Staying Put

Silver Creek GardensTwo years ago, my husband removed four dying trees—two apple and two pear. Once they were gone the corner of our yard was open, vulnerable, and bare. Our solution—put in a planting—plant another garden!

I wanted color—lots of color. Color to delight the senses, color to excite one’s emotions, and color to invite people and wildlife. My husband wanted tall, strong and sturdy trees. We compromised. We have everything!     Silver Creek Gardens

There are bushes sweeping, ground cover spreading, and trees stretching, and colors spilling. I think it delights, excites, and invites. What do you think?

Seeing it all makes my heart sing and I ponder the verse, “All things are made beautiful in their own time.”

Recently, a person passing by stopped, saw me working in an adjacent garden, and called to me. “You really need to move these plants. They’re too close together.”

I thanked him and strolled over to the patch he was talking about. I had wanted them close to add interest, strength, and color.  Weaker stems had others to lend support. They were in a windy spot. The plants didn’t appear to be crowded. There was room for weeds to grow between them.

The familiar saying, “bloom where you’re planted” came to mind. Sometimes we find ourselves in situations that may be uncomfortable. To some, the situation may seem detestable. (I’m not speaking of harmful situations.) People may be too loud (smelly, insensitive), jobs may be boring, or you may be faced with a family tragedy or health concern. My first impulse is to run, to remove myself from the discomfort. But, sometimes we need to stay in the situation—stay committed.

I’m finding that sometimes my parents were right when they insisted that I stay put. It is the uncomfortable situations that help us grow, strengthens us, and teaches us to better handle adversities. Sometimes we need to be faithful in the mundane.  And sometimes we need to stay put, say a little prayer of thanks that all things, including us,  are made beautiful in their own time.

I smiled at the gentleman, thanked him again, and told him, “I think I’ll leave them where they are for a while.”     South Branch


Hens and Chicks

HENS AND CHICKS (Sempervivum)

SCPC demoHens and chicks are one of my favorite plants. The larger plant, the hen, is surrounded by miniature replicas called chicks. Each chick is attached to the hen by a delicate strand. When the hen matures, a flower grows from its center. My hens flowered for the first time last summer.  The flowering process is amazing. From the top of the central stem, smaller stems grew and produced tiny flowers. While the flowers formed above, the leaves below continued to open wider and wider. Eventually, the hen died, leaving the chicks to continue the cycle. The botanical name, Sempervivum, means forever lives. This plant does live on forever, through its babies.

It is easy for me to imagine a mother hen spreading her wings protectively over her brood of chicks, covering them as a storm approaches or darkness descends. It is an image of comfort, peace, and love. As a parent and grandparent, I longed to scoop my children (grandchildren) close, protect them, comfort them through their fears, and reassure them with my love.

South BranchI have another image. It is one shared and read by many.

“I longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings” (Matt. 26:37).

What a great image and reminder that God longs to gather us close too. He wants to protect, comfort, shelter, and love us!  He is better than a mother hen. He repeatedly says, “Come.”

One of my favorite verses says: “I have loved you with an everlasting love. With unfailing love, I have drawn you to myself.” (Jer. 31:3). When I get discouraged, overwhelmed, or stressed I can recall these verses and remember that God wants to gather us to Him.  All we have to do is take that first step closer to him and he will gather us close, drawing us to himself.

A life reflected …

The hens are replicated in the chicks. We can have a life that reflects Christ.

A life eternal …

Hens and chicks, Sempervivum, “forever lives”. We are invited to let Christ live in us and through us, reaching out and touching others. Jesus Christ lived and died so we can live for eternity.

“… dying and yet we live on” (2 Cor. 6:9); “I have come that they may have life and have it to the SCPC demofull.” (John 10:10)

I look at my Sempervivum and offer a prayer of gratitude.

How about you? Is there a thought, a hope, a prayer brought to your mind when you see the plant hens and chicks?

I’d love to hear your story.


Stay on the Path

Silver Creek Gardens“Grandma, we’re going to see the flowers.”

“Okay. Stay on the paths,” I called to my granddaughters.

I watched the 5-year -old leaped from stepping stone to stepping stone as she raced through the plantings. Her trailing 3-year-old sister teetered on a stepping stone, arms extended to keep her balance. I watched the expressions play across her face and smiled when she steadied herself and then took off after her sister.

Mud worksSoon they were back.

“Grandma, the path is gone. Can we still go through?”

I followed the explorers to the garden. Sure enough, the path was gone. Mounds of iris leaves bent to the ground and blades of green buried the path. Together we lifted the drooping leaves and gently bent them in the opposite direction, clearing the stepping stones for little feet.

Once the path was cleared, my granddaughters were off again—on another adventure—another garden to explore, another path to follow.

I watched as they headed for their “climbing tree” and as they disappeared in the branches, I thought about blocked paths. Sometimes our paths are blocked (career choices, finances, health concerns, emotions). Sometimes we can’t see the path in front of us and have no idea the direction to go. Sometimes, like my granddaughters, we just have to push through, and sometimes, we find ourselves with arms extended, trying to balance life.

I headed for the giggles in the climbing tree, and the song “God Will Make a Way” came to mind. God will make a way Where there seems to be no way He works in ways we cannot see He will make a way for me.

I recalled the verse in Isaiah that said, “This is the way; walk in it” and asked God to keep a close watch over all the paths of my children and grandchildren, guiding them in paths of righteousness, helping them to understand what is right, just and fair—every good path and to be not only a light for their paths, but to be their Light. (Isaiah 30:21; Job 33:11; Psalm 23:3; Proverbs 2:9, Psalm 130809Ducks-036119:105; 1 John 1:5)

I start humming God will make a way as I took a shortcut through the grass. I heard a giggly voice call from the tree, “Grandma, stay on the path.”

May you stay on the path.


Beyond the Forest

We stood on the mountain top, catching our breath from the climb.

130815GraftonGap-116My eyes scanned all that was before me as I tried to take it in: such splendor, beauty, and peace. I watched the light play and dance over the mountain ridges as shadows snuck out of crevices. I could see beyond the neighboring mountain range and even beyond the next.

I watched clouds scrape across the mountain tops and I listened … nothing–no traffic, no voices, not even birds–only God’s stillness, his peace. I let it fill me, reassuring me.

130815GraftonGap-075I looked down, down at the trees and thought how life is sometimes like a dense forest where we can’t see past the next tree. Sometimes we need to move out of the forest, move above the trees for a different perspective. It’s more than “taking a step back,” for even when we take a step back, we’re still touched by our problem, hurt, or confusion.130815GraftonGap-165

Sitting on the mountain top gave me a different perspective, a tiny view of God’s love, his enormous love. All that lay before me was his, created and drenched in his love. You may not be able to find a mountain top, but you can find its creator.

For a moment, life your eyes from your circumstances and look to God, who in the stillness says, “Come, come all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens. Come, I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you. Come and let me fill you with my love, for my love knows no bounds.” (Matt. 11:28, Ps. 32:8, Hosea 14:4).Hike at Grafton Gap

Step out of your forest and come.


Do You See His Presence?

SCPC demo

I was pulling weeds in my garden and thought of the number of ways God speaks and how often I’ve missed His presence. He speaks through sights, sounds, thoughts, impressions, other people, and scripture.

Today I’m sharing some sights that have caused me to pause and say, “Thank you, Lord.”

Helen's flowers
Helen's flowers
Helen's flowers
plants after rain
plants after rain
plants after rain
plants after rain
flower picts
flower picts
flower picts
flower picts
flower picts
flower picts
flower picts

Look at the sights around you and let God speak to your heart.

Let Him fill you with His whispers of peace.


The Name on the Envelope


Today I received a letter. Scrawled across the front of the envelope in the large print of a 5-year-old, was the word, “Grandma,” with my address printed below.  The smile on my face spread wide even as my heart melted.

It didn’t matter what was in the envelope. I had received the gift of a long-distance hug from a little girls whose love — so deep, so innocent, and so uncontainable—spilled over to an envelope with a single word, “Grandma.”

I receive a variety of mail. Some addressed to “Resident,” “Occupant,” “Ms.,” and some include my first and last name. Much of it is impersonal and mass generated; but here was an envelope declaring a relationship. Through the sprawling, penciled letters, love is proclaimed. The innocent love of a child reaches across time and distance with a name, “Grandma.”

I desire to have this kind of relationship with my heavenly father. Jesus called out, “Abba, Father.” I can call my heavenly father, “Lord,” “Savior,” and many other worthy names; but sometimes I just need to call him, “Daddy” and know that I can crawl into his lap and be held tight and loved.

photos at Glen

photos at Glen

Have you ever desired that? You can also experience that special touch of love. For just a minute, stop what you’re doing. Take a deep breath—no, a BIGGER one. Now, call to your heavenly father, using whatever word comes from your heart. See yourself crawling into the lap of the Father who can hold us all. Feel his arms around you…Relax! He’s got you.

“I have loved you with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself”
(Jeremiah 31:3).

For a moment, let his unending, unfailing love pour over you, fill you, and reassure you.

130402Shan-Meg-041A little girl’s envelope reveals a love worth protecting and nurturing, and it encourages a step towards another love waiting and longing. I encourage you to take a step closer to your heavenly father. Go as a child loved. Go to the One who has an abundance to give. Go to the One who longs to wrap his arms around you and hear you call him by name.

Let him do the thing he does best—love you.

(reposted from former blog site, originally posted March 19, 2014)

Can You Dance in the Mud?

Can you Dance in the Mud?

Last night was one of those nights…

Dec. picts from Western NY

Dec. picts from Western NY

I attended a meeting and found myself wanting to scream and walk out vowing never to return. When was the last time you were in the presence of a person who rubs you the wrong way, sucks all your energy out of you, and then fills the chasm with negativism? That’s how I felt the other night.

I passionately wanted to point out the errors of thought and words—the lunacy—to point out how the comments were unfair, judgmental, and wrong (on many levels). The more this person talked, the more I wanted to distance myself. No, actually, I wanted to tell the person off and then leave with a commanding exit.

I didn’t. I stayed and went home angry, exhausted, and replaying the events of the evening. My internal remote was stuck on replay.

I’m sure some of you may think I should have told this person off, but I don’t believe that was the answer. It possibly would have made matters worse. The real problem wasn’t this person, but how I was handling the comments. I kept replaying the conversations and letting them bother me. My focus was on small things and letting them grow larger than they actually were. I was giving them power. I needed to lift my eyes- change my focus.

Scripture verses ran through my mind: don’t copy the behaviors and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think, and we are to humbly live our lives trusting in Christ who loves us and gave himself for each of us. I needed to refocus .

150403ShanMegKay018I thought of my granddaughters playing in the  mud.

They reminded me that you can enjoy being wherever you are—even in the mud. Sometimes life is muddy. How you handle yourself in the mud speaks volumes to your character.

I think I’ll join my granddaughters in the mud. Care to join me?

Can you dance in the mud!


Put Down the Suitcase

1003shannon-456Our friends were going on vacation. Everyone, including the three children, pulled their own wheeled-suitcase and each lugged a stuffed backpack. The youngest child walked bent over from the weight. I offered to carry the backpacks, thinking children shouldn’t be stooped by the weight they carry.

I’m sure God sees us, His children, in the same way. We carry many burdens: a backpack of anger, a suitcase of insecurity, and a bag bulging with guilt. I ached for my traveling friends and God aches for us, stooped by the weight of life. He steps in and says, “My child, let me carry this for you. Set it down. I’ll take it now.”

I have lots of baggage dragging days.

Do You?

Sometimes it’s hard to let go. I keep pulling, pushing, and dragging. Sometimes I feel like I’m buried in luggage. The pile is deep and I can’t see over, around, or through it.

Soon after Saul was acclaimed as king, the people looked for him, but couldn’t find him. They asked God, “Where is he?”

The Lord replied, “He’s hiding among the baggage.” (1 Samuel 10:22)

God knew exactly where Saul was. He knows exactly where we are and He knows the baggage we’re stacking higher and spreading wider. He knows the stuff we’ve buried in trunks: years of hurtful words, regrets, and dying dreams. He knows the things we shoved deep in our backpacks: finances have hit bottom with no recovery in sight, the plant is closing, and your parents should no longer live on their own. And another fear is pushed into the bulging backpack.

I have a trunk-load of hurts and a bulging backpack of fears. I don’t want to cram another fear into my backpack so what do I do?

What do we do? The weight is too heavy.

Peter had the same problem. He was sinking fast. Another wave was about to bury him in an avalanche of water. The undertow was pulling him down–deeper and deeper.


He pulled his arms free from the engulfing water, stretched and cried out, “Lord, save me.”

Instantly, Jesus reached out His hand and grabbed Peter’s. He didn’t care what Peter looked like, if he had money or status, or if he used foul language. Jesus reached out His hand to Peter.

I don’t want to lug my backpack of fears anymore. I don’t want to push my too heavy suitcase of guilt across the floor. And I don’t want my trunk load of hurts buried in the attic.1003shannon-380

I’m coming out from behind the pile of luggage and like Peter, I’m reaching out my hand to God who will instantly reach out his hand and who says, “Let me take that, my child. Let me take your hand.”

Today I reached for an extended hand and I put down a suitcase.

Tomorrow I will put down another one.

How about you?


The Air I Breathe

It’s been one of those emotionally debilitating weeks. You know the kind. Your teenager leaves in anger and you don’t know where she is. The doctor says there’s nothing else they can do. Your employer is downsizing and you have two weeks left at a job you’ve held for the last twenty years. You have $2.47 in your wallet. There’s no gas in the car and stale crackers in the cupboard.

You want to curl into a ball, pull the covers over your head, have a strong drink, or run—anyplace, just away from it all.

Sometimes life stinks! Sometimes we cry out—to no one, to anyone, to God. Where is He? This isn’t right. It isn’t fair. If He was a loving God, He wouldn’t allow this to happen. Do you feel that way?

My week was filled with emotional pain and I may not have heard those words spoken, but they were felt. The fears and anger were beating on my heart’s door too. I didn’t like feeling this way—that helpless, hopeless feeling.

I headed for my garden, my quiet place. It was a beautiful fall day. The air was warm. The sun streamed down. I watched shadows dance across the grass. Birds sang. Bees hummed. Flowers lifted their faces and swayed. The words to the song BREATHE, sung by Michael W. Smith came to me. I hadn’t heard it in ages.

This is the air I breathe
This is the air I breathe
Your very Presence living in me.

This is my daily bread
This is my daily bread
Your very word spoken to me.

And I, I’m desperate for You
And I, I’m lost without you.

The tears flowed. I was lost without Him. Yes, it had been a horrible week. I had forgotten that God isn’t IN the air I breathe. He IS the air I breathe. He is the warming sun. He is the song the birds sing. He is the hum of the bees.

He is surrounding that lost teenager. He is with my terminally ill friend. He is with my jobless friend. He is there!

I breathe in the warm air. I let the sunlight warm me. Words come to mind—promises, reassurances. “I will never leave you or forsake you. I love you with an everlasting love. Let not your heart be troubled. I give you my peace.”

I AM desperate for Him. I AM lost without Him. The pains are real. Life is messy and unfair! Yes, I cry for my friends and family in horrible situations. Yes, I feel helpless. I also know there is hope. I find comfort knowing that the air I breathe is the very breath of God, the One whose loves is wider, longer, higher, and deeper than you or I can imagine.  He knows and He loves!