Happy Thanksgiving!

“A cheerful heart does good like medicine, but a broken spirit makes one sick.” (Proverbs 17:22)

They say to cure one’s self from the complaining habit, and the depression it usually spawns, is to re-focus your energy by counting your blessings each day. I keep a grateful journal on the nightstand by my bed and endeavor to write at least 5 things every night that I am grateful for. Sometimes I neglect it; there are certainly some minor gaps throughout…and even a couple of major ones. But, you know what? Almost everywhere there is one of those major gaps, my confidence and self-esteem have taken a nosedive…and returning to this habit brings me back up again.

I read about a family years’ ago that kept a grateful jar. A small notepad and a pen was kept near it and every time something good happened, someone in the family would write it down and place the paper in the jar. On Thanksgiving Day, they would open the jar and take turns reading all of the many blessings aloud to each other and give thanks to the One who made these blessings possible before they dug into their meal. I like that idea. You focus on the positive twice: once when you write it, the second when you read back the reminder. I’m thinking it might be a nice tradition to start with Mom & I as it is easy to let worry and stress, hurt and anxiety derail you. Counting your blessings is a great way to remember how blessed we truly are.

Even if you’re not keeping a grateful journal, or a jar, isn’t it wonderful that we have at least one day out of the year to remind us of our blessings? You don’t have to be a believer to appreciate your gifts. Just focus on them…and let the healing begin.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

May God bless you & keep you!

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Now What?

“He nurses them when they are sick, and soothes their pains and worries.” (Psalm 41:3)

Yes, I know. It’s better not to ask such a question. You never know what gremlins are listening. (Chuckle)

My left eye and ear were slightly puffy and extremely itchy yesterday. I woke up this morning and they’re both quite a bit larger than normal, really red and irritated and I have a rash spreading down the left side of my face, under my right nostril and under my jaw. I’m assuming it’s some sort of allergic reaction so I’m waiting for the doctor’s office to open to see if I can get in. If not, then I guess it’s another trip to the ER before everything swells completely shut.

Now I’m certainly not dissing the medical profession, especially when needed. But all I keep thinking is, “Really?” This year has been the most challenging one I’ve faced: the flu twice (don’t do shots due to bad reaction 3 years’ ago to a tetanus vaccine), heat exhaustion (one episode landing me in the ER), an upper respiratory infection, plantar’s faciitis, a broken toe and now an unexplained swelling and rash. I have health insurance but it doesn’t cover Connecticut physicians. And this out of pocket stuff gets old pretty quick.

But, alas, I carry on, knowing He has a plan for all of this. The impatient little monster that I am would love to know at least a smidgen of what that plan is. Learning patience? Probably. I seem to be forever in short supply of it. (Insert heavy sigh) However, whatever the plan, I know He’s got this, too.

Here’s to hoping the rest of you don’t have quite as itchy, red and irritated a day. (Did I mention I’m a terrible patient?)

May God bless you & keep you!

Not So Very Different After All

“The Angel: Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from, and where are you going? Hagar: I am running away from my mistress. The Angel: Return to your mistress and act as you should, for I will make you into a great nation. Yes, you are pregnant and your baby will be a son, and you are to name him Ishmael (God hears), because God has heard your woes. This son of yours will be a wild one–free and untamed as a wild ass! He will be against everyone, and everyone will feel the same towards him. But he will live near the rest of his kin.” (Genesis 16:8-12)

I have wanted to share this experience for some time now. I had the most amazing experience this summer, one that has left me with so much hope and peace in my heart, that it will stay with me wherever I go.

Though I took the position of horticultural/herb garden lead at a local museum in August 2017, I spent most of the growing season in one of the households, cooking and baking on the hearth, and straw braiding. I have never considered straw braiding at all but have found that I have a natural aptitude for it. I spent most of this summer also showing others how to straw braid.

For a little background on straw braiding, this skill was typically perfected by young ladies and housewives of the 1830’s. Straw hats and bonnets were the rage and the raw material–the braided rye straw and palm leaves–was in big demand. A yard of this braided material might fetch anywhere from 1 – 3 cents per yard. Once you get the hang of this straw braiding, it doesn’t take long to reach a yard of material. And, in a time period where, due to transportational challenges (no autos; even horses weren’t owned by everyone due to expense…i.e. most people walked everywhere), you may not run to the local store every day…or even every week. In the weeks in between visits, you could easily grow a fairly long braid of, say, 100-200 yards. Especially if multiple family members worked on it in between their other chores each day. That’s anywhere from $1 to $4 in a time period where a pound of wheat flour might be 5 cents. The start-up cost was also low. Many farmers in the day grew rye for the flour to make bread; the straw was a by-product and, likely, discarded if not for being put to use for the manufacture of hats and bonnets. So many families straw braided.

It was an afternoon in early summer when I had my amazing experience. It started out like any other afternoon with me in the sitting room of the house I was working in. I remember it was a fairly busy day. I had an intern with me (student worker) and we were braiding. A young mother came in with her two teenage daughters. They were obviously of Middle Eastern descent and, upon seeing what we were doing, grew very excited and asked if they could learn how to braid. So I started a braid for each of them and demonstrated the braiding technique (7 strand braid). They caught on easily and soon had a good length started. The mother later explained that they had a business making baskets that they took to different craft shows, etc. throughout the country. We spent a good amount of time with each other.

And then the amazing thing took place.

Another family, this one obviously Orthodox Jewish, also came into the room. This time a grandmother and her three teen and pre-teen granddaughters. They, too, wanted to learn. Before long, I had one Jewish, one Muslim family, and one Christian minister (moi) all working together peacefully for a common good. In this case, the very humble endeavor of braiding straw.

Who would have thought?

In our current political climate, it seems the most amazing experience. Our media, whether you’re with “fake” or “faux” news, seems bent on keeping all peoples in separate little boxes. The idea of Christians, Muslims and Jewish peoples all getting along as the brothers and sisters we are, is toted as something impossible. I can’t think of anything sadder. Or less faith-based. But I carry forever the memory of that afternoon and feel the grace of hope that, while our leaders may never be able to bring peace and security to our lands, as always, it is the common people who will pull together as one.

May God bless you & keep you!

Saying “No” to Stress

“And why worry about your clothes? Look at the field lilies! They don’t worry about theirs. Yet King Solomon in all his glory was not clothed as beautifully as they. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, won’t He more surely care for you, O men of little faith?” (Matthew 6:28-30)

Yesterday the wind blew fierce and cold. I spent the day in the herb garden at work, feeling somewhat like a penguin with all of the layers of clothing I wore (i.e. couldn’t quite put arms all the way down) and getting windburn in my face. It shouldn’t be a surprise, really. It is mid-October in New England. 35-40 degrees is normal at this time of year. But I’ve been lulled into complacency with the milder temperatures that, due to climate change, are becoming the new “norm” in this part of the world.

The lull is a bad thing. Yesterday’s sudden drop in temperature is a reminder not to get complacent.

I’m not ready for winter yet. And, by mid-October, I should be. The oil tank isn’t filled yet. I don’t have wood stacked for the stove. I haven’t put plastic around the windows yet (old house in need of updates). There’s even an air conditioner in one of those windows. So, when I look at this whole picture, I can feel the stress and anxiety building. Again, I’m not quite ready for winter.

However, though this is certainly a concern, I remind myself that, though I love what I do in my “day” job, it doesn’t quite meet all of my financial needs no matter how carefully I budget; I have to take everything in stages (i.e. I’m not in this place because of procrastination). And, with the long commute, time is a precious commodity. Building a side hustle to make up the difference is a bit of a challenge–one I am at least taking baby steps to meet head-on. I may not get to where I’d like to be as quickly as I’d like, but I am moving forward. Though the house isn’t buttoned up yet, I have laid by my hay supply for the winter. Last week’s trip to the local feed store revealed a shortage on hay due to all of the rain we’ve been having. Thankfully, Agway had a supply and I had it delivered on Monday so there’s one concern mitigated. I laid in a supply of bottled water (gallon jugs) in case of a power outage in a potential winter storm (well-pump runs on electricity). I’m also prepping for a late-season crop of dark, leafy greens, taking advantage of the milder temperatures that are coming back in–and row covers against any upcoming frosts. In short, I’m looking at the positives, what I have already accomplished and what I can do without stressing my time and financial budgets too severely.

Instead of my usual beat myself up.

This is the key to worry–and the stress that it breeds: we have a choice. We can sit and stew–and waste valuable time and energy–or we can choose to cast our cares onto God. He knows my circumstances. And even if a storm blows in (though I pray not!), I will praise Him either way. He’s got this.

Now breathe…

May God bless you & keep you!

Silencing the Saboteur

“Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day, our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:9-13).

Here I go again…

I’ve finally created a time management strategy that really seems to work. I’m writing and blogging again, and even making some decent progress on the homestead. I feel good, that glow of accomplishment and the confidence that goes along with it. And the saboteur in my head is, well, trying to sabotage my efforts: protesting going to bed early enough for a 3:30 rising; creating a dissatisfaction that more wasn’t done (i.e. not enough = I’m not enough), and looking for other things to fill my time more solidly. There’s a little voice inside my head saying, “I wish I had more time for x,y,z.” And, masochistic individual that I am, I struggle to resist that temptation.

But maybe that’s the key: the struggle.

Why do I have to struggle? God says to cast my cares upon Him. Yes, I got to bed a little later than I had planned. And, consequently, got up at 4:30 instead of 3:30. I’m still at the keyboard. I’ll still be on the yoga mat in a few minutes. I will still have some time to pull 15 minutes of homesteading progress without making myself late going out the door (I’ve allowed for some “wiggle” room with this time management thing). I have my cuppa tea. And the animals at The Herbal Hare Homestead will all get fed, watered, and cared for before I make the hour drive to work. It’s not my ideal but it works. Why am I struggling?

For those who haven’t followed my blog for long, I grew up in a household with alcoholism and abuse; my well-being is often tied up with that feeling that I have to earn love, respect, approval, etc. Again, I’m not enough. I’m not doing enough. I haven’t done enough.

Enough, enough, enough already!

God says I am. I am enough. I am doing all I can. I am doing my best–and little voice inside my head, stop contradicting me. “Little voice” of that guy with the pitchfork whispering his lies again. I AM enough…

And, to my readers, so are you. We are all enough. God says we are. And He will never lie to us. Ever. You can rest your soul on that, my friends.

Take that, Saboteur! God and me? We’ve so got this!

May God bless you & keep you!

Undoing the Apathy

“Then God said, ‘Let the water beneath the sky be gathered into oceans so that the dry land will emerge.’ And so it was. Then God named the dry land ‘earth,’ and the water ‘seas.’ And God was pleased. And He said, ‘Let the earth burst forth with every sort of grass and seed-bearing plant, and fruit trees with seeds inside the fruit, so that these seeds will produce the kinds of plants and fruits they came from.’ And so it was, and God was please.
This all occurred on the third day…Then God said, ‘Let the waters teem with fish and other life, and let the skies be filled with birds of every kind.’ So God created great sea creatures, and every sort of fish and every kind of bird. And God looked at them with pleasure, and blessed them all. ‘Multiply and stock the oceans,’ He told them, and to the birds He said, ‘Let your numbers increase. Fill the earth!’ That ended the fifth day. And God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth every kind of animal–cattle and reptiles and wildlife of every kind.’ And so it was. God made all sorts of wild animals and cattle and reptiles. And God was pleased with what He had done.”
(Genesis 1:9-13, 20-25)

Let’s face facts. Mother Earth is in deep trouble. And, at the risk of sounding like a naysayer, the environmentalist in me fears we may already be too late to stop the change in our present climate. Treehugger.com recently published an article about how the permafrost up near the Arctic Circle is melting–for the life of me, I can’t remember the title of the article, or what the main topic of it was, to quote it–but I’ve read similar in textbooks throughout the last few years of my life in academia:

Permafrost is permanently frozen ground that acts like an insulator, trapping moisture, heat, and trillions of tonnes of biogenic methane deep under the surface. All over the Arctic region, permafrost is starting to thaw more deeply and more widely than ever before, and although the full impact of this melting is uncertain, it is bound to accelerate the rate of climate change and radically change the nature of Arctic ecosystems (Kitchen, 2016, p.40).

And yet we’re looking for more places to drill…including the Arctic Circle.

Apathetic yet?

My faith tells me to trust in God. Though I quoted parts of the creation story in Genesis 1, there is also the reassurances God gave to Noah that He would not destroy the earth again. Fellow Christians quote this to me, and others, whenever the topic of climate change comes up.

But God isn’t destroying the earth.

Mankind is.

And Mankind, through faith, or simple determination, also has the power to change his/her habits in such a way as to affect more positive change. It’s called choice. And there are so many we can make that can lessen our impact: refusing single-use plastics, like straws and plastic cling wrap; bringing our own bags to the grocery store instead of using their plastic ones; buying organic; walking, bicycling, using public transportation, instead of driving whenever possible; working to button up our homes and businesses so less energy is used to heat/cool them; planting a tree, and/or casting our votes for people who care about our planet, and the life it currently is struggling to sustain. People will make the necessary changes to our infrastructure so that our dependency on fossil fuels decreases, instead of increasing. If each of us takes one small step every day in this direction, we may make a positive difference.

But we won’t know until we get started. Why not take that first step today? Trust me…with that first step, anything seems possible. And the apathy just melts away…instead of the permafrost.

May God bless you & keep you!

REFERENCES

Kitchen, D. (2016)_Global Climate Change: Turning Knowledge Into Action. New York, NY: Routledge

The Hurt of Wanting

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his male or female slave, nor his ox or ass, nor anything else that belongs to him.” (Exodus 20:17)

My friends and I used to have an expression when we really wanted to go somewhere or do something: we wanted it so bad, we could taste it.

So what does “wanting” taste like?

It’s that sharp little tang on the tip of your tongue. Almost like when you prick yourself with a needle or a safety pin. It’s that little jab that reminds you of…something. It fills the soul with dissatisfaction, a dissatisfaction that stings and bleeds.

I’m sort of there right now.

What is it I want?

To be free of debt…and to have that homestead of my dreams that completely sustains me. I know I’m working towards it, but that doesn’t stop the longing from time to time…which isn’t completely wrong in itself. To want better in life may be a natural inclination but, when it hurts, that pain actually pulls us farther away from those dreams…and from Him.

When I see someone else living a lot closer to my dreams than I am, that’s when I feel the sting, that safety pin jab that somehow seems to quiver upon my upper lip…so bad, I really can taste it. It’s not a pleasant feeling, this jab. And it certainly doesn’t fill me with God’s peace. That’s really what homesteading is for me: peace. Yielding to the “jab” seems sort of counter-intuitive. Perhaps I should yield the control of said dreams to God; I might get there faster and in ways I could’ve never imagined…without tasting the “jab”.

May God bless you & keep you!