Rose of Sharon

The Rose of Sharon branches dangled in full bloom when I moved into my little white house the summer of 2007.   I smiled at the tree’s pink, trumpet-like flowers nodding their welcome.  For me, the tree symbolized the joy and delight I felt in buying my first home nestled in a small village surrounded by woodlands and hills. I have always loved roses, and now I felt some special affinity to the tree since it also shared my name.  This tree became a symbolic memorial and celebration of this milestone in my life.

Unfortunately the tree’s structure could not boast of its shapeliness.  When no blooms honored the tree, the branches forked out in a most grotesque manner.  At that point, I was glad the Rose of Sharon was rooted in the back yard.  A number of months later, the tree began showing signs of decay.   I arrived home from vacation one day to find that my yard man had, indeed, needed to cut down the tree.  I could swallow the disappointment of its disappearance because I held in my memory its lovely blooms.

On Saturday another Rose of Sharon tree appeared at my doorsteps.  Literally. Let me give you the backdrop.  Shari, my young friend, planned a book party celebration in honor of To Have and to Hold’s current release. Shari did it beautifully and didn’t miss one detail.  The table, which was coordinated in a pink and white theme, held delightful food, wildflowers in goblets, and in its center the featured book.  My friends arrived midmorning to celebrate this occasion.  Some were married. Some were single. There was laughter, stories and woman talk.  At some point, Shari told me to go the door to see what they brought me. In a hundred years could I have guessed?

Astounded, I saw a small tree standing at the bottom of the steps. I immediately loved the darling little tree with tiny buds.   Delighted, I shook my head in wonder.   Another Rose of Sharon tree had appeared on my property.  Again the tree symbolized yet another milestone.  This time it also included all the beautiful women who have walked with me in the book journey of the past five years.  The two hours of celebration flew by on wings. The crowning touch of the morning was having these ladies surround me with their gracious prayers. The Saturday celebration will soon be a wisp of memory, but the Rose of Sharon tree will bloom with the beauty of friendship.

Celebrations give pause.  Celebrations produce hope.  Celebrations suspend time. Momentarily, they bridge heaven and earth. For just a few hours we forget the forge of pain and disappointment. But since we are not Home yet, we also experience the ache of earthly celebrations ending.  We then return to face life’s demands.  The sweat, dirt, and grime often diminish laughter.  We work too long and too hard.  There is always one more thing to do.  We feel weariness; we shed a few tears.  We lose our sense of balance in relationships and stagger uncertainly. Sometimes we just plain lose our grip.

That is why we all need the Rose of Sharon in our life. We need pauses that show us His goodness.  And, if we pause long enough, we will hear His music and His call to the dance of an eternal celebration. We, the redeemed, will someday behold the Rose of Sharon in all His glory.  His brightness, His beauty, His blessing will beckon us forever to His side. What a celebration that will be!

To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He might be glorified.  Isaiah 61:4

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A Drizzle of Chocolate

I scraped out the contents of sweetened condensed milk into a saucepan heating on the stove.  Slowly, I stirred in a cup of chocolate chips.   I envisioned drizzling this creamy chocolate topping over a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  Oh-h-h, and yes! . . . I would add a few dollops of whipped cream and top it off with nuts and a maraschino cherry.  The picture of this delectable dessert danced about in my imagination.

I had stumbled across this recipe a few days earlier.  It sounded easy enough.  The simple ingredients included one cup of chocolate chips, ten peppermint patties, and one can sweetened condensed milk.  Since the recipe gave the option for peanut butter instead of the peppermint patties, the prior seemed the healthier choice and my preferred flavor.

At some point between my decision to try this recipe and making the recipe, my imagination soared.  Why not, I reasoned, make this recipe into a rich, creamy chocolate drizzle for ice cream instead of using it as a chocolate fondue for apples?  The sweetened condensed milk would be the perfect consistency for a chocolate drizzle.   I could imagine how guests would “o-o-oh” and “a-a-ah” over such a fine treat.  It would be my secret.   (Unfortunately by this time, my expectation of the chocolate dessert held the promise not only of pleasure but also had escalated into the idea of popularity.)  I smiled as I added the peanut butter.

While I sat down to dinner, the mixture was heating slowly. Suddenly I heard a gurgling sound.   The contents in the saucepan were heating more rapidly than I realized.  Dashing over to the stove, I grabbed a spoon.  Alas, the chocolate mixture already had begun settling to the bottom of the saucepan.  The once creamy drizzle had turned into a thick, sticky substance.  Dismayed, I spooned out the upper layer trying to salvage what could be edible.

I pulled the ice cream from the freezer.  Perhaps, I might still be able to top my dinner with a chocolaty dessert.   What I had earlier imagined as a chocolate drizzle over vanilla ice cream, now became dark, brown globs that quickly hardened into chewy nuggets. Needless to say, I didn’t bother with the whipped cream, nuts, or maraschino cherry.

Life expectations often compare to failed chocolate-drizzled desserts.  They never quite equal the picture or the imagined result.  As women, single or married, our expectations begin in our imaginations.  We desire life to provide for us a man strong and handsome, a man smooth and velvety, a man drizzling pure goodness.  We want him to be perfect, and envision him to be what we cannot be for ourselves.   Our expectations in relationships are often crushed because we are living with human beings who stand in need of God’s grace just as much as we do.

Our imaginations also build up expectations in other areas.  We want loyal friendships that last a lifetime. We long for family and children that bring us delight and honor.  We desire a church that can meet our spiritual and social needs.  We look for a job or career that gives significance and meaning to life.  What we often imagine could bring us happiness and fulfillment instead becomes a mixture of deep disappointments in the midst of good things.  That is life.

The Psalmist states bluntly an expectation that will not fail. He wrote,

My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.  He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defense; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God.                                        Psalm 62:5-7 KJV

Just as we cannot make a chocolate fondue into a creamy chocolate drizzle by the wisp of an imagination, neither can the expectations of our making produce perfect results in life.  When our expectations are rooted in the One who does all things well, the end result will far surpass any imagination of chocolate drizzle!

Help! My Laundry Turned Peach!

My mother is a washer woman.  She has done thousands of laundry loads in her lifetime.  No, she was not formally hired by a cleaning business, but with a family of eight she accumulated rights to such a title.  I recall in my early childhood days standing alongside my mother attending the wringer washing machine.   My favorite part was watching her feed the clothing through the wringer that squeezed out the excess water.  Then she heaved the basket of heavy towels on her hip and quickly walked out to the wash line to let them flap dry in the wind.

Eventually her laundering simplified when my father bought her a dryer and an automatic washer.    However, some things never changed about her laundering habits.  My mother’s fastidious laundry-sorting habits were influenced by her mother.  My mother grew up in an era when most clothing articles could discolor a whole load, so each load was carefully and thoughtfully sorted.  Thus, her proverbial line “Keep the whites with the whites,” has trailed me through the years.  My confession:  I have not always followed it religiously.

The other Friday morning, I groggily pulled the light-colored sheets from my bed and stuffed them into the washer that was filling with water for the “white” load.  This particular morning, I happened to have two new, orange bread towels in the laundry basket.  I already had done a darker load the evening before, so what option did I have?  Shrugging off the niggling thought that they didn’t belong in this load, I threw the towels in too.   I shut the lid, and sat on my couch for a spell.

An hour later, I opened the lid and groaned.  The sheets and most anything else in the washer, whatever had been white, now had turned into a pale peach color.  In that moment I experienced a life pause; slowly through my consciousness my mother’s old adage came floating back to me.  “Keep the whites with the whites.”  I found the two culprits which had swished around the agitator ruining my laundry.  I lifted them out by their necks and swung them into the dryer.  (I liked these bread towels well enough that I forgave them and dried them anyway.)  But alas, the rest of the laundry load has gone through two bleach washings, and many of the articles still retain the ugly tell-tale signs of a prior peach washing.

Recently I pulled on a pair of pale peach socks and thought, Since it is Saturday, my attire doesn’t matter.  That thought gave me another pause. Since when do bad habits not matter?  How easy it is as a single woman to excuse my bad habits in the name of convenience.   (Washing the orange towels seemed more convenient than waiting until a week later and washing them with a darker load.)  Convenience often controls our long-term habits.

  • It is more convenient to eat box or snack meals than to cook nutritiously for one.
  • It is more convenient to stay late at work, so I can sleep late the next morning.
  • It is more convenient to watch a movie than to dig into the Word of God.
  • It is more convenient to skip church, so I can get adequate rest for the upcoming week.
  • It is more convenient to call a friend when I am lonely than to seek God in my aloneness.
  • It is more convenient to “yes” than to set boundaries.

Convenient excuses can easily turn into bad habits.  Bad habits stain lives.  The good news is that the righteousness of Jesus can cleanse us and free us from bad habits.  When Jesus washes our hearts, they will not even have a hint of peach.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.   I John 1:9