Ups and Downs

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Today when I went out to do my chicken chores I received a gift. As I stood by my chicken coop I was serenaded by two different birds.

The first was a Baltimore Oriole. Usually they are hard to spot once the trees have leaves on them. For some reason this bird perched on the top branch where he was easily seen. I was privileged to enjoy his beautiful orange and black feathers while I listened to his song.

When he would pause, there was a Barn Swallow sitting on the electric wires that run to the electric pole on our yard. It appeared that the Swallow was looking directly at me as he sang and gave that certain Barn Swallow clicking sound. Those birds singing, in plain view, were such an unexpected gift.

Last week has been  one of “those weeks”. It was incredibly busy (which is why there was no post!). I have always thought that when one did not have a regular job to go to every day; there would be plenty of time to accomplish everything that needed to get done. Not so!

This past week was spent preparing for two bridal showers; to be held on the same day. (My middle son is getting married this summer!) Tossed in to the shower mix, was time spent making and decorating a cake for a college graduation, a cake for a baptism and cupcakes for a different bridal shower hosted by my aunt for her grandchildren. My husband also tossed in a road trip to check out some farm equipment.

There were plenty of ups and downs during the week. That seems to be the way of life….it can get slightly skewed. Some good mixed with some not so good. I was reminded that I am not in control and that there is peace to be found in trusting that God has a plan.

When those birds showed up this afternoon, it was like a love song straight from the heart of God. I am not sure why I am always surprised that God shows up right when I really need it. I also don’t know why I am surprised at the way He shows up. He has never failed me yet (even though I question constantly).

If you have had a day, a week, a month or perhaps even a year of wondering what God is doing in your life or in the lives of those you love….fear not….He DOES have a plan and it is in His time…..I am counting on that promise!

May you see a glimmer of His goodness in the midst of trials. May you feel His love and protection in the beauty of a sunrise or in the song of a Baltimore Oriole. He is there….sometimes we just have to be still and listen.  May you have a blessed week.

“Don’t focus on what is not here….
focus on the blessings God has put in front of you
and enjoy the day.”

Sandy G.

 

Grace and Hope

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My husband and I were fortunate to go to a wonderful concert this past Saturday night. We were fortunate in multiple ways. The first way ….. I won the tickets from one of our local Christian radio stations!

KDCR had a call in contest and chose at random from those who had called in during a certain time slot. My name was not chosen first…someone else’s name was. Those people later called back saying they could no longer go! I was more than happy to be second best.

When we woke up Saturday morning, we woke up to a wintry scene. It was snowing profusely and mounding up on the yard. When we went to bed the night before…we went to sleep to the spring sound of thunder and lightening. The weatherman assured us it would change to snow; but only amount to an inch or so. We decided that the “inch or so” prediction was more than slightly off. I really do not like being “inched” on with that amount of snow in the Spring.

Fortunately, yes our second fortunately, it quit snowing and started melting. It melted enough during the day so that we could get the car off our yard, and make it to the concert that featured Matt Maher.

We were blessed by hearing, praising, joining in to sing, and worship that night. We were reminded, through music; of grace, unconditional love, to lay our burdens down, that God is big enough to carry those burdens for us and that hope is something to be truly grateful for.

There is something wonderful about voices raised in song. There is something amazing about people from different faiths, different backgrounds and beliefs coming together for a common purpose.

It seemed especially fitting in this season, where we will soon be celebrating Easter. It was good to be reminded of all those things while we contemplate the sacrifice made for us so very long ago. That concept of giving all and loving unconditionally can be so foreign to us.

To be very honest, being at a concert is, for me, a wonderful place to be. Put that together with a concert that spreads a message of grace and hope along with great vocals and music…..a true blessing.

May this week bring you days filled with grace, hours that speak of hope and may you be blessed as you prepare for Easter Sunday.

Do not abandon yourselves to despair.
We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.
Pope John Paul II

Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/pope_john_paul_ii_117373?src=t_easter

 

 

 

Socks and Sisterhood

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There are times in life when you meet someone or several someones who just seem to “click” with you. The weekend of the women’s retreat I attended, was a great time to gather with those special someones and also get to meet some more new someones.

What really ends up being wonderful, is the fact that so many of those “someones”  turn into friendships….a sisterhood of sorts. That is a real blessing!

I think I love going to that particular retreat because of the very fact of all those relationships. It is a great place to reconnect with women who share in the joy of praising, singing, laughing and serving. It is also a great place to build new friendships.

This year, I ended up working in the same room with a gal who is a fellow chicken owner lover. (She may be even more of a chicken lady than me…..Her girls sometimes get their toenails painted!)

At one point in the weekend she came up to me with an envelope, stood 2 inches from my face and informed me I needed to open the envelope she held in her hand. She then gave strict instructions that what was contained in that envelope needed to be used that very day. I am here to tell you, that it is impossible to refuse a woman who is that determined!

I should have had some premonition that the package was going to contain something unusual. I also should have known that, knowing Vickie, I might be doing something I was not totally sure about…..a journey of sorts without knowing your destination!

The package was opened and out tumbled a pair of socks…..not your typical pair of socks….but a pair of socks. I had already agreed to her terms, so I did have to wear them, for a time, that very day.

I will say it made for a lot of fun, a lot of laughter and memories were made. I have a feeling that some of those memories may come back to haunt me. I also have a feeling those socks will become standard apparel for at least part of a day the next time I work that retreat weekend.

Looking back, I realize that part of the reason I agreed to those terms was trust. I was trusting the bond of the special sisterhood of this group of “someones”. Over the years I have grown to know these women; and to love these women as family.

Like sisters, they may tease, pull pranks and push you out of your comfort zone…but like sisters….they will always have your back, always love you and always hold you accountable. They may not be sisters by blood….but they are sisters of the heart.

Everyone should have that special set of someones in their life. I pray that your life contains a few of those someones and that they form a wonderful sisterhood or brotherhood for you. It is indeed a blessing.

 

 

Of all possessions a friend is the most precious.
Herodotus

Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/herodotus_402187

 

It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them. Ralph Waldo Emerson
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/ralph_waldo_emerson_105261?src=t_friendship

 

Transformation

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It is amazing how much the landscape can change in just a day or two. We went from 50 degree weather and sunny, to howling winds and that white stuff blowing around. It was a sudden transformation that I should have expected ….after all we do live in Iowa!

For some reason it seems we are always surprised when that first snowfall comes. In a way it is a good thing; as it can be a little hard to get in the Christmas decorating spirit when the trees are bare, the air is warm and the ground is brown. At least it seems hard for me.

The thing I find so hard to get used to, the older I get, is the cold. My dad used to tell us that we are in the season of the lazy wind…..it is too lazy to go around you and it just goes right through you instead! The wind seems to have more of a bite to it; the more I age.  I am not sure how that actually works. I just know that it seems to be a very sad fact.

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There is kind of a beauty to this season of change. The other night when I went to lock the girls in for the night, the snow was coming down softly. The wind had stilled, the flakes fell softly and melted as they hit my skin.  I could hear the echoing calls of a flock of geese as they settled down on the river for the night. Standing there, with only the moon for light, it was a delight for the senses.

Sometimes change can be good. The cold season of winter makes me appreciate the warming days of Spring. So many things in life are the same way. It takes the uncomfortable times and cold seasons to make me really appreciate those times when things are easier and seem to go smoothly.

Winter is a great time for reflection. It is a time to slow down and enjoy the warmth of a wood stove and a cup of hot chocolate. It is a great time to dream of the warmth to come and enjoy the company of family. It is a gift of time to reflect on blessings given.

Take time daily to reflect on how much you have.
It may not be all that you want
but remember someone somewhere
is dreaming to have what you have.” 

― Germany Kent

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anniversaries, Sheetrock & Love

 

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Today my husband and I celebrated 37 years of marriage. It really doesn’t seem like we got married that many years ago but the calendar assures me it is true.

We have had many well wishes by way of cards and by way of social media. The question kept coming up as to how we celebrated that many years. I was a little hard pressed to answer that one as we didn’t really do anything special…..as the world would see special.

Instead of going out, having a fancy meal, seeing a movie or doing the recommended popular anniversary stuff we spent our day on home renovations. For a long time we have had a couple closets that were never finished.

For some reason or another those closets just never made it to the top of the list of to do projects….until today. The drywall for the closet has been hanging out in our garage for quite some time. Today was the day it made it out of there and into our closet.

Putting up sheetrock in a closet might not be the “normal” way to spend one’s anniversary but for me it spoke love. My husband really does not love home renovation projects.  He knows they are necessary, but it is not something that is high on his list of things he likes to do. (I am not sure if it is even anywhere near that list of things!)

We are not quite done, as there is still mudding and taping to do (not my favorite things!). Then will be the priming, painting, and building of shelving. I cannot wait to organize things in that closet when it is done.

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It was a good way to pass the time today. It was too wet for my husband to be in the field harvesting soybeans. It also kept our mind off wanting to get in the car and head 4 hours away to our son and daughter-in-law.

We found out this morning that we had received a very special anniversary gift…. a brand new grandson! The little guy arrived at 4:27 this morning and weighed 8 pound and 3 ounces. We are so blessed.

There are no pictures yet, as that will have to wait till I can post one with me holding him! I cannot wait to get that bundle of joy in my arms and to hug the new mom and dad. There was something so cool about the fact that life has come full circle around here. From a wedding day 37 years ago to a new grandson today.

Life is so full of the small joys of closets being finished to the big things of new grandchildren. Everyone of those joys is a blessing. It is a blessing to be loved enough that my husband drywalls a closet because he knows I would like it finished. It is a blessing to anticipate the joy of holding that new grandbaby.

May this week find you seeing the blessings in the big things of life and the small things of this life. May joy surprise you in unexpected ways. May you enjoy the “fullness” of life.

“… it’s a blessed thing to love and feel loved in return.” 
― E.A. BucchianeriBrushstrokes of a Gadfly

“Blessings sometimes show up in unrecognizable disguises. ” 
― Janette Oke

 

 

Mountaintops and Valleys

I was reminded today, reading blog posts,  that not everyone is celebrating something fun, exciting and wonderful. Some are grieving and remembering a last year that has been filled with pain and sadness. My heart goes out to those living in the valley.

I am not sure what I can do to help. Sometimes there are no words to share…..nothing one can do to ease the hurt. I think at those times a hug, an acknowledgement that we don’t have the answers, and a big sigh might be all we can offer….and it will be enough.

The song that I posted above is one of my all time favorites. The first time I heard it was at a Christian Women’s Retreat at Inspiration Hills. It stuck in my head and took root in my heart.

The words are amazing and provide a wonderful sense of hope. They give strength to get through the tough times because of the hope of what is to come. There is great hope in the promise of eternal life.

The story behind this song is as follows:

“I lost one of my best friends over the weekend, to cancer.  Pastor Mark Steele was a man who absolutely poured his life into loving God and shepherding people.  We will miss him beyond words.  Corinne’s and my heart are with his family and his church.  I’m posting this lyric from a song I wrote years ago, as a tribute to Mark, as he moves from life to Life, and as a reminder to all of us of the hope we can hold.” ~ Greg Ferguson (author of this song)

 

what a day it will be


what a day it’s gonna be
when as last your captive heart beats free
and all that is within you sings
in heaven’s own harmony
sweet release from all your darkest fears
the sound of laughter that’s been lost for years
you’ll never cry another lonely tear
as your sad heart finally
finally sings

hallelujah
what a day it will be

all those angels that you’ve never seen
watching over you behind the scenes
will at last have reached their goal
presenting you restored and whole
just watch the Father laugh and smile
lifting up His joyful child
and hear the host of heaven sing
in a sweet and soulful angel choir singing

hallelujah

what a day it will be
 
hallelujah
what a day it will be

even now in the in between
we could write it off as an impossible dream
but it’s more than a dream to me
’cause even now i can see
enough to believe

So for those of you who are finding life to be a tough place to be. May you be comforted by the lyrics. May you feel the grace of the Father as He places His arms around you and may there be friends and family who will be Jesus “with skin on” to you” this weekend.

For those of us who have been celebrating. May we open our eyes to those around us. May we open our arms to those who need that hug and may we be a blessing to someone who needs to feel blessed.

Your life is made up of two dates and a dash.
Make the most of the dash.
Unknown

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18

The Wonder of Birds

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Baby Kestrel

 

This morning brought a rare treat for me. For some reason, unknown even to me, I really like kestrels. I have no idea why I find these little hawks fascinating but I do.

My husband was outside for a bit, this morning, and suddenly came back to the house. He told me to follow him and bring my camera. He would not tell me why, he only assured me that I would not be sorry.

I found my shoes, grabbed my camera, and headed out the door after him. After being married to this man for nearly 37 years I have learned to trust him when he tells me to follow.

We went down to what used to be the hog house/lambing shed. Once we got there my husband looked really disappointed. He showed me a cinder block that a baby kestrel had been perched on just a few minutes before.

We stood there a bit and started to look around to see if the little bird had hopped somewhere else. (We weren’t sure if he even knew how to fly.) We found the little kestrel hiding under a roll of woven wire that stood next to the building.

I moved in to take a few pictures, which did not make the little kestrel happy at all!  It was pretty sunny and that also made it hard to get a good photo.

We disturbed him enough that he did fly to another outbuilding, which answered the question of his flying ability.  We stood and watched a bit, and heard him calling to his parents who were flying overhead.

I went back to work in the house and it didn’t take long before my husband came to the door again with the same request…..follow him and bring the camera. This time he had spotted a pair of Baltimore Orioles bringing food to their babies in the nest.

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Baltimore Orioles

 

It is always amazing to me how they build those sac-like nests. It is also amazing to me that those baby birds don’t get motion sickness when those branches are swinging during the windstorms that we have.

Those nests are so hard to see when the leaves are full on the trees. My husband said the only way he spotted it was by watching to see where mom and dad Oriole landed each time. (If you look closely the nest is the brownish blob beneath the male Oriole.) You could also plainly hear the baby birds begging for food every time a parent landed with lunch.

It was an amazing way to break up the chores of the morning. To stand in the sun and watch the birds. It really was a treat to be so close to a small kestrel. I loved knowing that the kestrel pair had successfully hatched and raised at least this one baby.

I am so blessed to be married to a man who loves the outdoors and loves to share it with me. I have seen so many beautiful things because of him. It is a wonderful thing to be able to stand with him and just watch the birds…..and the next time he comes to the door and tells me to bring the camera and follow him….I will!

“Everywhere we look….
the complex magic of nature blazes before our eyes.”
Van Gogh

Friday Blessings

IMG_3711 Red Headed Woodpecker

Red Headed Woodpecker

 

Today was a marvel, weather wise. The last while, we have been sweltering and today, the day just kept getting cooler and cooler. One weatherman thought we should tell people we are in the month of Junuary. I think he might be right!

As I sat on my porch enjoying my cup of tea and breakfast this morning; I even had to wear a coat….that is really unusual for this time of year. I will say it does smell nice and fresh when it is cooler out in the morning.

My husband and I really do enjoy the quiet start to the day. We get to share the outdoors with lots of wildlife. It is so interesting that these animals don’t even seem to pay attention to us as they go about their morning rituals.

We had a wonderful time watching the Red headed woodpecker clinging to the tree in the front yard. I hope he is eating a lot of bugs and ants…..it makes for less bugs and ants that get into my house!

This morning we had a very enterprising little squirrel join us. He was so busy digging up previously buried corn kernels that he did not even care that we were sitting so close and taking pictures of him. I think he felt very sure that we would not meddle in his affairs.

It didn’t take long and a rabbit decided to make his appearance. This was really no surprise as we seem to be overrun with rabbits of every size. The rabbit population is a running argument conversation between me and my husband.

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Cottontail/Bean Eater

 

He thinks we can’t have too many rabbits around…….I think we have waaaay to many to be compatible with my flowers and vegetables.  So far, the rabbits and my husband are winning. (Can you hear the big sigh from where you are?)

I must confess the baby bunnies are cute….but eventually they turn into bean eaters and that is not cute whatsoever! I am hoping my husband commits to doing something this fall about the rabbit population. (He does like rabbit soup, so there is hope.)

Watching these animals this morning was a great reminder of trust and faith. None of these animals worried where their next meal was coming from. They just figured that it would be provided when they went looking.

They do have predators to think about, but it doesn’t seem like they live their lives in fear of what is coming. I sometimes wonder if we spend so much time and energy in fear of what the future will bring, that we find it hard to live in the present.  I think if we could live the way these small critters do……..full of trust and faith; life would be so much easier.

I am sure they have hard times……times where food is scarce, times when they are cold and uncomfortable, and times when they have to run or fly for their lives. And yet, they live and enjoy the moment for what it is. They bask in the sun when it is shining to warm them. They eat their fill when food is present. They live fully in the time they are given.

May your weekend be full of life lived fully. May your life be lived in the present and may you enjoy the small things that can be hard to see. Have a blessed weekend!

Look at the birds of the air;
they do not sow or reap or store away in barns,
and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are you not much more valuable than they?
Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
Matthew 6:26-27

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Those Summer Nights

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Fence Rows

The last days have been real corkers around here.  The sun has shone brightly, the wind (that ever-lasting Iowa wind) has been blowing steadily and the temperatures are a toasty 90 plus degrees. For us this is really unusual as our normal temps are in the 70s at this time of year.

The wind blowing and no rain has been pretty hard on my garden. I have had to enlist the aid of my husband, haul out the hoses, rig up the sprinkler and water everything. I typically do not water my garden. I usually wait for the rain. This season I couldn’t wait for rain. If I had; I have a feeling my tender seedlings would have just toasted to a crisp.

The constant heat and wind can be draining but there has been one upside to the overly warm days…..the nights. The nights have been cooling off…..so far.( I hear that is going to change this weekend and even the nights will be toasty.)

For now, I am enjoying the beautiful evenings.  There have been beautiful clouds…..big puffy white clouds, gray windy looking clouds, clouds that look like they will finally drop rain and thunderhead clouds.

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The Western Sky

I am amazed at the beauty that can be found in the heavens. It is wonderful compensation for the blistering hot days. It is a gift to sit on the porch, a cup of iced tea in hand and just listen to the last calls of the birds, the rustling of the leaves in the wind, and watch the sky turn from royal blue to the deep blues and purples of night.

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The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Psalm 19:1

 

It is even better to be able to sit on that same porch with someone you love! Quiet, end of day conversations can be some of the best conversations around.

IMG_3506 The West Sky

The Coming of Night

 

There is something magical about sitting outside in the hush of the pre-night hours. There is wonder in watching the moon rise in the darkening sky.

IMG_3509 The East Sky

Day’s End

 

I will try to remember the beautiful evenings that have been and that are still to come. I will try hard to keep them in mind when I am working in my garden mowing the lawn or helping my husband bale grass hay.

It is good to have the anticipation of good things to come. It is sometimes what keeps you going through the everyday stuff of life.

May this weekend find you anticipating the good things. May it find you looking forward to the wonders that are to come and not looking back at the difficulties that have been. May you be blessed, may you find joy and may you have time to enjoy the simple pleasure in life…..like a cold glass of iced tea at the end of a long hot day.

“There’s a sunrise and a sunset every single day,
and they’re absolutely free.
Don’t miss so many of them.”

Jo Walton

“If I can put one touch of rosy sunset into the life of any man or woman,
I shall feel that I have worked with God.”

G.K. Chesterton

Blooms and Blessings

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Blue Flax

 

I learned a new word the other day…Evanescent…..it came from the dailypost photo challenge. It seems I have heard this word, but never in a sentence where it actually seemed to have a meaning.

I actually looked it up to make sure I would know what it meant….temporary….things that fade away….fleeting. There are so many things that fit into that category.

The blue flax plant I have is a definitely an evanescent plant. Every day it blooms…. profusely….every night the petals all fall to the ground where they lay a carpet of bluish purple petals. The first time I noticed this I was kind of worried that the thing was dying. The next morning it was once again loaded with flowers!

When I looked around my yard at all my flowers  I know I had better enjoy them now….while they are beautiful. Come winter, they will once again disappear for a season. (yes, I know, it seems winter is in the very distant future….but in this part of the country you just know it will be back!) They are seasonal, they are temporary.

Today I am going to share some of my wonderful, beautiful, very temporary flowers with you.  The purple spikes originally came from my Grandma’s flower garden. When she passed away; we all got to take pieces of her perennials. She always called this one Veronica and I cherish them because of where they came from.

IMG_3391 A Perennial from Grandma's Garden

Grandma also used to have Bleeding hearts in her garden. I never did get one of those from her but I found this white one on a clearance rack at a garden center and just couldn’t pass it up. It was so close to dying so many times…but here it is blooming!

IMG_3394 Bleeding Hearts

The fact it lived and is blooming restores my faith in so many things. It seems like a message to never give up, to  give yourself time and you will surely find your way and become something beautiful that will bless others.

I have also been known to scavenge for my perennials. The iris were found growing in a ditch where there used to be a homestead. It seemed too sad to just leave them there with no one to appreciate them any longer.

 

My husband helped me dig some of them out and transfer them to our farm place. Every year I get to enjoy their beautiful blooms.

The hosta was given to me by my mom. She had to split hers as it was getting too big for the space it was in. She asked if I wanted pieces of her different varieties……I have a feeling she knew I would never turn down perennials!

IMG_3404 Hostas

I love the cool green foliage of hostas. I love the fact they flourish in places where other flowers don’t. They do well in the shady, dark places…..places where the sun is dimmed.

There is a lesson in there somewhere. Even when times are less than sunny we can flourish. Even when life seems dry and dark….we can survive. We can not only survive, we can flourish, we can be a blessing to those around us.

So many things, like flowers, are temporary. So much of what we do may seem temporary, like flower blooms, but in reality have far-reaching effects. It is good to remember that we can flourish where we are. It is good to remember that we even when the day seems to be a total loss….the next day we have the chance to bloom again!

Years ago I heard a song by Don Moen called “When It’s All Been Said And Done.” I love the lyrics of this song. It speaks of the temporary and it speaks of the eternal. May you be as blessed by it as I have been.

When it’s all been said and done
There is just one thing that matters
Did I do my best to live for truth?
Did I live my life for you?

When it’s all been said and done
All my treasures will mean nothing
Only what I’ve done for love’s reward
Will stand the test of time

Lord, your mercy is so great
That you look beyond our weakness
And find purest gold in miry clay
Turning sinners into saints.
Hallelujah

And I will always sing your praise
Here on earth and ever after
For you’ve shown me heavens, my true home
When it’s all been said and done
You’re my life when life is gone…

Don Moen