Backyard Days and a Story Snapshot

It was my last year as a homeschool mom.
The sweetgum showered red-gold leaves, the bees buzzed lazy tunes,
 and my youngest teenager read aloud from Tolkien.
It was a memory moment—the kind meant for savoring.
Today was the same kind of day, but I didn't get to read in the backyard. 
I hope you did, though.

I took this photo of a pair of glasses I found at a sale. 
Purchased for a few quarters, they sold again for much more. 
My writing fund appreciated the small contribution. 
So, here's a bit of flash fiction inspired by these seen-better-days specs. 

     "Where are my glasses?" Craig ran his hand up his forehead then back down, mashing his nose flat. "Every time I lay them down, they go missing." He flopped into his armchair and a slight veil of dust puffed into the afternoon sun and floated toward thick window panes. 
     Janice handed him the newspaper. "You had them in the church this morning, didn't you? Then you stopped at the Danaher's on the way home ..." She glanced up at him from her own reading, hoping for a clue. Craig had gone still at the mention of the Danaher home, the crazed epicenter of the once-quiet village. "Did you have a chance to talk with—" 
     "No." Craig shot up from his chair and the newspaper fell to the floor, unnoticed. "I remember now. They are at the church." At the door, he grabbed his hat from the hook and pulled it low on his forehead. "You're right, Janice," he said. "You're always right." 


When Your Umbrella Flaps

When you're on a hot beach and the noontime sun is beating down, this is not what you want 
to see above your head. But that's exactly what happened on our tiny patch of Florida beach this year. 

We were happily gawking beach sceneryparents corralling sandy littles, sun-darkened seniors 
knee-slapping, and shark tooth seekers bent double, surf scanningwhen
Our umbrella lost its battle with the wind. 
For a while, we let it flap, too lazy to get up and wrestle it back into a proper form. 
I took a few photos of its free-form, flappy beauty—some of my favorites of the week.

Next time things go wrong on your patch of sand, instead of rushing to repair, 
take a breath ... can you see it? 
Beauty often shines in unexpected, less-than-ideal circumstances.


Mimosa Tree Life

The mimosa tree is one of the last to send out its leaves in the spring.
It's fair to say that every year I think, "Well, the mimosa's dead."
But then suddenly, there they are—sensitive, green leaf fronds. 

Then soon, the tiny balled clusters that almost look like berries.

And when you least expect it ... 
You look over your shoulder to see a tree covered with silky-pink blooms.

Do you find that pattern repeated in life? I do. 
Something I'm looking forward to is delayed, so I decide it's never going to happen. 
I buy into the idea that hope is dead, the blessing is removed, and I should move on.

Then ... 
God does one of His best works.

Consider the story of Joseph. 
Sitting in a pit and then in a jail, he must have thought his dreams 
were dead, swept away, maybe even a mistake. 
Except they weren't—the story has its own pow. 
Read more about the deeper meaning of Joseph's story here

I'd love to hear about your mimosa tree experiences. 
Comment below or email me soon.


Hummingbird Nectar Recipe

They're curious and eager in early spring.
Brilliant, winged beggars actually peer in my kitchen windows. 
They're looking for me, demanding attention. 
The earliest hummingbirds seem to prompt, "Hey—feed us!"

As spring grows older they grow bolder, sipping sugar no matter who's nearby.
We have deep-summer memories of laying under the hummingbird feeder, 
watching them joust through the heat and into the dusk.

In late August, their feeding becomes frantic, they guard and defend.
 The nectar wars begin ... 

... and this guy always wins.

Some tips for feeding hummingbirds: 
* Hang the feeder in the open where it's easily found. 
Near a flower bed or container garden is ideal.

* I use Miss Helen's simple recipe: 
1 cup water + 1/4 cup sugar. No need to boil, just stir until the 
sugar is completely dissolved. 

* Keep the feeder clean. Before you refill it, empty it and scrub it. 
Make sure to rinse away any soap residue. 

* Make it impossible for ants to ruin your feeder by using an ant moat
It's the easiest and cleanest way to keep ants away from the nectar.

Do you feed hummingbirds? 
I'd love to hear your stories and comments. 
Meanwhile, enjoy this and this
And you must see this. 


Come Inside

"Come inside, my dears. It's going to snow in the morning. 
I shudder to think what piles of wet snow would do
to your glorious ruffles.
Those fragile stems were never meant to 
bear the weight of wet winter.
So come inside and stay a while. 
It's warm and bright ... almost like being outside."


Play the Long Game

My sons are grown. 
I can no longer say "mostly men" when I talk about them. As a younger mom, I envisioned this part of parenting according to the saying "Grown and Flown" ... as in they're gone, I'm finished, finito. If you imagine some tears, you'd be right. Various parenting organizations urged me to make the most of every moment, to maximize every season, before my children finally came of age. And it's true. Time flies by. Adorable tots really do turn into capable adults. Mine certainly did.
But you know what I discovered? 
Parenting does NOT end between cake and gifts at the eighteenth birthday party. 

When that young adult comes asking for advice, "What you think about ..."
help with a project, "Do you have time to work on ..."
or a boost of confidence, "What if I can't do it?"
That's when we know—they still need us. 

No friends, parenting isn't a short-term occupation. There's no retiring from this. Grown and Flown—who thought of that, anyway? We're playing the long gameand we connect with our grown children no matter where they've flown.

But of course, it is different. Briefly, here are a few strategies I'd like to suggest:
                        - Help communication flow by asking open-ended questions.
                        - Don't let old hurts get in the way.
                        - Be flexible and ready for new ideas and activities.
                        - If they live nearby, use food to incite gathering. If you feed them ... 
                          (check out my Football Food Pinterest board)

How do you parent your grown children? I'd love to hear about that.

*** For further reading check out Focus on the Family's resource page for parenting adult children.


Snow Art

These ultra-disposable bits of natural art never cease to amaze me.
 I'd love to own the camera equipment required to capture their true beauty.

Another item on my "someday" list. 

I'm pondering this:
"As white snowflakes fall quietly and thickly on a winter day, 
answers to prayer will settle down upon you at every step you take, 
even to your dying day. The story of your life will be 
the story of prayer and answers to prayer.” 
― Ole Hallesby


January Faith

Paperwhites bulbs are so plain in their little nylon sack, 
quietly brown in the fluorescent lights of any big-box store. 

It takes a January kind of faith to plant 
and water something that looks so dead.
But when life begins to stir ...

... the reward is very, very great.
In view of the astonishing results, the preparation efforts seem small.

The paperwhite lesson is one to carry through 2018 and on.
What promises from the scriptures are you tending with hope
although they look dead and lifeless right now?

I'm tending these.

Would you share yours?


Almost Ready

I'm almost ready for this. 

And this—the Christmas Eve Spoons game.
I know ... it can get a little bit violent. Great-Grandma's pedestal table 
rocks and sways when cookie-drunk players grab the closest spoon. 
If you've never played here are the directions.
And here's a video example, but these people remain seated almost all the time.
Not enough cookies.

If, in the hustle and bustle of the holidays, 
you find your heart unprepared for Christmas, 
here's a link to Advent messages from John Piper.
He applies the most unexpected Bible passages to the Advent season. 
They're short, and you can listen or read them.


Lord at Thy Birth

Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love's pure light;
Radiant beams from thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.

Whether we acknowledge it or not, it's still true.
If we choose to bow before Him or not, He's still King.

So let's approach the Lord like the shepherds did back then
in the company of others,
making our way to Him in a hurry,
undistracted by the cares of career, 
eager to tell others the Christmas good news.


Who Knew?

Just a glimpse—that's what I long for at Christmas time. 
A flash of nativity glow, one whiff of sacred stable air. 
What would it have been like to witness the incarnation?

We often imagine Mary and Joseph going it alone in a cozy, well-lit barn 
scene, but it's possible that there were many who observed 
at least a few moments of the event—an unreported, unnoticed crowd of gawkers.

I think it's likely that Mary's plight drew the attention of other
female travelers. Maybe one of them was drawn into the 
scene to act as midwife to the untried young woman, mother to the Son of God

Lodgers from the over-crowded inn probably heard Mary's birthing 
groans and winced, then talked a little bit louder to drown out the sound.

Perhaps humble barn boys, busily tending pack animals and supplying livestock, 
were the very first to hear the cries of the newborn king. 


Closing Gardens and Verse Two

Have you already blazed past me in memorizing Psalm 100 for Thanksgiving?
I get it. 
But if not, here's verse two.

We closed the gardens this weekend. 
Meaning: my husband used the weedeater on everything that grew this spring and summer
 while I stood by cheering. Now the flower beds and container gardens are 
peacefully blank, resting until spring flings open the door to a new growing season.

One of the winter arrangements I made from the leftovers to keep things looking cheerful -

Some of the hydrangeas heads still had a little bit of color—so pretty!
Leaving the stems in wet dirt for the winter months sometimes results in 
a nicely rooted new hydrangea in the spring.
(fingers crossed)