While visiting Epworth By The Sea Christian conference center in St. Simons, Georgia, we found this prayer posted under glass inside the chapel. Heartfelt sentiments are expressed here that I could not articulate in regards to the tragic events around our country during the last few weeks.
We went for a family trip to the coast of Georgia this past week. It was refreshing to my soul to see God’s untouched and untainted creation. Sticking my toes in the sand was a pampering treatment that I have sorely missed. Watching crabs and birds scurry beside the receding ocean waves was amusing. It was good to laugh at them. Nature has a way of reaching down deep into our spirits and helping us commune with God.
We visited a beach with driftwood and gnarled upturned tree stumps. It was uniquely beautiful! A wedding must have taken place there before we arrived as we found a wilting bouquet of flowers amidst the debris.
While we were there, we visited a Methodist retreat center known as Epworth By The Sea. What a beautiful place! While here, one can walk through the grounds with serene Spanish moss draped oaks. You can read memorials to loved ones who have passed on after serving God through ministry. There is a small chapel where you can stop to pray. It was remarkable the number of prayer requests that we noticed were written on pieces of paper and piled in a box in the little vestibule. It was a sign to me of how much pain, discouragement and suffering many are experiencing right now. We walked around enjoying the view of the marsh when suddenly, the bells from the little chapel began to chime. Slowly, I began to recognize the hymns that were playing. The words from their refrains flooded back to my memory from childhood. “Faith of Our Fathers” and “Let There Be Peace On Earth” bellowed throughout the garden. It was a very special moment. I sang along with the chimes the very appropriate words for today.
“Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me. Let there be peace on earth, the peace that was meant to be. With God as our Father, brothers all are we. Let me walk with my brother in perfect harmony. Let peace begin with me, let this be the moment now. With every step I take, let this be my solemn vow. To take each moment and live each moment in peace eternally. Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me”.
Philippians 4:8 encourages us to think about things that are true, noble, right and pure. I am convicted by this verse in scripture for most of what we see coming out in the news or social feeds currently do not fit into this category. I have been trying hard to stay positive and that means taking my thoughts captive( 2 Cor. 10:5) and reorienting my thinking towards what is uplifting to my spirit.
How am I doing this, you might ask. First, I am turning off the negative. I am spending more time reading scripture and in quiet meditation. Gardening satisfies my creative interests and reading gives me positive reflections . I have been inspired by stories about women of faith. One example is “A Passion For The Impossible”by Miriam Huffman Rockness. It is the story of the life of Lilias Trotter, a missionary to Algeria during a political time of unrest at the turn of the 20th century, who inspired the hymn “Turn Your Eyes On Jesus.” Another book is “Nine Day Queen of England” by Faith Cook. It is another biographical story about Lady Jane Grey, who lived during the Protestant Reformation and was martyred for her faith. Their lives model for me how to live during devastating trials and times of hardship.
In television programming, I look for shows that are upbeat and make me smile. Paula Deen’s cooking videos on YouTube inspire me to try new recipes using what I have on hand during the quarantine. Her laugh is contagious. I love her southern accent and her hospitality feels like a warm hug. She welcomes viewers as old friends and invites them to come and sit in the kitchen with her. Another program is Garden Answer. I could watch gardening videos for hours. Laura Leboutillier inspires me to try different plants and combinations in my own garden. Her energy level seems dauntless but it is her enthusiasm and love for gardening that shines through. It is the quickest way to soothe me after a stressful day and helps me fall asleep with peaceful dreams.
These are a few tips that I have tried to stay uplifted during this depressing time in our nation. What are some ways that you have found to help you stay encouraged?
Here is an update on my quarantine garden from a previous post. My garden is beginning to take shape and is becoming more of a haven. It has helped me feel productive as I try to create something good amidst the chaos and negativity that surrounds us right now.
I started with a blank slate and slowly have begun adding plants one area at a time. The front garden is where I have been mostly working. It is a shady spot so I have been gathering plants that would be suitable to those conditions. The challenge is to find plants that flower. First I had some candytuft bloom along the walkway. Then a blue clematis gave me a pop of color on the trellis that I placed against the house. Next, I found a gorgeous red hydrangea which I placed in a pot next to the trellis. I have been reading that to keep the hydrangea from turning back to blue, it needs iron. This seems like a bit of a challenge to me. I figured the best way for now to keep its color I will keep it in a pot. Hopefully, the acidity in the soil that we have where we live won’t be able to leak into the roots.
I began planting perennial flowers early in the spring in another area of the yard. I have since determined that this area will not get near the amount of sunshine that they would need in order to thrive. The opposite side of the yard beside the garage is my best chance for sunshine. I will begin moving the plants a little at a time to the more sunny spot. This area began as my leftover patch for plants that I didn’t know what to do with so looks like a hodgepodge right now.
I heard on a P. Allen Smith video that lavender likes to grow in cinderblocks. There was a pile left from the construction crew so I thought I would try out this theory myself. Also, along the border of the property, I placed a row of stone corners that were leftover. It took several attempts to move the pile of rubble from the front beds to this new location. It looks interesting there now with a diy border that I fashioned myself . There are more corner pieces under the house but I will have to wait for another go round as I developed a bit of “tennis elbow” from carrying the first batch.
Other inspiring gardening videos can be found on Youtube’s popular Garden Answer. On a tour through her parents’ garden, Laura mentioned that her mother has some coral shrub roses. I found a beautiful variety last week at our local plant nursery. I have begun planting them along the front of our “sunny” border. I added some gorgeous blue agapanthas and plan to add some blue salvia or veronicas as the coral and blue color combination looks stunning together.
I am encouraged today by the words of a song by Bethel music based on Psalm 31:24 “Take courage my heart, be steadfast my soul, He’s in the waiting.”
How are you using this time of quarantine? Are you allowing the extra time to draw closer to God or are you just creating new ways to be busy to survive this new normal? We all have done it. We don’t want to look square in the face at the source of our problems and run from what is obvious, oftentimes. We run from the ONE who knows us best. I am convinced that this abnormal time in history is a gift from Him.
Are you allowing Him to speak to you about some area of life that He has been prompting you to change? We all have more time on our hands now. We can’t make the excuse that we don’t have time for prayer and meditation in His word. We can get alone with God and really listen to Him now. At first, I was scared that this may be it… the end of life might come before I was ready. As the weeks have gone by, I have eased up with that concern and now realize that God wants to use the time to change me and do an overhaul on my attitudes and thought life.
Many of us are in close quarters with loved ones. Now is a good time to work out some area of difficulty.. that uncomfortable topic of discussion that just never was the right time to bring up. Are we showing acts of kindness and unselfishness to one another during this time? Are we reaching out to those that are scared, isolated or alone through this pandemic, giving from what we have to those that can’t get out to get supplies for themselves? Are we reacting selfishly, hoarding for ourselves all we can out of insecurity and fear or are we considering others before ourselves during this time?
I believe God wants us to come out of this better than we were before. He wants us to be changed, unselfish and grateful people. He is searching throughout the earth for those that will turn around and come back to give Him thanks for what He has done for us and brought us through. Like the ten lepers who Jesus healed, only one came back to give Him thanks. Luke 17:11-19.
On Easter Sunday evening, my husband and I awoke to the sound of high winds. The rafters in our house were creaking. We heard tree limbs cracking outside. We are surrounded by woods along the back of our property.
We lost power once around 2 am then drifted back to sleep. Around 5:30, the power went off again. This was when the winds picked up. My husband got me out of bed and made me curl up on a bench in the laundry room. This is the center of our house so it is the safest spot. I began praying for the safety of our friends and family. After an hour or so, the winds died down. We went back to bed. It was a fitful night and neither of us got much sleep. When we woke again around 8 or so, we still had no power. Thankfully, it wasn’t too hot outside so we opened up some windows to get fresh air. We looked around the yard. It was littered with branches, debris and leaves. Tree limbs were down everywhere. We were fortunate because only one shingle appeared to be damaged by a falling limb. We called our family. My mother was fine and had actually slept through the whole thing. There was no damage to her condo, only a mess of tree limbs blown about. Our daughter was safe at her patio home which has few trees nearby. Our son lives in an apartment in the front of our office. It is surrounded by several huge oak trees. We phoned him to check on him. He said he had heard heavy winds but did not realize until daylight that a tree was down in the front yard. It was one of the big ones! He was fine but the tree came very close to the building.
We feel blessed that we did not suffer more damage than we did. Others were not as fortunate. There were tree limbs down and uprooted trees all over town. Some fell on roofs of homes. Tarps covered quite a few houses where trees had fallen. There were 9 deaths reported across the state from tornadic activity and heavy winds. There is still a lot of clean up going on.
I am reminded of the scripture in Matthew 8:25 when the disciples woke Jesus in the boat and said “Save us Lord, lest we perish.” I thought of this passage in the middle of the storm while I was praying. He can quiet the storms in our lives only He wants us to reach out to Him in faith recognizing our need for Him.
It has been nearly 20 years since 9-11. I still remember images of a cross made by two structural support beams that remained amidst the rubble in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on the twin towers in New York City. St. Paul’s Chapel Trinity Church stands within a block from the site of ground zero. It was spared amidst crashing debris while a tree beside it was hit. The mammoth limbs of the century old sycamore tree fell within inches of the structure but it miraculously remained intact and undisturbed. It was used as a resting place for rescue workers during the crisis and later became a place throngs of people went to mourn the nearly 3000 souls that were lost during the attack. Both serve as memorials to this day of the tragedy but also are reminders of the grace of God during times of despair.
Once I had a neighbor who put a cross out in his yard each Easter. It was covered with flowers and symbolized the joy of the resurrection of Christ. I looked forward to the beautiful display each year. It was a symbol of hope in Christ.
This week is Holy Week. Christians are not able to attend houses of worship due to the pandemic from the Coronavirus. However, we don’t need buildings to worship in and reflect on the sacrifice of Christ during His crucifixion on the cross. If we turn to the news, the reports are not encouraging. The death tolls of those suffering from the virus are rising. There is no good news in the world right now.
The cross still stands out as a beacon for those who believe in Christ’s transforming power of salvation during our current crisis. Pray a simple prayer and Christ will save you. Confess your sins and ask Him to come into your heart. You too can know this hope in Him.