Keeping the Good In

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There in front of us was a huge fence, about 10 feet tall and completely blocking the trail. Mike and I were taken aback. We were many hours into our hike, and it was too late to return the way we came.  We considered simply climbing over the fence to stay on the trail, but it was so overgrown inside this unexpected enclosure that we couldn’t even discern where the trail went.

It was a beautiful summer day, and we had thoroughly enjoyed hiking through the mountains, stopping for a picnic lunch, and leisurely taking our time. Now it seemed we would have to pick up the pace before darkness fell. So, we looked at our map, followed along outside the fence, then figured out what direction to take to a creek which would lead us back to our truck. We made it safely back with time to jump in the creek, cool off, and laugh about our unexpected adventure together.

Later, we stopped and asked a park ranger about the surprise fenced-off area. She explained that it was an out closure, used to keep animals out while plants and trees are rebuilding. It protects the growing area. It seems we need out closures in our lives at times, also.

The trouble can come when the fence is left up too long, and the growth becomes a wild overgrowth of weeds and thorns. Why am I thinking about all this now? I want to see smiles, handshakes, and hugs return. Smiles are contagious, and I’m convinced that we need them. I am concerned that we are creating a culture of fear – fear of each other. As someone wisely said to me recently, we should be allowed to hold hands. May I suggest keeping the fear out and letting the love in? As for me, that is how I want to live.

“Let all that you do be done with love.” 1 Corinthians 16:14

Keep the fear out, and let the love in.

Mike and I are thrilled that we get to enjoy hiking with our two sweet granddaughters now. Don’t worry, we always have a map and survival gear with us.

How to Grow

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It surprised me to see it had not changed at all. Nothing seemed to be happening. I gave my dad an amaryllis flower, which usually grows at an astonishing rate. I had one that had already grown several inches. His seemed to be stuck. Then I realized the location of his flower. It was sitting on a windowsill where bright sunlight hit it every day.

Surprisingly, this flower requires indirect light, so we moved it to a better location. It still remains to be seen if it will do better and bloom. This reminded me how important instructions are for growth. The cool thing about life is that God gave us an instruction book. The Bible tells us everything we need to know to live a joyful, purpose-filled, satisfying life, if we choose to do what He says. The choices we make are what make us.

My amaryllis

Some things may seem backwards, like putting a flower out of reach of direct sunlight, but we can trust that God knows what He’s doing. For example, He tells us to forgive others. Too often, I’d rather seek revenge. However, I’ve found that forgiving actually leads to freedom and allows love to occupy my heart, instead of hate. That’s just one example of how following God leads to the best life. Whose instructions will you follow?

“Teach me good judgement and knowledge, for I believe Your commandments.” Psalm 119:66

The choices we make are what make us.

Mike with our growing granddaughters.

Near and Far

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What amazed me most was the realization that I could see individual leaves on the trees. That was the day I first got glasses, as a kid in elementary school. Before that day, the leaves were simply blurs. It was as if I was seeing everything for the first time, noticing exquisite details that I never realized existed!

As I got older, I wore contact lenses. Then, as I got even older, I switched to wearing just one contact. Most people need reading glasses at some point in their life. My eye doctor explained to me that I could switch to wearing one contact to continue to see far away, and my other eye would take on the job of seeing up close, as in reading. She was right. It only took a few days for my brain to adjust, and wearing one contact has enabled me to see both near and far.

Why am I sharing the story of my eyes with you? I think we easily get caught up in seeing only what is near or only what is far off, and we need to see both. It is so important to be fully present and focused on wherever you are, what you are doing, and who you are with at the moment. However, we also need to see far off. Life here is very short and death awaits us all.

That doesn’t sound like a merry message, but please read on. Christmas is the celebration of Jesus’ birth, and one reason He was born was to defeat death. John 3:16 is still true today –

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

May I suggest being fully present now and conscious of eternity at the same time?

Jesus came for us both for right now and forever. He can “free those who were held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death” (Hebrews 2:15)

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11

Be both fully present here and conscious of eternity.

May you know the joy of Christmas, and have some fun this season, too!
We remember that Jesus came, and He will come again!

Broken Fingers and Guitars

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I missed it. Without even realizing it, I really missed it. See, my left index finger got broken in a driveway basketball game quite a while ago. After lots of persistent exercises, I still couldn’t bend it very much. Therefore, I figured my guitar playing days were over.

Many months later, I decided to try again. Much to my happy surprise, I could bend my finger farther! Enough to play chords on my guitar! It is taking work and determination, as well as a bit of pain, but I am enjoying every moment. I am so thankful that I tried again.

This encouraged me in other areas of my life to keep trying and to always have hope. What do you need to try again?

We tried the Scooby Doo 5K and did it!

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Try again!

One and A Half Tons

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I’d never have imagined that we could accomplish this job! They kept invading and attacking, while we played defense and attempted to block them. Finally, we decided on a plan to keep them away permanently. It was time to finish off the poison ivy and sticker bushes that continually crept over the boundary at the back of our yard. Our strategy involved river rocks, literally tons of them.

First, with help from our kind neighbor, we laid down landscape fabric. Next, we picked up lots of river rocks, 3-7 inches big, to place on top. This entailed getting a half-ton load at a time dumped into the back of our truck, lifting the rocks from there into a wheelbarrow, pushing that into our backyard, then one person transferring the rocks over our tall back fence to another person who placed them on the fabric. It was literally a ton of work!

Mike and I started the process, then my son, Dan, and I moved 1,500 pounds of river rocks in two days to finish it! How did we do that? One rock at a time. What rock do you need to move? You don’t have to move a ton all at once, just pick one rock, one thing you know you need to do. Then do the work! Before you know it, you will be surprised by what you’ve achieved!

“David also said to Solomon his son, ‘Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you…’” 1 Chronicles 28:20a

Do the work.

A backyard bunny wedding (with no poison ivy or sticker bushes encroaching).

I Would Walk 100 Miles

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Their noses were wriggling and their tails were wagging like crazy as they kept their faces to the ground, sniffing out every scent along the way. They were so engrossed in the ground at their feet that they didn’t notice the beautiful deer about a hundred yards ahead, right in the middle of the trail! The deer detected them, however, and quickly disappeared into the thick of the woods, leaving only another scent for the pups to investigate.

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Zoey (pink collar) and Kaylee (purple collar).

We did it! Kaylee and Zoey (our two puppies) and I completed the 100 by Summer Dog Walking Challenge. We walked over 100 miles from the first day of spring until now, traveling through gorgeous meadows, along various creeks, up and down hills, through woods, on roads, and more, savoring every step.

At times, as I mentioned earlier, the pups get so engrossed in the path at their feet that they don’t notice what’s right in front of them. In their defense, I suppose the smells they are experiencing are beauty enough for them. Their obliviousness to the deer made me think of a song Lauren Daigle sings called “Look Up Child” (Link to video in case you want to check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NAYz0zh_Es). It reminds me to look up and not get so engrossed in what’s at my feet that I miss the beauty all around me. That makes me think of the Flyleaf song “All Around Me” (Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xN0FFK8JSYE) . Another good message.

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The pups always look up to say hi to their favorite cow friend.

As you and I walk through life, we are invited to walk with God. How amazing is that?!? The One who created us desires relationship with us. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, please feel free to reach out to me. Whatever happens does not change who God is, and God is love. He wants you and me to walk with Him every step.

“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

Whatever happens does not change who God is, and God is love.

 

Peas Are A Problem

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It is growing! Lettuce is easy to spot, but now I can actually identify tomato plants, carrots, broccoli, and green beans. This may not seem like a huge feat, but as a new gardener, it’s a pretty big deal to me. I have so much to learn! I’m still trying to figure out the peas. The reason peas are a problem is because of the mountain. When my granddaughters, Senna and Adina, helped plant the garden, Adina decided to build a “pea mountain”. After placing the seeds carefully into the ground, she excitedly piled a large mound of dirt on top.

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Senna and Adina celebrating the planting.

Since this is a learning season, I let the mountain be. After all, having fun is part of the purpose, and I’ll be thrilled to eat even one vegetable from our box garden. However, I’ve been surprised by all sorts of green things popping up from that mountain. I haven’t identified pea plants yet, so I’ve just been pulling out anything that I’m positive is a weed.

My intention is to learn in every circumstance. So, here are a few things I’ve learned from my garden:

~ Weeds are much easier to pull out when they are small.

~ An inviting environment brings worms, and worms help gardens by loosening the soil.

~ Water is needed. Often.

~ You can tell a weed from a vegetable by knowing what the vegetable looks like.

~ Lots of stuff I don’t understand is happening unseen, under the soil. Good, growing stuff.

~ Plants need space to stretch out. If they’re too crowded, they won’t grow properly.

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Not a weed!

I’m learning a lot of life lessons from this as well, as you can probably figure out.

~ Weeds in my life are more easily gotten rid of before they grow big.

~ Worms may not be cuddly, but they sure are useful. Are there any “worms” in your life?

~ Water is needed. Jesus is the living water.

~ Knowing truth helps us spot lies.

~ Even when I don’t understand, I can have faith and trust that God is working.

~ There is plenty of space for us all to grow.

I love sharing this gardening experience with my granddaughters. What have you been doing lately, and what are you learning from it?

“Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm 25:4-5

Intend to learn in every circumstance.

Who Can You Help?

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You are essential! Do you realize that there is something you can do that no one else can? It’s true. You have a unique place, and you have an impact.

With this ongoing Covid 19 pandemic, I realize that some jobs have been labeled as “essential”. Perhaps other jobs have to be put on hold for a while, but that doesn’t diminish their importance. I realize this every time I look in the mirror at my unkempt hair! I’m concerned that this labeling has caused some to misunderstand or forget that every single person is of great value. That is why I’m glad people are reaching out to others during this time. Here are a few examples:

My son, Dan Riddle, and his friend, Kyle Ziegler, have put together a benefit album with all proceeds going to Feeding America’s Covid-19 relief fund. Aptly titled “Self-Quarantine”, it is a compilation of 23 songs from a variety of artists and bands. It is available through Bandcamp, and here is a link, in case you’d like to check it out:

https://self-quarantinecompilation.bandcamp.com/album/self-quarantine-a-collection-of-recordings-for-the-greater-good?fbclid=IwAR3YLGNnqfjEI-4pKQljCRGgQYwVm9cjiUnnq5CZ2KljINRANV9jARcPXq0

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Artwork by Daniel McGarvey

My daughter, Amy, has been using this time to create really fun memories with her daughters. They’ve gone on nature hikes, made s’mores by their firepit, and tons of other stuff!

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Amy and her girls.

My son-in-law, Dave, made “ear protectors” for masks for healthcare workers. These help a lot, especially when you’re wearing a mask for a 12 hour shift.

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Dave and his girls.

 

My granddaughters have been making cute and hilarious videos for us. We love them, and they really brighten our days!!

My husband, Mike, continues to buy donuts from our local coffee/donut shop and to get takeout from other local small businesses occasionally to support them. A little action can make a big difference! Each of us has an impact, one way or another.

Even though I’ve talked about doing in this blog, please know that our value isn’t from what we do; we have value because of who we are. God planned you, and you are so precious that God gave His only Son, Jesus, for you.

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:14)

You are essential!

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Mike supporting Wholly Grounds Coffeehouse.

 

The ABZ’s

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Sheep have never helped me. They’re very cute, but they’ve been no help at all. Have you ever had trouble falling asleep? It seems that especially now, as we are walking through this pandemic, this may be an issue for some.  When it happens to me, counting sheep is not a solution. So, I do something I like better that I call the ABZ’s.

My son, Dan, and our pups took a break by a sheep/goat farm.

Here’s how it works. If I find myself lying awake in the night, first I pray and give everything over to God. Sometimes it’s as simple as that, because I didn’t realize something was on my mind. If I’m still lying awake, I think of a topic and go through the ABC’s, giving thanks for something that starts with each letter. For example, I started out with an easy one and picked food. I thanked God for apples for A, banana bread for B, chocolate chip cookies for C, donuts for D, and so on. Please don’t judge my food choices! Generally, I am sleeping long before I reach Z. This is good, because Z is always a tough one!

You can think of many different, creative options, and it turns your mind to gratitude. This is always a good thing. Let’s cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Some other ideas for the ABZ’s are people you’re thankful for, vacation or holiday memories, places you’ve been, and on and on. What topics can you think of? Please share your ideas. Recently I went through the ABZ’s, giving thanks for good things that have come out of this Covid 19 pandemic. It’s amazing how much there is to be thankful for!! Just thought I’d share this, in case any of you also have an occasional bout of wakefulness when you should be sleeping. Of course, if counting sheep works for you, have at it. Happy dreams!

Cultivate an attitude of gratitude.

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Below are just a few subjects of my thankfulness.

Through the Glass

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It was a happy scene unfolding before us, with smiles all around. There were decorations covering the walls, a special tablecloth, and a huge Happy Birthday banner hanging up, all with a Paw Patrol theme. Adina, my younger granddaughter, turned 4 years old! My husband, Mike, and I watched through their sliding glass door. Due to the Covid 19 pandemic and the necessary restrictions on social gatherings, he and I celebrated Adina’s birthday on my daughter’s back deck while they were inside. My daughter, Amy, is so extremely thoughtful that she set up a tablecloth, treats, and cake on a table out there before we arrived.

Even though it was a joyful celebration, how I missed hugging Adina and her sister, Senna, and gathering them close. That was hard. I miss snuggling with them, giving them kisses and hugs, and simply seeing them face to face. I am ever so grateful for the technology that allows us to video chat and send messages back and forth. I’m even thankful for sliding glass doors! All of this made me think that everything is different, but God is the same. He does not change. Ever. He is always loving and good, and He is always present. We truly can rely on His love. “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love…” (1 John 4:16a) I really hope you know this truth. It makes all the difference.

After watching Adina open presents, singing Happy Birthday, seeing her blow out the candles, and eating cake “together”, we said our goodbyes by putting our hands against the glass together. One day the glass will be removed and we will hug, hold hands, snuggle, and have sleepovers again. Until then and beyond, I will continue to rely on the love God has for us. He is holding me and wants to hold you, too!

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8

Everything is different, but God is the same.