Henry in the Middle

A little heartwarming story about a boy I love named Henry.

God filled my grandma cup with three incredibly sweet granddaughters – Violet, Mia, and Noelle. Life was filled with tea parties, princesses and fairies, Barbie dolls, and glitter adorned fairy wings and princess dresses. Then God took my decidedly glittery pink and purple cup of joy and filled it to overflowing by adding three grandsons – Charlie, Henry, and George. My grand-girl fun was by no means over, but my toy arsenal now included marble-eating plastic dinosaurs, toy cars and trucks, and lots of dirt and bugs.

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Upcycled Firewood Ring in the Garden

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”

~Margaret Atwood

Encore Tulip and Daffodil Performance

Last fall I planted some “late” season tulips and daffodils. While not all of them seem to have bloomed, many have, so I am blessed with an encore performance of mostly white or pale yellow flowers (not planned). The delicate beauty of the various shades of white and yellow stands in lovely contrast to the riot of color I had going on over the past few weeks – almost like a different garden. To add to the beauty, I have some of the flowerbeds edged in various succulents, which are looking pretty impressive filling in the front row and edges.

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Duct Tape Can’t Fix It

It was 13 years ago today that my dad was called Home to heaven. May I share his story of how God drew him to Himself?

My dad was a mechanical engineer by training, so could figure out how to fix most anything long before the advent of YouTube tutorials. If he didn’t have the right part, he’d get creative and make something else work. Our family jokes that he could fix just about anything with duct tape.

My dad learned later in life that there was one thing he definitely couldn’t fix by his own ingenuity. His own sinful heart. I was about 12 years old when my dad realized he needed to trust Jesus for salvation from sin. I was old enough to notice his dramatic spiritual transformation — a change that carried over into every aspect of his life.

Mom once shared with me that Dad would spend every lunch break at work reading the Bible he kept in his car. He read through it so many times that it fell apart. Dad repaired it with his favorite tool: duct tape. I displayed that Bible at my dad’s memorial service in 2008, but it disappeared sometime during mom’s battle with Alzheimer’s a few years later. I did find another Bible, similarly repaired (pictured).

Not long ago I sat down with my Dad’s well-worn Bible in my lap and began to page through it, stopping to read his notes in the margin. It was clear to me that he spent much time exploring this copy of God’s Word too. The Bible had a few special things tucked in the flyleaf, including two cards I had sent him — it meant a lot to me knowing that he had treasured those cards enough to save them.

My heart got all tangled up with emotion when my eyes spied two sheets of lined paper in my dad’s familiar handwriting. These were the notes from which my Dad shared this testimony of faith with the congregation at Garfield Baptist Church on March 31, 1971.

Today, dear readers, on the 13th anniversary of his homegoing to heaven, I would like to share dad’s testimony with you, just as he wrote it, with a prayerful hope that God will use it for His Glory .

March 31, 1971
My Testimony
Jerry Boyles - A Son of God
Matthew 10:32 - "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before man, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven."

It is a shock to learn at the genetic age of 39 to find that you are a spiritual babe. I have been a church member since the age of 11-12 but do not recall being asked personally, 'Do you accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior?" I could not give an affirmative answer the first time this question was posed on a Monday night visitation by Gene Klingbeil and Ed Newton, but it did start the wheels turning. I admitted to being a sinner and I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior on Monday evening November 9, 1970 with the assistance of Rev. (Edward) Fuller, Mr. (Everett) Huebner, and my family. I was baptized by immersion by Rev. Fuller on Dec. 27, 1970.

I base my salvation on John 1:11-13 "He came unto his own and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."

My assurance of salvation is: John 10:28 "And I give unto them eternal life: and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand."

At this point in Dad’s testimony, he made a note to himself to “Give thanks to AWANA and Sunday School.” Those two ministries of Garfield Baptist Church were very instrumental in my coming to Christ and growing in my faith too. I love knowing that when God drew me to Christ, my family would soon come to know Him too. Dad concluded his testimony in this way:

Being a spiritual babe I have a lot of "catching up" to do. I'm going to need all the help I can get from God and this congregation. I feel that I've had much help from both. I hope, if accepted as a member, that I can be an asset to this church.

In Jesus Name,
Jerry R. Boyles

Right hand of fellowship, Thursday, April 8, 1971

Just Mimicking Nature

The calendar reads May 1st today, but our temps are in the high 80’s and winds are blustery with gusts up to 50 mph. It feels more like summer than spring. I gardened a bit today, but it’s a little too windy to enjoy it. My hubby suggested we go visit the Allen Centennial Garden. This beautiful public garden is really an outdoor classroom nestled within the heart of the UW-Madison campus.

We smiled as university seniors donned their cap and gown and posed for friends taking informal iPhone portraits along the paths of this picturesque place. On other occasions, we have seen professional photographers taking engagement or family portraits, and we have even stumbled upon a wedding taking place in a reserved area of the garden.

This garden often mirrors my own in its stages, so I was not surprised to find that we were catching just the tail end of this garden’s tulip and daffodil show. A few weeks from now, the “show” will change once again as iris and peonies put on their own performance.

It was so windy, it was hard to take photos, but here are a few tulips which were still looking pretty fabulous. I especially loved their collection of potted tulips.

Once in awhile I am able to observe the student interns and volunteers hard at work planting and maintaining this beautiful place. I sometimes wish I could borrow them for a weekend or so to help spruce up my own place. As I’m growing older, I will admit that I am having more trouble keeping up with the tasks of gardening. But as we walked the garden’s paths today, I couldn’t help but notice that some areas seemed a bit unkempt. One sign pointed to the reason this garden seemed less than tidy. I had to laugh when I read it and told my hubby that I needed this sign for my own garden.

Weeds or not, no matter what’s happening at any particular time in this lovely place, I know I will leave having been glad I had been there. That’s just how I want people to feel when they visit my little plot of God’s creation.

Hand a (Grand)Kid a Camera

Having grown up a few states away from my own grandparents, I vividly recall those long “summer vacation” trips from Wisconsin to Ohio and West Virginia…and back. Three sweaty siblings elbowing each other in the backseat of our sedan in the years before our family car had air-conditioning. I loved seeing my grandparents, but the trip, not so much. Memories of that once a year trip make me feel particularly blessed to have our daughter Beth and her family living about ten minutes away from us and able to stop by often.

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A Belated Christmas Gift

In case you’ve never met him, this is my “little brother” Brad (I previously introduced him here and here). We weren’t particularly close growing up, but I have spent the past six years getting to know him on a level I hope that most siblings will never have to experience.

Brad was a freckle-faced, mischievous kid who had lots of friends, but I knew something was different about him with respect to his ability to learn. He went to a special school for a few years, but my parents never let on to any particulars related to his ‘special education needs’ until one day when I was about 12 years old. I don’t remember what was happening at the time, but Brad was having trouble with his school work and I think my dad sensed my annoyance with my brother over something trivial. I don’t remember Dad’s exact words, but he took me aside and urged me to be kind to my brother and try to help him out because life was harder for him than for most.

We three Boyles kids, Christmas of 1963 (l. to r. Cindie, Vivian & Brad)

I do remember promising my dad that I would try harder to be kind. Little did I know then just what that would entail, but Facebook reminded me earlier this week that six years ago I arrived in Milwaukee to look after my mom who was in the mid-stages of Alzheimer’s and ended up taking my brother to the emergency room at the VA Hospital in Milwaukee. That trip resulted in a series of appointments and a battery of tests, which led to a diagnosis of colon cancer and various cancerous skin issues, in addition to unmanaged diabetes. And so began my opportunity to keep the promise I made to my dad more than 50 years prior ago as I embarked on my ministry of care for my brother, driving him to and from various appointments in treatment for all of these problems. Somewhere along the way it was determined that Brad had experienced some mini-strokes and that he was cognitively impaired – the neurologist called it vascular dementia. It soon became apparent that it would be wise to move both my mom and my brother to live near me

Brad’s room at a nearby nursing home is scheduled for much needed renovation this summer, so the management asked families to help their resident clean out extra items. I stayed for a bit after we returned from Brad’s doctor appointment last week to take care of that. We tackled his nightstand together first, starting with a bag full of unopened cards that people had sent him. There were Easter cards, birthday cards and even a few from Christmas. I opened each of the cards and read them to Brad, reminding him of who people were if he didn’t remember them. Then, I packed up his winter coat and a few items of clothing that he doesn’t like to wear. There were a few t-shirts which were frayed and stained, obviously his favorite shirts to wear, so I took them with me and told him I would purchase new ones.

Someone had gifted Brad with cookies at Christmas. He pointed to the tin on his nightstand (pictured below) and told me he had saved it because he thought I would like it. I don’t know what it was about that simple gesture, but it meant a lot to me that he thought about something I would like. Honestly, even though he had eaten all of the cookies in the tin, it was like a belated Christmas gift.

Mr. and Mrs. Robin Return

Mr. Robin Redbreast perches like a king on the purple garden chair - 
Pudgy tummy rounded and very handsomely red-vested.
I wonder where he and his queen have built their perfect cup-shaped nest?
In the eaves, atop the downspout, or in the leafy shelter of the crabapple tree?

Cheerily, cheer up! Cheerily, cheer up!

My robin friends require nothing from me, not even to be fed.
Crabapples and blueberries are choice morsels, and juicy worms make a fine dessert.
Their hop-run-run-run hunt for tasty fare is entertaining to watch.  
How many baby robins will join them this year; two broods or three?

Cheerily, cheer up! Cheerily, cheer up!

My robin friend takes wing abdicating his backyard purple throne,
Landing on the fountain, he cocks his head, first left, then right. 
Mrs. Robin joins him from her treetop perch for a splish-splashy fountain rendezvous. 
Then, off they flit to the locust tree where the king serenades his queen with his song.

Cheerily, cheer up! Cheerily, cheer up!
Photo by Skyler Ewing on Pexels.com

Raindrops on Roses

We’ve been in rainy Louisiana this week enjoying more than “raindrops on roses,” but also enjoying whiskers on kittens (four cats) and the playful antics of three dogs (sometimes five) in the home of our friends and gracious hosts, Don and Melinda. Our little vacation started out sunny and beautiful, but most of the week has been more than a little wet…

yet still beautiful, as these photos of Melinda’s garden will prove.

A beautiful ‘Porch Begonia’ (aka: Angel Wing begonia)
Raindrops on roses
A gorgeous orchid bloomed on the last day of our vacation

The rain hasn’t dampened our quiet fellowship. Together we have enjoyed Melinda’s amazing cooking (she truly loves to cook), a never-ending tea-time, the challenge of putting together two 1,000-piece puzzles, or our time spent binge-watching episodes of British tv’s “Pie in the Sky” and “Rosemary and Thyme” trying to see who can figure out whodunit before the detectives. Oh, and I must not forget the menagerie of critters!

As wonderful as every single minute of our vacation was, it was nice to pull up into our driveway tonight and be welcomed by lovely daffodils and tulips.

Our lovely “welcome home”

Thank you to Jon the Propagator for hosting this fun, around-the-world garden tour each week.

DIY Gardener

The summer of 1982, my neighbor Adele reached over her backyard fence and handed me a freshly dug perennial from her lovely garden. In passing me that tiny bit of her garden, she inspired me to create my own garden. I have been a do-it-yourself gardener ever since. Like my gardening inspiration and mentor Adele, I use traditional tools like cultivator hoes, trowels, and other hand tools, rather than power this ‘n thats to get the job done. My idea of a rototiller is to go in the house and ask my hubby to come outside and dig for me. He can dig in a matter of minutes what it would take me days to dig.

Likewise, most of the other members of my “gardening staff” all call me “Grandma.” Other than occasionally paying a grandchild to help pull weeds or pick up seed pods from our locust tree, or a friend who is temporarily out of work, I have never hired anyone to help me in the garden.

Okay, I will admit to a tiny twinge of jealousy as I see landscaping trucks in the neighborhood. It sure would be nice to hire a professional landscape artist to draw up a plan for that Pinterest-inspired garden space I have been dreaming about – complete with the cozy two-story structure with a little sitting room beneath and a cozy bunkhouse above which would provide a grandkid-friendly (and fun) summer sleep space. It would be so cool to have a landscaping crew, each with more muscles than Wayne and I combined, jump out of those trucks and in a matter of days transform my garden space into the luscious dream garden I have in my head.

Oh, I have loads of ideas!

As nice as it would be to have a professional landscape team doing all the grunt-work, I must admit there is a special joy and satisfaction when I look at God’s wonderful artistry in our gardens robed in summer’s splendor and realize that “we did this” ourselves.

No one can rightly call his garden his own unless he himself made it.
~ Alfred Austin, Poet Laureate 1986