“Bees do have a smell, you know,
and if they don’t they should,
for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers.” ― Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine
I admire the honey bee as pollinator and pollen gatherer simultaneously, facilitating new fruit from the blossom as well as taking away that which will become sweet honey tasting of the spicy essence of the flower touched.
As a physician, I can only hope to be as transformative in the work I do every day. I carry with me tens of thousands of patients I’ve seen over thirty five years of medical practice. There is no way I can touch another human being without keeping some small part of them with me – perhaps a memory of an open wound or the residual scar it left behind, a word of sorrow or gratitude, a grimace, a tear or a smile.
Each patient is a flower visited, some still in bud, some in full bloom, some seed pods ready to burst, some spent and wilting and ready to fall away. Each patient carries a spicy vitality, even in their illness and dying, that is unforgettable and still clings to me. Each patient changes me, the doctor, readying me for the next patient by teaching me a gentler approach, a clearer explanation, a slower leave-taking. Each patient becomes part of my story, adding to my skill as a healer, and is never to be forgotten.
It has been my privilege to be thoroughly dusted by those I’ve loved and cared for. I want to carry that on to create something wonderful that reflects the spice of living.
Straws like tame lightnings lie about the grass And hang zigzag on hedges. Green as glass The water in the horse-trough shines. Nine ducks go wobbling by in two straight lines.
A hen stares at nothing with one eye, Then picks it up. Out of an empty sky A swallow falls and, flickering through The barn, dives up again into the dizzy blue.
I lie, not thinking, in the cool, soft grass, Afraid of where a thought might take me – as This grasshopper with plated face Unfolds his legs and finds himself in space.
Self under self, a pile of selves I stand Threaded on time, and with metaphysic hand Lift the farm like a lid and see Farm within farm, and in the centre, me.
~Norman MacCaig “Summer Farm”
Most of my life, a barn has stood a few dozen yards from my back door. As a small child, I learned to ride a tricycle on the wooden planks of the chicken coop, sat on the bony back of a Guernsey cow while my father milked by hand, found new litters of kittens in cobweb-filled hideaways, and leaped with abandon into stacks of loose hay in a massive loft.
As a young girl, I preferred to clean stalls rather than my bedroom. The acoustics in the barn were first rate for singing loud and the horses and cows never covered their ears, although the dog would usually howl. A hay loft was the perfect spot for hiding a writing journal and reading books. It was a place for quiet contemplation and sometimes fervent prayer when I was worried: a sanctuary for turbulent adolescence.
Through college and medical training, I managed to live over twelve years in the city without access to a barn or the critters that lived inside. I searched for plenty of surrogate retreats: the library stacks, empty chapels within the hospitals I worked, even a remote mountainous wildlife refuge in central Africa.
It is hard to ignore one’s genetic destiny to struggle as a steward of the land through the challenges of economics and weather. My blood runs with DNA of wheat and lentil growers, loggers, cattle ranchers, dairy farmers, work horse teamsters, and flower and vegetable gardeners. A farm eventually called me to come back home and so I heeded over thirty years ago, along with a husband from a dairy farming background himself, and eventually there followed three children, now grown and flown far from the farm.
Like a once sturdily built barn now sagging and leaning, I too am buffeted by the gales of mid-life. My doors have been flung open wide, my roof/lid lifted and pulled off, at times leaving me reeling. More and more now I need restoration, renewal and reconciliation. And so I set to work to fix up my life with all the skill I can muster: setting things right where they’ve been upended, painting a fresh coat where chipped and dulled, shoring up rotted foundations.
If only I can get it done well enough, with sufficient perseverance, I surely can recover from the latest blow. But my hard work and determination is not enough. It is never enough. I am never finished.
The only true sanctuary isn’t found in a weather-beaten barn of rough-hewn old growth timbers vulnerable to the winds of life.
The barnstorming must happen within me, in the depths of my soul, comforted only by the encompassing and salvaging arms of God.
There I am held, transformed and restored, grateful beyond measure.
I am so grateful to have one of my farm stories included in this remarkable anthology created by Shayne Moore and Margaret Philbrick. There are forty Redbud writers inside this cover who touch the heart and soul with words of encouragement and transformation.
One of the most powerful ways we can know and love the people around us is to ask them to tell their story: how they came to be who they are, how they have been broken, how they persevere, how they have been mended. And we
This book is balm and ballast and I’m so proud to be part of it.
A close-knit community of Christian women writers share compelling and courageous personal journeys of transformation and growth toward finding their unique voices and invite other women to join them on the beautiful journey.
From matters of politics to education, from social justice to health and wellness and beyond, this has been a year for the voices of women to ring out, and the Women of Redbud Writers Guild add their voices to the swell: voices of honesty, faith, deep spirituality, and generous wisdom. In their new book, Everbloom: Stories of Deeply Rooted and Transformed Lives, edited by Shayne Moore and Margaret Ann Philbrick, they speak out on behalf of those women who might not have found their own voices yet, sharing stories of their own personal transformations, discoveries, and overcomings.
In forty stories, from global campaigns against social injustice and poverty, to the most intimate retellings of miscarriages and stillbirths, these Women of Redbud Writers Guild share a clarion call to all women: there is no pain that cannot be redeemed by the grace of God, no God-given voice that should be silenced, no one for whom the love of God through Jesus Christ will ever fall short.
Each of the diverse Women of Redbud Writers Guild — comprised of authors, lawyers, doctors, pastors, journalists, wives, mothers, and more — are as fascinating as the stories they share, for example:
Shayne Moore, a founder of Redbud and author of Global Soccer Mom, tells her story of a visit to Kenya to learn more about the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and becoming a voice for the voiceless
Margaret Ann Philbrick, who began her career advertising Pop-Tarts for Kellogg’s, now plants seeds in hearts, having surrendered her life to the cross of Jesus Christ, and shares her poem “We Write”
Emily Gibson, wife, mother, farmer, and family physician, chronicles the heritage of the farm where she and her husband now raise their sons, specifically the woodlot where the trees have been watered with tears after the suicide of a 14-year-old boy
Alia Joy, writer, speaker and blogger, shares what it was like growing up Asian American, and how the “sin of omission” – neglecting to show women like her to the rest of America – is one of the worst types of oppression
Lindsey W. Andrews, lawyer, blogger and social media maven, exposes the depth of her rage and restoration with God at the suicide of her brother and the untimely, sudden death of her father
But the writers of Everbloom do not stop with the recounting of their own stories: following each is an invitation, prompting the reader to take a moment and find their own voice in a prayer of thanksgiving, grief, doubt, or even rage, and reflect on what she discovers. As the editors so eloquently write, Everbloom is “Dedicated to all women who have yet to find freedom in Christ in order to embrace their story and share it with the world. We believe in you, and we pray this book will help you `Walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.”
“Once I began reading these stories I couldn’t stop. Each writer is a strong woman who has learned much from life and God. Gritty, funny, painful, affirming. No punches are pulled, but grace abounds.” —Luci Shaw, poet, author of The Thumbprint in the Clay
“Readers will find gold within these pages. Excellent writing often springs from deep sorrow that has softened hearts, widened vision, and pressed its bearer into the Man of Sorrows.” — Dee Brestin, author of The Friendships of Women
Lined with light the twigs are stubby arrows. A gilded trunk writhes Upward from the roots, from the pit of the black tentacles.
In the book of spring a bare-limbed torso is the first illustration.
Light teaches the tree to beget leaves, to embroider itself all over with green reality, until summer becomes its steady portrait and birds bring their lifetime to the boughs.
Then even the corpse light copies from below may shimmer, dreaming it feels the cheeks of blossom. ~May Swenson “April Light”
In April we wait for the corpse light~
a mysterious illumination which comes alive
on a bright Sabbath Easter morning,
taking bare stubs of people,
begetting them green,
bursting them into blossom,
their cheeks pink with life,
in promise of faithful fruitfulness.
The object of a new year is not that we should have a new year.
It is that we should have a new soul. – G.K. Chesterton
We have had considerable winter already in the northwest with a white Christmas that soon melted away and then snowfall again on New Year’s Eve. It has been beautiful – a welcome change from our typical winter rain and mud-fest. It is natural to desire an overnight transformation of the old and dirty to something new and beautiful: an all clean pristine white cottony sheet covering thrown over everything making it look completely different than before.
Similarly, at the tick of the clock past midnight on New Years’ Eve, we hope for just such an inner transformation as well, a fresh start, a leaving behind of the not-so-good from the past and moving ahead to the surely-it’ll-be-better in the future.
But it usually doesn’t stick, despite a flurry of good intentions and a skiff of newness plopped down here and there. Even if we find ourselves in the midst of blizzard conditions, unable to see six inches ahead and immobilized by the furious storms of life, that accumulation eventually will melt, leaving behind even more mud and raw mess.
It isn’t how flawless, how clean, or how new this year will be, but rather how to ensure our soul transformation stays whole and pure, unmelting from within, even when the heat is turned up and the sweat drips. This is not about a covering thrown over the old and dirty but a full blown overhaul in order to never to be the same mess again.
I lift my eyes to the hills where the snow stays year round: sometimes more, with a few hundred new inches over several weeks, or sometimes less, on the hottest days of summer. Our new souls this new year must be built of that same resiliency, withstanding what each day may bring, cold or hot.
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…transformation that sticks within my soul.
Whiter than snow, yes, whiter than snow. Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
~James Nicholson (hymn chorus)
So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a quickening spirit. ~1Corinthians 15:45
All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.
Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God.
~Romans 8:22-28 from The Message by Eugene Petersen
…like Mary, I believe that we too can become pregnant with God. ~Luci Shaw
There is a distinct and memorable moment in pregnancy, around 16 weeks, when there is an undeniable awareness of movement within the womb–initially a fluttery feeling, but then over the next few days, there are tickly sensations, then rolling, then pushes. It is referred to clinically as “quickening”–an emphatic evidence of life within–and there is a profound acknowledgment that one’s life is no longer one’s own. It is now shared.
Jesus is called the “second Adam” through his death and resurrection, a quickening spirit now shared with us, so much more than the simple life and breath of the first Adam. The spirit lives and breathes within us, fluttering and rolling, pushing us from inside, creating in us more than we ever could become on our own. We are startled by its presence, amazed by its touch, forever transformed, pregnant with possibility and never, never to be the same again.
In time, the sons of men filled the earth with their evil deeds. And God beheld the desolate wastes the soiled streets the bitter brown of barren fields and the sin of the world cut him to the heart.
“I will blot from the earth the memory of these things. Behold, I will make all things new!” So he gathered up clouds from the four corners of the sky, billows pregnant with promise. He gathered them in great, dark piles on the horizon of hills while the weathermen watched grandmothers gazed schoolchildren pressed their noses against the glass.
And God said, “Let there be snow.”
First, small white flakes like lace, drifting.
Then—wind driving snow before it, a blizzard hiding hills from view (and the tops of church steeples and street lights, too).
For forty days the land was covered in white, the wretched lines of a wretched world blurred soft overnight— buried, forgotten as God birthed grace upon the earth. ~Sara Arthur “Advent in Michigan”
I wish one could press snowflakes in a book like flowers. ~James Schuyler from “February 13, 1975”
…Then how his muffled armies move in all night
And we wake and every road is blockaded
Every hill taken and every farm occupied
And the white glare of his tents is on the ceiling.
And all that dull blue day and on into the gloaming
We have to watch more coming.
Then everything in the rubbish-heaped world
Is a bridesmaid at her miracle.
Dunghills and crumbly dark old barns are bowed in the chapel of her sparkle.
The gruesome boggy cellars of the wood
Are a wedding of lace
Now taking place.
~Ted Hughes from “Snow and Snow”
Out of the bosom of the Air,
Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken,
Over the woodlands brown and bare,
Over the harvest-fields forsaken,
Silent, and soft, and slow
Descends the snow.
The troubled sky reveals The grief it feels… ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow from “Snow-flakes”
I’m roused by faint glow
between closed slats
of window blinds
The bedroom suffused
in ethereal light
from a moonless sky
as a million tiny stars fall silent
The snow lights all that is broken,
settling gently while
tucking in the downy corners
of a snowflake comforter
as heaven comes down to
plump the pillows,
cushion the landscape,
soften the wretched,
illuminate the heart.