Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Plant More Flowers

I grew up knowing a beautiful lady, Ann Blair, best known in Anderson, S.C. for her incredible gardens.  A few years ago, she came to my house to help select paint color, and I looked around at my weeds and commented when she walked to my front door. "I have so many weeds."  She looked at me and said, "Honey, if you want to get rid of your weeds, you've got to plant more flowers."

That's what she has done for 50 years, adding more and more making her garden full, and the few weeds are barely noticeable in an entire yard, front and back, of beautiful flowers. While her daughters and their friends (one of them being me) played all day, she worked for hours in the sun, took dips in her pool, then continued to dig, sweat, pull, and plant.  After super in the summer, her family and the many who walked through her back gate enjoyed her garden.

In 1974, the Anderson Garden Club Council award Mrs. Blair the Most Improved yard. Now, fast forward to 2014, and they used her yard for their calendar.  One of her favorite quotations is, "One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it provides." Imagine all those years of working, watching, and anticipating. Patience.

1989,My bridal luncheon

Allie & friends -Prom
Lindsey Child Barber
                            Not only is her yard the place for many parties, prom and bridal photos, bridal luncheons, weddings, and receptions, it's also a private garden welcoming friends wishing to relax, read, stroll, talk, admire, or pray.  


When I thought she couldn't possibly make her home more beautiful, when I thought no more flowers would fit, I pulled into her driveway to find breathtaking pink roses climbing a white picket fence along her front walkway where she was digging a new flower bed for spring snap dragon, summer zinnia, alstroemeria, daisies, drift roses, and many other flowers she gladly shares.

                                                           She grows a little of everything. Enormous pink, purple and blue hydrangeas grow bigger and more noticeable every year.  Giant ferns and dark green foliage fill several corners and are a nice background for her many roses. Her granddaughter, Annaleisa, submitted a picture which was featured in Ideals magazine: ivy, and airy fern surrounding a white church bird house and her "little girl."

My favorite part of her garden is a deck built around an old oak tree. My grandmother, Sue Brown, found a "little tree" with a long tap root on top of the dumpster at the landfill and brought it to her Mrs. Blair, her neighbor, to plant in her backyard, over 50 years ago. It's now surrounded by a delicate Chinese maple that was Mr. Blair's favorite, a fountain, window box, ferns, hosta, and plenty of places to sit, relax and enjoy.

Annaleisa, Maggie, Susan
Allie, Lindsey, Ann
Soon after she said, "if you want to get rid of weeds, you need to plant more flowers." I read this verse. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:21  

Everyone who knows Mrs. Blair has experienced her goodness.  She plants flowers beyond her garden. She plants her flowers, her goodness, in the lives of people.

When friends, people she met yesterday or 30 years ago, experience a loss or sickness, it's not unusual for her to bake a cake or cook dinner: meat with gravy and macaroni and cheese pie.  When her husband was in the hospital with cancer, she brought one of her specialties, brown sugar biscuits, to the nurses everyday for three months, and she still bakes a coconut cake for the birthday of Mr. Blair's radiation oncologist.
handwritten recipes
When Mr. Blair was diagnosed with cancer, she filled many days and hours while sitting with him in the hospital and at home hand writing her recipes, over 100, for her four daughters. Years later, after Mr. Wayne Blair passed away, The Anderson Independent newspaper asked for Mom's handwritten recipes and stories. Allyson submitted the recipes, a story, and a note from Mrs. Blair: To: Allyson Love, Mama May 17, 1991 "Recipes that have filled our physical and emotional needs over the years." Allyson wrote, "This books is one of the most treasured items I own." Each daughter has over 100 hand written recipes, not copied.  A dear friend later copied them for a cook book, and Mrs. Blair gives these as gifts. 

In the process of helping me remodel my kitchen, she was in a car accident while taking food to her grandson and was unable to drive.  Moving around her house on a scooter with a broken ankle, she looked through dozens of floor and counter top samples and told me to bring more to her house the next day.  This is also the time she decided to crawl around on the ground and create more flower beds in the front of her house.  

Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith. Galatians 6:10 NLT

Surfside Beach, SC
So much cooking
Grant, Mason, Allie, Lindsey
Maggie, Clay, Blair
She makes Christmas extra special for her family with different paper and bows.  She decorates for her family, friends, and anyone else who asks.  She sits through ballgames, concerts, and school lunches with a smile, and spends a week at the beach cooking THREE meals a day for her entire family and whoever else shows up. Her grandchildren call her for advice.  Lindsey says she always has clarity after talking to her grandmother. Written on church bulletins or colorful note pads, priceless notes from her grandchildren are tucked into the pages of her worn (and that's an understatement) Bible.

Amanda, Allyson, Allie
Susan, Lindsey
She taught Sunday school for decades and still helps our pastor with his class and is an active member of Concord Baptist Choir. If Mrs. Blair isn't at choir practice or at church on Sunday, she's either sick or out of town.  It's not uncommon for her to share a Bible verse or send a card.  Today, she gave me a copy of Jesus Calling, which she has on hand for gifts. She bakes cakes for our homeless ministry and for a women's ministry, Under His Wing.

Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. I Thessalonians 5:14 NIV

Emma, Lindsey, Maggie, Grant
Mason & Mama Cromer
 (Ann's mother)
Her door is always open.  No matter how crowded her home or how busy she might be, you are welcome for as long as you need to stay.  Mrs. Blair has shared her home, food, and time with people who need a place to live for awhile.  The reason doesn't matter to her; in fact, a few moved in and out, and she treated them like they were her own children. 


Her garden gate is open for anyone, anytime. She sits with you and counsels or prays. With her strong faith, she comforts and strengthens many friends during dark times. Mrs. Blair knows heart ache and pain, and she understands when people are broken.  She helps others overcome this brokenness with tremendous sacrifice and extends the love of Christ with her goodness. I mentioned to her last week that she helps her family even if she has to do without, and she said, "I don't care if they're family or live down the street or in a barn, if they need help, I'm going to help. It doesn't have to be big. Little things help people, too."  

Open Windows/journals
I can honestly say she is in love with the Lord. She's rooted in the Word, which is why she's able to spread the Lord's goodness. She journals in her Open Windows for two hours every morning, telling God about the previous day and her thoughts. I stood amazed today as she showed me seventeen years of journals to God, "I pour out my soul to God in these journals.  He is the best psychiatrist there is. I write the good and the bad. Someone asked me 'what if someone reads those times that weren't so good?' I said GOOD." If you know her, you can hear her say this.


August 26, 2014

I'm privileged to know and be loved by Ann Blair. I've been blessed by her flowers and her goodness more times than I can count. She SHOWED the Holy Spirit to me as child, teenager, young mother, and continues to do so today. I've never met a person who didn't feel the same,


Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing. 10 For the Scriptures say
Ann Blair & her 10 grandchildren
“If you want to enjoy life
    and see many happy days,
keep your tongue from speaking evil
    and your lips from telling lies.
11 Turn away from evil and do good.
    Search for peace, and work to maintain it.  I Peter 3:9-11