Life in the Middle

Fall is slipping through our fingers as October, in all her orange and golden glory, is coming to an end. I watch the seasons pass in the field across from our house. A hill of evergreens is met at the bottom by maples, birch, and oak—each presently showing off in orange, red, or yellow with just a few green leaves left here and there.

Each morning, I slip downstairs early and open the dinning room curtains. I sit at the table with espresso and my Bible and watch the fog lift in feathery strings of magic up out of the lowlands before mingling in wispy bands with all those colorful trees.

I’m having trouble comprehending how it can almost be November, how so soon we’ll be grabbing coats and boots before stepping outside in what right now is absolutely perfect weather.

Having a baby warps time a little bit, I think. The sleepless nights and relentless days bleed one into another and for a girl who loves her day planner, I’ve been surprised at how often I’ve had to ask what day it is or stop and think before I know for sure what month we’re in. Time both flies and trudges on achingly slow. Somehow, my baby is three months old and I’m both happy at watching her grow and heartbroken by the same.

20170926_213610.gifTime is a trickster, making us feel we’ve got all of it we need and might even just be stuck in the same place forever yet all the while slipping through our fingers and only being realized in the fallen leaves at our feet after months have gone by.

Darren and I sat talking the other night, a rare feat these days. Our conversation centered around the season of life we’re in, where so much seems out of reach and down the road. We are very much in the middle.

In the middle of sleepless nights and long days with little ones who need us endlessly. And though our children absolutely fill our hearts to overflowing, my gosh, I could use a nap too.

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IMG_20171007_135249_637.jpgWe’re in the middle of jobs and business plans that are neither just beginning nor anywhere near done. We’re past the initial excitement and miles from the finish line.

We’re in the middle of our marriage—being neither newlyweds nor all that far down the road of our relationship at nine yearsIMG_20170916_165423_400.jpgIn the middle (though hopefully closer to the end) of remodeling our house with a zillion big and little projects still needing to be done.

We’re working and planning and moving forward day by day by day. But the years and miles stretch out before us and it’s easy to get lost and discouraged here in the middle. I find myself wanting to start a new venture or take a big trip—just to be at the beginning of something exciting again instead of stuck halfway through all the work that eventually brings those exciting beginnings to a fruitful end. IMG_20171022_221723_349.jpgGod is teaching me a lot about my own character right now, showing me the areas in need of refinement. When I’m stuck with the hard work of doing something I began, will I have the patience, discipline, and contentment to keep plugging away day after day? Or will I quit because I’m bored and tired and it’s really, really hard here in the middle where the dust likes to settle and Satan likes to whisper so loudly in our ears about what could be or could have been if I’d just stopping wasting my time on the same old drudgery?

Fortunately, God whispers too. He whispers to my heart through his word and his people that there is a harvest to be gathered at the end of this journey if I just keep going, if I just keeping doing the same hard task over and over again. You don’t stay happily married for fifty years by walking away when the excitement grows thin. You don’t successfully raise children by giving up on lovingly disciplining and instructing them when you’re only half-way there. You have to keep going. You have to keep working all the way to the end to reap the harvest you sowed so many years ago.  IMG_20170919_132033_449.jpgSo I’m learning to endure. To keep getting up early each morning with hope that this day, so very much like the day before with all the same work needing to be done, will build slowly but faithfully into something worth having. My marriage is worth working for, as are my children, my home, and our ambitions and endeavors—all these things are worth the slow, faithful work of beginning again each day with the belief that what I do counts and will be blessed by the Lord if I stay faithful to the very end.

I hope you will be encouraged to believe and live the same. Let’s not give up in the hardness of the middle.

 

 

 

Anticipation.

I woke to the sound of rain beating steadily against the house. I stand at the window, cup of coffee in my hands, and watch droplets of rain collecting on the glass. Across the field, the trees are just beginning to noticeably blush in crimson against a backdrop of evergreens and gray.

Spring is really almost here. No, really. Almost.

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I realize it’s been spring for months in many parts of the country. But New England is stubborn and trots a season behind all spring before accelerating into fall a month ahead at the end of summer.

Summer is short so we squeeze all the fire and magic out of it while we can (and cry into our pillows once it’s gone).

I’ve filed multiple complaints against said weather but it seems this is not a democracy after all. And besides, I’ll practically be weeping over how beautiful the summers and falls are in no time so just ignore me and my whining until then (everyone here does).

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I catch myself standing at the windows—looking out, waiting—a lot this time of year. It’s as if I’m willing the crocus and daffodils to be brave and poke their heads above the cold, hard ground. Daring the trees to put on buds and open up in the morning light.

We’re achingly close to opening windows and doors and going outside in the warm weather once again—It’s palpable; I can almost taste it. And yet—we wait. We’re not there yet nor can we be. Nature will not be hurried.

I’m doubly reminded of this fact as I feel my daughter kick and nudge against my womb. She’ll be born in the summer, due just two days after my son was, and so the idea of warm weather makes me realize just how close her arrival is getting.

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Close and yet so far away. I want to hold her now. I want to kiss her and find out if she has any hair. I want to show her the wildflower nursery I’ve been getting ready and dress her in the teeny, tiny baby girl clothes I waited so long to buy. But she will come when it’s time and not a second before—like the spring flowers and rosy buds on the trees, I cannot hurry along what belongs to God and nature.

So today I stand at the glass and anticipate all that’s about to come—the warmth and sunshine, the baby girl in my arms, days spent outside instead of in. And while I wait, I’m reminded to be patient and to leave to God what is his. His timing is perfect and I’m perfected in the waiting. That’s all I need to know today.

Patience.

I’ve watched the rain fall and freeze these last few days. The sky is moody, unable to decide if it’s winter or spring. Fluffy white clouds are pushed along by chubby clouds of slate brimming with rain one minute and sleet the next. The sun breaks through now and again, threatening rebel patches of snow and inviting the timid little birds to sing. The flowers are not so brave and have yet to poke their little heads up through the cold sod.

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This world ebbs and flows in the rhythm of seasons—the hot days of summer are caught on fire by the burning leaves of fall, fall gives way to winter as the last leaves drop and tuck away beneath a wintry blanket of snow. Winter holds on forever and every year I forget spring will ever come again.

And then, just when the last shred of hope is slipping through our cold fingers, the birds come home and the snow gives way to rain and we are reminded once more that nothing in this life truly last forever—however good, however bad—this life is made up of brief, ever-changing seasons of warmth and rain, of heartache and hope.

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Life in New England teaches me patience. Through the long winters and slow advance of spring, I learn to wait. Missouri was not this way. Missouri winters yield to spring in violent cracks of thunder and electric fingers of lightning stretching from heaven to earth. The warm and cold air spin and dance in confusion knowing one must win and the battle will be fought out in violent tornadoes that ravage and forsake every bit of ground they touch.

Missouri springs are not quiet, not safe, and certainly not slow. Spring in the prairies feels as though the very land you love is trying to hurl you off of it, trying to crush and destroy you or eat you up in its loud, rumbling belly of thunder. I’m not being dramatic; I thought more than once that I would die in a Missouri spring and never see another summer.

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Sometimes, in New England, I think I will die in the winter and never see another spring—or perhaps the whole earth has died and there are no more springs to be had—now I am being dramatic.

Seasons.

Life is full of seasons, made up of seasons. There are seasons of abundance and joy and dry seasons when the soul is weary and parched. It reminds me of the land I grew up on in Missouri and the way we talked about the weather like it was money–because rain, too much or too little of it, could mean everything to a successful crop and harvest.

This winter season feels like the longest I’ve ever experienced. I usually declare it spring as soon as we’ve poked our toes across the line into March but there doesn’t seem much point in doing that this year with the snow still falling and forecasted as far out as we can see. This winter has been made up of long days cooped up in the house taking care of a baby and long nights waiting for Darren to get home from work and class. And I’m starting to feel a little parched, dried up, in need of some cleansing rain.

I’ve been discouraged, tired, overwhelmed. I’m ready to be done with winter, done with house remodeling, done with busy days that keep my little family from being together and enjoying each other.

I want to quit.

But I remembered yesterday, that life is made up of seasons–seasons of abundance and dry seasons without rain.

This discouragement, this weariness, this wanting to give up and walk away–this is just a season without rain. Seasons change. Winter, no matter how stubborn, always gives way to spring. The flowers always poke through, even if they must first poke up through the snow.

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I’m thankful that seasons come and go, ebb and flow in and out of life like the tide. I’m thankful that the longest, darkest night always gives way to dawn. But I’m even more thankful that right in the middle of the dark and dry spells, there is water and light and hope. There is God. And God doesn’t change, he doesn’t ebb and flow or fluctuate. I don’t need my life or circumstances to change in order to be refreshed–I can be refreshed right here in the desert by a God who always brings light and hope and renewal.

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Soon, the snow will melt. I will feel the sunshine on my skin and be able to go outside and stretch my legs. I can’t wait. But until then, I’m using these cooped up winter days to find the light and rain I need in my soul. This season will pass. I will look back at this winter and these first months as a mother and see this time I’m now in from a different vantage point. I have to remind myself of that–that this is a season. No matter how overwhelming a day or period may be, it will pass, it will change. And even when I’m in the middle of a long, discouraging stretch without change, God is always the same–always present, always renewing, always what my parched soul truly needs for actual, lasting change.

The Golden Hour

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 There is a certain hour in the day when dead things come alive again—resurrected by the sun. Grays and browns are robed in light and the landscape drips in gold and glitter.

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The winter earth is not dead; it’s resting, waiting, anticipating when life and color will open before us again.

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Here’s to finding new life in a new year.

In the Waiting

DSC_0370 (2){Last year’s blooms}

I always have a hard time when we reach a transition in the seasons—when, according to me and my calendar, winter should be over and spring should be well under way—but it just aint.

I get the same way after the long hot days of summer when I’m ready for crisp fall weather and hot apple cider but the weather refuses to obey me and continues cooking us until we’re all just a little too tough and overdone.

This has been an especially long cold winter and right now I just want green grass under my toes and warm sunshine on my skin. I would also very much like the snow to stop it already and please go away forever.

DSC_0376 (2){A shy flower waking up in last spring’s sunshine}

A couple of weekends ago I came up with a big plan for beating this stir craziness and ushering in spring. I was going to head over to our house remodel and work on clearing brush and construction debris. I was going to build a big—no—a huge bonfire and throw everything on it until the flames licked the sky.

I thought maybe I could melt the snow that way. I thought maybe I could trick the trees and flowers with the heat and convince them to start blooming. I thought I would build a fire big enough to coax the shy crocuses and daffodils up out of the frozen ground. I thought maybe I could even make the sun just a tad jealous and move her to shine a little warmth on our frozen landscape.

But Darren said a pregnant woman shouldn’t be moving brush and building bond fires and asked me to please stay home.

So I argued a little and then I stayed home and pouted about the weather. The cat pouted with me; we were a very sad pair.

cat{The cat trying to sit on my lap but finding he has less and less room with my big baby belly}

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the irony of it all—about how we humans so love instant gratification and have come up with so many clever ways to get just that—whatever it is we want right now with the push of a button or the swipe of a card. And yet we can’t change the seasons—neither the seasons of nature nor the seasons of life. There are just some things in life that can’t be rushed or hurried even by the immediate drive-through culture we’ve created. We have all this fancy technology and the whole world at our fingertips and still we can’t change the weather.

But I think maybe that’s a good thing. Because I think if given the opportunity, I would impatiently rush through everything and not actually experience anything at all. I’m not just eagerly waiting for warm weather and sunshine, we’re waiting for our house to be completed so we can move and we’re waiting for our baby to be born too; sometimes I get so impatient about it all. I want to pack my bags and settle into the new house. I want to be done with this place and on to the next. I want to hold my baby and kiss his head and hands and feet. I want, I want I want….everything, right now, without the waiting.

But this season of waiting is good for me because it forces me to slow down and take in what’s happening instead of impatiently rushing along and missing all the quiet moments in between.

Being forced to wait for what I want teaches me to savor what I will eventually get—because it gives me so much time to anticipate and desire and hope and prepare instead of just immediately walking away with my every wish as we are now so accustomed to doing.

Spring will be all the sweeter because winter has been so long.

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Holding our baby will be all the more precious because I have slowly, month by month, felt him move and grow and my desire to hold and know him has grown with the waiting.

dsc_1220{Tiny little clothes for our little baby boy}

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DSC_1242{I can’t get over how teeny tiny adorable newborn diapers are…I’m sure I’ll change my mind after changing a few hundred of them}

DSC_1214{A couple weeks ago at 22 weeks}

And our house, that crazy undertaking, will be all the better too because we will have worked and waited for so long to call it home.

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I don’t like waiting, but I’m honestly really thankful that life sometimes forces me to slow down and just want something for a while. I don’t want to get so caught up in the immediate that I lose all sense of dreaming about and anticipating what isn’t yet mine.

Life is all about seasons. Some seasons carry us along quickly and some ask us to quietly wait and savor what we already have. Right now I’m learning to savor; to savor the fluttery movements of the baby I want to hold and meet, to savor the days Darren and I have left with just the two of us before this baby does come, to appreciate the home we already have, and to somehow even be thankful for these cold winter days—because soon enough I’m sure, I’ll be complaining about how hot it is all the time.

us{Enjoying the days with just the two of us}

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11 {ESV}

Winter Hues

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I don’t pull my camera out very often in the winter. I forget to look for the beauty and the magic when the world is cold and gray— when it seems like everything is dead or asleep until a warmer, better day.

But sometimes I remember to look. Sometimes the light pouring in the kitchen window catches my eye and the sun falling sleepily below the horizon beckons me to come outside and see.

Sometimes dead things frosted and glittering with snow and ice are as lovely as a winter flower, blooming and blossoming from the grave.

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Katniss comes outside with me and tip toes through the snow while we hunt for pretty things.

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And sometimes, when we are patient with the cold, we find a whole living world of green and gold growing in our own back yard.

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says ‘Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.’”   -Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Overflowing.

I haven’t thought a thing about resolutions this year because I feel there is nothing in the whole world I could possibly want right now. I feel full to the brim and overflowing. I feel like my heart will burst and to want anything more than what I already have is just plain greedy.

2013 was a bright, beautiful year for me and Darren. Not every year is of course. Actually, the last two or three years before it have been pretty tiring and blah and perhaps that is part of why this past year stood out as such a happy one for us.

Sometimes I’m afraid to talk about the good things in my life—the things I’m most thankful for—because I don’t want to sound like a braggart or someone who has absolutely everything. No one I know enjoys being around someone like that so instead I tend to focus on the hard things in order to be real and relatable, in order to let others know that our lives aren’t perfect and we do truly understand what others are going through. But right now I feel that not being thankful and mentioning the good things would be the exact opposite of real and relatable—we have much to be thankful for and to pretend otherwise would be a little dishonest.

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Before this year, I had gotten to a place where I knew certain things in my life needed to change but I couldn’t see any end in sight to the way things were. It was quite depressing, actually—struggling through each day as it rolled in exactly the same as the one before and wondering if there would ever be any way out. I was exhausted and lonely and struggling along but didn’t know how to make any real changes. I felt like the way things were was just exactly how they had to be and how they would always remain.

I started reading about the children of Israel wandering through the wilderness, hoping I would find something to encourage and carry me through what felt like a private wilderness experience. I felt parched, dried up and alone in the desert.

But this year some light broke through and things started to change. I know that real change needs to be internal not circumstantial. But sometimes when you’re drowning, all you really need is to be pulled to shore before you sink completely. This year anchored me and pulled my head above water—it feels really good to breathe again.

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First of all, in April Darren and I bought an old colonial house needing a little love. The most important thing about this house is its location—in the country, close to the woods, wrapped around by trees. Both Darren and I grew up in the country and I don’t think either of us realized how much we would miss the land and the woods. We’ve lived in town ever since we moved to Massachusetts five years ago but have been hoping ever since then that we would be able to buy a home of our own in the country.

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{Wild flowers Darren picked for me in our new yard}

I grew up in a place that was a little bit magical—though I didn’t know it at the time. In the country, in the woods, close to the land…that is where I was shaped and made into who I am. I left the woods behind and took off as fast as I could for Massachusetts and all the excitement of the coast and the cities out east. I like it here in New England; it’s a lovely place to live.

But I miss the woods. I miss the wheat fields—the golden stalks turned pink and orange in the late afternoon sun. I miss the vastness, the endless rolling hills of crops. I miss the grass and dirt beneath my bare feet. I miss the rhythm of life lived close to the land. I miss having enough time and attention to notice the palette of colors used by the sun in painting the earth awake and asleep each day. I miss how bright and clear the stars were over the fields at night, unobstructed by the lights down here, enchanted by the lights up there.

All these things got into my blood and my soul, and though I left them behind, they won’t leave me alone. I can’t find my place, my peace, my sense of balance without them.

I don’t know that I’ll ever make it back to the plains or the prairies where I’m from but I’ve known for a long time now that I absolutely must find my way back to the woods. And this shabby colonial of ours is just exactly what we’ve needed to do that.

Knowing that soon our days spent sharing a duplex and yard right on the road will end and we’ll be able to settle into our first single family home with our own private back yard is just about too much…I. Am. So. Excited. and so, so thankful. When I get frustrated and discouraged about where we are I’m encouraged by knowing there’s end in sight and soon we’ll be back in the woods where we belong.

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{Still waters found on a walk through the woods near our new house}

Here we will have a place to plant a garden and a yard to walk around in. We’ll be able to raise our kids close to the land which is so very important to both of us. We’ll be able to see the stars at night and watch the sun cast its brilliant rays across the fields at sunset. I think we’ll both breathe again and feel like we’re really living the way we’re meant to, just the way our souls were put together and intended to get along. It’s a huge gift and I’m so thankful.

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In June we went to Europe—Europe! This was not just a fancy vacation for us—it was a giant adventure we had both hoped for since our teens. We wanted to see the world, experience different cultures and see what people so different from us are like.

From Spain to France, Italy to Croatia and on to England we were able journey and explore. We rode trains and ferries and shared a taxi with strangers from other countries. We jumped in the Mediterranean and Adriatic and wound in a bus up the Amalfi Coast past lemon groves and rooftop gardens.

We walked and walked…through Pompeii, Sicily, Venice, Marseilles, Rome…on and on until we collapsed in bed each night…exhausted but happy.

We drank the best coffee in Barcelona and ate scrumptious pizza while we sat on the curb waiting for the train in Pisa. We found that people all over the world are kind and friendly and willing to help when you are lost and confused and don’t speak the language.

It was magic and I’ll never ever forget what it felt like to be lost and found at the same time stomping around the globe and seeing the world with my own two eyes.

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Finally, in the fall my sneaking suspicion that a baby was on the way was confirmed. I’ve known for a long time that I wanted to stay home and raise a family. Though I’ve enjoyed the years I’ve spent working outside the home and am thankful for the skills and experience I’ve gained, I’ve always looked forward to the day when I could wholly focus on raising a family instead.

Maybe some people will think less of me for choosing housework and a baby on my hip over a career at a growing company—that’s fine—we don’t all have to be the same or want the same things. I want to stay home, cook meals from my garden, and raise a houseful of munchkins and I’m thankful we’re finally on the road to starting a family of our own.

I’m sure there will be days when I wonder what on earth I was thinking and will wish for high heels and the office. But ultimately, I know my heart and soul are most settled at home—this is the place where I’m most gifted and centered and I’m ready to make the trade for this new life—however difficult and exhausting it may sometimes be.

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{Moments from our year}

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

a time to kill, and a time to heal;

a time to break down, and a time to build up;

a time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

a time to seek, and a time to lose;

a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

a time to tear, and a time to sew;

a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

a time to love, and a time to hate;

a time for war, and a time for peace

He has made everything beautiful in its time.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 & 11

I’m thankful for a year of much-needed change that helped refresh our spirits and renew our focus. I’m thankful too that life is all about seasons and that nothing is forever. I’ve enjoyed this season of our lives and look forward to the seasons to come. Thank you for sharing the past year with us; I’m looking forward to sharing this new year with you too :]

The Seeds We Plant

It’s getting cold here in New England; it even snowed a little the other day. Today when I went outside it felt so warm I thought it must be in the 70s but the temperature read only 48°. Regardless, I celebrated the heat-wave by leaving my coat home today :]

As warm as 48° feels, winter is still inching in around us and Darren and I were busy for a few days trying to beat the frost and get hundreds {or a billion} daffodil, crocus, and tulip bulbs dug up and transplanted for spring. That’s the thing about flowers and spring—you have to plan ahead if you want to see color and results when the world finally thaws out months from now.

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We got all the bulbs in the ground where we wanted them and then a few days later it was really warm and pretty so I kicked off my shoes, rolled up my pant legs, and went around the yard filling the wheel-barrow up with pretty round rocks to use as a border around the flowers. It took a lot of loads back and forth to wrap all the way around the area I wanted but it felt good to be outside tramping around in the dirt and grass. Darren called me Tom Sawyer the rest of the day but I think he meant it affectionately :]

I’ve been thinking a lot about those little bulbs we put into the ground and all the work and planning that goes into having a pretty yard and garden come spring. And I’ve thought a lot too about all the other seeds we plant, not in the yard and garden, but in our hearts and lives.

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Words, actions, thoughts, decisions—these are the seeds planted throughout our lives that carry with them the power to grow either beauty or weeds in the soil of our hearts and souls.

I think about the words we hear growing up and how those little seeds grow in us and shape us for better or worse all throughout our lives. I think about all the decisions we make and how they too take root and grow into either weeds or blossoms in the tender sod of hearts.

Once weeds take root, they are hard to pluck out; they hold on and keep coming back up over and over again. It doesn’t seem fair that just the opposite is true of flowers—they are tender, delicate, easy to root out and kill. Beauty and blossoms have to be nurtured or they will suffer and die.

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It’s just the same with nurturing beauty in our hearts and lives—you only need be told once that you are stupid or unwanted to have that weed planted in your heart—and plucking it back out will likely have to be done again and again as the weeds keep springing back up. But it seems we must be told many times throughout our lives that we are loved and wanted and worthy before those tender seeds take root and are finally settled into our hearts producing fruit.

So be careful of the seeds you plant—the words, the actions, the thoughts and decisions. Be careful of the seeds you plant in the lives of others and careful of the seeds you let take root in your own heart and soul.

Because once weeds take root they are hard to pluck out and blossoms easily die.

So Long Summer

You won’t believe it but summer is almost over. I tried pretending for a while that it wasn’t true but I’m afraid it’s so.

The other day I pulled a lawn chair outside under my favorite tree and let the warm summer air dance through my hair.

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I looked up at the canopy of leaves overhead and noticed how very freckled and tired they have become after months under the summer sun.

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I told them not to worry, I’m pretty freckled too from my own time in the sun. Then I saw all the leaves on the ground and realized that a few of them have given up entirely.

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And I thought about being sad but then I remembered that it’s okay—no really it is—because fall is lovely too. And those leaves know the best is yet to come. Soon they’ll all be robed in gold and orange and red and a fantastic show it will be.

As a peace-offering for the end of the season, football will start and we can all feel better about that. There will be pumpkin lattes for everyone and the apples at the orchards will be ready to pick and bring home for lots of yummy, spicy apple things like pie, and bread, and my favorite—apple fritters like my mom used to make.

So don’t you dare be sad—fall will be lovely too :]