Thursday, June 14, 2018

venting (sorry... that's your invitation to skip this one)

This is coreopsis.  

My heart has always warmed to coreopsis, the delicate, fairy-like foliage framing clouds of tiny, daisy shaped flowers.

Our neighborhood has boulevards, and at the tip of the boulevard just past our house, someone had put in a little garden of perennials: sedum, ornamental grasses, and a border of coreopsis.

This spring, the employees of the company that mows the common ares in our neighborhood took a weed-whacker to the coreopsis and mowed it to the ground.  I was stunned and appalled.

I knelt beside the little bed and tried to see if there were any remnants of coreopsis that I could encourage to grow back.  I carefully weeded out the crabgrass that sprang up in newfound freedom from other vegetation.  I carried numerous sprinkling cans of water over and gave drink to the soil.

Small patches of coreopsis started to come back, feebly.  I continued weeding and watering.  Shawn inserted a row of small orange flags around the area.  Some bare spots persisted, so we dug up a few purple coneflowers and black-eyed-susans from our own yard and transplanted them to fill the empty spaces, increasing our trips with the watering can to help them get established.  This is a challenge for me, with my lupus.  I really feel those walks with the watering can.  But it was a labor of love.

A period of heavy rains followed, and I saw with satisfaction that our transplants had settled in and were growing.

Yesterday, I walked over to check my babies, and to my horror, I saw that the mowing crew had been through again and mowed down everything in the bed, even knocking one of Shawn's orange flags into the road where it lay forlorn and humiliated.  What had been a small but flourishing black-eyed-susan was now a trio of dry, bare stems jutting three inches from the ground.  I felt like I'd been socked in the stomach.  Tears stung the backs of my eyes.  And then my arms began to tremble with rage.  How can people who purport to be landscapers be so incredibly stupid and destructive?

This is my take-away:  If I can love my little struggling perennials and feel such protective fury over their destruction, how much more does God love His children, and direct wrath against the forces of evil that deceive them and separate them from Him?

God loves us dearly.  He created the entire, vast universe to hold us, and He designed a planet perfectly suited to provide air that we could breathe, water to hydrate our cells, an eco-system with rain and sun, plants and animals, food and light and beauty.  God breathed into us the breath of His own life, to give us life.  He tenderly cares for us, and when sin became a problem for us, He sent His precious, only begotten Son to die--to literally bleed out--to make a way to redeem us.  God has invested all this in His children, His treasured creations.

God loves us, and someday, He is going to take our enemy, the devil, down.

But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, 
it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck 
and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.
~Matthew 18:6

Do you not know that you are God's temple 
and that God's Spirit dwells in you?  
If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him.  
For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple.
~1 Corinthians 3:16-17

And the devil who had deceived them
was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur
where the beast and false prophet were,
and they will be tormented day and night
forever and ever.
~Revelation 20:10

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.  
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
~Romans 16:20

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Happy June

I just adore summer.  This is the very best point of the year, leading up to the summer solstice.  Each day is a little longer than the last.  Flowers bloom.  We can go for walks in the park in the evening after supper.  My feet are rarely cold.

I like this picture.  Those are strawberries from my back terraces, grown in the shade.  Perhaps the lack of sunshine is what makes them so sour.  Honestly, for how active our sassy chipmunk is, I didn't think we'd have half a shot at any strawberries, but I've harvested a few, and they seem to be untouched.  These, I grabbed while puttering, and I set them here, on the arm of the chair on the front porch, to keep them clean while I continued to weed and water.

We planted sweet potato vine in our pots this year, and its growth is vastly outpacing everything else.  You can't tell because of the nice blurring of the background in this picture, but the pots are wonky.  It's okay.  That's the way I like my garden: lots of growth, lots of color, and not too much plan.  I will never win an award, but I am happy with what results from my efforts.  Maybe that's how I write, too.

Sometimes a person writes something and wishes she hadn't.  I do.  But even more often, I say things and wish I hadn't.  I'm not sure whether it happens to other people, but there are times when I start to remember all the cringe-worthy moments of my life, stupid things I've said, or unkind, or embarrassing, all the awful moments that I wish I could undo, but I can't.  When those kinds of thoughts well up--bad memories, regrets, sorrows--it can be paralyzing.  One is tempted to feel defined by one's mistakes.

That, of course, is exactly what Satan wants us to feel:  lousy, hopeless and defined by our mistakes.

But God gives us grace, and grace is forgiveness, coupled with the power of the Holy Spirit to renovate our hearts and make us "new creatures," beautiful creatures defined by the redemption of Christ.

This morning, I was feeling rotten about so, so many things.  I took it to Jesus and told Him what I was thinking and feeling.  He lovingly reminded me that He gives more grace, that His power is made perfect in weakness, that when I humbly bow before Him and confess my need, He will lift me up and fill me with His bountiful Holy Spirit.

Jesus loves me.  He demonstrated His love for us in that while we were still messed up, blind to glory and shackled by the chains of sin, He died for us, to free us.  Jesus didn't come to condemn--we were already condemned.  Jesus came to save us from already existing condemnation.  God so loved the world.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sin.
(See Romans 5:8, John 3:16-17, 1 John 4:10.)

Jesus loves me and treats me with grace, even though I am a mess.  He reminded me that His forgiveness removes my sins as far as the east is from the west.  I do not need to walk in shame, because Jesus loves me and lavishes grace on me.  It doesn't matter whether I was horrendously wicked or stupendously tasteless.  Jesus loves me, forgives me, accepts me, and invites me to get up and try again, this time depending on Him, on His Holy Spirit alive and living in my soul.

"My grace is sufficient for you," He tells me (1 Corinthians 12:9).  I can walk in victory because of Jesus.  "Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame," (Psalm 34:5).

I prayed that Jesus would take the devil's wiles and turn them against him, and Jesus reminded me that the more I cringe over my mistakes, the more thankful I become for His salvation.  When Satan piles on the guilt and shame, I can pile on the praise for all that Jesus has done for me, releasing me from the clutches of sinful desire and inviting me to be the recipient of His great and precious promises and a partaker of His Divine Nature!  I grow in humility and gratitude and joy.  My God can do this miracle, too, this miracle in my heart.

The One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
           ~1 John 4:4


Monday, May 28, 2018

Peonies as promised

Today is Memorial Day, and it's heading for 97 degrees.

We got up and mulched the back terraces (except one end), while they were shaded by the house, and before the extreme heat.

Now it is too hot to work, so we're waiting for evening shade.  I'm filthy, but how many showers can you take in one day?  I'll surely need one after the next phase of mulching.

Mulching gives instant gratification, but it's not really "once and done."  It looks great when you first put it down, and then you have to keep after it.  It impedes weeds, but doesn't halt them altogether.  However, it makes weeding much more manageable, on the whole.  It's one of many imperfect gardening solutions, and the cost of doing it again and again is one of its drawbacks.  However, mulching helps a lot, both for weed inhibition and for water retention, and it is one of the few "solutions" that enables you to continue planting if you wish, merely by sweeping aside the mulch and digging where you want to add a specimen.  As long as you don't use landscape fabric, this is true.  Words cannot express my hatred for landscape fabric.

So, here I am, filthy, waiting for the heat of the day to pass, and what better to do than blog?

I love peonies.  The only trouble with peonies, is that they don't last long enough.  Some peonies are actually easy to miss!  It's so disappointing when that happens... I go out to visit them, and find that they have bloomed and wilted, all over the weekend I was away.  Also, as soon as a rainstorm passes through, all those lush, heavy blossoms fall sodden to the ground, never to rise again.  And of course ants.  The ants on peonies are formidable.  But none of the drawbacks could induce me not to love peonies, because they are simply the most charming, vibrant, luxurious flower in the garden.

Without further delay, I bring you peonies:

Here's a start.  It's hard to capture the extent of them...

This silly bush is out in front of everything, by the mailbox.  They aren't a typical peony, but I've learned to appreciate their sweet simplicity and childlike faces.  Also, this bush is particularly profuse, and what's not to love about a profusion of peonies?

Back to the first corner I started to show you...

I can't seem to get detail plus profusion in a single shot.  I'm always more enchanted by the detail.  You'll have to believe me that the overview was also charming.

And here, you can see the ants.  I itch a little, just looking at the photo.

I just adore those pink ones.  Pink peonies.  
Is there anything more ridiculously delightful than a pink peony?
I mostly missed them this year; I think they peaked while David was becoming a doctor.

This yellow peony always blooms crazy-early.  I'm onto her now.  I usually get to enjoy a few views of these gigantic blooms before they pass their glory days.
Yellow peonies seem to be very rare.

So, that's a collection of peony photos.  They aren't this fresh anymore, and I'm steeling myself for the job of deadheading them later this week.  It's always sad to lop off these faded glories and then set in to wait for the next flush of blossoms.

But I have nasturtiums poking up, promising pleasures to come!

Saturday, May 26, 2018

May garden

Spring arrived in a sudden burst, and the glory surprises me every day.

Here are a few of the delights I've been finding around my home.

Pink ajuga

Bleeding heart.  A family favorite.

Funny story.  Last summer, while walking with a friend, I mentioned that I wanted some Lily of the Valley.  She had just dug a bunch out of her yard, to discard.  She brought them to me the next day, in a garbage bag.  They were rather wilted.  I stuck them in the ground.  This year, they came back and started blooming.  I think they're going to make it.

This is some sort of perennial geranium.  I've never seen a geranium like this.

Ah, the columbine.  It's been going and going.  
I cannot express how much delight columbine brings to my heart.

This pale pink columbine in particular has been blooming for about three weeks!  
Due to the angle of the sun on the blossoms, I could only get the leaves in focus in this photo, but the close-ups below detail the flower faces.

And the "doubles" -- maybe quite a few times more than double?

That's the back yard.  Now for the front:

Irises and allium in full bloom welcomed us home from North Carolina.

The allium is spent now, but still striking:

Around the corner, weigiela (beauty bush) and a delicious assortment of lush peonies.

I may have reached the maximum of pictures I can upload to one post.  Look for a post on peonies, specifically, coming soon!

Don't be anxious.  
There is no need to be anxious.
If God invests this much in the beauty of flowers, 
how much more 
does He love and invest in us?  
(see Matthew 6:28-34)

Thursday, May 24, 2018

David's Graduation

We enjoyed David's graduation.  I will share a few pictures.

He wore a gold tie and yellow socks, so as not to clash with the green on his gown.  His precious in-laws presented him with that beautiful chess set as part of their graduation gift to him.

I love this picture.  
It captures the playful little boy I used to scoop up and carry close to my heart.  
Except, he's really tall now.

So pensive.

And it culminated with a Happy Mother's Day, besides!

God is faithful.
God is good.