When we first moved into our house six years ago, I was 800 months pregnant with the last of four children. We had decided to do a complete renovation before we moved in (because we’re crazy), so add in the stress of sawdust and drywall and tile done wrong. It had already been a rough year of deciding to move across state lines to schools that could accommodate our special needs child. We were committed city folk who said we would never move to the suburbs, so we apparently love eating our words. Isn’t it funny how God continually shakes our identity so that we can only find it in Him?
But while grieving the loss of all these things and the changes they would bring, there was something I felt silly about mourning: the peony bush on the side of our old house that we’d be leaving behind.
It should be noted that I had inherited them; it’s not like I planted them myself. But they brought me so much joy. They felt like an undeserved surprise, and I just didn’t want to leave them. If you know anything about peonies, they are gorgeous. They smell insanely delicious, and they are incredibly hard to grow from seed or bulb. They take years and years to bloom. They are finicky to transplant, and you can risk losing the whole thing. So I left them for the next person and told myself, Don’t complain. You have a great life. It’s just flowers!
We moved in late summer, quickly got settled, and had our precious baby — what a blur! Through summer, autumn, and winter, I became more and more comfortable in our new home and the neighborhood. As spring approached and we finally got to be outside again, I noticed some bushes against the back of the house and wondered what they would be (or were they overgrown weeds?). I hadn’t really noticed them sprouting up at all, what with my blurry eyes from a baby who never really slept great and spit up and down the back of my shirt and from the endless monotony that comes with telling three other children to “please wear pants.”
But then, all of the sudden, there was a miraculous sighting. I gasped seeing six, huge peony bushes blooming! You better believe I watered those plants with my happy tears that minute. It was something God didn’t have to do — the binding up of the littlest wounds. Please file all these little extras under “Things I Don’t Deserve”: more inherited peony bushes which I never would have had the skill or patience to plant yet and the fact that they’ve been at every house we’ve moved to. It makes me believe God is after our joy more than we think, even after so many tired seasons, even after so much grief, even after so much waiting.
Peonies give me a visual opportunity to remember God’s mercy and goodness when I’d like to believe I don’t deserve them. The gospel makes it clear that I’ve done nothing to inherit His riches, but here I am. And that day, I saw it in the abundance of peonies blooming behind our house.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)
I wish I wasn’t so human, but I alternate between entitlement and awe. And this is why I think God keeps specifically giving me tangible ways to understand His undeserved goodness: little bread crumbs along the way to help me find my way back home when I go off track and believe He’s forgotten me.
A late spring frost is set to come through our way, so I cover up my peonies to protect them. As I do, I remember that I am owed nothing. I deserve nothing but have gained an incredible abundance in His kinship — so much so, I’ve been put in the will and have an inheritance in Christ! I spread out the sheets, feeling like I have to relinquish my blessings, but I remember it wasn’t me who put them here in the first place. I think it’s in the moments of receiving and giving up that we find Jesus the most — perhaps because He gave us the most by giving up the most. I cover the flowers as I cover myself in truth: His grace is sufficient to meet us in our waiting, relinquishing, and worries, and His abundance will never end.Leave a Comment
Ruth Mills says
Wonderful! Makes me want to go plant peonies in my yard and I have the blackest of thumbs & not a dirt tinkerer! Blessings to you for sharing!
Elisabeth LaByer says
Thank you for sharing this story of God’s personalized goodness and love to you. He has done similar things for me. His grace to us is truly amazing.
Jami Nato says
I am not great at plants either. I think that’s why God was like, ok I’m just going to have to hook you up and make them be there already
Jami, this is such a great post! I love peonies too. Thank you for the needed reminders here.
Jami Nato says
Thanks Tasha! You bless me
Sharon Tucci says
What a lovely, uplifting message!
Jami Nato says
This was amazing to read, it put into words what I feel but often don’t know how to say. We also moved recently, with a two year old, 4 hours north, arriving late at night to an empty, new to us house, on a cold night. I was full of anxiety and what ifs. It was a somewhat hasty move due to jobs. Long story short, we left behind some of the nicest, most wonderful neighbors you could ask for. I worried and prayed about our new neighbors, prayed that i would be a good new neighbor. And (!) I was for some reason sad to leave behind this beautiful maple tree in our backyard that drew me in daily, which so much life happened under. We got settled in at the new place, and one by one, God sent to our door new neighbors welcoming us with Christmas cookies and goodies and words of thanks that we bought the house. My heart melted everytime and I just thanked God with awe. Fast forward to Spring, and while I haven’t found my Maple tree, I have a yard full of gorgeous, large oaks just starting to bloom for us, and neighbors that continue to stop by to chat and say hi. Definitely file this under things we don’t deserve! Thank you for sharing your story!
Jami Nato says
He is so kind to us . He goes before us! We just forget. ❤️
Joan Moore says
Sweet words of yet another “God wink”. Yes, His mercies are new every morning!!!❤️
Jami Nato says
Total God wink!
connie ker says
I live in Indiana and peonies are our state flower. I grew up with peonies in my back yard where we played outside. The ants celebrate peonies and rain dampens their blooms. In my present home of 35 years, I have light pink, white, and dark pink peonies peeking up in the ground which gives us hope for seeing their faces again. In the fall I cut them back and then they return next season. Peonies are one of my favorite flowers and after they bloom, the green bushes are still nice landscape. They remind me of the Seasons of Life. Today is the World Day of Prayer, so remember to keep praying and talking to our Father. Thank You Lord for the flowers of spring during this lost year of covid19.
Jami Nato says
Thank you for reminding me about the day of prayer, it helps me remember to pray globally and not so inwardly !
Marie Antoinette Ugo says
This is what I love about our awesome God.He is a personal Father.He is concerned about everything that concerns His children.
Jami Nato says
He is incredibly personal. Sometimes I forget !
Jami, this is beautiful! I look forward to all the other beautiful things you have to say! Write on! (And I will never look at peonies quite the same way again.)
I find so much truth in this line: “Isn’t it funny how God continually shakes our identity so that we can only find it in Him?”
I love the reminder that God is “after our joy”, and I am praying I can start to live in this truth more and more.
Cathy Leyland says
This is simply profound!
Cathy Leyland says
I am new to (in)courage. Just call me a late bloomer!
Yours is the first piece I’ve read and I look forward to more blessings as I meet my fellow sojourners in Christ.
Becky Keife says
Welcome, Cathy! We’re so glad you’re here!
Beth Williams says
Welcome to In Courage. I pray God blesses you through this website. May you make some good friends here also.
Jenna A. Schroeder says
This is great. I love those little blessings that we don’t deserve that He gives anyway. I also, have a peony bush I inherited, they are a treasure every year. Thanks for sharing this, it’s encouraging.
With you it’s peonies…with me it’s the number 555. Probably sounds silly. It can show up on the clock, on a license plate that just pulled in front of me, a price tag…it makes me stop every time. Stop and think. Hello Lord, I’m listening. There are times I stop for a moment and think, “I haven’t seen 555 in awhile Lord, are we ok?” As though I’m asking my Heavenly Father to have our little secret banter i enjoy. And then there it is, confirming it. When we moved into our recent home 6 years ago we had certain things we knew we needed. Being our 8th home and final move, in my opinion, we knew what we liked and didn’t like. One day I happened to look under the sink at the garbage disposal, don’t know why I wanted to examine it closely but right there, in big numbers, 555. I was like, “really Lord!” How cool is that! I’m in awe how much He loves us.
Maura Michael says
I feel the same way about the hummingbirds I see each year as they return to my feeders. A joy from my God.
Becky Keife says
Jami, this article is hands down fantastic. Thank you for inviting us into your story of the underserved joy God is so crazy good to give. It helps me want to look for and remember all the sweet bread crumbs in my own life. So dang grateful you’re here.
Thanks I so appreciate this today…
This post brought me to tears because I could identify with undeserved blessings I’ve had in my life from the Lord balanced against some deep painful hurts. Thank you for sharing as you did. May your peonies continue to blossom as a reminder of the Lord’s faithfulness. My reminder is in pennies I find because on them it says, “In God We Trust”. I do!
Forest Harrison says
Such a great read Jami. Whether it’s peonies,humming birds or 555, women of God, our Father sees us and meet our needs. To God Be The Glory!!!
Lauren Griesmeyer says
So beautifully written! What a gift the peonies were! I really enjoyed and appreciated this and your delightful humor!
Thank you Lord that you have given us this tangible proof of Your presence in all these special unique ways mentioned today. You give me so much joy through theirs from You! How totally awesome You are !!! To love us soooooo much
Kathi Lipp says
Oh friend – I love your humaness.
JENNIFER E HASSEL says
Jami, Thank you. Your post resonated with me. So often we equate “what I don’t deserve” with circumstances that we do not want. You remind us instead that often we receive gifts that reflect God’s undeserved grace. This is a mindset shift worth remembering: to consider those heaven sent blessings -like your peony blossoms- as God’s way of singing over us in our favorite key.
Keep sending out your encouragement!
Lucretia Berry says
Spring has sprung in my heart!
Thank you for sharing this warm, nourishing truth about our relationship with God. I love when nature talks to us about our Creator.
Janet Williams says
Thank you Jami. I love your “awkward humor and honesty”! Tears as I read.. as I have fond memories of a garden. My husband and I thought it would be a great idea to move from our SoCal friends family and our beloved church to Utah. We loved Utah. Beautiful. Less expensive. Slower pace. Camping/hiking. We moved in winter. I had no idea what would bloom come spring. Flowers everywhere! Bulbs bloomed (they don’t in socal weather) a pear tree, roses… I can go on…but God had different plans. We “kinda pushed the river” moving ignoring His closed doors. We suffered in ways we hadn’t before. When we finally let go and let God the doors opened. The house sold very quickly. Everything we bought for the house the new owners wanted. We were obedient and came home. I loved what you wrote about being human….
“I wish I wasn’t so human, but I alternate between entitlement and awe. And this is why I think God keeps specifically giving me tangible ways to understand His undeserved goodness: little bread crumbs along the way to help me find my way back home when I go off track”
God had amazing blessings waiting for us. Blessings we would have never experienced had we been “again too human” to listen or obey. I miss that beautiful garden and landscape but there are flowers everywhere…He promises
Karen Knowles says
What a blessing your post is, Jami! I have appreciated those little bread crumbs along the way throughout my life to remind me of God’s unmerited favor to me, oftentimes so unexpected as in the case of the peonies which showed up in your yard after you had moved. God knew you missed them and He provided. Yes, I believe He is much more after our joy than we think. Looking forward to more posts from you. I loved the use of humor that you used to convey a beautiful, encouraging message!
Allison Wixted says
Love this, Jami! Beautiful and hilarious, all at once!
This is my fave line….
“I think it’s in the moments of receiving and giving up that we find Jesus the most — perhaps because He gave us the most by giving up the most.”
Can’t wait to come back for more laughter and tears from you pen!
And congrats on your first official (in)courage contributor post! Yay!
P.S. – And big hugs and blessings from one special needs mama to another!
Jessica Cieri says
Your words are always so timely. I love how your style of realness mixed with humor draws me in and makes me recognize the Lords love for me. Never stop sharing.
His abundance will never end. Yes! Such a good word, Jami.
Cindy Clayton says
Right on time!
Carol Brown says
Thanks for sharing this story of God’s goodness and His surprises.
What a beautiful reminder of the Lords love & grace for us. I remind myself of Exodus 14:14 often “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Thank you so much for this uplifting reminder to look to Him always. Have a blessed Friday friends!
Beth Williams says
I’m realizing that God wants to bless the pants off us more than we know. Each day, in & of itself, is a gift. Like many I have been through some tired, hard seasons. Waiting & longing for them to be over. During those times I “acted” human by complaining when I didn’t get much for Christmas one year. I quickly stopped & counted ALL my blessings & a joyful countenance came over me.
Joy a feeling of great pleasure and happiness. It doesn’t depend on emotions which are fickle. It is having a sense of happiness thanks to God. Now years later God is knocking my socks off by bestowing exceptionally nice gifts on me all at once. Never mind He has already given me His only son who died in my place, a rich inheritance, the title of Child of the King. So much given to me that I can’t help but share with others. It’s in the giving away of some earthly treasures that we can find the most joy. You hit the nail on the head with this: God is after our joy more than we think, even after so many tired seasons, even after so much grief, even after so much waiting.
Beth Williams says
Most of the blessings God sends my way I don’t deserve. None of us deserve His free love & forgiveness of our sins. He is such a great loving Father. Praying more can come to the saving knowledge of just how great His love & mercy is toward them.
Mary Carver says
Two years ago my husband trimmed our outrageously unruly forsythia bush (that came with the house; I wouldn’t know the slightest thing about planting one). Trimmed it to within a few inches of its life. And I cried real tears. It hasn’t grown any flowers since then, but it’s not dead either. And so I hope, still. … All that to say, I understand seeing Truth in the plants in your yard. And I love, love, love that God gave you peonies!
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