Reflecting on Food….

The temperatures dropped into the 50’s last night, making for good sleeping weather. The frogs and insects are serenading us in the early evening, their last songs before the cold weather sets in. Summer is not all that is ending here in Fauquier County. So I was drawn to this photo of chickens at a family owned farm taken by my friend Sarah. These chickens don’t have much in common with the Dolly Parton variety often sold in the supermarkets. No growth hormones or strange chemical cocktails for these chickens, just their feed and some scraps of vegetables. I like knowing the farmers that grow our food. Our family eats locally grown food as much as possible. We believe that buying local and eating local is one of the best ways to be good stewards of creation. We support our neighbors and friends, and reduce the distance from the farm to our dinner plates. Folks talk about conservation, and neglect to consider how much fuel goes into their food. Local produce in the grocery stores sometimes means grown in the US, not grown in your county or state. Even the farmer’s markets include trucked in produce to meet the expectation that any and all fruits and vegetables should be available year round. So I am sad to say that a farmer’s cooperative that greatly aided in our quest to eat locally is closing. Farmergirls.net offered a way to easily purchase food from a variety of local farms and kitchens. This service was web based, with vendors posting what was available each week and customers using an online shopping cart to choose their purchases. Our local food was then sorted and bagged for pick up. Farmergirls.net sought to connect people with local farms, and they have succeeded in doing just that. Many customers now deal with the farms directly, rather than going through the cooperative. Many families now purchase more than their produce locally, buying meat, eggs and dairy from local farms. But not all of us have time to stop at half a dozen locations, and Farmergirls.net will be sorely missed. Take time today to consider where your food was produced, and what went into it. Learn more about buying local and eating local. Start small, perhaps with apples this autumn, or some local honey. If you prefer to eat out, learn more about your favorite restaurant. Support your local farms and learn what a difference it makes to your dinner table. Photo by Sarah Gulick

Reflecting on Tides….

This morning is cool and clear, yet it will be hot and sticky before long. It seems like fall in the early morning and summer in the afternoon. We are in that funny in between time, looking forward to the colors of fall but already missing a day at the beach. So I was drawn to this amazing photo taken by my cousin Katie at Huguenot State Park near Jacksonville, Florida. It’s difficult to tell where the water stops and the beach begins. The tides have created a transitory work of art, to be washed away and rebuilt day by day. Our oceans and rivers ebb and flow, thanks to the pull of the moon. When this cycle is disrupted by a hurricane, water is transformed from a life giving force into a destructive force. Yet how often do we turn our own lives into a flood? We are tempted to press ahead, and double our efforts, to finally get everything done. Instead, we end up working ourselves to the point of exhaustion, and even becoming ill. Without periods of rest and relaxation, our bodies force us to stop, and we end up in bed, face up to God. We create a hurricane of activity that disrupts the tide of life. The life giving force becomes a destructive force. Sometimes the greatest harm comes from haste. We say things without thinking of how our words affect others, we simply don’t listen or see those we love. We bowl over those we cherish like a flood, bent on our own agendas to the detriment of others. Take time today to rest and relax. Pause and enjoy the beauty that surrounds you. Truly listen to your own heart and to those you love. Allow the natural rhythm of life to take hold, and you will create a transitory work of art, a life well lived, one day at a time. Photo by Katie Collett

Reflecting on the Impossible….

Clouds are threatening rain again this morning, after a weekend full of rain. We live far enough inland to have avoided most of the hurricane’s effects. Friends and family in New Jersey and the Northeast saw the most damage, with flooding and power outages in many areas. So I have been wondering about what is and isn’t possible, about how our minds wrap around the unexpected and deal with the unanticipated. So I was drawn to this photo of a sea turtle, taken by John Searles of the Eco Mar organization. The white bump on the turtle’s back will monitor the movements of the turtle, using satellite tracking. The GPS system was one of the programs I worked with as a young lieutenant in the Air Force. Most of us consider outer space to be an empty vacuum, yet space is full of debris and dangerous radiation we are shielded from by our atmosphere. I worked with satellite engineers to ensure their systems would operate in all sorts of adverse conditions. We would brainstorm about all the possible threats to the system, then develop ways to deal with those threats. My job was to focus on the improbable possibilities, to ensure others could focus on the probable impossibilities. What good is an amazing satellite if the system is confounded by a micrometeor or sun spot? Yet today we take GPS for granted as a technology integrated into our handheld smart phones, or into a bump on the back of a turtle, to learn how to protect this beautiful creature and our oceans. Because someone conceived of what others considered impossible, and persevered to make that vision into a reality, our lives are full of possibilities. What the engineers started the environmentalists continue. We must not lose sight of the need to plan for adverse possibilities, yet must be sure to focus on what lies beyond the immediate crisis. Take time today to consider more than the possibilities of your current situation. Dare to dream the impossible, then seek to make that dream into a reality. Consider the threats and roadblocks to that dream, and develop ways to work around those threats. Persevere until that dream becomes a reality. If all things are possible through God, then who are we to say anything is impossible? Photo by John Searles © 2011

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Reflecting on New Beginnings….

What an eventful week! Earthquakes, after shocks, and now a hurricane. Yet for many, the weather may not be the main event. So I was drawn to this photo taken by my friend Lindsey. Her husband is walking her sons down to the end of the drive to catch the bus. On Thursday, Jared started kindergarten. Notice how intent he is compared with his little brother. He’s clutching his backpack and walking straight ahead, while his little brother hops or skips, or a little bit of both. Dad is taking the lead, knowing that Mom may not share Jared’s enthusiasm. She has a chance to let go in private, to honor her son’s desire for independence while also honoring her own feelings. Other friends are dropping off their sons and daughters at college, some for the first time. Some are visiting their grown children in their own homes, their first place after graduation, or visiting to help with a new grandchild. Each of these changes stirs up a mix of emotions. We are happy, elated, expectant, amazed. We are also sad, mournful, confused and a little lost. We can be tempted to gloss over our mixed emotions, to hide the feelings we would rather not admit. Yet so often in life, what we seek to view as either or is truly both and. We are not promised a perfect life, we are promised abundant life. When our hearts are full, when we let all those emotions flow, we claim that promise of abundant life. Take time today to fully understand the impact of a change in your life. Allow yourself to freely experience the emotions that this change has wrought. Let go of what was to make room for what will be, trusting that our Lord works for good in all things for those that love Him. Photo by Lindsey Wangsgard

Reflecting on Resilience….

The clouds are darkening and we expect thunderstorms later in the day. Folks are checking for damage from Tuesday’s earthquake here in Virginia, still marveling at the unexpected. Older buildings didn’t fare as well, with the downtown district in Culpeper suffering the most impact. The newer buildings held up, stronger and more resilient than our historic homes. So I was drawn to this photo of a dragonfly, taken by my friend David. This insect looks more like a jewel than a living creature. The light plays off his wings and the surface beneath him. This photo captures the feelings often evoked by a dragonfly, a sense of mystery and rare beauty. I have encountered dragonflies in the oddest places. Often when I am stuck in traffic, one will land on my windshield. Just when I am at my boiling point, fed up with being stuck, I am reminded there is so much more to life than my current frustration. To see such beauty in such an unexpected place is a great gift. While Christians favor the butterfly a symbol of resurrection, many cultures prefer the dragonfly. This insect is considered a symbol of rebirth and triumph over adversity. Their eggs can live up to six years before hatching. Dragonflies winter over, choosing which season to hatch. The mature dragonfly only exists for about two months. The elegant and illusive beauty we cherish is also fleeting. Yet like a prima ballerina, this insect is both beautiful and powerful. Dragonflies gracefully move in any direction, with wings 30 times more powerful than any other insect. Yet what I find most incredible is their eyes, which allow them to see in all directions. Take time today to look beyond your current frustrations. Drink in the unexpected beauty of your surroundings, looking past the cracks in your life and soul. Consider ways to be more resilient, to triumph over adversity. Trust that God is in control, even when life seems out of control, and allow the healing power of awe and wonder to transform your view of world. Photo by David Buckwalter

Reflecting on Forgiveness….

There is a cool breeze this morning and a few leaves have already changed colors. As I walked the dog this morning, I could smell autumn arriving. So I was drawn to this photo taken by my cousin Diane. She is busy canning pickles, proudly displayed on tea towels in her country kitchen. As children, we would help with the canning. Our mothers would can all sorts of produce, tomatoes, green beans, apples, pears and of course, pickles. The kitchen would look like something out of a dream, with our mothers lost in the steam. Both have passed on, so perhaps it is that image that remains, a misty memory of days gone by. To preserve food, we must boil it or soak it in salt water. We subject the fragile vegetables to intense heat or overly salty water to prevent rot and prolong the fruits of our harvest. It seems that strong relationships are a lot like these pickles and canned vegetables. We must pluck out the offenses to preserve the relationship. We must trust that relationship to bear the burden of truth, to speak to one another in love. It takes time and patience to learn how to get along. We may not be aware of how our behavior affects those we love. Yet we may hurt one another just the same. To cling to resentment is to build a wall between us and those we love. Better to explain what is wrong and draw closer together. Take time today to understand how you affect those closest to you. If someone you love reveals an uncomfortable truth, thank them for trusting in your relationship, then seek to understand how to get along. Admit you are wrong and ask for forgiveness for your offense, and forgive when others offend you. Perhaps there will be a few boiling points, or things will get saltier than you like, but you will enjoy the fruits of your harvest all winter long. Photo by Diane Brooks Myers

Reflecting on Guilt….

The summer is almost over and it seems like I have accomplished little or nothing. When school ends, we plan to do so many things, both chores and fun excursions. Yet somehow by the end of the summer, the heat grinds us to a halt, and we simply slow down or just stop. So I was drawn to this photo taken by my friend Carole of Harkness State Park in Connecticut. Ivy covers the cut stone arch, even the urns are overflowing with ivy. The beautiful patterns on the iron gate echo the curves of the vines. The gate is left open, leading to a lovely garden and we are invited to simply walk through. Yet how often do we just turn away, not even noticing what we are missing? Perhaps guilt is a lot like this gate. We are offered forgiveness, yet do not accept it. We insist on remembering our shortcomings, on clinging to our mistakes. Or we seek to deny anything is wrong, and are doomed to repeat those mistakes again and again. Both paths represent guilt that can paralyze, preventing us from claiming the promise of abundant life. We become prisoners of the past, haunted by regrets of mistakes we cannot take back. Confession is an important part of the Christian tradition, a recognition that we are all human and therefore, all fall short. Yet confession seems out of favor in recent times, requiring us to acknowledge our sins, rather than keeping up a façade of perfection. Turning away from confession is like turning away from this gate, and foregoing the path that lies beyond. We remain in the shadow of guilt on this side of the gate, rather than walking through to the light of forgiveness on the other side. Yet guilt does serve an important purpose. Healthy guilt leads to repentance and growth, to a better and more fulfilling life. Peter, who denied Christ three times, became the rock of the church. Paul, the most zealous persecutor of Christians, became a powerful voice of the faith, spreading the Gospel to the Gentiles. Take time today to consider the ways you have fallen short, either by what you have done, or left undone. Leave your sins at the foot of the cross, accepting the forgiveness of Christ. Let go of what you have done, and let God show you what lies ahead. Pray for the Holy Spirit to guide you to a better life on the other side of the gate. Photo by Carole Buckwalter © 2011

Reflecting on Growth….

I spent most of last morning walking around our yard. We have an acre of oaks, and six of our ancient trees need to be felled. Yet what we see above the ground represents far less of the tree than what exists below the ground. So I was drawn to this photo of tree roots, taken by my friend Cecilia on one of their family hikes. I was struck by how the roots branch out so quickly and in such straight lines. This system of roots creates an extremely strong foundation for the trunk. The weight of the tree is distributed, so each of the roots shares the load. While the tree’s branches gently curve to offer the leaves the most sun, these roots go straight for the water and nutrients found in the soil. Even when the leaves fall, the roots silently continue their work. We often talk about times in our lives when we were challenged and stretched beyond our limits. These stressful intervals are described as periods of growth and learning. Yet I wonder if the true growth happens afterward. When we are overwhelmed, it is often difficult to understand what we are going through, let alone what it means to us. We simply put one foot in front of the other, and do what we need to do. What appears to be heroic or honorable behavior to others is simply a response to a heartfelt need, an almost instinctive action born out of love and firm commitment. Only afterwards do we understand how that time has changed us, molded us. During periods of quiet reflection and rest, we come to understand who we are now, and what really happened to us. As we integrate that experience into our current situation, a new normal emerges, stronger and wiser than our lives before the crisis. Take time today to reflect on past challenges, and understand how that experience is woven into the fabric of your daily life. Offer to help a loved one weathering a storm, to make their current situation a little less overwhelming. And remember, like those ancient oaks, that the roots are always there, continuing their work, no matter how barren the tree may appear. Photo by Cecilia Carr

Reflecting on Love….

The mornings and evenings are feeling cooler, and the humidity has dropped as well. We are enjoying a break from the heat, and looking forward to the mild days of autumn in Virginia. The cooler weather turns my thoughts to those who have passed on. It seems most deaths in my life have occurred in the fall, including both of my parents. So I was drawn to this photo of little girls at princess camp. My friend Jen conducts the camp and hosts princess themed parties, where little girls dress up and learn about what it means to be a princess. The girls are eagerly rushing down the stairs for the crowning ceremony. I like the whimsical feel of the photo, as if we are part of a dream or fantasy world. Yet is it really a fantasy? We all yearn to be special, to be called out as the hero of an adventure or the beautiful ruler of a magical kingdom. We love best the adults who allowed us to dream as children, to dare to reach for what we could not see or hear at the time, to hope for more than others believed possible. We learned to have faith in ourselves, because others had faith in us. Yet that gift starts with faith in God. If we seek a perfect love from imperfect humans, we are always disappointed. With God, we know we are all co-heirs of the Kingdom, all princes and princesses. Once we accept the unconditional love offered by the King of the Universe, we are capable of offering that love to others, inspiring each one to follow the path that God has prepared for them. Take time today to truly listen to those you love, to inspire them to follow the desire of their hearts. Call upon the Holy Spirit to give you His words, not your words, if any words at all are required. Crown them with your acceptance and unconditional love, eagerly awaiting the part of God’s kingdom that they will create. Photo by Jen Faulconer, camps by The Kingdom of Azuria
http://kingdomofazuria.com/

 

Reflecting on Independence….

It was cool this morning, with a hint of fall in the air. Yet by this afternoon, there will be no doubt that August is still here. We woke up early today for my daughter Tori’s student orientation. We have been spending a lot of time in the car this summer, with Tori as driver and me as passenger and instructor. Next week she will be taking behind the wheel, and will have her license in her own right. Tori will be taking another leap into adulthood, another step toward total independence. So I was drawn to this photo of a squash blossom, taken by my friend Cecilia about a month ago. By now, the blossom is long gone, and the squash it produced has been picked and eaten. We know the blossom becomes a squash, but it always seem hard to remember looking at just the blossom. So it seems with driving, and all the other hallmarks of maturity. It seems inconceivable that my tiny baby could be driving. Sixteen years have gone by like the blink of an eye. I recall the first day of kindergarten, and how she rushed into school without looking back. Then there was the first sleepover, the first overnight camp. She is ready, but I am not. Yet independence is the goal of parenting. We must let go of our sons and daughters, entrusting them to the same God and Creator who is their true father. As Christians, we believe all belongs to God, than we are stewards of God’s creation, rather than owners. Yet when it comes to our children, we often overlook that fact. Our goal as Christian parents is to guide our children in the path God has prepared for them, to help them find their own calling in this life and to cultivate sound judgment in the face of an often tempting and bewildering world. We can only succeed in this formidable task with God, for alone we shall surely fail. So I lay my trepidation at the foot of the cross, trusting in God, and letting go for her sake and mine. Take time today to consider what independence means to you. Help another to develop skills to become more independent, or to remain independent in the twilight of life. Remain available, doing less and being there more. And most importantly, trust in God. How much more will the same God that tends the lilies of the field and the birds of the air care for those you love? Photo by Cecilia Carr

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