Friday, May 29, 2009

Seeking Proverbial Wisdom?

When you hear 'proverbs', you might be thinking 'wise thoughts.' And, you'd be right!

Solomon--who was son of David and a king of Israel--asked God for understanding and received his request. He then wrote down thoughts that are worthy of the ages into the book of the Bible we now call Proverbs, literally meaning "to be like." Who are we to be like? Ultimately, Jesus Christ. And Solomon's request for understanding is one that we might offer up to God as well, in our seeking to be like our Lord.



For the next three months, I will be facilitating a Bible study over at my other blog, In-between Time, on Proverbs. We will study the entire book, taking each chapter in small sections, thinking through some thought questions, and otherwise allowing the Spirit to fill us with the wisdom of God, to use as He wills.

It's a
daily blog, meaning new entries will be posted daily! (And that may further impact the number of posts over here!!) I will provide the Scripture verse focus and thought questions. Your thoughts and comments will enrich this space. This is meant to be a conversational, sharing blog not an "I am teaching you" blog.

Come join us on Monday, June 1st!

* * *

...let the wise listen and add to their learning,
and let the discerning get guidance-

for understanding proverbs and parables,
the sayings and riddles of the wise.

--Proverbs 1: 5&6

Friday, May 22, 2009

Strawberry Fields Forever

Just the other day, Bonita chatted about picking fresh strawberries on her blog and featured the most delicious-looking pie picture.

A day or so following, a friend called and asked if I wanted to go pick strawberries. She was surprised to learn that I had never been. Blueberries, yes, I said. But somehow, I had missed the preschool trip to the strawberry patch.
That all changed Thursday.

Skip the shower, dress to get stained and carry big buckets! We took to the field.


Spring in central Virginia has brought some wonderful rains and cool evenings, which are fine for enjoying the beauty of Spring, but not perfect for the launch of the strawberry season. Not enough warmth to bring out the abundance of berries one anticipating the season might expect.


"I've never worked harder to pick strawberries," my friend confessed.

Me, what did I know. I took in a gorgeous sunny morning and the experience of pulling fruit at least twice as big as the blueberries I'm used to picking every year. I learned from my friend that the tiny ones carry the most sweetness. She wasn't kidding!

About two hours later, she and I both felt a bit like ripened berries, sagging from the weight of our sun-kissed juiciness. We called it a morning!

Some seven pounds of berries now called for a new home. Several, actually.


[This looks a lot like my blueberry picture from last July. "Dancing in meadows of strawberry jam...." Ah, Jamberry!]

My friend's advice to "Just eat them" has served us well, and the girls' bus drivers and teachers, and some other friends who have received small tubs and bags of sweet goodness. Because fresh strawberries have such a short flavor life, baking and freezing become preserving alternatives (as plain old strawberry preserves isn't my thing). The girls will feast on some yummy homemade strawberry ice pops soon, just in time for the heatwave this weekend!

* * *

I
discovered something else out in the strawberry fields--a new take on the popular 30 x 5 exercise regime, happily promoted by Linda at
2nd Cup of Coffee. The general idea is to exercise for 30 minutes, 5 days a week. Doesn't sound hard, but if you read the folks who have and are trying it, you'll see that it can be more challenging than it sounds. Might I suggest an alternative? Instead of considering 30 x 5 as time, let's consider it distance. Take a strawberry field, 30 yards by 5 rows deep. Get down deep to pick all the best strawberries out of the area without your Step 2 Garden Hopper. (By all means, drink your water, right, Linda?)

If you ain't feelin' the burn the next day, you don't need 30 x 5!


Strawberry lemonade, anyone?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Too Close for Comfort



Some days, it's hard to be a Momma.

Your baby was innocently eating and playing when suddenly--poof!--she's not in the nest anymore. Thoughts run rampant.

"Where is she? She's not here....where IS she?"
"She fell. Oh.... Where?"
"Can you see her? Is she OK? I can't see her!
She's got to squeak so I can find her!!"

Meantime, baby girl has fallen to earth with a wing that just won't work right. But she seems content enough to hop around from patch of dirt to patch of brush--sitting, gazing.

Then, a monstrous herd of wild buffalo (a.k.a, children) comes streaming out of the yonder fields with loud voices, baseball bats and toy cars. Swings swing. Balls fly. Cars vroom.

"Hey, it's a baby bird!"



The kids' dialogue grows louder as they tell each other to stay back. One seems to understand already that an anxious Momma is nearby and may swoop down to harm them if they get too close.

"Hey, CJ's Mom....There's a baby bird out here!"

Time to investigate. Surely, one of the newborn chickadees is lying at the base of the birdhouse, I think. But, upon reaching the scene, I spy a much larger bird, to the point that I'm startled by its size. Studying feathers for a few moments, I realize it's a baby blue jay. Not surprised, now, as I had heard the blue jays' cries in the yard, along with some louder squawkier peeping.

Again, the kids seek action, as they don't want the bird to be hurt or for Momma to come visit. So, I head off to the laptop to look for advice on what to do with an injured baby blue jay.

Plenty of Google entries await me, though the advice stirred my conscience.

"While it is understandable why one would want to help young birds, the best thing is to leave them alone... Many bird deaths are caused by well-meaning people. It would be better that the young bird were caught by a predator than be tortured by improper feeding and stress from a caring but uninformed individual."

(Gak!)

I come back out and tell the kids that we need to leave it alone--give it some space--that Momma is, indeed, watching. We can hear her. She will take care of the bird. And with that, the kids go off to play, away from baby.

But, at that point, I can't keep my eyes off the baby. Apparently, a robin can't either, as she bob-bob-bobs her way over to the baby, squawking her own squawk as if to say, "Momma Blue Jay, your baby is here! Your baby is here!" I was admiring this bird's attitude, as it seemed Momma truly could not find her baby.


The web articles said that Mommas find their babies by their vocalizing. This little one had hardly said a thing! So, I thought the robin's stepping in to "help" was a gallant gesture.

After a short while, Momma Blue Jay appeared. In fact, the closer the robin got to the baby, the more Momma appeared, sharply winging her way through the trees, trying to knock that robin into the outerwoods. I then surmised that the nosy robin was more of a gossipy neighbor/predator alert system, perhaps, than a helper.

* * *

Sadly, Momma was not going to be able to swoop up baby and fly back to the nest. Baby made more peeps and even several athletic attempts to climb some trees. But in the end, she could do nothing better than to camouflage herself.

What became more disturbing, as I tried to watch more from a distance, is that baby decided to start hopping after me. She hopped clear over to the swingset and planted herself under the ladder tower, looking up with those big baby eyes.

("Noooooooo......")

* * *

The time for play was drawing to a close, and I knew baby was in a lot of trouble. Even though we have no pets, stray outside cats often saunter through the yard. I had no doubt that one of those cats would do the unthinkable, yet logical.

My quick online research suggested that I could fashion a basket, heap the baby into it and tie the basket to a tree, out of harm's way. I had such a basket, and figured it was worth a try--my heart now desperately needing to help Momma and save baby. I criss-crossed tied some ropes, filled the basket with crunched-up leaves and greenery, and put on my gardening gloves. But, when I was within two feet of scooping up baby bird, she had an open-wide beakful of words for me:

"EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeee!!!!!"

"OK! OK! I get it!!!"

I backed away, leaving the basket.

God, I know you spare sparrows, will you please spare baby blue jay and help her parents take care of her?

I remembered the advice of the article, and took baby's big voice warning that I was not going to be doing any saving. Momma continued to visit baby, even feeding it on the ground. I wasn't sure that there was enough ground cover to protect baby (and it was cold last night, too!). Not sure if the parents would be awake in the night to dive-bomb stalking cats.

(sigh!)

* * *

The sun is up this morning. I hear baby blue jays, up high in a tree somewhere. I've been looking for the parents, hoping one would alight in the vinca, where I last saw baby. They have been flying, but no one is sitting this morning.

I'm not going to venture out until after-school playtime.

And even with all the excitement of the baby blue jay, I had to cheer for our chickadees as they have all cleared out of the birdhouse and are on their own already...finding their own bugs!

There is a plan for all and a hope greater than what I can see. Still....

Some days, it's hard to be a Momma!

* * *

I just posted, and I'm back three minutes later to update that I have seen baby blue jay!! She is hopping around, both parents dive-bombing squirrels! Praise God!!

More to come....

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Beauty and "The Beast"




"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes.


Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.”

--1 Peter 3:3&4


CJ decided to dress (and dress up) RJ2 this morning. It's one of those days that's looking like rain, which would put the girls inside for the day. So, why not have some fun early?!

When RJ2 came to the breakfast table, via scooter--of course--she made quite an entrance.


"Look at my ponies!!!" she said.

CJ was quite pleased. A tri-pony do with multiple layers of clips and colorful bands--woo, girl!!

It's funny how, as girls, we latch on to this notion that we need to dress ourselves up. But, we grow into that mode so easily, with dolls to dress and groom, fancy shoes and purses for special occasions, watching mom put on makeup. All that is the stuff of pure girly innocence! But there is a plethora of other enticing examples in this world in which beauty has been turned inside out, stretched and formed, fashioned and molded (and I'm speaking literally, in some cases!), modeled and flaunted.

* * *

A friend shared that a friend of hers recently took some hits for saying that her daughter enjoyed an afternoon of play with fairies, because fairies aren't the stuff to which young would-be Christian girls should be exposed.

(Whoa!)

What happens if we don't let our girls play and imagine, develop their voices, learn to speak to others, use their brains to create?

What happens if we don't let our girls play with their sister's hair, learn to share, to patiently sit for their ponies, to love on one another?

What happens if we don't teach our girls about true beauty and let "the Beast" that is the world and its marketing enterprise distort what is so simply and perfectly laid before them and within them?

The inner beauty of a gentle, quiet spirit is not formed on one Saturday morning in the "hair salon" or in one afternoon in the fairy village.

And God can use both these experiences--and many more to come--in developing the beauty he created and continually sees in His children.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sweet!



I'm having a flashback today. Flashing back to #16...the sweet one!

The first time I saw a Sweet 16 corsage was when my Mom made one for one of our neighbors. It was amazing! She tied together multiple light blue satin ribbons to make a big bow. A white carnation posey sat atop the bow. Beneath the flower flowed 16 enormous sugar cubes, each one individually tied with a satin ribbon to look like a present.

I couldn't wait for my big day to come....years later!

Sure enough, on my 16th, the white florists' box came out of the fridge, and there was my own beautiful powder-blue Sweet 16 corsage! Of course, by the time I turned 16, I was experiencing massive jolts of negative self-esteem and felt a bit embarrassed about wearing this monstrous floral display. I wouldn't be the first girl in my high school to wear a corsage, but I might have been the first to consider hiding it in her locker.

Well, that didn't happen. In fact, that morning, I picked my favorite light-blue gauzy blouse to wear and had Mom plop that corsage nice and high. No one else had ever seen a corsage like that and thought it was cool that my Mom had made it.

Mom saved the corsage in a box and passed it along many years later, dried carnations and everything. "I saved it so you'll know how to make one of your own one day," she said.

Flashing forward to this week, I secured the familiar yellow box of Domino sugar cubes. (Athough, Mom, they just don't make those enormous cubes anymore. I think someone discovered sugar was a bad thing to have in excess and cut the size of the cubes in half!) I didn't have the powder-blue ribbon, but, in looking at some other Sweet 16 corsages online, most of them were done in pink, which I did have.

Mom's finished "presents" always looked perfect. I am still wondering how she maneuvered that ribbon so well, because I nearly lost it in trying to keep the bows fastened. (But, now I know why she was always working into the night!!)

I have to say, the 16 dangling sweets continue to enchant me. CJ won't see one of these for another six years.

Maybe those large sugar cubes will come back into vogue by then.

* * *

And Happy Birthday to a very sweet, smart
and enormously talented young woman on Friday!!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day


What a beautiful day! Almost unfair to have had such beautiful weather for both my birthday and Mother's Day.

Enjoyed the day in the garden--planting the new ornamental grasses I received! But, the most captivating part of the day was watching another young family.

For the past several years, chickadees have taken over this birdhouse in our yard to bring new chickadees into the world. How fitting on Mother's Day weekend that our latest brood should arrive!

By CJ's count, there are at least 3 little beaks sticking out of the hole in the box. The peep-peep-peeping went on all afternoon! Hungry little things....


Mom and Dad had to patiently wait to feed these little ones, as my little ones and the neighbors' were running all over the yard creating a menacing distraction for the parents. But, this season of life is when the chickadees are their most brave--and busy! And not even my little ones could keep these beaks from receiving their tasty morsels...all afternoon.

I felt guilty just stopping to sit and take their pictures.


* * *

There is another story this Mother's Day weekend. A story of three in another house--no longer newborns, but still with needs. A busy, happy neighborhood family. What's different in their story, now, is that Mom will be the one doing all the caretaking, as Dad passed away on Saturday after a long battle trying to beat a brain tumor. Although his passing was not completely unexpected, it was never fully anticipated. And, surely, it was never fully felt until Mom became the one at the perch.

Mom sent out the most amazing letter to a number of us who have been sharing in their lives over these many months. She acknowledged her great sadness. But she also acknowledged how blessed they had all been by having the time together and preparing. And Dad was prepared. He spent his days working fruitfully and enjoying the time with his wife and children and family. He knew his Lord, and he was prepared to truly go in peace. How extremely difficult, and yet how beautifully simple. When the tears start, they are a mixture of sadness and joy.

The Bible story in Luke 12 that Jesus tells of God's love and promise for us fits too well here:

"Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. 'I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God.'"

God has not forgotten these "five sparrows." I know that He will continue to be with those that remain here, even as He has brought one to the highest heights. And may his example of faithfulness be what sustains us in this time.

Friday, May 8, 2009

A Spot of Trouble


T
he spots just never phased me. I have always had them...freckles, moles. You can find the Little Dipper on my right arm if you connect the dots!


So, there was this spot on my left arm that I had seen. Then, one day, another spot appeared over top of the one that was there. And, over time, that spot got very dark. Friends in the know started to notice.

"Maybe you should have that one looked at?"

"What?! What for? I'm covered with spots. This one just grew on top of the other one."

Then, the spot got a little taller, and a little wrinkly. Again, the friends were singing in harmony, "Maybe you should...." And then my Primary joined in, followed by my OB. The chorus was getting a bit deafening.


"OK."

My dermatological referral, by eenie-meenie-minee-WOMAN and God's providence, ended up being with a skin cancer surgeon, not a dermatologist. But, she saw me anyway and quickly deduced that my spot-on-a-spot was most likely cancer...and most likely melanoma. The pathology report proved both her suspicions to be correct.

The biopsy had removed all the cancer cells, but she performed additional surgery ("the standard protocol") to make sure the surrounding area was clear as well. My scar from the fall surgery still looks like a pink scorpion tattoo, but that means it is healing well.

* * *

The surgeon was rather blunt with me about my future. Get a dermatologist. Regular appointments every few months. Sunscreen. Long sleeves. Hats. And watch for spots, "even in places where the sun don't shine." Yikes.


I'm not a sunbather, but I do like to be outside. I use sunscreen--50 SPF, even. But, that was only starting 10 years ago, after the girls came along. As I share with other friends, their stories are not uncommon. "We didn't know then." Now, we know!!

My first visit to a regular dermatologist came with noting several more spots of suspicion, including one that got him a little worried. You quickly learn "once a melanoma, always a possibility for a melanoma." Although the biopsy did reveal skin cancer, the spot was not melanoma, but basal cell carcinoma. If you could have a "good kind" of skin cancer, this is the one to have.


Unfortunately, this spot--which appeared bluish, like in this photo--developed on a birthmark on my head. I had joked before my appointment with the surgeon that he might as well take the whole thing out. My bald spot wasn't serving any useful purpose except to be a magnet for more bad spots. Surprisingly to me, the surgeon came to the same conclusion and took the whole thing (and got all the skin cancer, too!).

This was all well and good, except I was rather naive about what that meant for the recovery. Picture what would happen if God decided to connect South America into that area of Africa from where it looks like it broke off--evaporating the Atlantic Ocean and any spots in the way. And then, sewed it up with baseball stitching.

* * *
Again, the good news is that I'm skin cancer-free and my wounds are on the mend. The dermatologist will be seeing me as many times this year as I will visit all of my other healthcare providers combined. He's a nice man. He says I just produce more pigment than most--"and that's OK," he says.

I now have open conversations with folks about spots and their experiences. And there are a lot of folks out there with stories! My story sent another friend to have spots checked and has other people asking questions.


Because the surgeon had to shave part of my head, I've got the new scarf-do/hat thing going on these days. Can't tell you how many times in the last couple weeks folks have commented about "how stylish" that is, leaving an opening for me to talk about the why's underneath.


How do you know if you're in a spot of trouble? I'm not an expert, though I'm on the fast-track to learning.
If your friends (or doctors) are singing the same old song, your radio dial may be stuck for a reason.