Outdoor gardening seized late October. My perennials appear to be in dormancy under the plant lights in the garage. Such a cold winter, the little heater is keeping the garage just above freezing. Sometimes life’s circumstances appear to keep us in dormancy like the season of winter. But winter is just one season, there are those three others. And really underneath it all, life is emerging from the roots, bulbs are multiplying, and green growth will reappear in just weeks. Valentine’s Day red comes in the midst of the bleak cold winter in this part of the world. We just celebrated National Wear Red Day, comes the first Friday in February each year, with women sporting red dresses and men vivid red ties which reminds us to take care of our hearts with healthy foods and ample physical activity. Valentine trinkets, cards, and boxes of chocolates are given with red cupids and hearts on February 14.
This winter holiday warms hearts for some, and leaves others wondering if they will ever find true love. The history of this holiday evolved like so many other holidays from Christian roots. Wikipedia tells us “St. Valentine of Rome was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire. According to legend, during his imprisonment, Saint Valentine healed the daughter of his jailer, Asterius, and before his execution, he wrote her a letter signed ‘Your Valentine’ as a farewell.” A original European tradition is to give St. Valentine’s keys to show love and with that goes the lore that these keys keep epilepsy away from your children. Now the golden key is gifted as a romantic symbol and an invitation to “unlock the giver’s heart”. Wow, what an invitation!
With Jesus you do not have to unlock the Giver’s heart. He gave all His love on the Cross. True love does come in Jesus! He is there for each of us. His love is perfect … it is patient, kind, does not envy, does not boast, is not proud, or rude, and is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs, does not like evil, and rejoices in the truth. His love always protects, hopes, perseveres, and never fails!
Spring seemed to arrive in Missouri early this year. Grass and flowers bulbs sprouted up out of the ground, and we are not even to March yet. My vegetable and herb bed was prepped with rich organic compost, and spring greens and peas sowed on Monday, earliest ever for Deanna Greens And Garden Art. The pink tulip trees and yellow daffodils bloomed in color this week. And then … woo, the north wind blew in the arctic cold and snow flurries on Friday. Winter is still among us this weekend. Those daffodils swayed with the wind on Friday, but with hope they will continue to stand and bloom even in the chill of winter. Resilience. That is what we are called to this very day, and for a season. Isaiah 42:3 states “He won’t break a bruised reed. He won’t quench a dimly burning wick. He will faithfully bring justice.” Hot tea, a warm Sunday breakfast, and God’s Word keeps this wick burning this day.
“What shape waits in the seed of you to grow and spread its branches against a future sky?” author David Whyte writes. So much hope from a seed. And the size of the seed does not matter according to Jesus’ parable. “The simple truth is that if you had a mere kernel of faith, a poppy seed, say, you would tell this mountain, ‘move!’ and it would move. There is nothing you wouldn’t be able to tackle.” (The Message Bible).
Just how complex God has made each of us, “fearfully and wonderfully made”. Holy words to behold … From seed to a tree … providing beauty to delight in, cooling shade to the weary, whispered wisdom from the leaves in the breeze, wood for a warm fire, roots as a foundation, fruit for the hungry, and sweet sap for those special moments. Is not that a mother to her child? A grandchild to a grandparent? A man to his kin?
From seed to a tree, we each grow to be. Taking care of self and our brother. Each can learn from the other. Growing branches at different directions, new skies to explore, yet rooted in the love of family and friends. Faith in self and who our God is, our Perfect Father.
As I center my thoughts on this new year, I think about the doors and keys to life. You know those doors of opportunity to knock on, doors to walk through, and finding that prize on the other side of the door. Scriptures tell us“knock, seek, and you will find”. At times it feels like multiple knocks before someone slowly creaks the door open with a mutter of a greeting. Other times you barely get a knock in, and “HELLO, HERE I AM!” like a bright red door. And then there are those times, and no one answers. Maybe I need to move onto a new address, new door, new opportunity? “When one door closes, another opens” as the saying goes. There can be a reward for those who are persistent.
Then there are the keys to life. Author Alex Morritt writes, “Owning fewer keys opens more doors.” Was he speaking about property ownership, or more about simplifying your life in general? Maybe both. In 2016 my quest to simplify and pare down was energizing. I was able to see my immediate surroundings in a new light. In 2017, it will be more in the area of my thoughts and words. Simplify my thoughts, less analyzing. Simplify my communiques with fewer words, use more effective ones. Loving words. Encouragement. God holds “the key to my heart”. He knows all my thoughts and cares of this life before I even pray them.
What door are you knocking on? What key will open the door, your life this very day?
Every day brings a ship,
Every ship brings a word;
Well for those who have no fear,
Looking seaward well assured
That the word the vessel brings
Is the word they wish to hear.
This poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson is called Letters. Letters are a type of communique, a collection of words intended for a person or persons. Letters have been written for years, centuries, and millenniums. Their forms have been on stone tablets, metal, wood, paper, electronic mail (e-mail), Messenger, and even the Bible mentions words have been scripted on the heart. Yes, words are heart matters. Read a poem, letter, scripture passage, blog post, or journal page, and you can feel the author’s heart.
This poem mentions a hope for the word(s) one wishes to hear. What do you hope to hear today? “I love you.” “I am sorry.” “I need you.” “I am okay.” “I miss you.” “You are healed.” “Forgiveness.” “Thinking of you.” “See you soon.” “I am trying.” …
The next question: What word(s) can you share with someone today? My words to share today are “I love you despite all my imperfections and your imperfections.”
Simplicity. “In a world of complexity, the best weapon is simplicity,” Price Pritchett is quoted. The simplicity of a garden is one place I find peace in this troubled world. I am an artistic gardener, rather than a scientific one. I love creating an ambiance with green life. The fragrances of fresh herbs after a soaking rain or while harvesting feed my culinary imagination for Dean and I’s next meal, cucumber salad with snippets of cilantro to cool the heat of the summer day. The beauty of August’s blooms set in a simple vase uplifts the day no matter the bad news. “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow,” Audrey Hepburn once said. It takes faith. “Faith isn’t the ability to believe long and far into the misty future. It’s simply taking God at His Word and taking the next step,” artist Joni Eareckson Tada tells us. So I take one step at a time, one seed at a time. “Faith as a mustard seed can move mountains” as the Bible encourages us. I believe one simple step of love leads to another and then another. Those mountains of hatred will move. Make one simple step towards peace this very evening.
A week in the mountains away from suburban life, work day conflicts, time constraints, and society’s woes … God’s creation … His canvas …
colorful vignettes, the snow-capped peaks and vi-rid valleys, mountain streams, deep-rooted trees, fresh air, hummingbird shrills, delicate flowers abloom, the silvery paper coins of the aspen groves fluttering, and the simplicity of just being can settle anyone’s mind, heart , and soul. What a difference a week can make.
Why are we as a people so fired up? In fight mode, defensive? Pause a moment. Take a deep breathe or two. Quiet the soul. Chill, or sip some chamomile tea if you cannot get away to that quiet place on your own. Think, but not too hard. Meditate on goodness. Selah from the heart. Thank God. Love unceasingly.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…” 1 Corinthians 13:4 -8 (NIV).
The boxes stacked to our eyeballs are dwindling. Dean and I along with my daughter and her family managed to get moved back into our renovated home despite the timing of a broken down vehicle. The storage company brought all our furniture and other boxed items back as well. I want to see more painted walls than brown boxes. So the goal is at least one box every evening and hit it hard on the weekend. Still need to work our jobs during the weekdays, and get to bed at a decent time every evening.
Over the years this house has been open to many people and pets. I never had much space in this 1200 square foot house to hoard too much. Sometimes a little is a bunch with multiple families in one home. The Goodwill and other charitable organizations have already received some of our excess, with more to come. Dean and I are becoming reformed hoarders, making decisions and not procrastinating, detaching and not clinging, secure and not possessive.
Reformation can come in a trickle or flood, a snow ball or avalanche, a step or sprint, or a combination of. Later this month I speak to a group on the subject of resilience. One way we become more resilient is taking small steps with faith to obtain a goal, or gracefully walk or run from (or through) adversity. And God gives us wisdom on which pace and direction. It is never too late to turn to Him. His voice is heard more clearly and precise as we walk with Him daily. “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28 – 30 (The Message version). I hear the trickle of a spring-like rain. Refreshing to my soul as the daffodil in bloom this early March day.
I had a deja vu moment this past weekend while walking down a neighborhood street to the auto part store with my Dean and our Midnight. During our brisk walk I approached a view unforgettable from my childhood. An old brick house, the grandmother’s house of a farm family I grew up with just down the road from my childhood home and tree farm. I was 12-years old again and at the place where I knew I was more than 1/2 way home from the old town ball diamond where I played softball. On occasion my sister and I would walk to ball practice and our games. It was at least a 2-mile walk one way, and required us to cross over the interstate on a cross walk. Considered a summer adventure, not scary. Over 40 years ago, my hometown St. Peters, Missouri was a farm community. Everyone knew each other, and for the most part everyone was trustworthy. That cross walk was torn down a few years back. But if it was still usable today, would I let my 10-year old or even 14-year old granddaughter walk that distance to ball practice from home and back again? I would say “no” as this community has greatly changed in size. We do not know our “neighbors” like we did back then, and who knows about the interstate traffic and travelers. The world has changed its character.
“Almost home” is like those familiar places and people. Thankful for, content with. The rental house has been a temporary refuge for us, almost home. But home and family is where we are meant to be. All my senses clearly see, smell, hear, touch, and taste its warmth. The pine wood and painted walls smell fresh, clean, new. These colored walls are awaiting our human presence. I hear our birds chirp near the front porch in the maple and dogwood trees. And I feel the crisp new bed linens and quilt to my skin as I lay in my bed along side my husband. This weekend we will be moving our personal items back to our renovated home. And our hearts come with. Living minimally has been refreshing like the aromas of fresh wood. Dean and I vow to continue this. As I wrote a few weeks ago, “’Home’ is where you lay your head, and share your heart and blessings with your family…” no matter the structure or belongings. The Books of Matthew and Philippians in our Bible say, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” and “I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content–whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need.” My prayer for each of us, we know that God our Father provides for our every need and that we each are content with His provisions.
I begin this blog post with the verse in Jeremiah, reminding us each you are set apart for God’s purposes. “I knew you before I formed you … I set you apart.” This year has been a full one once again, full of people, projects, places, overflowing blessings, as well as trials and destructive floods. I still believe most people are good, and if working together we can build a barn quicker than alone. I believe the blessing jar is overflowing as the year ends, and dreams can stay alive as we share what we have been blessed with.
This time of year we each get a full course of people in huge portions just as the holiday foods. An upset stomach, headache, and exhaustion can result. Behaviors such as insecurity, jealousy, backbiting, plotting, exclusion displayed throughout the year will come about during the holidays, sometimes in bigger portions. Difficult encounters can be embraced with a smile and words of grace and truth. Ask for God’s grace! I do. Unless feelings are addressed by each person, little chance for reconciliation in relationships. I still believe in miracles. And I believe in dreaming. I believe a bigger home or second home will come about for Dean and I in 2016. What blessings overflowed for you in 2015? What are you believing for in 2016? I’d love to hear.