Category Archives: A Few of my Favorite Flowers

Stars of Spring

“Stars of Spring”

CrocusesDrawn through snow to sunWrapped in a mantle of leaves,Purple flowers bloom.

ForsythiaLemon drops of gold, Sunburst star-spangled blossoms,Harbingers of spring.


VioletsFragile, drooping headsWith leafy hearts extended,You lead me in praise.

DaffodilsDancing on the breeze,  Persevering through spring snows,Joyful in trials.

Hyacinths
Rainbowed breath of springYou fill my heart with perfume   Like God’s sweet Spirit. (Kathryn W. Armstrong, April 11, 2017) Some of the most beautiful poetry in the world is in the Bible’s Book of Psalms. Here’s one of my favorites, which speaks of spring:

Psalm 65

“Praise waiteth for thee, O God, in Sion: and unto thee shall the vow be performed. O thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come. Iniquities prevail against me: as for our transgressions, thou shalt purge them away. Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple. By terrible things in righteousness wilt thou answer us, O God of our salvation; who art the confidence of all the ends of the earth, and of them that are afar off upon the sea: Which by his strength setteth fast the mountains; being girded with power: Which stilleth the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves, and the tumult of the people. They also that dwell in the uttermost parts are afraid at thy tokens: thou makest the outgoings of the morning and evening to rejoice. Thou visitest the earth, and waterest it: thou greatly enrichest it with the river of God, which is full of water: thou preparest them corn, when thou hast so provided for it. Thou waterest the ridges thereof abundantly: thou settlest the furrows thereof: thou makest it soft with showers: thou blessest the springing thereof. Thou crownest the year with thy goodness; and thy paths drop fatness. They drop upon the pastures of the wilderness: and the little hills rejoice on every side. The pastures are clothed with flocks; the valleys also are covered over with corn; they shout for joy, they also sing.”

Tulip Time Festival: It’s All in the Timing…or Is It?

One of the many joys of living in this area is our almost annual trek to Holland’s Tulip Time Festival, which is usually the week before Mother’s Day.  This year it’s May 6-14, 2017.During the festival, Holland, Michigan, which is 30 miles south of Grand Rapids, is glowing with 6 million tulips, as well as a potpourri of other beautiful spring flowers. However, this year the weather has been unusually warm, and the tulips are almost all blooming right now, so we decided to visit last Sunday afternoon (which was April 23—two weeks before the festivities are to begin). The weather was perfect, and so were the gardens. The only down side is that there are vast fences around the flower beds at Windmill Island Gardens  to keep out the deer, who consider tasty tulips fine dining. It will be sad enough that the flowers will be past their prime for the festival, but if the caretakers were to take down the fences now (which they won’t), there would be nothing but leaves for the masters!  😦(Oh, but there would still be daffodils, because they’re poisonous.)Of course, there are all sorts of fun things to do at the festival!There’s a wonderful parade, a marathon, Dutch dancing, a carnival,
an arts and crafts fair, music and great food… So, the festival will still be worth visiting. However, if your first love (among such earthly loves) is spring flowers, I’d recommend going ASAP! The weather forecast is pretty bad, so you might have to consult your favorite weather station for some prognostication, but sooner will be better than later!

Festivals are fun, but they’re pretty insignificant compared to some of the weightier matters of life, like school and career choices, whom you’ll marry
(if you marry) and where to live. Are you facing a challenging decision? Timing is critical! However, it’s not always easy to figure out the correct timing. When it comes to festivals, you can consult the weather man and your friends, but when it comes to the big decisions of life, may I encourage you to consult the only One who knows you perfectly and who knows the future as well as He knows the past and present? God knows “all about it.” He knows all about everything, in fact, and He can give you the wisdom you need to make the right decision, if you’ll only ask.  Thus saith the Lord the maker thereof, the Lord that formed it, to establish it; the Lord is his name; Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” (Jeremiah 33:2-3).

A Study in Aging Beautifully: Gardenias

As I mentioned yesterday, Alan and I just celebrated our 44th anniversary
this past weekend, and it occurs to me that we’re getting pretty old!gardenia-plantHere’s just a little thought, but I have a gardenia plant,
and I’ve been so inspired by watching it bloom! wilting-roses-at-nelson-mandelas-homeDo you know how most flowers turn brown on the edges as they get oldwilting-roses-in-africabecoming wilted and all bedraggled by the time they die? gardenia-flower-unfurlingWell, my gardenia blossoms unfold like a pinwheel of pure white…white-pure-rose-africa-copy-2slowly unfurling their petals day by day until their blooms
are as full and fragrant as the finest rose. gardeniaHowever, as gardenias age, the blossoms don’t turn brown like withering roses, they gradually turn deeper and deeper shades of yellow.gardenia-plantI would like to learn to age beautifully, like gardenias,
continuing to flourish and produce fruit until the day I die!   baobab-tree-the-big-tree-zimbabwe12 The righteous flourish like the palm tree
    and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
13 They are planted in the house of the Lord;
    they flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They still bear fruit in old age;
    they are ever full of sap and green,
15 to declare that the Lord is upright;
    he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.”
(Psalm 92:12-15, NIV, emphasis mine)

(The baobab tree in this last photo is called “The Big Tree.”
We saw it recently while we were in Zimbabwe. It’s somewhere between 1000-1500 years old, and it’s still producing flowers and fruit!
Talk about incredible and inspirational!!)

 

African Flower Thanksgiving

ixia-at-kirsetenbosch-national-botanical-garden-south-africaMay your Thanksgiving is blessed with joy this year! coral-tree-in-kirsetenbosch-national-botanical-garden-south-africaIf you’re an American, I hope you’re able to celebrate with loved ones,
and maybe enjoy a turkey dinner too! phylica-pubescens-featherhead-or-flannel-flower-bush-in-afternoon-sun-at-kirsetenbosch-national-botanical-garden-south-africaIf you’re not an American,
I still hope you will take a few minutes today to count your blessings. pink-cluster-of-roses-africaRight at the top of my list is God and all those with whom I share love. everlasting-flowers-south-africaI can’t think of anything more wonderful! golden-trumpet-tree-south-africa-cape-townI’m also thankful for the scripture, which feeds my soul. african-daisies-south-africaSomewhere way under that, but still exciting to me are beauty and color, bougainvilleaso today I want to share with you some of the lovely flowers I saw in Africa, angel-trumpet-tree-south-africapaired with a few of my favorite verses on the subject of thankfulness:  poinsettias-south-africa“But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving;
I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9).  yellow-proteas-south-africa“It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord,
and to sing praises unto thy name, O Most High” (Psalm 92:1). pink-rose-africa“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6). flamboyant-tree-south-africa“I will praise the name of God with a song,
and will magnify him with thanksgiving” (Psalm 69:30). lilies-south-africa“Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his,
and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness” (Psalm 30:4). jacaranda-tree “Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms” (Psalm 95:2). scadoxus-multiflorus-or-red-ball-of-fire-at-victoria-falls-zimbabwe“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). bougainvillea-along-chobe-marina-lodge-botswana“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise:
be thankful unto him, and bless his name” (Psalm 100:4) african-orange-flower“But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57). hibiscus-and-bougainvillea-botswana“We are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:13). jasmine-cape-town-south-africa“O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever” (Psalm 107:1).

Got Time for a Little More Politics? On Presidents and Posies…

yellow-rose-manito-park-8-1-16-7Here’s a big bouquet of roses gathered from Manito Park last summer while helping out with Jon and Gerlinde’s new baby, paired with a bouquet of quotes by former presidents of America that I thought might help inform our thinking as we consider for whom we should vote next week:

pink-perfect-rose-manito-park-8-1-16“To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.”  George Washington, Jan. 8, 1790  red-tipped-white-rose-manito-park-8-1-16“The happiness of society is the end of government.”
John Adams (1797–1801)  white-rose-cluster-manito-park-8-1-16
“That government is best which governs the least, because its people discipline themselves.” Thomas Jefferson (1801–1809)  red-and-white-striped-rose-manito-park-8-1-16“The boisterous sea of liberty is never without a wave.”
Thomas Jefferson (1801–1809)

pink-peach-rose-manito-park-8-1-16“The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” Thomas Jefferson (1801–1809)yellow-rose-manito-park-8-1-16-5“Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone,
and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.”
John Quincy Adams (1825–1829)  yellow-rose-manito-park-8-1-16
“But I contend that the strongest of all governments is that which is most free.” William Henry Harrison (1841)
red-rose-manito-park-8-1-16“Wealth can only be accumulated by the earnings of industry and the savings of frugality.” John Tyler (1841–1845)  lavendar-rose-manito-park-8-1-16
“I have come to realize that people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Abraham Lincoln (1861–1865)  red-and-white-striped-rose-manito-park-8-1-16-4“The goal to strive for is a poor government but a rich people.”
Andrew Johnson (1865–1869)  white-rose-single-manito-park-8-1-16
“I have never advocated war except as a means of peace.”
Ulysses Simpson Grant (1869–1877)  yellow-rose-manito-park-8-1-16-6
“No other people have a government more worthy of their respect and love or a land so magnificent in extent, so pleasant to look upon, and so full of generous suggestion to enterprise and labor.”
Benjamin Harrison (1889–1893)  orange-rose-manito-park-8-1-16
“It is the responsibility of the citizens to support their government.
It is not the responsibility of the government to support its citizens.”
Theodore Roosevelt  (1901–1909)  pink-and-white-striped-rose-manito-park-8-1-16
“Absolute freedom of the press to discuss public questions is a foundation stone of American liberty.” Herbert Clark Hoover  (1929–1933)  yellow-rose-manito-park-8-1-16-4Imperfect action is better than perfect inaction.”
Harry Truman (1945–1953)  magenta-rose-manito-park-8-1-16
“The American, by nature, is optimistic. He is experimental, an inventor and a builder who builds best when called upon to build greatly.”
John Fitzgerald Kennedy  (1961–1963)  white-rose-manito-park-8-1-16
“Liberty without learning is always in peril; learning without liberty is always in vain.” John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1961–1963)  yellow-rose-manito-park-8-1-16-3“If government is to serve any purpose it is to do for others what they are unable to do for themselves.” Richard Milhous Nixon  (1969–1974)  peach-rose-manito-park-8-1-16“A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.”
Gerald Rudolph Ford (1974–1977)  pink-rose-manito-park-8-1-16
“The best way to enhance freedom in other lands is to demonstrate here that our democratic system is worthy of emulation.”
James Earl Carter (1977–1981)

pink-and-white-rose-manito-park-8-1-16John F. Kennedy held a dinner in the White House for a group of the brightest minds in the nation at that time. He made this statement: “This is perhaps the assembly of the most intelligence ever to gather at one time in the White House with the exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”

And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it” (Psalm 90:17)

The Wild Bergamot and The Bees: a Lesson in Unintentional Consequences

bergamot-and-black-eyed-susans-charylene-powersEven though many of the wildflowers have gone to seed in August, the wild bergamot plants are thriving. As I walk the trails at the John Luton Prairie Restoration Park, I immediately notice a great number of black and yellow bees. The buzzing bees traverse from flower to flower gathering the nectar they need to survive. My desire is to take advantage of the afternoon sun; photographing this beautiful prairie and all the inhabits that call it home.bergamot-by-charylene-powersThe Flower  – Wild Bergamot
The soft lavender flower heads of the wild bergamot plants look like a little fireworks display.  The unending historical medical uses for this plant include; poultices for boils and lacerations, as well as minty tea infusions for headaches, indigestion and colds.  The Ojibwe tribe placed these leaves in warm water baths for their babies. In addition to medical uses, the Indigo Buntings build their nests using the strong square wood stems. charylene-powers-birdThe Pollinators – Bees
It is estimated that a third of the food we eat is dependent on bee pollination.  Bees pollinate by carrying pollen on their bodies from the male part of the flower to the female part of the same kind of flower. The stiff hairs all over the bees’s bodies attract the pollen. The bees gather nectar from the flowers to eat. As the bees feed themselves, they provide a service that feeds all of us.bee-on-bergamot-charylene-powersObservations
Focusing on the task of gathering nectar, seems to be all consuming for the bees. When I move in to take my shot, the bees do not notice me, even though I am inches from them. I’m sure  my desire to get a close up of flower and bee will result in a stinging retort from the bees. However, they just keep doing what God has intended them to do. I need to be this focused with my assignments from God.

“So be careful to do what the Lord you God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left.” (Deuteronomy 5:32, NIV)

Thoughts to Ponder
I think of the work of the bees and what they actually accomplish. They gather nectar to sustain themselves and pollinate our food source for us.  The work of pollination is really an unintentional consequence on their part. God has a bigger plan in mind for the work He has given to the bees. A plan that the bees cannot even imagine nor will they ever know. What about my assignments from God?  Am I as focused as the bees? Does God have a bigger plan in mind for the assignments He has given to me?  A plan that I – like the bees – cannot even imagine nor will I ever know.

bergamot-field-charylene-powers“As the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9, NIV)

(Guest author: Charylene Powers. Thank you, Charylene. This is just beautiful!)

A Hidden Garden in Grand Rapids

Grandpa's GardenNot everyone has the brilliance and budget to develop a Giverny Aquilegia (Columbine)(or maybe no one), but just a few days after we’d returned home from Europe, Alan, Daniel, and IDaniel and Brianna had us over for dinner, and then
—knowing how much I love gardens—Hostas Galore!+they took us to see a beautiful garden in their neighborhood. Hostaholic Lives Here SignThis amazing garden has over 1,000 hostas growing, Hosta Garden. 2plus dozens of flowering perennials that can tolerate shade.  Statue in Hosta GardenI was totally surprised (but delighted), Clematisbecause we’ve walked through the neighborhood many a time, Alan with Samuel in Hosta Gardenstrolling Baby Samuel after dinner, Hosta Garden. 5and none of us had never noticed this hidden treasure before!Bug on a bench(Of course, it is in their neighbors’ back yard.) Dan and Brianna in Hosta GardenApparently our kids’ next-door-neighbors knew about it and invited Dan and Brianna to view the gardens…who in turn invited us, because—as it turns out— Hosta Garden. 9the couple who owns the gardenRhododendronsare very willing to share all the beauty they’ve created! Hosta Garden. 6It was like visiting a lovingly tended botanical garden! Pooh Bear HostaEach type of hosta was neatly labeled, and everywhere we turned Native hydrengeathere was something to delight our eyes. Decorative bugs on tableIt was obviously designed with their grandchildren in mind too, Face on a treebecause there were lots of playful touches. Grandma's Garden of HostasThe lady of the home toured us around Hosta Careand was super gracious about discussing the plants, Columbinehappily dispensing tips on how to care for shade-loving species Hummingbird Feederand even answering questions about how to attract and care for hummingbirds! Hosta Garden. 7I stood in awe of her willingness to share the fruit of all her hard work Solomon's Sealand wisdom with total strangers! Hosta Garden. 10To keep the garden free of weeds,Hosta garden 17they literally go through on their hands and knees weeding! Hosta Garden. 8When we returned home, Dan and Brianna’s next-door-neighbor was up on a ladder repairing something, and he filled in the details. Pink AzaleasApparently the owners of the hidden hosta garden started their work
20 years ago when their daughter was graduating from high school. Hosta Garden. 4The family had tall trees in their big backyard, and between the children
and the trees, the grass just couldn’t thrive in the shade, Primroses and Columbine in Springleaving the area pretty bleak and muddy (which is obviously no longer true!).Hosta Garden 13In order to have a beautiful setting for their daughter’s graduation party, Hosta Garden. 12they planted some hostas…and one thing led to another. Peonies“Quite the love story!” the neighbor reflected. Indeed! Hosta Garden. 11And, one that I’ve thought a lot about this past week. Hosta GardenImagine if every believer cleaned up the mud and mess in the backyards of our lives so that our kids would be glad to have their friends over. Hosta Garden 16Imagine searching through our lives as couples on our knees, rooting out sins!Hosta Garden. 3Imagine having such beautiful lives Statue of a lady with waterthat neighbors notice and tell other neighbors and bring them over to visit!Ceramic Toadstools in a gardenImagine being that open to having people just drop in out of the blue, Azaleas. Orangeand being willing to share the fruit of our spiritual lives…of being willing to take time to explain what we’ve learned and “how to” grow in grace. Chipmunks. Ceramic statuesWow. Have I ever got a long way to go!   Listening to gardenerBut in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).