Tag Archives: nature

Learning to Linger

In my previous life, I didn’t know how to linger. I remember once getting so angry with my son’s baseball coach because he wouldn’t tell me when baseball practice ended. I had two other kids, one was a baby and a full-time job. He said, Practice ends when it ends. I’d end up waiting in the car with that baby 45 minutes to an hour for the coach to be moved to end practice.

What is wrong with him? I fumed. Does he have any idea what I could get done in 45 minutes to an hour? I’m actually still kind of mad about that. You know how I can tell? The baby is 19 years old and I’m still writing about it. Whatever. The beauty of your own blog? You can vent as long as you need to.

Now, I am better at lingering. Subtracting a few big things certainly helps but it seems in any stage of life that lingering is better. In her book, Soulful Simplicity, Courtney Carver learned some lessons after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. It’s amazing how a diagnosis can cause us to do what we should have been doing all along. Courtney radically changed her life. Among other things, she learned to linger.

She writes, You can infuse clarity and softness into your everyday life by reclaiming the lost art of lingering….incorporating vacation moments into your every day life is the better choice. This will take practice, intention, and a commitment to reprioritize, but what happens if you are successful is that you enjoy life more, and as a side effect become more loving, creative and productive.

There’s a mysterious Hebrew word in our Bibles, Selah. You will see it often in the book of Psalms and also in Habakkuk. It is used 74 times. The best anyone can figure out it means stop and listen or maybe even stop and praise God or some believe it is a musical directive, like pause here singers and musicians, take a breath. It may even mean stop and get ready for what is next.

I like it because it seems like we are being instructed to linger. Linger in the moment. Linger in God’s Word. Stop. Breathe.

I used to think it was funny when older people were depicted as sitting on park benches feeding pigeons all day. Except now, I get it.

Just today, on my morning walk, I paused a lot. I sat on a park bench. Selah. I noticed how green everything looked and then how the green was dotted with lots of red. Selah. The red was cardinals. More than I’ve ever seen on my walk. Selah. I found a patch of bluebonnets growing in the sun and let my dog linger there for pictures. Selah.

Selah. Lingering in grace.

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller and Pace, breast cancer survivor and lingerer.    

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Watch Where You Put Yourself

It’s just a simple wisp of an idea; one gentle thought. Author Cheryl Strayed brought it to my mind in a little book of her own quotes, Brave Enough. Put yourself in the way of beauty, she writes. That’s it. She gives a whole page surrounded by white space to those seven words.

It reminds me of another quote by Elsie de Wolfe that I have on a shelf by my kitchen sink in that place I always find myself standing. I’m going to make everything around me beautiful-that will be my life.

Those two quotes connect with the new job description I have assigned myself of being a noticer. I want to notice beauty and pain. I want to notice better what I’m feeling in my body and what my dreams are telling me. I want to notice people, especially the ones right in front of me. I want to see with spiritual eyes and hear with spiritual ears what God is whispering.

Three days in a row a tree in full white bloom has been right in my way on my morning walk. Three days in a row I took a picture of it because I did not know what else to do with that kind of beauty in my way. Three days in a row I noticed a little more springtime edging forth from the winter landscape. For three days, it has reminded me of God’s resurrection promise written on every leaf of springtime. (Martin Luther)

Put yourself in the way of beauty. I can do that.

Quietly, another thought saddled up along side that one. Toss some beauty into someone else’s way as well. I can do that too. And for today, that will be enough.

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller, breast cancer survivor and noticer.  

Love=Noticing

It’s Valentines Week, the time of year when we become Love focused for a bit. Some people feel sad during this time if romance isn’t in the picture. That’s unfortunate and it seems far more productive to focus on just upping our love game in general.

Lately I’ve been writing and speaking about the art of noticing.  I’ve declared that in my new life part of my job description now is be a noticer.

I started with creation. I noted that the sun rises and sets daily and maybe I should just watch and notice that more.

Then I realized all of creation is filled with beautiful and stunning things worth noting. I read somewhere that when we pause notice any part of creation it is as if we are worshipping God.

In a devotional reading this week, Oswald Chambers wrote The prophet Isaiah made people look up at the heavens in order to use their imagination properly. If we are children of God, we have a tremendous treasure in nature and will realize that it is holy and sacred. We will see God reaching out to us in every wind that blows, every sunrise and sunset, every cloud in the sky, every flower that blooms, and every leaf that fades. My Utmost for His Highest

Spiritual people are called to see with imagination what cannot quite be seen.  What if nature is infused with God’s unseen presence and signs? What if our job was simply to notice?

I imagine the call to notice extends to other living creatures as well. When my dog wants a pet she rolls onto her back, hoping I’ll notice. People crave being noticed and seen. Jesus was particularly good at seeing people.

Maya Angelou once said, Your eyes should light up when your child enters the room. I wonder what would happen if our eyes lit up when anyone entered the room?

I see you sunrise, sky, flower and tree.  I see you daughter, son, spouse and grandchild. I see you, dog needing a pet and hungry family struggling to make ends meet.

I see you person sitting alone or clenching your teeth in the grocery store line.  I see you person with hands and plate full.

Love doesn’t have to be overwhelming. It begins with noticing.

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller, breast cancer survivor and noticer.

Drops of Grace

To be spiritually alive is to be awake. Scripture is full of reminders to wake up, watch, notice and be thankful. It’s easy to notice when wrong things are happening. It’s easy to see stress unfolding as well as injustice, anger, doubt and hardship. Cultivating an awareness of grace seems more difficult, kind of like a subtle art.

It helps if you can move more slowly or have time to reflect. It helps if you put down your phone for a while…something I find hard to do. I think it helps if you write down your grace moments.

Todd Agnew wrote the song “Grace Like Rain” which has the line, “Hallelujah, grace like rain falls down on me.” Can you picture tiny drops of grace falling in your life?

I started making note of a few of mine.

This weekend, I had a chance to talk to our 19-year-old son, face to face, in person, for a while, a rare thing since he’s been away at college. In the middle of one of my sentences he took my hand and kissed it. I’m not even making that up. A drop of grace.

Our middle son emails me articles he thinks I would like. Recently, one he sent was so on target that it quoted one of my favorite theologians right in the middle of it. He didn’t know my favorite theologian but he does know me. A drop of grace.

Our daughter nominated me in the sweetest way for a breast cancer survivor award coming up. Her words were like drops of grace

A couple of weeks ago our 1-year-old grandson’s nanny got sick. I quickly packed and headed 5 hours to their house to help that week. When I arrived, my grandson looked to see who was coming in. He toddled, then ran to me, arms straight up in that universal “hold me” gesture. When I picked him up he gave me a big boy hug with arms tight and head on my shoulder. Grace.

In writing a presentation for an upcoming event, I struggled for days with the ending. I prayed for God to help me see what to say. The next day, it came to me, so surprising and right that I laughed out loud. Drops of grace.

In addition to that, there are golden red leaves, cooler temperatures, pumpkins and nature’s grace all around us now.

Being alive spiritually means you see what might be unseen to others. You notice. You give thanks.

I wonder what kind of delicious grace is raining down on you right now?

When Hummingbirds Argue

Jesus was a master storyteller. He loved tackling tough topics with stories about common things that every one could relate to. Lots of time he wouldn’t even try to explain what he was talking about. He would just tell his story about the crops, the wedding, the farmer or the feast and leave it there, trusting people to figure it out. It’s kind of funny when you read scripture knowing this because you can see how many people didn’t get his parables. This didn’t seem to bother Jesus at all. He just kept telling stories.

I like to preach like that. It’s especially fun when I’m not even sure about the full point of the story I’m telling. Sometimes, as the storyteller, you have to trust that the listener will glean more from the story than you could even imagine. It’s an exercise in trust.

Last week, I purposely spent the week alone, away from my usual distractions. I wanted to do this because I believe it is a good spiritual exercise to learn to be alone with yourself and your thoughts.  I also wanted to get some writing done for a couple of upcoming projects.

At first, I had to struggle with the usual discomfort of hanging out with myself. I found I talked to my dog a lot. She didn’t say much. After a while, I listened better to other things: the sound of the wind, a storm rolling in, the difference in the birds morning noises and how they sang in the evenings. After a day or so, I started paying more attention to the hummingbirds and the buzz they made when they whirred by.

Then, I got pretty good at noticing their chirping. Mostly, though, they just argued. They had access to three full feeders. There was plenty of room around the base of each feeder for 4 or 5 to land at once and feed (They do land, by the way). The hummingbirds would have no part of group dining. They dive bombed each other and argued all week about who should feast at any given time.

There was plenty of food and plenty of room for every hummingbird. Instead they argued. Soon some started posting on social media about how fed up they were with each other and how offended they were by the stance of their fellow hummingbirds. Video clips were shared of who was right and who was wrong. Whole news channels popped up around each differing hummingbird point of view. The leader type hummingbirds spoke out and made everything worse. Protests began. Outrage was high. Pretty soon they didn’t even treat each other like hummingbirds, but enemies.

All along, my dog and I just shook our heads and wondered why those silly hummingbirds couldn’t see The Truth more clearly.

Sweet Summertime

Yesterday, I spent a little over an hour relaxing between a lake and a pool. It was a cooler than normal Texas Sunday afternoon, with a breeze. The puffy white clouds provided a regular respite from the sun. I had a good book and a big glass of iced tea. It is ridiculous how happy I felt in that one precious hour, soaking in summertime.

Our family is about to spend a week together at the beach so I’m feeling in vacation mode already as lists are made; the most relaxing clothes packed; our favorite games set aside for fun in the evenings.

For all you moms of older offspring, I had a brilliant idea this year. I decided everyone who is anywhere close to being an adult would be in charge of a day of meals…not just me. I told them if their menus/shopping lists were submitted early enough, their cooking ingredients would be provided by a super shopper. The most amazing thing happened, menus have been planned that I would have never thought up. I will get to do about 1/7th of the work I usually do. The person (who will remain nameless) in our family we thought might not be on board, submitted the most amazing menus which included a Tex/Mex breakfast entrée, an afternoon fresh pineapple appetizer, a sweet fire chicken dish for dinner and some kind of rice wine served (get this) out of a hollowed out watermelon. My sense of awe cannot be measured. Moms, delegate and relax for a change.

I’m wishing for all of us this summer a little extra measure of down time, relaxation, wonder, sea air, mountain air or whatever fills you up. I’m wishing for you homemade ice cream, really ripe, juicy summer fruits, porch time, grill time, a breeze, some shade and all the wonder of nature.

Poet Mary Oliver wrote, I do not know exactly what a prayer is. I do knowhow to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass; how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day. Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

We don’t know what the future holds. But, we do have this day. Hopefully, we also have this one wild and precious summer to pay attention to. I pray you drink it in (maybe even served out of a hollowed out watermelon, with someone else doing the hollowing out).

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, writer, mom, Mimosa, breast cancer survivor and so much more. In honor of sweet summertime, her blog will be on vacation for a bit as she savors a wild and precious summer.         

On My Walk…

Today, all of nature got the memo that spring has officially begun. At least that’s how it is here in Texas. The day was awash with blue skies, a breeze, new grass the once a year lime to kelly green color, trees with  baby tender leaves. I saw all these flowers with only buds. I have to wait and have faith a bit to see what kind of flowers will unfold.

In yoga, I’m learning to breathe more deeply and so I closed my eyes and breathed in spring. It smelled like fresh leaves and grass, cypress and floral. I wondered how many other springs I’ve raced through forgetting to notice; forgetting to breathe.

While I walked my Twitter feed exploded with news about political investigations and accusations and everyone’s opinion on all of it. I care but not now. Not while I’m on my walk. Not while spring is making a debut. Not when it smells like this and I now know how to breathe.

Today on my walk, I paused. There’s a bench right at this little lake and so I took the hint and sat. I never really noticed how accurately that lake reflects the sky. I never understood why older people were depicted as sitting on park benches all day or rocking endlessly on porches. I get it now. There is so much to notice.

My favorite poet, Mary Oliver, wrote, “It is a serious thing just to be alive on this fresh morning in the broken world.” Yes, it is, especially in spring.

I know there is trouble in our world. There is hunger and hurting. There are diagnoses and dangers. People I know have lost those they love. But, on my walk today, I noticed it was spring. That is certainly something.