Gardens and Graduates

I started my tomato plants indoors weeks ago, initially keeping them in the relative warmth and southern sunshine of a shelf in the window above the freezer in our laundry room. When they outgrew the laundry room, I jerry-rigged a clear-garbage-bag-incubator/greenhouse in the east window of the below-room-temperature upstairs bedroom. The geraniums were similarly situated in the west window by my art table.

Later, once the sunroom by the front door actually felt like a sunroom rather than a walk-in freezer, I put the tomatoes there during daylight hours, and shuffled them inside at night until the danger of freezing was past. Every time I checked, watered, or moved them, I’d run my hand through their leaves to simulate air movement and encourage them to strengthen their stems in resistance. They’d need this strong backbone to withstand the winds that cruise along the south side of the house where they would eventually spend the summer months.

Even with all my care to harden off the plants before finally transplanting them under a homemade wire-hoop-and-plastic “greenhouse,” they weren’t as resilient as I had hoped. The cool nights and early mornings weren’t a problem because of the insulating cover. Daytime exposure to direct sunlight sunburned a few tender topmost leaves, but nothing too concerning. I had even anticipated the prevailing west winds and put a stake on the east side of each of the tallest plants.

But one day a blustery wind whipped at the plastic cover and left the plants brutally exposed. All of the staked plants survived because they had the support needed to keep their still-strengthening stems from bending and breaking. Three of the shorter, un-staked plants were not so fortunate. The wind was too much for their untried youth. They bent and broke at the base of their stems.

I’ve since provided a stake for each of the remaining shorter plants.

Now, a few windy days later, all of the plants have developed thicker, hardy stems. Their roots have found purchase. They are established and growing. A few have even begun to form blossoms.

Ninety-two graduates “walked the stage” at my school last Friday. I fear that there are few of them whose stems are still too thin, too pliable and prone to easy bending and breaking. I wonder if they have the right support in the right places, supports they can lean into, supports that will hold fast. The winds of life can be gentle, but they can also become unrelenting storms. I hope that these young people have deep roots and sturdy supports. I hope their stems thicken, firm and strong and growing. I hope they don’t break. I hope — and pray. ▫️

☕️ Facing Hard Things

A Saturday Caesura

A new week began like most weeks do. The previous week with all of its ups downs and all arounds was, for better or worse, done. So here was this new week and you were grateful for the fresh scent of it, for the whiffs of promise wafting by on the first minutes and hours.

And then SLAM BANG BAM, you were flattened by a Very Hard Thing. Maybe you knew it was lurking in the shadows but hoped that ignoring it would make it go away. Maybe you saw it coming, but your last battle with a Hard Thing left you worn out and ill-equipped for this new Thing. Or maybe it wasn’t really a new Thing, just an old one returned to reclaim ground. Or conquer more ground. Maybe you didn’t suspect that this Very Hard Thing would ever exist in your life. And yet there you were, flat on your face, gut-wrenched, drenched in fear and despair. There were other emotions, too, but separating them from the messy mass enough to name them was an exercise for a calm and ordered mind, which of course, yours was not.

Too many people I know have been bowled over by Hard Things recently. While outwardly, hands, feet, whole bodies continued to propel through the Necessary Things, internal chaos churned and choked out hope and joy and purpose. Hard Things are…well, hard, even though their appearance, their weapons, their power are different for each of us.

I can’t tell others how to face their Hard Things, but I do know that Hard Things can be toppled over and stripped of their strength by prayer. I know this can sound like a pat answer dripping with “Christian-eze” and religious platitudes, but my lived experience keeps bringing me back to prayerful surrender to the God who knows All Things, has faced Very Very Hard Things on my behalf, and invites me to trust and rest in him for Every Thing.

It was through prayer that the Hard Thing of my week was replaced by a gentle and generous grace. Inner chaos settled into a quiet fatigue, then restful peace, and finally, gratitude and growth. Do I feel victorious? No, not really. But I do feel loved and seen and known and sustained. Sola Gratia.

☕️ Lilies

A Saturday Caesura

Almost ten years ago, someone brought several potted lilies to our son’s funeral service. After everyone had gone home and the other bouquets of flowers had faded and withered, I planted the lilies beneath a cluster of trees in our backyard. It was an act of hope that they would survive the winter — that I would survive this loss.

Since then, the lilies have bloomed every year, and each year I have learned more about living with grief.

In preparation for this year’s Great Backyard Redo, I moved the lilies last spring — built a raised bed specifically for them, watched them bloom in early summer, and then worried that their roots would be too exposed to survive the deep freeze of winter.

I began looking for signs of life as soon as the snow melted this spring. For the longest time there was nothing. I started to consider that these lilies could actually die and the thought began stirring and renewing the grief that had brought them to us to begin with.

I began breathing again when they began poking up green.

They had survived another winter.

The lilies are now thick with golden blooms. The taller ones will soon add splashes of burgundy red and I’ll keep breathing in the beauty and breathing out gratitude that although death is inevitable and grief is inescapable, life is full of unfathomable generosity and goodness.

☀️ Come

all who are weary and burdened,

which if we are honest,

is all of us:

fishermen and tax collectors,

doubters and zealots,

betrayed and betrayers,

women and children,

lame, blind, lost, bullied,

teachers, preachers, seekers,

carpenters, welders, garbage collectors,

doctors, mechanics, managers.

Regardless of skin colour,

earthly status or physical health,

or anything else —

the invitation is always, “Come.”

Come to me; listen and live,

follow and see what I, the Lord God,

have done…am doing…will yet do.

Come and find rest in me.

☀️ Time

A Sunday Doxology

I am not a physicist.

I am not capable of even an attempt

at reducing time into complex formulas

and many fellow non-physicists

would scoff when I acknowledge you,

Creator God

for separating light from dark,

for ordering time into units you called

day and night

for establishing their rhythms into

seasons and years.

Time, after all,

belongs to the realm of physics

as something difficult to define

less difficult to measure as

we mark seconds minutes hours weeks

organize into zones

readjust to ‘save’ daylight

worry over waste

fret over scarcity

wish for speed or slowness

according to our whim and fancy,

seeking control when

time is ultimately

yours.

You are the one who has taken eternity,

difficult to define and measure,

taken it in your hand

and set it in the human heart

and even with its tug, its longing, its hope,

we cannot begin to fathom all

you have done

from ancient times to what is still to come.

From everlasting to everlasting,

You are God.

Fine.

🌿 Wind

I worked to the rush of wind today;

it was steady and unrelenting in ways

I was not.

Does the wind ever wish it could just

pause,

know the singularity of a particular

place?

Or must it always be a wanderer on its

way somewhere

reminding us that change

is both unrelenting and inevitable,

never impossible.

That there is a way from west to east

from here to there,

from this to that,

from now to then.

🌿I Wonder

I wonder if the disciples woke up that morning

exhausted from anxious days

heavy with grief

burdened with shame

numb with despair.

I wonder it they had talked and talked and talked

trying to make sense

trying to recall kingdom words they had barely understood

now beginning to settle into something like hope

but if true

suggesting a future far greater than their yearnings

for a return to what was.

I wonder if the only thing they knew with certainty

was that the sun had risen

on another day.

Life continued.

I wonder what they felt the moment they grasped

this truth

in its greatest and most profound sense.