The Stick and the Stalk and Their Stories

Six or seven years ago I was at the Super Savings Store with the littles.  I remember going in through the gardening section and seeing they had a lot of “plant type” things on sale.  I saw that they had Iris bulbs.  For less than a dollar.  I grabbed them up–a couple of packs.  We paid for them, brought them home, and as a part of my daughter’s school project, she planted them in little shallow holes in the ground.

So much that could have gone wrong.

Old cheap bulbs.

Amateur planting.

The fact that we had no idea what we were doing.  At.  All.

And yet, they grew.

And they have every year since then.

I love the Iris.  It started with the Fella bringing me some when we were courting.  We had one printed on our wedding napkins.  And when we had to travel to Okinawa to have a Level II ultrasound done in anticipation of our Princess’ arrival, the room we stayed in for that trip had a painting of irises on the wall.  It just seemed…..right.

This year.  This year the green stalks came up out of the ground.  They looked weak and wimpy and were easily blown over with the wind or rain.  I just knew that it wasn’t happening this year.  It had been a good run.  I mean how long can those little brown knots keep growing such beauty?  Surely not much longer.

After all, everything else has long bloomed and moved on.

And then yesterday–

The tea olive, a gift from another sweet friend, has grown up so lovely, and the irises seem to be happy rising up amidst its branches.

The tea olive, a gift from another sweet friend, has grown up so lovely, and the irises seem to be happy rising up amidst its branches.

they took my breath away.  I forgot how elegant they are.  So graceful.  And that color.

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Perfection.

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They bring me great joy and what an amazing story they have.  Each one of those lovelies can claim a little brown knot as part of  her family tree.

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That gives me hope.

So does this.

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This “stick” came to us in a box.  It was a gift from a friend who can grow anything.  And her heart is as big as her green thumb.

She told me to put it in some dirt and pray.

So I found this old pot that was Mama’s in its previous life.   I put some soil in and planted the stick with the long root.  I gave it a home on my back porch Roost, and I waited.

It has earned its nickname “Hope Plant,” because each morning I walk out there to check on it, hoping to see some sign of life.

And then two days ago–voila!  That’s exactly what I found.

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Have you ever seen such a beautiful shade of green in your entire life?

Not me.

Today that little leaf was unfurled just a little more.  I shared this picture with friends on Facebook.  It’s been quite entertaining hearing everyone’s guesses as to what it might be.  Hydrangea?  Fig?  Mimosa?  All I know is it is not a Mimosa, because my friend said it’s not.  I promised to keep everyone abreast of its growth through #HopePlant updates.  To see how intrigued this has everyone is too much fun.  I am looking forward to the big “reveal.”  I can’t wait and yet I can.

It’s all about the journey too, isn’t it?

Tonight I’m thankful for the joy and hope that new life brings us.  I love the message that nature shares if we only pay attention.  Beauty can come from the plainest of things.  Good things come from dirt.  And from friends with giving hearts.  And what looks like a stick or a wimpy green stalk might just be filled with a wonderful story.

Just like us.  And our stories.

There is more than meets the eye.

May you find a message of hope in something that crosses your path today.

And everyday.

Love to all.

First Sign of Spring Tradition

This afternoon, a lovely warm “teasing us with the promise of spring” day, our Princess came bouncing in from the backyard, where she and Cooter had been playing with Miss Sophie.

Bounced.  Yes.  She hardly goes anywhere that she doesn’t bounce. Or skip. Or dance.

I think walking might not be quite joy-filled enough for her.

She had something behind her back.

“Mama, do you have a little vase or jar?”

I shook myself out of the fog that the migraine had me in.  “A jar? Ummm.  Maybe.  Why?”

“Because!” and with a “tada” flourish and a great big smile, she held out a handful of purple flowers picked from our backyard.  A little bouquet of them.

Bless it.

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I knew where the perfect little jelly jar was and when she had them all arranged, oh how lovely!

And so filled with memories.

These are the same little flowers that she has picked every year when Spring starts pulling out her best dress and showing off a little, giving us a little taste of what we can expect when she decides to move in and stay with us for a while.

The same flowers I remember Aub and then even more years ago, my baby brother, picking for Mama.  She always ALWAYS put them in the little vase and set them in her kitchen windowsill.

And the same flowers I picked for her way before that.  And for my Granny.  And the same ones I believe I might have seen yesterday in a bouquet picked for my Aunt on her birthday by her sweet grands.

Picking those purple flowers has become quite the “first sign of Spring” tradition in our family.

Tonight I’m thankful for the joy of young ones in finding just the right bundle of flowers for the ones they love.  I’m thankful for the sunshine and the warmth and the thawing of toes and fingers and noses and–here’s hoping–of hearts.  And I give thanks for the Artist and all the ways the color purple is used to bring joy and Light, and how that reminds us that the cold darkness of winter will soon pass.  And the birds will keep on singing.

Love to all.

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turning around

her little feet moved smoothly along the sidewalk

gliding, one foot in front of the other

as she enjoyed the cool air

and sniffed the smells along the way

 

I walked along behind her

my pace not as smooth,

as the worries and to do’s

and thoughts about what was next

raced through my mind

 

the only thing linking her carefree heart

and mine,

the leash I held in my hand

 

as she finished the task at hand

I turned around for us to head back home,

where the things that were before me

were piled up such that I found it hard to see

 

I looked up and my eyes

focused on the painting before me,

and it took my breath away

and I was still

and I knew that it was You

 

You had given me this gift

and in that moment,

and for a few after,

my mind was quiet

and all that had weighted down my steps

was gone

 

I’m sorry for all the gifts

from You I’ve left unopened

The times I didn’t turn around

but instead continued on

in the muddle of mad thoughts,

thinking I could outwalk the

worries and woes and wickedness

of this life

 

I am sorry I didn’t turn around

and be still

and see that You were there

 

 

always

 

there

 

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Sometimes we have to stop and turn around to be able to see who has our backs…..

“When they see the love you have for each other…..”

 

My Mama had rules for living–she *ahem* shared them with us on a regular basis.  I think maybe her number one rule was this–

“Don’t leave anyone out.” 

I heard her say this so many times to us growing up.  When we driving up the dirt road that led to Granny’s house.  Sometimes we didn’t know if any of our cousins would be there, but she’d just about always turn around from the front seat and say, “Don’t y’all leave anyone out.  Play with everyone.  Y’all make space for everybody.”

Yes ma’am.  She’d say it when we had friends over.  Or when it was just the four of us.  With the dynamics of three girls and a baby boy, with nine years span between oldest and youngest, she probably said it way more than she cared to.  “Don’t leave anyone out.  Y’all play nice.”

I knew she was serious.

I was more afraid to be caught leaving someone out than to be caught in “telling a story (fib)” or not doing my chores.  I’m not kidding.  She didn’t play about this.

So much so that it was impressed upon me and became my rule too.  I’ve said the same thing to my own children many, many times.

Tonight I told them this again.  I looked my two littles–our Princess and Cooter–in the eyes and I told them I wanted them to remember something very important.

“Y’all, I want you always to remember not to leave other folks out.”

“Why, Mama?” our Princess asked.  “Did we do something?”

“No, baby,” I touched her hand.  “Y’all are fine.  Just please remember this is important to me.  It hurts other people if you don’t include them.  Now if they aren’t playing right, you can walk away and find me or Daddy or Baba, but don’t ever leave someone out on purpose.  It’s hurtful.”

“But Mama, we didn’t do that.  Why are you telling us this?”

Aub sat on the couch and listened.  She knew where I was coming from and where I was going.  And why.

“Well, some big people are leaving some folks out and that makes me very sad.  I don’t think that’s what we’re supposed to do, is it?  I don’t think that that’s right.”

Out of nowhere Cooter said, with his booming voice and exaggerated waving arms, “Well, I’m just listening to God on this.”

Well, okay then buddy.  Sounds like a plan.

Because you know what?  I don’t get it.  I read the same Good Book that others do, and what seems to be pretty much the number one rule after loving the Artist who created us, is to love.  Love one another.  Our neighbors.  There’s no other specifications beyond those words.  No one listed not to love.  Love one another.  All.

Sounds kind of similar to my Mama’s rule–not leaving anyone out of the love and playing nice.

Umm, yeah.

My Mama used to quote that one about loving folks to us a lot too.  She loved the words in that Book. Dearly loved them.  And lived them too.

This afternoon Aub and I found out through a Facebook post that World Vision reversed their decision that was announced yesterday.  Because of the folks who threatened or did withdraw their support and sponsorships, they rethought their position and declared today that they were reversing their decision that allowed the hiring of Christians who are in same-sex marriages.

To be honest, call me naïve-gullible even, but I was shocked.  We’ve been a bit mournful around here.  Sad.  Yes, sad.  And feeling a bit betrayed.

However–

what I wrote last night still stands.  This organization is doing great things for children in need in the world.  For that I am thankful.  And for those who decided in the past 24 hours to sponsor a child as a way to support World Vision’s decision to be more accepting, my fingers are crossed and I’m hoping that they will continue to sponsor these children in need.  Even though the shoe is on the other foot, so to speak, another thing I said last night still stands–these children did nothing to deserve this.  Don’t make them suffer for any decisions that are being made.  We are called to love, and that’s what we should continue to do.

And yet, my heart aches for those who felt like they were finally being included, being invited to join in “Red Rover” or “Colored Ribbons” or freeze tag.  Or kickball.  Only to find themselves once again pushed off to the side, last ones picked for the team…..or never chosen at all.  Just kidding, y’all, we didn’t really mean to include you.

Tears.

I hear my Mama telling us in “that” tone of voice to behave, mind our p’s and q’s, and be kind to each other.  I see Aub huddled on the couch, taking time from her studies to read the hurtful things people said in response to yesterday’s announcement and the comments from today of people proclaiming victory in the name of the Very One who embraced and loved and hung out with the broken and the lost and the cast aside.  Just no.  Please.  And I see, through tears that I am holding back, the faces of my littles wondering what other reasons there could be for leaving someone out besides them not sharing their bicycle or for going inside to eat supper early.  This is one of those hard things to talk to them about–like the death of good people we love or why folks went to Africa and took people away from their homes and made them work for nothing.

There’s just some things I can’t explain to them enough for it to make sense.

Because it. MAKES. NO. SENSE.

And that hurts.  And makes me mad.

That small train engine that stopped traffic yesterday as though it were a train engine pulling 100 cars gives me hope.  That’s why I had to find my voice.  I almost didn’t speak up.  I was worried about alienating or hurting my friends who believe differently.  The thing is I respect that folks can believe differently than I do.  I can still be friends and show respect, but I can no longer respect myself if I don’t say when I think something is wrong.  Which is why I couldn’t leave it to my eighteen year old to be the only one crying out “Not fair.”  I have to be able to look in all three of my children’s eyes and know I tried my best to change things for the better, that I didn’t just leave it for them to do.

We have a long way to go, and the past two days have proven that.  We have people–real people with names and faces and families and broken stories living on the streets and in the woods, in bus terminals and empty parking garages.  We have people who are turning their backs on their neighbors, the very ones they are called to love, because they are different.  And we are using words–words from the very same Book that tells us to love–to point fingers and draw lines of division and pain and hurt.

And it’s time to stop.

Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other. –John 13:34-35 MSG 

This is how everyone will recognize you…..oh my.

Old, old words.

Calling us to a new way of living.

Even today.

Especially today.

This loving folks and living large is hard.

And yet, it’s all there is…..

Love.  To.  All.

Good Job, God!

When Aub was about 18 months old, we started going to a little Wednesday afternoon playgroup.  From this little group our Mother’s Morning Out program began. Aub had a friend she met there, Kayla.  Little Miss Kayla’s Mama worked as a church secretary part-time at the church across the street from ours.  Occasionally, if her Mama had to work later, I would take Kayla home after our program ended.  Those two little blonde-headed girls had so much fun playing and giggling together, and after lunch we would all climb up in my bed and take a nap together.

One day we were driving home, and we saw a rainbow up ahead.  It was breathtakingly beautiful.

Suddenly from the backseat there came a loud and enthusiastic shout.  “Look at that rainbow.  Good job, God!”

It was Kayla, bless that sweet girl.  She saw God’s artwork in front of her and couldn’t help but share her approval.

That became a part of our family jargon after that.  Looking for the artistic stylings of our creative Creator and giving two thumbs up.  Like a purple field of flowers or the river of birds that fly over us on their way somewhere in late winter.  I’m reminded of the artist who said that each of us has an artist inside of us because we are created in the image of a Creator.   When we see it, we can appreciate it, because we are artists too.  Even if just a little bit.

I was reminded of Kayla and her precious praises tonight as we drove to Evening Prayer.  Driving into the sunset, and what a glorious one it was.  Even the littles stopped their playing in the backseat and said, “Oh wow.”  I smiled and whispered, “Good job, God!”

The sunset tonight.  God used all the colors and his most special paintbrush tonight.

The sunset tonight. The Artist used all the colors and the most special paintbrush tonight.

Just breathtaking.  We stopped as we were walking in just to soak in this view.

Just breathtaking. We stopped as we were walking in just to soak in this view.

The sky was on fire, wasn't it?  I would not even begin to know how to mix those colors.

The sky was on fire, wasn’t it? I would not even begin to know how to mix those colors.

When the Geese flew over us and honked, I felt like we'd just had a blessing said over us.  Peace be with you.  And also with you.

When the Geese flew over us and honked, I felt like we’d just had a blessing said over us. Peace be with you. And also with you.

Then as we were leaving Evening Prayer, the sky gave its benediction.

The moon was full and gorgeous tonight.  And it had a slight orange tint--like it knows it's October and wanted to dress appropriately.

The moon was full and gorgeous tonight. And it had a slight orange tint–like it knows it’s October and wanted to dress appropriately.

Tonight I’m thankful for that precious little girl all those many years ago who taught me to look for, appreciate, and praise the beauty in the world around me.  I am thankful for a beautiful welcome and sending out from Evening Prayer tonight.  The challenge, of course, is to look for the beauty in the gray clouds as well as fiery pink and orange ones–to marvel at a dark, cloudy night as well as one filled with magical moonlight.   I’m not always good at it, but more and more, I am learning to look at the world, its places and people, different and similar, foreign and strange and familiar, and say, “Good job, God!”  If we could do that about all kinds of days and nights and folks that walk this earth, imagine what we could make happen in this world.  Just imagine.  Kind of takes your breath away, doesn’t it?