The Humble Geranium

Every spring I plant colorful annuals in pots and set them on my patio. I usually choose marigolds, pansies, begonias, petunias, and impatiens, with some coleus, ivy, and sweet potato vines put in for foliage.

One spring, responding probably to laziness, I planted only geraniums. Red geraniums in clay pots, ceramic pots, plastic pots, and hanging baskets. A porch full of geraniums.

My geranium summer taught me that these plants like sunny areas and attract bees and butterflies. I have read that both their flowers and their roots are used in the preparation of medicines, and their leaves can be used in making tea. I availed myself of none of those secondary uses. My geraniums simply sat and bloomed.

There is no pretense with a geranium. It has a dusty, earthy aroma, not a strong, perfume-like fragrance. It doesn’t draw attention to itself, like showy pansies and petunias. The geranium is a gentle smile, not an open-mouthed laugh. It is a modest ginger snap, not a flamboyant soufflé.

The most amazing discovery I made the summer I grew geraniums was that these plants made no mess. I wasn’t constantly sweeping away dropped petals as I was when I grew begonias. Nor did I need to pinch off sagging, spent blossoms, as I had done with petunias. My geraniums needed no greenery added to their container, for they provided plenty of their own.

In contrast to the geranium, the gardenia is surely the molten chocolate soufflé of all flowers. Its delicate, creamy blossom emits a rich, enticing scent that delights the very soul of the one who inhales it. It is the very definition of fragility and elegance.

On Mother’s Day, my husband often pins a fragrant gardenia to the bodice of my Sunday dress. Its beauty and aroma attract many admirers.

Every year before ordering my Mother’s Day gardenia, my husband asks me, “What is the name of that white flower you love?” I remind him that it is the gardenia. He says, “I always remember that it starts with the letter G, but the only G-letter flower I can ever think of is a geranium. One of these days, that’s probably what I’ll order for your corsage.”

It makes me smile to think of walking into church with a leafy, many blossomed geranium fastened to the front of my dress.

The geranium is not the flower of choice for corsages, wedding bouquets, or banquet centerpieces. Its presence is subdued, not flashy.

If I were a flower, I think I would choose to be a geranium: humble, reliable, requiring little upkeep, content to play second fiddle to other flowers, and making no mess. Being described in those terms would be an honor for me.

Every flower in God’s worldwide garden came about by divine plan. So did every person. Not all of us are showpieces. Most of us are not noticed for the tantalizing aura that surrounds us. But not one of us came about by accident.

Like the geranium, each of us was intentionally made by our Creator. Honor Him by celebrating the magnificient privilege of being uniquely you.



I struggle with discontentment. Why is that? I have everything I need to live not only a good life but a rich, full life. What’s more, I always have had.

People who operate from a posture of contentment intrigue me. They are busy people, but not too busy. They don’t have every skill and talent in the world, but they put to good use the gifts they have been given. They smile and show a genuine interest in other people’s welfare. Their countenances glow with satisfaction.

Have these people worked harder than I have to reach that state? Do they enjoy contentment because they are better people than I am and thus deserve it? Are they faking the positive attitudes they display? Have they made no mistakes that they regret and taken no missteps that veered them off course?


Then how do they do it?

Maybe if I asked them, they would give varying answers. I suspect, though, they all share some common qualities.

First, they have rejected the idea of needing to be perfect. They are good parents, good Christians, and good friends. But they are not perfect in any of those categories. They are imperfect employees and employers, imperfect housekeepers, imperfect money managers, and imperfect workers at the tasks they undertake. They know and accept their fallibility.

Second, they have learned to accept forgiveness. They rest in the assurance of God’s grace. They don’t obsess over their sins and ongoing weaknesses. They confess these failings to God and trust Him to forgive. Then, they do an amazing thing. They “grace” themselves with their own forgiveness. What an idea!

Thirdly, these people choose to be content. This doesn’t mean they repress their feelings of disappointment and sadness. It means that when they experience loss or grief, they do not respond by becoming bitter or angry. They bend, but they do not break emotionally or spiritually. They respond this way because they choose to do so and because they trust in God’s promises.

The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 6:6 True godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. (NLT)

Contentment does not come to people who chase perfection, refuse to accept grace, and allow misfortune to defeat them. For these people, contentment is as elusive as a handful of fog. What great wealth they forfeit.

Can I stop demanding perfection of myself? Can I accept the grace God offers and then offer grace to myself? Can I make the choice to be content?

Yes. I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13 NLT).

A Great Conspiracy

Clothing designers do not consider my preferences when they decide which styles to offer to summer shoppers. They play to another group of women entirely: the young and thin. Since I am neither young nor thin, I have trouble finding suitable clothes to purchase.

For example, I search in vain for summer shirts, blouses, and dresses that have sleeves. By sleeve I mean the part of a garment that covers all or part of the arm.

Designers offer garments that are sleeveless and garments that have so-called “cap sleeves.” The cap sleeve consists of a little half-moon-shaped piece of fabric that covers the very tip of the shoulder blade and, in my book, has no business being called a sleeve.

Sleeves that are viable options for me, such as shirtsleeves, three-quarter-length sleeves, and long sleeves, have vanished from clothing store racks. I think they departed on the same train with rotary phones.

I also look for specific features when I shop for pants. I want the waist of my pants to circle my middle, the area of my body where the belly button is located. Pants whose waist is intended to sit on the hipbone are objects of torture. I also have no use for jeans that consist of two stovepipe-shaped pieces of denim joined directly to the waistband at the top. These garments have no seat. Since I do have one, such jeans do not work for me.

When I sit down, I want a good portion of my pants to accompany me into the chair. The person sitting behind me should see no skin between the bottom of my shirt and the top of my pants.

I would also appreciate consideration from shoe manufacturers. I don’t want shoes with six-inch-thick soles made of cork. Neither do I want sandals that have leather straps that tie at the ankle, or worse, make several circles around the lower leg and tie just below the knee.

When shopping for dress shoes, I value my health and safety too much to buy stilettos. However, I do not consider boat shoes, clogs, or oxfords to be dressy. Something in between a boat shoe and a stiletto would be nice. I am not in the market for flashy shoes that cry “Look at me!” What I am looking for is a sweet, stylish little number that whispers “Comfort.”

I suspect that clothing and shoe designers are engaged in a conspiracy to make me look hideous. I don’t need their help; time and gravity are working hard to do that for me. I do not aim to look young, nor is it my goal to look sexy. I don’t wish to look hip, or to expose portions of my hips. I want to feel comfortable, to appear neat and coordinated, and to be able to buy clothing and shoes that allow me to meet those goals.

I must say, that tirade against designers of women’s summer clothes and shoes felt good. Tomorrow I may take aim at a different target: tailgaters, litterers, people who talk during church, store owners who sell trashy magazines, telemarketers, people who do not clean up after their pets … the list of people deserving of a good rant is endless.

Confessions of a Slob

I am a slob. Not the sickening kind of slob who has dirty fingernails and drives a car littered with trash. I am the nicest and best kind of slob. The kind of slob who follows the rules of good grooming and whose life-space has enough order not to be uninhabitable. But I am, nonetheless, a slob. Here is proof.

I rarely put items back where they belong after I finish using them. This bad habit accounts for the frustrating hours I spend looking for something I had in my hand two minutes ago but can’t find right now. In particular, this is true of my phone, my keys, and the TV remote control.

After deciding which shoes I want to wear, I sometimes can find only one of them. Who besides a slob can say that?

I eat popcorn sitting in my recliner and have made peace with the fact that unpopped kernels are hiding beneath the cushion. Papers I know I want to look at later are never where I think I left them. In fact, the more important a paper is, the more likely it is to be lost.

My glove box is full of CD’s and CD cases, but not CD’s inside CD cases.

I am a selective organizer. My return address labels are organized so I can retrieve a seasonally-appropriate one without pause. (I refuse to put a Thanksgiving-themed label on a birthday card I mail in April.) I can put my hands on a Sharpie, a postage stamp, or a needle threader in an instant. Ask me where my vacuum cleaner is, though, and I’ll have to ponder the question.

I leave drawers and doors open, to my husband’s consternation. I fail to finish one task before embarking on another one. This explains my half-made bed and the bottle of Windex sitting on my kitchen window sill because I still need to clean the top half of the window.

I forget to put caps back on toothpaste tubes and lids back on paint cans. When I put away an electrical appliance, I don’t rewind the cord neatly but shove it inside the cabinet and slam the door before the cord can escape.

On the brighter side, my house doesn’t stink and I make it a habit to clean up spills quickly and thoroughly. My toilets are scrubbed regularly and my sheets are changed weekly. No vermin live in my house.

If you drop in for a visit though, expect to see jackets draped over chairs and kids’ jigsaw puzzle pieces on the floor. My kitchen won’t be immaculate. Recipe books may be lying about with utility bills stuck between pages for bookmarks, which means I will spend time looking for those bills later when they are due to be paid.

I prefer slobs over neatniks when it comes to friends. I don’t have to explain anything to my slob friends. They already understand. Neatniks wouldn’t understand if I explained all day.

Extreme orderliness makes me nervous, so I have learned to live with imperfection. My friends, who are also the nicest kind of slobs, have too. They prove it by hanging around with me.

Skipping Through Life

People who appear to be driven by one powerful passion such as money, sports, or Facebook are said to have one-track minds. Oh, that my mind ran on only one track! Instead, my mind skips back and forth among seven or eight tracks, like the needle of an old hi-fi on a scratched record album.  Let me illustrate.

I begin the day by showering, drying off, wrapping towels around my wet body and wet hair, and going to the closet to get a pair of jeans. The jeans I want to wear are not in the closet because they have been sitting in the clothes dryer since yesterday. I put on my stained and ratty old housecoat and head for the laundry room.

My trip to the laundry room to remove the jeans from the dryer takes me through the kitchen. In the kitchen, I stand for 20 minutes in front of my freezer trying to decide what kind of meat to thaw for dinner. (This is Skip #1.)  Settling on pork chops, I search for the “Pork Chops from Heaven” recipe my friend gave me last month.

My search for the recipe takes me through the grandkids’ play area where I step with bare feet onto Legos, shriveled grapes, doll clothes, and plastic game pieces. This motivates me to try to bring some order to the play area. (Skip #2)

I spend the next hour putting crayons back into boxes, digging Play-Doh out of the carpet, reassembling seven jigsaw puzzles whose pieces have been mixed together, and separating Legos from Lincoln Logs. I discover that the box containing the checker board has only black checkers in it, and I recall having earlier seen a stack of red checkers sitting inexplicably on a dresser in the guest bedroom.

On my way to the guest bedroom to get the red checkers, (Skip #3) I pass through the guest bathroom. There I recognize that the toilet needs to be cleaned. (Skip #4)

I clean the toilet, glance into the bathroom mirror, and see the reflection of a mad woman wearing a turban and a sad-looking, old housecoat, holding a toilet scrubber. I remember that this is the woman I promised myself I would never become.

I gather used towels and washcloths from the bathroom (Skip #5) and head for the laundry area to start a load of laundry. When I reach the laundry area, I recognize that my husband’s wet dress shirts are sitting in the washer, waiting to be loaded into the dryer. I open the dryer door to put in the shirts but discover that the dryer still contains the jeans I dried yesterday.

It was to remove those jeans from the dryer that I started this ill-fated trek through the house in the first place. By this time it is almost noon and I remember I am supposed to meet a friend at Panera Bread for lunch at 12:30.

The only intentional task I have successfully completed is the removal of a pair of jeans from the dryer, and that little undertaking took three hours to pull off.

I haven’t accomplished much in my journey through life, but I have learned a few things. Never reply to an email suggesting you may have inherited a million dollars from a relative in Spain. Never put on pantyhose with reinforced heels and toes when you plan to wear sandals. And never buy a house with a circular floor plan. It’s the quickest way in the world to get nowhere fast.