Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Happy Belated National Dog Day

Lying at my feet right now is a darling fuzzy labradoodle named Eloise.  A happy pup that loves to cuddle and disdains getting her faced washed, and is one of several wonderful dogs that have been part of my life.  In honor of National Dog Day, I thought it would be fun to gather some of the lessons I have learned from these furry friends.

1.Loved ones should always be announced loudly and greeted with great enthusiasm.     2.Beware bunnies, they may really be ninjas in disguise and must be barked at or at least carefully monitored.     3.Enjoy quiet moments, taking time to smell the grass, the hydrant, the tree, and anything else that might have a smell.     4.When you are scared, get hugs from someone you trust. It helps.     5.Chores are more fun with helpers, especially when it involves doing dishes and digging holes.     6.Adventures are limitless outside the door, let’s go explore.     7.Choose gentleness and keep your temper, your bit being worse than your bark won’t necessarily solve anything.     8. No matter what, don’t chew up your favorite toy.     9.Empty toilet paper rolls are really treasures in disguise; there is limitless potential in such a little paper tube!     10.Big pickup trucks passing on the road can be noisy and scary, it’s really better to be riding in one.     11.The joy of seeing a friend doesn’t depend on how they look or are dressed, how much money they make or their job title – just be happy because they are there.     12.Play games, run fast and splash in the pool.     13.It’s easier to be brave when someone is brave with you.     14.If the fireworks are scary, bark back at them.     

15.Take naps, enjoy pillows, and snuggle.     16.Even if it sometimes sounds like gibberish, listen – it shows you care.     17.You have a personality; enjoy it, flaunt it, don’t even think about hiding it.     18.Drink lots of water – but not too much too fast, it upsets the belly.     18.Be gentle; when you smash the bug you are chasing, it doesn’t get back up again.     19.When you go away on a trip, you are missed – get ready for lots of love and hugs and kisses when you return.     20.Baby deer look like long legged puppies, they hop and run and are curious about the world around them.  Maybe we could be friends even if we are different.     21.Be faithful, sticking with each other through thick and thin.     22.The doctor’s office can be scary – go together and hold paws. And be on the lookout for treats – they have them!     23.Be present in the present. 
 24.Be curious. Does that little hoppy toad and the butterfly move? And, how many times can you run around the couch in circles before you get dizzy?     25.Hard work can be good stuff, especially when there is a treat, and an acknowledgement of a good job done.     26.Don’t watch scary movies alone – like the ones where there are 101 puppies…  There is a crazy lady in there!      27.Take care of each other, you may need help reaching that itchy spot or getting out the thistles.     28.Breathe deep, sigh good sighs, and stretch out your muscles; it’s not called downward dog for nothing. 

Eloise, Sierra, Buddy, Megan, Cole, Ginger, Bear, Mendy, Catie, Lady – they are all names that bring back memories of soft fur, happy tails, and lots of barking.  Take care of your dogs; they take such good care of their people. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Left Over

Some of that yummy pico de gallo is leftover in the fridge. I am enjoying this leftover on top of everything from tortilla chips to hamburgers, salads, and on the side of fresh sweet corn. It’s just yummy goodness that leaves my lips tingling from the jalapeno and my nose happy from the wonderfully fresh smells. I love leftovers and their endless possibilities.

The word combination left-over was something I was mulling in my mind as I walked down the sidewalk this afternoon. An interesting combo! Something was left behind; and it’s over and beyond what could be used before. If I play a little game with the words, I could say Left + Over = Abundant Blessings!

Now that I’m thinking about it, I wonder what other left overs I have in my life.  What are those things that have been given in “good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over?” Images and memories flash through my mind. 

Moments of great love, family times, and sweet reunions and all things I have been given in abundant measure.  Grace, joy and a peace that is beyond explanation are pressed down. The ability to pause and enjoy the coldness of mountain streams, the blueness of glaciers, the smell of the young leaves, and hearing a bird as it sings to the rising sun they are all shaken together. And they run over into blessings that are so full that I have left overs! 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Summer Flavors – a New Venture in Gardening

I have had a garden before, a spot to raise zucchini and a few tomatoes. This year, my garden dreams were bitten by the spring bug when the Midwestern winter was still deep in snow, expanding the list of plants to include black beans, corn and potatoes. Spring came and plants that had been started and were growing on make-shift tables by windows or were still stored in carefully selected seed packets made it into the back of the car in boxes, traveling with the needed tools to the garden. It was time to plant! A few months later, and voila, plants are growing and there are things ready to be harvested!

Armed with Bug Soother and my hat, I wade into the green beans and breathe their smell deeply. The corn stalks bend and make a whispering sound. I have a conversation with the Gray catbird as it is sitting on the water container and watching me with curiosity. The bird sings and I join in, we sing together - celebrating the feel of the sun and praising the Son.

The grocery sacks fill with the harvest of the week. I am so excited to get home to break the beans and put them away for winter. The colors, smells, and textures – not to mention of courses tastes, are a joyful part of the experience. I do my homework, finding out how to know when onions are ready to be dug up, or when popcorn should be harvested. The feel of the warm dirt and being able to eat, share, and stock the freezer with fresh produce is a wonderful summer thing.

I look forward to the time in winter when I can pull out a bag of fresh green beans and put them on the stove to cook. The smells of summer will come back, drifting through the house, bringing summer’s flavors during wintry days. Toss a few seeds in, try a new recipe and pause to enjoy the flavors of summer. 

 Fresh Pico de Gallo
Pull out a good knife, cutting board, and bowl.  Chop up the ingredients on the list below and mix well. 

  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seed and dice  *if you have a cut on your fingers, consider wearing gloves or this will make your hands feel like they are on fire!
  • 1 onion (I used a purple onion for its sweet flavor)
  • 4 tomatoes dice
  • 3 garlic cloves finally diced

Mix everything well.  Slice 1 lime in half and juice.  Add to the mix, straining out any pulp.  Put in an airtight container and let it sit over night.  Enjoy chips or with meals, I particularly love it with a summer salad and a dab of Greek yogurt. Will last about a week. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Cultivating Joy

On my way into work, I noticed a church had updated their sign.  It cheerfully read, “Enjoy the blessings of summer!”  That thought stayed with me as I continued on my way into work, and I started to count up blessings of summer and the seasons beyond.  I thought about the seasons themselves and the blessings that they hold; the four seasons recognized in our year and the many throughout our lives.
“Enjoy the blessings,” I cannot stop my thoughts from jumping from blessings to joy.  This is joy that goes over and above my own understanding of blessings.  The joy of the Lord, a blessing of fruit that nourishes and sustains when there are difficult times, that is something to be recognized and cultivated!  I thought that Psalm 30 caught this so well, a joy that permeates the seasons.    The words capture the seasons of life, feeling secure, feeling the need of mercy and throughout there is joy. 

This is not a vapid joy, washed out with the fatigues and difficulties of life.  It is a vibrant joy, warming and bright like the sun.  I seek to cultivate this as a strengthening force in my life, bringing God’s joy into my life. Cultivate joy as someone cultivates their garden - with hard work, persistent effort and hope. 

A few of the things that I see joy in...

the voice of a child singing worship songs  - the sound of a friend’s laughter - butterflies on brightly colored zinnias - a hug when it’s needed most - the sustenance of prayer - rainbows from rainstorms -starry skies so clear that you see the spill of the milk in the Milk Way - wild horses with bright eyes and swift feet  - the constancy of God - sweet fuzzy puppies that cuddle close at night - words of truth and kindness - the strength of gentleness - God’s words that give life - the smell of pine needles around the base of the tree after a rain - splashing in puddles - cold and sticky summer popsicles - the warble of the house wren - loving moments of a family, through good and bad times - the feel of a baby’s hand wrapping around my finger - being able to work hard and feeling the reward of a job well done - the pleasure of serving someone else - the excitement in grasping something new about God - reliance upon Jesus - grace
Cultivating joy is done through the ups and downs, happy and sad times, helping me grow in my faith and share the Lord’s joy with others.  It is a habit that sees me through unexpected difficulties, and makes good times even better.  It is a habit that I ask God to continue to strengthen in me. It is a habit worth cultivating.

“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.  Lord my God, I will praise you forever.

Psalm 30:11-12