Peaceful Thoughts and Gardens

“You can choose to live in the past—or choose to live past it. Make peace with your past before it tears you to pieces” (Linda Swindling, Ask Outrageously: The Secret To Getting What You Want).

Rose in the Musee Rodin Garden, Paris

Ready for some encouraging quotes about peace from around the world? I don’t know about you, but I’ve been struggling with anxiety lately, despite concerted efforts to “Keep calm and pray on.” Between COVID concerns, racial injustice, economic insecurities, rioting, looting, social isolation versus taking some chances on opening social channels again . . . that along with my beloved husband turning 70 and planning to retire in a few weeks . . . well, I’m ready for something to soothe my soul and comfort my heart. I hope what I’ve found will be a balm for you as well . . . so please take a few minutes to meander with me through french gardens while pondering wise thoughts!

Chateau De Cheverny, France

“The first thing is to be honest with yourself. You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself . . . Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, and humility” (Nelson Mandela).

Honey bee gathers nectar from Johnny Jump ups

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (Jesus, recorded in John 16:33).

Apple Blossoms and Colorful birds in Giverny Gardens, France

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity . . . Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow” (Melody Beattie).

Red Valerian (Centhranthus ruber) from garden at Mont Saint-Michel, France

Agree with God, and be at peace; thereby good will come to you” (Job 22:21).

Kathi in a field of rapeseed (from which canola oil is made); Loire Valley, France

“May you find peace and purpose within friendships and fruitfulness without” (— Sara Ewing What? You’ve never heard of Sara Ewing? Okay, so she’s not famous; but she’s a very wise friend of mine!)

Pansies at Chateau De Villandry, France

“Peace is not made at the Council table or by treaties, but in the hearts of men” (Herbert Clark Hoover, who was America’s president from 1929-1933, during our Great Depression).

“Do not let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace” (Dalai Lama).

Gardens of Versailles

“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee” (Augustine of Hippo in Confessions).

Giverny Gardens

“The day the power of love overrules the love of power, the world will know peace” (Mahatma Gandhi).

Wisteria. Étretat France

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (Jesus, recorded in John 14:27).

A Million and Ten Thousand Flowers

If you live in the Grand Rapids area and haven’t experienced Rebecca Louise Law’s “The Womb” exhibit at Meijer Garden, I want to encourage you to take time to visit before this spectacular artistic creation ends on March 1.*

What is it? An entire gallery filled with a million flowers and plants from Rebecca’s personal collection plus ten thousand botanic treasures gleaned from Meijer Garden, all dried and strung from the ceiling in delicate chains on tiny copper wires.

Why? To give you an intimate and immersive experience of feeling like you’re personally enveloped in a warm cocoon . . . complete with the comforting sound of a beating heart.

In Rebecca Louise Law’s own words: “I like to capture and treasure small beautiful natural objects to create an artwork that can be observed without the pressure of time. Preserving, treasuring, celebrating and sharing the beauty of the Earth with the world is what drives me.”

And, who is Rebecca Law? She’s a British installation artist—born in 1980, grew up in a little village in the U.K, and studied at Newcastle University’s School of Arts and Cultures in England.

(As a fun side note, my daughter-in-law Gerlinde also studied at Newcastle University about the same time!) Law has exhibited at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, the Royal Academy of Arts and the V&A (all in London) as well as in galleries in NYC, San Francisco, Athens, France, etc.

So, this is a young and upcoming internationally acclaimed artist with a heart for beauty and nature . . . and the warmth of the womb, exquisitely portrayed through blown glass and paintings which compliment her sublimely sensual experience (in the best possible way) of being encompassed in a womb of flowers.

As I wandered through the quiet beauty, I felt more than anything a silent witness to the sanctity and miraculous nature of life. And death. The natural flow from life to death in the drying flowers.

I tried to imagine 1,010,000 flowers all fresh and alive with color and fragrance. Can you imagine?

Visiting “The Womb” Exhibit at Meijer Garden with my brother

Although I’ve been back repeatedly and taken all my favorite family and friends who’ve visited since the exhibit opened last September, it wasn’t until last weekend—strolling through the halls with Alan—that we realized he’d somehow missed seeing this exhibit!

We’d been there the weekend before and meandered through all the snow-covered gardens outside.

We’d visited Meijer Garden with the family at December when we admired all the Christmas trees adorned so brightly with ornaments from countries around the world.

How was it possible that he’d missed seeing this stunning exhibition? We had to walk right past the door into the art gallery on every visit, where the name of the latest exhibit is proclaimed clearly on the wall.

Is it possible that you—like Alan—are walking right past the door to a wonderful opportunity every day of your life without taking time to read the signs or explore the goodness within? It’s so easy to focus on what we know and already enjoy without taking time to look around. In this world of distractions and time measured mechanically rather than spiritually, are you missing out?

God is a God of abundance and joy, which He offers to each of us. Jesus taught in John 10:10, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” The psalmist also reflected this thought in the Old Testament: “How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings. They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures. For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light” (Psalm 36:7-9).

Looking Up from Inside “The Womb”

Although I think for many of us (at least in America), trusting under the shadow of God’s wings often leads to physical abundance, it doesn’t always. I don’t believe in a “wealth gospel.” However, I firmly believe in a gospel that brings spiritual abundance: “They shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness, and shall sing of thy righteousness” (Psalm 145:7).

Notice what is abundant here: goodness and righteousness. If you want a life blessed by an abundance of goodness, righteousness, and the pleasures that flow from a life lived in the light of God’s presence, then please, please put your trust in God, our refuge and fortress, and in his Son, Jesus, our Lord and our Savior!

A Photo I Took Trying to Capture the Feel of Being Inside R.L. Law’s “The Womb”

I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust” (Psalm 91:2).

Painting by Rebecca Louise Law

Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:27-29).

*This exhibit has been running since September and will continue through February until Sunday, March 1.

If you go Sunday, March 1, it will be super crowded, but you will also be able to experience the first day of “Butterflies are Blooming” in the conservatory, which is always like a gulp of springtime air for winter-weary hearts. So, if you don’t mind crowds, that would be another excellent option. Also, the first photo is from Meijer Garden’s website. The rest are mine, taken at Meijer Garden.

Beautiful Birthday Week

This year, something unique happened for my birthday! My two older brothers came from California and New York City to help me celebrate. We had SO MUCH FUN! Included were a host of special opportunities, and right at the top was a mini-reunion with our sister over in the east side of the state!

Other highlights included a “day at the farm” with our niece’s family,

and a day with my daughter and her family,
including a tour of my son-in-law’s studio,

where he heads up the videography department at their church.

Rebecca Louise Law’s The Womb Exhibit at Meijer Garden

Back in GR, we took a trip to Meijer Garden— always captivating!

We visited Alan’s office and toured the campus
of Pine Rest Christian Hospital, where Alan works.

We took a trip to Robinettes for cider and donuts! (What would fall in Michigan be without a cider mill and donuts?). We also took a mini tour of the publishing house where our youngest son works as an editor.

One night, we went to Grand Haven for dinner
and a walk along the pier at sunset.

However, we didn’t know that evening was the night of the lighting ceremony for the new catwalk (after four years of construction). The place was jammed with well wishers. We enjoyed marching band music, a flyover, and fireworks,

but the end of the pier was blocked off, so we didn’t get in our quiet stroll.

Nevertheless, it was a very memorable evening
on an amazingly balmy night for autumn!

We toured Exalta, where my son Daniel is the dental director.

We also saw Daniel and Brianna’s new home,
with its wonderful backyard where the children can play!

The grand finale was my birthday party, complete with great big balloons

and a nerf gun war (sponsored by four-year-old grandson, Sammy).

Needless to say, it was the perfect way to celebrate my birthday! I’m just a little groggy and tired this week, but I wouldn’t have traded it for a trip to some exotic island! Thank you, Lord, for the great privilege and joy of family!!

For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (Ephesians 3:14-21).

Sonnet 81: “Shall I Compare Thee To a Summer Play?”

“I’d rather go to a Dime-Dog ball game than watch a boring Shakespeare play.” Yikes! Times are changing! In the light of that comment, and in the spirit of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18, I couldn’t help but write a (somewhat playful) response expressing my preferences too.

What was considered the height of literary wit four hundred years ago is out of vogue with most of Gen Z, and maybe Gen X too!

As I admitted last time I wrote, even I found a walk in the park more refreshing than a night at the theater!

So, here’s to my Maker, in honor of his glorious being, his creation, and His immutable Word, which stands above time and is eternal, surpassing the eloquence of even the most revered of our English-speaking writers!

Shall l compare Thee to a summer play?
Thou art more worthy and more glorious:
The winds of change oft temper what men say,
Their words, once apt, become notorious.
Words melt and molt; they fade and lose their voice.
What once was wise, youth’s wisdom doth suspect.
The audience today rejects past choice
And says it’s not politically correct.
Though wit be wit and dark be dark through time,
Though love and life and death collide with pow’r,
No light shines like Your canticle sublime,
No truth excels the wisdom of Your bow’r.
Yea, thine eternal grandeur shall extend
Thy Word still pure, unchanging to the end.

Thy word is true from the beginning:
and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever” (Psalm 119:160).

For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you” (1 Peter 1:24-25).

Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.”
(Proverbs 30:5)

Sunset Falling on a Bridge Along the Avon River

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations” (Psalm 100:4-5).

Walking the footpath along the Avon River in Stratford, Ontario with my son

Thoughts to Ponder Learned from Some of the Giants of the Faith

“Find your purpose, then lose your life fulfilling your purpose” (John C. Maxell).

Learning from the Giants, by John C. Maxwell, started off a little slow for me, but by the end, I was very happy to have persevered in listening my way through it. Maxwell imagined sitting in his study for a day, being visited by a number of the Bible’s great leaders. As I was usually driving while listening, I resorted to writing down my favorite memories of what Maxwell had to say after arriving at my destination, so they may not be perfect quotes, but I wanted to share some provocative bits of advice gleaned from his studies and commend the book to you as encouraging reading. (P.S.—You know how I love to share photos, too, so I picked out some pictures from my last trip to Mackinac Island, although they were chosen more for beauty than connection to the text.)

Queen Anne’s Lace

Elijah:
*God loves you, even on your worst days!
*Wait, serve, and learn while you wait.
*Our purpose must always be more important to us than our position.
*Find your purpose, and then lose your life fulfilling your purpose.
*Brokenness always precedes blessing.

Arch Rock on Mackinac Island

Job:
*Character is more important than reputation, so work on growing your character.
*Reputation is like a shadow; it has no substance.
*Character is what will enable you to withstand tribulation.
*At the end of Job’s life, he was filled with promise and not pain anymore!

Deborah:
*Be prepared for God to surprise you.
*Expect the unexpected.
*You must deal with your past before God will give you a future.
*God can make nothing out of you until you realize you are nothing without God. (Editorial Note: We are always the objects of God’s love, which gives us great worth, but I think Maxwell was pointing out that God loves the humble in heart.)

Jonah:
*God is a God of second chances.
*Mercy always runs downhill.
*But—think about what you missed by not living right from the beginning!

Joshua:
*God will only give you the promises you claim.

Daniel:
*Be motivated by conviction, not convenience.
*Greatness isn’t doing all you can do; it’s allowing God to do all He wants to do through you.
*You will never lose your way if you never lose your why.
*Courage is like muscle; it is strengthened by exercise.

With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early: for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” (Isaiah 26:9).

Pussy Willows Stalking Spring

Soft as kitten paws,
Silent as a crouching cat,
Pussy willow stalks.

We live close to Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, which is fast becoming a world-class venue for botanical garden lovers. Every week or two, we take a stroll through the gardens, and although there were no flowers blooming as yet on our last visit, we found a bank of pussy willows glowing in the late afternoon sunshine. Don’t you love the signs of new life emerging after the long, dark winter?

Truth shall spring out of the earth;
and righteousness shall look down from heaven” (Psalm 85:11).

The Uniqueness of God’s Corpse Flower

The Amorphophallus titanum/aka “corpse flower,” native only to rain forests of Sumatra and Java, is among the world’s most fascinating plants. It has a humongous  bract that makes it look like the world’s most gigantic flower. By botanical definition, however, the Rafflesia arnoldii (known as the “corpse lily” and also native to Sumatra) actually holds the world’s record for plant with the largest flower (as opposed to a bract), which can be 3+ feet in diameter.  Still the corpse flower definitely holds the world’s record for the largest corm (339 pounds in Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh) and the largest “unbranched inflorescence” (a group of flowers arranged on a single, central stem), which can grow up to ten feet high!  These amazing plants became known in the Western Hemisphere about 140 years ago, and since that time, there have been some 100 cultivated blossoms around the world, mostly in botanical gardens.One of the locations is our own Meijer Botanical Garden, here in Grand Rapids, and we enjoyed following the progress of our garden’s corm, affectionately named “Putricia” ( due to the terrible odor reminiscent of rotting meat, which Putricia proudly produces while in bloom to attract unwary carnivorous insects into helping out with her pollination). Putricia was planted at Meijer Garden 18 years ago, and this past July (2018) was the first time she bloomed!  In fact, corpse flowers usually only bloom about once every ten years, and when they do, the full bloom only lasts one day! When I first heard about Putricia, I wondered if one “stinking” flower could be worth all the bother, but after six months, I’m still thinking about her and have decided that seeing the corpse flower was worthwhile . . . and unforgettable!Why? Because it reminds me that no matter how large or small . . . how long lasting or short lived . . . how fragrant or odoriferous . . . I am—and we all are—unique creations of God intended for His pleasure. It doesn’t matter if people come from all over the world to see us . . . or “the world” never takes note of us at all! It doesn’t matter if we’re like an ever blooming rose . . . or bloom like clockwork once a year . . . or if we’re only in full bloom for one day each decade.No matter who we are, we are God’s unique creation, made as He designed us. He takes delight in us, especially as we trust in him. (“The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy” [Psalm 147:11].) As this new year begins, may we commit ourselves to resting in being the unique and wondrous blossom that God has created us to be, even though we’re flawed, imperfect, and feel insignificant. Let’s worship Him, reflecting His love and light.

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (Revelation 4:11).

Photo Credits: I took five of the photos on the day we visited Meijer Garden. The photo of the butterfly on an ivory-colored peony was taken in my front yard. The rest were found as follows:

Blooming Corpse Flower photographed at the New York Botanical Garden on June 27, 2018 by Sailing Moose. Found on Wikipedia: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Amorphophallus_titanum_(corpse_flower)_-_2.jpg

Rafflesia arnoldii and black and white photo of corpse flowers found on Wikipedia.

Four side-by-side photos of Putricia courtesy of Meijer Garden’s livestream  found on WOOD TV: https://www.woodtv.com/news/kent-county/meijer-gardens-corpse-flower-nearing-bloom/1290512106

The Glass Church: Lloyd Wright’s Wayfarers Chapel

If you’re ever in the Los Angeles area and want to spend a blissful day   soaking up the majesty of the Pacific Coast and meditating on our majestic God, consider visiting the “Glass Church.” This National Historic Landmark was built from 1949-1951 by Lloyd Wright (son of the famed architect, Frank Lloyd Wright) as a memorial to theologian Emanuel Swedenborg.
It is beautiful, open to the public, and totally free! Tucked into the hills at 5755 Palos Verdes Drive South in Rancho Palos Verdes, the chapel sits like a silent beacon above the din of traffic . . .and serves as a serene respite from the frenetic pace of Southern California . . .a quiet place to come away and commune with our heavenly Father! The Wayfarers Chapel is both simple and complex. The Glass Church has an elegant, open design
that incorporates nature into its sacred space. But, the complex also has lovely, tree-lined lawns  and plenty of benches where one can sit for a while to rest and reflect . . .  or enjoy gazing out at the vast blue Pacific.  Although I wouldn’t say it’s really a “kid place,”
Alan and I went with our kids and grand children,  and they definitely enjoyed playing with some of the toys in the gift shopas well as meandering along the garden paths breathing in the sweet scents and reading the love stories etched in stone.  Alan and I are having a new addition built for our home.  It isn’t an elegant glass house. (It is a simple sun room.) And, our little lake—though lovely— doesn’t hold a candle to the grandeur of the world’s largest ocean! Nevertheless, beauty is beauty, our Father’s world is glorious everywhere,
and no matter where we live, we all need time to pray and worship!I hope our new addition will offer a warm welcome to all who visit,  and I pray that each of us, as humble temples of the Holy Spirit
(1 Corinthians 6:19), will provide respite for everyone who comes our way! Give unto the Lord, O ye mighty, give unto the Lord glory and strength.
Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name;
worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
The voice of the Lord is upon the waters: the God of glory thundereth:
the Lord is upon many waters
(Psalm 29:1-3).

Even More Reasons to Love Meijer Gardens…All Around the Year!

Last Tuesday I mentioned six reasons why I love Frederik Meijer Gardens, but I was really just getting a good start when it occurred to me that 27 of my favorite photos and so many more words was enough for one day. So, to continue—

#7. Meijer Garden is a great place for bonding with loved ones!   As one example, it’s the perfect place to teach your kids how to use a camera because there’s beauty everywhere! #8. Speaking of bonding, the cafe is sunshiny and the  food delicious. Where else can you sit with a garden of Chihuly glass flowers above you,  a wall of green (and one of your sons) beside you, and a table adorned by real, live orchids in front of you? #9. Meijer’s Michigan Farm Garden is a treasure. It’s a real, live working farm where they grow lots of produce.They also have lots of real, not live (but still adorable) farm animal (sculptures).  #10. There are nature trails and abundant wildlife throughout. You can find turtles on sunny rocks, swans hiding behind brush, sunning themselves with their little ones, birds sitting in trees, frogs croaking in the bog,  geese and goslings to observe on the lawns,& friendly caterpillars who just happen to be at the right place at the right timeso even little ones can find them!  🙂  #11. There’s an excellent, family-friendly art gallery that has rotating exhibitions throughout the year.  One of the things I love most about Frederik Meijer Gardens is that I always feel like I can take my children and grand children there without worrying about what they’re going to see!  #12. There are special seasonal events. Not only are there beautiful bonsai exhibits all summer outside, There are numerous exhibitions and contests year around. If you’re not into competitions, you can still get ideas and buy supplies. They have really interesting arts and craft shows too, where you can buy fascinating items from various artists.  Of course, my favorite seasonal event is Christmas, when the garden turns into a fairyland of lights and color,complete with Christmas trains that chug around tracks and an elaborate, handmade village.

Well, it’s time to end again, and I haven’t begun to tell you about the  concert program at their amphitheater, their gift shop, or their great volunteer program, so I’ll just stop for now by saying that there is so much beauty and variety at Meijer Garden that I have trouble telling you “all about it!” Of course, that makes me think of Jesus, of whom the Apostle John wrote, And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written” (John 21:25). Jesus is incomprehensibly more beautiful and infinitely more complex than a simple botanical garden here on earth! He’s worth exploring not only all around the year but every day forever. Have you gotten to know Him? You can learn about him through reading the Bible. The Book of John is a great place to start.

And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God,
and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent
” (John 17:3).

Who Needs to Travel the World? Six Reasons Why I Love Meijer Gardens

When our family or friends come to Michigan, there are a few places I always recommend, but in Grand Rapids my favorite place to visit is—without a doubt— Meijer Garden. So, for those of you who may be looking for something very special to do in Michigan this summer, consider visiting Meijer Garden. Why? #1. The flowers are always spectacular! No need to travel to Holland to see tulips, or to Giverny near Paris to find a wistful arbor of wisteria. #2. The Japanese Gardens are stunning.Meticulously designed and artful in every detail. Restful and serene.  Filled with quiet spots to chat or sit and be creative! And, if you want a little taste of cherry blossoms in the spring,
there’s no need to visit Washington D.C. or Asia anymore!  #3. Lena Meijer’s Tropical Conservatory is like a breath of warm air.  Even when it’s snowy outside, there’s a world of warmth and beauty within. #4. Butterflies bloom during the barrenness of late winter
through early spring,
so you don’t have to go to Central America for a taste of the tropics!  #5. The Sculpture Park has become an international destination! With more than 200 sculptures in their permanent collection, you no longer have to go to Europe to see the work of famous sculptors! #6. The Lena Meijer Children’s Garden is a total delight!  Kids can get soaked…but you don’t have to! Or, they can have tea parties  while you rest in the shade and enjoy catching  up with each other. You don’t have to go to the Caribbean to take your kids sailing,  and if the boat capsizes, it’s no big deal!Also, no need to go to Africa to let your kids feel like big time explorers!

I was going to list ten reasons, but this post is already too long, so I’ll try to finish the others later this week. Meanwhile, happy planning as you think about your summer. Of course, while I’m promoting Michigan, three of my sons are vacationing in Italy together…but what can I say?  The other three and my daughter’s family are visiting us here in Michigan, so it’s all good!  As Robert Louis Stevenson would say, “The world is so full of a number of things, I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.”

They shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness,
and shall sing of thy righteousness
”  (Psalm 145:7).