This blog is where I can pour out my heart with my longing for God.

Archive for the ‘Garden’ Category

The Old Paths: A Manic March

**This was originally published in a similar form in The Stokes News on March 21, 2013. When the publishers changed websites a few years back, all links to archived articles were tragically lost. I am attempting to republish in my blog all of my columns that once appeared in the newspaper. I have updated this column to reflect life in 2016.

March--hello--spring

I have always told people that June was my favorite month. Yes, yes, I’m biased because June is my birth month. But I’m wondering if I might have to change my favorite month to March. With the madness of March, you wouldn’t think it appeals to me, but it does.

March madnessThe term “March Madness” is technically a reference to the intensity of the NCAA basketball tournament and the conference tournaments that lead into it.
But the phrase also pretty much sums up my life in March for the past several years.

In fact, this year’s March is downright manic. There is so much going on that you barely have time to breathe and sit a spell. (You, too, huh?)

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Easter comes in March this year. Most of us identify Easter with April, but every so often it hits in late March. That makes for a much busier month.

Add to that the fact that it’s time for my hubster’s adult baseball team to start practicing. Since my son is now on that team—having graduated from high school baseball—you will probably find me headed to practices as I did on the old paths of his childhood baseball career. Opening Day of the season is in early April, so March is preparation month. (My sportswriter friend Dennis says the sanctity of the first day of the Major League Baseball season demands proper-noun-like capital letters: Opening Day. I have taken the liberty of using the caps for my family’s season-opener as well.)

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My son Elijah batting for the Twins adult baseball team in 2015.

Let’s throw something else into the mix—Daylight Saving Time. On the old paths, DST started the first Sunday in April. But the U.S. government passed an energy bill in 2005 which changed all of that. Since 2007, DST has begun the second Sunday in March.

That may not seem like such a big deal, but since it takes a few weeks for most people to physically acclimate to the time change, it is an especially huge deal this year with such a busy March. Many of us may feel draggy, blah, sleepy, even sick once we spring forward on March 13. Yes, our bodies’ circadian rhythms are so delicate that a mere hour’s change affects us in myriad ways—even resulting in more heart attacks and auto accidents the first few weeks after the time change. (Let’s don’t claim that—okay?)DST--Frodo

So just when we need that extra energy—to start running the kids to baseball, softball and soccer practices; to fill out our tournament brackets and get pumped over “one-and-done” basketball games; to start dying ye old Easter eggs and plan the family Easter gathering—we are zapped, slammed, run over by a time truck that took an hour of our sleep.

But lest we become despondent, let’s look at the joy that is March. The energy-sapping time change has given us more time in the evening after work to throw ball with the kids, start tilling up the garden spot, sit out on the porch and feast our eyes on the forsythia.

Then there’s St. Patrick’s Day—a holiday I am particularly partial to, given my love for Ireland and for St. Patrick, that phenomenal man of God who evangelized the Emerald Isle. We don the springlike green clothing and playfully pinch party-poopers who refuse the wearin’ o’ the green. We eat corned beef and cabbage followed by doughnuts or cookies decorated with green icing. Some drink green beer and Irish dance in parades and Celtic festivals.

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My kids and I at our 2014 March 4-H meeting!

And if that’s not enough joy for you, there’s that most excellent and bodacious day of the year—the vernal equinox. Before you wrinkle your brow, let’s put it in simpler terms—THE FIRST DAY OF SPRING!

I would lobby to make this a government holiday and give everyone the day off. We should celebrate the day we cross the line into more light than darkness. “Equinox” is the word for the day of the year that the periods of daylight and dark are equal. “Ver” is the Latin word for spring, so we arrive at the “vernal equinox” when hours of light begin to outnumber the dark…..until the autumnal equinox in September.Spring--1st day

We should all wake up rejoicing on this day—the cold winter has ended, buds are sighted on the trees, early flowers are blooming, days are steadily warmer on the average. We need a day off to drink in this nectar of nature’s new life, to sip this ambrosia of nodding yellow daffodils and cheerful red tulips, to lap up every last morsel of morning birdsong and evening peeper sounds from the creek.

Who’s with me? Let’s march on Washington! (It’d be nice to see the cherry blossoms anyway, wouldn’t it?)

And this year, we get the added bonus of Easter in this manic month of March—a celebration of spiritual resurrection paralleling nature’s resurrection. In the midst of it all, we figuratively hold our breaths for the beauty that is to come: azaleas, redbud trees, dogwoods, lilacs and more. No wonder I have spring fever all winter long!

Yep, March is closing in on June as my favorite month. I could do without the chilly gales and blustery breezes, but there’s much else to be thankful for.DSCN2611

I have always said spring is such an evanescent and fleeting season that we must savor every second of it before it’s gone. The British poet A. E. Housman was only 20 when he realized the poignancy of how quickly spring is past. He penned a poem called “Loveliest of Trees” in which he speculated that he may only have 50 years of life left. And so he wrote:

“And since to look at things in bloom

Fifty springs are little room

About the woodlands I will go

To see the cherry hung with snow.”

No matter how busy this manic March finds you—watching basketball, perfecting the Easter cantata, practicing baseball—don’t forget to get out into the woods and imbibe the essence of spring before it’s gone.DSCN2609

Your springtime is coming

Sometimes in the midst of summer’s heat, there comes a day like today–a day that seems to be set out of time. The humidity is suddenly incredibly low. Skies are the vivid blue of early autumn rather than the diluted blue of midsummer. The air is fanned by a gentle breeze that remains cool throughout this rare day when late June temperatures have plummeted from the mid-90s to the upper 70s.

When I awakened this morning and saw the type of day I had been given, I felt a special essence surrounding it. I was mentally transported to late September when summer’s heat gives way to pleasing temperatures. My 14-year-old daughter Abigail must’ve felt the same thing. She kept repeating, “It feels like fall!”

Even now at 8:08 p.m., I sit on the deck and marvel at the stellar beauty of the day. Little birds peck in my flowerbeds near me and chirp merrily. The begonia given to me by my precious Aunt Audrey last fall delights my eyes with its pinkish-red blooms. I think of how I wondered if it would live until spring when she placed it in my care last October.

But somehow–despite my tendency to let summer’s leftover hanging baskets die inside throughout the winter–this lovely begonia survived. And now it blossoms luxuriously, lending beauty to my summer days on the deck.

You know what? I feel like that begonia now. And I feel in my Spirit that many of you readers do, too.

You’ve been through troubles and trials in your life and you’ve wondered if you would make it through the long winter that seemed to linger. Sometimes the days felt mighty cold, and you would’ve given anything for a little warmth. You woke up many mornings to a gray sky of life and prayed the sun would somehow break through your circumstances. Maybe you are still there.

Well, guess what? Our God will never fail us or abandon us (Hebrews 13:5). Hang on a little longer; your springtime will come. God is intrinsically a God of redemption, renewal, revival, regeneration, restoration, refreshing. He wants to renew YOU, restore YOU, regenerate YOU, refresh YOU, revive YOU, redeem YOU.

Just like the begonia that struggled to make it inside a house when it longed for the outdoors, that often suffered from lack of water due to the dry winter air inside, that needed more sunlight than it could get through my bedroom window–you, too, will once again feel the refreshing spring air, soak in the spring rains, flourish in the light of the abundant sun.

Maybe you have already come through that dark winter and are currently being refreshed by your springtime season. Then reach out to help and encourage others who still linger in winter’s chill. That’s why I’m writing this to you.

Do I have trials and tribulations? Sure do. Are things perfect in my situation? Of course not–this world is not Utopia. Do I worry sometimes and feel gray? Yep.

But despite these things, I feel like the begonia. Today, I have been so overwhelmed by the magnitude of the gratitude I feel toward God that I had no way to express it. I have a peace I have never had before, a love for people that oozes out of me until I don’t know what to do sometimes, a confidence in the favor of God in my life that I never knew until I came out of that dark winter of 2007-10 (yep, that long).

If you haven’t gotten there yet, HOLD ON! Our God is indeed faithful and true. His plans for you are of peace and for you to have a good end. Praise Him even when the results seems to be negative. Contact me and I’ll praise Him with you and encourage you.

Some of you don’t feel that you deserve to be happy. Admit it; you don’t. You feel that you have failed God so much in the past that you don’t merit the good things He wants to bless you with.

Hate to tell you this, but guess what? You DON’T deserve the blessings. Neither do I. But our God delights to bless His children. Quit thinking you’re not worthy; that can chain up your blessings. Sure, we’re unworthy in ourselves, but the blood of Jesus has made us worthy.

So, yes, because of Christ’s sacrifice, you do deserve the happiness He desires to pour upon you. You got divorced, you say? You spent some years seeking fulfillment through alcohol or drugs? So you tell me you had sex before marriage or maybe even with someone else while you were married? You hurt somebody really badly in the past? You gossiped relentlessly about a brother or sister in Christ? You had a bad attitude a lot of the time while your children were little?

Okay, join the ex-sinners’ club; come have a seat on the front row with me and most everyone else in the world. We’ve all been there, done something similar to that in some degree.

Did you repent? Are you not committing that act(s) today? Are you working diligently, with God’s help, on your attitude? Are you trusting God to fully deliver you from any addiction that lingers?

Then move on and enjoy the life you’ve been given by God. What’s done is done, and you can’t go back and undo it. And if you feel that because of the mess you made, you really shouldn’t be happy now, then think again.

Our redeeming God doesn’t want you in sackcloth and ashes for the rest of your life. He doesn’t expect you to figuratively wear widow’s weeds forever because of your dark past.

But a word of warning from one who knows: SOME PEOPLE, ESPECIALLY SELF-RIGHTEOUS CHRISTIANS OR THE ONES YOU HURT BY YOUR PAST BEHAVIOR, DO NOT WANT TO SEE YOU HAPPY AND THRIVING. Shocker, huh?

There will be those–yes, Christians primarily–who think you smile too much “after what you did and how you behaved back then!” They want to see you pay the price, be miserable, hurt on and on. I was told by a friend of mine once that a woman I knew from church years ago gets so angry when she sees me in public and I am so full of joy; she thinks I should remain in sorrow for some of my actions of the past.

That is not God’s way. If only she knew how many nights I cried myself to sleep, how many days I wondered if the sun would ever shine again, how many times even now that I hurt with longing to be with my kids when they go to their dad’s house periodically, she might be satisfied with the degree of my pain.

I even overheard a “Christian” the other day on a cell phone, talking to someone who has obviously been done wrong by somebody else. That “counselor” was telling the person not to worry–that the bad person would “get theirs.” Even if they seem to be prospering right now, the “Christian” said, never fear–they’ll get what’s coming to them. The tone was very vindictive.

Yes, unless we repent, we will reap what we sow. But should we as Christians be so vengeful as to wish somebody would “get theirs”? I think not. But this Christian obviously wants someone to pay a heavy price.

If I spent the rest of my life bemoaning the less-than-satisfying way my life turned out and/or the sins I committed, then I would be of no use whatsoever to the Kingdom of God. He has set me free from my past, given me a present that is so full of joy and peace I want to explode, and promised me a glorious future with Him.

I know I’m talking to somebody who is nodding their head right now, saying, “YEAH! I know exactly what she means!” Get back up, shake yourself, commit your future to God and move on. Quit living in the realm of shame, you redeemed person you! Get your smile back. Laugh a little.

About two to three years ago, I realized that I was laughing again. I had not been aware of the fact that I had spent the last few years before that not laughing much at all. And it hit me that my laugh was now totally different. It was louder, full of bubbling joy, frequent. I honestly think I laugh more than anyone I know. I would even startle myself when I would burst into laughter at commissioners’ meetings while covering them for the newspaper when Stanley Smith would say something funny.

And I knew then that God had restored my joy–nay, even doubled it from before those dark winter years. Like the begonia on my deck, I am flourishing, and God’s favor follows me. Life won’t be perfect from here on out in this fallen world, but I have the assurance that my GOD will work ALL things (even bad ones) together for my good (Romans 8:28).

He’ll do the same for you. Hold on to God’s promises–YOUR SPRINGTIME IS COMING!

Spring’s pleasing palette

The beautiful spring came; and when Nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also.
~Harriet Ann Jacobs
(Photo from public domain)

Spring shows what God can do with a drab and dirty world.
~Virgil A. Kraft
(Photo by my friend Billy Payne of Sandy Ridge, NC. Check out Buffalo Ridge Imaging on Facebook!)

Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love!
~Sitting Bull
(Photo by my daughter Chelsea Evans of Tobaccoville, NC)

Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems.
~Rainer Maria Rilke
(Photo by my friend Melinda Campbell Ring of Danbury, NC)

Every spring is the only spring, a perpetual astonishment.
~Ellis Peters
(Photo by my friend Denise Coe of Walnut Cove, NC. Check out Photography by DCoe on Facebook!)

April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.
~William Shakespeare
(Photo by my daughter Chelsea Evans of Tobaccoville, NC)

Now every field is clothed with grass, and every tree with leaves; now the woods put forth their blossoms, and the year assumes its gay attire.
~Virgil
(Photo by my friend Melinda Campbell Ring of Danbury, NC)

Spring is God’s way of saying, “One more time!”
~Robert Orben
(Photo by my friend Billy Payne of Sandy Ridge, NC. Check out Buffalo Ridge Imaging on Facebook!)

Science has never drummed up quite as effective a tranquilizing agent as a sunny spring day.
~W. Earl Hall
(Photo by my friend Billy Payne of Sandy Ridge, NC. Check out Buffalo Ridge Imaging on Facebook!)

I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden.
~Ruth Stout
(Photo by ME! Taken near my home in Danbury, NC, on the main street of town.)

The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day he created Spring.
~Bern Williams
(Photo by my friend Denise Coe of Walnut Cove, NC. Check out Photography by DCoe on Facebook!)

Awake, thou wintry earth –
Fling off thy sadness!
Fair vernal flowers, laugh forth
Your ancient gladness!
~Thomas Blackburn, “An Easter Hymn”
(Photo by my friend Michael Mullins of King, NC)

In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.
~Margaret Atwood
(Photo by my friend Billy Payne of Sandy Ridge, NC. Check out Buffalo Ridge Imaging on Facebook!)

I love better to count time from spring to spring; it seems to me far more cheerful to reckon the year by blossoms than by blight.
~Donald G. Mitchell
(Photo by my friend Monty Stevens of Westfield, NC. Check out Monty Stevens Photography on Facebook!)

It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want – oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!
~Mark Twain
(Photo by my daughter Chelsea Evans of Tobaccoville, NC)

I think that no matter how old or infirm I may become, I will always plant a large garden in the spring. Who can resist the feelings of hope and joy that one gets from participating in nature’s rebirth?
~Edward Giobbi
(Photo by my husband, Alan Brewer! Taken at Reynolda Gardens in Winston-Salem, NC)

The naked earth is warm with Spring,
And with green grass and bursting trees
Leans to the sun’s kiss glorying,
And quivers in the sunny breeze.
~Julian Grenfell
(Photo by ME! Taken in my neighbor’s backyard, across the road from my house)

And Spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earth’s dark breast
rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.
~Percy Bysshe Shelley, “The Sensitive Plant”
(Photo by my friend Billy Payne of Sandy Ridge, NC. Check out Buffalo Ridge Imaging on Facebook!) 

For every person who has ever lived there has come, at last, a spring he will never see. Glory then in the springs that are yours.
~Pam Brown
(Photo by my friend Billy Payne of Sandy Ridge, NC. Check out Buffalo Ridge Imaging on Facebook!)

**All photos posted with permission of my wonderful photographer friends!

Also check out my other blog that features beautiful spring photos from local photographers at:

https://timesofrefreshingontheoldpaths.wordpress.com/2012/04/18/spring-done-sprung/

Spring done sprung

The poet Joyce Kilmer said in 1913, “I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree.” If he was talking about the lovely dogwoods in my home state of North Carolina, he was right!

Yes, yes, I know my title is grammatically bad, but somehow it just perfectly sums up the feeling I have in my heart right now. Spring done sprung, and I pert near (“almost” in Southern lingo) missed it again.

How does this happen year after year? I spend my winters longing for spring, dreaming of green and gold days, eagerly watching for the crocuses to decorate the winter-brown landscape.

Some people find the overpowering smell of wisteria cloying, but I find it delightful. I feel guilty for loving this beautiful purple vine so much because it is parasitic and will kill trees if left untended, but I find it to be a lovely plant. (Photo by my friend Billy Payne of Sandy Ridge, NC)

Then late winter finds me becoming engrossed in more and more activities–the culmination of my kids’ basketball season, NCAA March Madness, sign-ups for Little League, practice and even games for my son’s high school baseball team.

Suddenly I look around and the crocuses are gone. The daffodils and forsythia are already fading, and tulips are about to burst on the scene. Where have I been? I lament the passage of the earliest days of my favorite season.

The flowering crabapple trees in Danbury where I live are spectacular in the spring! And the blossoms feel like a handful of soft pink powderpuffs. (Photo by my friend Monty Stevens of Westfield, NC)

Spring and fall seem to be the most fleeting seasons. Summer’s heat and deep green of the trees appear to linger for months. Similarly, winter’s chill and barren landscape drag on seemingly endlessly.

But the pastel greens of spring and the vivid colored leaves of autumn are so evanescent that you barely blink and they’re gone. So I feel a more desperate need to savor every moment of these two seasons, but especially spring when newness of life in nature brings hope to even the weariest pilgrim taking this earth-walk.

In our lives, we won’t truly enjoy many springs. My theory is that we don’t fully appreciate the first 22 springs of our lives. Children don’t usually feel the poignancy of passing seasons the way time-starved adults do. And teenagers become quickly wrapped up in youthful pursuits and other teenagers. Then comes college and the pressures each spring of trying to cram the rest of the semester into our brains before school ends in early May.

Forsythia and daffodils share the vibrant yellow color that always grabs my eye to cry out, “Spring is here!” (Photo by my friend Billy Payne of Sandy Ridge, NC)

Before you know it, you’re out of college and working a job–perhaps even newly married. Pressures of life mount: new babies, new mortgages, new car payments. Life seems to swoosh by you, with spring after spring tumbling unheeded into summer.

Tulips seem regal and stately to me, as opposed to the graceful nonchalance of the daffodil. Ahh, if they only lasted longer! (Photo by my friend Michael Mullins of King, NC)

The next 20 or so years are spent raising the kids, playing chauffeur to their every activity, building a life with your mate, taking care of aging parents. You turn around and you’re middle aged. Perhaps that’s the time you truly appreciate spring. Your own springtime of life is over, and you yearn to experience once more what you know you never can.

Many-hued azaleas lend vibrant color to the spring landscape and are adored by not only me, but also by the butterflies! (Photo by my friend Melinda Campbell Ring of Danbury, NC)

As old age creeps upon you, often there is failing health, less access to the great outdoors. And so spring may pass by you again nearly unnoticed.

Daffodils, buttercups, jonquils–by any name, the sunny yellow-gold harbingers of spring seem to nod in agreement to the new warmth of the season. (Photo by my daughter Chelsea Evans of Tobaccoville, NC)

Let’s savor every spring that we are blessed with. If you start with the first daffodil exploding into blossom and count the days to the final blooms of the dogwood, you get about 30 days. The calendar may say it’s spring for two more months after that, but by late April to early May here in the South, everything already looks pretty much like summer.

The brilliant palette of spring seems so vivid to our color-starved eyes that have grown accustomed to the drab grays and browns of winter. (Photo by my friend Kathy Flanary Nelson of Winston-Salem, NC)

So you really only get about 30 days each year of the true wonder of spring. Multiply that by 70 years and you get 2100 days. Sounds like a bunch, but in the grand scheme of the days of your life, it’s not.

How can we doubt the resurrection of Christ when spring cries “Resurrection!” on every hand?! (Photo by my friend Denise Coe of Walnut Cove, NC)

And remember that you don’t even recall the first few springs you lived through, so those 150 days or so are gone. By the time you factor in the oh-so-bustling years of early and mid-adulthood and then the later years of life when the quality of life often diminishes, you lose another several days of spring that you never appreciated.

Suffice it to say that the final tally of true spring days that you get to enjoy is very small. Let’s make the most of every spring the Father gives us to enjoy!

God always keeps His promises. Seedtime and harvest will not fail, so spring will continually return until this earth is done. (Photo by my friend Billy Payne of Sandy Ridge, NC)

“My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.

 For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;

 The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;

 The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.” (Song of Solomon 2:10-13)

Also check out another of my blogs with gorgeous spring photos by local photographers at:

https://timesofrefreshingontheoldpaths.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/springs-pleasing-palette/

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