Monthly Archives: August 2014

Ye Shall Also Reap

Today I went with friends to pick plums for free in a neglected orchard. We all got enough to dry and make into plum jam or plum butter (yum!). I was reminded again of the abundance of nature. One plum seed grew into a large tree with hundreds of plums, which could seed a whole orchard, and from which thousands of plums could be harvested!  I’ll give some away, dry some, can some plum butter for winter breakfasts and Christmas gifts, and just enjoy eating them fresh.

But those plums didn’t just grow without help. The original farmer had to plant the seed, nurture the seedling, then the young tree, prune it, prevent pests, and finally harvest them properly before fruit meets taste buds. The same is true of any project or job we undertake. We had a saying in education about managing student behavior: Get what you want before you give the student what they want. Well, life demands the same: we have to sow and cultivate before we reap the harvest.

I get a lot of joy from my adult children and teenage grandchildren, but there was a price to be paid: hundreds, probably thousands of diapers; late night feedings; whining in stores; and endless meals and snacks. Sure they were fun as children, but they also created what sometimes seemed like thankless work.

I’m currently working on converting my booklet on managing children’s behavior into an ebook. Since it was originally typed on a word processor, I have to retype it, study the Kindle formatting guidelines, and find a cover designer. Then I’ll still have to promote it online and hope it sells – weeks to produce and months til we have a harvest. It’s a bigger project to find a publisher for my phonics readers, written in the 1980s and distributed only minimally since phonics weren’t in vogue then.

We can have a harvest in our characters as well. Quote is from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

Sow a thought and you reap an action;
Sow an act and you reap a habit;
Sow a habit and you reap a character;
Sow a character and you reap a destiny.

As I look at my pantry with jars of soup, jam, and chicken broth and remind myself that the harvest is coming on my current projects. I believe there’s a harvest for my writing that will benefit both reader and author, and make the effort worthwhile. I can look for opportunities to say the kind word, not the nasty one, and hope for a better character. And I believe those plums will soon be nestled in jars and bags waiting to delight my taste buds this winter. Then I take heart for another day of cultivating my personal garden.

Fear not to do good, my sons, for whatsoever ye sow, that shall ye also reap;
therefore, if ye 
sow good ye shall also reap good for your reward.
(LDS Doctrine & Covenants 6:33)

Book Review:  When my kids were little, I came across a delightful book that I think I enjoyed even more than they did: The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss.  It’s about a little boy  who plants a carrot seed, and his whole family tells him that “it won’t come up.” But the little boy continues to care for his seed anyway, believing that it will. All you gardeners out there know that carrot seeds are tiny and notoriously slow to germinate. Even though it’s very short, The Carrot Seed packs a real punch, especially if you’re down and don’t feel like the projects you’re nurturing will ever bear fruit!

The Carrot Seed Book Cover Author's Image of Own Book

The Carrot Seed Book Cover
Author’s Image of Own Book



Safety in a Dangerous World

The horrifying news of journalist James Foley’s execution in the Middle East this week made me think how quickly life can turn on a dime and how unfair it often seems. How do we live life with this sword hanging over us?

I’ve suffered fear for my safety many times, but repeatedly God has assured me that I have a mantle of protection around me.  Here are two times I remember clearly:

This spring, I was driving east on State St. going to the Post Office when a car approaching me turned left, coming right at side of the car.  I quickly swerved, hit the horn, and as I did so, something odd happened.  I “saw” what looked like a powerful energy field flowing between the two cars, only 1-2″ wide. As the other car pushed on into this field, it couldn’t penetrate it, and even appeared to move my car to the right!  I honestly don’t know how we avoided colliding, it was that close a call.  Lesson to me: God has His own form of protection when something isn’t His will for us to experience.

Many years ago, I was newly divorced, facing life as a single working mother.  I felt vulnerable and fearful of physical danger.  I remember taking my kids for walks on a bridge across a large river with a low damn just slightly upstream. We’d stop and admire the great mass of water flowing over that dam and under our feet – its power was truly thrilling.  My spirituality was just starting to emerge, mostly just as meditation (see Aligned With Grace), so I didn’t have much faith in God.

Even so, He had a message for me. One night I was driving home quite late, sober but very tired, and eager to pick up my children. After about 45 minutes of driving at 60 mph, I could no longer keep my eyes open. The next thing I knew I heard my tires hit the gravel on the shoulder. I woke up to see a high rock cliff face coming straight at my right headlight. I remembered hearing myself scream as we hit the wall and the car spun back around on the empty country highway. I was spinning in a perfect circle and hit that wall at least one or two more times. As I spun – securely belted in and held in place by centrifugal force – I watched in fascination as my left wrist snapped upward causing a mild sprain and my left knee flying up and hitting the bottom of the steering wheel, leaving a small bruise.  I came to rest on the shoulder facing back the way I came, and walked away with only those two injuries. An older couple stopped soon after and gave me a ride home. The car was totaled but I knew that God’s power had protected me, and it was far greater than anything I’d observed in that waterfall! My faith and curiosity about God grew substantially.

Waterfall Courtesy Image 13483688429330


So why did God protect me and not James Foley? Well, I’m certainly not a better nor more deserving person.  I think the answer may lie in a statement by one of my church leaders (paraphrased from memory):  The reason we have a hard time understanding this life is that we’re living in “Act 2.”  Act 1 was the life before this when our spirits were preparing for mortality. Our mortal life is Act 2. And Act 3 will be the life to come when all things will be made right, and we’ll know why our lives unfolded as they did.

Scriptures teach us that part of our purpose in mortality is to be tested and tried, to see what choices we’ll make in adversity as well as in prosperity. Job in the Old Testament is the classic example. When God pointed to Job as a highly righteous man, Satan responded: Sure, look how you’ve blessed him with a large family and great wealth. Why would he sin? God said, Okay, you may try him in any way, but you may not take his life. Job lost his family, his wealth, his health, and ultimately his friends.  His response:  The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. (Job 1:21)  Job never lost faith in the goodness of God. When the test was over, . . .the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning . . . (Job 42:12), giving him a second large family and even greater wealth, plus the hope of having his first family back in the eternities.

I expect James Foley will have glory and blessings heaped upon his head for his sacrifice. And I hope we all will notice the times God protects us and give thanks, even in adversity.

And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious;
and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more.
(LDS Doctrine and Covenants 78:19)



Lessons from Plants

This year I decided to splurge on flowers, so I bought lots of “wave” pansies that did very well this spring on my back patio. Then I bought three gorgeous hanging baskets dominated by varying shades of purple, accented with white.  I put two of them side-by-side in a metal “half barrel” planter which was an unbridled success. But the prize goes to the third basket hanging from the corner of my carport for all to enjoy.

This basket came in the usual plastic pot with its own hanger. I knew from experience that it would dry out quickly in its small pot, and need once or even twice daily watering.  So I took it down before the heat hit full force and gingerly removed it from its pot. I lost a few small branches but not too serious.  Then I struggled to get it out of the old pot and replant in a larger one which I filled with extra rich potting soil and lots of organic compost. I lost even more greenery.  Then came the real challenge: placing the pot in my sturdy metal basket with real chains without more damage. After an annoying struggle with the chains trying to position the plant, I was ready to hang my prize.

The pot by this time was heavier than I wanted to lift, plus you have to get on a step stool to reach the hook.  No one was around to help me and I was impatient.  I thought I could hold my creation on the handle of my step stool with one hand while reaching up for the wire hanger, but disaster struck:  The pot escaped the hanger, fell, and landed on the cement – heartbreak!  I started all over to rescue my darling: unhooking the chains again, tenderly righting the plant, scooping soil back in the pot, and replanting the now bedraggled plants. I called a neighbor to help hold the pot high enough to reach the hook. Success finally came, but my plant was a sorry sight. I trimmed, watered, and apologized to the poor thing, then hoped nature would heal my crimes against it.

It took a while but it’s back giving pleasure to all, except for one gap that reminds me of life’s fragility, the need to respect all the steps, and not take shortcuts. Fortunately, nature is forgiving and the plant is more lush than ever. (See my photo below.) I’m like this plant, a little battered but still surviving life’s bumps and knocks.

I’ve learned lots of lessons from plants over the years. Here are a few more:

  • This same basket still needs to be watered daily, and twice if the temperature gets above about 98°.  Remorse has made me take extra care of this plant, so I’ve gotten into the habit of “dead heading” it during my morning watering. I’m amazed at how many dead and wilted blooms I remove each day. Last week I observed that this process is a lot like self-improvement. As an adult discovering Christianity, I found I had lots of bad habits that needed dead-heading too. So as I pluck wilted flowers, I think about the unworthy thoughts and actions I need to pluck out of me.
  • Plants, like people, can become “root bound” – stuck in our comfort zones and missing opportunities for positive change. In plants, the roots gradually absorb much of the soil or crowd it out, then grow in tight circles around the sides and bottom of their pot. The plant suffers, producing fewer flowers and not growing. Then it just needs to be tapped out of the old pot, the root ball loosened and put in a larger pot with fresh soil. Loosening the intertwined roots often tears them, and I imagine I hear them complaining, “How could you do this to us?” – just like we complain to God when faced with a major life transition. But sometimes it’s the only way to get increased growth and productivity, in us and in plants.
  • Finally, “. . .whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7). I’ve tried just putting a commercial hanging basket out and was always disappointed when the flowers drooped in the heat no matter how much you watered, their colors faded, or they just failed to thrive. This year, my basket got the royal treatment: larger pot; better, richly fertilized soil; plenty of sun and water; and finally dead heading the spent blooms to encourage maximum growth. The result is pretty spectacular – truly “joy in the harvest.”

What are you planting or nurturing?  Is life repotting you?  Remember you’ll bloom again!

Hanging Basket by Author


Aligned with Grace

Back in my hippie days, I experimented with “mind control,” another name for auto suggestion or self-hypnosis. I’d sit in my rocking chair by a sunny window, close my eyes, and tell my left arm to rise in the air, all by itself. I didn’t consciously move a muscle and, in a few seconds, up it would float all on its own – groovy!

Next I experimented with positive affirmations and visualization. While in labor with my second child, I closed my eyes during painful hard contractions and visualized a cylinder down the center of my body opening easily to let the baby out. It worked! My pain just melted away and soon, holding a happy baby in my arms, I was totally high and triumphant.

After my conversion to Christianity, I learned the power of prayer and the miracle of God’s grace. It swept away sorrow, guilt, and worry – at least when I remembered to get on my knees! I’ve been blessed with guidance on hard decisions, forgiveness of my sins and missteps, and a deep healing of the wounds received from others.

The last six months or so, I’ve been revisiting my childhood patterns on a far deeper level, making different choices, and asking for yet more healing. I’ve received it in abundance and I give the glory to God. But a slightly different challenge remained: the small two-year-old within, squashed early in childhood, was finally ready to finish growing up. After trying to manage the process with my own conscious powers and regular prayer, I saw a news feature on meditation. I suddenly remembered those long-ago experiences, plus some advice from John Gray while on Oprah in the late 1990’s: What you focus on increases. So I decided to add auto suggestion to this process.

A couple of days ago, after inviting the Lord to guide this process, I created a quiet environment, got comfortable, and started saying to myself: The old is flowing out, the new is coming in. God and I are creating my highest self. I am a person of energy, creativity, and love. Then I pictured myself enjoying a newness of life.

The very next day, I went out visiting people in NW Boise prospecting for listings. I dropped in on a neighbor of sellers I represented last year and whom I’d met at my open house. We had a great chat, and she gave me several leads. Then I knocked on doors in a nice town home subdivision nearby. I had a good visit with an older couple who are planning to move during the next year. Their daughter lived next door, and her boyfriend said they would move too. I’ll keep in touch with them and felt so encouraged that I was finally on the right track with work, just as I pictured.

God was with me that day, and I felt a new maturity as that small child faced a challenge and triumphed! It was very freeing – the capstone of my efforts to build the supporting pieces: my knowledge of town home and condo management, how to research builders and tax records, what to say at the door, and finally how to decisively pass by a unkempt front door. The master architect was behind it all!

What I learned: Use the human techniques of creative change like visualization and self-hypnosis but don’t leave out God’s far more powerful grace – the real miracle worker!

Aligned with Grace Courtesy Image 167062

Aligned with Grace
Courtesy Image 167062