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.
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.
Thank you to Jon the Propagator for hosting this fun, around-the-world garden tour each week.
I’m not sure, but I think it has been gloomy and rainy since Sunday. The sun has made a few cameo appearances, but it’s definitely feeling rather fall-ish here in Wisconsin. I even dug my blue jean jacket out of the closet and threw it on before picking up my granddaughter Vi to transport her to a behind-the-wheel driving lesson this morning. (I know! How can she possibly be old enough for that?!)
Well, anyway. While I was gone today, hubby closed “my” windows and turned on the heat to take the chill out of the house. Thankfully, the weatherman tells me that the warmer, throw the windows open temperatures are returning soon. I sure hope so. Wasn’t it just last week that I was playing in the dirt? Yes, I think it was. I seem to recall being busy gathering seeds and dreaming of colorful annuals dotting my perennial flowerbeds next summer. Along with that fun task, I’d been cutting back spent foliage and taking diggings of favorite perennial plants I’d like to grow in other parts of the yard.
I wish I could say I accomplished everything on my garden to-do list during that spell of wonderful weather, but must confess that I am a wanderer in the garden – never quite finishing one task before wandering off to work on something else. Case in point, one glorious day last week, I was digging around in the flowerbed nestled under our locust tree when I spied a particular hosta plant nearby in a flowerbed by my 3-season porch. The hosta was looking a little tattered and sad. So, true to my garden-wandering self, I picked up my gardening stool and plopped myself down in front of this hosta, then pulled my pruning shears out of the pocket of my garden apron.
As you can see, some of the leaves are blighted and stressed. I found a super informative and well-illustrated pdf publication on hosta disease and am really hoping this isn’t something fatal (you can find that publication here). Maybe one of my readers knows what I’m dealing with here.
In contrast to the steady rain we’re having now, we had a pretty long dry spell in August where I wasn’t as faithful as I should have been in watering this area of my garden. Even though there is now a little river running through my back yard, last week there were areas of the garden with deep, water-thirsty cracks in the soil. I’m no expert on hostas, but I’m thinking this damage was due to drought stress. Most of the leaves looked really healthy and I didn’t see too much insect damage, so I decided to just snip away the unhealthy looking leaves. A few snips later, I had this bucket of damaged leaves.
With a little pruning and cleanup, the plant began to take on a bit of its former beauty. There! Now isn’t that better?
The Parable of the Hosta
My garden often teaches me little lessons in life – parables, I guess. This hosta reminded me that neglecting the essential disciplines in life leads to a rather shabby looking life. There are always consequences to my actions (or lack thereof) when important things are neglected. Too little sleep leaves me sluggish and crabby. Poor eating habits affect how my body feels and looks. Forgetting to drink enough water leaves my skin looking 10 years older. Neglecting to exercise early in the day probably means I will neglect it altogether that day, and I will feel it in the way my body moves (or doesn’t move).
Likewise, time in God’s Word is essential to my growth as a believer. When I neglect spiritual disciplines in my life, it begins to show up in the way I think, my attitudes and actions, and even in the way I speak. The beauty of Christ in me becomes marred and difficult to see.
Word Before World
I am grateful to have been invited during the month of August to participate in a virtual Bible study challenge called Word Before World hosted by Well-Watered Women (you can read more about that group here). It was just the challenge I needed for re-establishing the habit of making time in God’s Word a number one priority. First thing in the morning, before social media and other things which vie for our attention. It was fun to virtually gather together with women all over the world. A few of my friends from church were part of this group, so that was a wonderful way for us to spend time together around the Word, taking the sting out of not being able to gather with one another in person right now during the pandemic. I absolutely loved the friendship, the sisterhood, encouraging words, prayer support, photos, videos, Facebook room chats, and desperately needed the accountability.
“Put off” and “Put on”
My hosta parable falls short in perfectly illustrating this growth principle, but here’s the lesson I’m taking away from my little adventure in gardening. Just as my hosta needed me to take off the decayed leaves to restore its beauty, time in the Word helps me see what needs to be “put off” or “put on” in my spiritual life so that the beauty of Christ can be seen in me. And, of course, the water of God’s Word is as absolutely essential to my spiritual growth as the refreshing rain is to the lush growth of my garden.
A Month in Ephesians
During the month of August, I made an effort to read through the book of Ephesians each day (it only takes about 20 minutes). I learned something new each time through and there is still SO much more to glean.
I’m sharing my friend Wendy’s post today. I first called her eldest sister Bonnie my friend when I was in highschool. A few years later, her sister Suzy and I developed a bond of friendship through ministry in our local church – a friendship which has endured and grown. Fast forward a few more decades when pursuit of higher education brought Wendy (the youngest sister) to live in the area where I have lived for the past 20 years. It was my joy to see a sweet bond of friendship grow and it was truly a sad day when she moved away. But God was in the moving around my friend did for the next several years, for it led her to the man God had prepared for her to marry.
What a sweet privilege of friendship it was to create Wendy’s wedding bouquet and to witness the poignant moment that she has written about in this reminisce. I invite you to read it and, when you’re finished reading, implore you to linger awhile on her blog to read the related posts. You will be blessed. I promise.
I think one of the things I miss the most during this time of pandemic isolation reality is being able to gather around a table with those I love. I don’t think I’ve truly understood the importance of ‘gathering together’ in my life until now when it isn’t advisable to do so.
Tables are made for gathering, and so are we.
Every room in my house has a table. Some just gather stuff: a bedside lamp and a stack of books; a little collection of photos and a jar of buttons. But most tables are designed to be a place where people sit and gather.
In our home, there’s the gem of a dining room table we found in an antique shop in downtown Milwaukee. It came with six chairs, three leaves and a sideboard. The rattan seated chairs have since been replaced by some Amish built oak chairs of a sturdier variety.
Then, there is our wonderful kitchen table purchased shortly after moving into our home 20-something years ago. I fell in love with that table when we were shopping for a couch – actually, I think it was the table’s matching china cabinet that I fell in love with, but hubby was willing to buy the whole set for me. The table has taken a beating over the years, but it’s still our favorite place for family and friends to gather for a meal, to work a puzzle or play a game, or sing “Happy Birthday” and enjoy the requisite cake.
This favorite table of mine has a little drawer on one its long sides. Matt and Beth always sat on that side of the table. I didn’t find out until they were all grown up that whenever they didn’t want to eat something on their plate, they would wait until I wasn’t looking and then tuck whatever it was in the drawer. Later, when no one was in the room, they’d return to the scene of the crime and remove the disgusting food and hide it in the garbage can. It would not have been a laughing matter if they were caught doing that back then, but it is now. Whenever I sit at that table to craft or sew, I see that little drawer and smile.
My favorite table in its present abode – my craft room…and a glimpse at Matt and Beth’s drawer.
Memories are even etched in the table top itself. If you look at its table top from just the right angle and in the right light, you’ll notice years and years of homework assignments, letters, and grocery lists etched into its soft pine wood. My favorite table continues to gather memories of this sort (along with paint splotches, glitter and glue) as my grandkids gather around it and work on various arts and crafts.
Tables are made for gathering. I hope that my favorite table will be a place to create and gather memories for many years to come.
Did you ever lose a favorite recipe? You know the kind I mean: the recipe card that has been in your recipe box for years and is now a bit tattered and stained from years of use. Well, I recently wanted to bake a batch of cookies I’ve been making since my kids were little, but couldn’t find that handwritten recipe card anywhere. It was one of those recipes copied from someone else with my own “tweaks” scribbled in the margins.
I searched a few of my recipe books and found a similar recipe. It had all the right ingredients, so I mixed up a batch and baked them for my mom’s friends who live with her in assisted living memory care. The cookies baked up a bit thin and crumbly. The ingredients were right, but were obviously not in the right proportions. My friend Lola’s husband is one of the residents who REALLY liked the not-quite-perfect cookies. She heard my lament about losing my recipe card and went home and searched through her cookbooks in an effort to find the recipe for me. Imagine my delight when she surprised me yesterday by bringing in a church cookbook with a recipe that looked to be closer to the ingredient proportions of my tweaked recipe. Unlike my lost recipe, this version had nuts and didn’t have chocolate chips in it (but that problem is easily remedied).
YAAY! I couldn’t wait to give the recipe a try.
Now, imagine my excitement this morning when I stumbled upon a forgotten blog draft I had created back on July 9th when I had last baked the cookies for my friends at BeeHive. Someone had asked for the recipe, so I had actually typed out my tweaked recipe with the intent of posting it on my blog.
Well, here it is!
½ c. butter (1 stick, softened)
½ c. shortening (or another stick of butter, which I prefer)
½ c. corn oil (or canola oil)
½ c. coconut oil (I use solid, but oil would work too)
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. granulated sugar
3 c. flour
1 t. salt
1 t. cream of tartar
1 T. vanilla extract
1 ½ c. regular oats
1 c. flaked coconut
2 c. Rice Krispies
2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips (variation: use a combination of semi-sweet, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, butterscotch chips)
In a large mixing bowl, combine butter, shortening, corn and coconut oils, brown sugar and granulated sugar. Beat with electric mixer until creamy. Beat in flour, salt and cream of tartar, adding egg and vanilla extract until well combined.
Stir in oats, coconut, cereal, and your choice of chips. Stir until blended. Chill dough for a couple of hours. Scoop chilled dough (~ 1 T of dough) onto ungreased or parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving room between cookies for dough to spread a bit.
Bake at 350 ℉ for 12-14 minutes – until lightly browned on edges. Let set on baking sheet to cool for 10 minutes – cookie will continue to bake and set-up a bit. Remove from cookie sheet to cool completely, then store in air-tight storage container.
Note: the dough freezes well. I place the rounded scoops on a cookie sheet, then place in the freezer until hardened. I then put the frozen dough balls in a ZipLoc bag and freeze until ready to bake.
There is a lesson for my life in here somewhere. Sometimes my life contains all the right ingredients: church, family, personal Bible study, friends, prayer, ministry, housekeeping, gardening … and the like. But oftentimes the proportions are just not quite right. When I start feeling a little spread too thin and “not quite right,” nine times out of ten, I find the time spent in personal Bible study and prayer have diminished over time. Putting those ‘ingredients’ in the proper proportions in my life allows all the other priorities to meld together into a life that is truly satisfying and sweet – God’s ‘Best Ever’ for me.
Not long ago, I pushed Momma in her wheelchair out to the commons area so she would have a change of scenery and perhaps engage with others and be distracted from her current woes. As soon as she saw the other people, she planted her feet so I couldn’t push her any further, then said, “Oh, no! I’m not going there! None of those people like me.”
Just then, I believe, God sent a lovely lady named Lola to gently engage Mom in conversation. After a bit of small talk, Momma asked Lola which room she lived in. Lola pointed to her husband Roy’s room just two doors away and reassuringly patted my mother’s arm and said she was very glad to be Momma’s neighbor.
Momma and I sat in her bedroom talking tonight. I couldn’t help but notice she was being extra sweet and using the tone of voice one sometimes reserves for meeting a new friend. As I helped her get ready for bed she eyed me keenly, then said, “I don’t believe I know your name.”
I moved a little closer to my sweet mom and then replied, “My name is Cindie. What is your name?”
“Well, I’m Charlotte. I’ve always been Charlotte,” Momma replied matter of factly as she flashed one of her lovely smiles.
Putting my hand atop hers, I gazed into her brown eyes and proffered, “Pleased to meet you, Charlotte.”
“It’s nice to meet you too, dear.”
I’ve sort of dreaded this day, knowing Alzheimer’s would eventually snatch away my identity from her brain. I imagined that I would be utterly and completely heartbroken. Oddly enough, I wasn’t. For some reason it didn’t sting as much as I thought it would.
Today I wasn’t the daughter, as much as I was a new friend helping another friend.
A godly perspective on friends and wealth (written by my friend and husband, Wayne).
Friends are not Facebook Visitors Proverbs 19:4 (ESV) “Wealth brings many new friends, but a poor man is deserted by his friend.” I have a friend that predates Facebook. He is not just a visitor to my FB page. In fact, he cannot even use a phone anymore due to his current limitations. However, when […]