Playdates with God: Forest Canopy

There are places where time drips slower, drenched in the kairos moments. The woods have always been such a place for me. Give me a plush carpet of shed pine needles, the rich scent of decaying leaves, swath of blue sky broken up by reaching branches … even as a little girl this is how I felt God closest.

The forest was our back yard. My brothers and sister would enter in with raucity—crashing through brush and ravines with their dangerous walking sticks, eyes constantly roaming the distant landscape for the next adventure.  I could get caught in their wake, but mostly I would go alone, lost in quiet and wonder.

The year my parents divorced, I went often. That was the year Jesus came to me, a girl of thirteen, and made my heart his. I remember that lonely time whenever I am covered by a forest canopy. The slope of the hills cradle me, birdsong my lullaby. The heart slows and the spirit breathes deep and eternity is strong beneath my feet. Here, beside whispering leaves and trickling water, I find it easier to come to God like a little child and let my grown-up cares slip away. My eye settles on the smallest fascinations, and all the world is a wonderland.

Where do you feel closest to God? Has it always been that way?

Every Monday I’ll be sharing one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find Him. Be with Him. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us:

The Playdates button:

Artist Date: Clover

The ground feels soft and springy under my bare feet and the pinkish, bobble-headed clover tickles that tender place in my arch. I’m careful where I step, mindful of the honeybees. The last bits of daylight eke over the edge of the horizon and I feel the temperature drop, the damp of dew settling in for the night.
I am walking the dog around the house, and this in-between hour with its amber light reminds me of when I was little and my sister insisted she heard two rabbits speaking to each other in the fading light of evening. My brothers and I knew this hour held magic and never doubted her. Now, as I round the corner of the house, I eye a long-eared cottontail dubiously. The dog keeps walking, oblivious to the trespasser’s presence.
We trace the warm brick of this place we live in and my mind is slipping back into checklists and chores when, suddenly, nightfall is announced with flashing lights. I blink into the rhododendron, squint my eyes in the dim light.

Fireflies.

Hey! I’m sharing an artist date over at Tweetspeak Poetry today. Will you join me for the rest of this luminescent account? 

Image by Robin Iversen Rönnlund. Used with permission.

A Safe Place: A Poem-Story for Poem in Your Pocket Day


the trees of their valley home
fill out with the soft down of
newly unfolding leaves and
the hills, from heaven, must look
like they’re covered with velvety moss.
so she takes them walking in
the woods—her two boys and
that extra, the one who has always
been around. across the railroad tracks
to the three ponds—the place they used to go.
they no longer strain to hold her hand;
lag behind in their own conversations.
she carries a big stick—for bears; coyotes, she
says.  and they talk about phone apps to
scare a bear away with noise.
in the middle of nowhere—a clutch
of daffodils. she wonders out loud if
there used to be a farm here before
the railroad came through. someone planted
these…placed each bulb with careful fingers, she says.
the sky is white through the trees and
she remembers the rat snake they saw here
once—at least five feet long and fat from a
swallow. they—so small—looked on and she
resisted the urge to scoop them up and run.
today, there is only one frog, a salamander,
and birdsong. they want to climb hills, into the trees
but the other—the extra—he keeps saying, my,
what an adventure!and she notes a slight tremor.
he has to be at tennis lessons by five.
she fingers her walking stick and wonders, when
did the woods become so frightening? she knows
she cannot keep them safe from everything. unforeseen
tragedy crouches in every shadow. but love is 
the safest of shelters.

Stepping out of the Frame

I live in a small world.
I grew up in a small town, attended a small college, work a small job, have a small family, and I keep small boundaries. But when a small world collides with big dreams…somebody has to change perspective.
2011 was the year my small world came alive with wonder. God started something new. First, He invited me to start looking at the world through the lens of play…and then He invited me to do the same with exercise! 
It all started with a birthday present. My husband surprised me with an iPhone for my 42nd birthday. And then a friend–knowing I am a runner–suggested I try the RunKeeper app. I started taking my phone with me on every run—keeping track of my mileage and pace.
Then one evening in July I saw this:
And I had to stop and take a picture. When I returned home, I shared the photo with my Facebook friends. Soon, every time I was out running, a little piece of beauty caught my eye. I would quickly snap a shot of it and share it on Facebook later. It didn’t take long until I began to actively look for beauty on my running route. Things I had run past every day before suddenly looked different to me.

I began to see beauty everywhere.
It changed everything.
I used the RunKeeper GPS to explore new routes, scouring my little valley home for new and interesting sights. I couldn’t wait to get out and hit the road.
I was excited to get out there and run. It became a great beauty hunt. With new treasure each day.
As I stood on the doorstep of 2012, my heart began to wonder–how can I share this wonderful treasure? I wish I had the words to describe how this simple exercising of my beauty finding muscles has revitalized the exercising of my body. I asked my friend Melanie, how can we encourage others to live healthier this year? How can we encourage each other?

I admire Melanie’s commitment to healthy living. She inspires me every day. Together, we decided that we would like to invite you to join us in to this great beauty hunt. Do you have a cell phone? Would you capture a bit of the beauty in your world and share it with us on our Facebook page? It’s not about traffic, or the number of “likes” we get. It’s about you. About living your best life. About seeing God’s beauty in the place He has planted you. You don’t have to be a runner, but our hope is that this beauty hunt will get you out there—walking, cycling, skating…just moving!

And then visit us at [un] framed on Facebook and share what you find with us. Let’s encourage each other to be healthier this year. Let’s step out of the frame of the small world into the life of wonder. Let’s live a life [un]framed.
With my sweet friend Jennifer today: 

and with the amazing Emily:

Playdates with God: Beginnings

It looks like rain.
This morning when I drove the boys to school, the morning light played through the cloud cover like fiber optics in the sky and I marveled as a flock of geese flew straight through all that electricity. Our mild winter continues and I can’t help remembering last year at this time…the frosty lid that covered our world and how Playdates with God grew out of the wonder of beauty. I thought you might enjoy reading that first post again…the one where, in the comments, Maureen suggested that very title. Here it is, friends. Happy January…

The sky is as white as these snow-covered fields today and the sallow tiredness of old snow bleeds the color from each moment. My every breath is a question. I cannot shake this restlessness.
I have been so hungry for God these past weeks—devouring book after book, trying on the thoughts of others and shaking off old habits. But the more I read about Him, the more He becomes a deep pool that I gaze into. I cannot fathom the bottom. If I dip my foot into the water, it disappears into a swirl of greens and browns…and what might come up out of those depths is a mystery.
The vastness of it all makes me dizzy and I want to slip my whole self under the surface—sink into this unknown beauty.
It reminds me of childhood, this feeling.
When we were kids, adventure was just a thought away. Each day opened up possibility, unfolding as a series of actions: What do you want to do now? Let’s play outside. There was always the next thing. We spent most of the day at the Black Spot. Thus named because it was what was left of a patch of strip mine. Whatever treasure was lifted out of the earth there left a stark, flat surface covered with black sand and pieces of slate. It was our favorite place to ride bikes because of the ease of pedaling on the flatness of it. There we would set up jumps with cinderblocks and old pieces of found wood and there we learned how to fly. When our legs grew weary of pedaling, we would park our bikes and tap patterns of holes into the slate flats with old rusty nails. The slate also made excellent blackboards and we would scratch words onto the grey surface with pointed stones.
Other days we would pick the milkweed pods that encroached upon the Black Spot and make intricate mud pies with feathery icing. The creek at the bottom of the hill provided the liquid to turn the black soil into batter. We would poke sticks down into the cakey mess and sprinkle delicate seeds on top. In the summer, raspberry bushes pushed up against the barren black and, rather than waste them on our inedible concoctions, we put those round bits of reddish flesh to better use.
My brother’s trailer now sits where the Black Spot was. Green grass pokes out from under the snow this time of year. Sometimes it feels like that sense of adventure in me—that wonder about the world—is buried also. Little bits of it poke out of me from time to time and I startle in recognition. I wonder if I imagined all those adventures…if they simply ceased to be because my grown-up mind has lost the ability to play this way.
Let’s play outside.
What I didn’t realize then is that those adventures were a way of tasting God. Looking back, I see His companionship in the cool, smooth surface of a piece of slate. He flew through the air underneath me when I was airborne off the bike ramp. He is the feathery softness of the milkweed.
My play looks different these days. I might take in a concert with my family, or steal a weekend away with my husband. I love to run, to paint, to create, to laugh with friends and family. But it is when I am out-of-doors that I feel Him return to me. These are the moments that color drips back into life and my breath is deep and sure.
When I bend to look through flowing water—watch light play on sinuous arcs rippling over hidden life—I feel the liquefied parts of me pulled deep into the earth, to the beginning of time when Spirit hovered over sea.
When I stir earth—dig into her musty skin—her kin in me is stirred. I feel my dusty roots.
And when I lay back on grass-bed and stare into an ocean of sky…I see the endless beauty of creation—of me, and what I was created to be.
When I play outside, I commune with God. And while book-reading is good, and it is whetting my appetite for Him, I am reminded of these words from a wise teacher:
Of making many books there is no end and much study wearies the body… (Ecc. 12:12)
Trouble is, I don’t play outside often these days. There are other ways, of course, that I commune with God. But none quite so fun. Last year, I read this book, and it reminded me how much fun God can be. I worked my way through the book here, posting once a week on what stirred inside.
Funny how I forget these things.
Today I stumbled across this post, and I remembered again. The thing is, I don’t want to forget this time. So, I’m making a commitment to play outside—even just a little—every day. I’ll try to tell you about it from time-to-time. And if you try it, I’d be honored if you tell me about your play dates with God.
Time to rediscover the wonder. See you down by the creek.
How do you embrace the God-joy? Every Monday I’ll be sharing one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find Him. Be with Him. And come tell us about it.

Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us:

 

Sharing with L.L. Barkat today also: 

On In Around button