Monthly Archives: May 2021

prune in June… sometimes


When we got down to Tupelo and Emily was showing us around her lovelies. I stopped suddenly.

“They waited for you, honey,”

I paused and smiled at the memory. A week ago, before Em’s trip to see her brother, she was worried that her peonies would bloom without her. “Oh my.. their smell, it’s heavenly.”

Dave’s the gardener; Em’s his daughter. I’m just the recipient of mounds of color, usually through July. He’s inherited it from his dad, the joy of digging in the dirt and watching for slug penetration.

Yesterday, I went out to see what he was up to. Yep, a new bed was created, tender greenery, and a new layer of dark mulch. “I see you’re finishing up the last of the 2nd yard here.”

“Yep, keeps down the weeds.”

“I do recall you mentioning that about a million times.” I snark. ” I was thinking about your dad today; I had just talked to the Post Office. Dave’s dad was the friendliest mail- carrier in all of the Midwest, I think.”

Dave smiled, remembering too. “I know he’s still wondering up in heaven why I always plant the perennials when all he worried about was his vegetable garden.”

“Yep, we can’t eat flowers,” I laugh. “Remember that beautiful line-up of peony bushes down the side of the house?”

” I do— ours are just starting. I wish they’d hurry up a bit because I like to prune in June.”

“Nice rhyme,” I mutter. “Don’t tell me that. I would like them to keep blooming until we get back from Kelly’s.”

“A bit touchy, aren’t you?”

“Well, you and your dad have that chain-saw mentality in common—remember the lilacs— we haven’t haven’t had lilacs for three whole years, you know?”

“I know what I did wrong, now. I didn’t prune in June.”

It turns out that pruning is essential information for gardeners. I’m running out now to look at my peony bush before it’s too late!

Later I show Dave the picture; he gets happy when I enjoy the flowers. I ask if I can cut a few stems.

“Nope, don’t touch them. Research says that Fall is better for pruning peonies. Besides, I like my flowers in the ground; you know that.”

Yep. I do. I have never gotten cut flowers for any occasion, maybe a new tree or bush. And I’ve grown to love the wonder of the returning plants lifting their faces to the sun and our prayers for a gentle rain to soothe and nourish their souls. 

PS He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful— John 15:2

a grief observed


I moved through the morning, noting the earthiness of spring and the lingering smell of new lilac blooms as I walked mask-less into our sanctuary. It was the first time in over a year that I wasn’t worshipping over Zoom, and I was so glad. The message was on relationships—focusing on marriages, I briefly glanced behind me wondering how at my three single sisters would fare. Our pastor injected humor and good scriptural advice on respect and loving well, and it wasn’t just for marrieds, thank goodness.

It has been a season hard on relationships.

Being cooped up with a person who holds my heart has humbled me and brought me to my knees daily. We couldn’t be more opposite in so many ways but together love for our children, friends, and our great God has sustained us.

But as the service came to a close last Sunday, I made my way back to my sisters. One of my friends sat in the middle. Her face streaked with tears. It has been a year since one of our best friend, and her husband, died. I have mostly seen my friend only through the Zoom screens weekly and scads of texts. I swallowed back my tears as I hugged her. She grieves daily, sometimes spending a whole day in a storm that breaks and flows with an intensity that leaves her gasping for her next breath.

My one friend left quickly, my other friend, grabbed my arm and said, “I’m worried about her— my second year was harder.”

I muttered something to the effect of, “We all grieve differently.”

I think. How will I grieve if I lost Dave?

I step back into my friend’s grief, only for a moment, and feel helpless. Helpless to help with her grief— helpless, except for listening and hugs.

And then Dave and I continue up the aisle. Step into our car to continue our day of buying my mom’s favorite annual that Dave plants yearly so I can remember. My ‘master gardener’ tries to convince me of another variety of pink this year, but I decline. The right color always brings back her sweetness and her soft heart. Maybe a plant would help my friend too.

Later, a newer friend, from down the street stops by. We have been helping our feisty Irish friend, after her husband’s passing. She is frail, and her eyes well up as she shares the bulletin from her husband’s funeral. We have never met her husband, because they lived in his house the past year because he was sick and she cared for him in familiar surroundings. She had been only married a bit over a year but together much longer. 

She is a delight, has a story for every occasion; a divorcee who raised her three children alone for many years, before meeting her beloved. Today was no exception. She told us her son didn’t want her to have the microphone during the service because he felt she would be too emotional.

Suddenly our newer friend grinned,  “I didn’t listen to my son after all.” She sighed, “You know, I just grabbed that microphone and this is what I recited…

Crossing the Bar by Alfred Loyd Tennyson

Sunset and evening star,

And one clear call for me!

And may there be no moaning of the bar,

When I put out to sea.

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,

Too full for sound and foam,

When that which drew from out the boundless deep

Turns again home!

Twilight and evening bell,

And after that, the dark!

And may there be no sadness of farewell,

When I embark;

For though from out our bourn of Time and Place

The flood may bear me far,

I hope to see my Pilot face to face

When I have crost the bar.

 Another pause and a deep breath, “God, my pilot, gives us strength sometimes, and I guess what? I didn’t even cry.”

Then it struck me… emotion is good, grief, though complex, puts us in a place of remembrance, and our memories bring life and strength. Joy does come in the mourning and the yearning. It helps us take shaky steps forward, knowing that we will be with our Pilot in the end, and grateful for all the loves we’ve had on our journey. 

a brewing storm


I agree with Ruth when she said, “…everyone who is walking on this big rock of a planet has a storm brewing, a storm raging, or a storm calming around them…” I have been in storms, I’m currently in a storm and another is around the corner.”

They sometimes come out apparently from nowhere. Last Sunday the phone rang at 10:45 pm.

“Mom, please start praying, for the next fifteen minutes please pray. A mega tornado is heading our way, we’re worried about Global first, we have three families in the storm shelter there.”


10:45 call to pray

I was worried about them and glad that I said, “you will always be grateful for a basement, Em, when they purchased their home in Tupelo, MS also known as (tornado alley). We have a tornado alley in Illinois also. I remembered back to my childhood when a family friend made it downstairs in the nick of time with her baby. The only thing that remained in the house was the basement!

But relationship storms always hit the hardest and hurt the most. We almost weren’t at our foster daughter’s wedding because of deep wounds and pain. I lost my best friend in life for thirty years because of saying the truth in love to her. Only recently she reached out and told me that she has forgiven me. However, the restoration process may never occur on this side of heaven. Six years ago my mom was very ill with Althezimers disease and passed away after a difficult illness. Right now my dad is struggling. We have had major mental health issues in our family. Sadly, it is a storm that keeps on giving.

I survive the storms currently and on many days I see the sun shining through. And even sometimes I get a glimpse of a rainbow.  It can only be attributed to one person.

Jesus is the rock on which I stand.  When I am slipping, slipping, slipping in the mire. He grasps me with his hand and when i press my fingers between his I can weather the heavy,heavy rains, sleet and hail that pummels my relationships. 

Though I walked with God for many years it is a more recent phenomena. I attribute it to abiding in his word, writing out my prayers and worship music. I am not the same person I was a year ago. My heart is squishy and tears come fast… tears of joy and yes… tears of agony. Many of you, my friends, I am convinced know that cry that comes straight from our gut, that ravages our souls.

It sometimes can be soothed by a mother’s hug or a husband’s embrace but I have found those moments lately where I’ve commented out loud, “Jesus, thank you for giving me that sign of your deep, deep love for me.”

Right now he’s giving me a signal to close… to send this out to you unedited or revised even though I know that I spelled Althezimers wrong. Leaving with how I actually wanted to start.

One of my favorite verses:

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil… Hebrews 6:19 (NKJV)