Sunday, April 30, 2017
Sunday Afternoon Tea - The Lovely that Remains
I have spent a lot of time recently viewing the dogwood tree through the kitchen window. Each year it takes my breath away as the white blossoms appear to glow in the dark. Even yesterday in the midst of very heavy rainfall and high winds, the dogwood was standing strong and lovely.
I was quickly washing dishes as a storm approached (I came within seconds of having my hands in soapy water when the house was hit by lightening before!), washing and rinsing and gazing all at the same time. The county was under a warning and I knew I must hurry if I wanted the kitchen clean before heading to the sofa to read but the Beauty of that tree was quite distracting.
Now I must admit, the tree is no longer as lovely as it once was for the men from the rural electric co-op came through a few years ago and cut off branches near the power lines. (The photo above is not my tree.) Although we begged them to be careful (as did our "across the fence" neighbor who can view the tree from his house), they took off enough that the tree appears lopsided. We were not amused.
However, each spring since then I choose to look at the lovely that remains. For in that lopsided tree is a lesson I must continually learn... often I have to look past that which is imperfect and settle my gaze on the Beauty that remains.
Normally I'm a very hopeful person and I look to see God's presence in every situation and every "thing". Even when the snow is on the ground and the wind is blowing icy on my face as I walk down the gravel road to get the mail, I look at the pop of red in the midst of white which is my neighbor's barn. If the snow is fresh, I stop (after pulling the hood of my down coat over my ears) and view the silent forest covered in pure white, the trees creating sculptures with their lack of foliage. Beautiful...
However, there are seasons when I struggle with grasping that which is lovely even when it is all around me. Sometimes there is a reason and I don't try to push the joy in a time of sorrow. For instance, this past Christmas was wrapped in deep grief after my beloved Victoria died suddenly. I love Christmas so I decorated as usual and listened to music and watched Christmas movies and did some baking... but I did not force joy. No, there is a time for joy and a time for grief and they do not always coexist.
As the months have progressed since that time, I found myself increasingly sad and even those things which usually bring delight appeared dimmer than usual. For instance, I usually bring in almost every daffodil blooming on the property and place them in a vase to enjoy. This year I only made two bouquets and left the rest where they grew. They were just as lovely but I didn't feel the joy I usually do as I view them in the cut glass vase.
I noticed the same thing as the crab apple bloomed next to the garage. Its' scent was wonderful and the blossoms were such a pretty color but what I noticed most this year was that the crab apple is slowly dying and soon must be cut down. At least it is not a threat to the house as is the black walnut tree in the backyard which is also living it its' final years.
While Victoria's death affected the Christmas season, I realized that was just part of what was making me feel so sad. Adopting Florentine has helped a great deal and while she will never replace Victoria, she has made her own place in our heart with her kittenish antics. No... I think Victoria's death just pushed me over the edge of something that had been coming on for at least a year.
The human heart can only take in so much darkness before it dims the eyes of how we view the world. The presidential election was brutal and as a conservative Christian, I had never felt so much hate before. I still receive comments from time to time here on the blog but I don't publish them. There is a certain cleansing in the ability to push a delete button.
I have mentioned already having to un-follow people on Facebook and Instagram... some of them people that I have followed and enjoyed reading for years. I even had to remove a few blog links from the sidebar when people I had been able to find agreement with in areas of life such as gardening, whole foods, homeschooling, etc. began to delve into social and political rants.
The world news was just as bad and there was not a day that went by in which it seemed some atrocity was committed and announced on the 24 hour news cycle. There was just as much anger in the world as there was here at home. More in those parts of the world where terrorism and war was already raging.
I came to realize that I was world-weary and tired. I was tired of counting pennies at the grocery store while I watched people who make a living pretending to be someone else (aka: actors) getting paid millions and complaining about their life. I was tired of decorating shows on HGTV with sniveling people who would not buy a house because the kitchen was thirty years old. I was tired of politicians (all of them by this point), and tired of pastors who did not believe the Bible, and tired of this rainy spring, and tired of... life the way it is in a fallen world.
Thankfully, I have enough of a sanguine personality that I don't feel comfortable living with gloom. It brings me down not only emotionally but physically. I live with Puddleglum so one of us has to be optimistic. So I began to look for the lovely in situations where it was possible and slowly found the sadness lifting.
I also had to be realistic that some of us feel tired because we are tired. I remind my husband once in awhile that there is a reason they send young men to war. The younger one is, the physically stronger one is, the more likely one feels fearless and charges ahead into the unknown.
We also have something else that carries us along... or should I say Someone. The verse which constantly nudged at me these past few months was, "Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world" (1 John 4:4).
If I feel uncomfortable in this world, it is because this is not my permanent Home. I think I've never understood that as I have these past couple of years. I will continue to look for all that is lovely in the midst of the darkness and do that which He asks me to do in this world but realizing all the time that nothing is ever going to be perfect. We grasp the good we can find in the imperfection.
Like my lopsided dogwood tree, it is just as lovely as it always was if I focus my eyes on that which is left and not wish for what is missing. Perhaps that lesson alone is why God allowed rural electric men with chainsaws to invade my backyard. I wouldn't be at all surprised.
Image: Not my dogwood tree but one that shows what it used to look like.