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)


Get Noisy

Our Japanese maple spread its leaves in a 
wide, red skirt—a perfectly brilliant circle under bare, upraised branches.
What a peaceful way to go.

I'm plugging away at memorizing Psalm 100. 
Have you made any progress? 

Here's a visual aid—a photo of the Japanese maple before it lost its leaves. *

Our noise doesn't have to be cultured or clever,
sophisticated or insightful.
But it must be JOYful
Right here in mid-November, let's seek to bear this fruit of the Spirit. 

* Photo enhanced with free tools at the BeFunky photo editing website.


November Treasures

2017 is almost over and nature is giving notice. 

It's time to plow deep into the soil of this mostly-passed year 
and hunt for nuggets of GRATITUDE that churn to the top.

Those are the true unfading November treasures.

Meditating on a Thanksgiving psalm helps me focus on this season 
and resist being drawn into the next holiday too early. 
I'm trying to memorize Psalm 100 by Thanksgiving Day. 
Would you join me? 
Three versions here.
Various teachings on this chapter here.


A Thankful Tribute

This photo of Bruce and I was taken at a writer's conference in May 2016. 
I'd just won an award for work that this gentleman, among others, encouraged me to produce. 
I was amazed and more than a little thrilled ... and Bruce was just as excited.
His unselfish character allowed him to genuinely rejoice over the success of his friends.

He passed away this weekend after a courageous battle with cancer.
During his last weeks, many friends and colleagues joined in a card and 
letter-writing campaign to send words of encouragement
But I procrastinated—a writer who couldn't come up with the right words when it 
mattered most—and my message didn't reach him in time.

I truly regret that mistake and pray it will leave an eternal mark that will 
press me to speak my heart words in a more timely manner. 
If you're reading this today and you've held important words inside for what 
might be too long ... don't.

Included below is the message I finally penned for Bruce in 
the hope that it will be an appropriate tribute. 

Dear Bruce,
    I know it’s almost Halloween, so if this Thanksgiving card makes you laugh—good! I don’t much like Halloween anyway. A Thanksgiving card is so much more appropriate because you, my friend, are one of the blessings its verse mentions.
  Before I joined Word Weavers, the idea of writing was wriggling around in my heart, often pushed aside by doubt and fear. One Sunday morning, our pastor invited us to ask God any question and wait for an answer. With everyone else, I transcribed a question on a tiny slip of paper. “Am I a writer?” I folded it six or seven times, put it in the basket, and wondered how God would answer; and yes, I wondered if He would answer.
  Not long after that, I contacted Word Weavers and met their tech specialist, Bruce Brady. Through you, He answered my questionYES. Since then, He’s spoken through you (over and over) as you’ve partnered with me in a laughter-laced writing friendship. “Keep writing, girl,” you say, and I hear echoes of His voice.
  Thank you, Bruce, for speaking life to my frail dream and throwing in a great friendship to boot. We have SO many reasons to give thanks.