In Spite of the Cosmos

IMG_6813.JPGThe theme of my flower garden this year was, officially, low cost and low maintenance.  Low maintenance, because I knew I’d have less time than ever with a newborn this summer, and low cost, because why spend money on something I might not even have time to take care of?

A few days before our third daughter was born, I thinned out all the baby cosmos plants that had self-seeded from the year before.  Then I filled in the holes with miscellaneous flower seeds leftover from previous years.  And then I abandoned it to grow, hoping the emerging seedlings would somehow trump the inevitable emerging weeds without any help from me, and that when I came out of the fog that is life for the first month or so after a baby is born, there would be a garden full of flowers.  It’s not exactly my recommended method of flower gardening, but I figured it still might be better than nothing.

A month or so later, when I remembered again that I had a flower garden and went to see what had become of it, I was surprised to find that the flowers had actually triumphed over the weeds.

The only problem was—the conqueror had been the cosmos, and the weeds were not the only victims to languish in it’s shadow.  I looked in vain for the calendula, foxgloves and cone flowers, and finally located a few pale lupines.  Deep beneath the jungle of feathery giants, were some sickly zinnia plants.

Oops.

Obviously I had not thinned the volunteer cosmos quite as well as I should have.  So much for my idea of a mixed flower garden. Sigh.

Well, anyway, I was just happy to still have some flowers growing on a year I didn’t have much time to invest in caring for them.

Then, one day in August I glanced out my kitchen window and noticed something glowing brilliantly coral in the midst of all the pink.  I hadn’t planted any coral colored cosmos.  I don’t think there’s even such a thing.  I went out straightaway to investigate.img_6822That’s when I discovered that the pale zinnias I had dismissed as failures hadn’t languished in the shadow of the cosmos after all, but had pushed through sturdily and bloomed.  And they weren’t even stunted.  They were magnificent!img_6740img_6736IMG_6824.JPGAnd so, the moral of the story is:

When it feels like the entire cosmos, er, universe is against you, don’t shrivel up and languish like a calendula.  Don’t wither away like a halfhearted cone flower or foxglove.  Be a zinnia.  Dig your roots in deep into Christ, push your way through the overwhelming obstacles, and grow.

It’s a beautiful thing.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:35-37)

 

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Glimpses of Summer

IMG_5607I’m sure it will come as a surprise to no one that my days this summer have been a lot less about taking photos of nature and writing about them, and a lot more about taking photos of a certain darling little lady and writing in my journal about her first smiles or the first time she slept through the night.

But in between the midnight feedings and uncounted numbers of diapers changed, I still watch for the beauty outdoors, even if it’s only through the windows while I’m pacing through the house in an effort to soothe her cries on a fussy day.  I don’t see many exotic things, but I do see the way the morning dew is glistening on the clematis or the way the light falls warm and soft across the field grass just before the sun sets—and these bits of loveliness are things that have fed my soul on days that adjusting to life with three small children under my care is a little on the overwhelming side.

The other thing that has fed my soul lately is the book of Psalms which we’ve been reading through, one a day at breakfast time—and chapter 36 is one of my recent favorites.  May these excerpts from it, accompanied by these glimpses of my summer, feed your soul, too.IMG_6293“How precious is your steadfast love, O God! IMG_5363The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings…IMG_5520They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights…IMG_6152For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.” (Psalm 36:7-9)

When Autumn Comes

nasturtium / rejoicing hillsWhat does that picture have to do with autumn, you ask?  Where are the photos of flaming red maple leaves and golden poplars?

Yes, I know.

This is a strange time of year to post pictures from my flower garden. But the lovely truth is that this is exactly how my flowers looked for the entire month of September.  We kept getting frost warnings, and every morning I kept thinking that I’d wake up to find them all black and wilted—but on they bloomed, seemingly unfazed by the chilly nights.  October came, and they still looked gorgeous even after the tomatoes I’d left in the garden froze and the leaves on the maples across the field had turned to orange.

I was both amazed by their resilience, and delighted.  I was even beginning to wonder if they were invincible.

russian sage / rejoicing hillsapricot nasturtium / rejoicing hillsThen my baby let out her hungry cry just after 6 AM Monday morning, just like clockwork.  I tiptoed sleepily in to scoop her up, and stopped to peek out the window.  I expected to glimpse the first pale brightening to the east of the sun rise, and I did—but my attention quickly shifted to the rest of the world.  It was breathtakingly white with a frost so thick it almost looked like snow.  Fog was rolling in heavy off the lake in the chilly air.  The cosmos and nasturtiums stood starkly silhouetted against the steadily brightening sky, stiff with the heavy lace of frost.

Would they survive even this, I wondered?

cosmos / rejoicing hillscosmos / rejoicing hillsI didn’t have to wait long for my answer.  The sun rose, and the little garden of billowing old-fashioned flowers that had brought me so many hours of dish-washing pleasure wilted and turned black.  Of course, they weren’t invincible.  They had lasted long, but their turn had come, like it always must, to succumb to winter’s coming cold.  As I regretfully watched them droop, I was reminded of the comparison made in James:

“For the sun rises…and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.” (James 1:11)

It’s so easy to admire and long for, even covet, the riches and prestige of this world.  The possessions, the comforts, the privileges—and no matter how much you have, it seems like there’s always something more to get.  But the truth is, it’s all just as fleeting and temporal as the flowers in my garden after harsh frost.cosmos at sunset / rejoicing hills  I love, though, that James follows this somewhat disheartening truth up some good news.  Because while earthly riches are of surprisingly low value in God’s economy, he’s quick to tell us that there is something of infinitely greater value to pursue:

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”  (James 1:12)

When the end of all things comes, it will not be the one with the most money in his bank account who is honored, but rather the one who has remained faithful through trial and temptation for the sake of the One he loves.

May we each take our eyes off the earthly things around us that sparkle and call with empty promises of satisfaction, and set our eyes instead on that higher and sure goal, a glorious crown of life!

End of Summer

IMG_9747 editThis morning, as the mid-morning sun was making the dew on the spider webs sparkle, I rode my bike down the bumpy gravel road to Sheryl’s house.  The bike trailer bounced behind me, heavy with my precious cargo of two little ones and a Bible tucked in the back pocket.  I hoped I had estimated how long the ride would take me correctly; I didn’t want to miss out on the sweet fellowship time beforehand!

This is the third summer we’ve spent studying the 23rd Psalm.  What precious times we’ve had together going slow through the beloved familiar passage, sometimes word by word, soaking it in, mining the depths of Scripture for quantities of treasure that we never dreamed could exist in the space of so few words.  And now it was all over until next year.  Today was the last day, our sweet weekly summer gathering coming to a close just as the calendar was gently finishing August.  The ditches were full of goldenrod and lavender clouds of asters, and the banks of ferns were curling up brown around their lacy edges.  Yes, my eyes told me, as I focused up on the landscape around me and away from the dusty road beneath my tires:  fall was really almost here.goldenrod / rejoicing hillsI’m really sorry to bid this summer adieu, because it’s been such a good one.  Beautiful fellowship with these dear sisters in Christ has been just one of the highlights of this season for me.  As I meditated back over the passage we had been studying, somehow the other happy memories and pictures of this summer seemed to intertwine in my mind with the words of the psalm.  And so in honor of the end of a glorious season and those precious weeks of study we savored together, I present this photographic essay of my summer and Psalm 23:

pie / rejoicing hillsThe Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want…herd of cattle / rejoicing hillsHe maketh me to lie down in green pastures…pine over lake / rejoicing hillsHe leadeth me beside the still waters…peaceful porch / rejoicing hillsHe restoreth my soul…country lane / rejoicing hillsHe leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…IMG_7262 editI will fear no evil, for Thou art with me;  Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me…tiny bee on cosmos / rejoicing hillsThou preparedest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies…droplet on petunia / rejoicing hillsThou anointest my head with oil;  my cup runneth over…summer sunset / rejoicing hillsSurely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Amen.