July 28, 2013

Up, Up and Away!

Sunday Scripture

and a


"Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up."
James 4:10 (NIV)

Last weekend I arose before the sun, and drove to Waterford, WI to see the launching of the hot air balloons during the Waterford Balloon Festival. Arriving a little late, I saw several balloons already aloft and climbing in the early morning light. This was the last balloon to launch, and I watched as it quickly gained altitude.

 But before it could rise, it had to be filled with air. The balloon starts out laying flat on the ground. A large fan begins to blow cold air into the envelope, or balloon fabric, and during this process the balloon is tethered to the ground -- to a pick-up truck, actually. In addition, two people hold long ropes also connected to the top of the balloon.  

Once the balloon is inflated, the pilot begins to heat the air inside the balloon with the propane burner. As the balloon gains buoyancy, the pilot yells "weight!" and someone runs to the basket to lay their weight on it to keep the balloon from rising until it is ready.

It's possible to think of ourselves similarly to this balloon. We may start out feeling flat, or unfulfilled. As we go through life, we begin to gain confidence in ourselves, but we can't achieve satisfaction in life completely on our own. We may feel stuck, much like the tethered balloon, and we can't go any further. We are tossed by the troubles of life, buffeted by the rising winds of difficulties we face, with no way to cope.

When we feel the Light of Christ in us, just like the flame on the burner of the balloon, we expand with the possibilities of what we were created for. Little by little, we gain buoyancy in our lives until we feel confident we can handle whatever comes at us, as long as Christ is with us. 

If we begin by humbling ourselves before God, then He will lift us up. He will show us the way to live. And though we are buffeted by the winds of change, we can remain steadfast in the One who lifts us up.

It takes a team to launch a big hot air balloon. And it takes relationship with Christ to gain perspective for our life. When we humble ourselves before God, and admit that we cannot do this life on our own, He will lift us up. And through our prayers, and by developing trust in God, we can gain guidance to follow wherever the winds of life may take us.

Today's song is by a band called The Afters, and is called "Lift Me Up". 
Enjoy, God Bless.

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July 26, 2013

Making Lemonade

If friends are the flowers bringing beauty into our lives, then the nectar has to be the sweet words of encouragement that they share. So many times a friend has shared words of wisdom that helped me in a particular situation. This time, the word was so profound, I asked my friend to share her story with us. 

Ever have nagging thoughts that persist in your mind, driving away your peace and shattering your self-confidence? Today my sweet friend Sharon Bloss shares her heartfelt story, and one very effective way she has found to quiet her mind. 

There’s an old proverb that says, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” Life has been handing me lots of lemons lately: a trust betrayed, the breakup of a marriage, the upheaval of my life. And while I have been trying to make lemonade out of all these lemons, it’s coming out pretty sour.

It took me a long time to decide to leave my husband. In the many months that preceded this decision I spent a lot of time worrying. It seemed like my mind was constantly spinning. I couldn’t sleep very well because I would wake up in the middle of the night and instantly my mind would start to churn. I would be driving to and from work and all the while my mind would be churning, churning. Do I go, do I stay, where will I live? Even after I made the decision to leave, the worrying got worse. 

As a Christian, we are taught not to worry, not only about tomorrow, but as a rule in general.  We are to place our trust in God, casting our cares to Him. While this sounds easy enough in theory, in truth I wish someone would tell that to my churning mind. 

So I pray. I pray that God would take these cares from me and help me to make the right decisions. I pray that God would stop this churning mind of mine and give me some peace. In the midst of all this turmoil, God revealed a very simple solution.

I have this little book I read every night before I go to bed written by Sarah Young called, Jesus Calling.” Throughout this book there is a theme that suggests that any time you want to feel the presence of Jesus, speak His name.

I even wrote that on a post-it note and put it in the front inside cover of the book.  And then I found this scripture: "For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." (Romans 10:13 NLT) Could it really be that simple? 

One day on my way to work as I found myself once again obsessing over things I couldn’t control I spoke His name: “Emmanuel”.  And, as an answer to a prayer, my mind went quiet. 

In the Hebrew language, Emmanuel literally means "God is with us". I have found that by speaking His name in times of trouble it has become a way for me to stop my obsessive thoughts and put my focus where it should be, on God. This one word, spoken in a moment when God is not in the forefront of my thoughts, puts God first and gives me the sweet calming that I so desperately need. It is the sugar to sweeten my sour lemonade, an answer to a prayer, a miracle. 

Throughout this difficult time I have traveled a path that I would have thought impossible only a few short months ago, and God has been there with me every step of the way. In the end I have learned that through the tough times the only thing I need to do is: breathe in and breathe out, put one foot in front of the other, and let God take care of the rest. God has answered many prayers for me and I have so much to be thankful for. These days I not only speak “Emmanuel” as a cry for help, but also as a word of thanksgiving. Thank you, Lord, for taking care of me.

Lemonade, anyone?

July 24, 2013

Summertime and Fireflies

Rudbeckia 'Indian Summer"

My gardens are bursting with color! Yellow flowers seem to predominate in July, but there is so much variety. The deep golden yellow blossoms of the giant-headed Indian Summer Rudbeckia are definitely a favorite.

Heliopsis helianthoides
'Summer Sun'
Many varieties of bright yellow coreopsis and heliopsis share their cheery daisy-like faces all over the yard. Since these freely spread and reseed, they’ve been planted and transplanted all over the property. So every corner of the yard lights up with little bursts of yellow flowers. The bees and butterflies are in heaven!

Evening brings out flashes of yellow, too. The yard and edges of the woods glow briefly with the lights of dozens of fireflies. Seeing their display makes me smile and feel like a kid again. I want to run and catch them, and watch them glow in my hand. Then I remember the mosquitoes are out there, too, and I decide to enjoy their light show through the window instead.
Fragrant Summer Phlox

Incredibly fragrant summer phlox bows its giant heads of perfumed petals, and I can’t resist burying my nose in the blossoms. These deep pinks and whites add their own color to the show.

Towering over the rudbeckia are the tallest Stargazer lilies I’ve ever seen. They’re still in the bud stage, but promising to be extraordinary after our wet spring. I can hardly wait for them to open and perfume the air with their heavenly scent.

Lovely (or lowly?) Marigold

We've recently had an incredible heat wave in our area. It was so hot that it was difficult to be outside; so humid that it was hard to breathe. When the weather is like that, unless you can spend the day in a lake or pool, it’s best to stay indoors in the air conditioning. A day spent at the water park last week was a brief respite, though there’s only so much chlorine a body can take in one day!

Supertunia 'Pretty Much Picasso'

So what’s a person to do? Staying indoors is disappointing when we’ve waited all winter to be outdoors to celebrate this flush of new life in the natural world. Heavy leaf growth on the trees makes for a thick canopy and blessed shade. Flowering shrubs burst with color, and all the perennials are joyously doing their summer thing. The view from every window lures us out into the sunshine to revel in the summer sunshine.

Annuals, perennials and herbs mingle
Frequent rains of early summer brought great growth rates, but have become less frequent as summer moves on. So all of these gardens require diligent watering to keep them happy and blooming. Mosquitoes eat me alive as I try to keep up with the watering schedule, but the reward of being surrounded by gorgeous blooms makes all the work – and bug bites – worth it.

I wanted to share these pictures of my flowers, and my delight in summer’s glory. The joy I get from every blossom is magnified when a hummingbird or butterfly enjoys my flowers too! Every nip and taste of nectar they enjoy makes my ‘job’ worth it for me.

Large cherry tomatoes

Soon we will enjoy natures’ bounty from the veggies I’ve planted, too. My mouth waters waiting to bite into that first ripe tomato, still warmed from the sun. That, to me, is heaven on earth. 
Plum tomatoes looking plummy

We need to celebrate summertime, and enjoy the fruits of our labors in the garden. For all too soon, the flowers will wither when autumn winds blow, and leaves will begin to fall, ushering in our long Wisconsin winter. The cooler temperatures that arrived unexpectedly yesterday are a foretaste of the cooler days of autumn to come. 

So, even when it’s hard to take the heat (though I know there are some of you out there who love the hot weather), keep in mind that this time of year is brief; and enjoy the little pleasures of flowers and fireflies and Fudgesicles, and all the joys that summertime brings.

Summer scene in my pines

I've included many more photos than I usually do for this post, but I wanted you to feel like you were in my gardens enjoying the flowers. If you want to see a picture in more detail, just click on it and it will enlarge.

Now it's your turn... what's your favorite flower? And do you like the heat or the cooler temps? Being a northern girl, I'm pretty happy with this cool Canadian air in July. It's unusual, but I'll take it over the heat and humidity any day!

Happy Gardening! 

July 14, 2013

More than Mighty, He is Mighty to Save

Sunday Scripture

and a


"Mightier than the thunder of the great waters,
mightier than the breakers of the sea— 
 the Lord on high is mighty."

Psalm 93:4

Nothing we ask of our Lord is too much for Him. No problem we give Him is too great. His love will comfort us; His peace will fill us beyond our ability to understand. 

Come to Him, and give Him all the concerns of your heart. Lay your troubles at His feet. Our God is mighty to save, and He will free you from your fears. 

Believe that the love of our Lord, our God, is greater than the world. 

Trust that He loves you, just the way you are.

Raise your hands and sing along to Laura Story's song "Mighty to Save" 

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Thank you, & Blessings