Saturday, June 29, 2013

In the Morning

"Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love,
for in you I trust.
Make me know the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul."

Psalm 143: 8 ESV

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Ten Things I Learned in June

This post, linked with Chatting at the Sky, is sparked by an idea from Emily Freeman. She started it on her blog, a way to zero in on the random thoughts and lessons and challenges and growth from this month.

1. When a baby bunny is surprised or afraid, it hunkers down, motionless, lays its ears flat on its back and looks just like a pudgy rock. "You don't see me!" I was out front watering and it stayed perfectly quiet until I got too close - then it bounded off like a rock[et]. Fascinating to see how animals are equipped for survival.

2. On a home garden tour, I saw many of the same plants grown in each yard. Each yard, though, had a completely unique feel, attitude, look, character. You and I may plant the same plants, but each of us will create our own unique expression with it. This was a wonderful lesson in creative individuality. It is not the tools that make it unique, it is what we make with them.

3. Japanese Beetles are a destructive nuisance in my garden. Garlic juice (home brewed) helps, but I ended up pulling out the affected plants.

4. I can keep my desk cleared off - well, almost. The sticky note function on my computer is a great tool - keeps the papers from floating around my desk. Oh, and if my desk is cleared off, I have to dust it! Never had to do that before...Thanks to The Nester's challenge, I can keep an uncluttered desk.

5. "Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending."                            -Carl Bard
This quote, and a post by Allison Vesterfelt on the Storyline blog, really got me thinking. She says, "The smallest decisions I make during my day say a lot about me...I love the fact that the word for 'character' in a book, and the word we use in English to mean 'the essence of who we are,' is the same...Our character [is] the compilation of small actions and experiences over time...And of course we can't control all of our experiences, but the closer attention we pay to our 'character,' the more power we have to carve it into something we can be proud of in the end." My smallest actions, my choices, my attitudes, all tell the story that is my life. Life is not necessarily determined by heroics, but by the day in, day out small stuff.

6. I love having a dog in the house. Really missed her when she was gone for a week with her boy. (Missed her boy, too).

7. Letting go does not get any easier with the younger kids. You'd think I'd be used to it, would know how to do it by now. Nope. It still takes a calm effort to trust and quietly, confidently release them. To allow them to wing it on their own, trusting that their roots will not tether them, but give them security and self-confidence to fly on their own.

8. Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cookies are not a big hit. It's like I committed a horrible crime, mixing vegetables and chocolate. What was I thinking!

9. Pomodoros really do work when I am stalled or disoriented. Just 25 minutes. Just this. Now. A lesson I seem to need to re-learn repeatedly. I forget. Then learn it again.

10. I do not like novels with gut splattered relationships. I like happy endings, not novels that leave me depressed, discouraged. I want to be encouraged, to read of characters who make mistakes and mess up, but who learn and grow and develop hope and love. This is how I want to write. I also do not like bad language in books. Writers should use real words that mean real things. Do we really have to have bowel movements or male puppies of female canines mixed in character's conversations? I don't think so.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


This is an antique school slate I use for our menu plan each week. Sometimes I draw a flower or some simple design along with the meal plan. I found a cool website (google: chalkboard art) with lots of ideas for quotes using interesting lettering techniques. Obviously, I need lots of work on the lettering, but this attempt was fun. Using chalk markers make it a lot easier for those of us (me) without the patience to use a piece of chalk. Can you imagine the children who used this slate instead of paper and pencil to learn their ABC's and arithmetic?

Our artist daughter contributed this. I left the sketch part up for quite a few weeks, not wanting to erase the design.

Laughter - be sure you leave some behind.

Monday, June 24, 2013

A Summery Welcome

Welcome Summer

Come on in!

Our daughter put this wreath together this weekend - a bright and summery welcome for our front door.

The wreath is from an idea she saw on Pinterest - a dollar store swimming noodle held in a circle by duct tape.  Clever - I see many wreath possibilities in the future.

Makes me smile when I see the cheerful greeting at our door.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

These Things

Have you read or heard this verse a hundred times? Maybe more?
I still need to hear it again. And again.

"Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."

Philippians 4:8 ESV

These lilies? They are lovely. I am grateful to the gal who lived here before us - she planted these, and now we enjoy them. I hope what I plant will grow to be enjoyed by those who live here after us.

Friday, June 21, 2013


Five Minute Friday

Five Minute Friday: Five Minutes to write, to listen as the words flow, to hear the voice, to sound out the rhythm.


Much, too much of life's music, I miss. Focused on the discordant chaos I see, like a grotesque surrealistic painting, my perspective becomes twisted and warped.

My wave petunias are being ravaged by caterpillars They munch away, gnawing at every stem and petal until the shreds of past blooms hang limp and ragged. Someone complained to me recently about the birds shredding her petunias. When I noticed the blackbirds hanging around my pots, I watched out the window.  One stood guard on the back steps, the other hopped along the edge of the pot. It reached in and plucked - not a stem or piece of bud, but an inch long green worm. The birds instantly became my friends. A few moments later, their family, mom, dad and two little ones danced around on the lawn, the mom stuffing yummy green worm into the baby's open mouths.

How often in life do we misunderstand the enemy? How often do we see incorrectly? How often is the very thing we think is destroying the beauty and music of life actually part of the beauty and rhythm and music of this wonderful world the Lord has gifted to us? Perspective makes all the difference. Watch, pay attention, hear the rhythm of days and seasons and give and take. If we listen, the rhythm is there.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Kale Chips

This may sound like a health-food faddish thing, but they are actually yummy. I showed them to our fourteen year old. He took one look at the dark green leaves and said, "Yuck." I told him they were good, to close his eyes and think about eating a potato chip. He tried it, eyes scrunched tight. He munched and said, "Not bad." From our picky eater, not bad is pretty good.

Kale Chips
Wash a bunch of kale leaves. With scissors, cut out the ribs and cut them into chip size pieces.
Dry them well.
Spread on a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper.
Sprinkle one tablespoon olive oil over them, and sprinkle with seasoned salt. Toss lightly.
Bake, 350 degrees 10 to 15 minutes until edges brown and they are crisp.
The only tricky part is to make sure they are crispy crunchy, not burned.

Fair warning: Check your teeth after eating these, before you give someone a big toothy grin.
You have been warned.

Bettcha can't eat just one!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

When Fear Looms Large

I have not posted for a whole week.
I will tell you why, although you will probably laugh at me.
Irrational Fear.

Some people have an irrational fear of clowns. Admittedly, clowns can have a terrifying side, but this goes beyond a sensible fear to an unexplainable fear.

Others have a fear of thunderstorms. Incapacitated, they have to hide in their house, withdrawn, wait out the storm. I've known a few dogs like this, too.

The list of irrational fears is long: crowds, open water, heights, animals, etc. I am not a psychologist or a psychotherapist or a psycho-anything. (I think). But I know that the hardest part of dealing with these fears is that they are not rational, not explainable, sometimes not controllable.

Mine is wildfires. I grew up in Southern California, and we live in Colorado - both wildfire prone areas. I have never been in danger from a wildfire, although I do remember being evacuated from a Girl Scout Camp in the California mountains in the back of a stake bed truck. We were brought back to the camp that night, out of imminent danger.

At one house where we lived in the California mountains, the evacuation notice came while we were already gone, staying at my parents' house for a few days. We thought. It was seven days before we could return home. We had the dogs with us, and the cats managed to knock their bag of cat food on to the floor and have a feast. But we did have a home and a neighborhood to return to.

I know people who have been evacuated multiple times - they live in canyons or high risk fire areas in the mountains. It is part of life in their neighborhood, they know it and are prepared to deal with it.

Last Tuesday, two wildfires broke out. One, in the mountains a half hour west of us, the other an hour north of us. The pillars of smoke piled high in the sky while the dry wind whipped up the flames. And I retreat into my shell. Meals were fixed, errands were run, time was spent with family, I weeded in the yard. I read a lot, tried to relax, pray and breathe. And watch the news reports, which was really a dumb thing to do.
Days later, a smokey haze still hangs in the sky

Interesting, though, I made an observation during this recent fire outbreak. My creative side shuts down. Make plans, make a decision? Not happening. What I could do was routine. Ordinary, day in, day out stuff. No thinking required. The impossible thing about irrational fears is attempting to explain them. Or analyze them. Or rationalize them. Instead, I was an observer, watching the reactions, an outsider.

Last Friday, the Friday Five Minute Topic was "Listen." I wrote for five minutes about listening to the fears. But it didn't make any sense, so I deleted it all and went back to reading someone else's more intelligent words. Words that were rational.

I am sure there are whole books and studies about irrational fear. But as I learned this past week, when fear looms as large as those plumes of smoke overhead, the simple routines of the day keep life going. Wash the dishes. Turn on the iron and iron three shirts. Weed out a small section of the yard. Water the plants. Read the book. Play a game with the kids. Suddenly all the small things look refreshing and wonderful. No need to plan for life, to have a busy, busy to-do list. Keep it simple. Enjoy, appreciate the smallest steps, the small smiles from family, the giggles and laughter, the moments together.

"It is not joy that makes us grateful;
it is gratitude that makes us joyful."

-Brother David Steindl-Rast

The answer to irrational fear? I have no idea. The best I can do is acknowledge, accept, be grateful for the smallest things, keep breathing. Pray, love, trust.

Do you have irrational fears, how do you cope?

Monday, June 10, 2013


"I will grow."

This little bean plant, for whatever reasons, is having a difficult time finding its way in life.
Most plants will sprout from the seed and come up with the stem curved like your finger bent at the knuckle. It slowly unbends, pulling the tiny first leaves out of the dirt and stretching up toward the sun. The beans around it all grew tall. This one couldn't seem to make that first stretch. It kept growing, though, over the week, under ground.

Its leaves began poking up before we left for the weekend. When we got home yesterday, it had formed a full circle and brought its stem and leaves around towards the sun like it should.
I poked at it and tiny roots had formed to establish it in the ground as it made its final curve upward.

The other beans around it are taller and have fully formed leaves. If plants had runts, I guess this would be it. Its determination is an inspiration to me. Even if you are having trouble finding which way is up, keep searching, keep growing, keep pushing through the dirt around you. You will find your way.

The last two weekends I had the opportunity to go on several garden tours. I loved seeing the blooms and the plants in this less than convenient environment. Our last frost was a month ago. In four weeks, these plants have flourished and grown and bloomed. Again, an example of determination as these plants take their opportunity to stretch for the sun and grow and offer beauty.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Heart Sees

"...having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what it the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe..."

Ephesians 1: 18-19 ESV

Last Monday I wrote about seeing with your heart. I was thinking in terms of understanding, artistic perspective, or seeing beyond the obvious. Later in the week, I read this verse in Ephesians and caught my breath. "...the eyes of your hearts..." Your heart sees. With eyes. Wow.

I cannot explain it or claim to understand. But I love this thought, and look forward to learning more about this. One comment on the Monday post said we should include a "heart-sense" in addition to the five senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell. Perhaps there are other senses we should be aware of, too? What do you think?

Friday, June 7, 2013

Each Day a Gift

Joining the Five Minute Friday group, a free-write five minutes, stringing words into a collage of thoughts.

Five Minute Friday


They say middle age is like the fall of life.

Spring, birth.
Summer, childhood.
Winter, old age.

That leaves an awful lot for fall.

Young adulthood, maturing, grasping life and eagerly exploring your path, finding your way.
Enjoying the fruits of your labors in home, children, family, grandchildren.

That's way beyond one season's capacities.
And too depressing if you are, like me, edging toward those "winter" days.

I prefer to think of each day as a span of the seasons.

The morning springs bright and fresh, eager with possibilities.

The day warms into the work and productivity of summer.

As the family gathers around the table for dinner, the day wanes, the light fades, the work is set aside (even though the washing machine may still be running and there are dishes in the sink). It is time to recollect, to regroup, to enjoy and appreciate all we have, together. Fall is about in-gathering, drawing close, creating a snug haven.

The night, dark and cool, settles over, bringing in the quiet and rest of winter.

Every day is a pilgrimage through the seasons, embracing the gift of life.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

How the Garden Grows

 You are not supposed to let the lettuce grow into a tower like this, but the guys don't particularly like the flavor of this variety, and it is pretty to see it stack up. We'll be donating this to the local rabbits.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Useful and Beautiful

"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful."

- William Morris

This is probably a familiar quote.  I have a version of my own that I attempt to apply.

Have nothing in your house that is there because it was put there six months ago and never moved or that you do not know where it is (like what is in that box or drawer).

Intentional is the key word here. Choice. Did I choose to put [that] there or is [it] there by accident?

More wise words (bear with me, here). The best way to organize and clean an area - drawer, cupboard, shelf - is to completely clear it out. Empty. Nada. Then, clean it, and replace only what you use, love, appreciate, enjoy or think is beautiful enough to adorn your house.

So, I sit here at my desk, surrounded by piles, and That Voice says, "So, Miss Phoney Baloney. What do you know about cleaning things up and organizing? Look at this disaster! You call it productivity, creativity. I call it a mess. What a joke!"

And I have to admit, That Voice is correct. Insulting, intimidating, but correct.

Act Two: The Nester, for the month of June is going au naturel - sans accessories. Nada. She cleared off all her surfaces, plunked all the stuff in their guest room, and will go without for thirty days. With the one rule, if they are using it, it can be out, like candles, computers, a book you are reading, plants, things alive. Her boys were not relegated to the guest room for the thirty days. They all still live there, and whatever is involved in that busy family life is good. But not all the deco, pretty, cute stuff.

So, I sit here at my desk, surrounded by piles, and That Voice says, "Why don't you do this with your desk? Clear it off completely, except for what you really truly handle and use every single day, keep it bare and maintain it that way for thirty days?"

And I have to admit, That Voice is correct.

My desk is my personal disaster area. Much in need of a drastic diet. A fast is in order. A clutter fast. A time to be honest with myself. Instead of calling it creativity and productivity, call it what it is. A disaster, a mess. I have cleared up and organized much of our house, but my desk - sigh.

The Nester is doing a linky party, so others can share their progress, demise, fears, successes. Perhaps my desk is more about the amount of stuff on the surface. Way too much. The challenge to go without. To begin with the minimal basics, for the rest of June.

Life is not about stuff. What freedom to sit at my desk and not be afraid to knock over a pile when I reach for the coffee. I am thinking this will give me inspiration to focus on one project at a time. That it will give me more productivity and creativity.

For some of you, this may come naturally. Not me. This is a process. The Nester is taking on her whole house. Me, just my desk. This is my Everest.
Breathing room. I did leave my calendar, my computer and my devotional books.  And my coffee.

The pile that was on my desk - embarrassing.
I want what is on my desk to be useful and beautiful.
Traveling Lighter, not buried in stuff.