Reflecting on Turning….

old-auburn-road-by-cecilia

This early autumn rain washes summer’s green paint from the sugar maple leaves.
It brings brisk gusts of October’s breath to September’s dying days.
Familiar streaks of rain run down unfamiliar windows, and I feel at ease, protected from, and by, the storm.
The thunder, a cold front’s lion roar, frightens off the last lambs of August’s summer flock,
And there, the hapless journey-goers, caught in the downpour, run, or walk with umbrella in hand, striding through rain’s dry shadow.
Sounds are muted by the distant drum-roll of raindrops on roofs, and the noise of traffic – stifled more by torrential curtains, now brought low from nimbus heights.
But soon, the amber rays of sun pierce the smoke-gray clouds and
Reflect
off now more orange leaves.

Poetry by Colin Shea Blymyer©2016, Photo entitled ‘Old Auburn Road’ by Cecilia Carr©2016, to see more of her work, go to http://www.redbubble.com/people/ceciliacarr/portfolio

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Reflecting on Protection….

Cedar Run in Fauquier County, VA

Cedar Run in Fauquier County, VA

It’s a cool, rainy day and the leaves have already begun to fall. Before long we will have misty mornings and bare branches, grey days and cold nights. So I was drawn to this lovely photo of Cedar Run by my friend Cecilia. I love how the branches shelter the water, leaning in toward one another, reaching across the breach. Our county is full of unexpected places like this one, places that jump out and demand your attention. The sense of awe overwhelms, the serenity seeps into your bones, the peace pervades your very soul. It seems to me that prayer is a lot like this beautiful scene. Perhaps we set aside a particular time or place, hoping consistency will chase away the worries of the world. Or we steal a few moments in the parking lot, no longer at home, not yet at work. Yet even in the most disciplined practice, there are times when prayer runs dry, times when the monkey chatter drowns out that still, small voice. Then when we least expect it, we turn a corner and God stops us short, reminding us to pause and reflect, to give thanks for this very moment of life, this precious gift of the here and now. We plead for blessings, forgetting what we really need is protection, from ourselves, from distractions, from the busy-ness of life. Yet through it all, the Holy Comforter remains steadfast, ever present, ever ready for us to turn again toward the light. Make time today to seek consolation rather than comprehension, leading with your heart instead of your head. Focus on the gift of life, offered to you one breath at a time, or the soles of your feet, firmly planted and secure. Give thanks for the simple things in this life, good food, clean water, a warm, dry place to sleep. And always remember, when we pray for blessings and protection, we find a peace that always consoles, a peace beyond comprehension. Text by Connie Chintall ©2013, Photo entitled ‘Calm, Cool Place’ by Cecilia Carr ©2013

Reflecting on Humility….

It’s an unusually cool morning for June in Virginia. The door to the deck is open, allowing the cool air to filter into the house. I was thankful for my sweater as I enjoyed my second cup of coffee under cloudy skies. So I was drawn to this stunning photo by my friend Cecilia. She crossed a busy highway and knelt down to take this shot, offering us a vastly different perspective. From this angle, these flowers seem to defy gravity, unfolding above a narrow, delicate stem. Poppies are often planted along our major roads, a beautiful alternative to scraggly weeds. Yet we speed by without noticing, or just glimpse the vivid colors when delayed in traffic. How many of us are willing to take our some of our time, to pause to really see what is before us, to humble ourselves to kneel in the presence of God’s creation? Humility seems to have a bad rap these days. I often hear humility equated with low self esteem, as if to be humble means to lose rather than to win. Yet the Christian view of humility is more about self awareness and self acceptance. Charles Spurgeon defined humility as a right estimate of one’s self, so that a person sees himself in all his imperfection and insignificance, but also with a true regard for his abilities, resources and position. That right opinion of ourselves is God’s opinion of us, rather than our own. I don’t know about you, but I struggle with this concept. There are days when I don’t want to let go of disappointment, or pain, or loss. I become ‘Pollyanna’ in my prayers, offering only the good and leaving out the bad. The only way I know to work through it is to pray, day in, and day out, opening my heart to God to allow healing light to enter in. Take time today to place your burdens at the foot of the cross. Let go of the idea that you know best, that you know all, that you need to be more perfect than you are to deserve God’s love. Confidently humble yourself, knowing that God loves each and every one of us for who we are, not who we pretend to be. Allow the Author of Creation to enfold you in love, a love without beginning or end, accepting you just as you are, warts and all. And remember, when we humble ourselves, we can defy gravity, floating above a narrow and delicate stem. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo entitled ‘The Low Down on Poppies’ by Cecilia Carr ©2012, used with her permission

Reflecting on the Resurrection….

The Eastern Redbud outside my kitchen window has seen better days. Ice from the winter before last lobed off the main trunk, leaving behind a lopsided tree that looks more like a bonsai than a redbud. Last summer we decided to give it another chance, and this spring we are reaping the rewards of that decision. So I was drawn to this amazing photo by my friend Cecilia. Rather than focus on the blooms, Cecilia captured the beauty of the first few leaves. I love how this single heart shaped leaf is in sharp focus, while the brightly colored blooms blur into the background. It’s easy to be tempted by the radiant beauty of flowers, a beauty that quickly fades away. We fuss over the bright display, happy for a new beginning, and soon tire of looking when the blooms fall and leaves unfold. Yet look at what we are missing. Each and every one of these newly formed leaves is shaped like a tiny heart. The new life that has replaced the old comes from a deeper place, a steadfast love, emerging after experiencing the adversity of winter. Perhaps we are blessed with flowering trees to help us understand the resurrection of our Lord. The disciples did not recognize the Risen Christ, until He called them by name. New life had emerged from the tomb, yet this life did not resemble the Christ who died on the cross. Take time today to look for new life all around you, in unexpected shapes and forms. Consider the miracle of an unfolding leaf that began growing during the cold of winter. Let go of the flashy blooms and dig more deeply into the heart of life, seeking a sustained growth, a greater miracle. And remember, no matter how lopsided life may become, the Author of Creation is waiting to give us not just a second chance, but chance after chance, until we live into the Resurrection. Photo entitled ‘The Heart of the Redbud’ by Cecilia Carr

Reflecting on Bread….

Yes, that’s snow in Old Town Warrenton. After such a mild Christmas week, cold, arctic air arrived with a vengeance last night. We awoke to find a very grey morning, followed by a dusting of snow. So I was drawn to this amazing photo by my friend Cecilia. I love how the streetlights seem to twinkle amidst the falling snow. Christmas lights adorn the street lamps and wrought iron fencing in the church yard. Then of course, there is the clapboard sign, in front of our newest bakery, the Great Harvest Bread Company. On a morning when most of us would rather sleep in, Pablo has already been baking for a number of hours. I can imagine myself sitting at one of the tables by the window, enjoying a cup of coffee and a slice of warm bread, while looking out at the cold and snow. It’s hard to say what is more magical, the snow or the bread. For centuries, bread has been a symbol of the body in the Jewish and Christian traditions. The Jewish people made unleavened bread when fleeing captivity in Egypt, and during Passover each year to remember God’s faithfulness. Each Sunday during communion, Christians consider bread the body of Christ, recalling the Last Supper and celebrating the new life possible through salvation. In both traditions, the faithful remember into the now, embracing the mystery of God’s eternal love, a love without beginning or end. Take time today to consider God’s love in the simple, ordinary things of life. Pause to give thanks for your bread, simple yet complex, the fruit of the labor of many. Seek to see your current situation through God’s eyes, enfolded in God’s steadfast love. And remember, no matter what you face today, new life is always possible through the same God who conquered sin and death on the cross. Photo by Cecilia Carr

Reflecting on Frost….

Today is one of those cold, clear days. Even when I left for the gym, there was still frost on the ground. So I was drawn to this amazing photo of ice on a wild grape vine taken by my friend Cecilia. I love how the ice crystals look like tiny snowflakes, delicately poised on the twisted vines. Water in all its forms is one of the most miraculous and beautiful parts of life. As liquid, water finds its own way, flowing here and there, following the path of least resistance. As steam, water creates the electricity that allows my computer and yours to operate. Yet frozen water remains the most amazing and mysterious. Snow has ten times the volume of rain, and ice is even more perplexing. I never cease to be amazed by how ponds and creeks freeze over, or the way light glistens on icicles, or how dew can form early morning frost. I love to hear the ground crunch beneath my feet as I walk the dog. I love to see frost illuminated by the slanting winter sun as I enjoy my second cup of coffee. And I miss how frost formed on the windows of my childhood home, reminding us Christmas was right around the corner. Take time today to look closely at what you often take for granted. Stop to consider how something simple is just a miracle we see every day. Look for vibrant life where others might only see the cold and frozen. And remember we receive the gift of life, one drop, one breath, at a time. Photo by Cecilia Carr

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 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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