Hope That NEVER Disappoints

Spring has always been a time of hope for me.

As a child I looked forward to “spring break” from school. It always meant a trip to North Carolina to begin cleaning up Holly Cove Campground which my parents ran in the summer. We would clean up the camp sites and prepare for the opening in May. The hope of seeing old friends and making new ones in the summer ahead was exciting to me.

In college, spring break meant traveling with friends to a warmer location. The hope of seeing new places encouraged my love of travel.

As a teacher, spring break was a “break”, but also the sign that the school year was almost complete and the hope that the year had been accomplished well for my students.

Since we purchased our first home in 1980, spring has held a new hope for me. The hope of seeing the plants bloom in our garden. Our first home was an older farmhouse built in 1930 and weeds and brush had really grown up around the yard. As Phil and I worked cutting back the brush it was delightful to see what grew underneath. I greeted each new day with an anticipation of what would push through and bloom. We lived in that home 25 years and those flowers were a blessing we added to each year.

In 2005 we moved to another older home, built in 1880, and my parents moved in with us. This yard had been carefully planted by Peggy Queen Mason and it has older plants from 100 years ago as well as many Mrs. Mason added in the 1980’s. Again we were excited to see all that bloomed in spring since we had moved in in November. We have lovingly added to our garden planting a tree in honor of each of our grandchildren.

Now each spring I anticipate with hope the joy of seeing what will grow and bloom in our garden.

Yet one concern I always have is a late freeze. How many times have I enjoyed lovely warm days in early spring? Then, there is a a late freeze and budding flowers turn brown. My hopes of enjoying those blooms are dashed! We have had days in the 70’s this week and everything is blooming and buds are swelling! I found myself worrying about a late freeze.

I was talking about this with my friend Alice Marie and she reminded me that worrying doesn’t change anything. It is a waste of emotional and spiritual energy. Instead she encouraged me to ENJOY those flowers that are currently blooming instead of focusing on something I have no control over – the weather.

It reminded me of the way I focus on possible tragedies that my children or grandchildren may face – like when they are learning to drive. When I focus on the dangers one faces living in our broken, fallen world, I miss enjoying the blessing of today..

In Romans 5:3-5 Paul addresses this very issue.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Hope in God never leads to ultimate disappointment. It is founded in the faithfulness of God. That does not mean we won’t face disappointing circumstances in our daily lives – WE WILL! But God’s love for us is eternal and the confident hope of our salvation is sealed by His Holy Spirit. Come what may in my life, my hope is in God’s everlasting love for me.

So I will enjoy all the flowers blooming this week and not let worry of a future I cannot control damper the glorious demonstration of God’s love for us in His creation.

Known by Name

It is a common story in our family that our father knew every plant in our mountain region by name. That was part of his job as a Naturalist – to know and share the names of the plants in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Now he was humble and quick to deny that he knew the name of EVERY plant, yet I never remember asking him the name of a plant he did not know. We frequently went on hikes with our father as children and after he retired and came back to live permanently in the mountains he continued to share his knowledge of plant names. My older brother Garry and I have often said we wished we had paid attention when Dad was sharing his vast knowledge. Our younger brother, Gregg, has a son who has an immense knowledge of his own in plant taxonomy. Our Dad was SO proud of this grandson and enjoyed “talking plants” with Evan.

We have planted a tree in honor of the birth of each of our grandchildren. These trees are growing just as our grandchildren are growing. They also remind us of several truths in grandparenting.

  • each child/tree is unique
  • they grow at their own pace (as with trees – some are taller/shorter, bigger/smaller than others)
  • environmental/nurturing conditions affect growth
  • some “bloom” every year, some do not
  • some struggle at times and need extra attention
  • there are times a tree/child needs pruning (discipline) to ensure greater growth
  • adverse conditions greatly impact growth

Each of our grandchildren has a name. I sometimes call them the wrong name – just as I did their parents. Their names are unique just as they are. Looking at the trees planted in their honor reminds me just how different and special each grandchild is.

Our Heavenly Father looks at us the same way.

Psalm 139:13-15 N L T

13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
    and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
    Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
    as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.

Just as we know the names of our grandchildren or the trees around us, God knows us by name. He does not forget who we are or call us the wrong name.

I love that God tells us, His people, that He has called us BY NAME.

He knows us,

He formed us

We are His.

Leaving a Legacy

Our daughter Hannah and I were talking last week about all the trees my father planted over the years and the legacy that he left for our family. After purchasing (with the Day family) over 100 acres on Piney Mountain Road here in Jackson County in 1960, Dad took great pleasure in planting a row of 12 different trees along the road up the mountain. Each tree he transplanted was from the property and he loved the variety. If I remember correctly, these trees included American holly, red oak, tulip poplar, dogwood, hemlock, beech, white pine, spruce, maple, walnut, red oak, and sassafras. The trees that still live are huge 63 years later!

Once, after visiting my brother and his wife in Oregon, Dad brought back a number of seedlings from a beautiful Japanese maple that grew in their yard. Each seedling was about 3 inches long and he put them in a baggie with a moistened paper towel. Dad was thrilled as those seedlings grew. We now have two of those Japanese maples that are lovely trees and turn a bright red in the fall. We gave three others to a daughter in Hickory and those trees still grace the front yard of their home. Another daughter planted one in her backyard, they have since moved to another location. When Mom and Dad moved back to Wheaton, Illinois to live in a retirement community, Dad took one of the Japanese maples from Oregon and planted it next to their patio outside their apartment. That tree started in Oregon, was transplanted in North Carolina, and then transplanted in Illinois. As far as I know it is still there. We call all these trees “Grandpa’s Japanese maples” and often recount their origins.

One of my favorite “tree” stories involving my father was shared by my older brother. It began on a trip to visit our parents in Florida…

Mitzi and I had arrived from Oregon the evening before and after breakfast, Dad took us on a walk around the park. As he always did, Dad was naming and admiring the various plants. Dad said, “I have always wanted a Royal Palm. I first saw them in Hawaii during the War and I admire their unique beauty.” I asked Dad if he could plant one here on the lot they leased to park their Airstream travel trailer. Dad said they were allowed to plant as long as they tended the plants and left all perennials when they terminated their lease. I told Dad I wanted to buy him a Royal Palm for his birthday. So the next time we went to town we stopped by a plant nursery. Dad found a beautiful palm about 8 ft. high and I could tell he admired it. Then he looked at the price and immediately started looking at the smaller trees. I asked Dad how fast Royal Palms grow. His reply came as slowly as his answer – “Very slowly”. “Dad,” I said. “You are 85 years old. If you get one of those smaller trees, you are not likely to live long enough for it to grow as tall as you. I’m getting you the bigger one.”

My father enjoyed that Royal Palm for several years and now someone else is enjoying it

Clayton Barker, my father, left a legacy of trees across this country. Many of those trees will live for many years to come. Yet some of those trees have died, some have been cut down to “make room” for something else.

My father left a greater legacy – one that is eternal. Dad’s love for his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, is a legacy that will never get cut down and will never die. His children, grandchildren, and now great grandchildren who have chosen to follow Jesus as Dad, Grandpa, Great-grandpa did are a legacy that is eternal.

John 3:16

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 

#In My Garden with God