Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sunday Afternoon Tea

My ponderings this week came about by my reading... and watching.  Once again I was inspired to live a life of beauty while reading vintage Edith Schaeffer (Hidden Art of Homemaking this time around).

The re-reading took place mostly curled up on the living room sofa but also in the doctor's office... as well as at a table in Einstein's bagels (when I felt seriously low blood sugar coming on and had to stop for a carb before driving the rest of the way home)... which really was the truth but also an excellent excuse for snacking on a walnut strudel and good coffee.

Edith reminds us that if anyone should create beauty in their surroundings, it is one who is a follower of Christ... He who is the Creator of beauty.  We are made in the image of the creative God and having been originally born of the garden's soil find ourselves drawn to that which is lovely.

We may live in the most humble of neighborhoods but our home is an oasis of beauty in the neighborhood.  Our home will be free of fast food wrappers on the ground, weeds growing taller than the grass, broken toys thrown about and left for weeks on end, and windows left unwashed... we can do something rather than nothing at all.

I remember the town house we lived in for a couple of years when circumstances left us with few options for housing.  We dwelled in the middle of the four unit building with neighbors such as drunks, a woman we seriously believed was practicing the world's oldest profession, and a group of young people whom we suspected of having a meth lab in their basement (and the police raid indicated it could be true).

I must admit, I cried the first week we lived there but I soon found myself doing what I could with what there was to work with... and overlooking what could not be changed such as the huge trash container sitting beside each front door.

I washed my front window and placed a thrifted garden bench below it, which was all the front "yard" we had.  Flowers in pots were soon sitting on the bench and a wreath placed on the front door.  The result was astonishing and cost nothing... our place definitely stood out as a little garden in the midst of depravity and dirt.

These memories came back this week as I pulled weeds in the side yard, cleaned the front porch of its' winter dirt, planted the garden, and admired how nice the front yard looked after hubby mowed the lawn.  I will never stop thanking God for our house at the edge of the forest.

I've waxed poetic about the reading so where does the watching come in?  Here...

When looking out my kitchen window early one morning, the outside world appeared all dark and rainy and gloomy.  As I looked around, however, I realized my favorite tree was standing out in the darkness as if one had sprinkled florescent fairy dust on its' leaves... literally light in the darkness.

I must admit these pictures cannot even begin to show the brightness of the dogwood on a rainy day but trust me when I say... it is gorgeous.  Each spring since we've lived here, the blooming of the dogwood tree has been met with great rejoicing, not only for its' beauty but that brightness it brings in the season of rain.

As I was standing at my kitchen sink, staring at the way the dogwood tree lit up the dreary surroundings... I thought of Edith's words in the book I was reading.  We are to be like the dogwood tree in a gloomy and dark world as we brighten all around us just by bringing His presence to our own little part of the world.

The dogwood doesn't have to do anything special, it just as to be itself... that for which it was created and blooming in just the right season.

Which is what  we do as we plant the seeds and hang the ivy and sweep the sidewalk and paint the front door.  For some all that can be done is plant morning glories at the base of the porch and look forward to the vines wrapping around the lattice or grow red geraniums in the window box.  I have spent grocery money for a hanging plant on the front porch but the flowers made my heart sing the entire summer. :)

As Edith would say, if one dreams of the English cottage (or the posh condo, or the house in the gorgeous neighborhood) and does nothing with what they have at the moment... they are wasting precious days when something is better than that which would be perfect... and they brighten their lives and their surroundings.

I think living in that townhouse was much like being the dogwood tree in spring as other neighbors set flowers out and hung a vine and swept away the trash left by those who didn't care.  Children were invited in to the small kitchen and would comment on that which was pretty as they ate homemade cookies.  An easy-to-understand version of the Bible was given to the drunk next door (along with a birthday cake) and one of the young men in the "meth apartment" was encouraged to return home to his worried parents.

I was still able to walk two or three miles a day during those years and my favorite route took me through one of the posh neighborhoods with gorgeous yards and beautiful surroundings.  I must admit there were times I walked back to the ugly apartments and town houses with great sadness but knowing that was where God had planted us for that time and that moment to touch those lives... and to bring beauty in the midst of that darkness.

The dogwood is now losing its' blossoms and very soon all traces of pastel colors will be replaced by the vibrant flowers of summer.  Even the tall trees in the forest are becoming thick with leaves and my world is once again shades of green... and all my surroundings remind me there is a Creator.


Anonymous said...

Beautiful! Thank you for reminding us that God can use us-sometimes in the most unexpected places.


Hidden Art is one of my favorite books. I read it (ages ago) in college and it deeply influenced by thinking and my life . . . and my love for creativity.

It would be great to see a new generation reading it.


Rebecca said...

...makes me want to reread Edith's book(s) again, too! Thanks for the reminder.

becka said...

Hidden Art is one of my all-time favorites too. It's on my list to read once again. Thanks for another lovely post.

matty said...

Lovely reminder of keeping our corner of the world beautiful. As you have sagely observed before: we never know who is watching us and learning from us...

Vee said...

It sounds like such a good book. I, of course, dearly love reading your book right here.

Very odd it would seem if God created creatures in His image who cared nothing for beauty and loveliness. Influenced by years of having been taught by a pastor who was highly critical of people "padding a pad," I am working to temper that teaching with what I know in my heart to be true. (I know that I've shared this with you, I'm pretty sure that I have.)

Ann said...

Always inspiring ... thank you.

Mrs.Rabe said...

That is why I love that book! Emilie Barnes was the first one I read as a young married woman in whom I found a kindred...same thing for Edith!

I adore dogwoods. I can just see yours in my mind's eye all brilliant against the stormy sky!

I have lived many places in my married life - we were missionaries in training and even had to live in a house built by my husband of landscapeing plastic and wood from the woods...but we made that place a home! Any one can do it, as you well know.

Great ponderings this week, my friend!


Janette@Janette's Sage said...

Wonderful reminder of such truth...bloom where we are planted, God has placed us there.
Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for these words today. I very much needed to hear them. My God continue to bless you and your family richly.

Laurel from Kingsport TN

Kristi in the Western Reserve said...

Such a beautiful post, Brenda...(I don't think I intended a pun here!) I love your use of the dogwood tree as a symbol of light...I like to plant white flowers in my garden because they are the last ones visible when I'm sitting outside on a summer night...I have always tried to make my home beautiful and a haven for my family. At the moment I can do much less than when I was younger, but less is needed, I think. And it's always true that something is much more than nothing!

I hope you can make sense of all my rambling remarks!

Anonymous said...

I have lived for years in a sad and some what scary area but have always tried to keep our place as you said, a beacon of difference in a gray world. I have also noted that when we have had neighbors move in that cared about their property it made such a difference in our moods. I have walked in other neighborhoods of modest small homes. Each was clean and the yards colorful and neighbors walking up and down visiting each other. My dream home would be like that. Yet God has placed me here and I have little doubt I will always be here. I am here for a reason. I pray to be a light in whatever I can do and be. God has also seen to it that we have been able to purchase many nice pieces of furniture and things used through the years to pretty the place up inside and out. God has blessed us in so so many ways. Thank you Brenda for the inspiration again and putting a smile again on my face! :) Your home is one as is Vee's that I walk around blog land visiting in your neighborhood...thanks for sharing it with us. :) Sarah

Lallee said...

Brenda, you always give us such good encouragement to keep our 'nests' special and inviting.

Thank you so much for your kind comment on the loss of our little Baggins recently. It is appreciated more than you could know.

Hugs to you and Victoria.