Thursday, June 22, 2017

Life Lessons from a Left-for-Dead Hydrangea

by Emily Conrad

On June fourth, I walked through the grocery store and saw a wilted hydrangea plant on an odd, wooden, makeshift rack as tall as myself, waiting for a home.

It had been marked down from $9.99 to $2.99 but was so dehydrated, I wasn't sure it would survive. (The title image is it in its original glory.) Looking for a second opinion, I sought help from a nearby shopper by asking, "Do you think it'll come back with water, or is it too far gone?"

She gave some kind of non-committal shrug and walked on.

I chewed my lip, pictured how pretty cut hydrangeas are and how small the bush is that I planted last year, and then decided I could gamble three dollars on the chance that it would survive. It was, after all, still green despite being horribly wilted.

I moved aside my groceries and fit the container in my cart then proceeded along the aisle only to meet up again with the shopper who hadn't given her opinion when I asked for it.

She saw the plant in my cart. I learned as she tried to talk with me then that there was some kind of language barrier, but both of our intentions were obvious: I had the plant in my cart, after all, and she kept shaking her head and moving her hands, flattened and horizontal to the ground, back and forth in a signal for, "No, don't do it."

Confidence badly shaken, I looked back, wondering how discretely I could return the hydrangea to it's original fate of death by dehydration. That's right: I was embarrassed to proceed with the purchase and embarrassed to put it back.

But when I looked back, I found the staff had already, in the two minutes I'd had the plant, come through and removed the entire rack it'd been displayed on.

How had they moved something so big so quickly? And without my noticing?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

When I Am Pressed

by Emily Conrad

One of my favorite scents, floral or otherwise, is that of lavender. The plant itself isn't showy, but it is graceful with its gentle bends and muted colors. An admirer through and through, when we moved into this house, I took the risk of planting one, even though we're in a borderline area where it may or may not survive the cold of winter.

(A picture taken shortly after I planted it was the last image in last year's post When Dreams Appear Little or Dying.)

When I was taking inventory of my plants this spring, the lavender appeared to be nothing but dead sticks. I left it alone, and a few weeks later, those dead sticks came to life with new growth. Now, I have a little, flourishing lavender plant, celebrating its second year with a crop of tiny flowers.

I thought that a plant so prized for its scent could be brought in and would let off its perfume as it hung to dry. I took a couple of sprigs, tied them with twine, and hung them from the knob of my medicine cabinet.

And then, nothing.

No pretty scent as I entered the room. No wafting lavender smell when I leaned close.


I rolled a couple of the leaves between my fingers, and there it was, a strong invitation to relax and savor, a scent as pampering as a pedicure, as luxurious as the velvet sleep mask I keep next to my bed.

That velvet eye mask actually has dried lavender inside it. If I scrunch it a bit before putting it on, I can fall asleep to the scent.

And so, I'm learning: whether fresh or dried, lavender doesn't release its fragrance until it's pressed.

Lavender and I have that in common.

How else can I explain why writing comes more easily when I'm pressed by hard situations?

When I look for God in those pressing situations, I find He is not only there; He's been preparing me to be there.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

What to Make of All This

by Emily Conrad

I'm sitting alone and tired in the New Orleans airport when I read the confirmation that a close relative has cancer. The word aggressive lurks in the description, a shark looking to devour.

A stranger sits next to me to check his phone as I wonder what to make of this. Of cancer. Of being alone and tired. Of my grandfather, who died of prostate cancer, my grandmother of lung cancer, my other grandfather of skin cancer.

My ride is late, it's after nine, and the place is emptying out, but I'm stuck and not completely sure I'm safe.

Airports, all the coming and going, just seem like dangerous places, a place from which I could disappear against my will.

Earth, all the coming and going, seems like a dangerous place, a place from which I will one day disappear.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Purple Glass Perspective

by Emily Conrad

I sat in the front passenger seat. Out the windshield, the sky glowed with a subdued sunset, pale blue, a little yellow, a little gold at the horizon. Very few clouds, if any, floated in the sky to add additional color.

But when I sat back and looked past the driver to the window on her side of the car, the pale blue was replaced by purple, the gold with a tropical pink.

I leaned forward again to verify I was seeing the same section of sky. Through the windshield, plain sky. Sitting back, looking through the driver window, purple and pink.

Finally the driver asked what I was doing.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Best Gift God Has Given Us

by Emily Conrad

This morning, I sense a deep unfaithfulness in my heart.

I long to get to work. I want to do the jobs God has given me to do because I love them. But spend time with the God who provided these opportunities in the first place?

Honestly, I’m tempted not to, but I’m pausing here to do just that. To put in the time, to wait a while, to forget not all His benefits.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

When We Give God Puppy Dog Eyes

by Emily Conrad

I stop on the sidewalk, and my dog obediently stops next to me.

We look like the perfect pair. He's so in sync with me, waiting so patiently.

Or not.

What might not be apparent from across the street or down the block is the way his nose is quivering to sniff out the neighborhood dogs or the way he leans to see around me if I step into his line of sight.

His eye is on the next big thing. He's not pulling to get there, but that's all he wants.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

I Can See the Sky from Here

by Emily Conrad

It’s nine o’clock in the morning, and my house has surprised me twice already with unexpected glimpses of sky.

Somewhere between five and six a.m., I walked into our bathroom. The rice-paper-like covering over the bottom half of the window shone orange.

The window faces east, toward my neighbor’s full two-story house. And I’ve walked around the block plenty of times to know that between us and sunrise are other houses and trees and fences.

And yet, that window was orange, and when I leaned closer to the just-barely-translucent window applique, I saw the unmistakable ball of light that could only be the sun.

Until then, I didn’t know I could see the sky from there.

Hours later, I was reading my Bible on our enclosed front porch. I looked up into the large maple tree that spreads its arms in front of our house. Through one of the thickest parts of the tree, a brilliant blue patch of sky drew my attention. And once I noticed that one, I saw a few others, too.

I hadn't realized I could see the sky from there.

A few weeks ago, I was driving my dog Sadie to the vet. I’d attempted to steel myself for the visit, knowing it would be difficult. My dog had been vomiting, not eating, drinking little, and acting lethargic. We’d been told she would need x-rays because this kind of trouble usually meant something was blocking the digestive system.

Either she’d eaten a part of a toy, which would have to be surgically removed, or perhaps it was cancer, which would’ve been a scary enough prospect even if it weren’t five years to the day from when our black lab died. Of cancer. That they diagnosed by doing x-rays because she’d skipped a couple of meals.

As I drove the familiar streets, I prayed. The trip was just me, Sadie, and God, and if I was going to make it through without being a sniveling mess who stressed out my dog and alarmed the vet staff, God was going to have to be the one to make it happen.

A little over halfway to the vet, as tears were pressing at my eyes and I was navigating a tree-lined street, something moved overhead.