Tag Archives: peace

Up north

This past weekend, my sisters and I went “up north” (as we say in Michigan, although there seems to be some debate as to where “north” begins). A friend generously let us use her cottage on a small lake in northwestern Michigan.

Michigan is said to have 11,000 inland lakes, in addition to the the Great Lakes (Superior, Michigan, Huron and Erie) that outline the state (Lake Ontario is east of Michigan).

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Lake Michigan and Lake Huron give Michigan its mitten shape. Lake Superior is north of the Upper Peninsula; Lake Erie touches southeastern Michigan and borders Ohio; Lake Ontario borders New York. Only Lake Michigan does not share a border with Ontario, Canada.

The inland lakes vary in size from Houghton Lake, which covers more than 20,000 acres to small lakes like the one we visited (which I once kayaked around in 45 minutes).

The weekend was very peaceful and relaxing, and I am grateful for my friend’s generosity and my sisters company.

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My sisters returning home.
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Sunset over the lake
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Some pics from my garden

Black-eyed Susans (Rudbekia) were a friend’s favorite and I imagine he would love this early-blooming variety.

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Early-blooming black-eyes Susans (Rudbekia)

My enclosed sunporch had to come down, which required moving one of my perenniel beds. The daisies got spread out along a side fence and seem quite content.

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Daisies along the side fence

The purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) that got moved are late in blooming, but this one took up residence among the black-eyed Susans a few years ago (and I forgot to move it–next year).

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Purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) among the black-eyes Susans

This phlox had been dwarfed by the daisies when it was next to the sunporch. I hope it will thrive in this new spot with room to grow.

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Swamp milkweed (Asclepias Incarnata) is one of the butterfly attractors in my yard.

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Swamp milkweed

Looking back, part 2

This was the second part of the piece that popped up on my laptop; it was one of my earliest blogs and because it, too, relates to Lent, I thought I would repost it:

The other day, someone asked me what I was doing for Lent. I think she expected to hear, “I gave up chocolate.” Instead, I told her I am spending Lent focusing on the lessons I learned during my friend Jim’s illness.

Throughout his illness, the words “fear is useless; what is needed is trust” (Luke 8:50) helped me cope. I said them every day—and most days, many times. This Lent, I am trying to be aware of when I am fearful and to let it go, so I can live in trust and openness to what God is doing.

While Jim was sick, we spent some time at the New Jersey Shore; he loved looking out at the ocean. “Think big thoughts,” he would say as he contemplated the beauty of nature and the abundance of God’s blessings. I am trying to think big thoughts, to appreciate all aspects of my life and to thank God for my many blessings.

One of my favorite moments from the Shore happened one morning as I was walking along the water’s edge. The ocean was absolutely calm, no waves anywhere. As I walked, I noticed the broken shells on the sand, and I knew God was telling me: “This Ocean is a sign of my peace. It is how you are to live—in calm and peace, open, expansive. This is what freedom looks like. At the shoreline, at your edges, leave anything sharp or broken and flow back to the calm openness, the expansiveness.” I am trying to live in the vast freedom God offers me, letting go of anything that gets in the way of being calm and at peace.

This Lent, I am keeping the chocolate—and giving up those things that keep me from trust, gratitude and peace.

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The New Jersey shore

P.S. Nine years later, I did give up chocolate candy for Lent this year (along with other forms of fasting) because I wanted to do some things that felt like sacrifices, and I enjoy chocolate candy every day. I am deeply aware of the people in Ukraine this Lent and fasting reminds me of people who are suffering while I live in abundance. Fasting reminds me of my dependence on God, and with every meal I skip, I offer a prayer for peace in Ukraine and other places in the world where there is no peace.  

Set an intention

Make room for

more light in your life and

more joy in your heart.

Set an intention for

peace and love to flourish

and chaos and fear to diminish.

Let generosity grow and scarcity shrink.

Count how many times a day

you say thank you or

offer a compliment.

Notice the abundance in your life and

act for those who have less.

Pray for those in your family or neighborhood

who face challenges and are struggling, and

those around the world who face tyrants.

Remember those who are grieving.

Reach out to those who are lonely or lost.

Every act of kindness ripples out into the world and

then comes back to us,

bridging the space between us and

reminding us that we are one.

Return to calm

The mundane tasks of everyday living

create a sense of tranquility

that stretches out like a

placid lake reaching for the horizon,

each day the same as the one before

and the one to come.

The monotony of routine and habit  

can lull me into believing that the future

will be made up of days like these.

I can sometimes tire of the monotony,

almost wishing for an interruption in the predictable—

until one inevitably comes along,

jolting me out of languid days and tossing me about

like a small boat caught in a storm.

And then I crave the sameness that had been,

the predictability of a daily routine.

I long to return to those times

when I could anticipate how each day would unfold,

when there were no surprises and

I could spend hours daydreaming about future travel or

gathering with friends.

I cannot stop or wish away these unwelcome interruptions.

I can only take comfort in knowing

that the turbulence will end and

calm will return.

Trust

Do not let your hearts be troubled. (John 14:1)

These words jumped off the page of my daily Scripture reading and prompted the question, what is troubling my heart?

Top of the list is my mother, who is ninety-five and on hospice. She has a variety of health issues, and yet she continues to live as though there is nothing wrong with her—she still cooks, cleans and does her laundry. She both inspires me (by her determination and perseverance) and worries me (because I know that any day something could happen—a fall, her heart could fail, etc.).

If you have ever kept vigil for someone who is nearing death, you will perhaps understand the stress of watching and waiting.

I remind myself that my mother is in God’s hands, and I believe that. Yet I know I am still holding onto something, as evidenced by the stress I feel.

The next line in John’s Gospel is Trust in God; trust also in me.

I pray to be able to let go and trust that God has my mother—and remember that God has me, too. Trust is the key, and when I am worrying, I am not trusting.

Worry is another word for fear, and Luke 8:50 reminds me that fear is useless; what is needed is trust. Another invitation to trust!

There are other items on the list of things that trouble my heart—my own health, my work, money, etc. Then there are more global issues that also trouble my heart—poverty, injustice and all the negative isms.

I know that trusting God and letting go of my fears is the way to peace in my heart, which seems to be the work of a lifetime.

What helps me to let go of worry is being present to the moment and trying to stay in the present moment. I remind myself that I cannot do anything about what might happen at some future time—and worrying about it won’t change anything.

I try to do the things that help me be present to the moment—creative activities like gardening, baking, knitting, etc.

What troubles your heart? What brings you peace?

Opt in

Joy

Gratitude

Peace

Resilience

Abundance

Generosity

Hope

Trust

Acceptance

Faith

Forgiveness

Contentment

Movement

Dream

These are my words.

I want to live into them and

out of them.

Breathing in their fullness and

letting go of whatever blocks the way.

Every moment of every day matters, and

I want to make a choice

to live

fully,

in every moment.

Winter dance

Strong winds swirl around my house,

bending and swaying bare branches

to a tune I cannot hear.                                                                                

They dance with abandon,

oblivious to my comings and goings,

unaware of my desire

for peace and stillness.

The winds prevail,

and I bundle up in layers,

a hat pulled over my head and

a scarf wrapped around my face,

three times, four times,

until only my eyes are visible.

Stepping outside, I brave the wind and the

tiny ice crystals that assault me.

Winter is here, I announce to no one in particular.

I listen for the music of the wind,

let go of my need for control and

enter into the dance of the trees.

Finding joy in simple things

We had a streak of unusually warm days a few weeks ago, and I took advantage of them to work in the yard. I removed dead flowers from the garden, raked leaves and pruned my Rose of Sharon. Every warm day found me outside for at least an hour or two.

One day I repotted house plants. Some were clippings I had rooted that were ready for dirt and others were plants that had outgrown their pots. One was a small spider plant I had rooted last winter and planted in the spring. All summer, it sat in its little pot on my sunporch, producing new roots and sending out baby spider plants.

When I tried to lift it out of its pot, I found it was completely trapped and I had to break to pot to free the plant. The roots had completely filled the pot; there was virtually no dirt left. I apologized to the plant (yes, I sometimes talk to my houseplants—they are living things!)

Anyway, I carefully unwound its root system and gently clipped off the excess bits so it could breathe, and then planted it in a larger pot.

As I worked on my houseplants, I was aware of how peaceful I felt, how much I felt like myself, doing something I love to do.

The next morning, I reflected on the peace I felt while repotting plants and how I felt like myself doing that simple task. I can sometimes become busy with work and other obligations and ignore the things I love to do, the things that bring me joy.

I then began to wonder how often my prayer life becomes like that little spider plant—all rootbound, no air to breathe or dirt to help me grow.

Of the many things that have been cancelled because of the pandemic, I think that the cancellation of my annual retreat is having the greatest impact on me. That one week away, completely focused on God, is what I need to shake things up in my prayer life. It is the time I give myself over to God to lift me out of whatever may be constricting, to prune away the excess and replant me in new soil.

Retreat begins with asking for a grace, something I think I need at that time. For me, it is usually something like courage, trust or compassion but it can be anything. Having a whole week to pray with a focus on that grace usually leads to some insight or revelation about where God is moving in my life and where God is inviting me to move.

Retreats, like puttering with plants, are simple activities that can bring new insight and deep joy. Those days in the garden helped me see that I am hungry for times without scheduled activities, times to play in the dirt, to widen my vision and be present to the grace God gives me every day.

What simple activities bring you joy?

Balance

Shoulders back, head up, the teacher said

as she placed a book on my head and

told me to walk across the room,

testing my balance.

The book slipped off,

first to the right and then to the left.

I was not balanced, it turned out.

Practice at home, she instructed,

trying to sound hopeful.

I thought it was pointless.

My balance was off.

How could a book on my head fix that?

Balance matters, though.

Holding all things in perspective,

allowing for the ebb and flow of life

like the ocean obeying the tides and

trees dropping their leaves in fall

to be reborn in spring.

Nature knows balance and offers its lessons to us.

Sit in the classroom of the forest or

run along the shoreline,

see the rhythms of life and

then walk with shoulders back and head up,

holding all things in balance.