Tag Archive | goldfinch

God’s Garden – and Mine

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I think God laughed a little at my lazy approach to gardening on the deck this summer, but decided to bless it anyway. The lettuce did very well in its bed of Miracle-Gro® Potting Mix. We’ve had several salads, and the lettuce keeps coming back when I cut it. It’s not quite as sweet and tender as it was a month ago, but it still makes a good salad. We had a few little radishes, but I think I made the mistake of planting too many seeds too close together. I wanted to get as many radishes as possible out of my bag of Miracle-Gro® Potting Mix. A couple weeks ago I pulled out the remaining radish greens with their scrawny roots, and planted the rest of the radish seeds from the package. I spaced each seed more appropriately, and this crop is coming up nicely. We’ll see if July is too hot to grow radishes, or not. It’s all an experiment.

IMG_1268The three tomato plants are doing very well. I transplanted each plant from the Deerfield Greenhouse into a larger pot filled with Miracle-Gro® Potting Mix. We’ve been eating fresh-picked tomatoes almost every day for weeks. Wonderful! A few of the leaves on two plants are starting to turn yellow, so I don’t know how long our prolific tomato harvest will last, but we’re certainly enjoying it now.

Fortunately, God has blessed us most from the gardens of our friends who still live in the country and have really big gardens. They have brought us asparagus, beans, cucumbers, different varieties of tomatoes and radishes, and various kinds of summer squash. And black raspberries!

Can you believe that the same God who thought up the idea of asparagus, lettuce, radishes, cucumbers, and tomatoes, also created black raspberries! And just think about all the produce that is yet to come as gardens continue to mature this summer and fall!

God spoke: “Earth, green up! Grow all varieties of seed-bearing plants, every sort of fruit-bearing tree.” And there it was. Earth produced green seed-bearing plants, all varieties, and fruit-bearing trees of all sorts. God saw that it was good. It was evening, it was morning – Day Three. [Genesis 1:11-13 The Message]

I’m discovering that God thought about nourishment for all of creation, not just us. This morning I went for a short walk in our back yard, near the pond. Lots of wild milkweeds are in full bloom. I expect to see many happy butterflies fluttering around any day now.

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Five years ago I wrote about “An Abundance of Tomatoes and Thistles” in this blog. I just discovered (by trying to follow an inactive link) that my blog posts from 2011 are no longer available on the Internet. (I switched blogging applications in 2012.) Here’s a flashback to when Whispering Winds was an active retreat center, and I was learning to share “my” tomatoes with God’s chipmunks. (This blog post is also included in my first book, LISTENING FOR GOD: 52 Reflections on Everyday Life.)

August 22, 2011:
This is a good year for cherry tomatoes at Whispering Winds. In the spring I planted a couple plants of my favorite variety, “Sweet 100” and one new variety that was simply identified on the tag as “large red cherry tomato.” For the past few weeks Charlie Chipmunk and I have been sharing an early abundance of the “large red cherry tomatoes” and a few of the “Sweet 100’s.” Charlie has decided that every tomato he tastes is worth eating in its entirety – no more taking one bite out of the tomato and then moving on to the next one like he did last year. This way, there are plenty of tomatoes for both of us, and for our guests, too. Unfortunately, Charlie has figured out that the “Sweet 100 s” are the sweetest of all tomatoes, so he gets most of them. But the “large red cherry tomatoes” are good, too, so everyone is happy.

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Charlie Chipmunk keeping a close eye on the tomatoes in the raised bed at Whispering Winds.

This is also a good year for thistles. That might not seem like a good thing, unless you’re a goldfinch, or someone who loves to see goldfinches. They’re my favorite songbird. Seeing a goldfinch perched on top of a bright purple thistle blossom reminds me of taking walks with my mom and seeing goldfinches perched on thistles along the roadside. She called them “wild canaries.” I’ve seen more goldfinches this year than ever. Almost every time I take a walk I see one or two, and smile, remembering my walks with Mom.

Late summer is a time for enjoying the abundance in God’s creation – the abundance of cherry tomatoes if you’re a person or a chipmunk; the abundance of thistle seeds if you’re a goldfinch.

I love the sights, sounds, and tastes of summer. As I walked around the pond this morning snapping pictures of the milkweeds with my smartphone, I was startled by the splash of a frog leaping into the pond right next to me. I guess I startled him, too. Then I started listening more closely to all the birds singing.

Last Saturday was the perfect day to enjoy summer with all our senses. I grilled really long hotdogs from Jones Dairy Farm in nearby Fort Atkinson, Mim cut up a fresh cucumber into a vinegar and sugar water mixture, and all of us – Carolyn, Anna, Martha (the three 95-year-olds), Floey, Mim, and me – had a picnic on the deck, with sweet, juicy watermelon for dessert (plus a few Oreos).

God certainly knows how to delight our senses!

Happy Summertime!

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Floey served as Anna’s foot rest, and enjoyed a soothing back massage throughout lunch.

A Summertime Conversation with Floey and God and me

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Floey and I had quite a conversation during our morning walk yesterday…

Early in the walk, Floey trotted over to the biggest shade tree between the sidewalk and the street and rolled onto her back. Then she twisted and turned to rub every inch of her back on the cool, shady grass. Next she lay still on her side for half a minute, and then she continued rolling back and forth.

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“What are you doing, Floey?” I asked.

“Oh, this feels so good, Mom. I love it. The cool grass is giving me the perfect massage for a hot day. You should try it.”

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“I haven’t rolled in the grass for at least 60 years. I remember doing it when I was a kid. The lawn sloped downhill for about 50 feet on the northeast corner of the farmhouse. Sometimes on hot summer days, Danny and I would roll down the hill just to cool off, get dizzy, and laugh at how much fun it was. When our cousins or other friends were playing with us, we’d form a “monkey pile” at the bottom of the hill. And then race to the top of the hill to do it all over again.”

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Kids forming a “monkey pile” (Internet image)

“So, you should remember how good it feels to roll in the grass, Mom.”

“I guess I do. Do you know what else I remember as one of the great experiences of summer when I was a kid?”

“What, Mom?”

“Baling hay”

“Baling hay? Wasn’t that hard work, dirty work, and painfully hot?”

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This is the kind of tractor, baler, and hay wagon we had. (Internet image)

“Well, I used to think so. But one day when I was complaining to my mom about having to work so hard in the heat, Mom said, ‘I just love to bale hay. I wish I could do that instead of going to the office to work on a beautiful summer day. It’s so peaceful to sit on top of the tractor, to feel the warmth of the sun on your back, and to watch the birds next to the hayfield perched on thistles surveying their kingdom.’ I thought about what she said, and the next day when I had to bale hay, I was aware of the sun on my back, and I looked for the birds on the thistles. I noticed the butterflies flittering above the field. When I started to feel hot from the sun beating down on me, I noticed a little breeze come up that made me comfortable again.”

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Goldfinch perched on a bull thistle (Internet image)

“That sounds like fun, Mom. You know what I really like about summer, almost as much as rolling in the grass?”

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Gopher daring Floey to stalk him. (Internet image)

“What’s that, Floey?”

“I like to stalk gophers. Sometimes they’re so oblivious to what’s around them that I can sneak up really close before they notice me. I can almost catch them before they start running for their life and duck into a gopher hole. I sometimes wonder if they just duck into the first hole they see, or if they really go back to their own hole.”

“What would you do if you caught one?”

“I don’t know. I don’t think I’d kill it, which is probably what they’re expecting. Maybe I’d just ask it to play with me. Maybe we could play tag. I’d love to do that. We could chase each other really fast!”

“That would be fun to watch – a gopher chasing you.”

“I don’t think it will happen, Mom.”

“You know what else I really like about summer, Floey? All the smells. Did you catch a whiff of that sweet fragrance we just walked by? I don’t see it, but I know there must be a linden tree in bloom nearby. “

“Yeah. I smelled it, Mom. But my favorite smell of the summer is hamburgers on the grill. We usually don’t smell that during our morning walks, but I smell it quite often when we’re out walking in the evening. That’s also why I like to sit out on the deck with you when you grill steak or hamburgers, or even salmon burgers. Even when you’re barbecuing chicken. It all smells so good!”

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“You know, Floey, summer is the best time of the year to experience delight with every one of our senses – beautiful flowers to see and smell, birds in the trees and frogs in the pond singing happy songs from early morning to late evening, fresh strawberries and raspberries to taste (and steaks, too), and cool grass to roll on to feel a soft cooling sensation… I’m so glad God created us with senses to enjoy all these things.”

“Me, too, Mom.”

“I read something last week that said this is one way God talks to us.”

“I guess I can believe that. Do you remember just what you read?”

Jesus Calling“It was from the devotional book, JESUS CALLING. Sarah Young, the author, paraphrased Jesus as saying:

I speak to you continually. My nature is to communicate, though not always in words. I fling glorious sunsets across the sky, day after day after day. I speak in the faces and voices of loved ones. I caress you with a gentle breeze that refreshes and delights you. I speak softly in the depths of your spirit, where I have taken up residence.

You can find Me in each moment, when you have eyes that see and ears that hear. Ask My Spirit to sharpen your spiritual eyesight and hearing. I rejoice each time you discover My Presence. Practice looking and listening for Me during quiet intervals. Gradually you will find Me in more and more of your moments. You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me above all else.

“The author referenced Psalm 19:1-2 (among other references) to make it clear that God really does speak to us through our senses, not just words.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. (NIV)

IMG_1133“Floey, isn’t it great to think that God is actually talking to us through what we see and hear and smell and taste and feel?”

“Wow! I need to think about that, Mom. Let’s keep walking for another half hour so we can fully sense God’s presence with us.”

“Good idea, Floey. We need to find time to “listen” to God. Thanks for helping me keep from being too busy to “smell the flowers” and too busy to watch and listen to whatever God may be telling me today.”

“And Mom, don’t forget to feel what God is saying through the gentle breezes and cool grass under the shade trees.”

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Being Thankful Today – not just on Thanksgiving

Today’s about as far from Thanksgiving as you can be in a year, but I want to talk about being thankful anyway. Being thankful was on my mind a lot last week.

On Thursday, I went to the county jail again to play the piano for the women inmate’s worship service. During the testimony time, one of the women talked about how blessed she felt and how thankful she was. She was back in jail because she had been caught drinking while she was out on probation. She had made a dumb mistake, and she was sorry. But what bothered her most was that her daughter who was in college was extremely angry at her for messing up. Her daughter wasn’t about to forgive her for making this mistake. The mother had been praying for her daughter and had been praying that they could be reconciled. The inmate was delighted to report that God had answered her prayer. Her daughter had sent her a wonderful, loving Mother’s Day card. She was ready to forgive her mother. The mother couldn’t be more thankful. God had heard and answered her prayer. Her daughter had forgiven her. And her daughter wanted her to know that she loved her. She was overflowing with thankfulness.

Also on Thursday, my partner Mim told me about a new book she had just started reading, Living Life as a Thank You: The Transformative Power of Daily Gratitude (copyright © 2009 by Nina Lesowitz and Mary Beth Sammons, Viva Editions). The book is all about having an attitude of being thankful every day in all things.

Friday morning visitor on the deck of our condo.

On Friday morning, I looked out on our deck and saw my favorite kind of bird, a goldfinch, about 18 inches from the patio door. I took this picture through the window. What a great way to start the day! Last week had been a hard week for me because of Mim staying at Whispering Winds for a little getaway, leaving me in charge of our resident (with major assistance from our caregivers Kathy and Nancy). Nonetheless, it was considerable responsibility and stress added on top of my normal routines. Seeing my favorite bird on the deck was a bright spot, a special treat to be thankful for. I was also thankful that there were no crises to deal with when I was in charge.

On Saturday, I spent time working outside at Whispering Winds. I picked the asparagus (yes, it’s still coming), and I started the huge, unending task of weeding some of the flower beds around the house. But the best part was enjoying a beautiful day. It was hot, but there was a gentle breeze. The roses are bursting open, especially in the old-fashioned shrub rose bed. I took a few pictures with my cell phone to show you what it looks like at Whispering Winds these days. Too bad I couldn’t capture the smell with the camera – these are the fragrant roses. Not hard to remember to be thankful on Saturday!

This really is the place to take time to smell the roses. These old-fashioned shrub roses are the fragrant kind.

When I told Mim I was writing this blog, she said there’s a really good poem in the book that I might want to share with you. Here it is.

WEATHER REPORT
by BJ Gallagher

“Any day I’m vertical
is a good day”
– that’s what I always say.
And I give thanks
that I’m healthy.
If you ask me,
“How are you?”
I’ll answer, “GREAT!”
because in saying so,
I make it so.
And I give thanks
that I can choose my attitude.
When Life gives me dark clouds and rain,
I appreciate the moisture
which brings a soft curl to my hair.
When Life gives me sunshine,
I gratefully turn my face up
to feel its warmth on my cheeks.
When Life brings fog,
I hug my sweater around me
and give thanks for the cool shroud of mystery
that makes the familiar seem different and intriguing.
When Life brings snow,
I dash outside to catch the first flakes on my tongue,
relishing the icy miracle that is a snowflake.
Life’s events and experiences
are like the weather –
they come and go,
no matter what my preference.
So, what the heck?!
I might as well decide to enjoy them.
For indeed,
there IS a time for every purpose
under Heaven.
Each season brings its own unique blessings.
And I give thanks.

© BJ Gallagher 2009

(Note: You can learn more about this poet, speaker, and prolific author from her website, http://www.bjgallagher.com.)

The wild cranberry bush in bloom in front of Whispering Winds. This bush provides lots of red berries that the hearty birds are thankful for all winter long.