Lilies of the Prairie

Rocky Mountain Lake Park

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know that Spring is my favorite season. I love watching the world come to life. I loved pruning my Tennessee lilac bushes and making tulip arrangements. I didn’t love the bees (I’m allergic) or the pollen (allergic to that too); but the sunshine, mild temperatures, fragrant plants, and general beauty were worth the energy I spent sneezing.

Springtime in Denver is different. Better, if you ask me. It seems as if every day is sunny and the temperatures never go above 75. The blooms aren’t as prolific here as they are in the South because the climate is so much drier in a prairie, but I don’t have any pollen allergies. And there are no mosquitoes. I can sit outside in a park with my laptop and write blogs without a box of tissues. It is glorious.

I am thankful to have a husband who appreciates beauty and nature as much as I do. Each weekend when we go into the mountains and hike, he lets me stop and just gawk at the snow caps and springs and (super-cute fuzzy) mule deer around us. He’d buy me “rocks” every day if he could, and he does manage to keep the vase on my mantle full of freshly cut flowers (now courtesy of Whole Foods instead of our backyard). Those cut flowers are the only Spring blossoms I’ve really seen around here.

Today the vase is full of lilies: a reminder of Easter week and an inspiration for an upcoming baby shower. My sweet niece and goddaughter, Lily, will join the Haley clan at the end of May. She won’t just be a result of the life that comes to earth in the Spring, but the embodiment of that life.

“Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” (Luke 12:27 NKJV).

Jesus is trying to explain why humanity should stop worrying. God is in control of everything. He brings life to the earth in the Spring, and He has brought life to my niece. Notice that after millennia of doing this, He still enlivens the world with great care. God takes the time to adorn His creation. He rains on all those beautiful plants when we forget them (not to say that I ever forgot to water my plants) and raises them up under His sunlight.

I’ve written a letter to Lily, and in it I’ve encouraged her to consider her namesake. Lilies are delicate and beautiful, yes, but they are also hardy and carefree. God wants these things for Lily’s life. God cares for my flower of a niece as He cares for His wild prairie blossoms: meticulously and completely. He will make sure that the irritants she encounters in life are beneficial just as bees and pollen that might irritate her immune system make for a more beautiful Tennessee spring.

But should Lily need to escape the itchy South and practice giving her worries to God, there’s no reason she can’t come to the Denver prairie for a season.

Aunties and Old Lace

The priceless (but not valuable) treasures on this table include
falling-apart Bibles, black-feather handfans, 100-year-old
 medical school diplomas, and letters. So many letter.

My kitchen smells funny. It’s that acid-paper, old-glue, pink-mold-covered-photograph smell known to permeate museums and “private collection” sections of libraries worldwide. It’s not a bad smell; it’s just a distinctive smell. It conjures memories of writing graduate theses, opening grandmas’ hope chests, and working at the Tennessee State Library and Archives. When it isn’t in my kitchen I actually like this smell of nostalgia–unless I inhale fumes from pink-mold-covered photographs and must run for my hot-pink Benadryl. (Stupid allergies.) Why does my kitchen smell like the Vatican? As the very-unofficial family historian, I have temporary physical custody of all the old letters, photographs, and memorabilia of my Granny Womack and her ancestors.

Just before my David and I moved to Colorado, we asked my family if we could take “the trunk.” My Papa Womack, who would die only 9 days after we left Tennessee, gave his blessing as did my father and my aunts. This meant the world to me. Stored inside the Victorian-era luggage is everything my Granny and her Aunt Bessie deemed valuable: over 100-years’-worth-of love letters, angry letters, bad kids’ artwork, school report cards, and newspaper clippings; a flapper’s dress, a black-feather handfan, and a baby’s black-leather slipper.

My great grandaunt Bessie died in 1984 when I was three years old, but she ended up with a starring role in my book. She is the last woman I profile. She lived a book-worthy life: she lost her first husband to suicide, spent her career serving the people of Virginia as a tuberculosis nurse, and survived the violent rape by and pardoning of her assailant. The details of these events are only now becoming clear as I read old letters and newspaper articles. Her strength of spirit inspires me. Aunt Bessie never had her own children but raised my Granny Womack, and my family considers Aunt Bessie to be our matriarch (now three generations beyond her). Her example teaches me how a woman can be a mother when she has no children and a saint when she sometimes lacks virtue.

Life Happens…Especially in Exile

Originally posted at Living in Exile.

Dear faithful listeners,

Life has happened to your podcasters. I write to you from Middle-of-Nowhere, Kansas, as my David and I drive the final 300 miles of our move to Denver. A. J. will be sporadically checking his social media from Ohio, where his mother is very ill. We hope to be back to broadcasting next Friday . . . but life may “happen” again.

You expected to hear us tie up our exegesis of Ezra-Nehemiah today, so I’ll give you a couple of teasers:

  1. As soon as Nehemiah (cat) is away, the Israelites (mice) play.
  2. Nehemiah (cat) comes “back, the very next day. They thought he was a goner, but . . . he wouldn’t stay away.”

In chapter 13, Nehemiah has finished his mission in Jerusalem and returned to working in the Persian court when he learns that the Israelites are up to their old sins. He again drops everything to run to the next life-crisis.

2010 Nashville Flood in Amanda’s Neighborhood

In our fallen world, crises happen. In exile, we Christians do our best to plan our lives–be dedicated workers and loving family members–but sometimes life happens. I would hazard that those “happenings” are often God’s way of putting us back on His track and reminding us that He is the one in control.

This week, as you anxiously await the conclusion of Nehemiah’s memoir, ask yourself if your personal plans are aiding or inhibiting God’s kingdom work. Are you willing to drop everything and run back to “Jerusalem” where His people need you?