On the Tenth Day of Summer…

IMG_9715-1.jpg…my camera gave to me,

Ten grasses a-flowering.

Grass is to the earth like hair is to a human.

We pluck it out here; groom it carefully over there.

We chop it off here; let it go long and admire the affects over there.

We like it soft and lush; don’t like it coarse and sparse.

We wish it would grow here; don’t like that it grows there.

It’s healthiness is directly linked to the water and kind of nutrients it’s been fed.

We take it for granted until it’s thinning, or gone—and only then do we realize how valuable it actually was.

When I was thinking about the things that are quintessential to summer for this project, I knew that grass needed to be featured at some point.   It’s one of those humble, hardworking, common plants that gets trod on and passed by every day without much thought on our part, paling in the limelight of showier, more popular plant relatives—but for once I’d like to change that.  While you’re out stopping to smell the roses, why not stop to notice the grass, too?  I mean, look at all those pretty little pink stamens on that timothy grass!  There’s a world of underappreciated variety awaiting your delight.

And while you’re at it, why not take the time to think of something (or someone!) else in your life that you might be taking for granted—and pause for a minute to express true appreciation and gratefulness?

“Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:20)

 

 

 

Leafing

IMG_8464-1.jpgIn the golden light just before sunset, the baby leaves and buds are like haloed clouds resting across the branch tops. IMG_8466-1.jpgA little closer, and they are like green and gold lace and perfectly strung strings of peridot amidst the twigs and stalwart browns of the forest.IMG_8473.JPGUp close, there is a tiny world of intricate unfolding beauty to discover.

Meanwhile, I can hear nothing but spring peepers and the occasional haunting call of newly-returned loons on a nearby lake.  After an intensely busy week, the wonder of it all quiets my soul, drawing me into worship, gently smoothing away the tensions and distractions.

The truth is, sometimes we just need a few minutes to be still and meditate on His wonderful works to fully restore our souls.

On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.” (Psalm 145:5)

Emerging

IMG_3594It’s the best part of spring, that brief period of time when life begins to reemerge from the bare branches and brown earth.  The world is exploding almost visibly with life, and I hardly dare blink lest I miss something.  Everywhere I look there are buds bursting open, leaves unfolding, new scenes unfolding and an unending number of discoveries to make.

Across the lake, that first cloudy mist of soft green is enveloping the poplars, contrasted stunningly against the deep evergreen of the pines.

There are the gardens to examine, where I eagerly check to see if my plants survived yet one more winter, greeting the ones who do like long-lost friends.  The ones who were just planted last year and have just passed the big test of surviving their very first Minnesota winter create the most excitement.  Sometimes, I’m disappointed (never mind, foxgloves, we’ll try again); other times I’m pleasantly surprised (hello, strawberries!).IMG_0518Then, there are the woodsy pilgrimages to make, traditions dating to my childhood, like going in search of the dainty lavender and white hepaticas that are so absolutely quintessential of a Minnesota spring.IMG_0743IMG_0741And, if I’m paying attention and watching my step as I go, there is almost always something new to discover.  Something unexpected, like the strange forms of emerging horsetail at the edge of a gravel country road.  Or a pair of sandhill cranes, flapping their half-graceful, half-ungainly way out of the maze of last year’s cornstalks.  Or a fisher bounding across a lonely, narrow, backwoods road, stopping just long enough to glance back at us curiously.IMG_0494Beauty in the expected and familiar; beauty in the unexpected and unfamiliar.  Truly,

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

But I must say that I think this may be especially true in the spring.

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Rhubarb and a Legacy That Lives On

rhubarb / rejoicing hillsWhen the giant rhubarb leaves began to unfurl their creases and wrinkles out by the milk house this spring, it was hard not feel a little happy-sad at the sight.  One of the plants in my flourishing patch, the best one on the end with the slenderest brightest red stems,  isn’t original to the property like the others are.  It was a gift to me the spring I was a new bride, expecting my first child and eagerly planning our very first garden at the house we had recently moved into.

I had stopped at my nearly 90-year-old grandpa’s house to pick up a few of the vegetable plants from his little homemade greenhouse, the extras from his own ambitious garden that he had always offered to family year after year.IMG_1870“Do you have any rhubarb at the new place?” Grandpa asked, as he tucked sturdy tomato plants, peppers and cabbage into a wooden flat for me.  The white Styrofoam cups squeaked against each other as he splashed them liberally with a scoop of collected rainwater.  He scrawled the variety names onto a yellow page from an old auction receipt book, garden dirt beneath his nails, fingers big and rugged around the stub of a pencil.  “Rutger is a new variety,” he noted.  “Nice and early, and great flavor.  I searched all over town to find seed after I tasted one last year; finally found it at Fleet for ninety cents a packet.  Can’t beat that price!  Oh, and you’ll want some of these Sugar Cherry, too.  Just like candy.”

I nodded in agreement, then replied, “No, there’s no rhubarb at our new place; I’ll be able to get some from Mom’s garden, though—“  But he hadn’t heard the last part of my sentence, only the word “no”.  “My rhubarb really took off this spring,” he said proudly, grabbing a shovel leaning against a nearby shed, and heading off purposefully towards the garden.  “I’ll dig you up one.”

Pleased at the unexpected offer, I followed him along the little path through the row of pines that separated the house from the garden, ducking and stepping high to miss the elaborate system of electric wires that guarded his carefully cultivated vegetables from hungry critters.  A row of butter crunch lettuce made a brilliant yellow-green ruffle against the black dirt of the freshly tilled soil; further down, I could see the shadows of more greenhouse plants like the ones he had put in a flat for me, growing sturdy beneath their hand-cobbled mini greenhouses of wire and plastic.  As usual, his garden was in weeks before anyone else’s and thriving.  He stooped to pull a couple radishes, shaking off the dirt before he handed them to me.  “You better take a couple of those, too.”

rhubarb leaf / rejoicing hillsUp by the raspberry patch, he searched among the big leaves of the rhubarb until he found an off-shoot plant, just the right size to survive a transplant well.  He lifted it out and I held a plastic shopping bag open.  He dumped it unceremoniously inside.  It always boggled my mind how he could treat tender young plants with such carelessness yet have them perform so beautifully under his care.  If only the plants under my care could grow half so well—was that careless confidence the key, I wondered to myself?

A generous splash of water back at the greenhouse was the finishing touch.  “Put some good manure around that when you plant it and you should have rhubarb to pick next year,” he declared confidently, wiping his hands off on the sides of his tan coveralls.  I tucked the bag into the back of my vehicle next to the flat of tomatoes and promised to take good care of it.IMG_4590When we moved again the following spring, that rhubarb plant came with me even though I was aware that there was already a well-established patch at our new place.  Being transplanted twice like that set it back for a while, but by the next spring, thanks to several of those recommended scoops of “good manure”, I pulled my first stems of Grandpa’s rhubarb.

I mixed up a batch of old-fashioned rhubarb custard bars first, the kind I have fond memories of my mom making for us when I was a child.  The small red squares of stem glimmered like tart pink jewels encrusted in the creamy yellow custard, and I thought smilingly of Grandpa as I sampled a sweet slender square still warm from the oven.  I told him of my success the next time I saw him.

He was pleased.rhubarb custard bars / rejoicing hillsLast fall, Grandpa went home to be with the Lord, and so this spring, the little tractor and plow that he used to turn the soil to velvet sat silent in the shed.  His rhubarb plants unfurled and went to seed because no one was there in the little white house beyond the pines to pluck off the seed pods.  The greenhouse was sold at the estate auction to a neighbor and the little bent wire plant cages covered clumsily in plastic and held together with twine went into a dumpster.

But out by my milk house, a little piece of Grandpa’s love for the soil grew on.

I thought of him as I walked out one dewy morning with my little girls, his first great-grandchildren, to pick the first stems of the year.  I showed them how to reach down low to pull the stems so that they didn’t break and nothing was wasted, remembering his very last words to me as he grasped my hand from where he lay on the hospital bed.  “You take good care of those little girls now.”  The admonition echoed in my mind as they pretended that the big leaves were umbrellas and used butter knives to “help” me cut the red stems into small squares when we got back to the house.  IMG_4480I beat together sugar and golden-yolked farm eggs, and folded the tart chunks into the yellow custard while they stood on chairs and watched.  The legacy of love for things that grow had begun for yet another generation and I knew Grandpa would be pleased.  Later, I thought of this Scripture passage as I pulled the pan of bars out of the oven and set them on a rack to cool:

“How blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, Who walks in His ways.  When you shall eat of the fruit of your hands, You will be happy and it will be well with you.” (Psalm 128:1-2)

That was Grandpa, literally and figuratively.  Because he also left behind a legacy that was much greater than a love for things that grow from the earth.  The greatest legacy he left behind was a deep love for the Creator of the earth.

There’s a well-used Bible, liberally highlighted and underlined, stored safely at a family member’s house now, with a long list of dates in the back recording each time he had read the beloved Book from cover to cover.

Many, many times.IMG_7242 (683x1024)It’s the one physical thing we have left as a testimony to his decades of walking with the Lord and we treasure it.  It is my greatest hope and prayer, however, that this legacy won’t remain locked up tidily in a safe to crumble away and die there like my rhubarb plant would have without sunlight and soil.  I hope it, too, will send out little shoots, and grow and flourish for generations to come, not in the fertile black soil of a garden, but in the soil of my heart, and the hearts of all his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and beyond.  It was his greatest desire as he died, and will, in eternity, be his greatest joy.

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 1:4)IMG_9627And best of all, even when all the things of this earth pass away, including all rhubarb plants of sentimental value—that is a legacy that can never perish or be taken away.

For more happy memories of my grandpa, see here.

 

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Light After the Storm

storm clouds at sunset / rejoicing hillsThis was the light that broke forth after the storm, making the fields sparkle golden-green and the daisies by the roadside glow shining white.  The contrast was spectacular between the lowering navy underbellies of the receding storm clouds, and the land beneath suddenly bathed in the piercing evening light.

We, on our walk through the fields, stopped and caught our breath in wonder.  The ordinary grasses and trees were highlighted in stunning relief, and for a few minutes, the landscape was almost surreal in its beauty.  The splendid effect of the most brilliant light is always the most striking when contrasted with the darkness it chases away.

daisy after storm / rejoicing hillsroadside daisies / rejoicing hillsSo was the coming of the Messiah into the darkness of our world:

“The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great Light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a Light has dawned.”  (Isaiah 9:2)swans on lake at sunset / rejoicing hillsAnd He, the Light of the world, continues to shine, the glory of His brilliance all the more breathtaking when contrasted with the darkness it chases away.  He beckons all to step into the piercing rays of His light, and let Him wash away their drabness, robing them in the stunning beauty of His holiness.

“I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.”  (John 12:46)

Come to the Light of Christ—it’s shining for you and no one is ever turned away.  And if you are already walking in it, take a moment to rejoice in the wonder that you no longer “walk in darkness, but have the Light of life” (John 8:12)!  How glorious to be His child!

Budding Tamaracks

budding tamarack tree / rejoicing hillstamarack close up / rejoicing hillsI think I love watching the tamaracks bud out in the spring almost as much as the flowering crab trees.  In the distance, across the swamps and bogs and all along the edges of moist places in the forest, they slowly turn the loveliest soft green, utterly transforming the barren watery landscapes they call home.  It wasn’t until recently, however, that I found out the real treat is when you get a close-up look at those newly-budding lacy branches.

Close-ups like these always put me in quiet wonder at the Creator’s attention to detail.  Certainly there is awe to be found in the magnificent distant views of the sweeping starry heavens or soaring mountain peaks, but God, the greatest Artist of all, is no impressionist.  His masterpiece of creation stands up to the closest scrutiny.

“O Lord, our Lord!  How excellent is Thy name in all the earth!”  (Psalm 8:9)budding tamarack tree / rejoicing hills