Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Gardening as a Metaphor for Life

Lovely White Azaleas

"The only success is faithfulness" ~ Mother Teresa

Gardening is one of the great joys of my new life in Virginia. I want to be outside today, up to my elbows in dirt and worms, digging and weeding, but it suddenly turned too cold and I am a wimp. With my fingers crossed for tomorrow, I am planning new plantings. This year so far I am growing my favorite vegetables-tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash, salsa peppers, asparagus;  and my favorite herbs--basil, cilantro, chives, lavender; and strawberries, apples, peaches, hybrid roses and assorted bulb flowers. The cilantro I planted last summer is finally full and bountiful and I am going to make some dressing out of a bunch of it today. My husband cut a bouquet of  Double Delight roses, yesterday, the first of the season, all mottled pink and white like a tye-dye petticoat. My gorgeous tulips are shriveled and gone for this year, but we just planted 20 big white azaleas, all along the edges of our "Chapel of the Pines" in the forest. Perhaps some bright Spring day, one of my grandchildren will be married in that beautiful tree alley, surrounded by the soothing sound of leaves hushing in tall trees and clouds of huge white azaleas lining the path. But that potential romantic outcome requires me to plan ahead and plant now. 

It is interesting to note how much of our garden labor is for future enjoyment. Everything we sow in Spring, awaits the Summer or Fall, or even the next Spring, to be richly enjoyed. In the case of asparagus, it's a three year wait to get a small harvest. Our newly planted azaleas are in season now, but they won't really be show-y till next April, and they won't reach their true height or glory for several years. The same with my new crape myrtle tree. I love the full-grown ones, but mine won't  look sensational, with colorful bark and radiant white flowers for several years to come. Gardening requires the utmost patience and a long look to the future. 

My life is like that too. Building a marriage with Joe, raising responsible, loving children ( and grandchildren), building my faith--all require relentless, sometimes laborious, sowing and cultivating, all in the hopes that there will be a bountiful harvest in the future. It is even more true with our Joey in Heaven,  now far away, for whose sake I am forsaking all the temporary lures of this life to fully trust Jesus. I am planting my seeds in the world to come. Patience, perseverance, endurance, long-suffering...these are my words now.  They are urging me to plan for a Springtime unforeseen and unimagined, beauty for ashes in a Garden unsurpassed. 

Galatians 6:9

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Power of Female Friendships...

...to get you through life. She says it all.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

When Tragedy Strikes

Does lightning strike twice? Apparently so. Yesterday a well-known family in our community got into a terrible car accident on their way home from vacation. Five of them are in the hospital, and their 16 year old son, James, passed away at the scene.  This same family lost a child to a drowning accident less than a year ago. With Charlie's death, they openly grieved through a family blog and on facebook, as well as allowing the local newspaper to print some of their heartwrenching journal pages. Their faith has been an anchor. Now a fresh wave of grief is upon them, on top of injuries, hospitalization, a world that they were slowly navigating has been turned irrevocably upside-down.

I know it's a tragic world, but sometimes the depth of the sorrow, loss and pain leave me stunned COLD. Shocked. Aching.   "Again?", I say. There is always more pain to be dealt out than I can imagine. I force myself to sync back into what I know of God to make any sense of the situation. I try to integrate it with the answers I've found the past few years. The question of how He allows it is always there. The answer that this world is under a curse of pain is also always there.

Post-bereavement,  I look at tragedy with a wider lens. I wonder about it from two vantage points--the earthly and the heavenly. When something like this happens, I easily see the shock waves on earth. In relative terms, the physical injuries are the easy part.  I pray for strength that this group of precious people may not sink under the emotional weight of multiple shattered dreams. I pray for mercy, strength and courage for  the difficult recovery that lies ahead.  I pray for support to surround this marriage so that it will resolve to carry on when so much has been lost, for the sake of all that remains. I see a father who may be riddled with toxic guilt and pray for the peace that passes understanding. These people will need to be carried on a stretcher of grace and compassion for a very long time, so that in that paradoxical world of spiritual economics, they can lose and still come out ahead.

From the heavenly perspective, I wonder how it unrolled yesterday. Was there an all points bulletin issued by an archangel that said, "Urgent. Angel army required". Did they promptly report for duty, with some being assigned the task of escorting James to Paradise, some tending the injured at the scene, some helping this poor afflicted father just to continue to breathe? Did little Charlie, eager with anticipation, stand at the gates and wait for James to arrive? Perhaps he wrapped his big brother in a hug and said, "I am so glad you are here with me. Our family really will be okay. Our Father has sent reinforcements. He will enable them to use even this for His glory. We will wait for them all here, and when they come, they will see, too." Did James, now filled with joy and wonder at his new surroundings, smile in agreement and note that his little brother radiated beauty and wisdom?  How does it work on that side of things, the invisible side? I hope it's something like that.

This life is an enormous messy hands-on test of faith, hope and love. My son called it "a raw glorious mess." We are all in for it, and none of us will escape unscathed. Yet even in the worst messes, I have seen that our God is like a quiet nurse, present, guiding, easing, touching, lifting, gentle. I have experienced that. He is not a traffic cop with a megaphone directing traffic, handing out tickets. He quietly gets in the mess with us. He wallows in the pain there with us.  He gently tends the wounded. He bandages and applies ointments. He resets the broken places.  He takes His time. He raises us up through the wreckage. He shines His light over it all. We have to wipe the blood out of our eyes to see Him, sometimes we have to call out in our blindness, but when we do, we see He is there. I have faith that He will help this family through the unspeakable, as He has helped me, because He is our help in time of need. Lightning not only strikes twice, it strikes countless times... every day, everywhere. Thankfully, when it strikes, it brings the light with it.

In honor of James Normile

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Our Family

I finally got our Thanksgiving pictures from our friend Crystal. I decided not to wait for a special occasion to put up the photo. Isn't it special enough that we have one another, that we have this day, that we share this journey together? Life changes quickly and is not in our control. I want to carpe diem this moment and thank God for it. My family gives me so much strength, purpose, and love and they mean everything to me. The baby isn't ours, by the way. She belongs to the photographer. :)