Grace in the Moment



 

The bluebells bloomed about a month early this year. I can't tell you how this rocked my world. I already had a jam-packed schedule in the three weeks before Holy Week. I was trying to finish Easter sewing, double up on lessons, do a spring cleaning and prepare to leave my children and go with my husband on a surprise trip. I knew that when I returned, I would be on the threshold of the Triduum, so I wanted to prepare well for that, too. And then, someone broke his nose, someone else got strep throat ( a first time ever for our family), and Mike's father ended up in the hospital for several days. One day, in the midst of it all, I got an email. "Bluebells expected to be at peak next week."

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Bluebell Week is my favorite week of the year. It is my consoling thought during long winters. It is the burst of newness and springtime and hope that brings my weary spirit back to life. It is where I rejoice with my whole heart in God's glory in nature. I never miss it. And I never want my children to miss it.

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This year, the weather was annoying during the bluebell's time in the sun (or not). Every day that I had a car available, rain was forecast. Friends we've met there every year were mostly unable to come, or couldn't come for very long. Sometime during the flower's blooming I received an email from a friend whose family we especially enjoy down at Bull Run. The subject line was "Bluebell Panic" because that's what I was feeling as I tried to make the calendar fashioned by my hands work with the God's timing of spring. My friend wrote, " I think that my family will have to wait until next year to see the bluebells again."

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And in that moment, I felt an envy I have never felt before. I envied the ease with which she wrote "next year." I never do that. I never, ever assume next year. Heck, I never assume tomorrow. For twenty-two springs,  twenty-two seasons of flowers blooming, I always wonder if fear that I won't see them bloom again. And I always, always take the time to make sure my family notices them, too. Just this year, I wanted the easy-breezy "next year" mentality.

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Usually, I consider this awareness of the preciousness of time to be a great gift, perhaps the greatest gift of surviving cancer. I just don't take anything for granted. For the most part, it's made me more grateful than most people can imagine for every single heartbeat. It does, however, come with a bit of dark lining. I have trouble sitting still, trouble just being. I always have this sense of cramming every bit of living into every single moment because I don't know how short life is. I have trouble leaving my children–not because I'm worried something will happen to them while I'm away or that I won't return, but just because I know with every fiber of my being that I won't get those moments again. It's a pretty intense way to live. 

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This year, I recognized with startling clarity that God knew. God knew the intensity. And God knew the schedule and the weather and the state of my housekeeping. I handed it all to Him and asked Him to direct my days, to help me glorify Him with my time, and bring me the peace of heart and soul I knew I needed.

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He began with the bluebells. We managed to squeeze in a couple very brief visits with friends with the promise to meet again. But then, those promises got swallowed up by logistics for those friends. Then, Linda, Nicholas' godmother, called and told me the absolute only day she could meet us there. Our meeting in the woods has been a tradition since before Nicholas could walk. Since before her son, Bobby, who is my godchild, was born. We cherish these days. We were together by the creek with the flowers the day the new Pope was elected. (That's a great story. You can click. I'll wait.) I looked around my house. I looked at my to-do list. No doubt, the house would stay dirty–the dirt would still be there. But the flowers would not stay in bloom. I took a deep breath. I recognized that I would, indeed, have a car available. We'll be there.

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We went. The morning was glorious. Linda met me there with a friend. For over 20 years, people have been telling me I had to meet this lady. And for over 20 years, she's heard the same thing about me. We have a lot of mutual friends. One of them is Linda. And on this day, God brought us together. I shared my flowers with her. It's always such a joy to show someone the first time. 

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Around noon, all three of my big boys joined us. Nine children –all nine of my children– together in the place we've made so many memories. Linda knows me well. Sensing that the enormity of the bittersweet was threatening the joy of the present moment, she began to seize the photo-op and direct my picture efforts. From behind the lens, my mind whirled. Next year, Patrick will be away at school, and probably Christian, too. Michael will likely be married by then, but certainly he will finally have a day job and be much less available. This could be the last time I snap a photo of all of them in the bluebells. The log they once sat on–back when there were only six of them–had long since decayed, a natural reminder that nothing ever stays the same.  We have only today. And there was Linda. Directing and orchestrating, making sure we made the most of the moment.

I am so grateful.

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I walked out of the woods that day with my new friend. We shared as if we'd know each other forever. I was struck by God's abundant goodness. And then, just when I thought the day couldn't be any fuller, God reminded me that I've had the great gift of bringing my children to this place for more than a decade. My new friend Jean was just beginning to know the bluebells. She came with her last little girl, a daughter my Sarah's age. 

And she also brought her baby grandson.

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There is tangible hope in those flowers.

Every spring.

Comments

  1. Natalia says

    This week a boy (15) from our homeschool group was killed in a car accident. It has made me think of how we are not sure of tomorrow. The only moment we have is the now! I am glad you took the time to go and see the bluebells. You are so good about living the moment and writing about it to bless us all. I wish I was your new friend, Jean! I would be heavenly to be there. I have never seen bluebells…

  2. says

    Touched my heart so deeply this morning, Elizabeth. I relate to this gift with a dark lining so well. Having a child that survived cancer, it is very different…however, I too, feel like I musn’t take any moment for granted. And here we are, in the middle of the darkest moment of our lives thus far. And, I’m busier than I’ve ever been in my life and I feel moments, days, weeks slipping away in a blind fury. And, I want so much to just BE STILL. Thank you for reminding me to give that to God and then quietly and fiercely seize the gift(s) of stillness and time he is surely offering me and I’m just not seeing yet. –Leslie McCaddon

  3. says

    This is just beautiful! One of my best friends also loves this week that the bluebells flower. I think they were part of what started her interest in photography. My “week” in our area is the one where the leaves are at their peak in October.
    Oh, yes… I never think “next year” if at all possible. I guess it started when my father died suddenly of a heart attack when I was ten. Then my own health scares.
    About eight years ago, I spent two days in intensive care due to the Juvenile Diabetes. I had fainted because my blood sugar had suddenly skyrocketed and they put me on an IV of insulin to try to slowly bring it back to normal and save my life.
    I remember praying at that time for God to let me live long enough to homeschool my son through high school. I know some pray that type of prayer and He chooses to take them home with Him but I am so thankful He said yes.
    I’ve been thinking of those days in intensive care lately as we plan Christopher’s wedding and he graduates from college in December.
    God’s answer was “not a next year” with my father but He gave me many more than I expected at the time with my family. How do people exist who do not believe in His Providence?

  4. says

    This brought a tear to my eye this morning. Thank you for sharing. I hope to see the bluebells oneday. We live in Ky and visit the Red River Gorge area. It is only 45 min from our little town. Our family goes there often in all seasons. Some of the feelings you talk about while seeing the bluebells reminds me of mine as we hike in the gorge.

  5. says

    Ah, yes…such gorgeous flowers from our good Father’s garden! And those bluebells are lovely, too…your children are treasures…what a beautiful memory!

  6. says

    “We have only today.” I will carry those words with me.
    I started to think differently about time when I surpassed the age my father was when he died, 33. Recognizing the value of time is a great gift. Thank you for reinforcing this, Elizabeth.

  7. says

    For several years a friend had told me about the bluebelles down near a farm in our county. I never could get there. After I saw your bluebelle post I was so inspired to go see the bluebelles. I was in awe of the beauty and ABUNDANCE of blue blooms everywhere in the forrest and along the creek. I really felt like it must be like this in Heaven. I have visited for three years now and have special memories. I have not manged to get all my children there yet, but my husband joined us for the first time ever.
    What lovely photos of all your children…the early bloom season wound up being a blessing. Thank you for sharing the bluebelles with us and your beautiful family.

  8. says

    You’ll never regret leaving the business of life for the bluebells. Such a precious time to have all 9 of your dear ones there-praise the Lord. Thanks for bringing beauty into life.

  9. says

    What a beautiful post, Elizabeth. It brought tears to my eyes. I too, fear that I am not making enough of the time I have with my children – and I have not been touched by cancer. I suppose it’s a fear most mothers experience at least some of the time. Thank you for sharing your fears with us. I think women should share these things with each other, so we don’t feel so crazy and alone. It’s such an emotional ride, being a mother.
    I have a photo in my kitchen of some bluebells growing in the woods, taken in England from the area my grandfather was from. But you know, I have never seen them in person. Something to add to my list of things I want to do someday, I think.

  10. says

    Great photos Elizabeth! Looks like you have benefited from the new photography book that you linked recently! The 2nd pic of your nine treasures is my favorite. Maybe hint that a canvas of that for Mothers Day would be delightful?
    Thanks to your recommendation, we have gone bluebelling for the past 6 years. I love that it is unpredictable when we will go but we only spend the day and not the week! My children would be so sad to miss it. it is a challenge to squeeze it in but I am always happy that God makes it work.
    Enjoy your day!

  11. Rachel says

    I really smiled to see the photo with ALL of your lovely children! And you have lovely sunshine! Here in Manchester, UK, it is raining EVERY day at the moment and has done for two weeks. We are getting good use from our raincoats and umbrellas! Now a botanical question- your beautiful blue flowers are not the same species as our native “English” Bluebells? They look a bit like pulmonaria- what is their Latin name please? The English bluebell is Squilla I think.

  12. Carrie says

    Tearing up here, too. Thank you for sharing this. I almost always feel like I’m the only one who feels that strong bittersweet, this moment, these times, are slipping away and will never come again, feeling. I didnt survive cancer, but rather an abusive childhood where next year was not a given, either.
    I’m so glad that you got to take all of your children out there, and that you had a wonderful friend to focus you on the joy of the here and now, when you started to slip into the bittersweet. And you will treasure the pictures forever. What a day of mighty blessings from our God!

  13. Kelly B. says

    What a beautiful family you have! We’ll be moving to our new home in VA (just west of South Riding) and i’ll have to find out from you where that scenic hideaway is…my kids are so excited.

  14. says

    What a lovely post and wonderful pictures…kudos to you for getting a picture with all of your children! Also, I LOVE the new look of the blog–very clean and easy to read. However, I could be over-looking it, but I can’t find the Kind Conversation link that used to be on the right-hand sidebar in the old layout. It’s not a big deal–I’ve just been searching ‘Kind Conversation’ in your search box and then going through a link from an old post–but I do miss the convenience of the link that was in the sidebar. Blessings!

  15. says

    Elizabeth,
    A few weeks ago I was walking around the Botanical gardens in Greensboro, NC near to where I live and I saw Bluebells and thought of you. I’ve followed your blog/facebook/etc for a long, long time now and I know how dear they are to you.

  16. says

    Hi Elizabeth,
    You have a beautiful family!
    How wonderful that you and your family are taking the time to enjoy life now… all too often we get caught up with our busy lives, and let these truly precious moments pass us by.
    I’m enjoying the slower pace of life, God had a lot to do with that. Through prayer, and reading the Bible, I realized that I wanted to spend as much time with my daughter — once she was born, and changes were made. It wasn’t always easy, especially in the beginning, but I’m so thankful that I made those changes. I love her, so therefore, I make the time to cherish those special moments.

  17. Ann Y says

    How beautiful! I’m so glad you did get a picture of all of your children together. You are so right about the possibility of someone not there the next time the bluebells bloom.

  18. Kathy says

    My those bluebells sure are lovely! Thank-you for sharing them with me.Time is so fleeting.We need to take time to make special memories.Somehow cleaning the house(although we need time for that too )doesn’t seem nearly as important.Thanks for the reminder.

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