Survive!

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The roses which cover this arbor have a name and a story. The official name is now Peggy Martin. The nickname is “survivor.”  In the middle of our final move away from this garden and home this past week. we had vivid reminders of the origin of this rose. Our area has been covered with the waters of a devastating, history-making flood. The Brazos River crested 2 days ago at a record-breaking 54.81 feet, As water surged from the river, entire neighborhoods were flooded and evacuated  or stranded, roads rendered impassable, fields of crops and cattle inundated, and lives changed forever. There has been so much loss of property and livelihood.

The survivor rose is a symbol of this heartbreaking picture.  In late August 2005, Category 4 Hurricane Katrina created this type of destruction in New Orleans on an even larger scale.Levees were breached, and  85 percent of the city was underwater.  This rose  was the only rose among over 400 antique roses surviving 20 feet of salt water over the garden of Mrs. Peggy Martin, Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, Mrs. Martin  lost her parents, her home, and commercial fishing boat in the storm. When she was finally able to return to visit their property she was heartened to see the lush growth of her climbing rose, a testament to its toughness and status as a true survivor.

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Our roses covered an arbor which has provided shade and shelter for children playing, birds nesting, and a place for quiet respite.  This too, reminds me of our present circumstances.  We have witnessed the hospitality and shelter of our community. Our church is a Red Cross shelter, where many evacuees have received a place to stay dry and sleep, meals, and help from many volunteers. Our emergency responders have diligently and consistently worked to rescue, assist, and keep us all informed and protected as much as possible. Many have responded with generosity and caring in a variety of ways.  Neighbors have helped both neighbors and strangers. As Mr. Rogers once said, in trying to help children absorb the impact of tragedies, we can look beyond to the helpers.

I am thankful for the Grace that enables us to be helpers, to offer peace to one another, and that hope remains.

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Amazing. Grace.

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As swimmers dare
to lie face to the sky
and water bears them,
as hawks rest upon air
and air sustains them,
so would I learn to attain
freefall, and float
into Creator Spirit’s deep embrace,
knowing no effort earns
that all-surrounding grace.

The Avowal  by Denise Levertov

After the Storm

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We are happy every year when the magnolia tree in our yard begins adding little upright buds that look like candles on an old-fashioned Christmas tree. The smooth, straight stick figures that hide tightly furled promise were described by poet Wallace Stevens  as “ghosts of its forthcoming flowers”  They look fragile as if bird or breeze could tip them over and onto the ground.

So after flooding rains and wind that snapped some trees, we welcomed the unfolding of huge ivory blooms.  Joe brought one to me as I sat on the porch swing this morning.  Its fragrance and beauty bring both tears and smiles. The magnolia is one of my earliest childhood memories.  Like pine boughs and gardenias, even if I close my eyes, the fragrance brings a surge of memory and story.

“Like the magnolia tree,
She bends with the wind,
Trials and tribulation may weather her,
Yet, after the storm her beauty blooms,
See her standing there, like steel,
With her roots forever buried,
Deep in her Southern soil.”― Nancy B. Brewer, Letters from Lizzie

Word Gathering

IMG_2832These words are powerful all by themselves. At times when I am feeling overwhelmed or bewildered, I sometimes choose one just one to help me focus or to use in a breath prayer. But I love seeing them gathered like this.

blessings

thanks

share

peace

gratitude

all gathered together

leaning on each other

grace

What Is Mine to Do?

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Photography courtesy of Pert Roddy Garraway, who grows these beautiful plants.

In my observance of Lent this year, I worked with others in an online retreat reflecting on the question “What is mine to do?”  The question comes from Jesus when he said” “What I just did was to give you an example: as I have done, so you must do.” When his own  death was approaching,  St. Francis told us, “I have done what is mine to do. May Christ teach you what is yours.”

 

For me, the answer to the posed question is simply that what is mine to do is to practice serving. I am not sure why, but my friend’s photo of her beautiful Cereus reminds me of serving.  It may be because this exquisite blooming only happens at night, when it is unseen by many. It does not require the brilliance of sunlight to bloom on, offering its beauty and fragrance. for a brief time.

 

I have become aware of the difference in helping, in fixing, as opposed to serving. When I worked as a registered nurse, my connection to patients was best applied in service to them and to their families as opposed to a goal of repair.  I am aware that in my community relationships, my parenting, and my grandparenting, my calling to serve may be played out in many different roles – in offering hospitality, in gardening and cooking and sharing the beauty of art and music. My joy in any of these is heightened as I realize that this, too, is serving.

 

“Serving is different from helping. Helping is not a relationship between equals. A helper may see others as weaker than they are, needier than they are, and people often feel this inequality. The danger in helping is that we may inadvertently take away from people more than we could ever give them; we may diminish their self-esteem, their sense of worth, integrity or even wholeness.

 

When we help, we become aware of our own strength. But when we serve, we don’t serve with our strength; we serve with ourselves, and we draw from all of our experiences. Our limitations serve; our wounds serve; even our darkness can serve. My pain is the source of my compassion; my woundedness is the key to my empathy.

Fixing and helping create a distance between people, but we cannot serve at a distance. We can only serve that to which we are profoundly connected.”

–Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen

Blooming Anyway

IMG_1716In our part of Texas, we seldom have severe winter weather.  Although November was colder than most years, December was unusually warm until Christmas. But 2015 turned a cold shoulder on us. It has been wet and cold, with twice the normal amount of rain and very cold – definitely coat, scarf, and glove days.  Since we have a few tender plants in our garden, when temperatures are predicted to drop to an extended period of hard freeze, we scuttle about trying to protect plants, pipes, and pets.  We haul out our stack of covers and  try to secure them in gusts of wind that take cover off as fast as we put it on while we weight or pin it down.  We didn’t cover our antique roses, but they seemed to welcome the wet cold days with an extra crop of blooms.  I have written before about the difference in color and fragrance in a winter rose bloom, but this round of blooming was so welcome in the bone chilling  cold, gray days that I found them particularly welcome.  These “Old Roses”  are known for their survival.  They come from root stock that is known for its stay power. The notable thing is that these roses didn’t just stay alive in the bitter cold and whipping winds. They bloomed anyway.

It is one thing to be grateful for having come from strong roots (the stories of my ancestors tell me over and over how much grit and grace they had)) – but it is another thing to be aware of  what I may be passing on to my sons and grandchildren. I want to live in ways that can be described as not just surviving, but blooming anyway.

Grace

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Still our prayer, for 2015…

 

For the New Year 1981
I have a small grain of hope–
one small crystal that gleams
clear colors out of transparency.

I need more.

I break off a fragment
to send you.

Please take
this grain of a grain of hope
so that mine won’t shrink.

Please share your fragment
so that yours will grow.

Only so, by division,
will hope increase,

like a clump of irises, which will cease to flower
unless you distribute
the clustered roots, unlikely source–
clumsy and earth-covered–
of grace

~Denise Levertov

Like Us

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Advent calls me to remember that Christ came to be one of us.  He came to be like us in all the imperfection of our messy lives.  Even his human family ancestry reflects this –  dotted with misfits and mistake- makers who also experienced grace, forgiveness and hope.

In Gail Godwin’s novel, Evensong,  a small town church in the Smoky Mountains is surprised when the local priest has a young teenage girl read the genealogy of Jesus recorded in Matthew  instead of the traditional Christmas story in Luke 2. The priest then quotes from an essay titled A Coming of Christ in Advent by Raymond Brown that says the genealogy list in Matthew 1 is “three minutes’ worth of tongue twisting names that  contain the essential theology of the Old and New Testaments for the whole Church, Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant alike…If so much  powerful stuff can have been accomplished down through the millenia by..people who were such complex mixtures of sinner and saint, isn’t that a pretty hopeful testament to the likelihood that God is using us, with our individual flaws and gifts, in all manner of peculiar and unexpected ways?

“Who of us can say we’re not in the process of being used right now, this Advent, to fulfill some purpose whose grace and goodness would boggle our imagination if we could even begin to get our minds around it?”

Found in Evensong, b