Edith Schaeffer was known to describe the worthwhile effort of making a home beautiful using whatever God gave you, telling stories about the lean years when table decorations consisted of whatever sticks and wildflowers her kids found and brought inside. Ok, if I am honest (and you know I always am here… even when you are begging me to stop…), I learned that tidbit in my first ever book group as a young wife, which I absolutely hated. I probably need to go and reread the book. I was obviously not in the right mental space to receive the wealth of knowledge.
Despite that, however, the image stuck with me. I’ve lived by it. Yesterday was an almost oppressively hot and muggy day (please do not hear complaint. I am actually feeling fairly delighted by every fleeting evidence that summer remains with us), so it was early in the morning when I went traipsing out amongst the flowers and grasses, weeds and branches to find ways to fill a small glass vase, to bring sweetness and light to my table and to the eyes of all who behold it.
(Side note: are you familiar with something called a flower frog? I am a long time subscriber to Fair Trade Friday, www.fairtradefriday.club , and I recently received two such frogs, beautifully hand-carved in dark wood of some sort that I didn’t read carefully enough to remember now what it is, and I am loving them! If I ever figure out how to stick pictures on this here blog, perhaps I shall show you, but until that never never land, imagine a wooden disc with irregular holes carved into it, set atop your vase, for poking flower stems through. They stand at attention and do not blink in this state, no matter how many funny faces you make.)
I have three roses bushes in my yard at Feodora, planted by the Beloved with great intentionality: the Julie Andrews and Double Delight (which I think a silly name for a rose, so I renamed it the Queen Susan) are in easy view of my orange leather reading chair, and Dolly Parton blooms beneath my bedroom window (and how. That is an aptly named rose, to the point of squirming discomfort. You never saw bigger blooms…). Roses, especially roses that really smell like roses, take me back to my childhood and I am thrilled that mine are now blooming well. I struggle not to cut and bring inside every single rose produced. There is really only one thing that prevents me from a complete decimation…
We have already established my respectful posture towards arachnids of all varieties, yes? When I come across an otherwise fulsome and altogether attractive rose that is hosting a gnarly spider down inside it’s velvety depths, I say to myself, surely this bud is happiest out in the sun and I walk away. The rose is a good thing, one might even argue that the spider is a good thing, but for everything there is a season and I have not yet arrived at the oh boy I want a spider crawling across my plate season. I promise to let you know when I do.
This puts me in mind of social media, church lady gossip, and chick flicks.
There is nothing inherently evil about using social media. Chatting with the ladies after church is a wonderful gift. And I cop to loving a good chick flick. But isn’t it often the case that there are temptations to sin lurking within an otherwise harmless thing? If I am not paying attention, I step right into it and get myself a face full of spiritual spider. Is my Instagram how I put off doing the duty right in front of me? Is my Pinterest scrolling what I use to put off or ignore my kids, or to maintain the tiny nag of discontent in my soul? That one that actually I could be rid of… if I didn’t rather like how it felt to compare myself to pictures on a screen? Is my interest in others at church a way that I lift myself above them? Do I speak sadly of their struggles with sin while congratulating myself that I have not fallen into that pit (as I holler up from a pit of my own…)? And about those chick flicks… do I call it “recharging” if what I am actually doing in my secret soul is sighing that my husband is not flung into despair when I leave the room, pining for romance rather than thanking God for exactly the marriage He has given me? These are only a few examples, but you see my logic, yes? We are none of us righteous, not one, and our every inclination is to evil, all the time — do not pick the roses without paying attention.
Yet there is another kind of flower harvesting that needs addressing as we wander about the yard, both physically and spiritually. On to the marigolds, shall we?
My husband was inspecting insects, as he is apt to do (I am just thankful that he has given up his old practice of picking the little buggers up and storing them in his empty sandwich wrap, tucked in his lunchbox to look at later. I learned early on in my marriage not to be the one to unpack his lunchbox), and discovered a striking sight on our small collection of bright orange marigolds. There, arms wide open was a spider, matching eerily well the deep burnt hue of the flower, with absolutely gigantic pincers, extending to the edges of the outermost petals. Upon closer inspection, he found that it was something of a spider gang, snapping and dancing and singing threatening songs to pests that wandered to the wrong side of the floral tracks. Each blossom housed, smack dab in the middle, an orange, menacing spider.
Marigolds are really only good for killing aphids and building stink bombs (enough of them wrapped in a rhubarb leaf, pinned shut with a stick, is quite effective when placed strategically. You see? My youth was not entirely misspent). So, if we take it back to our previous examination of lurking sins, these would be of a different category — the what were you doing picking those?!? Marigolds do not belong on your table! These are the areas where you and I, reader, should not have been lurking in the first place. Shall I offend you all? Let’s see if I can… Feminism. Diversity Studies and Cultural Engagement in your ministry. That huff you get when your husband tries to lead you. Your determined search of the scriptures to find a justification for taking over that man’s role at church, because we both know you would do it better anyway… should I keep going? You cannot Christianize these. It is not simply that there are pitfalls and trip-ups to be aware of; you never should have been picking these flowers in the first place.
Harvest in abundance and with alertness, with wisdom, the many gifts and opportunities God has drenched your life with. Stop stinking up your heart with the flowers you know full well God has told you not to pick.