In the gardens of my friends, week 2

They will come and shout for joy on the height of Zion,
And they will be radiant over the bounty of the Lord—
Over the grain and the new wine and the oil,
And over the young of the flock and the herd;
And their life will be like a watered garden,
And they will never languish again.
—Jeremiah 31:12

I hope you enjoyed last week’s stop on my friends’ garden tour. This week brings us to the garden of a friend who leads a group of us fearless writers. She often opens her home so we can gather and spend a few hours in quiet, companionable writing. Depending on where I sit to write, I often find myself gazing out into her yard, enjoying the abundant beauty there.

She also happens to share my love of nurseries, and she introduced me to one of my favorite nurseries one weekend as we strolled and chatted, laughed to see hummingbirds buzzing about, and tarried over favorite flowers to dream about and plan our own gardens.

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My friend’s favorite flower, the princess lily

As we walked through the rows and rows of flowers, we talked of flowers that grow well here and flowers that grow well in North Carolina. I’m always delighted to find reminders of home in friends’ gardens: Continue reading

In the gardens of my friends

And the Lord will continually guide you,
And satisfy your desire in scorched places,
And give strength to your bones;
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.
— Isaiah 58:11

Earlier this summer, friends from North Carolina began posting pictures of their gardens on Facebook. Their posts reminded me of times we chatted about gardening or wandered through public gardens together or visited our favorite nursery for plants and lunch. (The best nurseries have cafes to encourage you to linger.)

Their photos stirred up a longing to visit with my North Carolina friends but also inspired me to reach out to California friends who have green thumbs. I asked if I could wander through their gardens and take some pictures. Most apologized for their garden’s appearance because of the drought, but I think you’ll see that, even in a dry land, beautiful gardens abound. (Sprinklers and less restrictive watering rules have helped this summer.)

August can be a tough time for gardeners. In the south, too much heat and humidity. In California’s Central Valley, too much heat and no rain since May. Whether your own garden looks a bit scraggly these days or is bursting with beauty, I hope you’ll enjoy touring these friend’s gardens with me over the next few weeks.

First up, the garden of a friend who welcomed me to California with the gift of a poinsettia the day after I arrived here. (A plant is a perfect housewarming gift, especially for someone who has moved cross-country and likely had to leave all the houseplants behind.)

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The comfort of familiar faces

As we walked through the garden together, my dear friend and I, we took turns catching each other up on our lives—our joys, recent celebrations, fears, day-to-day struggles and successes. This is what good friends who live on opposite coasts do when they get together.

We were in Atlanta for an annual meeting of our husbands’ company. While the employees met, a group of spouses walked a few blocks away to visit the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. If you’ve followed this blog for awhile, you know how much I love gardens, and this one in particular is one of my happy places.

April is a beautiful time of year to visit the gardens, and there’s a new art installation going in. We got to see workers assembling several glass art pieces as we strolled past (I promise to share more in a future post). I love that there’s always something going on in this place to draw in visitors.

Two and a half years ago, I blogged about some amazing plant sculptures. On this recent visit, I missed them, but as I rounded a corner toward the pond, there she was. A familiar face:

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Her hair is different now, but she has the same familiar face.

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Tree signs: U r loved

How is it already September? How are we already five weeks into this seven-week tree sign series? For those of you who have followed the whole series to date, you may have sensed a thread running through all of the signs, a thread about how God views us and how God hopes we will view ourselves and others. Love is the prevailing theme in the tree signs, and this week’s sign states the truth as plainly as possible:

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For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. – John 3:16

We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for our brethren. But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. – 1 John 3:16-18

When I was searching the Bible for just the right verses, I noticed something beautiful and new (to me anyway): John 3:16 and 1 John 3:16 tell exactly the same love story. One looks at Jesus’ death from God’s perspective and the other from Jesus’ own perspective. Why say it twice? Quite simply: we all need to hear someone huge and important and unstoppable loves us.

Don’t we all have days when we feel unloved, or maybe unlovable? Days we feel alone or ignored or unappreciated? These are the days the 3:16 verses were meant for—the days we most need reminding that the greatest love in the world applies to each of us as individuals, not just some vague “others” in the world.

Whoever created the “U R Loved” sign wrote it using passive voice, often a bugaboo for this former English teacher. But I love passive voice here because it encourages you to fill in the inherent blank. Who loves you? U R Loved (by God/by friends/by spouse/by children/by family/by someone).

Driving by this sign causes me to make a mental list. I am loved by …

The length of my list is a blessing I try not to take for granted, and I hope those people on my list know how much I love them right back.

The last few weeks have been tough for several of my dearest friends back east, and it has been difficult for me to do much more than say, “I love you,” and “I’m praying for you,” and “I hope you heal quickly.”

But I also know the deep truth in the rest of the verses in 1 John 3. I wish John had written: “let us not love only with word or with tongue,” because sometimes words are the only way we can love. It has been hard for me to trust that my words are enough, that where I cannot show my love for a friend through my actions, others in my hometown can. There are others who can give the hugs. Others who can bring the meals. Others who can walk the dogs and pick up the kids from school and bring the toilet paper and laundry detergent. And the ice cream. Because sometimes, ice cream speaks joy and comfort and happiness and love all in one bowl. Right?


Want to remind someone that they are loved? I’d be honored if you’d send them this post. I’ll be sharing it on my Facebook author page, and you may share it from there or from the social media links at the bottom of this post. Or maybe you need to pick up the phone and call a friend? Or pick up some flowers for your spouse at the grocery store? Or pick a date on the calendar to visit with each other?

I’d love to hear your creative ways to show others you love them and also the beautiful ways others have reminded you recently that U R Loved.

The dragonfly visitor

As I continue to fight to get over a lingering illness, my energy is slowly coming back. A couple of days ago, I knew I was on the mend because I felt like going outside to take some pictures.

A visitor has been stopping by my house every day, usually several times a day. She kindly posed for me on several of her favorite perches:

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Glittering in the sun

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Smiling at me?

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Sunning atop an apple tree

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I cannot get over the intricacy of her wings

I’ve been calling her Joy—first, because her visits delight me. Second, one of my dearest friends is named Joy, and she loves dragonflies. So when this small, beautiful creature visits me, she makes me smile and makes me think of my sweet friend.

What visitors delight you in your garden? Or bring you joy on your daily walk? Or welcome you in a special place you visit to unwind?