1454. How fair is a garden amid the trials and passions of existence. ~Benjamin Disraeli

Old-fashioned flowers! I love them all:
The morning-glories on the wall,
The pansies in their patch of shade,
The violets, stolen from a glade,
The bleeding hearts and columbine,
Have long been garden friends of mine;
But memory every summer flocks
About a clump of hollyhocks.
~Edgar A. Guest

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You may have noticed that I’ve been posting lots of photos of hollyhocks lately. Why? There are two reasons: first because they are one of my favorite flowers and secondly because the hollyhock is a flowering plant of such antiquity that it was found at a neanderthal burial site, where it had stood as a silent sentry for eons. And then after the neanderthal era the hollyhock, a member of the mallow family, was grown in religious gardens around churches and monasteries, and hollyhock seeds were included in the cargo on early ships to the Americas.

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So the tall, showy hollyhock has been used in gardens all over the world and for those tens of thousands of years their chalice-like blossoms, when facing upward, have captured and held countless dollops of daylight while captivating mortals and pollinating creatures alike with their winsome ways. The name hollyhock probably resulted when crusaders brought this versatile plant to England. Holy and hoc (mallow) were the terms associated with it at that time. The sturdy plant gained popularity and even became the subject of a 15th-century poem. However, over the years and sadly, at least hereabouts, less and less of them are to be found in gardens, even gardens where they were once considered a staple.

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Those red hollyhocks are at the back of our lot,
and I think they are even taller than 9 feet.

So the tall, showy hollyhock has been used in gardens all over the world and for those tens of thousands of years their chalice-like blossoms, when facing upward, have captured and held countless dollops of daylight while captivating mortals and pollinating creatures alike with their winsome ways. The name hollyhock probably resulted when crusaders brought this versatile plant to England. Holy and hoc (mallow) were the terms associated with it at that time. The sturdy plant gained popularity and even became the subject of a 15th-century poem. However, over the years and sadly, at least hereabouts, less and less of them are to be found in gardens, even gardens where they were once considered a staple. So I’ve been thrilled that the last two years I’ve been having such great luck with growing them. I especially like that they sometimes reach a height of 9 feet or more which means they tower above all else in a garden; also wherever they grow, the flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Miracles are they then? I think so. The first miracle is that all the data needed to replicate this lovely giant and its flowers is stored In something as small as one of my freckles. The next miracle is that for thousands upon thousands and thousands of years the small seeds have not perished nor failed in their purpose. The third miracle is that the Lord ordained pollinators along with the sun, soil, and water, to be faithful guarantors of the hollyhock’s lifeline.

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How could anything be more amazing than that God not only created all that is and devised ingenious ways for everything He made to be replenished, but that he also valued the importance of beauty as well as purpose. The Lord created not just a human body that needs tangible nourishment but also a soul in the physical body that needs to be fed in spiritual ways, a soul that longs for and seeks its beautiful Source.

Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. -Luke 12:23 ✝

**All photos taken  by Natalie; collages created by Natalie

1446. Beauty is a nectar which intoxicates the soul. ~T.C. Henley

Beauty unites all things,
links together flower and star,
with chains more certain than
those of reason.
~Henry James Slack

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One spring years ago when the flowering trees were in bloom, we came across one of the most beautiful specimens I’d ever seen. I hadn’t a clue as to what kind of tree it was, but I knew I had to have one of my own one day. Thus began the search, a search as it turned out that was not so easy. First I had to find out what the name of the tree was, and once I found that out I discovered that none of the local nurseries had even heard of it before much less had one for sale. So I went online and found a few mail order places that had them. They were fairly expensive but I knew I’d never be happy until one grew here.

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One spring years ago when the flowering trees were in bloom, we came across one of the most beautiful specimens I’d ever seen. I hadn’t a clue as to what kind of tree it was, but I knew I had to have one of my own one day. Thus began the search, a search as it turned out that was not so easy. First I had to find out what the name of it was, and once I found that out I discovered that none of the local nurseries had even heard of it before much less had one for sale. So I went online and found a few mail order places that had them. They were fairly expensive but I knew I’d never be happy until I had one of my own.

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Then another year or two went by and I finally found one at a nursery in a small town close to where we live. It was autumn and the leaves were falling off but you could tell it was alive so we bought it and all winter my hopes ran high that come spring I would at last have my ornamental Peppermint Peach Tree. As the temps began to rise, I’d go out every day looking for signs of life only to find none and eventual heartbreak once again.

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So I told myself it just wasn’t meant to be and moved on until last spring when I saw another one in full bloom again. As soon as I got home I got online to try one more time to find one, and I did. It came on a late and cold wintry day which was not a good time to get out and plant it. It was packed in ice to keep it alive until we didn’t have to plant it immediately, so it lived like that for nearly a week until at last we could finally get out and get it in the ground. And then the waiting game began again. Every day I would make my little trek out to the back fence where we had planted it to see if anything was happening and sure enough green leaf swellings began to appear and what looked like a few blossoms too. Some of the little flowers are white, some are white with red stripes, and some are just red, and it’s all one one tree, thus the name, Flowering Peppermint Peach Tree.

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A week later, we had a late freeze and I feared the worst, but although the little blossom swellings fell off the green leaves did not and so all summer the little baby tree was filled with the sweet music of many leaves and I made sure it was watered well. Then autumn followed by winter came and the leaves vanished. Nevertheless, I waited with great faith that this, the third try, would prove fruitful and praise the Lord and hallelujah it did! I know, I know, it’s just a tree right?! And many would think me silly and that such really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, but you see it truly does. It reminds me that God is still in His heaven and all’s right with the world!!! Mankind may be doing it’s best to destroy all that Yahweh made, but He, the Maker of heaven and earth, is still on the Throne of Grace and in control!

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Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. ~Deuteronomy 7:9 ✝

**All photos taken by Natalie; the first one is the tree when I first saw it years ago in another’s yard, and the remaining ones are what’s happening now in my yard on my own little tree

1438. We look into the reverse end of the kaleidoscope of human events and see, mostly, confusion and discord; while God beholds harmony from the divine end. ~James Lendall Basford

We hear the beating
of wings over Bethlehem
and a light that is not of the sun
or of the stars shines in the midnight sky.
The message of Christmas is that
the material world is bound to
the invisible spiritual world.
~Author Unknown

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The dictionary defines relationship as a connection to or an involvement with another, and what happened in a Bethlehem manger over 2,000 years ago was the Breath of Heaven reaching out to touch and begin a relationship with the material world. Christmas then is not an event; it is instead the beginning of a relationship. What God gave the world in the beginning was physical light, but it was His son, the Messiah, who brought salvation and the spiritual light that illuminates the face of God and opens the door to an intimate involvement with Him. To achieve that divine destiny Jesus came into our world, walked among us, and left a continuing legacy of ways to remain connected to and in relationship with the Creator. That relationship can only come into its fullness by walking with the Creator, talking with Him, and devoting time to the Lover of our souls. It’s like when a man or woman marry. They don’t just celebrate and spend time with each other on that one day of the year. It has to be a day to day, minute to minute commitment if the relationship is to grow and blossom into greater goodness.

When I saw others straining toward God,
I did not understand it, for though,
I may have had Him less than they did,
there was no one blocking the way
between Him and me,
and I could reach His heart easily.
It is up to Him, after all, to have us;
our part consists of almost solely
of letting Him grasp us.
~Ranier Maria Rilke

May the Lord our God be with us as he was with our ancestors; may he never leave us nor forsake us. ~1 Kings 8:57 ✝

**Inages found on the Internet; collage by Natalie

1436. I cannot imagine how the clockwork of the universe can exist without a clockmaker. ~Voltaire

If you want to find God, hang out
in the space between your thoughts.
~Alan CohenScreen Shot 2017-12-24 at 8.30.06 PM.pngMay yours always be a world blessed
with plentitude and enduring joys.
In your heart, may there be love;
in your soul, may there be peace;
in your mind may there be calmness.
May each season of the years
bring you the best they have to offer.
May you never be lacking enough
and never want for more.
May your home be a sanctuary wherein
you feel the continual presence of the Lord.
May you feel His mantle of love
perpetually around you and yours.
May your life yield a multitude of days
filled with laughter and love.
On rainy or troubling days may there
be rainbows, physical and/or spiritual,
to gladden your eyes and heart.
On starry, moonlit nights, may the orbs of heaven
and the “echoes of the spheres” speak to you
of the Holy One and His goodness and mercy.
~Natalie Scarberry

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. -Ephesians 1:17 ✝

**Clocks photos taken by Natalie in London and Paris; collage created by Natalie

1435. Every happening, great and small, is a parable whereby God speaks to us. ~Malcolm Muggeridge

Remember this. When people choose
to withdraw far from a fire,
the fire continues to give warmth,
but they grow cold.
When people choose to
withdraw
far from light,
the light continues 
to be bright in itself
but they are in darkness.
This is also the case when 
people
withdraw from God.
~Augustine

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Try as some may, purporting that life is “a tale told by an idiot signifying nothing” or that it’s merely the result of events that can be explained through science or reason falls terribly short of reality. Nothing in these assumptions explains the existence of or need for compassion, grace, love, or mercy. Nor do they explain the compulsion in the human heart for expressions of such. If mortals were simply intellectual beings, they’d not emote, express feelings, or commit loving acts that are seemingly inspired in some inscrutable place within their physical being. These things, like all happenings in Creation, are indeed symbolic narratives designed to teach or illustrate truths about the Ancient of Days who created and wired into humans the capacity to feel, express emotions, and extend kindnesses to one another. It’s also true, as Muggeridge suggests, that the Author of light and life wrote into the fabric of Creation parables for His children and that getting the gist of them is an art, an art mastered not only by looking carefully at the apparent and outward realities of Creation but also by peering into its inward and inner realities. The sacred isn’t merely above us but forever within us and the entire body of Creation. Discovering the sacrosanct in all that Yahweh made can’t help but stir in the descendants of Adam a sense of connection and belonging to a higher Power. The resources and bounty of planet earth alone give us plenteous reasons to sense the presence of a Holy Benefactor and to feel His gracious, creative, and loving hands in our lives. What sparks a real desire within the human heart to seek Him is the “getting the message” within all the happenings of that which He has made. However, in case Creation’s parables are too puzzling, over 2,000 years ago God expanded the narrative and clearly revealed Himself when He sent His Son to be our Savior. Jesus is our memory, and in coming to offer us salvation, He reminds us of who we are and to whom we belong. As we prepare to celebrate the Messiah’s birth this weekend, I wish all of you a very blessed Christmas. As a very familiar yuletide song says, “O come let us adore Him!” And as we do, I pray that we create a compelling testimony to others of the Lord’s very real presence in our midst.

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. ~Romans 1:20 ✝

**Image via the Internet

1432. The leaves drift toward the earth like ships to land, a voyage launched from timbers’ great lofty berths… ~Excerpt from a poem by Dan Young

Ah! the year is slowly dying,
And the wind in tree-top sighing,
Chant his requiem.
Thick and fast the leaves are falling,
High in the air wild birds are calling,
Nature’s solemn, autumnal hymn.
~ Edited poem by
Mary Weston Fordham

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Day by day autumn’s end draws nearer, and thus even more strains of “nature’s solemn, autumnal hymn” fill the coldish air. And because the temperatures finally dropped below freezing for several nights here, the things that had been hanging on perished or are now in the process of dying and so their joyous songs of life have ceased for the year. The terrain too is well-nigh down to its barest essentials, and all that we’ll soon hear are winter’s deep sighs and silences or the wailing of her bitter, gusty winds. Things that  hold onto the promise of spring either in their roots or in splitting seed casings will be busy beneath the soil whilst they wait for the sun to invite them to flourish “Thick and fast” falling remnants of leaves have been and are layering the ground to protect what lies beneath waiting for the appointed hour of rebirth in earth’s next circle around the sun. It’s all a God-ordained and Scripturally- declared grand plan, and I love watching Yahweh’s strategy play out round and round as the years pass. In fact on days when I feel out of sorts, I’ve learned to get outside regardless of how cold or hot it is, and as I look, listen, and wait under heaven’s canopy, it’s not long before my inner compass is made right again. Feeling earth’s heartbeat and becoming a part of its rhythms keep at bay the sense of hopelessness that’s often engendered by the trials of life and a world torn by depravity and meriless madness. Being close to the land is as comforting and reassuring as when I was a kid and slipped my hand into the safety of a parent’s hand. The same thing happens even more so now that I’m aware I’m drawing near God and what He has made. Standing in His Creation, I’m certain that even though humans transgress and frequently fall short of what they’re meant to be and do, He still stands ready to take His children by the hand, comfort them, and proffer His magnanimous gestures of mercy and redeeming grace. It’s not unlike what I experienced when I first felt my child move in my womb. I knew that the sensation which felt like wings of a butterfly barely grazing my inner flesh was the unmistakable touch of something sacred stirring inside me. The Lord’s movement in our inner and outer lives is much the same. It may be an ever so slight brush against our flesh and/or soul, but we know that we have indeed felt the Almighty’s loving Presence.

See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and his arm rules for him. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. ~Isaiah 40:10-11  ✝

**All photos taken by Natalie

1424. The West is color. Its colors are animal rather than vegetable, the colors of earth and sunlight and ripeness. ~Jessamyn Westl

The prairie skies can always make you
see more than what you believe.
~Jackson Burnett

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It was still that day, evocatively still and sacredly quiet. The plain’s grasses shone golden in the sunlight and spread out before us like butter on warm toast in and around the craggy terrain. Mountains, hills, buttes, mesas, and plateaus framed these prairies and stood like paternal sentinels over the hallowed ground they had erupted upon eons ago. And although there was barely a breeze blowing on that chilly autumn day when we travelled through northern New Mexico, one could faintly hear, or maybe just imagine, the earth playing her vast array of harmonies, harmonies wrought of whispering grasses, pounding hooves, lapping waters, laughing children on the run, and the call of wild birds in flight. That particular day, however, there was only a lone hawk soaring above in the cloudless expanse of the day’s sapphire blue sky. Nevertheless it it was enough to inspire images in my mind of sun-bronzed bodies riding bareback on painted ponies, wispy curls of smoke rising from tee pees, herds of grazing buffalo, joyful children at play, beautiful black-haired women going about their daily tasks, and perhaps the faint sound of drums and flutes playing a shamanic kind of melody. Despite wanting to get to our home hundreds of miles away from there, with every advancing mile I lamented that we were drawing closer to the end of this peaceful and prepossessing land, and as we neared its end I began to feel a deep sense of sorrow. There was in me a longing and a sense of envy for those who and that which had known the earth in her beautiful infancy, loved the earth for its providence and splendor, worked the land and revered it as well as its Maker..

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. ~Psalm 37:3 ✝

**Image via Pinterest