Friday, September 6, 2013

Grief - lesson one

My nephew died.  He was only 19.

Through the past two weeks, I have been learning the lessons of grief.  Our family has been walking the paths of sorrow through the valley of the shadow of death.  My nephew's mother is my sister and we are walking through the valley together, along with many other people. 

I know that other lessons and insights will come in the next weeks, months and years, but I am most struck today with how grief reveals our true self.

I have heard it said many times that as we grow older we become more of what we really are.  We lose either the ability or the desire to cover up our flaws.  We don't care what people think.  We let the world see who we really are on the inside.  This concept has often challenged me to be better and more led by the presence of the Spirit.  When the time comes that I am no longer capable of covering up my raw, true insides, I want peace and love and joy and self-control and patience to come through.  Not the selfish, insecure, prideful person who tries to reign in me.  The process is taking me an entire lifetime -- it is terribly difficult.

So, when I notice other people, I am also noticing myself.  Making observations of others, making corrections in me.

I say all of that to say this:  Grieving makes us raw and revealed.  In the past two weeks it has looked like this:

Servants serve.
Cooks cook the most delicious of meals.
Artists make art that inspires and comforts.
Gift givers give gifts that become treasures.
Talkers talk.
Angry people become angry.
Listeners listen attentively.
Runners run long distances.
Problem solvers solve problems that others can't begin to figure out.
Writers write beautiful notes and essays.
Withdrawn people withdraw even more.
Wise people share wisdom that gets us through a tough hour or day.

And all of it, the good and the bad, is okay.  We're on a journey to become more and more like Jesus and none of us is there, yet.  Our journey has taken a very sharp and painful turn, and in this turn we have lost our cover-up.  The grief has taken away our desire and ability to 'look good' around other people.  We are exposed.  We have become real.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The streak

 Here is a little phone conversation I had yesterday:
Me:  I've got a little running streak going.
Jackie:  Great!  What kind of streak?
Me:  A running streak.
....silence across the phone lines....
Jackie:  Oh!  You mean running!
Okay.  This may be confusing.  But, I have a little running streak going.  I have run for 35 days in a row!  I have a friend who has a big running streak going.  She has run for 386 days in a row.  So, mine is just little. 
It's a big deal, though, because I'm not good at it, I don't like it, and I sweat terribly.  Running is good for me.  Period.  That is why I do it.
My running began almost two years ago and besides the physical benefits, there are some blessings that go along with my little jogs.  I get to run along wooded dirt roads and on smooth paved roads past loved ones' homes.  I have seen the sun rise and seen the sun set.  I have heard birds singing songs I would never hear from inside the house.  I have smelled freshly tilled earth, newly planted with wheat seeds.  I have nearly stumbled over big rocks, mud puddles, and dead snakes.  I have worshiped and prayed.   Many times I am alone, but I have also been joined by my sister, my husband, and my dog.
Yesterday, I had planned a fairly short outing and half-way through I did something I had never done before.  I took a detour.  To my left was a pond that I rarely visit.
On that pond is a small deck.

On that deck is a swing. 
And I sat down.  Right in the middle of my run.
I think that peaceful, quiet time did as much for my heart as the run that took me there and back home.  And, I think I will do that again.  Maybe on a Saturday next time, too.  Maybe I'll get a streak of how many Saturdays I have taken a detour!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Some of my guys

One of my guys likes to learn,
two of my guys like to smile, 
one of my guys likes to swing, 
 and one of my guys likes to just hang out.
 I love my guys.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Cake flop

 Last month I was looking through the Southern Living magazine and saw an article about one of their most requested recipes in the history of the magazine.  The recipe is for Hummingbird Cake and I knew I had to make it -- Sarah's birthday was coming up soon, my grandmother used to make Hummingbird Cake, and the cake has cream cheese icing!  I had no choice, but to try it.

The cake has simple ingredients, and this version has 4 layers with a custard filling between the layers.  I made the custard the day before so it could spend the night in the refrigerator.  My layers came out of the pan cleanly and the custard tasted delicious.  I stacked the cake together:  cake, custard, cake, custard, etc.  Everything looked great.  Then, I turned to whip up the cream cheese icing.  It was delicious, too! 

I was creating a masterpiece!

When I turned back to wrap the cake in cream cheese deliciousness, this is what I found:

 It was funny, I tell you!  I got the camera to capture such a beautiful swan dive, then got back to work salvaging the remains.  It is more fun than you may know to have your hands covered up to your wrists in cake and custard!  I slapped the cake back in its place, anchored layers together with toothpicks, and quickly sealed the whole disaster in a thick coat of cream cheese icing.
The result was still a little sketchy so I topped the whole thing off with flowers.

The flowers helped, but the sparkler birthday candles saved the day. 
That, and the smile of the birthday girl!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Wild hog run

Picture from
I went out for a jog this morning. 
Usually, I go to an exercise class at 5:30 on Tuesday mornings, but my shoulder has been giving me some trouble so I decided to give it a rest for a few weeks.  I still need my exercise, though, so I got out and ran.  The weather has been beautiful this spring and I love being outside as the sun comes up.   I am a slow jogger, but speed has never been my goal.  Running is difficult for me and I am always proud of myself just for keeping at a trot instead of slowing to a walk. 
When I left home I wasn't sure how far I would go.  I just headed out, one foot in front of the other.  As I got on the main road, a little more than a mile from home, I started to think about how much farther I would go.  Up to the next driveway would give me about a 2.75 mile round trip, a little more and I would get in a 5K.  So, head down, calculating how many more steps to run, I was in my own little jogging world.
Just then, I heard a sound like a loud growl.  My head jerked up and I saw what looked like 2 or 3 wild dogs crossing the road in front of me.  I gave a silly little scream and realized that I was seeing a family of wild hogs run from the wheat field on one side of the road into the woods on the other side.  They ran in a straight line -- big hog, baby hog, bigger hog, big hog, baby hog -- until 10-15 of them crossed the road.  Wild hogs are known to be vicious and I had no idea what they thought of me being so close. It was a growling sound that had woken me from my reverie.  Not a happy-muddy-pig-in-the-sunshine sound.
I stopped dead in my tracks, stood still just long enough to gather my wits, turned around and ran back towards home.  My total distance this morning was 2.69 miles, not as far as I had planned, but I made it back alive.  And that seems like a major accomplishment for today!
I use Endomondo to track my workouts.  The program uses GPS to map my runs so I can see my speed, distance, and altitude.  When I got home this morning I was curious to see what my adventure looked like as pure fact on a graph. I could see that at the halfway point I stopped and then there was a spike in my speed as I ran faster than I had the whole time.  I remember thinking that I didn't want to run too fast so that the hogs wouldn't sense my fear and come after me :) 
Next time I get out to run -- tomorrow -- I think I will bring some protection from the wild varmints lurking in the wheat.
 Ahhh.... country living at its best!

Monday, April 29, 2013

A new place to lay

For all of the years we have had chickens, they have laid their eggs in an ancient laying box.  Well, maybe not ancient, but really old.  More than fifty years ago Daryl's family had laying hens and this was one of the boxes from way back then.  But, those boxes were made for big egg production and the spaces were cramped and dark.

Our chickens deserve better.
So, with some help from Jonathan and Daniel,
Daryl built an egg-laying spa retreat.  I love it!  Ollie loves it!

Judging by the number of eggs we are getting, it is a big hit with the girls, too.  We are getting between 18 and 21 eggs every day now!  We are having eggs for breakfast and quiche for dinner.  And sharing with our friends.

That is my favorite part.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

One of those days

Last Saturday was one of those perfect days.  The weather was breezy and warm so we spent a lot of the day outside.
Jonathan was with us.  He gathered eggs and then delivered the eggs to his great-grandparents.  Scout went with him.
Later in the day I took a few  pictures of Jonathan.  Usually, I don't let the grass get this tall and crazy, but this year, I just don't seem to care as much.  In past years, the tall grass has been like noise in my head.  This year, though, I am enjoying the red and white flowers on the clover, and I like to see the new spring grass swaying in the breeze.  Maybe I'm just lazy and don't want to spend hours on a lawnmower.   Maybe I'm just loosening up.  Either way, it made a good backdrop.

The chickens hadn't spent any time out of their pen, but Saturday just seemed like the right day for a taste of clover.
This is a Buff Orpington hen.  She looks just like a chicken out of a children's story book.  This breed is gentle, big, fluffy, and they lay lots of eggs.

This chicken is one of the Aracaunas.  They all look a little different, but I don't think I have ever had one with such a funny beard.  This bearded lady lays either a blue or a green egg.

This hen is another Aracauna.  See how different her coloring is?  And how small her brain must be to fit in her head?

This is Scout's I-don't-like-chickens face.

The icing on this cupcake of a day was that we put together an impromptu supper (mostly Sarah did), and all of the grandkids and their parents ate dinner here.

These are the good old days...

Friday, April 19, 2013


Insignificant News Alert:  Having a new puppy in the house is almost like having a new baby in the house. 

Except that when the puppy cries at night and you need some sleep, you can put a puppy in a crate in another room.  And close the door.  And put earplugs in your ears.  And turn on a loud fan.

We named our new little guy Scout.  We have had a very broad pet-naming scheme of choosing Southern names: Scarlet (O'Hara), Twinkle (a southern beauty queen and politician), Shiloh (a Civil War battlefield), and now Scout (from To Kill a Mockingbird - set in an Alabama town).  He wears his name well and answers to it as well as he does any other word said in a sing-song tune.
For the first few days Scout has wanted to be right at my feet.  Literally.
There are a few things I have learned this week about puppy ownership.
  • House breaking a puppy is an exhausting job.  You have to always be on your guard, trying to be the dog whisperer, trying to notice any signs that he might need to "go".  Add in two or three rainy days and a day spent at the emergency room and....well, it is exhausting.
  • The ER visit was because of a fainting spell Daryl had on Tuesday morning.  He had been feeling bad with a slight fever and no energy, but quickly got much worse and passed out Tuesday morning.  It took quite a while for him to come back around -- thus the trip to the hospital.  People who love me know that I love Scout and quickly asked what they could do to help with him.  They came to get him and let him have a field trip at their house all day.  More than one person offered and I was so grateful.  And Daryl is doing fine.  The thing I learned about having a puppy is that when you add someone to your family, canine or human, your family loves them, too.  Because they love you.  That is just heartwarming.
  • Scout has been very good at walking on the leash and I have taken him for several long walks.  And a walk has never been so much fun.  He runs, jumps, wipes out, gets low to run through the clover, splashes in the puddles, and laughs.  I'm sure he is laughing!
I totally understand puppy love!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A puppy!

I have been lonely since Shiloh died.  At first I just missed her terribly.  Over the past few months, though, I have missed her company out here on our little farm. 

She was always with me when I was outside.  I never walked to the chicken house alone.  I never went for a jog by myself.  Even while I cut the grass, she was close by.  While I absolutely love my home place and being away from the busyness of the city, I need a friend to share it with me.

Today, I am meeting my new friend.

He is an 11 week old miniature Australian Shepherd and I will meet him in a couple of hours.
I'm so happy!

First eggs in the claw

We got baby chicks about 6 months ago.  They have grown into beautiful chickens, but up until now they have been too young to lay eggs.  I always begin looking for their first eggs when they are about 6 months old or when the rooster in the mix begins to crow. 

The 'rooster crowing' sign was not a good indicator with this batch of chickens because he has been crowing for a couple of months.  (sigh) 

When I went to feed the girls this evening, though, they had a little gift waiting for me. 

Five little eggs!

I'm such a proud mama and wanted to take a picture of their achievement.  Unfortunately, I was not born to be a hand model.

We have the Dirty Glove Picture...

The Crooked Claw...

The Gnarly Claw...
And the Spread Finger Claw...
Not one egg was dropped in the chronicling of this event, though.  Claws do come with benefits!