Sunday, August 31, 2014

August Days and a Few Thoughts to Share

It is hard to believe that tomorrow is the first day of September . . . September! In just a few weeks summer will be left behind and fall will have begun. Where did the days of August go? While they flew by quickly, they were wonderful ones here overall and full of pleasant busyness and a great many other things as well.

Canning lots of tomato sauce (and soon salsa and ketchup, too!) . . . more green beans going into the freezer . . . putting parts of the garden to bed . . . spending a fun day at the State Fair (and a post about that will be coming eventually) . . . several Saturday mornings at the farmer's market . . . digging more potatoes . . . squeezing bits of time in to do a little embroidering . . . studying certain topics in Scripture . . . trying new recipes . . . harvesting and drying Jewelweed (which I'll be experimenting with in soap when it's ready) . . . making soap . . . and much more.

Freshly harvested Jewelweed

And then there are the more 'mundane' tasks . . . early mornings sweeping the floors and tidying up the house with the morning light just beginning to filter in through the windows, walking through the dew-laden grass to bring the first load of laundry out to hang on the line, taking care of the animal chores while the air still has the early morning quietness and stillness to it, baking bread, washing dishes, pulling weeds, cleaning, and the list could go on and on.

There is so much to be thankful for and to delight in in simply our every day lives . . . and that is one thing that has especially been on my heart this summer. To not just make it through the summer busyness or get caught up in the busyness and forget to simply enjoy it . . . to not just get things crossed off of a to-do list and keep up with the day-to-day tasks, but instead . . . to seek to truly enjoy and delight in every little task that helps to make our house a home and that can bless and encourage my family. And it has been wonderful.

Embroidery in progress . . . and the verse on it has been a fitting reminder!

Yes, there have definitely still been those days when I feel tired or uninspired! :) Or days when things are just hard and my heart is heavier. Yet when turning my focus away from self to truly loving others, to the Lord, to doing all things to serve Him, it is amazing how one's heart and outlook can change.

"Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men" (Colossians 3:23)

It turns even those least favorite tasks into acts of love and opportunities to glorify the Lord . . . even though you may be tired after a long day, it makes cooking dinner or doing anything else a delight simply because you are serving and loving your family through it . . . and it makes those things you especially enjoy doing all the more meaningful simply because they are being done for the Lord and others and not for self.

"She . . . works with her hands in delight . . . she looks well to the ways of her household"
(Proverbs 31:13, 27)

So as our summer days have been flying by, this is some of what has been on my heart. Learning from the everyday, seeking to grow in these areas, delighting in the life that God has given me, and thanking Him for all He is teaching me and the blessings He continues to give in abundance!

"Our days are like beautiful summer fields as God gives them to us. The minutes are blooming flowers and silvery blades of grass and stalks of wheat with their germs of golden grains. The hours are trees with their rich foliage or vines with their blossom potentials of purple clusters. Oh the endless, blessed possibilities of the days and hours and minutes as they come to us from God's hands! But what did you do with yesterday? How does the little acre of that one day look to you now? What are you doing with your time? Every moment God gives us has in it a possibility of beauty as well as something to be accounted for. Are we using our time for God?" ~ J. R. Miller

Friday, August 15, 2014

Simple Pleasures in the Everyday

One day this week I brought our Boer does back to graze in an electronet paddock my Dad set up and took my camera along and enjoyed some time sitting out on their grain feeder in the peaceful afternoon taking in the beauty all around.

When one looks at any view in nature, it is often the whole that is seen . . . yet it is amazing when you stop and really start looking at the small things that make up the whole, to see how much diverse beauty and detail there is. 

Looking towards our neighbor's pasture

I was out there for quite awhile soaking in the peacefulness, praying, thinking, watching various insects and butterflies, listening to the birds singing and the honeybees buzzing around nearby flowers, petting the goats whenever they came up for attention, and then photographing some of the 'little' things that caught my eye . . .

(And after uploading the photos, I used the book Missouri Wildflowers to identify most of the flowers in the below photos which was fun to do! For some reason, knowing the names of the plants makes it that much more enjoyable when I see them.)

Tall Bell Flower

 I couldn't find this plant in the book, nor online either . . . any ideas? The little pods open into tiny orange flowers (one can be seen in the photo.) Then in the fall, the seed pods dry and rattle in the wind. One thing I discovered about them this week is that the honeybees love them!

Edited to add: I was able to identify it! It's called Figwort and is a native herb that has a range throughout much of the United States. When reading online about it, I discovered that it is another wild plant that can be used medicinally. 

A honeybee on the 'mystery plant'

Sierra, Aspen and Sienna

A Turkey Vulture flying overhead

The sky was beautiful this day!

A Grand-Daddy Longleg 
(I'm not sure if that is their proper name or not, :) but that is what we've always called them!)

Jewelweed . . . which I just recently discovered is supposed to be good for treating poison ivy

Mist Flower

 Brown-Eyed Susans
(I didn't even know there was such a thing until looking in the wildflower book! They have smaller flower heads and many branching stems compared to the larger flowers and single stemmed Black-Eyed Susan.)


 Aurora, Sienna and Aspen

On a different note, Leah and I started harvesting the potatoes this week! So far we have 162 pounds, and there are still some to harvest, but they aren't quite ready yet.

Some of the freshly dug potatoes

Out of all the garden produce to harvest, I think potatoes rank up there as one of my top favorites. It's almost like digging for hidden treasure :), never knowing how many potatoes you'll find or how large they'll be. Our potatoes did very well this year, and we are thankful for how many we've been able to harvest!

This time of year also marks when the wild plums start ripening. Earlier this year it looked like we were going to have quite a large crop, but then in the last few weeks, most of the plums began falling off of the trees when only partially ripened. Today I was able to harvest some from the trees that I normally pick from, but not many.

Then I remembered about a few more wild plum trees at a corner of our property that in the past, haven't produced very well, but I thought that perhaps there might be some on the trees this year. One of the trees had a little more than the other trees had had, but still not very many. And then I saw this tree . . .

It had so many plums on it!

I don't think we have ever had a tree produce as well as this one has this year! I picked the lower branches and then worked my way up the tree using a step stool to reach as high as I possibly could. It was so fun picking and even more so seeing the basket and bowls quickly filling  . . .

Some of the plums

I know what I'll be doing this afternoon :) . . . washing, crushing and juicing the plums in order to make some jelly and maybe some syrup, too!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Morning Drive to the Market

The Saturday before last, Leah and I were just about ready to head out for the farmer's market when I had a last minute thought to bring my camera. The morning light was beautiful which made me think it would be nice to take a few photos along the drive. I am glad I brought it along as with the fog and sunshine, it made for one of the prettiest morning drives we have had . . .

In the tree covered hills

Almost to the bottoms . . . with a heavy fog in the distance

Tall cornfields all tasseled out line much of the highway

Trees disappearing into the fog

When we got closer to the river, the fog got really thick!

As we crossed the bridge, it began to dissipate and the old train bridge could then be seen in the distance 

These drives are always so pleasant! And on a morning like this one was, it was especially so.

 Leah and I have really been enjoying our Saturday mornings at the farmer's market, and it has been so nice getting to know the other vendors. One of my favorite parts of the day is when we are all arriving, setting up, visiting, and simply having a fun time getting ready.

Visiting with the customers is also much enjoyed! I especially like the long conversations with several of the older people who come by. We're getting to the point now that we recognize some of the regulars :), and it's a real treat to see the familiar faces as they come up to our booth to visit for a bit.

So there you have a tiny glimpse into what our early Saturday mornings are often like! Though we don't often get to enjoy a drive quite as pretty as this one was. :)

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Like a Tree Planted by the Water

Lately I have been reading through the book of Jeremiah, and what a sad book it is . . . the Lord pleading with the nation of Israel to turn back to Him, and while they continue to say they follow Him and certainly appear religious, they worship and serve other gods, rejecting the One who had done so very much for them, the one true God. The Lord pronounces righteous judgment against them, yet still they continue in their rebellious ways.

One thing that especially stands out to me whenever I read this is God's amazing love for man and specifically the nation of Israel. Yes, He judged when necessary, yet part of the purpose of that judgment was to turn their hearts back to Him. And if they had but repented and turned to Him in repentance with a whole heart, they would have been forgiven. His love and mercy truly know no bounds!

And He continued to give such beautiful promises to them. One from chapter 17 that I read several days ago really spoke to my heart . . . .

"Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD
and whose trust is the LORD.
For he will be like a tree planted by the water,
that extends its roots by a stream
And will not fear when the heat comes;
But its leaves will be green,
And it will not be anxious in a year of drought
nor cease to yield fruit."
Jeremiah 17:7-8

How encouraging and also convicting this is! Trusting . . . by simply trusting in our all-knowing, all-loving, and all-wise God and Father, having Him as our trust and surety, we are like that tree. Growing strong from the living water that He gives to us, nourished and bearing fruit through the sustenance He alone gives. Resting in peace and not fear as we are forever rooted in the life-giving stream of Jesus Christ.