Renae Vander Schaaf

A person would have to be blind to not know that a special day is coming. While most decorations are placed in prominent locations to be seen; some of these visual signs can be found in unusual places. In my farmhouse, one will find one of these indicators in an almost-unused bathroom.

“Why there?” is a perfectly logical question. Well, let me tell you. I have this Schlumbergera Cactaceae from my mother-in-law. Of course she called it a Christmas cactus. It’s a beautiful plant — especially when it is blooming (which her plant always did). She was more than willing to share a start of it with me.

Well, this plant she thought was so simple anyone could grow has given me fits through the years. My children started new plants from it and would you believe they bloomed? Every year, right on time. Sometimes I think my children were able to trick it into blooming more than once a year as a hint that Christmas should be celebrated more often.

With all the changes in people who live in this house this year, oh … that census taker just loved us. Because depending on the day, it may be one or eight or more — who could keep count? But one day, all the plants in this upstairs bathroom disappeared.

Winter’s cold temperatures are detrimental to a houseplant’s health. When it came time this fall to find homes for all the plants, I had to get creative. Where to find new places for plants so my farmer wouldn’t realize my plant addiction?

For once my brain actually worked. Placing that cactus in the upstairs bathroom was pure genius. It has an east window and that is where my children always kept their cactus.  Sure enough, early this December the buds began appearing with just a bit of color. Now, pink fluorescent flowers are a marvelous sight to behold.

Does that mean I am smart as my children? Or was their blooming success part of their bloodline? This is possible as this cactus which came from my mother in law, was given to her by her mother, who was given it by her mother. I am not sure how many mother and daughters have loved this cactus, but it is a great plenty.

My husband’s ancestors seem to have a passion for gardening that continues to this day. These roots go deep. (Ha! Ha! I just couldn’t resist typing that.)

But seriously, being an excellent gardener may have saved the life of one of his great (many greats) grandpas.  It seems that in the old country (the Netherlands) there were quite the social caste. Either you were upper class or down below somewhere. That’s where we fall in. Social mobility didn’t really happen.

Anyhow, this man (I think it was Jacob Cleveringa, because the family history notes indicate he was a gardener) was employed as a gardener for a family of the elite. It was his job to make the estate look beautiful with formal gardens and grow fruits and vegetables for everyone who dined at the castle’stable.

His master liked him because of the fresh strawberries which appeared on the table out of season. Jacob was very learned and adept in using a greenhouse.

Yet circumstances dictate he should have been fired.

Grandpa Cleveringa was a member of a church which had left the state church because they believed the Bible wasn’t being preached there. When the state church ministers preached Biblical untruths and wouldn’t listen to their objections, they seceded from their churches.

This gave way to persecution which included beatings, imprisonment, and loss of employment. If you owned a business, state church members were encouraged not to shop there. It was not good for these men and women who believed in Jesus Christ.

Because his employer liked his gardening skills — especially the berries — Grandpa Cleveringa remained on the job until he came to America. In the new land his gardening skills most likely were put to good use again to keep his own family from starvation.

Therefore, it has been easy for me to wonder if this Christmas cactus started with him; as I have seen it in many Cleveringa homes. When it blooms at Christmas, I am reminded of this grandpa who believed in the miracle of Christmas … that the Savior who is Jesus our Lord  was born to save us from our sins.

Isaiah 9:6 “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Renae B. Vander Schaaf is an independent writer, author and speaker. Contact her at (605) 530-0017 or

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