I have begun decorating my house for Christmas the earliest ever this year. I always vowed before that I would never bring out Christmas decorations, play carols or watch holiday movies before Thanksgiving. I never want to skip over or rush through Thanksgiving as it is important to set aside time to honor God and contemplate His faithfulness throughout the year.
2020 has been a difficult year, like no other. At times, it has left me feeling very discouraged and hopeless because of the chaos going on in our nation. I want to find relief for my heavy heart so I am giving myself permission to celebrate and do things differently this year. To find a sense of joy in the midst of all the doom and gloom I have begun bringing out seasonal decorations to bring some cheer to my home for our family gathering at Thanksgiving. Our Christmas tree will be filled with some fall and Christmas colors to blend and transition from autumn to winter. The greenery and lights will make things feel more warm, cozy and festive.
I think others share in this same sentiment. I have noticed neighbors bringing outside decorations early to uplift their own as well as others’ spirits during this very dark season in our nation’s history. Perhaps we need a little Christ-mas to help us remember happier days and to remind us to keep staying thankful.
A strange thing has happened at my house this last week. I have noticed two wrens nestled on either side outside the window of my banquette. It has occurred twice just around dark. I first noticed something small, brown and fluffy in the window as I was doing dishes. I can see this window opposite my window above the sink.
When I first spied them, I ran to get a flashlight so that I could make out what it was. With a bright spotlight focused on the ledge, I saw two wrens huddled in each corner of the window. We have had stormy weather this past week from a passing hurricane in Florida but have had unusually warm temperatures for the first of November. The birds can’t be seeking warmth because it isn’t cold outside. Perhaps they are seeking shelter due to a change in the atmosphere with wind and rain from the storm.
My neighbor put up two fake owls outside her house on a window and on the deck railing the last few weeks. I have wondered why and have not had a chance to ask her about it. I figured since she has wooden siding that she is trying to scare away woodpeckers. Only, now I wonder if they are scaring other birds too. Are these wrens reacting to the fake owls that face my kitchen window and are within 100 feet of our house?
In the photo you can see the neighbor’s cat trying to make friends with the owl. Apparently, she is not afraid of the new additions to the house at all.
I wonder if these little creatures are here to stay and will become permanent nighttime visitors. I don’t mind. They are rather cute. I look forward to seeing them each evening. Perhaps there is a lesson for me in their visitation during a very unusual week.
This past week’s tumultuous presidential election has been very unsettling. The future of our country seems even more unpredictable and scary if we have more change with a new administration. The past year has been difficult enough with COVID, racial tensions, rioting and political unrest. All I can do is pray and continue trusting in God to save us, lead us and hold us up in the future.
These birds seem to have found a safe spot to cuddle where they feel secure. If there is an impending storm, predators both real or imagined, or an unwelcome change coming they seem to know just what to do. They hunker down when it is dark and hold fast until the storm passes and the light comes forth again.
Besides spending a lot of time in my home and out in my yard the last four months since life has changed, I spend hours each week driving around in my car. I take my mother out on “joy rides” to get her out of her condo on a regular basis. We are always on the search for sights that display beauty or bring us inspiration. Of course, it is all relative to how you choose to look at things. I try to choose uplifting and positive takeaways.
I have begun to see innovative ways people throughout my neighborhood and community are trying to encourage others. Even when we are not able to get out amongst people like we did before the COVID crisis, we can still send messages to one another to spread some goodwill.
Here is a sign posted in the front yard down the street from my house. It encourages me each time I drive by and reminds me to give my anxieties and cares over our current situation to God.
Yesterday, while driving with my mother, we discovered this “Happy Tree.” It must have been created by children. What a fun activity to decorate a tree with all things that make you happy. In the close-up you can see some college team logos as well as some candy wrappers. I love seeing ways for children to express themselves in a positive way.
While visiting Epworth By The Sea Christian conference center in St. Simons, Georgia, we found this prayer posted under glass inside the chapel. Heartfelt sentiments are expressed here that I could not articulate in regards to the tragic events around our country during the last few weeks.
We went for a family trip to the coast of Georgia this past week. It was refreshing to my soul to see God’s untouched and untainted creation. Sticking my toes in the sand was a pampering treatment that I have sorely missed. Watching crabs and birds scurry beside the receding ocean waves was amusing. It was good to laugh at them. Nature has a way of reaching down deep into our spirits and helping us commune with God.
We visited a beach with driftwood and gnarled upturned tree stumps. It was uniquely beautiful! A wedding must have taken place there before we arrived as we found a wilting bouquet of flowers amidst the debris.
While we were there, we visited a Methodist retreat center known as Epworth By The Sea. What a beautiful place! While here, one can walk through the grounds with serene Spanish moss draped oaks. You can read memorials to loved ones who have passed on after serving God through ministry. There is a small chapel where you can stop to pray. It was remarkable the number of prayer requests that we noticed were written on pieces of paper and piled in a box in the little vestibule. It was a sign to me of how much pain, discouragement and suffering many are experiencing right now. We walked around enjoying the view of the marsh when suddenly, the bells from the little chapel began to chime. Slowly, I began to recognize the hymns that were playing. The words from their refrains flooded back to my memory from childhood. “Faith of Our Fathers” and “Let There Be Peace On Earth” bellowed throughout the garden. It was a very special moment. I sang along with the chimes the very appropriate words for today.
“Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me. Let there be peace on earth, the peace that was meant to be. With God as our Father, brothers all are we. Let me walk with my brother in perfect harmony. Let peace begin with me, let this be the moment now. With every step I take, let this be my solemn vow. To take each moment and live each moment in peace eternally. Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me”.
Philippians 4:8 encourages us to think about things that are true, noble, right and pure. I am convicted by this verse in scripture for most of what we see coming out in the news or social feeds currently do not fit into this category. I have been trying hard to stay positive and that means taking my thoughts captive( 2 Cor. 10:5) and reorienting my thinking towards what is uplifting to my spirit.
How am I doing this, you might ask. First, I am turning off the negative. I am spending more time reading scripture and in quiet meditation. Gardening satisfies my creative interests and reading gives me positive reflections . I have been inspired by stories about women of faith. One example is “A Passion For The Impossible”by Miriam Huffman Rockness. It is the story of the life of Lilias Trotter, a missionary to Algeria during a political time of unrest at the turn of the 20th century, who inspired the hymn “Turn Your Eyes On Jesus.” Another book is “Nine Day Queen of England” by Faith Cook. It is another biographical story about Lady Jane Grey, who lived during the Protestant Reformation and was martyred for her faith. Their lives model for me how to live during devastating trials and times of hardship.
In television programming, I look for shows that are upbeat and make me smile. Paula Deen’s cooking videos on YouTube inspire me to try new recipes using what I have on hand during the quarantine. Her laugh is contagious. I love her southern accent and her hospitality feels like a warm hug. She welcomes viewers as old friends and invites them to come and sit in the kitchen with her. Another program is Garden Answer. I could watch gardening videos for hours. Laura Leboutillier inspires me to try different plants and combinations in my own garden. Her energy level seems dauntless but it is her enthusiasm and love for gardening that shines through. It is the quickest way to soothe me after a stressful day and helps me fall asleep with peaceful dreams.
These are a few tips that I have tried to stay uplifted during this depressing time in our nation. What are some ways that you have found to help you stay encouraged?
Here is an update on my quarantine garden from a previous post. My garden is beginning to take shape and is becoming more of a haven. It has helped me feel productive as I try to create something good amidst the chaos and negativity that surrounds us right now.
I started with a blank slate and slowly have begun adding plants one area at a time. The front garden is where I have been mostly working. It is a shady spot so I have been gathering plants that would be suitable to those conditions. The challenge is to find plants that flower. First I had some candytuft bloom along the walkway. Then a blue clematis gave me a pop of color on the trellis that I placed against the house. Next, I found a gorgeous red hydrangea which I placed in a pot next to the trellis. I have been reading that to keep the hydrangea from turning back to blue, it needs iron. This seems like a bit of a challenge to me. I figured the best way for now to keep its color I will keep it in a pot. Hopefully, the acidity in the soil that we have where we live won’t be able to leak into the roots.
I began planting perennial flowers early in the spring in another area of the yard. I have since determined that this area will not get near the amount of sunshine that they would need in order to thrive. The opposite side of the yard beside the garage is my best chance for sunshine. I will begin moving the plants a little at a time to the more sunny spot. This area began as my leftover patch for plants that I didn’t know what to do with so looks like a hodgepodge right now.
I heard on a P. Allen Smith video that lavender likes to grow in cinderblocks. There was a pile left from the construction crew so I thought I would try out this theory myself. Also, along the border of the property, I placed a row of stone corners that were leftover. It took several attempts to move the pile of rubble from the front beds to this new location. It looks interesting there now with a diy border that I fashioned myself . There are more corner pieces under the house but I will have to wait for another go round as I developed a bit of “tennis elbow” from carrying the first batch.
Other inspiring gardening videos can be found on Youtube’s popular Garden Answer. On a tour through her parents’ garden, Laura mentioned that her mother has some coral shrub roses. I found a beautiful variety last week at our local plant nursery. I have begun planting them along the front of our “sunny” border. I added some gorgeous blue agapanthas and plan to add some blue salvia or veronicas as the coral and blue color combination looks stunning together.
I am encouraged today by the words of a song by Bethel music based on Psalm 31:24 “Take courage my heart, be steadfast my soul, He’s in the waiting.”