Bracing to Surge

It's been some years since we had an amaryllis bulb shooting up to brighten the winter months. The last one produced huge red, red blooms just in time for Valentine's Day.
I found this one in an after Christmas clearance bin for $3.98, so I snagged it, 
and added the random $4 to the grocery tally.
Back then, my small boys kept a fascinated watch over the pot next to the kitchen table, marveling at the rapidly increasing height and girth of the stalk as they lunched on sandwiches and orange slices. I remember being amazed that it made it was able to bloom after being heartily jostled about during some 
overly thorough examinations.
This bulb, which should have pink stripes in its bloom, has been shuffled  all around the house, as I
 try to put it in the right spot - where I won't completely forget about it and which will be convenient to trucking 
outside to get some dirt in a pot. Over the past weekend, it was zipper bagged and shoved in the bread box.
Are you familiar with the "They'll be here in 20 minutes!" panic?
Despite the late start, it's finally potted and is bracing to SURGE.


The Downward Slope

This loveliest outdoor potting shed is a side room in an old barn.
That window looks out over gently-rolling, sleeping fields.
I loved the mellow sunshine warming the cold clay pots and saucers.
The poised tidiness of a workplace in repose.
And this old, muddy doorknob was just an added bonus!
The end of January is close, friends, and we are nearly on the downward slope 
toward some teasing peeks of Kentucky spring in February! When we can 
all start rearranging clay pots and pondering seek packets. 

 And these should be appearing soon -



Graceful Mimosa Branches


Holiday Art

When faced with paying admission to a local greenhouse/conservatory
which has always been free,
one of my sons said, "Let's go to the art museum instead!"
I had a thrill of surprised satisfaction, but replied, "Sure, if you guys want to."
In the most nonchalant way possible, of course - as if I wasn't excited at all.
And we spent about ninety minutes wandering through galleries, laughing and pointing.
Quizzing the chair sitters* and averting our eyes from 'excessive' immodesty displayed by marble figures.
And that became one of my favorite Christmas memories.
WHAT are those museum employees called anyway? Those who sit on tall chairs, equipped with walkie-talkies and spiffy jacket uniforms. Are they Guards? They don't seem to be Guides, since they also seemed puzzled about the special display of spit art. Are they Monitors - they warn you to step back when you get too close.   I know this.   Insomniacs definitely - who else could possibly stay
awake in a silent, empty room filled with antique art? Maybe there's some sort of contest going on, 
but I've never been able to sneak up on one nodding off ...



 What I really started out to write was going to be titled "Hot Chocolate Days".
About the excitement of deep snow, the thrill of quilted snow pants and tall rubber boots, 
and the satisfaction of ending all of that with homemade hot chocolate topped with marshmallows!
This kid's face in the photo below is like a billboard 
advertising the happiness of just such a day.

That's when the wet newspapers occurred to me...

Leading me to a rather unpleasant observation.
Is there any truth in the impression that, generally
as their children grow and mammas age,
they tend to get ...
crankier? Is that the right word? That's such an ugly word, though.
Maybe less would be a better qualifier. Let me try that on for size.
Less patient. Less joyful. Less generous. Less flexible.
Not wanting to be alone in this leaky boat, I'll drag all of us into it together.
I'm sure you don't mind. That old saying and all, right?

Back to the photo and as an example of the observation-
Here's one of My Dear Sons, probably age three or four. The snow had fallen all night, and we were out to play. Yes, we - when the boys were little, I always went out to play with them. 
Not only to perform such necessary acts as: 
clearing snow from tender, tiny necks, 
tactfully negotiating snowball fights,
re-covering freezing, bare wrists, 
and pulling fallen hats from bright eyes.
I also went just because I like to play in the snow! 
Our backyard seemed to be a completely new place, filled with wonder and excitement. 
New treasures were to be found everywhere, no matter that they were of the only very temporary sort. 
As the boys grew older, they did not require my help, 
which quickly became categorized as 
"I'm not a baby, Mom. ... I'm not a bit cold. ... That didn't hurt at all! ... I can do it myself!"
It wasn't long before I remained indoors, instead of going out into the snow with them.
Immediately after I stopped playing, and became the person who cleaned up
(wet newspapers, snowy, often muddy boots, soaking wet coats/hats/gloves) ,
I developed a LESS joyful attitude about a snowy day. 
Less patient. Less flexible. Less generous.
Now, I'm not going to say that the antidote is to keep playing. Once sons approach their teen years, joining in play with them can become just  - - - awkward. Especially as a mom. Play changes in to something you probably wouldn't recognize, and which I am still at a loss to describe. Positive interaction of any sort is  what I'm going for at this point.

But maybe this post could serve as an encouragement to self-examine. 
As I age, becoming LESS is not a goal of mine.
Even if the cause for an area of neglect seems valid, 
that lack does not, should not, must not become a resting place.
Patience, Joy, Generosity and even Flexibility should not depend on the task at hand, 
whether it be play or clean up.
 Whether it involves enjoying myself or serving others - OUCH!

As we age let us not become impatient drivers, critical church members, agitated grocery line standers, unreasonable school parents, vindictive daughters-in-law or judgmental mothers-in-law - 
seeking only what makes us the most comfortable and the most satisfied. 

Let us resolve, as disciples of His must, to find joy in the serving of others, rather than ourselves,
that we may become MORE rather than LESS.


Good For Something

We have newer windows in our home.  
Not NEW, of course, because our family leans toward the vintage side of life. 
Including home furnishings. 
Listen, I like vintage, but it does stay on the chilly side around here.
This view is not from any of our present windows, but from one of the casement windows 
that was here when we moved in. Now these were truly vintage! 
They were old, thin and brittle - especially when it was freezing cold, like it is right now.

Sadly inadequate for keeping the cold out,
but perfect for creating the most lovely frost patterns!


Up, Then Down

This Saturday past, it was 65°.
This morning, it's 25°.
(January 28, 2009)
Temperatures and gas prices in Kentucky - 
they fly up and down in the most unpredictable way!

Seems like if it's going to be this cold, there should be some snow as entertainment.
And by the way, I hear some spring bird voices out there! 
Maybe they came back, since it WAS 65°, and are out there 
making to head south again.


This Guy

Go to Luke 6:6-10 and check out this guy! 
He sat in church with Jesus, the Messiah, the One who is being broadly proclaimed by all. Everyone was talking about this Man! (4:37) Very recently, He had healed a leper, cast out demons, and brought a woman back from near death. Do you think  that this guy was sitting in the same worship service with Jesus and was unaware of the Celebrity in the room? Everywhere Jesus went crowds of sick people surrounded him, asking for healing --- and getting it! Entire communities bring their sick for His touch (Mk. 6:56) --- and they were healed. Yet scripture does not hint that this guy asked for the restoration of his hand.

Would you have tried to sit near the Miracle Worker? 
Wouldn't you have taken the opportunity, any opportunity, to whisper a plea to this Healer? I think many of us would've made an appeal, maybe even have waved the withered hand in the air in hopes of attracting the attention of the Famous One sitting nearby.

Why did this guy NOT ask for healing? 
Was it pride mixed with a big glop of shame? Maybe this guy was a cynic, a skeptic from way back. Maybe he was attending synagogue that day to take the measure of this Miracle Worker for himself. Or did he secretly plan to ask for healing after the service? 

From reading the account of Luke, I think we can be pretty certain that the tension in the room that day  was, ummm - THICK. The religious crowd was looking for some Sabbath Sin they could add to their pile of fabrications against Jesus --- something really big. I'll bet everyone felt the intensity of the undercurrent of hate in the room - maybe this guy was laying low for that very reason. Was he afraid to have his name linked to Someone who was so despised by the establishment?

This poor guy! 
His need was great - any of us who have dealt with a long term physical problem know how longed for healing is. But it seems so unattainable! You get used to the predicament, though, after living with it for years, and you learn to deal. But always in the deep part of your heart, you're wishing. Craving wholeness. Longing for freedom! Even if this guy was a skeptic, a sneering and scoffing skeptic, somewhere in his heart that day, a tiny longing, a small hope had to be flickering!

Jesus initiates the healing by calling this guy out - "Come and stand here."  
And this guy obeyed! I can only imagine how he must've felt to have Jesus call him out to come forward. Have you ever been in a church service where the preacher calls someone forward? Yeah - no one is sleepy at that point since that becomes a red alert situation. And have you ever seen anyone decline? I haven't. This guy made a choice for obedience - not knowing what the heck would happen next, he moved out of his anonymity, and left his comfortable seat.

"And after looking around at them all He said to him, "Stretch out your hand." 
This guy could've let all those weights mentioned before ruin his chance for restoration. The fear, shame, pride and doubt could've caused him to decline, placing his hand behind his back instead of stretching it out for all in the gathering to view. But for the second time, he obeyed and stretched out his hand. He threw all aside, and chose obedience. 

"And he did so, and his hand was restored." 
This guy gets a new hand as an object lesson for the benefit of the religious axe-grinders! His healing, was not sought or begged for!

This passage has always been close to my heart.
In dealing with chronic illness over many years, I often found myself identifying, at different points, with several of the scriptural characters who approached the Lord for healing. Some of them begging, a few filled with faith, others reasoning and bargaining. But this guy - this guy is the one that is closest to my heart because the restoration that this guy received had nothing to do with the way he asked, the tone he used, or the fervor of his plea- things I often found myself being distracted with. For this guy, none of that mattered at all. Jesus saw him, knew him, and called him. All he had to do was respond in obedience. 

 Of course that required the laying down of all those other things. 
His obedience  required the abandonment of potentially greater pride, heavier shame, more paralyzing fear, darker unbelief (Heb. 12:1). This guy sets the example that obeying Jesus is a better path, one to restoration, than the clutching and keeping of sin, leading to ... a still withered hand.

"Come and stand here . . . Stretch out your hand." 
I want to live my entire life like this guy in that moment.


January Pleasures

Well, my camera is still broken. It's sad but true. I thought we'd rush that thing to the
camera ER and just hand over cash to make it all better. 
But January, just after Christmas, has always been a 
time of roosting. Staying home with chili and some free football as entertainment.
Did I mention free? Fixing the camera is unlikely to be free, or even near free.

And so I've been surprised to find what you can do with a mostly busted 
(yes, I'm using the word BUSTED) camera.
Even if only one-third of the viewfinder displays an image, 
and even if that image is upside down! 
 I am relieved to able to share a few January pleasures.

An after Christmas present found in Madison, Indiana, at a fun nature store called Cultivate.
This small birdfeeder attaches to the window - I should be able to spy on the birds 
UP CLOSE.  They just love that! Getting gawked at while eating - they must be used to it.

Sprouting things in January - doesn't everyone do it? 
I wanted to find out if some of the seeds I collected from the garden in November
would actually sprout before I sold them in the spring. On the right are shasta daisy sprouts
sharing space with ....  
Dang if I can remember things anymore! The most common knowledge just flies right
away and refuses to come back! It'll come to me if I stop trying - probably by the end of this post.
On the left are some pieces of a summer annual that seemed to nice to freeze. 
Since the leaves are succulent, they can just be cut and stuck into soil, and go right on blooming. 
How sweet is a lesson in character is that?

(snapdragons. and there you go - BAM! the thing you forgot plows you right in the face!)
We've lived here for eighteen years, friends, and we have only stuffed the attic --- never cleaned it.
But better late than never, right? Now I know what is in every box, tote and bag up there! I feel rich with knowledge! Powerful! And the joy of finding things thought long lost - well, let's just say it was a good time. 
Like a yardsale that I didn't have to go anywhere to attend and where everything was free.
I don't even remember where this blue bottle was found, but I love it all over again.
Now to get all that creepy white crud out of it.
The perfect project for a January day.


Be Gone

It's time for each bauble to find its box.
I don't mind the tree making its exit, since its shedding like a mangy dog, 
flinging needles dangerously close to the eye,
and Husband says its been a fire hazard for about two weeks already.
That tree must have been cut in .... September?
And all the Christmas what-nots  -  I'm so glad to see them go!

It's time for snowflakes to appear inside!
Happy New Year! 
May 2013 be the year in which you move more steadily forward instead of backward;
the year that finds you receiving as well as giving;
the year you find yourself finally more often thankful than desirous.

And if you find yourself making resolutions, even though you say you don't -
join me in keeping these things in mind:
throwing off 
springing forth, 
fresh mornings 
new creations
Find these things, which are worthy of some January pondering, here.