Perception and Breathing New Life

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February has always been a month of contrasts for me. The magic of the first snowfall is long gone, and the once flourishing garden is a tangle of gray, dormant branches and stems. And that lingering fatigue from the latest flu strain is getting old. On the other hand, it’s time for seed catalogs, late winter pruning, and first glimpses of crocuses. I think of my Star Word of the year, “perception,” and how one scene can trigger contrasting emotions — depending on one’s perception.

Here in Boise, the temperature has been in the 60s for the past few days, so my husband John and I picked up the pruning shears and headed for the patio and garden. Later, my mom and I savored the sunlight in our front yard. I’ve seen enough winters to know that spring always returns, but I admit I am relieved when I see those first shoots emerge in late winter.

 

“While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” Genesis 8:22

As we approach Lent and then Easter, I am keenly aware of God’s fierce and renewing love for His creation: a love that repeatedly breathes new life into our cloudy, icy mornings, and refuses to give up on any of us. It’s a love so fierce that it will lay down its life to give new life. A love that says “I forgive you” before it hears the words “I’m sorry.” A love that says “I love you where you are right now, because I can see past the dry, dead brambles and anticipate tender new growth.”

“Where man sees but withered leaves,
God sees sweet flowers growing.”
~Albert Laighton

I pray for sharpened perception as the Creator breathes new life into our dreams. What new perspective will He show us in a cherished but stale goal? What refreshed perception will we have of ourselves? What new beginnings will he create — as only He can create — out of what looks like ashes?

I hope that wherever you are, whatever your circumstances at this moment, that you sense the promise of renewal and rebirth in the coming seasons!

Settling Into Fall

After living in South Central Texas for five years, I had forgotten the joys of living within the rhythms of four seasons. It’s been seven months since we moved to Idaho, and our garden is finally settling into its fall rest after months of color and fragrance. I bought some leaf bags today, and we had our sprinkler system winterized and shut off this afternoon. The squirrels are still gathering the last of the black walnuts that have fallen from the neighbor’s tree, which now bears deep golden leaves. We are reminded to slow down and savor the cooler weather and the changing angles of the sunlight.

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Some of the hardier flowers are still in bloom. One of my favorite discoveries in the garden –planted by the previous owner of our home — is a bed of gaillardia. The first blooms appeared in June and persist into late October.

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There are many varieties of this long-blooming flower, with blossoms that range from    reddish orange to wine red or peach. They’re hardy in USDA zones 3 through 9, and produce a low, spreading bed of profuse blooms if you keep pinching off the spent flowers. In fact, the low-growing groundcovers are taking center stage as the taller perennials finish blooming.

Before we know it, we’ll be pulling weeds and deadheading rose bushes again. Meanwhile, we’ll let the changing seasons set our pace.

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“I’ll Be in the Garden”

So nice to be able to say “I’ll be in the garden.”  The irises have bloomed and faded, and it’s time to do some deadheading and cutting back. I take out a bag and a pair of pruning shears, and step onto our patio and yard.

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The Idaho sunshine is more direct now, and it isn’t long before some beads of sweat appear on my forehead. I can’t believe I’ve been wracking my brain trying to think of something to do outdoors, to break out of the exercise doldrums. I’m so used to living in an apartment on a major highway, I have forgotten how much I love a back yard.

“But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
    planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.”

Psalm 1: 2-3

I see many things I would have overlooked on any other day. As I clip back spent stems, I have a closer look at the ground covers that wind their way through the flower beds.

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I look up and see the plums on our tree, and the blossoms on the Japanese honeysuckle planted by the previous owner.

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I fill the bag with plant debris and head back to the patio, where a new bunch of daisies are blooming.

“The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them;

and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.”

Isaiah 35:1

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I shrug and wipe the sweat from my forehead with my arm, and gather some of the roses to take indoors.

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“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace;

the mountains and hills will burst into song before you,

and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”

Isaiah 55:12

If it’s a Saturday afternoon, I’ll be in the garden!

 

Multitude Monday: 186-193

 

A wise friend told us the other day that home-ownership is yet another opportunity to see how Jesus answers prayers. That certainly turned out to be true last week, after we discovered a slow, bubbling leak in our front yard, coming from underground. Many phone calls followed, along with price quotes and questions about water main pipes, sprinkler control valves and frost lines. This Multitude Monday, we are indeed thankful for answered prayer and many blessings, including:

186. A much more affordable pipe repair than we had feared, completed in a few hours. How Jesus carries us through again and again!

187. Carrying water to the back yard flower beds, giving the plants CPR as we wait for a sprinkler system tune-up.  Feeling the uneven, cool ground beneath the soles of my shoes. Remembering working in a garden, years ago at my grandfather’s house. Blessed to be working in our own garden now.

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188. Meeting our neighbors, waving across the street, across the yard. Respecting what has already been built, taking the first tentative steps toward belonging.

189. My first morning walk through the neighborhood…the first —  I hope — of many walks and runs!

190. Quiet evenings with the sun shining through our patio door, with no sound except for wind chime in the breeze. Able to hear ourselves think, realizing how big-city traffic had drowned out our thoughts for the past two years. Watching the birds dart through the golden light, catching bugs.

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191. Watching our cat Lucky stake out his favorite new places and settle into new rituals. Catnaps under the comforter, behind the couch, in front of the door.

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192. An impromptu late-afternoon nap for us as well, not realizing how much we needed plain old rest and sleep. Feeling the mind let go of the checklist, the number-crunching, the “don’t-forget-to” and “what-do-we-do-if.”

193. Seeing Jesus working in our everyday lives, renewing our hope. Knowing that He is here now, ready to catch us, comfort us or nudge us in a better direction.

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” John 14:26

I hope you’ll join us at Ann Voskamp‘s blog for more Multitudes on Mondays. See you there!

 

Multitude Monday: 178-185

 

“Unless the Lord builds the house,
    the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the guards stand watch in vain.”

Psalm 127:1 (NIV)

Early spring…what a perfect time for fresh starts, including a move to a new state! The home purchase and move took place after months — years, actually — of worries and prayers. Would we ever decide where to move? Were we waiting on the Lord’s timing? Had we misread His timing? Had we waited too long? Not long enough? The prayers of friends and family saw us through the entire process, which seemed endless during the past three months.

After an exhausting trip from Texas to Idaho, we were greeted by April showers and spring flowers at our new house. We now call Idaho home, and we feel especially blessed on this Multitude Monday. So many reasons to share gratitude…

178. A house of our own, with plenty of room and light.

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179. Looking forward to a promising future with my husband.

180. Splashes of colors and sunlight in our front and back yards. We arrived in time to enjoy the flower beds planted by the previous owner.

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181. Refreshing rain showers most of the week here in Boise, an area affected by drought.

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182. Our cat Lucky, adjusting very well and making himself at home.

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183. Spectacular views of the Rocky Mountain foothills from the city and from our street. Pictures to come!

184. Going shopping in a new town with my mom.

185. A chance to make snowballs during the drive from Texas to Idaho. What a change after that balmy Texas climate! We look forward to four seasons here in Idaho.

I hope you are enjoying the promise of spring. Have a wonderful week!