Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Super-Long Wednesday Notes and Thoughts. . .

It struck me today when I woke that it’s mid-August, and there’s just over a month of summer left. So, I hopped out of bed, bent on attacking the day and filling it with as much doing as possible. And then I thought that this defeats the whole point of summer (at least this summer for me when I’ve needed the mental rest)—slowing down, relaxing, paying attention to each little thing, sauntering, lingering, soaking in the sun, reading good books, hanging out with family, trying new things in the kitchen, etc..

Okay, so I won’t attack the day as if it’s something to be conquered, but I will plug along and do some work and have some fun, too. And since part of the discipline of most summer days includes putting together a blog post, here I go:

I looked out the kitchen window this morning while I was washing dishes, and I noticed that the apples on the tree that hangs over the fence from my neighbor’s yard are getting really big, and some of them have fallen to the ground. I walked out to take a look, and—wow—that tree is covered with apples!

It was so pleasant and pretty in the backyard that when my coffee finished brewing, I took it outside. And there I sat to read my Bible and write in my journal. I love to be outdoors. Soon after I plopped myself on my patio chair, the sun fell on the table. It was bright and warm, and I would have taken a better picture except that my camera battery died.

I heard my phone buzz this morning, and took off, as usual, on a mad race all over the house to find it. I don’t usually locate the phone before the caller hangs up, but I get my exercise! This morning I found the phone in here:

Yes. That is a ziplock bag. Pint size. It is my hiking and backpacking purse. I just drop the essentials inside, zip it, and stuff it in my pack. The essentials? Phone, spare change (and hopefully some paper money, too!), house and car keys, driver’s license and debit card, lip balm, and all-out-bright-colored lipstick. I’ve been home since Sunday night, and I’m too lazy to move stuff from my ziplock hiking purse to another bag. This is sort of pathetic. In the past two days, I’ve taken this plastic bag-purse into stores with me, but no one bats an eye at it, and I wouldn’t care if they did. Maybe today I’ll dump those contents into a more proper bag for carrying about town.

About that lipstick. A couple of months ago, Melissa sent me a random text, completely out of the blue that said something like: “Daily routines that don’t change are so important in the life of a child. Even their mother wearing the same color of lipstick for years and years.” Haha. I do know what she means, though. Steady routines give children a needed sense of security.

* * * * *

(Adding this note later: The following turned into a really long post of its own, shifting between the setting of a workable routine and what I learned while out walking. I thought of dividing this post in two, and turning what comes next into its own little thing, but I’ll just keep the above and below morning thoughts together, as they naturally occurred. And, of course, you are permitted to stop reading right here! :-) )

Table scene I found when I returned from my morning walk yesterday.
Dregs of coffee, Empty blueberry bowl. Bible. Journal. Bible place-marks.
Fruit. To-do List tablet. George MacDonald quote on notecard.

I was thinking about routines while I was out on a morning walk yesterday. I loved my morning routine in my high desert home, and I wrote about it often (as some of you know), but here, in my little house in my new town, I’ve struggled to find a morning routine that works for me. But I think I might have it figured out.

My best morning routine starts by rising early. I woke at 5:30 this morning. I love early mornings, so it was a good time to be up. If I clamber out of bed much later, say beyond 6:30, it seems that the day has run away from me, and I spend the rest of my time chasing it down.

The routine goes like this: I immediately begin to putter around in bare feet while I make my bed and tidy loose ends left dangling from the night before, open windows to let in sunlight and fresh air, brew a French press pot of strong morning coffee, cobble something together for breakfast, and sit down for some quiet time and journaling. I love to do this early and then head out the door for a walk.

But walking in my new neighborhood is less than inspiring. There are a few quiet, lovely streets around my house, but there aren’t enough of them to combine for a vigorous, extended walk, and there are no hills to scale around here, either. A beautiful park across the river from me has a semi-long, paved walking and biking path, but to get there (and back) I have to dodge traffic, traverse busy, noisy, fume-filled streets, and cross a bridge meant for automobiles. When I’ve done all that and arrive back home, it doesn’t add up to the kind of walk I enjoy the most.

Hence, much as I’d love to zip out my front door in the morning to hit the trail, it’s not possible, so it’s become worth it for me to drive a couple of miles to a great walking area on the other side of town. I park and go. Over there, the streets are quiet and pretty. The pace feels relaxed. People are everywhere, out and about for a jog, a walk or, or a trek to the dog park (morning dog park visitors often accessorize with a cup of coffee). These people are extra friendly because it is morning and their brains are not yet busy, cluttered, and distracted (but maybe they would be friendly anyway!).

On that side of town, there are endless trails and walking routes I can choose from, and there are plenty of hills to climb, too. Even the sun seems to shine more cheerily over there. But maybe that’s because I’ve begun to walk in the morning again, and there’s nothing like being outdoors for a walk in the morning. The slant, clear light is fresh and lovely and inspires hope for a good, productive, pleasant day.

So, I parked and walked yesterday morning. As I strode along the sunlit streets—first moving moderately to warm my muscles, and then picking up my pace until I was moving at a good, hard clip—I began to feel that old familiar surge of joy I’ve always gotten from my morning walks. I pressed hard up a long, steep hill, breathing hard and enjoying the exertion. When I reached the top, I glanced all around me at the hills, the trees, the houses with their pretty gardens, and, once again, I thanked God that I can walk like this. Strength and health are gifts. They are given to us, but we must maintain them, and I like maintaining them!

It struck me that God created me to move. Ever since I was a young girl, I’ve been a mover. As a child, I was a non-stop whirl of motion, tearing around the neighborhood on bike or on foot. I rarely walked anywhere because it felt too good to run. I climbed trees and explored. I carried things, lifted things, built forts, and threw rocks as far as I could. I remember sitting in my first grade classroom, always looking out the window, waiting, waiting for the recess bell to ring because I wanted to be out there sprinting around the schoolyard and climbing all over the play equipment.

Throughout school, my favorite class was P.E., and as I grew older, I played sports year round. I went to college on sports scholarships (not full scholarship—it wasn’t even done for women back then). I just loved to move, loved to exert myself, loved to “play” hard. I still do. So, while I am able to move like this, I will.

As I paced quickly along my walking route, I remembered what Eric Liddell, missionary to China and Olympic gold medalist sprinter, said: “When I run, I feel His pleasure.”  I am no Olympic medalist or elite athlete, but I know exactly what Eric Liddell means. It struck me as I walked: I feel great joy doing this. Nature and physical exertion are exhilarating to me. God made me this way. I feel pleasure, and He feels pleasure, too, because I am enjoying the gifts He gave me. I am living in harmony with the way He made me.

The gift of physical movement? What good is that if you’re not an elite athlete who can share his faith with fans? How can that be considered a God-honoring gift? Isn’t this making too much of a mere hobby?

All I can say is that God made me this way. Why? I don’t know. Why does He give any of us gifts, abilities, skills, and interests, particularly if they never amount to anything that another person notices or recognizes as valuable? What is the purpose then?

It is for our joy and for His glory.

And how does this—power-walking up a hill, all alone, on a beautiful sunny morning in a pretty part of town—glorify Him? Well, this is when I think best—both because it’s morning and because I’m moving hard. This is when thoughts and ideas come to me, when my mind clears and insights cohere.

Thinking back over the years, I’ve gained much from my hard morning walks. I see Him in Creation when I walk. I pray when I walk. I praise and worship when I walk. I “hear” Him when I walk. I gain a clear mind regarding so many troubles when I walk. My perspective realigns when I walk, and, more importantly, my heart aligns better with His when I walk.

Over the years, I became a better mother, homeschooler, and Christian because understanding and insights came to me on those vigorous, solitary morning walks. God has hammered lessons home to me on my walks and has untangled many confusing situations so that I’ve understood what step to take next. Or He’s given me a strong sense of His goodness, love, and care—a knowledge that I can trust Him. Too many times to count, I’ve wished I had a pen and piece of paper with me while walking the hills and trails, and as soon as I’ve returned to the house, the first thing I’ve done has been to quickly jot down the thoughts I had while out walking.

But this is just me. I am a mover. A kinesthetic person, if you will. What about you? What do you love to do? What do you do that brings you great joy, opens your heart and mind, gives you clarity, refreshes your perspective, puts your mind on the Lord, and makes you bubble over with gratitude? Do that thing. It is God’s gift to you. It brings you joy, and this gives Him pleasure. Even when the world doesn’t notice or value what you are doing.

And what about your children? How do you suppose God has inclined them? (If you don’t know, slow down enough to find out!) Do you have one who loves to make music or create art or write stories or cook wonderful meals or watch birds or bounce a ball or play legos or read good books for hours? What brings out their best heart and mind? They should do that thing. (This goes for us, too.)

Perhaps you have a mover like I was (and still am)? Let him move. Let him use those muscles and that abundant energy. Though he may just seem like blur of motion who can’t stop for a moment to think, don’t be deceived. He thinks best when he moves. And if he is allowed to do what God inclined Him to do, his heart will be open to both you and to God. He might just feel that joy that turns his heart toward heaven and realize that God finds joy in him, too.

Because here’s the thing. Especially if we are homeschoolers, we are tempted to want to see everything our children do and pursue as measurable or at least as something we can put on a list or a transcript or a learning description. Or we want our children to achieve such skill, achievement, or excellence that they will be noticed. But not everyone will reach those heights. What about those of us who don’t? Isn’t there still value in enjoying the gifts God gave us?

The most important things can’t be measured or even seen. What goes on in the heart and mind, as they merge, is powerful, and it often happens when we are physically doing what God inclined us to do. This is when God speaks and we hear. While training our children to be disciplined learners and accomplished human beings, we need to be careful not to intrude upon or crowd out that quiet God-given space where He connects with the child in ways we’ll never see.

(I you made it to the end, you are an intrepid reader!)


  1. Of course I made it to the end! :D And it is very good. I love the clear, new light of early mornings too, and want to change this night owl into a morning person. I identified with what you said of what a walk accomplishes for you, though I was never athletic, I love to walk and be out in GOD's creation, noticing, praying, thinking, singing, etc.

    I read most of the last part of this post to my 13 year old son. When I finished, I asked him what he thought of it. His immediate response was, "It's good." And his inclination, to play sports (currently baseball and basketball) and to be up-to-date on everything that's happening in the sports world.

    I also get that panicky feeling about the end of summer about this time or sooner. And it takes firm resolve to keep it from destroying the joy in the days that are still left. I love every season, but summer is the only one that ends too soon for me here in the upper peninsula of Michigan.

    Thank you again for sharing your thoughts. It was a pleasure listening to you muse.

  2. Susan,
    Thanks so much for your post today! I read the last part out loud to Ryan b/c it really resonated with me- both for us and our children. We have one just like you describe yourself!! He is a whirlwind and athletically gifted and we pray and ask how do we help him live his gifts for the Lord. Your thoughts about giving glory to God by living whatever we are gifted is a direction and I am grateful you took the time to share them since we don't get to visit!
    Thanks for your blog and sharing all that you do.
    It is a joy to visit.

  3. Your words are always such a breath of fresh air. I can just SEE you, legs pumping, hair blowing back. I feel the same morning solitude it's just me and Him and the sun and all His good creation and I'm filled with the joy of His presence.
    Soaking it in with you, Susan.
    Love, M
    (And your baggie purse?! Hahahahaha. :))

  4. {.{ It is for our joy and for His glory }.}

    i need to remember this.

    my daughter, lizzie, is like you. a blur of motion, even at 21. needs to move. we've always referred to her as figit or zibby; both words meaning (to us) always in motion. i tried hard when she was younger to ensure she was involved in activity * hope i succeeded even a little bit. i think i did. she's an EMT .. and a senior lifeguard (year round 6 years now). she listens to loud, jumpy music and runs and swims and mountain bikes and sky dives and all sorts of things that would make my blood run dry cuz we're sooo very different. but that's what makes us .. us.

    me? early mornings speak to me .. deeply. i'm fine with gentle walks, bike rides (2-6 miles), quiet contemplation over morning coffee, stepping softly through routines (daily, weekly, etc). breathing deep and seeking deeper. soft music (took your suggestion to heart about andre' part * swoon).

    lovely post. delighting in what makes each of us truly unique.


  5. Thank you, Judi. I always enjoy and appreciate what you have to say! I'm glad you share your thoughts here. :-)

    Sarah, it was so good to see your name here. I love your thoughtful comment and your prayers for your son. I wish I could say more in reply to your comment, but I'm up sooo late. Maybe I'll chat with you more later. . . Tell Ryan hello for me, okay? xo

    Megan, your quiet time sounds lovely! :-) I need to run, but I'll be sending an email soon (when the dust settles after company leaves).

    jAne, your Lizzie sounds like my 25-year-old niece! And I love that routine of yours. Quiet. Simple. Waiting. Thank you for your lovely comment.

  6. The last paragraph speaks to me and is so true.

  7. its being able to stand still enough to hear the words of God isnt it though? Lovely post as usual! I really enjoyed reading thru it this morning with my breakfast!

  8. We're park and go-ers too - it's just what works best for us (though I feel a teensy bit guilty about driving somewhere to walk. *grin*) and those early mornings....absolutely priceless.

    tonia- your friend who is NOT a mover, but is learning to be. ;)

  9. Just wanted to drop a quick note to say I appreciated the 2nd half of this post very much. I have little ones at home and am learning how different we 4 are in our home - and to find joy in that. My son is a daughter is a husband and I aren't the same type either. To figure that out is to understand them more, and feel comfortable in my own skin, and both are such good things.
    Anyway, thanks! It's always a joy to peek around your blog.

  10. I'm glad, mominapocket. :-)

    Winterwood, yes exactly! Thank you so much! :-)

    Tonia, I saw that on your blog, and I know what you mean about driving to walk, but sometimes we've just gotta do it, huh? I've been enjoying your posts, by the way. :-)

    Kate, I'm glad you commented. I really appreciate your thoughts. And I'm glad you're here peeking around my blog! :-0