Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Blue Flowers Redeemed

My blonde pigtails wiggled in sync with my rhythmic coloring. I was hunched over my Kindergarten artwork—an imperfectly arced rainbow which sheltered six flowers, each corresponding to a color of the rainbow.

Intent upon the finer points of drawing petals, stems and leaves, I shaded each flower—red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple. As I was falling in love with my sketch of rainbows and flowers, Mrs. Miller walked behind me and declared flatly, “There is no such thing as a blue flower.”

I turned to look for an explanation, but she was on to observing the next table.

No such thing as a blue flower? My face reddened with embarrassment. I filed through my scant mental index of flowers—rose, carnation, daffodil, tulip—and discovered, she must be right. I could not remember ever having seen a blue flower.

I grabbed my purple crayon to disguise my ignorant mistake and colored over what was previously blue. Mrs. Miller would be pleased with my correction, but the picture looked imperfect to me. A flower for every color of the rainbow—except blue. Red, orange, yellow green, purple, purple. I disliked the picture. I could only see the flaw of my disguised “ignorance.”

That statement rattled around in my brain for many years. No such thing as a blue flower. Had God skipped over blue when he had been painting all the flowers on that third day of creation? I had truly never seen a blue flower. Still, I kept my eye out for one.

Each year around Memorial Day I saw plastic blue flowers, and as though I had knowledge that no one else possessed I silently declared, “Those are not real. There are no such things as blue flowers.”

But then one spring I exited a super-store through their garden center. And there on the corner of a table was something that caught my eye. I picked up the thin plastic planter to see if it was real. It was planted in real soil. The soil was dripping with water. And out of the soil grew a vibrant stem laden with blue flowers. I fingered the tag and read, “Blue hyacinth.”

Poor Mrs. Miller. She had never seen a blue hyacinth. My instincts of a flower corresponding to every color of the rainbow had been right. And God had not skipped over blue. But whenever I see a blue flower, I think of Mrs. Miller.

Until yesterday.

After spending five days in Dallas, Texas at the MOPS Convention, I returned home to a dining room table adorned with paper airplanes trailed by banners attached with yarn and staples. The banners read, “Welcome home, Mom!” And in the center of the paper airfield was a vase, filled with pink, yellow and—look there—blue flowers.

As the fleet of paper planes swirled around the blue flowers and me, I put my arm around Levi who was nearest to me and said, “Thank you so much! That makes me feel really special.”

Levi looked up at me with convincing incredulity and said, “That’s because you are special!”

And with his words the blue flower was redeemed.

A blue hyacinth, a forget-me-not, even a colored daisy, carnation and mum, no longer conjure up thoughts of ignorance and embarrassment. God has redeemed the blue flower.

To redeem is to recover, to exchange, to convert.

Though long buried under myth, the truth is recovered.

Shame is exchanged for affection.

And the blue flower is converted from an emblem of embarrassment to a symbol of love and redemption.

Redemption is the work of Jesus Christ as God tell us in Isaiah 61:3:

to comfort all who mourn, 
  and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes, 
the oil of gladness
    instead of mourning, 
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.

His redemptive work displays His splendor— even in the smallness of blue flowers.

This small story of redemption points to a larger one. Where do you see His redeeming work?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Summer Cooking Short-cut

Spoons not required.

You certainly know there are plenty of things I love about summer (see last post)!

But last week, as I contemplated standing over the stove, hot steam billowing in my sweaty face, I grumbled, “It’s too hot to cook.”

I know some of you love summer cooking. Your basting brush and grill tools beckon you outside. With the grill as your canvas and a side of beef as your medium, you create a fire-roasted masterpiece, which you will photograph and post on facebook.

But I’m no grill wizard. I used to think when the flames died down the burgers were done. Doneness was confirmed by the blackened edges of the burgers. Doesn’t Burger King flame broil their burgers? How come theirs don’t look like hockey pucks? I have only recently graduated to grilling hamburgers with an edible result.

Others of you have carefully tended a beautiful, weedless, chemical-free garden. Your knowledge and perseverance have yielded organic vegetables of every hue and variety. Bursting with flavor and color, your red tomatoes, orange peppers, yellow squash, and green beans grace your vegetable steamer. That power packed rainbow of chopped vegetables fuels your family with the all the vitamins and nutrients of an entire bottle of Flintstone Chewables!

Alas, my green thumb is nearly as pitiful as my skill at the grill. Now, if there were a market for crab grass, then I’d have something to write home about!! But my “Fourth of July Tomatoes” are still small and green though it is August. And despite daily watering the orange peppers have yet to bloom, the yellow squash never sprouted, and even the hearty Zucchini plant was broken off by the wind.

So, after assessing the heat index, my capacity for grilling, the state of my vegetable garden, and the fact that all three boys must be coerced or bribed to eat vegetables, I took a little short cut.

I served ice-cream for lunch.

Three big scoops for everyone, including me.

The only steam billowing in my face was the cool blast from the freezer as I shut its door. There were no burnt edges or flames and no one had to be coerced or bribed to finish their lunch. I even healthy-ed it up with a generous garnish of sliced banana.

The best part was that I didn’t even feel guilty. Instead, I congratulated myself on that little time-saving, energy-conserving, peace-keeping stroke of genius.

And I heartily recommend it to anyone who needs a little break from the heat of summer cooking.