Praise the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits —
(Psalm 103:2 NIV)
|Winter jasmine in the Chinese garden
As of last week, I became a member of the Missouri Botanical Garden. Membership has its benefits. I paid the yearly fee that allows me and one other adult and apparently unlimited numbers of children into the Garden on my membership. The benefits include free visits to the Butterfly House and the Shaw Nature Reserve, plus discounts in the gift shops.
After a lovely breakfast at First Watch with a dear friend, I headed to the Garden. Right away, I could tell the difference between my free Wednesday visits and this visit on a Friday as a member—plenty of parking. A few people strolled the grounds, but it felt like I had the place to myself. Granted it was a gray, cold spring day. Upon my arrival, in addition to my entrance ticket, I received a free ticket to the annual orchid show.
I saved the orchids for last, as I wanted to take a brisk walk around the gardens, and then find a place to sit and write. I climbed the steps to the second floor of the main building, which leads out into the garden. At the top of the stairs, I was greeted by a display of Elaine Blatt’s photography, which featured landscapes of wheat fields, orchards and vineyards in France and some close views of produce at market. A little taste of France in St. Louis.
At the end of the display stood two volunteers. The woman asked me where I was headed. I told her I was going for a walk. I couldn’t help but tell her that I was a new member. Then she asked, if I knew about the “In Bloom Cart.” No, I didn’t.
Samples of plants that were currently in bloom around the garden, were placed in numbered pots, which corresponded with a location on the map. I know this was not a member’s only benefit, but I felt special as she explained this feature to me. Now more alert, I began to notice these particular flowers, as I wandered through the gardens.
This visit rejuventated my zeal for the Beloved. I sensed Him inviting me to re-engage in the honeymoon mentality. We were enjoying creation together. He was taking me on a tour of His garden. So much variety, I felt like a kid in a candy shop. Which plant did I want to look at next? Think of all the places I could sit this year in the various themed gardens.
We entered the Chinese garden. I sat down in the pagoda noting observations about the plants in my journal and sketching the peonies pushing up from beneath the decayed leaves from last autumn. It was just the experience, I had been longing for, time set apart to admire God’s creation.
The chill of the outdoors urged me towards the Climatron and Temperate House. The tropic warmth had me peeling off my hat, gloves and scarf. While my glasses defogged, I squinted at the tropical foliage. I walked around to the Temperate House, where the blue and white tiled atrium beckoned my imagination to a Middle Eastern oasis. I found a dry bench across from an olive tree; I removed my winter coat, pulled out my journal and poured out my praise and prose to the Beloved.
I recalled our journey thus far. How I had such high hopes of this Hobo Honeymoon Lenten romance, which mostly have been met, but recently were being overshadowed by anxious thoughts.
Then my mind returned to the early Lenten days, when I realized this journey leads to death of my Beloved. And I wondered how the disciples felt, as the days drew near, as events like the Transfiguration and Triumphal Entry gave them such heady, vibrant hopes for the future. Not knowing that a great darkness was right around the bend and an even more glorious Hope after those three dark days.
And next, I was marveling how a visit to a garden could boost my mood, even on a gray wintry type day. And it was as if Jesus leaned in and whispered, “See, I left you something beautiful to remember me by until I return.” Sweet, dear Jesus, O how I love Thee!
Words fail to express the deep gratitude and joy that was restored to me today, as I felt beckoned by the Savior to come to the garden alone. To tarry there and remember the joys He longs to share. I wanted to spend the whole day marveling over and absorbing the great creativity and vastness of His imagination. The variety of the orchids alone could not even contain His expressiveness and deep kindness extended to us every hour that we breathe.
“Forget me not,” He whispered, as I left the Garden to head back to the suburbs.
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