Shhhhhhhh…they’re sleeping

We are in the throes of Winter. And I LOVE it! We live in the part of the Midwest that is usually just too far South for the real snows but too far North for the icy weather.

Most of the time. But this year, we are enjoying what I like to call Real Winter.

You know, cold temps, frozen precip, MEASURABLE snowfall???

And I really do love it. Being a girl from the North (Wisconsin and North Dakota) married to a guy from Alaska, somehow our variable weather here in Missouri does not generate much of a Winter.

Generally speaking.

But this year is looking a whole lot better for those of us who are partial to the white, fluffy stuff.

A few weeks ago on a Sunday, we enjoyed a single snowfall of over 12 inches. It was beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.

My sweet husband, who has a modified version of shoveling (let’s just say I am a bit more thorough and particular), agreed that since we were expecting so much snowfall, it might actually be worth shoveling the ENTIRE driveway and front porch midway through the storm, as opposed to merely removing a walking path to the street…

I know. Seriously. Why would anyone need more than a single, narrow path to the street when your driveway slopes 45º toward the house…

Maybe to GET THE CAR  OUT OF THE GARAGE and UP THE HILL???

But I digress…he had to fully shovel twice, and still the snow came down. The weight of the snow would not have been safe to shovel for people like him who are blessed with a tiny, metal screen-like straw inserted to hold the major coronary artery open…you know, shoveling and heart attacks and all that.

Midway through the snowfall,  after shoveling the first 6-7 inches

Midway through the snowfall,
after shoveling the first 6-7 inches

A greater portion of the day was spent cooking and watching the snow fall and hearing absolutely nothing.

Our massive Newfoundland/Lab/Chow mix dog, Joe Bear, did not want to come inside. Or STAY inside. Between the snow and the smells from the kitchen, he made numerous trips in and out to check on the progress.

Joe Bear: Why'd you make me come inside???

Joe Bear: Why’d you make me come inside???

But the next morning, the beauty of the fallen snow was an amazing sight. And the winds that followed the snowfall made the landscape look as though a sculptor had been at work. A divine Sculptor, indeed.

Wind carved drifting

Wind carved drifting

Ripples in the snow

Ripples in the snow

Our entire world was covered in a very thick blanket of white. St. Louis was totally shut down. Most schools did not reopen until Friday, using many snow days with that single snowfall. Buses could not make it through the streets and most side streets in many municipalities went without benefit of a snowplow for days.

But I was very nearly entranced by the beauty of the snow.

And the ice crystals on the windows.

Crystals formed on the inside of the door

Crystals formed on the inside of the door

More crystal formations on the glass

More crystal formations on the glass

It had been so long since I had seen that kind of beauty. I just stood at my door and looked out the window. Little Froglegs came and stood with me. Just looking silently.

Then he said softly, “Nana, I am so sorry all your flowers died.”

I was surprised. Here I was, reveling in the beauty of my covered yard, under that fluffy blanket of snow, and my little tender hearted guy was sad about my dead flowers.

“Oh, it’s all right, buddy. It’s like a picture. You know how Jesus died for us on the cross, but then He came back to life and now He lives in heaven? My garden will come back to life in the Spring,” I explained.

Froglegs was quiet for several minutes, just looking out the door with me. Then he said, “I understand, Nana. I really do! I get it!”

In spite of the frigid temperature outside, my heart was warm standing there with my Froglegs. It was a beautiful moment to share. And the reminder of the Spring yet to come. My garden will enjoy the benefit of that blanket of snow, and Froglegs will have a memory of that important lesson learned from that big snowstorm of 2014.

My Winter Paradise

My Winter Paradise

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Conversations with Froglegs and Superman

Today is the last day of 2012. I would love to share something poignant. Awe-inspiring. Even memorable. I apologize in advance. You see, I am being regaled by gross sounds that obstruct my thinking process.

Froglegs is the only grandchild awake, so far. And we have been conversing.

(Yeah, that is a bit of an overstatement.)

“I had the best dream ever, last night,” said my gangly-legged Froglegs.

“Really? What was it about?” I asked with excitement. Hoping it would be blog-worthy.

“I don’t remember. But it was the best dream ever.”

Uh huh…and then when I laughed, he erupted with an assortment of increasingly disgusting imitations of boy-noises punctuated with a personalized version of a  Mario and Luigi soundtrack.

I pressed him, trying to pry the dream out of him.

More grunts and grossness. He is, after all, going to be seven.

Further attempts at picking through the recesses of his memory were met with even greater success at grossing out Nana.

So…I walked over to the front door and stared.

“A snowflake,” I noted.

Superman made an indiscernible reply.

“Ohhh, another snowflake!” now stated with a bit more enthusiasm and inflection.

At this point, Superman became almost eloquent. “If you keep counting, pretty soon you’ll say it’s snowing.”

(I married him for his brains and stellar communication skills.)

And now, it’s snowing. And those of you who know me well, know how happy this makes me!

Changes

The season is changing here in the midwest. And I am very thankful, let me tell you! After the Winter that wasn’t, we had such an awesome Spring that changed into half of a great Summer. Unfortunately, Summer turned into the Drought/Heat Wave of 2012.

But NOW, the air is brisk. Leaves are changing color and beginning to fall off the branches. Acorns and black walnuts are falling off the trees. Squirrels are scurrying. I have enjoyed seeing several large flocks of migrating birds visiting my bird feeders here and there. It also means that the hummingbirds and butterflies have journeyed to their Winter homes down South.

I continue to coax a bit of life out of the garden…hoping for some color for a few more weeks. And am still awaiting the opening of the mums.

Yesterday…FROST on the windshields! It was so wonderful!

There is something about this season that I find absolutely INVIGORATING! Coffee is especially great on those cold mornings. Snuggling under the blankets (and not suffering from heat flashes) and actually having a fire in the fireplace. I love this weather.

It isn’t just the weather that is changing.

Froglegs has learned to READ! It is a special experience now at bedtime to hear him reading to his brother and sister. There are times that childhood changes are mixed with sadness at the loss of that baby sweetness, but I must say hearing a child learning to put letters and words together is something very, very special for this Nana.

I remember when my oldest child learned to read. Shopping for groceries suddenly took A LOT LONGER because she wanted to read every. single. sign. On each and every aisle, every time we went into the store. You could see the smiles on other parents’ faces…they knew exactly what was happening. Such pride in those first successes at reading.

And pretty soon we were struggling to keep up with her. She read every book she could lay her hands on. She sacrificed recess to work on her school work. It had to be PERFECT in her mind. You know how those perfectionists are, don’t you?

Eventually, all three of my children were reading. Some enjoyed it, others tolerated it. Even my oldest one eventually began to HATE it because reading changed from something almost magical into the whole “read a book, write a report” scenario, and the joy of reading was temporarily lost. For about 15 years…

But now, she is a mommy and reads to her own baby…continuing to see those developmental changes for herself. They live so far away, but it was so much fun to get to hear her when they visited us over Labor Day.

And every day, I now get to enjoy listening to Froglegs reading his stories to me, and trying to sound out the words. And even better, trying to read his original stories that he writes out on his fabulous drawings.

I guess, for me, this season of Fall/Autumn has always meant “school”…memories of learning and playing with friends and reading contests at school and gold stars on worksheets… The awesome changes that came from LEARNING new things…

And…since it is Fall, I am reminded that I continue to learn…just how awesome God is, how very blessed I am, and how thankful I should be…

I hope I never get tired of learning. Are you still learning?

Rocky Places

I was thinking about rocks. I collect them. There is something special about being able to have a chunk of creation that has withstood so much. Weather, earthquakes, floods, erosion.

My rocks vary in size and color, but honestly I can tell almost immediately WHERE the rocks were when I found them. I have these odd, old, little glass bowls and dishes that I buy at “antique” stores somewhere near the spot where I collected the rocks and then I display them. Somehow the combination of FINDING the rocks and BUYING the dishes help me keep things sorted out. (At least, that is what I tell myself.)

I must confess that on our last trip to visit my husband’s family in Alaska I returned with an ENTIRE SUITCASE FULL OF ROCKS. It weighed a lot. BUT I have treasures from Nome, Anchorage and outlying areas including some glaciers that we visited, so…I know, don’t judge me too harshly.

But of all the places we have been, I confess that the Grand Canyon amazed me. I did not return with a single rock. What I did return with was over 1500 photographs of rocks.

I had never been to visit that amazing wonder of the world until about 5 years ago. Somehow, my travels never really allowed me to get to that part of the United States.

The beauty of the formations is the result of damage. Wind. Rain. Floods. Glaciers. Fires. The canyons are not perfect. In fact, most areas are severely restricted so that we humans can’t mess them up any further than the elements and time have done.

During our visit, we came across scientists working with photographers who were chronicling the ongoing effects of our atmosphere on the formations. Somehow, they can translate the erosion into a scientific calculation to show how quickly or how slowly the decay is occurring. That was interesting. And mildly annoying because the photographers had the best views. But I digress…

In most areas, there were fences or signs indicated how far we could or could not go. Ostensibly for our safety, but also to preserve the grounds. Had we climbed beyond the safety point, I am certain we would have fallen because the ground was not sure. It was a rocky place, but have you ever tried to walk on rocks? They roll and shift and…and people like me fall down. I can feel the pain.

And yet, throughout the scriptures, we read of God being likened to a “rock.” Rocks symbolize strength. They can be a great source of safety if you fall over the edge…

don’t worry–he is a very good actor…

They provide shelter, as the caves did for David as he fled from Saul. But like so many other analogies, they pale in comparison to the absolute strength and refuge that we have in God. He alone cannot be harmed by weather or time or man. Jesus passed through the fire of bearing our sin and going into death, only to become the ultimate victor of sin and death and hell. (I Corinthians 15)

When it all comes down to the ultimate safety…I trust in that Rock that is higher than I am, stronger and more sure than all the rocky places we seem to trust. Who do you trust?

Psalm 61:1-3

61 Hear my cry, O God;
Give heed to my prayer.
From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For You have been a refuge for me,
A tower of strength against the enemy.

balance

battleship

he hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock

Psalm 19:13-14

13 Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins;
Let them not rule over me;
Then I will be blameless,
And I shall be acquitted of great transgression.
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.

sunrise

shadows creeping down as the sun rises

seeing the light of day

Psalm 18:1-3

18 “I love You, O Lord, my strength.”
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
And I am saved from my enemies.

He’s the Lily of the Valley

Psalm 62

62 My soul waits in silence for God only;
From Him is my salvation.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
My stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken.

My soul, wait in silence for God only,
For my hope is from Him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
My stronghold; I shall not be shaken.
On God my salvation and my glory rest;
The rock of my strength, my refuge is in God.
Trust in Him at all times, O people;
Pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us. Selah.

A mighty fortress is our God

Naked Ladies

They get called a lot of different things…

Mystery Lilies

Surprise Lilies

Pink Ladies

Naked Ladies

But in all honesty, none of their names do them justice. In the Spring, when daffodils and other bulbs start shooting up their greenery, so do these lovely ladies. But if you are expecting flowers to follow immediately you will be so disappointed.

However, long after their foliage has died away and you’ve forgotten all about them, and the long hot days of the miserable Summer have taken control, you are greeted by these mysterious stems shooting through the ground with no leaves or foliage whatsoever.

And you get so excited! You try to remember just what those things were, and then you remember…

these shoots are about the same height as Curly Top

So as little Curly Top goes wandering through the garden, she breaks the neck of one of these beauties so she can savor its fragrance. And unsuccessfully attempts to put it back on…I almost cried.

But the blooms are so delicate and lovely, pink and blue and lavender…gorgeous…

Preparing to open…

With so many dying flowers from our drought and heat, the presence of these just gave us all a reminder of the beauty around us that we so easily ignore.

Beauty

So, whether you call them Pink Ladies, Mystery Lilies or Naked Ladies, just make sure you appreciate their beauty, because it is here today and gone tomorrow!

Sigh

Sigh. I’m bored. It’s too hot to work in the yard. It’s too hot to play outside with the little guys. The several hours of watching the crews repave our street is over and done with in less than a day. Trash trucks won’t be around until Thursday.

Sigh.

Yawn.

Big sigh.

Waiting on the counter tops to be installed, so no progress to be made in the kitchen.

Sigh.

I have a bad case of the summer doldrums. And I miss my sweet little guy so much!

isn’t he the sweetest little thing?

Sigh. I want a few more little hugs and snuggles. I hate being so far away.

Sigh. I’m so bored. And sad. I think it’s time to move.

Dirty Rug? Meet Your Master!

I have an area rug in my living room. When we moved into our house about 4 years ago, we bought new furniture. I intentionally chose the fabric to resemble the color of dirt. I knew little hands and feet and other things would attack it, so I THOUGHT I was being very smart by getting dirt-colored furniture. Ummm…didn’t work so well for me. Yes, it’s the color of dirt, but not all dirt is that lovely shade of dirt.

You would think I would have learned my lesson when I tried to brighten up the room with a camel-colored area rug. It was VERY REASONABLY PRICED. Translation? If it didn’t work out, I could almost treat it as a disposable. Right?

Well, I have tried to keep up with the spots and spills, but you remember when the gallon jug of water burst in the middle of the rug? The reason behind the wall coming down?  (For a refresher, check it out here.) Well, let’s just say that gallon of water did NOT make the rug any cleaner. Oh no, it just became a magnet for any free-falling, floating, unattached dirt and spills of goo and ick.

My daughter said I should throw it away. I was tempted, but I googled hosing down rugs, and guess what? It can be done! So, my sweet husband helped me roll it up and we hauled it out onto the driveway. He even laid out some plastic so that the rug wouldn’t be saddled with asphalt dust on the underside. Smart guy!

I proceeded to wet the entire rug down with the hose, then dumped my detergent on it. I must say, that detergent really worked!!! I had clean, bright, squiggly lines all over the rug where I squirted the detergent. Hmmm, probably should have diluted it with some water first. But I was undeterred. I got my broom and began to agitate the rug…mind you, it was almost 100° outside. Yes, I did it during our unseasonable heat wave.

No matter how hard I tried, those squiggly lines weren’t going away. I had the hose on full stream jet spray. You should have seen the disgusting run off. Ewww. But the rug still looked dirty. So, I brought out the stuff that does it all.

the one-two punch

Well, by this time, my daughter was handling the broom, agitating the OxiClean into the rug, then I lightly misted the entire rug. I let the poor, highly agitated rug take a break for a few minutes, then I let that rug have the hose, at the strongest stream I could manage. It helped, but not enough. There was no way that rug was coming back into my living room looking that way.

I must have muttered something about wishing I had a power washer, because I heard Stephanie say that our neighbors had one. I think she thought I was joking. She had already informed me that I truly was a Hoosier now, hosing down my rug on the driveway for the entire neighborhood to witness. I won’t tell you what I muttered back to her, but let’s just say it had to do with all the other “belongings” that regularly clutter my yard, driveway and garage. And they aren’t MINE.

When she went to borrow the power washer, the neighbors asked me what I was doing. I said I was watching my rug dry. And that I was getting ready to move a recliner onto the front porch to complete the Hoosier identity.

But guess what? That power washer did the trick! I watched that rug get clean right in front of my eyes…it was amazing! (I am letting the whole world know right now that I would like one of those power washers for Christmas. Or sooner.)

So I worked at that rug until I only had one corner left to clean. I cannot adequately communicate my excitement in this blog format. You really needed to HEAR me.

almost finished! note the contrast?

all finished except the drying

So I eventually decided that the rug was clean enough. It was pretty dark by the time I was done, but we still had to hang it up to dry. Ugh, that was an awful job–wet and heavy and bulky. Somehow, we got it up onto the railing, and my husband pulled it into a position for maximum drip drying. He is a master at the maximizing tough stuff so I don’t have to do it.

So I now have a lovely clean rug, and I decided it would go into our master bedroom instead of going back into the living room. The risks to the life expectancy of the rug are considerably less in my bedroom. Especially since I am replacing the door with iron bars. (I heard you…you suggested I pad the walls, too.)

But, as is the norm with me, that rug got me thinking about the spiritual lessons I could learn from this rug. Unlike a previous post about my favorite cleaner, this time OxiClean wasn’t enough to do the whole job. It needed help. Soap couldn’t do it, either. Even the hose was not powerful enough to get out all the spots. It wasn’t until I used the full power of the power washer, the right tool for the job, that the stubborn dirt and grime was finally washed away.

So often, we try all kinds of human solutions for problems. When you consider the sin problem,  there are all kinds of man-made solutions: helping people, donating money to charity, church attendance,  being a good citizen. There is nothing wrong with any of these things in and of themselves–they are GOOD things. But they can’t and won’t do the job of removing our sin problem. Like the power washer on my rug, the only thing that can remove sin is the blood of Jesus Christ. He freely offered His life to cleanse us from sin. God’s Word says that His cleansing is a free gift that has been given to us. We could not earn it or achieve it through our own efforts. There is no earthly answer to our spiritual problem. The spiritual problem requires God’s answer as the only solution.

Ephesians 2:1-10

J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)

1-3 To you, who were spiritually dead all the time that you drifted along on the stream of this world’s ideas of living, and obeyed its unseen ruler (who is still operating in those who do not respond to the truth of God), to you Christ has given life! We all lived like that in the past, and followed the impulses and imaginations of our evil nature, being in fact under the wrath of God by nature, like everyone else.

4-10 But even though we were dead in our sins God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, gave us life together with Christ—it is, remember, by grace and not by achievement that you are saved—and has lifted us right out of the old life to take our place with him in Christ in the Heavens. Thus he shows for all time the tremendous generosity of the grace and kindness he has expressed towards us in Christ Jesus. It was nothing you could or did achieve—it was God’s gift to you. No one can pride himself upon earning the love of God. The fact is that what we are we owe to the hand of God upon us. We are born afresh in Christ, and born to do those good deeds which God planned for us to do.

I love the evidence of a clean rug. It looks amazing and new, like it has been given a new lease on life instead of being headed for the trash. But far more important and precious is the reality of my spiritual cleansing, for it has given me so much more…life that is eternal; a relationship with my own Savior; hope that is based on the completed work of Jesus Christ–not my puny, feeble attempts. And there is a peace that extends far beyond any words I may put together that leads me day by day, even moment by moment. And God’s hand is still outstretched, offering that gift. Have you accepted His gift of life?

Mercy Me, I Would Die for You