Come see my roses climbing,
Said my love one summer’s day,
The breezes are softly caressing
Their crimson petals along the way.
Nestled and twined round trellis high
Beauty that takes my breath away!
How fleetingly petals bloom and die,
The moment lost if I do not stay.
It’s early summer and the world is astoundingly beautiful, the explosion of colour a laughing joy after the dormancy of a long winter and cool spring. We who live in northern climates have learned to stop and appreciate all that nature has to offer in this short window of time. There’s a gladness in just being with resurrected life.
The rose theme seems not to be limited to our gardens. Within a couple of days, we encountered four people named Rose, in various contexts. Like a bouquet of Roses. If you pay attention, life is full of odd coincidences, and I’ve learned to just enjoy them.
Perhaps the Master Gardener calls us to take a moment, and enjoy all of His creation, including human beings. We are not so much set apart from the rest of nature as we are embedded in it. We, too, revel in the warmth and light of the sun. When we respond, we are the beloved to the lover, beauty enhances all our senses and makes us fully and achingly alive. Whether we are walking in a garden or being part of our community, sometimes it’s all so poignant that it hurts.
The rose’s thorn reminds us that these fleeting treasures can’t be held in grasping hands, or taken for granted. They can only be cherished when we let them be, grateful that we share this moment.
On Father’s Day we remember each one
Of our loving fathers; well knowing
That all the work that they have done
Was so important for our growing.
It is an awesome responsibility to protect and guide young lives, to help create the solid nurturing home that becomes a lifetime foundation. Children watch parents during formative years, when memories lay their most enduring tracks. Teachable moments are generally not rehearsed ones.
Since it’s Father’s Day this Sunday, it seems fitting to pause and reflect a little about fathers. It’s not only about the fathers who parented us, but also the ones who parented our children, and who are now parenting our grandchildren.
For my Dad, fathering meant coaching a novice bike-rider in a Dominion grocery store parking lot after hours. It meant sweating at the back of an auditorium as I participated in a public speaking contest at school. It meant allaying our fears and somehow making each one of us feel unique. We used to love Sundays, because that day Dad had some free time to spend with us. The Sabbath made it possible to slow the pace, to appreciate family and nature during afternoon walks or drives.
My father was not much of a detail man, but he generally could charm people into buying into his dreams with their sweat equity. He had a knack for making people feel good about helping him. As a side benefit, his family learned a healthy wariness of being wheedled into grand schemes.
As he grew older, my father’s generally positive outlook on life began to fray a little. Troubles, big and small, got tiresome after a while. After undergoing neck surgery when he was in his 80s, his mobility was limited. He needed physiotherapy, but it was difficult for him to connect incremental effort to the big picture. Given a small jigsaw puzzle to hep improve his manual dexterity, he jokingly felt that this was a “waste of my valuable time.”
I also so much appreciate the fathering and quiet support my husband provided for our family. The gardens in which he loves to work produce beautiful blooms around our home. He has a can-do attitude that is willing to work out challenges. He is the reliable companion who attended countless church services, every family visit or event, who could always be counted on to chauffeur. His calm and steady driving generally set a good example. All three of our children got their driver’s license on their first attempts (more than we can say for ourselves).
Dads often get traditional gifts for their special days. Things like ties, which accumulate over time. So, I thought I’d take a photo of his personal collection, 24 ties in all. The gift of a tie, of course, could never convey enough gratitude: children know when they are loved, and love is given in return.
And to our son and son-in-laws, still in the middle of parenting young children, I wish them strength and kindness and perseverance as they lovingly raise the ones entrusted to them.
Sometimes, when trying to understand a concept, I have fun playing around with word definitions to get a glimmer of insight through their multiple meanings. Language is like a treasure chest that contains gems, that reveals coins of ancient and modern currencies.
And so I set out to explore the meaning of the word to “yield,” because I was intrigued by the interplay between God’s will and our human free will. Clearly, I am still responsible for my choices and actions. And even Jesus struggled in the Garden of Gethsemane with his submission of free will to God’s better plan. “Not my will, but thy will be done.” What does it mean to freely make the choice to yield my will to God’s will?
I’d somehow gotten the idea that if I wanted something, God would deliberately withhold it just to show me who was in charge. My own desire itself was suspect if it served no altruistic ideal. Was it right to make decisions that took into account my own benefit? Had I loved someone too much, or too little, that God made the decision to allow the pain of their dying? There are many situations over which I have no control, and little choice. So I wrestled with the concept of surrender in what I did have, of yielding my thoughts and ways and plans to God. It seemed to imply risk, and mean a frightening vulnerability.
The concept of a Yield sign flickered to mind. A Yield sign allows traffic to merge safely. Perhaps God doesn’t want to stamp out all desires, or reduce human beings to a fatalistic view of life. I just need, when I come to an intersection, to let Him go first. If I try to run on ahead of God, I have no way to know what trials, traps or difficulties lie in my path. But if I let God take the lead, he prepares my life ahead of me, making provision for sustenance and for safety, productive work, and yes, even joy. I can yield right of way when I know God is a loving shepherd.
In another sense, yielding may require sacrifice of something or someone very valuable. We look at what we have to give up and mourn it, forgetting that it’s important to release a thing so that we can allow for something better to come into our life. Or theirs.
We are reluctant to surrender one stage of our life because we fear the challenges of the next. As we hesitate, our old world crumbles around us. My parents, like many seniors, found it difficult to let go of their home, though it was becoming increasingly evident that the farm was no longer a safe place for them to be alone. One support worker, veteran witness to many families in this quandary, wisely advised them that the earlier you make decisions, the more options you have. As time goes on, choices will be more and more limited. It is hard to give up your old pots and pans, much of your comfortable furniture and loved possessions, the old familiar neighbourhood. I am sure it will be a struggle for me in my time. But to get stuck in the mourning of losses means not realizing potential for growth in a new setting.
And finally, we use the word yield to refer to a tree’s bounty of fruit in season. If we submit, yield to the process of regeneration, it creates the possibility of being a blessing to the world around us. The branch must yield its separate existence to be attached to the vine, as Jesus pointed out, or there would be no life, and thus no harvest. We are dependent for nourishment on the conduit Jesus opened for us.
So I look up word definitions and origins, because words are full of parables. The treasure of language includes keys to crack codes of deep truths. There is an underlying unity in all things, so the vocabulary that references the physical world illuminates something of the vast spiritual world.
“And his will is our peace; this is the sea To which is moving onward whatsoever It doth create, and all that nature makes.”
For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. Psalm 36:9
In the days following cataract surgery on my right eye, after the initial bleariness subsided, I found myself totally entranced by the luminosity of the world. Colours were amazingly bright, objects startlingly and sharply clear. And this is my “bad” eye!
What an amazing gift sight is! Perhaps one of the best purposes of life is to simply use our senses to experience the glory all around us, to truly see and marvel at God’s creation.
Conversely, it’s also wondrous that we are seen. The psalmist realizes that before his own undeveloped eyes could see, God observed him.
Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:16
We are not always entirely comfortable with this all-seeing God. I recently saw a hotel room in Las Vegas that had a stark painting of a large eye hanging on the wall. It seems a strange choice of decoration for the city that thinks it can keep what happens in Vegas in Vegas. Even in a city centred around gambling and pleasure, there are always two eye witnesses: ourselves and God himself. Apparently, God even has night vision!
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. Psalm 139:11-12
But when we are afraid, when we need guidance, we long for God’s eyes to be focused on us. We want to be the centre of His attention, His loving watchfulness. The slave, Hagar, in despair in the desert, encounters this caring God. Overwhelmed, she names him “The God Who Sees.”
We are eyewitnesses. And we are witnessed in the eyes of God. So we say, with the psalmist who begs for God’s eyes on him,
My Quotations file is where I jot down interesting sayings that are worth saving and pondering on. It’s getting to be about 30 pages long, and is a real hodge-podge of wisdom gleaned from a wide variety of sources.
We also have our own family platitudes accumulated over a decades-long marriage of partnering and parenting. Along with these are those inherited from our own parents, or from astute co-workers. Here is a sample of some of them, in no particular order:
“If you ask for trouble, it will come!” Wise Mom prediction, based on experience
“It’s all fun now, until someone gets hurt!” To kids scuffling in a play-fight
“Be careful of the company you keep.” When oatmeal cookies stored along with bran muffins in a container turned to mush.
“Home again, home again! Jiggety-jog!” Said with relief to a carload of kids when turning into our driveway after a long road trip
“I have no useful opinion.” From Ellen, HR manager in my workplace
“No good deed goes unpunished.” To anyone disappointed by consequences after showing kindness
“Look on the bright side.” After cataract surgery, when the view from one eye was much brighter than the other
“This, too, shall pass.” Maternal axiom shared by co-worker at McMaster
“We spent a week there one afternoon.” From co-worker who accompanied partner on a difficult family visit
“Everything was just slightly off.” From elderly gentleman, commenting on the journalistic accuracy of his newspaper interview
“It’s not black and white.” Referring to epic early courtship argument about whether black and white were colours
“Tomorrow is promised to no one.” From the lawyer preparing our will
“But I wanna be first!” Oldest to the second child when she had run so fast in a circle around the kitchen and living room that she was actually now behind the second.
“Dat is jammer (pronounced ‘yummer’).” Jammer being a word I heard so often while accompanying my parents on a trip to Holland, that I finally had to ask what it meant. Apparently a lot of things are just unfortunate
“If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” From my father, who generally was in such a big rush that he took risky shortcuts
“I guess the world will just have to get along without it!” From my friend Siska, after I’d forgotten something profound I wanted to say
“Nothing good happens after 2 a.m.” Advice on when to leave a college party from a roommate’s parent
“How come Holland is so small on this map?” Overheard on a school’s visiting grandparent day, addressed to student who was a grandchild of Dutch immigrants. Helpful when needing perspective
“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!” An attitude of perseverance (and stubbornness) that will not stay down, will not give up. Very effective when lived out by example
Learning is lifelong, and these adages are borne out of shared experiences over many years. They are touchstones to address the ordinary circumstances of life, the inside jokes that still cause us to share a smile, a memory.