About hopesquires

I've left behind the daily grind to write full time and to figure out what my own flourishing tree looks like. I'd love to help you flourish and grow along the way, so that you, too, can cultivate a life that pleases God.

Between rain showers

I don’t know about you, but I always struggle the first few weeks after we “spring forward” into Daylight Saving Time. A few days ago, I managed to get out of bed at an earlier-than-usual hour, though it took until the sun was up for me to make it out of the house with the dog. In between bursts of rain on our quiet walk, I snapped this picture with my phone. The view and its accompanying quiet felt like a gentle hello from God.

I love this photograph for so many reasons: the play of early morning sun and gray clouds; the exuberance of green grass growing where I rarely see it; the meandering path along the flat trail (it plunges down just past the distant tree line); the stately oak leafing out to welcome spring.

The trees in this picture have survived not just one year of drought but years of it. Yet look at them. Look at those green leaves. Continue reading

Savor the idylls of March

I’m guessing at least some of you have already heard today the favorite warning about this date: “Beware the Ides of March.”

The weather has been stunning this week, and it’s too beautiful outside to feel cautious today. So I wanted to give you another way to think of this date. Instead of bewaring (honest, it’s a real word), how about savoring instead?

May I suggest you begin by savoring these “Idylls of March” photos? For a variety of reasons, they bring me joy and delight. I hope they’ll do the same for you this day.

My favorite bloom right now

If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you’ll know my deep and abiding love for dark red snapdragons. Unable to find all red snapdragons, I settled last year for a flat of various colors to add to the garden. This red one is one of two that has already bloomed, and its flourishing presence is my happiest garden sight right now.

This next photo shows my second favorite garden sprout, even though it doesn’t look very interesting right now. For those of you who grow these, you’ll know immediately what they are. Because they die back each winter, I always worry a bit until I see the new spring shoots—even here where winters are much milder.


Do you know what this is? (It’s one of my garden favorites.)

As my husband and I were talking of garden plans last night, this particular plant came up in our conversation. He said, “You mean the dead thing?” Out of town when I cut away last year’s dead stems and leaves, he didn’t know new shoots had sprouted. I planted it just last year and so won’t be surprised if it doesn’t bloom this year, but some day … some day it will be beautiful.

A plant that blooms without fail every spring is this Clivia. Because it’s one of the first spring plants to bloom, I always watch it eagerly to see when it will open.

Orange Clivia

The azaleas aren’t far behind. Given all the rain we’ve had, I can’t wait to see whether they bloom more profusely this season.

The start of the azaleas

The tulip magnolias are especially beautiful, despite windy days and flitting birds knocking off lots of petals.

Tulip magnolias in the early morning light

Beautiful under full sun or full clouds, these petals danced in the breeze as I photographed them.

Closer up

The flowers aren’t the only things of beauty in the garden. This Anna’s Hummingbird is a frequent visitor to my feeder.

The final photo delights me for a reason different than all the others. I’m not a fan of squirrels (aka tree rats), and they’ve raided several squares of seed from our feeder this winter. My husband solved the problem by moving the feeder, successfully confounding the squirrels for a couple of weeks now. I don’t even mind the blue jays that come now to the feeder. Seeing the squirrels try—and fail—to get to this feeder provides a good laugh.

A joyful heart is good medicine. —Proverbs 17:22

Thanks for savoring the Idylls of March along with me, friends!

Blooming where you’re planted, even when you feel out of place

I suspect a daffodil along my front walk may be trying to teach me a lesson.

Growing in a most inconvenient place

I don’t know if previous homeowners purposely planted a bulb here, right where a bit of gravel fills in spaces between our walkway’s paved squares. Perhaps the bulb shifted there from somewhere nearby? But each of the three springs I have lived here, the bulb has sent up greenery and a single daffodil bloom.

It’s a persistent little thing, this daffodil, blooming in spite of its conditions.

I admire its tenacity when the dog’s tail whaps it as she walks by (almost every morning and evening) and its unwillingness to lie down or fall apart during a round of hail this past weekend. I appreciate its quiet beauty. Continue reading

For Ash Wednesday: Ashes and 30 pieces of silver

I hope you don’t mind if I revisit an old post (from March 2014) this Ash Wednesday. I don’t remember the exact timing of how everything fell into place March 2014, but I’m pretty sure I wrote this post shortly before my husband came home and told me his company was asking us to move. And move we did, all the way across the country. Talk about your seismic shifts.

I still find I want to dust myself off when I’m covered in ashes. I yearn for an easy answer and search for that shiny, clean (happily ever after?) place. I needed to revisit this post for myself, and it occurred to me that some of you might welcome this reminder, too?

Blessings to you this Ash Wednesday, as we enter into Lent and a season of penitence and waiting for the joyful message of Easter.


I had a lighter post planned, but it somehow didn’t seem appropriate for Ash Wednesday, a day of ashes and penance, the beginning of Lent, the time we set aside in the Christian calendar to remember the events leading up to Christ’s crucifixion, the weeks we set aside to draw closer to God in advance of Easter.

Last night, I became restless and couldn’t sleep, instead pondering the ways we live in ash heaps and sell our lives and dreams short for 30 pieces of silver. We settle for less than what God has planned and even resort to forcing events in our lives that were not what God hoped for us.

Judas Iscariot did this when he betrayed Jesus. Scholars say he was hoping to force Jesus to finally take up his sword and become the warrior Messiah that Judas and others had been awaiting. Judas betrayed Jesus in exchange for 30 pieces of silver, an amount that equaled four months’ wages. Not worth much, considering the outcome for Judas, who tossed the money back at the high priests before going out to hang himself.

One of my favorite stories involving betrayal is The Great Gatsby. Did you know that F. Scott Fitzgerald considered naming it something entirely different: Among Ash-Heaps and Millionaires? Fitzgerald recognized, and wanted his readers to see, too, that the separation between millionaires and those living among the ashes isn’t as great as our society might want us to believe. Jay Gatsby was popular and enigmatic but couldn’t escape the ash-heaps and betrayal in the end, despite all that his money could buy.

Sometimes we all end up covered in ash. And whether it’s the freeing ashes of penance or the weighed down ashes of our past, we rarely feel comfortable or comforted when covered in ashes.

And maybe that’s why we’re quick to sell out, to dust ourselves off for a mere 30 pieces of silver, to think it’s so easy to grab hold of our dreams and get to a shiny, clean place. But is the place we end up as clean and as shiny as we expected?

I’ve felt a disconcerting seismic shift in my life in the last few months, as if God is moving the underlying plates in my life, and last night, I wrestled to name the shift. I think it has to do with being covered in ashes from the past (not just my own past but others near me, too) and not wanting to take the 30-pieces-of-silver, forced way out. So I’ll wait to see what God has planned for me next. The waiting here is hard.

Just because I’m pondering ashes doesn’t mean I should leave you there, too, right? So if you recall last week’s post and my joy of an orchid bud, here’s what happened this week.

Orchidbloom_2014ft

I couldn’t resist sharing it, even if it has nothing to do with ashes and 30 pieces of silver. It does have everything to do with embracing life, though, and that’s what I plan to do while I’m waiting for God’s next move.

The springing of spring

I still can’t quite get used to how early spring arrives here. Record rains have brought a lot of green, and now that the days are getting noticeably longer (hallelujah!), trees are beginning to bud.

The rain has kept me cooped up inside more than I’d like these last two months, but as a friend pointed out yesterday, dreary weather gives us a good reason to get indoor projects done. She’s right, but I’m ready for spring, ready for beautiful days, ready for the earth to reawaken. As a writer, I spend enough time inside. The runner/ hiker/ gardener/ photographer in me is ready for friendly outdoor weather.

Whether you live here or somewhere still buried under blankets of snow, I hope you enjoy these signs of the coming spring.

springspringing2017_1ft

A plumcot tree in my back yard. I’m hopeful the rainy winter will mean more fruit this year.

Continue reading