Exactly one year ago today, we closed on our home. The experience seems hazy now looking back as it was at the beginning of a pandemic and I was expecting a new baby. Looking back, we didn’t do all the things people do when they purchase new homes. There were no housewarming or gathering of our families together to see the home. We didn’t move into the home until six months later. Some of that was due to the renovations we made prior to the move. It was extensive, but totally worth it. We changed the walls from an off white color to blue. Lots and lots of blue. We kept things from the home as is, like the gold colored chandelier the prior owners originally had and the large vanity mirror that lined one of the rooms and a guest bathroom.

February 2020, the moment we made an offer.
December 2020, the day we moved.

The renovations were more of a facelift in most places but totally worth it. When we moved in on the 23rd day of December, about one month and a half later, a massive winter storm hit our area. We were the direct recipients of it. It busted a pipe in the middle of our brand new kitchen and to say we were overwhelmed is an understatement. But God always has the last laugh. This time we lived in our home for over 1 month and a half as we began another daunting task to renovate. We uprooted everything from the kitchen and most of the basement. By the time we were done, the home was restored to its normal conditions thanks to our contractor who worked tirelessly to ensure things were back to normal.

The initial attempts at restoration.

The past year has been full of so many ups and downs and ups with this home, one that I would not trade anything else for it. One of the things the prior owners told us when we bought the home is that it would bring all the luck we need in the same way it did for them. They called it their lucky home. I agree. This home is lucky to us in all sense of the word. It keeps giving gifts that I will forever treasure, one of which is the endless array of flowers and trees that surround the home. We are so blessed and consider this a manifestation of Jeremiah chapter 29 verse 11 in our lives. For our God alone knows the plans he has for us. Plans to bring us prosperity and not disaster. Plans to bring about the future we hope for. He did so with this home and I look forward to all the many plans he still has in store for us.

We love all our many shades of blue.

The toughest school year I have ever experienced finally came to an end on Friday. Not only did we master the art of homeschooling, we figured out how to nurture what matters as each child did their best to make the most of this school year. All the materials submitted are now home and I have begun to do the wonderful task of sifting through to figure out what to keep and what discard. Something about seeing my children’s words and art warms my soul always. Like this little poem my daughter wrote with her friends called ‘BabyBirds.’ I remember how happy she was to have written this one with her friends and to actually read it for myself makes me proud. They began by describing the day. The sun is shining they note. Another spring day. Birds in the sky are chirping, some being born today, breaking out of their eggs to meet the warmth of the day. I can’t even imagine what goes into the mind of a 3rd grader to write in this way but I’m am glad that school allowed this exploration of the mind. Like how mother bird goes out look for food to feed her babies eager to learn the ways for the world. I imagine the same must be true for my daughter and her friends. For all birds, even baby ones have to learn about the world, whether with chirping or finding food to eat. But here comes the hard part for even mother birds and it’s that’s one day, even baby birds will leave the nest. They too will one day spread their wings and fly, far faraway from home. And when they do, the hope for mother birds, as with all mothers, is that they explore the world, full of possibilities, full of a life worth living, in their own terms. That what reading this little poem did for me today. As the school year finally comes to end, may all children, my own included, continue to fly, and soar to new heights. I keep this poem her as a proud mother bird.

My daughter and her friends poem ‘BabyBirds.’

My home is surrounded by peonies in full bloom. They were planted by the prior owners. A gift to us that I will forever treasure. It’s fragrant too. The fabulous pink and white flowers are ethereal and with a fragrant undertone that is a special treat to our home. Ants like bees also surround the peonies. They are everywhere. They visit to collect the nectars extruded on the outside of the peony bud. The nectars are a source of carbohydrates for the ants. And in-spite of these ants, peonies continue to bloom in ways so extravagant but unforgettable, so carefree, but elegant. And my home is surrounded by them.

When our peonies started to bloom!
In full bloom!
My baby next to them.

Prior to the pandemic, one of the things I gifted myself on a weekly basis were flowers. Nothing special, just a thank you to myself for being me. It was a daily ritual for self-care. One that I neglected once the pandemic began. We were all striving to be Covid-free so the last thing on my mind were flowers. Enter this spring. Something about my home being surrounded by flowers keeps me on my knees in thanksgiving to my God. And his gift, the flowers I will forever now treasure as his gift to our home, to my eyes, peonies in full bloom. For the past 3 weeks, all sorts of colorful peonies have been blooming around my home. From deep purple to luscious pink and sterling white, every specie is truly a rare fusion of fluff and majesty. And to think that this stately and dignified flower belongs to me, my family keeps me on my knees in humble adoration to my maker.

Deep pink peonies.
Luscious pink peonies.

I am living out his testimony of trust. Even the young grow weak and tired, he says. But those who trust in the lord, shall truly live out his blessings on earth. Peonies are the sublime manifestation of God’s blessings to me. It never also occurred to me that I could harvest them. For the past 3 weeks I have been watching them that it never occurred to me that I could go a bit further and bring them home, into the house, like the other flowers I buy until this week. This week, my God reminded me that he is God. You say you want blessings, look outside, he said. You are blessed. You can also bring it inside.

This week, for the first time since all my flowers started to bloom, I brought my first flowers inside. Peonies are the first flowers from my garden in my home and they take my breathe away. Another thing, peonies are characterized by their morphology. Some are single with five or more petals with a center called staminodes for stamens that are usually not pollen bearing. Others are semi-double peonies have five or more outer petals and a center with stamens that are pollen-bearing. My garden is full of double peonies. My God is having the last laugh with me. These double peonies with their five or more petals and even central stamen are transformed into petals such that all you see are rows upon rows of petals. A full flower in all sense of the word, whose beauty takes my breathe away. Peonies are as fascinating as they are brilliant to the eyes. Keep them for the blessings they are.

Harvesting my peonies for the first time!

A friend shared this quote yesterday in the middle of a crazy work schedule: “When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds: Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.”― Patanjali

I will share insights from my journey the past month with writing the best grant of my life. I obviously don’t know whether it will ever get funded but it was pure joy writing this one. Reading this quote shared by my friend helped me a lot during the last mile stretch of the grantwriting journey. As if the universe also knew I needed further encouragement, I was taken to the book of Isaiah this morning, chapter 41 verse 10. Not only will God call you, but when he does, he wants you to not be afraid. He is God and nothing will terrify you. He is prepared to make you strong and help you. He is also prepared to protect and save you. He is ultimately the Lord your God and when you live in his purpose for your life, nothing will terrify you. I am not afraid to live in my purpose. The past month solidified it hence why I am keeping this here. Keep living in your purpose and trust God.

The journey through 2020 has been filled with dualities, emotional ones, that often range from sorrow to joy, all in a matter of hours, days and even months. But I wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now as the year starts to come to a close. One thing that has helped make 2020 sane is the constant word of God. There is power in his word. This, little but delightful book entitled ‘Wouldn’t take nothing for my journey’ by Maya Angelou illustrates why. In her chapter entitled ‘power of the word,’ she shares, why even in our deepest darkness, we ought to continue to step out on the word of God. The word of God is power.

She also shared a story where she was asked by a teacher to read a chapter from a book entitled ‘Lessons in Truth’ which ended with the phrase ‘God loves me.’ She read that phrase sarcastically at first, which lead her teacher to ask her to continue to read that particular phrase over and over again. By the 7th time, the word started to take root in her mind, in her heart, the realization that God loves her. If he truly loves her, she noted, then she could do wonderful things, try great things, learn new things, for who can stand against any person whom God loves. No one.

To Ms. Angelou, that knowledge that God loves her was not only ‘humbling but it melted her bones, closed her ears, made her teeth rock, liberated her, made her soar on wings like a big bird over high mountains, over serene valleys.’ It also reminded me of my own favorite verse, that clear illustrates the power of the word. If my God loves me, no matter what and even as 2020 comes to an end, I am indeed going to rise up on wings like eagle. I will run and not be tired. I will walk and not be weak. Not when God loves me. Keep his love in mind. Keep knowing the power of the word.