I caught myself recently telling someone …

that it was the funnest thing I do in life. (My husband, Hule, mumbled an indignant comment in the background :).)

What was that “thing”? Mowing.

Mown paths on our farm

My love affair with mowing began one summer when I was about 11 or 12. I wanted a 10-speed yellow Schwinn bicycle and my dad said if I mowed the lawn for the summer he would buy it for me. So, week by week that summer, I befriended the delightful smell of cut grass, learned the skill of pushing a purring machine in a straight line, and acquired a taste for this delicious cocktail of exercise, sunshine, aromatherapy and beauty.

Fast forward to 2014 when we moved to our Jessamine farm. We had only a push mower and the uneven terrain, big yard, and my age combined to quell my love for mowing until, low and behold, we were gifted with a lovely John Deere riding lawnmower. I was in heaven!

Besides mowing our yard, we had gotten a grant to plant native grasses, forbes, and flowers on several acres on the back of our property, and I relished preparing the fields with a thorough haircut before planting.

Some of our flowers and vegetation

Once the flowers and grasses came in (Purple Coneflower, Black-eyed Susan, Little Bluestem, Virginia Wild Rye, Tall Dropseed, Partridge Peas, and Illinois Bundle Flower), I began cutting paths through them so we could walk freely in the fields. This was the best! The sun would begin to set and I filled with endorphins and life-enhancing neurotransmitters as I finished up week after week during the summers. Eventually I began expanding the mowing to create what I called “living rooms”—little mowed spaces furnished with chairs or benches and decorated for rest, gathering or solitude, prayer and contemplation. I now have 9 living rooms…& counting:

1. Camp Julian

2. Hazel’s Haven

3. Julianne’s Hideaway

4. Sarah’s Secret Spot

5. Memorial Point

6. Naked Holy Rocks

7. The Forest Trail

8. Matt’s Man Cave

9. The Anchorhold

Sometime in the future I will try and feature each of these on the blog with photos and explanations.

Memorial point, a path nearby, and Hazel’s Haven

This year we added a new mower to our “fleet”. It’s an Exmark riding lawnmower whom I have named Hildegard, Hildy for short, after one of my favorite saints, Hildegard of Bingen. We also have been given a Honda ATV named Ruby, and when the sad time comes that the fields and paths and living rooms are all cut, Ruby and I go tour the grounds together surveying the Gardens.

Sunset at Loretta’s Living Room, Julianne’s Hideaway, and the path of Eden’s Loop

In Eden tending the garden and naming were the tasks given by God to the first humans. We were made for this. We find meaning, hope, and home, finding ourselves and one another, with our Creator, while tending, walking, and soaking in beauty.

Paths

I encourage you today, to go find Eden, observe place and nature long enough to name, find our Creator in an outdoor living room and chat, discover fun and meaning while tending the beauty of your place and paths.

The Anchorhold, Maggie’s grave at Memorial Point, and a Harvest Moon coming up at the end of a satisfying mow.

Childbirth

I find myself praying today for a friend’s imminent childbirth. Giving birth is such a thin place, where we join in creation and fall simultaneously. It’s a miraculous space: liminal—in-between. The father, mother, and child, pass through a limen—a doorway—from unknown to known and from known to unknown. There is a change in “I am-ness” to each participant—even for every sibling and every grandparent.

When my first grandchild was born, I stood at the head of the bed and experienced the miracle unfolding. I saw my dear daughter rock in pain with contractions and reach in joy for her new writhing, crying, little human-gift. I observed the furrowed brow, outstretched hand, and deep concern of my son-in-law at bedside; then the outrageous excitement of seeing the emergence from dark to light of his firstborn, Hazel—with a holy hush followed by one last push.

When my second grandchild, Julian, was born, I stayed at home with Hazel. It was a different kind of vigil—from far away. It was hard not being present and I was grateful to God and His sure presence with me and with my daughter simultaneously, and His constant bent-ear, listening for our intercessions and supplications. I wrestled with the thought that my daughter would need to struggle with pain, maybe blood, and difficulty for this birth, and I recalled the reason that the Bible gives to aid in answering all, no, most, of my questions.

The night before Julian’s entrance, I birthed the following thoughts. I pray they might help you or your loved one in grappling with, and entering past the veil into, this angel-filled, Trinity-immersed, Cloud of unknowing which we encounter at the emergence of every new life…if we have eyes to see.

Julian’s Exodus

And now

As we turn toward this event

This liminal passage—

A new life liminal passage—

We remember that You Lord, are a Parent

A Father and “Mother” to a boy, Adam and girl, Eve

Formed long ago in the womb of your garden,

“born” into your household.

And even before that

(really not before, but always)

Your only Son—begotten, not made—of one Being with You.

 

But there came a fall—

Jack and Jill tumbled

And pain in childbirth came,

Not the original plan,

But a consequence.

 

So now we embark on a new in-between space

One that, despite our knowledge and advancements, will likely bring some

Pain

Squeezing

Peril

Need

Perhaps groaning.

 

“Like the pains of childbirth,” we often say:

A groaning of earth in an Eve-like form.

 

We come here through remembering also that you overshadowed blessed Mary—

Dripping in Eve-ness—

To bring hope and healing

To bring back full joy and to ease the pain of Eden’s losses.

 

And with your Husband eyes[i]

And Father eyes

And Maternal eyes[ii]

You oversaw it all:

The angelic visitation,

The miraculous implantation,

The weaving together of God and man

Who would be Adam 2

Adam Jr.

Who would be Your precious, deeply-loved Son.

 

You watched the journey,

The uprooting,

The placenta pulling away

In the birthing room

That was a stable.

You sent shepherds and wise men for the baby shower.

You watched as the wet, crying and cooing boy emerged from the nine-month hiddenness.

You sent angels to say,

“Do not be afraid!”

You said, “My peace I give to you.”

And, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”

 

 

And so we pray to You—

Who are a Father

And a Son

And have a maternal heart

And are a great Physician

And a Summoner of angels.

 

We look to You

To bring the Light –Da la Luz!

Of Your presence

Your face

Your touch

Your attention.

 

We ask for safety for all during labor and journey through the underwater tangles, the unknown, the Red Sea’s partings, little Julian’s exodus into this world.

 

We look to You.

We trust in Your great love,

In Your deep knowing—conocimiento—that is owned by a Parent’s heart and soul and body.

 

In Your Son Jesus’, name,

Amen


[i] Jesus is the bridegroom and the church is His bride.

[ii] Many places in the Bible God is portrayed as having motherly affection and care:

God: “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.” Is. 66:13

God: “Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb?  Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.” Is. 49:15

God: “For a long time I have held my peace, I have kept myself still and restrained myself, now I will cry out like a woman in labor, I will gasp and pant.”  Is. 42:14

Jesus said, “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing.” Matt. 23:37 and Luke 13:34

The Coronavirus…Is it Real?

“I see it, I see it,” said Hazel, pointing to my small paisley decorated retractable tape measure.

“What do you see?” I asked.

“The virus. I see the virus!”

For over a year now our lives have been rerouted and turned upside down because of “the virus”. Hazel has often referred to “the sickness”. Hazel is four and, despite being her grandma, I declare she is nigh a genius. 🙂 Her mind is continually picking up things said, things seen, things smelled, and integrating them quickly into her vast repertoire of knowledge, then easily figuring out a way to express those new discoveries. So, like a true nurse educator and science lover, I said,

“Oh, nobody can see the virus except with a very powerful microscope. But Hazel, here… (I pulled up the image on my phone), this is the coronavirus. See, they made a picture of what it looks like under a microscope.”

PHIL.cdc.gov

Even Julian, my curious two year old grandson, came near to see it too. They both studied it.

Hazel paused for a while…..

“But, is it real?” she asked.

“Well, this is a picture of it, but this is not the actual virus here in my hands.” I said.

“What?” answered Hazel.

“Well–like when I have a picture of you–see?” I showed her a picture of herself on my phone. “That is a picture of you. You are real, but that is not you. You are real, but that is just a picture of you.”

At this point I was even getting confused. We started taking pictures of things with the iPhone and then showing the real thing next to the picture of the real thing, but she kept saying,

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

This was the first time I had encountered Hazel being stumped and it surprised me.

But it got me thinking. Thinking about this world she’s raised in. Watching TV, animation and news come into the living room back to back. Every Christmas and Easter we walk the tightrope of whether Santa or the Easter Bunny are real. Then there’s God and Jesus. We read Bible stories and then Paw Patrol stories, Anatomy books and books of fairies, then of angels. We go to church and say grace at meals and even whisper prayers in the air from time to time:

“Is there really a Chase and Rubble? Is that really what my body looks like inside? Are angels real? Are fairies? Is God really real? Is Jesus God?

What is real?

And, how do you explain that to a four year old. And how do we even know that ourselves?

Because of art and books and movies and TV, and video games, anyone’s imagination can become visible. So, anything and everything seems real when brought to the vision and hearing–especially to that of a child. Is this touching on why Jesus said:

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

Children are sponges and readily receive the reality of the kingdom of God. Even great thinkers like C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton entered kingdom realities through the portals/wardrobes of childhood’s believing. To my logical mind, this seems reckless. Hazel has imaginary friends and talks to them. Who knows, but that to her, our prayers seem like talking to imaginary friends. We have “pictures” of Jesus, but we explain that’s not really a photograph or even painting of the real Jesus–nor is the picture the actual Jesus himself. And then there comes the explaining that not all people even believe that God is real. And not all people believe Jesus is God. He wants us to come to him in faith. Our belief in him is what takes us to the doorknob to open the door and “see him”.

But this is not just a God conundrum. There are some who do not believe there is a coronavirus and they live as though there isn’t. There are consequences to that action; but the virus doesn’t exist or not exist, infect or not infect, its substance and reality do not change, based on whether we believe strongly enough in it. It just is what it is.

Hazel and Julian in the time of “the virus”

The God of the Old Testament introduced himself as, “I Am Who I Am.”

The substance, the reality of God, does not rely on our belief, but our faith in him opens or shuts the door to our friendship with him. Jesus asked, “Who do people say I am?” and “Who do the crowds say I am?” Then Jesus asks the REAL question: “But what about you? … Who do you say I am?”

Jesus introduced himself as I Am:

“I am the bread of life.”

“I am the light of the world.”

“I am the door.”

“I am the good shepherd.”

“I am the vine, you are the branches.”

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” he asked.

Do you believe this? Is God real? … even if we don’t have a microscopic close up photo of him? Are you living like God is real? Today Jesus asks each one of us what he asked his disciple:

“But what about you? Who do you say I am?”

Scriptures referenced above include Exodus 3:14, Mark 8:27, Luke 9:18, Matthew 16:15, Mark 8:29, Luke 9:20, John 6:35, John 8:12, John 10:9, John 10:11, John 11:25, 26, John 14:6, John 15:5