Solitude. For as long as I can remember, I have tried to rise early, to be the first one up so I can have a few minutes of quiet before the house fills with morning activity. My intention is always to start my day in God's Word and write a page in my journal, but often I settle in with my phone, scrolling through my social media pages. It bothers me that this has become my default.
My summer's resolve is to change the default - to create a new morning routine that feeds my spirit before doing anything else. As I was searching for a new Bible study, two of my favorite podcasters were doing a Summer in Psalms series. Perfect! The psalms have been such a comfort to me this past year. When life is full of questions, fear of the unknown future, and endless waiting, closing the day with a psalm has turned all that uncertainty into the certainty of God's sovereignty and has brought restful sleep.
As I find myself still in need of some soul restoration this summer, I'll defer to others who have eloquently ministered to me and share them with you. I hope you will spend some time with these gifted women, too. Let me begin with a summary of what the psalms are:
"From songs of praise to cries of lament and everything in-between, the book of psalms captures the wide range of emotions in life. The psalmists paint a picture of a relationship with God that is filled with delays, disappointments, surprises, and triumphs. Through it all, their words model an incredible resolve to keep their eyes on God. Instead of being swallowed up by the darkness of their emotions and circumstances, they persevered in grabbing hold of God's unfailing love and faithfulness."
Those words arise from a new Bible study by Adrienne Camp called 'As for me'. I just ordered my copy of this 7-week study. If you are interested, you can check it out here.
Emily P Freeman is reading a psalm each week on her podcast. I have often drifted off to sleep listening to her calming voice read the psalms. You can read or listen to them here. She's even put them together in a collection on Spotify so you can easily find them.
Finally, I've been listening to Christy Knockel's The Glorious in the Mundane podcast. I've always been a fan of her music, and I find her honesty and deep trust in God reflected in her podcasts as well. Her writing style is beautiful and poetic. It's her weekly dive into the psalms that I look forward to most. Even if you don't have a podcast app on your phone, you can listen to them here. She recently interviewed Adrienne Camp on her podcast which is how I discovered the 'As for Me' Bible Study. You can listen to it here.
I'll close with a few words from Christy's most recent message that really spoke to me:
"The River of Life is in you. And it is meant for your flourishing, and your flourishing through the power of the Holy Spirit is meant for those who are around you who are hurting and broken in this world. Maybe surrender your life anew - that your flourishing is for the flourishing of others - through the Holy Spirit."
I feel far from flourishing, friends. But little by little, as I daily stay 'planted by streams of water' (Ps.1:3), restoration is happening. And this summer, God is using these three women who are flourishing to share His message of hope and peace with me. I hope you'll spend some time in the Psalms with what's left of our summer. Maybe consider creating your own routine of beginning and/or ending your day in solitude with God. He is the River of Life and His Gospel message is life-giving. May we all stay within the River's reach because 'everywhere the River goes, everything lives'. - Christy Knockels
They say that music moves us, and it's true. I think flowers can do that, too.
How else can I explain the vivid memories I have of my grandparents garden? Memories from 40+ years ago of playing beneath the overgrown lilacs, the fragrance of the Bridal Wreath hedge, the privets that ran the yard's perimeter, pink peonies and orange lilies that hugged the house; even the strawberries in their circular raised bed. But even more vivid are the trees: the papery skin of the birch clumps along the driveway, the delicacy of the honey locust, the messy crabapple, the breadth of the maples, the prickly blue spruce, and most of all the magical peacefulness of the orchard.
I grew up just down the road from my grandparents and spent a lot of time there. Along with my parents, they were a huge influence on me during my young formative years, shaping me into who I have grown into. It's these lasting impressions of them that are deeply imprinted on me, that when I smell a lilac, or see a fountain of white sprays of the Bridal Wreath Spirea, the memory of them is still alive.
It's so interesting to me how the lives of those we love are intertwined with plants. I'm still trying to sort it all out. I recently watched an episode of Growing Floret from the newly released Season Two. As owner of Floret, Erin Benzakein, explores two vast collections of heirloom rambler roses, she clearly sees the connection of the legacy of those roses and that of those who collected them. The roses are passing through time thanks to the care of two passionate collectors, and that was their legacy - passing these rare treasures on to the next generation. As she ponders their life's work - the collecting, cultivating, and sharing of these beautiful pieces of living history - she asks the question: “When I am gone from this earth, what will my legacy be? What do I want it to be?”
I can't stop thinking about that. 'What will my legacy be? What do I want it to be?" I've often thought about this big life question, and here it is again. As I get older, it becomes more important to think about. What am I doing with my life? What do I want to be remembered for. As much as I want to make a difference and leave an imprint in some way, it may not be what I do, but more how I do it. How am I living my life? How am I passing through time? How am I showing love to others? How am I being a light to God's truth? So many questions, all of them big ones.
In that episode, Erin says this:
“I believe that we have potential to do great things in our lives, and there are pathways set out before us. The individual person chooses whether or not they want to do or overcome what it’s going to take to go down that path. You have that potential, but will you realize it in this lifetime? That’s up to you. How brave are you, how strong are you, how soft are you, how open are you . . . there’s a lot of possibility for all of us, it just depends on how we respond.”
I believe that, too. I believe that we can be intentional about what we do with our lives, that we all have the potential to do great things, and that there are so many possibilities for each of us. But when people think of me when I'm gone, will they remember me for what I did, or for how I lived? My grandparents taught me a lot about gardening and growing plants. I don't remember them for their achievements, but it was how they lived that will keep their memory alive in me. It was how they expressed love to me, and how they lived their faith, sharing God's truth in small ways with me that made the most important impression on me. That may have been their unintentional legacy, but it was their greatest.
So here I sit, with these big life questions. I turn 55 this summer. It's good to think about these things at any age because every day is a gift and our time here is unknown. I may not achieve great things, like being a caretaker of rare roses, but I know that how I live my life is more important. Now that I have grandchildren of my own, I think about how they will remember me when it's my turn to go. I hope they remember how I showed them love, and how I lived and shared God's truth. And I hope there will be flowers from the garden interwoven in their memories of me. Always flowers.
We think they'll always be there, but then one day, they're not. Someday it'll be my turn. What will I be remembered for? What's my legacy?
This new garden of mine has some old souls growing in it. I cringe at how they've been cared for, but the lilacs and the bridalwreath have a story and trigger memories for me, so they will stay and I will care for them.
"When can I have my life back?"
It's 5 am on a cold Sunday morning in March, and I find myself flat on my back on the driveway.
There are a few events that led me to this position and to this question:
- A few weeks ago, our youngest son who is 24, arrived at the shoppe with a German Shepherd puppy, happy as I've ever seen him.
- The next day, I heard myself saying, Yes, as he asked if the puppy could stay with us for awhile. He hadn't exactly thought things through and needed time to figure things out.
- I've forgotten how demanding and exhausting the training of a puppy can be, and how small their bladders are. So when she whines at 5 am, I hit auto pilot: shoes on, coat on, leash on, out the door. It must be urgent as she darts out like a bullet. In an instant I'm flat on my back on the driveway which is a sheet of ice. My head hits the cement pretty hard.
Bewildered, I first think of the leash. Still in hand. Thank God.
I feel the back of my head with my other hand and look for blood. None. Thank God again.
I lay there for a moment staring at the dark sky, puppy licking my face.
When can I have my life back?
A few days later, I listened to a podcast by Emily P Freeman. She talks about life's interruptions and how to find peace in handling them.
Tears fall fast. It feels good to cry.
This puppy is definitely an interruption to my quiet, daily routines, but I know its more than the puppy that's triggering these tears. There's a bigger life change that is emotionally exhausting and difficult to accept as my new reality.
When can I have my life back? When can there be time for me and my needs?
Have you ever found yourself asking that question?
If we think about it, our life is made up of interruptions. They look different as we move through our stages of life:
the demands of our children, the needs of a sick loved one, caring for our aging parents. . . Others before ourselves - isn't that what we are called to do - live a life of service? Yes, but when the interruptions are not ones that we chose, not what we had planned, and are forced upon us - those are the ones that can lead to this question: When can I have my life back? Maybe we are the ones who are ill and find our life looking so different than what we had planned. As hard as it is to understand, even those are given to us for a purpose.
CS Lewis writes: “The great thing if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s own or real life. The truth is of course, that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life, the life God is sending one day by day.”
Those last words "the life God is sending one day by day" - oh how I need to be reminded of this. It's like manna that God sent the Israelites. That daily bread from heaven nourished and sustained them while they wandered in the desert, but they quickly grew tired of it, and began to complain. Manna means 'What is this?' If I'm honest with myself, when I ask the question 'When can I have my life back?' I'm really saying, 'What is this? I'm tired of what you are giving, God." The truth is that He gives us what we need, not what we want, and it's always for our good. Always.
So then give me the strength and patience every day so I can handle this life of manna. And he does.
The French composer, Claude Debussy wisely said, "Music is the space between the notes". "There's meaning, depth, richness, in the interval, in the rest, in the silence. The silence is necessary for the notes to be music. Otherwise, it’s just a lot of noise. Our pauses, our solitudes, our quiet respite is necessary for our interruptions to be our lives." Emily says in her podcast.
The space between the notes is necessary - we need that time of rest and solitude. Time for me. Time for you. And may I offer this suggestion - the space between the notes can be one of peace. Finding peace in the interruptions, knowing that God sees you and holds you in his strong, ever-present hands, is possible and is a comfort. His plan is holy and perfect.
The road may be long and you and I may be weary, but don't give up. I find this quote to be helpful:
"Occasionally weep deeply over the life you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Then wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have." - John Piper
"Mostly we need you, lovely embodied you, showing up to your life as it is and not as you wish it to be, able to admit what you need and what you want. You, honest about what you miss and about what you long for. You, celebrating this right now moment. And in all of this you can be sure there is a divine presence, a holy harmony, a welcoming acceptance of the whole colorful mess." - Emily P. Freeman
We are not alone. May we find peace in the interruptions and joy in the space in between.
- Thankfully I did not have a concussion when I hit my head on the cement.
- The puppy is potty trained and now happily living in her new home.
- Here's a link to Emily's podcast: emilypfreeman.com/podcast/267/
- or you can read it here:
'Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.”
– William Wordsworth
I've long kept a journal. Even before my days as a mom, I kept a journal. In grade school, it was the dairy with a lock and key, hidden in a drawer or under a mattress. Yes, there have been gaps - months, even a year or two long, but I always come back to it. My journals are full of thoughts, experiences, dreams, ideas, prayers . . . the breathings of my heart. I've tucked in cards from my kids, notes from friends, rose petals, a leaf from a fall walk . . . And when I take the time to look back, I'm always thankful that I had captured that version of me dealing with whatever was in front of me at the time. It allows me to see how I've grown, but I see something else, too - God's hand in my life.
Currently I've woven time to journal into my morning routine. Most mornings, before I reach for my phone to scroll through Instagram, I start with a short devotion, then journaling. I only fill one page each day, finding that helps me do it more regularly. But even then, words don't always flow freely. Sometimes prompts help. So when I came across this in my inbox: 30 Lists to Make, I had to know more.
In addition to journaling, I love to make lists.
Maybe that's why I connected with this article so quickly. It's inspiring me in my journaling. So I thought I'd share it with you as it may inspire you to open your journal for the first time or once again.
30 Lists to Make
From Bella Grace Magazine
The idea of having a regular journaling practice sounds so romantic and charming. You pour yourself a cup of tea, perhaps light a candle, grab your favorite pen, open up that brand-new journal … and then what? The need to get everything just right can be overwhelming and even paralyzing to some. If you want to make writing a regular part of your day but are unsure of where to start, consider making lists. We think lists are an excellent and unique way of journaling because they challenge us to think creatively about our responses, and much like a conventional journal, they capture our thoughts at a given moment in our lives.
1. Five little things currently making you happy
2. Favorite ways to “waste” time
3. Places to travel to alone
4. Food or drinks that bring you comfort
5. Books, movies, or TV shows for when you need an escape
6. Hobbies you’ve always wanted to try but haven’t yet
7. Five things you’re currently looking forward to
8. Lovely little things to do more often
9. Favorite ways to turn your day around
10. The sweetest sounds
11. What happiness looks like
12. Places to find inspiration
13. Traits shared by the people you admire
14. Songs making up the soundtrack of your days Here are our favorite lists to make:
15. Short breaks you can take each day
16. Truths about life you’ve learned so far
17. Silly little goals you’d like to achieve
18. Ideal ways to spend time alone
19. Favorite ways to have fun without leaving the house
20. Unique businesses you’d love to start
21. Things that fill you with energy
22. Five rules you like to break
23. Ten reasons to be proud of yourself right now
24. Fictional characters you feel a connection with
25. Screen-free activities you are currently enjoying
26. Five friends or family members who make you smile
27. Things to remind yourself on a bad day
28. Tiny treats that feel like a luxury
29. Things it’s time to let go of
30. People you want to write letters to
It's been a long stretch of rainy days. I can hear the rain on the roof - it lulls me back to sleep. Just a little bit longer . . .
The next time I open my eyes, it's well past my usual wake up time. Funny, I don't remember turning off my alarm. The rain, though calm and nurturing, is maybe a little too calm as it takes some self-talk to get out of bed. I try to channel a sweet, sing-songy 'Rise and shine' like my mom use to say, but it comes out more like Eeyore's 'better get up and do the day'.
I've always liked January with it's snow-covered scenes, cozy evenings, and there's always a chance of a snow day which is such a treat. But there will be no snow days this January - there is no snow. The rain, the gray, this stretch of mundane days of January actually suit me just fine as it has offered a time for my soul to just rest. With the insane craziness of moving, Christmas, teaching, and running a retail store - all in the month of December - I desperately need to rest.
The new house is becoming familiar after being here a month. She offers a shelter and safe place to heal. I can see now God's wisdom in leading us here. As difficult as it was to leave, it is good to be here. This will be a place to begin again with new opportunities.
I head to the kitchen, make some tea, and sit at the kitchen table. I have found this to be a good spot to watch the sun rise on days that aren't rainy. As I make out my list of to-do's for the day, familiar words from Isaiah 60 pop into my mind: 'Arise, shine, for your light has come'. I find myself thinking about those words a lot during this season of Epiphany. I write them on my list. arise. shine. Out of curiosity, I look them up on my phone.
Arise 'to get or stand up', and shine 'to give out a bright light'.
I dig deeper: arise 'to come into being'; shine 'to glow or be bright with reflected light'.
Something inside begins to stir. 'Arise, shine' is a wake up call. 'Arise! Shine!' A sweet and sing-songy soul-call from the heavenly Father. I've been hearing it in the distance for the last two weeks, but now - now I hear it loud and clear. He's saying it's time! It's time for me to emerge from this much-needed January slumber, to 'come into being', and 'to be bright with reflected light'. It's time to glow and radiate the beautiful light that is God's glory that has come in the form of baby Jesus. That light holds hope, love, sacrifice, and promise. It never dims, never goes out. It shines bright through the darkness - even on these gray January days.
A new year, a new chapter, a new day - each an opportunity to hear His call, "Arise, Shine! for your light has come". . . It's an awakening of body, mind and soul. It's a realization that this call is one of action. Not that we look for ways to shine, but when the heart is full of gratitude and joy, it just overflows into our outlook and interactions with each other. Interactions are actions! Each is an opportunity to shine.
This call isn't just for me. It's for each of us. If you struggle with this, you are not alone. But I encourage you to try this: begin by listing what you are grateful for. Each one of those things on your list is a gift from a God who loves you. Keep counting, every day, and you, too, will begin to hear the call in the distance - arise, shine . . .
Of course, it would snow. . .
Not a soft, pretty snow with flakes gently descending from the heavens.
No, it was during a winter snowstorm that we moved from our home of 22 years out in the country into a smaller house in town. Fortunately, the bulk of our possessions had been moved five days earlier with the help of family and friends. But now, as the snow quickly accumulated on the ground, we frantically packed the last of the boxes into the U-Haul. The trip down our steep, icy driveway would be stressfully packed with prayers, as well, that we make it down safely. This is not how I wanted to say goodbye to this lovely place, to my home where we raised our kids, to the gardens that I planted where I know each plant by name . . .
That morning’s winter storm reflected the chaos going on inside me, overwhelming sadness mixed with a touch of excitement of the unknown that lay ahead, the stress that comes with moving, the late nights of packing, lying awake in early morning hours with endless lists running through my head, and trying to keep it all together with a trust that God will make it all work out – it was an avalanche of emotion that I’ve never experienced before.
After a harrowing 30-minute trip on snow-covered roads to where we would close on the house, I was able to catch my breath. We sat in the office waiting our turn, and I got a text from our daughter who had been at the house with our son packing the U-Haul. It was a video she had taken of the snowscape that surrounded the woods on the property. It was breathtakingly beautiful. Tears welled up yet again – how I will miss those trees – watching them change through the seasons. They were the first thing I saw every morning when I opened my eyes to gaze out uncurtained windows. Fresh spring leaves unfurling, summer green canopies, glorious autumn hues, and graceful bare branches outlined in snow like right now. And I had missed it this morning – blindly consumed with the details of moving.
It was then that it struck me - even amidst all the chaos going on around and inside of me, there is something beautiful happening that God is orchestrating. It’s his perfect plan for me – I take a deep breath in. His love and presence is constant - I exhale slowly. It was he who led us here to this place years ago – inhale deeply, and filled it with love, joy, tears – all of them blessings. Exhale. He goes before me once again, leading me – inhale. And I follow, knowing that he will make this move something beautiful, too. Slow exhale.
It’s been almost a week now, and already that emotional day is but a memory. The lessons I’m learning of trusting God, letting go, embracing change, and seeing beauty where you least expect it, those will stay with me as this new chapter unfolds. I miss waking up to the wooded view out my window, but I’m so grateful that I was given that gift for a while. The trees have taught me to carry something with me through every season of life – and that’s joy. There’s a passage in the Bible that says, “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” – Isaiah 55:12
God is writing a symphony. All of this – the struggles, the joy, the tears, the laughter, He’s weaving it all together into a beautiful symphony that I’m blessed to call my life. And right now, in the beginning of this new movement, I’m being led forth in peace and, like the trees, I will joyfully clap my hands.
Hi, I'm Tracy - horticulturist, beauty-seeker, Word-lover, and blessed to be the owner of Bella Botanica. I also love to write about plants, gardening, and about my faith journey. Thanks for reading!