September 5, 2011
Beauty and Meaning in Unlikely Places
"Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls forth each of them by name." Isaiah 40:26a (NIV)
If you told me I'd find something of beauty in the middle of a patch of weeds in my backyard, I'd doubt you. But that's what happened one overcast spring morning in my Seattle garden.
Newly pregnant with my third baby and experiencing extreme first-trimester exhaustion, a sweet older gentleman came over to tackle the weeds threatening to overtake the garden. Randy—in his oversized straw hat—asked me to come outside and inspect something he'd found while weeding in my yard.
"Look," he said, pointing to a patch of weeds.
"What are they?"
"They're wood violets," he replied.
I marveled at the sight: little clusters of light purple flowers encircled by dark green heart-shaped leaves. "They're wild," he continued. "They pop up where you least expect them. Some people don't care for them, but they're kind of pretty." He paused and looked at me. "Do you want me to leave them?"
How stunning their lavender petals looked against the backdrop of weeds. Their sight caused something inside me to stir.
I'd been struggling with pregnancy-induced nausea for weeks. Plus, I was neck-deep in a major revision of my novel—all while taking care of my two rambunctious little boys and juggling deadlines for my "day job" at the magazine. Life felt like a grueling marathon—and I was running out of steam.
As I stood in my garden that morning, I realized that I'd been so intent on running the race, I'd forgotten to stop and smell the roses—or rather, notice the violets. Was God trying to get my attention? Could something as small and delicate as a violet pushing up out of the ground, unannounced and uninvited, have significant meaning for me?
Goosebumps covered my arms. "Yes," I said to Randy. "Please keep them!"
That afternoon, with my eyes now open to God's creation, I noticed another patch of wood violets growing like a carpet along the roadside. I vaguely remembered passing them before, but I hadn't truly noticed until that moment. What else had I been missing?
As I continued to work on my novel, I couldn't get the wood violets out of my head. I realized that my story needed these fragile, yet bold petals. They soon became a key symbol of redemption, forgiveness and reconciliation in the story.
Weeds often distract us from the things of beauty and joy in our own lives. Our problems and schedules pull our eyes from the starry hosts and the One who made them. In my life, they became a needed reminder to simply be present instead of always pushing ahead to the next task. A reminder to look for God, especially in His creation.
Elements of the natural world—from wildflowers to birds—are frequently used in the Bible to illustrate larger points. Matthew 6:28, for example: "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin."
God has sprinkled treasures in our lives—gifts just waiting to be noticed. I wonder, what things have you and I missed while too busy to look?
Notice the beauty of God's creation today—from the tiniest star in the distant sky to the vibrant blue shade of dragonflies' wings. Raise your eyes to the heavens and take in the starry hosts. For sometimes God infuses seemingly insignificant things with great beauty and meaning.
Dear Lord, thank You for the beauty of Your creation. Help me to open my eyes, to be present, and to hear Your voice even in the small, seemingly insignificant moments. I pray that I will never be too busy to notice the beautiful and meaningful things You place in my path to guide me and delight me. In Jesus Name, Amen.
Do You Know Him?
The Violets of March by Sarah Jio is the story of a woman whose life has unraveled. When her career plummets and her marriage fails, she packs her bags and travels to Bainbridge Island, to the home of her great aunt hoping to regroup, heal, and let the saltwater ease her pain. She finds a diary from 1943 hidden in the home—a diary filled with secrets that have the power to change her life, and her family's. It is a story of loss and healing, enduring love, and how the choices we make can haunt us for a lifetime.
Visit She Reads this week to learn more and enter to win a bag of books from the publisher, as well as a gift basket filled with Northwest treats.
Pray for someone you know is too hurried or overburdened to notice the sweet ways God is communicating to them.
Choose five things from the natural world that inspire you or make you smile—thank God for these.
Join the She Reads online fiction book club as we discuss the themes of emotional infidelity, family secrets, and reconciliation found in the novel The Violets of March.
Do I need to press the pause button and be still so I can hear God's voice and see the beauty of His creation?
Matthew 6:26a, "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or stow away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them." (NIV)
Isaiah 6:3b, "The whole earth is full of his glory." (NIV)
Psalm 65:12-13 and 66:1, "The grasslands of the wilderness overflow; the hills are clothed with gladness. The meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with grain; they shout for joy and sing. Shout for joy to God, all the earth!" (NIV)
© 2011 by Sarah Jio. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries
616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
Matthews, NC 28105
Originally published Monday, 05 September 2011.