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13 / Entering Fullness

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I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord; “plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

the CULTIVATING

journal

Sometimes this is what Hope looks like

November 18, 2016

Funny how a single phone call can stop you in your tracks instantly crumbling the edifice of how you define reality. In a second, life sustaining hope scatters like smoke in a hard wind.

I can still feel the strain of trying to catch her quiet words:  “Lancia, the baby doesn’t have a heart beat any more.”

Years before I had another phone call like this.  All the things I was doing, all the things of that moment, all the things I thought I had to do tomorrow and the week ahead evaporated into non-existence. The sunlight faded to grey around me. This was tragically familiar ground. 

“The baby doesn’t have a heart beat anymore.”  She was seven and a half months pregnant.

Peter and I had forfeited immunity from her pain when we first chose to love her.  Now the bitterness of her pain became part of the drink we shared. 

When I left the hospital I felt nearly sick.  My head was swimming, my arms were like lead.  I wasn’t sure I could find the keys to my car or find my way home.  Everything flattened out dull and vague. I think I remember green lights all the way back and something about praying for God to be with us and hold us all in His hands. Then I pulled up to the house and caught a fleeting glimpse of something on my front steps.  I parked the car, came around, and there it was.

Sometimes this is what hope looks like -crop - Image (c) Lancia E. Smith

A battered brown box clearly labeled from White Flower Farm.

For more years than I can recall spring has begun for me in the fall with brown paper bags holding bulbs from White Flower Farm.  Six weeks earlier I had labouriously gone through my annual ritual of picking out tulips and daffodils for the next spring. Almost certainly I had ordered more than I could get in our own beds even though I truly tried to be restrained in the selections. Then the weeks had passed. Eventually  I had begun to wonder what was taking that box so long to get here. For crying out loud,  I had been thinking when is the ‘right time to plant in your area’ going to get any more right than early September?  Then it became mid-September.  Then late September. I was tense with the waiting every day with a stifled sense of dread for the first frosts and the ground freezing over.  It is Colorado after all.

A battered box arrived on my door step like a solid, tangible, intimately significant message from God to me.  He knew me.  As the gardener that I am at heart, nothing could have spoken His heart to mine more clearly.  Not an hour before I had looked at the tiny body of my darling little god-son, eyes closed now, lying so still and empty.  Already a shadow piercing both heart and memory.  How very like God to know how badly I was going to need that box as a physical symbol to unpack when I got home. Two days sooner or weeks sooner my tension would have been dissipated but this terrible need would not have been met like it would with it arriving this day. He knew that and took care that it should arrive on time. His own good time.

SOmetimes this is what hope looks like - Image (c) Lancia E. Smith

I opened the box a day later.  Inside they all waited – hundreds of homely little papery brown bundles that mysteriously contain something else altogether. Bulbs look nothing like what they will become after a winter’s sleep deep beneath the soil to awaken in Spring.  Small and humble, they are the extraordinary symbol of death and resurrection.  The bulbs didn’t look like the beautiful white tulips and fragrant daffodils that I bought them for now but they contained that beauty latently.  

Until that day I had never noticed so sharply the similarity of an individual’s death to bulb planting and never looked at it from the Lord’s point of view. Yes, I’ve seen the symbol of resurrection in bulbs before but never really saw that as each body is laid in the ground, like a bulb being planted, the Lord is also waiting for a certain Spring when what rises from the ground will be gloriously and utterly different than what it was.  He, too, longs for His plantings to emerge and like us — with us — waits in Hope.

——–

Even now years later, I can’t just open the box for the flowers I want.  I will have to work for them and I will have to wait. That is so like the real work of grief.  Healing requires work. Rebuilding life requires work. Time does not by itself heal all wounds.  Only God does that and we have to work with Him in order to experience it.  I will have to get on my knees, dig holes in the soil and lovingly bury them with hope. And wait.  Wait through winter – waiting for Spring. 

daffodil-sprouting-from-the-bulb-v2wm

But months from when they are laid in the earth planted with intention, they will come back to me. It is a mystery that never ceases to amaze me. No longer what I put in the ground, they will push their way to the surface and emerge into the light – transformed. They will come up surely and truly just as surely and truly as Spring itself will come back. One by one they will unfold in a new season presenting themselves as Maureen (my favourite of all tulips), Rose of May, White Favourite, Verona, Champagne Diamond, Ivory Perennial, City of Vancouver and Queen of the Night.

Image (c) Lancia E. Smith

——–

Blessed be the Lord, Who bears our burdens and carries us day by day,

even the God Who is our salvation! Selah [pause and calmly think of that]!

~ Psalm 68:19



roses-engraving-godeys-graphicsfairybrn1

 I wrote this post five years ago but discovered recently that when we revamped the Cultivating website this post had fallen out of view. Struggling as I have been with my own need lately to remember God’s strength and faithfulness, this seems like a good day to share it again. I know I need to it for my own memorial, and perhaps it will be a timely word of hope for you as well. 

The garden that came up that next spring was breathtaking!

Blessings and every grace to you,

Lancia-Signature-for-blog



 

Lancia E. Smith

comments

  1. Bryon says:

    I had no idea you were so personally affected by this tragedy. My condolences to you as well as the family. I suppose in times like these we can count it a blessing that we know people whom we traverse so closely with knowing that we have been a good servant to them and the Lord. Blessings to you tenfold.

  2. Enrico III says:

    Condolences to you and the family. I pray that God will bless you always and that you may never lose hope in a brighter future. 🙂

  3. Lancia E. Smith says:

    Thank you, Enrico. The Lord is truly faithful and is the Author of my Hope. Many blessings to you.

  4. Charlotte says:

    So perfect is our Lord’s timing! What a great picture of hope.
    I planted tulip bulbs the other night and was struck by how fast paced our lives are and how impatient I am. I planted the bulbs and found myself disappointed that I would have to wait five months or more to see if they even bloom. Rather than disappointed, I should find myself astonished that these things that look as though they are dried up will be beautiful flowers in ONLY five or six months.

  5. Lancia E. Smith says:

    Charlotte. I am so happy that you could have such a rich realization about — what a great insight!

  6. Beautiful! Thank you for sharing this, Mrs. Smith. I’ve needed this encouragement today.

    I love the timing of the arrival of the box of bulbs and how it served as a tangible reminder that God knows you intimately. He had not forgotten you.

    It puts me in mind of something the Buechner wrote about coincidence: “Who can say what it is that’s going on? But I suspect that part of it, anyway, is that every once and so often we hear a whisper from the wings that goes something like this: “You’ve turned up in the right place at the right time. You’re doing fine. Don’t ever think that you’ve been forgotten.” (~Frederick Buechner, originally published in Wishful Thinking and later in Beyond Words).

    We feel forgotten when we suffer. It’s perfectly natural, in fact, as our Lord demonstrated for us on the cross: “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani.”

    The wordless answer He received from His Father was His Resurrection. The box of bulbs was your answer. What a beautiful parallel. <3 God bless you!

  7. Rebecca says:

    As a woman who has experienced two miscarriages years ago, this was very meaningful. My husband is an Anglican priest and I’m finishing up my Masters in Fine Art in May. We currently have a small group meeting at our house, but we wonder what God’s plan is for this little group. So now, my husband and I try to wait patiently to see what He has in mind. Being faithful in the small things and trusting God seem to be the best way to go. But I want to thank you for your wonderful blog. It speaks to me beautifully, the love and nurture of Christ.

  8. Lancia Smith says:

    Rebecca, thank you for sharing about this. Miscarriages and still births are difficult to talk about, sometimes for years. I know the miscarriage I suffered more than 40 years ago is still painful to discuss and the sadness of it lingers, despite having a houseful of beautiful children. That waiting place you describe is also a great place of crafting character and deepening understanding. Few are content to wait to there with grace and trust. What precious people you are to God! And yes, being faithful in the small things is the best way to go! I am glad you are here at Cultivating and pray we will continue to speak good and nourishing things for you! Blessings to you, always.

  9. Lancia Smith says:

    You are so welcome, Rebekah!

    I hesitated about sharing this piece but felt that with a submitted heart about it that it would speak to someone right now who needed the encouragement as I have. It is so easy to forget the intimate ways the Lord tells us that we are known personally by Him and much of what I write is really about making memorial to His presence and goodness to me so I do not forget. The need to intentionally remember is bound to us inherent in our transient nature. My heart breaks sometimes with my lack of remembrance. I forget Him too often but He is ever faithful and never forgets me. What can any of us do but bow to such a God? And, you are right. We do feel forgotten when we suffer. What a beautiful reminder you have offered about Yeshua receiving the Resurrection as His Father’s answer to His feeling abandoned. It gave me chills when I read it. Thank you. You are a blessing!

  10. Rebecca says:

    Lancia, thank you for the kind words. I’m sorry that you also experienced that loss. It’s a group in which no one wants to belong, but it does allow us to comfort others with sincerity and empathy. Looking forward to seeing more of your posts; they are a blessing to me.

  11. “The need to intentionally remember is bound to us inherent in our transient nature. My heart breaks sometimes with my lack of remembrance. I forget Him too often but He is ever faithful and never forgets me.”

    I love this! Thank you. It reminds me of what both Chesterton and Tolkien said about familiarity and appropriation breeding a kind of fatigue or boredom. We have grown too old to exult in the glorious monotony of our lives, haven’t we?

    I now wish that I gardened! You might have just inspired me to try (my thumbs are quite brown, I’m afraid!). God bless you, sister.

  12. Lancia Smith says:

    And many blessing to you as well, Rebekah.

    I love this quote by Chesterton about youth, monotony, and God. 🙂 ““Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” Orthodoxy

    Any foray into gardening will be full of goodness and illumination. Don’t be afraid to try it!

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