Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Blue Hydrangeas

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” James 1:17

A couple of years after Mom died, I went to the Mobile Botanical Gardens to celebrate her June 10 birthday. I spent the morning roaming along meandering paths admiring nature’s beauty and missing Mom. In the structured, manicured herb garden I curled onto the wooden bench of a latticed arbor and called Dad from my cell phone. I described to him the snowy cascade of roses that tumbled over my head and down the sides of the arbor. I could hear the smile in his voice as we chatted, savoring memories of Mom and I felt the shift to sorrow as we shared the heartache of losing her.

Reluctantly I ended the call and continued my stroll through the gardens. A worn, wooded path along the perimeter beckoned to me and I drifted into a brown world of dirt and dead leaves far from the vibrant roses and fragrant rosemary and sage. I walked about ten minutes as the path wound uphill and the mottled sunlight floated toward me through the canopy. As I rounded a curve and gazed upward, I felt like Dorothy entering the technicolor dream world of Oz. Before me the hilltop garden opened up to reveal a rainbow of hydrangeas in purples, pinks and blues. My breath caught as my eyes feasted on the botanical bounty in front of me. I wove along the path, examining the flowers, but stopped to gaze at the blue ones, the most prevalent color among the plethora of showy blooms.

I sat down on a periwinkle bench, laughing and crying, and called Dad back. I described the scene to him. “Your Momma always did love blue hydrangeas.”  His voice was soft, full of love and longing. The beauty before me reminded me that Mom was now in a place of unimaginable splendor, unfathomable peace and unending love. All her sorrow and sickness were erased. And even though Dad and I were separated from each other by hundreds of miles and were temporarily separated from Mom, it felt like God gave us a birthday gift meant just for her and just for us: a garden of blue hydrangeas.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Close Encounters

Two weeks ago a close encounter with a snake led to a weepy, worshipful Wednesday. Early in the morning I was walking in my friend’s yard when my sandaled foot slipped on what I assumed was a wet stick. Startled, I cried out and my friend asked what happened. I told her I had thought maybe it was a snake, but it probably wasn’t. We had already walked several steps past the area but she rushed back and investigated the “stick” which proved to be a well-camouflaged snake. Thankfully, she sprang into action before he did and whacked him to death with a hoe.

I was stunned by how close I had come to danger, stepping on a snake with almost bare feet. I had even felt it move under my foot, but thought that was the effect of an overactive imagination. By some miracle, it did not strike me though I gave it motive, opportunity, and an open target. The incident stayed with me all day long and each time I thought of it, my heart raced. That little encounter had the potential for disaster, especially if the snake was really a copperhead which is how my friend identified it.

I felt God miraculously protected me. And the remainder of the day, my frequent thoughts of His protection and amazing grace brought me to tears. The episode led me from a terrifying encounter with danger to a close encounter with the Creator.  As a result, I spent quite a bit of time praising Him for His goodness and thanking Him for His love. The incident was a visceral reminder of another friend’s warning months ago to remain alert for the enemy’s tactics in my life. But it also presented an opportunity to draw close to God and to reflect on the truth of Psalm 46:1: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”