Beauty out of Chaos

I wanted to say good-bye to summer with a little reflection. I am thankful for the peaceful time at home the kids and I had this summer. Looking back now, summer feels like the calm before the storm, since Fall has started with quite the whirlwind of school, activities, and the never-ending to do list for work. Part of what makes summer good, though, is that it is different than the norm, a break of sorts (from a few aspects of busy life, anyway). It is not what we would want all the time, but it is really helpful to slow down for episodes or seasons.

Our summer involved work projects (both ministry and legal for me), house/yard projects (as recent homeowners of a fixer-upper, the list is not short), and family trips and fun. Something I have realized about house projects is that it is always more work than you initially hope it will be… You think, “lets plant a few trees” and then realize just how hard the soil is, that you have to dig out rocks and move a whole old sprinkler system before you can even begin to figure out what kind of tree to plant. You picture some improvements, and say: “lets put a retaining wall here so we can level the ground a bit and make better use of this area.”  Then you realize it will take 20 different steps and many more hours (e.g., move the rocks, dig, move the pipes, replace the pipes, dig, move more rocks and dirt, separate the rocks and dirt, buy the gravel, level the gravel, buy the bricks, move the bricks, level the bricks, glue the bricks, place seed cloth, place drainage rocks, fill with dirt, etc…). In the end, it is hopefully worth it—you have produced something beautiful, or at least advanced the beautiful long-term aesthetic plan you are now one step closer to accomplishing.

When I am hiking a lovely trail in the mountains, I often think about how much work the trail was to build. I know it is way more work than I can even imagine. Yet why do they build the trail? Not just because it is a challenge.  No—they build it so people are able to see the incredible beauty that is out there in the wilderness already; the beauty that was not made by human hands. I am in such awe of the mountains, rivers, forests, and mountain meadows. God made such amazing things—so big, majestic, awe-inspiring. I have to admit that I could barely lift the large size stone blocks we used in making our retaining wall, yet when we were camping in Lassen National Park this summer, we saw huge boulders twice as tall as me, thrown into the middle of a meadow by the power of a volcano. When we were in Yosemite, we waded in gorgeous winding rivers with wildflowers bursting out of little cracks in the granite slabs on their banks, in ways the very best landscaper could not imagine duplicating.

I am so thankful for God’s power and creativity and the awe-inspiring beauty of nature. I also really appreciate good landscaping in the yards I see. And I will continue to pursue visual beauty in my own yard, though people may have to be gracious in accepting the beauty of a welcome, a smile, and good food and conversation in the meantime.