Vitamin Sea

*Isak Dinesen was right.

The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea.

I recently tested this theory, and the results were positively conclusive.

A tough workout, a good cry, a long soak in the sea… Chances are, one’s the remedy for what ails you (and me).

(Given the choice, I’ll take the beach. But you Crossfit freaks… You do you.)

There’s just something about the sea. It’s at once soothing and spellbinding. Its beauty hypnotizes and heals. Tides rise and fall, and the waves change color with the changing skies. The surface is windswept, wild. The ocean roars, unleashing its fury… and then, after a time, it’s lulled once again into reverent calm.

Dazzling like diamonds.

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Below the surface, the sea teems with the most exotic creatures: sea urchins and sea turtles, anemones and octopi, oysters and eels, jellyfish and starfish and humpbacks and hammerheads. Fish shaped like lions and horses and spiders and bats. . . and patterned like leopards and tigers and zebras. Oh my!

Common Lionfish (Pterois volitans) swimming over reef, 20 feet deep, Red Sea

(In case anyone’s wondering, snorkeling in Belize is indeed on my bucket list. And I’d gladly travel this afternoon, since we’re currently enduring subzero temperatures and dangerous wind chills in the Midwest. And – adding insult to injury – we just got a fresh dump of snow. Anybody want to share their miles? Anyone? Buehler?)

Nearly anywhere in the world, a walk along the seashore will bestow exquisite gifts.

Reverie.

Reflection.

Rumination.

Revelation.

Our hopes crest and crash like waves, only to rise again… lifted by some hidden grace.

The water beckons and few can resist. We wade in, stepping gingerly, tasting sea spray.

Out of the blue, a rogue wave tosses us headlong. We scramble to find our footing, regain balance, break the surface… breathe.

And occasionally we get stung. (Who knew there was something lurking beneath the surface, tentacles laced with poison?)

The sea mirrors life itself…

Ebb and flow. Tumult and tranquility.

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It whispers its backstory.

A Spirit hovers. The waters obey. They are drawn, poured, gathered, stilled.

Vibrant with life. Voicing love divine.

Vast and deep.

Something about the sea summons wonder and worship.

Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the skies of parchment made
Were every stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
Though stretched from sky to sky…

(Lyrics from “The Love of God” by MercyMe.)

Yes, it’s true.

The breadth and beauty of the sea reflect a loving and brilliant Artist, Author, Botanist, Biologist, Chemist…Creator.

And may you be able to feel and understand, as all God’s children should, how long, how wide, how deep, and how high his love really is; and to experience this love for yourselves, though it is so great that you will never see the end of it or fully know or understand it.

And so at last you will be filled up with God himself.

~ Ephesians 3:18-19 (TLB)

The sea is magnificent and a little mysterious.  It is powerful, unpredictable, sublime and serene all at once.  It invites us to glimpse the glory of the One who first imagined it.

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In his book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis unveils Almighty God in the character of Aslan, the lion king of an otherworldly place called Narnia. A young girl named Lucy inquires about meeting Aslan but worries that he might not be safe, and a native Narnian responds this way:

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

God is good. Like the ocean He created. Good, but not always safe. Worthy of our fear and awe.  Alluring… and sometimes angry. Inviting us to great adventure and gifting us with hidden treasure. Breathtaking and captivating and utterly terrifying too. Full of countless secrets yet undiscovered.

The ocean beckons. Wander, wade, soak, splash. Stroll along the shore. Walk and talk with the One who cups the waters… and calms the storms.

Let the sea spray work wonders.

Let the Healer cure what ails you.

Let the skies proclaim God’s glory.

Stay salty, friends. (It’s good for you… body and soul.)

Wendy

P.S. If – like me – you’re presently suffering a miserably cold, dreary winter in some landlocked northern state, I highly recommend you take in the surfcam views of places like Perth, Portofino, Palawan, or Phuket. Click here or there to catch some waves. (You’re welcome.)

 

*Isak Dinesen is the pen name for Karen Blixen, who wrote (and lived) Out of Africa and Babette’s Feast. From now on, I will be using the pen name Vivienne Cross. Just FYI.

 

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The Dash

Birthday girl. Vintage 1965 here.

As of today, I’ve taken 53 trips around the sun, and I’m pretty pumped for this next one. ‘Cause it’s a bonus trip!

(More on that here.)

Not sure why some people choose to keep their birthdays hush-hush. Not me. I’m all like…

IT’S MY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’m kind of a party girl. Not the lampshade-as-fascinator type; more the confetti-and-cupcakes variety. If there’s something to celebrate – birthday, half birthday, dog birthday, holy day, holiday or Hallmark holiday – count me in. There’s so much hard and bitter in life, I’m darn sure gonna relish/revel/rejoice over anything happy, sacred or sweet.

Yep, I’m pretty much all in for anything that involves balloons, bouquets or buttercream. I will savor every single birthday treat/text/call/card I get today. And I will be using French words like “fete” and “soiree” to describe my little dinner party this evening… rather than “crockpot tacos.” (Because birthday girls get to be all sorts of fancy for a day.)

Though I fretted a bit about turning 30 (full-fledged adult, married with two kids, unrelenting responsibilities and piles of laundry, a perpetual state of sleep deprivation and the unfortunate appearance of fine lines and wrinkles while still sporting the occasional pimple), 40 was a breeze. And 50 felt all kinds of fine.

I have very little angst about getting old. Heck, I’m already there. And the view’s pretty good. See?

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Note to all you young ‘uns: Over the hill has some pretty spectacular views. (This one’s in Ojai.)

Yes, I’m a bit saggy/raggedy/wrinkly and all that. But I’ve tried a bunch of anti-aging creams, cleansers and concentrates, and here’s what I’ve concluded:

  1. They are pricey.
  2. They do not prevent aging.

Bummer.

Despite that disappointing discovery, I’m not planning to have anything lasered, peeled or injected either. That all sounds rather unpleasant. (And if a birthday is anything at all, it ought to be pleasant.) Why would I choose pain and suffering when there’s already plenty thrown my direction by… well… life?

Plus, I try to avoid things that are poisonous. Even those little packets that come inside shoe boxes and bags of beef jerky freak me out. I don’t want to keep them… but I don’t want to throw them in the garbage either, for fear of a deadly dumpster-diving incident involving a lost dog, city mouse, night owl or alley cat. (Or a bar-hopper with a bad case of the munchies.)

I’m the girl that buys Clorox Surface Sanitizing Spray in bulk. Because it kills 99.9% of bacteria, that’s why.

Including – wait for it – botulism.

So I’m not gonna let someone inject it into my face. (Duh.)

Physicality is overrated anyway.

And aging is inevitable. However, aging “gracefully” isn’t a concept I fully understand. Don’t get me wrong; I have no interest in fighting it. It’s unavoidable. But I do want a say in how I “reel in the years.” Personally, I like Hunter Thompson’s approach:

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”

It’s now how we look that matters. It’s how we live.

It’s all about the dash.

1965 — 20??

(Only God knows my expiration date. And His timing – even when He seems terribly late or startlingly abrupt – is always impeccable.)

The dash is the thing.

I want my dash to be brimming with beauty, mercy, goodness and grace. I want to devote my entire dash to loving God and the people He’s given me… with gusto.

I’d like my dash to look a whole lot like this:

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it…

The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him…

Let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.

If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.

Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.

Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.

Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.

Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”

Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good. 

~ Romans 12, The Message

That’s my itinerary for this next trip around the sun – offering and embracing, helping and holding, giving and forgiving, smiling and celebrating. (Every chance I get.)

Because from any view, that looks simply… dashing. Don’t you think?

Cheers!

The Birthday Girl

P.S. I suppose some people would say I’m just one year closer to dying. But I know – perhaps more than I’ve ever known anything – that I’m one year closer to really living.

Because heaven’s ahead!

“Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.” ~ C.S. Lewis

Every Blooming Thing

My dear reader,

Stop right now and look outside.

Do you see that?!

GREEN.

After all the dull and dreary and dead, finally, thankfully, the great outdoors has begun to bud/bloom/blossom. (Unless you happen to live in Iceland or Death Valley. In which case I suggest you stop reading altogether… and relocate.)

Spring has been a loooooong time coming. March didn’t deliver. April didn’t either. It did bring those showers it always promises. Along with snow, sleet, hail and high winds. (Which is different than hail and high water, though we did get a couple flood warnings.) And a tornado watch too. After that, I stopped following our local meteorologist on Twitter. Because she was blowing up my feed.

Just when it seemed we’d fallen under some nefarious Narnian endless-winter spell, spring up-and-SPRUNG!

I got the first glimpse when my pale yellow daffodils peeked out from the snow-dusted earth. Shortly thereafter, the snow melted and the purple crocuses sprouted and splayed.

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Then a lovely little magnolia stole the show.

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Not to be outdone, the Redbud blossoms burst on the scene the very next day.

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(Attention grabbers.)

But that’s not all, folks. The coming attractions include scents of lilac and lavender, honeysuckle and heliotrope. (< If you don’t have some, get some. The fragrance is heavenly.)

Early-bird specials to late bloomers, full-sun or shady characters, I wholeheartedly agree with Claude Monet: “I must have flowers, always, and always.”

Shrinking violets and knockout roses. Bee balm and butterfly bushes. Dianthus and dahlias and daisies… oh my!

Moonflowers and sunflowers, snapdragons and sweet pea. Pansies, petunias and peonies. All in an ever-changing kaleidoscope of colors and designs.

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Hello, gorgeous.

My mom was a flower child. So I guess it isn’t all that surprising that I’d grow to love every blooming thing. (Yes, including dandelions. Especially when they’re twisted into a handmade garland by happy little fingers. What could be more lovely?)

From my very first seeds-sprinkled-in-a-styrofoam-cup-of-soggy-dirt kindergarten horticulture lesson… through years of planting/pruning/weeding/watering under the tutelage of my dear friend Jo… to becoming a full-fledged member of Newfields just so I can stroll the gardens whenever I please, I’ve been completely smitten by…

Flower power.

Flowers remind us that even when s%*t happens, something beautiful can come of it. (If only we will let God work when we’re deep in it.)

I think Lady Bird Johnson said it best:

Where flowers bloom, so does hope. 

Why? Because flowers just do what they’re made to do.

Beautify. (Every view – and vase – they grace.)

Gratify. (Gardeners, photographers, florists and prom dates.)

Glorify… God Himself.

If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.

Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.

If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. 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 6:25-33, The Message)

Morning glories… and HALLELUJAH! He’s got you/me/us covered, clothed, and completely taken care of. Like every blooming thing.

You take care of the earth and send rain to help the soil grow all kinds of crops. Your rivers never run dry, and you prepare the earth to produce much grain. You water all of its fields and level the lumpy ground. You send showers of rain to soften the soil and help the plants sprout. Wherever your footsteps touch the earth, a rich harvest is gathered. Desert pastures blossom, and mountains celebrate. Meadows are filled with sheep and goats; valleys overflow with grain and echo with joyful songs. (Psalm 65:9-13, CEV)

Cultivate beauty. It’ll make the world a better place. Get your hands dirty. It’ll make your heart happy. Do a little weeding. In your garden… and your life.

What are you waiting for? Get growing!

Wendy

P.S. Just for you… a little SPRING FLING contest! 1. Comment your favorite flower(s) or gardening tip(s). 2. Follow my blog – or if you’re already following, share the link via email or social media. 3. You’ll be automatically entered to win an assortment of annual and perennial seed packets selected by yours truly. (Winner will be announced May 11.)

Ready, set, grow!