We Went To A Cottage In Paradise

We have come to a cottage in paradise.

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February is an icy-hearted Miss Havisham, all human warmth dormant, and we had become her victims. I mean, look at us!
img_1132Then we drove 13 hours south on cold, dark, inland roads, shivering in our sweaters, and woke up to this:

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Even if I had only one day to look at this, the trek is worth it.

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Of course we had our road adventures. In Troy, Alabama we needed to swing in and have the tires balanced. But we found beauty there. And the mechanic, while devoid of humor, got us back on the road in 20 minutes. We couldn’t ask for more than that from a Trojan mechanic.

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And we had to stop and make coffee behind a Circle K. Because priorities.

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Our early morning view from paradise cottage. This is also the church we were married in. So how is that for God’s loving answer to the February doldrums??

dscn6811Everything is different here: the New York accents, the odors of garlic and cigars and finest perfume, the Lamborghinis, the Euro clothing unlike my mid-America khaki shorts and mom sandals, the hues of skin whether by sun or by exotic birth. So different from our hard-working, stick-to-the-essentials Cullman.

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Day 2 we set our chairs up facing the sun, not like our bumpkin day 1 set-up facing the ocean. By day 2 it’s not about marveling at the majesty of it all. It’s about getting with the program.
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Day 2 also reveals that people and their multitude of body parts come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and combos. Everyone walks around barely clothed, and we aren’t supposed to think a thing of it. But who can help it? All-over tats, body parts that nylon doesn’t begin to hide, rolls, rashes, body parts that age and gravity cause to dangle beneath the hemline – all fairly traumatizing.

Babies on the beach. Oh my. They laugh overwhelmed laughs at the magnitude of this water thing and at brother shrieking in the cold, strong waves. And they toddle and waddle and no one tells them ‘no’ about anything, not digging, not flinging, not smearing. Dumplings in bathing suits and bonnets, they look like candy and happiness.
img_1188-2Redheads. Bless their hearts. Unlike the rest of us, they have a hostile relationship with the sun and can’t unclothe and sprawl out for hours in sweet, blank beach sleep. They’re beaching, but only after negotiating a cease-fire with the sun by conceding umbrella, hat, wet suit, 70 sunscreen, lip screen, towel, sand.

Deep thoughts. God’s handiwork is everywhere, and yet many of the millions of people here seem instead to be guided by absolute materialism. Florida is both ultra-modern and forever in the 1950s; I wonder why the millions come here. Why do they come to the edge of the land and lie beside the vast ocean? Just to escape February?
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Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!  Let your glory be over all the earth!” Ps 57:5

Bikes. On Lake Trail along the Palm Beach intracoastal, nannies in scrubs push scions’ strollers. Yachts and sailboats lie at anchor. Tourists like me twist their necks left and right goggling rare glimpses of one of the super-wealthy doing something otherworldly like gazing at his yard or walking to the pool house.
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What I thought I looked like. . . .Words fail.

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Birds. Paradise cottage rests on a grassy hill jeweled with every bird that flew south last November. This morning one gent praised his bird-wife: ‘Sweet, sweet, purty, purty, purty, purty.’ She chickered back her satisfaction.
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Sabbath. God rides creation to commune with me. And there in His house, Andrew and I stand where we stood almost 29 years ago to say ‘I do!’ To our precious young friends in Wednesday night Covenant Group: God is faithful and spouses can still be each other’s favorite person on the planet.

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We pack early and journey north loaded with exotic cheeses and chocolates and tropical fruit from The Boys and with warmth from Andrew’s parents, back to responsibility and away from paradise. Somewhere in the 13 hours, maybe around Atlanta, our thoughts will turn toward Cullman and work and we will be glad.
img_1219“I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations.  For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.” Psalm 57: 9, 10

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A Perfect Valentine’s Evening At Barre

I give you
A sketch of a perfect
Valentine’s evening:

Right hip at the barre,
Heels together, feet in a V,
Up on tiptoe, perched like a
Stork in mid-air,
Deep knee bend, hips tucked up
And staying in ‘the work zone’,
Big old thigh muscles
Parallel to the floor
(Or at least they should be)
And screaming like my Fiat when
I’m on the phone and can’t
Shift gears,

Following verbal cues
From our Pink Rose of an instructor
Who prompts in the gentle, reasonable
Voice of a
Prison guard
Saying, Pull the shank out yourself and
Get back to busting rocks.
And pulse it out to tempo.

Poised here on the brink of
Peanut Brittle of the spine,
My friend Tina Hulse,
Who asked that her
Name not be used,
While doing the extra leg lift
For the challenge,
Turns around
With the look all our faces
Share,
That slack but pin-pointy look of
One who is ultra-focused on
Making the body obey the brain,
And making the brain obey
Christopher Walken,
And says:

You know you need to blog about this.

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W
e sort of look like this.  Sort of.

A Thousand Mirrors

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Some days God answers, ‘Not today.
Trust Me here; this is My love.’
A rainy answer, a cross-shaped hug,
Planned when my days were not yet one.

Some days His glory spills like sun
Through limbs of February trees,
Anoints my face, salves my disease,
Brushes soft my shook anxieties.

He wraps up suffering in the sun
And bathes me with the latter first
Before the pain clouds crack and burst
And jagged pieces are dispersed.

But here’s the thing with jagged rain,
Its facets form a thousand mirrors
To reflect the sun just that much clearer,
Than round drops ever could deliver.

I cannot love the jagged rain,
But, oh, I love the Sun it rides.
Like childbirth turns out our insides,
Rain magnifies what first it hides.

My Warrior

I would not have chosen this
Particular fire.  Or any fire. But
Here it is, licking my toes and
Eyeing my legs for a good shank
Of meat. I am done for. And then . . .
In a flicker, I see into the air,
Or through it, to the
Other side of its translucence.

A Warrior there fights for me
Against arrows aflame.
Tireless, frontline, He shields my soul.
How He must value my soul that He,
War-clad and wielding, would
Condescend to rally for the smallness of me!

David’s shouts of deliverance
From ever-attackers suddenly speak for me
As his war songs never have before.
My enemy lives for my foot to slip,
My walking feet of joy, of peace, of faith!

But my Warrior is my salvation;
He explains to me with His arms and His strokes,
That I could never love to
Watch Him save me from
The fire if there was no fire.

Psalm 37 and 38

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