Wednesday, September 3, 2014


I look around my garden and joyfully find fruits of all kind ready for my tasting pleasure.  Tiny gold cherry tomatoes, (yes, gold!) round lemon cucumbers hiding under winding vines alongside colorful marigolds, and even ripe luscious blackberries lay lazily draped across a black rod iron trellis.  I've been at this gardening venture for just a few years and it seems my efforts and accumulating knowledge are finally starting to pay off.  I breathe a sigh of satisfaction as I bite into a sweet, vine-ripened tomato and for a split second it's tempting to take all the credit.
But, that would be a lie.
The truth is all gardens begin with a dream and effort, but there are so many other mysterious, unforeseen events which will ultimately determine the results.  Despite my desire to control the outcome, the reality is that I am not the captain of my fate.  I am not the grand decider. How it turns out in the end isn't all about me.
The plan I have designed and worked so hard to achieve may not succeed.

     And that can be a tough pill to swallow when you consider that to even start a garden requires energy and time to cast a vision.  Before you can even sow your first seeds you have to decide just exactly what you hope to grow.  Something as simple as, what would I truly enjoy eating comes into play.  What can I realistically grow?  As much as I'd love one, a banana tree isn't going to thrive in my snowy climate.  I have to make  a reasonable plan, and this takes time.  Then on to the back-breaking work of preparing and enriching the soil. Effort explodes. At this point, I’m all in, and for a split second it seems as if my fate is in my hands.
I carefully plant.  I faithfully water.  I fertilize to give my baby plants nutrients to grow on.
I hope, and wait to see if the plan will yield the harvest of my dreams.
The truth is though there are so many things totally out of my control. Things that could destroy everything and make my garden dream an epic fail. Hailstorms, wind, pests, unusual weather, the list goes on.  Sometimes, just the plant itself is not intrinsically healthy to begin with, and no matter how hard I try to coax it to life it will not grow.
There’s a life lesson that applies across the board if I’m willing to see it-- sometimes no matter how hard you try to create something, it just isn't going to work and you are in for disappointment. You can give something everything you’ve got and it still may not work out.  
I recently ran into a friend--my garden whiz girl-- who is known for her lush, large summer vegetable garden. She has more knowledge on gardening than anyone I know, and if anyone knows how to create a successful garden, it's her.
Curious to know if all her vegetable plants were thriving  (as some of mine were not) I asked her, "Did all the vegetables  in your garden grow equally well this year?"

Her answer stunned me.   "They were all eaten.  We have no vegetables left in our garden," she said surprisingly dryly.
"What?" I stammered.  "Eaten by what?"
"We weren't sure.  We have gophers near our home.  I came out one day and the entire garden was gone."
Gone?   Epic fail.  Total disappointment? And this to an expert who definitely did  everything right.  

The hard truth of life is that we can give our hearts and souls to something in near perfection, only to have it fail.  

      However, I've also come to see there is a silver lining in this hard truth.

When we are not the ultimate decider of everything we are also free from the burden of bearing the responsibility for everything.  

The good news, dwelling among uncertainty and the possibility for failure, is actually freedom and peace. 

If I'm willing to embrace my lack of control then I can begin to celebrate the freedom it offers me. If I cannot make everything turn out the way I wish then I am free from blame, fear, and insecurity.  

There will always be a part of the equation that contains unknowns, mysteries, and God's hand. A part that contains so many things out of my control. 

I can only do my small part and accept the ending is not mine to write. The outcome is always going to be uncertain, but if I allow myself to see the gift in this truth I can embrace the ensuing freedom and claim the accompanying gift of peace. 

Unexpected predators may steal our dreams.  And while that stings, we can shrug our shoulders, move on, and decide to cast a new vision.  Sow some new seeds for the next season.  And hope for a different outcome.
One summer we may gleefully discover exotic gold cherry tomatoes on the vine, round yellow lemon cucumbers peeking out from under a leaf, and ripening blackberries waiting for us to pick.
And when we do find these delightful gifts we must savor the moment.  Enjoy the harvest.  And get ready to cast another vision for the next season of life, always knowing that I am not the decider and I am free.  

Thursday, December 5, 2013


    I cried myself to sleep last night.  I could hear the sound of my heavy sobs, reminding me of the kind of sobs I cried when my baby brother died over 20 years ago.  My brother wasn’t really a baby then, but to my heart he would always be my baby brother as I would always be his older sister, and when he passed away I heaved with grief.  Last night, I heaved with grief again, although it wasn’t due to literal death, but rather death that came in the form of an argument between two people. Someone I love and me.

    Arguments almost always feel like a sniper attack.  You aren’t looking for hurt, anger, or loss.  Usually, it’s the furthest thing from your mind when a word or two suddenly starts a cascade of shocking proportion, leaving a wake of destruction.  Like a child’s tall tower of blocks, it violently comes crashing down, block by block, word by word.  And like the distraught and surprised child, you stand staring at the mess in bewilderment and wonder just exactly how this disaster happened.

    Lying on my bed in the darkness, I prayed for God to console, intervene, and heal, but as my eyes finally shut, swollen and numb, I didn’t experience any of that.  Rather I only felt grateful the day was over, and the madness, for now, had ceased.

    Then, this morning, I was awakened in the darkness.  The sun still hadn’t arrived to signal a new day, but I was awakened, nonetheless.  

      As I lie in the stillness I immediately heard a winsome whisper, His mercies are new every morning.  As the words I recognized from scripture resounded, I heard it yet again in a different way.  A gentle voice speaking directly to my heart.

    My mercies are new every morning.

    I let the words fall into the cracks of remorse and fear lingering in my heart.  It occurred to me that this was God’s word in the book of Lamentations.  Lamentations.  A word that means the passionate expression of grief and sorrow.  Weeping.  Yet, now mercy was being extended, birthed in lamentations.

    Eventually I looked up the verse.

     “"The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”  (Lamentations 3:22-23, ESV, emphasis mine.)

    Steadfast love that never ceases.  Mercy, fresh every morning.  Faithfulness in abundance.  What would happen if I embraced these whispers of love as my path to healing  and reconciliation?  Could I emulate the goodness of God, and demonstrate to the one I love and hurt last night, steadfast love, mercy created fresh this morning, and faithfulness without measure? And would there be any possibility that they would find it in their heart to return the favor?

    The remedy, whispered to my heart as my eyes opened to the day, was Him.  He whispered to me the answers I was seeking in the dawn of morning solitude.  Following His way was my necessary path to peace and reconciliation because giving up on the one I love is not an option.  

    And at the end of the day, when this has come full circle, perhaps, my love will be tested  and proven as genuine when it’s gone through this fire of pain and come out on the other side with the marks of steadfast love, mercy anew, and great faithfulness. When I take the steps to look like Him.





Sunday, September 8, 2013

Three Sisters in the Garden--A Lesson On The Value of Sisterhood from the Garden

    It was an unlikely place for a free garden class.  A theater.  I’d been in this small dark theater a few times before to see a few quirky, sophisticated plays, but tonight I was there to learn the basics of organic gardening at high altitude. Living in the mountains at 7,000 ft. elevation gives an entirely different dimension to gardening, and I was there as an eager student excited to learn about this seemingly secret world.  
    My teacher, a diminutive dentist by profession, excitedly told us about his thriving summer vegetable garden.  Vividly describing his multi-colored heirloom tomatoes, fragrant herbs, and other unusual vegetables grown from seed, his passion for this unknown world to me began to unfold.  He waxed about ways to keep fragile, tender plants alive at high altitude during monsoon rains, wind storms, and unusually short growing seasons.  His excitement was quickly contagious and before long I was imagining my wooded, undeveloped backyard as a luscious vegetable garden.  Just about the time my imagination was taking me right out of the room he turned to the gardeners in the audience and began to question them.    
    “So, how do you grow your corn plants?” he asked one of the students, peering over his retro looking glasses.  
    “The three sisters,” she quickly replied.  He nodded.  In fact just about everyone in the class nodded with knowing looks.  Although I tried to give a knowing look to fit in, the truth was I had no idea what the three sisters were.
    Again, a question came up about growing beans.  Once again the three sisters was mentioned.  Hummmm…..this time I wrote the phrase down, determined to find out what everyone in the class seemed to know but me, and just exactly what this three sisters was all about.    
    More questions, this time about squash.  Ditto squash; the three sisters were mentioned once again for squash.  Okay, I was really intrigued at this point.  Was this some kind of fertilizer, a type of container,  a way of arranging seeds in the ground?  What exactly were they talking about?  
    Once inside my front door I dashed to the computer and typed those three magic words into the search engine.  The. Three. Sisters.  Voila.  Lots of answers and information popped onto the screen and I read with curious delight.
    Used by the Native Americans for centuries, the three sisters is a very old method of planting corn, beans, and squash together to provide a better crop from each plant than they would provide alone. Working together they help one another maximize growth and contribute to one another in fascinating ways.  
    It works like this.  The first sister is corn.  Corn is a large, strong plant with a tall sturdy stalk that enables it to hold its heavy ears of corn as they grow. As a large plant though it needs lots of energy, especially nitrogen, from the soil. Corn is called a heavy feeder, and much like a linebacker would need lots of calories while training and playing in season, corn needs lots of nutrients to do its work as well.  Grown alone it requires a lot of feeding and attention to produce its fruit, corn. In some ways it’s a rather high maintenance plant.   
    However, beans, the second sister, are a lanky vine plant that needs a ladder or trellis for support to provide its best crop.  Without some kind of ladder for support, these vines fall on the ground and ultimately never produce as many beans as they do when supported.  However, in contrast with the corn’s high nitrogen needs, beans actually fix nitrogen into the soil.  In an amazing way, they actually add the very nutrient that their sister, corn, needs so heavily.  So, when beans are planted next to corn they use the corn stalks for their support, winding their fragile vines around corn’s sturdy stalk, yet underground, they are supporting the corn, by adding extra nitrogen for the corn to feed on.  Thus they work together like loving sisters--each contributing and leaning on the other for each plant’s benefit.  
    But the love keeps growing among these sisters when you throw in a squash plant.  As the third sister, squash adds yet another dimension to maximize these three crops.   Squash, with their enormous leaves and large yellow blossoms., fan out and hover near the ground.  As they grow and sprawl they shade the ground beneath them, keeping it moist, and when planted at the base of both beans and corn they provide a shade cloth of sorts for all three plants.  As an added bonus, their lush yellow flowers also attract pollinators every fruit bearing plant in the garden so desperately needs.
    The three sisters--corn, beans, and squash.  Three very different plants with three very different designs, but when planted together help each other grow and become more fruitful than when planted alone.  Such a beautiful picture of God’s design for us and the world.

So, Who Are Your Sisters?
     Reflecting on the three sisters has led me to examine the sisters in my garden. Who quietly feeds me underground?  Who do I lean on?  And who gives me shade? Do I reciprocate, or do I stand proudly alone imagining my solitary existence a badge of honor and self importance?
     The truth is that far too often I stumbled through life trying to do everything myself, failing to recognize how much I needed other people in my life to feed, nourish, and support me.  I mistakenly thought that doing it all by myself showed my strength and valor, maybe even, gulp, my superiority.  Reluctant to ask for help, let alone acknowledge I desperately needed help, I floundered, but worked very hard to cover it up with a mask of bold independence and self-sufficiency.  
     At the same time, while I often did do things for others, I never saw it as God’s beautiful design for blissful reciprocity.  Giving was less about being part of a team, and more about my inflated sense of self and and grandiosity  Something along the lines of big me giving to little you. An vain lie if ever there was one.
Ultimately, what was the price for growing my individual plant alone in the garden?  Smaller fruit.  A stressed plant.  And a plant missing out on the beautiful, natural design created not only for my benefit, but for the benefit of all the plants in the garden.   
     Here’s the truth-- we were designed by our Creator both to contribute and to need one another in order to grow and perform optimally in this world. .  Each of us is a unique sister in the garden of life,  and we are most fruitful when we joyfully and expectantly live together, giving and taking the best from one another, yielding a more bountiful and beautiful harvest in the end.      

Friday, July 5, 2013

Fakebook, Be the Person You Want To Be- Paula Dean, Image, and Me

Lately, I get a lot of questions about why I haven’t been writing on my blog.  I have a lot of pat answers, usually something about being crazy busy, but if I’m being truly honest, some of it has to do with the transparency that comes with writing a real, raw blog post.  We live in a world where perceived image is king and having flaws, weaknesses, past mistakes, and vulnerabilities are not acceptable.  A Fakebook (aka: Facebook) world encourages us to untag, cover up, and delete anything that makes us look bad from from public view.  With a little skillful planning we can be the person we want to be publicly.  Moreover, it seems we crave this kind of unreality as we pay greatly for and value the images our actors and public figures provide.  On the other hand, watch out for image busters as they are cruel and punitive. You may even be punished for life, especially if your image gets attached to something politically incorrect or unfashionable.
    Present case in point-- Paula Dean.  Her public image was obliterated in one fell swoop when she admitted to using the n word in the past, and on occasion engaging in racist humor.  In a moment of candor under oath, she effectively destroyed her sweet Southern image of perfection.  It--her image--was the foundation of her multi-million dollar empire.  Almost immediately, the people who had ridden her coattails to fortune realized they could no longer sell her new, tarnished image and they turned their backs on her faster than you could  say, "deep fried ice cream."
   Okay, let’s be real.  Paula Dean was born in Albany, Georgia in 1947.  Given that she grew up in a time and place known for its ignorant and extreme racism did anyone assume it could never hold a place in her heart? That her character and attitudes were totally above reproach in every possible way? Did anyone honestly believe that a woman who hid a cigarette habit and Type 2 diabetes from the public for years had no other secrets?  No other possible skeletons in her closet? 

    Here’s the unspoken truth--Paula's image made us believe that cooking her way could make us happy. Watching Paula laugh and smile and cook on screen she made us believe--and oh, how we wanted to believe--that sticks and sticks of butter and fried foods would be a path to joy. For a moment we could be cooking in her homey kitchen, enjoying pure deliciousness with laughter, and nothing else would matter. And for crying out loud, we have a rough life, we deserve it.  Butter and mega calories, bring 'em on baby!  I feel so much better about my life just thinking about that kind of fun.

Now, just for the record, I am not minimizing the use of the n word.  It’s wrong on every level,  but that wasn’t Paula’s real crime, the one that got her fired. Her real crime was tarnishing her image.  The one we loved.  The one we wanted.  The one we needed to believe if we wanted to continue to idolize an ordinary person and make our unhealthy choices look good. Image sells, convinces, and persuades, and culturally, image is far more important than reality.

Actors and image- 
    Along those same lines, just last week I read a review for the movie, This Is The End, described by The Arizona Republic  as, “end-times satire, profane, but devilishly funny.”  Curious about a movie where “some people are beamed up into the heavens by a bright light,” and touted as a satire of Hollywood, celebrity culture, and self-centered hedonism I read on.  A couple of sentences in the review caught my attention.  “The stage is set early on, when someone says they will be fine, because who do they rescue first?  Actors.  Because they make people feel better.”

    Yes, it’s true.  We are a culture where actors make us feel better.  We love and adore images of unreality and idolize those who create them for us.  We especially value ones based on pure fantasy and wishful thinking.  Super heroes, super models, and super sized portions dazzle and delight us.  We reward them handsomely and seek to be like them in every way possible.

The dark side of our images-
    There is a heavy price we pay for worshiping images though.  It is the skeleton in our collective closet.  It’s dark and deep and destructive.  Our obsession with images, and creating them for ourselves, lead us to present ourselves in ways that deny our true selves.  Authentic humanity is against the rules so we mask our insecurities, mistakes, and struggles.  We smile and stay polite, wearing our best Fakebook image, churchy image, or whatever floats-your-boat image.  We’re on it, and we are ever so good at it. 

    Moreover, we lie to ourselves about the choices we make and drown in the downstream of their consequences.  We eat too much, drink too much, and sleep too little.  Then, we pop pills to wake up, to sleep, to have sex, and to mask the demons of depression and anxiety that reside in our souls.  We smile and stay polite, wearing our best Fakebook image, never telling those around us we struggle or presenting our flaws to the world. Of course, we can’t tell other people the truth, because we don’t even tell the truth to ourselves.

An alarming rise in suicide among adults, as well as prescription pain pill abuse and addiction, continue to make their mark on our society.  We are the first generation who may live shorter lives than our parents because we can’t stop eating, drinking, spending, and using anything and everything to live large and numb our aching hearts.  We ignore the inconvenient truth--our choices have consequences.  All of them.  And in the process we have lost touch with ourselves, as well as authentic relationships, nature, real food, the value of rest, and the total acceptance and love offered by a true and living God.  

So why don’t I write more often?
    Here’s my truth--I have cultivated a lot of wisdom and things from my journey with God that have enriched my life and would actually enrich yours as well.  I really do have a lot to share with you that might benefit or edify you in some way.  My experiences and advice could help you avoid mistakes, regrets, or dumb choices.  I could make you think about things in a new way, but that requires I keep it real.  I have to spill the beans and tattle on myself and the world around me.  I have to pull the curtain back on the Wizard of Oz, and see he’s just a guy (or in this case just a girl) behind the curtain.  I would have to destroy my image. There, I’ve said it.  My carefully crafted Fakebook image would have to go. 

    You would need to know that I’m flawed beyond words.  I still argue with my husband and kids from time to time, much too loudly (dear God, please don’t tell me the neighbors heard us!)  An occasional cuss word still comes out of my lips, and I can be miserably careless with my words.  Add impatient, vain, and selfish to the list, and that’s just a start.  Skeletons in my closet?  Oh, please don’t even go there. 

    Bottom line, I’m just a total messed up sinner saved by the graceful, unmerited and unfathomable kindness of Jesus.  I am not an image, “religious ” person, church lady, shrink, or anyone you would want to copy. That image of perfection belongs to God, and God alone.  When I really let that sink in, it’s a huge relief. I can let Him be Him, and I can just be me.  And it’s the strangest thing, but He doesn’t drop me (or you) when I mess up my image.  He loves me right where I’m at. 

I will add this,  I’ve discovered God loves us too much to let us stay in our messes; He wants to fix our problems and He knows how to fix them.  So, invited, He comes into our hearts and changes things.  He softens those hard edges and shows us better ways to live. But He never leaves when our image gets tarnished.

So, here it is--if you want to read blog posts by someone like me, I'll try to keep it honest. Raw. Real. I'll share with you the path I've been on and where it's led me--good and bad-- and you may just learn something in the process. But, if you need my image to make you feel good you better check in with Hollywood and mainstream culture.  I understand they’re really good at creating fantastic and unrealistic images for you to savor, but just don't forget, those images are a lie and in the end they'll rob you blind.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Sucking Up Unyielding Newspaper In a Snowblower
Stubbornness--For Good or Evil?

Snow, snow, and more snow seems to be the theme around here lately.  Just when I get to thinking that I can enjoy walking my spirited border collie outside in some sunshine, here comes another dreary storm.  Initially, after moving here from a sunny climate nearly 15 years ago, I delighted in the wonder of changing seasons, including the snowy winters here in Northern Arizona. Of course, my children were little then and snow meant sledding, snowhuts, hot chocolate, and snowmen in my front yard.  It also meant I had extra hands to share in the tasks of clearing the snow away.  Snow was rather romantic to me then and didn’t seem like a burden. 

However, with the passing of time, my “snowmance” --my romance with snow-- has waned.  Now I peek out my front window in the dark, early morning hours to size up just how much snow has fallen because that translates into just how much work awaits  to clear the snow from our driveway and sidewalks.  To complicate things our home faces north, which means we have a beautiful view of the snowy peaks from our living room window, but during the winter the sun never comes up high enough to naturally melt the snow. If I ever want to leave the house in my car it means the snow has to be cleared off the driveway.  It means work.  End of story. 

So last week, after a heavy snowfall, I looked outside to the heaps of snow outside and faced my morning job with a bit of resignation.  My husband was out of town working, and my daughters were all away, living their lives away from Flagstaff.  The workhorse this particular morning was me.  Just me.

    I happily consoled myself by getting out the oversized snowblower my husband had fueled and ready to go.  Before I started it up I trudged across the snow to pick up a newspaper I saw peeking out of the snow.  I looked for the other newspaper we have delivered, but I saw no traces of it.  I figured it didn’t make it up from Phoenix in the snow--a common occurrence during snowstorms.  I put in my earplugs, pumped the machine, and started it up.  I slowly pushed it and used the chute to blow the snow in the direction I wanted it to stay.  I had barely made one good sweep out to the road when I suddenly heard a horrible, grinding noise.  Oh no.  Nothing ever good comes from a sound like that!  I turned off the machine, looked at the bottom and only saw impacted snow.  So, foolishly, I now see in retrospect, I turned it on again, and quickly heard the same horrid sound.  Off it went again, and when I turned it over, voila, my problem appeared.  The other newspaper, dressed in an orange plastic shield, was sucked right into the blower.  It now looked huge and wouldn’t budge.  The plastic made it even more intractable.  The reality of my situation sunk in slowly.  I had really messed up  (innocently, but badly) and no matter how much I tried to undo it the paper wasn’t budging.  I tried and tried to get the paper out of the blower (this involved pliers, warm water to dissolve the paper, scissors, and any other implement I thought might help me dislodge it) ,and I managed to get out little chunks, but the main part blocking the blades was not yielding.  It stubbornly took its place and wasn’t going to move for anything or anyone.  

    After working for over an hour, I resigned myself to my fate, got out a shovel, and went to work.  I came in around lunchtime exhausted, nursing a sore shoulder, and fantasized how I might become one of those snowbirds who manages to avoid the winter season in a snowy climate.

Stubbornness versus Yielding-- 

     My power struggle with the newspaper, jammed in my snowblower, has had me thinking a lot about the notions of submission and yielding versus stubbornness and obstinacy.  From discussions about demanding babies to strong-willed adults, these themes have been presenting themselves to me lately.  Inevitably, refusing to bend always shows up in a power struggle and conflict.  While holding your position may sometimes be a noble and courageous act, it can also be a mask for utter selfishness and a desire to control others. Yet, bottom line, yielding versus non-yielding is a choice we make that always has consequences.  Moreover, it’s a powerful choice and one we should make with utmost care and consideration.  The question becomes--if I yield or submit will it be for greater good, such as fostering a relationship or outcome, or will it be out of lack of courage, weakness, and lead to wrong or undesirable outcomes?

   We need to remind ourselves, and teach our children, that we don’t necessarily want a submissive or a stubborn spirit.  We want to have the ability to choose to submit or choose to be stubborn for all the right reasons.  For God.  For other’s best.  For teamwork. For righteousness. For love.  For goodness.
   Likewise, there are situations when we must say no.  We need to stand our ground and not be moved.  We need to summon all the courage we have and refuse to participate in evil, injustice, cruelty, and even complacency.  
   Probably far too often, we need to yield and give up our selfish desires, deliberately and intentionally saying no to ourselves and yes to God and others.  However, there are other times when saying yes to God and others will mean we need to stay stubborn, strong, and unmoved like the unyielding newspaper (which, by the way, was only removed with a hacksaw.) The choice is ours.  The choice is powerful.  Let us pray we have the integrity to make the right choice.