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.


The Rest of the Story

When your kids are little, you hold a (somewhat) omniscient position. 
You know their lives down to the smallest detail —
This one loves trips to the zoo to see the elephant,
 and that one sobs like the heartbroken inside a drive-through car wash
You know who squeezed all the toothpaste into the garbage can, 
and you know who will tattle at the first opportunity.
You plan where to go, what to wear, and what time to arrive. 
Whatever happens within the family, you're usually able to answer the 
basic questions—who did what, when, where, and how.

Until they grow up, and you learn you were all wrong about the omniscient thing. 
All wrong ... is that really any surprise? 
It is the overarching theme of parenthood ...
My husband and I have recently been introduced to "The Rest Of The Story." 

It's a little like being handed the extended version of a movie you've seen a thousand times. 
Those moments when your grown children reveal extra bits of information, 
adding vibrant, and often hilarious, texture to stale, familiar scenes. 
With any chance of consequences long, long gone, "The Rest Of The Story" 
conversations have been rolling around my dinner table lately.
We usually end up saying something like:
Aha! THAT'S what happened to my brand-new hammer. 
Oh! Now I know why the neighbor always seemed so angry. 
I wondered how the dog got up there!


Windowsill Victories

I need something to grow—especially in January.

These eyes of mine  need  to watch the slow greening of a bulb and 
the little-by-little, day-by-day emergence of life

And when those roots power down, even enough to lift the unsuspecting bulb 
up and out of the soil ... somehow a tiny bit of the victory belongs to me too.

My kitchen window is populated with post-holiday, clearance bulbs  
each coming to life at the appropriate time and at the perfect pace.
I'll keep you posted on the small victories occurring in my kitchen window.

Are you growing anything in the bleakness of January?
Send a photo and share the joy!


Snow Designs

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, 
that it kisses them so gently? 
And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says
‘Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.’” 
― Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass

 "The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. 
You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, 
and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?"  - J. B. Priestley

"Come, let’s talk this over, says the Lord; 
no matter how deep the stain of your sins, 
as freshly fallen snow."  -  Isaiah 1:18

The intricate design of the humble snowflake never ceases to astound me. 
My photos can't do justice to these crazy-amazing bits of beauty that fall 
from heaven like miniature gifts and promptly melt 
away—how unbelievably lavish!
Numb fingers and a runny nose were small prices to pay for 
seeing such holy artistry up close.

Did you get out in the snow today?