Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Nature's classroom

Or perhaps... a garden surprise. Either way, a learning lesson for all and an ever-increasing appreciation for God's creative hand. You know, it never ceases to amaze me-- the countless lessons that are just waiting for us, right outside our kitchen windows, if only we take the time to go out and peak. God is so very good that way!! His creation is just brimming with nooks and crannies to explore and discover, and each and every one holds another mystery to unfold or another oddity to examine... leaving us filled with a wealth of new tid bits to share and savor... or perhaps just to mull over for a few lazy days at at time.

Well, one day last week proved to be no exception. On Tuesday we drove to Grandmom's & Pop's house for the day (with the purpose of leaving Big Man behind so that he could finish out the VBS week with Gmom), and naturally I chose to stroll through my mama's vegetable gardens for a peak at all her goodies therein. Well, it didn't take long to notice that something had been feasting on her tomato plants... and that something had all but decimated a handful of them. Mom told me she had just noticed it earlier that day and didn't suspect the deer (her usual garden munchers) but instead suspected a much, much smaller vegetarian... a creepy little thing that, upon closer inspection, was most certainly enjoying the abundance~

And then we found another.
And another. And another... each one a good 3 inches long.

= nasty not-so-little creatures who have been known to decimate entire
tomato plant populations in a matter of days, leaf by little leaf.
I wish I had taken a picture of the plants themselves--
many of the branches were virtually leafless
(and as we all know, a plant without leaves doesn't stand much hope of survival).
Evidently, these guys were well on their way.

After a thorough hunt, we pulled off 5 or 6 altogether, but the following morning
Mom found 2 or 3 more... hopefully the last of the bunch. We chucked them all over the fence;
hopefully, they won't find their way back.

Now here's the part that the biologist in me finds absolutely fascinating--
see all those little white things attached to the hornworm's back?

As an opossum carries its young, so the hornworm carries its young
(or soon-to-be young), right?


As it turns out, those white things are indeed eggs, but they're not HIS eggs.
Tragically (for him), he's fallen prey to a tiny parasitic wasp...
a clever creature who instinctively lays his own eggs along the hornworm's back.
After hatching then, the very hungry itsy-bitsy wasp larvae burrow IN TO the worm itself
and feed off him... and thus kill him in the process.

Pretty interesting, huh? My boys thought that was the coolest~

So... should you find any of these egg-covered hornworms in your garden--
don't kill them (or throw them over the fence and out into the woods :).
Instead, nestle them-- along with the leaf on which they're currently munching--
amongst the leaves of your sacrificial tomato plant
(the one that's already too far gone to be saved) and allow the wasps to hatch...
and thus-- naturally-- take care of your potential hornworm population.

(As for the hornworms that are NOT currently carrying any wasp eggs,
just cut them in half with a pair of garden scissors.
The helpful gentleman on this YouTube video made it look very, very easy.
Still, I think I'll let the boys tackle that job.)

So as for science in the summer, I'll borrow one of Martha Stewart's famous lines--
"It's a good thing."
And thanks to the Lord's creativity, a little time outdoors, and a couple of curious minds,
my boys and I now know a little bit more about our tomato plants
and the critters who enjoy them as much as we do!

Happy gardening!

Monday, July 26, 2010

1000 Gifts: Colorful summer

"To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant,
to enact gratitude is generous and noble,
but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven."

~Johannes A. Gaertner

And so this morning I add to my list... with a heart overflowing with thanks...
and I offer praise to the One who continues to bless... every single day.

orange gerber daisies in a favorite blue jug

baking with my boys... and a very clean kitchen

their excitement to help, to prepare, to do. it. all.

an unexpected delight: "I LOVE this bread, Mom!"

mixed berry jam

quiet time each day

sometimes with a soccer ball in the shade

three days at VBS with Grandmom (and his "registration" already turned in for next year :)

paintball guns with Pops

and a perfect reminder from the Word-- God has a plan for him... a good, good plan

my bumble bee-sized garden helper

bold color

and the last of our cherry tomatoes

help around the house

painting projects underway

things checked off the list


evenings at the pool

2-year old fearlessness~ glub glub glub

5 year feistiness~ he's swimming like a fish

"big boys" at the pool (their very favorite companions!) who are not too big to hang with the little guys

and plenty of time to play... and splash... and throw~ over and over and over again

the opportunity to watch from the sidelines

and then to jump in and join them as well

yes, this wild & crazy family... I simply cannot count them enough!

"Now, our God, we give you thanks,
and praise your glorious name."

1 Chronicles 29:13

holy experience

and the list goes on...

Friday, July 23, 2010

A note to my fellow bakers~

If you DO NOT want a Hiroshima-sized flour cloud suspended throughout your entire just-scrubbed-spotlessly-clean-yesterday kitchen space, and if you DO NOT want to have to RE-clean that same lovely kitchen space... from top to bottom... without delay...

please, please, please be sure to check... and perhaps even recheck... the lid on your grain mill. It must be firmly locked in place.

And that's all I've got to say about that.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Drive Thru History: America

Just a quick recommendation for anyone looking to reinforce their American history studies before school starts back up in the fall...

= a wonderful DVD that teaches the history of our nation from a Christian worldview
as it highlights 8 of the men & women who were instrumental in its founding...
George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Quincy Adams, Abigail Adams,
Benjamin Banneker, Dr. Benjamin Rush, Haym Salomon, and Noah Webster.
(There's also a study guide, but it's designed for middle school & up)

"Discover the character, faith, and experiences of America's founders as they developed this great country where we can worship,
work, travel, and live in freedom!"

The boys have enjoyed it tremendously and look forward to watching
it's at the top of my shopping list :)

And just in case you're new to these resources, their other DVDs are lots of fun, too,
and most are available at your local library. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Learning... always learning

Just a few weeks ago, some very special friends of ours purchased a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful home out in the country. A large brick colonial nestled on 10 gorgeous wooded acres... complete with tennis courts and volleyball net, walking trails, and room. to. move. And ever since that time (I've gotta confess), I've been struggling with it all. I mean... honestly, I am so tickled pink for them! They are wonderful, wonderful folks and their family is the best. But wowza. My little Cape Cod perched on a third of a city acre, is currently boxing me in and... forcing me to examine my heart.

In a very timely manner (as is always the case with our Lord), my bff posted this quote on her blog yesterday:

"He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not,
but rejoices for those which he has."


Hmmm. How 'bout that?

Coincidental? I think not.
God-ordained? Absolutely.

And so today, as I pray and pray and remind myself of His never-ending love, of His never-ending care, of His always-wants-best-for me provision, I switch my focus. Off of my wants and on to my blessings. My gifts. My treasures so lovingly given by the One who knows best, who gives best, who loves best. And once again, I give thanks.

"Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have,
because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.' "

Hebrews 13:5

"But godliness with contentment is great gain."

1 Timothy 6:6

"... for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances,
I do know what it is to be in need,
and I do know what it is to have plenty.
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,
whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
I can do everything through Him who gives me strength."

Philippians 4: 11b-13

"But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.
People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap
and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.
For the love of money is a root to all kinds evil...
But you, man of God, flee from all this,
and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.
Fight the good fight of faith.
Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called
when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus,
who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession,
I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame
until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ."

1 Timothy 6: 8-14

Monday, July 19, 2010

1000 Gifts: Summer showers

"Earth's crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
the rest sit round it and pluck blackberries,
and daub their natural faces unaware."

~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Oh, Father, don't let me miss the gifts of Your hand, the illustrations of Your love, the work of Your heart.
Please, give me eyes to see!

rain, glorious rain

a quiet house-- children sleeping, darkness surrounding, raindrops falling... gently calling me to rest

and garden life... singing its lovely song once again

puzzles on the dining room table

good books on the sofa

and homemade bread... deliciously divine

hidden treasures

and eyes to see

new life

a tiny hand, tucked gently in mine

and a quiet whisper, "I love you, Mommy..."

little girl delights... like
baby doll carriages, brand new shoes, brightly colored ribbons... and pink!

yes, pink jammies and pink "paint"... how could we ever live without them??!

faraway friends no longer faraway

and an evening with them... plus fireflies and tennis balls, lemonade and ice cream cones, extreme generosity and kind, kind hearts

great friends

and summer!
"Now, our God, we give you thanks,
and praise your glorious name."

1 Chronicles 29:13

holy experience

and the list goes on...

Friday, July 16, 2010


Yesterday we ventured into the city...
and dazzled our way through the "Holidays on Display" exhibition
at the National Museum of American History.
There the kiddos' great-great-grandfather's work is on display through Labor Day~
what a treat to see a family name featured in the Smithsonian!!

Several cousins drove in from the 'burbs, as well, and three of Chris's aunts came, too...
it was a lovely Christmas-in-July sort of reunion!

And of course we had to finish up our day with a race across the Mall :)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Lessons learned in the pool

My Noh-man, swimmer extraordinaire, has been diligently striving to qualify for the Eastern Zone Championship all summer long. While Bub qualified last year as a 10-year old, it's not nearly as common for kiddos to do so at age 9. As of this writing, only two have done it thus far in the entire state of VA... & if you happened to read my post on Monday, you know my Noh-man is one of them. But that's what my story is all about :)

So anyhoo, Noh snatched his first 3 qualifying times (he needs 4) fairly early in the longcourse season (April-July: swimmers compete in a 50m pool instead of a 25yd one), but that fourth bugger has been... well, a bug. He's missed that cut in the past few meets by a mere quarter of a second. In Baltimore, he'd get another shot.

Well, last Friday that opportunity came and went, and just as in races past, Noh narrowly missed his cut. BUT... the cup was half full, my friend, because that night, in the finals round, he would get one more chance. You see, the top 8 finishers in each event were slated to compete again, and since Noh had finished third, he would be there.

So enter Friday night, ~ 7pm. Noh stood behind the starting block in lane 5, ready to attack the 200 meter freestyle one. more. time. He was flanked on either side by 2 fellows who had just out-touched him in the preliminaries, but he was undaunted. Focused. Prepared.

At the far end of the pool Mom cheered with Big Man & Lollipop. Chris watched (and cheered) from the starting end of the pool, and I squatted at the end of Noh's lane with my dad, stopwatch in hand... hovering, screaming, urging him on to victory.

Now a quick note about my dad-- he's an engineer, a numbers kind of guy, a mathematical genius for sure. He knows *all* the boys' times by heart-- their splits, their seeds, their goals... every statistical nugget needed to determine their chances of success at any given point in a race. So as Noh-man torpedoed through that 200 free, at each and every flip turn he made, Dad KNEW whether or not he was on track for the Zone cut. My boy had to swim that 200 meters in 2:41:39-- that's 2 minutes, 40 seconds, and 39 hundredths of a second (or less) if he was going to qualify for the Eastern Zone Championship that evening.

So, for the first 3 legs... he. looked. good. Off the wall he flew through his first two turns, and off the wall he flew through his last one. With only 50 meters to go, Noh-man was swimming to beat the band; surely he'd finish in time.

And then Dad glanced at his watch... and proceeded to break my heart. "He's not gonna make it," he said as he dejectedly looked to the ground. Immediately my heart sank to the floor because evidently, Noh was too far off the pace. The seconds would tick by and so would that qualification he so desperately wanted-- he would not reach the wall in time. Still, we rose to our feet and cheered him on to the very end.

Now... hang with me... because this is where the story gets really good. Remember those 2 young fellas who were seeded above my Noh-man, those two little whipper-snappers who were just a fraction of a second faster than him in the prelims?? Well... they took off. Infused by some extraordinary jet propulsion power, they stretched their lead and zoomed closer to the finish line, leaving my Noh and the rest of the swimmers farther behind. Noh, ever determined, however, continued to motor on, and as he neared the end of the pool, my dad looked at his watch one more time. A tiny glimmer of hope crept across his lips... because there was still 10 seconds left before the Zone cut expired, and Noh was currently cruising at a mighty fast pace. I turned to stare at the score board-- desperate for his time to flash across the screen.

I waited. And I waited. And I waited for what seemed like an eternity.... for Noh's final time to appear in bright neon yellow. And then finally, it was there.



2:41:00 for the swimmer in lane 5.

Two minutes, 41 seconds flat. He finished with 39 hundredths of a second to spare.

Once again, the Lord had provided. He had met the need-- precisely.

God. is. good.

Needless to say, we all did the happy dance right there on the pool deck-- we hooted, we hollered, we partied like it was 1999... because our boy had done it.

He had done it. By God's amazing grace, he had done it.


Shortly thereafter, I asked him, "When did you know you had done it? Did you hear us screaming at the other end? Did you see me dancing (not a pretty sight, I'll tell you)? Did your timer tell you? Did daddy rush over from his lane to share the great news? Did you see the scoreboard? Please tell me... when did you know?"

"Well, I thought I heard you screaming, but I didn't want to look. So I took my time in taking off my cap and goggles..."

He didn't want to look.

He didn't want to look because he was too afraid of being disappointed yet again. And even as I write this I cry... because my boy-- my fighter-- my champion-- my teacher... didn't quit. He didn't give up. He swam that last 50m stretch with all his might even as those 2 super fast fellas pulled farther ahead... closer and closer to the finish line and that coveted Zone cut time. If they were so close to qualifying earlier that day in the prelims, Noh assumed-- surely they'd be close to it again. And who knows? Perhaps this time they'd make it. But he wouldn't... because he couldn't keep that pace... and the prize would, once again, remain just beyond his grasp.

At that very the pool... when Noh-man made that conscious realization--
Discouraged? Yes.
Disheartened? You bet.
Defeated? Not on your life.

How easy would it have been for him-- upon seeing those 2 fast little dudes stretch their lead--to turn off his jets... to downshift into 4th gear... to coast to the finish line, satisfied with a race well swum, but heartsick over the results? How easy would it have been for him to pause in his efforts, even if for a second, to recollect his thoughts, reassess his strategy, redetermine his game plan... when a pause for a mere fraction of a second would surely determine the outcome? I mean after all, he was already convinced that the prize for which he'd so incredibly labored was now out of reach. Why continue to fight?

Because the prize was worth the fight. Period.

Because the prize was worth the fight, Noh-man didn't ease across the finish line. And he didn't pause in his labors, even though defeat was all but certain. Instead he kicked it up another notch and did the IMPOSSIBLE. By God's amazing grace and by Holy Spirit-power, he flew. He flew. He flew.

Jesus looked at them and said,
"With man this is impossible,
but with God all things are possible."

Matthew 19:26


Since that night I've wondered. How often do I do THAT in the course of my everyday? How often do I turn on my jets and race to the end, even when defeat seems all but inevitable? How often do I refuse... absolutely refuse... to surrender, even when the goal seems helplessly out of reach? How often do I deny discouragement and disappointment a foothold in my heart, and how often do I press the gas pedal still further, trusting in Holy Spirit-power to lead me to the end?

Truth be told... not as often as I care to admit.

But let me ask you this?? If a courageous 9yo boy can fight with everything he's got, why can't I? Why shouldn't I? Why don't I?

I don't know, but I must... because the prize in this life is worth so much more. Knowing Jesus and bringing glory to His name-- that's what it's all about. Even when it's tough...

The Prize is worth the fight.

"Well done, good and faithful servant...
come and share your master's happiness!"


Well done. Well done. Well done. You have finished the race, and you have finished it well.

What can be better than that??!

Thank you, heavenly Father, for your endlessly wonderful gifts.
And thank you for the champion-sized heart of my 9 year-old boy
and the lesson you've used him to teach~

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,
let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles,
and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus,
the author and perfecter of our faith,
who for the joy set before him endured the cross,
scorning its shame,
and sat down at the right hand of God.
Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men,
so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."

Hebrews 12:1-3

Monday, July 12, 2010

1000 Gifts: A weekend in Baltimore

I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene,
And wonder how He could love me,
A sinner, condemned, unclean.

How marvelous! How wonderful!
And my song shall ever be:
How marvelous! How wonderful
Is my Savior's love for me

~Charles H. Gabriel

Another one of those weekends, stamped with the Lord's favor & might,
with His power, His presence, and His provision.

Leaving me amazed-- amazed at how He loves,
how He guides,
how He restores and renews and blesses...
over and over and over again.

And so I give thanks, once again, for the outpouring of His hand
and the unbelievable generosity of His heart.

2010 ASC/RAC Long Course Invitational at the University of Maryland,
Baltimore Campus
July 9-11

the love of a sport

and the skill to enjoy it well

a talented team of coaches

with one in particular... who inspires, challenges, motivates, believes

6 a.m. training sessions with nary a word of complaint... all summer long


the opportunity to travel so my boys can compete

and grandparent's who travel with us

to help, support, encourage, and play

a convenient outdoor venue, and a moment of levity for all

a tent to provide shade and shelter

plus cloud cover, cool breezes, and blue icee treats

72 & gray on Saturday... a welcome relief from the heat

a baked potato snack

and a few bites to share

laughter on the sidelines

and swimmers in training

not to mention... an extra pair of goggles

cheering, cheering, and cheering some more

and rejoicing at the "finish line" after a job well done

"Whatever your hands find to do, do it with all of your might..."

Ecclesiastes 9:10a

an ever-increasing appreciation for mere fractions of a seconds

plus hard lessons learned... disappointments--> growth

the instruments our sovereign Lord uses to impart His valuable truths

this past weekend, one of them just happened to be my 9-yo son.
This go round-- he, the teacher; me, the student.

stick-to-it-iveness and burdens lifted


two Eastern Zone cuts... Noh's 4th & 5th of the season

and his rightful spot-- now secure-- on this season's Virginia Zone team

amazing... AMAZING... perseverance, progress, dedication, and success... in two precious, precious treasures

and the never-ending, wonderfully abundant, more-than-I-could-ever-imagine blessing of His hand

"Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,
according to His power that is at work within us."

Ephesians 3:20

holy experience

and the list goes on...

Monday, July 5, 2010

1000 Gifts: Freedom

Off with your hat, as the flag goes by!
And let the heart have its say;
you're man enough for a tear in your eye
that you will not wipe away.

~Henry Cuyler Bunner

Celebrating... rejoicing... and giving thanks for freedom,
I add another page to my journal and write again.

freedom... and those who
gave their lives to insure it

freedom... and those who
give their lives to defend it

My God! How little do my countrymen know
what precious blessings they are in possession of,
and which no other people on earth enjoy!

~Thomas Jefferson

This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.

~Elmer Davis

my husband, my daddy, and my father-in-law... their sacrificial service to our country

courage & conviction

the red, white, and blue

and everything for which it stands

National honor is national property of the highest value.

~James Monroe

leaders who are proud to call themselves Americans

and who refuse to settle for anything less

those who came before us

and gave everything they had

these United States

We on this continent should never forget
that men first crossed the Atlantic not to find soil for their ploughs
but to secure liberty for their souls.

~Robert J. McCracken

the hand of the Father... as seen throughout time, throughout HIStory...
unmistakable, irrefutable, all-powerful, and eternal

and His promise to heal our land

pastors who boldly proclaim Truth and refuse to compromise God's Word

and the freedom to worship together

Ours is the only country deliberately founded on a good idea.

~John Gunther

friends and family

flags and fireworks

festivities and fellowship


our parade down the street... the children's merry voices calling, "Happy 4th of July!! Happy 4th of July!!"

little flag-waving Americans

We can't all be Washingtons, but we can all be patriots.

~Charles F. Browne


late nights and fireflies

Where liberty dwells, there is my country.

~Benjamin Franklin

the sovereignthy of our Creator

His relentless pursuit... that ALL should find freedom in Him

and the ultimate reward... freedom that will never be stripped away...
found only in the Savior, Jesus Christ

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free."

Galatians 5:1

holy experience

and the list goes on...