When God speaks in a daffodil

Daffodil against garden shed

I believe God speaks. I believe He speaks constantly. I believe He is a communicating God, who reveals Himself in various ways and means to those who take the time to listen, who have ears to hear, and eyes to see.

No, I’ve never heard an audible voice. I’ve never seen a message written in the heavens or a burning bush. But I’ve sensed that “still small voice,” speaking within my spirit at needed times. I’ve had words jump out at me from Scripture that led or taught or directed or encouraged or comforted me in important ways at crucial moments. I’ve sensed “promptings” or “intuitions” that I’ve acted on, only to be convinced later as a result of outcomes that it was God who was leading me. And I’ve seen things in nature—incredible, memorable things—that felt like messages meant for me.

I received one such message yesterday, and then again, this morning. And it was such a lovely bit of encouragement at just the right time, that I felt it ought to be shared.

A week ago yesterday, my mother-in-law, Dora, passed away at the age of 102. Her death was expected—she’d been receiving palliative care for weeks—and my husband, Doug, and I were at her side when she took her final breath.

Doug was her only child. And while she was feisty and amazingly independent right up into her early 90s, he’d been caring for her in one way or another since his dad died 30 years ago. Thirty years is a long time to bear the responsibility of caring for an aging parent. The last 10 years, after she gave up driving, Doug’s caring meant biweekly (at least) trips to her home in Thorold, Ont. (from our own in Mississauga) to take her shopping, to the bank, or the pharmacy and then to doctor’s appointments. Four years ago, we moved her to a retirement community 10 minutes from our home, and visits and excursions became more frequent. For the past two years, she’s had several lengthy hospital stays, which have meant more frequent visits yet. Sometimes every day for weeks or months on end.

It’s felt at times like a long road, for her and for us. She told us again and again that she was ready to go. And while death is never easy, there can be a sense in which it can come as both a release and a relief. Even as we witnessed the release of her spirit last Friday, we felt relief that her suffering is over, and our long responsibility for her soon will be too.

Thursday her body was laid to rest next to her husband’s, and her long-time pastor spoke words of remembrance, comfort, and truth at her memorial. Our three children eulogized their “Granny,” the ladies of her church congregation prepared a beautiful lunch, and for dessert, everyone feasted on a buffet of pies—in her honour. (She was a wonderful baker in her younger years famous, especially, for her pies.) I couldn’t help thinking how delighted she would have been by it all.

Yesterday morning we awoke early in order to head to her apartment to begin the two-day process of clearing out her things. As I sipped my first coffee of the day, I opened the blinds to look out into our little backyard, and couldn’t help gasping. For there, up against our garden shed, was a single, bright yellow daffodil, almost ready to open.

I planted a row of daffodils against that shed 27 years ago, when we first moved into this house. Their leaves came up faithfully, year after year, but they had never yielded a single bloom, not once in all those years. Every spring I would watch as their green shoots would push through the soil and grow tall, spreading out their leaves. Every year, I would hope. But not ever in all those years did we see a flower.

Until yesterday. It felt like a sign, a message from above. As I looked at that daffodil, I sensed God saying, “It’s all okay. She is at rest. And good things are ahead.”

This morning, on the final day of the move, and what we anticipate will be the last of our significant responsibilities for her, the daffodil was in full bloom.

*

 

Looking elsewhere

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'”

— Fred Rogers

We’ve been experiencing a hot, dry summer here in southern Ontario. The kind of summer that entices cicadas to celebrate with concerts while the day is still young, but compels most everyone else – who can’t flee to a lake or poolside – to choose instead the artificial hum of air conditioning. It’s been the kind of summer that turns grass golden and brittle, until it crunches like crackers beneath your feet.

For those who follow the news (and who can avoid it?) it’s also been a summer of shock and sadness. Too many innocents – indeed too much innocence – lost in the midst of too much violence. It’s almost enough to make a person lose sight of all the goodness and beauty we trust is still here. But maybe it’s precisely at times like these that we have to train our eyes to focus elsewhere for the beauty that surely still exists.

Take the grass for instance: it’s a shame about the grass. But the same conditions that persuade lawns to go dormant at times like this permit other plants to thrive. Captivating plants like chicory with its delicate sky-tinted petals, and exquisite Queen Anne’s Lace. Such subversives appear to wait in secret anticipation of the moment when, presented with just the right opportunity, they shoot upwards to reveal their hitherto forgotten existence; and seemingly overnight send long stems reaching, reaching.

I’m thinking about these wily weeds today; they’ve been in evidence everywhere recently as Percy (our family’s border collie) and I have taken our walks. Strong and resilient, they prosper in spite of the drought that makes the grass all around them appear to die. And I’m thinking their example has something to teach us.

The secret of these plants’ success against the odds is their roots; tough, swollen and deeply penetrating, they tap into sources of nourishment and sustenance far beyond the limits to which the threadlike roots of the little grass plants can reach. The loveliness of such weeds and wildflowers is there for anyone with eyes to see: frothy blooms in shades that nourish the soul surrounded by feathery green foliage, made all the more obvious, even, by their now brown and brittle surroundings. The fact that no one cuts the grass while dormant, ensures invasive neighbours thrive.

It is the oppressive heat and wretched drought that not only encourage weeds and wildflowers to flourish in fields and along roadsides, but enable them to do so.

I think Mrs. Rogers had it right.