Thursday, March 29, 2012

Blooming Farm Update

Welcome to my front porch.
On the doors, golden forsythia wreathes set off the yellow kalanchoe plants in the urns. The yellow is sunshine in a pot and healthier than prozac. Take a little walk with me to see what's in bloom. 

This forest goes on for acres behind the house. It will be a solid wall of green in a few weeks, but I am enjoying the lacy delicacy of the leaves right now.

A tapestry of brilliant reds, golds, greens and pinks. 

It's especially beautiful near sunset with all the dappled light shining through. 

The trees look like so many straight sticks right now, but soon we won't be able to see the sky through the leaves. 

The pond creatures are beginning to emerge, with turtles lining the banks to sun themselves. 

Near the bottom of the picture is the grandkids' swimming hole with a rope swing. It's like a big city pool, only much muddier and full of creatures!

These 4 weeping willow trees have all grown up from one fallen trunk. It's really beautiful and a nice symbol for our family. Even when something looks broken, new life can spring from it. I think of us all when I see it. 

This other willow tree by the shed is our Joey tree. It's got a missing branch, a gaping gash going all the way down one side. This tree is also thriving in spite of losing a big part of its self. 

The open field in front of our house is emerald. The marsh on the left is growing new cattails. 

But the show-offs right now are the bulbs. They have been grabbing the glory for several weeks. Oh my, these daffodils are gorgeous with the light behind them. 

I have a dozen pots of bulbs in the front, and another half dozen in the back of the house. I also have them at the entrance to our driveway and under the birdhouse. 

So beautiful--just overflowing. 

These saturated colors make me smile.

A princess. 

So beautiful  next to the steps and the rock walkway as the sun goes down.   

Out next to the barn, we have this old Coke machine that someone dumped in the forest  many years ago. (Grrr.) But we got a group of guys together and they dragged it out. It's all rusty and deteriorating and yet so gorgeous with the red tulips in it. The bucket on the ground next to it was found in a trash heap in the forest., too.  Flowers + recycled junk = beauty. 

The afternoon light on the tulips. 

And again from another angle, that also shows the cool side of the  house porch way beyond,  with all the rocking chairs, and the wishing well between the house and the barn. 


The screen porch is a new addition and I can't wait to furnish it. I am looking for comfy daybeds and a game table and shelves stuffed with snacks and board games and magazines and sparkling lights around the whole perimeter. This is my summer home.

Another view of the screen porch. So roomy!
The mosquitoes are quiet right now, but we will be ready for them when they descend. 

One more peek at the screen porch from the house porch with the wishing well in between. 

From a distance, on the right side of the barn and screen porch, you can see the garden too. I've got it all planted with flowers and veggies. Organic, too, but more about that later!

Back to the house. Our new black driveway is made up of recycled asphalt left over from one of the major road re-paves in our town. I love it next to our black and white trim and  the stone walkway. Country living means no concrete driveways.

The center of the circular driveway has a little island planted all in yellow. In the summer I am hoping for a beautiful display of hybrid roses, including one to climb up the little tower. This is one of my favorite spots for sitting and staring. 

Back to the front door across the way. We spend a lot of time doing this. Back and forth. 

And more daffodils. My camera can't resist them.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


My friend, Karen Gerstenberger, recently released this incredible book. It's the story of her family's challenging journey through pediatric cancer, which eventually took the life of her precious daughter Katie. It is full of truth, wisdom, faith and hope, and I recommend it to anyone who is dealing with a long-term illness in their family, or with the death of a child. I have previously written about it here, and you can find other reviews and order the book here. 

I've been wanting to share my favorite part of the book since I first wrote about it, and finally have the time to do so. After Katie passed away, Karen experienced some phenomena that many bereaved people have reported experiencing in some form or another.  In her case, immediately after  Katie passed away, Karen felt a wind passing through Katie's room repeatedly, ruffling the pictures and posters on the walls, even though the air outside was moving in the opposite direction. She also describes another scene during which she was crying uncontrollably from  missing Katie so much, and a ball of sparkling light came down the hallway into her room and hovered in front of her bringing her comfort.  

I love that Karen shared these two stories. Though I would have been a profound skeptic before Joey died, and might have, upon hearing such a story, given a condescending smile and a wink to anyone else in the room, now I am not so foolish.  The new me is an open ear for all such stories, and I have come to call these common experiences "Signs". I have learned that many of us who have lost someone essential to our existence have experienced some customized version of our own signs-- reminders that despite their absence,  our loved ones are very alive and doing very well.

 I don't believe in ghosts, or restless spirits or any of the scary types of things you see in movies. The Bible says when people die, they move out of this world into the next one, so that is not what I am talking about here.  In our family's case, we have had repeated dreams of Joey that have brought us great comfort, even guidance on one occasion.  We have also experienced the appearance of cardinals over and over again in special moments, most recently last week when we went to visit Joey's best friend Kevin, and had a cardinal on a wire singing to us as we sat in the backyard on our first night at his house. At first I attributed these things to coincidence, but after the 10th or 20th time it happened, it was difficult to continue minimizing them. 

In the Bible, God gives lots and lots of signs, one of His most spectacular being a rainbow. So it's not particularly far-fetched that a loving God would comfort us with natural signs concerning our loved ones. I tend to think of it this way: the veil between earth and eternity is apparently a thin one. Moses and Elijah crossed it to visit Jesus on the mount of transfiguration. The veil was lifted so that others could see the invisible armies and chariots of God that were arranged on the hillsides in the midst of an Israelite battle. Stephen saw the throne of God and Jesus standing at God's right hand as he, Stephen, was being stoned to death.  There are numerous biblical accounts of people seeing Heaven, i.e., Daniel, Ezekiel, John. So yes, a thin veil. 

 Scripture also indicates that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses--and those witnesses, made up of the angels of Heaven and those who have gone on before us, are witnessing the great cosmic spiritual drama being played out here on earth. So it's not a big stretch to imagine God, or our loved ones, seeing us here on earth, sensing our grief, and in certain moments, striking that veil in such a way as to send a burst of energy. And  that energy, on our side of the veil,  charges a cardinal or sends a dream or a wind or a ball of light into our room.  It reminds us that they and Heaven and eternity and God are not so far away as we think in our rootbound earthly way. 

So that's my theory. I don't see that it violates 
Scripture, though I will admit it is pure conjecture. How about you? Have you experienced a sign about your departed loved one? How do you explain it? What does it mean to you? Does it help you as it does me? Will you share it to give comfort, as Karen did? 

Glorious Flowers in Time Lapse Photography

Just in case you are having trouble believing in God right now, this will help.

The Life of flowers (Жизнь цветов) from VOROBYOFF PRODUCTION on Vimeo.

Matt 6:28-33
 See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Kindred Spirits

I love this lady. She is my delightful friend, Sharon. Her daughter Angie went to Heaven one month after Joey, and Sharon and I were connected in our grief by our dear mutual friend in Maui, Pastor Kit. He thought we might understand each other, perhaps as no one else could, and he proved to be right. Though we live miles apart in separate states, we have been corresponding every few days for over three years, and finding great comfort in simply sharing our days with each other. She flew out to see me last weekend, and we had a very sweet time together.

Sharon loves to cook, and one of her ways of finding comfort these past few years has been to cook her way through her days. She makes all kinds of delectable things and shares them with everyone who crosses her path, including us. She has sent us numerous care packages full of candy and treats for the holidays. I asked her if she would teach me how to make my favorite toffee and chocolate covered cherries while she was here, and she happily obliged.  She packed pounds of cherries and almonds in her suitcase, along with her jelly roll pan, and lugged them cross-country for me.

Here she is hand-dipping the cherries in chocolate. You can't imagine how good these are. If you are nice to me, I may make you some... yum!

All of these cherries are wrapped in white candy dough and then dipped. The juice of the cherries mixes with this white candy coating and emulsifies...i.e. melts together. When you bite into them, the most delicious juice fills your mouth and runs down your chin! You've never tasted anything like it.

An amazing creation!

Just one more can see I am eating them almost as fast as I am making them!

Not only cherries! I also learned how to make homemade almond roca. It is magnificent. Or as my son in law says, it is "evil!". It is so good it devours your will power.

Sharon's other form of grief therapy is quilt-making. She brought me this beautiful fall-colored lap quilt with a fuzzy orange lining.  It is the 5th quilt she has made for us, and very much cherished along with the others. Sharon is a giver of the most generous type.

Sharon also brought five jars of homemade jam. She is probably the last woman in America who makes homemade jam, and I am lucky to know her. This stuff is good enough to drink! How do you spell love?
Pineapple habanero J-E-L-L-Y!

If you are a griever, I hope you have the comfort of a friend who completely understands. One who listens without judging, who weeps with you and for you, who might even fly miles to see you. Sharon and I are kindred spirits, brought together by our shared sorrow over our children. I like to think they have met in Heaven.  I need the sense of camaraderie provided by another mother who weeps. This difficult journey would be impossible without this beautiful friend who has walked the road with me.
2 Cor. 1:3-5
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.