Hyacinths to feed thy soul


If of thy mortal goods thou art bereft And from thy slender store Two loaves alone to thee are left, Sell one, and with the dole, Buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.

– Saadi, Persian poet hyacinth2 I’m curled up in the corner of my living room couch so my nose is about 2 feet away from these flowers as I type, reluctant to miss out on their heady scent while it’s mine to enjoy.  I still remember the first time I smelled a hyacinth.  It was a bright, vivid pink and I was attracted by the sturdy stalk covered with cheerful flowers.  I leaned in for closer inspection and as the distinct fragrance flooded my senses for the first time, Saadi’s poem swiftly came to mind.  Years later, I find myself responding the same way each time I spot them blooming in the yard.  I close my eyes, breathe deeply and think, “Yes.  To feed thy soul.”


It is true that my soul needs nourishment as surely as my body does.  I am grateful for simple joys and beauties that accomplish it.  Sometimes the feast comes in fresh flowers.  Lately it’s also come in sunsets, new appreciation for the nearby mountain range, the curve of my daughter’s cheek, the chirping of birds, prayer, children’s picture books, color. I realize it’s all built into life beautifully by my Heavenly Father who perfectly understands the need – a feast there for the taking if I have eyes to see.  Which reminds me of another favorite verse…

Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common brush afire with God, But only he who sees takes off his shoes; The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.

– Elizabeth Barrett Browning Wishing you a day that feeds your soul in simple, wholesome ways, and eyes to see all that God is doing in your life.


In the Distance

Do you ever feel like the person you’re supposed to be is close by, within reach yet just beyond your fingertips, somewhere in the distance just ahead of you?  I’m not talking about the perfect-in-every-detail woman I often wish I was, and often judge myself by.  I’m talking about those deep, fundamental things that make us who we really are.  The Jennifer Harrison I’m meant to become, or perhaps, the Jennifer Harrison I’ve always been but who still needs uncovering?


The past couple of months have held beautiful experiences for me.  Beautiful on their own, but more significant because they play off one another to instruct me in deeply personal ways.  This week marks the first week in a while that I’m not scrambling to wrap up from one event/trip while catching up at home and simultaneously preparing to leave again for a few days.

I find myself thinking about the year so far, my heart full and grateful for so many things – especially people.  And while I revel in sinking back into daily life at home with my family, I also find myself sifting and sorting and trying to identify how I’m different for having lived the past 8 weeks.  It would be a shame to end up just the same when so many little moments were engineered to make me new, better than before.  Closer to that girl in the distance.  I’m not sure I’ll ever catch her; progression is part of the great plan of life; but she feels closer to me lately, more authentic.  I don’t want to lose that feeling in all the laundry and homework and carpools I’m jumping back into.

What do you do to stay changed?  How do you keep life’s beautiful experiences close by so you don’t forget them and lose ground?  How do you preserve them before the everyday runs right over them, distorting their shape and shine?   I am working to write them down.  I also added a photo to my study spot, and this morning wrote a to-do list of all the terribly important (but now not urgent) things I must do while it’s still fresh, or at least somewhat so.  And I’m praying about the process.

I snapped the photo of Mt. Rainier with my phone while on a quick walk around Gig Harbor, WA in January.  Having served in Washington as a missionary 20 years ago, I know full well what a gift it was to have a beautiful, clear, sunny day in January with a clear view of that mountain.  Although the image is poor in quality, when I see it, the jump-for-joy clenching feeling in my heart returns and I re-live that moment of receiving a gift that was intensely personal even if I shared it with everyone else on a stroll around the harbor that day.

I guess the girl I mean to be is a lot like my favorite mountain.  Sometimes clear and bright and looming, sometimes smaller and floating above the clouds, sometimes faint, and sometimes shrouded in clouds.  Yet there, always there.  Occasionally it’s so big, so beautiful, so close it seems I can reach out and touch it.

More soon.


Cup of Contentment


The temperatures are slowly dropping.  My beloved cherry tree is, at last, shedding its leaves as the wind curls around its branches.  We wrapped up five soccer seasons and a football season on Saturday.  I baked a pumpkin dessert on Sunday.  My fall-ish quilts have been unpacked and tonight every one of them was wrapped around the body of a child as they snuggled together on couches and the floor listening to their Dad read aloud to them.  He read all of them to sleep except our almost 16 year old daughter, who sat laughing at the story.  She was dubious when we began, but now insists the book should be hers for the night so she can finish it.  Her obstacle is her father, who won’t surrender it to her keeping because he, too, wants to read ahead.  I’m soaking it all in – the sight of quilts everywhere – quilts I made – warming them all.  The sound of my littlest’s gentle breathing as she sleeps curled in a ball on my lap.  The feeling of being warm and safe and nourished while the dark and the cold deepen.  My husband’s voice as he reads aloud to his family.   Who cares about the shoes scattered all over the room?  This is heaven, right here, with my family.  A sentence from a book I’m currently reading came to mind:  “They were cups of acceptance.”

I feel like a cup of contentment.

Contentment has been a foreign feeling lately, at least where family management is concerned.  The last couple of months have been an exercise in survival with far too much time spent in the car driving children from practice to game to lesson to school and everything in between.   I cannot count the number of times I’ve tried to compose a paragraph – or even a sentence – that captures what it’s been like with all of the children in school, each of them experiencing their own life challenges and battles; me trying to be the glue and the cook and the housekeeper, the taxi, the secretary, the everything for all of them and still maintain some sense of my own personhood – without rambling on and on like a lunatic.  The only words I have to describe it somehow make it sound trivial, or like a badge, when really it represents the greatest effort of my life.  It’s my greatest effort at consecration, organization, humility and love; the very best I have to offer.  So it’s hard when it sounds so ridiculous, because I am giving it everything.  Of course, my everything is badly flawed, but it’s all I have to give.  I believe in the power and importance of the family.  I choose motherhood.  It brings all sorts of hidden costs I didn’t know I was choosing as well, but I do my best to take them in stride, make peace with them, and keep working.  And praying.  I’m praying my way through every single day.   Life has felt totally out of balance and the ironic thing is that every time I’m desperate for wisdom to fix it, on my knees praying to know what we can cut, the Lord usually gives me something more to do.  This month has been no different as a new assignment at church has come my way, pushing other worthy things aside.   My patience has been tried by coaches who change schedules without warning and by the occasional child who refuses to work with the schedule at all.  I have prayed for help and strength more times than I can count and repeatedly seen the Lord take 20 minutes of my life and expand them to fill far more than seems humanly possible.   I testify that His grace is, indeed, sufficient for the day.  Amazingly, He faints not and is not weary, and miraculously has a fresh supply of forgiveness for me every morning.  I have felt stretched, drained and empowered all at once.  I like knowing I have the capacity (with God’s help)  to do all of this, but hate the price it comes with.  I’m being more honest with myself in the tally this year, and there is much to consider and weigh.

Tonight I am asking nothing more of myself than to live in the moment.  Forgetting the unfinished tasks of motherhood, ignoring the piles of clutter.  A couple of weeks ago I had the strong feeling that we need to re-enthrone family read-aloud time in the evenings so we chose a new book and began.  It feels SO good.

Tomorrow’s demands are already at the door, clamouring for attention.  But tonight, I choose contentment.  And it’s glorious.

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