So You Might Bless

Last night, I pulled some of those oven-dried tomatoes from the freezer, placed them to defrost in a bowl with fresh basil and olive oil, and then paired them with some hearty bread and mozzarella for an appetizer for some friends.

It made me so happy to share the harvest from the garden. It was the kind of living-with-flair happiness that made me stop and ask, like I have for the past half-decade, “What’s going on here that’s so right and beautiful?” The feeling of joy reminded me of the day I took all my raspberries and made raspberry sorbet for the Italian Mama.

I bounded down the street with that sorbet in hand, so happy to share the harvest. I delivered more the next week from the bounty. I kept making sorbet for others, and that year, I had enough for myself and half the neighborhood.

I remember the beautiful passage in the Bible about a harvest. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 9:10-11: He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.

Notice: You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way.

God enriches our lives so we might bless others from this abundance. God blesses so we then bless others.
The more that comes in, the more I give away. And we always have more than we need.
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Returning to a Garden

Arriving home, we immediately check on the blackberries.  Deep black berries burst on the vine; we gobble them up and leave the red ones to ripen.  We’re home! 

Blackberries Ripening

Our minivan’s contents now spill across the living room, and everyone feels out-of-sorts (especially the mother).  I leave everything and run barefoot to the vegetable garden. 

Neck Deep in Tomatoes

With the exhaustion and disorder of arriving home after a summer of travel, I find myself returning to the garden.  It’s overgrown with weeds, and nothing stayed quite in place.  But I’m out here, neck deep in green tomatoes. 

Something about growing things, something about the smell of the earth, the berries, and the vegetables reassures me.  We’ll settle in, find order and rhythm, and harvest the fruit of a long, hot summer. 

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Journal:  What’s so good about coming home? 

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Do You Know What’s Coming?

We leave to travel for nearly eight weeks today.  (Don’t worry, Jack, Louie, and Snowflake have a family living in our home all summer.) 

I take one last look around the garden.  I realize that nature will offer several gifts when I return:

First, I can look forward to ripe raspberries.

Then, the blackberries. 

The beans have just started to send their little tendrils up, so I can harvest them when I return. 

And, the peppers!  I’ll have so many peppers. 

I have to imagine it.  I only see the unripe, unfinished, not-yet.  But I know how growth works by now.  I have hope that the unseen work will continue, and, one day soon, I’ll be up to my elbows in a new season:  harvest.

But not yet.  That’s just fine.  Living with flair means I wait and hope because I know what’s coming. 

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Journal:  What fruit am I hoping for in this next season?

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Espionage!

Our morning routine includes espionage.  We have to scour the backyard for secret information.  

Even in our bare feet, we tiptoe across the morning dew to snoop on the strawberries.

Then, we plunge inside the winterberry bush to spy on the Northern Cardinal who built a nest there this past week.

It doesn’t stop there.  “We have to check on the beans!  We have to check on the beets!”   And we whisper because this is a garden reconnaissance mission, and I haven’t even poured my coffee yet. 

That’s what we do now.  After school, we’ll investigate to see if the eggs have hatched at the vernal pond. 

I’m right there with them.  Living with flair means I’m spying on Spring.  We quiet ourselves, walk gingerly, and peer into secret processes.  You don’t outgrow this kind of wonder.

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Journal:  How can I find some wonder outside today?

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Loving the Thing You Hate

I walk outside, and hundreds of bees swarm around my ankles.  And I’m allergic!  I carry an epi-pen every day, and for me, these bees represent death.

I look closely, and I see dozens of nesting sites for bees.  They cover the side yard. I quickly call out for the girls to run inside to safety.

I phone my entomologist friend (everyone needs one of these) who comes over to help me.  Where did these bees come from?  Are they killer bees?

My friend examines the bees and proclaims how fortunate I am that they have chosen my yard.  Not only are these bees harmless and not aggressive, but in Pennsylvania, they are also considered the best early pollinators.

She picks one up, and she shows me how each female bee constructs an individual nest to lay eggs in.  I’m actually watching it happen right before my eyes.  Not one tries to sting, not one even flinches.  

I was ready to call the exterminator, and now I’m enamored with these harmless bees.   I lean down and see a mother in her little home, getting ready to lay her eggs. 

Far away, you can hardly see her, but close up, you can. 

I think about how much fear I had.  I think about how I was ready to exterminate.  But these little bees are gifts to my garden.  They are indispensable on the journey to produce fruit.

Living with flair means I stop and look more closely at the things in my life I want to exterminate.   This thing I hate, this thing that I’m running from, might be God’s gift to produce great fruit in me later.

And when you look deeper, you find yourself delighted by this terrible thing that actually looks really cute.   Look at that little bee!  I’m glad they came to my garden.

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Journal:  Might I rejoice in these pesky things that God sends to produce fruit?

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What $5.00 Bought Me This Morning

My 10 year old neighbor has started a garden and pet care business.  His flyer says he’s “responsible, caring, and dependable. . . since 1999.”  This morning, I hired him.  He said he could groom my cats, empty litter boxes, and play with the cats for exercise.  He said he would charge me $2.50 for his work.

I’ve used this service before.  At the beginning of the summer, he came to my house as a garden consultant and advised me about the placement of my beds and compost. 

This morning, I paid him $5.00 because not only did he care for all the pets, but he decided he needed to vacuum the basement.  And then, he wanted to help me make cranberry bread.  He needed to wash his hands first, he told me, because every proper chef washes hands before he handles food.

He’s still here, occasionally checking his bread in the oven.

I told him he should run for President.

He said he probably will.

I told him I was going to blog about him today, and he wasn’t interested.  He’s not into fame or recognition.  Right now, he’s into dragging the yellow rope around the house to exercise my cats.   He wants to make sure he fully earns his pay.

I hope he never loses whatever it is he has right now.  It’s the kind of flair I want all the neighborhood kids to have.  When I asked him why he’s starting a business, he said he has stuff he can do, and he can earn money and not be bored.  He’s not watching TV or lounging around this summer, and he’s not exhausting his parents’ resources by begging for trips to Disney World or expensive summer camps.  No, he’s going to run a business to help neighbors with their gardens and pets.   I just love that.

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How to Live in Luxury

Luxurious or lavish things do not need to be expensive.  I’m learning that luxury can be sought in the right mindset.  There’s something biblical about luxury properly applied.  But, by definition, luxurious implies indulgent, excessively expensive, and unnecessary. 

Even the word seems excessive.  The way it sounds seems. . . luxurious

The word connotes an entire world of very fine and very unobtainable things.

But in my house, we use the word to mean anything rich in goodness and superior in quality.  We can make luxurious fruit tarts and paint our toenails with luxurious colors.  We can lay out in the grass, luxuriously, and watch the lightening bugs.  We can swim in the public pool with luxurious backstrokes.

We won’t be on boats or eating fine chocolates today.  We won’t be vacationing on a far off island. 

And that’s fine. 

There’s something so uncertain about wealth and luxury.  Today, as I was painting my daughter’s fingernails with the cheapest bottle of bright pink, I remembered one of my favorite Bible verses from the book of Timothy.  

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”

Does God really richly provide everything for our enjoyment?  Not for our needs, but for our enjoyment?  How lavish!  How luxurious! This means I only have to wait and see what luxurious experience God might send my way today.

Maybe it’s the gorgeous deep purple blossoms on the eggplant I’m growing outside.  I’ve never grown eggplant before, and I’m amazed by how beautiful it is.  And the fruit hasn’t even come yet.  Eggplant is excessive and probably unnecessary (although I did learn how to make Eggplant Parmesan), but my goodness, I love those blossoms.

Thank you, God, for the luxury of purple eggplant blossoms.  They have flair indeed. 

(photo courtesy of Dilling / flickr)

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4 Questions to Protect Yourself

Our family has been on a mission ever since Monday.  Monday afternoon at precisely 2:20 PM, I look out at my beautiful garden and smile at the huge squash, the cauliflower, the tomatoes, the cucumbers, the eggplant, the herbs.

Then, I see him.  He’s literally looking up at me with a smirk on his face, holding a juicy cucumber between his paws.  I start screaming and waving my arms in front of the window.  I run like a mad woman down the stairs and out into the yard.  The groundhog merely saunters off and finds refuge under our back porch.  He’s huge.  He must look like this groundhog by now.  He’s eaten all my cauliflower, stripped the green beans, destroyed the squash, and decimated the cucumber.

We gather the family together and set up garden surveillance. My children watch from the window and begin making a list of questions like:

1. How does the thief enter?
2. When does he come?
3. What attracts him to the garden?
4. What will keep him out?

My dear, dear husband puts up a beautiful fence that very night.  But the thief knows how to tear through the wooden fence.  He can also dig underneath it.  So my dear, dear husband returns from the store with chicken wire that buries deep into the ground and ascends up high around the garden.

Finally, we can sleep easy.  What’s left of the garden can grown in peace and produce a bountiful crop.

All day, I’ve been considering the vigilance of our family against this intruder.  It was silly.  But what isn’t silly is real threats against the garden of my own heart and the hearts of my family members.  Scripture teaches us that there’s an enemy of our souls, and my daughters’ list of questions sparked a new awareness of ways I protect myself from “anything that contaminates body and spirit.”  That groundhog contaminated our garden, and we found a way to protect it.  We learned to recognize the how, the when, and the why of harmful intruders.  When things intrude and contaminate my own heart, might I ask myself that list of questions and devise a plan to ensure safe growth and a bountiful crop in my life?  What must go deep and ascend high about my life to ward off spiritual, physical, and emotional contaminates?

Living with flair means I protect and defend against contamination when I need to.

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A Little Garden Magic

Early this morning my daughter picks a cucumber from our garden.  It is shaped exactly like a “C.”   The wonder of this!  A vegetable shaped like its first letter!  She holds it up and shows me, eyes wide.  Would our eggplant come out like an “E” or the pepper in a big, plump “P”?  It is fun to think of it until we realize that it’s entirely normal for cucumbers to turn into long “C” shapes.  The youngest knows this already, and my gardener husband confirms the truth.

There was no magic in the garden.

No zucchini coming in “Z” shapes or squash in long yellow “S’s.”  No enchanted alphabet vegetables. 

The disillusionment lasts only a millisecond.  My daughter, still in pajamas, decides to pick the basil for pesto.  Then she turns around and whispers:  “I’m picking some parsley for us too.  It’s the secret ingredient.”

Her eyes sparkle to think of the secret ingredient from the garden.

The wonder returns.  Tonight we are having enchanted pasta with pesto. 

Living with flair is finding a secret ingredient when you’ve reasoned the wonder away.

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