Nature’s Rest

Nature’s Rest by Robert Duncan (1952-present)

O Jesus, ever with us stay,
Make all our moments calm and bright;
Chase the dark night of sin away,
Shed o’er the world Thy holy light,
Shed o’er the world Thy holy light.

— last verse of “O Jesus, Joy of Loving Hearts” by William B. Bradbury (1816-1868)

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Work and Trust

Work and trust are two major topics swimming around in my mind these days. Sometimes they tread the same waters. For instance, I’ve been timidly beginning a search for an online job to supplement our income–something like transcription or data entry. I want some new things that I don’t feel brave enough to charge to the credit card–like a whole new set of bath towels and a laptop computer. These reasons, when I really rise above the water and see them floating in the blueness of my thoughts, make me wonder if I ought to be more trusting. God will take care of my needs. I suppose I don’t need new bath towels and a laptop computer.

God takes care of my needs through my husband, who is what I like to call an “extreme farmer.” Really, he’s a dairy farmer who ought to have some reliable help so he can sleep in occasionally (sleeping in means 5 or 6 am), except he can’t afford reliable help unless he gets more cows to produce more milk, which perhaps would require even more reliable help. Then I get to the awful, self-hating thoughts like “if only he had a wife who could milk cows; he certainly married the wrong person.” He doesn’t think like that; I do. Again, I’m not trusting God. I’m thinking that I can ruin my husband’s life, when really, God has complete control over that, and I can do nothing to ruin anyone’s life.

So what do I do to trust God? Pray for guidance. That seems to be it. If suddenly homeschooling life swamps me, then I need to realize that an online job is not in God’s plans. However, until then, I’m slowly, ever-so-tentatively, educating myself on the world of online work, just in case my trust in God frees me to dive into new pools of life, or maybe just wade through a few interesting puddles.

The Martian

I don’t watch many movies these days, but I splurged my time on one a few nights ago. The Martian (2015) is about an astronaut who is left on Mars (his crew thought he was dead), and how he survives. He does get in contact with NASA, which is a neat subplot, and together they work against many odds to keep him alive and get him back home before his food supply runs out.

I love how so many people work very, very hard to keep one man alive. Life is precious. It’s worth more than all the money NASA has. It’s worth more than sleep. It’s worth more than the nightmarish sound of a Martian storm beating against the plastic taped over the entrance of your pressurized shelter.

Why do we spend so much time thinking about things like guns and drugs and ways to end lives when there are people out there needing to be rescued? And as I type that, I realize I could mean that on a physical level and a spiritual level. Probably, there’s no one on Mars right now, but isn’t the inside of a womb enough like another world to relate to the movie? We need to be pro-life at all stages of life. It’s so easy to be lazy and forget about lost people. Sometimes it’s more convenient to forget. But maybe, just maybe, God gives me life so I can keep more lives alive.

Sing Down the Moon

That night we ate another cold supper, yet everyone was in good spirits. The white soldiers had searched the canyon and found no trace of us. We felt secure. We felt that in the morning they would ride away, leaving us in peace.

— from Sing Down the Moon by Scott O’Dell, 1970

My kids loved this story about a Navajo girl who was first captured by Spaniard slavers, escaped, and then had to leave her home with the rest of her people to go on the Long Walk to Fort Sumner, pushed there by the white soldiers.

The story of Native America is a tough one to tell, and I’m glad for books like this. I recently overheard a conversation complaining about the fishing and hunting rights modern-day Native Americans are given. The conversation went on to say that the Natives were in a war and had lost, so why should there be special privileges for them. I think at one time even I have thought this way.

But I am not so sure this war between the Natives and the white people was a win-or-lose war. I think it consisted of many promises and compromises and treaties broken by both sides. It was a war of greed and anger and pride, not really justice. The war itself was ugly. The people, all of them, white and red, are made in the image of God, and they contain beauty. So how, when I read a story of specific people, can I say they are bad or good? A job of fiction is to go beyond the facts of the stories and show us the people. Go beyond the bad to find the good. And that is what this book does.

The Avenue of Chestnut Trees

The Avenue of Chestnut Trees near La Celle-Saint-Cloud, Alfred Sisley, 1867

Deep, surrounded, overgrown, unknown. It is not long until the trees change and lose their secrets. But until then, they close in on a person. Or a life. Ever get those moments when you don’t see anything coming? Things hit you hard. The confusion and hurt grows around you like so many climbing vines.

You know change is coming, but in what form, you have to wait and see. Will it be brilliant, as in some years of the past, or will it be brown and ugly?

You can see the Creator all around you, no matter what season. He is the one unchangeable constant. The only one. Even the woods seemed less dense in the past. This path seemed more traveled. The deer were less sinister.

When God is obviously there

We know God is everywhere all the time. But He doesn’t have a face we see when we turn around. We don’t hear His voice greeting us in the morning. Sometimes it feels like He’s nowhere near.

And sometimes He reminds us He’s been listening and watching and holding our hand all the time. I had some serious spiritual doubts, and I countered them by writing and finding Bible verses that I thought supported my faith.  But I still felt pressured by other people. Last night I opened my devotional to the correct date (I don’t always go to the correct date) and was directly reassured. My doubts were immediately put to rest. The devotion spoke exactly and encouragingly about the very thing I was doubting.

This morning I went to the devotional book again (Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon, ed. by Alistair Begg), thinking it would be really weird if the devotional would be just as applicable as last nights’. But it was! It was about waiting in the Lord. I’m always thinking, “I don’t know what to do” when I’m up against my thoughts. The next thing to do is wait. Pray and wait. God might make me wait till I get to heaven. But that’s a good way to think–forward to heaven, where the One who cares most about me already has the perfect home for me. Wait for it, Amy. Wait for it.

Landscape with Stars

Henri-Edmond Cross, Landscape with Stars, ca. 1905–1908 http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/459189

A million different thoughts running through my head. A million things I’d love to write here. Some nights my thoughts form constellations, recognizable patterns, and I can pull out from them a story, an anecdote, a synthesis of my day. Other nights my brain beams bright, but each star is its own self, competing for the honor to be written down.

Tonight I’ll let the most praiseworthy star win: I’m thankful for peace, the lack of despair, the smoothed out edges of a jagged summer. God cares for me, and my mind, and He really wants me to tell Him about all those many things I think of. He made me to think, and I’m happy about that.