The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a](the blind)
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.

Isaiah 61:1-3

Budding trees stand still, naked and unashamed, against the robins’ egg blue sky day after day in this March gallop into spring. To live Seattle’s grey so many months of the year births deeper miracle every spring when our faces feel the sun again.

I lift my face to heaven, out in the rose garden, as I break from tearing out overgrown grass and weeds of an entire year’s neglect. I cut their spindly branches who have reached upward to feel the sun, through the weeds and the muck, to only produce a bud at the very sunshiny top. I want more for them: I envision bushes filled with blooms, not just one spindly, naked branch producing measly pretty. I rip out the weeds and pull the grass, pull out squirt guns and bad mitten rackets hidden underneath. Yard waste bin overflows, and I start thinking about how this garden always reminds me so much of myself.

I remember digging the rose garden out: clump after clump of clay sod. It was seven springs ago: my baby-less maternity leave, a summer drowned in grief. I wanted a rose garden, on the sunny side of the house, right under the dining room window. It took most of the summer to dig it out the way I wanted. We planted the first rose given to us by our dear friends Mr. and Mrs. Vance, in in the corner of the garden. And right in front of the rose, we planted their other gift, a cherub, to remember Caleb.

Last summer, I was sick. My garden survived unattended, doing its best to keep producing roses through the weeds. I think I’ve been doing that, ya know, for a long time: stretching, trying, for just a bloom or two. There has been so much to wade through to reach bloom. And I’ve read these words in Isaiah so many times believing, believing.

What I didn’t understand is that all these years, He hasn’t been neglecting. He’s been cleaning up the mess. He’s been weeding this garden of mine out so that I can bloom bush-fulls of beauty, and not just one, spindly bloom. He wants:

freedom from captivity
release from darkness
comfort in mourning
provision in grief


He wants me to wear:

a crown of beauty
the oil of joy
and a garment of praise

He envisions me as an oak tree in His garden of life: long-lasting, disease- and insect-resistant, strong, beautiful, and useful. Oak has been the lumber of choice for centuries, used to build ships, erect buildings, and–wait for it!–age wine and spirits. Oak provides both the structure and the celebration for our lives.

After seven years of grieving, after seven years of grey skies, I can feel the sun again. Friend, He is coming for you. He has not forgotten you in your stretching and struggle for that one bloom you’re raising up to Him. He is working it out, weeding out the shame and the poverty of your spirit, all to make you thrive strong and lasting for His glory.

Lord, we’re ready. Bring on the crowns, bring on the oil and the the garments of beautiful praise. We want to dance before you and sing of your goodness. We want to grown strong and beautiful, displaying Your splendor.

Bring on the joy!

Dancing this Monday,