the circle

 

It would be light before long.

So as I’ve been doing since reading Maria Fabrizio’s fabulous Cultivating Creativity, I pulled my body from beneath the covers, splashed water on my face and headed to the Keeping Room for a little before-work writing. I fed the dog and made coffee, then I made an impromptu decision to walk down to the studio for a quick minute to say good morning to the bluebirds. They’ve been so kind to me with this brood, indulging me while I take endless photos as they feed and feed and feed the five nestlings.

(Did you know there were five? Did I show you the photo with that surprise?)

 

Yup. Five.
Yup. Five.

 

I’d checked on them one more time last night just before dark. They were sleeping peacefully, their little tummies filled with a grand assortment of creepie-crawlies from our yard.

Might as well take my camera I thought this morning and grabbed the one with the big lens.

I stood for a few minutes looking out the window. The sun was up now, so the light was good for a photo. I’d surely not need to wait more than five or ten minutes for one of the parents to show up with breakfast. I could spare that writing time. They wouldn’t be babies for long, after all.

Ten minutes passed.

I don’t know what’s keeping them I thought. Maybe they don’t feed first thing in the morning? But surely they do. I’ll count to a hundred, and one will show by then and I can get back upstairs to my writing.

Okay, I’ll count to two hundred.

Okay, three–but then I have to go up.

About that time Papa flew to the brick column just across from me, and delighted, I snapped this photo.

 

5.20.15

 

He flew over to the nest box, looked in the hole, looked away, then flew toward our yard’s outer trees, the spider still in his beak.

 

papa 2

papa-3papa-4

That’s curious I thought. The Mama must be in the box with the babies. I’ll wait just a bit and she’ll fly out.

Five more minutes pass.

I don’t hear the babies, I realize. So I open the window closest to the nest box and wait.

Not a peep.

Nothing.

~~~~~

It took all I had to walk over to the box, climb up on the chair and shine my iPhone flashlight into the opening. I could see bare nest, so I immediately knew something was wrong. I unhooked the latch, pulled down the door and saw that four of the babies were missing and one was still there, dead.

The nest was undisturbed.

~~~~~~

I have spent this day thinking of those birds: the miracle of them emerging from those tiny blue eggs; the desperate hunger cries from their big gaping beaks; the devotion of the parents, who nonstop cared for the babies and also watched out for each other.

I think of the predator: the snake (most likely) that was simply doing what snakes do in seeking out this meal; my insistence last summer that we kill the giant one we found lying on the mallard nest eating the eggs (and my worry that snake karma would get me back); the horror and magnitude of the circle of life.

I grieve for them all and worry greatly about the Mama bluebird. I haven’t seen her and can only hope she is somewhere safe.

~~~~~~

At a client event this morning, a local pastor offered a prayer that included a passage from Psalm 118.

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Rejoice and be glad, I thought.

Some days this is tougher than others.

 

 

 

Note: I posted a precious, happy video of the babies yesterday before discovering the situation downstairs. After that I didn’t have the heart to put the link on Facebook or Twitter, so if you’d like to see it but didn’t, click here. It’s a nice memorial, I think.)

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Strawberry Fields Forever (I wish)

Lexington County strawberries
the taste of spring

 

I’ve been doing a little more post-surgery rehab on my shoulder, which means I have a new driving route as part of my routine. At least three times a week I now pass an unassuming little farm stand that sells buckets of just-picked, locally grown strawberries.

How happy I am I took a moment to pull over. What a delightfully sweet week this has been!

BONUS: Just came across this link from one of my faves, @CamilleStyles. Oh, yeah! ! http://camillestyles.com/summer/15-best-summery-strawberry-dessert-recipes/

 

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Toes and Fingers Crossed

 

male and female

I am happy to report the eggs in the Upper Spring Nest seem to be viable and I see the Mama’s sweet little nose stick out of the box from time to time. Meanwhile, I caught this beautiful scene on the bird feeder just a couple of days ago.

Fingers crossed we’ll have some bluebird babies in the next couple of days!

 

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The Here and Now

 

I’m writing a novel.

It’s been 18 months, and it’s something I still can’t say with a straight face.

It’s such a ridiculous notion, is the thing. I mean. Couldn’t I have started with something smaller? A poem? A short story, perhaps? Not me. A novel, right out of the creative writing gate. It’s an undertaking that’s huge, gigantic, epic. There’s plot and pace and rhythm. Character development and dialogue. Narrative. Historical accuracy. Dialect. Conflict.

Resolution. Aaahh, resolution.

But of all of it, the most terrifying thing for me is simply the enormous scope of the book itself.

(It scares the hell out of me just to think about it.)

And so I repeat to myself over and over the words I first heard Anne LaMott say, a quote she credits to D.L. Doctorow:

Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.

Thank. You. Jesus.

~~~~~~

We’ve been studying Priscilla Shirer’s Discerning the Voice of God in our beautiful, intimate women’s Sunday School class. It’s been a life-changer, this book, with I must remember this forever notes in nearly every chapter. This week’s study, for instance, included this passage I starred five times.

God is the God of right now. He calls us not to be regretful over yesterday or worried about tomorrow. He wants us to focus on what he is saying to us and putting in front of us right now. The enemy’s voice will focus on the past and the future while the voice of God will focus on today. He is the God of right now.

Does that give you the kind of peace it gives me? I mean. I’ve spent a lifetime fretting about things that are so far in front of me there’s no way to see them from this distance, no way to predict now what will happen then. How much stress I’ve created with this simple thought:

What if.

From now on, I’ll try to focus on those next four feet. Instead of trying to see beyond, I’ll just do What’s next. 

It’s a fine way to live, right here, right now. It’s how God has revealed each step anyway.

onestep
Life.

And it’s exactly how my novel is getting written, four feet at a time. I shine my little flashlight to illuminate the darkness, just focusing on This happened. And then this happened. It’s brought me to 70,000 words, and as Doctorow says, I now realize I can make the whole trip that way.

It’s a gorgeous life lesson. And it’s probably the real reason I’ve had to face down the challenge of writing this book.

I am grateful.

 

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Happy May Day!

our first daylily of the season
our first daylily of the season

 

I had a happy, happy childhood growing up in the mountains of Southwest Virginia, where I had the great fortune of living in a world that felt very simple. We walked to school; we sledded down Macklemore Hill; we played Kick the Can and Annie Over until it got too dark to see.

And every year on May 1st, my best friend and across-the-street neighbor, Suzann, and I would make little bouquets of flowers for our neighbors. We’d ring their doorbells, then hide just out of view when they opened the door to find the sweet blossom bundles waiting for them.

It’s a nice way to welcome Spring, don’t you think?

Happy May Day, from Suzann and me, to you!

 

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For Eliza, On the Day of Her Final Finals

 

My sweet girl,

Today you take the final exam of your college career–your final finals as we have been calling them. While that in itself is reason to rejoice (!), I know there are a thousand other emotions moving inside you, like ocean swells that become waves that crash into each other in an approaching storm. It’s a funny thing to be the Mom of a daughter facing these confusing and conflicting feelings. I have been in the same place, on the same campus, facing the same things. I know your heart like I know my own: half sad and hopeless, half ready to move on. Fearful, yes, but nevertheless feeling that tug toward what’s next.

It’s just life, this tug of what’s next. It’s how God keeps us moving along our journey. That’s something you know but somehow it is of little comfort when emotions run so wild. Right?

Let me put your mind at ease on the two thoughts that I expect most weigh you down.

1. You are ready.

There is no experience like college (particularly at Clemson, which is ideal in this way) and for many of us, it will always be a pinnacle time in life. This is a good thing! It happens because it’s the perfect match up of want and need. College is an immersion in a life buffet–you only need fill your plate with the things that interest you and that move you along on your big life journey. Classes, clubs, relationships, parties, travel, lectures, sports, activities–a little of this, a little of that–and each one plays a part in getting you ready for the big world waiting for you out here. It’s all rather remarkable, I think.

But then years pass and you begin to get your fill. The food still looks good, but somehow you’re not so hungry anymore.

It’s God’s way of telling you it’s time to make a move. He knows because he’s provided everything you need to be ready for the next chapter. You are more mature, more grounded, more confident. You’re better at making your own decisions. You have a better sense of who you are. (Okay, so maybe not completely, but you definitely have a better sense of who you are not and that is just as important.) You know how to navigate, how to get from here to there, how to read the proverbial map and ask the right questions and work through problems that arise along the way. You know how to make the difficult calls, have the tough conversations, face the inevitable consequences. You’re finding out what drains you, and also, what brings you powerful energy and great, giddy joy.

You’ve had four years of practice on a demanding college campus. But the walls are closing in. You’re ready for a bigger stage.

2. You get to take the people that matter to you with you when you go.

It’s so true.

You’ve developed relationships with some remarkable people who’ve been an important part of your growth in college. These connections won’t just sever and die when you leave campus.  Those who matter to you will be an important part of your future, as well.

Chief among these, of course, are your friends. Guys and girls with whom you’ve spent time, who’ve influenced the person you’ve become. And most particularly the deep dear friendships of your tightest circle. How lucky you are to be surrounded by such strong, intelligent, beautiful women. How lucky they are to have you! As you hug goodbye to begin new chapters in different cities, rest assured in the knowledge these friendships will only deepen as you all move on. Life has a funny way of making sure this happens–it will challenge you in ways that demand you reach out and hold on to each other for support. I know from my own beautiful experiences–you will be there for each other in ways you can’t even imagine. They are your circle for life, these women, and you will lean on each other as things change over the next 10, 20, 30, 40 years and more. How you will need each other for strength, for guidance, for honesty. For keeping it all in check. And for laughter and fun. For the rest of your lives, when you girls are together the laughter will come as easily as it does today. With no work, with no effort, the laughter will always come.

There’s so much grace in that, I think.

Anyway, my sweet girl. There you are on that threshold. In front of you is a big, beautiful world filled with so much. I can’t wait to see you gobble it all up.

You are ready. It’s time.

Love, love, love,

Mama

 

girls
the girls

 

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Wishes

I’ve been thinking, lately, about wishes.

About the physical sensation of wanting something so badly your heart feels it, you get that tug, like there’s a magnetic field outside your body pulling your heart toward it.

It’s not something that’s generally been on my grown-up mind, this idea of wishes. But as a kid, I remember lying in bed on more than one Christmas Eve longing, dreaming, wishing for something on my Santa list. I can still feel my heart stretch at the mere possibility of an Easy Bake Oven (I got one) or a Play Size Kitchen (I didn’t) under the tree the next morning.

I wanted it so bad.

I’ve had a wish come true, here of late. Remember the five bluebird eggs the Mama didn’t incubate? The ones that had disappeared when I got home yesterday? I knew from my research there was a chance they’d built a new nest over the old one. Maybe that means, I thought, they’ll lay new eggs.

I wish I wish I wish I wish.

This is what I found when I got home from work today.

 

my wish come true
my wish come true

 

Another chance at baby blues. Be still my heart!

 

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