Subsoil: A Flower’s Dream

blue siberiansquill

Just asking how an ugly, nasty, dirt-covered wad called a flower bulb could ignite the hope of spring. I guess the real question is why. Why does God allow this? Why does He create in this way? What are we to say?

Can I really believe in such a thing that seems not just impossible, but tragically as unreasonable as a flower bulb? But I saw the green shoots burst up through the frozen, leaf-covered ground! I noticed the bud appear, and I experienced the miracle of that azure-sky flower bell that pushed open the spring in our lives. Who could not but smile at such a thing? When the world seemed cold and dead, then, no! The flowers that came into our lives told us about THE life! We never once stopped to consider the death of the bulb below the earth. Why would we?

George MacDonald’s Polwarth character explains it:

            It is well enough known that you dig deep in any old garden… ancient, perhaps forgotten flowers, will appear. The fashion has changed, they have been neglected or uprooted, but all the time their life is hid below…[1]

We love a flower, watch it live, enjoy the freshness of the smell, especially when we crush the petals in our hands. Sometimes the petals fall on their own, one by one. Sometimes we snip the tight blooms and put them in our best crystal vases. A great life. Whole-hearted! Fragrant. Who could not but smile at such a thing? But consider what came before the flower, and what will come after. MacDonald’s Polwarth then says:

            I have sometimes wondered whether troubles… may not be as subsoil ploughs… that the seeds of lost virtues… may in them be once more brought within the reach of sun and air and dew.

What hides subsoil within you? It may be a dead, shriveled thing, like an old dream, or a rotting failure – a shameful sorrow or an ancient fear that you tried to bury once. You pretend to forget, but you wonder why you see no blue-flower joy, no fresh life. You wonder why everything seems so dead. Maybe you need a trouble.

What troubles have you had which, like a plough or shovel, have unearthed a nasty thing? We must let that trouble bring us closer to the surface, “within the reach of sun and air and dew.” Sometimes it is reasonable to cry. It is most rational also to hope, or where is the lesson of the buried flower? 

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Heb. 11:1[2]

Isn’t a flower the evidence of things not seen that causes the rational belief in the unseen? Isn’t the trouble, then, the plough, brought close to bring us to the air, the light, the dew?

Do you have a trouble? Will it, nevertheless, eventually turn out to bloom like a blue spring flower? With 20/20 hindsight shouldn’t we earnestly look at these problems, this quarantine, trials, bad reports, struggles, heartaches, worries, as potential flowers? “Give the buried flower a dream,” says the poet.[3]

Just asking… what if the shovel cuts? What if the ground turns over and around you? What if the rain soaks a damp bed of fear and doubt that causes a sickness in your soul? Is that how the bulb feels?

Are we meant to consider the buried lump as a future creation of delicate beauty – opening blue? Yes, we are. God has not stopped creating. In fact, perhaps some of his best work may lie buried for now. Who could not but smile at such a thing? I know what happened on the Third Day. Just asking.

To the Thawing Wind
Robert Frost- 1874-1963
Come with rain, O loud Southwester!
Bring the singer, bring the nester;
Give the buried flower a dream;
Make the settled snowbank steam;
Find the brown beneath the white;
But whate’er you do tonight,
Bathe my window, make it flow,
Melt it as the ice will go;
Melt the glass and leave the sticks
Like a hermit’s crucifix;
Burst into my narrow stall;
Swing the picture on the wall;
Run the rattling pages o’er;
Scatter poems on the floor;
Turn the poet out of door.

[1]MacDonald, George. Paul Faber, Surgeon.

[2]KJV. Hebrews 11:1

[3]Frost, Robert. “To the Thawing Wind.”

On My Knees in Narnia

narnia treesby Lora Hattendorf

We call it Narnia. Thirty years ago, when we bought our seven acres of bliss, we covered our hot spot corner overlooking the intersection of Middle and Barry with pines. From the first it sequestered us from the ever-increasing car traffic, but as those seven trees grew to thirty feet in as many years, it became our own personal Narnia. Everyone needs her own personal Narnia.

One day we added a rescue tree. It came from two states away, destined soon to be cut down from a remodel project. There was nothing for it but to dig it up along with its clump of myrtle and a surprise fern and bury it in Narnia to live or die.

We dug plenty of leg room in the pine needles on the open east side to catch the morning sun, inserted peat moss and a five-gallon bucket’s worth of water from the Tank of Truth (an old oil drum welded to make our private rainwater reservoir), and spread apart the fibrous roots, when what should we find? Not a pine tree, but FOUR pine trees huddled together, the other three sheltered by their brother’s branches. Well then. We recognize a gift from God when we see one.

We labored over three additional holes, peat moss, more Tank-of-Truth water, spread the love, patted the soil over, and tucked pine needles around each one. Naming things is the right of ownership. What other names for our personal Narnia than Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy of course?


Every spring I check Narnia to make sure our four have survived, and this year with the frigid polar vortex and temps plunging to 24 below zero, made no exception. I trotted over to Narnia with my garden wagon and my football-shaped, very pregnant calico cat. She had appeared on our front porch on that polar vortex day. Well then. We recognize a gift from God when we see one.

I named the cat “Kelpie” for George MacDonald’s obstinate horse tamed by Malcolm in the Marquis of LossieI had discovered the writings of George MacDonald thanks to C. S. Lewis about the time we had planted our Narnia. When Michael Phillips re-introduced the writings of MacDonald in the 80s, I devoured every one. Malcolm became my thirty-year serial-read. This stray calico had to be a “Kelpie,” and now she followed me everywhere.

Yes, three of the four trees had survived, Peter, Susan, Edmund, but no Lucy. The myrtle, or periwinkle if you prefer the fairy name, scattered its blue-violet trumpets over the dark emerald leaves, now in a royal train around the princes and princess of Narnia, in a twelve-foot patch surrounding the living child-trees. This was deep magic. But something looked very wrong.


In amongst the emeralds with their amethyst flowers and at the feet of my Pevensies, long-necked, goblin dandelions dared to strangle my Narnia. This would never do. I pulled, separated the myrtle leaves to identify the base of the enemies, and twisted the roots away. They obeyed easy enough and came out in handfuls. Kelpie sprawled in the periwinkle. Perhaps she wondered if this would be a fitting place to lay her kittens and indeed it would. Funny thing about pulling weeds – once you find one, you see ten. I fell to my knees and really attacked.

When a follower of Christ falls to her knees, a miracle happens. You remember whose you are. Your eyes open. A weed becomes a prayer gathered and given and a gentle green comes upon you – clean and emerald and amethyst. That friend’s heath issue – peace. Your worry for your child – gone. That looming decision, that battle with addiction, that sorrow, suffering, loss, uncertainty – casting all your weeds upon Him, for He cares for you.

Kelpie shadowed my every move as if she knew her time would come to deliver five kittens alive, and one not in this world. But as for now, she lay her preposterous body across my lower calves making it impossible for me to rise from my praying, weeding position. What a laughable trap. Malcolm tamed Kelpie by outrageously sitting on her head. Now my Kelpie pinned me to stay on my knees by preposterously sitting on my calves. Why?

What more did I have to ask the Father about? But then He saw it all, and I, under a long-necked, goblin weed saw her – Lucy, the last seedling tree. She had survived the polar vortex, and with twice the chartreuse of new pine-needle growth – a full seven inches tall at least, double last year’s height. Well then. We recognize a gift from God when we see one. Shall I trust in the answered weed-prayers to the One who made time and can see them answered?

Where’s your Narnia? What are your long-necked, goblin weeds? Twist them into prayers. Open your eyes to see that your Kelpie, who pins you to your knees, has some Narnian princess to show you. Everyone needs her own personal Narnia. Find it.


“Our first show of light as the Lord’s disciples must be in doing the things he tells us… So shall we drink the light like some diamonds.” 

– George Macdonald – The Hope of the Gospel


Doing the Things He Tells Us

Drink the light? Mine would be a salted caramel mocha frappuccino with half the pumps, if you’re asking – my favorite drink. Of course with whipped cream or what’s “all this sweet work worth?” (Shelley)

This “Drink the Light” series is a hobby-pondering of mine in the making, inspired by George MacDonald’s Hope of the Gospel. My thoughts, coming as soon as I can figure them out, come from what God is trying to tell me.



Until then, I’m pondering this:

Love’s Philosophy

by Percy Bysshe Shelley

The fountains mingle with the river   
And the rivers with the ocean,   
The winds of heaven mix for ever   
With a sweet emotion;   
Nothing in the world is single, 
All things by a law divine   
In one another’s being mingle—   
Why not I with thine?   
See the mountains kiss high heaven,   
And the waves clasp one another; 
No sister-flower would be forgiven   
If it disdain’d its brother;   
And the sunlight clasps the earth,   
And the moonbeams kiss the sea—   
What is all this sweet work worth 
If thou kiss not me?


“So shall we drink the light like some diamonds.”


Drink the Light – 2   SHINE ACROSS The Dust of Our Failures

Drink the Light – 3  SHINE AS Lights – Holding Forth the Word of Life

Drink the Light – 4    SHINE BY Keeping in His Light

Drink the Light – 5    SHINE BY Sunning Our Souls in the Light

Drink the Light – 6   SHINE BY Thinking

Drink the Light – 7   SHINE BY Drinking the Light Like Some Diamonds




What Should I Do Next?

I heard somewhere that baby boomers retire at a rate of 10,000 a year. Hey! I want to be in that number, but for now, what should I do next?” Where else can I go for the answer but to the masters?

When I met Michael Phillips and his wife, Judy, by a serendipitous accident on a trip to Cullen, Scotland, they invited us to tea at The Retreat. I asked them once, “What should I do next?” and the answer came as a shocker:


“I have no idea! That is between you and God.”

Amazed, I acknowledged the wisdom and self control it takes to give that answer. So to seek God, where should I start?

My pastor, James MacDonald, recently gave this answer from Matthew 22:

Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and your neighbor as yourself.

Still doesn’t answer my question. C.S.Lewis would not have me stand scratching my head:

“Every road, after a few miles, forks into two, and each of those into two again, and at each fork, you must make a decision.”

George MacDonald would have me do the hardest thing yet, from Unspoken Sermons:

“…wait in quietness until light goes up in thy darkness. Fold the arms of thy Faith I say, but not of thy Action: bethink thee of something that thou oughtest to do, and go and do it, if it be but the sweeping of a room, or the preparing of a meal, or a visit to a friend. Heed not thy feelings: Do thy work.”


And MacDonald assures the result will drive out doubt and indecision. This quote from Malcolm hangs over my desk for my times of fear:

“The very first step towards action is the death warrant of doubt.”

For now? Step onto the road.

Early Snow

img_1569Early Snow – February Fog

This year we had great hopes. The cleansing snow would last, the healthy air would crystalize our breath, the change would be permanent.

We should have known. Manna must come every day, new born. Hope is a daily gift. You must gather it fresh. It will not keep. You must go out and gather it. It will not come to you unless you do, and yet it faithfully appears when you look for it.

Take a step out into the fog. Breathe. Receive.

See You Soon, Chase

11695798_10153239901993462_2210234034099670130_nFrom the first, we knew. We prayed, but mostly for ourselves.

The “bad dream that leaked into reality” woke us all. Whatever we all had poured into our friend and student, Chase Froese, bubbled over in her effervescent spirit looking at us with her sea-glass blue and green eyes. Her magnetic, nutty, spirit-animal, question of the day, carpe diem soul has forced us to look, with her, “Onward and Upward.” Thank you for reminding us that without Jesus, there is no “Onward and Upward.” We love you for that! See you soon, Chase.

England Revisited

imageTonight I’m reflecting on our “Trip of a Lifetime” with life-friend, Sue Mayer. We planned this revisit to England 33 years ago, even before my husband, Len, proposed marriage. We had taken a week in London in 1982, and the “one day, we’ll go back” actually came true in 2015. For the next few weeks, I will recount our stories with pictures in the PORTFOLIOS section as my travel diary. Want to travel vicariously with us? Click there.

I established a personal goal for the trip, without really telling Sue or Len or anybody. I craved one thing. Perspective. I hoped to gain a view of life – MY life. What should my life be NOW, Lord? He showed me – is showing me. Come see. Maybe you can pick up a trail for yourself. I would be glad.

We Are Here – In Cornwal!

image image image

As you can see, we are having the time of our lives! First stop was Windsor. Driving on the wrong side with no street signs and terror by round-abouts nearly gave us nervous breakdowns. We survived!

Next was epic, breath-taking, mysterious Stonehenge!

Then to the seaside, Weymouth, for R&R.

Now here in lovely, wild Cornwal!

And When You’ve Lost Your Song…

…God sends hummingbirds!

  • Sending a trumpet blast from a jazz band would set your teeth on edge. He knows you would not listen.
  • Sending a full orchestra would paint the contrast too stark. You would only compare. Comparison steals your joy.
  • Sending even a worship tune would build a wall in your heart that no joy could crack,

…but the surprising, quiet hum from an insignificant, diminutive wonder can hover just fleeting enough and land just long enough to bend the corners of your mouth toward the maker, and your heart flies with it.