Friday, September 19, 2014

This Must Be a God Thing

God always gives His best to those who leave the choice with him. ~Jim Elliot

Some would say it is a coincidence, but I would say it must be God. It all started with me posting... well, actually, it started before that....

Hmm.

How does one get from changing phones to finding a reputable siding company to confirmation of home church concerns?

I guess the very first thing that put this into motion was that our wireless phone system was not doing its job very well anymore. You see, I like having my hands free when I talk on the phone, so I always use a headset. Most of the time, I talk while doing quiet, mind numbing tasks that have no favor with me, like folding and putting away laundry or dusting...these are extremely boring, need-no-thought tasks that I found go so much faster and are far more enjoyable when I am talking on the phone.

Now the problem was that the phone system, being older, was not doing well with all the other wireless technology we have added. A few years ago, we had changed from a land line to a VOIP, which took care of the line static that was quite annoying and made it difficult for both parties to hear each other. The VOIP was very quiet, however as time went on the signal between the base and the phone being used was breaking up in more areas of our home, so that there were few zones with a clear signal for a conversation. One of the worse zones is where I fold my laundry and go to talk in solitude. After a couple of years dealing with this difficulty, my husband and I seriously began considering changing over to completely cellular even though it would be a greater monthly expense.

I did have a cellular phone--a prepaid flip phone that usually cost me only $50 a year, because I just did not use it much--so we decided to keep that plan and get a new flip phone for our daughter. It is not hers, per se, but rather the one we allow her to use when we are apart. I looked at phones a few months before choosing my smart phone: Samsung Galaxy 5. I had not had a fully functioning smart phone before, but my husband assured me that once I picked the phone I really wanted, I would love it...and I really do love it. It is like my Kindle with more and I can access the Internet from anywhere, which I rarely do but that feature has come in handy a time or two. What an amazing feat in technology! It is great for picture taking and then I can send the photo immediately. You might be rolling your eyes here and I know others have been doing this for awhile, but I only had a flip phone before. The downside is that I have had to get use to taking my phone with me everywhere or placing it near me even in the house, which was new. I have willing tethered myself to this small bit of technology; owned by it as much as I own it. Now on any given moment of the day, I find myself moving my laptop with my Kindle and Galaxy also in tow. So it goes with technology enslavement!

After the phone switch, we then had an unused three-phone, two-line wireless phone system I bought when I had a home business and needed the second line, although I had not used the second line feature in nine years. I listed the phone system on Craigslist for a very reasonable price and got a good bite within a day.

I met with the woman to make the transaction with the three phones, head set, and manual (yeah, I do keep everything) and tell her about the one phone, which was used more than the others, might need a new battery as it is functioning but quirky at times. She was far more interested in the intercom workings because she is going to use it in her business...which originally was a roofing company but with her partner it has added siding, windows, gutters, and more. Just what we need to fix our home. The company has her father's name, but he retired giving half of his business to his daughter and the other half to a young man who was a developer that he hired years ago--not sold, gave. I was impressed when she told me that they never do anything on credit in their company. We used to see their billboards in the area with their name, but her father told them that Jesus was the only advertising they needed, so no more billboards. That impressed me even more and since then God has blessed them so they have been busier than ever.

I asked to set up a time to get an estimate because we probably have just under half of what we need to have the work done and I have a very good feeling about this company. When the partner came to talk with both my husband and I about what we wanted to have done, we were pleased the quality of the products he uses and his candor, but we are still cautious having been burned so badly the last time we had such major work done.

As we talked, the conversation somehow turned to churches. We told him that we might be looking again for another. This man also has a Christian band and has lived in the area all his life so he gave us referrals of churches that might be more encouraging of getting the Princess involved with music. We also mentioned that we were having issues with "Encounter." It was not until then that he told us his sister used to go to our church and she left over that same thing. There is such tremendous pressure and secretiveness encircling Encounter that it just did not feel right to her.

That was confirmation I had been praying about for sometime. I had been questioning myself, wondering if I was making this more of an issue than it is because when I am sitting in this church, I  cannot help but feel like they (all the ones who have been to Encounter) think I am second-hand Christian. I cannot see how anyone can feel like he belongs in this church without having been to Encounter. Also, I have noticed over the months that a few people are missing who used to go every Sunday and I thought maybe they were going to the later service or to the other campus, but we have had a few services with everyone together and I still have not seen these people. I know that a few did not have any Internet access and it is frustrating how heavily the church relies on Facebook. Honestly, I do not know why these people are no longer coming, but it seems it started a few months ago with the push for the last Encounter.

I also want to say that I do not feel Encounter is a bad thing, I just still feel no leading from my Lord to go to it and I am concerned about what I am seeing, how such importance is being placed on it within the church...actually the many churches that embracing this across the country. There is good that comes from it for many people (we don't know exactly what because they are told not to talk about it to people who have not been to it--the outsiders that they do not call "outsiders") but there is also division and an undercurrent of judging to which they would never admit...and tactful, but ever persistant urgings that all this would go away for us if we would just go to Encounter. Yet, this is not a good reason to go.

~ My Lord, thank you for your answers to prayer about getting our house fixed and about concerns we have had with our church. Please guide our steps and have us follow You closely as decisions are made. ~

Friday, August 22, 2014

Love Bracelets

Beauty... is the shadow of God on the universe.
~Gabriela Mistral, DesolacĂ­on

While I was beautifying my gardens in the mornings and on cool days and some evenings, I was secretly starting a business in afternoons, during bad weather, and other evenings. Remember My Love Bracelet? Well, I really loved those beaded charm bracelets so much that I toyed around with the idea for months and then I finally justified my desires with the concept that it would be a very good opportunity to teach my daughter about entrepreneurship.

The Princess had been having fun making the Rainbow Loom bracelets that so many of her friends were also making and she talked of selling her creations but the problem is that so many girls are making them that there is no market. I tried to help her understand the concept of supply and demand in marketing. It is fine for her to enjoy making the rubber band bracelets and she even came up with a few of her own designs! However, it was probably always going to be a hobby, rather than a means to make a bit of coin.

With her desire to create things to sell and make some money...and the fact that we were both into bracelets...and that the beaded charm bracelets were so much like the expensive Pandora bracelets but could be sold at a fraction of the price--Imagine the cost of a completed bracelet matching or being less the cost of just one Pandora bead!--I knew that many of the women in my area would love to have one (or two or three). Then they would also love get some for friends and family as gifts because they really are quite lovely, fun, and affordable.

So, I began looking into sources for good quality glass beads, charms, and bracelets. My bracelets and charms are not sterling silver, but they are lead and nickel free, which was important to me because I am allergic to nickel. After making a few bracelets that I personally liked, just in case I would not sell any, I just matched what I was wearing whenever I went out and interest just happened...except it seemed that everyone wanted colors I did not have at the time so, of course, I had to order more beads, then it was some wanted more bling, and then...you get the picture. In testing the market, we found that the prospects look promising and, hopefully, the Princess is beginning to understand  how to create a market because that people tend to want what they see and do not yet have.

I can spend hours looking at beads and charms to buy and more hours playing with combinations of them. It even surprises me how much I am enjoying this!




I spent several days with the camera and lighting equipment I had on hand testing how to take the best photographs of these beaded beauties. Above is one I call "You Need a Little Christmas." Then I posted them on Pinterest under the name of Miss T. Treasures and I have a few more to post yet too. So, you can see I now have a wide variety, but the cool thing, besides I can wear any as my favorite for the day (which is difficult to choose and so very, very nice!), is that everyone can personalize her own bracelet. I have made some that might be close to what a person would like and then it is just a matter of getting the right bracelet size and switching out a few beads and charms they do not like want for the ones they do. I am not planning to do this as an online business, presently, but who knows? I just think the bracelets sell themselves better in person.

So many bare wrists and so few bracelets!

~ Thank you, my Lord, for giving us the gift of creating and enjoying things of beauty. Please bless this little business. ~

Saturday, August 16, 2014

How Does My Garden Grow - Part 3

I like gardening - it's a place where I find myself when I need to lose myself. ~Alice Sebold

I have quite a few areas left to work on. The upper front garden, as I mentioned in my last post, is not done, but this is the one I focused on next, the blueberry bush garden which is on the south side and gets the most sun of all the gardens. I took this picture late in the day. I can only work in this garden early in the morning or late in the day to avoid sunburns and the heat. You can see I have the back stuff under the mulch that helps keeps the weeds under control, but nature finds a way, if you turn your back on it! Actually, nearly all the garden areas looked similar to this until I worked them, I was just too ashamed to even take the pictures to show the transformation. I decided that I should show at a least one...but it still makes me cringe.



This garden has been edged with a variegated liriope that is the spreading rather than clumping type, which means that it spreads just like the grass that has infiltrated it. Such a messy garden! I decided to take it all out and maybe edge with a clumping liriope, separating the plants I have on hand in hopes that they will tolerate the sunlight.

Now in the next picture below, you will see, at the front of this garden, the stump of a ornamental cherry tree that we cut down because it was diseased. We used several treatments to kill the stump and roots, but as diseased as it was, the thing took years to completely die. After it finally did, fire ants decided that they would like to make a home around it. I would get rid of one batch and another would move in! So, there the fire-ant-wooing stump sat in the garden that was larger than I needed it to be and I would like to make smaller with the edge going right where the stump was and I decided enough was enough with the ants--I needed to remove the stump! I treated the ant hill and I talked about the stump with my husband the night before. He had been doing his own projects and so the gardening has been mine alone, even the Princess would not work in the heat.

Here is my garden in the embarrassing stage:



The next morning, it was cloudy and a bit cooler, and the ant hill was dead. My husband was working on the van because it was making a strange sound he could not find (which took most of the day for the mechanic to find the source but only ended up costing us a bit over $300 thankfully), so when I came outside to work in the garden and found the axe stuck in the stump, I thought he put it there for me to use...but my Prince Charming saw me pitifully hacking away and yelled, "That's not for you. Do you want to be able to go tubing tomorrow?" Okay, so why was it left there all by itself? (By the way, our friends changed the tubing trip to a swimming one at a park because of a church meeting and public school starting the next day, but we took our new tubes bought at a close-out store with us.) May I say that my husband is impressive when he is using an axe! The stump was out in less  than 30 minutes.

On my part, I first dug out about a third of liriope stuffed their bareroots in four plastic pots with a sign "Free Plants" by the road. Someone did take them. Good luck with them, I say. I still had more than I could ever want, but I am thankful for when I planted them, I only had a few and separated them a few times to fill in. They tolerated the four-year drought and poor soil when I lost so many plants, but at this point I have tired of their meandering ways and friendliness with the grass and weeds.

What is it with grass, anyway? It grows where you don't want it and doesn't grow where you do. This garden has a rock edging, but not enough to go all the way around, which is one of the reasons I wanted to make it smaller, so that meant I would have to move all the rock edging. I found grass had forged its way not just between the rocks but under them also, but then so had the liriope in the opposite direction. To avoid using chemicals, I ended up taking apart the entire garden, digging up all the roots under the old black sheeting, removing a rosemary bush that I never really liked there, laying down new black sheeting, and refitting the rocks with black sheets with an extra line of black sheeting under them also. If you have ever done a rock edge like this one, so that the rocks fit together with the smallest of gaps, you know what a job it is. It took me several mornings to do just this one patch of ground and the weather was particularly hot during this time even in the early morning.



Still ugly in the above picture, but now weed and grass free! I got all the rocks how I wanted them, but there is still a gap in the front as I knew there would be, so I had a plan. I divided and planted some of the liriope that clumps and makes a nice border as a test to see if they can take the sun, before I edge the entire garden area with them. The garden bed is a bit smaller, using less mulch, looking a bit sparse with just three blueberry bushes currently--well, the jury is still out about the middle one making it. I have also used this garden for planting watermelons and pumpkins as it does not bother me if the vines over flow but this year I knew I had to rework the entire thing so I did not plant any vines.



So I have done about all I am going to do with the gardens for now...maybe...well, there is always something to do and I want to finish planting the liriope edging behind the rocks on the garden on the left in this picture, but I had to wait until today because I treated yet another fire ant hill and I should be able to work the area now.

Then I need switch gears. I already put some clothing in our first consignment sale which I will be picking up the leftovers today and listing what is left for the next one this week. I am going to be consignment sale shopping one day this week with my friend and her daughter's former teacher, a fellow church member who has taken the year off for maternity purposes. I also need to begin planning our homeschool curriculum and I do have some other things I am excited about that I will be posting here soon.

~ My Lord, thank you for a summer of gardening, for the break I so much needed. Now that I am refreshed emotionally, my Lord, help me to bring my focus on educating my child.~

Friday, August 15, 2014

How Does My Garden Grow - Part 2

I grow plants for many reasons: to please my eye or to please my soul, to challenge the elements or to challenge my patience, for novelty or for nostalgia, but mostly for the joy in seeing them grow. ~David Hobson

As you will see, my herb garden in the back was not the only big change. My husband and I decided to kill off all the ivy in our backyard because entwined among the lovely English Ivy is Poison Ivy. I have tried to kill off the later without harming the former for a couple of years, while trying to avoid the itchy rashes. I have to confess that I never really had much of a reaction to Poison Ivy until we moved to Georgia and now the times I get it the most is from the outside cats. Poison Ivy does not bother animals, just people. I wish I had some goats or horses, as they can eat it. Anyway, it just has to go!

So, to prepare for the burnout and clearing of the wooded areas, I moved all my shade loving plants that had survived the vinca take-over in my back shade garden to the front. I also cleared out the bushes. which were more of a clumping plant than bush, that the former owners left under the deck stairs that I never warmed up to and all the weeds to plant clippings of the vinca since it is a filling vine that does not climb. While doing all this I made sure that the soil was mounded around the foundation so that the water would drain away from the house. We do not have any foundation problems but the gutter system is inadequate in certain areas which we will address when the house gets resided and we replace the gutter system adding a few more downspouts and water barrels.




I moved some hostas that were doing not really growing from the front garden, probably too shady, so that I could complete the border with the variegated type, and planted them in the back around the crepe myrtle tree. This area will all green up over a few months even in the winter.

Here are some views of the front gardens. (Normally there is not a wheelbarrow in the background.)




Coming up the walk from the driveway there is variegated vinca on the left, which is still not completely filled in; they would have liked more rain than we have been getting. I love ferns, but the few I had were hidden in the back shade garden. I began wondering why I never thought about ferns in the front. I decided that the front garden is shady enough to put the shade loving plants where I can really enjoy their beauty, so on the left between the liriope and the rocks are Lady ferns, and they are loving where they are. The edging plants above the rocks are variegated hostas that divided from a few that I had that covered about a fourth of the way previously and spread them out so that they cover the entire top edge...a least to the place where the sun would be too much for them. I still have some work to do behind the hostas in the upper tier, but that may not get done until next spring when I can see where the tulips and daffodils are and move them closer to the outer edge and allow the azaleas to grow around the trunk of the oak tree.




On the right lowest level on the right as you look up the walk is the English Ivy clippings from the back yard that I just planted. My black-eyed Susans are very hardy and often have to be clipped back, but the cats like to hide and nap in them. Between them and the house I transplanted some large orange lillies that were further down the walk and used to crowd around a half-barrel planter that I removed--well, I moved it and it fell apart so... it is now gone.




In the background, closer to the house is where I like to plant cucumber vines, just because I can keep my eye on them easier and they do not get as stressed out from the sun. In front of them, I planted tiara hostas, my favorite hosta, rescued from the back shade garden. I barely found them straggled in among the vinca. This may not be the final place for them, it is just I had nothing to put there and I needed to put them somewhere. Hopefully, they will thrive.




The middle tier on the right used to have a bush that we took out a couple of years ago so it has been basically neglected until this year. I separated some of the Liriope that edges the left side to make an edging on the right as well and then filled that area with the silvery wormwood, purple sweet potato vine, Sweet Annie at top and two highly contrasting annuals. This is how it looked when I first planted it.




This is how it looks now, just a few weeks later. I am hoping the wormwood survives the winter.



Back to the left side...
 
Are you seeing my half barrel fountain? I would like to get something a bit more decorative, but the most important part is hearing it as you can up the walk or I come out the door. It has a calming babble and cooling effect that invites me into the gardens...and then to gardening.




 This is the view from the other side.




How inviting is this? Lilies of the valley line the right of the stepping stones. I love their scent in the spring!




I also found what I think is a wild ginger with very pretty heart-shaped leaves outside of the shade garden all by itself, not the typical ginger I have seen around here. I decided I would move it also, because it was just pretty.




I dug around for the shamrock rhizomes I had planted in the shade garden. The green ones had died out and I only saw a few purple about ground, which have a delicate pink flower when they bloom, but I found plenty of the rhizomes underneath so I moved them to the front yard also. They are definitely liking the new spot among Japanese painted ferns, asparagus ferns (not really a fern but adds a delicate texture), and a bleeding heart plant that also never thrived in the back shade garden.




As I looked over my "new" garden I noticed that I had most used the colors of greens with varying textures and purples, my very favorite garden colors. Maybe that is why I smile when I walk out the front door now!

~ Thank you, my Lord, for the beauty I was able to bring into my life through my gardens and for the ability to work hard, building muscle while being productive. ~

Sunday, July 27, 2014

How My Garden Grows - Part 1

Gardening is a matter of your enthusiasm holding up until your back gets used to it. ~Author Unknown

I have not posted for nearly two months nor have I read other blogs either. I have missed the blogging world, but honestly I have very little time to do it and when I may have time, I have no energy. I am practically falling asleep as I am typing now, and reading...I just cannot do much of it without nodding off within a few minutes. Several things contributed to this change in my life, which I will need to list perhaps over several posts, but if I could sum up the main reason for this abnormal exhaustion in one word, it would be gardening.

I was spiritually wrestling over my church about the whole Encounter thing and then I felt the Lord was urging me to do some serious gardening during this summer and working on the inside our house is going to follow in the cooler months and during days of bad weather. He was telling me that I am an organizer. I like to organize. I like it when things are organized. I like changing my environment to fit my lifestyle. For instance, I have enjoyed my kitchen so much more after I organized it in February and March last year. It still fits our lifestyle and is convenient.

Suddenly, I stopped seeing my gardens as weed-infested, over-whelming tasks and began to see them as things that I could organize. I just could not wait to get working on them every morning I got up so I would work the most during the cool of the day. I like gardening, but not the heat and all the bug bites I now have and the way I garden is pretty hard work: I use our bunny berry compost teaming with worms, which I worked in to the soil of my gardens. I wish I could use a tiller at times, but in most of my gardens are trees with roots, so I do much of it the old fashion way...good exercise. We have such a large compost pile at the beginning of the summer, but now it is rather small. Almost all of my yard is in the shade for a large portion of the day, different times of shade based on the location, of course, so I have been good at avoiding sunburns by working mostly in the shade although I still tanned a bit.

I have been enjoying organizing my gardens very much. As you can see by the following pictures.

I completely revamped my herb garden, however many seeds did not cooperate by spouting, sadly, so there is more mulch than greens. This time I added some decorative plants that are not herbs along the walkway too. It makes me smile to look at my herb garden.



The tuxedo cat in left corner is Sharii, with the nickname Sharii Purr (sha REE per) because he purrs so loudly it sounds painful. All our nicknames are longer than the name of the pet...it is just something we do.

 



Even though it is sparse presently, I am just happy it is not full of weeds and out of control mints anymore.
 


All the mints are contained! I gave up on ever containing mountain mint and pulled it all out. On the left in a terra cotta pot is peppermint. In the broken fountain is chocolate peppermint, which drapes nicely. On the right in a watering can with a broken bottom is spearmint. Behind the statue is fennel and rue, left to right.






Yes, I moved the cat nip also, but the cats rarely bother it. They just like hanging in the herb garden.


Although I do think Midnight (nicknamed Little Miss Midnight), is a bit unhappy that the chocolate mint is now in one of her favorite napping places.


We use rain caught in barrels to water most of our plants by hand, which is why we have had so many watering cans rusting out. I usually get plastic ones now. In the pot is parsley and behind it is dill.

I have been spending some time with God while I have been gardening. In my mind, I had been making things impossible for me to do...many things. Gardening has put things in a better perspective for me. My husband says it is an unending job. While that is true, there is a point that it is easier to maintain and look beautiful.

~ Thank you, my Lord, for spending time with me and helping me to see no task is impossible as long as I am willing to do it. Thank you, also, for the joy You have given in doing the task and blessing of the restorative sleep each night. ~

Sunday, June 8, 2014

No Boxes Here?

I've been saying for a couple of years now that people need to let God out of the Sunday morning box, that He doesn't want to just be with you for an hour or two on Sunday morning and then put back in His box to sit there until you have an emergency, but He wants to invade your Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. ~Joyce Meyer

I have often stated here on my little corner of the Interverse (that is, my word combination of Internet and universe) that hypocrisy is the most interesting sin of all to me: Mostly, because we all are guilty of it (I am including myself) and blissfully unaware of our guilt and we would rather it remain just that way. I have this unfortunate gift (or curse, depending on your viewpoint) of seeing hypocrisy, even though I am not consciously looking to find any. To me, it is human nature, always there in people, and there is no need for me to seek it out...it just runs amok and smacks into me head-on.

Recently my husband and I both had one of those smack head-on moments. The details of the moment are not important, what is important is the hypocrisy, because it lingers on.

Our church as a whole preaches about following your passion, using your gifts, stepping out of the box, connecting with people and connecting people to God...and to really do it. I love that about our church. We have been there a year now. We talk to people while at church, but we are out of the loop otherwise because we are not on Facebook. We are not the only ones, I know a few people who come regularly who are not on the Internet at all. So, our connections are limited because we are not in the preferred communication box. That should not have stopped anyone reaching out to us and making a connection, like just asking for my phone number and calling now and then, but since Facebook is their style, for them to connect with me, I need to be on Facebook. Of course, they would see that as a convenience for me, not a box that I have to fit in.

What I have found is that it is never a box when you are the one happy in it, but the people outside of it see it as the box that it is.

To be an active church team member we were asked to fill out a form and then a meeting time would be set. We filled out our forms and turn them in back in November. Then there were the holidays and crazy ice storms and such, so after a few reminders and over six months, we had our meeting recently. We were strongly encouraged to go on a retreat and we got the impression that we would not be seriously considered for service in the church until we go to this retreat, which happens only once a year. They see this retreat as a benefit for us, not another box that we have to fit in.

My husband and I have prayed about the retreat and neither one of us feel God's leading for us to go this year, as unbelievable as that may sound to those who have told us how wonderful it is. How could God not want us to go? Although they say that you should not go unless you are ready to go, they just cannot believe that anyone would not be ready. I felt quite a bit of peer pressure from this, but not God's calling. My husband and I came to the conclusion that the retreat would likely benefit us, but even more it would change their opinions of us.

That is because they are so happy, they do not see the box they are wanting us to fit in so that we can be like them, in their minds.

What we have noticed is that the active church team members really only connect on a personal level with each other. Honestly, they are too busy being church "connectors" to connect with those who are not in their box that they are not really in, but we and many others are definitely outside of at the same time.

So, my husband and I after praying have come to the conclusion that we are not going to have a ministry in the church, but we feel our Lord leading us to our ministry being the church. We will be connecting with families and couples and individuals who are both in the box and outside of it. We will not be daunted by any barriers either way. Jesus wasn't, so why should we?

I just think of the early Christians who somehow built churches without technology like Facebook and phones, and I am pretty sure that retreats were not common practice either, but what they did do is have personal relationships with God and with other people. What we have been told is pretty much what we felt from the Lord: It helps everyone there to make connections with each other, but only with those who go. I feel it should not take a retreat for people to get personally involved with each other, but if that is what it takes, I am not against it. I am just wondering why it is so necessary...?

~ My Lord, I know I do not see all of my own hypocrisies, but You do. Forgive me. Forgive us all of our hypocrisies. We are all guilty of them. ~