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Posts Tagged ‘joy’

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The hillside garden

There’s just something about a garden path, isn’t there — inviting, drawing you in on a brief journey of discovery and delight. I know my littlest grand-girls love to skip off into the gardens, often pulling me along as they follow the adventure of a winding path, finding the brightest bloom, the biggest peas or the most perfect rose.

path 3I was out weeding in my gardens this morning, while the air was warming but before the sun got too hot, and I looked down along the little stone and brick walkway where I was sitting, overgrown with sedums and arched with daylilies about to burst open, and it struck me: All my little gardens have a path!

It certainly wasn’t intentional, like a grand master-plan, but perhaps more like instinct, responding to the landscape of the earth and the encounters of joy that a garden offers. Beloved JR enjoys the artistic challenge, too, and agreeably laid out for me the terraces, paths and little stone walls with old chimney brick and rocks from our brook. It is also a bit practical, I realize, as I step from the path amid the towering poppies and verbena bonariensis to nab a dandelion taking root in the mulch. Without a path, I couldn’t access the deeper parts of the perennial beds.

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among the veggies

And of course pathways make square foot veggie gardening even possible!

Gardens are such a source of enjoyment, satisfaction and worship to me; anyone who knows me knows this, the constant battle against bugs and weeds notwithstanding. In fact, I think being engaged with something that is quite a bit ‘out of control’ is part of the fascination! And just now, I think all the different paths are my favorite part!

So, plunked there in the middle of the stone path, kneeling on my well-worn little green cushion, I was surrounded by the magnificent mid-summer growth on either side and all the sensations of scent, color, texture, shape. I couldn’t see around the big wild geranium (which needs dead-heading!) at the bend of the path. I couldn’t see down the meandering steps that lead to the lower yard and the trellised berries beyond, or behind me, where the steps lead up to the other end of the little walkway, up into the grass of the upper yard, into the shade of the oak tree. This narrow way hemmed me in, but I found I felt safe, secure, cradled – surrounded by loveliness; and I trusted this friendly little path to guide me home. Naturally, this got me to thinking.

path 8

pathway along the herb garden

“I am the door,” Jesus said. “I am the way….. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 10:9, 14:6) And again, “Enter through the narrow way; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14) Disciples Paul and Timothy both clarified, “There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (1Timothy 2:5) and “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we are saved.” (Acts 4:12)

I know I was specifically taught, from an early age, that different people use different language to describe the way to God, and its all good. Whether you identify with Tao, or Buddha, or Gaia, or Jesus, or the Spirit of Love, it’s all the same path to Enlightenment and Eternal Wisdom. But then I met Jesus. The Person. Literally. And anyone who has encountered the Power of the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ in the face of evil simply cannot deny the Truth. I know I don’t respond to whatever name someone happens to want to call me, I have a name that belongs to me. And so does our Lord. One Name, One person, and One path through the garden of life. I’m so grateful to be on that path!

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My life as a spring morning

I can’t help it.  I am delirious.  The yard is freshly mowed, the temperatures are perfect, the air clean and fresh, the sky blue with those small, puffy white clouds, and I get to have my hands in the dirt.  The warm, rich, black dirt that we made from leaves and yard clippings, with the help of Roscoe, our intrepid herd of red worms imported to the compost bin for the job.  Everywhere I look, it is beautiful.  Plus, there is a bird song that I don’t recognize breezing up from the woods, so I have my binoculars close by, along with my tool basket.  I just don’t see how it gets better than this.

This is the time of year I love my gardens best.  It is all potential — before the gold rose chafers overwhelm the iris beds and the japanese beetles devour the berry patch and the slugs make mush out of the daylilies.  Any unplucked weeds are imperceptibly tiny, and the tomato hornworms aren’t even eggs yet.  The fresh mulch still has its warm cedar smell, and new annual flower seedlings are beginning to poke up in the flower beds (thanks Jan :)).  The baby chickadees are peeping in the bird box at the fence along our little apple orchard, and the young swallows have already fledged and are chattering along behind mommy as they swoop and soar, snatching bugs from the air.  And I will pick a big bowl of spinach for supper tonight.  The vegetables, too, are all full of potential, neat and tidy and sprouting green rows in their new beds.  Oh how loud can I write  I  LOVE  THIS!

And I marvel, how is it that I get to spend the morning in my garden on a perfectly glorious Friday in June…

I imagine part of my delirium comes from deeply knowing it is such a gift. Part of the delirium is gratitude; worshipful receiving.  I have this joy today, but keenly remember that it wasn’t always so, and there may well come a day when it will not be again.  I carry the hardship of facial palsy every day, and the memories of affliction and sorrow not too many years ago, and the scars of childhood wounds in my soul.  But these are now all in the light, where Jesus touches, as peonies open in the sunshine.  I am conscious of those I know and love who bear much worse, and weep aloud with cries of  ‘O Lord, where is the gift for them?’  But in the moment, my moment, I receive this gift with open arms, lifted heavenward like the perfect iris blooming, turning a face to the Creator, and the tears aren’t of grief, but an Ode to Joy.

Surely Heaven has gardens.  Lots of them – dirt, bugs and all.  We know Eden did, so maybe it’s an important part of being human.  I know my heart sings and worships best in a garden, with the intimacy of miracles all around.

“On my word,

a single May

is too heady for my blood.”

Rainer Maria Rilke, The 9th Elegy

White iris – praise uplifting

Momma phoebe flying over the hillside garden

Veggies coming

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I’m fretting about my lavender.  This has not been a typical winter, and I don’t even need my high boots to walk through the garden, let alone snowshoes, which by this time of the season are, normally, pretty much de rigueur.  These temps and snowfall seem to belong, maybe, in North Carolina, or perhaps Connecticut, but certainly not Vermont.  By now, it should be warmer in my freezer than outdoors, and I should require snowshoes to fill the bird feeders, and my parka should have its big furry hood zippered on for the winter.  But none of that has been necessary so far.  There are only a few inches of snow on the ground, and the temperatures will get above freezing again today and tomorrow, and for the rest of the week.  For the sake of my lavender, I hope things change…. I hope REAL winter comes soon.

Deep snow cover and consistent cold temperatures (by cold, I mean below freezing) are necessary to keep the lavender, and other non-zone-4- hardy plants, from heaving their roots.  Without the protection of a good layer of snow, if the ground begins to thaw and then re-freezes, and maybe does that several times, the roots of non-hardy plants will loosen in the soil and the nutrients will be pulled up into the thawed stems.  By spring the plant will likely be dead.  In my zone, it’s a good rule-of-thumb to cover these non-hardy plants with leaves or pine branches once the ground first freezes, but I have come to rely on, besides finding the best protected spot for my lavender, our winter weather to do the job for me.   I’ve lost many lavender plants over the years, but this one has survived, grown big and sprawly and generous, and I love it.  So, this year, with no winter so far to speak of, I’m worried about my lavender.

early morning thornbush

Once, as a young girl, some small grief had me undone, it seemed, to the depth and core of my being.  I don’t remember the incident, I wish I did, but it was some matter of injustice I’m sure.  I was a sensitive child (exquisitely sensitive, I now say…) and was deeply troubled by things that weren’t right.  My father found me weeping — I would go into his study and curl up in his big leather chair when I needed a good cry — and he did what he usually did when he found me there.  He simply sat quietly next to me and didn’t say a word.  Sometimes he would stroke my head, but not very often.  Mostly he just sat, as if he already understood.  When my shoulders stopped heaving and the sobs turned to heavy sighs, he would only say, “are you better now?” and his strength and warmth and kindness and the faint smell of his pipe tobacco would seem like the best hug in the world, and then I was okay again to go back out and face the world.

But this one time, I was aware of how keenly I was upset; and I recognized that my siblings and classmates, well, everybody else for that matter,  didn’t seem to ever become as thoroughly distressed as I often did.  Something must be wrong with me, I figured.  Something broken. This I remember: I wailed,  Daddy, how come I get like this??

My father could be a fierce person, very scary.  I didn’t always recognize his love, but I think I always recognized his wisdom. This time, his answer was gentle.   Because you have a deep soul, he said.  You feel everything more deeply.  It is not a bad thing, because it means you can feel joy more deeply too.  And I knew he was right.  He took me to the window, and we looked out on the bare winter trees and the snow on the ground, and the gray winter sky.  He said to me,  It is winter now,  cold and dark.  But summer will always come.   There are many seasons, but there is only one sun.  You may feel the depths of many things, but you have only one heart to feel them with. 

For my lavender, a good winter is necessary for strong blooms in the coming summer.  I wish us all the joy of blooming.

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there was within me an invincible summer.”  Albert Camus.

in my backyard, winter as it should be...

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Do you ever have moments where delirious joy just bubbles up and takes over? Your chest is barely big enough to contain your heart? Worship and praise tumble out without words but sound a lot like laughter? It surprised me this morning…. Gladness simply from being alive.

I was sitting in my morning chair on the porch, sunshine on my face, my eyes closed, listening to the family of phoebe’s babbling away, the cardinal boasting from the top of the oak, and suddenly the quiet breeze carried a thrush song from down in the woods, beautiful and eerie. At the same time the breeze brought the sweet scent of the newly opening Concha d’Or lilies and when I breathed deep to take in that spectacular, powerful perfume, heaven came with. I was aware of all the senses, from the taste of warm coffee to the sun to the songs and smells, and it overwhelmed me with joy. Moments before I had been praying for dear friends and family, and my cheek was still wet from a few shed tears. The sun magnified the passion on my cheek and in my heart. More than my body could contain.

This brief moment this morning stirred me with wonderment. I remember hanging clothes on the line yesterday, stretching wet sheets in the hot sun, and heard myself belting out the refrain “I-EE-Yie will always love You-oo-ou”. I most certainly didn’t rival Whitney, or dear Dolly, but in God’ ears I’m confident it was pleasing. (One reason I’m grateful we don’t have near neighbors out here in the countryside☺) Sometimes I can’t help but sing hymns while I’m working around the house — especially hanging out clothes, for some reason. Praise and thanksgiving and unexpected joy just happens. And this morning with the sun on my face, I marvel at the miracle.

Because, not so many years ago, I was curled up in a ball, terrified to be alive, terrified to be with people, terrified to wake up in the morning, and I had two young children. Chronic depression and anxiety had been with me all my life, and really didn’t know any other way to experience being alive. Sadness and exhaustion and emptiness was normal, but I managed to keep up appearances. How JR suffered for me and with me….

My anguish was a daily prayer and cry to God: Why?? Help me help me. I had tried to commit suicide several times in the past, mostly a scream for help I understand now. Receiving the truth and person of Jesus Christ had probably saved my life, literally, and provided Hope. There was One who loved me. Yet, still I battled the depression. I curled up with the Scriptures, especially the Psalms, and let Jesus be my Counselor. At the bottom, at the worst time, my only lifeline seemed to be clinging to Psalm 27: “I would have despaired, unless I believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord…” I clung on, and waited. Hope was my only hope in the midst of my despair. I WILLED myself to believe that, someday, in my life, I would see and know God’s goodness.

I believe now it was the Holy Spirit herself, willing within me, and moving mountains. Courageous intervention from friends, medication, finally enough sense of safety to be willing to share my story and ask for help, all these things aided to bring me up out of the pit. And set me on a high place. A place where quiet joy is a true habitation. Where I enjoy simple things and find myself singing in the sunshine. or the rain.  Where the bounty of the earth brings deep satisfaction. Where the Holy Spirit continues to enliven and surprise me. Where the companionship of Jesus is rich and real.

I am humbled in my joy this morning to remember something the Vicar said in Les Miserables: “The most beautiful of altars,” said he, “is the soul of an unhappy man who is comforted, and thanks God.” Sometimes, the gratitude bubbles up out of nowhere and takes me by surprise.

Clematis & Star Gazers

single yellow Hollyhocks

Lovely scented Lily

Black Raspberry

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