They Followed the Star

Christmas is an exciting and very busy time of year, but also the perfect moment for reflection.  I have always adored the season of Advent and the celebration of such by lighting candles and focusing on the meaning of Christmas.  This year I was challenged a few weeks before Christmas by an Advent reading to not just get swept along with the chaos and distraction this season can bring, but to truly prepare my heart for Christmas.  It took a few days before I had the time to spend quality time during devotions to explore this concept, but it was powerful.

Before the birth of Christ, the world was dark.  Desperate.  Longing for deliverance from anything and everything.  There was no hope.

Imagine then the amazing moment when Jesus, our Saviour, the King above all kings, is born into the world!  Is it any wonder the angels were bursting with the praise of God as they proclaimed the news to the shepherds?  The Light had come!  Hope was born!  God loved us SO MUCH that He sent us His best, His only Son, and sent Him in the weakest form possible – a baby.

For this reason, because He came as a perfect baby, grew to a perfect man, lived on the Earth, was unfairly accused and abused, suffered and died for MY sin, and defeated Hell, Death, and the Grave, I can go to heaven forever when I die!  Praise be to God!

I was more in awe of the miracle of Jesus than I ever have been before this year, and taking the time to prepare made all the difference.  As I read through Isaiah and the many prophecies foretelling his birth, life, death, and resurrection, and as I read the “Christmas story” in Matthew and Luke, God’s amazing plan just blew me away.  How much must He love us to give us His best, His one and only perfect son, and to pursue us over and over and over, despite our constant rejections?

Two other things stood out to me this year as well – the shepherds and the Wise Men.

Obedience.  The shepherds were so obedient!  When the angels told them to go and see the Saviour born in Bethlehem, they didn’t even hesitate!  Granted some of that was probably due to seeing angels, but still…  Am I as obedient as the shepherds when God tells me to do something?  Do I share His message with others like the shepherds did after seeing Jesus?

Watchfulness.  The wise men knew Jesus had been born, not because someone told them, but because they diligently studied the sky and were watching and waiting for the sign.  When the star appeared, they knew exactly what it meant and were prepared to travel great distances to worship the newborn king.  Am I as watchful for what God is doing in the world?  Am I ready to act when I see the signs of God’s work and to do what He has called me to do?

I hope and pray that we all take time to reflect on what God gave us at Christmas, and then act on that gift as the obedient shepherds and the watchful wisemen did.  Merry Christmas!

Dill Darling

The other day, I noticed this little guy hanging out on my dill:

Caterpillar - Thursday

I have dill and basil in a pot on my front porch and at this point in the summer, my dill is getting pretty dry.  To my great surprise, this swallowtail caterpillar decided that this was his new home!  He has already munched his way through a couple of little branches, but fortunately there is plenty to share.

In just two days he is already much bigger!

Caterpillar - Saturday Morning

Caterpillar - Saturday Night

I can’t wait to see if he makes a chrysalis – my own little Caterpie!

90 Years

What does 90 really look like?  10 years less than a century…  It might be a tree – full grown, leaves shading a yard, a tree with a thick, strong trunk, standing firm through storms and wind.

Or it could be a rosebush – tenderly cultivated for years on end, transferred from a childhood home in the country, blooming faithfully year after year.

It could even be a house – well worn and loved, timelessly classic with intricate details not found today, hiding special treasures to be found by the one who knows where to look.

90 is 9 decades – 9!  Nearly an entire century of life and experiences, joy and heartache, love and struggle.

To me, this is what 90 looks like:

Grandma - 90!

My grandmother just turned 90 this summer and we celebrated her birthday with many festivities!  It was a joyous occasion for my family (and friends) to gather together and cherish this wonderful lady who has been a blessing to so many throughout her 90 years.

90 years of a quick wit and infectious laugh, 90 years of travelling the world with those she loves.

90 years of loving her family dearly and celebrating each new addition with pride, 90 years of being beloved by all she meets and making friends for a lifetime.

90 years of being a godly example for others to follow and sharing Christ with those around her, 90 years of faithfulness and obedience to the Lord.

90 years of tea parties and giggling – first with her sister and later with her granddaughter, 90 years of roses blooming and admiring nature.

 

She is truly a remarkable woman, as anyone who knows her will tell you, and I am extremely blessed to be her (only!) granddaughter.  I cannot imagine a better example of godly character and I am so thankful that God has given her so many years here to touch others.

Happy 90th Birthday Grandmama!

The Other Cherry

Why, it’s cherry tomatoes!

First Tomatoes

Is it any surprise that my favourite vegetable is the cherry tomato, since my very favourite fruit is the cherry?  Not at all!  (I know, I know, technically the tomato is a fruit, but it FEELS like a vegetable so yeah….)

And the other day I picked my very first tomato, a cherry of course:

First Cherry Tomato

And it was delicious.  There is nothing like eating homegrown tomatoes, especially when it’s from your own garden!

My Cherry Summer

Cherries are my most favourite fruit EVER!  (This blog could easily be called Cherry Tea with an Okapi…. but I digress…)  Each summer I look forward to finding them in the grocery store and then devouring them at home.  This year I have been privileged to travel through Cherry Country both in Western New York and Northern Michigan (it has also been a Great Lakes Summer).  Let me tell you, FULL advantage has been taken of that situation!

A few of my goodies:

Cherry goodies

I have Tame Cherry Tea, Dried Cherries, Cherry Honey, Green Cherry Tea, and of course, the stars themselves in front!

The dried cherries were actually a very welcome find on our way back from NY.  I adore a store called the Cherry Republic, and frequent them as often as I can (or my husband and wallet allow).  We have actually been to 3 out of their 5 locations, including their flagship store which has a Cherry CAFE!  How cool is that?!  I highly recommend it if you are in the Glen Arbor area – delicious!  Anyway, I absolutely love my Cherry Republic tea, honey, balsamic vinegar, etc…  They literally carry almost anything you can think of made of cherries!  Unfortunately the one thing they do not carry is dried and unsweetened cherries – a fact that has always slightly disappointed me.

Back to the dried cherries in the above picture; on our way back from my cousin’s wedding on Lake Ontario in NY, we drove by this little farmer’s market type place.  AND THEY HAD DRIED AND UNSWEETENED CHERRIES.  AND THEY ARE DELICIOUS.

 I am thoroughly enjoying my Cherry Summer!

Curious Earthworms

Today I found not one, but TWO earthworms just chilling on some of my lettuce leaves!  It rained last night (finally!) so the lettuce was still fairly wet, and the plants are rather tall so they were definitely shaded.  They were also pretty small, so they fit very nicely on the large leaf lettuce.  All the same, I have NEVER seen that before!  It was pretty neat to see one of my favourite creatures in a new light!  (If you didn’t know, I LOVE LOVE LOVE earthworms!!!)

Roses, Roses, ROSES!!

Our beautiful home formerly belonged to my husband’s grandparents and his grandfather grew roses. We inherited a lovely rose garden beside the garage and my absolute favourite rose bush is this one:

Blooming Rosebush

It’s in glorious full bloom here and it is beyond stunning!  However, not only is it visually arresting, it is also the most fragrant rosebush I have ever encountered!  Just walking near it wraps you in the lovely scent.  Roses are my most favourite flower and it is a privilege and a blessing to have this one right outside my backdoor!

Rose in Bloom

An up close shot of a single bloom – just because!

Our newest addition to the rose garden is this little treasure:

New rosebush!!

While it is still pretty tiny, I cannot wait to see how it grows beside the other beautiful roses in our garden.  It’s supposed to have two-toned red/white blossoms and a few buds have started to grow already.  I can’t wait until they bloom!!

Lettuce Bounty

There is SO MUCH LETTUCE in my garden!!! I literally have several bags filling up the crisper in my fridge and I need to get out there and pick more!

Unfortunately, I have not discovered any other real use for lettuce except for use in salads.  Fortunately, I LOVE salads and I eat one for lunch nearly every day!

Example A: First lettuce saladFresh garden lettuce is the best!  Maybe it’s because I get to grow it from seed and watch it get bigger and bigger with each day of sun and rain.  Maybe it’s because I have to defend it from slugs and other insects (it always makes it taste better, knowing that *I* won it from the bugs!).

But, there’s still the problem of the TONS OF LETTUCE in my fridge!!  Does anyone have any other ideas for recipes to use lettuce that are not salad based?

Garden Wanderings

One of the things I enjoy most about summer is watching my garden grow! (Mary, Mary quite contrary, how does your garden grow?)

Here are my garden beds at the beginning of June:

Early June Garden

Lettuce, baby lettuce, and baby beans

Early June GardenTomatoes with the poles, and peppers on the right

And here they are now:

Late June Garden

Lettuce, not-so-baby lettuce, and big beans!

Late June Garden

Tomatoes with the poles, and peppers on the left (if you look in the background you can tell how dry it’s been….)

Quite the transformation!  Of course, for that to happen, I’ve had to be out there most days watering because of how little rain we’ve gotten.  A vast difference from last year!  However, I will get to see the “fruit” of my labours soon – the tomatoes, beans, and peppers have all started to blossom and I even have little green cherry tomatoes!  I have already been enjoying the lettuce, but that’s for another post.

And here are a few of my insect visitors!

Daisy BeetleThis striking beetle was crawling on my daises – a bit like a ladybug but much bigger and bolder

Rose & Grasshopper

And here’s a little tiny long-horned grasshopper in one of my blossoming roses – tiny for now, but I am sure he will be several times his size in a few months!

I love spending my time in the garden – there are always new and beautiful things to discover!

June Garden

We’ve gone from slugs and millipedes…. to spiders and earwigs!

In the garden, the insect parade never ends…

Enderspider

Today I found this creature in my lettuce – I call it, the Enderspider!