I have enjoyed so many walks around our neighborhood this month. There’s been this gradual unfolding of Spring. First, buds and baby leaves appeared on the trees, along with the green shoots of bulbs breaking through the ground. Then, over a period of several days, various trees started to bloom. The snowy Pears, delicate Tulip Magnolias, and soft Japanese Cherries first made their appearance down the catwalk. Next came the vibrant yellow Forsythia, deep fuchsia Redbuds, and radiant Star Magnolias like models posing to captivate their audience. Elegant tulips in rich shades of pink, yellow and red seemed to bloom overnight, along with dainty pale yellow Daffodils (or Jonquils as we call them in Texas). Finally, as the music builds dramatically, the glorious Azaleas burst forth in rich pinks, reds, purples, and pure white. Just in the last few days, my personal favorites – the heartwarming pink and white Dogwoods have made their soft appearance. Though I’m out walking, and this has taken place over the span of a month, I feel as if I’m watching God bring out all his beauties for me to enjoy. They are “stepping out queens!” (Any Van Morrison fans out there?)
Our unusually early Spring has inspired me to mulch the barren ground under the two Red Maples in our front yard, and to research pruning techniques for each of our flowering bushes. I can’t wait to enjoy our crimson Roses, perfectly pink Peonies, purple Catmint, Lavender, merlot Dahlias, pink Sedum, and the variety of herbs in our garden. Ginger and I dug up the earth to bury Anemone bulbs last month, and they are now breaking through the surface. After clearing away old yard toys buried under dead leaves against the back of the house, I tenderly placed fern bulbs that had already begun to sprout curly fiddle heads. I hope I didn’t wait too long to plant them, and that they take root before dying!
A couple of weeks ago, right before Virginia called for families to “shelter in place,” I invited my neighbor, Miskeenah, to join me in our front yard for some gardening. She brought Turkish coffee and chocolate cake, and I provided a tray of Jiffy Peat Pellets and a variety of seed packets. We sipped our coffee and nibbled on the cake while we watched the pellets expand with water. I smiled as Miskeenah’s eyes grew wide in amazement! We then poked our fingers into the dirt to create little cribs for the seeds to safely grow into baby plants.
This COVID-19 Pandemic has caused much loss and pain for so many individuals and families. I do not wish to minimize that reality as I share precious treasures gained at the same time. Sorrow and joy can both be present, and can even be produced by the same event.
In this post, I want to share about the renewal of my spirit that has occurred while sheltering in place with my family. The abrupt change of pace has provided the white space for many of us to contemplate our priorities, our activities, and our relationships. In many ways, this awakening of my heart mirrors the tender growth of Spring.
Three weeks ago, my dear friend Rica McCroy, author of the Bible study “Wildfire,” invited me to join a Facebook Bible study on Joy (click here to join the public page and participate over the next month – materials and videos), based on the writings of Paul in Philippians. I was mostly motivated to reunite with dear friends I haven’t seen in a long time, but also knew I wanted to spend more time reading God’s word. The topic was a bit intimidating. Joy…. deep, life giving joy, has not been a predominant state of my heart in recent years. Racing from school to school, and activity to activity, has left me pretty empty. We are doing GOOD things… but those good things have filled in the space that used to be filled with sitting at Jesus’ feet. Daily meditation on God’s word has been sporadic for the last two and a half years. I’ve had good reason to be busy and tired with four teenagers, but in the chaos, I’ve neglected the one relationship I treasure most.
The COVID shutdown, and a new commitment through Rica’s Bible study, have reminded me of the most precious priority I have. Filling my heart and soul with the loving teachings of Christ is my source of life and joy. The last eight years have been hard. In many ways they have been a long, spiritual winter. There would be signs of hope along the way – perhaps some early tender shoots of life breaking through the hard ground – but it was not SPRING!
As I’ve spent days and weeks in just the first couple of chapters of Philippians, I’ve had the mental energy and focus to think about what these verses say about Jesus, what that means for me, and to respond in faith, prayer, and worship.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.Philippians 2:5-11
This morning, while reading the above verses, a song that has come to mind off and on for the last couple of months, came again. Its message has been growing in my heart a little each day, like a bud in the spring. Today, my gratitude and joy blossomed into a glorious flower!
Thanks for reading my ramblings. I hope your heart is encouraged. I hope that COVID-19 is providing a time of reflection and renewal in your heart as it has in mine. Even as I type those two sentences, I know there are doctors, nurses, and essential personnel whose lives have grown busier than they were before the pandemic. If you are one of those, I am praying for you! I am grateful for the way you are serving the rest of us! Thank you
Featured Image Photo Credit: Ginger Sicks