Friday, April 13, 2012

When you're alive from the one spot you have

It is a good morning for dreams. Rain and thunder and lightning. Earl Grey tea. A fire skillfully built -- how can he coax flame from wet wood?

It was he, the fire-maker, the one patient one who waits for flickers and sparks, who suggested it.

"Remember Mary?" he said. "The lady who made our rehearsal dinner?"

I remember Mary.

He looked up from his Facebook feed. "She's having her Cluttered Cottage sale. Do you wanna go? 8 on Friday morning."

Antiques and vintage were not his first language, but this man, he has studied to learn the foreign that speaks to his wife's heart.

So we wake up early (another measure of love) and carry coffee to the car, layered as if it were November and not April. The road winds. Trees outnumber houses. A right turn on H, a left turn on EE. Black cows, fat with calves unborn, munch next to wire strung taut.

So much beauty, so close to our daily grind, yet who remembers trees and hills and hand-lettered signs for farm fresh eggs in the midst of all the crazy days?

Sometimes it is all we need: a different angle. An unfamiliar perspective.

To rouse up the dead.

To awaken to life.

One last turn onto gravel, and Mary, she is the image I recall, rosy cheeks, everlasting smile.

The Cluttered Cottage is a work of art, a canvas painted by this woman with Midas hands. Trash turned to gold, hung from rafters, arranged on platters.

It is lovely.

Mary is lovely.

We forgot our money, and all Aaron carries is two dollars. I am disppointed, but I wander the four rooms and realize it is good, this forced role change. From to consumer to observer. The lust to acquire falls from a shout to silence.

I am drawn to one thing in particular. A vintage mountain lithograph perched high on a cracked window frame.

"How much?" I hope she doesn't say three dollars.

"Oh 50 cents," she beams as I take it down. "I don't do this for the money. I do it for the fun."

And I can tell she truly means it. The cottage, with cracked plaster and fading floors, is transformed by her warmth. She does this for fun. She does it for love.

We drive back home, and I clutch the picture.

"Do you think we'll ever live in the country?" I wistfully ask Aaron. "I feel like following Jesus means we can never live in the country."

He smiles. He is used to the melodrama I weave into many thoughts. "Maybe following Jesus will mean moving to the country."

I murmur to my heart, as we glide back into town, the truth I know. The truth I saw shining in Mary this morning. It's not about the country or the city.

It's about this beauty, the beauty of a risen Christ, being manifest in every part of my life. It's about living full, taking others by the hand, running with them to the fountain I know is always fresh, always clean, always cold.

My heart throbs with life. My insides jump up in hope, and I volunteer again for this mystery, this comedy, this drama. This life.

And this I believe: the Giver of Dreams, He writes a good script.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

6 ways to garden on the cheap

The girls at work call me an old lady.

At first, I was mildly offended. Most people still think I'm in college from a first look. I guess it's after I open my mouth and start talking about my hobbies that the old lady makes her appearance.

I get it. The girls I work with are barely 20. What was I interested in when I was 20? Um, boys?

So I'm 27, and I love gardening. Unashamedly. I will apparently try to tell you about it even if you just graduated from your teenage years.

I'm not doing as much gardening this spring, since we'll be gone all summer. But. I can't keep away from it entirely. There's maintenance! And seed-starting! Because I already have seeds and they are free!! And if they die when we are gone it's okay because they were free!! Oh my dear garden, how I love thee.

I got to thinking about ways that I save money in the garden. It can be an expensive hobby, especially if you like rare and unusual cultivars. (See how I just pulled out the word cultivar?)

Here's what I thought of:

1. Compost. Trying to garden with bad soil is like trying to eat soup with a fork. Buying compost, peat moss, and manure from the store adds up. What to do? Enter the homemade compost pile! Ours is in an old metal trash can. I had Aaron drill holes in the sides of it, and I fill it up with dead leaves, grass clippings, fruit and veggie scraps, eggshells, etcetera. Over the winter I just let it sit there. But once spring comes, I strap the lid on with a bungee cord

This is me strapping the cord on at night. Don't worry, it's the same process in the day.

and roll it back and forth across our yard.

This is me rolling at night. Don't worry, it's the same process in the day.

About once every other day. It helps everything decompose faster. I'm sure our neighbors think I'm crazy. It's okay. Old ladies sometimes are. There are all sorts of things you can put in your compost, but the key thing to remember is to balance green material with brown material. Try to keep it even, and the pile will do its thing better.

Compost is your friend!

2. Become friends with other gardeners. Preferably experienced gardeners with vast gardens. Perennials need dividing every few years, and even when it's not time to divide, a little section can be sheared off without harm to the plant. You then have a free plant! My mom and I swap plants like this, and it's a great way to add plants to your garden without buying them.

My mom shares her hostas with me

3. Haunt the clearance racks. Lowes almost always has clearance carts floating around their garden section. I have gotten gallon perennials for as cheap as $1.00 off this rack. Same with Wal-Mart. Throughout the summer, look for plants that have been marked down. These clearanced plants take a little extra love, but I have successfully nursed lots of them back to life. Totally worth the savings. Our local nurseries mark down perennials around August--still plenty of time for a plant to get its roots established before the first frost.

4. Start from seed. This is a great option for plants that you want to experiment with. I started lupine from seed last year, knowing that it isn't native to our area. But for a $1.00 seed packet, I thought it was worth the risk. It's actually doing really well this year and is going to bloom. When you start something from seed, you'll feel really proud. You'll start taking your guests to see it, and you'll say something ridiculous like, "See this plant? I grew it from seed. Do you know how long that takes?" Not that I've ever done that.

Columbine I started from seed

5. Garage sales! I have bought so many pots at garage sales. Big, big pots that would sell for 15 dollars at Wal-Mart, and I fork out a buck or two. Take it from me: don't buy pots new.

Pansies in a garage sale pot

6. Overwinter annuals. Not all annuals can overwinter. Some can. I think they are generally called tender perennials in that case. :) Petunias will die inside. Geraniums won't. I have a friend who overwinters her impatiens. I haven't had luck with those, but she is a great gardener. This winter, I brought in four geraniums and a fuchsia plant that I paid 15 dollars for in a moment of weakness. There was no way I was letting Old Man Winter kill that baby. All five made it through a winter of neglect in our sunroom. I watered them maybe once? The abundant light kept 'em hanging on, and now they are back outdoors and ready for another season. And I just saved 30 dollars. Booyah.

Dianthus my sister gave me when she moved overseas

Phew. Who knew I had so much to say about gardening?

If all of this overwhelms you because you don't garden, read this and then get yo'self some zinnia seeds. I'm telling ya, we can all be old ladies...ahem...gardeners. :)

I gotta give some credit where credit is due: a shout-out to the ladies that taught me to love gardening and help me do it cheaply. Thank you Mom, Rach, Lea Ann, and Carol! And no, I don't think you're old. :) Or if you are, at least we're in this together.

Aaron wants to add his tip:

Don't kill a bee.

That's all we got, people.

(All pictures are current garden blooms.)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Grace: It really is for me?

I've been a good girl my whole life. I've been told that Jesus needs me to work hard for Him and that my responsibility is to live a holy life so He isn't shamed. I've been trying. For 27 years, I've been trying.

Yesterday, I laid against Aaron's chest and cried. I have been feeling guilty about our trip to Europe. Why should we spend so much money on ourselves when there is a dying world out there? How can we be so selfish? As these thoughts took on words, I realized something else, something very huge. I still believe that I have to earn God's love. I haven't yet graduated to debt free. I am never done. The balance never swings to green.

If I have a few more people over for fellowship...

If we give a little more of our monthly income to the poor...

If I spend a half hour more in the Word this morning....

It nearly bowled me over to realize that most of the time, I feel as if God is disappointed in me. That He is up in heaven, shaking His head as He watches me scurry around, whispering to Himself, "She just doesn't get it."

No. I don't get it.

But not in the way I thought I was missing it.

I found Romans 3:23-24 this morning, and read it slowly. I know the verse by heart. I bet you do too.

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus."

I grabbed the Greek dictionary off the shelf. What is the word for grace? It is charis, and it means "graciousness: acceptable, benefit, favor, gift, joy, liberality, pleasure."

God was pleased to offer me grace? It was a pleasure to Him? He liberally bestowed grace; He gave it as a favor, as a gift; it brought Him joy to give it???

Why does all of this sound like a foreign language to me?

I think the church today is afraid of grace. We are afraid of it because we don't want to encourage anyone to be flippant, to think they're okay when they're really not. So instead of starting with grace, we start with rules.

But the problem is, no one's life is ever transformed by rules.

I would venture to say I'm not the only one who thought she had to start with the rules.

I'll bet I'm not the only one who's burnt-out, tired, scared, and a little bit bitter.

And I know I'm not the only one in desperate, desperate need of grace.

We have to start with the too-good-to-be-true. We have to start there. All else is death. The truth that Jesus has done everything that we could never do. The truth that we are already good enough, already loved enough, already free enough.

Does that make you want to shout or not?


For those still worried to talk too much about grace, to give people too much license, I say this: grace motivates us to live for the one who gives it, something a list of law can never ever do.

Grace. It is really for you. It is really for me.

Jesus, help our unbelief.