The early spring that we experienced this year caused an inopportune budding of my hydrangea …my favorite flowering shrub…the one with the puffy blue blooms that reminds me of my grandmother’s hydrangea. Her bush was three times the size of mine and was always covered with the biggest blossoms I’ve ever seen. It was planted at the end of her front porch, right behind the porch swing. In the summer, one must be careful not to swing too high for fear of damaging the precious blooms. On Sundays, the cousins would gather in the side yard for a game of roll-a-bat and there were constant reminders not to hit the bush. Not that you wanted to hit it and knock off a few blooms but, sometimes things happen when you’ve got anywhere from 4 to 8 cousins competing at one time! Whenever I look at my own hydrangea, I get a warm sentimental feeling that brings back memories of lazy summer Sunday afternoons in the porch swing or playing a lively game with my cousins. It is a reminder of sweet days gone by, of growing up on the farm, and memories that bind us together as a family. With my dad passing away last week, those memories are even more cherished now. So naturally, anything that threatens my hydrangea is a punch in gut of my memory bank. But one morning I arose to find that the early spring had indeed disappeared right into the clutches of a night of below freezing temperatures and my beloved hydrangea had become its prey. The beautiful green leaves, so tender and delicate, were BROWN and hanging like a dead man on the gallows. As I left for work, I spent a few moments with my head bowed in silence as a flood of memories welled up inside of me.
My husband reassured me that it would put out again. “Give it time,” he encouraged me as I mourned for what had been and might never be again. I’ve seen the wreckage of an early freeze on fruit trees…no peaches or cherries for an entire season. Day after day, I passed by its gray lifeless branches with their toasted brown leaves refusing to give up the fight. Then, when hope had all but faded, one morning I came outside to find little buds resembling tiny green mouse ears dotting the branches right beside where the first leaves had once so proudly stood. “New growth,” I exclaimed, excitedly to myself. I quickly searched my purse for my phone so that I could take a picture. I wasn’t sure why I needed a picture but nonetheless; I snapped one, maybe as a precaution against another evil freeze or perhaps as a reminder that out of the ashes of a deep freeze, new life appears. My hydrangea, along with my memories, would live once again.
When I lost my hair due to chemotherapy, deep down inside, I experienced feelings of loss. I felt like my hydrangea looked. My oncologist reassured me my hair would start to sprout about eight weeks after I finished the first two chemo drugs. Somewhere during the treatment with the third drug, my head would bring forth hair. “Give it time,” he encouraged me. Week after week, as part of the routine questioning, the staff would ask, “Any hair yet?” And week after week, I would sadly report, “No.” Then, when I least expected it, one morning I awoke to find “peach fuzz” all over my scalp. I couldn’t see any hair but I could feel it. I squealed with delight! My hope was renewed! In about a week, my new hair was visible. And now it is starting to cover my head!! Out of the ashes new life appears!
My hydrangea didn’t bloom this summer. It spent all of its time recovering from the freeze, growing new leaves and storing energy it will use to bloom another year. In some ways, I haven’t bloomed this summer either. I have spent my time recovering from surgery and enduring chemo. Some things have been hard this year but, neither my hydrangea nor my body has succumbed to these threats. We have endured the hardships and are survivors. New growth has taken place!
Some things, like growing new leaves and hair, takes time. While we can’t always see it from the outside, inside God is at work, bringing newness out of difficulty. New growth, of all kinds, is a work in progress – a work that only God can do in us – in God’s time.
“In his time, in his time, he makes all things beautiful, in his time.
Lord please show me every day, as you're teaching me your way, that you do just what you say in your time.” Diane Ball