How to Find The Holy Ground

January 27, 2014 | 57 comments

It was just after dawn on Sunday morning. I was washing raspberries at the kitchen sink, and thinking ahead to Monday.

My friend Paula had spent the weekend with us, and when she came into the kitchen, she startled me with her gasp.

“Jennifer!” she cried out. “Look. Look outside!”

I lifted my eyes to see what Paula saw, while the water kept running cold over my hands.

Paula bolted out the back door with her iPhone, to capture moments. It was a subzero morning, and my friend forgot to put on her shoes. Or maybe she figured she was about to step on holy ground. I can’t say for sure. But out she went, barefoot.

I turned off the water and stood stock-still at the kitchen sink.

Paula rushed back in, giggling this long stream of joy at her discoveries. She slipped on her shoes, and I watched out the kitchen window, from my sink. I watched how she ran across my yard, through snow and wind, running after beauty.

I felt tears spring up, and I was jealous for her eyes. She was like a child, chasing God in my yard.

When was the last time … ?

Sometimes I can’t see it. But there it waits: outside my window, under my feet, begging me to look. I have been burdened by the pain and suffering of people I love — in my own family, and in my church, and in my neighborhood. And I forget to see where the beauty still is. And it still. is. Beauty still is, stubbornly persisting despite suffering in our cold world.

I forget to look at the beauty of all that is. Even the coldest days are crammed with burning bushes, and the beauty of NOW. Yet I inhabit my tomorrows.

Emily Dickinson wrote that forever is composed of nows. How often I forget it. 

The real geniuses in this life aren’t the people in ivory towers, with their names written on the spines of thick volumes.

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They are the people with their eyes on the divine nature of thin places.

They aren’t living fast-forward, but in real time. Sometimes, I’m blind, and I need the eyes of a friend to help me remember to:

Inhabit your moments.
Dwell in your nows.
Touch the hem of heaven
before you go to live there.

inhabit

Sure. We can learn from our pasts, and we can make plans for our futures. But the only place to really live is now.

I’ve only begun to learn that the real beauty is in moments — somewhere between the hay bales and the sticky countertops and the Monday laundry piles.

We’re all broken people — being made whole in the simple, holy, ordinary moments,  in these unpretentious places. We’re living the remarkable, in what some find unremarkable — and that’s where the burning bushes are. We’re taking out the trash, and feeding the cats, and packing school lunches, and folding denim. And if we’re parents, we’re raising our miniature humans to be people of light in a world that can sometimes feel dark.

The moments that shape us are the moments that might never get noticed.

Your burning-bush moments… They taste like maple syrup, and they put fresh fingerprints on your Windex-ed windows. Your moments wake up before dawn, to stand next to you in the dark, whispering: “Can I sleep by you, Mommy?”

Your moments are out your kitchen window, grabbing you by the hand,  inviting you to take hold of forever by inhabiting today.

Forever is but a series of nows, extending out toward heaven.

I saw Paula, dwelling in the miracle of now.

And I stepped outside, barefoot.

 

(All photos taken by Paula, in my yard)

 
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YOUR TURN: Tell me about the beauty of your “now.”

Can you spy God out your own back door? Tell me with words or pictures. (Feel free to upload a picture into the comment box!) Or, post photos of your everyday beauty on Instagram or Facebook this week. Use the hashtag #holyground so I can find you.

 

by | January 27, 2014 | 57 comments

57 Comments

  1. Deidra

    What a sense of wonder! Wow!

    Here’s something I’m always pondering, but I rarely say it out loud: What if that burning bush Moses saw was really a Sugar Maple tree, changing the color of its leaves? What if Moses’ heart was able to see a miraculous vision of God in what I consider to be ordinary? Beautiful, but ordinary. I know this much: I don’t want to miss those moments. I don’t want my cold feet to keep me from seeing God.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      That’s a pretty cool thought, Deidra. Maybe something a bit like the, eh?

      Reply
      • Lynn D. Morrissey

        Glorious photo! I needed that!

        Reply
    • Lynn D. Morrissey

      YOu know, Miss Deidra, I think you understand holy ground, and those cold feet are going to warm right up! Burning bushes have a way of radiating heat!
      Love you!
      Lynn

      Reply
  2. kelli woodford

    This must be at least partly what friends are for, don’t you think? To help wash our eyes to see the beauty right under our noses. The glory we’ve grown far too accustomed to needs fresh perspective – and thank GOD we have each other.

    (Oh – you and Paula? You two were MEANT to be friends. Something told me that long ago and I LOVE watching it come to pass.)

    Reply
    • Guest

      YES! Especially in winter…when we are all just feeling dormant along with the earth. So important to embrace the holy moments of now. I captured this yesterday and it reminding me of the quote I had read that morning. Holy, mysterious ground…all of it! G

      Reply
    • dukeslee

      Yeah. She’s pretty special. I told her she’s stuck with me forever. 🙂

      Reply
  3. ro elliott

    Oh Jennifer…every word in every sentence is a yes and amen…so much of what God has done and continues to do in my heart since I started counting all the ways He loves me…and this makes my souls hunger for more… For all my senses to be heighten to taste…and see that He is good…and this…The moments that shape us are the moments that might never get noticed. Thanks for a good Monday start to the week…

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      My senses are heightened, too. So grateful for a good, eyes-wide-open friend to lead the way.

      Reply
  4. Sharon O

    This is so beautiful. Yesterday we drove several hours up into Washington state to see ‘Mt. St. Helens and when you realize the devastation that took place in 1980 then you look upon the beauty of the mountain now it reminds me in a small way of the restoration we all have within us as God tears down and restores and rebuilds. It was amazing.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Mmmm…. Love that, Sharon. Thank you for sharing.

      Reply
  5. Paula Gamble

    Words can’t wrap around my joy and encouragement through this! Truly, friends are those who call out what God is working within us, and help us to SEE this is holy ground, indeed. Right here. Right now. We are standing on Holy Ground and it’s a miraculous thing. It’s like when you’ve been living in the trenches and God shines down and the Light penetrates deep, and we behold His magnificence and beauty – we are changed. But we need friends who call that forth in us – that help us stop and SEE: this is Christ in us, the hope of glory. And we just know it’s all His work and give thanks. Thank you, Jennifer, for being that friend that calls forth beauty in each of us! You are a gift!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      I’ll always treasure our weekend together. Love you, Paula. It was holy ground and holy laughter and holy friendship.

      Reply
  6. Beth

    “We’re all broken people — being made whole in the simple, holy, ordinary moments, in these unpretentious places.”
    I’m not sure I can put my thoughts into words. God still has me in awe from the amazing weekend. It is those ordinary moments isn’t it? From sitting in a hotel room with new friends, a drive with another from the conference back to my hotel, to stricking up a conversation with the guy sitting next to me on the plane, to an evening with old friends whose granddaughters stole my heart. Ending with being ever so grateful for a phone call with my man. God is there in all those moments capturing my heart.
    Oh, I’m pretty sure none of that came out the way I wanted so I will end saying how grateful I am for the opportunity to meet you this past weekend Jennifer, and to meet Paula.
    God is GOOD.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      That’s a whole lotta goodness wrapped into the weekend, Beth, and I’m so happy that I got to be a little part of that. A joy to meet you in person. xo

      Reply
  7. Sandra Heska King

    Oh, my word. Running barefoot into flaming beauty. I LOVE this.

    I just quick snapped this out the living room window. Plain and simple.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Glorious! #holyground

      Reply
      • Karrilee Aggett

        I even see some “Y”s in there!

        Reply
        • dukeslee

          Karrilee “ I thought the same thing!

          Reply
  8. Sarah Skinner

    Last week I also ran outside barefoot to capture the amazing sunrise. I have been practicing being present, which is my one word for the year. This post was perfect.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      GASP! Not just a burning bush, but a whole burning SKY! I feel the urge to slip my shoes off.

      Reply
  9. Amy

    I can hear Paula’s joy…what an incredible story woven here, Jennifer. And Iowa farmland DOES warrant running barefoot, even in the freezing cold.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Right you are, Amy. I sometimes forget how beautiful it is, until we have guests here, and they always stand at the windows overlooking the backyard — with eyes wide open.

      Reply
    • dukeslee

      Indeed, Linda. So grateful for the friend, and for her eyes, helping me focus again.

      Reply
  10. Angela

    Today – snowdrops took my breath away!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Oh Angela … I love this. Where do you live? I don’t think we have snowdrops, just huge snow-DRIFTS. 🙂

      Reply
  11. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Such beautiful words–such glorious wow-now photos from your friend Paula and those in your comment box. I’m awed. Sometimes nows are hows? How will we make it through the next moment? How do we find joy in the now? My brother’s divorce will be final in two days, just one day shy of his 32nd wedding anniversary– in a severing he didn’t want, but the law allows, in a severing that is clearly not God’s will. Right now it is hard to see the wow in the now……except that we know that God’s grace is greater still, and that Brian has made it through this far, and he has a precious mother, siblings, and children who love him. We can find beauty in so much love, even when the love of his life has flown. Thanks for the reminder to find beauty now, and in everything, Jennifer. You are so precious
    Love
    Lynn

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Oh Lynn… You are in the midst of the suffering. I am so sorry. So hard to see the beauty when you’re engulfed by the pain. How to see then? I was so grateful for a friend here, this weekend, helping me to see despite some personal pain we’re going through. She didn’t preach at me, but just brought her own joy to us. What a gift.

      Reply
      • Lynn D. Morrissey

        You do that too, jennifer….bring us many gifts. I’m so sorry and will be praying that God absorbs this pain of yours and replaces it with HImself.
        Love
        Lynn

        Reply
    • ro elliott

      Oh Lynn…you and I have talked before…me with my niece …if I did not know before…I now know…why God hates divorce …it’s not his railing judgement…it is his compassion because He knows the absolutely devastating pain it brings. I pray your brother will feel Gods mercy and grace…see the light that shines in the darkness and know how much he is loved by God. And may you have Gods wisdom and grace to walk through this valley with him.

      Reply
      • Lynn D. Morrissey

        Oh, yes, Ro, I”m so sorry about your beloved niece. And will cont. to pray for her. Bless her precious heart. Yes, you are so right. God does understand that when you rip apart “one flesh” (which obviously means the uniting phsyically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and materially) of two people, pain (deep, ripping, anguishing pain) is the result. It is not going well at all w/ him tonight. I greatly fear Wednesday when we go to court. Thank you for your comfort and prayers, Ro. I’m so grateful.
        Love
        Lynn

        Reply
  12. JViola79

    Deer tracks in our back yard 🙂 Love this post!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      #holyground !

      Thank you friend. So glad you shared your beauty with us.

      Reply
  13. Debby Ray

    Jennifer, what a beautiful post! I probably would have done the same thing as your friend…ran outside into the snow to take pics! I am still waiting for my snow here in NC…maybe will get some tomorrow they say! I just posted about getting these unexpected blessings a few days ago at http://debbysfavoritethings.blogspot.com/2014/01/unexpected-presents.html

    In my case, it was holy skies instead of holy ground 🙂

    Blessings!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      #holyskies

      Wowzers! That’s some sky, Debby.

      I’m in awe of the beauty in the comment box today. So glad you included your photo here.

      Reply
  14. Eileen

    Beautiful, Jennifer! Earlier this month after dropping my son off at school I had to pull over and capture the sunrise. It looked like the sky was on fire. It was a Monday morning and I just remember thinking…Monday is a gift too. 🙂

    Reply
  15. Sherrey Meyer

    Goosebumps! Not from the icy ground Paula ran onto, but from reading your words. Oh, how much they said to me. Needed them right now. The beauty of my now is a tiny infant named Parker who is just two weeks old, and she’s the newest member of our family. Looking at her last Monday I was awed by God’s creation in this tiny wonder.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Oh Sherrey … So happy for you, and the new addition to your family. So much wonder in such a small person, yes?

      Reply
  16. Kelli

    YES!! Especially in the middle of winter, when I tend to feel like my soul is going dormant along with the earth…holding my breath for spring. I captured this yesterday and the moment matched the quote I read the same day. Every moment….holy, mysterious ground. Great reminder!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Look. At. That. Beautiful, Kelli! Love the Jennie Allen quote. From Restless, I presume? Great book.

      Reply
  17. Kim Reisch Vander Poel

    Jennifer–what beautiful words and pictures to start a Monday. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find the words to share what awesomeness I witnessed by observing you and your friends this weekend. Paula’s words describe it best, “But we need friends who call that forth in us – that help us stop and SEE: this is Christ in us, the hope of glory. And we just know it’s all His work and give thanks. Thank you, Jennifer, for being that friend that calls forth beauty in each of us! You are a gift!” It was pure joy meeting all of you!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Kim, It was a joy to meet you this weekend. I hope we can get together soon. We share the same beauty here in our little corner of the world. Let’s find some burning bushes. 🙂

      Reply
  18. Karrilee Aggett

    So Much Yes – yet again! And the photo’s… wow! I may have braved the backyard all barefoot in crazy pursuit as well! Here is what I captured when I looked up – out my front yard!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Wow! I just want to cry over the beauty of this comment box today. What a gift.

      Reply
  19. Kelly Greer

    God has been most vibrantly shining in places I cannot even see with the naked eye. Far away places, as far as the east is to the west. In the hearts of those I love, and he is turning my everyday moments into miracles. Each and every one! His light shines! He is so faithful!
    Love this one Jennifer…and Paula. I would have loved to be a little field mouse hanging out in your back yard that mountain. Do you think I would have survived the cold? Brrr!
    Hugs,
    Kelly

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      For a few minutes maybe, Kelly. It is brutally cold here this winter. Even so, #polarvortex has #holyground of its own. 🙂

      Reply
  20. Jennifer Bush Dorhauer

    Thankfully, God sometimes sends us a fresh set of eyes to remind us to see His creation as fantastic as it always is. I’m going to have to look harder once my children are grown. This weekend was spent giggling over icicles. Tomorrow, they’re praying for snow.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Yeah. I hear you. Mornings with the girls are my favorite. We drive slowly down to the mailbox, where we wait for the bus. (Well, we drive slowly when we’re not running late. 🙂 ) … Anyway, we go on a morning Beauty Hunt most mornings, and oh, how they see.

      Reply
  21. Kim's County Line

    I love this post and seeing all the beauty captured here. Sometimes, when I’m sitting in the basement doing my morning routine on the computer, the glow of pink streaks above the curtain, and work can wait. It makes all the difference in a day to start with beauty. This was taken a week ago on my country road.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      That’s gorgeous, Kim. Thank you for adding to the beauty.

      Reply
  22. Constance Ann Morrison

    I love it when God has a theme in the ideas he impresses on my heart. I’ve been thinking a lot about the burning bush this cold January, and I’m happy to read your thoughts today. This photo was a happy “accident.”

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Stunning, my friend! It looks like the sun is sitting on the field, right behind the tree … not far away on the horizon. #holyground

      Reply
  23. Nancy Ruegg

    I just experienced a “holy ground” moment while reading your post! The windows are open (Our reward during Florida-winter, for enduring heat and humidity for six months!), and a school bus went by. Its windows were open, too. I could hear the joyful squeals of children as it passed. And because the laughter of children is especially infectious, I found myself smiling and laughing a bit to myself, on the holy ground of humor!

    Thank you for your reminder, Jennifer, to inhabit the moment. Great beauty surrounds us–right now, wherever we are, whatever we’re doing!

    Reply
  24. soulstops

    I can hear Paula’s delight from here…gorgeous view from your kitchen window….thanks, Jennifer, for reminding us of the beauty here…a few days ago I remember hearing the birds sing in the morning and even my bare hydrangea bush is beautiful in its own way/

    Reply
  25. Wendy Wiley Canedy

    This is so beautiful… made me cry. My daughter is a senior in high school, and she’s been bullied by girls who used to be her closest friends. Lately, all she can think about is graduation, four months from now, and starting over. I have felt sad that high school is ending this way for her. I will remind her to look for the beauty in the now. Thank you. :’)

    Reply

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