Beyond Words

Words, Wit and Wisdom for Today's Style and Decision Makers

Garden of God April 30, 2023

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 3:31 pm

This past week we celebrated both Earth Day and Arbor Day and I blogged about gardens. It must be spring! I sprung into action this week by visiting a local wildflower center, which inspired me to plant some flowers in various flower beds at our home. One such garden encircles a giant oak tree, making “sun,” “full sun,” or “shade” flower choices beneath it a challenge. I got what I’m hoping grows and if not, am grateful we have that we at least have that majestic tree.



Trees are very symbolic and did you know they are mentioned in the Bible more than any living thing other than God and His people? Did. Not. Know. As He always does, He had a plan when he created trees in that they give us oxygen, shade, fruit, beauty, and everything from the furniture we use to the tires on our cars to the medicines we take.


Trees are very symbolic in the Bible and many people and events involved something related to a tree starting of course with the Garden of Eden and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil that God forbid Adam and Even to eat from. Adam’s first instructions were to “dress and keep” the trees in Eden. We all know what happened instead.



Trees were also significant in Noah and his Ark, Moses and the burning bush, the palms waved at Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem before being crucified, and of course the cross He was crucified on. There is a tree mentioned on the first page of Genesis and on the last page of Revelation and everywhere in between.



This photo really spoke to me as vines are throughout our bodies. In fact, we are all called to be “trees” in so much that we are to bear good fruit and that we will be known by the fruit we produce. An apple tree would still be pretty without its fruit, but what good would one be if it never produced apples? A healthy tree generally produces good fruit, but a tree that is sick will bear either bad fruit or no fruit at all. Same with you and same with me. Too deep for you? Think the children we raise and the lives we live and leave behind.



Saint Paul described some of this as the Fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. In a sense, this is also all about putting down roots; which is something trees also do in order to grow and thrive. In order to have healthy roots, trees need to be planted in healthy soil, need water, and need light. In general, the bigger their roots, the bigger they grow. The bigger and deeper our roots are, the better we are able to withstand troubles and other life droughts caused by the lack of living water. The light they need is gained through a process called phototropism, from the Greek “phos” meaning light and “tropos” meaning turning.



I loved an analogy on this very subject published by It told the story about a Kindergarten memory of planting seeds in two different pots. One pot was placed on a window sill while the other was put in a dark closet. Once the seeds began to sprout in both, the plant on the window sill’s leaves began turning toward the sun while the one in the closet became pale and thin. One was strong; one was weak. One had light in its life; one lived in the dark.



But where do we start? By planting seeds. Gardeners plant seeds and then tend to them so they grow. Yes, weeds will come up but a grounded gardener will make sure to pull those weeds and toss them. Even the smallest of planted seeds can grow into something big. I love the parable of the mustard seed where Jesus reminds us that even the smallest of seeds can grow into something literally heavenly.



I also love the Jesus’ parable of the Seed Sower in which the seeds planted on rocky ground have no roots and only last for a short time, the seeds planted among thorns get choked out and bear no fruit, but those planted in rich soil bear the best fruit. When we plant our own seeds on rocky ground of the ways of the world, we lose direction and our joys are short-lived. Those we plant among the thorns of anxiety and the riches of the world get choked out. But those we plant in the rich soil of truth and discipline, help us thrive. The Seed Sower is special to me as the above statue stands prominently on the campus of my alma mater, the University of Oklahoma, which is where I learned how to plant the seeds of my life in fertile ground and bloomed.



Then there is the olive tree; so prevalent in so many faiths. The olive branch has been a symbol of peace dating back to the fifth century BC, when the Greeks used it as a symbol of peace. Perhaps the most famous of these accounts is when Noah sent a dove out to see if the waters had subsided but not until it flew back with an olive branch did Noah know it was safe. The Mount of Olives, where Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane before His crucifixion and then returned to for his triumphant ascension, is actually a mountain range near Jerusalem and is named for the olives groves that line the hillside. To this day, there is an olive tree that’s more than 2,000 years old and both Christians and Jews consider it a sacred place. And finally, the United Nations flag and the Great Seal of the United States both feature an olive branch.


When you think about all of this it’s really not complicated and makes perfect sense. Plant the seeds, spread your roots, and bloom.





Dig It April 24, 2023

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 7:10 pm

April showers bring May flowers, right? Yes, even though some of the showers up north and back east right now are snow showers, in warmer weather climates flowers are indeed starting to bloom. I’m not much of a gardener or green thumb, but I do like pretty flowers, flower beds, window boxes, and potted plants. So much so, in fact, that I recently attended a Master Gardner luncheon in my neighborhood. When I first saw it was our monthly topic, my immediate thought was “no thank you,” but then I reminded myself that my New Year’s resolution each year is to learn new things so why not learn about pretty flowers? I dug in and I’m sharing the dirt!


And, I learned so much and had so much fun! It focused on native plants so I won’t dig way into what all was discussed but I learned what plants are native in these parts, which means they were here before people were, and that they are fairly low-maintenance. They might die in a freeze but they’ll likely come back and many of them attract beloved hummingbirds, are natural pollinators for bees and butterflies, and make for a very healthy garden. I also learned they despise fertilizer!



When you say “native plants” in Texas, most right away think cactus but depending on what area of Texas you’re in, you can really grow some flowering and towering beauties. Yes, cactus does do well here and we actually have several varieties in our yard, but so do a host of other, as they say, garden varieties. Here are just a few examples:


Firecracker Plant. Beautiful blooming and somewhat tall perennial that hummingbirds love.


Trumpet Vine. Great perennial for fences in full sun that blooms late and also attracts hummingbirds.


Gulf Muhly. Lovely late-blooming purple blooming tall grass that’s a great filler for large yards.


Mountain Laurel. If you like the smell of grape, you’ll love this bright purple blooming spring beauty as you can literally smell them down the street! Careful though; their seeds can be poisonous for animals.


Crepe Myrtle. One of my favorites as it comes in a host of colors and blooms like crazy in the heat.


Esperanza. Not only do I love this plant’s name (“hope” in English) but I also love its yellow flowers and the fullness of it.


Pride of Barbados. Another great named growth and one I’m wanting in our yard as these tall orange bloomers add stunning color and height. They grow like crazy and seeds in their pods can be planted for more saplings.


Blue Sage. This tall blue-stemmed bush blooms all season, adding color to a garden that may be feeling the heat of a long, hot summer.


Lantana. You can’t go wrong with these space fillers as they bloom spring to fall, come in a variety of bright and cheerful colors, and come back every year.


Salvia. A gorgeous Texas native that’s easy to grow, blooms virtually all season, and attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. It’s also heat and drought-tolerant and doesn’t attract deer.


Verbena. This one thrives in the heat and I’m here to say it’s a winner. Plant it in full sun as it won’t bloom unless it gets plenty of sunlight. After its first blooms, prune the plant to encourage more blooms.


Red Yucca. They give a “desert-y” kind of feel and produce tubular coral flowers on tall stalks spring through summer. Though not actually a yucca, this perennial succulent resembles a true yucca and loves full sun.



The biggest knock-outs in town right now are Knock Out Roses. They bloom abundantly, make for beautiful cut flowers for the house, are extremely low maintenance, and come back every year. I guess that means they are perennials as opposed to annuals, right?  I can never seem to remember which is which of the two but learned annuals need to be planted annually and perennials come back each year. I think where I get confused is thinking annuals come back annually rather than need to be planted annually. Any helpful hints out there?


I’ll just talk briefly about the beloved Texas Bluebonnets as they are generally true wild flowers, as are their stunning friends Indian Paintbrush. I learned that seeds from them or for them should be tossed about in November if you want traditional spring blooms. The patches this year have been stunning!


One last thing I learned is that even though it is pretty and pretty popular, black mulch is not good as it gets its long-lasting color from dye; dye that seeps into your garden and the environment. Opt instead for cedar or other natural mulches.



Other than all of the above, my favorite potted plant is a geranium surrounded by some trailing greenery of some type as well as asparagus and Boston ferns. In my gardens I love daisies and irises in addition to the natives I listed above. I also love boxwood. I’ve blogged about the beloved boxwood before but feel it fits right in with today’s musings.



Boxwoods are actually evergreens and are the ideal garden design building blocks and add instant curb appeal. The gorgeous greenery creates structure and depth to any landscape and is both earthy and elegant. I’ve forever been fond of the formality and symmetry of boxwoods but am a bit intimidated by them too.



They can for sure be a bit much for a novice gardener but they are drought and deer-resistant and endlessly versatile. They can be used as everything from low-growing yard hedges to small front porch topiaries to even conical columns. They also have an illustrious history.


This staple of gardens was found as formal hedges in ancient Egypt as well as palatial gardens of ancient Greece and Rome. So fabulous are they, that they’re often referred to as the “little black dress” of plants as every garden should have at least one.


You can’t talk boxwood without talking blight though. That dreaded blight is basically a fungus that can wipe out an entire shrub and first appears as brown spots on leaves. Blight needs to be tended to immediately and once established and healthy, boxwood is quite hardy and low-maintenance, other than the trimming.


If the weather isn’t scorching hot and you have good irrigation, you can pretty much plant boxwood any time of the year. Keep in mind, however, that boxwood prefers some shade so don’t plant it in areas that get a lot of afternoon sun and loose, quick-draining soil is best.


So, there’s my very rookie-ish take on gardening and gardens. And not to sound too Miley Cyrus-y, plant your own garden and buy your own flowers! And lastly, bloom where you are planted and live by this, The Garden of Daily Living.







Under Control April 18, 2023

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:30 pm

I recently read an interesting story having to do with how what you believe affects everything including anxiety, fear, control, trust, and the likes of which run similar gamuts. I can relate to all of them and I’m sure you can too.


Apparently, psychologists learned some fascinating truths about belief systems when they studied the impact of combat on soldiers in World War II. Results revealed that after 60 days of continuous combat, ground troops became “emotionally dead” and their anxiety was off the charts.


On the flip side, even though their mortality rate was among the highest in combat, fighter pilots remained comparatively calm and positive and loved their work and claimed to be happy in their assignments. This, even though 50 percent of them were killed in combat. What gives? Control.



Yep, the pilots sat in the cockpit and had their hands on the literal throttle. Those on the ground however, had little or no control of their successes or their fates and felt helpless. A pilot could be shot down and an infantryman could defeat that day’s evil, but what seemed to make the difference is that perceived control creates calm and lack of control festers as fear.


All of this comes out of a fabulous book entitled “He Gets Us” and I believe it and I get it. My name is Carla and I’m a control freak. I like things in order. Everything in its place. I like to plan. I’m a get it done girl. I’m also a great worrier. Hmmmm…lack of control festering as fear? I fear not!


But, sadly it’s more than likely the case. Maybe it’s because my mom is an even bigger worrier than me. Maybe it’s because I didn’t grow up with a lot of self-confidence, which often results in the desire to control. Maybe it’s because for many years my job required me to have two news stories on the air, not a second late, and twice a day every day. I lived on deadlines and I kinda still do. It was stress-filled yet success- focused.



Our world is full of stress and uncertainty so it should come as no surprise that many of us are feeling a total loss of control. Everywhere you look there’s either chaos or despair and things seem unfixable. This is when anxiety creeps in as it’s often the consequence of perceived chaos. Our youth is feeling this perhaps the most.



A new study revealed 60 percent of U.S. girls reported persistent sadness and hopelessness. This makes me so sad but think about it, they were locked down for years, no school and no social activities, then they’re put back in school with more mature bodies, socially awkward, and uncertain how to navigate friendships. Then there’s social media, which contributes to and acerbates superficial appearances, purported perfection, and wayward acceptance. And don’t even get me started about many of the schools they were thrown back into, which seem more hell-bent on teaching everything they perceive as wrong instead of all the truly “write” things. No wonder students are confused and sad! It also doesn’t help that the status of families in America continues to deteriorate as Dr. Matthew Biel, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry specialist from Georgetown University Hospital, told Journalist Derek Thompson.


“I interpret data about teens in the context of a larger state of crisis in families. Parents and families are struggling terribly and are feeling overwhelmed. Teenagers don’t exist in a vacuum. They live in families and families right now are not flourishing. Social media emphasizes anger, despair, hopelessness, and disconnection.”




This is when it’s time to go back to belief systems and what makes us good and good and strong. If your belief system is strong, you are more likely and better equipped to stand firm. Don’t wring your hands; bend your knees. Try to give up control and perfection and realize you can’t run or fix the whole world. But you can trust. Sadly, this doesn’t seem to be the case by looking at this chart:



Mind blown and mind-numbingly scary, right? Everything except money is down…values, patriotism, religion, families, and community…not great news for our communities, families, and country as a whole as is evident in any newscast or podcast you catch. And we wonder why we’re anxious and unsettled and our kids are even more so. What to do; what to do?


It all kinda reminds me of one of my favorite movies of all time, “Forrest Gump.” We all know the “Run, Forrest run!” and “Life is like a box of chocolates” quotes but there’s also a very timely message in the 1994 movie that relates to today. (For the record, my favorite quotes from the movie are “Sometimes there just aren’t enough rocks” and “If God had wanted everyone to be the same, He’d have given us all braces on our legs.”)



Forrest and childhood friend Jenny were “like peas and carrots,” but as the years went by, they each took a much different life path. Forrest opted for the classically American path of college, football, serving his country, starting his own business, and going to church. Jenny, on the other hand, chose the path of resistance and counterculture, which proved destructive and unhealthy. Through it all Forrest never stopped loving Jenny and never gave up on her and his love is ultimately what allowed her to find happiness.


It’s this kind of love society needs today; a today that has one side of America supporting traditional values and the other opposing them. We can only hope, like Forrest did, that eyes will be opened and true love will prevail even though all the Jennys out there seem so confident in their choices and decisions now. Like those WWII pilots, maybe it’s all about what we believe. Until then, the best thing we can do is be everyone’s Forrest. After all, stupid is as stupid does.




















The Good in Good Friday April 7, 2023

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:15 am

Have you ever wondered, like I did for so many years, why on earth today is called “Good Friday” when it’s the very not good day when Jesus Christ was killed? I’ve heard it explained in various ways, but one of my favorites is perhaps that it’s called “good” because our Lord’s terrible death lead to the resurrection and salvation of the world and what is “more good” than that? Granted, there is so much evil in this world right now and more and more proof of unbelievers tooting their horns, but there is still good. There is still hope. And hope is what Easter is really all about.




The first time today was called good, or “guode” in Old English, was in a text from back in the 1200s…and I don’t mean a text on a phone. Later, in 1885, the Baltimore Catechism explained it as “good” because Jesus showed great love for man. And that is good.


There is no rainbow without a storm and we can’t have dawn without dark. That’s kinda how Good Friday relates to Easter Sunday. And yes, Sunday is all about joy and celebration but the sadness that came before it is unspeakable. So unspeakable in fact, that none of the four Gospel writers describe it. Matthew merely writes “after they crucified him…” That’s it. Five words to describe what is history like no other history.  Mark, Luke, and John don’t write much more about the actual crucifixion and perhaps for good reason. It was brutal. It was too awful to tell; even for them.




He was forced to carry an extremely heavy cross on the way to His own crucifixion. All the way mocked and in today’s language, “offended” but protected by no one.


A crown of painful and sharp thorns was placed on His head.


He was thrown to the ground; kicked and spat on.


His arms were painfully stretched on the crossbeam of the cross and he was held down as they drove nails into his palms. Nails into His palms.


His feet were wrestled with and placed atop one another as nails were driven into them. Driven into them.


The cross was hoisted up with his body precariously nailed to it and writhing as He hung for all to see.

He must have wailed and screamed in pain right before He whispered, “Forgive them Father. They know not what they’ve done.”


Forgive them?

Would any of us ever be so forgiving?

This, my friends, was an incomprehensible act of love.

To show His love, Jesus died for us. To show our love; we live for Him.


Perhaps we’ve become all too familiar with and used to what happened on that cross and the cruelty that lead to His last breath. I remember the first time I saw the movie “The Passion of the Christ.” I could hardly watch parts of it as it was so graphic and real. I’d never witnessed it all like that and should probably watch it again. We all should.




The fact that it all took place on a wooden cross should not go unnoticed. On that cross made from a tree, Christ reversed the curse Adam reaped on humanity by eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. By being lifted up on the cross, He prepared our way upward toward heaven and the cross stretched His body toward the four corners of the world.


Crucifixes are nothing new to Catholics as they adorn our churches, homes, and bodies. The word comes from the Latin “cruci fixus” meaning “one fixed to a cross” and serves as a symbol and a reminder of Christ’s journey to earth, His trials and death at the hands of humanity, and His victory over death. Plain crosses are equally popular among fellow Christians. (Why a crucifix you ask? Because it’s not the cross that saved us.) But the cross is not the only example of Christ’s humility and undying love for us demonstrated during His passion. It is said that when we make the Sign of the Cross, the first two gestures form the letter I and the next two cross it out. It’s not about me. It’s not about you. It was about Him.



He is King, but the only crown He wore was one made of thorns. Instead of being seated on a throne, He was nailed to a cross. And instead of wearing a royal robe, He was cloaked in mockeries. And yes, He could have ended it all and saved Himself but instead chose to save us.




Susie Davis

So, as we “celebrate” Good Friday today, let’s remind ourselves about what actually took place some 2000+ years ago.  It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t painless. But it wasn’t the end. We believe that death is not the period, but the comma. There’s more to come. Death is not a good-bye but rather a “see you later.” Yes, we grieve but we do not grieve the same as those do who have no faith. We grieve in hope knowing that like on Good Friday, sorrow does not get the last word or last laugh. Sunday is coming.