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

1399. Glory be…

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to God and thank you Jesus!!! We just got back from the doctor’s office. The pathology report showed that he had gotten it all and that it had NOT spread to the fatty layer where it could and would spread. James and I have been blessed with so many miracles in our lives, and we are both so very thankful for the Lord’s abiding grace, mercies, and faithfulness. Next month I will be 75 and James will be 82 and we have spent 54 of those years together. I am so grateful, Lord, that it is not over yet for the two of us you joined together so long ago. Now for some quiet praise, chocolate, and tears of joy. Before I sign off though, I want to thank all of you for the heartfelt comments and prayers. May all of you be so very blessed as well! Love and hugs, Natalie

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1362. Your smile tells me more than words will ever say. ~Author Unknown

Smile with your lips, smile with your eyes,
smile with your heart and your soul and your life.
~Terri Guillemets

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Two weeks after James and I married in 1963, he became very ill and had to been hospitalized. In the beginning it looked as if he might have had something that would have been life threatening or else something that could have been at least life altering, but it turned out to be neither. There was a time when they found a tumor on my thyroid that could have been malignant, but after a partial thyroidectomy it proved to be benign. There was a time when it looked like I would never have a child of my own, however nine years after we married, we were blessed with a healthy baby girl. Three years after our daughter was born she became very ill and had to be hospitalized with something that at one time would have ended her life, but at that time it didn’t. There was a time when I had to have a hysterectomy because my uterus was full of tumors, but again they proved to be benign. There was a time when my daughter became pregnant, but miscarried her one and only biological child, but I have been blessed with three wonderful grandchildren. There was a time, when tumors were once again found in what remained of my thyroid, and they could have been malignant, but they weren’t. There was a time that those tumors grew so large and that surgically removing them endangered the finding and saving of my parathyroids, but the surgeon was able to locate 3 of the 4 and so the health issues that would have ensued from their loss didn’t materialize. There was a time when I had a stroke that could have left me crippled physically and/or mentally or worse yet it could have taken my life, but it didn’t. There was a time when my grandson suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a trusted individual and eventually the child had to be hospitalized for 5 months to save his life and shore up his wholeness. He suffers still with PTSD and other issues as a result, but today my daughter sent a photo in which he was having fun and smiling for the first time in nearly two years. So why did all that make me cry on the way home from my sister’s this afternoon? Was it because of sadness and despair over misfortunes and trials? Before I answer that let me say that not only have I committed my fair share of trespasses against the Lord and his commandments, but when I was 18, my father died suddenly, and afterwards I turned my back on the Lord for nearly two decades and railed against Him regularly for allowing my beloved father to be taken from me. So the tears flowed not out of grief but because God has blessed me so many times despite my human frailties and transgressions that I was once again humbled, reduced to tears of joy and gratitude, and made to ponder why on earth after my egregious shortcomings, He would love me enough to bless me over and over again with His amazing grace. The answer is simple: because though I once was so lost, I was and am His beloved child and I asked! So if someone were ever looking for a person who didn’t believe in miracles or in the power of prayer or in Jesus, as the Messiah, or in God’s forgiveness, faithfulness, or His loving goodness, I would NOT be the person they were seeking. But if they were wanting to know more about the Lord, I would tell them to “knock and the door would be opened.” So what do ya think? Am I smiling along with my beautiful grandson now? Oh you betcha I am, yes, yes, and yes!!!

**Image via Pinterest; special effects done by Natalie on iPiccy

1358. If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden. ~Frances Hodgson Burnett, THE SECRET GARDEN

Gardening about enjoying the smell
of things growing in the soil,
getting dirty without feeling guilty,
and generally taking the time to soak
up a little peace and serenity.
~Lindley Karstens

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However many years she lived, Mary always felt
that ‘she should never forget that first morning
when her garden began to grow’…I am sure there is
Magic in everything, only we have not sense enough
to get hold of it and make it do things for us.
~Excerpted lines from THE SECRET GARDEN
by Frances Hodgson Burnett

One of the strange things about living in the world is that it is only now and then one is quite sure one is going to live forever and ever and ever. One knows it sometimes when one gets up at the tender solemn dawn-time and goes out and stands out and throws one’s head far back and looks up and up and watches the pale sky slowly changing and flushing and marvelous unknown things happening until the East almost makes one cry out and one’s heart stands still at the strange unchanging majesty of the rising of the sun–which has been happening every morning for thousands and thousands and thousands of years. One knows it then for a moment or so. And one knows it sometimes when one stands by oneself in a wood at sunset and the mysterious deep gold stillness slanting through and under the branches seems to be saying slowly again and again something one cannot quite hear, however much one tries. Then sometimes the immense quiet of the dark blue at night with the millions of stars waiting and watching makes one sure; and sometimes a sound of far-off music makes it true; and sometimes a look in someone’s eyes. ~Frances Hodgson Burnett, THE SECRET GARDEN

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At first people refuse to believe that a strange new thing can be done, then they begin to hope it can be done, then they see it can be done–then it is done and all the world wonders why it was not done centuries ago…Of course there must be lots of Magic in the world,” he said wisely one day, “but people don’t know what it is like or how to make it. Perhaps the beginning is just to say nice things are going to happen until you make them happen. I am going to try and experiment….And the secret garden bloomed and bloomed and every morning revealed new miracles… Much more surprising things can happen to anyone who, when a disagreeable or discouraging thought comes into his mind, just has the sense to remember in time and push it out by putting in an agreeable, determinedly courageous one. Two things cannot be in one place. ~Excerpted lines from THE SECRET GARDEN by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. ~Genesis 2:8  ✝

“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce…” ~Jeremiah 29:5  ✝

**Images via Pinterest; text added to the collage by Natalie; collage created by Natalie

1355. I just kept thinking, if I don’t do something, who will? ~Matthew West

I am only one, but I am one.
I cannot do everything,
but I can do something.
And I will not let what I cannot 
do
interfere with what I can do.
~Edward Everett Hale

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I woke up this morning
Saw a world full of trouble now
Thought, how’d we ever get so far down
How’s it ever gonna turn around
So I turned my eyes to Heaven
I thought, “God, why don’t You do something?”
Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of
People living in poverty
Children sold into slavery
The thought disgusted me
So, I shook my fist at Heaven
Said, “God, why don’t You do something?”
He said, “I did, I created you”
~Excerpted lines from a song
by Matthew West

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While in the car today, I heard this song again and thought to myself how relevant it was and still is in these troubling times. Going to church to worship and praise God once or twice a week is not nearly enough to fulfill our purpose and obligation to the loving God we worship. We have been given that we might give, and we are called on to be His church whenever and wherever we are. In so doing we become the light and hope of a fallen and hurting world. Anybody with an eye to see and an ear to hear knows that all around each and every one of us are people who are suffering, people who are poor, people who are hungry, people who are thirsty, people who are abused, people who are broken. people who need love and encouragement and on and on the list goes. And for all of them far more has to be done than the preaching of a sermon. That’s why we, each one of us, have to let our actions be a message and/or an act of merciful grace to and for others. We must let God use the gifts and talents He gave us to bless those in need. That is the true way of a miracle worker. One random act of kindness a day can change 365 lives every year. And when the right words can’t be found, just a smile and a kind word will sometimes do for they too can be the stuff of miracles. And if you are in need or feeling down, go be a blessing to someone else and you’ll find that the blessing, like a boom-a-rang, comes right back to you. Smiles and kindness costs the giver nothing but their impact is beyond measure, and like a pebble thrown in a pond they reach out in ever-widening circles!

You(God) enlarge my steps under me, and my feet have not slipped. ~Psalm 18:36 ✝

**All images via Pinterest; collage by Natalie

1150. Sow the living part of yourselves in the furrow of life. ~Miguel de Unamuno

Two years ago, I was saying as I
planted seeds in the garden,
“I must believe in these seeds,
that they fall into the earth and grow
into flowers and radishes and beans.”
It is a miracle to me because
I do not understand it.  The very fact
that they use glib technical phrases to
describe the process does not make it any
less a miracle, and a miracle we all accept.
Then why not accept God’s miracles?
~Edited lines by Dorothy Day

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Part of the genius of God’s miracles and grand design is that we awaken every day to a fresh flowing of His energy and His vitality that has been stored in the seeds of our being, seeds that possess the same strength as that of the rising sun, earth’s swelling seas, and its fertile plains. An excellent time to look for the shining of His everlasting light in the “sanctuary of the soul” is in the first waking moments of each new day. That inward realm is where doors open to the germination of new life because inside each one of us the Lord has planted His “seeds of greatness.” There’s never a moment in life when either in and of ourselves or in the people around us that there are not yet unopened gifts of promise. Simply put, “heaven’s creativity on earth” is born in our bodies, and therein the Master’s “sacred hopes” are hidden. His hopes can come to fruition through the germination of our gifts and through the catalyst of prayer when we lift up “the agonies of life in the world” and ask for grace where “the human soul has grown hard” and lost sight of God’s light.

You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples. ~Psalm 77:14 ✝

**Image of Lotus pod with sseeds via Pinterest

1341. Days pass, the years vanish, and we walk sightless among miracles. Lord, fill my eyes with seeing and my mind with knowing. ~Hebrew Sabbath Prayer

I want to gather up each and every ordinary blessing in my arms.
I want to open my eyes, release my clenched palms.
Feel the winds of time against my face.
Allow myself to be touched by all of it.
And understand that it’s all a great, unlikely miracle—
this moment, this life. And embrace it. Embrace it.
~Dani Shapiro

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Every night before I go to sleep
I say out loud
Three things that I’m grateful for,
All the significant, insignificant
Extraordinary, ordinary stuff of my life.
It’s a small practice and humble,
And yet, I find I sleep better
Holding what lightens and softens my life
Ever so briefly at the end of the day.

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Sunlight, and blueberries,
Good dogs and wool socks,
A fine rain,
A good friend,
Fresh basil and wild phlox,
A song that always makes me cry,
Always at the same part,
No matter how many times I hear it.
The frost patterns on the windows,
English horns and banjos,
Wood Thrush and June bugs,
The smooth glassy calm of the morning pond,
An old coat,
A new poem,
And after three things,
More often than not,
I get on a roll and I just keep on going.
I keep naming and listing,
Until I lie grinning,
Blankets pulled up to my chin,
Awash with wonder
At the sweetness of it all.
~Excepted lines from a poem
by Carrie Newcomer

They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles You(Lord) performed among them. ~Excerpt from Nehemiah 9:17 ✝

**Both images via Pinterest