Nature IS

It’s been kind of a rough week – I won’t get into the gory details… Trust me, they’re not worth the digital ink on the page – it’ll bore you to tears!

In all of it, though, I have emerged – a bit weary and scraped, and definitely (ego-) bruised, but – intact and having learned a lesson or two along the way.

Can I just say, no matter how much unbridled hope you have, no matter how much flattery you’ve stored up in the form of compliments and well-wishes from friends, family, and the sweet little old lady at the craft store who doesn’t understand that you didn’t make a mistake and put your wedding ring on the wrong hand – because it’s NOT a wedding ring (it’s just a stupid ring to not make my, umm I mean your, hands look so plain and dismally naked!)…

Ahem, sorry… where was I? Oh, yes, compliments and well-wishes…

So, with all those little love notes of hope and (bloated) confidence making you feel as if the world will bend to your delightful whims, let me reassure you – the sun will NEVER rise in the west!

Nature IS!  If nature started acting contrary to what is has always been – i.e., the sun rising in the west instead of the east – could you imagine the amount of chaos that would create?! If the waves crashed onto the shore with all the splendor and majesty we know and love – the sound of its roaring strength and the sizzle of churning foam on its peaked tips – and then receded, only to fail in its rhythmic return for hours, what then? How far from shore would the water linger before once again quenching the sandy terrain? And the moon? What if it decided to spin off on its own and hang out in the orbit of another planet for a night or two, just on the weekend, because hey, it’s the weekend, and the moon deserves a vacation too, right? While we’re at it, how about lemon trees bearing grapes and rose bushes producing acorns and blueberries? Just for fun, cheetahs residing under water, talking ladybugs, and sea stars with proper legs and feet, strolling along in Central Park?

Nature IS…

I remember a line – or rather, a scene – from a movie where one individual laments “a bird may love a fish… but where will they live?” to which another (who by all accounts should know that Nature IS and cannot be changed, altered, or drastically redirected) exclaims “then I shall have to make you wings!” (collective “awe”…) But really, even if – even if!! – a fish could be suited with proper wings, to take flight alongside the bird, their two hearts soaring through the blue vastness together, eventually the fish would perish – for lack. of. breath! Why? Because. Nature. IS!

Okay, now hold on to your over-priced lattes and tea-cakes; here’s the boomerang! As I was myself lamenting about the sad state my affairs find themselves in at the near-close of this week, I came across an unassuming email and without hesitation, opened it for a quick read. There in bold, LARGE TYPE FACE was:

For nothing is impossible with God. – Luke 1:37

Now, I’m not saying the laws of nature are going to be tossed into oncoming traffic and carried off at break-neck speeds (because, come on, let’s be real! Traffic NEVER moves that fast around here)! No. Nature (still!) IS. However, if the will of Lord is that something be different than what has previously been the “status quo” – even if that “status quo” has withstood the test of time, and even sustained a longer run time than The Simpsons, Keith Richards, or cockroaches! – then rest assured, His will is going to supersede! Because, well, “[For] nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37). And in case that wasn’t clear enough, Matthew recorded this: “Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26).

I’m not going to fill my head with ridiculous rationalizations and fanciful dreams that come from a foolishly hopeful heart – that’s what 3-year-old girls do when they exclaim that they’re going to grow up to be mermaids and fairy princesses. No. I’m going to accept that the sun will never rise in the west, and know that it has nothing to do with me – it’s just how nature IS. What I am going to do, however, is find joy in the familiarity of nature’s laws, its calming, recognizable routine – the ones that I’ve become accustomed to over the past four decades (plus or minus five or ten years…).

Trying to redirect the wind and the waves has worn out my soul and my spirit, and has left me feeling defeated more times than I care to count. This time, though, I have learned that it is not my place to change nature, no matter how much bottled-up optimism I brandish in my arsenal. Instead, I am relinquishing my rebellious psyche for one of a more temperate disposition, (begrudgingly perhaps) accepting that I am right where I am supposed to be in the midst of nature and all its splendor, and banking on the promise:

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak… They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:29, 31)

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Stranded in Paradise (30-word Thursday)

Huntington Beach, CA (2016).

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Brush the sorrow from your heart and allow the salty breeze to twist peace and playfulness between the strands of your hair. Paradise awaits in shades of blue and white.

Simplify

How is starting a small business a way to simplify? I’m not exactly sure! However, I’ve done exactly that!

This is my first attempt at online sales, and I’m just quickly sending out a blog post to direct some traffic…

Right now, there are two  three basic products – with hopes for more as I commandeer time to create. Both All are 11oz ceramic mugs, with simple yet fun thoughts inscribed. (note: they are microwave and dishwasher safe!)

I hope you enjoy these enough to consider purchasing them for yourself, your friends, your family, your co-workers – whomever you think may get a kick out of owning something unique!

Thanks!

 

Simplify Coffee Mug

Be a Flamingo Coffee Mug

Crazy is Relative Coffee Mug

ALittleSmudged Storefront

Night and Day (100 word challenge)

As has become the Wednesday tradition, I am participating in @Bikurgurl‘s 100-word challenge (Week 6). Thank you for stopping by! (image credit: Bikurgurl 2016 )

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derucaketimestwo

Opposite sides of the same coin – created equal, yet so vastly different! Insomuch as the night without the morning’s sunrise would be incomplete, the day without the rejuvenation of the night would be unbearable. Sweet and bittersweet in a lover’s dance, separated by circumstance, with the fire of temptation still burning between them. Walls built up of bygone encounters – emotions that once fed the soul are now boxed up and spirits that quenched the thirst for adventure, seemingly held captive in fragile glass bottles, as if the past could so easily be discarded. They say dark cannot exist without light…

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Untold Story (30-word Thursday challenge)

I nearly stepped on this fragile egg shell in my haste to get off to work… It blended in with the gravel of the driveway, especially with the showers overnight bringing a uniform gloss to everything. It set my mind reeling for the entire drive (2016).

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So delicate and almost unnoticeable. Was this the start of a beautiful beginning, or a tragic demise? The untold story resting silently amid the shallow pools of the rocky driveway.

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Finding Humanity in Winter

Have you ever had the pleasure of teaching a youngster the fine art of whistling? How about attempting to communicate with an individual who speaks a completely different language? How would you convey to a blind person the magnificence and splendor, contour and texture, beauty and awe of clouds? Seemingly impossible tasks, wouldn’t you say? It’s hard to fathom things beyond our own narrow scope of reality. Without having relatable experiences, we are left with vague interpretations, frustrating abstractions, and a plethora of misunderstandings.

Winter is definitely upon us here in the US.  As is common, there are certain areas (ahem, I’m talking to you:  the southern ends of California, Arizona, and Texas; Hawaii; and the Florida panhandle) who refuse to participate, but as I survey my purplish-pinkish-blue fingertips, I can’t say I blame you! And it’s not like I haven’t been through a winter or two up here in the north end (it’s no Alaska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, or Maine), but sometimes, I’m just taken aback a little by the biting cold and reminded of my own personal vulnerabilities. It’s because of this that I was drawn to a new opportunity to help serve in a little yet profound capacity. And when describing this new venture to a family member back home (in a non-winter-participating location), I became aware of our simple short-sightedness in light of lack of experience.

In most large metropolitan cities, there are men’s and women’s shelters that are run continuously throughout the year, day in and day out. These facilities provide lodging and meals for those who are without the means to provide for themselves the basic needs of food and shelter. Regardless of how one ends up in such a situation, it’s a beautiful thing to know there are those who are willing to step in and bridge the gap, whether through monetary donations to keep the shelters up and running, through donations of food and supplies, or through donations of time, serving and developing relationships with those who walk through the doors of the facilities in need of assistance, in need of a hand up, in need of hope for tomorrow, in need of a sense of humanness in their lives. In colder climates, even in the midst of full-time shelters, there are what are referred to as “emergency cold weather shelters” that open in the event that the weather is forecasted to drop below freezing overnight. These are temporary locations set up within churches, businesses, and other community outreach organizations, coordinated through bands of volunteers for the express purpose of providing safe, hospitable shelter during unsafe, inhospitable weather – further bridging the gap and reaching out to a segment of the community most in need of compassion and warmth (both figuratively and literally).

As I became more acclimated to “winter” – read: temperatures below 50 degrees F – I had heard from time to time the mention of these “emergency cold weather shelters”, but was rather unfamiliar with them. Just this season, however, I had the opportunity to invest whole-heartedly into my community’s outreach program, and become a volunteer! There are actually three participating facilities within the city where I live that coordinate to make sure each day of the week is covered, if need-be. My specific affiliation facility handles Thursday nights; however, since finishing up my studies, I didn’t see any harm in disseminating my name throughout each of the three facilities, to make sure I could be of benefit whenever needed! Each night is broken up into three shifts: 7pm – 11pm, 11pm – 3am, and 3am – 7am. There are always at least two volunteers during each shift, a dinner served at 7:30pm, doors locked and lights out at 10pm, rise with breakfast at 6am, and doors locked again at 7am (to allow for those who have jobs to attend to, time to get off and going). Granted, the “emergency cold weather shelters” are not open every night – only when the weather is forecasted to dip below freezing (32 degrees F), so there are days that go by when there is no need for the volunteers. There are, however, other times when the shelter is open for several days at a time. And because the shelter is hosted by different participating facilities on different nights, the supplies (mattresses, pillows, linens, toiletries, check-in paperwork, etc.) has to be picked up, packed up, transported, unloaded, re-disseminated time and time again – all through the hard work of the volunteers and coordinated effort of the outreach program.

I’ve had the pleasure of shaking hands, filling soup bowls, brewing coffee, and sitting down to engage in conversation with several of the guests of the cold weather shelter in my community. I know several guests by name, and while only a couple remember my name (which isn’t a big deal to me), quite a few recognize me and greet me tenderly. The humility, graciousness, and true gratefulness I’ve seen displayed by these guests is heartwarming.

Twenty years ago, I had never witnessed a snowflake falling from the sky. I’m not complaining; I was blessed to grow up without the fear of frozen pipes, black ice, or snow drifts (of course that also meant no snow days – ever!) Because of that, though, I also never would have known what an “emergency cold weather shelter” was, nor would I be able to explain how they functioned; my narrow scope of reality was dictated by my experiences. Even more so was my shielded view of those beautiful people who walk through the doors, thankful for a warm meal, a warm place to lay their head for the night, and a warm, friendly face, sharing with them the simple “hello” of humanity.

I am grateful for new relatable experiences that help to clarify vague interpretations, add definition to the abstractions of life, and sort out, slowly, the plethora of misunderstandings.

Camoflauge

Without any forethought or planning, I took last week off from posting, and just spent the time quietly enjoying the holiday weekend with my son. To say that nothing spectacular happened at our place would be the understatement of the year. I texted my mom late morning to wish her a Happy Thanksgiving, to which there was no reply, and later in the afternoon I received the customary “Happy Thanksgiving” text from my daughter (I replied, and we had a short back-and-forth text conversation about her younger brother’s “hibernation” habits and how they were interfering with my brunch menu). Outside of that, no other texts, phone calls, emails, smoke signals, carrier pigeons, singing telegrams, nothing – just a deafeningly quiet day at home. Is this odd? Well, seeing as how I have five brothers who are all, for the most part, adequately versed in cell phone operation, and that Thanksgiving was historically the primary family holiday, yes, experiencing complete “radio silence” was chilling – almost “Twilight Zone” worthy… As if having five brothers who were mysteriously absent on Thanksgiving wasn’t odd enough, coupled with the cold shoulder my text was receiving from my mom, my three rather “social” sisters who also know how to rapid-fire group text messages were freakishly missing too! No “hi”, “howdy”, or “hey” from any of them! (And, for the record, almost a week later, still no response from mom…)

I guess that’s what happens when you live several states away; you’re not an everyday voice, and not an everyday face, so eventually the memory of you becomes blurred, faded, and erased.

Ironically, the flip side of that happens on the job – at least for me! Being so consistently reliable and reliably consistent has made my face and my voice as commonplace as the torchiere lamp in the reception area of our office. Everyone just takes that lamp for granted; the lamp has been in the office for years and years, dutifully greeting clients with warmth and cheer, nary being thanked or extended a word or gesture of gratitude because, after all, it’s only doing its job… If, for some reason, the light was left off though, everyone’s day would be slightly askew – grumblings in the office corridors about the uneasiness in the air. Why? The lamp is not lit. What lamp? The lamp in the reception area. Never noticed a lamp in the reception area. Never noticed it because it’s always lit. The lamp isn’t lit today. Why? The lamp should be lit; that way it’s not noticed…

I stepped out for lunch one afternoon. Seems harmless; most people do it on a daily basis. One particular individual – let’s just refer to this person as the “helicopter pilot” – came around looking for me while I was out running some errands on my lunch hour (and to reassure any and all, I was within that one hour timeframe!) and was totally taken aback when it was discovered that I had the audacity to step out of the office for lunch (read: the lamp was not lit)! The helicopter pilot even stated, “but she never goes to lunch!” and began to “joke” that such departure from normalcy required ‘disciplinary action’; the company wanted consistent reliability and reliable consistency, not “free thinking”, and they didn’t want to have to come up with a contingency plan in the event something – anything! – should happen in my brief absence that would require someone else to do anything outside their scope of ‘job function’, such as say hello to a client…

~ sigh ~

Regardless, either case seems to be extreme, but yet truth. My large, usually tight-knit family seems to be lost to the four winds, my phone as silent as the grave, while the office staff, in particular the helicopter pilot, content in knowing that I will be at my post, day in and day out, all the way up through quitting time the day before a national holiday, because I have no better place to be (read: she lives hundreds and thousands of miles from any family, so she doesn’t need to go home early to prepare for guests – she won’t be having any guests at her place – and her son can just wait for her to get home; he’s old enough to be by himself until she gets there). An old, faded, barely distinguishable memory, not even noticed as missing to some, while to others, simply not noticed at all, blending in with the rest of the surrounding décor, almost as if just another light fixture…