Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Sunset on Snow

Supper was a little late tonight. Blame the glorious evening. Blame my dad who's lending me his digital SLR camera. :) But don't blame me! Who could help spending a few extra minutes in the golden glow that was the sunset tonight? The pictures didn't come out as well as I hoped. But maybe they capture a little of the beauty.

Spring Fever!

Hello everyone! I know I said that my schedule is crazy and I might not have much time for blog posting, but surely I have time for a tiny post to announce that SPRING is coming! The icicles are dripping, the dooryard is fast becoming mud, each snowfall lasts a shorter time than the last one, the ice is slipping away (ha ha), and spring fever is becoming an epidemic! The birds are singing, the dogs are misbehaving, and I am overcome by fidgets.

The first signs of spring fever began while I was dutifully studying an online course for work, feeling more and more like a glob as I pinched the threatening abdominal fat that the module described. There were rather too many excess calories demanding to be expended, and my muscles began to be restless. The symptoms multiplied when I went out to the greenhouse with Grammy and dug my fingers in the dirt, and smelled that wonderful aroma of soil warming in the sunlight. Spring fever exploded into full manifestation when I got out into the glorious, dazzling sunlight with my snowshoes (actually, my dear aunt's snowshoes :), and proceeded trekking up and down a hill to burn off something or other. That vigorous exercise soon confirmed my globular status, and I decided to take a break in the midst of my self-prescribed 10 laps, and head further up the hill to a spot with a nicer view.

The snow there has been carved by the wind coming over the crest of the hill; I can't decide if it looks more like the ripples left by receding waves, or growth rings in a tree. Maybe later in the day, when the light isn't so dazzling, I can get a picture to post on here. There was a patch of ground left mostly bare, and after looking at it for a little while and deliberating, I unsnapped my snowshoes and sprawled out on the earth, which was moist but not as cold as I expected. It was splendid to lay there in the sunshine and realize that the warmth of the sun overcame the cold of the air.

But it is still only February, and eventually the moistness began to lose its novelty, and I got up to finish my laps on the hillside and head in for more studying, denying yet another symptom of spring fever, the desire to climb one of the maple trees at the bottom of the hill. That will have to wait. After all, I am a busy girl. But I hope none of us are too busy to enjoy the spring that is just barely around the corner. It's too good to miss!

A Puzzle

Sorry for the silence on the blog lately! It's not been for lack of desire to blog, but my schedule has been just a bit crazy, and will be for a couple more weeks. I'll be back as soon as I can, though! In the meantime, I thought I'd post something I wrote over the summer:

Puzzling Pieces

We live life the way we put together a puzzle—one piece at a time. As a puzzle takes shape, every single piece is important, even the boring ones. The design on each piece may not make sense by itself, but when you put it in its place, the complete picture is revealed. In the same way, isolated experiences in life may not seem to be significant, or to make sense to us, but without them, the whole design would not be complete.

Sometimes, there is a gap in the puzzle, for which you can’t find the right piece. You find one that looks like it might work, try to make it fit, and when it doesn’t, you are disappointed. It SHOULD fit—see how the design matches so well? You could leave it there, just because you think it ought to fit, but that will only tangle the whole scheme. If you wait long enough, though, you’ll come upon the piece that doesn’t just fit well, but fits perfectly. Nothing else could substitute for it. Whatever your idea might have been, it wasn’t as good as the designer’s. We may feel strongly that we have discovered something or someone to meet a particular need in our lives—perhaps it is not the ideal solution, but it will do. Yet our Designer does His work perfectly, not almost perfectly. If we refuse to settle for second best, and wait to see what He has in mind, things will come together seamlessly in the end.

Perhaps you come upon a piece that looks like it belongs to a particular part of the puzzle—the tree, perhaps, or the red wagon. But no matter how diligently you try to fit it into that spot, it doesn’t work. Suddenly, when you are putting together an entirely different area of the puzzle, your eye falls on that piece—and it’s just right. It did have a place, only not where you expected. There may be skills, relationships, or experiences that we had anticipated would fulfill a particular purpose in our lives, only to find out that they ultimately had an entirely different role. But in the end, we have to agree that the Designer knows best.

There’s one way in which life is not like a puzzle—we don’t have the picture on the puzzle box to refer to. Only at the end of our lives will we finally see how all things worked together for good, how the Designer brought a beautiful whole out of all the pieces. But it will be worth the wait, for then our sorrows will be turned into joy, our frustration into wondering admiration, and we shall see our lives, as mundane, confusing, and imperfect as they were, bringing glory to God.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Old Things

Tonight was a beautiful time for a walk. Much of our snow has melted, leaving bare patches that awaken faint memories of what summer is like! The sky was crisply clear, which meant the sunset wasn’t too spectacular, but sometimes cold winter sunsets are beautiful, just because there is such clarity and simplicity in the colors, various shades of blue and grey, with blushing hints of salmon color near the horizon.

After tramping around in the high pastures, I went down to the pond, which I have rather neglected in my photography this winter. Locked in the colorless chill of winter, the shapes and textures of the ice and snow and weed stalks, became distinctive. It was a beauty which blended perfectly with the simplicity of the evening.

I was sorely tempted to go out on the glossy ice, but not being sure that it was thick enough, and being alone, I decided not to risk it. Instead I made myself look like an idiot crouching down in the grass and weeds at the edge, photographing all sorts of commonplace plants.
I’ve never been an antiques person. But I do have an interest in old things. My life is largely spent with elderly people, and it has been a very enlightening experience. At the end of life, like at the end of a cold, clear winter day, distracting details and embellishments are stripped away, and the important things come into focus. Summertime colors have fled, and only the substance remains. Sometimes, ornate roses fade, and all that remains are thorns, hidden until now by foliage and brilliant hues.

But sometimes when verdant colors have been drained away, and the glossiness of vibrant life has been rubbed off, a new beauty emerges, simpler and sturdier. It is the same beauty that fascinates me about other old things, like the dried grasses that I was photographing tonight. Their beauty is in their simplicity, in the fact that when all ornament is stripped away, they are innately lovely.

I’ve met people like that, too. Their physical glory, like the flower of grass, has withered. Their muscles have shrunken, their cheeks have faded, their chins have sagged, their hair has lost its shine. And yet no one would call them unattractive, for they have a truer beauty that attracts every person who spends a few moments with them. And just as they were radiant in youthful vitality, they are radiant in happy peace.

If only we had a right sense of beauty, we would save ourselves a lot of stress in front of the mirror in our young years, and a lot of mourning in front of the same mirror in our older years. Perhaps it would be a good thing for all of us to spend more time on our knees in the snow, discovering the beauty that is unveiled by winter.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Few Miscellaneous Pictures

Yet Another Sunset

Makin' Tracks

What do you suppose he wants?

Monday, February 9, 2009

A Nurse Goes Skiing

Today I went cross-country skiing. It was a perfectly splendid morning; the birds seemed to whisper, “spring!” in their songs, and the sun shone warmly, though the air was crisp and cold. It was a wonderful day to be alive, and I thought what a blessing it was to be able to get outdoors and enjoy it. How many people are shut up in hospitals or nursing homes, or bound to their wheelchairs because of some accident. Who knows, next year at this time, I could be one of them. What better incentive to enjoy to the fullest every wonderful thing about that morning ski expedition!

So as I skimmed along (in between falls), I reveled at the thought of everything that was going right inside of me. Complex electrical pathways in my heart were functioning beautifully, setting off a wonderfully choreographed dance, atria and ventricles contracting in perfect timing, valves snapping shut, the arteries in my heart perfusing beautifully between each beat. I was taking deep, easy breaths, thanks to the special membranes and lubrication that provided negative pressure to open my lungs. Split second transactions of oxygen and carbon dioxide were occurring across delicate, but all important, membranes. Blood was surging through my body, helping my stomach and intestines sort out nutrients and deliver them where needed, and filtering through the liver and spleen and kidneys for the removal of waste products. In my kidneys and certain arteries, pressure receptors measured my blood pressure, which data my brain used to regulate my heart rate and the secretion of hormones to maintain proper blood volume.

Much of the blood was shunted to my muscles, where muscle fibers contracted and relaxed, supplied by energy factories within their cells, and responding to neurotransmitters that were released by precise electrical stimulation across miscroscopic gaps. Those nerves, designed for maximum transmission speed, traced back to my spinal cord and brain, where millions of connections allowed for smooth communication between all the different parts of my body and my brain. The blood headed to my brain, ready to deliver the glucose at the precise concentrations provided by my pancreas and liver. The brain must have the glucose and oxygen to survive—but the blood itself would permanently damage brain tissue, if it wasn’t for a specialized barrier that allowed only the proper substances to pass to those hard-working neurons. My brain was functioning with incomprehensible complexity and precision. It was interpreting an inverted picture from my eyes, and adjusting the size of my pupils to compensate for the brilliant glare of sun on snow. My ears registered a huge span of sounds, from the twitter of birds, to the scraping of my skis on snow, and integrated them with memory to allow me to make sense of my surroundings. The collection of tubes and hairs and tiny stones in my ear also registered my position, and allowed me to keep my balance—at least most of the time. My cerebellum calculated the force with which to contract each muscle, coordinated muscle groups to work together, and signaled instantaneous responses to a slip or slide on the snow.

All this happened without my thought. But if any of those functions had stopped working, I would have been in big trouble—perhaps soon ending up in the ICU where I work. As it was, I had plenty of free mental power to contemplate the splendor of the world around me, the mind-blowing wonder of the world within me, and the God Who made both of them.

One thing that I love about my job is that it’s teaching me not to take anything for granted, a single breath of air, a single pulse of my heart, a single effortless muscle contraction, a single swallow of food. There may come a day when I would give anything to be able to catch a breath on my own, or to be able to take a single step. Unless the Lord Jesus returns first, there is going to be a time when my heart pumps for the last time, when my neurons fire and then are still forever, when my kidneys stop working and I’ll be killed silently by raging chemical imbalances. There will almost certainly be a day when I will catch my final glimpse of sunshine, feel the wind no more blowing into my face and down my collar. When the beauty of a winter day will call for me in vain, because my steps are too feeble to venture outdoors. I’ll never be able to hear the birds call again, or perhaps I’ll never be able to see a blue sky or smell spring in the air. Then, I will wish that I had enjoyed it more when I had the chance. I’ll regret that I didn’t fully appreciate the wonder and beauty of life. So laugh if you will at my fascination with the anatomy and physiology of life. I sure enjoyed that morning ski!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Stars and Promises

Last night I went down the road to my aunt’s house. As I stepped out the door, I threw my head back and took a great breath of the cold night air, hoping it would help to cool the friction of a mind moving too quickly. As I let out my breath, a cloud of steam shot up into the night, and for a moment, the brilliant stars were obscured. But when it evaporated, I could see that they truly were brilliant, shining with intense, colorless light that looked more like the cold flash of diamonds than fiery infernos reposed in space. As I walked down the road, my head thrown back to see the sky, and my feet finding their own way on the pavement, I began to think how God’s promises are like stars.

There they are, glinting and flashing in glorious beauty, those “precious and magnificent promises,” never changing, and so precise that we can set the course of our lives by them. The old-time sailor, lost on a hiccupping sea, had only to catch a glimpse of the stars, and he knew where he was, and where to steer. He trusted his whole life upon the stars, and because they were unchanging, he was safe, no matter how bewildering his circumstances. Sometimes God gives us a promise that is our soul’s only sure hope, amid the confusion and clatter of life. This summer, as I faced numerous big decisions, the star by which I set my course was Psalm 25:12, “Who is the man who fears [reveres] the Lord? He will instruct him in the way he should choose.” When I felt lost in swirling perplexities, that star shone steady and bright, and brought me out to a place where I could see my way clearly.

The stars never change—but their beauty and steadfastness is never known until darkness falls. The darker the night, the more stars emerge from the blackness, and the more brilliantly they shine. There are promises of God that never become real to us until we need them. Then, as we turn in desperation to God’s Word, we find that, on every page, He has sown more promises than we ever dreamed of, which together meet perfectly every single need that we have. And the darker that circumstances become, the more precious and magnificent those promises are to us.

Strange, then, that we so often allow those promises to be obscured by the steam of our own breath.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Sunsets and Snowstorms

Two pictures of the same sunset; I couldn't decide which one I liked better. What's your vote?

Why, hello Clover!

So if you were CJ, would YOU be chewing your cud in weather like this? :)