Sunday, February 28, 2010

Hundred-year-old Tree.

Hundred-year-old Tree.

So loud as you tumble, rumble to the floor of the woods, the muffling blanket of snow doesn’t keep little hands from pressing against little ears. And little and big hearts to beat so fast as cracking, snapping, crunching, thundering proudly you fall and make your snowy bed just where the woodsman planned.

Red and Yellow and Blue coats press in close together, waiting for a nod and trusted voice to say OK, come close and see.

Brave boots make trails through powder to look at dry and fragile branches that waved a thousand green and yellow flags to sun and stars until a year or two ago. But snapping off today they make a sword for cheerful pirates standing on the grand old trunk until they leap back off again, transformed Supers flying, and then bulldozers plowing through the snow. 

A call to come and see the stump and here’s the wedge to show the less adventuresome at home.   Now try to count the rings, each year lays down a story to be told on wooden platter.  They count it once and then again with help, a century of rings are found from heartwood out to crumbling bark.

Old Tree, a patient sentry for a hundred years. A quiet place to wait and see what comes your way. What did you see?

I’ve seen your strength from upper windows where I stand safe and dry.  And always I’m amazed that trees so tall can sway together like a dance, and bow and turn to one another wildly, but end the night with quiet nods before sleeping upright unperturbed.

And with your strength, the beauty.  I don't know the names of enough colors to do justice to rain drenched leaves in Autumn when the sun comes out and everything’s a brilliant glow with spot of fire in every drop on every leaf.

Arms reaching high for forty-thousand days. Hosanna! Elohim!

The days of praise have passed, and yet you still have gifts to give;  warmth and light for many weeks to come. 

And so we shake off wonder at your untold stories, and gather you up in arms and sleds, to stack and store with care at home.

Jehovah Jireh!

Hosanna is a cry of thanksgiving for salvation and at the same time a declaration of praise.
Elohim: Lord, Strong Creator.
Jehovah Jireh: The Lord who Provides (lit."sees" our need).

Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness;
     tremble before him, all the earth;
          yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice,
     and let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!”
Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
     let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy
     before the Lord,
for he comes to judge the earth.
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
     for his steadfast love endures forever!
~I Chronicles 16:29b-34~


Monday, February 22, 2010

An unexpected sign of Spring.

Today we had a glorious, unexpected sign of Spring.

I know some of you out there are having to settle for green tulip tips appearing in your garden, a crocus pushing through the snow, or the sweet smell of fresh, moist, life-giving soil on a 50 degree day.  I heard from a friend that she had even seen some flowering tree buds in her neighborhood.  Well, none of that for us here in the rural Northern tundra. Instead, we've got . . . get ready . . .


That's right. Chickens. Chickens venturing outside of their coop this morning and spending the day basking in the sun on a small patch of land that appeared at the edge of the snow by their South facing door.  There was even some open water that appeared on top of the ice.

These chickens were joyful. I know that chickens don't have a reputation for a wide range of emotions, but I could tell that although they appeared to be aimlessly strutting and pecking about the mud for non-existent bugs, they were actually exuding joy from the bottom of their gizzards at their release from being, literally, cooped up all winter.

The rooster, Mr. Incredible, gave first one victorious crow and then another, which translated roughly into English means, "I have conquered Winter!"

Well, whatever their feelings on the subject–I, for one, was happy to look out the window and see them out in the yard again. I was needing some encouragement that the rule of Winter is breaking. Sure, snow is predicted for tomorrow–but the tide has turned.

The Chickens have spoken, Spring is on its way.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

So teach us to number our days


So Teach Us To Number Our Days was included in the Summer 2011 edition of The Old Schoolhouse ® Magazine
So Teach Us to Number Our Days was included in the Chapel column of The Old Schoolhouse ® Magazine, Summer 2011. My writing agreement stipulated that I had to remove this article from my blog until six months after publication. I'm happy to be able to share it here again with friends and family. 


Read It Online Today!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

My Beauty Moment.

Today I decided to have a Beauty Moment. After all, it is my birthday and I’ve been thinking big thoughts lately.

As I stood by the back yard looking out at all of that unbroken snow, I decided that after weeks of neglect, I would take some birdseed out to the feeder and enjoy a profound Moment enjoying the scene.   Yes, I could feel it. A Beauty Moment was coming.

My first problem was that I was still in PJs and socks in the late morning. But, Kevin’s huge over-the-shoe rubber boots were sitting by the back door so I slipped my feet in to rattle around in the bottom.  Next, I realized that it was a lot colder than it looked, so I called for Nat to bring me a coat–which confused him for a minute, but he brought it anyway.

So out the door I went to await my Beauty Moment. I had to stumble a bit over the ice and snow piled up on the deck that had fallen off the roof and now stands like boulders on top of an ice field. Once I had adventured across that, shuffling and stomping and slipping in the loose boots, I stood on the edge to look for the best way to wade out into the yard. Two steps out, I realized that the snow was much deeper than I thought and half crusted so that it would hold me for a few seconds before randomly plunging me down into the depths. About half way between the deck and the bird feeder, one of the boots fell off all together, stuck below the surface of the snow, and my socked foot and PJ pants came up bare and then back down into the snow up to mid- thigh in an attempt to keep some form of balance. Once again, the sense of starring in my own situation comedy had come upon me and I hoped the children were getting some amusement out of the scene while I lifted my snowy sock into the air and tried to balance on the other boot which was still resting on top of the snow…for a few more seconds…before I fell over completely into the snow.    

So I didn’t get my Beauty Moment, but I did get a big laugh at myself that I was even trying to fabricate my own beauty moment and the absurdity of the entire situation. When I came back inside, still laughing aloud and covered in snow the older kids looked up just mildly curious. Even though they’d been in the dining room, right next to the window, they’d missed the entire thing.

But, the birds did get their lunch–which I somehow managed to deliver unspilled to the birdfeeder.

A few minutes later (after thinking to ask the boys to shovel the path to the birdfeeder, and making a mental note to myself to leave my own boots by the back door) I was thinking of God’s mercy in pouring out true beauty moments into my life when I least expect them, and then humbling me at other times to remind me that even on my birthday–He will decide which gifts are best for me.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Ruthie the Terrible!

,I've always been mildly opposed to the phrase "The Terrible Twos."  We usually say something like Terrific Twos because I really enjoy toddlers in all their exuberance.  But recently, I was reading that Ivan the Terrible's moniker is really a poor translation, with Mighty or Powerful or Thunderous or Awesome more likely.  So, I've been re-thinking the possibility that perhaps our newly turned 2-year-old might indeed be Ruthie the Terrible (in an Awesomely-Thunderous-and-Powerfully-Mighty sort of way), in addition to her real name of Ruth Joy.

Little people are hard to describe in a way that doesn't sound like all of the other adorable toddlers out there, so I'll tell you some stories (which may indeed end up sounding like all of the other adorable toddlers out there, but close friends and family will see her in her individual glory).

•The Three Amigos needed a Princess. She's been sensing that the three brothers immediately above her in the family are actually her royal subjects since about the day she could walk. Now with a growing proficiency in English, her dominion is nearing completion.

•When it was time for baby Ruth to learn to sleep and stay asleep in her own crib, we discovered that she has amazing persistence. Unlike our other kids who were "sleep trained" in a matter of days as young toddlers (once I decided it was time and really meant it)- she put up resistance for several weeks before suddenly deciding that Yes, Indeed, she did like naptime and bedtime and began going right to sleep with her own set of rules for How the Blanket Should Cover Her, Which Doll Likes to Sleep with Her, and Where the Water Bottle Should Be in the Bed, How Mom Should Pat Her Back, etc.   But before that, during the Weeks of Resistance, the kids and I would spy through an old fashioned key hole in our bedroom door to watch her stand and call for us over and over again, trying first one name and then another. She actually did fall asleep standing more than one time before eventually perfecting the ability to sleep propped up against the side of the crib.  We decided that if grown-up Ruth is ever lost in a snowstorm on a mountain we will never stop searching for her, because she will never, ever give up waiting for us.

•She is the only one of my children who will applaud and say "Good Job!" when I sing Jesus Loves Me to her at bedtime. Once she suddenly grabbed my chin, gave it a little shake, and told me she loved me–eye-to-eye as I had just done to her. She did this really fast, and got the inflection perfectly–even though she could barely say the words.

•She is fascinated with "lipstick" of all kinds: my dark colors, the girls pink gloss, Dad's Chapstick, brother's Blistex stick, sister's Bonnie Bell bubblegum flavor.  She manages to find these, discard the caps and apply with abandon, smashing the contents after rolling them all the way out. When she had finally trained all of us to store all lip products on the highest shelves in the house, she resorted to applying Desitin diaper ointment–carefully dabbing a bit on her upper lip before being caught white-handed.

•A fantastic mimic, she has been entertaining us daily by trying to say or sing any word, line or song (however challenging or multi-syllabic) we feed her with often hilarious results that she laughs at herself.  She will also try to ice skate, dance, or play any sport she has seen in person or on TV, often cheering for herself and calling for an audience to "Look! Look!"

•She has given our family a great reputation at church for being a devout family with her dramatic approach to prayer at Sunday School snack time - clasping her little hands together high in front of her face before bowing her head down until her head touches the table. (And no, this is not the model of our mealtime prayers at home . . . )

•She believes that anytime we have said "No" to her current activity or request (which is, of course, often!), it is merely because we have not fully grasped the situation at hand so that she tries over and over to explain to us, often until she is carried off to do whatever we have asked her to do. This was particularly amusing to us when she was depending mostly upon vowels to communicate with. Kevin used to say "Pat, I'd like to buy a consonant . . . "   Observing all of this, sister Grace said, "She seems to have a very high self-esteem!"

•This past week I entered the kitchen after a few minutes in the next room, to discover 17 individual bananas spread all over the floor leading me to believe Curious George had visited my house. These and similar episodes have often given me the sense of starring in my own situation comedy.

•For Ruthie the Resourceful, having no access to the bathroom sinks is not a problem when the dog water is available at toddler height to wash her brother's cars (or kitchen utensils, or water bottles, or apples, or shoes or . . . ).

A friend of mine once commented (when I myself had only one "easy" baby), "If you ever think you have it all figured out...have more children!" This has certainly been true for me. I'm finding myself less likely to write a "How-To" parenting book with each year that passes.

What I have been convinced of is that each child has been uniquely hand-crafted by God, fully loaded upon arrival with gifts and talents and dispositions that are perfect for their life and a great gift to their own siblings and parents. Immortal souls created in the image of God, but marred by the Fall, requiring nourishment and grace-filled nurturing and a great Savior to fulfill God's purposes in their lives to bring glory to God, enjoy Him forever, and to do good to their fellow image bearers. This is true, of course, of every person on earth, not just children, but sometimes it is easiest to see in the youngest ones among us.

Thank you Ruthie Joy for the joy you bring to us. Happy Birthday!


Psalm 139:13-16

For you formed my inward parts;
     you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, 

     for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. 
Wonderful are your works;
      my soul knows it very well.
 My frame was not hidden from you,

     when I was being made in secret,
            intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;

     in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
     when as yet there was none of them.

Luke 18:15-17
Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

Friday, February 5, 2010

Looking from the outside in.

I love seeing our house from the outside in.

Something about standing outside of the house in the evening, looking in through the windows, puts enough of a romantic haze across the reality of lively inhabitants, the day's clutter trail, and work-to-be-done inside that it fills me with a sort of wonder that I really get to live there, in that homey place.

Angled lines where roof meets starry sky,
     Moonlight soft on weathered clapboard walls.

A longing fills the heart to belong to that place where
     hearth glow spills out of windows and open doors
          like liquid gold out into the night.

Inside…laughter, song, and talking
     overlap the sounds of kitchen chores 
         and children playing instead of getting ready for bed.

Folded arms and kindred love keep the chill at bay.

Am I homesick for my own home while standing in the yard?

A pang of joy;
     Imperfect home and those within
          satisfy this mother’s heart.

A joyful hope;
     Of promised home, with many rooms,
          to satisfy the soul eternally.

And opening the door so that gold spills out again,
I enter in.

Well, I should say usually fills me with a sense of wonder.  Sometimes I have more practical things on my mind.  Last week, when Kevin and I drove up our long dirt driveway in the evening, literally every single window was lit up on all sides of the house. It was a beautiful sight in an old farmhouse sort of way.  But, I wondered out loud if he was thinking what I was thinking . . . "So honey, when you come home after work and see the house lit up like that... are you thinking 'Wow!  I am so blessed to get to live there in that home!" Or are you pretty much thinking about the electric bill?"  We both laughed, because, of course, it's a little of both.

Some years ago, my book group read Manalive by G.K. Chesterton and that book has had a big impact on my attempts to view my life from the outside in - trying to envy myself, if you will, rather than get caught up in complaining in my heart about things that I notice far too easily from the inside out.  I'll try not to give away more than they put on the back of the book, but basically it's about a man who seeks constantly to appreciate what he already has and not grow dull to it.  In a fantastical story full of humor and both subtle irony and outrageous literalness, he woos and marries the same woman over and over again to see her with fresh eyes, he leaves his home (even abandoning his patient wife and children) so that he can come home again with appreciation for every blade of grass, he sneaks over roof tops to burgle his own home through the attic window and before entering, gazes into the home with fierce longing to possess that place, which is, in fact, his own.  There's much more to it and after the fact, during the book group discussion, I discovered that there's a whole lot in the book that suggests the Holy Spirit moving like the wind, and becoming like a little child in our appreciation of all the wonder out there (but honestly I totally missed that on my own).  What I did take away was the idea that most of us are really walking around barely aware of even our immediate surroundings, let alone the larger truths in life... "The things we see everyday are the things we never see at all."

What would it be like to be a man really ALIVE to everything?  Could we stand it?

Treasure from the Junk Drawer
copyright © Sara Shull
•All text and poetry by Sara
•Art illustrations by Sara
•Photos by Sara or the Shull kids
~~~~All rights reserved~~~~

Bible verses:
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (ESV)