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Dealings with the Creator

(I'm proud to welcome my dear son, Jacob, as a guest writer this week.)

We are people; we are permitted to have dealings with the creator and we must speak up for the creation." ~ Annie Dillard in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Life contains many cycles that are often overlooked. Natural earthly seasons, academic years, the ways in which we fall in and out of exercise routines, even our favorite family recipes that we return to week after week--all are examples of the cyclical nature of our lives. Most every decision we make contains a start and an end; a new beginning and often an abrupt stopping point. From the moment we gasp for our first breath as a young alien of a human, our life’s trajectory is headed towards a time when our fingers fall cold and only the memory of the life we have lived remains. This is how most everything in life functions, it starts, only to begin its path to an end. The mystical and beautiful aspect of life that keeps many, me included, leaving the safety of our homes daily is this rendezvous with the beginning as soon as we believed we may have reached an end. Just when we have lost hope, when the last brilliant maple leaf has fallen or finals are over and we must return home for the summer, life has a simple way of surprising us with a new beginning.

Spring is my favorite season of the year. April showers leading to shy May flowers, sticky maple syrup season and earth worms emerging from their dark soil lair only to be snatched up as fish bait. I enjoy spring and the new life that it brings. This year, unlike those in the past, spring has brought forth an array of unsettling emotions. I am officially a college graduate as of May 3, completing four years at Hope College dedicating myself to the study of biology and political science. My time as a college student flew by and it feels only yesterday I was crawling into my four-walled cinderblock cell that the school was gracious enough to refer to as a dorm room. Returning to the east side of the state after my four years across the mitten has proven a challenging task. I am now isolated from many of my friends, watering holes and the patterns of living to which I was accustomed. If you have ever seen the movie The Graduate, I vaguely relate to the main character, Benjamin Braddock (minus the sex scandal and cigarette smoking).

My time as a college student flew by and it feels only yesterday I was crawling into my four-walled cinderblock cell that the school was gracious enough to refer to as a dorm room.

Benjamin Braddock was completely out of sorts when he returned home from college. Similarly, I feel adrift this springtime. Spring has historically brought forth a feeling of a fresh start and new life for me. This spring I feel much the opposite: adrift as a ship lost at sea, being pushed round by the copious amounts of chaos and uncertainty to which our world has succumbed.

I recently finished reading a novel by Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises. The novel describes an adventure to the Spanish countryside to fish, linger at cafes and watch bullfights. The novel ends much like it begins--the main character, mostly unchanged by his whole adventure, rides through the countryside with his love interest snuggled close. This book, while a simplistic plot and story, struck a meaningful chord in my mind during this season of life. I believe Hemingway was attempting to teach his readers a powerful lesson about the rhythms and cycles of life. We may travel across the countryside and meet new people; we may graduate college and return home; we may experience an unprecedented amount of chaos, fear and unrest--yet--the sun will also rise. Life will continue its cyclical nature, returning us once again to a beautiful starting point.

I am torn between two schools of thought. One is what I shall call the Hemingway method. This way of thinking relies upon the wisdom, history and tradition passed down to us from generations before and recognizes the many cycles of life. Never fear, for the sun will rise tomorrow just as it always has, precisely on schedule. This way of thinking allows one to sink deep into the rhythm of life and trust tomorrow will come, there will always be time. The other school of thought I will call the Purvis method. My best friend, Clay Purvis, and I developed this way of thinking whilst sipping our caffeine one morning at our favorite coffee shop, The Good Earth. Clay and I concluded, with no scientific or strong philosophical backing mind you, that the sun has a 97 percent chance of coming up tomorrow. While undoubtedly a questionable conclusion, this style of thinking demands that one not put off anything till tomorrow. It beckons one to seize the opportunities at hand, as the sun may not rise tomorrow. The cycles of life are perceived as simply a hypothesis as there are no guarantees. One must adopt a John Keating mindset--carpe diem, seize the day, it could be your last.

As I transition from one season of life to the next amidst the disorder abounding in the world, I am struggling with which method of thinking to accept. Both seem positive in their own regard, able to help one draw closer to whom and what they love, simply in different ways. A path diverges in a yellow wood, which path shall I take? Perhaps it is a combination of both? I firmly believe when making any important decision, we should turn to the author and perfecter of our lives, a being who is fully God and was fully man. A being who humbled himself to death, even death on a cross so that we can enjoy life and life to the fullest. Jesus Christ should be our example. So, which of these styles of thinking did he espouse?

I believe it is both. Jesus warned his disciples, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father,” and later, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” (Matthew 24:36-42). No man knows the hour that the Lord will return, be ready always--a classic Purvis method of thinking. But Jesus also encouraged his followers to sink into the beautiful rhythms that life provides. “Do not worry,” Jesus implores in his Sermon on the Mount:

“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.” ~ Matthew 6:25

Because of Jesus’ actions on the cross we have the freedom to not worry about our lives and rest in the grace and truth that he provides for us.

Now comes the point when I am to tell you what this all means and wrap it up with a tidy and snazzy conclusion. I will do no such thing. For if I had the answers, I would be writing novels and academic journals. Here is what I do know for certain though: Jesus has called us to live every moment as if it were our last, but still find time to live into the many cycles of life. We are called to embrace these cycles, but not let them control us. We need to use these rhythms to find new meaning, new beauty and most importantly, new purpose through Christ. We are called to live every day as if it is our last, not neglecting the vital responsibilities we have to ourselves and those around us.

Jesus has called us to live every moment as if it were our last, but still find time to live into the many cycles of life.

Spring is here, but it will not last forever. Summer is creeping just around the corner. The earth in all its celestial glory will continue its rotation around the sun in this tiny corner of the galaxy that we call home. Leaves will bud, grow, die and fall, repeating their annual death dance to the ground below. A new wave of college students will graduate every spring, diving headlong into an ever-changing, but oddly similar world, eager to find something more purposeful than just work--belonging. The sun will also rise tomorrow (97 percent chance), bringing with it the warmth needed to sustain life on this planet we call home. And I, God willing, will have another chance to glorify my Creator; sinking deeper into the work, rest and freedom that He freely gives.

~ J.S.


The Week in Review

Jacob discovers a new talent for jigging with Bella WHILE improvising on the harmonica.

I came around the corner near our cabin and almost stepped on this birdie that was sitting quietly on the ground. As I crept close, I watched it breathe and blink but it did not move. I resisted the urge to touch it. It seemed tired, unafraid, like it had possibly come near the end of its days. In the morning, I heard a bird of prey nearby and my suspicions were confirmed as I found the same birdie dead in the same place.

Jacob and Bella rushed back from a walk to tell me the exciting news that they had found twin newborn fawns. Bella quickly took me back in time to see them nestled off the path in the pines. Absolutely wonderful! I limited my time gawking in order to encourage the mother to come back.

Bella created a beautiful and tasty frozen fruit bowl garnished among other things with dried banana and honey from Maui that her sister harvested and shared.

Boys building bridges. Thankful for our sons and friends who helped Scott construct this 12-foot bridge across a little stream on our property, allowing us to now cross with vehicles/tractor.

Fun on the paddleboat. An evening outing on the lake together was mostly peaceful and productive, netting seven perch. The serenity quickly ended as Jacob took advantage of my fear of fish, bringing one much too close for comfort, eliciting an "oooo" and slight jump from Bella as it flopped triggering a blood-curdling scream from me.

Those lips tho

Sunset with a crescent moon

Apple tree in three movements, early to late May

`Tis the season for turtles laying eggs

Out for an evening run, I rounded the corner and found this mossy-backed female snapping turtle . . .

. . . so I ran back for the kids and Scott, handing my camera to him for a close up. He figured from her size that she is decades old. She was far from her lake home, on an egg-laying mission in the pines.

Jacob ran up the hill from the lake, calling for a measuring tape, excited to show us his biggest catch yet from Cole Lake, an 11-inch perch.

Scott and I stole away for an evening to dip our toes in Lake Michigan, my favorite lake.

Unfurling ferns

Milkweed, the Monarch butterflies' sole source of food, is just beginning to pop up all over

Tiny toad

Farewell to May, maybe to the quarantine beard? I think he rocks the Grizzly Adams' vibe quite well.

Pretty Miss Cow in her muddy boots

That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens. ~ Romans 8:18-21 The Message
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