Blood or Heart?


     Today is one of those rare fall days that feels like she has one foot in summer and one foot aimed at winter. You know the kind. It’s chilly in the morning when I get up, so I pull on the warm ugly sweater reserved for snuggling and waking up in degrees. I cup my hands around my coffee to warm them and begin the internal debate of turning on the heat or waiting until the sun does the job.

     The garden calls to me as the morning sun illuminates first a single plant and later the garden as a whole. I’m purposefully, but slowly, putting the garden to bed for the winter. The cold nights have encouraged the annuals to move to the business of producing seeds, and the perennials are blooming the last of their best. I walk from flower bed to flower bed noting who’s already sleeping and who is taking a standing ovation. It’s a blessing to watch how each plant uniquely handles its performance in the garden by re-organizing combinations of nutrients, water, sun, and rain into a myriad of irreplaceable flowers. They are as individual as they are unique . . . , just like my family and friends.

     It’s that time of year again when many of us gather together to share Thanksgiving with the individuals that make up our ‘family’. It’s a time of longing to be with those who know who you are, and a moment to share a safe place to be who you are becoming.

I grew up with a picture in my mind of how my life would go and what my family would look like. I was a young girl in a hurry to set my table for a perfect group. How thankful I am today that God doesn’t heed my expectations or follow through with my well-laid plans. If He had honored my child-like wishes, I could have missed out on all the delightfully unique people He has brought into my life. Our ‘family’ is instead a rare and beautiful bouquet of blossoms. We don’t share the same blood, or genes or even pasts, but we do share the powerful bond of mutual respect based on unconditional love.        

     It is the reflection of my own desires to share love and to be loved that I find in the faces around the table that defines ‘thanks giving’. My heart warms to see battered hearts healed, and wounded self-esteems learn to fly again. They know each family member offers them unrestricted, open-arms love and patience and perseverance for them, because it was given to each of us one day not so long ago.  

     Birthdays, holidays, graduations, weddings and funerals are excuses now for us all to gather together embracing the support we feel in one another. It doesn’t matter who’s blood pumps through who’s veins technically making us family. This is more a matter of the heart.

     As I put away my clippers and the shovel to wait for spring to arrive, I look back over the garden in its entirety and an unstifled ‘awe’ rises to my lips. The landscape painting of the garden has been brushed with broad strokes of bright, bold, look-at-me colors boasting of God’s ability to blend paint without loosing the exclusiveness of each color. In His wisdom, no two colors are the same and the petals display their distinction collectively—like a rainbow.  I can’t help but stand and smile at how His work reminds me of life.

      At a recent large celebration, one of the guests asked me, “Are all these people your family?”

     “Yes,” I answered without qualifying it.

     “You’re all blood related,” he queried.

     “No, some are adopted into our hearts.”

     “So who are the real relatives,” he asked to better understand who was who.

     “I don’t know,” I responded with a smile; “I can’t remember.”

For more stories like this: Holi-dazes: Lessons From the Garden