I can hardly believe the semester is over! I taught every day in-person, in a mask, and with great joy.
Something wonderful happened. I was talking to dear friend, and I learned of her love of pear jam. But not just any pear jam—a pear jam with no cinnamon or extra spices. This particular jam is apparently really hard to find.
I had been thinking about my friend and all the ways she was trusting and relying on God through a difficult season. I had been thinking about all her wisdom and how much she blesses me whenever we talk. In the back of my mind, I kept thinking that maybe one day, I would find that special pear jam to send to her.
The next day, I was talking to another friend in another part of the country who happened to make jam. I don’t know why, but I told her about my other friend and her love of pear jam. And then, God began to orchestrate something. My jam-making friend just happened–that very week–to receive a random delivery of pears from her daughter. Right there on the counter, the pears sat, waiting to be a blessing. She thought she might make some pear jam. But who would want pear jam?
I told her about my friend. I told her about the pear jam with no spices. My friend went to work.
So my jam-making friend made the pear jam with no spices and prayed it would somehow taste exactly like the kind my other friend loved. She made the jam and mailed the jam off across the country.
My friend received her jam and said, “I don’t know how you did it, but this is the taste I really like.” I smiled. My jam-making friend smiled. And I marveled at a God who can arrange anything He wants to delight us, to bless us, to send us a treat we will really like.
Whenever I see a basket of pears, I shall think of the God who cares about giving pear jam to one of His dearly loved children. It’s true what scripture says: He does satisfy our desires with good things (Psalm 103). He does richly provide things for our enjoyment (1 Timothy 6:17).
And that is my story of pear jam and God’s love for my friend.
Last night for dinner, I tried a new recipe: Cauliflower Tacos from this website: https://www.acouplecooks.com/crispy-cauliflower-tacos/.
I love roasting cauliflower, but sometimes you don’t get the crispiness you’re hoping for. These crisp up; the cornmeal is the secret! Enjoy this recipe if you’re looking for a light, delicious meal. The whole family loved these tacos. I served them with some mango slices on the side.
When I first began gardening, a graduate student at Penn State taught me all about “hardening off” my seedlings. She told me to take the plants I had grown indoors and gradually expose them—for just a few hours each day—to the sunlight, wind, and changing temperatures of the outdoors. This would “harden” them to make the transition to their new garden location healthier.
A gradual exposure to the elements would prevent transplant shock.
A gradual exposure to stress would strengthen the plants and prepare them.
You have to strengthen the plants first.
I remembered what I learned about “stress wood” in trees and the failure of the famous Biosphere 2 which tried to create perfect conditions to grow trees in an ecological dome. Of course, the trees suffered and fell down because the environment lacked wind. No wind, no stress. No stress, no strength in the trees. No strength, no standing. What researchers thought were perfect conditions without stress actually damaged those trees.
Stress, it seems, is good.
I love thinking of my own life as a form of hardening off or a way I’m building “stress wood” inside to help me grow in the environment God has planned for me. Every difficult thing is a gentle exposure to strengthen me.
I am always on the lookout for great leadership resources I can share with my friends and colleagues, and this is a quick read.
Four of my favorite quotes from this resource are these:
“The most successful people in life are the ones who ask questions. They’re always learning. They’re always growing. They’re always pushing.” —Robert Kiyosaki
“Don’t ask kids, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ Ask them, ‘What problem do you want to solve?’ This changes the conversation from ‘Who do you want to work for?’ to ‘What do you need to learn to be able to do that?’” —Jaime Casap
“When you give advice, the brain is basically asleep. If you engage them and ask questions that help them come to their own insights, it comes alive.” —Dr. Henry Cloud
“Did you ask any good questions today, Isaac?” —Nobel Prize winning physicist Isidor Isaac Rabi’s mother’s daily question as she greeted him with after school
You can request your gift of the “Little Book” @LeadingWithQuestions.
I already asked my daughter about the questions she’s asking the problems she’d like to solve. What a fun conversation!
This morning, it touched my heart when an older neighbor reached out to ask if I was OK. He wrote, “I have not seen you on your walking route lately.”
Indeed, I had shifted my walking times with my daughter to early morning and later afternoon (mostly to observe all the bunnies and the occasional deer who actually roam the neighborhood at those times).
I felt loved and noticed when the neighbor checked in. Then I wondered if I could love my neighbors more like this. Would I even notice if they changed their routines? Would I even notice if something changed in their behaviors or mood, and would I check up on them like this?
The message from my neighbor became a challenge for me to pay attention, to notice my neighbors, and to be so aware of their lives that I’d ask, “Are you OK?” if something changes.
I assured him we were all fine. He then reminded me I am free to cross the street when I walk (because I always walk on the other side of the street–he noticed that!) and enjoy the tulips (“in their glory” as he says) he and his wife have planted.
Today I started preparing the garden for planting. I won’t transfer my indoor plants to the garden for another few weeks, but I wanted to take advantage of the beautiful weather. If you’re thinking about starting a fruit or vegetable garden, it’s the perfect time to begin your preparations.
First, I weeded my vegetable garden bed and tilled the soil a bit. I think the soil looks rich and healthy. My cat, Louis, watched me the entire time. He stretched out on the railing of my porch and enjoyed the sunshine while I did all the hard work. Cats!
I have plants already growing beautifully indoors, so I can transplant sandwich tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, and perhaps up to five basil plants. I’m also growing cilantro and three bush bean plants. This year I want to focus on storing lots of pesto and oven-dried tomatoes in my freezer to use all year. The beans we gobble up every night, usually stir-fried with garlic and sesame oil.
Then, I fed my plum tree some organic food (I use Berry-Tone–good for fruit trees and berry bushes). You want to put your fertilizer at the “drip line”–the outermost circumference of your tree. Early spring is a great time to feed a plum tree, so I’m happy to finish this task. You can purchase fruit trees now and plant them in your garden. My neighbor just planted two pear trees!
Then, I installed my solar-powered bird bath, and I already have bird customers swimming in my bird bath! They love to splash around.
My last chore involved arranging my patio pots, filling them with fresh soil from my compost pile, and deciding which plants I’ll fill them with this year. I will plant two ground cherries (because one wasn’t enough–I love ground cherries!). The third big pot will hold another miniature plum tree that I’ll prune down. I grew two more plum tree saplings, and I don’t have the heart to not keep them both!
Next weekend, I’ll feed my blackberries and raspberries, plant and feed my plum saplings, and move my indoor plants outside to “harden” them before planting them. I’m a few weeks early by Pennsylvania standards, but if we get a cold night, I can cover my plants with frost protectors.
And that’s a Saturday in April in preparation for May planting. If you’re interested in my checklist for my fruit and vegetable garden, here is the total inventory of my entire backyard:
- 2 beefsteak tomato
- 2 sweet cherry tomato
- 3 bush bean
- 2-5 basil
- 2 ground cherry
- 3 plum trees
- blackberry (several canes along the side fence)
- raspberries (a patch that yields a bowl full every day)
There you go! Each year, you can revise your list based on the food you enjoy to eat. If you find that you have way too much squash or cucumbers (like I always do), maybe skip those. My Serrano peppers produced so many peppers that I still have a bag of chopped peppers in the freezer, so I’m skipping those this year as well. Next year, I might focus on more herbs, but this year it’s the year of the plums and tomatoes for sure!
And don’t worry–I promise to remember to take pictures once I plant all my seedlings!
Remember how I told you I put out a selection of nest making materials to attract birds to build nests? Well, a little house sparrow accepted my offer of twine and twigs. I just saw her darting in and out of my winterberry bush. I peered in to find her weaving a piece of my white twine into a nest she’s just now constructing.
I shall snap pictures eventually, but meanwhile, it worked.
I’m so inspired by my students and all their healthy eating. Many of my students are plant-based and super creative with their meals. When someone recently mention falafel, I couldn’t wait to make some. I love Trader Joe’s Falafel, but it’s easy to make your own. You can keep some in the fridge and crumble some falafel over lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, red onion, and any other veggies you like. I drizzled a bit of tahini on this, and it was a great, filling lunch. Enjoy!
I’m loving meditating on Psalm 105:3-34. We read this:
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Look to the Lord and his strength;
seek his face always.
You’ll also find these words in 1 Chronicles 16:8-22 as David’s instructions on how to worship the Lord before the ark of the covenant.
To “glory” in God’s holy name is to boast about Him; to “rejoice” is to be glad and joyful; to “seek” God and look to Him means we continually search the scriptures to know Him better, pray to Him, and ask Him for what need.
And we do this always, continually, all day long. In the ESV version, we read how we’re to “seek his presence continually.” Can you imagine a day where every moment you set your mind to enjoy the ever-present God? Can you imagine asking for His strength to meet every challenge today? Can you imagine doing this with a rejoicing heart who boasts in the greatest of God all day long?
What a great day that could be!