Snapshots from the Week

The last few weeks have been full with finishing the school year and preparing for our summer season of volunteers; but it was fun to arrive at camp and find the peas, potatoes, and greens we had planted in April pushed up through the soil.  I was able to harvest a few radishes and salad greens, and we have pulled enough strawberries for the six of us to each have a few.

The iris, which is my favorite flower, were in full bloom.  I found a wild one blooming at the edge of the woods.

The children and I got the summer vegetables planted: beans, corn, several varieties of summer and winter squashes, cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers.  Teamwork made the job go quickly.  Our oldest pulled back the wood chips with a hoe.  Our daughter and I planted the seeds, and our two youngest boys took turns covering them up.  At the end of one row, we uncovered a salamander which the kids found to be a fascinating diversion.

Later in the week, after all the vegetables were planted, we were grateful for a lovely, soaking rain.

One morning, the clouds were rolling in over the camp; and I had to stop and thank the Lord for the beauty of the sky.

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That same morning, I admired the colors of our breakfast fruit salad.

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Our oldest spent quite a bit of time in the shop working on wooden creations.  This was his first chiseled piece.  Later, he made another and was excited that someone bought it.

20170516_112322 A few snapshots from the week!

Peace on Earth

At Christmas time, I am often moved by the Nativity plays, the beautiful carols, and the glow of candles; but this year, there were other images that moved my heart.  Over time, I have felt myself growing hard toward people and circumstances.  I have prayed that God would soften my heart; and this Christmas season, He did.

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Several incidents come to mind.  At a volunteer dinner, a choir consisting of women recovering from addiction sang with great strength,

“I don’t know what tomorrow will bring.  I can’t tell you what’s in store.  I don’t know a lot of things.  I don’t have all the answers to the questions of my life, but I know in Whom I have believed.  He knew who I was when He carried my cross.  He knew that I would fail Him, but He took the loss.  And he knows my name, every step that I take, every move that I make, every tear that I cry.  He knows my name.  When I’m overwhelmed by the pain and can’t see the light of day, I know I’ll be just fine; cause he knows my name.”

Another group from the same program performed interpretive movement to “Peace on Earth”.  I felt my eyes prick as I thought, “What a beautiful sight to see these women healthy and lifting voices and hands to the Lord!”

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Christmas day, I witnessed two believers shaking hands: one a doctor clothed in a dress shirt, and one a man who is unable to read  and wearing flannel.  As they gripped hands in mutual respect, the doctor remarked that the other man was one of his best helpers.  My heart rejoiced at this display of friendship and equality within God’s kingdom.

The day after Christmas, I sat in the visiting room of a state prison.  Men of various ages, background, and cultures spent a bit of time with loved ones.  One man nestled a sleeping baby in his arms, one played a game with his two young daughters, several visited with older relatives, and the one which I sat beside shared with me his humor, his frustrations, and his hopelessness for the future.  My heart was moved.  He tells me there are two thousand men in that facility.  That is just one prison, in one state, on one part of the globe.  How God’s heart must long for His creatures!

Recently, written in a notebook, my husband came across a quote by Beth Clark.  “I’ve noticed something about people who make a difference in the world.  They hold the unshakable conviction that individuals are extremely important, that every life matters.  They get excited over one smile.  They are willing to feed one stomach, educate one mind, and treat one wound.  They aren’t determined to revolutionize the world all at one; they’re satisfied with small changes.  Over time, though, the small changes add up.  Sometimes they even transform cities and nations, and yes, the world.”

How about the church?  Where are the Christians?  I am challenging  myself as well.  Too many of us sit in our comfortable pews and homes when there are people who need us to risk ourselves to walk alongside them in their struggles.  How about business owners offering employment to someone with a record?  Could you offer to transport someone to work who has no driver’s license?  Would you invite someone struggling with addiction to your home to play cards or for a meal or dessert?  How about giving your phone number and being available to call when a way of escape is needed?  We admire missionaries who travel to far off countries to areas of danger, and rightfully so, but I believe God is calling us to risk ourselves and our comfort right where we are.  In so doing, may we share “Peace on Earth.”

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December Happenings

A Christmas parade was the first event of the season.  Our daughter rode with her dance studio on a gingerbread house-themed float.  She looked like royalty, waving at all the bystanders.  Their float won the Elfin Magic award which was for incorporating children into the theme.  Our oldest son rode with the Stables at Creekside Glen which was close to the end of the parade.  By then it was dark, and the parade was moving swiftly, so I did not get a good picture.  They rode on a wagon with horseback riders around it.  Our youngest two children eagerly gathered up candy and a stuffed bear that was tossed from firetrucks, floats, and cool cars.  My favorite entry was from a church called Rockvine which had constructed a replica of their stone church and a sleigh.  Watching the band march by always brings back memories of my own high school marching band days.

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Saturday we all worked hard to dig the leaves out of the ditches, take them down the hill, and dump them over the side of the mountain.  The job was physically demanding; but in the end, jumping in a leaf pile neck-deep was lots of fun.

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On the way to church on Wednesday, the sky was absolutely gorgeous.  I had to snap a picture and enjoyed spotting the city lights below.  On Thursday, while driving the kids to activities, we saw sun-dogs in the sky, so I pulled over to snap another picture.

 “The heavens declare the Glory of God.”

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September’s Show

As we move toward autumn and the days have lost a bit of summer’s heat, the wildflowers are putting on a show.

20160911_153326The goldenrod, iron weed, and queen of the meadow are dressed in exquisite finery.

20160911_153045Butterflies have noticed the bright beauty of the blossoms and have joined the dance as a gentle breeze plays among the blooms.

20160911_155151Creation offers a glimpse of God’s goodness and beauty!

Change and Beauty

Recently, we moved from Main Street of an old coal town to the edge of a state forest atop the mountain.  The sounds of traffic and people were replaced by birds, frogs, rain, and trees swaying in the wind.  We transitioned from a lovely, spacious three-story house to a much smaller but equally lovely single-floor dwelling.  While we enjoyed the room of the larger home, we are finding the small house to be cozy, less to clean, and more condusive to family togetherness.  Although we have finished our home school year, our children have delighted in nature’s classroom.  Almost daily, one of them calls, “Mom come look at this.”  The finds have included a beautiful Luna moth, lots of giant millipedes, a chipmunk on our porch, and a large black beetle we observed carrying a round seed pod much bigger than itself.  We have watched the tulip poplars begin to blossom and the milkweed plants spring up along the road.  My favorite find has been wild lady slipper blossoms growing on the bank below our house.

First thing in the morning, I have enjoyed walks on the trail through pristine forest where the only sounds are nature’s music: the flute-like twitter of songbirds, the “coo coo” of the morning dove, and the percussive croaks and “scritch-scratch” of frogs by the pond.

I do not always welcome change, and transition can be difficult.  But once I am on the other side, I am reminded how God provides beauty wherever He plants us.  More and more, I have come to realize if we look for His good gifts and choose joy, we can be content in whatever situation we are placed.

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Changing Seasons

March has come in like a lamb, and we are basking in the warm spring days.  After a number of gray February days, the daffodils nodding in the bright sunshine are a welcome sight.  Taking advantage of gentle breezes and the sun’s warmth, I kept my laundry line full each day with bedding and clothes.  The fresh, clean smell of outdoors filled the house.  The children were once again eager to be outside: climbing the dogwood tree, digging in the mud by the creek, spying bulbs that are pushing up leaves, and looking for snails in the gardens.  One afternoon, we tidied up the flower beds, pulling the weeds and moss that had started to grow.

On a morning walk yesterday, I was cheered by the chattering of the sparrows, the first blossoms of forsythia, and the tight-fisted buds on the plum tree.  An older gentleman was out hoeing in his yard.  I have always enjoyed seeing his little backyard plot in which he grew cabbages, Brussels sprouts, onions, and pole beans on his fence.  After calling a greeting, I asked him if he was getting his garden ready, but he replied that he wasn’t putting in a garden this year.  I walked on and felt a little disappointed; but I thought to myself, “Seasons come and seasons go.”

That saying applies to nature and to life.  As one season of the year rolls into another, I always enjoy the newness; but with seasons of life, I tend to be a little more reluctant to embrace the changes.  We are anticipating a move in the next months, and with it will come significant change.  While it is hard to bid farewell to the current season, we must do so in order to welcome the new one.  Amidst change and uncertainties, I am grateful for our Heavenly Father’s unwavering faithfulness.  I will rest in His all-knowing care.

Lovely October

October- it is a lovely month.  The days are warm but not too hot.  The leaves are beginning to change, so everyday the mountains look more glorious.  The sky is often a blue that only October brings.  The gardening and preserving are nearly finished.  There is a deep satisfaction in having a full pantry and freezer, ready for winter days to come.  These are the blessings and beauty for which I thank the Lord.

Storm rolling over the mountain.
Storm rolling over the mountain.
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A full pantry of canned goods

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Our vines produced four pumpkins- just enough for each kid!
Our vines produced four pumpkins- just enough for each child!
Our pretty morning glories are still blooming.
Our pretty morning glories are still blooming.
Beauty!
Beauty!

Greens, Seeds, and Faith

This year in the garden, it has been fun and rewarding to experiment with different greens and to collect some seeds from them.

Last year in the late summer, I planted kale so I would have some to harvest in the fall.  I did harvest kale, and the plants continued to live through the winter.  They started growing again in the spring, so I harvested kale all summer and now into the second fall.  We have eaten kale and frozen kale for the winter.  I sold some at farmer’s market and have given away bags of it.  I do not know if that is typical for kale, but it has been the plant that keeps giving.  Some of the plants went to seed, so I have harvested and saved seeds to plant in the future.  The seeds are tiny and round- amazing the abundance that comes from such a small seed.

Another hardy plant is Swiss chard.  I planted some in the spring and have harvested all summer, and the plants continue to bear this fall.  I have really enjoyed this green as it kept producing right through the heat of the summer, and the leaves were not strong-tasting like some greens get when it is hot or dry.  Also the chard did not receive damage from slugs or insects like some of my plants did.

A new-to-us vegetable was baby choi.  When I planted it in the spring, it began to flower before I realized it was ready; so I allowed the choi to go to seed and collected the seeds to plant next year.  Some seeds must have dropped though, because several plants came up in the late summer.  So now, we are harvesting baby choi as well.

Another green I tried was mesclun mix.  Planted behind our heat pumps, where the soil is kind of thin and pebbly, it did not produce very well.  I did harvest a few leaves; but because it is a mix, some of the greens began to flower before the others were really ready.  As summer waned, I kind of ignored the plants.  Two weeks ago, I was surprised to find lots of large leaves.  I decided to cut some, and the leaves have been quite tasty in stir-frys.

Last week, I planted some spinach and lettuce seeds, hoping for a fall crop of each.  I was surprised that in less than a week, the seeds had sprouted.  We ate our own lettuce for most of the summer by planting a crop in March and one in June.

Experimenting with seeds, working in the soil, harvesting a crop: these tasks remind me of sharing our faith in Jesus Christ.  Sometimes we see an immediate response in others; but often, the message is planted in what seems like poor soil.  The initial crop may not be much; but then, up springs a harvest.  Some seeds are dropped without our awareness, and then we are surprised with a crop.  Some small seeds produce abundance beyond what we ever expected.  The seeds are the Word of God and our testimony through words and actions.  The crop and harvest are new believers in Christ.  We must do our part in planting, and God will work out His unique plan for the harvest.

All Nature Sings

Spring has sprung!  The perfect combination of rain and sunshine has awakened nature from its winter sleep.   The mountains resemble a painting in progress with a few more brush strokes of green each day.  The grapevines are slowly unfurling their leaves.  The summer perennials have pushed their green sprouts up through the soil.  The dogwood and red bud blossoms praise our Creator.  I hear the coo of doves and the twitter of sparrows.  I see the flutter of the gold finch.  Along with nature, my spirit is quickened within me.  After winter’s slumber, I am alive!  The sun’s warm rays kiss my head and tell me of God’s love.  The rain’s gentle drops cleanse the air and refresh the soil, reminding me of God’s blessings.

Violets
Violets

I ponder the following hymn:

This is my Father’s world,

And to my listening ears

All nature sings, and round me rings

The music of the spheres.

This is my Father’s world:

I rest me in the thought

Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;

His hand the wonders wrought.

Pink dogwood blossoms
Pink dogwood blossoms

This is my Father’s world

The birds their carols raise,

The morning light, the lily white,

Declare their maker’s praise.

This is my Father’s world,

He shines in all that’s fair;

In the rustling grass I hear him pass;

He speaks to me everywhere.

Red bud blossoms
Red bud blossoms

This is my Father’s world.

O let me ne’er forget

That though the wrong seems oft so strong,

God is the ruler yet.

This is my Father’s world:

why should my heart be sad?

The Lord is King; let the heavens ring!

God reigns; let the earth be glad!

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