Considering the Heavens

I think I would be hard-pressed to find a mother of small children who hasn't heard the advice “Enjoy every second – they grow up so fast!” And any mother who is dedicated to her children and loves them beyond words would tell you that she tries. Oh, how she tries to “enjoy every second”. But the truth is, that's kind of impossible in this sinful world in which we live. So this isn't one of those posts. This last Labor Day weekend marked our first real “vacation” as a family of six (seven, if you count the dog). I was filled with cautious excitement about the weekend: I couldn't wait to be back in the Northwoods at my parents' cabin but I also wasn't quite sure how the four children we were bringing would fair. The girls, my two older ones, couldn't have been more excited and I had good faith that they would be great with lots to do and look at – they love the outdoors almost as much as I do. No, it wasn't them I was worried about.

It was my almost-two-year-old boys.

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The last time I had taken them “up north” was last Labor Day when they could not yet walk on their own and were still content to be confined to a doorway jumper or highchair. This is definitely no longer the case.

Despite my trepidation, the little men did great – they fared well on the nearly five hour drive up and squealed with excitement when we meandered down the spardust gravel driveway after 10 'o clock on Friday night. They loved exploring their new surroundings, waving to each boat that passed on the river, watching the chipmunks fill their cheeks with peanuts and spending so much time with Bama and Boppa.

The most challenging part was keeping both my five-year-old daughters and the boys happy. At the same time. In the same place. If you have more than one child, you can appreciate the “different ages, different stages” dilemma. So often, my husband and I resort to the divide & conquer method.

Or, depending on the day, I like to call it the “divide & survive” method.

Saturday morning was no different. My husband fished off the end of the pier with the girls, something the boys would've loved to have watched; however, two excited girls whipping poles with hooks over their shoulders on a small pier landing does not mix well with two unaware, curious little boys. So the boys and I opted for a quiet, slooooooow stroll with Bama down the gravel driveway to search for rocks, leaves, mushrooms and any other interesting pieces of nature we could find.

We dug the trusty (pink!) wagons out of the garage and set off down the drive. As each boy pulled (or attempted to push) his wagon, I was taken back 3 years ago to when my girls had used those same wagons on countless “drive way strolls”, collecting whatever they could find and then turning right around upon reaching the road and heading home with their treasures.

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And I remember feeling antsy. Unsettled.

I remember thinking, “Really? We came all of this way to walk a driveway? There are so many other things I would rather be spending my time doing.”

But I didn't feel that way on this Saturday.

Maybe time has made my wiser. Maybe the rocket-fast growth of my daughters has taught me to appreciate the moments and never take them for granted. Maybe I now value and understand what a slow walk in the woods with my mom and my boys could do for this tired mama's soul. This time around I didn't feel rushed, hurried or bothered by the fact that it took us ten whole minutes to cover two feet of ground (and then sometimes one would even find a rock he had missed and turn around to retrace those last two feet).

This time I soaked it all in.

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This time I took the opportunity God had given me to stand in awe at His amazing creation and to allow my heart to swell with utter joy and gratitude for these precious, adorable little boys He has given me. This time I was still.

Remember how I told you this wasn't a post preaching at young moms to enjoy every moment, every minute of these little years which so often leave us feeling exhausted and under-appreciated? Because that's not what I learned on this slow walk down an up-north driveway. Instead, I saw an opportunity God was giving me to slow down, catch my breath, enjoy my boys and marvel at His majestic ways. As a mother of four kids under the age of six, there are few moments like this in my day-to-day existence. But when God sets one so blatantly before me, I pray I'm not too busy thinking about the next thing or what I could be doing instead that I miss it.

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Everywhere I Look

This has always been my most favorite time of the year...by far. There's something about the angle of the sun at this time of year as it shines through the golden leaves, the brisk mornings which make my cup of coffee taste that much better, the cool nights that bring with them a coziness as I sink into the couch under my favorite blanket. And then there is the landscapes. The brilliant reds, oranges, yellows that fill the stands of trees against the vibrant blue or graying autumn skies.

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It's amazing that the time of year when everything is beginning to die and decay is also one of the most beautiful. But why?

Of course there is an in depth answer to this question which involves the breakdown of chlorophyll and other leaf pigmentation. But I often find myself thinking about an answer to that question that cannot be found in a science book.

Why did God decide to clothe the trees in these glorious colors year after year as a result of a scientific process? Could He not have accomplished the same goal in a much less beautiful, less grandiose way? Of course He could have. Why did He choose to create over 20,000 different species of trees and 375,000 types of plants to cover the earth? Could He not have created a vegetation that was all of the same color lacking any fragrance, any texture, any interest whatsoever? Of course He could have.

But He didn't.

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He created a world full of incredibly beautiful and complex living organisms. He filled Lily of the Valley, Roses, Jasmine and so many other blooms with heavenly scents that are unmatched by any man-made fragrance. He created daffodils so intricate, so perfect that grow from a seemingly simple bulb planted in the ground. He gave each plant its own bloomtime, resulting in landscapes that are ever-changing but always gorgeous. He caused the forest floor to be covered with patches of brilliant greens which somehow manage to grow even under extremely low light conditions. He spoke all of these plants and trees into being and then filled the earth with astounding pollinators, such as butterflies, honey bees and hummingbirds.

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But why?

The answer is actually quite simple: because He loves us and He wants us to glorify Him.

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And even though we deserve none of it, He wants us to be happy. God could have created a world that was 100% functional with no beauty at all, but He chose not to out of love for you and me. Even though we are worthless sinners, having earned nothing but eternal damnation, the Lord saw fit to give us a world that sparks wonder, amazement and ultimately, points us back to Him.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
5 It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
    like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
    and makes its circuit to the other;
    nothing is deprived of its warmth. Psalm 19:1-6

The next time you take a walk, drive your car or look out a window, linger just a moment longer. Take in the sight and remind yourself that it is not there as an accident or coincidence. God created that scene just for you.

And then smile and thank Him :)

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for the love of flowers

  for the love of flowers

My husband and I took a little getaway recently to Door County, WI to celebrate our 9th wedding anniversary. In typical Rachel fashion, I toted my camera wherever we went to capture photos of the gorgeous lake views, fun landmarks and, much to his I-don’t-want-my-picture-taken-again-but-I-love-you-so-I’ll-try-to-smile dismay, the hubs sitting on benches and next to light houses and riding his bike. Bless his heart. He’s a trooper.

In the end, I had only a tiny handful of pictures of Josh half smiling because I was much too busy swooning over the gorgeous flowers around every turn. I snapped snapped snapped away as I grinned and exclaimed that this was the loveliest, most delicious smelling bloom on the peninsula.....until I spotted the next one and the next.

The whole gang was there. Peony and iris, lilac and hydrangea, coneflower and daisy. Each one wonderful and unique and perfectly photo-worthy.

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As we walked a path of wildflowers that stretched as far as my eyes could see, I realized why my fondness for flowers is oh so strong.

When I see them, I feel loved.

Loved by the One who pushes each stem and bud up from the dirt of the ground. Adored by the Creator who took care in designing each and every one, pouring love into the smallest of details. Pursued by the God who delights in me.

He is a suitor leaving tokens of His affection for me, His beloved, hoping that I take notice and smile. In gardens. In rundown parking lots. On the side of a country road. Along a chain link fence. On street corners. In my own front yard.

His love for me is written on every flower. If I pulled petals off each one with "He loves me, He loves me not", I'd always and forever end on He loves me.

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The same goes for you, dears.

So admire the beauty of each blooming bud today. Pluck one and tuck it behind your ear. Gather up a big handful and arrange them for your table. Sit in the tall green grass and braid them into a crown for your hair. Take a photo of the prettiest flower and make a big canvas for your wall.

Stop and smell the roses and thank Him. Because we'll find Him there.

 

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beauty seekers

fall scavenger hunt 11 I stand at the kitchen sink and peer out the window, taking in the show.

Trees are ablaze with red and orange. The sunlight shadow-dances across the lawn. Acorns fall onto the barn roof with a steady bing bing bing. Leaves rain down and blanket every inch of the yard. Squirrels dart and dive. Lighter limbs sway in the wind.

Fall is absolutely here!

So we go out into the afternoon sunshine to uncover and marvel, search and savor. We bring along a list to guide us and check off, but we don't really need it. It's just for fun.

My little scavenger marches around the yard and all through the woods, squealing with delight at each new find. He hollers look at this! and I found one! and wow, so pretty!  and we add it to the bag of fall's gifts.

We are beauty seekers. There are more treasures around us than we could ever pen out on a piece of paper. God is so kind and generous and wonderful to share this autumn season with us!

He invites us to marvel and enjoy.

He promises that we will find Him there. And we do.

In everything, He is there.

We tuck pieces of gold into our pockets to press in heavy books and keep as reminders of His brilliant love, His abundant grace, His wonderful works.

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For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. - Romans 1:20

 

Have you been outside celebrating fall beauty this week? What have you uncovered? 

 

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