What difference can a year make? This is a question that I have been asking myself as I jump back into the hobby of growing African Violets. I am the third generation in my family to grow African Violets, and I have grown many over the years. Returning to this hobby I’m combining old practices with new practices. I’m using the same plant stand and self-watering ceramic pots, while updating two of the three light fixtures, mixing my own soil, and using a different fertilizer. I prefer to grow identified hybrids, which can be hard to find locally. I ordered my first shipment from a greenhouse in the state of New York. The advantage of ordering African Violets from a big supplier is a large selection to choose from. The major disadvantage comes with shipping charges, especially since they will only guarantee winter orders with the more costly expedited shipping.
My wife had one violet already that a friend gave her a couple of years ago. The violet has stayed alive but has not looked very robust. It bloomed for us in the past, though there have been no flowers recently. My wife accepted my offer to add the plant into my program. My first order from the supplier included seven baby African Violets. Young plants ship better than mature plants. Six of the plants looked good, while one plant looked stressed. A week after I received the baby African Violets I found an African Violet sale in Tucson with the Tucson African Violet Society. I bought eight more African Violets, four African Violet leaves to start new plants from, and one Streptocarpus (a plant related to African Violets). All these plants (and the cut leaves representing future possibilities) are under my care. It’s too early for me to take credit for any of these plants. What I have learned over the years is that I can’t force any plants to grow and flourish. All I can try to do is to create an environment that makes it easier for them to grow. Without a doubt, in the next year I will have victories, defeats, and unexpected twists!
This is what I have found with my twenty-nine gallon aquarium. Facebook reminded me that my aquarium has been running for just over a year. I put eight Endlers (a kind of guppy), two Albino Cory Cats, a Plecostomus (a sucker fish), and some live plants in the aquarium. The Endlers have small mouths, so I grind up the flake fish food. One of my biggest mistakes was when I decided that the larger flakes were OK. A white fungus that looked like long strands of seaweed took over my aquarium. It was horrible! That has been the worst defeat, unless you take the perspective of the Plecostomus. The Pleco went missing at least six months ago. I will call it a victory that there are about two dozen Endlers, which seems to be the number that the aquarium can support. All of the plants have grown, though most have had modest growth. One plant, the Java Moss, has gone crazy! This is the plant I over-looked for three days in a little bag when I first received my order. My biggest surprise, though, has been with the Albino Cory Cats. One day I was shocked to realize that there were four of them. Albino Cory Cats lay eggs, and this is the first time I have ever had luck with egg layers. There are now eight Albino Cory Cats. A year can bring some unexpected changes!
I’m wondering where the United Methodist Church will be in a year. Normally, General Conferences only happen every four years. Since 2019 was a Called General Conference, the next General Conference will happen in May of 2020. I admit that I’m feeling pretty jaded by GC 2019. The optimist in me, though, keeps wondering if GC 2020 will be the year that the United Methodist Church meets Jesus’ expectations. A pastor can dream!
I recognize that individually we have little control over the denomination as a whole, while we have a lot of control over our own actions. I am now in my fifty-fourth continuous season, and my hope is that each year I will grow a little bit more like Jesus. How about you? Have we grown any since Lent of 2018? Will we have changed any when we reach Lent of 2020? It’s easy to be passionate and dedicated to injustices and tragedies that directly impact our life. What about injustices and tragedies that other people—and our world–are experiencing? Can Christ stretch us to care beyond our own personal borders and experiences? Will our love be expanded to include our neighbors and all of creation?
There is no doubt that this next year is going to have victories, defeats, and unexpected twists. The victory that I desire the most for each of us is to know Jesus better at the end of the year than we did at the beginning!
Your brother on the journey, Mark