It’s five o’clock in the afternoon. I’m sick and exhausted and stressed to the max. Walking into the bedroom the bed beckons, but the window beyond pulls me like a magnet. The view opens onto several hundred acres of farmland planted each summer in corn or soy. Today, the twelfth of February, fields unfold in winter browns and grays, with rows of corn stubble undulating into the distance. The sun shines, clear and bright, and clouds hang like ornaments in a blue sky. This is winter’s beauty— spare and elegant and tinged with lavender.
In the distance, I see a gobble of turkeys, forging for an early dinner. Suddenly, a flock of—how many, a thousand?—starlings lifts off from the field directly in front of me. I’d been so busy staring at the turkeys, further off in the field, that I’d looked right past the smaller birds. The flock lifts as one, swooping right, then left, turning and soaring and turning back again; all perfectly timed, tightly precise maneuvers. Blue-black wings glint purple in the sun, jewels above the dun-colored field.
I watch for several minutes as the birds lift, soar, and dive bomb the earth, only to head skyward again. Their unison is breath-taking. In one vast turn they swoop straight toward the house, landing in the 100-year-old maple trees dotting our front yard. After a quick moments’ rest they take off, simultaneously, for the next field down the road, just out of my line of vision.
My spirit, downtrodden and dejected just moments before, lifts; a bubble of joy wells up from the depths. The miraculous flight of this murmuration of starlings (don’t you just love that word for a flock of starlings?) plants me in the here-and-now; opens the ears of my heart to the Spirit’s murmur: give thanks for this moment—for what is right in front of your eyes.
You see, I too often focus on the past and the future. I so often miss out on the beauty of what’s right here, right now.
My mind has a habit of flitting to what’s behind me: Did we make the right decision when we moved our son, Joel, who has autism, out of our home nearly three years ago, at the age of twenty-five? Would he have been happier in an apartment in the city instead of living on a farm? Is he on the right meds? He can’t tell us what happens inside of him when he grows agitated and lashes out with his hands. Why didn’t I enroll him in RDI classes? Why did I give up on OT?
Tired of what’s gone before, my anxious mind flies to the future. Can we build true community for Joel where he’s living now? What can I do to help make that happen? What about my book deadline? Is there any earthly way I can finish it on time? And my mom’s dementia. The move from her home to the retirement community was so hard. Is it time to consider assisted living? How can I deepen my relationships with the rest of my family? So much time and energy is spent on Joel’s care, even now that he’s living outside of our home. And what about building my spiritual direction practice; developing Cloudland, our place of retreat in the country; finding a publisher for my young adult novels? Where will I find time to do all I feel called to do?
The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). And one of his most famous tactics is keeping us from seeing and enjoying the beauty of the present moment.
Watching the glorious flight of these birds today, I think of Jesus’ words: Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? (Matthew 6:25-27)
A few verses later, The Message puts it like this: Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met (Matthew 6:33).
Yes, life with autism is difficult. Transitioning a child with autism out of the home is extremely hard. There are many days, like today, when I am sick, or just plain exhausted; worried and full of care. There are days I don’t believe I can handle one more ISP meeting (the residential form of an IEP), one more form to fill out for the new psychiatrist, one more tense conversation with someone over Joel’s past behaviors, one more sleepless night as I toss and turn, trying to figure out how to hand it all over to God without taking it back up again.
But God shows me, again and again, that when I steep myself in His presence, He colors my life with joy, just like my tea bag colors the water in my favorite cup. When I immerse myself in His will for my life, He shows me the path to what He intended for me all along—a beautiful marriage strengthened by adversity, three sons and a daughter-in-law that I love dearly and am so very proud of, soul sisters with whom I can share anything, prayer partners for mornings of lectio divina, Kingdom work that delights and restores me. When I steep myself in His provisions, my eyes open to the sheer beauty and abundance of all that surrounds me.
Steep your life in God-reality. Today, my God-reality is a murmuration of starlings flying in unison to some mysterious inner compass.
I pause to say a prayer. You, Lord God, are my inner compass. Let me fly in your presence, without fear or hesitation, knowing that you will meet all of my needs, as well as the needs of my son and the rest of my family. Amen.
Reflection Question: What is your God-reality today? Look around. Where do you see God’s presence in your home, in your child, in your work?
Blessings on your day!