Brick-Wall Window

"Hey, Suzy." 
"Yeah, Buddy?"
"What's this window for?"
"Well ... I guess it's sort of a ... decoration."
"Right, because you can't see anything through it."
"Right ..."

The conversation happened at a recent family gathering, but I wasn't bothered.
My capacity for imagination has been with me as long as I can remember. I'm drawn to:
closed doors, latched boxes,
keyholes, pathways, 
abandoned doors, misplaced ladders,
and yes, old windows with a view to nothing.
I've come to realize that my fondness for such things is a Creator-given trait, 
an invaluable gift which empowers me to write. 

And with a little bit of imagination, my friend just might realize that this
brick-wall window does indeed have a view, of sorts. 


Sunflower Lessons

This single bloom was enough to satisfy my sunflower hunger this year.
I found it as a seedling, accidentally sprouted between bricks on the greenhouse
floor—a birdseed spill only partly cleaned up during our spring chaos. 
Admiring its gumption, I transferred it to a pot and expected it to die. 
But it thrived.
It earned an honored spot in a raised bed with the zinnias, 
guaranteeing protection from the roly-poly rabbit mob

What started as accident—completely unplanned, unexpected, and unlikely—speaks its lessons 
to my backyard world daily: Determination. Strength. Perseverance. 
TRUST in the Master Gardener who notices the tiniest seedlings of grace in our lives 
and takes action to deliver an abundant yield.


Hosting Bluebirds

"The bluebird carries the sky on his back." -  Henry David Thoreau

We hosted a family of bluebirds this spring in an 
ancient box on the backyard fence. I was so excited at the 
first sight of them checking out the area.
"I have had more than half a century of such happiness. A great deal of worry and sorrow, too, 
but never a worry or a sorrow that was not offset by a purple iris, a lark, a bluebird, 
or a dewy morning glory."  
Mary McLeod Bethune

Watching the parents continually tending their twins was 
an every-night distraction. 
"What do you want to do tonight?"
"Hmmm ... should we check on the bluebirds?"
"The bluebird enjoys the pre-eminence of being the first bit of color that cheers our northern landscape. 
The other birds that arrive about the same time--the sparrow, the robin, the phoebe-bird--are clad in neutral tints, gray, brown, or russet; but the bluebird brings one of the primary hues and the divinest of them all."  
John Burroughs

Now the box is empty and we never see their beautiful blue 
on our small Kentucky acre. But we hope they'll return next year. 
We added another box in case they bring friends.
These cards, featuring the eastern bluebird, are tiny, signed lithographs 
which used to be found inside boxes of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda
In 1938, these beautifully detailed treasures were collected by bird lovers ... and quickly discarded 
by those who just wanted to "clean enamel surfaces," "boil rat traps," or "put out a fire." 
This collection is for sale in my Etsy vintage shop. Take a look at more photos here.
These suggestions, and others, on the back of every card.


Four-Layer Cereal Treats or Lake House Snacks

If you take your clan to a lake house, they're going to want these. 
This weekend I saw someone in a float, munching one of these
and paddling along with the other hand. Sunshine, water, and a good snack—bliss!
These layered cereal treats are easy to make ahead, look special, transport well, and ...
they're so easy!

Completely line two 9"x13" pans with parchment paper. Coat the parchment lining with cooking spray. 

Gather ingredients: 
1 stick butter, divided 
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
6 1/2 cups plain crispy rice cereal
6 1/2 cups cocoa-flavored crispy cereal
10-ounce packages of mini marshmallows

In a large non-stick pan, combine 4 T. butter, vanilla, and one package of marshmallows over low heat. Stir until the marshmallows are completely melted. Remove from heat and add the plain cereal. Stir until the cereal is coated. Divide the cereal mixture in half and spread each half evenly in the bottom of the pans using a buttered spoon back. Press it gently into flat layers. You should have two pans, each containing a flattened layer of vanilla cereal mixture.

In the same non-stick pan, combine remaining butter, cocoa, and one package of marshmallows over low heat. Stir until the marshmallows are completely melted. Remove from heat and add the cocoa cereal. Stir until the cereal is coated. Divide this mixture in half and spoon it over the first layers in each pan. Using the buttered spoon, spread and press it evenly over the first layers, making the second layers. You will have two pans, each with two layers—vanilla and chocolate.

While the layers are still warm, carefully lift one of the parchment linings with its two layers and place it lightly in the other 9x13 pan, on top of its two layers. Gently slide the parchment paper out, creating four layers. Press lightly to join the layers.  

Cool completely, then use a buttered knife to cut.
*Hint: Use a plastic knife to cut these or any kind of sticky dessert. The treat won't stick to a plastic knife and the pieces will be neat and tidy, with the layers intact.

Sprinkle mini-chocolate chips before you transfer the topping layers and create a yummy filling. Look for strawberry-flavored crispy rice cereal and create a Neopolitan-style layered treat with three layers of color and flavor. The plain cereal will accept any flavor or food coloring to match the theme of a party or event. 


Ready and Willing

A friend gave me this heavy, wooden door, taken from her grandparents' empty home.
Only a few days before bulldozers did their work of subdivision development, 
we walked through mostly-empty rooms searching for 
useful bits of an old life that could fit in the back of her truck.

Last summer, it made the perfect backdrop for my butterfly bush
This year it brings sunshiny-yellow charm to my shade garden.
And a bat lives behind it. 
Do you pray for open and closed doors? It's a recurring theme over here.
Every time I pass it, my friend's door reminds me of these powerful prayer verses. 
"A huge door of opportunity for good work has opened ..."
" ... a door was opened for me in the Lord ..."
"... opening doors no one can lock, locking doors no one can open ..."

I don't know about you, but I've tried to break down a few doors and walked 
away pretty bruised from the effort.
By the same token, I've tried to slam a few that keep creaking open again.
It's good news that a loving Father is in charge of opening and closing the 
right doors for me. So ... if He holds the keys, then what's my job?

I've got to be ready to walk through open doors 
willing to walk away from closed doors. 

I can't be obsessed with a locked door, peeking through the keyhole, 
testing an endless series of secret knocks and creative passwords
And walking away from a closed door is just as challenging as working up the nerve 
to cross the threshold of an open one. The cool breeze of the unknown in my face 
isn't always exhilarating—sometimes it's downright terrifying! 

Walking through and walking away both require one thing: 
Confidence that what's behind a locked door is really, really not good for me and 
certainty that whatever waits beyond an empty threshold is His very best.
What doors are you dealing with today? 

Lord, thank you for holding the keys to every door in my life. Help me recognize and walk away from the doors You close. Give me Your courage to walk  through the doors You open, into the future planned for me. My trust is always and only in You. 


Summertime Illumination

Summer Study happens in my backyard on Wednesday mornings ... early. 
Just in time to light these petunias with the first golden rays of the day.

As if Night Sky Petunias aren't lovely enough! 
I plan to grow them from seed next spring. 
You might want to as well—so here's where to buy the supplies.

Colossians 3 has been meaty enough to last us all summer long, especially 
with the massive commentary we're using. Do you use a commentary? 
This one illuminates the scriptures just like the sun enhances these petunias. 

Every sincere seeker is awed. 


The Heaps

I try to keep the heaps at bay.
Heaps of what? 
You know—heaps of STUFF.
Mail, socks, hairpins, 
books, pillows, paperclips, 
lists, receipts, more books,
laundry, bubble wrap, dishes.
It's what piles up around here, probably like it does at your house.

But I don't mind controlled heaps of stuff. 
This collection of  important stuff is contained an old fruit basket on my desk. 
The white china bird with the broken-and-glued-back tail feels like a friend, 
and the photos of me and my sweetie laughing helps me prioritize. 

How do you tame your heaps of stuff?

( Further study on controlling clutter here. )


Mile High

Mile-high summer sky.
Impossible blue too good to be true.
Swing-low cumulus glide over us.
Rush away before the day
fades to gray.

*Photo from Lake Cumberland vacation 2016.


Letter Treasures

I visited with a dear friend recently, chicken soup in hand. 
She had a health crisis behind her, if only a few days behind.
Miraculously—and I don't use the word lightly—her cancer was found at such an early stage 
that radical surgery was enough to take care of the entire problem. 
The cancer's progress wasn't determined until the operation was underway, so my friend 
went into the operating room not knowing what the news would be when she awoke.
In preparation, she organized her desk, stocked her pantry, and ...

... wrote letters.

She penned letters to her children who, though married adults, found themselves at loose ends 
to witness their healthy-as-a-horse mother in a state of emergency. I imagine those missives
 must have been line upon line of fierce mother-love and faith-filled 
confidence in the grownups her babies had become. 

And a letter for her husband—not one telling him what to do if she died, 
never that. Instead, I'm sure it was filled with fond recollections of a youthful romance, 
assurances of lasting love, and reminders of future dreams yet unrealized.

Ever since I read Letters from Dad, the urging to write a yearly letter to each of my own 
family has been ever-present. I even found the (above) retro envelopes for the letters.
Although writing is my work, these messages have stumped me for several 
years now. But my friend's brave actions have inspired me again. 

Do you have a treasured letter from someone important to you? 
I'd love to hear about that.


Ink Trails

As I thumbed through my old address book today, I realized 
I have new information to add.
 Two of my sons now have their own mailboxes, the perfect accessory for their new lives.

It's too bad that Millenials keep their personal information on digital devices, so easily edited and updated. 
The history inside the cover of an "old-school" address book is, to me, priceless. 
There's something magical about the decades-long ink trails of life scrawled 
across its lined and lettered pages—
the house numbers and street names ignite destination-tethered memories:

3905 Gilbert Avenue, where the train track was only a block away
2305 Memorial Parkway, where we honeymooned to the blast of the Friday-night football cannon
208 Eastern Avenue, where my brother started his family and first cousins learned to play.
285 Collins Road, where my grandparents' farm was the heaven-on-earth we longed to visit. 
514 Hallam Avenue, where I found friendship around a table of open Bibles.

I'm thankful to have these touchstones of smeared ink that remind me to remember; 
grateful the street names and house numbers weren't simply deleted and forgotten. 

The perfect housewarming gift for my sons might be ... address books. 


Disaster to Triumph

It's wedding week, friends!
It is utterly ridiculous that I'm sitting here writing. 
Absolutely ludicrous that I was out this morning with my camera.
But the sun was lighting up the blooms and I had to step outside.
Relaxation and weddings don't usually go hand-in-hand, do they? 

Especially when you're supposed to deliver flower arrangements 
for your son's rehearsal dinner that look like THIS 
and this is what you have in your garden.
And you know what? 
I'm so thankful!

Because of the failure of my own peonies and the 
extravagent generosity of a dear friend, 
the rehearsal dinner arrangements will feature these:

What appeared to be a disaster, resulted in a triumph. 
It's a theme straight from the Book. 
Consider Gideon's loss of an entire army, followed by a victory with only 300 men.
Sarah, barren and shamed for decades, gave birth to the forerunner of the Messiah.
Samson, brought to the lowly position of a blind slave, becomes Israel's avenger.

Do you have "disaster to triumph" life stories? 
I'd love to hear about that.


Seasons of Change

This is a month of events—graduations, weddings, and celebrations.
Thirty days of beginnings and endings in our family.

Scattered glitter from graduation party invitations is making my couch (and my face) shine.
A box of rehearsal dinner vases rides in my backseat and beats a glassy tune on every drive.


Some joyful hellos and a few tearful goodbyes are in store
I would quote Heraclitus, but I think the scriptures have it nailed:

"There is a season for everything, and a time for 
every delight and event ..." Ecc. 3:1

When we are fearful, let us remember that God and His goodness 
to us are unchanging; thus, we are ever secure in Him."
Read an excellent short devotional on change here

*Use only Ghirardelli pre-tempered melting chocolate to create bride
and groom strawberries. This is my solemn advice.


The One That Made It

Last spring we bought two young dogwoods trees, a white and a pink.  
I hatched a scheme to create a garden entryway to the back part of our little Kentucky acre.
All I needed was a well-aged, blue-painted door ...
... and a pair of dogwood saplings, which we easily found at Lowes.

But as it turned out, young dogwood trees are like pretzel thins for whitetails—irresistible. 
SO the entryway dogwoods got gnoshed to bits over the winter.
But the extra one we planted close to the house—as an afterthought—made it.
Maybe deer don't care to munch so close to an outdoor grill?

While I was out taking these photos last night, 
helicoptering over stiff blooms as my men grilled burgers nearby, 
an unexpected hymn bubbled up and hummed past my lips.

Summer and winter ...
Pardon for sin ...
All I have needed ...
Peace that endures.

I know I'm not the only one in this crowd with an anxious heart. 
Am I?
It's hard to rejoice when life keeps piling on. 
Like a child left at the nursery desk, I 
nervously bite my lip and wonder when situations 
are going to get better. Just how long will it be until my 
Elder Brother shows up and puts everything in order?

That's when those old hymns drift back, bringing truth and comfort along for the ride. 


Peony Bush Believers

The peonies are waving their scrawny, red shoots around in the clammy, spring air.
Our Second Son always associated these with his birthday. As soon as the shoots 
broke free from the winter earth, we'd say, "It's almost your birthday!"
Even though the blooms that would open on his 
birthday were still a couple months away. 

Isn't that what spring is all about, anyway? 
Unashamed, unreasonable, crazy-talk kind of hope.
Who would ever believe these weak-looking stems would 
become a bush and bear glorious blooms?
No one reasonable, that's for sure. 
Starry-eyed dreamers, only. 
Just all of us
Each of us has seen the fulfillment of this insane hope 
year after year. So we don't wring our hands and wonder. There's no fretting 
about failure. Everyone knows what miracle is being wrought out there, 
and joyfully anticipates this -
If only this sort of certainty could be experienced in our faith lives, too.
After all, how much more reliable is the Father God than a peony bush?
Should we stand vigil over His word and wonder if it will really bear fruit 
as promised and wring worried hands? Why fret failure in the night hours
when His mercy and grace have been obvious year after year?

Where are the starry-eyed dreamers, the peony-bush believers,
 who anticipate the miracles to come and the beauty yet to be born? 

Let it be just all of us.

Verses here.


Library Day

In elementary school, my favorite day was Thursday,
because it was Library Day. 
I could hardly wait to enter the small library at the end of the upstairs 
hallway, past the water fountain, next to the double doors.

It didn't matter that the librarian, Mrs. R., had a nasty temper. 
Oh, I noticed her saggy scowl deepen as we filed into her domain, 
but I knew her anger wouldn't lash in my direction. 

Mrs. R. took no notice of the nerdy girl with too-large glasses 
engrossed in selecting her next Nancy Drew adventure

The lumpish mole between her eyebrows quivered and protruded 
as she pounded tables and flung periodicals at naughty boys—
Mrs. R. did dislike those grade-school boys. 
I identified.
So while she tossed plastic chairs and whoever sat in them, 
I opened books and trained Big Red with Danny or wandered the dump 
with the Boxcar Children, searching for barely-chipped china plates.

The hoofbeats of the Black Stallion, the King of the Wind, and their Island counterpart
drowned out the rantings of that long-ago, rural-Kentucky librarian. 

And really, what could be more riveting than Miss Hickory's dark relationship 
with the squirrel?
Not much ...

I wonder if you remember your earliest librarian. 
Did she teach you to love reading or 
did you learn to love reading in spite of her?
Which books were your favorite childhood escapes?
I'd love to know.