Disaster to Triumph

It's wedding week, friends!
It is utterly ridiculous that I'm sitting here writing. 
Absolutely ludicrous that I was out this morning with my camera.
But the sun was lighting up the blooms and I had to step outside.
Relaxation and weddings don't usually go hand-in-hand, do they? 

Especially when you're supposed to deliver flower arrangements 
for your son's rehearsal dinner that look like THIS 
and this is what you have in your garden.
And you know what? 
I'm so thankful!

Because of the failure of my own peonies and the 
extravagent generosity of a dear friend, 
the rehearsal dinner arrangements will feature these:

What appeared to be a disaster, resulted in a triumph. 
It's a theme straight from the Book. 
Consider Gideon's loss of an entire army, followed by a victory with only 300 men.
Sarah, barren and shamed for decades, gave birth to the forerunner of the Messiah.
Samson, brought to the lowly position of a blind slave, becomes Israel's avenger.

Do you have "disaster to triumph" life stories? 
I'd love to hear about that.


Seasons of Change

This is a month of events—graduations, weddings, and celebrations.
Thirty days of beginnings and endings in our family.

Scattered glitter from graduation party invitations is making my couch (and my face) shine.
A box of rehearsal dinner vases rides in my backseat and beats a glassy tune on every drive.


Some joyful hellos and a few tearful goodbyes are in store
I would quote Heraclitus, but I think the scriptures have it nailed:

"There is a season for everything, and a time for 
every delight and event ..." Ecc. 3:1

When we are fearful, let us remember that God and His goodness 
to us are unchanging; thus, we are ever secure in Him."
Read an excellent short devotional on change here

*Use only Ghirardelli pre-tempered melting chocolate to create bride
and groom strawberries. This is my solemn advice.


The One That Made It

Last spring we bought two young dogwoods trees, a white and a pink.  
I hatched a scheme to create a garden entryway to the back part of our little Kentucky acre.
All I needed was a well-aged, blue-painted door ...
... and a pair of dogwood saplings, which we easily found at Lowes.

But as it turned out, young dogwood trees are like pretzel thins for whitetails—irresistible. 
SO the entryway dogwoods got gnoshed to bits over the winter.
But the extra one we planted close to the house—as an afterthought—made it.
Maybe deer don't care to munch so close to an outdoor grill?

While I was out taking these photos last night, 
helicoptering over stiff blooms as my men grilled burgers nearby, 
an unexpected hymn bubbled up and hummed past my lips.

Summer and winter ...
Pardon for sin ...
All I have needed ...
Peace that endures.

I know I'm not the only one in this crowd with an anxious heart. 
Am I?
It's hard to rejoice when life keeps piling on. 
Like a child left at the nursery desk, I 
nervously bite my lip and wonder when situations 
are going to get better. Just how long will it be until my 
Elder Brother shows up and puts everything in order?

That's when those old hymns drift back, bringing truth and comfort along for the ride. 


Peony Bush Believers

The peonies are waving their scrawny, red shoots around in the clammy, spring air.
Our Second Son always associated these with his birthday. As soon as the shoots 
broke free from the winter earth, we'd say, "It's almost your birthday!"
Even though the blooms that would open on his 
birthday were still a couple months away. 

Isn't that what spring is all about, anyway? 
Unashamed, unreasonable, crazy-talk kind of hope.
Who would ever believe these weak-looking stems would 
become a bush and bear glorious blooms?
No one reasonable, that's for sure. 
Starry-eyed dreamers, only. 
Just all of us
Each of us has seen the fulfillment of this insane hope 
year after year. So we don't wring our hands and wonder. There's no fretting 
about failure. Everyone knows what miracle is being wrought out there, 
and joyfully anticipates this -
If only this sort of certainty could be experienced in our faith lives, too.
After all, how much more reliable is the Father God than a peony bush?
Should we stand vigil over His word and wonder if it will really bear fruit 
as promised and wring worried hands? Why fret failure in the night hours
when His mercy and grace have been obvious year after year?

Where are the starry-eyed dreamers, the peony-bush believers,
 who anticipate the miracles to come and the beauty yet to be born? 

Let it be just all of us.

Verses here.


Library Day

In elementary school, my favorite day was Thursday,
because it was Library Day. 
I could hardly wait to enter the small library at the end of the upstairs 
hallway, past the water fountain, next to the double doors.

It didn't matter that the librarian, Mrs. R., had a nasty temper. 
Oh, I noticed her saggy scowl deepen as we filed into her domain, 
but I knew her anger wouldn't lash in my direction. 

Mrs. R. took no notice of the nerdy girl with too-large glasses 
engrossed in selecting her next Nancy Drew adventure

The lumpish mole between her eyebrows quivered and protruded 
as she pounded tables and flung periodicals at naughty boys—
Mrs. R. did dislike those grade-school boys. 
I identified.
So while she tossed plastic chairs and whoever sat in them, 
I opened books and trained Big Red with Danny or wandered the dump 
with the Boxcar Children, searching for barely-chipped china plates.

The hoofbeats of the Black Stallion, the King of the Wind, and their Island counterpart
drowned out the rantings of that long-ago, rural-Kentucky librarian. 

And really, what could be more riveting than Miss Hickory's dark relationship 
with the squirrel?
Not much ...

I wonder if you remember your earliest librarian. 
Did she teach you to love reading or 
did you learn to love reading in spite of her?
Which books were your favorite childhood escapes?
I'd love to know.


The Rest of the Story

When your kids are little, you hold a (somewhat) omniscient position. 
You know their lives down to the smallest detail —
This one loves trips to the zoo to see the elephant,
 and that one sobs like the heartbroken inside a drive-through car wash
You know who squeezed all the toothpaste into the garbage can, 
and you know who will tattle at the first opportunity.
You plan where to go, what to wear, and what time to arrive. 
Whatever happens within the family, you're usually able to answer the 
basic questions—who did what, when, where, and how.

Until they grow up, and you learn you were all wrong about the omniscient thing. 
All wrong ... is that really any surprise? 
It is the overarching theme of parenthood ...
My husband and I have recently been introduced to "The Rest Of The Story." 

It's a little like being handed the extended version of a movie you've seen a thousand times. 
Those moments when your grown children reveal extra bits of information, 
adding vibrant, and often hilarious, texture to stale, familiar scenes. 
With any chance of consequences long, long gone, "The Rest Of The Story" 
conversations have been rolling around my dinner table lately.
We usually end up saying something like:
Aha! THAT'S what happened to my brand-new hammer. 
Oh! Now I know why the neighbor always seemed so angry. 
I wondered how the dog got up there!


Windowsill Victories

I need something to grow—especially in January.

These eyes of mine  need  to watch the slow greening of a bulb and 
the little-by-little, day-by-day emergence of life

And when those roots power down, even enough to lift the unsuspecting bulb 
up and out of the soil ... somehow a tiny bit of the victory belongs to me too.

My kitchen window is populated with post-holiday, clearance bulbs  
each coming to life at the appropriate time and at the perfect pace.
I'll keep you posted on the small victories occurring in my kitchen window.

Are you growing anything in the bleakness of January?
Send a photo and share the joy!


Snow Designs

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, 
that it kisses them so gently? 
And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says
‘Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.’” 
― Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass

 "The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. 
You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, 
and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?"  - J. B. Priestley

"Come, let’s talk this over, says the Lord; 
no matter how deep the stain of your sins, 
as freshly fallen snow."  -  Isaiah 1:18

The intricate design of the humble snowflake never ceases to astound me. 
My photos can't do justice to these crazy-amazing bits of beauty that fall 
from heaven like miniature gifts and promptly melt 
away—how unbelievably lavish!
Numb fingers and a runny nose were small prices to pay for 
seeing such holy artistry up close.

Did you get out in the snow today? 


Building and Crushing

We used to build these, only to crush them a few weeks later.
I think this one's from 2010—so long since I huddled 
with my school-age sons around this edible architecture project.

The traditional house smashing on New Year's Eve was always hard for me, 
although the guys could hardly wait for that part. 
Children have less trouble letting go than adults, I think.

What will we build in 2017? 
How much of our work will be crushed and swept into the garbage?
What will survive to nourish and bring good pleasure to those around us? 

Please join me to prayerfully consider what will be built in 2017, 
in our lives and in the lives of those we love.

To ponder - Psalm 127:1
Unless the LORD builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted.


An Unexpected Gift

We took our tribe of guys, their friends, and some older family members out 
on a gray, blustery day to see a Christmas program

The auditorium was packed full, and the seats we finally claimed were on the extreme right 
edge of the stage. By the time we finished shuffling our elders to the better seats, 
I had no view of the set at the back of the stage at all, but a decent view of the stage itself. 
Circumstances were not ideal, if you get my drift. 

The house lights went down, the play began, and my heart was tossed right into a hurricane.
The music, the props, the movement ... I was swept, unanchored, into the drama of the incarnation.
My neighbors to the left and right—unaffected.
Those in the rows around me rustled and shuffled as you would expect, but I was 
bolted in my seat, blanketed by a downy heaviness, the very last thing I 
expected to experience. 

I'm not unfamiliar with what happened. 
In the old-time church circles of my youth, they'd say, 
"The Holy Ghost was strong in the house today!"

I came away refreshed and almost raw, with a newly circumcised heart
a precious Christmas gift from my heavenly Father. 

Have you ever had a similar experience? 
I'd love to hear about it.


Quite a Trick

The Christmas tree is up and trimmed. 
It's our tradition to slug all the holiday containers down from the attic, order 
Chinese food, and decorate the tree and house in one evening
with It's Wonderful Life playing in the background.
My family's favorite part of this might be the egg rolls.
But this year, I sensed an undertone that surprised me. 
Turns out I wasn't the only one to figure out that this is our last holiday like all those 
that came before. I knew it, of course—our Oldest is on the brink of buying a home of 
his own, our Second is getting married in the spring, and our Youngest is off to college 
next fall. Yes, for sure, next Christmas will be very different. 
And it seemed that each of us paused for just a moment and nodded to that fact.

One of the tricks of parenting adults and almost-adults, I think, must be 
to spend more time anticipating what's to come than clinging to what's passed by
Not an easy trick, my friends, especially with a bellyful of shrimp lo mein.


Thanksgiving Hopes

A house fire of mold swept the interior of our Tiny House pumpkin-carving contest entry.
Just another sign that Halloween is long gone, friends, and Thanksgiving is upon us.

A turkey is nesting in my refrigerator, taking up way too much room.
My Middle Son asked for his favorite "McDonald's dressing," and I'll make it, 
just because it makes the house smell wonderful. 
What about a Thanksgiving stuffing scented candle instead of vanilla frosting? 
Chicken pot pie in a tall pillar candle instead of peach cobbler? 

I hope conversation this Thanksgiving will be filled with love—the 
kind of love that jumps over high fences of social and political issues 
for a hearty kiss and hug on the welcome mat.

I hope to enjoy simple, catching-up questions like, 
"How is your work?" 
"What do you put in these green beans?" 
"Did your gardens close well?"
and "What are you reading?"

May our conversations be seasoned with remember-when laughter 
and not spoiled by the angry rehash of 2016 headlines.

It may prove too much to hope for, but ... I plan to do my part. 
Will you? 

You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, 
which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.
2 Corinthians 9:11

More Thanksgiving thoughts here.