Orange Blossom Special

IMG_5876.JPGOutside, on this sub-zero February day, a bitter wind is kicking billows of icy particles high into the sky and blasting them across the fields.  The snow is nearly up to the windowsills, and the icicles hang like a row of jagged teeth from the eaves.    It’s about as un-tropical a day as you could get this far from a Pole—but the fragrance that meets me when I walk out into the sun porch is straight from Florida.

For a minute, I’m disoriented and puzzled.   It’s the scent of spring and the promise of fruit, a distinct and heady fragrance.  It doesn’t match the snowy landscape outside my windows.  And then I see the orange tree.  I hadn’t even noticed the buds coming on over the last few days, but they’ve burst open and there’s no ignoring them now.  There, right up against the pane of mere glass separating it from the depths of winter, it’s breaking it’s own record for number of exquisite waxy white blossoms. IMG_9692 edit.jpgIMG_9703 edit.jpgI’ve owned the tree for several years, but in the past I’ve always moved it into our warmer living room area during the colder months, to avoid it taking a chill.  It seemed a considerate course of action for a plant of tropical origin.  Oddly though, the well-intentioned move always seemed to make it droop, and, well, frankly it’s just grown so big lately that it’s heavy and awkward.  So I finally decided to take a risk, try leaving it, and see what happened. 

Turns out, the extra sunshine the porch affords makes up for what it lacks in warmth, at least in this little tree’s estimation.  Or maybe it actually prefers a little chill, just like some of our neighbors who have voluntarily transplanted from the sunny south to the frozen north without regret.  At any rate, to my surprise, and in spite of regular icy drafts from the nearby exterior door opening and shutting multiple times a day as little people run in and out from playing in the snow, it has not only survived, but is actually thriving!

If I doubted it before, I could not possibly now.  It’s blossomed here and there in the past, but never like this.  The fragrance filling the room and wafting into the next is only eclipsed by the sight of it.  The beauty, seen and unseen, is breathtaking.IMG_3934 edit.jpgIt’s actually a pretty magnificent picture of what we Christ-followers are supposed to look, and (frankly!) smell like.

No, this isn’t an ad for orange blossom perfume.

It’s like this:

If Christ is present in your life, it’s a perfume you wear.  It’s breathtaking beauty springing forth in the life-giving light of the Son, a secret you couldn’t keep if you tried.  And to those around you, it’s like that sweet tropical fragrance that pervaded my senses before I could even identify it’s source.  The flowers couldn’t contain it.  The scent was pouring out, wafting, filling the air with abandon, a gift to my senses, an irresistible invitation to discover the source of such sweetness.

Ironically, just like my orange tree, the scent of Christ is undeterred in the face of iciest drafts and darkest wintery days of life, and actually?  It’s more distinct than ever:

When someone cuts you off in line, and you respond with kindness.

When you refuse to take an opportunity to speak ill of someone who has publicly wronged you.

When you respond to life’s frustrations with grace instead of impatience.

When you can grieve a loved one without losing hope.

When you forgive freely instead of holding a grudge…

…and the list goes on.

These aren’t things you can fake, like some science lab concocting chemical compounds to artificially fool people’s senses.  These aren’t things you can slap on, any more than you can get away with hanging an air freshener in your car expecting it to supersede the odor of spilled milk on a hot summer day.  You might be able to get away with artificial, spritzed-on fragrance for a little while, but not for long.  People know when it’s the real deal, because when these things are genuine, they exude from deep within, the exclusive, unique overflow of the abundance of His presence in our hearts, an irresistible invitation to the world around you to discover the source of such sweetness.

So, not to be rude—how are you smelling today?

“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing…” (1 Corinthians 2:14-15)

Rowan Tree

IMG_6336.JPG Orange has been one of my favorite colors for a long time.  It’s an accent color used quite sparingly in nature, though—and that’s why I was so pleased to find a rowan tree growing in our own backyard. It’s lacy pinnate fronds are ever graceful and attractive in their own right, but the fruit clumps that ripen to a vibrant orange in late summer are certainly my favorite feature.

The first year we lived here, I thought I was being clever, and tucked bunches of them into a fall wreath I had made of dried flowers and grasses for some instant, non-artificial pops of color.  It really did look lovely on our front door!  By the next day, however, the berries were completely gone and my wreath was in shambles.

Lesson learned: never hang bird food on your front door unless that’s what it’s intended for.  Now I just leave them on the tree and sit back and watch the clumps of orange berries disappear into the bellies of happy little birds fueling up for their upcoming journey south.

That’s what they were created for, after all.

“Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so.” (Genesis 1:29-30)

Lessons from Grandpa

flaming maple / rejoicing hillsHe taught me that getting old didn’t mean you quit living—and that you could still go swimming every day and play volleyball and travel the world when you were going-on-90.red maple leaf / rejoicing hillsHe taught me not to be afraid to dream and to try new and crazy things.  Start a restaurant!  Convert a roller skating rink into a church building!  Plant potatoes a month earlier than anyone else in the county!  Invent an automatic bed-making machine!

turning leaves / rejoicing hillsmaple leaves / rejoicing hillsHe  taught how to put my own worms on my own hook and know how to tie proper knots so I could change my own lures. It was from him that I learned that lunch in a fishing boat could legitimately consist of a can of pop and a candy bar.  He also taught me the art of telling people how many fish we caught without revealing where we caught them, and how to sweet talk ’em when they weren’t biting.

maple tree / rejoicing hillsHe taught me that ice cream was a vegetable—and should, accordingly, be eaten as often possible, preferably topped with homegrown raspberries.  And chocolate and caramel and nuts and hard cookies.  But he also taught me that vegetables (the real ones) were pretty amazing, too.

fallen leaves / rejoicing hillsHe taught me that one didn’t need an advanced education to write witty and thoughtful letters in your grandchildren’s birthday cards.

He taught me how to judge a good dairy cow, and then how to care for her after I took his advice and bought her.

He taught me that it’s possible for a lame pun to be hilarious, when said with that much mischief twinkling in one’s eyes.

He taught me how to make Spanish omelettes.

He taught me that fashion statements can be made with coveralls just as well as bolo ties, matching belt buckles and fancy cowboy boots.  That having hard candy in your pocket is a great way to win friends and influence people.  And that a hearty splash of gasoline will cure a bad case of poison ivy (much to my mother’s dismay…).

You were only ninety-one young, Grandpa—not old enough to die.  I’m going to miss you!

“For You…O God… have given me the inheritance of those who fear Your name.” (Psalm 61:5)

 

For more memories of my grandfather, see here and here.

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