Treasure Hunt - Marriage

I found this tiny bride and groom at a yardsale last weekend.
With only one dollar bill and some change in my pocket, I was happy to find  
a few treasures to take home. The homeowner tucked this clingy pair in a tiny 
cigar box, and they made the ride home without incident.
Right away, I took them to the kitchen sink for a gentle washing.
The worst of the dust and grime came off with a damp cloth, but the hem 
of the bride's gown would not come completely clean

There wasn't anything to be done about their hair - it's just worn away.

And they both have some lumps in unflattering places.
In fact, the more closely you examine this couple, the more flaws become evident -
those lips ... the hands ... some pretty smug eyebrow action ...
Give too much attention to these detracting details, and
you'll miss the really good stuff :

Don't you just want to stare, and drink in the quiet intimacy of their proximity?
She tucks her hand into the small triangle of his arm, 

and he crooks his arm to hold it securely to his side. 
They lean toward each other instead of away,
 allowing selective magnetism to draw them closer. 
In light of this, her nose blob seems much smaller, doesn't it?

 Clearly they've been a couple for a long, long time.
All the evidence points to the fact that they've been used, maybe many times.
According to the layers of dirt (mold?), they spent some years in the basement.
There's no doubt that they're mostly unappreciated, 
 unpopular, even among those they've served in the past.
Available for pocket change, right next to random Tupperware lids.
 But they are still together. 
Together at the wedding celebrations.
Together during the dark basement years. 
Together on the discard table.
Don't muddy hems and awkward trousers seem completely 
beside the point now?

Look at their faces again - 
 those are game-faces if I've ever seen any. 
They take their marriage seriously and seem to know that their relationship
 is worth fighting for; worth the courage it takes to go the distance.
Perhaps the smug eyebrow this groom wears is not one of arrogance, 
but more along the lines of,  "Bring it on!"
When confronted with such a heroic expression
concerns about hair-or the lack of it-disappear.

The conclusion of my  kitchen sink thoughts, for what it's worth:
In the micro-examination of negative, often trivial details, the most 
valuable features of a mature marriage are often overlooked.
 Disappointments take center stage while treasures 
 go unnoticed and unappreciated.


Tools for further thought HERE.


July's End

We've just passed the peak of summer here.
The day lilies have almost finished their show, and the shasta daisies 
are starting to die away. 
Deep green annabelles age calmly, while apples ripen and 
weigh branches to sweep lower.
The bees seem a little bit frantic as they do their day's work. They don't even go home 
for the night, but find a spot to sleep in the purple coneflower so they can 
wake up and get right back to work.

It's the only safe time to pet a bee, by the way, 
if you ever wanted to have that pleasure.

What's the end of July look like where you live?


Wisteria Warning

Years ago, my neighbor planted wisteria along our shared fence row. At first I admired - I'm a sucker for a beautiful vine, you know that. Who wouldn't live to sniff those fragrant, purple blooms? What's not to adore about frondy foliage and clinging tendrils?


There's so much to despise about Chinese Wisteria!

This government agency wants you to know it. 

My neighbor's wisteria grew, true to form, like a greedy monster. Within a few years, it  choked the other beautiful heirloom plants that lined her side of the garden fence: her grandmother's roses, a dark-red and yellow honeysuckle, and an antique white lilac unlike any I'd ever seen. It's managed to dominate a tree and is currently riding high from the canopy, waving thin, triumphant arms like it just don't care

I've worked hard to keep my neighbor's problem on her side of the fence. But if I don't maintain a ruthless cut and drag policy, I find the fronds strangling my own garden treasures. So I've occasionally 'slipped' and sprayed weed killer on a few wisteria plants that were creeping to my side. And when tiny, flexible wisteria seedlings sprout in other parts of our yard, I yank them out and make sure not a single root hair remains. 

The same scenario plays out in my life - in every life!  
I have the power of choice in what I allow to grow in my own 'garden'. Someone close to me may cultivate habits or tastes which are, according to scripture, not acceptable for God's children. Their choices may cause me to struggle, and as a result, I will have to do extra work to keep my own heart pure.

The ruin of my neighbor's prized garden is a cautionary tale which daily reminds me to 
be vigilant and intentional in the disciplines of heart examination and repentance.

And I've become pretty handy with the garden shears, too.


Wearable Worth

Me in my favorite blue granny dress posing in front of the climbing roses.
I was about five years old, and might be a little hard to see ... but I'm glowing. 
dress proud
I couldn't find a definition - maybe it's a Kentucky phrase? 
But I'll bet I you know what I'm talking about. 
That particular feeling when you slip that special garment over your head. 
When you look in the mirror and know for sure - you're awesome!

I saw my own boys do the same - not with dresses, of course.
But they each had a piece of clothing which they prized over every other.
 A favorite shirt that was softer than any other,  
a hat, cocked just so, which gave an extra shot of cool,
and the jump-higher, run-faster shorts that saved the day.

How easily we are satisfied with outward garments when
 the worth we have in God's eyes is infinitely greater!
His view of our value is long lasting
wearable in every hour,
no matter what we have on our bodies.

Proof verses here.
Post them, tuck them, savor them.
Carry them, whisper them, shout them.

Wear your true worth wherever you go!

* Many thanks to my My Wonderful Aunt for sending these photos via email.
Thank God for the history-keeping aunts among us!


Fairies and Photography

Last fall, I took a leaf photo that I loved. You know how good can be born from 
the very painful things in life? Well, that's exactly what happened.

My returning RA made it much too painful to get low enough to capture the light 
beaming through fall leaves scattered across our patio. So I fiddled with settings and 
took the photos 'blind' by placing the camera on the ground and pressing the shutter release.
 Every photo was a surprise, since I had nothing to do with the
 framing or focusing of the shot.

It occurred to me that photos taken from this vantage point  display what a fairy might see.
Guess I read a few too many books about woodland fairies in my childhood 
because it sure stuck with me!

 And now that spring is swelling into summer, I find myself  wondering what those
might see IF they wandered through my flowerbeds -
 Oriental poppies from below - quite an impressive sight!

 Painted ferns would make a colorful overhead display.

Lily of the valley blooms could replace church bells on any clear morning!
This would be a fun photo project for children this summer.  Any point and shoot camera, 
a DSLR with an 'auto' setting, or an iphone camera will do the job. Be ready 
to delete many photos that focus incorrectly, come out blurred or poorly lit. 
But wait for it ...

... they will be thrilled when they get a photo that perfectly portrays the everyday 
viewpoint of  the common garden fairy. And you have a chance to talk with them 
about seeing things from another person's perspective,
 and the effort and payoffs that are involved in that sometimes difficult  task.

Just a thought.

Link to more kid photography ideas here.


The Ping

At this time of year, I'm on the hunt for garden plants.

On the way to take my place in the pick-up line, I 
swoop through the garden area of every local market. 

After driving to the county library, it's easy to
take a quick trip through the feed store plant section.

A fast in-and-out at the swank florist is convenient 
when it's so near the grocery. We always need milk!

 Last week I found an interesting display of lawn decorations 
at the local home improvement retailer.
I ask you, why would anyone want a fake hydrant in their yard? 
I have enough problems with dogs using my front flower beds as their
poop town of choice. If I put this out there ... they might think they're invited!
(You know about Go, Dog. Go! don't you ...? They're just looking 
for a place to party.)
This angel with a price tag around her neck, gilded with buttery morning light 
stopped me cold, right between the hanging baskets and the rows of vegetable seedlings.
 Maybe it was the angel's reverent posture that held my attention.
Her smiling assurance of victory ahead made me bend down to peer into her face. 

Something about this hunk of cement-ish plastic reminded me of the holy, 
surrounded by the ordinariness of a garden store. 
The sight of it was like a ping from heaven, 
reminding me that there are more important concerns at 8 a.m. 
on any given Tuesday than finding the best deal on a cell pack of petunias. 

The Westminster Catechism translates the ping:
What is the chief end of man?
To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

I find myself so often carried away in the distractions of life; the crazy, 
circular insanity of the mundane becomes my specialty, as if there is nothing else.
Glorifying God is pushed to the edge, forgotten. 

Then He pings me, and I remember where I am, 
who is in charge, and what is important.
I'm so thankful for that!


Weeping Willow

We bought this weeping willow tree in 1998.
I'm the one that bought it, although most of our purchases do involve a 'we'.
It was intended to be a birthday present for my husband's 
thirty-fifth birthday. A week before the big day, 
I bought and stashed it behind the shed, knowing I had found the
 perfect gift - a tree he had always admired and wanted.
 But on his birthday, our third child was lost to miscarriage. 
The tree was forgotten, left without a second thought in its hiding place.
 I confess that I mourned the loss deeply. I felt it was the death of one of our children, 
and not simply a miss, a mistake, or a random biological course correction
Even though I never inhaled the scent of that child or smoothed a perfect cheek, 
she was born in my heart as soon as the murky blue lines indicated  positive
From that very moment, my unborn child smiled and cooed in my imagination, 
and I already knew how her tiny form would fit in the crook of my arm. 
The physical body of a child may not be fully formed at twelve weeks gestation, 
but the hopes and dreams of its mother are already spun deep and wide.
By Father's Day, three weeks after his birthday, I was still blurry with aching. 
Somehow, I remembered the tree and pulled it out of its hiding spot to
 serve as the gift of the day. 

Planting that tree together as a deliberate memorial 
was the single most healing thing we did. Because of that tree, 
my child will not be forgotten, and I am continually reminded to HOPE.

It's a step I would encourage any mother experiencing loss to take.

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.

* something special here


Awake, Sleeper!

It's all coming up out there. 
The garden is awake and stetching, right through deep layers of leaf litter, 
pushing aside winter blankets of muck carried by now-vanished snow drifts.
Every year I'm amazed that it all comes back to life. 
As if there never was an icy glaze on every branch -
every flower bed a blank slate with only dead twigs to show where
life had once flourished.
Bundled, I browsed the gardens in January and prepared to mourn in May.
And then ... there they were - 
Everyday Miracles, scattered in the dirt of the my own backyard.

Side Note:
Moms of young adults / late teens talk. Boy do we talk! And we laugh, grieve, rejoice, fret, and pray. Repeat. Too often we get stuck on fret part of that cycle. Or we pitch a tent and camp in grief. Once a sweet mom pal said to me, "I know he's not following the Lord. After all that's gone on - he can't belong to Him." Of course this is our most gripping fear. That the children we reared to love God -
the ones whose sweet voices wobbled along with ours on 'Come Thou Fount', the tots who quoted psalms to the beat of a Playskool hammer, the tiny ladies who allowed imaginary tea to be served only after a grateful prayer to Jesus - that these might emerge into young adulthood with their faces set against the Father. 

As we browse the gardens of our children's lives in mid-winter, whenever that might occur, let's encourage each other not to rush to judgement. Don't mourn, and certainly do not lean into grieving with some other mother over what has not been proven! What seems to be dead in our sons and daughters may only be asleep, waiting for the right time to be called back by the Spirit. Let's be parent-gardeners who walk with hope and faith in what the Master will do, putting our trust in Him and not in any work of our own hands. Because friends, He alone is faithful and He will do it.

"Let thy goodness, like a fetter, bind their wandering hearts to thee. " R. Robinson

Verses here.

Come Thou Fount here and here and the modern hymn story here


Awesome Idea

We got this awesome idea last spring. It happens EVERY spring around here. 
The awesome ideas flow like tap water! Funds for financing awesome ideas don't. Most of 
the time, we remember this before we actually begin work on an awesome idea.
Awesome Idea: Build a deck behind the living room. 
We staked out the deck, making it plenty spacious, and discussed
railing options. Metal? Wood? Painted wood? Vinyl?
Did we want a roof? A partial roof? Pergola-style? Awning?
We planned to build it ourselves, we have lots of 'manpower', after all.
*To get a ballpark idea for actual cost of materials, we called for a couple of estimates.* 
In the time it took to get someone out to do an estimate, we dug the bed for this 
rock walkway. The walkway would edge right next to the deck and finally 
complete a rock path around the entire house. With the bed dug, we began the 
puzzling work (!) of placing rocks.
The first estimate came in and we laughed out loud. 
The guy must be crazy or not need this job - at all! What?! No way!

By the time the second estimate came along, we were finished placing and leveling the 
rocks and all that was left to be done was filling and top dressing. 

The second estimate was almost double the first. 
AND we found out that one of our vehicles would need to be replaced. 
Oh! Did you hear that nasty scraping sound?  
That was the Awesome Idea moving to the crowded back burner. 

We did end up with a really nice rock walkway made of native Kentucky stone. 
Now you can run all the way around our house and never have to get in the wet grass or mud.
Go ahead - run around! 
But don't try to stop for a rest on the deck ...



One week ago, I was above the clouds. 
Maybe because I don't get to do it very often, flying is still an 
amazing adventure for me. But this was the first time I've gone into the 
blue yonder on my own. I was alone in a crowd, and I can't say it was awful.
Security was so minimal - I didn't even have to take off my shoes. 
All that hubbub about zipper bags and 3 ounce bottles of whatever - 
there wasn't any. 
My seat was easy to find, both ways, and my seat mates were ideal
both times : thin, athletic women who wore headphones. 
I gladly gave up the armrest.
Since no one was paying any attention to me, I felt free to snap photos
 like it  was my first time in the air. 

Some of my favorite childhood memories are of flying with my dad in his small airplane. I loved the whole process - the flight check, communications with the tower - mysterious, invisible air traffic controllers, and the takeoff! The takeoff  never got old. All that crazy speed, faster and faster along the black and yellow tarmac then suddenly ... peace. The bumps and jumps of the wheels were finally silenced with one smooth dip-jump into the air; we were up, and the show really began! Dad was happy to take me on a kind of 'air tour', pointing out the sights not so far below. Everyday destinations seen from above appeared to be icons on a storybook treasure map.


Hymn Candle

Inexpensive pillar candles can be easily transformed
 into something unique and meaningful.
- Pick up an old hymnbook from a yardsale or library discard box. Carefully pull your 
favorite song*  from the book and trim the edges with a paper trimmer.
Please squash any guilt you might have about taking a page from a book that was going to be 
discarded anyway. You will be using the page, displaying it for thoughtful consideration. 
Isn't that better than tossing it on the trash heap to decay next to dirty diapers?

- Scrub whatever sticker it came with until the glass is completely clean.
- Wrap the trimmed page around the pillar candle and secure with glue or scrapbooking adhesive tape.
- Embellish the candle with a long strand of raffia or ribbon. Add extra charm with
an old key, a small seashell, or vintage button.

Make a bunch and have a bright bank of lit hymn candles.
Take one to a new neighbor with a plate of cookies.
Use a holiday hymn to create a glowing centerpiece on your celebration table.

However you use your hymn candle, you'll be putting the gospel on display.
I remember this song from Sunday nights services in the Methodist church we attended when I was 
elementary age. My heart was so tender toward Jesus right at that time, and the
 Holy Spirit dropped this hymn right down into the center of my soul. 

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There's a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

For your further investigation - go here, check this out, and make time for this.



And ... more snow.
 Who can complain about this extravagant display of beauty that meets every glance?
(Those who operate the family snow shovels, that's who.)
After extended stinginess on my part toward piggish starlings
and warlike sparrows, the bird feeders are filled and busy again.

“Come now, and let us reason together,” saith the Lord
“Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; 
though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool."