So, thank you Father, for days filled with pain. Days that seem like forever.
Thank you for rain, pouring from a black sky, surrounded by blackened days, seeming to never end. Thank you for water pelting down upon earth through sometimes raging storms, daring never to cease, and one day finally turns to Spring. A Spring bringing buds to blooms from seeds I was certain water had washed away, carried off into aching darkness before me.
Thank you for deeper understanding created through lessons taught amidst pain. An understanding that recognizes heartache more readily. Senses a hollowness within a spirit, a torment and anguish of a soul. A discomfort of flesh and bones.
Thank you for those lessons that came from standing in rains and treading water in the floods.
Thank you for songbirds that refuse to be quieted by storms which rain down hard upon feathered, ruffled bodies. They flit about – to and fro – gathering food in rain and snow. They do not cease to sing, giving thanks in the good or bad weather of life.
On days that seem like forever, days that are hard to say ‘thank You’, I will thank you for the hard and the hollow. The dark and dismal moments filled with pain. I will know You are covering me with Your feathers, sheltering me under your wings. Protecting me from the storms. I will thank you for the trials that have passed through your hands before allowing them to come into my life because those trials have brought about wisdom and a greater understanding.
I will remember Your promises. I will give You thanks. I will not cease to sing your praises, just as the songbirds in the rain. For it is there, in the singing, I find great comfort. It is there, in the singing, I find unfaltering hope. I find faith strengthened, joy made anew. It is there, in the singing, whether in good weather or bad, I find You.
And I have found – that is enough.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and you will find rest for your souls… Matthew 11:28-29
…You are a shield around me, O LORD; you are the lifter of my head… Psalm 3:3
In the moring , O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation… Psalm 5:3
To the faithful, you show yourself faithful… Psalm 18:25
I trust in Your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me… Psalm 13:5-6
….in You they trusted and were not disapponted… PPsalm 22:5
…You heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help… Psalm 31:22
Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame… Psalm 34:5
…my eyes are fixed on You, O Sovereign LORD; in you I take refuge… Psalm 141:8
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! … Psalm 139:117
You’re with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me… Psalm 23:4
You, O LORD, keep my lamp buring; my God turns my darkness into light… Psalm 18:28
He is a sheeld for all those who take refuge in HIm… Psalm 18:30
He reaches down from on high and ttakes hold of me; He draws me out of deep waters… Psalm 18:16
He leads me beside still waters, he restores my soul.. Psalm 23:2-3
I have been doing a lot of thinking lately. Someone recently told me that I was obsessed with taking pictures. In a bad way. I admit, it hurt. And I thought long and hard about this and while I’ve thought about it, I haven’t taken any pictures. Until today.
I awoke earlier than usual to a familiar sound. The birds were singing. I knew by their songs that outside at the feeders there were Chickadees and Juncos, Finches and Doves, Hummingbirds and the ever pesky Blue Jays. I couldn’t stand it.
I got up, got dressed, grabbed the camera, and while everyone else was still sleeping, I was shooting birds. Not literally.
First, I shot the hummingbirds – two babies and their nattering mommy, telling them to be careful of that lady with that big black thing strapped around her neck. To which they responded to her by sticking out their tongues and talking back. Not very honoring, but very amusing to watch.
Next, the other birds beckoned me with their chatter. I walked toward the fir tree where the other feeders hang and of course they – all flew off. In the summer months, as I work in the garden, they will stay and eat because they’ve gotten used to me being out there with them. I stood off to the side of the tree and waited. And, one by one they came back. The Juncos and the Chickadees, the Finches and a new little bird I didn’t recognize. So – I shot them, too.
After a few more photos of the hummingbirds, I grabbed my purse and keys and went hunting for more birds to shoot. I drove through the outskirts of town where the orchards and the vineyards lie. Grapevines were still rich in colors of rusts, bronze, golds and purples. Orchards were barren trees spotted with unwanted, golden pears. I saw cows who wondered why I was shooting them. And then I saw my favorite of the morning.
Two red-tailed hawks sat atop a telephone pole in silence as I approached. I slowed and stopped. No one was coming and so – I shot them. And then, one flew off and so I shot him from behind as the other one watched, as if saying to him (or her – I can’t tell), “Chicken.” I would think that would be an insult to a bird of prey. The one left perching let me shoot him several more times without flinching. I tried hissing like a snake, roaring like a lion – anything to get him to fly so I could shoot him in flight. He just looked at me as if I was crazy. As I drove away, I laughed. Perhaps I am.
Down the road an American Kestral waited for me to shoot him before he chickened out and flew off.
One thing that bothers me when I am out shooting little creatures and such is how fast people drive. I was going slow, I was enjoying God’s gifts and this guy just races around me as if he’s got a pregnant wife in labor, inside the car. But that wasn’t the case. He was alone. And it is at times like that I wonder, “Do you know what you’re missing? Have you noticed the colors? The details?” Perhaps I am obsessed, but I don’t think of photographing God’s creation as an obsession. If it is, it’s an obsession with the Creator because what excites me, what prompts me to take pictures is the beauty I see. The amazing color wheel God created and dips his brushes in to paint the sunrise and the sunset, the feathers on each different bird, each cow, each fallen autumn leaf. You usually won’t find me photographing man-made creations (unelss it’s a picture one of my grandkids drew).
When questioning whether I am obsessed or not, I came to this conclusion: my love for photography can be attributed to a love for God and His marvelous, majestic creation. For me, it is a form of worship. It is impossible for me to separate the two from one another. If some think that is an obsession, so be it. I can’t think of a better one (unless of course, writing about being obsessed with a marvelous God).
But I know You do.
It’s just so very hard for me to
You know me.
You know what I am.
What I’ve done.
What I’m capable of.
But in Your eyes,
that’s not me…
what I’ve done,
what I might do.
So, who am I, really?
Standing at the gate.
Clothed in white.
Watching the children play.
Listening to the children,
all the children,
Knowing they are wanted.
Knowing they are loved.
Who am I?
I’m one of them.
I’m not what I’ve done
I’m not what I am capable of
Forever your child.
Forever a daughter of the Almighty King.
the Kingdom of God.
I plant pumpkins each year and give some away and others are left to sit around as fall decorations. This year, I had a two year old in tow when my one and only pumpkin was ripe for picking and so she and her ‘Boppa’ went outside to snip the big orange ball from the vine and returned to the house to gut it. It was an experience.
At first, my granddaughter wanted nothing to do with the flesh hanging from the insides of the pumpkin. Upon first sight, she quickly folded her arms together and backed away after I took the top off the pumpkin and she saw what was in there. She wanted nothing to do with it but when she realized it wasn’t all that yucky, she eagerly helped to clean out the inside.
After we finished, I looked through the pulp for seeds to save for next year and collected about two dozen. I allowed them to dry and then put them in a plastic bag and sat them on the kitchen counter for the time being. My son saw them sitting there and asked what I was going to do with them.
“I’m gonna plant them—all of them.”
“You can’t plant all of those,” he insisted.
“Yes—I can,” I replied, most certain.
“They won’t all grow.”
“Yes they will—every single one of them. I’ll have 85 pumpkins.”
His final comment?
“Just because you plant the seed doesn’t mean it will grow.”
It was so matter-of-fact. It irritated me. And then I thought about it for a few days and you know—he’s right.
Not every seed I have planted has grown. Some have stayed in the package past their prime planting dates and refused to emerge. That wasn’t their fault. I neglected them. In fact, I have a packet of foxglove seeds that my mother in-law gave me that are from 1939. There is no way I would plant those and expect them to grow. There’s no way I’m getting rid of them, either.
We may plant seeds in others of God’s truth and wonder why it hasn’t grown. We’ve shared God’s love, extended his mercy, been evidence of His amazing grace, explained the truth of His word, shown the need for repentance and… nothing. Lots of seeds – but nothing grows.
One of the most important things you could ever do for a newly planted seed is water it regularly and make sure it is a nice, warm, safe place to sit and soak up the sun. It’s that simple. But sometimes, no matter how right the conditions are, not every seed will grow. For whatever reason, it will never see daylight or if it does, it withers shortly thereafter. It will never grow or produce fruit or bloom.
As a believer of Christ, our life can be so similar. We attempt to plant seeds in the lives of others and sometimes they take root and grow. But there is another side–they refuse to grow. No roots form. There is no evidence of life above the ground. It’s the case of… “Just because you plant the seed, doesn’t mean it will grow.”
Ah yes. Our job is to do the planting. God knows what it takes to make those seeds grow – how much water, the best time to water, plenty of sunshine, and warmth. We have been chosen to be the caretakers and gardeners of those planted seeds. To teach those in which seeds have been planted where they are to run and find shelter in the storms. To teach them how to store up water in their roots for inevitable dry spells. To show them how to apply nutrients from God’s word, making their lives richer and fuller.
I will plant all two dozen pumpkin seeds next year. Some may not grow. But I will do what I know I need to do in order for those that grow to produce the best fruit possible… water, allow for sunshine, and provide TLC. I hope I do the same for those who have seeds lying dormant within their hearts. Provide some water, lead them into the sunshine, and feed them from God’s word. But there’s one truth I must remember that I have no control over…
I can plant the seed, but it doesn’t mean it will grow.
The sun beats down warm and you are even convinced that as it warms your body, healing is taking place within. Where spring brought new life, this is the season where you’re actually experiencing the growing, the full blooming of it all. Your energy has been renewed. You delight to let your toes touch the water of the vast ocean or lake that is spread before you. This is the season where you, without hesitation or thought of troubles, lift your hands in unabandoned praise to God. Life cannot be better.
But looking back, you can now see how each season had its purpose. And each season gave you the opportunity to prepare for the next. Experience has told us that in the course of nature there will undoubtedly be good with the bad, life will not all be sunshine and roses, and that the storms and the sunshine will come in different degrees, sometimes with nary a warning.
Our spiritual lives are so much like the cycles of nature. We endure the longer days of summer and early fall, move into winter with reluctance (and often kick and scream while there), but spring always comes with the welcome reprieve of summer. Each has their purpose. Each has their pain. Each has their reward.
Instead of longing for a better climate, a place where winters are mild and summer days are plentiful, why not embrace the call of God to come and rest in Him during the hard times and sit with Him on the patio on the warm, healing days of Summer. Either season is an opportunity of lfting our hands in praise and thankfulness to God for what He has brought us through and where He is taking us now
He closes the car door and she waves one last goodbye and he slowly pulls away from the curb. He is in no hurry to leave her. She is no hurry to wave goodbye. His car inches down the road and with her back, now to him, she walks toward the front door. And I can see her wipe a tear that involuntarily runs toward her cheek. As his car gets further down the road, I imagine a tear finding its way down his cheek.
A mother of almost 65 years. A son for 55.
Good-byes are always hard. Made harder by age and ill health. And I sit here, I watch real life drama as I rock a precious baby boy who is just starting his journey. Will tears form when, one day, he will find himself having to say good-bye to someone he dearly loves?
** ** **
Two women approach a tomb, making ready to say their last good-byes to someone they dearly loved. They have brought their finest for the finest man they have ever known. The closer they get to the grave, the more anxious they become, for they fear something is amiss. The stone that sealed the grave is no longer in place, but has been rolled away and the body they came to prepare is gone.
Gone and no last goodbyes. By now a few of the disciples have also come and left but Mary, one of the two women who had arrived first, stays behind, standing outside of the tomb crying.
Tears are powerful. They say much when nothing else can be said. They communicate both sorrow and joy.
Mary stands, weeping and her tears of grief, sorrow, disappointment, emptiness, sadness catch the attention of the Almighty. He sends two angels to the tomb. They ask her, “Woman, why are you crying?” She answers. “They have taken my Lord away and I don’t know where they have taken Him.” She hears a noise behind her and turns around to see a man standing behing her and again she is asked the question by him, “Woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?”
Mary thinks she is speaking to the gardener and asks, “Sir, if you have taken him, tell me where and I’ll go get him.”
Goodbyes – last goodbyes – are important. They put a finality to life that is often difficult to do without them. We can often continue expecting to see that familiar face that is no more without an ‘official’ goodbye.
Mary is beside herself. She is empty. Grief-stricken. She is weeping. Not just crying – weeping. And her face is bent toward the ground and she is wiping tears as fast as they are falling. Her tears get the attention of the man standing before her. The man who she seeks. The man she longs to say her final goodbyes to. The man she loved and who is now gone. And then something amazing happens. He says her name.
She knew that voice. She knew exactly who it was that now stood before her.
She lifted her head and cried out to him and obviously in her excitement, in her joy, she clings to him, for (an I can imagine a chuckle here from the Lord Almighty himself at her reaction) for he says to her, “Don’t hold onto me, for I have not returned to the Father yet…”
Did you catch that? Jesus hadn’t even returned heavenward yet and takes the time to meet with Mary in her grief. To show her there would not be a need for anymore tears. He was alive. She may have sought for him in her tears of sorrow, but he met her there in her pain and, speaking her name, turned her tears into tears of joy.
Are you crying because of sorrow in you life? Weeping because of grief over a lost loved one? Listen. LIft your head. Your tears catch the attention of the Lord Almighty. And He is saying your name.
For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. -Revelation 17:7
It is raining and I hear an unusual sound as the water streams down from the sky. The clouds above threaten more rain, but the sound around me continues as if unaware. The air grows colder, the clouds gather closer, turning their shades of gray to one of almost black and still the sound continues. I look out my window to see if this can really be happening and there, at my bird feeder, sits three goldfinches and one above in the limb of the fir tree is singing. He is singing with all his being. In the middle of a springtime storm. And I think to myself… amazing. Simply amazing.
While on our trip to Idaho, we took a short detour to visit the beautiful Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival in the town of Woodburn (approx. 3 1/2 hrs northeast of Southern Oregon). Meandering through the outskirts of the main town, we passed several lush green farms, trees with ferns growing out of their trunks, and a gorgeous old church, its walls bursting with thousands of stories begging to be told. It stood across the street from an old school house, which boasted its own memories and stories of childhood days past. A familiar, old, steel gray merry-go-round and ladder slide stood ghostly still, vacated in the school’s play yard.
Shortly down the road, tulips by the thousands waited to be photographed and so I did what anybody else with a camera in tow would do and started shooting pictures of tulips. Reds, purples, pinks, yellows and what seemed every color under the sun were waiting to mesmerize the visitor and take their breath away.
And so they did.
Row upon row of tulips standing upright in anticipation of being photographed for the next enlargement upon the wall of a bragging tourist who had visited these rows. And that is what we were, along with the hundreds of others walking the tulip fields of Woodburn, that cool and cloudy Spring day. Tourists taking a tour, a walk, a journey in an ethereal place.
Workers dotted the large fields as they busied themselves cutting freshly budded tulips to be shipped and sold for arrangements and bouquets. Tractors stood silent at the ends of colorful rows for children to try out their climbing skills and parents to use as props for photographing those little ones for posterities sake.
A cow ‘trainmobile’ was available for moms and dads of small children needing to be transported for a fun ride from here to there. A larger hay-ride version was available for bigger ‘kids’ to have a welcomed reprieve from finding they may have absent mindedly walked too far from the main hub while being taken aback by the beauty surrounding them.
We were thankful to have taken our rubber boots, as mud puddles were frequent but were not frowned upon for after all, the beauty to behold distracts the happy photographers and visitors from the to be expected mud. A child would go nuts here, if allowed to!
Wooden windmills, both life-size and childlike stood stoically on the grounds, giving a sense of being transported to another place. Holland, perhaps? But did you know that tulips originally were wild flowers that grew in Turkey? The name tulip is derived from the Turkish word for turban (tulipa), as the tulip is said to resemble a turban. The flowers were sent to a man named Carolus Clusius by his friend, Ogier Ghislai de Busbecq, who was serving as the ambassador of Constantinople (present-day Istanbul). Ogier had seen the flower and sent a few bulbs to his friend Carolus for his garden where he lived in Leiden, Vienna.
Carolus, a famous biologist, had become the director of the Hortus Botanicus in Leiden. Lieden is the oldest botanical garden of Europe, founded in 1587. Clusius planted the bulbs and thus, the beginning of all the bulb fields you see today. When Carolus Clusius wrote the first major book on tulips in 1592, they became so popular that his garden was raided and bulbs stolen on a regular basis.
“Tulipmania“, as it was known as, skyrocketed and money was exchanged for these bulbs like nothing you have ever seen. Tulip bulbs went for more the cost of a home in Amsterdam. The “Tulip Crash” was inevitable and forced the government to place restrictions of the trading of this flower.
The tulip’s popularity is said to have been caused from the exuberant colors, dramatic flames and frilly petals. These flowers had actually, instead, been infected by the mosaic virus, also known as the Tulip break virus. The virus is famous for its dramatic effects on the flower, such as the streaks found in some tulips. The healthy tulips were supposed to be a solid, smooth, monotone color. The virus causing the mosaic disease infestation had come from a tulip louse (insect) that lived on peaches and potatoes. The diseased varieties, which are no longer sold, are now replaced by varieties that are hybrids which appear similar to the beautifully diseased flowers but are now genetically stable.
The healthy flowers were supposed to be solid, smooth and monotone. The virus came to the tulip from a louse living on peaches and potatoes. These diseased varieties are no longer sold, but what you can find is hybrids that look similar but are genetically stable.
Though tulips originated in Turkey, Holland is best known for these delicate, curvaceous creatures. Known as the “flower shop of the world“, fields of vibrant colors and tulip festivals are in abundance in springtime. Taking their love of tulips with them, the Dutch people, upon settling in America, went about spreading their memories of home by spreading tulip bulbs within the new land in which they now found themselves. Evidence of their ancestry can be witnessed throughout the United States, abounding mostly in New York and Michigan, where Dutch roots are very strong.
One of my favorite tulips is the Parrot tulip. I had first seen a picture of one of these on a photography site and it took my breath away. Multi-colored, frilly, curvaceous, stunning, crinkly – all in one. Then, not thinking about it, not expecting it – I saw one. To say it was beautiful is to lessen it, to do it an injustice. It stood there, gently being teased by a breeze and swayed as I stood, still. It was as if I were gazing upon the handiwork of the Creator himself. Ahh… but that is indeed what I was doing. It was a moment of worship.
I know man alters, grafts, replicates, and clones… but only God can deliver. Only God can supply the ingredients needed. Ultimately, only God can claim glory. And so, I freely gave it. Right there in that muddy tulip field on that cold, cloudy day.
We took off our boots when we got back to the car and stuffed them into plastic bags which we hadn’t intentionally put in the car but were grateful they were there. Two weeks later and the mud is now dried, but still pasted to the soles and sides. I haven’t cleaned them off yet. Could it be I just want to savor a bit longer the fresh smell of those fields? The colors of those flowers? The wonder of the moments spent there?
It just may be.