When Darkness Falls

Morning dawned with the first snowfall and a flurry of activity. Even before I rolled out of bed, requests for help to find warm winter wear rang out from the hallway.

“Mom! I need warm socks!”

“Does anyone know where my boots are?”

“Mittens please!”

I blinked at the clock. Impossible! It might as well have been Christmas morning! The kids buzzed with excitement as they layered on their snow pants, jackets, toques, mittens and boots and tumbled out the door and into a chilly wonderland.

A deep layer of pure, white, heavy snow pressed the branches of the neighbour’s trees toward the ground. This one had yet to drop its leaves, much later in the season than usual. We’ve had a long, warm autumn with days upon days of sunshine, blue sky and t-shirt weather, but it’s giving way to the days of hot chocolate, sledding and snow angels.

And darkness.

November ushers in a pre-dinner sunset, with long, dark evenings and plunging temperatures. In years past, it has been my most difficult month to hold onto hope in all things. The combination of colder weather, longer evenings, and the urgency of the approaching year-end tempts me to slip into my grumpy pants for a while.

This year, though, I am determined to light a candle when the nights get too long for my liking. When the light fades into early darkness, I’ll lean into the hope of a flickering flame and rediscover the beauty of the soft glow. But more than that, I’ll remind myself of this:

“For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord,
    my confidence since my youth.

From birth I have relied on you;
    you brought me forth from my mother’s womb.
    I will ever praise you.

I have become a sign to many;
    you are my strong refuge.

My mouth is filled with your praise,
    declaring your splendor all day long.”

Psalm 71:5-8 (NIV)

Image: Stocksnap

Thankful

That little sunflower, the one from April that nearly drowned after my earnest 7 year old cared a little too much for it, is three feet tall now.

It stands guard at our front window, watching the sun cross the sky from morning ’til night, a stalwart reminder of resilience in the face of trials of too much water, not enough water, hungry critters, heat that rivalled the desert, and now the kiss of frost.

I’ve often said that I don’t garden because I’m good at it; I garden because it teaches me things. Every year I marvel at the wonders the Lord brings out of my feeble efforts to grow beautiful and delicious things. I’m slowly realizing that it really isn’t me that’s doing the work. Some plants that I thought would thrive have long since shrivelled up, and the ones that I had little hope for are still blooming in Technicolor as the last few weeks of summer fade into the glory of fall.

We are not self-made. Each of us is a garden of hopes and dreams, where ones we think will thrive die off and ones that were planted without a thought grow tall and strong and beautiful, surprising us with a fragrance of life that fills our senses and thrills us beyond measure. God’s goodness is truly astounding!

While roses and sunflowers bloom and carrots and beets sweeten in the frosty night air, the golden and amber paintbrush of fall begins to touch the edges of the landscape.

Thanksgiving is on the horizon and it’s all too fast for me, to be honest. That’s usually when the initial waves of cold and flu season are slamming our home, school and fall commitments are ramping up and the urgency of the final days of warm weather pull us outside as often as possible. Nearly a decade ago I began a tradition of Three Weeks of Thanks, where we spend the three weeks before Thanksgiving intentionally focussing on gratitude and preparing our hearts. In years past, we’ve done handprint leaves out of construction paper with the things we’re thankful written on them. They go up on the wall under a “tree” of sorts, as if they’re gently whirling to the ground. I already know what mine will say.

Our eldest is a pre-teen. Our youngest is off to kindergarten this year. And the in-betweeners are in the thick of elementary-age experiences. No longer are the wee hours of the morning fraught with spills and potty accidents, nor are the evenings quiet with kids in bed early. It’s easy to write a blog when your kids are little; the material writes itself! There are so many adorable moments and I’m glad I’ve recorded some, but as they get older, the stories are shifting. My children are becoming their own people and I’m learning so much about them and myself as we grow together.

That means this space is shifting too. Gone are the days of a young mama sharing about sleepless nights and applesauce smears, here are the days of a late-thirties mom of four learning to trust the One who made these sweet ones to take care of them in the way that only He can.

For this journey, I am thankful.

Thank You Jesus for these hopes and dreams that are thriving right in front of me. I am fully aware that these aren’t by my hand but Yours. You are the Master Gardener, and I’m living proof that Your plans are far better than mine ever were.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.” James 1:17-18 NIV

Image: Stocksnap

These Things I Know

August has a way of reminding me that summer can’t last forever. The heavy scent of harvest is in the air, with its sweet promise of abundance. Most years a north wind blows through in the third week and abruptly ends the warmth of summer but this year the sun is standing its ground. Amid the heat, we’re catching glimpses of shorter days with a post-6am sunrise and a few leaves turning here and there, and we’re making the most of these final schedule-free days.

Amid summer’s dying embers, fall looms in the distance. Routines, requirements, responsibilities — all await a fresh energy and positive attitude built up over the months of rest. We’re preparing for the new school year and the rhythm of life that September brings, with all its challenges and opportunities. I’m steeling myself and praying that the Lord would remind me of a few things as we launch into this fall.

Work is a blessing

Whether I deem the work to be meaningful or not, I am formed in the process of carrying it out. The excitement of work I love reveals God’s goodness to me. When I have the opportunity to do the things I enjoy and do well, I live out His design in my life and reveal His glory. The drudgery of tasks I don’t enjoy reminds me that not everything is about me. The toilet, the laundry pile, the dishes in the sink – each one is an opportunity to live out a love that costs me something by laying down my pride, leading by example and serving others well. Either way, the blessing remains.

Rest is essential

When I push myself past the point of no return, it’s not only I who suffer but those around me who bear the weight of my foolishness. My irritability and inability to manage well becomes a sharp sword in my hands, hurting the ones I love the most. Repairing the damage is a painful and lengthy process. When I rest well, I submit to the limits of my body and mind and enjoy the good gift that God has designed as nourishment for myself and my relationships. It becomes an essential part of what it looks like to live well.

Consistent times of worship and prayer are non-negotiable

It’s one of the easiest things to neglect – but also one of the costliest. How quickly I forget who God is! The only One who made me and knows me inside and out, who can bear the weight of the heavy things I’m carrying, who is sovereign over all and yet walks with me step by step, whose mercies are new every morning – He is the One who holds it all together. When I am rooted in Christ’s love through worship from the Word and time in prayer, I am grounded and ready for the temporary challenges that stand in front of me. My perspective shifts from the struggle of the here-and-now to the promise of the what-will-be and I live with my eyes wide open to God’s work in my life. It must be a daily practice.

Community is a gift

As much as I like to fly solo, I am learning that it is unwise to consistently attempt to go it alone. Accepting help is not my forte, but in His great wisdom the Lord has graciously placed people in my life to gently walk along with me in every area. The insecurities left over from previous rejections and hurts are slowly transforming into confidence and strength. Learning how to be a contributing member of the circles we inhabit is crucial for our growth, offering us much more than we can obtain in isolation. We need this.

Lord, let these truths settle into my heart as we prepare for September. Help me stand my ground against the distractions and temptations to go my own way, and keep me on Your path.

Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;

indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;

the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;

 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

The glory of an August sunset on the Prairie (image credit: my dad)

Slowing Down to Savour

A temporary relief from the stifling heat of summer is so welcome! Dark clouds hang overhead, yet to give us the treasure within. We’re waiting for the rain to fall after a week of bright blue skies, blazing sunshine and hot, sleepless nights.

Summer is sailing along now, heavy with the scent of life in full bloom. All the things we’ve planted are showing their resilience in the face of hail and heat. Some stand tall regardless of what comes, others are crushed beneath the weight of the elements or become food for critters and birds bent on survival.

Saskatoons are slowly ripening, but the sparrow stole my only strawberry of the year. Though the plants are young and the soil likely needs more nutrients, I have hope that in future years we’ll have more berries. Maybe I’ll expand the patch in a few more years if the plants are doing well.

Amid all the flowers and fruit, our kids are engaged in the very serious business of backyard play. With four between the ages of 5 and 11, there is no shortage of ideas on how to spend the day. Morning ’til night, with short breaks for food and responsibilities, they play. And play. And read. And play. I believe in the gift of a rather boring summer, with loads of space in the schedule to literally do nothing, if that’s what they want to do. Of course, the responsibilities are always an expectation, but otherwise, we aim for a rather carefree summer pace.

I glance outside. The much-needed moisture begins with sprinkles at first and then turns to a steady, gentle rain. The thirsty ground is soaking up the blessing of a long, cool drink. Trees bend in the wind and robins impatiently pull the surfacing worms out of the ground.

The kids wander around for a while before becoming thoroughly soaked and chilly. In the back door they tumble, asking for a late snack, although lunch is nearly ready. It’s our daily reset button, a gathering around an abundant table, filling their hungry bellies and setting them on track for the afternoon ahead.

I don’t want to forget what it was like in this season of life. I am learning to slow down and savour the small, ordinary moments of each day. These scenes are mainly for me, snapshots of what life is like in these good old days, moments captured on paper and in photos, and mostly, in my mama’s heart.

All four kids, home together, more of a gift than I can fully appreciate, I’m sure. That old cliche rings true: “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.”

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom….
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.”

Psalm 90:12, 14 (NIV)

The pansies are doing alright this year. Grateful.

In Hidden Places

Out on a hike in early spring, few signs of life are emerging. Purple crocuses are the first to peek their heads out of the ground, searching for sunshine. Rustling in a syncopated rhythm, the long, flat, brown grass dances in the breeze. Trees reach to the sky, slowly awakening after this long winter’s nap, though not quite prepared to unfurl their leaves in the chilly wind. 

The kids bound down the trail and slide into a small grove, eyes wide, drinking in the sights of the peaceful wood. If you held out a bit of bread you could share it with the resident chickadees, who would happily land on your hand for a small crumb. My eyes travel up to the tippy tops of the tallest branches, across and then down the rough bark, looking for anything unusual or interesting to share with my co-adventurers.

There it is. Down at the bottom, where the tree meets the bed of dried grass, a green beacon in a sea of brown: a patch of moss thriving in the golden glow of spring sunshine.

Growing in the hidden places.

Equipped to do so, too. Some types of moss still grow underneath the snow, with remarkable built-in protections like an antifreeze and sunblock of sorts when the weather is too cold and the sun is too bright.

Four small heads lean in close to see the emerald and lime hues sparkling in the light. This remarkable little plant is often overlooked in favour of blooming flowers and budding leaves, especially in warmer seasons. It is epitome of grit, flourishing in places other plants are simply not capable. Moss has been found in some of the harshest environments on the planet, with evidence of one type that went dormant for 400 years before springing back to life.

After a minute or so, the kids jump up and continue on with their adventure, climbing over logs and scampering through the brush, but I linger behind to snap a photo before catching up with their fast little legs.

The photo was forgotten until just a few days ago when I nearly scrolled past it looking for something else. My mind returned to that early spring hike on the sleepy hillside. During what has been a particularly challenging week, this unsuspecting patch of moss is a gift to me, a picture of fortitude and tenacity, reminding me of the One who equips us to grow in hidden places.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:7-18 NIV

Tenacity.

A Little Cup of Soil

I am never more amazed than when, after planting a seed, watering and waiting, a little green sprout pushes its way up toward the light.

It wasn’t looking so good for this particular little cup of soil though. The other three had just the right amount of water and light, but this one was drowning. My seven year old ran up to me with the mud sloshing around in the cup, tears in her eyes.

“Mom! Everyone else’s sunflower came up but mine! I think I added too much water!” She was heartbroken. I double-checked the tray, and sure enough, three sunflower sprouts were reaching for the sunshine and the fourth was barren.

“Hmm,” I mused. “Let me see what we can do.” I wasn’t so sure it would work. In her excitement for trying her hand at gardening, she dropped the cup right after planting the seeds and then watered it within an inch of its little plant life. 

I carefully poured out some of the standing water, absorbed the rest with a paper towel and gently shook the cup to loosen the solid mass of soil that was left. We set the cup back on the tray in the light, hoping for the best.

Every day, I received the daily plant report: “nothing”.

Then, just a few days later, the story changed. “MOM! It’s coming up!”

Two tiny light green specks appeared in the middle of the black earth, pressing on through obstacles the other plants had never seen! These sunflowers were determined to succeed despite being dropped, losing half their soil and nearly drowning.

This little cup of soil burst with new life the week before Easter and it’s not lost on me. In His mercy, the Lord uses ordinary things to remind me of who He is. In John 11, Jesus meets Martha on the road after her brother Lazarus died, and they have a short conversation about resurrection. She tells Him that if He had been there, her brother would not have died, but even now she knows who He is.

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’

‘Yes, Lord,’ she replied, ‘I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.’ ” (John 11:25-27 NIV)

She has faith in Jesus to do the impossible, and shortly after, He does. Lazarus is raised to life again by a word. Jesus calls him and he walks right out of that grave, still wearing those strips of linen around his hands and feet and face. Jesus says ,“Take off the grave clothes and let him go”. And the Pharisees begin to plot to get rid of Jesus.

He knew what He was doing, and it was all motivated by love. Often, I’ve read Ephesians 2 and have been stopped in my tracks by various phrases in the first ten verses:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:1-10 NIV)

Because of Christ, no longer do we have to wonder if the seeds are going to sprout! He is not just our great example of how to love our neighbour as ourselves; He is our salvation. It is His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead that gives us true life! 

We can walk through this earthly experience continually laying down our lives with joy, carrying a hope that cannot be deterred by circumstances, knowing that one glad morning we will wake up in the presence of the One who made us, knows us, loves us and gave His life for us so that our fellowship with Him can never be broken.

Hallelujah, what a Saviour! He is Risen!

Little sprouts (image: mine)

The In-Between Season

March may be considered spring in some parts of the world, but not here. We know better. 

In these parts we keep our winter boots next to our sandals. Our snow shovels coexist with our garden rakes. Up and down we go in a dance, swinging from a glorious glimpse of warmth and sunshine to wild blast of snow and ice and back again. 

I used to strongly dislike it.

I grew up in a part of the country that had distinct seasons. When winter came, summer trappings were tucked away for the next six months and cold weather gear took their place next to the door. After months of icicles on our eyelashes, northern lights dancing and pastel-coloured morning skies where ice crystals sparkled in the soft sunshine, the blue skies of April finally dawned and our bikes and sandals slowly emerged along with the migratory birds. 

When I moved here, I couldn’t understand how people lived with such volatile weather. You never knew what you’d wake up to, no matter how hard the forecast tried, especially in spring. It has taken several of these wild seasons to adjust to the carefree elements that come with living in the shadow of the mountains, where the heavy spring snow and the warm spring melt happen just a few hours apart. In fact, I’ve come to rather enjoy the ride.

The warmth of the March sun is invigorating, reminding me to live in the moment and take my kids out into the muddy puddles while we still have them. And when the snow brings much-needed moisture to our dry soil, we welcome it as a gift, knowing that it won’t last.

There is beauty in every season.

This week, I saw my first winter-white bunny with hints of brown, noticed the buds on the trees preparing to burst into bloom many weeks from now, heard the trickle of flowing water as the sun hugged the icicles on the roof.

And then, snow and cold returned, this time slowly and with the mysterious beauty of an icy veil. In the afternoon hours of a rather foggy, snowy day, we emerged from our house and made our way along our rather ordinary street, transformed into a Narnia-like wonderland after hours of winter mist.

Stunning. Magical. Absolutely enchanting.

“Wow! Look at that the trees! They’re so beautiful!” My seven year old’s eyes were wide with wonder, drinking in the living winterscape around her.

Thank You Lord for the constant reminder of Your love and care. For Your handiwork, evident in the frost-covered branches of a tree, gently hanging in the stillness of a cold early March afternoon. For praise uttered from the lips of children captivated by the world You have made. For these moments that pierce our hearts with Your glory. For Your gift of common grace that reveals beauty in every season. But most of all, for how all of these things point us to You as our true source of life.

This is the in-between season, not fully winter, not fully spring. It’s not lost on me that this season coincides with our journey toward Easter, an invitation to prepare our hearts for the most pivotal point in history and the central reason for our faith. As we consider humanity and the condition we find ourselves in, may the gradual lengthening and warming of the days remind us that our hope lies only in the saving grace made possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. May we place our faith in Him, experiencing the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, empowering us to live out the love of Christ in our regular, everyday challenges and triumphs.

“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” 

Ephesians 4:1-6 (NIV)

Image: Stocksnap

For the Tough Days

There is something that grieves me so deeply I am rendered immobile with sorrow if I dwell on it too long. It’s a situation I have no control over; in fact, I am simply a spectator. I have reasoned, begged, pleaded and prayed – and the situation remains the same. The pain that comes with this kind of experience is something I simply cannot explain. Is God really good? Yes. Can I understand why He allows this to continue? No. My heart takes comfort in knowing that one day all will be made clear. And yet, it is so difficult to watch. This morning I am thinking about the different Scriptures that help me focus on Him while the storms are raging.

Each heart knows its own bitterness,
and no one else can share its joy.
Proverbs 14:10

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
1 Peter 5:7

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:8-10

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.
2 Corinthians 1:3-7

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13

Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Let His Word wash over your weary heart today and carry you through.

Morning skies (image: mine)

If Ever

This morning as I was thinking about the current state of the world, the words of an old hymn popped into my mind: If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

My generation is living through its first lengthy world-altering crisis. Two years of fear, distance and polarization with no definite end in sight can feel overwhelming. Some say “this too shall pass”, but from our current vantage point it feels like putting the pieces back together will take a lifetime. We are the generation that believed that if we just worked hard enough and did all the right things, we could control the outcome of our lives. And now we are living the endless reality that things beyond our control can upend our plans in the blink of an eye, not just personally, but collectively, thanks to an historic global event.

Fear is sneaky. It whispers in our ears in the dark of the night and screams headlines from our newsfeeds. It warns us of our limitations and finite knowledge, wrapping its frigid fingers around our hearts, squeezing the hope right out of us. We are acutely aware that we can’t protect our kids from everything. We watch our loved ones face great difficulty and weather our own unexpected situations, fully grasping that life is a vapour.

Psalm 13 has always been a great source of comfort for me in dark times:

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
    Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
    and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

David is clearly in a state here. We have a deeply personal prayer filled with desperate language. And then, somehow, in the midst of all the talk of being forgotten by God, wrestling with thoughts, waking day after day with sorrow permeating each part, feeling defeated and overcome by enemies, the psalm ends like this:

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.

A sharpening of focus reveals where our hope can truly be found. The grief of loss is a slow burn that may not ever be extinguished this side of heaven, but we can learn to say “I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation” because of Jesus. He is that beautiful gift of hope for a world reeling in panic and confusion. He is unfailing love. He is our salvation. Romans 5:1-8 is a solid reminder of the truth that God has not left us alone to wander through this life with dread in our hearts.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Amen and Amen! Friends, we have nothing to fear. Let us learn to sing the Lord’s praise in the face of uncertainty, for He has been good to us!

My Jesus, I love thee, I know thou art mine;
for thee all the follies of sin I resign;
my gracious Redeemer, my Savior art thou;
if ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

I love thee because thou hast first loved me
and purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree;
I love thee for wearing the thorns on thy brow;
if ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

I’ll love thee in life, I will love thee in death,
and praise thee as long as thou lendest me breath,
and say when the deathdew lies cold on my brow:
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

In mansions of glory and endless delight,
I’ll ever adore thee in heaven so bright;
I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow:
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

(Canadian William Featherston penned the words to “My Jesus I Love Thee” somewhere between the ages of 12 and 16. He died at the age of 26.)

Blue skies in January

New Year, Same Things

New year…same things.

We’ve cultivated some beautiful rhythms over the past year that I’m not quite ready to replace. I love the small signs that we are, in fact, in an entirely new year, with decorations safely tucked away and some small progress made in our organizational plans around the house. The calendar hanging in the kitchen has a new theme. I’m writing ’22 in my journal. And we’re receiving invitations to make plans in the months to come.

But some things have remained the same, thankfully.

Maybe it’s my current stage of life, maybe it’s because the majority of our family celebrates birthdays in winter and it always has me feeling all kinds of ways about how fast life goes and all the constant changes each new year brings, but I love the little ways the Lord reminds me that His love never changes and His hope endures, even when everything else around me rides a roller coaster.

It has me asking, at what point does something become a tradition? For the third year in a row, I’ve brought home the same kind of short, wide plastic pot of spring bulbs from the grocery store. I’ve had great success plunking said pot on top of my piano and neglecting it until the hyacinth, tulips, daffodils, irises and other beauties sprout up like sci-fi monstrosities overnight. The first year I was amazed by this $15 burst of beauty. The second year, I tried it again, thinking Year 1’s experience was a fluke. And again, over the course of mere days these little green stalks sprouted up to reveal the most lovely of colours and shapes. So this year, I’ve been watching and waiting to see the daily growth of this little pot of delight! Less than 24 hours after taking its place on the piano, once-invisible yellow tulips peeked through their pale green stalks and by the evening, reached up and opened their petals like rays of warm sunshine. Since then, dark purple irises with golden flecks have peeked out and the daffodil is wide-eyed.

An Easter garden in January, right in my living room! What a gift to have a glimpse of warmth long before the ground finally awakens for the growing season, revealing the hope that the grip of winter will one day melt away into a season of bounty.

Experience teaches us where to look for God’s goodness. At first we may be surprised by it — like tulips suddenly bursting forth from stalks that seemed empty. But then, it happens again. And again. And yet again. And we train our hearts to watch and see what God is going to do in this difficult season of wintery waiting. Every single time we have made it through a difficult, painful or confusing season, we look back and see what the Gardener has been doing. Our stories become reminders of His goodness and faithfulness! The barren soil of our lives is tilled under, weeds, roots and rocks are removed, nutrients are added and God grows stunning things.

What a comfort to know that although we may not be able to change much of what is going on around us, we can fix our eyes on the One who makes all things beautiful in His time. We have the promise of life in Christ!

Two Scriptures have been resounding in my heart this week. The first one is from the Old Testament:

I know that my redeemer lives,
    and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
Job 19:25 (NIV)

And the second is from the New Testament:

Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
2 Corinthians 1:22-23 (NIV)

No matter what we are facing today, this week, this month or in the year ahead, we can be filled with true hope! Jesus is the real deal — He breathes life into the dust of our hearts and grows gorgeous things in places we never expected. 

Be patient and train your heart to hope in Christ. Keep your eyes wide open to the beauty He is cultivating in your life. And always remember that our Redeemer lives, and that in the end, He will stand on the earth. 

Praise the Lord that He always does what He says He will do!

 

Day 1, Day 4 and Day 5 of my mixed bulbs.