Day 21: Reworking My Plans

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It was a very eventful weekend, rich with eagerly-awaited loved ones coming
(and going), a houseful of marvelous people and a powerful show in Faro with
No Longer Music. The unanticipated finale was that one of the guys in the band had to be taken to the hospital at 1 am on Sunday, suffering from a severe cellulitis infection in his legs. The doctors said he’d need to be kept for several days at the very least,
and the band had their next show in Seville, Spain, that very evening.

Things don’t always go quite the way you expect them to. I have noticed that.
Quite frequently, as a matter of fact.

10399513_1016484035054472_2011008040495668112_nWith our friend alone
in the hospital here in Faro, most likely
for the rest of the week,
it was time
to rework my plans.
I had been feeling exhausted even before
the weekend rolled around. And I’ll confess,
the carrot dangling
in front of my nose,
helping me make it through was the vision
of being able to lay in bed almost all day Sunday
once everyone had left,
and rest my aching
and fatigued muscles.

Well,
that wasn’t gonna happen.
So deal with it.

Challenge number 21.

Reworking my plans is not a huge challenge in and of itself. I have to do this all the time. But altering them by choosing to keep pushing myself, when I know my body is screaming for rest is something I have learned I am better off NOT doing. Fibromyalgia fatigue is like a vicious cycle: the more you push, the more fatigue you experience. More fatigue means poor sleep. Poor sleep means more fatigue and pain.
Resting in order to break the cycle is not only wise, it’s imperative.

But I have walked in my friend Ge’s shoes. I have been the one laying in a hospital bed, when my first daughter was small and my husband was away, in a country that did not yet feel like my own. Hospital staff speaking an unfamiliar language, encountering medical philosophies and practices that were very different from those I was accustomed to. And I was so ill, my life and the life of my yet unborn daughter resting in the hands of these people I could barely communicate with.

It is an incredibly vulnerable and lonely feeling.

So my own need for rest was not going to keep me from going to the hospital to make sure that my friend was being well-cared for. And as difficult as it was for me, those first couple days were ten times rougher for him. He had a high fever that wasn’t responding to medication, terrible pain in his legs, there were complications in contacting his insurance company, he was being kept in a bed in the Emergency Room rather than being transferred to a regular ward – one thing after another. But it was a privilege to sit and talk with him, pray for him as he slept, round up others around the world to pray. To do my best to guarantee that his needs were being met and he was receiving proper care for his illness.

I’m grateful for this day’s challenge. But I’m even more thankful that I serve a God who renews my failing strength when I’m weak and weary, supplying all that I need to get me through.

Tomorrow I will rest. And I can’t wait to see Ge healthy and on his feet again!
Please keep praying with me for him!

He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40:29-31

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Day 20: Saying Goodbye

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Our family is well-versed in the art of saying goodbye. Whether it’s to one another, our moms and dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, or dear friends. It’s not something we enjoy doing, but it goes along with the way we have chosen to live our lives. We are travelers, movers and shakers, citizens of the world – call us what you will. We’re willing and committed to go wherever God calls us, do whatever He asks of us. And we find that more often than not, He’s leading us on paths beyond what we might have once considered “home”.

All five of us love to go, to passionately embrace the new, the challenging, the unfamiliar. Foreign cultures, different languages: they are merely obstacles to be hurdled. Do we struggle? Yes. Is it difficult, even overwhelming? Very often it is.
But still we go.

Now don’t get me wrong – we find no pleasure in leaving loved ones behind. And while we very happily live this gypsy life, we value relationships profoundly. I like to describe it like this: wherever we are, we live and lay down roots as if we’ll stay forever. Yet, we’re always listening and ready to move on when we feel God’s leading us ahead. So we have developed friendships with people who feel like family all over the world… and we maintain those ties diligently and with much love, always looking for the next opportunity we will have to be together.

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Currently, one of our daughters is in Southern China, and we last saw her thirteen months ago. Our other daughter is in Austin, Texas, and we were with her last Christmas, when we also met her wonderful fiancee! As I mentioned in Friday’s post, our 18-year-old son, whom we last spent time with before he moved to the USA seven months ago, was arriving this weekend. He’s currently on a four month tour of Europe and the Russian-speaking world with the evangelistic band No Longer Music. And finally, my husband Denny, also on tour with NLM for a month as band pastor, would be home this weekend for the first time in over two weeks.

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Can you say emotionally charged weekend? And I would be seeing Isaac and Denny, while welcoming the band for lunch, helping however needed as they put on their show in Faro yesterday evening, and hosting 10 of the band members overnight and for Sunday breakfast at our house, before they set out on the road for Spain again.
Along with Denny. And Isaac. Leaving me behind in an empty house.

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So, although saying goodbye is not an exceptional event in my life, this particular goodbye was a rough one. Number 20 in My 30-day Challenge.

Fully supporting what my husband and each of our kids are doing around the world, and loving seeing them use the gifts God has given them for His unique purposes and glory makes the separation easier. But never easy.

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In two more weeks, I’ll be reunited with my man and will even get to spend a few days with Isaac. You gotta celebrate those moments of togetherness whenever they’re given to you! They are so precious.

 For though I am absent in the flesh,
yet I am with you in spirit,
rejoicing to see your 
good order
and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.
As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord,
so walk in Him,
rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith,
as you have been taught,
abounding in it with thanksgiving.
Colossians 2:5-7

Day 19: Keeping Calm

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I’m not a big fan of slogans, nor of following fads and jumping on bandwagons, so I’ve found the whole Keep Calm and <fill in the blank> campaign rather annoying. It was OK in the beginning, but then I grew tired of constantly seeing memes, T-shirts, coffee mugs, you name it, urging me to keep calm and do something.

Yet this morning, after my fatigued muscles had prevented me from sleeping well, and I was awakened at 6:30 by one of our dogs, I immediately began feeling stressed. I was tired and achy, it was raining (not what you want when you’ve got an outdoor concert organized for that evening) and I had lunch to prepare for the twenty people in the No Longer Music crew, who would be arriving at 2 pm. It was decidedly a day when I needed to be reminded to keep calm. A day when keeping calm was most certainly the best nomination for Day 19’s challenge.

As a young child in school, I had a “tummy ache” more often than not and I think I spent several days a week at the school nurse’s office when I was in second grade. I’ve never been one to overtly express emotions, though I do feel very deeply and passionately. This translated, especially during the first decades of my life, into quite a bit of internalized sentiment. So while I appeared very calm on the outside, my stomach was often in knots and I was experiencing stress through the roof on the inside.

It’s been a long journey over these past 50+ years of my life, learning to, on the one hand, express my feelings in an honest and healthy way, while at the same time, realizing that my emotions do not control me. I, rather, by God’s amazing grace and strength, am given the opportunity to turn them over to Him and give HIM control. They no longer need to dictate my mood nor my behavior. I can choose to allow my Lord to replace stress with peace, fear with trust, weariness with supernatural strength.

And I am so grateful that when I do, He faithfully keeps His promises!

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You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast,
because they trust in you.
Isaiah 26:3

Comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
Isaiah 61:3

 

Day 18: Preparing to Receive

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For the past couple days, I’ve been preparing to receive the No Longer Music band and crew into our home on Saturday (as in, tomorrow). They’ll be arriving around 2 pm, having lunch at our place and then heading in to Faro to set up and do their show right in front of the Mall, in a very centrally located park. Following the concert, half the NLM team (10 people), including my husband Denny, who’s been away for over two weeks, and our 18-year-old son Isaac,  who I haven’t seen in 7 months, will be staying over at our house (sadly, for just one night).

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Photo by Whitney Rae Hurst

Receiving guests into our home is not a challenge for me at all. I so enjoy having a houseful of people: guys and girls from different countries, walks of life and of various ages! There is profound richness there; so much we can learn from and share with one another.

I love to make people feel welcome, special and loved, to offer them a place to rest and be restored, to cook recipes for them from the various countries we’ve lived in and traveled through. God has blessed us so abundantly and it’s my great pleasure to allow that to overflow onto everyone who passes through our lives and our doors.

But before we can get to the fun of receiving people, there are preparations that must be carried out. The house needs to be dusted, swept and mopped. Sheets and towels from last week’s guests have to be washed and hung out to dry so beds can be made up again. Bathrooms require cleaning. The yard and front porch must be put in order. There are meals to plan, then food shopping to do. The groceries to unload from the car and put into fridge and cupboards.

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This part is less fun. Decidedly less fun. And since I’m home alone at the moment, it’s particularly decidedly less fun (Is that even grammatically correct?  Oh, who cares.). And it’s a whole lot more work. So this has been my challenge on this 18th day of the 30: finishing up the preparations to receive this lovely crew tomorrow, despite my tiredness!

And while I’m going about this, I’ve been reflecting (as I so often do) on this whole process. We all love to receive something: whether it’s guests into our home, a husband or wife whom we’ve just married, a new baby, a long-awaited job, a vacation. There’s that joy in embracing this “newness”, this departure from our normal and everyday! It is life-giving and inspirational, rife with fresh experiences and wonderful challenges.

Yet most times, we have to walk through those less-than-exciting preparations before we get to the place in which we’re ready to receive. There’s a price to be paid. That whole getting-to-know-you time, with all its uncertainties before marriage. Those nine long months full of numerous changes in the mother-to-be’s body and mood. The studying or gaining qualifications and experience that open the doors for a new job. The years of work put in, the pennies saved and the planning before a special vacation.

614487_10151212919391753_593738746_oI think of the verse
in Luke 14:28-30
that says:
Suppose one of you
wants to build a tower.
Won’t you first sit down
and estimate the cost
to see if you have enough money to complete it?

For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it,
everyone who sees it
will ridicule you,
saying,
‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’

Enjoying the tower (or houseful of precious people, or you fill in the blank) is the fun part, the bit that we all long for. But if all our focus and desire is on savoring the end point, we just might give up along the way, as the preparations – the cost of reaching our objective – may not have been taken into account. And they often come with a couple of sidekicks named Weariness and Discouragement, that would be all to happy to see us throwing in the towel.

There’s something so rewarding, once we’ve put in those long hours (or days, months, years… ) in laying the groundwork, when we are then able to fully live and relish those moments we’ve been anticipating. So I keep that vision before me as I work today, knowing that the price I am paying is more than worth what I will enjoy tomorrow!

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PS: With the concert happening tomorrow and our house overflowing with goodness, I will be taking the day off from blogging, but will catch up with you on Sunday!

 

Day 17: Devising a Plan

We have eight different varieties of mature, fruit-producing trees on the quarter of an acre of land that we rent here in the Algarve: almond, carob, fig, loquat, plum, lemon, tangerine and orange. We actually have multiples of each of these trees.
And there are thirty orange trees. As in three zero. Ten times three.

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IMG_20160525_191947When the really hot weather rolls around, the orange trees need water. But worry ye not – we have a well and water aplenty. The base of each tree has been carefully dug out to form another sort of well, that can be filled to the brim with water a few times per week, keeping the tree well hydrated. Because the land is large and the trees are spread out across it, a long and thick hose is needed to get this job done.
A long, thick and heavy hose.

Due to the muscle power needed to drag the monstrous water conduit from tree to tree, it’s normally not one of the items on my task list. Denny usually takes care of it, or Daniel, the man who rents a warehouse on our property. With Denny away for a month on the No Longer Music tour, however, I have been elected to this undertaking. And though it might not seem like a big deal to the average, able-bodied human being, my body (and in particular, my muscle power) is decidedly less than able.
Trust me… the hose is thicker than it looks here.

Fortunately, it’s not super hot yet, so the trees are only needing to be doused about once a week. Even more fortunately, it rained during the first week that Denny was on tour, so I was temporarily rescued from this obligation. The past seven days, on the contrary, have been particularly hot and dry and our lovely citrus grove was beginning to drop a bit of immature fruit, begging for a long, cool drink.

So I needed to devise a plan: a means of transforming a downright difficult deed into a possible and even pleasant prospect!

Do you ever find yourself in this position in life? Being charged with a task for which you are not qualified, that you are completely unequipped to undertake? Living in countries other than the one I was born and raised in, and engaging in the wild and challenging activities that are part of our daily life, I often experience this.

Many times, my first reaction is one of panic and refusal: I can’t do this! It’s too much for me! There are definitely others more capable of handling this than I am! Let them do it! (And Denny’s ears are usually on the receiving end of this monologue). But once I’ve versed my lament, I generally pull myself together, accept the challenge, and begin to work out a strategy for accomplishing what needs to be done.

Yes, the ideal is that someone who is truly qualified and capable of a job be the person to do it. But frequently, even just for a brief period, another needs to stand in the gap – to fill shoes that don’t quite feel their size, and that are uncomfortable. That’s when asking God to give us a game plan and consulting with others who might offer helpful advice makes all the difference. They are most definitely times of stretching, but also moments when we can grow in our trust in God, our abilities and our confidence in facing unfamiliar tasks.

IMG_20160526_123349By breaking down
the initially overwhelming job
of watering the orange trees
into small, doable chores,
I was able not only to get it done,
but to get it done well and even have some fun!
Two evenings ago, when the sun was setting
and the air was cooling down,
I rolled out the mega-hose
and delivered it’s “mouth”
to the farthest tree in the yard. While playing fetch with our dog Eva (who had me laughing hysterically, as she tore about the yard, running circles around me with the ball in her mouth), I managed to fill a third of the “tree wells” and then, rather than reeling the hose in, I just left it there, like a snake in the grass.

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The following morning, before the heat of the day hit (and before my cup of coffee… truly taking one for the team), I satiated another third of the yard’s trees.
Finally, last night, with the dogs cheering me on (and occasionally giving Tummy, the cat, a little sprinkle), I completed the project, still leaving the hose unwound.
This morning, a cloudy and cooler day, I reeled that baby in – mission accomplished!

Though my arm muscles are singing a lament from hauling that tremendous thing around our property, I feel satisfied for having succeeded on a venture that seemed far beyond my reach. Sometimes you just have to devise a plan for the wisest way to move forward, muster up your courage, and get to it! 

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By wisdom a house is built,
and by understanding it is established;
by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.
Proverbs 24:3-4

Prepare your work outside;
get everything ready for yourself in the field,
and after that build your house.
Proverbs 24:27

Day 16: Exploring on Two Wheels

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I’m almost ashamed to admit it, but last year around this time, I bought a second-hand bicycle and I’ve only ridden it once. Barely once. I think Denny had all but given up on the idea that I might actually use it as more than just a cute trophy in our storage area! Well, day 16 of My 30-day Challenge has rolled around and – surprise, surprise!
Guess who rode her bicycle!

I determined to set out shortly after breakfast, so I wouldn’t get involved in doing things around the house and yard, and then lose the will (or the wind in my sails) to follow through with my decision. Unlike the hot days we’ve been enjoying, today was a bit chilly, so it seemed just right for a ride.

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I headed down our little lane to its intersection with the EN 125 – the national road that runs west to east along the entire southern region of Portugal. It’s a busy thoroughfare but it has a fairly broad shoulder on both sides, making it well-suited (in most points) for walking or cycling.

Something I love about Portuguese roads is that they often appear to have been slapped down with little fore-planning. Almost as if some engineer sitting in a distant office just drew a wandering line on a map from point A to point B and said, “OK, let’s go pave it!” This makes them such fun places to explore. The particular route near our house is dotted with everything from shops to warehouses, farms to open fields, abandoned houses to villas and anything you can imagine in between.

I made my way westward, huffing and puffing just a bit, my thigh muscles reminding me of our stretching date yesterday. I had to concentrate quite a bit in the beginning because – I suppose I failed to mention – I hadn’t ridden a bicycle in, oh, at least ten years. Well, I had once last year. Sort of. Right after I bought the bike. But you already know that.

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Isn’t she a beaut?

As time passed, I began to relax more and gasp less, and that’s when the fascination of exploring on two wheels began to overtake me.

You see, I drive this road several times a week and I’m quite familiar with its windings and meanderings. But the fact is that when I’m in a car, riding along, my mind wanders to a million places. And everything kind of flies by quickly… the houses with their quaint, flowering courtyards, the shops, the graffitied walls. I can barely take them in with my eyes before I’ve passed them. And the same experience keeps repeating itself.

Sometimes, I intentionally slow down to try to get a better look at a particular field or patch of wildflowers, but I’m ever-conscious of the flow of traffic behind me, begging me to keep with the pace. But on a bicycle, my friends! Oh, on a bicycle, everything is different!

I love feeling the wind in my hair, the sounds of all that’s going on around me racing in my ears. The colors appear brighter, fragrances zestier! Everything just seems… MORE! I guess it’s because rather than careening down the road in a big metal box, I’m meandering along with little that separates me from the world around me.
Just those two wheels propelling me along. And I can stop and smell the roses whenever I fancy.

So I did.

I rode for an hour and paused every time I came across something I’d missed before. Or something that I’d always wanted to get a better look at, but the flow of traffic hadn’t allowed for it.

I admired gorgeous plants and feasted on the deep purple of wildflowers. I pondered the tired arches of an old aqueduct in an overgrown field.

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I stopped before yet another ruin of a house, standing barren, its outer walls crumbling.
I rested at the corner with the wonderfully graffitied building – the one that always seems to call my name.

And I decided that I really must explore this way more often. Because there’s so much beauty all around me, and my soul is richer when I take the time to drink it in.

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But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;
or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
or let the fish in the sea inform you.
Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this?
In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.
Job 12:7-10

Day 15: Representing God’s Glory

Saint Lawrence’s Church is a famous Catholic Church in our city, located just three kilometers (almost two miles) from our house. It’s believed to have been built sometime in the mid to late 1600’s and holds one of Portugal’s finest examples of tile paneling, as its interior walls are entirely decorated with traditional Portuguese blue and white glazed tile murals.

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In the six years we’ve lived in the Algarve region, I’ve regularly driven past the the small road leading up to the famous sanctuary, often thinking, “I really must go check that out!”. But then I never did. A year ago, we moved to a property just down the road from it, and I continued to promise myself that I’d get there to see it. Well today was the day. Day 15: the halfway point in My 30-day Challenge.

IMG_20160525_101413The old church inhabits
a small, unassuming neighborhood, sharing the space
with a handful of houses,
a primary school,
a café,
and a cemetery.
I made my way up the hill
upon which it sits,
admiring the traditional
Portuguese-style homes along the way: simple, square, whitewashed dwellings, accented with blue trim.
Reaching the summit, I took in the view of the exterior of the building.
It’s soft curves, modest cupola, and subdued decoration lent it
a very soft and appealing feel.

I strolled around its courtyard, enjoying the overlook of the serene countryside below, and snapped a few photos of the exterior “azulejo” tilework before deciding to enter.

Well, you’ll just have to trust me when I tell you that the interior of this Church was both stunning and overwhelming, though much smaller than I had imagined. Just inside the door, I glanced the sign (in four different languages) advising that the taking of photographs or videos was strictly forbidden, but you can view a photo gallery here.
I walked around marveling at the immense detail in the tile murals and domed ceiling, finally deciding to just sit for a while on the bare wooden pews to allow myself time to take it all in.

In contrast to the stark sea of blue and white, was the ornately gilded altar, entirely painted in gold. I studied its elaborate features, reflecting on how I have never really understood nor appreciated the investment of such large sums of money and time into this kind of ostentatious church decor. “What did our ancestors hope to accomplish through it?” I wondered. It has always struck me as so contrary to the simplicity that Jesus represented and modeled for us during His time on earth.

But as I continued to explore this auriferous altar, taking note of the multiplicity of gloriously portrayed angels, cherubs and other celestial beings, it occurred to me that maybe they were attempting to communicate something of God’s glory.

Yes, God’s glory. Such a mystery. All that we read of our Lord’s glory in the Bible, of His throne room in the heavens and the awesome and almost terrifying beings that constantly bow down before him, speaking and singing His praises… I struggle to imagine it. And because it is so completely outside of our realm of experience, I suppose it’s impossible for us to envision. There is nothing within our field of reference to compare it to.

So as I sat pondering, I gained a slightly new perspective. Maybe I don’t comprehend the exaggerated display of ornamentation that’s before me. But I do appreciate the quest to represent, though partially and no doubt inadequately, the awesomeness and wonder of our God, in all His glory. To Him be praise forever!

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Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels,
numbering thousands upon thousands,
and ten thousand times ten thousand.
They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders.

In a loud voice they were saying:
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!”
Revelation 5:11,12

 

Day 14: On Stretching… and Being Stretched

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For some time now, I’ve wanted to start a daily stretching routine. Regular exercise and stretching are generally very helpful to those who suffer from fibromyalgia. They can boost energy, ease pain and stiffness, lift mood, and improve sleep. Unfortunately, being stiff and in pain, sleeping poorly and having little energy is generally NOT very conducive towards implementing such a program. Kind of a vicious cycle.

Despite my lack of discipline in this area, I nonetheless have very good muscle flexibility. I find stretching in itself to be very enjoyable but struggle with the consistency part. So for day 14 of My 30-day Challenge, I decided I would set in motion this diurnal discipline, with the intention of continuing to maintain it.

As I began my first exercises, I could feel the pull in my muscles… a sensation I actually really like. It tells me that something is happening; that I’m engaging in movements that my body is not accustomed to. There were plenty of creaks, cracks and crunches as I slowly but deliberately stretched calves, thighs, hips, lower back, and shoulders. I tried to focus on breathing properly, as I have a tendency to hold my breath when exercising.

IMG_20160524_110205Inevitably, my thoughts always drift
to spiritual parallels.
Stretching. And being stretched.
I admit I am quite the adventurer.
While I appreciate a certain
amount of stability,
I get bored easily when life settles
into a stable and predictable rhythm.
I tend to thrive in the face
of challenge, change and crisis.
It’s when I feel that God is calling me
to walk in new depths of understanding
of all that He has taught me.
Of who He has created me to be.

When I wade into uncharted waters,
I begin to experience that same groaning
that my muscles silently emit
as they’re stretched.
I can, of course, choose to resist
being pulled and molded
by life’s experiences…
but then I will remain stiff and inflexible.

I so desire to be shaped
by God’s precious Spirit.
To surrender myself as clay
in His capable hands,
to be prodded and pulled,
honed and refined,
IMG_20160524_110050so that I may reflect
His image.
He, the creator,
the One who knew me even before
I was formed
in my mother’s womb, comprehends fully
who I am and who,
by His grace,
I am capable of becoming.

So stretch me, Lord. Loosen up all that is stiff and stagnant! Restore, refine, redeem!
I place my trust in you, and I know I shall not be disappointed!

Yet you, Lord, are our Father.
We are the clay,
you are the potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
Isaiah 64:8

Day 13: Enjoying the Cool of the Day

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God
as he was walking in the garden
in the cool of the day…
Genesis 3:8

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Have you ever wondered what that must have been like? To be in a garden and hear the sound of the Lord God walking there, coming to talk with you?! I’ve often thought about this verse and wondered how Adam and Eve experienced this. I imagine that God came to walk with them often, in the cool early evening.

I love that hour of the day here in the Algarve, especially at this time of year. We’re having some pretty hot days already and when early evening rolls around and the sun is hanging lazily just above the horizon, there is such a beautiful glow. Everything seems to be colored with a slightly different hue, displaying softer, more muted tones. And the air begins to turn slightly cool – not enough to cause a chill, yet offering sweet reprieve from the afternoon’s heat.

As my challenge for day 13, I decided to get out and weed our fruit and vegetable garden in the cool of the day. We eat late dinners here in Southern Portugal – usually just sitting down at the table somewhere between 7:30 and 8:30 pm; often even later in the Summer. And since in our home, as I’ve already mentioned in previous posts, we are pretty fond of spending long hours savoring our food and talking, I rarely have the energy to get out and work in the yard after our evening meal. But since I’m home alone this month and can schedule my days any way I please, (and have no one to talk to but the dogs and cat at mealtimes), I decided to have an early supper and then give some much-needed attention to the yard.

The previous weeks had brought heavy rains, contributing marvelously towards the abundant growth of all that we had planted and, unfortunately, to the equally prolific population of weeds. Glancing at the patch where our melon plants were growing, I felt somewhat overwhelmed, yet I made my way along the path and through the garden gate, determined to make some headway despite my tiredness.

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I squatted down and commenced weeding with an old kitchen knife, quickly realizing that if I continued in that position, I might never stand upright again. “I should’ve brought out a piece of cardboard to sit on in the damp soil,” I thought. I didn’t really feel like returning all the way to the house, so I decided I’d just sit down and get my skirt dirty. I also took off my flip flops so I could position my feet better for the task at hand.

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I should tell you that after the beach, the garden is my second “happy place”. There is something that happens in my soul when I begin to dig my fingers into the damp earth. Denny shakes his head at me because I refuse to use garden gloves (and often pay the price, coming in contact with stinging nettles or getting pricked by thorns). But to me, it’s worth the risk. I just love the feel of that cool dirt on my skin, and the scent it releases! Along with the fragrance of all the plants, flowers, even bugs. So soothing.

IMG_20160523_192842And there I sat
for two hours straight,
barely noticing
the passage of time.
As I relished the coolness
of the earth between my toes,
I dug them in just a bit deeper…
and my mind drifted back
to that verse.
They heard the sound
of the Lord God as he was
walking in the garden
in the cool of the day.
I knew He was there
with me now,
strolling among the rows
of strawberries and carrots. Admiring the green fruit
on the tomato plants;
the enormous radishes
protruding from the ground.
His peace and grace
wafted over me
in the silent hush of twilight.

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I was drawn from my reverie
as I realized
that the last amber rays of the sun
were creeping softly over the horizon and nightfall was imminent.
I gathered my bucket of weeds
and my knife,
gave my toes one last wiggle in the soil and headed off for the house,
content and refreshed.


The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.

Psalm 24:1

 

 

Day 12: Seeing Like a Child

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Since I was going to have the joy of spending my weekend with some good friends and their young children, I chose to relate day twelve’s selection in My 30-day Challenge to the one couple’s very active and curious toddler age son. So often when we’re with children, we are preoccupied with taking care of their needs, enjoying their company or just keeping them out of trouble, and we miss out on experiencing a marvelous gift that they can share with us: seeing, precisely, through the eyes of a child.

As adults, who’ve lived for many years, we have experienced innumerable situations, visited a multitude of places, and can easily lose our sense of wonder. It happens to me here in Europe, a continent so rich in history and culture. I’ll catch myself thinking, “Yep, that’s another Medieval castle” or “Oh, one more city that dates back to the 7th century”. I can slip into a state of amazement overdose in which I struggle with continuing to be in awe of the beauty and wonder that constantly surrounds me.

So I thought it would be fun this weekend to really take notice of how a toddler views things. This particular little guy was coming to our house for the first time, so everything would be completely new to him. What would strike his fancy? Which aspects would appear most curious, alarming or fascinating. I was ready to observe and try to see the world to which I’ve grown so accustomed, through his two-year-old lenses. And maybe learn a few things about how I might better experience it. What did I discover?

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1. Almost everything
is wonderful
and deserves
to be explored!
Staircases,
dogs’ nostrils,
staircases,
whatever Mom and Dad are eating,
and especially
staircases!
Because
they lead to places.
Interesting places.
And anything
that stands in your way
is merely
a temporary obstacle
to be surmounted
with cleverness and charm.

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2. Feelings are paramount and should be communicated immediately, making generous use of facial and vocal expression. If necessary, also flail arms and legs.

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3. When the nervous, old lady dog snaps at you and you’re frightened; when you’re tired or hungry or in need of help, or if everything just begins to feel a bit overwhelming, the best place to be is in your Daddy’s arms.


4. And finally, but perhaps most importantly, never turn down the opportunity to jump on a bed. It just might be your last. Oh, and don’t forget to giggle. Because everything is a little more fun when you’re giggling.

And Jesus said:
“Truly I tell you,
unless you change
and become like little children,
you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Therefore, whoever takes
the lowly position of this child
is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

And whoever welcomes
one such child in my name
welcomes me.
Matthew 18:3-5