Deep Roots



Magnoilia trees and blossoms are among my earliest childhood memories.  Like pine boughs and gardenias; if I close my eyes, the fragrance brings a surge of memory and story. Summertime in this part of Texas brings magnolia blooms in many yards, and even without closed eyes, I remember. I am thankful for roots!

“Like the magnolia tree,
She bends with the wind,
Trials and tribulation may weather her,
Yet, after the storm her beauty blooms,
See her standing there, like steel,
With her roots forever buried,
Deep in her Southern soil.”― Nancy B. Brewer, Letters from Lizzie



My neighbor recently brought me a gift:  a bunch of fragrant French Tarragon. tied with yellow ribbon.  Tarragon can be very frail, difficult to grow, but also quickly losing its sweet licorice like flavor. Unlike most herbs, drying the leaves weakens the flavor so this lovely gift needed to be used right away. As I later stood in my kitchen chopping the sweet smelling, silvery leaves to put into sauce for Tarragon Chicken, I smiled, picturing my neighbor as she cut and tied up my herb bouquet. I  packed up a serving of the dish to take over to her. Gifts are appreciated best by using them. Our gratitude is best expressed in making use of what we are given!.

What Is Mine to Do?


Photography courtesy of Pert Roddy Garraway, who grows these beautiful plants.

In my observance of Lent this year, I worked with others in an online retreat reflecting on the question “What is mine to do?”  The question comes from Jesus when he said” “What I just did was to give you an example: as I have done, so you must do.” When his own  death was approaching,  St. Francis told us, “I have done what is mine to do. May Christ teach you what is yours.”

For me, the answer to the posed question is simply that what is mine to do is to practice serving. I am not sure why, but my friend’s photo of her beautiful Cereus reminds me of serving.  It may be because this exquisite blooming only happens at night, when it is unseen by many. It does not require the brilliance of sunlight to bloom on, offering its beauty and fragrance. for a brief time.

I have become aware of the difference in helping, in fixing, as opposed to serving. When I worked as a registered nurse, my connection to patients was best applied in service to them and to their families as opposed to a goal of repair.  I am aware that in my community relationships, my parenting, and my grandparenting, my calling to serve may be played out in many different roles – in offering hospitality, in gardening and cooking and sharing the beauty of art and music. My joy in any of these is heightened as I realize that this, too, is serving.

“Serving is different from helping. Helping is not a relationship between equals. A helper may see others as weaker than they are, needier than they are, and people often feel this inequality. The danger in helping is that we may inadvertently take away from people more than we could ever give them; we may diminish their self-esteem, their sense of worth, integrity or even wholeness.

When we help, we become aware of our own strength. But when we serve, we don’t serve with our strength; we serve with ourselves, and we draw from all of our experiences. Our limitations serve; our wounds serve; even our darkness can serve. My pain is the source of my compassion; my woundedness is the key to my empathy.

Fixing and helping create a distance between people, but we cannot serve at a distance. We can only serve that to which we are profoundly connected.”

–Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen




Gifts are a part of our days before and after Christmas, both the ones that are chosen to give, wrapped with a bow – and the ones that we can’t hold in our hands, only our hearts.  Come to think of it, even the ones that do come gift-wrapped are ones we hold in our hearts if they come to carry messages of love and caring.

The stones in this photo carry messages of the gifts offered in the birth of Christ. They are prayer stones that I keep in a basket on my porch and I often use them as touch reminders of God’s gifts that I need.  The top photo was made some years ago.  The picture below is the stones today. As often happens when I photograph something, surprising truth shows up when I look closely. Some stones obviously show more wear than others. I don’t doubt that the most worn stones reflect my past year’s need and requests. As you can see, Patience, Hope, and Peace have often been in my prayers.  Courage and Strength show wear as well. The stones may gain refreshing from a Sharpie, but the gifts themselves are always clear, always there. I am thankful for all of them.




Don’t Wait to Celebrate


tissue paper ruffles

unwrap scarlet star

releasing arc of fireworks

today alone is mine

IMG_0724folded petals crumple

fireworks fade into the night

don’t wait to celebrate


Please see a related post from last year:




“To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.”                        ~ Simone Weil

Recently when family gathered to help us celebrate our 50 years of being married, we were given a small white pot which contained a plastic bag filled with potting soil and a dried, brown ball with papery layers peeling back about the size  of a small onion. It was an Amaryllis bulb.  As long as I let the pot, the soil, and the bulb wait on my counter, nothing much happened.  There was one place where a spot of green wanted to push through its crackly wrapping, but seemed to have grown weary and quit trying.  But as soon as opened the soil packet and poured it into the pot, pushed the bulb down, set it in a window, and added water, I could almost hear the dry dirt begin to breathe a lullaby to hungry roots as they began to channel new life into stalk and leaf. Two sturdy stems soon grew heavy with swelling buds.  Above, the first scarlet flower opens wide, stamens heavy with pollen.

026Then there were three, so large it seemed they would topple. And just as the first bloom began to fade, the second stalk of buds began to open.  In all, 6 magnificent delights have graced the plain white pot in my kitchen window. Without roots, this blooming would have stayed inside the brown bulb.  The roots were a potential, but not a possibility until nourished with soil and light and water.

What nourishes my soul to satisfy this need for rooting?  Do I choose that which roots and grows?  These are questions I ask again in a soul’s wintering.



“Be ready at all times for the gifts of God.  And always for new ones.”  ~ Meister Eckhart

Gifts are on our minds during Advent.  We are considering the greatest gift ever given, the gift of Christ.  We are thankful for the new gifts of God that every day brings.  And we honor traditions of giving gifts to others.  We choose gifts for those we love very carefully.  One of my favorite poets writes this:

Star Giving, by Anne Weems  from “Kneeling in Bethlehem”

What I’d really like to give you for Christmas

Is a Star . . .

Brilliance in a package,

Something you could keep in the

 pocket of your jeans

Or in the pocket of your being,

Something to take out in times of darkness,

Something that would never snuff

  out or tarnish,

Something you could hold in your hand,

Something for wonderment,

 Something for pondering,

Something that would remind you of

  What Christmas has always meant:

  God’s Advent Light into the

  Darkness of this world.

But Stars are only God’s for giving,

And I must be content to give you words and wishes and\

Packages without Stars.

But I can wish you Life

As radiant as the Star

That announced the Christ Child’s coming,

And as filled with awe as the

 Shepherds who stood

Beneath its Light,

And I can pass on to you the Love

That has been given to me,

Ignited countless time by others

Who have knelt in Bethlehem’s  Light.

Perhaps, if you ask, God will give

 you a Star.