Old Maid

I found this charming girl among a group of old photos,
letters, and postcards at a summer yardsale.
Hers is the one I kept to mark my place in my favorite commentary.

You know why I kept her photo, don't you?
An engaging smile in the first frame 
and wistful examination of a bouquet in the next.
Wide eyes, clear skin, and a generous bundle of curls.

And yet, the back doesn't record her name. Not even a turn-of-the-century nickname ...
"Dear Fan"  or  "Lovely Pearl".

How could it be that it says -

The other photos were used to personalize a vintage bowling bag. 
Check it out here.


Closing Season

We closed the gardens this weekend, even though there were lots of blooms left to admire.
For the first time, we cleared with a weed whacker instead of by hand.
It was a little shocking to watch the garden fall in such a noisy, violent way ... 
but it sure was efficient! 

After the plant were cut down to about two inches, we raked and spread a layer of compost 
in the open areas. All that topped with a cozy layer of leaf litter and voila'!  
No more gardening until spring.  

I marked a few plants that were new this season, knowing that I will completely forget them 
by spring. A new painted fern transplant, some blue billows cuttings, and a 
hand-me-down peony from my neighbor, split into three sections and named after her.
 The summer chairs are wintering in the shed, the greenhouse is tidy, and the late hydrangea blooms 
have all been gathered. The growing season is over. Now we have plenty of dark hours 
to linger over coffee, light candles, and enjoy the peace of winter. 

I tried to stay focused on the work this weekend, but beauty was everywhere, in the most unlikely places. The cement birdbath in the flowerbed is currently filled with sweetgum and red maple leaves. Once they sink under the rainwater, their bright colors change to dull browns and depressing grays. I was glad to capture this single leaf point still above the murky water, channeling the afternoon sun.


Something to Hope For

Wouldn't it be nice if this really happened?

I know the more jaded gardeners out there are snickering right now. 
Yes, we all know that plant tags are only plastic bits of high-flying imagination.
You'd probably laugh out loud if you knew I planted another
butterfly bush this fall. 
Go ahead and guffaw. 

But if this happens, I'll be the one laughing!


Songbooks for Free

It was a brisk morning at the farm sale / flea market on Wednesday, 
and I was only browsing when the seller shouted his announcement:
"Everything on the long table is FREE!"
In the fray, I scooped these into my stash. 
The pure drama of revival hymnbooks--it's gripping, isn't it?
The covers of these portable songbooks are soft with the sweat of hundreds of hands, 
maybe even thousands. They're artifacts,
I would like to say Silent Witnesses, but I know I'm getting carried away,
from the revivals and camp meetings that swept the Midwest in the early twentieth century.
After all, Cane Ridge is not so far away.

Possible Back Story:
Lillian swayed in her spot, the heat and noise in the tent making her woozy. Perspiration welled from the top of her head and seeped past the muslin band on her her straw hat. Thank goodness she had worn her old one. If she had chosen her new one, fresh fabric dye would have mixed with the sweat, run down her face, and made a fool of her. She felt like a fool anyway. What in the wide world was she doing here, in the middle of a bare cornfield, under an ugly re-made carnival tent, when most decent folks were already in bed? She clutched the songbook more tightly as the preacher launched what had to be the tenth verse of "Just As I Am."


Just a Little Pun

I know. 
I'd like to apologize ...

... but I can't pass on sharing a good pun.
Whoever crafted these homemade Halloween decorations got a huge laugh out of me. 
It might have been the best part of the over-priced pumpkin patch.


Pumpkin Patch

Even adults and mostly-adults enjoy a visit to the local pumpkin patch.
I couldn't get anyone else "on board" to ride in a improvised train made of blue barrels.
The train engineer drove like a Halloween fiend!
The hayride guy drove much more slowly, head down, no eye contact.
When I asked him about his day, he said he'd need alot more business to have a good day.
And when I asked about the UPC stickers on all these pumpkins ...
... he kicked a clod and admitted they're Canadian pumpkins.


Swatting the HOWs

HOW ... ?
Do ever find yourself bogged down in  the creative journey
by the nagging question of HOW?
Now, just to be clear, I'm not talking about the classic WHY question. 
Forward motion toward a goal shows that you've that 
you've settled the WHY. 
But just when you're really going for it, that's when HOW rears its ugly head.

HOW will I find time?
HOW will I convince friends and family? 
HOW will I pay the bills?
HOW will I ever be able to finish?
HOW will I create a following?
HOW will I find a buyer?

I don't know if you've experienced this, but I can tell you from first hand experience - 
the HOWs begin to swarm like wasps, and eventually, they kill the creativity. 
D. E. A. D.
This week, my reading in 2 Kings 7 showed me an example of someone else who 
got stuck on how. It didn't work out so well for him. 
Something similar happened to Zechariah in Luke 1.

Consider this advice from D. L. Moody:
"If you would believe, you must crucify the question, 'How?'"

Let's swat away the HOWs, friends, and persevere in the work we are called to do.

-Further pondering verses here.
-Free copy of D. L. Moody's book, Notes From My Bible, here
(see page 58)
-* Photo taken last weekend at a local pumpkin patch. This is a really complimentary portrayal of ironweed,which begins its bloom time right around my birthday and goes to the hardest frost.
-And just for fun, this made me laugh so, so hard...


Mighty Blues

 How could something so small,
 something that lasts only one day,
 be so extravagantly glorious?
* Pondering verses here.

In light of those verses, you might want to 
sing a little bit. Or even alot.  


Maple Keys and Small Beginnings

              I got this photo of red maple keys just as the evening sun lit them on its way to bed. 

It's another perfect reminder of my guiding verse for 2015. 
This verse resonated with me in January, and I knew it was the one for the twelve 
months to follow. Throughout the year, the Spirit has been the ever gracious teacher, reminding me, 
"Do not despise the day of small beginnings..." 

2015 is losing its breath and nearing the finish line, but this verse is still at work in me.


Verse and Vacation

What do you think of this verse from my morning reading? 
It jumped out and grabbed my shirt collar. 

"Now unto the King 
the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. 

Join me--let this bang around in your head today. 
It might make its way twelve inches south and have real 
impact when it lodges in our hearts. 
I'm asking for that.

Eternal ... immortal ... invisible
Opportunity for extra pondering here.


Side Notes:
* This photo from a recent family trip to Williamsburg, VA, was taken from the steps of the oldest building on the campus of William & Mary College, the Wren Building, 1695. (1695!!!) 

** Family vacations still belong to our original five: my husband, myself, and our three mostly-grown, unmarried sons. To our yearly surprise, they look forward to this tradition. Lots of quality free food may be a contributing factor. Vacationing with these adult-ish versions of the children we raised, sharing memories and making new ones, is an unexpected and cherished blessing. 

When we go on vacation, dreams are spun. The unusual conversational freedom is an absolute highlight for me, and this trip was no exception. Miles flew by as we hashed out plans for an entrepreneurial adventure inspired by an expressway billboard. The structure of a niche business was built over a plate of chili cheese fries. In addition to frisbees on the beach, plots were tossed to attend William & Mary, get coordinating degrees, and relocate to lovely Virginia. 

*** I keep a brief record of what happens on each day of vacation, including the funny quotes, favorite meals, and activities. Over breakfast or in the car on the way to the next stop, I scribble short notes in a cheap notebook, asking the group for contributions. Sometime soon, I'll show you how to use what you bring home to make a super-shortcut memory book.


Use Your Workbook

Do you mark in your Bible? 
Many years ago, someone taught me that our Bibles are not intended to be 
decorative pieces, merely part of a holier-than-thou tablescape. He said our 
Bibles should be WORKBOOKS. Well, you know every teacher can appreciate 
a good workbook, so that's how I've used mine over the years of my walk with Christ.
So mine is a well-marked workbook, showing where I've struggled and where I've 
found joy. It's easy to locate the verses that have called me back again and again.
Sky verses are special to me, so I mark them in my Bible with 
a very lightly-drawn, completely reverent, puffy cloud. 
Whenever I come across one of these in the 
margin, I know I've met an old friend.

Apparently, King David was also moved by a beautiful stretched canvas of sky - 
Psalm 8:3-4, Psalm 19:1, Psalm 36:5, Psalm 57:11, Psalm 108:4

Side Note:
When I'm writing, it's usually completely quiet in the house. I need the quiet, or my thoughts skitter and scatter like the shyest birds-never to be captured. But lately, I've needed some background music to help me along. This is perfect accompaniment for working, but this song has stayed on my mind, and on my lips, these past few weeks, to remind me of my truest purpose. 


Friends Along the Way

I gawk as I drive along--do you?
Neighbors, I'm looking at your gardens, admiring, wondering, 
and considering sneaking a start from one plant or another. 
One of my Garden Friends Along the Way, 
I know she would be my friend if we ever met, 
has a plastic chair in her carefully kept vegetable garden. 
She moves it around to face the corn, then angles it toward the green beans.
The cheap green chair has been in the middle of the watermelon vines 
and at the end of a long row of yellow and orange marigolds. 
I love that this gardener doesn't only work in the garden, but sits in it, too.
I imagine her savoring the way her vegetables grow--
all that pushing and shoving, some leaping skyward while
others grasp for a bigger patch of earth. 

She was out there once, when I was driving home, along my everyday route. 
You know I swerved when I saw her sitting in her chair. 
But I didn't stop. 
I didn't pull into her driveway and compliment 
her thoughtful and clever use of the garden chair. I probably should have.

But I honked and waved like crazy. 

*I had this old chair in my own garden some years ago, just for some garden structure
It lasted one growing season and fell to bits in a wind storm.