Saturday, March 28, 2009

Tulips in the Mud - Originally posted 4/28/08

One of my favorite things to do in Washington is the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. It's held each year in April, and usually happens around the same time as our church retreat.

There are miles of blooming tulips planted in groups by color. Each section is about 1/4 mile wide and maybe 1/2 mile long. All of these fields are down in the Skagit Valley, which lies between the Cascade Mountains on the east - still snow capped - and the Puget Sound on the west. There are red barns here and there, and old farm houses that have been restored (or kept in really great shape). And the Skagit River wanders through the whole valley.

I don't have words to do it justice.

The Festival was scheduled to start April 1st and run through the 30th. Our retreat was scheduled for the weekend of the 25th, and it was pretty likely that the tulips would be past their prime by then.

But God arranged the weather this year to so that it was unseasonably cold. In fact, we had snow a week ago. Hey, it doesn't snow up here near sea level very often! Especially in April. So I held out hope that the tulips might be late in blooming.

We headed up to retreat, and honestly, no one but me cared about the tulips. This is my thing. I talk it up big time, but people kind of glaze over when I bring it up. I think they take that beauty for granted. I lived in the high desert for twelve years. Tulips don't grow out there. Tumbleweed does - I kid you not.

Okay, so up to Stanwood we go, the retreat is awesome, God's Spirit is speaking, lives are changing, I am praising Him... and wondering how the tulips are.

My friend didn't really want to go. But I can be pretty persuasive. She relented and on our way home Sunday we drove the 15 extra miles to see them.

It was so worth it.

Even Steph agreed once we got there. We didn't stay long, just drove up to one spot and pulled over to take some pictures and bask in God's glory.

As we headed back to the car parked in the mud by the side of the road, I saw something I would call a sacred delight. Two red tulips far far from their brothers and sisters were poking through the mud. Seriously, these two were about twenty feet from the fields, and the mud they were in was where thousands of cars had parked over the past four weeks of the festival.

It made me think of Hind's Feet on High Places. There's a flower in there that Much Afraid meets that is growing up through the rocks where nothing else is growing, and its name is Acceptance With Joy. I want to be that flower, that little red tulip growing in the mud of life. Blooming where I'm planted, even if it's far from the field where everyone else is, and isn't a very pretty place.

The ugliness of the mud makes the beauty of the tulip stand out that much more.

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