Encircled, Enclosed, Embraced
For quite some time the protea has been one of my favorite flowers. The first time I saw one was when I received it in a bouquet as a gift, and I remember thinking I’d never seen a flower so unique and fabulous with its fuzzy center and surrounding bright petals attached to a thick, sturdy stalk. So when they ended up being part of my daughter’s wedding bouquet and centerpieces, I was thrilled, not only because of how much I love the flower, but also because of the way we received them and for what they symbolize.
To explain, we were fortunate to obtain the flowers through my son’s girlfriend, whose father is a wholesale florist. This saved us a lot of money since we could make the bouquets and flower arrangements ourselves. But we never actually requested proteas. In fact, my daughter had never heard of them, and I hadn’t thought of them in quite some time. I rarely see them in stores where I regularly buy flowers, and I don’t see them in anyone’s yards. My daughter simply requested flowers that were in season and in her color scheme, and the protea ended up being one of them. I really shouldn’t have been shocked that God surprised us with the gift of proteas because of course, like I’ve said in earlier posts, he knows us, and he knows what’s best.
The protea was one of many little details he had planned out perfectly. While anything can go wrong at a wedding, especially an outdoor one in the middle of November, everything went remarkably smooth. The weather was sunny, clear, warm. All the rentals arrived, all the food arrived, and everyone seemed so happy, most especially the bride and the groom. They were like the fuzzy center of that protea, encircled by the love of friends and family and God around them.
While reading about the protea, I learned that they’re known to symbolize a beauty that stands out, embracing uniqueness and diversity, and the boldness to create and accept the inevitable changes. How perfect that is for a wedding bouquet, and for all of us as a reminder of what remains even in times of change.
The verse that first came to my mind when thinking about this is a favorite one that I’ve mentioned before, Psalm 139:5, which says,
You are all around me – in front and in back – and have put your hand on me. (NCV)
This is from the New Century Version, but I looked this verse up in several translations.
Here’s what I found:
You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. (NLT)
You hem me in behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. (NIV)
I look behind me and you’re there, then up ahead and you’re there too – your reassuring presence, coming and going. This is too much, too wonderful – I can’ take it all in. (MSG)
You have encircled me; you have placed your hand on me. (CSB)
I think that last one might be my favorite. The image of God encircling me and those I love, like my daughter and her husband, all my children, my husband and me, my friends and family – wow! That's an image to hold onto and remind me that God is truly good, all the time. That encircling is what I see in the protea, reminding me of the beauty and boldness that remains in the face of inevitable changes. With God before us, behind us, placing his hand on us, we can be strong - in the joyful, in the hard, in every moment. He will give us strength and guidance.
So, while I’ve recently suggested reading and journaling Psalm 139, I’m going to suggest it again. I could probably do so every day and get something more from it. Here are some ideas:
· Read all of Psalm 139. What stands out to you? What words speak the most to you today? (you might have different ones each day this week)
· Copy one specific verse that stands out in your journal. Then go to a site like Biblegateway.com and look up the verse in several translations. Write them out. What word is repeated? How is it translated differently? What’s the Greek or Hebrew meaning of the word? (For example, when I looked up hem in, I found it meant “sur” – which also translates to enclose, encircle)
· Journal what the word or verse means to you. What do you hear God speaking to you in your situation? (For example, I continue to envision God all around me, and remember seeing him in every detail at my daughter’s wedding. This makes me feel confident of his love and strength, not my own.)
· Notice when and where you feel God’s love, strength. Write down what these moments are, the people around you when you feel this way. Thank God for these people, places, and times. (The protea is only one flower, but it reminded me of God’s love. What small thing gives you that reminder?)
These are a few ways to dive deep into one verse, and something that can be done each day with any verse. I hope this helps you hear God speak to you and feel his presence encircling and surrounding you.
Have a blessed day, circled in God’s protective and everlasting love.