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.


Warm Wednesday Words: The Repose of a Rose

11400995_10205619300614671_8431724544511363409_nThere’s lettuce in the garden rows
and herbs in tubs galore.
The raised bed has varied tomatoes
and peppers to chop, freeze and store.

IMG_9816Spikes, celosia, silver dust, and lobelia crowd in planters.
A kaleidoscope of perennials vies for the flower bed.
Pots of dichondra, australis, zinnias, and dragons head
tangle with caladiums, elephant ear and other enchanters.


IMG_9809But none of those garden wonders
nourish the soul quite like the rose.
When darkness depresses and plunders
the rose gives the spirit repose.


Like a scented lady dressed in draping folds
the rose wafts her fragrance over the end of the day.
To weariness and discouragement she scolds
and sweetly kisses the stresses away.


11425131_10205612778571624_4036724106705985532_nHer essence is felt in the garden.
Her briers remind us of strength.
Her petals carpet and pardon
and tranquility seeps in at length.

IMG_9810Some favorite rose quotes

“The rose speaks of love silently, in a language known only to the heart.” (Unknown)

“Won’t you come into my garden?  I would like my roses to see you.”  Richard Brinsley Sheridan

“The fragrance always stays in the hand that gives the rose.”  George William Curtis

“I’d rather have roses on my table then diamonds on my neck.”  Emma Goldman

“God gave us memories so that we might have roses in December.”  J. M. Barrie

Take time to smell the roses.  (Proverb)

“I come to the garden alone while the dew is still on the roses; and the voice I hear, falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses.”  (Hymn)

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


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!



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,
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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.


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.


Morning Musings in the Gardens


I don’t know if it was dew or raindrops from last night’s rain nestled in the elephant ear, but it puts me in mind of the hymn “I Come to the Garden Alone“:

I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.

It’s the perfect place to read a devotional and then dig a little deeper.  Ann Voskamp’s 1000 Gifts devotional #16 has some good stuff about why Daniel, the keen, fit, strong, courageous character who went into the lion’s den and came out unscathed, may have come into such miraculous grace.  Daniel had alot of ingredients for a pity party, after all he was brought out of his country against his will,  but he didn’t spend much time bemoaning his lot. He proved himself, not only above staying in a pit, but beyond the reach of a power grab by rejecting the king’s offers of power and riches as a reward.   Most of our politicians, and maybe each one of us,  would do well to read that portion of scripture each morning.


Daniel’s  jealous political comrades could not find any corruption or negligence in him, despite every effort.   His circumstances never changed his grateful heart, even when his future looked even more unstable than his difficult past.   “Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving THANKS to his God, just as he had done before.”  (Daniel 6:10) This was by his open window even after it was made illegal.  I wonder what he focused his eyes on when they weren’t closed in prayer.  Long range vision was toward Jerusalem, his home he had been torn from.  But close up?  Maybe a bird or flower?  His window was open.  I wonder if he could smell honeysuckle or lavender.  Or whatever delightful aromatic plants grew in Babylon.


But, back to Voskamp and thankfulness, “the only way to be a man or woman of prayer is to be a man or woman of thanks.  And not sporadic, general thanks, but three times a day eucharisteo.   When I give thanks for the seemingly microscopic, I make a place for God to grow within me.  This, this, makes me full, and I ‘magnify him with thanksgiving’, and God enters the world.  What will a life magnify?  The world’s stress cracks, the grubbiness of a day, all that is wholly wrong and terribly busted?  Or God?”


I choose God and the pleasant little things He lets me see, if I will but look.   And I have let God enter my world again today to carry me through the less than glamorous moments that will, undoubtedly, arise.  What things will you focus on and magnify today?


December JoyDare



We are still trying to wrap our minds around the  miracle of a move and planning an addition.  Some days are easier than others.  Here is a fitting quote from today’s (in)courage blog post.   “At this point, you can’t see ‘normal’ in the rear view mirror even if you squinted hard to catch a glimpse.   And if you try to look back, to find the way back to ‘normal,’ to feel safe and familiar, you’ll wreck yourself, your surroundings, those you love and the miracle you’ve been given.”    With God’s grace and miraculous help, we keep looking forward in everything.


Here is a miraculous gift.  Where, you say?  Under the ground, out of our sight.  Peony eyes are sprouting, and come spring, they will robustly make their way up through the soil and leaves, quickly put on their greenery and begin the formation of a beautiful display.  But the toughest work for the peony, like most plants, is off season, out of sight, underground and preparing for the following season’s display.  That is where the root growth occurs, the anchoring, the thing that matters the most to carry it through the heat and droughts of the summer.  I love thinking about this miraculous gift this time of year because it makes me think of God, who sees our hearts.  All that we do in our marriages, homes and relationships both inside and outside our homes, neighborhoods, communities, work places, churches, etc.,  does not escape Him, whether it is hidden from view or most obvious.   When we so easily focus our physical eyes on the glitzy and outward beauty around us and the more obvious works and public figures, God not only sees beneath that, but wants us to, as well.  While it is natural to see and appreciate the outward things,  we miss so much if that’s all we see.   But if we pray, we have a Helper, who opens our eyes.  I love the old hymn, Open My Eyes that I May See:

Open my eyes, that I may see
Glimpses of truth Thou hast for me;
Place in my hands the wonderful key
That shall unclasp and set me free.


Silently now I wait for Thee,
Ready my God, Thy will to see,
Open my eyes, illumine me,
Spirit divine!

Open my ears, that I may hear
Voices of truth Thou sendest clear;
And while the wave notes fall on my ear,
Everything false will disappear.


Open my mouth, and let me bear,
Gladly the warm truth everywhere;
Open my heart and let me prepare
Love with Thy children thus to share.



The third miraculous gift is that of my Savior, Jesus.  As this card from my pastor and his wife says, He is the gift that fits my heart precisely.  He fits all of our hearts with precision, if we let Him.  He is the only One who can see inside them and do a work on them.  What a miracle to have heart work done anytime we want or are willing; work of the most important kind.  He can soften it, shape it, redirect it, heal it when it’s broken, fortify it, comfort it, fill it with joy, but only when we’ve made that choice to make Him Lord of it.   He knows me better than I know myself, so I am thankful for this gift and invite Him in.  The first time, at age 9, was acknowledging Him as my Savior, who stooped to come down in the lowliest way to carry out a horrendous mission on this earth,  but the joy is in a daily acknowledging Him as risen and living Lord.  As the hymn says, “Take my heart, it is Thine own.  It shall be thy royal throne.”

December 10 JoyDare



An iced cold coffee is an excellent post work out gift that I look forward to gratefully!


The beautiful design of frost on my Subaru windshield is a gift that reminds me of my Designer.  I found a couple cool, (or icy cold!) “frost” poems.  The first one is exactly how I think of frost.  It is used with permission  ©Joan Adams Burchell.  Click to see her website for other beautifully done poems.

Hoar Frost

Branches were dipped in frosting this morn
and the sun cast a fairyland spell;
Each fragile twig looked feathered and white
and beckoned a heart to swell.
A winter treasure – a sight to behold –
while silence augmented the scene;
I wanted to walk through an open gate
to find the artist, supreme.
No gate could I see, the artist unseen,
awe captured my soul;
The canvas would change, as nature intended,
but I’d witnessed her morning’s goal.

The Frosted Pane

One night came Winter noiselessly, and leaned
Against my window-pane.
In the deep stillness of his heart convened
The ghosts of all his slain.
Leaves, and ephemera, and stars of earth,
And fugitives of grass, —
White spirits loosed from bonds of mortal birth,
He drew them on the glass.

Sir Charles George Douglas Robert

A third ice cold gift is seeing my holly, yucca and other plants resiliently bearing up under the ice .  To see them  remaining evergreen under such conditions reminds me of the work of remaining joyful and thankful even when my conditions are “taxing”.  There’s a grand plan even for the annuals, for in death they drop seeds for the following year.  I have a designer who gave me a way to hold up, also, but it’s a choice I have to make.  It’s a choice I often refuse to make well.   Jeanne Pierre de Caussade, author of “Abandonment to Divine Providence” said ‘You would be very ashamed if you knew what the experiences you call setbacks, upheavals, pointless disturbances, and tedious annoyances really are.  You would realize that your complaints about them are nothing more nor less than blasphemies – though that never occurs to you.  Nothing happens to you except by the will of God, and yet God’s beloved children curse it because they do not know it for what it is.’   That’s me.  A blasphemer.

As Ann Voskamp says in “1000 Gifts” about the hard stuff day in and day out,  ‘how do I tear open tear-swollen eyelids to see through this for what it really is?’  How did Jesus do it, she asks?  In Matthew 14, ‘he looked up to heaven to see where this moment comes from.’  Then he gave thanks.  ‘We don’t have to change what we see.  Only the way we see…You can’t positive-think your way out of negative feelings…The only way to fight a feeling is with a feeling…Feel thanks and it’s absolutely impossible to feel angry….We can only experience one emotion at a time.  And we get to choose – which emotion do we want to feel?…Jacob …looked into the face of his brother, that brother who had wanted to kill him, and he said, “To see your face is like seeing the face of God”…Wrestle with God, beg to see the blessings…and all faces become the face of God.’   There it is again.  Refocus.  Eucharisteo.  And wait on God.  And practice, practice, practice.  Am I willing?  Not always; I should probably say not even often!   But I can look at the icy frost on my plants and see the consequences of my choices.  I can shrivel under difficulties or reflect the Designer and shine.  I have some practicing to do.

JoyDare December 8


IMAG0401I am thankful for this clock, which was a handmade gift from Tony’s dad, Bill English.  He enjoys clock making and many other creative woodworking ventures.  We don’t get to see him very often, so it is extra special, especially to Tony.   It does hourly chimes and often is set to special occasion tunes such as birthdays, etc.  This family clock has marked many days, hours and minutes, even seasons,  and is now gracing us with its presence in a second home since it was given to us.   We get so used to the sounds, we hardly even notice them, but sometimes we have to turn off the chimes for family staying over, not being used to the sounds in the night stillness.   It had a farm picture in it, but our daughter-in-law, Amber, used her talent with calligraphy to switch it to a garden theme.

I ran across this quaint little clock poem.

The Watchmaker’ Shop ~

A street in our town has a queer little shop
With tumble – down walls and a thatch on the top;
and all the wee windows with crookedy panes
are shining and winking with watches and chains.

all sorts and all sizes, in silver and gold,
and brass ones and tin ones, and new ones and old;
and clocks for the kitchen, and clocks for the hall,
high ones and low ones, and wag -at -the -wall

The watchmaker sits on a long-legged seat
and bids you the time of the day when you meet;
and round and about him there’s tickety-tock
from the tiniest watch to the grandfather clock.

I wonder he doesn’t get tired of the chime
and all the clocks ticking and telling the time;
But there he goes winding lest any should stop,
This queer little man in the watchmaker’s shop.