Transplant Shock

The decorations were simple because there was no way to
improve upon that view!

When Jess and Thomas married in April, David and I purchased 6 potted “grocery” hydrangeas for their ceremony.

They weren’t terribly expensive, but I wanted to put that investment to work after the wedding too. Since we were about to expand our back deck and redo all the flower beds, I decided to save money and plant these after the wedding. I’d also move my struggling hydrangeas at the back of our property up to the new beds so they could be watered regularly by the soaker hoses. (God has done a great job of keeping them wet for me this year, but most summers they are neglected. Water is heavy, Tennessee is hot, mosquitoes are prolific, and I’m whine-y!)

Knowing I’d need to acclimate the potted plants to the outdoors but uncertain how to do it, I went to my trusty internet for advice. Grocery hydrangeas are genetically identical to the Penny Mac hydrangeas struggling in my backyard, but they have been shocked into making one huge display of blooms. They rarely survive beyond that first bloom.

Acclimating hydrangeas before planting.

Call me “stubborn”–I decided to give my plan a try anyway. It wouldn’t cost me anything if I failed, and it had the potential to save me hundreds of dollars if it worked. I set the plants on the deck where they were shaded by a tree but close enough to the back door that I wouldn’t forget to water them. After a few weeks, they’d adjusted to the heat and were ready to go into the ground just as soon as the deck was finished in early June.

It’s late July (not the good kind), and we still have our small deck. That means the grocery hydrangeas haven’t been planted. Tiny pots, summer heat, and the neighborhood cats worked together in the last 2 months to kill all the old blooms and most of the leaves; but I’ve kept watering the sticks and soil in spite of David’s sideways glances at me.

I am desperate to see these plants survive and thrive because they have come to represent my life. God is pulling David’s and my roots out of the fertile Tennessee foothills and transplanting us to the mile-high Denver desert. We’re leaving behind the beautiful, fulfilling life we’ve cultivated with all of our family and friends over the last 8 years; we’re entering a land without the spiritual and emotional nourishment to which we’ve grown accustomed.

This weekend David and I spent hours in the yard getting the property ready for our coming renters. If these hydrangeas do symbolize our life, then I am encouraged. About a week ago, tiny new leaves appeared on all 6 plants. One even has a bloom. The hydrangeas are now in the ground around the old deck (which is soon to become the “freshly-stained old deck”), and they already look happier. Only time will tell if they–and we–thrive after our transplant shock.

Just as I had plans for those plants, God has plans for us in Denver. I hope the hydrangeas will enhance our property as the earth nourishes them, and I pray that we will bless Denver as our new home provides a new life with new opportunities.

Preserving Special Flowers

From the top of the grandkids’ arrangement.

When my mother was a child, her grandfather gave her a copy of Gone with the Wind. The book. I’m sure it was beautiful when it was new, but I’ve always known it to have a worn, faded green cover and a spine held on with bright red tape. I never considered opening it; I assumed the book wouldn’t sustain another reader.

Hidden inside the pages is a pressed flower. When my great-grandfather died, Mama took a white carnation from a funeral arrangement and pressed it inside the book. The flower looks about the same today as it did when she pressed it 30 years ago.

When my own grandmother died 3 years ago, we grandkids bought the tackiest funeral arrangement you could imagine. Granny would have LOVED it. It was full of birds of paradise and golden curly-cues. It looked like a fireworks display. When the family returned to view her grave after the burial, I got the wild idea that I would preserve some flowers for each family member as my mother had. Somehow taking those flowers with me made leaving the site easier.

This fabric softener left behind a pleasant
lavender scent.

I tend to have a where-there’s-a-will-there’s-a-way attitude about life, and I am enabled by Google’s search engine. I had never pressed flowers before, so I had to do a lot of research. (Seriously, what did people do before all this information was at their fingertips?)

There are basically 5 steps to drying flowers:

  1. Pick flowers that don’t have thick stems. Birds of Paradise are not good choices for a first-timer. (I learned that the hard way.) Lilies are.
  2. Make a solution of glycerin-based fabric softener and water. Coat the petals of each flower.
  3. Hang in a dark, cool, dry space for a couple of days until the softener has completely dried.
  4. Arrange the flower on a piece of parchment paper, fold the parchment over the top of the flower, and close inside a book.
  5. Add as much weight to the top of the book as possible.
This herb dryer, given to me by my mother, is
full of rosemary, basil, thyme, parsley, and the
occasional hot pepper in the summer.

In a couple of months, you should have flat, papery flowers that have retained most of their color. Any flowers with white petals will yellow–I don’t think there’s a way around that. But colorful flowers, such as pink roses, will remain remarkably true-to-life if you dip them in the glycerin solution.

These Stargazer Lilies demonstrate the importance
of dipping the flowers in glycerin before pressing
them. Without the glycerin, none of the pink color
would have survived..

Since I mastered this craft, I’ve pressed flowers from several functions–not all funerals, I’m happy to report! This spring I have commemorated Anna’s and Jess’s weddings. I bought pictures from the wedding photographers and inexpensive glass-on-glass frames. Jess loved the flowers I stole from her bouquet and pressed. Anna’s wedding flowers are still in the press!

Bibles for Seniors

About 2 years ago, the Youth Director at our church (and my podcast buddy) A. J. Farley discovered a new way of getting the entire church involved in the lives of the teenagers in our church body. I’m pretty sure he’d say that it is challenging to find volunteers for that age group. I would counter that it’s difficult to get volunteers for any ministry–which explains why I’m always begging for help with staffing the Welcome Desk and setting up Communion. (Feel free to “comment” if you’d like to join either of my ministry teams!)

A. J. came to our Life Group meeting one day and presented his adopted idea: more-mature believers would carry Bibles for 2 years, making notes as they studied. Each carrier would also commit to learning about and praying for the student whose Bible he or she carried. At the end of the two years, each Bible-carrier would present the marked book to its owner during the recognition of the graduates. Hopefully we would all have kept this a secret, and the high-school graduate would be surprised.

This idea appealed to me on several levels.

  1. It would force me to get to know someone I might otherwise not have ever encountered.
  2. It would make me accountable to more than just God and myself for keeping up with the church’s daily Bible readings.
  3. It would give me an excuse to buy colorful pens!

The first thing I did after receiving the Bible that day was go to a craft store and purchase archival-quality pens. These would not bleed through the rice paper (in theory), would never fade, and gave me the ability to classify my notes. I designated blue for sermon notes, green for personal notes, and so forth. I liked the idea of my student knowing whose thoughts I was recording. I wanted her to be able to give more weight to what a Sunday-morning speaker would say about a passage than to what I wrote in the occasional 5:00am, blurry-eyed personal study.

Morgan was thrilled with her Bible. And not overly surprised at my over-the-top commitment to this project. She heads off to college in Washington state in the fall, and she takes with her my affection and continued daily prayers.

A. J.’s plan has worked. The first Monday after I gave Morgan her Bible (and the colorful pens), I emailed A. J. for my next student-assignment. I am already enjoying studying and praying for my 2015 graduation, as are many of the adults at NHC.