Arriving Where We Started

If I had a blog, today I would write about coming home a second time.

Almost exactly a year ago we made a remarkable decision: With Dad’s retirement approaching, he, Mom and I decided it would be exciting to leave our native Missouri and make our home in a new place, a place quite different from that which we know so well.

Our first thought was Florida. We had a beach house near Sarasota when I was a child and memories of sun-drenched mornings on the beach, collecting baskets of seashells, and watching dolphins play in the evening surf made us think perhaps that was the place we should go. Mom and Dad made a trip down to look at homes and see if any of Old Florida still existed and, for a few months, it seemed a real possibility. But when the calculators came out and the risk of hurricanes was factored in and the bumper-to-bumper traffic was assessed, we had to admit that our version of Casey Key was gone. We were chasing ghosts of the past trying to make our dream a reality and we accepted that we had to move on.

00-solstice-sunset_0040-webOur next thought was Santa Fe, New Mexico. We’d all visited Santa Fe and loved the classy, artsy feel of this quaint city and the fierce landscapes surrounding us would be the perfect place to experience wilderness in a way we hadn’t before. We looked at hundreds of homes online, talked to a realtor, and even made a trip out to get one more up-close-and-personal Santa Fe experience, but, in the end, we realized our dreams of a desert oasis would be drowned in a sea of wall-to-wall tourists the year round and so we set this plan aside as well. It was then that we had the most remarkable thought of all: Why not stay here, on the farm we call The Greenwood?

the-house-in-summer-webTwo decades ago, Mom and Dad bought this land and built the farm of their dreams. They designed the house, planned the barns and pastures and planted crops that would benefit livestock and wild creatures as well. Together, we raised sheep, cows, horses, pigs, and chickens to feed ourselves and eventually, our growing base of customers. We had a twenty-cow dairy and sold our grass-fed meats to the best chefs in St. Louis. We hiked every acre of this place and came know the spirit of every hillside, creek, and valley. We built a life here. Why should we be in such a hurry to leave?

Eight years ago we stopped farming on a large scale and slowly sold our livestock to others until the barns stood empty – waiting for the next chapter to begin. We thought the story would be written by others, but, it turns out, we have more to say, more stories to create in our little valley by the river. When all was weighed in the balance, the answer was clear: Our next adventure begins here, on The Greenwood.

20160921_0066Twelve laying hens now inhabit the chicken house, already providing us with healthy eggs, rich in flavor. In the next few weeks, we hope to bring home six sheep to give us lambs in the spring, and over the course of the winter, we will acquire half-a-dozen young cows who will supply us with beef calves and breeding stock. There might even be a border collie in our future. Its hard to say just how deep this rabbit hole goes.

When I think about it, staying here makes perfect sense. It has the ideal circularity of story to give a happy ending. It also mirrors one of my favorite quotes, a passage written by T.S. Eliot in the final passage of The Four Quartets:

We shall not cease from exploring                                                                                                               And the end of our exploring                                                                                                                         Will be to arrive where we started                                                                                                                 And know the place for the first time.

So we begin – again.

Into the Mist

If I had a blog, today I would write about the beauty of autumn’s misty mornings.

10022014_075418 webSitting at the breakfast table this morning, I watched as dense fog rose from the valley to cover the hills in a pewter-grey cloak. At first, thin tendrils of mist wove among the trees, then deepened into a thick bank that hid the top of Hawk Ridge, blurring the boundary between earth and sky.

05062012_054540 web

 

As I sipped my coffee, the sun rose behind the pond and the somber morning was lit with pink and gold. Spiderwebs shimmered in the mist, each strand lined with perfectly formed beads of dew and the grasses bent under the weight of diamond-drops that reflected the color of the morning. I have seen such mornings before, but I never tire of autumn’s misty morns.

There is something alluring about the fog. It brings out the child in us. Who hasn’t gone out on a foggy day and imagined catching a glimpse of a dragon or unicorn in some unexplored part of the woods? We need mystery, even uncertainty, in our lives. It allows for undreamt of possibilities, for the existence of miracles.

10112013_070717 (1) webWithout a sense of unknowing, we lose our sense of wonder. Even when the unknown is frightening, it is an opening through which the stuff of dreams can slip. In times of certainty, we become complacent, overly confident in our knowledge of the future. We think we know how “it” is all going to play out and we feel blindsided when things don’t fit into the future we had foreseen. But even in that hour of despair, there is hope; hope that something better than we imagined lies just around the bend. For, we must follow the wisdom of poet Ranier Maria Rilke when he wrote:

Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.

Lobelia

If I had a blog, today I would write about following nature’s calendar in my garden.

When you live close to nature, one of the benefits is following the passage of time through the changes in the natural world. In my yard, the month of August, and the end of summer, are marked by the blooming of two of my favorite flowers: Cardinal flower and blue lobelia.

Both of these striking flowers are in the lobelia family, a species defined by the presence of five lobed petals on the flower. The family of plants is named for Belgian botanist, Mathias de L’Obel, who often used a “latinized” form of his name Lobelius.

081113_0822 webThe name cardinal flower (lobelius cardinalis) was inspired by the color of the robes of the Roman Catholic cardinals. John Burroughs, the 19th-century naturalist, wrote, “But when vivid color is wanted, what can surpass or equal our cardinal flower? There is a glow about this flower as if color emanated from it as from a live coal.” It was first found by explorers in Canada who sent the plant to France in the mid-1620’s. Many Native American tribes used tea made from the roots and leaves as medicines to treat everything from bronchitis to rheumatism. The leaves were often smoked in place of tobacco, despite the fact that overuse can be toxic.

In this day and age, cardinal flower is of greatest benefit to the ruby-throated hummingbird, its primary pollinator. The beak of the ruby-throat is perfectly shaped to reach deep into the flower where the nectar and pollen reside. The flowers are especially adapted to pollination by hummingbirds. They are said to “pull hummingbirds from the sky.” In fact, their blooming period corresponds especially well with the southern migration of ruby-throated hummingbirds to Mexico and Central America for the winter.

09242014_093525 webGrowing alongside the cardinal flowers are its cousin, blue lobelia. These blue-violet blooms are a favorite of bees and, being one of the last flowers to bloom during the growing season, are essential to building the bees’ store of food for the winter. Cardinal flower and blue lobelia are so closely related, they can cross-pollinate and produce blooms of fuchsia, white, and pale pink.

When these favorites are in bloom, I know the clock is turning from the bounty of summer to preparation for the scarcity of winter. These are flowers who provide lasting nourishment for the hummingbirds and bees. Cardinal flower and blue lobelia tell me it is time to add to the wood-pile, put by the last of the preserves, and glean the last of the garden’s bounty. Winter is coming and it is time to gather the harvest at last.

In a world where everything seems up for grabs, it is reassuring to see the constancy of nature. Regardless of how crazy the calendar on my wall may become, nature’s measure of time is regular as a heartbeat, and as comforting as a soft blanket on a chilly fall night. We need things we can be sure of and I thank my garden for giving me something on which I can rely.

I Got A Dog

Gus' first day home2If I had a blog, today I would write about my extended hiatus from the blogging world. The cause for my absence can be summed up in a single phrase: I got a dog.

In March 2015, I bought a baby yellow Labrador I named Gus and since that time, every moment of every day has been about me and Gus. It seems as though I should have known getting a puppy would upend my world. My family has always had dogs: Labs, border collies, Great Pyrenees, a beagle, but what I didn’t realize is the difference between a family pet and a dog of my own.

Having a puppy was, for me, akin to having a baby. I am single and work from home, so Gus and I have had the opportunity to be together 24/7 since he came into my life and his joie de vie has turned my world inside out.

Gus on his first day home.

Gus on his first day home.

I knew about the basic things like: Puppies don’t sleep at night, they make messes, they need constant supervision, and they need daily walks and training. No problem. But none of the books, nor my previous experience, prepared me for a Lab who lived full-throttle from dawn to dusk. Michael, our first Lab, was laid back from the start. He played with my brother and me, laid on the couch to watch TV, and just kind of melded in with family life. Not Gus. He was like a hyena on speed. He leaped, he bounded, he ran at the speed of sound through every event of my day. He ate reams of paper, shoes, shirts, socks, and dryer sheets. I spent most of my time removing some potential danger from his mouth: Rocks, wire, even a piece of broken glass. He seemed to have a knack for self-destruction and I was all that was standing between him and an early departure from this life.

Of course the biggest problem was: I was madly in love with this dog. By bedtime the first day I knew I’d die if anything were to happen to this gregarious pup. I was hooked and there was no turning back.

Consequently, along with the loss of any free-time, my creative muse took flight  upon Gus’ arrival and I began to think she would never return. There was a moment, late in the fall, when I thought we were making headway, then came November.

051115_0692In November 2015, Gus’ insane energy finally got the better of him and he broke his shoulder running into the corner of the greenhouse at the speed of light. Surgery looked imminent, but a wonderful orthopedic surgeon at the University of Missouri Vet Clinic said it could be avoided if I could commit Gus to 4 weeks of complete crate rest. The decision was clear, but no less challenging. Keeping the Tasmanian Devil still 23 hours a day for a month seemed impossible, but it had to be done.

Keeping Gus in his crate for 4 weeks was hard. Keeping Gus in his crate for 8 weeks just about broke my spirit. There was one setback after another and I thought if I saw him go downhill another time, I would need to be put in a crate – permanently.

To make a very long story short, the vet was right and Gus did heal, but by the time I’d gone through that trauma, I didn’t have a creative cell left in my body. It is only now, nineteen months after Gus’ arrival, that I find myself creating again. Today, as I write, Gus is finally sacked out beside me, giving me time to put my thoughts out into the ether once again.

So, at least for now, I’m back. Thoughts are flowing and hope is rising. As summer turns to fall, I look forward to sharing my blog with you once again.

 

Best Friends

If I had a blog, today I would tell you that, this morning, I lost my best friend, Owain, the border collie.

Owain was part of our lives for thirteen years and from the day Mom and I brought him home, Owain and I were buddies. He respected Mom as his trainer and companion, but Owain saw me as a littermate – someone to pal around with, someone who was always up for a game of catch or tug-of-war. I am thankful for every second Owain and I spent together and although the house has an empty place tonight, my heart is full. I can feel Owain’s presence everywhere I go and for that, I am so grateful. The days ahead will be a mixture of joy and tears; of funny stories and touching remembrances. The love of family and our other pets will help us find our way and I have no doubt that one day, Owain and I will be together again. Godspeed Mr. True. I’ll see you soon.

Owain - Our Mr. True

Owain – Our Mr. True

Take Joy

If I had a blog, today I would reflect on the words of a 14th century monk named Fra Giovanni, that he wrote to a friend on Christmas 1513.

Owain - Our Mr. True

Owain – Our Mr. True

Life is hard. Some days too hard. Earlier this week we learned that our beloved border collie, Owain, has cancer. He is fourteen years old, well beyond the normal lifespan of his breed, and it has been a joy to travel the road of life with him from the day he came to us as a pup. Owain is family and his passing will bring many, many days of tears, but I am lifted up by the words of Fra Giovanni, who assures me that behind every trial is the hand of an angel, outstretched to lift us up until we can stand on our own two feet again. All the wonderful things in life are before us, offered freely, for those who have the courage to believe in the light when all the world grows dark.

For the moment, Owain is as happy and energetic as ever. He’s outside this morning, barking at the songbirds, his voice drowning out our breakfast conversation. Such things might seem an annoyance, but under these circumstances, Owain’s eccentricities are a joy. A few days ago, it seemed as though happiness had slipped through away forever. Sitting at the vet’s office, hearing the awful news, I couldn’t fathom how I could face the days to come, but then I read Fra Giovanni’s letter and I began to look beneath the veneer of gloom for even the smallest glimmer of hope – and I found it. My time with Owain may be shorter than I had hoped, but they can be good days, days of richness and depth of feeling that I can store in my heart forever. They will be my touchstones on days that are more difficult to bear.

We live as mortal beings, our days numbered from the hour of our birth. Mortality can be a curse or it can be a blessing; the choice is ours to make. If we are have the courage to set aside our fear and grief, we will find moments of joy in even the darkest hours of our lives. Thank you Brother Giovanni for showing us the way.

I salute you.

I am your friend, and my love for you goes deep.
There is nothing I can give you which you have not;
But there is much – very much – that, while I cannot give,
You can take.

No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in today.
Take Heaven!

No peace lies in the future that is not hidden in this present instant.
Take Peace!

The gloom in the world is but a shadow;
Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy.
Take Joy!

There is radiance and glory in darkness, could we but see;
And to see, we have only to look.
I beseech you to look!

Life is so generous a giver.
But we, judging its gifts by their covering, cast them away as ugly or heavy or hard.
Remove the covering, and you will find beneath it a living splendor,
Woven of Love,
By Wisdom,
With Power.

Welcome it, grasp it, and you touch the angel’s hand that brings it to you.
Everything we call a trial, a sorrow, or a duty. . .
Believe me, that angel’s hand is there;
The gift is there, and the wonder of an overshadowing Presence.
And our joys: be not content with them as joys.
They, too, conceal diviner gifts.

Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty beneath its covering,
That you will find earth but cloaks your heaven.

Courage then, to claim it. . . .that is all!
But courage you have,
And the knowledge that we are pilgrims together,
Wending our way through unknown country. . .
Home.

And so at this Christmastime, I greet you
Not quite as the world sends greetings,
But with profound esteem and with the prayer that for you,
Now and forever,
The day breaks and shadows flee away.

Home

Fledgling Barn Swallows

Fledgling Barn Swallows

If I had a blog, today I would write about home. As I went about my chores yesterday I noticed the purple martins and barn swallows getting ready to start their migration to their winter homes in Central and South America. I will miss their cheerful voices in the barn and along the lane and I wonder if they miss our farm, The Greenwood, during their long journey to the south. What it is like for migratory birds, those who spit their time between two vastly different geographies. Do they consider one place home and the other a sublet? Do they long for one place over the other or does it matter as long as they fulfill their biological destiny? I think about these things not because I am a traveler, but because I am a homebody. I don’t like to uproot my life and flit from one place to another, like a hummingbird sampling the flowers in a garden. I am more like the chickadees and titmice, who stay in one place the whole year-round. I want a permanent place, somewhere I can let my roots grow deep, so deep that I am part of the land and it is part of me.

Mockingbird Hill

Mockingbird Hill

To those who revel in the new and unexplored, we homebodies are something of a mystery. They often assume we are dull, uninspired, and timid members of society. After all, we aren’t circumnavigating the globe or filling our Facebook page with photo albums of France, the Swiss Alps, and Antarctica. So what are we doing with our lives? I can’t speak for anyone else, but I can tell you I have discovered a world of adventure waiting just outside my own back door.

Blackberries

Blackberries

I don’t need to climb Everest or plumb the depth of the Marianas Trench to be fulfilled; my days are full trekking through the uncharted landscape of my own little world. I know my 200 acres like the face of a lover: I know the steep hills where dogwood blooms in the springtime, the deep valleys, hidden within the oak-dappled forest, where salamanders live among the rain-damp rocks. I know where to look for morel mushrooms in the spring, where to find blackberries in the summer, and where to collect bittersweet on brisk autumn afternoons. Each hill and valley have a name: Hawk Ridge, Turkey-Trot Pasture, Mockingbird Hill. They are the friends with whom I share my life, my solid ground in a world of ceaseless change.

Ancient Stones

Ancient Stones

Every so often, I’ll find something new: An outcropping of ancient stone, standing in the woods like an idol from a bygone age, or a the remains of an old spring-house, the rusted pipe still flowing with icy water on a summer’s day and I feel an explorer of old, charting unmapped territory, uncovering the stories buried by time. There is always something waiting to surprise me, even on the most common sort of days and I seldom return from my excursions without a new story to tell.

Blue Lobelia

Blue Lobelia

Every so often I question my need for the familiar. I wonder if I’m missing out by staying home. It’s true, I would like to see Paris in the rain and stand in the arc of rocks at Stonehenge, but somehow that isn’t in the cards for me. I wasn’t put here to embrace the world at large, but rather to be the caretaker of one small piece of land. In those moments of doubt, all I have to do is step out on my porch. I hear the wood-thrush’s tremolo from the forest and see the last of summer’s flowers blooming in the glade. The season is turning and there is much to be seen before the coming of frost. The Greenwood is calling and I must go.

Something’s Going On

Claudia's First Day

Claudia’s First Day

If I had a blog, today I would tell you that something’s going on “out there.” I don’t know who or what is causing it or even exactly what it means, but the older I get, the more I am certain Hamlet knew what he was talking about when he said, “There is more in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than is dreamt of in your philosophy.”

To wit: One year ago, well after dark, I got a phone call from my brother, David, wondering if I was interested in another rescue cat. Given that we live in the country, finding a lost kitten isn’t all that amazing, but what got me was the fact that this is the second time a kitten found me through my brother. David is terribly allergic to cats, or his house would be full of cats instead of mine, but cats are obviously drawn to him. This night, David was walking his yellow lab, Hank, when a tea-cup sized calico kitten came boldly striding across the yard, meowing to beat the band. David and my sister-in-law, Kindra, scooped her up at once and called me, the keeper of cats.

Sawyer's First Day - May 2009

Sawyer’s First Day – May 2009

Now jump back four years, to warm spring evening. My phone rang and it was David asking the cat question for the first time. He and Kindra had gone out to eat and were accosted by a wee black kitten, hidden in the shrubs outside the restaurant. They checked with the clientele of the establishment and no one was missing a feline, so I got the call and Sawyer came into my life. I’d wanted a cat for a long time, but my life was so busy I wasn’t sure the timing was right. Thus, I sent word to the Powers-That-Be that I was open to getting a cat, but I’d wait until they provided one in need. That was in March and Sawyer appeared in May.

Looking For A Friend

Looking For A Friend

This time around, I’d made a similar plea to The PTB. Sawyer was happy enough, but he seemed lonely and I thought a companion might improve his life. I tried bringing one of my barn cats to the house and that failed miserably. Sawyer turned into a black panther and Miranda into a lioness before I took her back home. I turned the situation over once again and a year later, Claudia Jean arrived.

Little Miss Independent

Little Miss Independent

The early days were tenuous. I’d named Claudia after Claudia Jean Cregg, the press-secretary on The West Wing,  and my Claudia certainly lived up to her name. Intrepid and no nonsense, little Claudia took charge of her world right from the start. I kept Claudie in an upside-down play-pen and kept Sawyer in his room unless I was there to supervise, but it soon became evident that Claudia could and would take care of herself. There was a lot of hissing and boxing at the start , but I persevered and one evening, about a month later, Claudia and Sawyer began to play. At first it was mostly Claudia jumping on Sawyer and him running off. I knew we’d made the last hurdle the day I watched Sawyer initiate a game of tag by stalking Claudie around the play-pen.

Peaceful Days

Peaceful Days

One year in, my two house cats are thick as thieves. They play together, sleep together, eat together, and wreck havoc together. Its worked out better than I ever imagined and I believe I have a Higher Power to thank.

Beautiful Baby Claudia

Beautiful Baby Claudia

In blogs to come, I will talk about some bigger synchronicities, real life-changing events, but the Gift of Cats gives me a touchstone, a reminder that life is more than simply what we see. Happy Anniversary Claudia Jean and thank you, Powers-That-Be for bringing such lovely creatures into my life.

Hope is Kindled

High Summer

High Summer

If I had a blog, today I would write about crossing the bridge towards autumn. I went to Wal-Mart this morning and as I moved into the “seasonal” area, I noted with smug satisfaction that the picnic-ware and pool toys were being taken away and the Back to School extravaganza of notebooks, pens, pencils, crayons, and so on, were being moved in. This pleases me for several reasons: First, it means that we’ve hit mid-summer. Memorial Day is done, the Fourth of July is over, and all that remains between us and autumn is Labor Day.

I don’t exactly dislike summer, in fact I love it at the start. Nothing feels better after six months of somber brown and grey than to see the trees turn green, the flowers bloom, watch for the first barn-swallow, the first lightning bugs, and listen for the song of the whippoorwill on a soft, sweet evening. But, as time passes, its more about scorching heat, lugging garden hoses, and tending to bug-bites and poison ivy. By July 5th, the “bloom is off the rose,” quite literally, and I am dreaming of fall.

The Old School House - Columbia, MO

Vintage School House – Columbia, MO

The second reason I am pleased, and this is the smug part, is that I no longer have to go to school. As a kid, I loved shopping for school supplies; the notebooks divided with tabs, organized by subject, the neatly filled pencil boxes, and pleasantries like pocket calendars, assignment notebooks, and pin-ups for my locker were intoxicating. I organized and re-organized my goodies, carefully chose what I’d wear the first day of school, and practiced hairstyles and jewelry combos as if I was going to Oxford or La Sorbonne and even enjoyed my first day back in the hallowed halls of the Rolla school system, but then reality struck: I was going to have to be there from 8:30 to 3:30, five-days-a-week for nine whole months! Nine months of captivity among largely hostile natives who seemed at home in the chaos of the lunchroom and who understood the secret social rules I never seemed to get. What was I thinking! Run, Bambi! Run!

The Road Home

The Road Home

So, now that I have reached the middle-years of my life, I can still buy organizers and pens and calendars but they are for my office at home. That’s right, at home. I can stand back and watch the next generation ponder which is the coolest folder and what pen will garner the most appreciation from their peeps and breathe a sigh of relief that I have earned my stripes and autumn is now mine, all mine.

It isn’t often that I thank Wal-Mart for being a symbol of joyful anticipation, but today proves anything is possible. Sure, its only been fifteen days since the Summer Solstice, but the days are getting shorter by 54 seconds and the sun is slowly shifting back to the south. In August, the light will change, hinting at the mellow days to come and before you know it, the mums will be in bloom and the pumpkins ripening in the field. We have a ways to go yet, but what is life without hope for the future? Today, in my world, hope is kindled.

Give Thanks

Corrie ten Boom

Corrie ten Boom

If I had a blog, today I would write about Corrie and Betsie ten Boom. For those of you who haven’t read The Hiding Place, Corrie, her sister Betsie, and their father worked in the Underground in Holland, during World War II, hiding Jews from the Nazis. In February 1944, a Dutch informant betrayed them and they were arrested and sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp. Corrie was fifty-two years old, Betsie was fifty-nine and their father was eighty-five. The Jews they were hiding were not discovered during the raid and many of them survived thanks to the unstinting courage of those who maintained the Underground until the war ended, but Betsie and their father, Casper, died before the camps were liberated in 1945. Corrie was released due to an error in paperwork. Had that error not occurred, she would have been put to death the following week.

Of all the stories in The Hiding Place that inspire me, the incident that I use as a touchstone most often is the story of  Betsie and the Fleas:

A few months after their arrival at Ravensbruck, Corrie, Betsie and a hundred other women were moved to a cramped, filthy barracks infested with fleas. The dirty straw that served as mattresses was alive with the creatures and within hours all of the women were covered in painful bites.

Corrie’s inner strength failed her and she wept, “Betsie, how can we live in such a place?”
Betsie thumbed through the contraband Bible, which they read from each day and Betsie read  from First Thessalonians, “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances…”
“‘That’s it, Corrie!” said Betsie, ” That’s His answer. ‘Give thanks in all circumstances!’ That’s what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!’ I stared at her; then around me at the dark, foul-aired room.
“‘Such as?’ I said.
“‘Such as being assigned here together.’
“I bit my lip. ‘Oh yes, Lord Jesus!’
“‘Such as what you’re holding in your hands.” I looked down at the Bible.
“‘Yes! Thank You, dear Lord, that there was no inspection when we entered here! Thank You for all these women, here in this room, who will meet You in these pages.’
“‘Yes,” said Betsie, “Thank You for the very crowding here. Since we’re packed so close, that many more will hear!’ She looked at me expectantly. ‘Corrie!’ she prodded.
“‘Oh, all right. Thank You for the jammed, crammed, stuffed, packed suffocating crowds.’
“‘Thank You,’ Betsie went on serenely, ‘for the fleas and for–‘
“The fleas! This was too much. “Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.”
“‘Give thanks in all circumstances,’ she quoted. “It doesn’t say, ‘in pleasant circumstances.’ Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.”
And so we stood between tiers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong.

For several weeks, the women of Barracks 28 conducted secret Bible studies, ever fearful that the guards would walk in and discover this expressly forbidden activity, but to their surprise, the guards showed no interest in the goings-on in that particular cell block.

Corrie continues: “One evening I got back to the barracks late from a wood-gathering foray outside the walls. A light snow lay on the ground and it was hard to find the sticks and twigs with which a small stove was kept going in each room. Betsie was waiting for me, as always, so that we could wait through the food line together. Her eyes were twinkling.
“You’re looking extraordinarily pleased with yourself,” I told her.
“‘You know, we’ve never understood why we had so much freedom in the big room,'”she said. “Well–I’ve found out.”
That afternoon, she said, there’d been confusion in her knitting group about sock sizes and they’d asked the supervisor to come and settle it.
“But she wouldn’t. She wouldn’t step through the door and neither would the guards. And you know why?”
Betsie could not keep the triumph from her voice: “Because of the fleas! That’s what she said, “That place is crawling with fleas!'”

This is the part of The Hiding Place I turn to when life seems to much to bear. Some days its ridiculously small troubles, some days legitimate tragedy, but if I can find the courage to set self-pity aside and find something to be thankful for, the ache in my soul lessens and I find an continuous list of things for which I am thankful. If I dwell on these, rather than on the ways life has cheated and abused me, my situation changes from impenetrable darkness to shades of grey and, in time, the light of hope shines through and I can see the path before me.

It is easy to give thanks for the big things: A promotion at work, the birth of a healthy child, or the remission of an illness, but the real power of thankfulness is found when there seems to be nothing for which to give thanks. The power does not lie in appeasing a jealous and demanding god or in uttering a magical combination of words. This is no abracadabra or ritual sacrifice, it is focusing on the goodness in our lives even if it is microscopic compared to the darkness that surrounds us. Focus on the light and the light will lead you home.

Following the Light

Following the Light