Gratitude Day 119 – Perennial

hydrangiaFri., Sept. 14, 2018

Isaiah 40:28 – Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth. He doesn’t grow tired or weary. His understanding is beyond human reach,

I LOVE FLOWERS.

I love having flower gardens in our yard. I love having flowers around our house. I love walking by and seeing different flowers blooming at various stages of the spring, summer and fall.

I love having fresh flowers in the house. After we moved to our current home, I decided that I would always have fresh flowers in the house. I chose to have them on our kitchen island. I love walking into our house through the back door, scoot the small butler’s pantry and into the kitchen where there is a vase or pitcher of fresh flowers or a seasonal plant on the island.

coneflowerOn our porch, I have pots of annual flowers. This summer, they have been fantastic. We have had a warmer summer in Wisconsin, with more humidity than normal. This means the coleus, angel-winged begonias and sweet potato vines have exploded.

wheelbarrowYet, I also love having perennial flowers in the gardens and beds around the house and yard. Over Memorial Day weekend, I decided to dig out some of the boring plants in the beds and install more color and variety. My neighbor Claudine offered to give me some perennials from her flower beds. After spending over an hour poking through Claudine’s flower gardens, I pushed an overflowing wheelbarrow full of plants back to my house. I went to work, digging and moving and putting these flowers in my yard, along with some plants I had purchased at a couple area greenhouses.

Did I mention it was an unseasonably warm Memorial Day weekend?

hostaThis fall, some of those plants are now coming into their own. I need to spend an afternoon “tweaking” the flower beds. Some plants are bigger than I expected. Some already have little baby plants growing off of them. All beds have a few weeds growing in them.

bledding heartAs much as I love the bursts of color that annuals can quickly bring to a flower garden, I love using perennials as the foundation. The flowers that will grow back year after year. The plants that bring structure and depth and stability to the flower gardens.

What brings structure, depth and stability to your daily life? What provides the strong foundation that you go back to again and again?

For me, it’s faith in God. God is perennially a part of my daily life. Another word for perennial? Everlasting. Meaning God has no beginning and no ending. There forever.

sedumMany things in my life will change. Where I live. My job. My career. The flowers around my house. One thing is perennial. One thing is everlasting. God.

Does God make the perennial list in your life?

Almighty God – sometimes, it’s hard to understand who You are. When hurricanes are barreling down, and floods have drowned out people’s hopes and dreams, it is so easy to question where You are. Remind us anew that when You promise to be a part of our lives, You promise to perennially be there; not always remove every awful or potentially awful thing in our lives. May we appreciate and value Your perennial and everlasting presence in our lives. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 111 – Prayer

Tues., Sept. 4, 2018

Psalm 39:1 – I told myself, “I’ll be careful not to sin by what I say, and I’ll muzzle my mouth when evil people are near.”

I was determined to focus on prayer yesterday, which was Labor Day. But, by 10 AM, I was completely distracted.

By mosquitoes.

We’ve had endless rain the last two weeks. Lots and lots of flooding. Not where we immediately live. The hometowns where we used to live and where Rick grew up have sustained considerable damage. So many families and businesses have been affected. It’s really become a tragedy.

And it continues to rain.

There are times when there is a break in the clouds and the sun peaks out for a while. It feels wonderful. But soon, dark, heavy clouds roll in from the west and the sound of rain is all around.

The weatherperson assured us of no rain until Monday afternoon. Just shortly after I heard this, yep, there was the sound of rain. Again.

Finally, about 10 AM, there was a small break. I had not been in the garden for a few days. I knew the beans needed to be picked. We’ve had a ridiculous crop of cucumbers this year. So, I ventured out to our small plot, large basket in hand, ready to gather up the goodies.garden produce

As I lifted leaves to pick cucumbers, I was swarmed. By mosquitoes. The next leaf I lifted, it happened again. When I stepped into a new area of the garden, literally hundreds of mosquitoes flew up from under the leaves.

Before long, they were biting me and bothering me. A quick trip into the house for some spray and I felt adequately armed. For about 45 minutes until the mosquitoes won out.

We’ve probably all heard that funny saying. It questions why Noah let two mosquitoes live at the time of the big flood. Maybe only in Wisconsin where mosquitoes hatch seemingly within hours of any amount of water do we question Noah’s sanity in letting the mosquitoes live.

I know they serve some good purpose. It’s just hard to think of it when they are bothering your legs, arms and face all at the same time. The pesky little buggers know how to ruin a happy trip to the garden.

I tried to remain focused on praying throughout the day. My intention was to be thankful for all the food we and so many others have. But every time I was bit, I was adequately distracted.

Maybe the reason the mosquitoes were in the garden was to help me reflect a little deeper. I am confident there have been people who felt irritated by me, what I said or how I treated them. I can quickly think of a few people who would have liked to swat me into the next county and out of their sight.

So how different am I than those irritating mosquitoes?

In yesterday’s blog, I wrote about how prayer is not about changing God. It’s about changing ourselves.

Did I really anticipate that I would be the one who needs to change? And the lesson was brought forth by thousands of mosquitoes swarming our garden? How I really need to be more careful with the words that I use? And sometimes, I really need to put a muzzle over my mouth?

Today’s lesson from the garden wasn’t so much based on how to cultivate beans, tomatoes or peppers. It was about how I need to use encouraging words when I speak. How can I be more helpful than irritating? When do I need to not say anything unless it is positive?

Taught by thousands of mosquitoes.

And who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor?

For mosquitoes and the lessons they can teach us, I am grateful.

Lord Jesus – Forgive me for the times that I hurt people’s feelings; when I discouraged people rather than encouraged them; when I should have put a muzzle over my mouth when I didn’t have something positive to say. By your grace, I pray that I can be more encouraging today than an irritant. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 92 – Cucumbers

20180731_192544Wed., Aug. 1, 2018

Numbers 11:4-5 – Then the Egyptians who had come with them began to long for the good things of Egypt. This added to the discontent of the people of Israel and they wept, “Oh, for a few bites of meat! Oh, that we had some of the delicious fish we enjoyed so much in Egypt, and the wonderful cucumbers and melons, leeks, onions, and garlic!

One of Hubby Rick’s and my favorite aspects of summer: fresh veggies out of the garden. Our garden isn’t huge. Neighbors have often commented that we grow the most produce per inch they have ever seen. This is probably true!

In the last two weeks, we have had lots of fresh veggies. Earlier, we had radishes and lettuce. Now, we are reaping broccoli, beans, peppers and cucumbers.

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Ah, the cucumbers. I will can some pickles just as soon as I find some fresh dill (We neglected to plant dill.) For now, we are eating them fresh. And, I made some great refrigerator pickles.

These pickles are kept in the refrigerator. With a different flavor than canned pickles, I like them because they are crisp and crunchy.

My Mom used to make refrigerator pickles. I’ve put together a hybrid recipe that I like. They are really very easy. And boy, do they taste good!

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Gather some cucumbers, onions and peppers. I use whatever peppers I have in the garden at the time. Cut everything into bite-sized pieces. I quarter the onions and slice them. Basically, the same with the pepper. For the cucumbers, I like then thin. I don’t have a mandolin, but I cut them as thin as I can. My basic ratio is about 9-10 c. cucumbers, 2-3 peppers and 1-2 onions per batch.

Put everything into a large bowl. Sprinkle with 2 TBSP pickling salt. Cover with a generous layer of ice. If you have an ice maker in the your frigerator with the crushed ice option, use this. Let the bowl sit for two hours.

Some recipes skip this step. I think it is important. This is how the cucumbers become nice and crunchy, which is what I like.

Make the brine. Combine 1 ½ c. vinegar, 2 c. sugar and 1 TBSP celery seed. Bring to boil and remove from heat when sugar is dissolved. Let brine cool.

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After two hours, drain the cucumber bowl contents. Remove the remaining large pieces of ice. In a container with a lid, combine everything. Let set in the fridge for one day. Pickles are ready to eat!

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Here are couple of my extra secrets:

  1. When you have more cucumbers, just cut them up with additional peppers and onions. Let them set for 2 hours in the ice mixer. Drain and add to the brine mixture you already have in the fridge!
  2. These pickles will last for several months refrigerated.

I love them on salads, in sandwiches, as a side dish or just plain!

In the scripture passage from Numbers, the people are complaining because they miss the fresh food from their native land. I find summer much more enjoyable when we can walk out to the garden, see what is ready to harvest and make a meal based on what is found. It makes for so much enjoyment to take veggies right from the garden and make them into something we’ll enjoy.

For cucumbers and other fresh veggies out of the garden, I am grateful.

Almighty God – what a complete joy it is to eat fresh produce right out of the garden. Thank you for this abundance in our lives. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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