This evening I was on the back porch, aka my favorite room in the house, reviewing the events of the weekend with the amazing young people with whom I have the privilege of working over the weekend, and checking the calendar when I realized it is the last Monday of summer. Autumn is scheduled to arrive Friday! A couple of things happened nearly simultaneously: a sweet text from an old friend to schedule coffee & catch up time, and a strong sunbeam streaming through the leaves.
Welcome, friends, to this last Monday of August 2017.
It’s different, you know, when Monday is your day off. The world seems to be in such a rush; everyone has so much to do as the new week begins.
Meanwhile, my focus is on a coffee cup and how few words I can speak.
Soon enough, I will be searching the news for the hopeful and reassuring actions in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and other situations happening throughout the world.
But not yet…..
Now it is time to sit quietly with ancient prayers and fresh coffee as the rays from the rising sun reach through these old oaks and bathe the back porch in soft morning light. And I will stay here, where the morning light dances, as long as it lasts. At least part of this morning’s ancient prayer comes from St. Augustine (354-430) “O Lord, my God, Light of the blind and Strength of the weak; yeah, also, Light of those that see, and Strength of the strong; hearken unto my soul, and hear it crying out of the depths. O Lord, help us to turn and seek Thee; for Thou hast not forsaken Thy creatures as we have forsaken Thee, our Creator. Let us turn and seek Thee, for we know Thou art here in our hearts…..”
The rest of this morning’s prayer is a whisper of overwhelming deep gratitude and thanks from the core of my heart and depths of my soul, sent forth on the morning breeze with true intentions and hopes that it may grow as the rest of this day unfolds.
Be safe out there, everyone. Look out for one another. Saint Augustine, pray for us.
Soon enough it will be time to leave the back porch, but not just yet…..
Today was one of those rare, cooler than normal summer days here. The late July breeze seemed determined to dance with the leaves, swaying the green ones that held firm to their branches, and sending gold and red ones spinning through the air giving us a welcomed and refreshing reminder of autumn. It was the perfect day to go take a stroll alongside the Haw River in Saxapahaw, NC.
A few steps down from the parking lot, and the trail awaits under a dense canopy of full trees.
There are parts of the trail where the sky isn’t clearly visible directly overhead but today that didn’t matter at all, the reflection on the water shows the clouds moving in.
Sometimes, the light shining through the clouds, then reflecting off the leaves and water makes the entire area, even the air, seem golden-green. If today were a color, It would be this shade of green:
A little further along the trail, the clouds have moved and a little more sunlight is reaching through. Early hints of the coming autumn, golden leaves are hiding within the summer green trees, falling, and drifting downstream.
When I was younger, this part of the river was heavily polluted with dyes from textile mills, both here on these banks and upstream. Environmental restoration began several years ago and continues still. Much more information and details can be found on the Haw River Trail website. It’s really quite interesting.
On the return walk, near the end of the trail the silver reflection of the building clouds caught my eye once again. There have been sporadic showers throughout the day, but despite their impressive appearance, the clouds haven’t delivered any severe weather yet.
The stroll was nearly over when I snapped this last photo. Of all the scenes today, I think this one was my favorite.
There are still quiet, peaceful, lovely places in this wonderful world where one can simply watch the river roll and the sun set, and be thankful to be able to appreciate such moments.
~ Peace ~
It’s Tuesday here, and during this time of the year I take advantage of the option to work from my remote office, aka my back porch.
The morning and early afternoon was spent with calendars, books, and websites, listing topics and lessons for this coming season in youth ministry. It’s an uplifting exercise in planning. Serious topics with positive reinforcements to help some of the best middle school age youth I know, try to grow in their relationships with one another and Christ despite everything that will try to dissuade them as they encounter more and more of this world. I do this planning away from people, away from human chatter, away from news reports, I don’t even play the radio during this time. Even so, it is far from silent here on the porch.
Today the backdrop for this task is one of tall, old oak trees with full branches of deep summer green leaves, appearing a brilliant gold shade in the morning sunlight and nearly black in the afternoon cloud cover swaying in the soft and much appreciated summer breeze. It’s hot out on the porch, but it’s worth it. My “office mates” on the other side of the screen are a pair of cardinals chirping sweetly at the turning pages and scribbled notes, a few finches peek in from time to time and a humming-bird hovers at the bushes and seems to be interested on what’s going on as well.
These happy and graceful birds, singing to and with one another through the heat and humidity draw my attention upward. Away from the computer, away from the papers, they remind me to be still a few moments and experience the day. Soon enough the rush of a more structured schedule will return, and perhaps I will recall these moments through these words. To stand and get the camera would send them flying away, and any still photograph would not aptly capture this day of most beautiful sights and songs. So, I will stay in the heat a while longer, planning for cooler days and soaking up these most joyful noises.
“Shout joyfully to God; all the earth” Psalm 66:1
Recently, I happened to be in the right place at the right time to receive an amazing invitation to Kiawah Island, South Carolina with some wonderful women for a few days. It’s good to travel to nice places, but it’s more important to travel with good people. This unexpected trip was both, and so much more.
This post is all about capturing the small moments, those “bookend” times of the day when one can carve out a few moments of solitude to simply be, and simply be aware of where we are and grateful for our time here.
Allow me to share a few of the beautiful sights and moments experienced within these 13 or so square miles along the edge of the Atlantic. First up: Arrival!
This beautiful place has miles and miles and miles of trails. Level, well-marked, well maintained trails. Where the trails end, there are more miles of well packed sand at the edge of the Atlantic, just perfect for strolling or cruising. Walking and bicycling were the preferred means of transportation throughout much of the stay on Kiawah.
With bags stowed in the condo and sunset approaching, one of the first activities was to find a spot for the best show in the area! A little side note here: Early in the drive, our theme song became Castle On The Hill by Ed Sheeran. Looking at this photo now, watching the pelicans fly over the nearby Sanctuary Hotel that could easily be mistaken for a castle in the sunset that first evening, that song fits so well.
Mornings are a favorite time for me, especially at the beach, any beach, but I had no idea the beauty and majesty awaiting me on my first morning walk at Kiawah. I happened upon a couple of bucks looking for breakfast!
He must have heard me behind him and turned around. For just a few seconds he walked towards me on the boardwalk. I backed up accordingly to give him his space.
After a couple of minutes, the buck turned around and joined a friend for breakfast in the dunes. A lovely cardinal flew into the frame just as I snapped the picture.
The condo where we stayed had a wonderful kitchen with ample beautiful and comfortable spaces to enjoy meals and conversation. But one night we ventured out to a restaurant at Bohicket Marina. Oh.My.Goodness! Yes, the food was delicious, yes the company was delightful, yes the conversation included A LOT of laughter; but upon exiting the building we were greeted by the twilight sky settling in for the night over the boats.
Heavy clouds gathered throughout the night. Summertime thunderstorms are a reality here, but the boats seem determined to shine with their reflections despite the imposing darkness.
The next morning the clouds seemed to want to linger a little longer and enjoy the sunrise as well. Who could blame them? Later this beach will be filled with people enjoying the sunshine and surf, but for now it’s nearly deserted.
I love those glowing moments, when even the air seems saturated between the actual light and the reflection from the water.
More morning scenes from Kiawah ~ lone shrimp boat heading out to sea.
More morning scenes from Kiawah ~ Sunrise reflections from the pond. There’s a sign warning of alligators, but they stayed out of sight on this trip.
As much as I adore the pictures of and on the beach, this picture is one of my favorites from this trip. This is the walkway to the beach following an overnight rainstorm. Fallen leaves, blown by the wind and rain, lay undisturbed as I approached on my morning walk. Perhaps in this picture there’s a hint of how spectacular autumn will be along this trail.
What you don’t see in these pictures are the in-between moments. Images of conversations over coffee, morning chats, laughter over wine, bonding between a mother and her recent high school graduate daughter, friendships growing, rest and renewal.
What I hope you see are images of a beautiful place where these and more wonderful things happened, all because one person chose to extend an amazing invitation.
While leaving, I stopped for one more sign. The Sanctuary Resort sign adorned with Old Glory in preparation for the Independence Day festivities.
Our sign upon arrival simply stated where we were, our sign on departure simply stated what we had experienced ~ Sanctuary.
“Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.”
1 Thessalonians 5:11
It was just after sunrise when I got the call. “Do you want to go get a cup of coffee?” And so set the pace of the day. It’s not either of our birthdays. It’s just an average Friday, but for us, it’s a celebration of living. The “Us” is myself and Rita. Rita is technically related to me, but we’re so close in age that we’ve been kind of built in best friends all of our lives. She’s only 8 months older than I am and we’ve been mistaken for sisters, twins even at different points throughout our lives. We’ve sang together, we’ve cried together, we’ve laughed together, we’ve fought together – but seldom if ever – with one another.
We’ve witnessed each other’s weddings; we’ve hosted baby showers and birthday parties for one another; laughed with and at one another over “questionable” choices we’ve made over the years; watched our children grow up in to wonderful young adults themselves, and recognized the blessings all of this truly is. We’re in the early stages of planning an amazing 50th birthday event in a few years when that milestone happens for both of us.
Today, however, while much of the world was glued to the news outlets casting opinions and would-be solutions for the issues of the day, we stepped away for a few hours and went to a little coffee shop overlooking an ancient river swollen from recent rains. In sight of bald eagles and hawks hunting under rolling storm clouds, we sat for hours with huge cups of hot chocolate and appreciated the fact that we’ve survived to this day.
It was five years ago this month a series of heart attacks targeted her. It was two and three years ago other issues attacked me. We’ve both come to realize April, for all its new life and springtime blossoms, is a time of reflection and true celebration. Every year around this time we find a day and get together away from the rest of the world. Some years we drop the top in a convertible and cruise the back roads. Some years we sit on old fallen trees in the back woods here with cups of strong coffee and talk for hours with the dogs watching us like we’re trespassing. Some years we laugh until we cry in realization that we’re still here.
Both of us.
And we’ve been given the amazing gifts and experiences in our lives
There is no way to know what tomorrow holds in store for any of us in the future, and that’s ok. Today, we don’t worry about that. Today, we celebrate and are thankful for the blessings in and of our lives; and we celebrate the fact that now and again it’s important to take time away from the demands of life and be grateful for the opportunity to be truly living!
The saying goes “A picture is worth a thousand words” sometimes though, we hold memories that no picture could ever contain.
It had been just over a month since we met Nichole, a young pregnant girl, wanting to find a married couple to adopt her child. My husband and I were lucky enough to be friends with her pre-natal care nurse who thought of us when this young girl, in many ways still a child herself, mentioned adoption was what she wanted for her unborn baby.
I remember noticing when we arrived to that conference how young she actually looked. The nurse had told us she was young. I had tried to prepare myself to see a young teenager, but I was not prepared for how similar this child looked to one of my own nieces at that age. Aware that my staring was probably making her very uncomfortable I confessed to her that her mother reminded me of one of my sisters, and that she herself reminded me of my favorite niece. She smiled at that statement, and started talking to us.
“My nurse told me a lot about you, I thought you would want this ” she said offering me an ultrasound print. I took it from her and stared at it. It wasn’t a blurry image full of static like other ultrasound pictures where you have to have someone point out the baby in the image for you. No, this was a clear image of a baby with a strong jawline and angled nose; distinctive features which mirrored those in the face of the young girl sitting across from me. “This is a really clear image”, I said to her. She glanced at it for a second then clarified “He’s a boy”.
The next few hours seemed to fly by. She told us about her pregnancy, how she had tried to keep it hidden from her mother; how the boy involved had denied being the father; and how some of her friends had tried to persuade her to have an abortion. We each got a crash-course in the other’s family history. Details that would normally take years to know even in a close friendship were compressed into an afternoon. Everything from hereditary traits and possible genetic health concerns of the baby to where we would most likely take him for family vacations was discussed.
The entire time, I held that ultrasound image. I looked from the picture to the girl sitting across from me and wondered what her expectations of us were and if we were measuring up anywhere close to them.
All of the adoption paperwork had been prepared that day, and completed as much as possible. All those forms were just waiting in a file, waiting for the birth of the baby, and for the final signatures allowing the petition to be filed. As we were leaving I held out the ultrasound image for her. “No”, she said, “That’s yours”. At that point, I had hope and I held it in my hands.
That was not the first time we had begun the process, met with a birth mother who was absolutely certain they could not keep their child and would like to have it adopted, only to receive a call the day the baby was born letting us know the mother has changed her mind and decided to keep her child. That very real and very heartbreaking scenario weighed heavily on my mind following this interview. The harsh reality is the only way I get a baby is if someone decides to give me one, and as wonderful as the thought of being a mother is, the thought of denying someone else that experience is hard to deal with. Maybe this time would be different, better.
We had very little contact with Nichole throughout the remainder of February and the first part of March. Looking at the little ultrasound picture she gave me, I decided I wouldn’t be strong enough to keep any hope of parenthood if this adoption failed and I had to return or give away more baby things like before. I did not buy a bassinet, sheets, diapers, or baby clothes this time. I tried my best to carry on as normal over the next few weeks, waiting for any news about the baby.
The call came around 4:30 a.m. on March 23, 1999. It was Nichole’s mother with a short, quick message:”We’re on the way to the hospital, meet us there”. It was time. We both dressed and were out the door in record time, almost holding our breath as we drove though the still black cold morning in silence. When we reached the maternity ward we were quickly escorted to Nichole’s recovery room. The baby had been born just a few minutes before we arrived. We stood by the bed talking with Nichole and her mother; it had been a quick and easy delivery for her and the baby was healthy.
The nurse finished cleaning him, wrapped him in a small white blanket, capped his little head with a blue toboggan and brought him to the bedside. Even all snuggled up he was immediately recognizable. He looked remarkably like the ultrasound image, and like the girl recovering in the bed. The nurse then asked Nichole if she wanted to hold her son. She looked at him for a moment. I braced myself. She was looking at this beautiful, perfect baby, and I wouldn’t blame her if she changed her mind. Very quietly she told the nurse, “No, that’s her baby”.
The nurse laid him in my arms and asked what his name would be. I knew Nichole was looking at me but I couldn’t look away from his tiny face. “Nicholas” I said, “His name is Nicholas”.