The Power of God’s Country

God’s Country: “A place conceived of as especially favored by God; a place away from a city.” Merriam-Webster

Last weekend, my husband and I flew to Virginia to see our youngest at school. She was thrilled to have us there and kept us really busy with her friends and touring around the university. It was all precious, precious time together, but there was something extra special about driving (and stopping) along the Blueridge Parkway.

We have traveled through Virginia for years, heading south every spring break with the kids. Back then, we drove which was exhausting, but we saw some beautiful scenery along the way. I fell in love with Virginia. I can appreciate northern Virginia for its proximity to D.C. and many historical sites. We have visited people and toured Leesburg, Arlington, etc., and enjoyed the shopping and eating. All of my travels there offered wonderful sights, but mid to lower Virginia is just stunningly beautiful.

Maybe it’s because I live in a part of NYS where we don’t have mountains so I’m always captivated by them on vacation. Maybe it’s because I live on five acres with a long driveway and I am a girl who likes open space.

I work in the city and take a deep breath when I hit that part of the thruway that finally parts wide. My town is lovely yet there was something much grander, peaceful and right about standing at the center of miles of valleys and mountains.

My job is stressful. I received a promotion a few months ago which was awesome but my hours went up, along with my stress. I do yoga and try my best to compartmentalize work from home but it’s challenging. Above and beyond is usually a way of life. Sustaining that level of giving and producing at work and then home is depleting. An hour of exercise a couple times a week does not restore me as it may have back in my 20’s.

The breathtaking mountainside along the Blueridge Parkway brought my shoulders back down where they belong. I walked in sneakers instead of heels. I breathed deeper than I do on a yoga mat. My eyes were off data and employee issues, soaking in what I name God’s Country.

“What are men to rocks and mountains?” Jane Austen

Those mountains reminded me that I’m missing time with God. We talk every day but my world shifted when I took on another job. I don’t spend enough time in the wide-open space of His Word. Peace like I experienced at the mountainside is elusive during many work days.

Make no mistake that He speaks in offices, at the watercooler, and has made His presence known during colleague conversations. But I thirst for more. I count this as a good thing. I never want to be comfortable too far away from Him, living lukewarm.

Late Sunday I had to come down from the Virginia mountains, just like Moses when he descended from Mt. Sinai. I reentered work on Monday, having to immediately address poor management behavior, just as Moses was confronted with poor behavior by the Israelites. The corporate culture at my company is unlike anything anyone has ever experienced, leading to high turnover. But God uses me for good in my particular role. I believe that He put me where I am to be a light in a crazy place as well as teach me a few lessons of my own.

He is at work and accomplishes His purposes even when we’re not in bible study. He is always with us but there is something powerful about standing in the literal “mist” and “midst” of His spectacular creation. Being engulfed in endless autumn color, feeling cool wind against my face that also refreshed my mind – and the complete silence in nature – equaled renewal.

There is a reason for all seasons in nature and in our lives. This specific season in my work life is challenging, but the chaos likely helps me appreciate God’s Country profoundly more.

Monday Praise

Doth not all nature around me praise God? Do not the mountains praise Him when the woods upon their summits wave in adoration? Charles Spurgeon 

“Let all that I am praise the Lord” Psalm 103:1

Photo: Virginia mountains, October 2019

Reminiscing During a Walk at the Park

I’ve been walking our local parks for years. I love them all (and we have several) for their individuality, but one close to my house has beauty, water and multiple sports fields that hold sentimental value to me.My son ran many-a-bases and threw countless pitches on the various baseball diamonds. My girls carried snack bags, watched movies on portable DVD players during the double-headers, sat on the swings and played pretend with the other sisters bored at their brothers’ baseball games. It might have registered 120* on the turf during my daughters’ lacrosse games, but we parents were also melting on the sidelines!

That was years ago and last night, I strolled alone through the very active and busy park, realizing that with every baseball and soccer game I was passing in stride, I was watching the next generation standing behind home plate.

Grandparents in their chairs, rooting on their grandkids.

Dads at first and third base yelling to their boys…

Mamas pushing and pulling strollers off to the side, rocking their youngest ones as sunset began.

Throughout my long two-hour walk, I grinned knowingly.

I was that Mama. My husband was that Dad, rounding them to home.Throughout my laps, I wiped tears from under my sunglasses. Wasn’t it just last week I was filling the cooler, packing the snacks, grabbing books and blankets? I strode past a long line of parked mini-vans and hatch-backs and trucks …  each stuffed with lawn chairs. Wasn’t I just driving my mini-van? I had mini-vans for 18 years and I loved them. They represented family life that I loved being immersed in. I can still see my kids running from the park playground into the side van door as the skies opened and torrential rain poured. Awesome giggles and real joy flowed from the back seats. Their eyes wide at the ominous clouds and shaking of thunder.

The echoes of their young laughter flooded my mind. It was a precious time before student loans and adult-jobs. My chest filled with the childhood freedom we all enjoyed together. A child’s oblivion of adult world problems… their purity… their frequent laughter… their lightness… it rubs off on the grown ups.

I was smiling at the thoughts, but wiped wetness from my cheeks again. These years are good too…really good. My twins are recent university grads. My baby duck just served the Lord for eight weeks and is finally back in the nest for the remainder of the summer before returning to her university. Even though they are young adults now, we still play games, watch movies, cheer on our Yankees (if you’re a Sox fan, we can still be friends :)), eat dinners together…these years are merely different. They too elicit special feelings and deep appreciation for all God has blessed me with as a Mama of three children. Those ‘free-years’ were just so much stinkin’ fun.

Picking up my pace, I walked far around the nasty, hissing geese…
Summer was painfully late arriving here in New York. About two weeks ago, hot weather finally showed up and it’s been glorious.

This one is a bit fuzzy off my cell phone, but I’m including it as the birds chirping throughout the park is a summer joy to me!
Oh, the happy daisies never get old, do they? Always smiling at us. As I hopped back into my car, these little flowers left me filled with gratitude for the good memories, and lifted up with joy for the good there is now – and will continue to be.
Admire each pretty flow’r
With its sweet smell;
To praise their Maker, and to tell
The marks of His great pow’r.      Thomas Traherne