Ice hit the concrete sidewalks and streets last Sunday morning, like many other wintry mornings in Missouri. Looking outside the red twig dogwood glistened. Dean and I waited a bit for temperatures to increase, and then managed to get to church. It is an oxymoron, winter’s warmth. It is what winter does for us. Brings us indoors after weathering the cold, ice, and snow. Much like life. The warmth of home lures us back to comfort and simplicity. “Sitting inside the warm, pleasant kitchen while icy rain beat against the window, I felt the wordless contentment of a horse in a stable or a wren in a birdhouse,” Gretchen Rubin writes. Another author Dominique Browning contemplates, “the banal moments of the day are the most seductive to me. It is in the lighting of a fire on a cold morning, or in the pouring of wine and the pulling up of chairs to read together at the end of an afternoon of errands, that love really exerts its magic.”
I miss a fireplace or wood stove to snuggle to in our little cottage, but have little niches in every room of our 4-room dwelling that seduce me. My favorite room is the kitchen. “So let’s dish out saucy praise for the place of crazy salads, spicy endearments, whispering souffles, sweetmeats, tender loins, and sticky fingers. That whirring, blending, mixed-up, soul-stirring, juice-dripping, hot-hearted room (the kitchen),” Dominique Browning writes in her book Slow Love. Kind of spicy, you say. That is what cooking in the kitchen does for my heart. Another weekend snow has developed this afternoon. Mini cheese-stuffed meatloaves, sweet potatoes, and banana-oat bread will grace our table this evening. Tomorrow I will chop fresh veggies to saute with Italian sausage for Italian stone soup accompanied with fresh-from-the-oven bread sticks. A casserole dish of homemade mac & cheese with a bowl of buttered edamame will be Sunday’s dinner.
I have plenty of library books to peruse and a jigsaw puzzle to piece together for this long weekend of winter warmth. Besides Dean and I have each other to keep the fire going …
“There are some things we can never really possess; we simply take our brief turn at tending them,” writes author Dominique Browning about relationships, homes, and gardens. Our children are with us for a short time. Then gone from our homes tending to own adventures in life. Remember they belong to our heavenly Father from conception on. Our homes whether you reside for 5 or 50 years are molded to suit your needs. Then you move to establish another residence elsewhere based on new needs and desires, and for some people multiple times in your lifetime. “Summer set lip to earth’s bosom bare, and left the flushed print in a poppy there,” poet Francis Thompson writes. Gardens differ from the voluntary poppy blooming on the lakeside, a potted geranium, trays of microgreens, elaborate rows of organic beans in raised beds, to the caged tomato plants. All tended with care by the gardener and mother nature.
Jane Lewis’ song Tend Me Like a Garden defines “tending” well …
I wish you would tend me like I was a garden. Start me from scratch, babe, right from seed. You could plant me with your bare hands in the springtime. And bring me water whenever I had the need. Tend me, tend me like a garden. Love me, love me like the rain. I will give you all that you can harvest. ‘Til the first frost steals me away. Oh won’t you take me into your garden. Lie with me on this fertile ground. I will feed you with my body. And bathe you in the sunshine coming down. Tend me, tend me like a garden. Love me, love me like the rain. I will give you all that you can harvest. ‘Til the first frost steals me away. I will love you through all of the seasons. I’ll weather what the fall and summer bring. I may lie fallow in the winter. But I swear that I’ll remember you in spring. Tend me, tend me like a garden. Love me, love me like the rain. I will give you all that you can harvest. ‘Til the first frost steals me away I swear that I’ll remember you…
What relationship in your life needs tending today?
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!
“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.
My not-too-old Rival crock pot has been put to use the past 3 weekends. I love this kitchen accessory. In the morning, I put in a roast or roaster with some herbs and beer or wine. This time of year dinner slow cooks all day while I work in the yard or garden beds. And the leftovers are awesome. I can usually get 3 or 4 meals for Dean and I from a 5 – 6 lb chicken roaster or turkey breast. Homemade chicken soup, chunky chicken salad, creamy chicken enchiladas. Beef and pork roasts are so tender slow cooked in the crock … Some meals are simple salads or wraps with goodies such as pecans, walnuts, cranberries, or roasted beets along with leftover slow-cooked meats.
I have my first tender leaves of arugula ready to be picked this week! This early crop was sown on February 20. So after about 50 days we will partake in this fresh peppery salad green for dinner, and probably an omelet for breakfast this Sunday morning. Spring is the time of year where my back, legs, arms, and hands ache from the amount of time in the garden and yard. Methodical movements are made the hours I work/play in the dirt. “Gardening has to be as much about contemplation as it is about tilling and toiling. Mental toiling, perhaps … turning things over, quietly thinking, in a place that gives you a peaceful corner for just a moment or two.” ~ Dominique Browning. The birds and fresh air call me to sit on the porch early morning, but pure exhaustion hits the pillow by 9 even on the weekends.
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.
“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.
As I center my thoughts on this new year, I think about the doors and keys to life. You know those doors of opportunity to knock on, doors to walk through, and finding that prize on the other side of the door. Scriptures tell us“knock, seek, and you will find”. At times it feels like multiple knocks before someone slowly creaks the door open with a mutter of a greeting. Other times you barely get a knock in, and “HELLO, HERE I AM!” like a bright red door. And then there are those times, and no one answers. Maybe I need to move onto a new address, new door, new opportunity? “When one door closes, another opens” as the saying goes. There can be a reward for those who are persistent.
Then there are the keys to life. Author Alex Morritt writes, “Owning fewer keys opens more doors.” Was he speaking about property ownership, or more about simplifying your life in general? Maybe both. In 2016 my quest to simplify and pare down was energizing. I was able to see my immediate surroundings in a new light. In 2017, it will be more in the area of my thoughts and words. Simplify my thoughts, less analyzing. Simplify my communiques with fewer words, use more effective ones. Loving words. Encouragement. God holds “the key to my heart”. He knows all my thoughts and cares of this life before I even pray them.
What door are you knocking on? What key will open the door, your life this very day?
It is hard to fathom how much love can fit into one person’s heart. God is the ultimate example, as He cares for each of us perfectly. He has made each of us perfectly, and equipped us with a big enough heart to love all who surround us. Our loving Father shows us the way to love. Love is seen in the prayers of one soul or many.
This first week of December begins with morning aglow in pinks and oranges, and ends with clear, star-lit nights. The wintry skies and precipitation are predicted in the upcoming days though. The weather like health can turn with no permission sought or granted. Too many of my loved ones are in battle for their health, needing pain lifted and minds freed. That neighbor, brother, or sister has a struggle for life today that is different from you or I’s cross-to-bear. Stand in their shoes for even a minute. The heart feels and melts. I want to take this burden from my loved one. Poet Robert Frost wrote, “the best way out is always through.” Prayers are said at this moment and repeated daily sometimes hourly. Sometimes a miraculous healing happens and we rejoice, and other times little miracles happen along the journey, getting us through the dark clouds. Prayers are said for God’s love to be felt along the journey.
The last day of November was warm with a brisk wind to scurry about the colorful leaves. I walked the streets in Clayton to do some banking and grab a bite to eat on my lunch hour. The wind whipped from the west and changed directions several times that hour. The tell-tale sign of changing seasons. A mild autumn is quickly going into winter-like weather this week. The weekend forecast includes snow flakes, and colder than normal temperatures next week. “Each year is a parable begun in stillness, and chill, of bare ground warmed with spring life returning, then bursting, buzzing, peaking in summer, and issuing a final flare in autumn, to subside in another winter’s seeming nullity,” author Stephanie Mills writes in her book Epicurean Simplicity.
Preparations for the winter season may not be a necessary stack of firewood in my suburban lifestyle. I remember as a child the excitement of my family’s annual New Year’s Eve stay at the one-room cabin my father built on the family farm in Franklin County, Missouri. The simple shingle covered dwelling probably no bigger that 500 square-feet had no bathroom or electricity, but a wood stove for its heat source. My father and Grandpa would cut down old trees on the 100+ -acre farm and split wood throughout the autumn season in preparation for deer hunting trips and these winter weekend visits to the family farm. My current preparations include sweaters and boots being pulled from the depths of the closets as well as my epie pin and antihistamine stowed in my purse for the next 4 months. An allergy to cold air and water is not easy, but is not the worst a person would have to deal with. Thank goodness for gas heat.
And now I focus on my own heart matters for today. Simplicity. “Try to see the beauty in your own backyard to notice the miracles of everyday life,” religious leader Gloria Gaither says. I would say that is great advice. Perennial thoughts and ways, appreciating what you have now, and making do. Simple, thankful, authentic, resourceful. I am intrigued by the choice of voluntary simplicity as I further my research for an enrichment class to teach at my work place. There are authors, activists, and societies devoted to this way of thinking and lifestyle. Choices made such as local community versus global; homegrown versus mass produced; renovate or upcycle versus disgard; a 3-generation home versus having separate homes; public transportation, carpooling, or riding a bicycle versus commuting to work with one’s own vehicle everyday; hand-crafted versus manufacturer made; purchase local versus big brand, slow food versus fast food, and the list goes on. As author and ecological activist Stephanie Mills states“bigger has not turned out to be better.” I like the change back to some old ways and traditions. What does simplicity mean to you? How have you made simplicity a lifestyle choice? I would love to hear.