Today, I harvest. With the frost coming this evening, I gather the last of the Serrano peppers, the raspberries, and the tomatoes. I also cut down the Brussels sprouts and roast them for a snack. The eggplant and green tomatoes left might still ripen, so I leave these plants. I harvest the last of the dill which I’ll freeze this time.
The chopped Serrano peppers freeze perfectly and add so much flavor to sandwiches, salsas, soups, and stir fry meals,
I take the time to reflect on what went well in this last season of life. Living with flair means to take inventory; we evaluate, we give feedback for what we’ll change for this time next year.
The verdict: Too many cucumbers and not enough basil. More beans. Brussel sprouts? Maybe. Ground cherries? Absolutely. I’ll plant two more bushes. Two Serrano plants is too much. Yes to the Thai Basil; yes to the chives. Yes to the dill.
Meanwhile, I’ve tucked seeds away for next spring. And I’m slowly growing another Plumcot tree since you need two to cross pollinate.
Now I turn to the indoor work of the autumn and winter seasons.
Today my cat Snowflake would not leave me alone. Nudge, nudge, nudge. She pressed her little face into my arm, my lap, my computer screen. Nudge, nudge, nudge. She loves the warmth of being near me, and as a highly relational cat, she simply wants to be with me.
I tried everything: I pushed her down. I arranged another warm spot for her with my blanket. I scooted over to make room for her where she wouldn’t bother me. It didn’t matter. Nudge, nudge, nudge.
I thought of the Holy Spirit and all those nudges to get away to spend more time with the Lord. I thought of all the ways God invites us into His presence. I thought of all the persistent nudges (sometimes through hardship, exhaustion, illness, stress, or the flip side of peace and joy) to cozy up, to enjoy the warmth of the Lord, and to sit together. I thought of the irony that just as I’m settling into work, the nudges come. They always seem like an imposition or something I don’t have time for.
But the nudges are an invitation to pause and enjoy togetherness, to relax together, to enjoy the warmth.
Something wonderful came my way this week. But first, let me tell you that for years, my daughters and I tried those little kits to grow bonsai trees. I just love everything about the Japanese art form of bonsai gardening, and my daughter adores Japanese art and culture.
Since we’ve failed miserably in our efforts in bonsai gardening, it occurred to me to surprise my daughter with a faux bonsai tree for her bedroom once she left for college. I’d decorate with bonsai trees for her to enjoy when she returned. She’d love them! How special! But alas—they were so expensive. I couldn’t afford them. Who knew that artificial plants cost a fortune?
I’m certain God knew.
A few weeks later, my husband went to help my mother-in-law settle the estate of her dear cousin. Every once in a while, I’d receive a text asking if I wanted this or that treasure from the cousin’s home. Then, my husband asked if I still wanted bonsai trees. The cousin collected bonsai trees.
So here I sit marveling: Not one. Not two. Not even three. He’d return back to Pennsylvania with six beautiful bonsai trees of all styles. I can now remember and honor the departed cousin, keep a bit of the memory alive, and delight in this gift. I never imagined I’d inherit a bonsai tree collection from my first-cousin-in-law I met only once in my life in his beautiful home. I think he might be laughing in heaven about this.
What abundant goodness shown through my mother-in-law who had no idea about my long-time love and search for artificial bonsai trees.
And now I have six. Two for Sarah’s bedroom. One for the hallway. One for the living room. One for my bedroom. And the last little one? For Sarah’s dorm room. God always gives immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3: 20-21). He wasn’t kidding. I do think that God does have a fun sense of humor. You need bonsai? I got it. On the way. I’ll throw in five extra.
Here’s the lovely one I chose for the living room. My cat also loves sitting by her bonsai tree.
I discovered a recipe where you blend a tablespoon of canned or fresh pumpkin into your almond milk, and you add some pumpkin spice, a dash of vanilla, and a splash of pure maple syrup. When it’s all frothy, you pour this over your coffee for a delicious pumpkin spiced latte.
You can even top it with the pumpkin whipped cream you can make by blending heavy whipping cream with two tablespoons of pumpkin, some pumpkin spice, and a little sweetener of choice.
Drink this delicious treat alongside the pumpkin pie you’ve already made.
I know it’s only September, but in our minds, autumn is already here. The cool evenings, the red and orange tipped leaves just beginning to change from the green of summer, and the acorns covering the path make us all want pumpkin in everything.
And yes, I’ve found pumpkin pasta sauce for the pumpkin ravioli.
Today felt like I bounced from thing to thing. All day long, I bounced without a break.
Some days feel like this, and it’s not necessarily a bad or wrong thing. Today felt gloriously full of wonderful things I wanted to do and felt led by the Holy Spirit to say yes to. But it was busy. It was packed to the gills as some say. Again, it was busy but peaceful. It didn’t feel like the stress of an overbooked life. And it’s not over yet. There’s one more event tonight which means my early pajama time while watching The West Wing can wait.
My friend reminds me that when things are Spirit-led and Spirit-dependent, it feels like you’re being carried along. It feels like your capacity expands and you start to do things in a power not your own. It becomes supernatural. Yes, you’re tired. But you’re not overwhelmed.
In a rare pause, I stop to think about the Spirit-led invitation to rest and recharge (even if just for a minute). I stop to write this blog because I know the value of reflection, of gathering in the day, and of writing it out. These practices nourish the soul. They give back to you so you can keep giving out. You sit there for a minute and fill back up again. In this rare pause, I know what it takes to recharge for a minute. Perhaps, if you’re like me, you need to pause and soak in the bathtub, take a walk, or do something crafty like paint acorns. Even if it’s just for a minute, you might need to sit down and listen to music and gaze at the tree outside.
Remember over 10 years ago when I discovered E. Stanley Jones? Jones said this, and it changed my heart: “An organism expends as much as it receives and no more; therefore, receptivity is the first law of life.”
Living with flair means operating under this good guideline. On busy days full of output, I take time to receive.
It’s finally chilly in the mornings as I walk around campus. I’m now crunching acorns underfoot, and I pause to pick up the most beautiful ones to bring home, paint, and display.
The air smells, I don’t know—like old, old oak trees. The smell offers a particular joy.
Just as I embraced summer with all its weeding, planting, and harvesting and its hot days cooled by icy slushy drinks, I’ll gather up autumn into my heart with all the raking of leaves, the baking of warm things, the wearing of cozy clothes, and the drinking of hot beverages on cold nights.
We’re already lighting candles in the evening and wrapping warm sweaters around us. We’re already stirring pumpkin into recipes and dreaming of butternut squash soup. But it’s not winter yet. We can take long walks in t-shirts with our sweatshirts tied around our waist. We can work in the yard. We can throw open the windows if we wish. But still, the warm blankets aren’t far from our grasp. We’ll burrow into them after a walk to see the autumn leaves coming soon in all their splendor.
Hello, Friends! I often forget to update all my wonderful readers on the events of my life related to book promotion and speaking engagements, so I thought I’d give you a glimpse into my week ahead. Please keep me in your prayers!
Teaching: I’m teaching Monday, Wednesday, Friday at Penn State for an in-person Honors course in advanced writing and professional development. We have finished our unit on our Professional Portfolios, and now we move into the art of Professional Storytelling. In addition to grading these portfolios, holding class, and lecture preparation, I also hold office hours via Zoom for students to pop in and talk.
Guest Presenting on Writing: I’m thrilled that this Tuesday, I join a ministry of Revive Our Hearts for their True Woman Writer Training. I’ll be speaking on The Psychology of Punctuation: How to Create an Authentic Written Voice. Since it’s via Zoom, I have audience notes and a fun PowerPoint to teach writers easy techniques to immediately improve their writing.
Devotional Sharing: On Tuesday night, I’ll join a coaching call for graduate students to lead a short devotion on Philippians 2.
Podcasting: Tuesday afternoon, I’ll join Meg Walker on the Teach Me About Grace podcast.
Radio: On Wednesday evening, Ashley and I will join Janet Parshall for a live national radio interview (Ashley’s first one!). I have another short radio interview on Thursday morning for a Florida station.
Speaking: Friday evening, I speak for a church in Pennsylvania on Seated with Christ.
I’m excited for the week ahead! Please pray I stay healthy and energized! I pray that you enjoy a wonderful week as well. Thank you for being great friends!
I’m reading A.W. Tozer’s Alive in the Spirit: Experiencing the Power and Presence of God, and I’m especially encouraged by this quote:
God does not work within the confines of our strength; God works according to His character and nature and power. If we only see God work within our structure, we will never see God work at all.
I realize how much I want to see God work. What a joy and privilege! I do believe I limit God; I imagine Him only able to work here and there within the resources I see. But God is outside of this structure. He’s above everything and unlimited in what He can do.
Today I woke up remembering 9/11. It’s still as vivid in my mind as ever. The one thing I always remember was that feeling that this was this end. I thought we might lose our lives as more attacks came. I was scared, but I was also ready in my soul for whatever was coming. I was amazed that deep inside of me, I found the strength to face the moment. I realize now, it wasn’t me. It was my hope and assurance in God.
When David knows Saul has sent men to kill him, I imagine him sitting there, writing this in Psalm 59: You are my strength, I watch for you; you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely. Men surrounded David’s house. They could kill him at any moment. That’s why it’s so powerful to think of how David considered God as his True Fortress. God was his Strength, and he knew he could rely on Him.
I’ve heard the worse the soil, the more they thrive. I’ve heard how even the hottest sun invites no complaint. Don’t fuss over them; they like to be ignored. To be like a marigold: thriving anywhere with little attention and little resources. I lean down and notice how, in loss of one bloom, so many new ones pop up in its place. Loss means gain here in the world of marigolds.