It’s pretty easy these days to let our minds wander with worry, isn’t it? Yet, Jesus tells us not to. I want to share with you four things to think about from my morning prayer and meditation.
Read Luke 12:22-34 then consider this with me…
The wildflower doesn’t control the field in which it will grow. It could be dropped randomly from a bird. It could be a runner from an already established plant. It can find itself in a grassy meadow, along a roadside, by a fire pit, or mired down in clay. Shoot, it can even be seen popping through a crack in the sidewalk.
So, too, do I find myself in a field…born into my family, with these parents, in this century, in this year, on this day, married to this man, with these kids and grandkids, in this town, with these neighbors. So, I ask myself, how much of this field was my making and how much was God’s?
The wildflower doesn’t control what grows around it. It might be in an environment that has to fight for its life through thistles and thorns, crowded out by crabgrass. It can stand tall and glorious or find itself in the shadow of the great and mighty sunflower.
So, too, do I have little control over what surrounds me or decisions others make. I am surrounded by political unrest, a pandemic in process, disunity, disillusionment, and disdain. I am trying to take care of my family, prepare for retirement, stay healthy and be kind and yet I cannot control the stock market or taxes or businesses shutting down or my 401K tanking or gaining. I cannot control a disease or whether you vax/not vax, mask/not mask. I cannot make hunger disappear or put every pervert behind bars. How much of my life world is my making and how much is God’s?
The wildflower doesn’t control the weather. Rain or drought, sunshine all day or overcast gray, she simply must stand tall in the midst of it all.
So, too, do I not control the hurricanes life can throw at me nor the times of the driest droughts. Dysfunctional family. Sexual abuse. Loss. The rogue kid. The death of a parent. The diagnosis of another. The questions with no immediate answers or perhaps no answers at all. The floundering faith. The wonderings and wanderings. One poor decision. How much of my life world is my making and how much is God’s?
The wildflower doesn’t control what type of flower with its color and shape, height and style. Depending on where she grows, she could be left alone to flourish and thrive or trampled down by cattle in the same field.
I, too, grew up to be a certain type of person, a certain size, shape and color with a particular personality and gifts that are too be opened and used. Much of who I am was influenced by the forces around me as I was growing. Was it a struggle to thrive? Or was I nourished and well fed? How much of my life growth is my making; how much is God’s?
Did you notice a pattern? There is much that is out of the wildflowers control. And yet, God.
Easy to preach. Hard to be in the middle of the field wondering if that cow is going to trample you or cover you in manure…either way it’s easy to get caught up in trying to control the cow.
For all that has shaped or misshapen me, for all that was in my control and out, for all the good and not so good, I am thankful that God takes all of those things and somehow brings them around for my good and His glory. If He is the same yesterday, today and forever then He will continue to do the same because life is still full of doubts and fears and cow poop.
I can rest in the space of no toiling, no trying, no spinning, no straining and simply be what he has called me to be…a wildflower in a field, being me. How much of me is mine; how much can be God’s?
Would you consider the wildflowers too?
If you like this post then you might enjoy these as well:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” (Jesus’ invitation in Matthew 11:28-30MSG)
Taking a real rest.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? I’ve been on this purpose of slowing down for a handful of years now. It’s where my mantra, Finding Sacred in the Simple, comes from. The world is a noisy place and if we aren’t careful, our souls can become noisy too. So noisy that we can no longer hear what we truly need.
Here are ten quick things you can do to start practicing the art of slowing down:
Chew you food. Really. Is there anything more frustrating than fixing a nice dinner or being out at your favorite restaurant and “horking” it down? Even the rat in Ratatouille knew to savor the flavor of his food.
Make a complete stop at stop signs. Can you believe I’m asking this of you?
Play a board or card game. Not video games with their high speed but an old-fashioned board game that has pieces and dice and squares with pictures.
Drive the speed limit. Now I’ve crossed the line! But seriously.
Set the table for dinner. Use the plates you got for your wedding, fold the napkins, light the candles, dim the lights, and take in time with your family.
Breathe for a six count in then a six count out four times. You’d be amazed at what just doing that will do for you.
Listen without an opinion. Slow your responsive brain down that feels the need to fix the problem, give your side or be right. Simply listen.
Use fewer words. There are so many words in the world today. We don’t always need to speak.
Shut off the noise. The T.V. The Phone. The news. Social Media. The radio. Sit in silence and notice what you hear…both internally and externally.
Carve out time to do nothing. Doesn’t have to be a lot, especially at first, but try it.
Have you ever found yourself denying what you’re actually feeling? Shoving it down, poo-pooing it, staying busy so you can ignore it?
That’s where I found myself a few months back when two domestic dogs busted into the chicken coop and killed 18 of the 23 hens we have here on my (very) mini farm.
I was completely confused when awakened out of a dead sleep to the sound of a dog barking in what appeared to be my back yard. I peeked out of my second story bathroom window, didn’t see anything amiss and went back to bed, only to hear the barking again.
Peeking through the blinds once more, I saw a lot of flapping in the coop as well as two very large animals. I threw on some pants, ran down the stairs and out the garage door, grabbing a metal bat on the way. (In the afterthought, I’m not sure what good a bat would have done, but hey, I was in panic mode!)
It was a massacre. Dead chickens outside the coop. Dead chickens inside the coop. Feathers everywhere. A Great Pyrenees and Black Lab/Rottweiler mix had busted through the fence and was having a hay day “playing” with their prey.
I banged the metal bat on the clothesline pole and started yelling. Fortunately, that startled them, and they took off in the back field.
I stood there stunned. And did what every farmher does when her animals have been brutally killed…I cried.
Carson and I got everything cleaned up, killed the ones that didn’t die but were severely wounded, called the dog warden who sent someone out and talked to the neighbor, then I also talked to the neighbor. (Did I mention my man was out of town? No? Yeah…)
If you’ve followed me for very long, then you know this isn’t my first rodeo with something killing my chickens. We’ve had racoons, fox and weasels all wreak havoc in the coop. Shoot, I even walked out to a great horned owl with a hen in its claws.
I am known as the chicken chucker after sharing the story of pushing my wheelbarrow full of dead chickens…curse you weasel!…out to the field behind us, chucking them while berating myself for being so dang out of shape. Come to find out my wheelbarrow had a flat tire.
So, no. Not my first rodeo over here.
But never the neighbor’s pet dogs.
I couldn’t quite get over it. How do I know that? I kept talking about it. And yet, I would tell myself they were just chickens. This has happened before. What is wrong with you? I would apologize and tell Todd or Mallory or Mackenzie or Macey or any other person who would listen, that I was so sorry to still be talking about it. It’s okay, they would say. It was traumatic for you.
Traumatic? Nah. They were just chickens. This has happened before. What is wrong with you?
I shoved it down deeper until several days later I spoke the word I had been feeling but wouldn’t allow myself to say because it was too big a word for the circumstance considering…they were just chickens. This has happened before. What is wrong with you?
Violated. I felt violated. And I fought it. People are abused. Homes are broken into. Innocent children are sold into sex slavery. And I felt…violated?!? They were just chickens, not children. Not women hiding from a sick and twisted abuser.
It WAS a strong emotion but until I allowed myself to say that that was what I was feeling was I able to deal with it. Psychologist Dan Siegel refers to this practice as “name it to tame it.” He goes on to say, so what’s the value of getting people to express what they’re actually feeling, rather than keeping things relentlessly light and bland? The answer is that naming our emotions tends to diffuse their charge and lessen the burden they create.
We cause ourselves more harm than good when we try to keep the feeling at bay by cramming it down, keeping busy, ignoring it or denying it…for whatever reason we tell ourselves…instead of naming the thing.
Dr. Brene Brown says the first step to moving through emotion is naming it.
I was stuck in they were just chickens, this has happened before, what is wrong with you cycle and would not move forward until I allowed myself to be honest about what I was feeling…big emotion or not.
So why do we cram it down, swallow it whole, ignore it, deny it?
We judge ourselves for feeling the feeling. Ummm…reread what I wrote above…yeah…I may have forgotten my own advice this time because feel your feelings has been a mantra of ours for a very long time.
We compare and that’s not fair to anyone including ourselves. Someone else’s circumstance may be worse than yours (like kid’s sold in sex trafficking) but it doesn’t lessen the trauma you’ve been through. Or perhaps the comparison looks more like how you think someone would react or even did react…but they are not you and you are not them.
We’re embarrassed by what we’re feeling. Recognize that I should or I shouldn’t feel this way is the enemy to healing what actually is. My oldest daughter was diagnosed with clinical depression in high school but went undiagnosed for over a year. Why? Because, in her words at the time, she came from a good family, got good grades, and went to church so what did she have to be depressed about.
We can’t heal what we don’t reveal. Once I had the wherewithal to say, I know this may seem like a big emotion for what happened but I feel violated. Then we could figure out where that was coming from and move through it.
We want to appear like we’ve got it all together so acknowledging our feelings may feel like a shortcoming, failure or mistake.
We might think that by expressing an emotion that may be perceived as negative will make us look weak and lacking control.
You guys, someones pets came into my safe space and killed something that was mine. My man was out of town, and I felt vulnerable and violated. It was a big honest feeling as a result of my little slice of heaven looking like a killing field.
It’s okay to feel big feelings! Just don’t let yourself get stuck in that quicksand of emotion.
Now more than ever…I’m looking at you worldwide pandemic…we need to be able to express what we’re feeling, have safe places to do so and not be embarrassed.
Tuesday. It’s not Monday. It doesn’t have a camel meme announcing that it’s “Humpday!” It’s not thirsty Thursday. No one is looking to the heavens and shouting, T.G.I.F!
It’s Simply Tuesday. The most ordinary day of the week.
I need that. Maybe you do too?
The past few months have been wild. I started to make a list of all the major things that have happened. Some beautiful. Some brutal. Some a brew of the two that we’ll call brutiful.
My middle daughter had twins seven weeks early due to an abrupted placenta. I’ll write more on that later but just know what could have been was brutal, what resulted is beautiful.
My dear friend lost his best friend of 36 years mid-August. We were at best friend’s funeral and was able to catch up with dear friends’ father who, just yesterday, passed away, less than a month later of best friend’s death. To lose two dearly beloved’s is brutal. To know our hope of heaven is beautiful.
My sweet friend’s husband was being sentenced for a crime he committed. I sat in the courtroom watching the fate of a man’s life being given. The quiet shaking of her shoulders as the judge read the final outcome. Listening to the wails of his family. Observing the solemn faces of the prosecution. I couldn’t help but think, no one wins here. The support shown to my friend was beautiful. The reality sinking in, brutal.
My almost 80-year-old Dad had his initial consultation with an oncology ENT just yesterday, where they are 95% sure it’s cancer on the base of his tongue. He is scheduled for a couple more tests. Once those are done it’s seven weeks of radiation and five rounds of chemo. While the treatment will be brutal, his positive outlook is beautiful.
My prayer life has increased exponentially (which is beautiful because who else can take care of all of this but God?) as I am added to groups to pray for loved ones who are sick and dying or going through some really hard stuff (which is brutal to see happen.)
And this is just in my tiny section of this great big world.
The pandemic persists.
The politics progress.
Social media keeps us in a state of thinking bigger is better, perfection is possible, and YOU are the enemy if you don’t think like me, act like me, look like me.
So with nothing on my calendar and nowhere to go, I basked in the glory that it’s simply Tuesday today.
I walked down the stairs and smelled the coffee brewing…telling me my man was in town and had prepared the pot and set the timer the night before.
I cleaned my bathrooms…something that has been my Tuesday chore for many years but have been off-kilter with all that’s been going on…can you thank God for dirty potties that need cleaning and the time to do it?
I walked out to the chicken coop and gave the girls some scraps…taking the time to watch them enjoy the fruit that was getting old, filled their water and feed buckets and collected eggs…paying attention to the colors, the smoothness, the warmth.
I walked in my garden, pulled some weeds and gathered the last of the green beans, several cucumbers and lots of tomatoes. I picked zinnias for the table vase and calendula for healing oil and salves.
I watched a butterfly land on the flowers and a hummingbird get a nice long drink of nectar. I saw fish jumping in the pond and paid attention to the sights and sounds that let you know the end of summer is near. Nature does nurture, doesn’t it?
I came inside, washed the cucumbers, snapped the green beans and put them on for lunch. I determined I do indeed have enough tomatoes to make more juice but not until tomorrow. I hung the calendula to dry and basked in the aroma of all the herbs I have hanging on the ladder in my office.
It’s Simply Tuesday.
Sometimes we lose site that the ordinary is the extraordinary. The most scrumptious thing we can do is S-L-O-W down and savor the here and now, this very minute, the thing right in front of us.
Sometimes it takes a season of hard things to appreciate the soft places that an ordinary day brings. The way it fills you up and satisfies the soul, allowing you to take a deep breath…the one you’ve been holding for far too long.
Sometimes it’s the smallest things done over the course of time that makes the biggest difference. They’re the ones that change and shape your heart, like water over a stone. Slow. Repetitive. Steady. Deeply transformative over time. (Shaye Elliott)
While I know I can’t make like an ostrich and stick my head in the sand, because, well, life happens, kids need us, friends struggle, bad news comes, sentences are given, diagnosis are told, I will be beholden to those extraordinary days of ordinary. For those days that I can say…
It’s harvest season around here. When something’s ready, it doesn’t matter what’s on your schedule, you take the time (make the time) to put up what you’ve worked so hard to grow.
While the zucchini plants are looking a little worse for the wear right now, I was able to harvest several over the last few weeks and bake some scrumptious zucchini bread (or bikini bread as my grandson called it) and put them in the freezer for some heavenly goodness this winter. (Bikini’s and bread? Do they even go together?)
Every year, I get out the recipe box, root around behind the “Bread” tab in search of two recipes. One is from a woman I treated many years ago when I was a radiation therapist. It’s handwritten and stained from so many years of use. I think of her and my co-workers whenever I see the recipe….it makes me smile.
The other combines a vegetable and chocolate so you can totally gorge yourself because it’s healthy! It’s Bikini Bread after all!
With all the worlds madness, there is something about the very ordinary task of mixing together a recipe, putting flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl, creaming butter, sugar and eggs…that are fresh from that mornings gathering… in another that calms my soul. Anybody else?
Baking bread is therapeutic for me. It reminds me of growing up in a kitchen filled with the aroma of goodness. A kitchen that was safe and sure. Those things shape who I am today…like water over a stone…day after day, slow, steady and sure.
What is it about bread that is so comforting?
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God sent bread down from heaven in the form of manna when his people were in the wilderness. It fully satiated a hungry body.
Jesus looked to the heavens and gave thanks for bread provided by a young boy’s lunch. It multiplied to feed the multitude.
Jesus called himself the Bread of Life.
Jesus broke bread with the disciples…this is my body, broken for you.
I wonder sometimes if it’s bread I’m hungry for when I’m in my own time of wilderness living or is it to feel fully satisfied by Jehovah Jireh…the One who provides.
I wonder if it’s a reminder in my “never enough” mind to stop and give thanks for the ordinariness of my days.
I wonder if when I’m craving carbs, seesawing between the cupboard (salty) and the fridge (ice cream), I’m actually craving the Comforter.
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Take nothing away from Jesus but these recipes are sure to satisfy a true carb craving but will not get you ready for bikini season!
Mrs. Libby’s Zucchini Bread
2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
In a separate bowl mix together:
3 cups flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons cinnamon
3 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups grated zucchini (wash zucchini before grating and cut the ends off but do not peel)
1 cup chopped nuts (I use pecans or this can be optional if you don’t like nuts)
Mix all ingredients together.
Grease and flour two bread pans or 4 mini loaf pans. Bake at 350 for 1 hour (or less). Test doneness with a toothpick or butter knife in the middle.
Chocolate Bikini Bread
Mix together in a bowl and set aside:
2 ½ cups flour
¼ cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tsp salt
Cream together in a large bowl:
½ cup oil
½ cup butter or margarine softened
1 ¾ cup sugar
Beat in 2 eggs one at a time then
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup buttermilk (can use “sour milk” by putting 1-2 teaspoons of vinegar in a measuring cup then filling to ½ cup measure, let it sit a few minutes)
Add buttermilk alternately with the dry ingredients to creamed mixture.
Add 2 cups shredded zucchini and a handful (or 2 or 3) of chocolate chips. (I used a variety here…sometimes a handful of white chocolate chips and regular chocolate chips…experiment! )
Pour into 2 well sprayed loaf pans and bake at 325 for 50-60 minutes.
Is great straight out of the oven or refrigerated and eaten the following day!
Then thank the God who Comforts for zucchini and chocolate…always thank him for chocolate!
I’m in a Marco Polo group of women who are reading through the Bible in a year using the Bible Recap podcast. We’ve been reading through the book of Jeremiah, of which Chuck Swindoll says this:
The prophecies of Jeremiah offer us a unique insight into the mind and heart of one of God’s faithful servants. The book includes numerous personal statements of emotional engagement, painting Jeremiah not merely as a prophet brought on the scene to deliver God’s message but also as a red-blooded human being who felt compassion for his people, desired judgment for evildoers, and was concerned about his own safety as well. (bold is mine)
Anybody else been feeling the weight of that last sentence?
The people of Israel were getting ready to be taken to Babylon and held captive there. The false prophets were saying the exact opposite of what Jeremiah was proclaiming…they proclaimed the exile wouldn’t last long, peace was coming etc, so Jeremiah sends a letter (chapter 29) to all the people to prepare them for what was about to go down and what they were to do in the midst of being in captivity.
In part, this is what he tells them: This is what the Lord of Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the exiles I deported from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them. Plant gardens and eat their produce. (29:4-5CSB) claiming the exile will be long. (29:28CSB)
As I’ve mulled this verse over, I find it funny that God would tell them to do something as simple as plant a garden and eat its produce in the midst of being held captive by their enemy.
If you’ve been hanging with me for very long at all, it’s no surprise that I love to garden so at first I thought that’s why I was so drawn to this verse. But I have to say, I believe there’s more to it. That perhaps it’s a message that is helpful to us as well.
Let’s do some paralleling:
The exile (or captivity)…I know we are not being taken anywhere in the physical sense but we can sure be held captive. By our screens. By our schedules. By the 24/7 news cycles. By our 24/7 availability. By everyone’s opinions. By social media. By the need for more. By the need for bigger and better. By the need for perfection. By the need to hurry.
You get the picture. We are being held captive and sadly, we don’t even realize how heavy the chains are anymore.
The past couple of years has seen our mental health struggle…even those with no previous mental health issues. The pandemic has been hard on all of us and most everyone has an opinion they aren’t afraid to share. The political and racial unrest piles on top of an already fragile people. Not to mention the rest of the world and all its messiness.
Between the 24/7 news cycles and our 24/7 availability we have access to heartbreaking pictures, news stories, pleas, more pictures, thoughts, opinions… we are held captive by it and it just keeps going. Because this exile, this captivity we find ourselves in?
…will be long. Just like the people of Israel, this life, our life, is not a sprint but a marathon. If it’s not this, it will be that. If it’s not that, something else will come along. Just think of the past few years and you will note that it’s been one thing after the other.
What does Jeremiah tell the people to do? Plant gardens. Eat what you’ve grown.
I hear you non-gardening people groaning right now! Do you know how black my thumb is? I’ve never grown a vegetable in my entire life! I cannot add one more thing to my to do list!
I hear you!
I think it’s about more than growing a garden and eating its produce. I think God was trying to tell them (and us) to settle in because this is going to be a long haul. You cannot possibly be all things to all people or do everything that needs to be done or fix every problem or give to every person/cause/upheaval begging for help.
Beth Moore said it like this: Know when to take a break y’all. This world’s a heartbreaking, baffling ball of fire right now. We’re not God. We can pray and give and speak and act. But we can’t carry all of this 24/7. It’s too heavy for us. It’s not going to give us a time out. We have to take it.
In other words, go grow a garden, do something you enjoy doing, take a break from the 24/7, slow down and breathe! In order to take care of our whole selves and our soul selves, we must exhale what is unnecessary and inhale nourishment from God.
If growing a garden and eating its produce sounds like too much work and not rest at all, here are some other things that may help bring peace to your mind and rest for your soul:
~ Get outside. Sit in the sun. Walk in the grass. Hike a trail. Have a picnic. Get your hands in the dirt. Play at the park with your kiddos. Look for wildflowers. Watch a sunset. Howl at the moon. Count the stars. Breathe in the goodness of season we are in.
~ Be still. Whether you are a person of faith or not, every single one of us need down time, a time with no agenda, no screens, no input from “out there” and no output of your own input. Simply be.
~ Exercise. Find something you enjoy doing to move your body and do it! It’s good for your muscles, good for your brain and good for the soul.
~ Journal. Get it out of your brain and on to paper. It can be a couple lines every day or a full-on page of thoughts. It can be a gratitude or prayer journal.
~ Limit screen time. This includes phone time, checking emails, social media and news. We were not made to be inundated with information every single second of every single day. We just can’t do it for the whole marathon.
~ Take a nap. Permission granted!
~ Take a bath. Get some Epsom Salts and your favorite blend of essential oils, drink of choice, a good book and go soak!
~ Go fishing. Just make sure if you catch one, you know how to get it off the hook!
~ Light a fire. Is there anything more mesmerizing than staring into a fire?
~ Meditate. Don’t give this to away as some Voo Doo Eastern thing. It’s purpose is to slow down, pay attention to your breathing, your body, and balance out that busy schedule. (I wrote more about not giving this practice away in Meditation is Not a Dirty Word.)
~ Pray/Read the Bible. Stay connected with the One who can bring peace in the midst of chaos and calm the soul like no other.
Like Jeremiah, we are red-blooded human beings who feel compassion for people; we desire judgment for people who do unthinkable evil, all while living during a pandemic and being concerned for our lives as well as the lives of our loved ones.
Take care my friends, we’re in this thing for the long haul!
Go. Plant your garden. Eat its produce. Stay focused on what you can do. Take care of your own soul. Love the person in front of you well.
We were up to our elbows in peach juice as we peeled, quartered, and cooked down one bushel of peaches into 30 pints of jam. The Steely Dan channel was cranking out some great sing-a-longs from the ‘70’s. We were peeling and stirring and taste testing and jamming away (see what I did there!) when my man looks at me and says…
Did you just say moonshine?
Yeah. Isn’t that what they’re saying?
He just smiled.
A half a bushel of peaches and a few songs later…
Did you say building all the castles in mind?
Yeah. What do you think they’re saying?
Something about jasmine but definitely not castles.
The next day, we figured out the titles to both songs and looked up the lyrics.
The first song is Dancing in the Moonlight with the title all throughout the verses as well as the chorus. But hey, if I’m dancing with some moonshine, everybody WILL feel warm and bright. It WOULD be a fine and natural sight if everybody danced with some moonshine!
The second song I may have rewritten is called Summer Breeze and they were not, in fact building castles in their minds but rather that summer breeze that makes me feel fine was blowin’ jasmine through my mind. Maybe I’m anticipating the next Outlander book coming out in November…Scottish castles and Jamie Fraser but I heard what I heard and jasmine was nowhere to be found.
I’ve been known to get a lyric or two wrong before. I thought for sure Van Halen was saying animal instead of panama which coincidentally is also the title of said song.
I’m not the only one. Here’s a few more I found on the internet. See if you can pick up on what the actual words are or recognize the song. I’ll put the answers at the bottom of the page. No cheating!
Dancing queen, feel the beat of the tangerine.
Let’s pee in the corner. Let’s pee in the spotlight.
Kickin’ your cat all over the place.
These ants are my friends, they’re blowin’ in the wind.
It doesn’t make a difference if we’re naked or not.
Rock the cat box.
Wrapped up like a douche, another rumor in the night.
Then I saw her face now I’m gonna leave her.
It’s funny how we can listen to the same song, at the same volume, in the same room, doing the same task and hear something different.
I feel like that’s the world we live in today. I wish it were as lighthearted and simple as wrong lyrics to a song. Sigh. Unfortunately, it’s with most everything. We’re all losing our religion because I’m crying out to be noticed (that’s me in the corner) and you think I’ve told you to pee there or in the spotlight. Bigger sigh.
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How do we listen better? How do we really hear what someone is trying to tell us? Here are ten quick things you can do (or not do) to become a better listener:
Be Fully Present by putting your phone down. Nothing says I’d rather be elsewhere than checking your phone every time it dings.
Pay Attention by facing the person, making eye contact and watching your body language. Nod your head, smile or other appropriate facial expressions. Stay engaged.
Practice Reflecting instead of Deflecting by asking for more information, how did that make you feel or how did they react to that? We can bounce back what they’ve told us by using language like, what I hear you saying is…, or if I’m hearing you right, this is how you took that.
So often we want to give our opinion here or share a personal story when really we need to find out more information or may be there to simply listen.
Ask Direct Questions…Even the Obvious Ones. Jesus had a way of getting rid of distractions with trenchant questions. To the blind beggar Bartimaeus he asked, What do you want me to do for you? To the disciples of John the Baptist, as they crept along behind him, attracted yet cautious: What do you seek? To the man who had been disabled for 38 years: Do you want to get well?
Sometimes obvious questions or questions that have “obvious” answers lead to the most interesting conversations. We never want to assume we know the answer when we’re trying to be good listeners.
Realize You Don’t Have to Always Have a Wise Response. Many times a person needs to know they are heard. They aren’t looking for you to have all the answers. Simply listening is sometimes the most loving thing you can do. I see this after I’ve sat across from a woman and listened to her story or why she wanted to talk with me. There is such a burden lifted off the other person just by feeling heard…no wisdom given or needed…just two ears and zipped lip.
Realize You Don’t Have to Understand Everything. I don’t have to get it or you to be able to hear what you’re saying, feeling or struggling with. There’s a lot I don’t understand and yet, I can be there for you with those same two ears and zipped lip.
Realize You Don’t Have to Evaluate and Interpret Everything. I’m so glad for this one! I don’t have to figure it all out for you (or have that wise response) or decipher a life code. But I can sit in it with you and listen.
Realize You Don’t Have to Keep the Conversation Lively. You aren’t at a party or trying to entertain someone. Sometimes silence is the most sacred space you can share with someone.
Realize the Value of the Person You’re Listening To. The person I’m listening to is made in God’s image. If we remember that, we don’t have to agree with them to be a person who listens well. Don’t come in with a preconceived opinion because of their religious or political view or life-style choice or skin color or whatever it is that makes you different from them. The moment we label, we limit.
Understand the Sacredness of Holding That Space. The person sitting opposite me is always somewhat of a mystery. For her to share her story, her thoughts, her ideas is a chance to realize what an honor it is to be there, sitting with her in it.
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By the end of our peach jamming day, we were both exhausted in the best way. We each had a drink of choice and were discussing how hateful the world can be today with everyone chiming in with their opinions. When my man said…
You know what the world needs?
More people drinking a glass of wine and singing some Earth, Wind and Fire…even if they get the lyrics wrong sometimes. We need more people singing.
So. How many did you get right? Here are the answers to the lyric bloopers from above.
Dancing Queen by Abba is not feeling the beat of the tangerine but rather the tambourine!
Losing My Religion by REM. It’s terrible advice to pee in the corner or in the spotlight. Singer Michael Stripe is telling us, that’s me in the corner. (Don’t pee on him either.)
We Will Rock You by Queen is kicking your can all over the place. No cats were harmed in the making of this song.
Blowin’ in the Wind by Bob Dylan is not friends with ants but what is blowin’ in the wind are these answers my friend.
Livin’ on a Prayer by Bon Jovi. The fictional couple Tommy and Gina remain fully clothed for all we know but weren’t sure if they remained a couple because it doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not.
Rock the Casbah by the Clash. A Casbah is a North African castle or fortress. But if you’re cleaning out the litter box, you can rock the cat box too .
Blinded by the Light by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. Spotify named this Bruce Springsteen cover as the most misquoted song lyric with over half of listeners getting the words wrong. He is singing, Revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night.
I’m a Believer by the Monkees. Her face was fine and made him a believer. No hearts were broken!
Thou has made us for Thyself, O Lord; and our heart is restless until it rests in Thee. (Augustine)
It snuck up on me. I’m not usually a grumpy kind of person but I was so far behind and had so much to do that I’d surely never catch up this summer. I know I’m overwhelmed when two things start happening:
1. I find fault with everything. Around here there will ALWAYS be something to do or something that needs done. (Anybody?) We always have projects going and with a husband who travels a lot, things get done but on a timeline that is a bit slower sometimes…due to my lack of muscle/ability or his absence. It’s been this way for years and doesn’t bother me unless I’m feeling the weight of all of it because there is just so much to do.
Most of the time I look for the beauty of things, even in the chaos…I see the sunflowers instead of all the weed pulling that needs done. But when my heart is not at rest, I can only see the weeds. Oh, and the swing on the ground beside the frame it’s supposed to be hanging from that’s also sitting in one of those unfinished-til-fall-projects-because-it-got-too-wet-to-finish-in-the-spring. Did I mention the excavator that’s in the yard? Sigh…see what I mean?
2. I find myself feeling meh at things that usually bring me joy. Why did I plant such a big garden this year…these weeds are ridiculous! I put my head down, switch to go mode and work myself like a Clydesdale on an Amish farm. Get ‘er done becomes the battle cry.
Hurry up and run errands. Hurry up and cook dinner…oh who am I kidding…order a pizza or grab it and growl. Hurry up and do my Bible study. Hurry up and get through this book. Hurry up and get through this day. Hurry up and do the laundry…why do we have to wear all these clothes…thanks Adam and Eve! Hurry up and Get. It. Done.
I know I’m not alone. It doesn’t matter the what, most all of us run on a schedule that’s too full, having too much to do with too little time to do it. It makes us cranky and unthankful.
What if the solution wasn’t to go faster? What if it wasn’t to shore up the schedule to be more productive? What if the solution wasn’t less sleep or wishing you had more hours in your day? What if the very thing we need to do is S-L-O-W D-O-W-N?
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The way of Jesus is countercultural. It is upside-down and inside-out. A kingdom where weakness is power, power is weakness and suffering leads to glory.
Whoever is least among you is the greatest. (Luke 9:48)
Jesus said that in his kingdom the first will be last and the last will be first. (Matthew 20:16)
He told us to love our enemies and pray for them. (Matthew 5:44)
He chooses the foolish to shame the wise. (1Corinthians 18-31)
God’s power is perfected, not in how strong we are, but in our weakness. (2Corinthians 12:7-10)
His command in Psalm 46:10 is to stop striving (be still) and recognize He is God.
He tells us to stand still and let Him fight battles for us. (2Chronicles 20:15)
When things are out of control or overwhelming or there’s so much to do, the very last thing we think to do is to slow down, be still, stop striving, fighting, trying and look for God.
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One of my peers in Spiritual Direction wrote something that is simply beautiful. Here is what she said as part of a book review:
I felt validated and at peace when he said on page 40, “I believe there are three things that define the posture of good listeners: a contemplative attitude, an open spirit, and a humble perspective.” I believe I do this in my troubled times, if only between me and God. The other morning, I woke up and my nails were clinching into palms and making those moons. My daughter wasn’t doing well. I had a ton of work to do that day and I felt this sense of failure regarding my family and friendships. I didn’t want to get out of bed, so I asked God what to do and I felt the Lord say, “Do what you always do but slower and notice every moment.
So, I showered, noticing the drops and the warmth. I patted myself dry, noticing the threads of the towel. When I made my bed I smoothed my hands over every wrinkle. I sipped my coffee quietly and watched the swirls of cream and felt the warmth on my two hands as I lifted the cup. It was all so sacred. My spirit became open. I felt humbled to be alive and I was experiencing every moment. The fear of my failure melted as I moved into my tasks and all I could say was “Thank you.”
Notice nothing changed. Except her speed.
So I moved the above mentioned swing and frame to the back yard under a canopy of trees (pictured above) and got still. Using all of my senses:
I felt the temperature drop in the shade of the forest-like setting.
I heard the cat bird call reminding me that God cares about the birds…and me.
I sniffed the air and noticed it’s starting to smell like fall reminding me that time comes in seasons and no season lasts forever…find things to be thankful for in the season you’re in.
I watched as squirrels scampered, bunnies hopped, birds flew and was reminded of the One who is the maker of all things.
I basked in the glory of the sun that filtered through the trees and let out a sigh from the depths of my being.
I felt a sense of peace in the rhythm of that swing.
Slowing down was exactly what my soul needed. Maybe yours does too?
In the house where I spent most of my growing up years, we had a finished-by-my-Grandpa basement. It had a kitchen, complete with cupboards, a deep freeze, table and chairs and an electric stove where my Granny would do all the canning. It was certainly cooler to work down there and this little girl thought we were rich because we had, not one but TWO kitchens!
Every year, when the green beans were gathered, snapped and washed, she would head to the basement, round up her jars, fill them with said beans, add a tsp of salt, pour hot water over the top with one inch of headspace, place the lid on top and screw the ring on.
All the while, the pressure cooker was on the stove heating the water in preparation for the jars to be put in. Once the jars are in, the lid is locked down and you wait for the steam to come through the vent. After 10 minutes of that, you place the “weight” on and wait for the pressure to build up to 10 pounds.
How can you tell the pressure has built up to 10 pounds? The weight starts to jiggle. It’s a beautiful sound to a gardener and canner of vegetables. But every time the jiggle started my Granny would say to me, run and get your Grandpa. I don’t want to blow up the kitchen he worked so hard on.
With the weight of the basement blowing up resting solely on my shoulders,I would run up those basement stairs as fast as my little legs could go in search of my Grandpa. I thought for sure if I took too long to find him, that part of the house would be blown to smithereens. A hole in the house, and surely in my heart as my Granny was down there waiting for me to bring in the back-up, was all I could envision.
Fast forward four plus decades and here I am, gathering my own green beans, snapping, washing, rounding up and filling jars, adding salt and hot water to one inch headspace, placing the lid, screwing on the ring and putting prepared jars into my own pressure cooker.
The first couple of times I used that thing, I was so nervous that I always made sure Todd was there so I wouldn’t blow up (my own)kitchen. Now, I’m comfortable enough to go at it alone and even though I know I won’t blow the kitchen up, I am respectful of the power inside that pressure cooker and the potential harm that can come if I get too complacent and think I don’t need to respect the instructions given in the Ball Blue Book guide to preserving.
We see proof of this in this same chapter when his pride puffed up to the point of believing he was above God’s law. He wanted to go into the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense on the altar.
That doesn’t sound so bad, does it?
The problem is that wasn’t his job. Only the consecrated priests, the descendants of Aaron, have the right to offer incense. They begged him to leave the sanctuary, for you have acted unfaithfully! You will not receive honor from the Lord God. (v18)
Did he listen to the eighty priests who bravely stood up to him and tried to stop him from defiling the Lord? Nope. He became enraged with them. When he became so angry, the God who gave him success (v5) and helped him (v7) and made him powerful (v8) was also the God who cursed him with a skin disease which banned him from any access to the temple. He was quarantined until the day he died. (v19-21)
Uzziah didn’t listen to sound advice, didn’t follow the Good Book’s guide to preserving your life and his kitchen blew up!
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How do you go from doing what is right in God’s eyes, being successful, powerful and well liked, to being banned from the temple with the epithet He had a skin disease, as the last (only?) thing people remembered about you? What did Uzziah do to blow up his kitchen?
1.He became too comfortable in his position. Fifty-two years he sat on that throne as king. The longer we do something, the easier it is to become lax and take for granted our own position in life. We can forget that power, blessing, peace, fruitfulness, fame, fertility comes from God. I wonder if Uzziah thought he sat side-by-side with God, matching chairs and all and forgot for a moment that it is God alone who sits on the throne and is all-powerful, all-seeing and all-knowing.
I never want to become so comfortable in my position in life or as God’s daughter that I forget who He is…holy and sovereign…or what he’s done for me already…given His Son to die on a cross for my sins. Can I go to Him with anything? Absolutely! Do I need to remember who I’m talking to? Yes. Yes I do.
Just like with the pressure cooker, I want to be comfortable enough to know how to use it to make good things but respectful of the power within.
2. He became full of himself. All that Uzziah was, his successes and fame, came from God. What should have humbled him produced pride instead. He convinced himself that he deserved more. That he had every right to be a priest as well as a king.
I can sure convince myself of my own good works, can’t I? Look at me and all that I’ve accomplished. Here, let me do your job too because I’m that good. All the while forgetting that I have an assignment and ultimately God is in control.
Who do you think Paul is, anyway? Or Apollos, for that matter? Servants, both of us—servants who waited on you as you gradually learned to entrust your lives to our mutual Master. We each carried out our servant assignment. I planted the seed, Apollos watered the plants, but God made you grow. It’s not the one who plants or the one who waters who is at the center of this process but God, who makes all things grow. Planting and watering are menial servant jobs at minimum wages. What makes them worth doing is the God we are serving. You just happen to be God’s field in which we are working. (1Corinthians 3:6 MSG)
I think about this verse often when I’m out watering the garden and thank Him for growing it…and me.
3.He stopped listening to wise advice. This happens when we get full of ourselves. The priest Azariah as well as eighty other priests were telling Uzziah, warning Uzziah, begging Uzziah to not do the thing Uzziah arrogantly thought he had every right to do.
81 priests saying the same thing, surely can’t be wrong.
Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice. (Proverbs 13:10)
What would happen if I (arrogantly) thought I knew more than the people who wrote the Ball Blue Book: Guide to Preserving simply because I had a couple of successful batches of green beans. These folks have been an unrivaled guide to home canning for more than 100 years!
Surely, I would blow up my kitchen!
What do I do when others give me wise advice? Warnings? How do I react towards them?
What do I do when I read the Bible…the wisest words of all because they are the very words of God? Do I think I know better? Or do I heed its warnings? Do I do as it says? Listen to what it’s telling me?
Not always. Sometimes my life blows up because of it.
4.He stopped revering God. I have been thinking about this a lot lately. Have we also stopped revering God? Has He become more like a “Bro” and less holy in our eyes? Have we scooted His throne over to seat ourselves beside Him…like equals?
The Bible tells us to approach the throne of grace with confidence. (Hebrews 4:16 NIV) Approach. Not rearrange for our own to be brought in.
Solomon says, don’t be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil. (Proverbs 3:7 CSB) Fear. Revere.
I’ve heard fear of the Lord is also the beginning of wisdom. (Psalm 111:10 NIV)
When we understand the character of God, when we grasp something of His holiness, then we begin to understand the radical character of our sin and hopelessness. Helpless sinners can survive only by grace. Our strength is futile in itself; we are spiritually impotent without the assistance of a merciful God.
Yes, and amen.
What happened to Uzziah can(does) happen to any(all) of us if we’re not careful.
As in my experience with the canner, I try to be with God:
So, it’s been a few months since I’ve written anything for the blog. The last post, Little Girl, Get Up, was such a hit (in my writing world) that I developed brain freeze, convincing myself that I had to write AT LEAST as good if not better. Nothing staunches creativity like the pressure to perform for an audience you cannot see nor have any control over. Unless, of course, it’s the blinking cursor and a blank page.
Anybody else get in their own head and freeze? I’m working on it and have friends and family who encourage me AND tell me to stop thinking about it and just do it! (Thanks Martha and Mace!)
I thought it would be an easy breezy way to start August out with a little Q and A, not because I’m so fascinating, famous or fun but because I need to work the kinks out of my rusty fingers and knock the dust off my keyboard!
Let’s get this first one knocked out quickly.
I was wondering……who your favorite kid is. (Submitted by Macey Phillips and Mackenzie Crumpacker)
Everyone knows the baby of the family is the favorite and can do no wrong. Just ask their older siblings. But seriously, none of you and each of you. You all bring such unique gifts and perspectives to the table that there is no favorite. I am proud of you and often wonder how God has blessed me with such amazing humans!
About the Farm:
I was wondering……when you first decided the farm life was for you? (Submitted by Jennifer Pearce)
I endearingly call where I live a farm but should probably say farmette or mini-farm because it’s just shy of three acres and not a farm in the sense that we have a lot of animals. But I love it!
I grew up about two hours northeast of the Cincy area and just south of Columbus in a very rural area of Ohio. I was raised by my grandparents who had a garden big enough to eat on during the summer and supply our food for most of the winter as well. Some of my best friends had farms, real honest to God farms like Henderson’s dairy farm and the Ritchy’s farm that raised and sold steer for meat.
My very dearest and best friend’s grandpa had a farm where she raised a cow each year to show at the Fairfield County Fair. I got to spend a lot of time with her as she trained and took care of her cows through the years. She taught me that cows are big, yes, but also so sweet natured. I would have a moo today if I were allowed to! Molly also taught me to respect the rooster who thought he owned the property that existed between getting out of the car and the door to her house. You learned to run fast or be flogged at the Young’s house!
Our first flock of chickens came about 11 years ago as a project for my husband and youngest daughter to do together. He was spending an exorbitant amount of time on the internet, researching how to build a chicken coop. I snarkily told him I didn’t know why he was wasting his time because he’d never follow through with it. The next thing I know, wood and supplies are in the garage and up goes the coop! (I don’t tell him this anymore!)
I love having the chickens now! Farm fresh eggs are the best and you always have something for breakfast, lunch and dinner!
My love for gardening and growing my own food comes from my Granny. There is just something about putting seeds in the ground and seeing the fruits of your labor on the shelves after harvest that satisfies my soul like no other. Not to mention walking out to the garden and gathering enough things for a fresh salad for lunch. Nothing tastes like an off the vine, out of your garden tomato! They say store bought tomatoes taste like disappointment. I have to agree.
I’ve slowly expanded our garden area(s) over the years as the kids have gotten older and on their own, and as I’ve gotten better at it. I’ve recently started growing medicinal herbs as well. It’s so fun to experiment!
Growing a garden teaches you so many life lessons and I love to share those here on the blog!
Thanks for asking!
I was wondering…when and what inspired you to start writing/sharing your thoughts? (Submitted by Janice Dobkins)
I started out as a speaker at women’s retreats and different events like Mother’s Day brunches and Christmas teas. But when Todd’s travel schedule started to pick up, I had to put that on the back burner because of having a younger family and both of us not being able to be out of town.
I missed being able to encourage people and share a message of hope so I started writing devotions that I emailed to a list of people. Back in the day, you could only email 100 people at a time (this was before blogs…or at least I didn’t know about them or MailChimp) so I copy and pasted the same message three times and clicked the box beside each name to send. It was quite the tedious task!
I started blogging in 2014 but not consistently until these past couple of years. I still don’t consider myself a writer per se (those words get stuck in my throat!) but would say, I’m a sharer of thoughts for sure! I’ve come a long way but still have so much to learn!
I was wondering…how/when did you know it was God putting words in your head? (Submitted by Patricia Warfield)
Oh gosh, I’m never 100% sure my thoughts are God’s words….that’s a little terrifying to me! But I do write what’s on my heart or about a concern I have or a lesson he’s teaching me or if something ticks me off pretty good.
To be completely transparent, most of the time, I think my writing is too simple, too silly, too obvious. That’s so boring! It wasn’t until I was talking with Todd one day, when he told me that he likes my posts because it makes him slow down and see things differently. He no longer sees a garden but a plethora of lessons in those seeds planted deep in the soil. I had no idea other people didn’t see what I do or think like I think.
Then I thought I was really weird, I mean who thinks like that…obviously not everyone….so I hesitated to share…again…but for different reasons.
Something I have accepted is that I probably AM really weird, but these are the gifts God has given me and I will use them to his glory! (And if it encourages, helps or makes you laugh along the way, then I’d say that’s a bonus! Even if I hesitate to hit the publish button every single time!)
I was wondering…if you’ll write a book? (Submitted in a private message)
I’ve had a handful of people tell me I have at least one and probably two in me. I’ve been learning more about writing memoir as well as figuring out my style these past couple of years.
I am currently in the very wee baby stages of writing something that is part memoir, part wildflowers, part Bible lesson and part challenge to the reader. If nothing else, it will be something my kiddos will have forever.
Thanks for asking!
I was wondering…how you prioritize your life? Because you seem to be super- human! (Submitted by Paige Braley)
That last part made me LOL! Honestly. Most days I feel anything but that!
The way I prioritize my life today looks way different than it did when all the kiddos were home and in school/sports/music/youth group etc. Most of those days were spent trying to remember who to pick up at which school, what time and on which days. (I have five kids in case someone reading this is new to me.)
I worked full-time for a season, then part-time for a few years then stayed at home once Carson was born. In each of those periods of time, my priorities looked different. I didn’t have time for any personal extracurriculars and considered it a success if everyone got picked up and dropped off on time as I high-fived Todd when he came home from out of town.
(I am that Mom who left her week old baby at the soccer field in the arms of another Mom (thanks Theresa!) because this Mom forgot it was picture day and didn’t have the two older girls wear their uniforms! This Mom could run back to the van way faster without said newborn in tow. How’s that for prioritizing? Everyone was safe. Pictures in uniforms were taken. No one needed therapy for that particular event.)
Now that I’m in my mid-fifties(!), life has slowed down in many ways but also is a little crazier. My adult kids need me differently. Grandkids are playing sports but I’m not the one getting them to and from or having to remember picture day or the half-time snack schedule. I can show up with my chair, cheer their efforts, get tickled at their antics and come home to work in my garden.
I believe we prioritize what we care about, are passionate for and brings us joy! For you it may be music or performing or helping women be their best. For me it’s planting things that grow, dabbling in herbs, also encouraging women and writing. (It’s still my family, of course, but in various other ways.)
Something that has been an unchanging, undisputable priority for me is my morning time with the Lord…for as corny as that sounds. When that gets put on the back burner, life is less manageable, I’m more anxious, angry and out of sorts. Even that looks different now than it did years ago. It’s less “check-the-box-and-get-it done-like-a-good-Jesus-girl and more grace filled. I can talk more about that if anyone is interested!
I find that different seasons bring different priorities and as I’ve aged my priorities have also changed as you’ll see in the next “I was wondering…” spotlight.
I hope that answers your question! Thanks for asking!
I was wondering…how your goals have changed over the years? (Submitted by Mark Taylor)
This one has got me thinking!
In another moment of transparency, when I first started out on the speaking circuit, I was going to 12-14 events per year with anywhere between 40 and 500 women in attendance at each event. I thought, wow! Move over Beth, this girl is an up and coming! My goal was to fill stadiums, speak to thousands and become famous.
Boy was I young. And dumb.
I will state the obvious here: that did not happen.
Scripture tells us to fan into flame the spiritual gift God imparted to you… (2Timothy 1:6NLT)
Somewhere along the way, in those early years, I forgot the “L” and tried to fan into fame those gifts God so graciously gave me.
Al Andrews says, the human soul isn’t made for fame. We become our #1 fans. That’s simply obnoxious.
John the Baptist tells us that Christmust increase, I must decrease. (John 3:30NIV) This has been my goal for many years now. While I don’t do it perfectly and the “L” gets lost on occasion, I am more and more aware that this life is not about me, but Christ in me and even more, Christ alone.
I do still enjoy writing and teaching a Bible study but it’s not about how good I am but how good and gracious God is.
I do still love to encourage women, but it looks more like one on one than one full stadium.
Something I’ve learned over the past 20 years is that people want to know they are seen, heard and loved by God. I can sit across from one woman and let her know that she is all three of those and THAT can start a fire like we’ve never known!
God fans into flame my gifts so I can then fan into flame someone else’s gifts.
Those moments put the “L” back where it belongs!
Something I wrote for my welcome page on the blog sums it up perfectly about how my goals have changed through the years:
“Over these past few years, I’ve come to realize the mountain top experience I’ve spent most of my life searching for is actually found in the ordinariness of every day. Perhaps in my fast pace run of reaching for more, I’d simply missed the joy of that which surrounds me.
I needed to become a noticer of the here and now and stop living in the if and when. I needed rest that was rooted in the acceptance of Jesus’ invitation “come to me”. It’s not always easy to do in a world that screams for our attention is it?”
I bought into the “big faith for big dreams” for the longest time. Now my goal is to simply love the person God puts in front of me today.
Being in the second half of life puts things in a different perspective. You begin to think about, not what you do necessarily, but what you’ve done. What legacy am I leaving? My spouse. My kids. My family. My friends. How has what I’ve done impacted them? What do I need to change to leave a legacy that pleases God?
If you would have told me that I would be writing about ordinary things like my garden and be known as “the chicken chucking lady”, I would have laughed. But here I am and that’s fine with me.