Lenten Vows

“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash you face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.” (Matthew 6:16-18)

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday. I took my turn at the altar in church to receive the ashes that seal my promises to the Lord throughout the 6 week season of Lent:

1. I will write 3 pages every day of my novel. (This is a discipline-building vow; I’ve grown lax)
2. I am giving up all forms of social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) except for the link between this blog and my social media accounts. In other words, people will still receive my posts through these mediums but I will not be checking my accounts for any messages or reading the feeds for 6 weeks (and I hope all of my friends see this so they’ll know I didn’t fall off of the face of the earth; call or write the old-fashioned, real connection way!)
3. I am limiting my music video viewing on YouTube to only 2 hours per week; some weeks I spend several hours on a rainy Monday afternoon instead of writing the aforementioned book or finishing up a homework assignment…and I won’t mention all the myriad chores piling up about the home and homestead.
4. No sugars outside of my daily cuppa tea

May God bless you & keep you!

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Cycles of CFS

“I will fix a place for my people Israel; I will plant them so that they may dwell in their place without further disturbance. Neither shall the wicked continue to afflict them as they did of old, since the time I appointed judges over my people Israel. I will give you rest from all your enemies. The Lord also reveals to you that He will establish a house for you.” (2 Samuel 7:10-11)

Rest.

When you’re dealing with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, the need for rest, or the ability to sleep on a dime, can creep up on you at any given moment. Changes in daily routine, work schedules, etc. can wreak havoc very quickly. And it takes forever to “catch up”, as if we ever can.

Knowing better, I still stayed up a little later than usual last week. I think I went to bed around 11:30 Sunday evening. For someone who habitually gets up between 3:30 and 4:30 each morning, that is definitely NOT enough sleep time. So, as I was off work Monday, I slept in until 7:30-ish. It’s been a few days of insomnia, trying to get back on an early to bed routine…and a struggle to get out of bed even before 5 a.m. Of course, then there’s the frantic push to get goats, cats, rabbits, chickens, ducks and Smoky the Cockatiel fed and watered for the day…while “skating” across the rink that is my barnyard in this week’s deep freeze.

Why do I torture myself this way???

I had my second lesson in textiles this week, too. Thursday was weaving. I loved it, loved everything I was learning. And both instructors made it interesting and fun. Every time we sat down to go over something in our binder of notes, whether it was terminology or learning to read weaving patterns from the 1830’s, I was struggling to stay awake. I hope neither instructor thought it was a fault of her teaching; far from it! A part of me was pumped to learn everything and anything; the sick side of me dealing with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and the brief moment of insanity that decided to play Pyramid Solitaire for an extra hour or two Sunday night, left me nodding. It’s the nature of the beast.

There are days when I can’t help but cry out, “Lord, please slay this beast!”

But, if I had listened to that little voice that said, “Hello? It’s time for bed” a few hours’ earlier, the beast would’ve never reared it’s ugly head. Praise the Lord for this storm; there’s a lesson in managing this beast better.

May God bless you & keep you!

Spinning Wheels Got to Go Round

“Now in Joppa there was a disciple named Dorcas. She was completely occupied with good deeds and almsgiving. Now during those days she fell sick and died, so washing her, they laid her out in a room upstairs. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, ‘Please come to us without delay.’ So Peter got up and went with them. When he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs where all the widows came to him weeping and showing him the tunics and cloaks that Dorcas had made while she was with them. Peter sent them all out and knelt down and prayed. Then he turned to her body and said, ‘Tabitha, rise up.” She opened her eyes, saw Peter, and sat up. He gave her his hand and raised her up, and when he had called the holy ones and the widows, he presented her alive.” (Acts 9:36-41)

In the Catholic faith, when you make your Confirmation, you choose a new name. This isn’t a legal name. It’s usually a name from either Scripture or one of the saints. And, in essence, by choosing the name, you are choosing your patron saint.

I chose Tabitha.

In a world where churches are lucky to be half-full on a Sunday morning, and everyone spends more time in front of the boob tube than reading the Bible, you can imagine the quandary this choice created. Even my own mother thought I was choosing a “witch name,” as she called it. In her defense, some translations of the Bible do not mention the name “Tabitha” when recounting the story of Dorcas. And, of course, Elizabeth Montgomery immortalized the name when, as Samantha Stevens in the old sitcom, “Bewitched”, she and husband, Darren, christened their daughter, Tabitha. Who, of course, like her mother, could twitch her nose to make things happen.

I chose the name because the story represented to me a rebirth, much like the one that occurs when you accept Jesus Christ as your Savior. And Dorcas received a new name just like I was in being confirmed.

However, just as some translations don’t mention Tabitha, the Catholic Bible I quoted from at the beginning of this post, only touches on the fact that Dorcas/Tabitha was a seamstress. She sewed and spun and wove fine garments for people in need. This translation has the widows showing Peter some of the garments she made for them, but the translation states instead that she “was completely occupied with good deeds.” I like the other translation better. And, maybe it’s not just the story of rebirth but the humble tasks this dear lady used to help those in need that won my heart and led me to choose her for a patron saint.

Thursday I had my first lesson on the Great Wheel, the Spinning Wheel, the Walking Wheel at work. It has many names; all of them correct. Wool did not traditionally get spun on the little treadle fed spinning wheels we see at the local “Sheep to Shawl” competitions at our local Ag fair. Those portable little wheels more closely resemble a flax wheel. And flax may “Someday” become a crop here at The Herbal Hare Homestead…definitely if this homestead eventually relocates, which is a tentative plan on the horizon (more on that later…). But, for now, I’m spinning wool.

On a Great Wheel.

And loving it.

I’ve tried my hand a few times on the more modern pseudo-flax wheel; I much prefer the Walking Wheel. First of all, it’s a simpler rhythm. And I chose the word rhythm on purpose because the “walk” is almost like a dance as you step to the left while angling the roll of wool away from the spindle, pull it out to thin out the clumps, give the great wheel a turn with your right hand to strength those thinner areas on the roll then give it another gentle stretch. A couple of more turns of the great wheel then we step to the right, turn the wheel slightly in the opposite direction to bring the now yarn up onto the “cone” of the spindle (wound yarn that has built up on the opposite end of the spindle from where we spin it; best way I can describe it) and then slowly step forward while turning the wheel clockwise again to roll the yarn up and back to the left again. Your feet form an almost perfect triangle.

It’s all in the feel, as the wonderful ladies who have been teaching me tell us. Us, because there are 5 of us learning this wonderful art. What wonderfully encouraging instructors we have, too! I was prepared to beg for some practice time towards the end of the day yesterday but I need not have worried. Both ladies were willing to accommodate. And one of them told me yesterday that I was doing very well; I hope so. This is one skill, this and next week’s weaving class, that I really want to master. I suspect every spare moment, if possible, I will be trying to sneak in some practice. I may have to comb some estate sales and auctions. I am envisioning a Great Wheel here at The Herbal Hare Homestead…albeit, I’ll be doing this spinning “dance” to some music. I’m not sure yet what effect spinning yarn while listening to Megadeth will have…

May God bless you & keep you!

Sexy 19th Century Herbalist

“Your adornment should not be an external one: braiding the hair, wearing gold jewelry, or dressing in fine clothes, but rather the hidden character of the heart, expressed in the imperishable beauty of a gentle and calm disposition, which is precious in the sight of God'” (1 Peter 3:3-4)

Well, there’s certainly no jewelry here; it wouldn’t be period correct. However, the clothing is, in my not-so-humble opinion, finer than anything modern that I’ve ever worn. (I could do without the white cap though…) I always feel my best when I step out in one of my work outfits. Whether that’s because it’s sort of like becoming another person in another time, or else I’ve reincarnated from this time period and this is like donning my second skin. Either way, comfort is the name of the game…and 19th century attire is extremely comfortable. And feminine. (Again, omit the frilly, white cap; I’d rather have my incredible shrinking hair loose, not bound)

This photograph was found during that trip down memory lane through my cedar chest filled with photographs and keepsakes. I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t make the cover of Vogue or Vanity Fair but c’est la vie!

May God bless you & keep you!

A Day for Nostalgia…and some Postponed Mourning

“Those whom the Lord has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy; they will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee.” (Isaiah 35:10)

Yesterday started out as a bit of an early spring cleaning day. I spent the earlier part of it dusting, chasing away cobwebs on the ceiling and just some general tidying up.

Until I got to the cedar chest in the downstairs hallway.

Originally, the cedar chest has been a place to display family pictures. The wall behind it has a montage of photographs in mixed-and-matched frames; so, too, the top of the chest. Everything of real value that, once Mom, pets and I were safely out of the house, I would run back in to rescue before the flames overtook it (heaven forbid). In more recent years, it has also become the depository for the beloved remains of departed pets, the artwork done by a beloved aunt of special needs and even a few cat toys left in the lane of traffic from the stairs to the rest of the house.

I’ve been avoiding it like the plague.

Dust? You ain’t seen nothing, honey.

Feeling ashamed and full of sorrow, I took a folding chair and sat down in front of it, duster in hand, and carefully, painstakingly, began dusting off each and every item. The canisters of Bear and Trooper’s remains were tough. I’m not really a fan of cremation, despite my environmental leanings. I hate the thought that a tiny canister of ashes is all that is left of this beloved St. Bernard and mischievous feline, respectively; it seems a sacrilege of some sort. Granted, the countless cats, dogs, chickens, rabbits, ducks, birds, rats and guinea pigs buried behind the house are just as unrecognizable to the lively and lovable creatures who once shared this home with me…and a bit of “hold” for this property that, in my more honest moments, I would love to sell. As this is rapidly becoming a more commercial area of town, the thought that they might be dug up or paved over for the next strip mall horrifies me. So I stay. And continue to struggle…but that’s another blog post for another day.

The beloved aunt was also cremated. However, her ashes were buried behind her parents’ graves in Providence. Still, pictures of her smiling face stared up at me…along with the framed pen-and-ink drawing of an elephant she’d created years’ ago; she had so much talent.

A part of me wanted to abort this mission but I carried on, lifting the lid of a keepsake box atop the chest, and feeling a bit of bittersweet delight in the treasures contained therein: an old felt hat worn by either my paternal grandfather, great-grandfather–or both! It’s a child’s hat. If my grandfather’s, he was born in 1905 so at least 100 years’ old; my great-grandfather was born in 1878. I have photos of both wearing a similar hat as young lads. The crystal candy dish that always sat on the end table between my paternal grandmother’s chair and the sofa, always filled with starlight candies. The…I’m not sure what you would call it…I’m going to say little yellow goblin that my maternal grandfather purchased and sent home to St. Louis with my mother after she’d visited RI for her sister’s wedding…or, perhaps, her brother’s funeral, I’m not sure which. It used to hold a little plastic sign that said: You and Me, Me and You, That’s the Way It’ll Always Be. One of my dogs did away with the sign; amazing that I still remember what it said. But it’s imprinted on my heart. A carefully wrapped Hummel given to me when my maternal grandmother died; it used to grace the shelf in the window by her front door. An Indian necklace of silver and turquoise, also given by my maternal grandfather as a reminder of our Native American heritage. And, for some strange reason, my cap and now-faded tassels when I graduated high school.

After setting it all aside, I finally lifted the lid of the chest. At least a dozen photo albums and countless envelopes of photos greeted me. My heart wrenched even as I picked up one of those envelopes. I took these photos. My photos tend to be predominantly of my pets. And I’ve lost quite a few over the last several years.

Yup. There’s Ariel, younger, healthier, livelier, sprawled out on the kitchen floor, looking up at me with those bright eyes and a smile on her little kitty face. I could hear the echo of her very distinctive “Me-o-ow!” Trooper hanging nearly upside-down on the kitchen chair. His was more of a “Rr-i-owww!” with the mouth doing a little arch as he uttered it. Picture Chewbacca’s voice but somewhat muted. (Chuckle) Megan, Woody, Alice, Roxy and Bear. Tessa, all white-faced in the later years of her life. The almost twin photos I took by the back gate first of Tessa and Hooch when I first moved here; then of Roxy and Bear shortly after they arrived. Rueben the Rat, poking his little twitchy nose out, looking for treats. My first 6 chickens: Rusty, Ruby, Rouge, Copper, Penny and Amber; Delilah Duck. Other chickens, too: Pierogi, Wiggy, Lil’ Peep, Flame, Autumn, Beauty, Charity, Linen, Flax, Patience, Blessing, Black Velvet, Squire, Winnie & Mannie. The budgies: Nigel, Jamaica & Skye. Guinea pigs, Harry, Ron and Hermoine (Yes, a Potter fan!); bunnies, Gizmo, Choo-Choo, Jillian, Isabella, Tango & Cindy Lou, Moxie, Splash, Mr. V, Violet, Rose & Lily, Orion and Lemony Snicket, Rainy. Mom’s dog, Max, lost three days before Christmas; he wormed his way into my heart pretty quickly. And, I confess, my heart started feeling a bit heavy. I realized that some of the depression and lack of motivation in recent years is simply grief. I’ve been in mourning yet, somehow, unable to really let it all out. Sure, there’s been tears with each loss but I’ve tucked most of it away somewhere, where it’s festered and scraped and left this raw, aching hole.

Worse, seeing pictures of that beloved aunt and hearing her tell me yet again how something is “too much like work”…or asking me “Wasn’t I darling?” when I looked at her baby pictures. The step-father I never wanted to claim as “father” because of his abuse. I’ve blogged about how forgiveness is more for ourselves, how it’s not about condoning the actions of the individual–and I could never condone that; I know how much it hurts, how difficult a hurdle it has been to overcome through life–but a means of letting go of something–hurt, anger, etc–that hurts you more than the person you’re holding that emotion towards. Yes, the forgiveness has been there. But I haven’t really allowed myself to grieve. As if grieving the passing of this man would somehow be hypercritical. And maybe to some people it would be. But without him, I also wouldn’t have a brother, whom I love more than life itself; beautiful nieces and sister-in-law that I wish I lived closer to, had more of an opportunity to know better; another family of beloved grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. I lost that third grandfather, my stepfather’s father, a year after my stepfather. Raw, aching hole…

Hypocrisy be damned.

But, you know what? Even with all the sorrow, the grief that I’ve been holding inside, bottling up, there was also a bit of healing yesterday. Despite the losses, I could look at these photos and, oftentimes, laugh. I could watch Trooper’s funny face hanging upside-down from the kitchen chair and remember his antics with real joy and appreciation for the years I got to share with him. When he showed up on my doorstep that night, my life was truly blessed. Ditto for every other pet, family member and friend. And, along with faces that I will no longer see in this life, there were photos of baby showers, and trips to the Big E Fair; of fiber fests, Christmas and Thanksgiving celebrations. And, suddenly, over the grief slid a sort of wonder and awe at how richly my life has been blessed. I’ve been focused on the negative: the losses. Instead of looking at all the goodness that has also been part of my life.

Of course, I shared the laughter with Mom. Mom’s not good with grief. She understands it, probably better than most, but she’s quick to mouth platitudes that I’d rather not hear, platitudes like how this pet or that is no longer suffering and in pain, or how I should think of all the little children in hospitals with cancer (I’m not sure the logic behind that one being of comfort…whether we’re talking beloved pets or family members or good friends). She means well. But she also gets anxious, as if it is a sin past bearing that one should openly exhibit emotion. But I have to. I have to let it out. Finally. Because I do mourn both human and humane. But I also rejoice in the memories. And was able to share those memories with someone else I love dearly. And that was the greatest healing of all.

May God bless you & keep you!

Homesteading Dilemma

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins that He might rescue us from the present evil age in accord with the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Galatians 1:3-5)

It feels almost like a sacrilege to write a piece of Scripture wishing peace on everyone when I’m contemplating what I consider the unthinkable: culling animals. Three out of the four chicks born last August are cockerels. No, the vegetarian isn’t going to butcher them. More likely, see if I can find a couple of farms that might need a rooster to protect their flock of hens; they’re super valuable that way. But I have too many now. And, worse, the three younger roosters are ganging up on Sargent Feathers.

Sargent Feathers, to jog everyone’s memory, has been recuperating from frost-bitten wattles in my kitchen for the last month. His lady friend, Taffy, has been keeping him company but, now that he is healed, it’s time to put him back outside. So, this past week, he and Taffy have been in the same cage but that cage was relocated to the barn. I wanted everyone to get used to their presence again before releasing them as they’ve been “gone” for too long and a slightly different pecking order has been established…in the form of three young cockerels thinking they now rule the roost. No super aggression exhibited towards the cage and its inhabitants. In fact, Goldie recognized her boy immediately and has been sleeping atop the cage to be closer to him. So, this morning, I let them out for a little while, staying close to them…just in case.

And it’s a good thing I did.

First, Radar came strutting over. (PS I have a naming system here at The Herbal Hare Homestead. Roosters get named for something military. Hence, Sargent Feathers, Corporal Denim, Tank, Radar, MIG and Hummer; the last three formerly K.C., Shelly and Pat before their gender was confirmed) I stepped between them and Radar ran back towards the flock (these young cockerels are not at all aggressive towards humans; they’d make a nice addition to another barnyard where there’s no competition for control); Sargent Feathers stayed near the barn door and let out a good, lusty crow. Amazing to see the loyalty of that barnyard. More than half of the ladies and Tank, my Silkie rooster, who has no aggression or seeming desire for dominance at all, came racing over to his side. That gave Sargent Feathers some confidence, I think. He started chirping and clucking right along with them, a sort of chicken celebration: “Yay! He’s back!”

Then Hummer came strutting over. I stepped towards him. He raced back.

Mom and I have been considering maybe we should put Sargent Feathers, Taffy and Goldie in with the ducks; they’ve all grown up together and get along fine (except for Dweezil’s lusty advances on Prudence…). And it may be an option. But I think more of the flock will want to be in the old coop with them instead of free-ranging and why should Sargent Feathers give up his turf? Or the bulk of his flock?

The light bulb went on in my head (I think it had a short in it though…).

How would the cockerels do with the ducks until I can either re-stock with more females, essentially making another flock, or figure out what to do with them otherwise? So I caught one–MIG–and put him in the coop.

Nope. That’s not going to work.

Duncan and Dweezil surrounded him in a heartbeat. They know and love Sargent Feathers; this guy was an intruder. I let him back out again before it got ugly.

To make a long story short, Sargent Feathers and Taffy are temporarily back in their cage. Tonight, I may let the ducks co-habitat with the chickens and goats again, and while they are quietly roosting, grab the young cockerels and put them in the old coop where the ducks have been. Though Dweezil gets a little too familiar with some of my chickens, they can flutter up onto their roosts to escape his attentions (or Chester’s back; Prudence’s place of refuge…who would’ve thought such a bond between goat and chicken could exist); Sargent Feathers has nowhere to go to escape a three onto one situation that his old bones can never hope to win…no matter his level of confidence–and there was one point this morning where he strutted and then jumped right in the middle of the three, intent on re-establishing his authority. That’s when I rescued him from said suicide mission and put him back in his cage; he can re-establish authority after the young boys are cooped away from him and, possibly, find a good home where they can lead their own flock of ladies.

But I hate having to make this decision.

And, even as I type this, I am remembering that old roll of fencing behind the coop and the old gate…maybe it’s time to build another coop…and, yes, create another flock. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

May God bless you & keep you!

Embracing the Imperfect

“Although if I should wish to boast, I would not be foolish, for I would be telling the truth. But I refrain, so that no one may think more of me than what he sees in me or hears in me because of the abundance of the revelations. Therefore, that I might not become too elated, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.” (2 Corinthians 12:6-9)

We all have things that we could boast about without looking foolish. Maybe you’re one of the most brilliant surgeons in the country and have helped heal countless other people…or animals, if a veterinary surgeon. Maybe you’re an awesome cook. Or have a beautiful singing voice. Our gifts are countless. And, yes, since He gave you these gifts in the first place, He also uses them to heal the sick, feed the hungry, and bring joy to many.

But, guess what?

That surgeon is also late to every appointment. The cook is nipping the cooking sherry while whipping up the filet mignon. And the singer is dyslexic. Sort of makes all of their accomplishments that much more awe-inspiring, doesn’t it?

And that’s the point.

God doesn’t just use our gifts. He uses our imperfections, too. If everything ran smoothly all of the time, would we notice His miracles? Would we understand that it’s all about Him and not about us? If we were all perfect in every way, would we even think to worship God? So He uses our imperfections. He uses them to further His Kingdom. When we, who are broken, are made whole through Christ, it forces the unbeliever to take notice. Sure, they may scoff and sneer, especially if we give the credit where it’s due for our success. But they notice the accomplishment. And are amazed at the adversities overcome to achieve that success. They may not suddenly become believers. But there’s a seed planted. And God will cause it to bloom in His own time.

Do you notice something though? Despite whatever He helps us to accomplish in our lives, those thorns never really go away. I may be a minister, a writer, an artist and a homesteader. But I am also a survivor of child molestation, an eternal procrastinator and I’m perpetually running late, running behind. I’m terrified of flying. I deal with depression and anxiety, low self-esteem and confidence issues, acid reflux, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Psychological Disorder, and Chronic Epstein-Barr. I’m showing you my brokenness…and thanking Him for all of it: the gifts and the thorns. But especially the thorns. Because that’s what people need to see. Those thorns are blessings in disguise. And there are others with those same thorns in their sides who need to hear that they are not alone. So, whatever adversities you are working with, thank Him.

Because there’s a silver lining behind that cloud. There always is.

May God bless you & keep you!