Monday, June 25, 2012

A Garden Party

Momma Robin
Baby Robin
Today is the day for my first ever garden party. Oh I've hosted lots of parties over the years, but never a "Garden Party." So preparations have begun to primp and fuss, shop and prepare for 20 or so ladies from my work to just come and relax and enjoy my beautiful garden. The only issues are the fires burning near our city and the 99 degree weather on top of that. I feel a little guilty hosting a party while so much land is being consumed by fire. The wind has shifted away from our house so there is no smoke, but just knowing that homes are threaten can be stressful.  The fires have been burning for three days now and have consumed over 3400 acres! By a miracle of God, no doubt, no homes or structures have been burned or lives lost, so the decision to carry on with the party is a "yes."  We will gather and chat, eat some yummy desserts and enjoy the beauty around us. There are 4 baby robins ready to come out of their nest that is right over the patio door where everyone will be going in and out. This is the second brood of the season to our delight, but their timing and placement of nest is not. I love birds and invite them to my garden with several birdbaths, bird feeders and a quiet garden to raise a family, so why wouldn't they take full advantage of such a peaceful home? If I lived on acreage our land would be called "Robin Acres," for the many broods that have been raised here. So we will see if they interrupt our party or become the guests of honor tonight. So many beautiful flowers are blooming and the lights are hung in the expansive maple to twinkle as the sun goes down. I will post pictures and update in the next few days so in the meantime we would appreciate your thoughts and prayers for the men and women who are working so hard to put out the surrounding fires and to keep people safe.

Friday, June 22, 2012

My Garden 2012

My Garden 2012 - Garden-Share 

View some fun pics of my garden!

The Stronghold of Fear

Driving along the coast of California I am amazed at how many houses line the coastal shores.  Huge 3 and 4 story houses with large parts of them built on stilts gripping the sides of some 80 to 90 ft cliffs. What a view they must have! On one hand they are among the few lucky ducks being able to afford such nice houses with these incredible views and on the other hand it's only a matter of time before their houses become victim to a land slide and are featured on the evening news. Standing on the sandy shores as I feel the waves lap over my feet, I also feel the sand under my feet begin to erode and throw me off balance. I quickly step back to a sturdier mound of sand only to be chased back even further as the waves chase me inland. The thunderous sound alone of the waves crashing against the rocks is a reminder of the power of water.  Tons and tons of sand are literally washed away daily on our coastlines by the changing tide that forces the waves on the beach to carry more helpless sand to depths unknown. As a young girl of five, my long lanky legs would kick and splash through the waves upon the shores of Pismo Beach, California.  My parents would take us there about once a month in the summers to get away from the valley heat and camp out on the beach. I loved the coast, the water, the sun and the freedom I felt running up and down the shore line with my kite.  One such afternoon while my dad was swimming in the ocean and mom was sunning on the beach, I was casually walking just far enough in the water to come up to my knees when all of a sudden I dropped like a rock into a sinkhole that had been hidden by waves coming ashore.  Being less than four feet tall I quickly disappeared.  Thankfully my dad had being watching me walk along the shore so he swam in quickly to where he saw me disappear.  As I struggled to get out of this sinkhole, sand and water quickly consumed my form.  My hands both flailing upward my dad was able to grab my wrists and pull me up out of the giant sand monster. Coughing and gasping for air I couldn't cry even though inside I was screaming bloody murder.  My dad...laughing and trying to get the sand off of me laid me down back in the water to get the waves to rinse off my sand-filled suit. Now at this point I wanted to get as far away from that beach as possible.  There was a monster out there trying to eat me and here my dad puts me back in it!  What was wrong with him?  I didn't understand what he was trying to do but for me I just wanted to run away from what was trying to devour me.  Now able to scream I let everything out which brought half the beach to come see what was happening.  I was frantically trying to escape the grip of my dad with my legs kicking and my arms flailing I'm sure I must have looked delirious to my on-lookers.  My dad gaining his footing in the sand grabbed my waist picked me up and carried me to the dry sand at the same time explaining to the beach patrol that I had fallen into a sinkhole.  It took about an hour to calm me down and I was so traumatized that all I wanted to do is leave that beach.  You would think that my parents would try to console me from such a traumatic event but I was told to shut up and stop crying or I would be given something to cry about.  I lay in the sand with my towel over my head quietly weeping from what had just happened.

The next few days that we camped at the beach I wanted nothing to do with walking on the shore or flying my kite.  I was quite content to sit on beach running my fingers through the sand and speaking to no one.  My brothers made it a game to tease me about the previous day at the beach.  In low voices so our parents couldn't hear they would come up behind me and whisper that I was afraid of the water. I didn't care as long as I could stay safely planted on my blanket next to the tent. From that point on I would be afraid of the water.  I allowed myself to be caught in a stronghold of fear when it came to the beach or even a lake.  I would only go into a swimming pool where I could see the bottom unlike the ocean or a lake.  I was done with that.  I didn't even learn to swim until I was 16 and out of my parent's house, and then it was only because my then father-in-law through me into the lake against my will because I had refused to swim with everyone else earlier.  Screaming and near tears I punched and kicked my father-in-law until he dropped me in 5 feet of water.  As I tried to stand up my right foot caught the edge of a broken beer bottle slicing open my foot.  Feeling the pain of the gash I hobbled out of the lake, all the while my father-in-law was making his snide remarks until he saw the blood gushing from my foot.  I required 6 stitches to close the wound and again I had yet another reason to fear water that I couldn't see the bottom of. Why do I share this fear with you?  Strongholds can be difficult to break and overcome when fear IS the stronghold.  For years I would sit on the beach or the lakeshore watching everyone else having fun in the water feeling left out.  I would try on my own to muster up the courage to get in at least knee deep in the water, but would quickly retreat back to dry land when someone even hinted of dragging me in.  "This was stupid," I would tell myself.  I was missing out on so much fun because of my fears.  I loved the beach and I wanted so desperately to get over my fears and get back in the water.  I thought to myself, how can I train myself to just get over this and enjoy the water again. Even after I learned to swim in a pool, I had to take some extra steps to build my confidence. I even purchased a second pair of tennis shoes to wear at the lake or the beach so I could protect my feet from any more broken bottles. I made sure that everyone around me knew that I was not to be thrown in against my will and they would suffer great wrath or pain if they went against my wishes. Then I had to give myself permission to back away when my fears overtook me.  My stubbornness to overcome my fear won out.  By the time I was 28, I was on the beaches of California swimming in the ocean with a golden sunset at my back.  It wasn't easy though.  There were many times that I stood at the water's edge with tears streaming down my face and people looking at me like I had just thrown someone's ashes out to sea. Even though I had conquered my fear of the murky water, it was another thing to completely remove all fear in my brain. Especially when it came to trusting the voice of God.  I may have been able to temporarily beat my fear of water, but trusting what God was telling me or listening to my own voice was a residual from this stronghold.  It was going to take the power of God in my life to break down this stronghold.

God has used this fear of deep murky waters in in my life to show me that I can trust HIM even though I have a hard time with trusting people. For years I let fear grip my heart when it came to putting my full trust in God. Strongholds can come in many forms; they can be seen by others, and some can only be seen by us.  Either way they cripple us from exploring, experiencing or expressing the life that we can have.  Notice in the story above I had to "train" myself to not be afraid of the water.  I had to prepare the way by setting boundaries for me to obtain passage through my stronghold.  I had to be the one to put into action steps that I would take not knowing whether I would be successful or not.  I had to try over and over again until I gained ground and confidence. The day finally came that I could swim in the Pacific Ocean and it was a day of freedom for me.  Yes there were still fears, but each time I went in they became less and less.

Learning to hear and discern the voice of God can be a scary thing.  If you are over 20 you have years of listening to your own conscience to determine what's right or wrong. Hearing the voice of God is learning process that takes some time.  Once you become a Christian I believe that the Holy Spirit then resides within you at that very point of acceptance.  There are no rituals or laying on of hands, or some mumbo-jumbo mystical shows.  God said that you would be filled with the spirit if you had received and accepted his work of the cross. It just takes time to "know" the voice of God.  You know when you meet that special someone how you want to be with them always, everyday and everywhere?  You're so smitten with them that you just can't seem to get enough of being with them.  You call or text several times a day. You write poems and send cards just to show how much you care for what you two have.  You look forward to the time where you two can see each other and embrace or sit and talk. That is exactly how it should be with our relationship with God.  What if when you met someone for the first time and you shook hands and felt a deep connection?  Would you say your good-byes and never see that person again except on Sundays? I think not. So should it be as with a special someone as it should be with God our heavenly father.  He wants to spend time with you.  He wants to hear about your day. He wants to shower you with his love. He wants you to know him.

So you ask "How do I get to know God?" You will find out more about his character, his love, his heart, his awesomeness by reading about him in his love book, "The Bible" that he wrote especially for you and me.  All those stories, all the history has been written just to show you and me who he is and how much he loves us.  The Bible is filled with examples of his godliness, his grace and his mercy. Every time I read the Bible I have been amazed at the newness of a passage that I have read many times before.  Something new is always brought to light about God and who he is.  I have several translations of the Bible just to compare verses so I can get the full meaning of what's being said.  I have a Bible dictionary and a Bible concordance so I can look up passages and get definitions of words. If you are interested in some great online teachings just let me know and I would be happy to shoot you some resources. God is waiting for you for you to get to know him.  He will not force his will upon you.  He is a gentleman and will wait. Believing and walking with God doesn't mean you will not fall into a sinkhole or two, it just means that you will have a heavenly Father that will save you at just the right time. Unlike my earthly father who didn't comfort me, God will always be there to comfort you and me and to give us peace.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Then Like A Tree

A On a warm, breezy sunny day,  I watched out the window at our then 10 year-old daughter and her friend play out in the back yard under the huge maple tree. I could hear their laughs and squeals as they played with there dolls, on the cool flagstone, surrounded by soft green grass and a trickling waterfall into a pond nearby, pretending to be in an enchanted forest when our daughter's friend made the comment about our yard. "Your backyard is so beautiful and peaceful, I wish that our yard looked like this." she said happily. They continued their playing but I was taken back to my own experience under our huge mulberry tree in our backyard some 40 years earlier.
I grew up in southern California where trees were abundant in our neighborhood and there were a variety of orchards that surrounded our city. A small town with agriculture as its prime income there were acres and acres of farms with lots of fruit and nut trees. In my parent's backyard they had their own fruit trees and two large shade trees that my siblings and I used as forts in our many adventures. My mom was the main gardener of the household and I'm sure that's where I inherited my love for gardening, and my two green thumbs. I was fascinated by the huge trees in our yard with their long expansive limbs just waiting to be explored. I was the only girl in the family for a long time with two older brothers and one younger brother, that I would follow around to try and be a part of their adventures, in which I turned into competitions. They would often tell me to go play with my dolls or that "girls weren't allowed, but I didn't let that stop me from climbing up into the large mulberry tree. My mother would come outside to water her garden and see me high up in the large mulberry tree, sometimes higher up than my brothers and yell at me to get down. She too grew up in the woods and played like a boy, but she also knew how bad a little girl could get hurt climbing up some 20 feet in the air. When she was about seven she had climbed a tall tree in their woods back in Louisiana just to answer a dare from the neighborhood kids. The wind began to blow and make the tree sway back and forth scratching her up pretty badly. She was so afraid that the wind would knock her out of the tree that she screamed until her angry father had to come get her down which followed by a switch taken from that same tree to her hind end. She never climbed another tree and didn't think that I should then either. I would climb down in fear of a good spanking and sit below as my brothers continued laughing and making fun of me for being grounded.  I would find ways to climb those trees when my mom was too busy to catch me, but when I wasn't allowed to climb up in our trees I was scurrying up our ladder to the roof of our house just to take in the view of her beautiful garden. My dad always left the ladder up against the roof for whatever reason, so I took full advantage of it being there. A good year or two passed by before my mom figured out what I was doing when I had mentioned that I saw the neighbors mowing their lawn from the roof. Grounded again! 
Now as an avid gardener I think trees play a huge part in our health and well-being. From the shade that they provide on a hot sweltering day to the sweet, juicy, run down your face kind fruit that they provide, trees can be a blessing. They give us lumber for houses, furniture, paper goods and a place to hang a hammock. The leaves give us color in the fall and mulch for our gardens. They clean the air that we breathe and hold the soil together on a hillside. They give us romantic places to dance under and allow a child's imagination to run wild with delight with a simple tree tire swing, or to climb up as high as one could get to see the world around them. So how does this parallel with our relationship to the One who created these trees and us? Allow me the time to walk you down a path that will show you that there is a message to hear from the trees in our midst. They are living, growing creations that have something to say to you and me. Not speaking with words, but with their very being they want to show us the wonderment of God's love for us.
The trees around my property in Oregon were varied in kind and a wonder to behold in both spring and fall. Their towering limbs bring afternoon shade to the yard and the expanse of shade provided a cool place to sit and admire the garden. When the winter storms came to Oregon, and the wind would blow violently, the trees would sway together like couples dancing the waltz. The trees that were old and sickly looking would lose limbs to those violent winds, breaking and snapping them to the ground. The trees that were strong and well pruned withstood the years of winter storms and produced and abundance of leaves for shade, or fruit for yummy pies. Spring would finally arrive and the new buds on the dogwoods were the first to appear and announce that summer was arriving soon. Many times I would walk my five acres and just stare at the vast expanse of limbs, spotting a nest or two, wondering what birds called those branches home.  When it was time for the butterflies to emerge they would fill the trees and wave their wings in unison and they would glow for a sight to behold. All together they would release from the trees and continue on their migration north. I would stand in the middle of their path with my arms outstretched as if to point the direction that they already knew to go. It would take a full 15 minutes for them to fly through my property and what an amazing sight it was. As I created spaces in my garden for others to sit and enjoy its beauty, I would plant trees and flowers that would add delight to the eyes. Pockets of color would dot the garden and scents of lavender and roses would float through the air luring guests to linger and take it all in.
When a dear friend in distress or sadness comes to you for a shoulder to lean on, are you like a tree that provides shade and comfort? Do others around you admire your character and talents like the sweet fruit of a tree and see growth in your attitudes or life skills, or do they see a hardened heart with dead limbs hanging like an old snag unable to bear good fruit. Have you been beaten up by the troubles in your life or do others find rest in your being around, or rest when you leave? Do you glow with the joy of who you are, or are you one who people avoid because you're always taking bad about others? No matter what season we are in God desires that we are under His care so we become the breath-taking examples of a Godly person and not that of the world. Your heart is like a garden. It's either full of life, growing and blooming producing good things, or it's like a barren unkempt yard with thorns and weeds and trash strung out all over. God will become the Master Gardener of your heart, but He will not force his way in uninvited. You don't need to get your act together first, that's what He does best. He is the Master Gardener and will transform your life into something beautiful and peaceful!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Messy Gardens

June is here and as I look around my garden I find the beds are out of control. A little too much heat, a little too much vacation time, a little summertime laziness and suddenly the beds are a mess. Reminds me a lot of life. So often a little unintentional neglect in relationships or circumstances can result in areas of our lives spinning out of control.
So how do we restore order in our lives? I think it's just like we do in our garden beds, by getting down on our knees, pulling out the weeds, trimming and shaping things we've let get overgrown, and investing some quality time nurturing what we care about. Maybe it's shifting priorities, de-cluttering our homes, or taking time to reconnect with friends and family. Whether it's in the garden or in life, the same principles seem to work. Get rid of the unnecessary, organize the necessary, and most importantly, nurture what we care about. Of course the restoration process always requires hard work, patience, and tenacity, but the end results are always worth it. 

A Summer Poem 
By Annie Stevens

Porch swings
painted flower pots
hot afternoons  
the Robin sings 
Summer rain
barefoot walks
children's giggles 
backyard talks
Family visits
iced tea and scones
fresh mowed yards
long walks home 
Scents of flowers
summer romance
lights hung in trees
as couple's dance
Hard work all Spring
dirty nails, calloused knees 
worth every moment 
to dance underneath those trees.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Chasing Butterflies

Net in hand, my 9 year old son was on the hunt for butterflies to catch and place in his shoe-box home that he had made especially for the winged beauties. We had just purchased a new home and didn’t have much of a garden yet, but he had seen several butterflies passing through our backyard and decided that he was going to “create” a home for them. He had it all figured out with his little house that he had made complete with blankets for the beds and grass clippings for the floor. It was the perfect house in his little eyes. He spent about an hour searching the empty skies of the backyard with no luck in sight.  Just before lunch my son came into the house with his face covered in dirt and his shirt stained with grass from climbing around looking for these elusive butterflies. “No luck?” I asked. “Not exactly,” He said grimly. “But, I did find this butterfly sleeping in a sleeping bag.” As he lifted the lid of his butterfly house, inside was a limb that he had broken off with a small oval shaped cocoon attached to it. “I’m going to help this butterfly come out of his sleeping bag,” My son announced with authority.  “I will open up the bag and the butterfly will come out to his new home,” my son said with pride.  Trying not to laugh I motioned my son out the front door to sit with me on the front porch.  We sat on the steps with his butterfly home on his lap, and the cocoon or “sleeping bag” inside the temporary home.  I explained to him that the butterfly was in his cocoon and that if he was to help that butterfly out of his cocoon that the butterfly would be too weak to fly away on its own and would die. I explained that the fight that the butterfly fought to get out of his cocoon on just the right day is what gives the butterfly his strength to fly high above the trees to many faraway places and that if he helped it would only hurt the butterfly’s chances of survival.  My son soon understood that this butterfly must be on his own in order to face the struggle of freedom to greater things, so we went out to the place where he found the cocoon and I reattached it to the tree with some twine. I told him that we would check back in a week to see if the butterfly emerged out of his “Sleeping bag” and into the world. Sure enough, the following week we’d found the open cocoon so we knew that the butterfly had made the fight and was on his way to greater things.

Later on in his life, my son found out that he had to struggle on his own without my help. I had to stand back and let him fight his way out of a financial hardship so he could make it later on his own two feet. It was hard for me as a mom, but remembering this life-lesson that I shared with him some 11 years prior, I knew that he would be stronger for it in the future.  Helping out our children is a good thing, but as parents we have to weigh out each situation and determine whether it will hinder their future or help them.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Fresh Dirt

Winding down the long country road my 64 Chevy pick-up bounced and swayed like a carnival ride to the local recycling plant. Like an old washboard the cab vibrated so that my 8 year old's voice made us laugh as he tried to tell me that he was hungry on our way into town.  We were on our way to buy dirt for my garden and maybe look at some plants.  I was new to gardening so I had my list of questions to ask the person at the recycling plant of what would be the best dirt to start a garden that was heavy with hard packed clay. One would think that Oregon soil would be naturally blessed but it’s quite the opposite. Hard pack clay that turns slippery and sloppy in the winter and spring rains and as dry as concrete in the summer.  Only weeds find it to their liking with a few stray flowers trying to make it in the barren soil.  

Driving into the recycling place I could see sections of dirt ready to choose from, but I had no clue what was what. The man that came out to assist me had a puzzled look on his face when I asked him, “Which was the best dirt to use for my garden?”  “The dirty kind,” He said with a sarcastic chuckle. The man could see that I wasn’t laughing and was serious about my choice of dirt. He pointed to a pile that looked dark and rich and would be great to add to the clay soil that I already had. He also began to share with me why it was the best and gave me a half-hour lesson on tilling the good soil in with the clay soil to mix the two and to add composted material to add nutrients that would feed my garden all year long.  As my truck was being loaded, I got the first whiff of what fresh rich soil smelled like. I thought to myself how could something so dirty smell so good? You know what I mean if you have ever experienced this. That earthy, rich aroma that locks you in forever to its scent; that wave of desire to get your hands in and dig around, you know what I’m talking about. I would be forever changed in my thinking about dirt for my garden.   

With the truck loaded and the man paid, my son and I were off to lunch and then home to unload my treasure.  The aroma of dirt came through the windows of the truck telling me that my garden would be renewed from hard packed clay to viable, rich nutrients that would make my garden flourish. That summer was the start of my gardening experience with an abundance of crops that exceeded my every expectation. Later that year I took a basket of produce that came from my garden to the man at the recycling plant as a gift for what I had learned about “the dirty kind of dirt.”   

My heart can sometimes be like hard packed clay to where nothing can grow except the weeds of complaining or discontentment. In order for my heart to be a happy heart it needs to be tilled in with the nutrient rich stuff of life. Learning patience, respect for others, good morals and manners come from some of the compost of life. If we never learn these then we are not very happy or productive people. Things can grow, but they don’t produce anything healthy.  You can tell when someone has retained the lessons of life for their good, because they produce kindness, patience and a whole host of good character and quality in their friendships. The next time that you dig in the soil let it be a mirror into your own life and a blessing to others who you share it with. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Since moving from Southern Oregon to Colorado back in 2006, I've learned a whole new way to garden. Oregon had four seasons that lasted four months. Colorado has maybe three seasons, cold, wintery and the last one being, you might need your heat and air conditioning in the same day! While I love the mountains and the nature, I'm not fond of the winters. I was born on a warm day in January in Southern California, so I'm definitely a sun-baby. So why do I live in Colorado Springs, you ask? Well...that's a story in itself, and some day I will tell that story, or you can read it in my book; "Out of the Miry Clay." For now we will focus on the present and the fact that I am here and will be here for a few more years until everything aligns for us to move to either Kauai, or Oregon. Since gardening is a passion of mine and I love to share about it and to hear your gardening stories please feel free to leave a comment or share your thoughts on anything I write. For now here are a few pics that I wanted to post.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Gardens! Such beauty. Need I say more? Absolutely! This is the beginning of something that I have been passionate about for many years and decided to convert an old blog into what really stirs my heart, gardening! My husband has nicknamed me "his little bumblebee" because I go from plant to plant in my garden, pruning, tending fussing and primping until all is well. I move with speed as I waste no time creating a peaceful haven for humans and wildlife to come and "rest" or "nest" in a yard filled with color and texture from end to end. Whether I have a postage stamp size patio space or 5 acres of land, you can bet I will create gardens and wildlife habitats just as if it were a painter's canvas. Which by the way, I am an artist who paints. So let's venture on this journey together. Share you ideas on what's made your "nest" work or what hasn't. Maybe between us all we can create those special places for others and ourselves to find rest and contentment in our own backyards.