Next to our manse (PCUSA term for pastor’s house provided by the congregation) is a large empty lot. This lot was the location of the old Presbyterian church building before the building was torn down. Now it serves as a beautiful green space for children and animals alike. On the back of the lot is a fence that still has portions of the hitching post from a century ago.
The hitching post is not easy to see because the trumpet vine our neighbor planted decades ago and the lilies we planted nine years ago have grown beautifully to create a privacy hedge. Though it is hard to see the hitching post unless you are right upon it, I look for the post each time I walk the fence. This practice fills me with a sense of deep connection to the people who walked that route in years past, the ones who lived all the parts of life, the ones who gathered together to create a life together even when it was hard. I feel connected to the pastors who have served in this community (not just in our congregation) who must have stood before that post themselves wondering all the things I wonder.
I love this messy fence-line because it is a bit of history about the community I serve. I also love it because of a bit of my history. My maternal grandma had a flowerbed of tiger lilies (the name she told me) that she worked hard to grow in the sandy soil of her home. Her lilies were pale imitations to the ones I see each year, but they were her labor of love and no matter where I have roamed the sight of a tiger lily reminds me of her and my grandpa. My grandma also loves trumpet vine and tried for years to get one to grow with little success. She even buried my childhood cat under her vine when Princess died while I was away at college. The fact that I live in a place were we mow down the trumpet vine each week to keep it contained does not cease to delight me.
I have learned in my time here that the beautiful tiger lilies I adore are often referred to with some disdain as “ditch lilies” because they tend to be a bit invasive in the rich soil of our area. Trumpet vine is also considered invasive and my devotion to ours has caused more than a few heads to shake in disbelief.
But then I share my stories and perspectives change and no longer is our messy fence-line considered a nuisance; instead my stories become the stories others share. Stories of the hitching post, of baseballs lost (much like the ivy at Wrigley Field), of hummingbirds spotted, and of how far out a sprout of trumpet vine erupted in the yard become our stories, no longer my stories, but our stories.
When our perspective changes and our individual stories become shared stories the world becomes a little bit more peaceful, a little bit better. This is not easy work, it is messy and sometimes looks as bad as a dormant trumpet vine and wilted, winter tiger lilies. But when we pause to wonder, to look, to listen, and to share, something beautiful grows.