Friday, October 14, 2011

{Garden Upate} Dwarf Fothergilla in Autumn

A few months ago, I extolled the springtime beauty of one of my beloved plants, Fothergilla gardenii {Dwarf Fothergilla}.  And I promised to reveal all its Autumn glory come fall.

What better way to start off the weekend than by breathing in all His beauty in the garden?

May your eyes search out His loveliness wherever you find yourself....and may your heart rejoice to know He's near.

Grace to you, Friends.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

When It's Time to Let Go

It hangs in the air and I feel it as soon as I walk through the door.

I might call this place a storage unit but really it's just a basement room in a building that doesn't belong to me.  For two years, it's held the pieces of a life I used to live, and for every last one of those months, I've felt the deep sadness of loss whenever I've come here.

It's as though the sadness lives here, among haphazard piles of boxes and overturned furniture.

I don't regret the choices I've made to find healing for a body ravaged by illness and a soul broken by loss.  These two years have held beauty and glory and God in all the places I didn't expect to find them.  And God, He tore me out of a life I couldn't stand up under and then laid me down right here in a small corner of the world where I could rest and heal and become.

And oh, I'm so grateful for all of it.

But there's no denying that there's sadness here in the place where I've been storing the past, and I'm starting to wondering if all these boxes are really holding grief instead of my belongings.  I'm remembering back to those days of pulling up roots and I see now how everything I owned was packed up under the heavy rains of loss.  I might've wanted to believe that I was carrying the pieces of a life into a future full of hope and I might've sworn up and down that my life wasn't falling apart.  But it was and it did and, oh, how the heart ripped open along the way.

And all that sorrow, maybe it's found a home here now, in this room with too many reminders of a life for which I still yearn.

I never stay long when I come here.   I hurriedly search through unlabeled boxes, try to find what I need before sad air settles deep, unleashes what I don't want to feel.  Because the truth is, I'm afraid to grieve this loss.

And for a woman who's grieved more losses than she can count, this fear leaves me unsettled.  Of all the things that have been lost, broken, ripped straight out of my hands--why is this the one I can't seem to let go?

I run my hands over these pieces of my history and think I know why I'm afraid.  Because what I've held onto all these months isn't the things packed in boxes.  No, it's something much bigger than anything I own.

It's hope.

Hope for a return of strength and independence.  Hope for a place to call home.  Hope for the rebuilding of a life and the birthing of a family.

Sometimes letting go of yesterday's dreams feels like burying all of tomorrow's hopes.

But hasn't God been teaching me all these months that there's Beauty and Glory and God even in the dying?  That the burying of a life can be the beginning of our greatest healing?  That the laying down of all we have and all we are is the very truest act of hope?

Yes, God pours forth and floods the ground of a soul, but His Truth, it takes time to trickle down through the layers of a life.  I might wish He'd just open me up and invade with Himself, but He's the One Who knit me together from the start and He knows I'd just be washed away by the strength of His Current.  So He waits patiently for a soul to be saturated with the Truth that changes, heals, sets free.  And one by one, the Truth wages war against fears and losses and regrets.

And now I'm standing here holding onto pieces of the past, knowing at long last what I've been doing all along.  I've been shutting out the future He holds by clinging to the past I don't want to release.

Because these boxes, they don't just hold my possessions.  They hold shattered hopes, dreams crushed hard into the ground.  And they hold all the grief over what's been left behind in the wreckage of a life.

But I wrote these words only days ago and I meant every last one of them:  When it's God Who'll unearth us in the Spring, who wants to hold back from laying it all down?

When it's God Who plans my future full of hope, why keep holding onto a past I can't get back?  Why trade away the life He has in store for the one I wish I still had?  Why not bury yesterday's dreams and plant all of tomorrow's hopes in the One Who writes the only stories that matter?

It might take me months, a year even, to do what's needed.  But I know it now that I've got to unpack every box I've carried, let out the sorrow and the loss.  Then I'll put the pieces back together again, pack up hope with everything I own.  Because I won't be holding onto the past anymore.

I'll be planting seeds for the future He holds in His Hand.

It's the laying down of all that we are and all the we have, burying it deep in the soil of the One Who Loves, and waiting in expectation for His Life to emerge within us--this is hope.

Yes, I'll lay it all down, bury it deep, and wait in expectation for the Only One Who bring life out of the dying, beauty out of the burying, and glory out of all the breaking.  Because this is hope.

And I might've named this year Faith, but isn't faith the certainty of hope?  I'm certain now that there's no past that can compare with what He has planned.  And who can deny the joy of waiting for Him to emerge?

I can't and I won't and, oh, there's no telling what He's going to do.  But it's going to be beautiful and glorious and oh-so-full of God.  And I can hardly wait to tell His story.

...visit A Holy Experience today for more writings on hope and faith...

Monday, October 10, 2011

Chai Tea {A Recipe}

In case you've ever wondered if I might be a tea snob, I'm about to lay all your fears to rest.

I do love tea.  And I do drink a lot of it.  And I most definitely have way too much of it on my shelf.  But I am absolutely not a tea snob.

Because I drink things like instant Chai tea.  And I like it.  A whole lot.

A couple months ago, while sipping some Russian Tea, I wondered if I could create a make-it-yourself instant Chai tea mix.  And after a little internet research, I soon had a recipe in hand and was headed to the store to pick up all the ingredients.

I followed the recipe for the first batch and was sorely disappointed by the overly sweet and creamy drink that resulted.  I couldn't taste the tea or the spices and wondered how anyone could actually label this as Chai tea.  But after another round or two of testing, I came up with a lovely version that was wonderfully spicy but still creamy and with just a touch of sweetness.

Since I've had rave reviews and requests for the recipe from everyone who has tried it so far, I thought I'd post the recipe here.  Enjoy!

Instant Chai Tea Mix

(Printable Version)

1 cup powdered milk
1 cup powdered coffee creamer (plain)
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 cups unsweetened instant tea (regular or decaffeinated)
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla powder (from vanilla beans, found in the spice section)

Combine all ingredients in a food processor (or blender) and process until well mixed.  Let the processor run for several minutes longer to ensure spices will dissolve when mixed with water.  Store mix in an airtight container.

To serve, add 1 tablespoon of the mix for every 4 ounces of boiling water and stir well to dissolve.  If iced Chai is desired, use a few ounces of boiling water to dissolve the mix (stirring very well) and then fill the cup with ice and cold water to the desired amount.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

When Every Leaf Is A Flower

I read these words on the calendar the day after I've given thanks for what's sprung out of the blackened ground.

Autumn is a second spring, when every leaf is a flower.  ~ Albert Camus

So I grab the camera off the counter, let afternoon sun find me kneeling beside the tree I've named Gratitude.  Because who can resist capturing the blooms of Autumn, their colors dripping off every branch?

And haven't I already written it here, that the falling leaves aren't a rain of ashes but a shower of hope?

Oh, I might've thought Spring was the season when hope was most real--life breaking free from the death-grip of Winter, beauty bursting out from every earthen surface.  But hope that is seen is no hope at all.  Who hopes for what he already has?

It's taken nearly three decades of a life for me to understand, but finally I see what's always been true.  It's the laying down of all that we are and all the we have, burying it deep in the soil of the One Who Loves, and waiting in expectation for His Life to emerge within us--this is hope.

Hope holds itself against a cross when the whole world thinks the story's over.  Hope lets go of the last breath of life while the enemy's taunt still rings out.  Hope lets Love bury it in the darkness and waits patiently, expectantly for God to show up.

Because Hope isn't afraid of the dying and the burying.  No, Hope knows that God's never defeated and what's there to fear when the darkness has already been conquered by the One Who lights up the whole world?

And this God Who Loves, He knows we'll see Him most when life comes straight out of the dying, when beauty and glory and God emerge right from the barren ground beneath us.

I never would have believed that hope could ring out in the coming of Autumn, in the burying of all this life.  But this song's always been here and I've been deafened too long by fear and hurt and a whole life of discontent. 

I might regret all the years I've lived without knowing and I might wish I could go back, rewrite this story.  But haven't I always known that He's the One Who writes the story of a life and there's nothing He can't redeem for His Glory?

So I'm burying my regrets beside all the fear and the hurt and the whole life of discontent.  Because when it's God Who'll unearth us in the Spring, who wants to hold back from laying it all down?

Yes, the trees are bleeding fiery hope and I'm standing here drinking it in.

Because maybe Autumn isn't the second spring after all.  Maybe it's the first.