In Whatsoever State I Am

IMG_3359So—remember those bulbs I buried hopefully in the fall?  I thought you’d like to know—they survived the winter!  And they’ve not only survived in spite of all prowling chipmunks, but are also growing steadily up in spite of, ahem, the wide variety of weather conditions that have comprised our spring thus far!

Today, while my sick children blessedly napped and I sipped tea to soothe my own racking cough, I looked at them all shivering out there in the flower bed, perky double-winged leaf shoots cupping the flakes of spitting snow as the wind whistles around the house.  They were a quiet but poignant little reminder to me on a not-so-ideal day of this verse:

“…for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content…”

IMG_3360Some days, as Paul goes on to admit, are harder than others (and trust me, the hardships he had to face would make this unpleasant sick day at home seem like a picnic in the park!),

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

But the key to it all?

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13)

And for that, I am grateful.




IMG_2867Whenever I watch green shoots rise from dry, brown bulbs buried in the earth and burst into triumphant bloom, it’s hard not to see a picture of the Resurrection.

It was no exception when I planted a pot of narcissus bulbs at the end of February, looking forward to a little jump start on spring while the tulips still waited under the snow outside.  I took photos as they grew, hopeful green rising to the sun, and then blossoming fragrant white in the center of the table in our sun porch.  This would be the perfect set of photos for Easter, I thought, and had every intention of posting them on here in time for the holiday.

But then, in the midst of all the hustle and bustle of early-morning church breakfasts and services and a house full of feasting and family for a whole day, I never even touched the computer.  The fact that I had missed my intended holiday posting date didn’t occur to me until the next morning—and then it was too late.IMG_2983IMG_2981At first I was disappointed.  But then, as I sat in the sun porch the next morning, watching a wet and pearly gray dawn wash over the dining room table still wearing it’s candles and best white tablecloth from Sunday’s celebration, I suddenly realized that it was okay after all.  Maybe, even, it was for the best.

Because while Easter Sunday is full of celebration, and multiple reminders at every turn to rejoice, this ordinary gray day with the raindrops making dents on the mud puddles in the brown yard and the pile of dirty dishes staring at me from the sink was decidedly lacking in reminders.  There were no happy church breakfasts, with the men in aprons flipping pancakes in the kitchen and the ladies dressed in bright spring pastels sitting around tables set with jars of fresh-cut pussy willows.  There were no jubilant strains of “Up From the Grave He Arose” soaring to the church rafters while the white lilies nod in front of the pulpit. The quantities of ham and cheesy potatoes that got served to a houseful of family had been consumed and we were back to oatmeal for breakfast.  How quickly the spirit of celebration had faded away into everyday humdrum!

But as another favorite Easter song goes:  “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow…and life is worth the living, just because He lives.”  Though practically we can’t spend every day of the year dressed up in our best clothes, sitting around white-clothed tables laden with pots of yellow tulips and two whole mocha brownie tortes served on best china, I think it goes without saying that, deep down in our hearts, this spirit of joy and celebration should carry on into every day of the upcoming year.  Because if it wasn’t for Easter, everyday life literally would not be worth the living.IMG_2952And so, I’m here to wish you a Happy Easter with my flower photos after all, with no apologies for the fact that it’s a whole week late.  Or, more correctly, to declare, as many pastors did last Sunday around the world, “He is risen!”  Because it’s still as true today as it was that day and every other day of the year.

And may you be reminded, on this ordinary day of the week, to echo back with assurance:

“He is risen indeed!”

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you…that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…”  (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)




Hope of Spring

tulip bulb / rejoicing hillsShhh!  Don’t tell the chipmunks.  This last week, thanks to this unseasonably mild autumn weather we’ve been having, I knelt in the soft earth of my flowerbed and tucked fifty tulip bulbs deep into the ground.

I dreamed of spring as I carved out those six inch deep holes and dropped in the white bulbs with their papery-thin rosy-brown skins.  It always seems strange, even cruel, to plant bulbs just as winter is looming with it’s long months of bitter cold.  I know it’s the way it has to be, though, and I know that sure as the spring will come, these tulips will come alive and blossom in due time.

It seemed very fitting that I planted them the same month that my grandpa went home to be with the Lord and we buried his remains also in the earth.  This, too, seemed like a harsh end for a beloved man who lived so long and well.  Or rather, it would have if it had not been for a confidence of a different sort of spring we all cherished in our hearts as we said goodbye.

Yes, those last days of suffering,

that shadow of death,

the tears,

that hole in the ground amidst a crowd of other grave stones,

the empty armchair in the house down the road—

the cruel reality of it all was harsher than any bitter winter wind that ever blew on earth.IMG_1422 edit

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Yet the sadness was so colored by joy, it was almost hard to tell the difference.  The damp chill of a November rain hung around us, but the church rafters rang with victory, because what seemed like loss and death to us meant only triumphant new life for him in the presence of the God and Savior he had loved so long.

He had waited eagerly through all the seasons of life, finally and bravely walked through the darkest death of winter—and now, somewhere, up in heaven, it was springtime at last for Grandpa.

“We hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.”  (Romans 8:25)

For more posts about my grandfather, see here and here.