The Story of a Cover

I’d been looking for the ideal cover for my latest book, God’s Panoply—The Armour of God and the Kiss of Heaven, for over a year. I’d narrowed my options slowly, wanting to make sure my choice and God’s choice coincided.

Eventually I decided that the soft focus stock photograph of a mounted knight in armour that I’d been looking at for three months was the one. Imagine my horror when the day I got around to buying it (always a good option when trying to persuade my publisher) it had disappeared from the Dreamstime website. Not to worry. I’m sure I’d seen it on istockphoto, though a little more expensive. It was gone from there too!

Wait! There were other stock photo sites where I’d seen the same shot. All gone!

I was in shock. I’d been praying about the perfect cover for a year—and I felt like I’d been robbed. I looked at my secondary choices. None of them were anywhere near as good.

So I had a long anguished chat with God. Not long after, He directed me to a picture that, I have to say, was not my idea of panoply. It was a daffodil—nothing like armour. However the more I looked at pictures of shields and bucklers, swords and banners, the more I felt the Holy Spirit pulling me back to the daffodil. ‘But it doesn’t mean anything!’ I wailed. ‘At least the rose on God’s Poetry symbolises the essence of names. The whole rose-by-any-other-name question raised by Shakespeare as to whether a name has any effect on anyone.’

I gave in eventually and presented a mock-up of the idea to my publisher.

She looked at me dubiously. ‘But it doesn’t mean anything.’

‘Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees,’ I admitted, not saying that’s exactly what I’d thought myself. Then I took a huge gamble. ‘But I think it will mean something eventually.’

Her dubious look intensified.

‘But I don’t know what,’ I said.

Fortunately, despite her misgivings, she agreed.

The day after the book went to print I discovered the symbolism of a daffodil. (God has done this to me before: waits until I’m committed to tell me what the significance of something is!)

The daffodil is so so so so so so so utterly perfect. The Holy Spirit really did answer my prayers for the ideal cover, insisting on a motif I would never have dreamed of.

‘Chabatstseleth’ is a word mentioned only twice in the Bible. It’s a flower, usually translated as a rose, although roses are not native to Israel. Most likely, it’s a narcissus tazetti, the botanical name for a daffodil-like flower. It’s found in the phrase which occurs in the Song of Solomon: ‘I am a rose of Sharon.’

‘Chabatstseleth’ is, as Arie Uittenbogaard points out, an absolutely amazing word. We may not know which flower it refers to but we can sift its syllables to find out what it symbolises in Solomon’s song. Its etymology suggests it means overshadowed by God’s love.
Sharon itself has several meanings and is related to words for righteousness and body armour.
So, the cover of God’s Panoply features a rose of Sharon, linking it:

  • back to God’s Poetry, the first in the series
  • to the sub-title: The Armour of God and the Kiss of Heaven
  • to the breastplate of righteousness in Ephesians 6
  • Ephesians 6 itself, which is a major focus of the book

I just want to re-iterate again: it’s not something I would have thought of. I’m just not that clever!

I’d have liked to have included this in the book but it will have to wait for a second edition. In the meantime, it’s recorded here.


  1. Surely you’re not surprised that God would guide you to the cover He wanted Annie, and in such a round about way 🙂 You know that He sometimes (okay lots of the time) doesn’t do things the way we’d do them. Seriously, I think it’s much more fun this way – okay, maybe not for the person involved at the time, but for those of us who are watching, it is just so exciting!

    • Hi Lyn – you’re right, it’s not fun at all! I thought my prayers hadn’t been answered, for a start. And then, I kept asking myself, ‘Is this the Holy Spirit talking to me or is it just some weird whim I’m on?’

  2. Daffodil certainly has a meaning within the Victorian British language of flowers. It meant “new beginnings”.

    In Britain it grew at the end of winter and came into full flower around Easter. It was sometimes called the Easter Lily or Lent Lily. It was attached to the Resurrection and the renewal of life. It had been mostly associated with the rural life, but began turning up in cottage gardens. It had jolly names such as butter and eggs or daffadowndilly. There was a downside in rural areas, where it was bad luck to bring daffodils into the house because it would stop the eggs from hatching.

    The negative connotations were related to the derivation of the name, which was said to be from the Latin affodilus and Greek asphodelos. Both of these were related to the asphodel, a flower that grew in the meadows of the underworld. In Wales and surrounding areas there was a practice of flowering the graves on Palm Sunday. Graves would be cleaned up and whitewashed and decked with flowers. Sometimes this was asphodels and sometimes daffodils. But overall the daffodil was the more natural and simple and carefree of the narcissus family.

    “Daffadowndilly has come to town,
    in a yellow petticoat and a red gown.”

    • Thanks, Ken! I really love the name ‘daffadowndilly’.
      I don’t suppose you know of a plant that, in the language of flowers, means truth and also grows in the Middle East?

      • Truth is a tricky one. I can think of 3 contenders, but from all around the edge of the Middle East. Lotus is one, but mainly India and South East Asia. Bittersweet is another with a long medieval European tradition. It also grows in Africa and Asia. It is a kind of nightshade, so you have to be careful to get the right one or you will poison yourself. It has the property of tasting at first bitter, then sweeter as you chew it. It hints at the complex nature of truth.

        I would be inclined to go for the white chrysanthemum. It comes from Japan and other parts of north Asia. It is the symbol of the Emperor. It flowers in August in the north, so represents the summer harvest come to fruition. It came late to Britain, but by the mid-1800s it was widespread at winter shooting parties in the countryside. Not too may other large flowers at that time of year. It was included in bridal bouquets as a symbol of the bride’s honesty and true character.

        The symbolism comes from the way the plat develops. The Japanese considered the orderly unfolding of petals to be an example of perfection. Truth is hidden, then gradually unfolded into the light, represented by the unfolding petals.

        • Hi Ken –
          Trouble with the white chrysanthemum is that it isn’t native to Israel. Lotus does, so it might be a contender.
          I’m looking however for a word that is a pun or a simple allusion in either Hebrew or Greek. If I could find the name of the lotus in Hebrew, it might work.
          Though the one I’m beginning to suspect is the wind flower: the anemone.

          • I don’t see that anemones have a lot to do with truth, unless you are suggesting that truth is fleeting. The flower was associated with Aphrodite and Adonis. He died in her arms and she sprinkled nectar on his blood. The red anemone flower sprang from that. The plant symbolises abandonment and the fleeting nature of love.

            Percy Shelly wrote a poem for his first wife Harriet Westbook in 1810, titled Come Harriet! Sweet is the Hour.

            William Holman Hunt painted The Awakening Conscience (1853). A man is visiting his mistress in a house where he installed her. She has a sudden fit of remorse and is shown rising from his lap. There is a vase of anemones on the piano, which shows that the affair will not last.

            I think those items cover the Victorian symbolism of anemones.

  3. The daffodil sounds like a much better choice in the end. And with it’s Victorian meaning, that’s a plus.

  4. Hi Wendy – while that’s true, I know it will seem like a strange cover to most people. But those who know me will probably suspect there’s more to it than meets the eye.

  5. You may not have been laughing at the time Annie but I chuckled as I read. I love how God springs surprises that are so right.

    • Hi Dale,
      I think it’s one of those times of ‘mourning into dancing’. It’s all the emotional energy invested in prayer that seems wasted – and then turns out not to be wasted at all.

  6. Thanks to Ken for this info:
    The painting of the anemone on the piano.

    Ken, you’re quite right about anemone not fitting ‘truth’ in the Victorian sense. I’m not looking at it in a modern sense at all but trying to recover the first century allusions and symbolism. This is difficult because it’s like putting together a jigsaw of words and puns and prophetic double meanings.

  7. Thank you, Anne! Based on this, I can’t wait to read your book! So exciting! I knew Papa intentionally hides meanings and mystery for us to discover, but I honour your total trust in Him to move ahead in faith and trust as He unfolds Himself to you…. and now to us through your sweet obedience.

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