Sunday, October 26, 2014


Under a tall steeple on a sun-kissed summer afternoon, we watched a young groom, smiling through tears, join hands with his bride. We listened to their promises to share a lifetime, grateful for the reminder of our own vows and the gift of fresh chapters and love new.

Today, the steeple was framed against a dark autumn sky, and we ducked into the church under a wet umbrella, dressed in black. The groom who greeted us was white-haired, and although his words of welcome were gracious, his smile, too, was streaked with tears. We were gathered to close a chapter,  look back on the life of his bride with whom he had shared 62 years.

Rain streaked the arched windows, and the young couple whose summer wedding we had witnessed from those same pews now sat behind us, fingers-interwoven. We sang "The Old Rugged Cross" and "Amazing Grace," and we cried and laughed, both, as memories of this beautiful woman were shared.  But another thread was woven through this service of remembrance of her life, and it was the beauty of marriage...her life shared. This lovely soul's final years were difficult ones, yet her husband's tenderness and faithfulness were recounted again and again by those in that sanctuary.

After the Lord's Prayer, we gathered around tables set with the last of autumn's flowers, dahlias rescued from the rain. We shared stories and a meal, marveling at the privilege of gathering to remember a life well lived and the beauty of steadfast love. As we walked out into the storm afterwards, I thought back to that summer wedding so full of hope and new promises. What a gift it was to us to be reminded today that, by God's grace, the last chapter of a marriage can be as beautiful as the first.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Green and gold

I stood at my kitchen sink, October sunshine warming the rug inside the front door. Laughter streamed in as well, and I looked out to find this scene...
The alder was a sapling when my parents began to create a home on this land. Today I watched my mama and my grandpap affix swings to its branches, my children laughing under its canopy of green and gold.

God is good.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The orchard

I am learning from the orchard this year. I wrote about it here last winter...the pruning. And then spring arrived, jewel-toned greens and frothy pastels. The orchard was beautiful.

The promise in those blooms was tangible, scented with hope. Within weeks, tiny fruit grew in thick clusters, and Alex called me to the garden to explain the next season...thinning. I was aghast...hadn't we just pruned, cut back, these trees? Could we really throw more away, trusting in a more abundant harvest?  He flipped open the book, pointing out truths in carefully organized chapters, "It has been demonstrated time and again that no work in fruit-raising is more important than thinning... It results not only in a much finer product, but it is also a means of destroying the insect-infested and diseased specimens, and of saving the energies and vitality of the tree."

 And there it was again, the reminder that in taking away, we gain something better. I am a slow learner. It took the seasons of pruning and thinning before I found the sweetest harvest yet. And what a season it was...
Yes, we had apple scab and rust, and implementing "integrated pest management" (i.e. the company of these pretty ladies) we tackled leaf-rollers (and fondly remembered a college summer spent working with entomologists).

We could have thinned with a heavier hand. We needed a little more help with those leaf-rollers, and we didn't knock out the rust and scab. But by September the limbs hung heavy with fruit. So heavy, in fact, that we had to prop up tired boughs. And, again, I wondered at what I could learn from this...that even when we followed the guidelines, pruned away the excess, we would still need help
bearing the weight. Oh, the lessons in these trees... 
I think of the orchardist's text again, the importance of taking away some of the promised harvest, in order to save the "energy and vitality of the tree." The summer was full. But it wasn't too full. And the word for my year, the seeking of "quiet" for my soul? I felt it. I practiced it in saying "no" to some good things. And I felt it at the gift of free afternoons spent by the river and impromptu music made by the campfire and books read aloud on the couch with sun-kissed limbs threaded through mine. The pruning and thinning had yielded these gifts of quiet...sweet, satisfying, abundant, enough.