West Virginia Morning: Island Precepts

Jeff keeps saying that he doesn’t remember a July like this—the air a cool caress. I wear the days like a second skin but the mornings awaken my soul.  In the mornings we step out into wonder—every dew-drenched blade of grass a world of its own.  I wiggle my toes in lush universes.
When we were at the beach I read Gift from the Sea by Ann Morrow Lindbergh.  In it she struggles with finding a balance between “solitude and communion, between retreat and return.”  It’s everyone’s struggle, I suppose, and I found comfort in these words originally published over fifty years ago.

“In my periods of retreat, perhaps I can learn something to carry back into my worldly life. I can at least practice for these two weeks the simplification of outward life, as a beginning. I can follow this superficial clue, and see where it leads. Here, in beach living, I can try.”

The world has not changed so much.  Since my return from Haiti, I’ve been in constant motion. Even our time by the sea required bending to the desires and expectations of others. I returned less refreshed, less still than I have in the past.
It’s the season of life we are in, and Ann Morrow Lindbergh speaks to this in Gift from the Seaalso. We are moving from the “morning of life” to the “afternoon”—that place of natural slowing that creates in us a sense of anxiety and awareness of the dwindling nature of time.
But what if we looked upon middle age, the author asks, not as a time of decline, but as a time of “second flowering, second growth”?  When I hold on to the seed of eternity planted in my heart, I can almost feel it burst forth through the dark soil of this life, breaking free from the bindings this world places on my growth.
I have to make room for contemplation to hold on to this truth: I was made for more. Ann Morrow Lindbergh’s island-precepts are helping me to make that kind of space on a daily basis:

 “Simplicity of living, as much as possible, to retain a true awareness of life. Work without pressure. Space for significance and beauty. Time for solitude and sharing. Closeness to nature to strengthen understanding and faith in the intermittency of life: life of the spirit, creative life and the life of human relationships. A few shells.”

A morning in July. New worlds open up before me. Life begins anew with each breath.
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Psst … did you hear? I’m giving away one copy of Emily’s book Atlas Girl. For a chance to win, just leave a comment on this post before next Sunday (7/20). I’ll announce the winner on next week’s Playdates with God post on Monday. 
ALL proceeds from Atlas Girl will go towards Emily’s non-profit, The Lulu Tree. The Lulu Tree (www.thelulutree.com) is dedicated to preventing tomorrow’s orphans by equipping today’s mothers. It is a grassroots organization bringing healing and hope to women and children in the slums of Uganda through the arts, community, and the gospel. 

West Virginia Morning: Beautiful Sky

I awaken to a dusty sky, rumors of more rain, and the walnut tree has shed her leaves all over the back yard. My youngest has promised to water my garden while I’m in Haiti but if this keeps up, he won’t have to. The world is wet, glistening around the edges and I look up to see a perfect half moon dangling over me.
This sky. Under its canopy we have danced and loved and fought and breathed life into every moment. This sky cradles the ones I love and the one I desire most and the ones I have yet to meet. I look up at this sky now and follow its curvature, bear witness to how it hugs the earth.
My youngest sets an alarm on his phone to remind him to look at the sky at 8:40 p.m.  every evening. He tagged the alarm “beautiful sky” after studying the sunset for days to find its most glorious point in time.  This boy read this book and now he writes “practice” on his right hand and “noticing” on his left in permanent marker. He’s only fifteen and already he knows we need reminders. Every time I take his hands I notice something new, something beautiful.
Today, as I finish packing for my trip, I practice noticing. The way the sun falls on the wooden floor, dew clinging to the glass on the French doors, the way Bonnie’s nose twitches when her boys come downstairs still smelling of sleep …
And when I arrive in Haiti tomorrow afternoon I will look up at the sky, trace it’s soft curve with my blue eyes, and know this same sky holds us all.
**friends, I’m not sure what internet access will be like in Haiti, or what my schedule will allow as far as posting. So, for the first time since we began, I’ll be taking a week off from our Playdates with God linkup on Monday. I may still be able to post, but we’ll keep it loose and free. Thank you for your grace and please pray for me as I travel!

With Lyli and Kelli today. 

West Virginia Morning

Today when I awakened and looked out the window, the beauty of the morning took my breath away. The day was just beginning to ripen and the cascading sun warmed the colors of the earth and trees. Dew clung to each silvery leaf and the grasses stirred a shimmery song. I stood on the cusp of the day and felt the hope of morning awaken inside of me.

Standing there, bare feet wet from the dew-drenched grass, I remembered these lines from a poem by Rilke:

Summer was like your house: you knew
where each thing stood.
Now you must go out into your heart
as onto a vast plain. Now

the immense loneliness begins.
(Rilke’s Book of Hours, II, I)

One week from today I will fly to Haiti for a week of missions with Family Health Ministries. And though I’ve wanted to do this for a long time, it is stretching me a bit. Those who know me will tell you that I don’t often venture far from the hearth. I’ve never been out of the country—not even to Canada. Adventure, for me, is seeing how much the tomato plants have grown overnight.

I’ve always been content to be right here, to treasure the ministry I brush up against every day. I still feel this is my calling—to tend this life well, loving those I encounter each day, seeing the beauty in the ordinary moment. But lately I have been wondering about God’s people. I’ve been wondering about God’s world.

One of the doctors I work with gifted me with a book on the Creole language. He has a heart for the Haitian people.

Pou Zanmi `m, Laura, he wrote in the front of the book. Bondye bene ou.

For my friend, Laura. God bless you.

And so I have been practicing saying God bless you, in creole.

Bondye bene ou.

Because this is the message I want to carry across the ocean. To know God’s people is to love God better. My heart is a vast plain and there is room.

There is room for more love.