seed to be just another spiritual high. I want to hold on to this feeling.

I am reminded of how, when he came down from Mt. Sinai, Moses’ face was radiant with the glory of the Lord (Exodus 34:29). Over time, however, the brilliance faded (2 Corinthians 3:7-8). Each time he met with God his face would light up all over again.

Friends, to hold onto to this glow from the mountaintop, we need to keep meeting with God. I am telling you, your time alone with God will be even sweeter when you remember all the goodness of the weekend together.

Here are a few other things that have been helping me land softly as I come down from the mountain:

Write it out. Today I finally found time to jot some notes down about our time at Seed in my journal. These notes are just for me, so they are a bit cryptic. From the name of the first woman I prayed with, to the favorite song, to something special that happened between only me and God, I jotted it all down. Now, when the radiance begins to fade, I will go back and read and remember. A stone of remembrance, this journaling.

Listen to some worship music. I’ve been hooking my phone up to the old cordless speaker in the kitchen and singing along as I cook dinner each night. Amazing how singing lifts my heart.

Some of you have asked me about the music we sang together. Here are a few links you can check out if you want to listen some more:

On Amazon: Ellie Holcomb’s CD Red Sea Road  has the track “Wonderfully Made”.

Audrey Assad’s CD Fortunate Fall  has the track “Good to Me.”

On Apple music: Kari Jobe’s Healing Waters that has The More I Seek You. 

And here is a Youtube video of that beautiful song with lyrics.

I asked Greg to play Christa Wells’ latest CD Velveteen on our breaks. Her song “One Day” from that album has been getting me through the past few weeks.

Practice gratitude. It was so, so hard to get up and go to work Monday morning. But as I merged my car into rush hour traffic that morning, I felt a nudge in my spirit. This is your life, Laura. And it is beautiful. I had to agree. That one tiny act of surrender had me counting my blessings all the way to work. Guess what one of them was? Yeah, that’s right. My job.

Get quiet. Spend a few minutes each day being quiet with God. Sit still in a quiet place and notice your breathing. When you feel your breath steady and sure, tell God something like, I am here, Beloved. Then be quiet and listen. If your mind has trouble settling down, repeat your beginning phrase again and keep coming back to it to help stay focused on quieting your spirit. Too many times our prayers are one-sided. Spend some time listening.

These are just a few things that are helping me as I settle back into the everyday. How about you? What’s helping you land softly?

Oh, one more thing. At Seed we hosted a Vibella jewelry party. You know how crazy I am about Vibella, don’t you?  I’m happy to say we’ve set up an online party so any of you dear readers can peruse from the couch. If you use this link, it will help us by contributing to our fundraiser. We’re trying to recoup some of the costs of the conference, as well as add to scholarship money we used to bring some of the women to Seed. Not to mention supporting an amazing ministry. The party closes on Friday, April 27th, so you have the rest of this week for shopping. Here is the link:

http://www.myvibellajewelry.com/1/shop/catalog.aspx?eventId=E1605&from=DIRECTLINK

What a beautiful thing it is when women gather to worship our Lord and Savior. My prayer for you is that you blossom where you are planted. Trust God with the seeds you plant. And let the darkness lead you ever closer to God’s warming light. Let this weekend serve as a stone of remembrance. Let it strengthen your faith and free you to go deeper in your daily walk with God.

May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord shine His face upon you.

Start with Now

yellow crocus

This morning, as I walked Bonnie around the house, I saw a little piece of the sun had fallen down to earth. It’s February, and my crocuses are blooming—bright yellow petals winking in the morning dew. We’ve had an unusually warm and wet patch of weather these past few weeks, but I’ve lived here long enough not to be fooled. The birds, however, appear to be falling for nature’s trickery. Everywhere I turn the sky is full of robin-song and sparrow-music. Yesterday I peeked in my bluebird box and, sure enough, the beginnings of a nest were tucked inside. When Jeff and I walked down Sleepy Hollow road, we saw an American Kestrel falcon perched on the powerlines. As we drew near, that beauty took flight, circling slowly over the meadow that hugged the roadway. She was so free in her flight, she took my breath.

I’ve been savoring my days off, taking the moments slow. Today, I re-read most of Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge’s poemcrazy: freeing your life with words. At the end of chapter 2, under the practice section, the author encourages the reader to buy a journal and keep it with them. “It’s never too late to start,” she says. “Don’t try to catch up by going back in your life. Start with now.”

Something about those last three words made my throat catch a little. “Start with now.” It sounds so simple, I mean, where else can I start except now? But so many days I feel like I’m trying and trying and trying … struggling to make up for all that I’ve missed—all the regret that comes with the late blooming. And then I see an early-blooming crocus and the round headed silhouette of a falcon and I know deep inside of me: now is the only moment we really have.

Instead of regret, today I let that thought comfort me. Today, I let myself be fully present in this moment and as I do, I can feel the wings of my heart stretch wide.

Wide for the soaring flight.