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Roots and the Hard Work of Winter

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IMG_3769Evergreens are nice when it comes to choosing a Christmas tree, but when it comes to my yard I want flowers–lots and lots of flowers. This means in the summer everything looks lush and verdant, colorful blooms dotting the front yard. (Thanks to two ten-year-old dogs who are free to go to a good home, the back yard is pretty much just grass and a few rose bushes that have only survived because they have thorns.) But in the winter it looks bleak, all brown and twiggy. Except my irises. Highs barely above freezing, and the leaves of these irises are already the color of spring grass.

I’ve had Ephesians 3 close to my heart for the last several months–praying it, studying it, soaking it in. First, my mom told me she was praying it over us, and then my friend Jessica. Then I kept seeing it pop up–in an art print online, on someone’s IG picture. And a few weeks ago I overheard Charlotte in the kitchen saying, “How high, how wide is the love of Christ. 3:18.” She might have missed a few words, but the smile on her face matched the one on my heart. God was clearly trying to speak to me through this passage. Today, I was reading and praying through it once more, and I looked up the Greek word for “rooted” in verse 17. I was interested in this particular word because it reminds me of the Isaiah verse I pray over our girls and our Ethiopian child every day, “They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” I pray that these 7,000 days we get to train them will give them deep roots so they might brilliantly display the splendor of their Creator.

The Greek word for “rooted” in Ephesians 3:17 is “rhizoo,” a funny little word and one that reminded me of something from gardening with my grandmothers. I remember them talking about rhizomes and roots and bulbs. A quick Wikipedia search confirmed that our word rhizome comes from that same Greek word rhizoo. And it turns out those optimistic irises that are already displaying their promise of new life even in the gray of winter–yep, those are rhizomes.

I got those irises from a friend’s mom. She was thinning her beds to make space one summer a few years ago, and she told me to take some home. This same friend is in winter right now, the sobbing, heavy, dark kind of winter. The kind where tears are just a moment away, and the calendar seems like it will never turn over. I thought of her as I read that when a rhizome is separated into pieces, each piece has the capacity to give rise to a new plant, like how God can take a broken heart and give rise to new beginnings.

I keep coming back to those verses, those verses I’m clinging to for myself and for others. For our next dwelling and for the next chapter of our family’s story. For healing and new beginnings for my hurting friend. For a precious baby girl whose healthy brain in the ultrasound was the answer to a thousand prayers for a mom on my prayer list. For all of us who think once or a hundred times a day, “God, I’m not sure I can do this.” Let these words settle deep in the soil of your heart, “So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

I love how The Message captures verse 20, “God can do anything, you know–far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.”

Just like a gardener watering and fertilizing the soil so those roots can soak it all in and one day bloom splendid floral confections, He is working within us too–dwelling, healing, growing. And one day the green leaves that braved the harsh winter will sit under the splendor of an iris, creamy white and Wedgwood blue.

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