Photograph of briar stitching on a crazy quilt made by Mary Clyde Terrell, 1887 – 1977.
This week our sons, one of our granddaughters, and my husband traveled to North Texas for the burial of Joe’s brother, Pasco Parker. My stage of recovery from a spinal injury did not allow me to travel that distance. In the days they were gone, naturally a flood of family memories and reflections surfaced as I pictured the gathering that was taking place.
There were 5 brothers in Joe’s family of origin. Now he, the youngest, remains, along with his oldest sibling, a sister. As those siblings decrease in number, the increase in numbers of their descendants is great. Family. Stitched together by blood and bone.
Over 42 years ago I lost the grandmother whose gnarled hands lovingly created the art of stitches pictured above. But there remained so much more than I could have then imagined. When she passed into eternal life, her family and legacy of faith grew and continued. As our family leans into the days and years ahead, there is certainty along with uncertainty. There has been and will be loss. But there is also continuing connection, something we cannot lose. Those who have gone before and those who are to come are stitched together.
We planted several fruit trees, including a small Red Baron peach tree in our back yard in 2017. That winter, one unusual hard freeze produced a couple of 19 degree nights so several of the trees did not survive. The little peach tree produced a few leaves in the Spring and stayed with us. Last winter brought more cold than is typical for us. The tree looked like a 3 feet tall stick. When the roses nearby were blooming in January and February, we often noticed the sad little stick. Then, proving survivorship, it began to bud. The buds swelled to these brilliant blossoms. Four days later, Winter came back with a vengeance. Even though we covered it with a pillowcase, our tiny tree is now a stick again. But the story is not over…
There is an old saying that declares you find what you are looking for. But there are times I find what I did not look for or expect at all. The times when I am surprised by grace. The cold, dark times when my face is lifted and lit up unexpectedly. This exquisite blossom almost opened and faded without anyone finding it. During an early but short spell of freezing temperatures, all our container plants were pushed near the house on our back porch, clustered together. The small pot containing this plant was in a dark corner with large pots in front. There has been joy and activity in our home this Advent and Christmastide, but the many cold, wet days have kept us inside more.There have been colds and flu in the family. There have also been elements of loss, darkness and uncertainty, threatening soul drought due to my husband’s continued loss of vision.
Our little succulent helps remind me that hope and beauty bloom in darkness. Indeed, this plant requires dormancy to bloom at all. It must have less water, cooler temperatures, and at least 12 to 14 hours of darkness at night. But this is not the only lesson – plants may also need dormancy to survive stress.
After providing us this pleasure and beauty, this blooming in the dark, our Christmas Cactus will drop its blooms, then return to light and growth.
As 2019 begins, may we turn toward Light and thrive.
There are countless things that bring my observance of Lent and the daily changes in our garden into side by side meaning for me – changing my heart in the simple practice of being open to wonder. We planted this small Red Baron peach tree less than a year ago. Flooding in our back yard from a hurricane and unusually long hours of severe freezing temperatures during wintertime appeared to defeat the young fruit tree. It stood, a forlorn stick we thought had not pulled through the trials it faced with roots so newly sunk into our soil. Then came a day when leaf buds tentatively swelled and one small blossom appeared as if dropped onto a twig of a branch, followed by 3 more. I see that small wonder every time I look out the windows near my desk. This morning I read excerpts from a book by Georges Bernanos, The Diary of a Country Priest.. Good words that settled and helped me. The tiny peach tree tells the story too.
“Lent reminds us…conversion is a lifelong process…We never stop starting over.
I fall down. I get up.
Keep marching to the end. Don’t shed your equipment. Keep starting over..”
And when the country priest (who had started over many times in his life) lay dying, he said, “Does it matter? Grace is everywhere.’
Recently I found this large bald cypress bathed in morning sunlight. Every ferny leaf seemed to glow. I wanted to capture that luminous image before the light changed. It is a birthday week for me so I have spent time considering what I have learned in these 77 years and ways I want to spend the time ahead.
I am grateful for light and the ways it touches and changes. I thank God each morning for the new light another day brings. I am grateful for being able to see this, grateful for grace to know that as light changes, new ways of finding and seeing it will remain.
“Defend me against the chances and changes of this life, not that I may escape them but that I may meet them with firm resolve; not that I may be saved from them but that I may come unscathed through them.
Defend me from discouragement in difficulty and from despair in failure, from pride in success, and from forgetting you in the day of prosperity.
Help me to remember that there is no time when you will fail me and no moment when I do not need you.
Grant me this desire: that guided by your light and defended by your grace, I may come in safety and bring honor to my journey’s end…” ~ Norman Shawchuck