Cattail Glory

IMG_7553.JPGIn this season between seasons, when it’s not really winter but doesn’t really seem like spring either, the changes occurring in the natural world are sometimes very subtle.  Yet, I have learned, they are there.  Nothing is really sitting still.  Everything is silently, gradually, almost imperceptibly, readying itself for when it’s time to burst forth into newness of life.  It does require my camera and I to look harder on these days when a walk still requires me to wear the old winter hat and mittens, but the discoveries we do make of coming spring are only that much more triumphant.

Today I take note: The last of the cattails that have been neat little brown cylindrical sausages on sticks all winter are finally, after months of wear by wind and snow, disintegrating into downy halos of seed.  They are dying, giving up of the very last of themselves.  Soon the bare stalks will turn soft as well, bowing to the swamp below them nevermore to rise again.

But we all know that somewhere, in other bare nooks in the swamp, baby cattails will spring forth from the downy fluff these tired old stalks are releasing to the wind.  There would be no continuance of life if they held onto the gift they possessed; it is only in the letting go that life will go on.  They release the old, looking forward unto the new and better things to come—and in the late afternoon sunshine, it’s as though they’re crowned with glory.

“But this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth to those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. .”  (Philippians 3:13-14, KJV)

An Ode to Resilience

img_9657This is oxalis triangularis, otherwise known as purple shamrock.  It sits in my south window in the perfect spot to catch the full sun, positioned right where I can enjoy it whenever I’m sitting in my favorite chair nursing the wee babe, or less frequently, as I am this week, convalescing from illness.  I especially love the way the sunlight glows through the translucent lavender petals and maroon leaves, and the way those tri-lobed leaves go to bed every night when the sun goes down, folding up neatly into little origami points.

It’s my very favorite houseplant—but nice as all these things are, it might surprise you to know that it’s really an entirely different quality than these that elevated it to the top of the list.

What this photo doesn’t tell you is that last week, this favorite plant of mine had an accident.  We won’t name any names, but lets just say that having houseplants in the same house as toddlers is a rather optimistic idea.  Also, this is why I don’t (or shouldn’t) ever buy expensive flower pots.  Furthermore, it’s the third accident it’s had of this sort, not to mention multiple other instances of small hands plucking off way too many leaves and stems, because apparently I’m not the only one who thinks it’s pretty.

It’s not what I would call a sturdy plant by looking at it.  The leaves are tender and the stems easily broken, and every accident has literally crushed it.  Every time I’ve tucked it into a new pot when the former has been broken, or given it an extra drink after an inopportune childish pruning, I’ve thought that surely this was it.  Surely, the oxalis was going to succumb to adversity this time around.  I’ve had other houseplants that have given up the ghost under far less trying circumstances.

And, for a few days, it generally supports my fear.  All the remaining foliage dies.  By all appearances, it is time to dump the pot and move on with life.  But, always, just when I’ve given up on it, the coil of a tiny translucent shoot appears, tipped in the deep purple of the tiniest of exquisite new leaves—and the oxalis lives on yet again.

This seemed quite miraculous to me until I learned that the key to the strength of the oxalis is not in it’s stems, leaves or flowers, or even it’s roots.  It’s strength is actually in tiny tuberous bulbs, which are the true, hidden heart of the plant.

This then is the quality that has elevated this little houseplant to the top of my list of favorites.  A gorgeous little plant that obligingly flowers year round and can bounce back after any manner of toddler encounters?  This may very well be perfection in a pot.

There are quite a few lessons here, but perhaps the most important is that a person’s ability to handle hard times with resilience stems directly from where they are drawing their strength in all of the other times.  And the people who I have watched face trying times, who get back up time after time, with wounded souls shining strong, beautiful and tender yet again, always have one thing in common: their day-to-day lives have been centered in Christ.  There’s a difference, you see, between rising from adversity with a shell of hardened bitterness or cynicism, and that of rising from adversity with a renewed growth in faith, gentleness and hope.  Only a heart deeply rooted in Jesus can do that.

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5)

“He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.” (Isaiah 40:29)

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

“My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:2)

To view a fun time lapse video of oxalis leaves “going to sleep”, go here.

 

 

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.