6.24.2016

On the Fringe

I was reading this morning in my favorite gospel, Mark, and found an interesting contrast. 
At the beginning of chapter six, Jesus is in his hometown of Nazareth. The home folks were familiar with him and the business he kept before the start of his ministry years. They knew his parents and his brothers and sisters by name. Read the account here.

Chapter six tells us that he, Jesus, the Son of God, the Alpha and the Omega, the bright morning star, could not do miracles there. Could not! And check out verse six—He marveled at their unbelief. Other versions say "he was amazed" and "he wondered." Is this the saddest account of familiarity breeds contempt you've ever heard?
At the end of chapter six, Jesus comes ashore in Gennesaret. The people there recognized him also, but not in the same way. These people "ran about the whole region" to bring the sick to him. Laying them in the market, they hoped for healing as Jesus passed by. Indeed, the scriptures say that as many as touched the fringe of his garment were made well. 
I don't know if you love missionary stories like I do. The stories of what Christ is doing over the seas and in far-flung points on the globe fascinate me, and I know I'm not alone when I wonder—Why don't we see these miraculous events in America? I think the answer might be in Mark 6. Is it possible that the American church is so familiar with Lord of the Universe that we lean, in fact, toward contempt? Maybe ... maybe not. 

What I can say for sure is that in my personal spiritual life, I can identify. I've known Jesus as Savior since I was a child. Through every joy and pain of adolescence, education, marriage, childbearing, disease, transition—all of it. Does this familiarity rob me of the greater works he wants to do in my life ... but cannot? Does he marvel at my unbelief? 

Today I'm repenting of thinking like an overly-familiar and contemptuous Nazarene. I'm holding out my heart and asking for a Gennesaret kind of faith. I want to run to him in expectation, knowing that one finger on the fringe of his garment is powerful enough to change everything. And not just for myself, but for those I love, too.


* Don Juan climbing rose


6.20.2016

Neglect

Through pure neglect, we enjoyed a clematis tower this year. 
In the fall, especially after a scorching hot summer, I find garden chores to be especially 
loathsome. So instead of cutting the year's vines back, we just left them to flap in the winter storms. 
Yep—I busied myself with all things pumpkin and never gave it a second thought. 
Until April. 
And then ... it was too late. 
You see, jackmanii clematis grows from the ground and sprouts from leftover old vines.
So by the time I approached it with my shears this spring, it was already hard at work ...

... making itself GLORIOUS. 
What resulted was a huge tower of dark-purple blooms—probably ten feet of jaw-dropping, 
breathtaking, botanical wonder.
Sometimes neglect turns out to be the best gardening strategy after all.

Side Notes 
* Tips on how to grow a jackmanii clematis here.
* Yesterday we celebrated Father's Day around the table with my parents. They live nearby, so gathering with them is not such an unusual event. Yesterday though ... something was different. I sensed an air of mystery overhead as the old stories were shared "just one more time" and old jokes were told from yet another angle. Childhood memories of visits to our grandparents' farm were re-examined, as one tests the frail fabric of hand-me-down table linens. And for the thinnest moment, I caught a whiff of that old farmhouse kitchen. For one second, right at the edge of my sense of smell, it was there—then vanished. Has this ever happened to you? 
* A marauding horde of tiny chipmunks devours every single sunflower seed I plant.    Every. Single. One.
And so I will not have any sunflowers this year. I hope you're growing some in your garden for me to gawk at.






6.10.2016

Purple Blue


Who doesn't need a big dose of blue
For me, it's the most startling color in the garden. 
The color of the heavens so close to the dust of the earth—pretty incredible.

Uh-oh. 
Are you saying to yourself—"Wait. That's not blue; it's purple!"
Oh, friends! Toe-may-toe ... toe-mah-toe!
Haven't you ever seen a sky so lusciously deep blue that it leaned toward purple? 
Of course you have. I'll bet you've even seen what my father-in-law calls  
"sky-blue pink" on the horizon, but you probably didn't know to call it that.

We learn something new everyday. 
This is the delicious purple-blue of Georgia Blue Speedwell.
It's widely available, and if you live nearby, I'm happy to share mine.

It's been a while since I gave you a Story Snapshot. Here's a quick one: 

 Fall Into the Blue
     Her nerves still thrummed with the energy of the concert. Joyce hated to leave the arena and return to her everyday life, but return she must. Following close behind Evan, navigating the crowded aisles was easy and she let her eyes wander over the other departing audience members. But soon the press of the crowd lifted them along with more urgency toward the doors. Joyce clung to the bend in her husband's arm, then moved to hold hands, and when the inevitable separation came, she did not allow panic to take hold. "I'll meet you outside, at the clock on the corner!" she called over her shoulder. 
     "I'll be right behind you," he assured, his voice raised but calm.
     In the crisp air outside the arena, Joyce slowed her pace as people surged past. Where's Evan? At the clock on the corner. The illuminated clock face stood tall and peaceful over departing fans. Joyce lowered her head and began to make her way across. "Excuse me. Pardon me. Just coming through..." 
   
  He sat on the sidewalk, right in the middle of the swirling throng, holding a sign: "Navy Vet. Down and Out. Need Help." Determined to reach the clock, she didn't see him in time to swirl past like the rest of the human tide. In awkward wedge heels, she tilted toward him, away from him, to the side, then inevitably, back in his direction. Joyce landed on both knees directly in front of the man, her hand on the shoulder of his heavy coat the only thing that kept her from rolling into his lap. 
     Of course time slowed to lengthen the excruciating embarrassment. The man's can of collected change rattled and threatened to spill. He lunged for it as she got one knee under herself. Then Joyce felt one of Evan's hands at her elbow and the other around her waist, his familiar cologne identifying him as her rescuer. 
    "I'm so sorry!" Joyce brushed dust from the knees of her slacks, glanced into the sitting man's face ... and gasped. His eyes! Startled and large, they pierced her through. His gaze, a dreadfully familiar vivid blue, locked on hers. 
     His voice croaked, "Joycie ... ?"                                            


5.31.2016

What to Wear?


 I braved the ominous halls of the hospital today. 
I felt the unwelcome kinship of being one patient among hundreds—
maybe even thousands—of other medically unskilled souls 
seeking expert guidance and merciful assistance.

So of course, what to wear occupied my thoughts at bedtime yesterday.
I even pondered it during those wide-awake night moments.

*
My folks taught me to dress up to go to any medical appointment. 
Actually, I don't remember anyone actually saying, 
"Suzy, wear your best dress and shiniest shoes..."
But, even as a little girl, I noticed the details in the preparations my elders made 
when an appointment with a doctor loomed. 
It was an occasion to which you might wear your (fake) pearls. 


Have you noticed ... it's not that way anymore—not at all.

Today I learned that pajama pants pair nicely with any color tube top for a hospital visit. 

And that makes getting ready SO much easier, doesn't it?


*SIDE NOTE: 
These Stella de Oro daylilies are fabulous in container gardens. Blooming year after year, they return even in my metal washtub planters, surviving overwintering in near- and below-zero temperatures. The clumps of lilies multiply more slowly in containers, but still give enough increase to share with friends. While I haven't had much luck with the beautiful red cultivar, the yellow-gold standard type are a sure bet for any gardener.



5.20.2016

Everyday Celebrations


I know some of you would be horrified at the carbon "footprint" my household 
stomps into the earth. Especially during large family gatherings.
When we host the entire tribe of extended family, I break out the paper 
plates, plastic forks and styrofoam cups. 
(sigh) I'm not proud of it, but there it is. I'd like to list all my excuses, but I'll spare you.

But look what I scored at a recent yard sale:
Vintage "pressed glass" goblets in all colors of the rainbow!
The home owner was selling the contents of her mother-in-law's
 home to pay for her stay in an assisted living facility.
"We have to pay a little extra, doncha know, because Mama needs her hair done every Friday."
Her mother-in-law is 103 years old.

My husband and I admired the collection, but drove away, only to return an hour later to 
scoop up what was left. We purchased nineteen goblets and contributed a 
little extra for Mamma's hair needs.
It seemed appropriate to store them in our Hoosier cabinet. 
When I open the doors, it just looks like a party in there. 

I've resolved to use these every time we host a family gathering. My younger self 
would have kept these only for good, only for the very best occasions. 
But now that I'm (ahem) older, wisdom urges me forward with the earned understanding
that every gathering qualifies as the very best occasion, and
every single family dinner is an occasion to celebrate with 
fancy, rainbow-colored, antique goblets.





5.11.2016

Garden Bangles


Last year's Mother's Day gifts included these cool garden markers.
The black resin stakes came with a white grease pen to label ... anything! 
(... why not keep a pie bird in the greenhouse?)
Garden markers are the bangle bracelets of the flower bed, 
the bejeweled pinky rings of the veggie patch. 
Not at all necessary, but an oh-so-cool addition.
The sort you have speaks to what kind of gardener you are.

Some of us (ahem ... me) go with utilitarian methods 
of labeling in the garden: this, those, and (ugh) these.
I've even just re-used plant inserts, marking over the print with a fat Sharpie.
But ... with any Pinterest-y craft ability or Etsy cash flow, 
you could have this, those, or (ah!)these.

5.10.2016

Hymn Browsing

I'm working on a special order tie-tack for a music teacher. 
My Etsy customer wants a tiny Scrabble tile to display a bit of sacred music
under a dome of diamond glaze.
I LOVED browsing antique hymnbooks this weekend, humming through 
familiar old hymn-friends. Although I can't say my family enjoyed my 
impromptu, off-key concert ...
My favorite is probably the closest tile, "Amazing Grace" on letter A.
But the last one, "Take My Life and Let It Be", is close to my own heart's cry right now. 
An inspiring hymn of dedication, this one has a sweet history
Oh, to spend an hour with Frances!

  I'm pretty partial to this pendant. 
My grandparents had one Nikko blue bush on their farm, and it was ENORMOUS.
This hydrangea bloom is from my own bush, which is a start from theirs. 
It's a tiny piece of the old farm preserved and even wearable.

5.04.2016

Basking in Sunshine

These hosta emerge as purple nubs in early spring.  
I noticed them studding the wet ground weeks ago.
Then while I wasn't watching ... all this!
It's one of my favorite plants because of the leaf texture. 
Deep veins with a seersucker surface make it unique. 
SeersuckerWHAT? I know. Is that a weird word or what? 
SIDE NOTES:
* I keep all (most) of my plastic plant tags as a sort of catalog of perennials I've purchased over the years. There are  definite patterns: blue and purple flowering plants, sturdy beats frufru, and hydrangeas must be had! Tip: If you buy from a garden superstore and your plant dies, you can usually return it if you have the tag. Just dump the dead plant in an old store container, stick that plastic tag back in the dirt, and slug it off to the store for a replacement.
* Cowbirds invaded my feeders this year. I usually grind my teeth about spring starlings, but this year—COWBIRDS are the birdseed gluttons. But I did spot a pair of rose-breasted grosbeaks at the feeder two days in a row! I tried to talk the lovely couple into staying longer, but they said my feeder attracted too much riff-raff. Dang cowbirds!
* Speaking of riff-raffy gluttons ... I'm listening to a library audiobook called Made to Crave. After six months of intensive study at The Lord's Table, it's making a lot of sense. God is revealing new parts of my heart and helping me see just how grateful I can be for His finished work on that cross!I highly recommend both books.
* Back to spring gardening: I usually swoop through garden centers at this time of year, on the hunt for new plants or crazy bargains. But yesterday my mom and I took a Mother's Day jaunt and wandered through a local greenhouse, savoring the color combinations and vast array of plant varieties. It was fun to recall what aunts or uncles favored which old-fashioned annuals: Great-Grandpa loved zinnias, Uncle Mike loved cockscomb ... remember when your cousin pushed you into the cactus bed at the conservatory? 
Yes. Yes, I do.  During our greenhouse stroll, I had a couple close calls—I almost fell (keeled over backward) into a huge display of geraniums as I admired the colors and lost my footing. And I found out just how far it is to the half-person bathroom in the check-out area—VERY far, especially if you're trying not to laugh or drag one leg behind you. 
* I'll only be forty-nine for four more months. Oh, man. I'm twenty-five on the inside! Which reminds me of Wanda. Have you heard her poem? Here it is.  



4.29.2016

Glorious Iris



 Look at this glory!
These purple iris even smell delicious—like grape-flavored candy. 
To get a full measure of iris glory, the entire process must take place.

The tight bud of preparation, when all that purple glory is 
hidden, brewing away under wraps.
And the un-beauty of the finished bloom—nobody enjoys that.
It's the bit of the process we pinch off to make room for something new.
Do you see bits of yourself, as I do, in the life cycle of an iris bloom?
Here's the good news:

And I am certain that God, 
who began the good work within you, 
will continue his work until it is 
finally finished 
on the day when Christ Jesus returns.


4.18.2016

Persistence


It's almost time for these to start blooming. 
I'm surprised to see them at all 
since I thought I killed them last season.  
Every year, I think I've killed all the oriental poppies. 

That's because after they've finished their beautiful show and scattered 
their seeds, they get ugly. Too ugly to leave in the flower bed.
So ugly that I'd rather see bare dirt than their brown, raggedy foliage.
Then I chop them right out of the garden. 
Gone, baby, gone.

But every spring, their silver bristled foliage is among the first to rise 
from the winter-stripped ground. 
What more could any gardener want? 
Beautiful spring foliage with attention-getting buds perched on hairy, twisted stems.
Gawk-worthy blooms—papery-orange petals paired with twinkling purple stamens. 
Extravagantly intricate seed pods that nod and sway, spreading treasure for next season.
AND they come back, even if I rip them out in the fall!
More on growing poppies here and here.

I changed the first photo at the Funny Pho.to website with the "impressionism" tool in the "sketches and paintings" category.
They offer free effects, and it's easy to download your altered photo. 

*****
And I didn't know THIS about poppies, but you probably did.

*****
"The grass withers, the flower fades, but the 
word of our God stands forever."



4.08.2016

Hot Juices

Do you enjoy finding once-beautiful things gone shabby and ragged?
In those moments of discovery, 
(at a thrift shop, in a yard sale box, even in a pile of free-to-a-good-home stuff)
 the excitement of what "could be" nudges my elbow, and I'm a goner.

(some of my favorite materials)

And contrary to what you may think - 
- from the Desiring God website
If you need more convincing, here's Chuck Colson's Breakpoint article.
He says that in every area of life, creativity plays a major role.
"The reason is simple: part of our nature as image bearers of God 
the Creator is to be sub-creators."

If I popped over to your house, what creative project would I find you working on? 


Dream studio - here

3.24.2016

Looking Through the Peephole

I torture myself—do you? 
Every Easter season, I read deep things. The more profound the better. 
Thank you, Oswald, Clive, Ravi and Aiden Wilson for providing 
the study tools to help me along the way. 
Now it's almost Good Friday, and I sit with my Bible and some profound book ... 
and squint. 

I ask the Holy Spirit to multiply my understanding and 
plow wisdom deep into the soil of my heart. 
I add forehead kneading to the squinting and throw in some deep breathing. 
Sometimes I just get it over with and kneel.

I long to run into the throne room of His magnificence and openly gawk 
at the mysteries of grace displayed there.
But so often, it seems like I'm standing on a chair, which is balanced on a desk, 
straining to get one eye to the peephole of the firmly closed door. 

I invite you to join me and chase the deep things of God this weekend as the Church, 
worldwide, mourns and celebrates the death and resurrection of our Savior. 
Because sometimes—
He lifts us to the peephole and we see something world-rocking.
Something life-changing. 

 He did it for Moses