Becoming a Soothing Presence

I begin to wonder what to do with all the cucumbers from the garden. I’m picking two or three a day, and I’m not prepared for this.

I have dreams of pickling, but I also want to do something with all these pickles before the end of the afternoon. We want cucumber salad!

We thinly slice them, add rice vinegar, a little sugar, and dill.

I learn that the name for the herb “dill” comes from a Norse word meaning to soothe. Eating dill apparently soothes.

I like that. We need a little soothing today. (By the way, I love words that sound like their definition. Soothe sounds soothing in the same way that crackle sounds crackly. . . I digress.) I haven’t used the word soothe in over a year, maybe longer.

Soothe means to gently calm.

As we eat my cucumber salad, I wonder about the word. Lately, I’ve notice how anxiety producing our environment can become. I wonder just how many soothing activities I invite my family into during any given day. With all my energy and talking and scheduling, am I even a soothing presence in their lives at all?  It’s a nice summer challenge to think about being a woman with a soothing presence.

Some things do soothe: walks in the woods, gazing at flowers, reading, long dinner conversations, leisurely baths, and drawn-out tuck-ins.

Living with flair means I learn to be a soothing–not anxiety producing–presence.

What did your own mother do to soothe?


Before Cable TV and Home Computers, My Sister and I Did This

This morning, we rediscover the joy of the domino effect. I tell my daughters and their friends that–long before home computers and cable television–my sister and I would spend afternoons creating our own fun with our own minds.

For example, we were obsessed with falling tile circuits. We used scrabble pieces and set up huge mazes. Our cat would paw at the first tile and set off the chain reaction.

Sometimes, I used my own breath to knock that first one down. 

That’s what we did, over and over again.

We spend the morning amazed over the effect one tiny push has on a whole sequence of events.

It’s a simple pleasure–tactile, exciting, rewarding–that came from afternoons with my sister when we had nothing else to do 30 years ago. I don’t remember television shows I watched with my sister. I don’t remember movies I saw with her.

But I remember the mazes of tiles.

What did you do to entertain yourself before cable TV and home computers?


All the Ways You Persevere

Today in church, the pastor remarks that God makes us dwell in dark places, and one of the reasons is to learn perseverance.

How true! I look back at those dark places and realize I did learn perseverance. Perseverance doesn’t end with itself; it leads to character and then hope. All those difficult things were a stepping stone to hope.

And hope is so beautiful.

I want to think more about all the ways God is asking me to persevere today instead of hating whatever difficult circumstances come my way. On this very day, I’m persevering through weight loss challenges, a sassy little one, writing rejections, the day-to-day work of keeping a home, and various others situations with friends and colleagues. What’s required?  Perseverance through God’s power.

My character’s growing. My hope is rising. 

I want to say that I persevered. Today my husband and I celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary. We’ve persevered through so many things that, looking back, we actually cherish those difficulties for what we’ve learned and how we grew together. We never gave up.

Teach me to persevere, Lord. Help me rise up out of myself to embrace any dark place. Make me strong, full of good character, and overflowing with hope.

How else can we learn perseverance except through difficulty? I’m not sure there is another way!


I Wish I Did This More

In the five years I’ve lived here, I’ve never gone to the Farmer’s Market that’s right down the road. But today, my neighbor reminds me that a local Italian sells fresh ravioli stuffed with delicious combinations of flavors: salmon, artichoke and asiago, portobello, pizza, goat cheese and beets, asparagus, and more.

Ravioli calls my name. 

A moment later, I stroll with my pound of pepperoni pizza ravioli in my arms. I find I’m drawn in by the fresh, crusty bread from local bakeries and Amish families.

But first, I watch my husband talk about Silver Queen corn (his favorite from growing up in North Carolina) with a local farmer.

“Silver Queen is so old,” the farmer says. “We grow a better version called White Ice that you will love.” We buy several ears, and later, we agree that it’s absolutely the best corn we’ve ever had.

It feels like such a supreme luxury to go to such a market to buy food for the day. I watch folks carry their fresh eggs away, and I wonder why I’m not living like this all week.

Do you go to a Farmer’s Market each week? What do you buy there?


In Only Five Minutes

I look up at the clock and realize I’ve haven’t posted my blog, and my personal deadline is 5:00 PM. There’s no real punishment for not blogging every day; nobody penalizes me, and most people just don’t care one way or another.

But I care! I love having that moment of reflection just to ask what great thing happened–what moment of flair–that’s worth sharing. After 857 days of finding that thing, I’m amazed I just simply forgot to think about it today.

Can you believe it?

But I still have five minutes left of this blogging day. In five minutes, I remember. I remember to reflect. With four minutes left now, I think of the deep purple in the blackberry cobbler we ate, the sweet forgiveness we all had to ask of each other, the cool blue neighborhood pool, and the great storm cloud that hovered over it. I’ll never have this day again.

I have two minutes now, and I think about how tomorrow and every day after that, I’m pushing as far into my experience as I can to find that one beautiful thing.

One minute left. Living with flair means we remember not to forget. I can’t skate on the surface of my life. I want to dive deep.

Blogging for even five minutes a day is such a blessing!


What Panic Shows Me

My friend reminds me today that if I feel panic, I’m out of step with God’s spirit.

The word originates from the Greek god, Pan, thought to be the source of irrational fear.

Panic drives a loss of self-control, a loss of order, and a loss of peace. It signals that I’ve let fear–real or imagined–in somehow.

If I feel panic about anything from finances to friendships, I’ve lost God’s perspective. I remember in Deuteronomy 20:30: “Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not panic or be terrified. . . “

When I panic, I rush. I manipulate to get what I want. I begin to over-control. 

I’m beginning to realize that much of my parenting stems from panic.

I ask myself what I fear. What is it, really? Am I afraid of a loss of love, a loss of security, a loss of health? What?

When I name it, I can apply the exact remedy from scripture that soothes that fear. Then, I make wise choices and find my emotions lining back up to truth. 

Do not panic. I’ve got this. 

What tends to cause panic? 


Or. . .It’s Art

I’m roasting enormous beets, and by the time I’ve unwrapped them from their foil pouches, my hands, the counter, and even the kitchen floor is covered with beet juice.

I don’t clean it up right away. Something about this particular stain enchants; it’s so deeply red–almost purple-black–except when smeared to the lightest pink. I carefully pour the juice from the pouches into a cup.

It occurs to me that it’s either a mess or. . . or. . . it’s art

We’re going to paint with this beet juice.

There we sit, painting on canvas landscapes made from beet juice.

We turn the stain to paint, and I know I’ve tapped into some real, true thing. That’s how it is with art. We take the deep stain in our own hearts, and we pour it out on a landscape. We make beauty of it for the world to see.

This is either a mess, or it’s art. Today we chose the art.

I combined my beets with vinegar and sugar to make a delicious beet salad. What’s your favorite thing to do with beets? 


It Returns

My youngest comes to find me early this morning to report the terrible news:

The tomato hornworms have returned.

Tomato Hornworm

These pests destroy my tomato plants, and they are so hard to find that it’s nearly impossible to remove them. They blend in so well.

Tomato Hornworm

Every summer, I think the same thought: these hornworms will return, so I have to train my eyes to find them. Otherwise, the harvest is lost.  It reminds me so much of sin in the heart. Evil doesn’t come obviously. It never has. Temptation always looks like something right and good at first. I have to train myself to see it for what it is.

And once I rid myself of it, it returns as surely as the hornworm. 

“It’s just like sin,” I tell my daughter. “Does that make sense?”

“Not really,” she says.

I’ll try again later. We’re training ourselves to see clearly.

Can you believe how huge these pests are? They ate the whole side of one tomato plant!


The Dawn, Every Day

My daughter plans a sunrise walk through the forest this morning. We wake at 5:00 AM and bring a flashlight, a breakfast, and sweatshirts. She wants to go alone–no friends, no sister, no father even. Just us. 

I don’t know why yet, but she does.

I’ve never done anything like this before, especially with my own daughter.

I follow her through the dark woods, and we watch as the light begins its slow creep inside. Eventually, we have enough light to see the field. 

She wants to walk and talk about her life–all her fears of growing up and all her joys. She needs to talk about Penn State and then the shooting in Colorado.

Mostly, she wants to see the sunrise and eat breakfast at dawn with her mom.

I think I will remember this for my whole life, this dawn.

It’s so hopeful and new; I can’t believe it happens like this every single day of my life. There’s a dawn out there, and today I felt it with my hand holding hers.

(Permission granted from her to write about this.) 

Have you gone in search of the sunrise?


What Grows in Dreary Places

After a dreary few days of rain and cool weather, we return to the woods for a walk.

I take my camera because after all this time, I finally know what to expect. The forest follows a predictable pattern: first rain, then a beautiful display of fungi. I can’t wait to see what I’ll find.

(I’ll pause here and thank you for continuing to read. I know it’s so strange to marvel over mushrooms. I know it’s weird to be fascinated by fungus. I’ve decided I love beautiful things that come from dark and dreary places. Fungi grow in dreariness. I love that.)

We find laetiporus, sometimes called “Chicken of the Woods” or Sulphur Shelf first.

Laetiporus or “Chicken of the Woods”

It spills from a tree like a humble offering.

Laetiporus Spilling From a Tree

But then, I find something so rare, that I can’t believe I’m seeing it. It looks to me like a little white pony rearing up her head.

Monotrop Uniflora or “Indian Pipe”
Ghost Plant in the Woods

This one is monotrop uniflora, also called Ghost Plant or Indian Pipe.

The forest never disappoints after a week of rain. I’m learning God doesn’t either after my own dreary seasons.

Fungi can only grow in dreary places. Maybe all truly strange and beautiful things do. 

I know it’s a little strange to be fascinated with mushrooms, but I am! Have you seen some great ones lately?