Crocuses in the Snow

IMG_0723.JPGIt really wouldn’t have been a proper Minnesota April (or May?) without a good snowstorm, now would it have been?  Besides, I needed proof that crocuses really do bloom under such circumstances.  They seem no worse for the wear for it—and I don’t suppose any of the rest of us are either.  But just in case you were struggling with the idea of snow and cold after so long a stretch of warm weather—or even struggling with some other frustration or trial that has nothing to do with snow—consider this admonition of how to live that these brave little flowers model well:

“Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation…” (Romans 12:12)

Or this one:

“In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16)

Just a friendly reminder that “everything” really does mean every thing, and “tribulation” applies to the little things just as well as the big things.  Be patient, be grateful—and enjoy the quirks of the season!

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Pasque Flower

IMG_3562One of the earliest, loveliest flowers of spring is the pasque flower.  While it doesn’t appear naturally up here in the northwoods, you have only to drive west to the prairies to find it growing wild and free in its native habitat.  It’s also known as ‘wild crocus’—but I have to say I prefer it’s French name.  I like the appropriate sophistication it lends to such a lovely bloom—but even more, I appreciate a deeper significance to the name that is likely lost on most people.

And what’s the significance?  ‘Pasque’ is a word derived directly from the word ‘Passover’, making its name, literally, ‘Passover flower’—and at least this year, it seems to be quite appropriately named.  On the very weekend I knelt on the brick walkway of my parent’s flower garden to photograph its first blooms, the actual Jewish celebration of Passover was in full swing (April 22nd-30th).

For the Jews, it’s a celebration to commemorate the night of the tenth plague in Egypt, some 4,000 years ago, when the angel of death passed over their homes, sparing their first-born children at the sight of the blood of an unblemished lamb painted on their doorposts.

For me, it’s a celebration that reminds me that Death has passed over me, also, having seen that I, too, am covered by the blood of the unblemished Lamb of God.

“…and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 12:13)

“…you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.” (1 Peter 1:18-19)

For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.  Let us therefore celebrate the festival… (1 Corinthians 5:7-8)IMG_3558Dare I say that the celebration of Passover holds even more significance for me as a Christian than for any Jew?  Hallelujah!

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!

Blue Eyes

blue eyed grass / rejoicing hillsblue eyed grass / rejoicing hillsI found a beautiful patch of this blue-eyed grass while I was out walking a week or so ago.  They are tiny, delicate flowers and easy to miss on their long slender grass-like stems as they mingle in a sea of other less showy grasses—but aren’t they exquisite?!  They are really members of the iris family, but they remind me of spring crocuses with their pointed purple-striped petals and bright starry golden centers.

This week I went walking by the same spot again and stopped to look for them—but they were faded away and gone.  I couldn’t even manage to find the empty stems!  How glad I was that I taken pictures of these fleeting beauties when I did—and I was sharply reminded of truth this line from Isaiah 40:

“The grass withers, the flower fades…”blue eyed grass / rejoicing hillsAs I searched in vain through the grass, I walked past a great boulder that has been there for as long as I can remember, unfazed by cold or heat or any battering of the elements.  It’s dependable presence struck me as comforting in the moment—and then I realized what an appropriate contrasting illustration it painted of the rest of that verse:

“…but the word of our God stands forever.”  (Isaiah 40:8)

Flowers of the field, here today, gone tomorrow.

The Word of God, like a rock.  In all the fleeting uncertainty of this life, what a comfort that is!

The Gift of Violets

purple violet / rejoicing hillsFor years, it’s been my personal goal every spring to find every color of violet native to our area.  (There are actually up to 17 species, but I limit my goal to the four colors—lavender, purple, yellow and white.)  Some years, I have time to actually go search the woods for them, some years, I don’t—and this has been one of the latter.  So you can imagine my delight when, over the last couple weeks, I stumbled—sometimes literally—across every single one without even trying!

purple violet / rejoicing hillsblue violets / rejoicing hillsyellow violet / rejoicing hillsI was the most excited, however, when I happened upon the sweet tiny white violets, which have always been the hardest for me to find.  They are the smallest of the violet family, and the least showy—often their humble little faces are sweetly inclined toward the earth, hiding their purple-streaked hearts until you get down very low.  They are so diminutive and unassuming, it’s easy to walk right past them, or even step on them without realizing it.  But that makes them all the sweeter to me—and they’ve become my personal favorites.single white violet / rejoicing hillsAren’t they exquisite?

To me, the discovery of each of these little blossoms was a gift.  A gift from a loving heavenly Father who knows the desires of my heart, even the small ones, and delights to give His children good things.  I think He knew that all-four-colors-of violets were just what I needed to lift my spirits this spring.  Whether He caused them to grow just where I would look, or guided my footsteps and eyes to just the right place at just the right time, I don’t know.  But I do know that they caused me to smile and remember His lovingkindness as I knelt low to take their portraits.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights…”  (James 1:17)

What gifts has He given you lately to remind you that He loves you?