Crocuses in the Snow

IMG_0723.JPGIt really wouldn’t have been a proper Minnesota April (or May?) without a good snowstorm, now would it have been?  Besides, I needed proof that crocuses really do bloom under such circumstances.  They seem no worse for the wear for it—and I don’t suppose any of the rest of us are either.  But just in case you were struggling with the idea of snow and cold after so long a stretch of warm weather—or even struggling with some other frustration or trial that has nothing to do with snow—consider this admonition of how to live that these brave little flowers model well:

“Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation…” (Romans 12:12)

Or this one:

“In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16)

Just a friendly reminder that “everything” really does mean every thing, and “tribulation” applies to the little things just as well as the big things.  Be patient, be grateful—and enjoy the quirks of the season!

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Bird Identification

IMG_0476.JPG“Look, Mommy, it’s an ostrich!” cried my oldest daughter excitedly from the window.

“No, it’s not—that’s an eagle!” my two-year-old contradicted indignantly after running to see.

At that point, curiosity getting the better of him, Papa got up out of his chair to investigate.

“That, little girls,” he said, “is a goose.”

Obviously, a tie-breaking vote was needed, so then I joined everyone at the window.

“Yep, it’s a goose.”

“Every fact is to be confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” (2 Corinthians 13:1)

 

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Lessons From Ducks and Swans

IMG_0368.JPGEvery spring, there’s this short window of time, just before the ice goes out, in which there are little open areas of water around the edges of our lake.  All the waterfowl congregates in these puddles and pools to forage for food and paddle around in one great companionable waiting game for the lake to open.IMG_3397The ducks and geese seem to have a mutual agreement that it’s a nice little community event, too, and mingle quite nicely.

The swans, not so much.IMG_0356.JPGIMG_0328Such a fuss we had from them, of fiercely territorial wing-flapping, neck-bobbing and trumpet-blasting, particularly when another pair of swans would come in for a landing (on a multi-daily basis).  It was all very exciting, and we’re going to rather miss it now that the lake is open and the spring festival is over.

But I must say that I’ve learned something from watching this year’s waterfowl interactions before ice out.  Entertaining as it is for us to be the audience to this yearly stiff competition over swan nesting grounds, it’s not exactly peaceful.  For all their magnificent beauty, they are surprisingly selfish.  And, as God’s Word says, we’d all be much better off emulating the contented little puddle ducks than the regal but contentious swans.

“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.  Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:16-18)

 

 

 

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Night Sounds

IMG_0152The night was bright with a million stars, each one pulsating distinct and three-dimensional against deep black velvet of the sky.  The aurora was dancing low but visible on the horizon.  Across the lake, a monkey owl laughed, and in the distant forest echoed the drum roll of a grouse.  Just above the treetops, a slender waxing crescent of reflected sunlight rimmed the lower curve of dark round moon.  It dangled, then dropped out of sight.  One meteorite fell, and then another.  It was a good night to go walking without a flashlight, and so we did.

Then, we heard an odd sound that we couldn’t identify.  It was like the sound of tinkling, shattering glass, with a sort of grunting and squeaking.  There was also splashing, which narrowed down the location to the lake.  But what sort of creature was busy on the lake at this time of the night—and what were they doing?

It remained a mystery, until morning, when daylight revealed the guilty culprits.IMG_0275-1IMG_0257-1.jpgThe otters had been playing not on but in the ice while the northern lights rippled softly green, enjoying the effects of the steadily aging and honeycombing lake ice.  I didn’t realize how rotten the ice was until I stood on the shore and watched their game for a good hour.  They were literally running all over the lake breaking holes in all the thin places and diving in and out of them, which explained the mysterious tinkling and shattering sounds of the previous night.

And so the mysteries of the darkness were made evident by the light and things that were unknown became known—just as it always must be, even in the case of much deeper things.

There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that not will be made known. (Luke 12:2)

“Therefore judge nothing before the proper time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.” (1 Cor. 4:5)

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Bright Eyed and Bushy Tailed

IMG_9869I’ll just go ahead and admit that I like this little red squirrel.

Yes, yes, I know.  They can be terrible pests.

But, to his credit, so far this one hasn’t been.  Well, other than the fact that he thinks that he owns our porch (where he lurked all winter in hopes of spilled birdseed) and now, apparently, our clothesline.

Now, granted, I haven’t really used that clothesline since fall.  And it’s not even my regular clothesline.  It’s my old one, from the days before my husband built me an official one, strung up between a couple trees near the back door.  It was supposed to get taken down after he built the other one, but then it didn’t—and we kept using it on occasion for things like draping a sleeping bag that needs to be aired after a camping trip and that sort of thing and so there it remains.

In other words, partially abandoned, but not entirely, you know?  I mean, I hadn’t posted a “Free, Help Yourself!” sign on it or anything yet.

So I was just a little taken aback when I went out there a couple weeks ago to hang a few things to air in the sunshine, and found myself in very hot water.  Can’t you just see the indignation written all over this little fellow’s face?IMG_9873.JPGI don’t think I’ve ever gotten quite such a sound scolding as he and his mate gave me.  As you can see, he was so put out with me, he came right down out of the tree and sat right at the end of that clothesline, inches from my face, to give me a piece of his mind.  In the branches directly over my head, his mate joined the tirade, scraping little bits of pine bark into my hair in protest.IMG_9876Finally, I fled for the house, and they sat back from their squatter’s rights protest, smug with victory.

Or so they thought. 

Because a couple minutes later I emerged again, this time without any suspicious articles of laundry but armed instead with a camera.

“Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Squirrel, I’m the news reporter from your local Rejoicing Hills Gazette.  I heard rumors that you’ve been experiencing trouble with your neighbor lately”–-insert camera shutter clicking busily—“and I’d like to interview you for a piece on it in tomorrow’s paper.  Would you willing to answer a few questions?”

And were they ever!

Now let’s just hope I don’t get sued by the High Court of Sciuromorpha (if you don’t know what that means, click here) for taking and publishing their photos without permission.  Wink.

“Do not go out hastily to argue your case;  otherwise, what will you do in the end, when your neighbor humiliates you?

Argue your case with your neighbor, and do not reveal the secret of another, or he who hears it will reproach you, and the evil report about you will not pass away.”  (Proverbs 25:8-10)

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Ice Skating

IMG_9956One of my favorite things about living on a lake in the winter is having unlimited ice skating access.  Getting to walk straight out your door right onto your own private skating rink?  To a girl who had to hike a good half mile for such a privilege when she was growing up, this is a luxury I don’t take for granted.  That is, except for when the weather doesn’t cooperate, like this year, and it freezes and snows at the same time, effectively ruining the ice for the rest of the winter.  What a disappointment!

When I was growing up, my siblings and I would solve this fairly common problem by clearing a giant, hockey-worthy rink by hand with the big snow scoop we dragged that long half mile down the road.  Then, we’d drill a hole with an auger, from which we pumped lake water to flood the rough surface and make it smooth again when it froze.  And did we ever have fun on the finished product!

These days, though, I’m the only ice skater in our young family, so all rink-creating ambitions have been shelved until the upcoming generation I’m helping to raise is old enough to join me in the effort of shoveling for the joy of skating. Thus, when the lake froze rough during a November snowstorm, I just figured skating was out for me this winter and turned my attention to other recreational pleasures of the season.

But I was wrong.IMG_9952February had a change of heart and decided to surprise everyone with an uncharacteristic thaw.  That thaw lasted long enough to melt the snow cover and create some pretty massive puddles of water on top of the ice.  Then, the thermometer plunged and it all froze solid again.  Then, the wind drove tiny particles of ice and snow across it for several days straight like a giant sand blaster, smoothing rough spots, scouring it largely clean of snow.  And when the sun blazed up out of the east one morning, I saw a glassy surface shining beneath it—and all my skating dreams buried since the beginning of winter rose up and wooed me out the door.

My oldest daughter, curious to see what I was going to do with those white boots on shiny silver blades, begged to come along to watch.  When we got down to the edge of the lake shore, though, she wouldn’t come any further.  “I’ll just watch you from here, Mommy,” she said.

So I picked my way out to the edge of the frozen grasses and weeds by myself, where I began the process of standing on one leg while wedging my sock-encrusted foot into a snug skate with the other.  Because, of course, in my hurry to get out there I had neglected to bring anything along to sit on.  How do blue herons do it, anyway?  In my defense, having to put something on the foot while holding it up does complicate the matter.  IMG_9884“Are you going to fall in, Mommy?” I heard the little voice call from the pink-jacketed figure perched on the bank, concerned.

“Nope,”—grunt—“I’m not going to fall in, honey.”  But I might fall over, I thought wryly to myself.  I had gone a little overboard on the warm sock layers.

But I was determined.  Stamp, stamp.  Loosen the ties again with numbing fingers in the subzero windchill.  Stamp, stamp, thump.  There.  Loop the laces, tie them tight.  One down, one to go.

“Are you sure you’re not going to fall in?” I noted that the concerned little voice in the pink jacket was closer and observed that she had moved from high on the bank down to the very edge of the lake.

“Yep”–grunt, grunt, stamp, stamp, thump.  “I’m sure, honey.” 

And I was off.  My little girl cheered.

Back and forth I went for a while, round and round, my audience of one as riveted to my performance as any Olympic crowd .  “Can I come out to you, Mommy?” she finally asked.  What she really meant was, “I believe, but—help thou mine unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)

“Yes, come!” I said.She made her way out to the edge of the weeds, all the way to the very edge of that great, shiny sheet of ice—and then she stopped.IMG_9881IMG_9950.JPG“Can I touch it, Mommy?”

But this time there was wonder in her voice, and by now I had stopped my skating to come near and watch.  I had forgotten that she hadn’t been on a frozen lake before, at least that she remembered—and the innocent, wide-eyed first-time experiences of a child are some of the most beautiful things in the whole world to stand audience to.

“Yes, you can touch it,” I said with a smile.  And in faith and wonder, she stepped—and the sound of her laughter and joyous delight echoed from shore to shore.

IMG_9880Funny, how my delight over getting to ice skate this winter after all managed to pale next to her delight when she overcame her fears, believed, and walked on water.

“Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.  When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified… but, immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”  And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. (Matthew 14:25-29)

Thankfully, we didn’t attempt replaying the rest of that story.