The Magnolia Tree

 

The Magnolia Tree

Winter is whimpering.
Dreary days come and go.
March winds are bickering.
Spring is making a show.

Heleborus was faithful
to show up in snow,
but its’ debut is fading
as the daffodils grow.

The forsythias stun us
in a short burst of bright,
but the most magnificent fuss
seems to come overnight.

It’s the herald of spring
and most gardeners agree,
the most charming tall bling
the Magnolia tree.

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Warm Wednesday Words: Acres of Hope

IMG_9703As another Mother’s Day approaches I am leaning into hope and steering clear of man’s conclusions as I prod through my valleys.  I  refuse to compare myself to Mother Theresa, Susanna Wesley, Michelle Dugger, nor any young and idealistic mother full of preconceived notions about life and parenting, though I’m happy for all of them.  But for myself, I’m madly in love with my kids and grandkids no matter what.  Every single one.   The sweetest celebration of my motherhood is not on any one particular day, or in reveling in any one of my children’s successes, though I do that.  It is in the thoughtfulness of each one of them throughout the year.  And then another year and another and another.  It is in cards, calls, visits, and laughter.  For the ones with children (my sweet grands), it is in the effort they put into guiding the grandkids to gift us with sweet indulgences of artwork, notes, hugs and chats.  For seasons when there has been too much gap between visits or too much silence in the conversation, (on either end) it is in the celebration of a God who mends and heals in our lack, our uncertainty, and yes, even in our sin.

If I have ever doubted the lavishness of my God, and I don’t generally, I have only to feast my eyes on an azalea bush in May to settle the matter.

IMG_9723For my friends who have yearned to have children, but could not, I am sorry.  Truly sorry.  My heart aches for you.  I am also sorry for those who have loved and held a child who passed away.  There are no words to say I understand, because I don’t and can’t.  Your hope for reunion is literally an eternity away.  Then there are heart holes for those who have had to give up a child, parent a child without the parenthood “title” or for those of us who have miscarried without ever holding that child.  As Ann Voskamp said in a recent post, “Grief is the guaranteed price we pay for love.”  She went on to explain that God is the ultimate grief converter because He promises to invade our grief with joy and pour lavish comfort on us in our circumstances.

IMG_9735I hope that God fills your heart with hope in abundance this Mother’s Day…hope that you know how much love God has for you.  If you are a believer in Christ as your Savior who died for you, that makes you a daughter of the King, and a joint heir with Christ.  In other words, you are royalty!    Since God has all the traits that were divided in Adam when He created Eve, He longs to love us and our children with a motherly type love, as well as a fatherly love, and of course, His agape love (which is not based on feelings).  “How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings…” from Luke 13:34.

This Mother’s Day I once again am thankful that God indulgently  allows us to be a miracle in the middle of our circumstances.   Our compass is always pointed to hope, as is beautifully expressed in a song about Christ and the church, “And though you’re in the dark here call me friend…not safe but worth it, so worth it…As you lead us away to valleys low, to acres of hope, acres of hope.”

Do you realize the miracle that He has allowed you to be and the acres of hope that He is leading you in from your “unsafe” valley?

Warm Wednesday Words: Perspective Rescued and Reframed

IMG_9722EditedBecause I believe in God’s sovereignty,  my perspective is constantly being rescued and reframed.  For years I have been closely effected by a roller coaster ride of heartaches due to the addictions and bad choices of a sweet adult child along with turbulence in some of the relationships he became entwined with.  Mixed in with the fun times we all have shared, there have been times that waves of despair have crashed in on our family.  Through it all I believe that God is rescuing and keeping those I have committed to Him, and in fact, our entire family.  (“…and that is why I have suffered these things.  But I am not ashamed because I know the One I have believed in and am persuaded that He is able to guard what has been entrusted to me until that day.”  2 Tim. 1:12) As Carol Kent points out so well in her book, “When I Lay My Isaac Down”, the entire family suffers when a family member is arrested; i.e. not just with the shock and heartache, but with a taste of the ill treatment that is often dished out liberally to the incarcerated.  From exorbitant phone call charges, visitation lines, changing rules, searches, lies, rudeness, scapegoats, assumption of guilt, etc., we have learned more then we ever wanted to about our system.   As Joseph said to his brothers after his long set of trials at their hands, “You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result…”  (Gen. 37-45) Seeing things from God’s perspective caused him to be able to forgive his brothers for the evil scheme they had carried out.  It’s not always an easy thing to keep my eyes focused on God’s perspective, but when I do I see clearly His love and mercy even within difficulties.  Then there are the unexpected moments of God’s grace in the hard places, such as when a friend picks up the corner of our stretcher by encouraging words, cards, prayers, hugs (both virtual and real) or sacrificial actions.  There have been some who have sought us out just to help us stand strong in a hard place; as well as those who have essentially left us alone in it.

IMG_9719That thing that I would most like to erase from my circumstances is often the very thing God will get the most mileage from in His molding makeover plans.  This is something not understood by those who have not put their trust in God.  The lure of success, popularity, and power along with the slippery slope of pride can be too strong to welcome or see the need for a trial to sharpen spiritual perspective and increase trust.   Yet the most humbling things that I would choose to avoid, He uses for His glory and my good.

IMG_9707EditedLast fall I planted bulbs, which, like cocoons and butterflies, wombs and babies, and so many other design marvels, illustrate the amazing skill of a Master Weaver to use the dark and hidden places to yield something no less then splendid.  His transforming powers are not at all affected by my ideas of where they should occur, whether behind prison walls built by men or those constructed within hearts encased in a fine exterior in denial of the slavery within.  Meantime, true heart freedom is being forged in the hard places not the easy ones.

IMG_9706The beauty of flowers and spring is like a visual banner shouting God’s handiwork that was done in the hard and hidden places.  I am thankful for following through with the instinctive nudging to plant more bulbs last fall in addition to other landscape specimens already here. Beginning with helleborus, Magnolia Jane and white forsythia defying winter in the midst of freezing temps, the floral processional has begun.  Moving on from  hyacinths, viburnums and daisies to tulips, flowering almonds, spireas, Japanese Maple, lilacs, azaleas, and the unfurling of peonies, I’m feasting on an array of visionary and olfactory reminders of God’s creativity, faithfulness and love.

IMG_9708If the kaleidoscope of colors doesn’t settle the matter, there is the intoxicating aroma of hyacinths, Korean Spice Viburnum and lilacs to further prove He does exceedingly above all that we ask or think.  In “Eyes Wide Open:  Enjoying God in Everything”, author Steve DeWitt says, ‘…every created beauty was created by God to lead our affections to Him.  That’s why He made the pleasures of earthly beauty so fleeting – so that on the other side of the pleasure we might experience either wonder and worship and ultimate satisfaction in God or the pursuit of the pleasure that beauty provides for its own sake.  If we choose the latter, we will only be disappointed again.’

IMG_9701As one wave of blooms fades and another comes on, there is a rhythmic reminder that, like the blooms that come and go, my life, too is a vapor to be poured out in whatever channel He desires.  My response to the course He chose for me is sweet surrender, and yes, even gratefulness.  Since nothing happens to me outside of His permission, He must have confidence that I will  display His glory even in arid places.  Perhaps He has handpicked you for a hard place as well.

IMG_9718A sweet friend encouraged me after a recent turning point in my family’s heartbreaking saga of the loss of a family member to incarceration, “Now you have the framework for the future.”  Her words were comforting and also reminded me that I’ve always had the framework for the future from the time I turned my life over to Christ at age nine.  Through ups and downs, valleys and “mountaintops”, seasons of drought and seasons of showers, God has always been there and been my Savior and my friend.  The gardens have not failed to rescue and reframe my perspective!

IMG_9693How about you?  What hard place are you in right now and how is God reframing your perspective through it?

Warm Wednesday Words: Hope in the Night

joyful in hopeLast fall I was well into a dark and difficult season of my life in which I needed to cling to every scrap of hope just to function.   I longed for a time machine to jump in and travel to a few years from now and skip this season.  Since that didn’t happen, I did the next best thing and purchased several bags of beautiful bulbs and crammed them in every available flower bed and pot around the house.  Other then the times I was buoyed with the lifeline of empathy, encouragement and time out with family and friends (who are cemented in my personal hall of fame),  my “recreation” centered on bulb catalogs and wondering what mile marker I would be passed when each variety bloomed.  Bulbs symbolize what God, in His Divine Providence, is doing in the hidden realms that we don’t see.  Yet for those who love Him, He is faithful to work all the intricate details out and use them for His glory and our good.  He is a master weaver of our circumstances, even though we can’t see the finished tapestry yet.

pain prefaces birthAmaryllis  gave me just what I needed during the dead of winter to hold me over until spring and outdoors.  It was fun to buy several and share them with some family and a mentor who has stood staunchly on faith and determinedly propped me up a few times, as well.   Our faith filled prayers for God’s glory to be evidenced in difficult circumstances are synchronized as we tend to our amaryllis bulbs and watch their beauty unfold.

BeFunky_IMG_9104.jpgHis creation of the flowering bulb holds striking symbolism of my faith and trust in Him even when I can’t see what He’s doing.  Even the bulb, itself, holds symbolism.  While it is in the cold, dark, earth, it finds it’s sustenance from within to send forth the new growth.  While I am in the dark trial, I must find strength from my inner most core; i.e. the Lord and His Spirit and the comfort, direction, and even sure promises that I can only get from time spent alone with Him

hope that is not seenWhat do you hope for and how long term is it?  What visual reminders do you place in your life to help you hang on to hope?

 

Warm Wednesday Words: Hope, Promises and Renewal

Fall is a time to slow down, renew and wait for, (if not invest in), the promises of spring.   It is a time of digging deep, burrowing in, savoring fall aromas such as fresh cut wood and pumpkin candles, and feasting on the deep, glorious colors of autumn just before the stark nakedness of winter.  It is a time to trust that what may seem bleak and obscure as winter descends will burst forth into its own “glory”, of sorts, in God’s time.

A bunch of tulip bulbs ready for fall planting.When my siblings and I were growing up, my dad would buy our winter wood supply in the fall and one of our chores was to stack it outside the basement door for use in the wood furnace that was in the basement.  Though we sometimes grumbled about the job, knowing the wood was purchased and stacked was one of many comforts of fall.

wood stackAnother nostalgic fall comfort is the sight of home canned goods labeled and on the pantry shelves.  This was the harvest that would help carry us through until the next garden season.

home canned goodsThis fall, in more ways then one, I am focusing on the promises of “spring” to carry me through the “winter”.

IMG_8576“At no other time (than autumn) does the earth let itself be inhaled in one smell, the ripe earth; in a smell that is in no way inferior to the smell of the sea, bitter where it borders on taste, and more honeysweet where you feel it touching the first sounds. Containing depth within itself, darkness, something of the grave almost.”
Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters on Cezanne

IMG_8581

Jacob’s dog, Cyrus (below), and Hannah’s dog, Prim, have decided to “help” me dig a large hold for planting bulbs here.  I just hope they will retire the job after the bulbs are planted!

IMG_8585

 

In the cocoon is the promise of a butterfly,
At the dawn, night is set awry,
Storms become a memory in the arch of a rainbow,
and God’s presence rushes in when on our knees we say so.
Though tulip bulbs are humble for a season,
and with our prayers we wrestle and reason,
Victory burst from the cross and the tomb
and is safe in the hearts of the bride of the Groom.

LaDonna English

IMG_8586What hidden promises are you standing on this fall?

Hymn written by Natalie Sleeth.  © 1986 Hope Publishing Co., Carol Stream, IL 60188, http://www.hopepublishing.com.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Warm Wednesday Words: A Few Favorite Things

When life gets a little too busy or sad, I find comfort and joy in a few favorite things.  The lyrics from the song, “These are a Few of My Favorite Things” from “The Sound of Music” portray the distractions I enjoy lately.  The song was sung by Maria  to the von Trapp children during a thunderstorm; and the lighthearted lyrics and melody were a purposeful diversion from the undercurrent of terror during the time of Hitler’s rise.  I am thankful for the diversions I find in my favorite things.

“When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad.”

So here are a few of my favorite things….

big family at lakeThe English Clan (with Mom) who I love dearly

the bridge at the end of my runThe bridge at the end of a three mile run

zinnias and lavenderZinnias and lavender on the deck

the view from the hammockThe view from the hammock at night…add in a few zillion stars and that’s typical!

the hammock and the moon

IMG_8707Spending life with this guy!

books, lamps, chocolate

A stack of books, a few current cards (I keep a whole box of special cards and memorabila under the bed), a journal, a few pillows and a lamp!  There might be chocolate hidden in there somewhere.

my favorite pain

 

both laughter and tears shared with friends

 

when some shares your tears and accepts you

Oswald & WorshipBible Study, Oswald Chambers, Worship & Choir….and a cup of coffee.

So what favorite things do you think on when “the dog bites”?  “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable–if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise–dwell on these things.”  Phil. 4:8

Warm Wednesday Words: The Rock that’s Higher

There are days…no seasons…when I have to seek a higher Rock.  Those times can feel like I’m between a rock and a hard place.  But when I recognize Who truly is my Rock and Redeemer, I’m no longer in that hard place, I’m both set upon the Rock and sheltered by Him; i.e. The Rock of Ages.  My circumstances may not feel better, but my focus changes and they no longer are the big issue I thought they were.   Not that God has forgotten about them, nor asks me to.  He just grows my faith in His sweet and personal love that He will shine through it for those who have eyes to see and cause joy even in pain.  He gives beauty for ashes.  Everything is transformed in the light of His grace into something with His beauty stamped all over it even in our weakness.

10369221_10202873739737365_5990994660212438186_nJust as flowers are more prolific on the plant that has been through a season of winter. drought or stress then on a plant that has been over indulged with rich nitrogen, so we are more fruitful for Christ when our roots have been forced to reach deeper, then when we aren’t stretched by our circumstances.

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Oswald Chambers puts it well in the May 14 devotional, “My Utmost for His Highest”, ‘The only thing that will enable me to enjoy the disagreeable is the keen enthusiasm of letting the life of the Son of God manifest itself in me….If God puts you there, He is amply sufficient.”

10363953_10202873935142250_6242588642847180332_nWhen I think I’m being pressed beyond what I can do, I remember 2 Cor. 12:9, “’My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’  Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.