I counted a least two dozen winged trinkets and framed pictures on the shelves, mantel, and walls of both of our homes. Mini birdhouses, feeders, nests, a sparkly snow bird and a reindeer (they fly!), angels, blue willow dishes, and an artist’s portrait of a peasant young woman cradling a wounded sea gull decorate my home. These creatures bring life and represent my love of sacredness and nature … the green life of plants, trees, bushes, vines, and flowers as well as their winged friends. Eagles, owls, ducks, swans, gulls, wrens, finches, hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies are what I am attracted to during my walks besides the flowers and trees along the way. And those angelic beings are protecting my loved ones and I.
Outdoor gardening seized late October. My perennials appear to be in dormancy under the plant lights in the garage. Such a cold winter, the little heater is keeping the garage just above freezing. Sometimes life’s circumstances appear to keep us in dormancy like the season of winter. But winter is just one season, there are those three others. And really underneath it all, life is emerging from the roots, bulbs are multiplying, and green growth will reappear in just weeks. Valentine’s Day red comes in the midst of the bleak cold winter in this part of the world. We just celebrated National Wear Red Day, comes the first Friday in February each year, with women sporting red dresses and men vivid red ties which reminds us to take care of our hearts with healthy foods and ample physical activity. Valentine trinkets, cards, and boxes of chocolates are given with red cupids and hearts on February 14.
This winter holiday warms hearts for some, and leaves others wondering if they will ever find true love. The history of this holiday evolved like so many other holidays from Christian roots. Wikipedia tells us “St. Valentine of Rome was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire. According to legend, during his imprisonment, Saint Valentine healed the daughter of his jailer, Asterius, and before his execution, he wrote her a letter signed ‘Your Valentine’ as a farewell.” A original European tradition is to give St. Valentine’s keys to show love and with that goes the lore that these keys keep epilepsy away from your children. Now the golden key is gifted as a romantic symbol and an invitation to “unlock the giver’s heart”. Wow, what an invitation!
With Jesus you do not have to unlock the Giver’s heart. He gave all His love on the Cross. True love does come in Jesus! He is there for each of us. His love is perfect … it is patient, kind, does not envy, does not boast, is not proud, or rude, and is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs, does not like evil, and rejoices in the truth. His love always protects, hopes, perseveres, and never fails!
Tis the season of busyness and preparations for the holidays. Presents bought and wrapped. Baking. A surprise visit and present from my son. It is Dean and I’s heart to get these holiday greetings sent via postage mail long before Christmas week. Please know that you are in our hearts year round. Christmas joy has filled our home, peace with God and grace to all people despite any differences. This snowy Christmas Eve is the slow-down to reflect on His Gift, Jesus, lessons from 2017 and what is hoped for 2018. The 4 Advent Sundays reminded us of this moment. Father Peter shared at Mass tonight the Christmas story, how there was no room for Joseph, Mother Mary, and the birth of baby Jesus. A meager manger would be the chosen place of His birth. It was asked how many of us would say the same “no room at our house”? “What would you do if Joseph and Mary came knocking on your door tonight? Do you have time to deal with this? Can you make space in your house without resentment or casting judgment? Would you empty the tool shed or a spot in the garage? Would you charge high $$ to profit from this situation? Or worst yet, steal their possessions, what little the guests have? Scriptures tell us “What you do to the least of my brothers, you do unto Me.”
“Family” would summarize our year of 2017. As a reminder, Dean and I have 6 children, 5 in-law children, 6 grandchildren, 3 parents, 5 siblings and their families, and we cannot forget our dog, Midnight and cat, Celine, the 7 grand dogs, and 3 grand cats. Dean and I began 2017 in Key West, Florida with his parents and siblings, an 80th birthday celebration for Dean’s mother. Such a while ago, but lovely memories of the beach breezes, discovering new sites, and time with family. We still have our greeting card boxes that niece Amelia made each of us. After the hurricanes there, I suppose the scenery is quite different. In a couple of days warmth awaits us in San Antonio, where we will meet up with Dean’s son, AJ, Nancy, Elise, and Nancy’s family there. Spiced rum eggnog, homemade chicken soup, Christmas carols, and having each other will keep us warm tonight …
In February my daughter, 33-year old Elisabeth was diagnosed with 2 types of breast cancer, stage 1 and stage 2. Elisabeth went through a strict regimen of chemo treatments, hair loss, zapped energy and strength. She had a double mastectomy and reconstruction this summer. We are so very thankful to our Father as she has been given a cancer-free diagnosis in July. Elisabeth is regaining her strength and hair while under hormone therapy and low-dose chemo. Her husband, children, family, friends, and all the supportive, praying communities continue to surround her. Her bravery and fighter personality helped Elisabeth stay above. I reached out for prayers by many women, visited church 1-block from my office to take part in many noontime prayer vigils, and Dean and I together continue to provide a quiet and calm home while she heals.
Refreshing spring brought us to the completion of our 2-room addition. It took a whole year, but it is beautiful and has provided the much needed space to our home. At this season of our lives we share our home with my daughter and her family. More warmth with the woodwork, a set of barn doors matching the stained doors in the rest of the house as well as a high ceiling to heighten the spacious floor layout. We use the 2 rooms as a family room/dining area and an extra bedroom that Elisabeth and Mark can rest their heads in. In May Dean and I spent almost a week in the Smoky Mountain region of our beautiful states. Experienced the AirBnB hospitality for this vacation. We loved Gatlinburg, TN and Asheville, NC. Antiques, the arts, and foodie places were our hangouts. Of course, a few walks in the woods. There was a sign warning us, and you know the saying “hindsight is 20/20”. Dean drove the Dragon’s Tail Highway with all its hairpin turns, not understanding what we were in for. I was very close to losing lunch during that ride. We tried the glamper scene one night in the middle of nowhere land. And we stopped in Nashville for a night. Love the nightlife there with all the honky-tonks and country music.
Weekend trips to Lee’s Summit and Farmington keep us on the road at least once a month visiting with children, grandchildren, and Dean’s parents. When we are home we read, write, catch a music venue or new foodie joint in St. Louis. And there is always those weekend chores. We garden and mow at the greenhouse site on Boone Hollow Farm near Defiance 7 or 8 months out of the year. This year’s gardening included a voluntary cherry tomato plant that literally took over the whole vegetable bed from July until the October frost killed it. We dubbed this plant as “Audrey” from the play/movie Little Shoppe of Horror. We made a delicious green tomato marmalade from the abundance of fruit left after the killing frost. Our perennials are inside now, and our bird of paradise is about to bloom again under the plant lights in the garage. Autumn brought Dean and I a steal-away weekend to Pella, Iowa. We loved this Dutch town so much, we are planning a Mother’s Day weekend there with our mothers.
My occupation as the employee wellness coordinator of St. Louis County is the work God called me to this season of my life. We had our Billion Steps Challenge using Fitbits and a web portal called One Community. With two 8-week walking challenges this spring and summer, we cleared the 1 billion steps goal and went well over 2 billion steps amongst 2800 participating employees and spouses. I have been asked to speak along with a panel at the St. Louis area American Heart Association’s Wellness Forum in February discussing employer wellness budgets on a shoestring. Personally, my biometric numbers were improved substantially with the walking challenges, and my primary care physician is thrilled. The walking culture continues through winter. Dean, Midnight, and I still take an evening constitutional almost every night. At 20 degree temps, I declined tonight. Hives or worse a visit to the emergency room would not be good. Dean’s occupation with the National Archives keeps him going, and work he was called to as well. He loves the hunt for military records especially for his family and friends.
Our youngest granddaughter, Elise has captured her Grandpa Dean’s heart. I think he counts the days until he can see her again. This Father’s Day was a wonderful gathering of Dean’s children and their families with us at our home. The red children’s swing in our sweet gum tree remind us of that special weekend. We had a Gall Family Thanksgiving at Rainer and Erica’s newly bought house in St. Louis City, and a birthday gathering for Dean the following day at a local bakery cafe. Another day that weekend we celebrated my oldest grandchild, Hannah’s 16th birthday. Church every Sunday and occasional birthday celebrations and plays keeps us in touch with my mother and family. While celebrations and victories punctuate our year, so does illness and death. Dean’s extended family lost a cousin recently. Cancer, this wicked stuff. Keep Mike’s wife, Terri and 2 daughters in your prayers please. Another extended family member is undergoing treatments ; please say a prayer for Marion, our son-in-law’s father. My oldest daughter, Rachel has multiple medical conditions, her conditions declining, which cause severe pain. In 2018 I plan to take more time off from work each month to help Rachel with the kids and house. Please bathe Rachel in your prayers.
What room do you have in your heart, home, and life for the least of these My brothers? What has God prepared you for this very night, or the 365 days in 2018? Blessings to you this eve of Jesus Christ’s birth. As the carols sing … “Christ was born to save! Christ was born to save!”… “He rules the world with truth and grace and makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness and wonders of His love, and wonders of His love, and wonders, wonders of His love.” Joy to the world!
Is that Santa peering at us from the tree? Or an angel? Maybe an angel in the form of Santa in the first snow! Angels are amongst us, and I believe in miracles. Perform Your miracles through me and Your People, Lord God. We need Your Peace. Let us be an instrument of Your Peace this Christmas and each day of the New Year …
“Rejoice, you deep places of the earth! Break into shouts of joy, you mountains, you forest, and every tree in them!” Isaiah 44:23.
The early autumn colors of sage and yellow have popped out along Missouri’s hillsides, the country and city landscapes. Fresh green leaves have started to turn to sage green and for some woods, that aspen yellow began. Amber and sable are seen in the sunsets, and soon these colors will be in the trees and fields. I love nature in its autumn clothes and all it’s glory!
“Love the trees until their leaves fall off, then encourage them to try again next year.” ~Terri Guillemets.
“For man, autumn is a time of harvest, of gathering together. For nature, it is a time of sowing, of scattering abroad.” ~ Edwin Way Teale.
Each week in April brought about warm days then yielding to colder, rainy days. This week, nothing but rain. Deanna Greens and Garden Art greenhouse/screenhouse protects a prolific bed of greens and herbs from severe weather and wildlife. We gather water from our rain barrel or the creek at Boone Hollow Farms before the water line is turned back on from the winter shut-off. Our garden greens continue to flourish this spring. The arugula actually bolted this week, causing me to pluck those flowering buds by lantern light between the rains this week. It is too early for these delicious organic greens to go to seed!
Lent season and Easter came and went too quickly. Beautiful flower planters and spring baskets of goodies reminded me of the fresh life Easter brings. Prayer at church during my lunch hour does the same. Dean and I were able to have some family over for our first dinner party in the new room addition, a family/dining area and extra bedroom added to our modest 3-bedroom home. The new fireplace mantle brought fresh color to the kitchen.
Dean and I’s two youngest grandchildren have April birthdays. Being a part of our children’s and grandchildren’s lives is important to us. 7-year old Eli had a sick sibling the weekend of his party, so the celebrating takes place early May. And baby Elise turned 1-year old this week! How can that be? Her family from the Netherlands came for the party, and brought her first pair of wooden Dutch shoes. I love Spring, and all the new life it births!
March is mad. It seems to be mad at the world with its destructive tornadoes earlier this week and dive-bombing temperatures this weekend after spring was introduced weeks ago. The below freezing temps continue for 6 days, not just one night. And snow in the forecast!
I had my early spring sprouts emerge from the organic soil of the raised bed at least a week ago. Dean and I went to the farm last night between the spring showers and by lantern light we covered the vegetable bed with a plastic tarp. This bed is inside the screen house, so the baby plants just need an extra layer of protection the next few days. See what happens. Gardening is definitely one science experiment after another.
March is also the month to celebrate a few birthdays. Today, my father was born 81-years ago. He is no longer amongst us on earth, but they must celebrate birthdays in heaven! Happy Birthday, Dad! Hope you are celebrating with Grandpa and Uncle Lee! I miss you dearly! I hope you are proud of your family and what we are in our lives presently. That makes me happy to think you are. You must know about your granddaughter fighting a battle with cancer. I have asked for prayers and for the angels to watch over her. You and God must hear these supplications daily, hourly. Thank you for listening. In God’s hands…
Spring seemed to arrive in Missouri early this year. Grass and flowers bulbs sprouted up out of the ground, and we are not even to March yet. My vegetable and herb bed was prepped with rich organic compost, and spring greens and peas sowed on Monday, earliest ever for Deanna Greens And Garden Art. The pink tulip trees and yellow daffodils bloomed in color this week. And then … woo, the north wind blew in the arctic cold and snow flurries on Friday. Winter is still among us this weekend. Those daffodils swayed with the wind on Friday, but with hope they will continue to stand and bloom even in the chill of winter. Resilience. That is what we are called to this very day, and for a season. Isaiah 42:3 states “He won’t break a bruised reed. He won’t quench a dimly burning wick. He will faithfully bring justice.” Hot tea, a warm Sunday breakfast, and God’s Word keeps this wick burning this day.
A sprout, green shoots of hope appeared in the garden bed today. My chives have surfaced from its winter hibernation. It had been 10 weeks when we left the Deanna Greens greenhouse in Defiance, just before Thanksgiving. By lantern light we harvested all the herbs and greens we had left that evening. There had not been need to get to the farm since snow has been close to null, no need to check on the 3-season structure. Dean, Midnight, and I observed signs of where an animal had laid on the other side of the bed. Our labrador sniffed the area thoroughly “who has been sleeping in my bed?!”
This mild sunny afternoon in early February called my name to the countryside. Perusing our 3-season structure, and then for a long walk around Boone Hollow Farm with Dean and Midnight. Midnight lead the way up the hill, passed the farm neighbor’s sprouting garlic field we help plant in November. Then a stroll along the cedar ridge, down another neighbor’s gravel driveway, back near our greenhouse, then over to the barn, and circling the brush piles before our return to the greenhouse. Our landlord must have set the one brush pile on fire as there were a few lasting embers and a small trail of smoke surrounded by ashes. Present moment, mindful observations of nature. The walk and fresh air revived my soul after this weary week.
Hope is like those February sprouts of chives and garlic. Perennial faith believes a flourishing crop and bountiful harvest in the not too far future. Lasting embers will once again ablaze a fire to light up the darkness and give warm comfort. The ashes of cancer lie on the ground while my daughter lights the world with her strength, faith, and love.
“What shape waits in the seed of you to grow and spread its branches against a future sky?” author David Whyte writes. So much hope from a seed. And the size of the seed does not matter according to Jesus’ parable. “The simple truth is that if you had a mere kernel of faith, a poppy seed, say, you would tell this mountain, ‘move!’ and it would move. There is nothing you wouldn’t be able to tackle.” (The Message Bible).
Just how complex God has made each of us, “fearfully and wonderfully made”. Holy words to behold … From seed to a tree … providing beauty to delight in, cooling shade to the weary, whispered wisdom from the leaves in the breeze, wood for a warm fire, roots as a foundation, fruit for the hungry, and sweet sap for those special moments. Is not that a mother to her child? A grandchild to a grandparent? A man to his kin?
From seed to a tree, we each grow to be. Taking care of self and our brother. Each can learn from the other. Growing branches at different directions, new skies to explore, yet rooted in the love of family and friends. Faith in self and who our God is, our Perfect Father.