When you live in the middle of nowhere, I mean literally over the river and through the woods, you learn a thing or two about paying attention to the side of the road. My mother has hit or been hit by several deer on the rural roads near her home. If you find yourself in this predicament, I suggest you buy yourself some deer whistles to put on the front of your vehicle. And on top of living in the middle of nowhere, when you are in artist, you are always paying attention to everything around you. Right? RIght? Well, this artist does. I love to look. I love to find things. I love to notice things. I love people watching. I love to imagine. And the country roads give much more to the imagination than city or interstate roads. Well, at least in the way of the natural beauty that I am drawn to most of the time.
There is a place about forty five minutes away from my mom’s house that I would have to go to every so often because her small town doesn’t have all the resources I would need while living there. So about once a month, I took the beautiful winding drive to this medium sized town. On the way, I would take a little cut-through back road that would lead me by this one particular property. It might have been a short cut, but it really just depended on the traffic. I would take it anyways because I loved seeing this property. Whoever lived there harvested boxwood shrubs. Now, this was several years ago now, and I did not know anything about gardening then. I don’t know much more now, but I will have you know, I knew nothing of boxwoods or blights. All I knew, is that a myriad of little orb like shrubs resided in the rolling hills of this property behind the pine trees and their fence. The first time I saw them, my mouth opened in shock. It was quite a sight. The second time I noticed a handmade sign offering the sale of these boxwoods. That made more sense. Every time I saw them, I would imagine trolls (kinda like the stone trolls in the movie Frozen). I would smile and think that they all were staying complete still until the cover of night when they would come alive in magical festivities, of course. They were my shrub trolls, and I loved them.
Now, a few years later, I was visiting my mom and had to take a drive to this same town and went by the trolls. I was devastated when I saw that tons of them were gone. Vanished. The property looked sad and awkward. I thought maybe sales were going really well or something, but couldn’t they have at least beautifully arranged how they sold them to keep the property in some sort of harmony of design? I realize I can be a little judge-y when it comes to beautiful things being tainted.
Well, I’ll have you know I did some math this past month when I learned about the boxwood blight. It is a terrible disease that infiltrated North America in 2011 and has multiplied like crazy over the years. There is no cure for this blight. Do you know that word? It’s awfully beautiful to me. A blight. Well the dictionary definition says a blight a plant disease, typically one caused by fungi such as mildews, rusts, and smuts—and in case you needed to learn the word smuts, which I had never heard and had to look up, it means a small flake of soot or other dirt. Well, this boxwood blight infiltrated that property and several others. It became a gardening nightmare. Apparently, everyone was talking about It. They are still talking about it. It’s so contagious you better not bring it near another plant. They even started a task force to deal with the blight. So many people use boxwood in their landscaping and this was a huge deal, if you aren’t gathering that yet. The only way to deal with it is the “inadvertent introduction of infected boxwood to existing plants” so if already infected you have to burn, bury, or dispose of it. The spores can spread on our clothing and tools too, so lots of care in sanitation techniques is hugely important. Does this sound a little too familiar?
Well, there is hope. Now that people know what to look for and how to consider finding resistant cultivars from nurseries with good sanitation practices, the boxwood is gaining some health back. It all starts with learning a little bit. The trolls are going to repopulate and balance out the beauty of that rural property. They’ll be back to their harmony and getting into magical trouble in no time.
There is poet that my mom and I both love named Sara Teasdale. In case you ever think that’s me, it’s not, and yes, I have heard of her. She has this line that I love, “I have no riches but my thoughts Yet these are wealth enough for me.” It was my senior graduation quote. Now, she ends up having a pretty tragic story, but I think of the riches of my thoughts when I think of the endless treasury that Jesus has for me.
Two springs ago, I was very convicted. You see, if you have lived in the social media world for very long, you will know what I mean about this…when you have a crush or a friend crush on someone, you might cyber stalk them a little bit too much. You want to know them right? You want to read EVERY word they say. Right? Just me? Okay, well I don’t want to make you think I’m creepy. But aren’t we all a little creepy? I was really freed last month when I heard Bob Goff speak to a group of us about feeling like we are creepy. Isn’t that the shame of our sin? To feel creepy? And isn’t it freeing when we just confess it out loud and give it to Jesus? Well, hi my name is Sarah and I can be creepy. So in this season, I was convicted in my heart of my lack of caring about all the things that Jesus has to say. I decided to start slowly going through the four Gospels and slowly writing down every word that Jesus is recorded saying. If you have one of those red-letter Bibles, it’s just all the red words. I have been stalking Jesus. And guess what? It’s really awesome to stalk Jesus. He’s the only one who will satisfy. Well, I have a very beautiful memory early on in this practice of writing down his words and thinking of him as the Treasure. I won’t share it all, because it’s a deeply intimate moment with my Jesus. And I don’t think I need to, you get the picture right? He wants to be known. He, like all of us, desperately wants to be pursued. He doesn’t want to force us to love him. That isn’t love. He pursues us in this cosmic love story and invites us in a big proposal of eternal bliss. And we run to so many other things first.
Well, not too much later, I heard someone talk about creating an alphabet (I’ll link It for you here) as a way to draw near in intimacy with the Lord. I had already had a season of learning a lot about the spiritual armor of God and this seemed like a wonderful and achievable way for me to enter into the process of putting on my helmet of salvation to fight all my thoughts, sometimes being lies or anxieties. So the idea is one alphabet is to remind you who God is. And the other is for who you are in Christ. And they have to be backed up by scripture. If not straight out of the verse, then inspired by a verse. So the idea is you start with the alphabet and then you memorize the verses over the years. So it’s been a process and it’s not final, but I started asking God to give me words for my alphabets, and He does.
I cannot tell you how often I spout out my alphabet to myself when I’m feeling anxious. It’s a game-changer. I wanted to share mine with you today.
Always with Me,
Bread of Life,
More-Maker, Mysterious, Master, Merciful, Mighty, Mindful of me
One and Only
Prince of Peace
Quencher of thirst
My Rest and Righteousness and Refuge
Strong Saviour singing over me
Time-keeper and Treasure
Vine to abide in
Waiting for his bride/wisdom/worth/wiper of tears
Your divine invitation
And I am
Daughter…of the King
Image of God
Overwhelmed by my sin and more his grace
Quietness and trust will be my strength
Saved and Singing
Thankful and Trusting
With Jesus worshipping one in whom he is well pleased
Yoked to Jesus
I do declare these words to you from Psalm 91:
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.
You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked.
Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place— the Most High, who is my refuge—
no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the adder;
the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.
“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name.
When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”
I love that psalm. When I went to chapel in middle school, we often sang the hymn “On Eagle’s Wings.” I remember really enjoying singing that song. It felt real. Beautiful. Heavy. I didn’t quite understand what it meant. I think 20 years later, I have a little better understanding, but God is still using the words from Psalm 91.
Here is the rest of the poem,
Riches by Sara Teasdale
I have no riches but my thoughts,
Yet these are wealth enough for me;
My thoughts of you are golden coins
Stamped in the mint of memory;
And I must spend them all in song,
For thoughts, as well as gold, must be
Left on the hither side of death
To gain their immortality.
I hope today you seek beauty, delight, and rest.
PS You can listen to my podcast here. The beautiful song for this podcast is “Today if You Hear Him” by Taylor Leonhardt. She and Jess Ray are also a worship band called Mission House. This past week, they released a song called Behold. Please check it out. Their music blesses my soul.