P-NUTTY Experiment

We visited our winter home last week and did some general maintenance around the place. One of the chores was cleaning up the patio and pulling weeds. A large, shrub-like bush was growing in each of the flower boxes along the patio fence. 100_4274

When my husband pulled one out, we discovered peanuts! Being “Yankees,” we had never seen peanuts growing before and were shocked to discover them in our planters. 100_4270

I remembered the neighborhood squirrels digging in the planters last winter. Apparently they were the gardeners.

Feeling adventurous, we cleaned the legumes off and decided to learn how to cook them. Boiled peanuts are a southern delicacy, but we have never tried them.
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Recipes suggest boiling them in salted water for several hours. And, most recipes recommend you start with about 5 pounds of nuts instead of 5 nuts!
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The water was brown and yucky after a few hours on the stove.

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And the finished product was questionable looking but tasty!
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These little guys were far too young to be picked, so I’m glad we left the bush on the other side of the patio alone. More peanut fun is waiting when we return to the south!

Cat Tales

We spend our summers in a rural area, surrounded by dairy farms and fields of corn. Our ten acres is its own little wild-life sanctuary, populated by deer, pheasants, rabbits, and feral cats.

We sometimes stumble upon nests of feral kittens tucked away in the flower bed or woodshed They are wild little creatures. Perhaps their ancestors were once tame, ending up in this life by abandonment by their owners, or getting lost by their own wandering, these offspring have long forgotten how to be loved. They run when they see a human, exist by their own wits, and are frequently meals for the coyote and hawk population. Life is short and difficult in the wild. These feral cats will “visit” my tame cats through the window of my house, and hiss and spit at them, as if challenging them to fight.

Our first Maine Coon cat was rescued from this life. Riley was nearly starving when he found us, assumingly abandoned on our lonely dirt road. The vet gave him a clean bill of health and we adopted the cat into our home. He immediately bonded with me and was always at my side like a faithful dog. It was almost as if he remembered his frightening life in the wild and gratefully appreciated his redemption.

After Riley’s death we acquired another Maine Coon cat, this time from a breeder. Buster has always been pampered, loved and cared for. He has never experienced hardship and seems to take his care for granted and that his needs will always be met. He has been with us a number of years and is only just begun to show signs of bonding with me.

The state of these cats remind me of people and their relationship to Jesus Christ.

The feral cats make me think of people who are lost. Perhaps their ancestors knew the Lord, but influences of culture or bad choices drove them away from God. Their children and grandchildren have lived by their wits and without the knowledge of Jesus Christ. And, like the cats who hiss through the windows of my house, they often try to pick fights with those who follow Jesus.

Riley, my rescued cat, puts me in mind of people who come out of the wild, who make a conscious decision to follow Jesus and are infinitely grateful for being rescued. They remember their life before Christ and never want to go back to living without Him. They are faithful.

Buster makes me think of people who have been raised in a Christian heritage. They have grown up surrounded by a Christian culture and influence through their parents and grandparents. Perhaps they have always attended Christian schools and been raised in a church environment. They have never known a life without Christian influence. They are at risk of assuming that because their family is Christian, they are as well, and this is a dangerous assumption. God has children, but not grandchildren. Everyone must make their own decision to follow Christ.

What kind of a cat are you? Do you need to come out of the wild and be rescued? Have you been adopted into God’s family? The cry for salvation is a prayer that God always hears and answers.

Back in the Saddle Again!

There was a time when I felt like I lived on my bicycle. I rode it everywhere I went, did stunts on it – like jumping over earthen ramps in the vacant lot across from my house and riding without holding on to the handlebars – and hauled bulky things from one house to another, all the while keeping my balance and peddling effortlessly. I spent so much time in the saddle of my bike that I felt it became an extension of myself. I never really had to think about balance or turning radius or stopping distance. I simply rode.

Getting to that point was a long, laborious process. I just couldn’t “get it.” My poor Dad spent long hours running me up and down the street in front of our house, only to have me coast, screaming at the top of my lungs, and crash into a skinned up heap when the bike lost momentum. Multiple ear infections had left me with dubious balance. Eventually I mastered riding the bike, but a couple years after most of my friends did.

We had an old beater bike in our basement and one winter afternoon I decided to try it out. All of the components suddenly came together and I could ride! I was gifted with a brand new one speed cruiser-style bicycle on my next birthday and that became my transportation until I learned how to drive a car.

It wasn’t until my children were teenagers that I even considered riding a bicycle again. I bought a simple three-speed cruiser-style bicycle with a coaster brake at the local Kmart. It isn’t fancy, but it works.

We took our bikes on numerous vacations and did family rides around neighborhoods, campgrounds, bike trails, and beach boardwalks. But life and vacations changed as our children grew up, got jobs, and their own cars.

My old bicycle sat unused for years. We took it to Mackinaw Island for a week-long condo stay and rode all over the island, but vacations end and life intrudes on recreation time. My old bike sat in the barn for over ten years, untouched and unridden.

Until this summer! We dusted off our bikes, did some minor repairs, and hit the Kiwanis Trail, a bike trail that follows a deserted railroad track. No cars to dodge and perfect summer weather made for an incredible ride.

We logged 5 miles on the trail for our first ride in over a decade! I am not a long-distance rider by any stretch of the imagination, but felt like a kid again as I sailed down the trail! It doesn’t quite feel like an extension of my body yet, and I am far more aware of falling and breaking bones than I was as a child, but I am glad that the old adage of never forgetting how to ride a bike is true. I am delighted to be back in the saddle again!

End of Summer-time blues….

My husband and I have taken a sabbatical from working for the summer. This experience has reinstated some habits from our youth, chiefly summer vacation behavior! Our summer vacation has mimicked those school days summers when we stayed up late, slept in every morning and goofed off most of the time. It has been a wonderfully busy summer for us, with days filled with visits from house guests, out-of-town trips, sight-seeing excursions, staying up late, and recharging our batteries by waking up when we feel rested.

But fall-like weather has ushered in the reality that our summer vacation is rapidly drawing to a close, and our final weeks here contain a flurry of scheduled appointments like yearly physicals and eye exams, with most being scheduled early in the morning. Sadly, the majority of our mornings this week will come with a 6:30 am alarm clock, which means being responsible and actually turning off the TV before the late news and monologues air so we don’t have to resemble coffee-guzzling zombies in the morning. The adjustment is difficult, to say the least!

These cool, grey, rainy mornings make us want to pull the covers over our heads and snuggle in for a couple more hours of sleep. Why is it easier to stay up an extra hour or two at night instead of waking up an hour or two earlier? I suspect we are “night-owls” and not “larks.”

But, we are not alone. All across this country people with education jobs or school-aged children are joining the ranks of the bleary-eyed as we struggle to reset our sleep patterns to accommodate our changing schedules. Despite singing the end of summer-time blues, I am gearing up in anticipation for fall activities.

In the meantime, pass the COFFEE!!!

Reunion Gold

My husband and I attended an “all school” reunion for his former high school this afternoon. This particular gathering honored the class of 1963, as they celebrated a half century since their high school commencement.

A Power Point presentation displayed a photo montage of their high school years, complete with selections of popular music from their teen years. What life events transpired from their graduation day till now? Careers and retirement, families and grandchildren, and many good-byes – to parents, perhaps spouses, and friends.

Fifty years have passed since they had walked those halls together, yet many said it felt as though their graduation was just yesterday, yet a lifetime of moments had accumulated for each person.

The brevity of this lifetime, the dash between one’s birth and death, and how quickly time flies by brought this passage of Scripture to mind:

Psalm 39:4-5
Show me, O LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days;
let me know how fleeting is my life.
You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
The span of my years is as nothing before you.
Each man’s life is but a breath.

Only God knows the number of our days, or the remaining days of those we love. Our life on this earth is fleeting and brief so make your moments count. Love God, love people, and let your life be one that is golden, one that enriches those it has the privilege to touch.

Freezing in the Frozen Mitten!

Someone has turned off the heat in the Frozen Mitten! After two wonderful weeks of rare temperatures in the 90’s, we are back to a “cooler than normal” forecast. Aside from that unusual blast of warm air, it has been a chilly summer with night temps dipping into the 40’s and daytime highs struggling to touch 80.

Not much need to run the air conditioning with weather like this, but you may need to throw another blanket on the bed and close the window at night. At least utility bills will be lower.

If Michigan were ever to have a designated “State Garment” I think it should be the front-zippered fleece jacket. This is the garment you can wear all year long. In the winter it keeps you toasty when you step away from the wood burning stove and provides that important extra layer of heat-trapping warmth under your parka when you step outside. It keeps your face warm at night if you flip it over your head when burrowing under your quilts. In summer it is your go-to garment, great for chilly mornings and evenings, as well as your never-needs-ironing wrap for overly air-conditioned restaurants and stores. It is also thick enough to repel the ever-hungry state bird – the mosquito.

Pack away those tank tops, shorts and sundresses. Michigan’s two weeks of summer is over and it is time for jeans, sweatshirts and fleece. It is almost time to rev up the that snowmobile!

Racing the Stork!

Grandchild #2 was born four days after her OB’s predicted arrival. Since OB’s are generally pretty accurate about predicting birthdays, the whole family was on “Stork Watch” for about two weeks. Different family members took turns staying at our son’s home prior to the due date to give his exhausted wife a chance to rest from the demands of an active three year old. Lack of sleep, weeks of ineffective contractions and the fear of an unassisted home birth had her on tenterhooks.

There was no royal helicopter nor army of reporters camped outside of her door, just a nervous husband at work with cell phone in hand, and family members timing contractions, as we balanced the tyranny of the urgent with the impending birth.

My husband and I were 90 minutes away when the long-awaited phone call came. Second births are usually quicker than first deliveries and we were not sure we would be able to arrive in time. As it was, we arrived at the hospital with over three hours to spare.

Both grandmothers were allowed to join our son and daughter in the labor and delivery room and we encouraged, provided moral support, and visited as we waited. And, we both nearly missed the event!

Labor was not moving very quickly, and we were told that it could be a few more hours before the baby was born. When asked to step out for a procedure, we wandered down to the waiting room to update the rest of the family assembled there that it promised to be a long night. Unexpectedly, a nurse raced in and yelled, “Hurry! You need to be back there NOW!” We ran to the labor room and found it had been transformed into a delivery room, complete with a team of doctors. We barely had time to assume our positions before the delivery. A few quick pushes, and our grandchild was born!

I am astounded and speechless by the miracle of birth and am so grateful to be a part of this moment. Hello, little one! We are so happy for you to join our family and are thrilled to be a part of your welcoming committee! And I am delighted to have raced the stork and won!

A Taste of my Own Medicine…

I love to give advice. I think it is one of the things I do best. And, when I make suggestions, I am frequently told, “Oh, that is such a great idea! I am going to start doing that!”

It is far easier to give advice to others than to give advice to yourself.

At a recent family reunion, a relative shared with me that she wants to write books. She has several plot lines floating around in her head but hasn’t put anything down on paper because it seems like an overwhelming, time consuming task. I asked if she could spare thirty minutes a day. A half an hour isn’t much time, and she said that she could. My suggestion was to make an appointment to write for ONLY thirty minutes a day, every day. Set a timer and don’t worry about writing perfect paragraphs. Just write!

This exercise will develop the habit of writing and her books will eventually be recorded. And I heard that familiar response again, thanking me for the good idea and the determination to begin implementing my suggestion.

I was only allowed to bask in the moment for a short time. The Holy Spirit began to prod me about doing the very same thing.

I am frequently encouraged to write. And I try, but I lack the consistency of a routine. I start strongly, but quickly lose momentum and put writing back on the bottom of my priority list until someone or something nudges me to begin writing again.

When I think I have run out of interesting things to say, the blog fizzles .

But, thirty minutes isn’t too much time. I think I can write for thirty minutes. I think I can take a taste of my own medicine!

Construction Zone!

Thomas Jefferson began construction of his mansion “Monticello” at the age of 26 and did not consider it complete at the time of his death, at age 83. For most of his life, his home was a construction zone.

I can relate to that! Both my husband and I grew up in “unfinished houses.” While not palatial estates by any stretch of the imagination, it seem our parents were always tweaking our homes, adding upgrades to the floors, expanding rooms, or adding design elements here or there. The smell of fresh sawdust triggers a flood of happy childhood memories for both of us.

This tradition has continued throughout our marriage. Because of the experiences from our childhoods, we were not afraid of “fixer-uppers” and houses that needed some TLC. We have moved frequently through my husband’s career and have purchased a home at every stop along the journey. True to form, we have added rooms, replaced roofs, upgraded kitchens, and/or finished basements in every house.

Because we are creative, we tend to act on the suggestion of “wouldn’t it be nice to have x, y, or z at this house?” and then we proceed to tear out walls and transform the structure to our vision. It hasn’t happened overnight; the process has spanned years in some cases, and the fragrance of my marriage has been a combination of sawdust, drywall dust and paint!

No matter where you may be living, there is another home improvement project taking place on a much grander scale. If you are a Christian, you are the dwelling place of God’s Holy Spirit. When we accept Jesus Christ as the Lord of our life, we become alive to spiritual things and the Holy Spirit moves in. He guides us and helps us in our inner remodeling project, as God slowly transforms us from our selfish stance of, “Life is all about ME” to the very image of His Son, Jesus Christ, bearing a heart of love for God and others.

This is definitely an “upgrade” but, much like Thomas Jefferson’s construction project, it is a process which takes time. God has a magnificent vision for our life, but it is not fully realized nor completed until we reach heaven. He consistently continues to tweak and improve us through circumstances, people, and Bible study, giving us opportunity to become more and more like Jesus in our reactions, thoughts, and words.

Dear Christian, if you find yourself feeling as if your walls have been broken down, that you are surrounded by the debris of shattered dreams, and find yourself knee deep in the crumbled plaster of dashed expectations, take heart. Your reconstruction is in process! Things must first be torn down in order to be rebuilt. It is a process and it takes time.

You may be frustrated by the construction mess and wonder when the 2×4’s and sawhorses will cease to be a trip hazard in your living room. Why do the same old sins seem to trip you up, time after time? The process does not happen overnight, but the day is coming when you will have victory.

When the “fresh paint” smell of Jesus begins to permeate your life, you will carry that fragrance where ever you go. The people you meet will notice it, catching a whiff of something different, like an exotic perfume. Those who have known you will begin to notice the changes, the new beauty and grand design taking place in your life and will want to know what has happened. Your “house” will be fresh and new and others will notice and want to know how your life has changed. And, you will be able to share about your personal remodel by the Master Carpenter and invite them to join the construction zone.