When the Light Turns Blue


The coffee shop is a good place to begin a long walk of conversation. We begin ours with muddy Caffè Americanos.

Nate and I leave for a long walk along the canal. The trail leads us through melting snow and uncomfortable slush.

Occasionally, we stop, place our noses near our cups. Drink. And move on, stepping over a glassy black puddle whenever it comes.

I do most of the talking today, and the words roll off my tongue like vapory white ghosts. I watch how the voiceless thoughts take on new shapes when they’re delivered by the warmth of my breath.

Good thoughts often struggle for conversation in my head. It’s hard to hear them. Even for me. When they call out from under the cold, heavy drifts of anxiety.

But today something melts as our feet cut through the snow. For too long, I’ve allowed fear to pile up outside my front door. When the snow and ice look treacherous, I keep my thoughts indoors, letting them huddle up.

But now I’m moving forward, interrupting my pace only long enough for big gulps of coffee. Suddenly, a feathery thought burns the back of my throat.

A blue heron stirs. He rises from slaty waters, and his long, blue-gray wings now captivate my vision. They beat with a wild and untamed grace.

“What is security,” he asks, “if you don’t have hope?” Nate’s question startles me when I see how often I’ve allowed that need for “security” to become a rapacious, insulating god.

An enemy of faith.

I’ve clutched my inanimate gold for too long. My fingers burnished a heavy idol that lulled me with whispers and became my familiar substitute for faith.

A fool’s gold.

But hope cannot be held for long inside a tight fist. It wants out.

“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul”

Of course, Emily Dickinson spent years trapped in her home, too.

Nate and I walk through this prayer for hours.

And so when I get home, it’s time to leave.

My family is heading downtown for the annual Empty Bowl Benefit. The fundraising event takes place at the farmer’s market, and everyone ends up waiting in line for a long time.

That’s when the wind bites. I’m hungry.

The kids stand in line with us. After 90 minutes, we still don’t have our food.

However, we’ve chosen, today, to wait in line for our soup. Because so many others have to wait for it every day.

The boys find sticks under the trees for sword-fighting and small patches on the sidewalk for ice-skating. We introduce ourselves to the couple behind us. They’ve been watching our boys.

“Yes, they’re 13 months apart,” we say.

“Ours are 12 years apart.” Everyone laughs.

My wife holds our place in line, and the boys and I run down a lane. Henry stops when he sees a slow-moving car, at least five blocks away.

“Dad, I think we should turn around.”

My explanation doesn’t convince him. “No,” he says. “I think we need to go back.” He’s four. And already thinking too much.

But I will keep moving forward, crunching through the snow.

Because the clear vision of a blue heron knows when it’s time to go.


This post is being shared with L.L. Barkat at Seedlings in Stone.
And with Laura Boggess at The Wellspring.

32 thoughts on “When the Light Turns Blue

  1. “What is Security without hope”. I have pondered this for the better part of a day and night and I too now wonder. There is so much fear in the land — economic, spiritual, relational. And it’s because we dont feel secure in our lives. The thief comes to steal our savings, our moral values, our principles. We lock our doors, but still he comes.

    So, the next question is, where is my security?

  2. But hope cannot be held for long inside a tight fist. It wants out.

    “Hope is the thing with feathers
    That perches in the soul”

    Matthew, as always your words are so alive…penetrating my heart with thoughts of how we (I) allow fear to get in the way…clutching to false securities which cannot take the place of God…when all God wants is my surrender to His untamed Grace…the thing with feathers! Free to soar. Ahhhh! It was so nice to hear from you. True, I haven’t posted in a while….have been busy with a few extra work projects….but I have so many thoughts ready to burst if I don’t post very soon! I try to at least journal them so they won’t become a vapor! I haven’t visited in a while either, but I’m so glad I did today! You inspire and encourage me always!

    • There you are, Lorraine! I’m glad you’ve been busy with work projects. Exciting stuff, I hope.

      That journal space is necessary space, isn’t it? I’m doing better at making time to scratch in there, too, because – you’re right – life is busy. And some vapors are just too beautiful and inspiring to forget. I look forward to reading some of yours.

  3. Wow Matt…once again I’m given to pause over a phrase or few.
    “voiceless thoughts take on new shapes when they’re delivered by the warmth of my breath.”

    I’m frankly too tired to get into it tonight. But this…I needed:
    “What is security if you don’t have hope?”

    • Yep. I hear you. Sometimes a big question, particularly one after a long day on the trail, will need to wait until tomorrow for a clear answer. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your comment, Bob. Enjoy the trail.

  4. Deep thoughts, poetically written. I Iove your analogies!
    There are times when fear grips us all and strangles our faith, hope, peace and more. I too am guilty of that. These days I have transferred my focus to gratitude (thanks to Ann Voskamp). I find that the more I focus on gratitude, the more my faith, hope, peace, love, etc strengthen. Of course I still slip up!!

    • Thanks for stopping by my place, Liz. And especially because your visit brings such a good word: gratitude. You are so right.

      There must be a way in which a thankful heart woos a blue heron, I think. And, yes, Ann Voskamp’s wisdom is transforming. In my book, 1,000 things to one blue heron is a beautiful ratio.

  5. I want to know more about you and Nate…these walks, the misty words, the comfort I feel in your steps…that speaks beauty like sighting a blue heron taking flight–her legs trailing out behind like the words we never say…

  6. Muddy Americanos. . no sweetness, no light
    Melting Snow. . uncomfortable slush
    Glassy black puddles? I haven’t seen one in a long time, but I remember. .
    And the heavy drifts of anxiety? They weight me more than I’d like to admit.
    I could feel all the tension as I walked with you Matthew. I was so pleased to move to the melting, the feathers and the blue heron stirring and rising.
    Untamed grace. I needed to read this today. Everyday. But today I woke up feeling unworthy in the Venti size Muddy Americano way. And that is hard to drink since I am a Cinnamon Dolce Latte girl as a rule.
    Thank you, as always friend, for sharing your words here with me.

    • Well, Danelle, I think we woke up to the same muddy Venti this morning. Not a sweet start to my day either. But hope is still blue and feathery.

      Your voice has strong wings, friend. It gave me a lift today.

  7. I find comfort in the fact that while we pass on our deficiencies, we can also pass on the acquired wisdom and submission to the one who can change them.

  8. Hi Matthew! Well said!

    The need for security… “a rapacious, insulating god, and enemy of faith.” How true, how true.

    Hope IS the thing… love Emily. She seems like an old friend. Kindred spirit.

    I felt like I was right there on the walk, sipping Americanos on a blue sky day, slushing right along.

    • Hope really is the thing, isn’t it? But a risky thing, too. But security is just as risky. It’s an interesting tension. Glad to know that I’m not alone in experiencing it. God’s people wrestled with it for centuries. Thanks for stopping by, Debra. Great to have you slush along with me. I hope you enjoyed your Americano, too. I like an extra shot in mine. Mmm.

  9. You got me with this: “I’ve allowed that need for “security” to become a rapacious, insulating god.” That hit close to home.

    You’re awfully poetic, Matthew (I mean that in the very best of ways, of course).

    • It’s good to know that I’m not alone in falling into the trap. And thanks for qualifying that you meant “poetic” in the best of ways. Wait. Michelle? Do you mean people out there use that word in a derogatory sense??? :)

    • And I’ve always treasured how a blue heron transforms a view. In that moment, I remember the truth that something unexpected and beautiful can always take off. Even better when we can share that view with a friend.

  10. I love this phrase, “words roll off my tongue like vapory, white ghosts.”

    I’ve lived with vapory, white ghosts and lately given them form, solidity, through writing. Naming the previously unnamed helps me see what I’m dealing with.

    • That’s interesting, Ann. Here I thought my formless thoughts finally gained a form by my speaking them aloud. But you’re right. They can still be vapory and fleeting. Writing them down gives them a spine.

  11. Oh, gasp. You are a poet even as you write prose, Mr. Kreider. Thank you for this marvelous picture of the tentacles of fear and how they invade and sometimes strangle. And blue herons are harbingers of grace – and hope – for me, too.

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