Category Archives: beautify

Blooming in the Crack

I left the tiny shoot alone when I noticed it poking through the curb crack along the road. It grew bigger day by day, and I soon recognized a tiny moonflower leaf. Two larger moonflower plants flanked the side porch steps in the place they took root this year. Moonflowers migrate around the yard, and it is fun to see where they appear each spring.

The plants in the flower beds began putting out copious blooms nightly. The one in the crack worked to bloom a few times a week. Still it bloomed, and I left it. It became my reminder that even if I land on a tiny bit of soil between two cement blocks, I can still bloom, as well.

It is often difficult for me to know how to show up. Right now I am in a place of uncertainty. I feel trapped and penned in on all sides, much like that plant looks as if it could feel. It is not comfortable. Growth rarely is.

I was standing on the front porch talking on the phone, when two ladies walked by chatting. They stopped to notice and comment to each other the novelty of the flower. Hold on a second! I said to my understanding sister. I held the phone away from my face. To the ladies I called, Do you know why I left the flower there? It’s to remind us that wherever we find ourselves planted, we can still show up, bloom, and bring beauty.

I love the simple beauty that is blooming in the crack this year. It is just the visual I need. It is this year’s version of last year’s pumpkin patch. I am grateful.

How about you, Dear Reader? What visual have you been given as a reminder to bring your full self and your beauty to a situation? I would love to hear your story in the comments. Blessings!

Flower Lady

So YOU’RE the Flower Lady!

I was browsing a neighbor’s yard sale one street over and up around the block. My daughter had discovered it on a dog walk and took pictures of some items she liked. This piqued my curiosity, and I walked over with my husband.

We introduced ourselves, described where we lived, and that is when her face broke into a delighted smile and she called me the Flower Lady.

Yes, I guess that’s me! I would rather be the Flower Lady than the Porch Lady . . . I think.

Our porch is still a work in progress. A slow, but sure, work in progress.

I made my selection and paid for the items ~ a picture for a daughter’s room, a tray for serving breakfast (or working or watching a movie) in bed, and a pair of baskets to use for under-bench shoe storage.

Heading home with my treasures, I pondered her calling me The Flower Lady. It felt strange to be noticed for something, to be seen, to be named. In this season of figuring out who I am and what I like, flowers must be a thing.

I do like flowers. I try with flowers. I do not feel particularly skilled with flowers, though. It is always a bit hit or miss.

My first experience with a potted flower is embarrassing. I think about it every so often with curiosity and attempted kindness for myself and for what I did not know. I was given a Gerbera Daisy at church on my first Mother’s Day twenty-four years ago. Maybe that is why these caught my eye at Lowes one sunny day.

Mine was a beautiful bright yellow with a large and cheerful bloom. I did not know that flowers could be cut from a plant and the plant would keep putting out new blooms. The original yellow flower shriveled up and died, and I did not know to cut it off of the plant. It just sat there looking sad. It seemd to me like a one-hit-wonder, and I did not know what to do. I just left it alone, and that was the end of my first Gerbera Daisy (and yet, the beginning of my eight children!). It was many years later before I understood why it would be someone’s favorite flower.

This afternoon I spent some time outside cutting flowers. My Shasta Daisies were blooming abundantly. I gathered a vase full of them for the porch table. Stepping back, I captured this view and felt happy.

am Flower Lady. There is no right way to enjoy beauty, no right flower to choose. From the purple irises that bloom on the east side of the porch in the spring, to the multicolored daylilies that line the east side of the house in the summer, to the clearance hanging baskets of petunias and potted sweet potato vines rescued from the back table at Lowes, to the moonflowers that come up in surprising new places each year, my flowers make me smile.

I am glad they also bring joy to others!

Disrupted and Dumped Out

How are you? How was the weekend? What did you learn?

These questions pepper me upon each return from Seattle. Other than the obvious jet-lag issue that happens every single time and the lack of space in this season to feel that I am truly processing well, I have some words.

I am feeling disrupted and dumped out.

I am learning a lot. About myself. If you want to study something truly terrifying, try studying your own story. Invite others to join you on the journey. Offer yourself up to the process. Write out your most vulnerable places, or those that you think are the most vulnerable, and then allow others to listen and speak what they see. They will see differently. They will speak.

Prepare to be undone in the best and worst of ways. Prepare for the ultimate ambivalent experience. Decide if you want to keep showing up, because you always have a choice. I keep choosing more. More truth. More honesty. More reality. More disruption.

I am back. Truly. I am coming back to myself. I am returning to more of who I was created to be. It has been a wild journey. I am grateful for the opportunity to experience this growth, in this season, in the company of courageous souls choosing to battle with and for me.

I get one more trip. Already I feel the grief of impending ending, while holding anticipation of one more weekend in this space with these fierce heart warriors. There is much to do to prepare for ending well. Much to read, write, process, and create.

I have learned that it is okay to slow down and tend to the parts of me that need care. That is what I will be doing in this next season. Tending. Caring for myself. Continuing to adjust my own oxygen mask. Sorting through what I find in the dumping out of my heart.

Oh, beautiful disruption, how I love you. How you terrify me!

Bloom

Discovering the bloom was surprising.

Why am I surprised, again?

God continues to surprise and amaze me along this stretch of the journey, and I continue to struggle to believe the goodness is real and really for me. He shows me that he sees me and is here for me in the bigness and chaos with just what I need, and I wonder about next time.

Will you still see me then, Father? Next time?

The bloom in front of me whispers this time. Grace for today.

It came on the day that I finished a big story for this session in Seattle. This weekend we delve into sexuality. I tiptoed in last year via Red Tent. It’s time to go deeper.

I could have missed this tiny bloom completely, but I didn’t. The pink flower adorning the leggy growth propped by the plant stand called to me as I passed by, stopped, and marveled.

Steve, look at this!

So many things spoke to me through this little pink flower. I immediately texted the giver of the transplanted-from-broken-small-shoots in a little pot to tell her. I had transplanted the growth to a larger floor pot. It’s the one to the right of the stand in the picture. It took off wildly. Like my life.

So there it is. The bloom. The special sign to me that I am seen, it is time, and all will be well. At the end of the growth will come the flower.

But first, the terror of being dumped out and re-potted. First the mess.

Messy Change

A friend recently posted Change is messy as his Facebook status. It quickly became my mantra for this season of transition.

I don’t like change or messy.

A vivid picture of this took place the other evening as I gathered materials to plant the porch planter. It once housed the hibiscus, which has since gone the way of plants who have lived out their time with us. I try not to read too much into its death.

I had an idea in my head of what I would like to try with the pot and began the process of change. Garden gloves on so as not to dirty my hands, I began gingerly scooping soil and piling compost to the side and around the inside edge of the full pot to make room for the new plant.

planting

Oh no, some dirt spilled out onto the porch. I need to find something to scoop the extra soil into. Why can’t I just shove it around in the pot and try to make room for the new plant? I really don’t want to make a mess.

Trying to scoop a deep enough hole for the new plant to fit into the pot properly without spilling any soil out was impossibly frustrating. I didn’t want to make a mess in the midst of potting a plant. That sounds ridiculous, but it’s where I was!

My first attempt at placing the plant revealed the hole to be too shallow. Tempted to just shove it in and make do by heaping soil high around it, I knew that I would regret this decision later. I removed the plant, laid it on its side, and continued to dig deeper.

getting messy

This is taking too long. I really want to just get it done and enjoy the finished product. Time is ticking!

Often that is how it is with change. We have to wait for it to happen. We have to be in the midst of the messiness. We begin to ache.

planting process

Oh, my back! Why does bending and squatting hurt so much more these days?

I stood to stretch and survey the initial result and subsequent mess I had made before beginning the process of sweeping up the remaining soil.

sweeping up the mess

A few days later, the makeshift empty milk jug watering can was replaced by my luvvvah with a new one along with some additional flowers to add to the pot.

petunias

Sometimes change is surprising.

flowers in the porch planter

Hello, Beautiful Blooms! I am looking forward to watching you grow and change this summer!

porch

Restoring the Swing

This year’s word, Restore, has proven itself surprising in many ways.

One such way happened on Mother’s Day, but not really. Mother’s Day was the culmination of the restoration. It took awhile to process all of the feelings that swirled inside of me that day. After some time and a little bit of quiet, I am able to write.

Last September there was a post titled Seasonal Ritual where I detailed the return to the basement of the porch swing and my feelings about the whole thing. Not long after, I received a message from a dear friend asking about the swing.

She read the post and, having given birth recently and living in the country where there was a porch without a swing and having a baby who needed lots of movement, wondered if she and her husband could pick up mine to borrow for a season if they returned it painted.

I was more than happy to oblige, and my son kindly catered to a request that once again he bring the swing up from the basement to the porch. Soon after, it was gone. I was glad that it was being used and thought no more about it.

Recently, while catching up, my friend noted that her family was moving and that they would no longer need the swing. Sometime it would be returned to my porch. I assured her there was no rush and, again, thought no more about it.

This is what made for quite a surprise when Mother’s Day afternoon found me returning home from planting the planter to finding a painted swing sitting on the porch. There was a thank you note with the swing and the following comment on the blog:

We dropped off your porch swing this afternoon (this is me letting you know, so that in case somehow it isn’t there, we can sort it out!). I noticed the reno, but I also noticed the chair by the door, the beautiful house number plaque, the lantern, and all the pretty flowers growing around the house. I had been having a “wait oh no what if this is the wrong house” moment, until I saw those things–and then I thought, “Nope, this is Julie’s house.” Because of all the beauty in the midst of the mess. Because of all the ways I can see that you intentionally took time to create loveliness, even though it’s not all perfect. Keep up the good work, friend! 🙂 Thanks again for the swing; it provided this new and growing momma with many breathers.

Tears began to flow which morphed into sobs as I read her words affirming all that I was feeling insecure about with regards to my house and all that is unfinished and messy. The fact that the swing returned to me on Mother’s Day was also significant, and my heart opened to the magnitude of that gift.

The following weekend, my luvvah made a trip to Lowes for supplies and hung the swing for me. I love it.

porch swing

So do the kids.

porch swing

And things are still not perfect on the porch.

Roo on swing

But there is beauty.

Productive Stillness

I seize a moment when the clouds part and sun shines to run outside to the strawberry patch. The ground, softened by days of rain, offers up its weeds with no resistance, though an occasional tiny berry is mixed in and sacrificed to their twisted, choking growth.

Extracting myself from the tasks at hand inside is a challenge, but sunshine, fresh air, and moist soil draw me to the present, and white flowers beckon me to notice them. I stop and breathe, accepting the invitation to a bit of productive stillness.

strawberry plants

This is where it started, the inspiration to write for a blog outside of my own, in the strawberry patch. Each year reminds me of that. That, and a number of other things, like the fact that the strawberries were planted by my firstborn when she was still a teenager at home, and the first plants came from my dear friend’s yard before her life took a traumatic turn, exiling her from that home and yard.

There is a fence around the strawberries now. It is a nod to trying to keep the dog from trampling them, but it’s not working very well. Dewey has no problem in leaping with excitement over the low barrier if one of his doggie friends happens to be passing by or if he feels a need to defend his turf.

strawberry patch

It is so imperfect, the place that calls me back each year, rising from the ashes, defying proper gardening techniques. Each year I think, I’ll do better at tending this patch and putting it to bed when the season ends. Then I don’t do better. Each year strawberry grace meets me again.

I don’t know what this year’s yield will be or when we will eat our first shortcake or if there will be an attempt at jam. That remains to be seen. What I do know is that today I was met in the strawberry patch with kindness and grace and hope.