Monday, August 31, 2009

The Day of Rest . . . THAT WORE ME OUT!

I sit here in a quiet household. Some shower, some have gone to attend business, and others slumber still. I so enjoy these few moments of pin-dropping stillness wherein I read and meditate and pray. Today I read:

We always expect the Lord to come to us in joy.
Instead of that He sometimes comes to us in a big disappointment.

~~ Amy Carmichael ~~

I laugh out loud, shattering the silence. I take a sip of tea and sit back to scoop up the final spoonful of honeyed-yogurt topped with the last of the blueberries, fresh and so expensive that I savor them one by one.

I lower my lashes and admit that I attach such significance to my daily joy; I seek to find the moments of joy knowing God will be there . . . and yet on some days I find him, as Miss Carmichael notes so aptly, in a BIG disappointment. Take this past weekend, for example – I established that Sunday would be an ultimate day of REST. I set apart my schedule to include the lazy reading and finishing of Some Lovely Islands, a slim and delightful volume of travel days that I wanted so to devour and savor without the nagging thought of chores. Next to that I placed a book newly arrived from a dealer, entitled French Island Elegance.

(Doesn't this cover just speak volumes
of the delightful vacation resting between those covers?)

So I set about a flurry of Saturday chores and baking (the most scrumptious sourdough-rye-seeded bread to accompany a big pot of chili – where was my camera?) and all manner of gardening tasks, like watering my parched lands in this oh-so-heat-filled month of August. (Truly August ranks as my least favorite gardening month.) I ended the day with tired body but smiling face . . . tomorrow I rest.

Sunday dawned with roosters crowing and after rising from my sleepy hollow I took a bowlful of goodies out for the feathered folk to share. I lingered and laughed as they strutted and scuttled around to inspect the mélange of tea leaves, avocado fragments, wilted tomatoes and cucumbers, and a smattering of tired berries laced with feathered greens of all sorts. A feast to linger over on this restful Sunday.

I wandered the gardens a bit, feeling the dampness left behind by the early morning sprinklers, and walked in peace. Today there would be no hurried showers or bustling off to church; with the flu spreading and school newly begun, we have chosen to stay behind our garden walls until the truth of the threat bears out. Worship can and will happen here as vibrantly as in our pew-filled congregation. I thank the Lord for the freedom we cling to that allows us to worship as we choose.

I returned to my cozy kitchen, brewed a pot of tea, and settled down to read. A little excitement bubbled up when Gary and Rachel came to report that while slipping out to run an errand they witnessed an apartment fire downtown. I immediately inquired of some friends’ safety, as they live quite near the fire. No danger for them, so I set about praying for those roused from bed by a chilling cry of “Fire!”

All too soon my quiet morning evaporated when Gary hobbled in with a severely damaged ankle from a mishap at the treehouse – a building in progress. A bleeding, bruising, swelling appendage caused me to swoon (literally, I must confess) as I ran for supplies. I bathed and treated the wound and found it to look awful, but it appeared unbroken and remarkably free of much pain for Gary. He hobbled around demonstrating that he felt pretty good. I swooned again. It pains me to bind up the wounds of my children, but really frightens me to see my husband – The Rock – bleeding. I made him comfortable and returned to my tea and book . . . and then put the book down. Some dvd entertainment filled the balance of the afternoon, as I cooked and did some laundry and tidied a bit here and there.

The cool Fall-like weather we eagerly anticipated did not materialize as predicted by meteorologists. The temps soared and we began to hear fire trucks and sirens of all manner screaming down the nearby highway. Hmmmmmm . . . All too soon I smelled smoke, saw ash floating in the air, and ran outside to see the blue sky filling with ambered waves of smoke. I ran to the internet and searched to find info . . . a tidbit would suffice to calm my concerns. All up-to-the-minute local sources supplied LOTS of fire information (apparently this area had hosted a few more fires after the early morning blaze downtown), but nothing about the latest smoke-filled event. The gusty winds of the day continued to blow, earlier having destroyed our metal/canvass cabana at the poolside. Without any information, I merely prayed a blanket prayer for those that may be affected, including my own family.

I tried to return to reading, but found myself merely gazing out the window at the fleeting butterflies and hummingbirds that dance so merrily this time of year. From blossom to fountain and back again goes the merry dance. (Where is that camera when you need it most?) A woodpecker crashes the party now and again. A goldfinch drops in unexpectedly, has a hurried bath, and then flits away to play with her flock of friends all a-twitter in the majestic oaks. I began to smell thicker smoke odors and see the wafts of grey pass by my window. Should we get ready for a quick exit? Could Gary drive with that ankle? And then my mind fell to the very lowest of points and I began to think of the silly things, like bemoaning the fact that our dinner invite to a friend’s place may be cancelled. I know myself all too well . . . when fear begins to grip its tentacles around my mind I retreat to the least painful thoughts like the loss of a good meal in a time of emergency.

I grabbed the computer and looked again. No update. I glanced outside and noticed a lessening of the smoke. Wishful thinking? I asked Gary to confirm. Yes, but he noted that a wind shift may be the cause. He then informed me he felt good enough to dress for our dinner date. I couldn’t think of leaving the kids with an unknown fire raging somewhere. I balked. He changed clothes. I scanned the horizon and waited. I applied mascara and lip gloss with one eye on the lace panels, and detected bluer skies for certain. I returned to the computer and finally found an update. The fire raged through a neighboring town (25 miles away) and continued to destroy homes and businesses in its path. (Today I read that 60 structures have been lost, many of them homes. At this moment it is merely 50% contained. I continue to pray . . .)

We did enjoy dinner with our friends, the children remained safe and sound at Wisteria Cottage, and Gary’s ankle allowed him significant mobility without any crutches. A bit of hobbling and his comfy blue clog slippers allowed him to slip in and out of restaurant without notice as a wounded man. Amazing! Today he awoke with much less swelling, fully-scabbed wounds, minimal bruising, and a looooooong list of To Do’s for the day. He remarked how refreshed he felt from a good long night’s sleep. (Elizabeth set her alarm to release the chicken folk at 6 am – she went back to bed and slept late.)

I, on the other hand, dragged myself out of bed with a little less-than-normal vigor, the victim of my own worrisome ways. I brewed my tea, fixed my breakfast, and grabbed my stack of morning reads like every ordinary day. And then it hit me . . . this day feels ordinary. Praise God! After the hub-bub of yesterday’s Un-restful day, I happily face this day in the ordinary way. We do not reside in a shelter awaiting news of the charring or not of our home and all worldly goods. I do not need to pass through the automatic doors of a hospital to visit my husband, as he has but a mere wobble in his walk and no more. Despite the many blips on the radar screen of yesterday, life remains typical and around here that always feels GOOD!

I shall finish my tea, gently remind Rachel to be mindful of her time as piano lessons will be at noon, and carry on with the vacuuming, laundering, cooking, and all other activity in the keeping of my home on an ordinary Monday. I will pause often to pray for those who have a new routine today, one they did not hope for, and I will remember Amy Carmichael’s words and rejoice that the disappointments of yesterday truly did yield joy when I let go of the mental gymnastics of a worrier.

And maybe, just maybe, I may finish off that book of island touring in England and hop on over to The Caribbean and her neighbors for a glance at that new book of beauty. For now, I gratefully swallow my last sip of tea and set off to find what today holds. I know joy can be found, I may just need to blow away some smoke to see it.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday Wonder

He knoweth our frame;
He remembereth that we are dust.

Psalm 103:14

* * *

He knoweth the way that I take;
When He hath tried me,
I shall come forth as gold.

Job 23:10

* * *

Perhaps those words, He knoweth, are meant for you today
because God has allowed you some special trial of faith.
The love of God is very brave. He does not hold trial off
lest we should be overwhelmed. He lets it come
and then gloriously strengthens us to meet it.
And at the end,
I shall come forth as gold.

~~ Amy Carmichael ~~
Whispers of His Power

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Gentle Living. Simply Rich.

Photo Taken by Rachel

Taking another day of respite . . .
and maybe another . . .

* * * * *

Such bliss to don garden gloves and escape to the gardens for some peace and respite amongst the blooming roses and budding autumn clematis. What’s this?!?!? Roses gone rogue? Shoots shooting to and fro, barring safe passage down the walkways? When did these canes sprout in medusa-like proportions?

And so the gentle stroll took on the likes of a deadly task, until . . . a few snips and the tossing of wiggly thorn-encrusted tentacles onto the stone pathway and then a child happened by and joined the task, hauling away the dangerous detritus. Said child enlisted aid of another child wandering the path and the laboring one found herself with four more hands to hoist the prickly product. A passing husband added another set of aiding appendages. The task became a lark filled with laughter and bursts of cautionary warnings as the REALLY BIG STUFF came down swiftly.

Soon the task of pruning ended and the long-awaited assessment of sprinkler problems happened. A swift trip to B&C Hardware solved the nagging problem of toting watering cans to fill in where broken sprinkler heads failed to reach. As that project spun away in success, an empty flower bed caught my eye and a vision of herbs in a “patchwork” pattern, much in the spirit of Disneyland’s Storybook gardens, captured my fancy. The plans spilled out amongst the gathered gardening ones. Then a call for a retaining wall and a fresh load of soil floated about with nodding heads seeing another new garden plot in dreams for even greater produce next year. Tasks and toil melted into dreams and ideas and led to a time of counting our blessings.

August traditionally depletes this gardener with its heat and relentless dryness. This year the heat persists, but hovers considerably lower than in past summers. Rain forecasts predict October droplets . . . maybe. No one puts spade to ground for new garden beds this time of year, but it serves as a wonderful time to stroll the gardens, assess the progress made in the past year, notice failures, and dream for the coming season. Our single apple-on-the-branch continues to ripen and entice us to dream of the tomorrows in the garden when we will be toting heavy-laden baskets to the kitchen for baking and canning and eating with abandon. This solitary apple serves as an appetizer to hope.

Photo Taken by Rachel

In between the gardening tasks and gardening dreams I managed to write a bit, read a bit, cook a bit, and laugh a lot. Gary and I even managed a convertible ride through the mountains, straying so far to capture the beauty of view and verdant landscapes that the moon beat us home. We drove down the lane to our cottage with darkness falling and Gary decided to turn off the headlamps and test all the turn signals on this vehicle we use infrequently. I laughed at the blessing of a man who keeps things checked and running, and I laughed even harder at his truly unique methodology. “Normal” cannot be counted on around here. : D

My day of respite and rest included NO BLOOD PRESSURE READINGS. I have appreciated all the comments, emails, and encouraging ideas regarding my medical mishaps. I agree that my “normal” may be a bit higher than the statistics would indicate, just as my heart rate has always exceeded the “typical.” I feel great and my immune system seems to be standing at sentry because we had a close encounter with “the dreaded contagion” in the flu world and not a one of us succumbed. We have decided to prudently keep our community events to a minimum during this time of heightened fears of infection, but truthfully we celebrate these simple days of tethering to the hearth.

Speaking of hearth . . . the herbed chicken stew with sourdough (whole wheat) dumplings received rave reviews at dinner last night.

Even my dumpling-disliking daughter Elizabeth found the solid lumps to be tasty and enjoyable. I cannot rave enough about my cast iron dutch oven. Once the cool days set in and the woodstove hums merrily all the day, I will attempt to cook atop it. My last woodstove did not have the cooking plate so the top proved an unsatisfactory stove. But, enough of wintry talk, fall has yet to show up to the ball and I have many tasks at hand (most pleasurable) before I can dance in the turning leaves, let alone the falling snowflakes.

Tasks . . . a never-ending call to time-management, self-control, and simplification. I look around at the empty teapot. Today I indulged in orchid oolong – my favorite tea in the whole wide world. Such a sweet perfume and delicate flavor, but due to its extreme cost I employ pioneer common sense and sprinkle a few of the precious leaves into a tea infuser filled with silver needle tea. The silver needle serves a mild hostess to the fragrant orchid leaves and the whole pot bows to the orchid’s reign. Thus I sip a frugal cup of luxury and sit here praising God for another wide-open day of beauty found right under my fingertips. I shall not leave the home again today, except maybe to take a drive or dine at our favorite Mexican casa (it is date night, after all) – maybe luxury will rain upon me further and I will receive both dinner AND a drive. Ah the thought of such bounty makes me smile.

Today I entitled my journal entry: Gentle Living. Simply Rich.

Having known poverty and wealth, having known hunger and surfeit, having known bondage and freedom, having lost loved ones and gained new ones, I count my life RICH for what I find in the simply joy of a day’s worth of blessing blossoming with abandon all around me. There once was a time when I discounted what I had and set my sights on riches out of hand. The frustration of that endless journey caused exhaustion and collapse that forced me to sit. Having lost the drive I gathered what lay within arm’s reach and found it satisfied. Sadly, once refreshed and invigorated I stood up and caught sight of the far horizon and once again my ingrained human habits jerked at the reigns. Each day requires me to decide. Today I choose to live in this moment and it feels so good.

Wisdom grows with age, but my restless human spirit weaves tethers of shiny gold distractions across my path. Care must be taken with each step . . . but I so often run with abandon, tripping, falling, skinning my knees, and bruising my self-esteem. Fortunately I heal and set out again. I will never “get it” completely but I have found a good many folks that will reach out a hand or offer a kind word of encouragement when needed. You have all been a blessing to me. I thank you.

And now I must away from this box and don an apron for some breadmaking and then add a straw bonnet for garden tending and then . . .

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Respite Wednesday

Hello Sweet Friends,

I sit quietly before this computer with a kitty-cat grin on my face (you know the one your kitty gets when he settles next to you after he's just had a nibble of food and you absentmindedly stroke him as you read through the afternoon with nothing in particular pressing on your time. That, my friends, shall describe this day for me (at least I hope it will). After a week's worth of gatherings, meetings, marketing, traveling (to Costco for a pantry replenishing trip), and such, I have set aside this day for respite.

I found myself rising later than usual -- sweet delight -- feeling well rested. I stepped upon the scale and found to my delight I have returned to my normal readings. Recently, I embarked on a trial with an herbal from India designed to reduce blood pressure with NO side effects (or so they claimed). I ordered the reasonably-priced packet, downed the AWFUL smelling tablets with plenty of water, and then waited. The results came in swiftly, as my regular evening blood pressure readings dropped noticeably over the course of the trial treatment. Hitting 122/78 felt like a dream after readings of 141/90 (which prompted the whole medication route with the doctor some years ago).

I continued with the foul-odored pills and plenty of water for flushing of toxins and rejuvenating of my system, finding my BP readings comfortably worth the twice-a-day regime.

Periodically I inquired whether anyone found my ankles puffy or my eyes swollen. Nope, everyone thought I looked beautiful. (Silly ones, I fished not for a compliment, but truly felt swollen . . . and so sluggish.) I dragged through the day, allowing vacuuming to wait a day and dinner to become more of stuff-and-nonsense and less of feasting-and-rejoicing. Still no complaints from my family, so I surmised that I had just depleted my energies with so much entertaining over the early summer days and must pay the price now.

Stepping on the scale began to bother me . . . another pound? And so I cut my dinner portions and eliminated my simple snacks in the evening. I felt hungry, tired, but happy to have lowered my BP readings.

Then the scale registered another pound gained after a day of near fasting and lots of water! In addition my bodily functions seemed to have screeched to a halt. Still I pressed on believing I was just "adjusting" . . . until I saw the pictures from our spinning date with my friend Adele -- I screeched out when I saw the pictures of this dumpling woman at the wheel, all moon-faced and pudgy of ankles. "That can't be ME!!" I gasped. Still the scale cried out, "One more pound for the day!" My common sense kicked in and I stopped the ayervedic approach. Abruptly. I collapsed in prayer and asked the Lord WHY? To which I distinctly felt a twinge of guilt . . . if I trusted God to manage my bigger life issues, and even enlisted my friends as prayer partners. then why grab onto the stinky-pills and swallow for comfort I could touch? I didn't beat myself up emotionally, but I did cry on Gary's shoulder, though the loss of water-weight from that activity registered little improvement. My BP shot back up to 144/88 and I felt so low.

The next day I drank tea, paced my schedule, and prayed for relief. Despite running errands and replenishing the pantry, just in case the predicted epidemic hits, I managed to make it through the day, flopping into bed to find my BP slightly lowered. Hmmmmm . . .

Over the course of the next several days I dropped a pound a day and my body returned to all of its normal functioning. Today I beamed at the scale to see my normal weight register . . . and then I promptly wondered if I should try to ride this wave for a bit longer in hopes of stripping off another five or so pounds. Hmmmmmmm . . . ; D

Have I reached the happily ever after page yet? Hardly -- BUT . . . my BP read 122/77 last night. Now that's something to celebrate!!!

I hesitated to blog about this because it is so indicting to me and may possibly hurt another who struggles with their own road including medications, ayervedics, and all manner of other treatments. Please do not see this as a brag or a suggestion or even a warning . . . it is merely a confession of a woman who called her friends into prayer and then ran off down her own path. When she met with scary things she didn't come and share that with her friends, she hid in shame or worse . . . fear that they would judge her a fool. Sadly, I thought I had conquered this foible of self long ago, but clearly I still care what people think of me in an unhealthy way (and fear the worst). In reading some of your blogs of late I see pages and pages of personal outpourings filled with prayer needs, fears, medical trials, family frayings, and so much more. The honesty stings my eyes at times. Tears fall for people I have never met, nor may EVER meet. This bloggy thing still amazes me! I want to be a part of this ever-changing, honest, deep, light, silly, serious community of honest folks walking their own path without apology or shame.

And so I have set aside this Respite Wednesday for sipping tea, reading a new/old book on traveling the islands surrounding Britain (something I am most interested in doing some day), and stroking my kitty. Dinner will be a chicken stewed in my new Lodge dutch oven with potatoes, carrots, fragrant herbs, and a topper of sourdough dumplings ( a new creation based on the biscuit recipe from Mrs. Boast). I have had such fun playing with sourdough. I have few recipes but plenty of kitchen chemistry tucked under my belt and am thus inventing new twists on old themes and running with some of those pioneer women who once upon a time shaped a new California cuisine out of necessity and need.

I recently received a very old starter portion from my spinning/weaving friend Adele, and it is most delicious. It dates back many, many years passed from one to another of the locals in these parts. I recently read that a sourdough starter takes its flavor from the surrounding wild yeast. Thus a starter began in San Francisco, with a most pungent sourness, will lose that flavor when transported to say Vermont, where the wild yeasts have a much milder flavor. Fascinating! Unfortunately I neglected my whole wheat starter with the entrance of the new "girl" on the block who arrived in the midst of a medical flummox for me. Sadly I dumped it, but will try again another day. I love my culinary lab!

As for today . . . Respite Wednesday . . . I shall relax, rejuvenate, and revel in the joys found in the start of a string of days with not a single appointment inked in until next mid-week. Such luxury.

Now where's that book? I hear the kettle singing. It promises to be a very good day around here. I wish the same for you.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Spinning Dreams, Knitting Hearts Together

I took my three Little Women
and set off to visit a dear friend, Adele,
for an afternoon of spinning, knitting, and friendly conversation.

Upon entering the welcoming home,
we saw the star of the show . . .

But before lessons began
we enjoyed perusing a collection of
Ukrainian and Russian heirlooms
received from family and friends.

We ventured into her textile studio and admired
her latest quilt creation in progress
made for orphans in Ukraine.

The loom in the center of the room caught everyone's attention
with it's simple beauty and intricate mechanics.

A pattern book holds the key

To weaving gorgeous fabrics like this Ukrainian Rose pattern.

We returned to the living room
and the wool rolled out to welcome these eager pupils.

The softness of the wool

Combined with the skill of a retired Home Economics teacher,
who bought her first wheel in 1975,
produced marvelous results.

First up . . . Rachel

Who showed a natural flair.

Lydia began her knitting lesson
while Rachel practiced spinning.

Next Elizabeth began spinning

While Rachel took up her knitting needles for lesson time.

Eventually Lydia switched to the wheel,
though she said she found knitting much more to her liking.

She, too, found her groove and spun some wool,

While Elizabeth launched into knitting.

All too soon our time together ended,
but Adele surprised us greatly
by sending her "spare" wheel home with us
for some practice time.

Smiles graced all faces
as we loaded the wheel into the car
and sped off for home
with a date to get together again next week
for another delightful afternoon of
spinning and smiling and sharing.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sunday Wonder

She seeketh wool, and flax,
And worketh willingly with her hands.
Proverbs 31:13

* * * * *

She layeth her hands to the spindle,
And her hands hold the distaff.
Proverbs 31:19

* * * * *

Give her of the fruit of her hands;
And let her own works praise her in the gates.
Proverbs 31:31

* * * * *
My dear friends,

Please forgive me for not following through with the completely "spun" post I promised recently. All of this spinning wonder this past week has spun our schedule completely out of our ordinary orbit. We attended a spinners/weavers guild meeting on Saturday and met the most delightful women. We shared our lives, our passions, and our lunch in a most wonderful afternoon. After a week of non-stop activity (with not one single day "just at home" as is our usual schedule), we have fallen into an exhausted heap. I shall rest fully on This Lord's Day of Rest and thus will be bright-eyed and nimble-fingered to tackle the blog post on Monday morning. I do have SO many pictures and stories and thoughts to share . . . but I cannot just now (she says with droopy eyelids). I will see you on Monday.
: D

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Just a Peek . . . for now

We packed up some freshly-made buttermilk scones with jam

and set off to visit a dear friend.

She had many wonderful things to teach us.

Like this . . .

and this . . .

and this.

It was a very full three-hour visit,
which I will blog about tomorrow
(when I have rested up).

For now I thought you would enJOY
just a little peek.

More to come . . .

Monday, August 17, 2009

Once Upon a Time 25 Years Ago . . .

and They Lived Happily Ever After.

* * * * *

The greatest of these is love.
I Corinthians 13:13b

Here we are on our 1st Anniversary

* * * * *

I still do . . . more than ever!

Taken Yesterday

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sunday Wonder

Thy righteousness is like the great mountains;
Thy judgments are a great deep:
O LORD, thou preservest man and beast.

Psalm 36:6

Friday, August 14, 2009

My Fair Ladies

Those FAIR ladies were up early and ready to roll . . .

(well, some of us lagged a bit)

Eager to enter the gates
And take in some fun!

The first day is always the tidiest,
With freshly planted flowerbeds
And cleanly swept pathways.

First stop . . .
Our church's Coffee concession.

Then on to see those majestic
Budweiser Clydesdale horses.

Next, a peek at the sheared sheep

And the baby piggies asleep,

Then a petting of goats

And bunnies so soft.

This prize winning Black Australorp
Impressed us with his stature.
(Will Bossy Bob and Dapper Dan attain such heights?)

These cute chicks caught my eye.

Then on to pet horses,

Little burros,

And sedate mules.

Anyone hungry?


After a luncheon of Cornish pasties
(introduced to our mining town way back in the 1800's
by the Cornish miners who emigrated here),
a hot dog from the Grass Valley Firehouse for Rachel
(hold the five-alarm chili, thanks),
washed down with freshly made lemonade,
just-whipped slushie, and iced-tea for me . . .

We set out for the Midway.

Bumping into a chum
Is always fun!

As are games of skill (?)

and THRILLING rides!!

Of course,
no fair experience is ever complete
without a whirl around the ferris wheel!

All too soon we found ourselves
awaiting a magic carpet ride home
(Thanks Dad!)
to rest and savor memories of this special day . . .

while dreaming about
NEXT year's fair!