Squeaks, Creaks, and Clicks and Other Unusual Sounds

The view from my desk looks out onto the deck and across our back yard. I love the natural light, the birds, the trees–even all the fallen leaves like reminders of blessings at this time of year. Today, I was happily typing along on another project (an inexorable book submission proposal) and I kept hearing the oddest clicking sound.

Does your house make funny sounds? Our house is an older one, so funny sounds do echo about now and then. Certain floorboards creak an achy “Hello” when I walk over them. One light switch in particular makes a loud, grouchy CLAP when I switch it on like it would much rather continue sleeping in darkness. Even our newer washer and dryer call out their own version of a Revolutionary War song each time a cycle ends. It’s a rollicking time!

But this was a new sound. Of course, at first I thought it was a drip in the sink. Nothing stirring there–not even a soap bubble. Was our family’s furry friend chewing on squeaky toy or a crinkly Hershey bar wrapper? No, he was dozing in the sun on the hall rug.

Still the clicking continued–and so the plot thickened.

Into the kitchen, I went. Yes, I’d completely turned off the gas on the stove after heating my lunch. (It was vegetable soup–wish you could’ve joined me!) The clock on the shelf was quietly ticking, definitely not clicking.

I headed back to my little desk, flustered and out-of-ideas, and sat down in the chair. My eyes drifted out across the narrow deck, to the ivy,

AND THERE HE WAS!  (And then he wasn’t.)

img_3248The cutest little chipmunk ever. (Aren’t they really all cute and little!) I’m afraid you’ll have to imagine the little imp, just to the right of the fern, nestled in the leaves, and looking straight at me, for he turned and dashed right into the ivy in a blink. Guess he had been carrying on an in-depth conversation and telling tales of the best nut storage spots and the latest news from the acorn beds–all with no one attentively listening. That’s rather sad really.

There’s a listening time that could be even sadder though–for each of us. There have been times I’ve missed “the still small voice” of God, as I busily made my own decisions, pursued my own designs. Ever found yourself in that same position?

Now I’m not equating God or Jesus with a chipmunk, even though the Maker did create them. It’s just that finally locating that click-happy, verbose chipmunk made my ears perk up.  It made me remember that sometimes I need to look and listen–

to REALLY LOOK–at God’s Word and

to REALLY LISTEN–to the words of Jesus Christ.

“Come to me…” (Matthew 11:28)

“Abide in me…” (John 15:4)

And that brings us to a beautiful promise: “…rest unto your souls.” Matthew 11:29)

I don’t know about you, but I could really use some rest for my soul!

Every concern. Every worry.

Every dream. Every desire.

Every minute. Every hour.

Every day. Every night.

Come to Jesus and receive His promise.

Abide in Him and know His rest, His peace.

Thank you, Lord!

(And thank you also, Lord, for intriguing sounds and bashful chipmunks that bring out thoughts back to You.)

“He Restores My Soul”

IMG_3198.jpgOur home has a small but lovely back yard and a wooden deck. I love the sound made when I walk across that wooden deck. Don’t know why! There are big maple trees towering overhead that offer bounteous shade and a sprinkling of autumn’s fall leaves. There’s a little table and two chairs, perfect for a quiet conversation. (We could enjoy some time together there, couldn’t we?) There’s a bench where I like to spread out my tea, my Bible, and my laptop. Here and there, flowers bloom in large pots. A rosemary bush scents the air. It’s beautiful to me. 

There’s just one problem:

When on the deck, there is NO internet connection!

(Cue thunder and threatening music.)

This might not seem like a terrible turn of events, and—in the big picture—it really isn’t. But at the moment, it was.

First, I grumbled, but of course, that didn’t do any good!

Then I decided to be pro-active and tried to s-t-r-e-t-c-h the internet booster out onto the deck. Sadly, the connection lines weren’t long enough. Technologically foiled!

So I took the only option there seemed to be. I closed the laptop and just sat there–on the bench, sipping my mug of hot tea.

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Have you ever felt like God just lit up His will in neon lights right in front of you?

Well, there weren’t any neon lights on the deck, and there was no special message in the Cape Cod towns written on my mug. It was Psalm 23, the Lord’s Prayer; it flooded my mind, especially verses 1-3:

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.”

Last week was close to overwhelming (although I’m sure it wasn’t the “valley of the shadow of death” David writes of in verse 4 of Psalm 23). I did, however, feel like I was barely keeping my head above water. Have you had weeks like that? Not that I wish that for you, of course, but I hope you can empathize! The activities were mostly good ones, but they were numerous:

  • Work
  • Grocery shopping
  • Meal prep
  • Bible study
  • Walk the dog
  • Run errands
  • Clean bathroom
  • Paint upstairs trim
  • Purchase fall plants
  • Plant fall plants
  • Pick up ordered items
  • Help a friend
  • Tutor students
  • Do laundry
  • Entertain friends
  • Write letters
  • Make phone calls
  • Do Sunday school preparation and
  • Clean rug (Our dog got sick on our family room rug—bring on the baking soda.)

There were some hard decisions in there, too. Throughout the week, I had prayed and prayed for direction and for peace, and I prayed that wordless cry of the soul that wells up from deep inside you, accompanied only by tears.

But this was different. There were no tears now.

I sat.

I took a deep breath of fresh air.

I watched a small nuthatch at the bird feeder.

I watched a hummingbird seek out one of our last geranium blossoms.

I felt the soft breeze drift over me, gentler than cashmere,

I heard the rustling tree branches overhead.

I heard the plunk of hickory nuts falling on and rolling down our neighbor’s roof.

I smelled the sweet, complex scent of my tea. (Sloane Tea’s “Heavenly Cream”—seriously!)

I released the worry and stress I had worn like accessories, increasingly added throughout the week.

I loosened my grip on my list of self-imposed “to-do’s” and thought about what was really most important—to love the Lord my God with all my heart, with all my mind, and with all my soul and to love my neighbor as myself. (Matthew 22: 34-40)

Now this isn’t brain surgery, but once I took my eyes off that list of self-determined to-do’s, I could sense the complete sufficiency of Jesus which superseded the whole list. Decisions and priorities became clear.

The Lord restored my soul.

Only then, did I come back inside, jot down some notes, and then pop back out and snap a couple photos.

Now it’s time to give my Mom a call and text a couple of college students. Then, I’ll make a second attempt at rug cleaning! The laundry, painting, and planting can wait for another time.

May the Lord restore you, too, dear friend!

For Deeper Insight. . .

A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, Mass Market Edition - By: W. Phillip Keller I heartily encourage you to check out A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, by W. Phillip Keller.

It’s an eye-opening book that unpacks the 23rd Psalm in an accurate, contextual, and most meaningful way. (It is also undoubtedly one of my favorites!) It makes a wonderful gift at Easter or anytime.

It’s available in many formats. Here’s the link to read more about it and purchase it at Christian Book Distributors: A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller 

Leaves, Leaves–and More Leaves–OH MY!

IMG_2605We’ve been raking the beautiful fall leaves in our yard into many a pile over the last week. Are they falling where you live, too? Fall is my favorite season as the leaves become a kaleidoscope of oranges, reds, yellows, greens, and browns.  My deck becomes a mosaic crafted by the artistry of our heavenly Father.

Raking leaves is certainly a discipline of time, muscles, and energy but it gives one a chance to ponder. There is the occasional, “Where did Teddy go?!” but, on the whole, it’s pretty peaceful work in the fresh air. As I moved across the yard, I began to notice the different shadings of color in the leaves and the different sizes of the leaves and the different kinds of leaves–it was amazing. It was also amazing how many leaves were still on the trees! At one point, our son tried to rake the branches, and a sifting of leaves fell down on his head. The hymn “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” by William Cowper would have been fitting background music considering the lines “the clouds you so much dread, are big with mercy and shall break with blessing on your head.”

That got me to thinking… What if we looked at each leaf like a blessing from God? Blessings, too, are each unique and come different sizes and different kinds. Some are bright and beautiful and give us the immediate desire to lift up praise. Some are a little dimmer and rumpled. They may resemble trials more than blessings. But don’t trials bring blessing?

Hebrews 12:6-11 discusses how a good father disciplines his son because he loves him, and likewise God disciplines us because He loves us. “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by Him. for the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives. It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons…we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness.”

And here in verse 11 is the jewel in the leaf pile: “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

The peace of righteousness–what a blessing!

My eyes survey the yard and deck. Leaves continue to fall. The next verse, Hebrews 12:12, is the final encouragement–a pep talk, if you will: “Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.”

Lifted hands take up rakes again.  Exercised muscles spread a tarp. Bring on this trial. There’s blessing at the end!