Patience

“And consider the patience of our Lord as salvation, as our beloved brother, Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, also wrote to you.” (2 Peter 3:15)

As I wrote yesterday, I am the most impatient patient. I don’t think anyone likes being ill but, this enforced convalescence, leaves me stewing about what I could be/should be doing. Really, I should be focused on getting well again.

Enough said.

And yet, my mind swirls with tasks undone, goals not reached, bills to pay, etc. etc. etc. I am the eternal worry wort. Where is my faith in all of this???

I’ve never really thought of myself as a Type-A personality but I guess I am. The over-achiever…it’s a wonder I don’t have ulcers. However, I do have stomach muscles so sore from coughing that it feels like somebody’s been pounding on them with their golden gloves. My fever broke last night but it crested at 104 degrees–a fact that my doctor gave me the riot act for yesterday for not heading to the ER after taking said temperature; it was still 101 in her office yesterday. And, while some part of me knows I should be in bed right now–the fever may be broke but that doesn’t mean I’m out of the woods yet–I guess this enforced convalescence is teaching me that I really don’t know how to relax.

Even when I have to.

Totally Type-A.

I actually feel guilty whenever I *try* to relax. Mondays and Tuesdays, my usual days’ off from work, are often spent with Mom watching YouTube. A good portion of it is music videos (Casting Crowns, Blackmore’s Night are some common favorites) but I also watch a lot of how-to gardening channels: BBC’s Gardener’s World, No-Dig Gardening with Charles Dowding, Growing your Greens with Jon Kohler. In other words, even my “down” time is spent at least educating myself. It’s not 100% “down” time. And yet, despite all of this, one would expect The Herbal Hare Homestead to be this immaculately kept place.

It’s not.

I read a great article yesterday from Treehugger. It was about imperfection, about how allowing the imperfect is actually healthier for us. In the article, Melissa Breyer talks about these benefits by actually describing the side effects of trying to obtain perfection. She could’ve been describing me: “exhausting” “higher levels of depression, anxiety” “failure is catastrophic…for sense of self…emotional well-being” “vulnerable to distress, often haunted by a chronic sense of failure; indecisiveness and it’s close companion procrastination” “low self-esteem” “guilt and its fellow travelers, shame and self-recrimination”. I would add a feeling of perpetual overwhelm…and the inability to act that comes with it.

Because always trying to be Supergirl, leads one to a mountain so exceedingly daunting that I’m often defeated before I even begin.

I think that’s where this impatience with illness comes from. It’s a feeling of failure. I’m not working, contributing, etc. (other than this blog post…haha) I’m ill. Ergo, less than perfect at the moment.

As if perfection were obtainable in the first place.

Again, where’s my faith in all of this?

It’s more important than ever to pay attention. The fever may have broken but here is where the battle is either won or lost. If I push myself now, I’ll be laid up yet again. Worse, this is the flu; pneumonia is the next stage if I’m not careful.

So, maybe there is a lesson to be learned from this enforced convalescence: a lesson of patience. It’s a lesson long overdue…and, yes, as the Scripture states at the beginning of this post, salvation.

May God bless you & keep you!

REFERENCES

Breyer, M. (2018). “The Beautiful Benefits of Imperfection”. Treehugger. Retrieved January 13, 2018 from: https://www.treehugger.com/health/beautiful-benefits-imperfection.html

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Christian Confidence

“Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that of ourselves we are qualified to take credit for anything as coming from us; rather, our qualification comes from God, who has indeed qualified us as ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of Spirit; for the letter brings death, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Corinthians 3:4-6)

As someone who grew up with alcoholism and abuse in the home, confidence is a fleeting thing. You’re blowing your own horn one minute; the next, you’re plummeting into the abyss. As a Christian, I should neither be boasting of “my” works nor lamenting any perceived mediocrity; both are an insult to the Lord. Any talents or gifts that I currently possess were given to me by the Holy Spirit. They are gifts from God, not self. Indeed, these gifts are meant to be shared with others, to further His kingdom…not hidden away in some corner while I serve small, thinking I’m not good enough.

And yet, for those of us who perpetually battle confidence and self-esteem issues, that’s exactly what we do. We allow the enemy of our souls to keep telling us we’re not good enough, we’re not strong enough, smart enough, talented enough…

Enough already!

That little red guy with the pitch fork talks too much.

If God is nudging us to do something, He’s telling us we are good enough, strong enough, smart enough and/or talented enough. Because He is giving us the strength, intellect and/or talent. And He will never fail. He doesn’t need us to do whatever the task; He wants us to do it. And it is through our obedience to Him that we are blessed. It’s that simple.

When that ol’ Devil starts whispering his insidious lies, call upon the Lord. Pray for that strength, courage, or whatever else you may need to succeed. Ask the good Lord to show you where your heart is, what He wants for you. And then really listen to the answers He places on your heart.

For someone like myself–and there are plenty out there who have had similar upbringings–trusting someone–even Someone–is often the equivalent of trying to climb Mount Everest with naught but a toothpick for support. It is overwhelming to even consider because we base our trust on our human relationships…instead of the One relationship that should matter most of all…and will never let us down.

I always discount my dreams as too lofty, too impossible. It’s a pipe dream, never happen. There’s someone prettier, more talented, etc. than I am. I blame my present financial situation: I don’t have the money. And that other commodity: I don’t have enough time. And I allow myself to be defeated.

Every.

Single.

Time.

Worse, I’m telling God “no”…by believing the lies.

I’m praying for a set of spiritual headphones this year to drown out the Adversary’s “talk”. Jesus says, “I am enough!” And so is everyone else reading this blog post. What dream has He put on your heart? What does He keep nudging you to do? Where does He keep nudging you to go? Saying “Yes, Lord!” is the biggest hurdle to conquer. Are you up to the challenge?

May God bless you & keep you!

Manifesting my Dreams

“And we have this confidence in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (1 John 5:14)

I struggle to know His will for me versus my own hopes, dreams and aspirations. Did He put these dreams on my heart because this is where He wants me to go? Or am I hoping to super-impose my will over His simply because He provided the grace, the talent, the desire…whether we’re talking writing, art or homesteading? I guess, in some ways, I’m trying to read God’s mind. It’s almost as if I’m looking for permission to be a writer, artist and/or homesteader. And, in the long run, I don’t think He minds what avenue we choose to spread His word, to do His will. His will is that we love Him with our hearts, our minds, our souls–in short, every ounce of our being, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Last Sunday this awful cold–which is turning into bronchitis, I suspect–kept me from church. Mom and I sat and watched some daily devotional videos with Mark Hall from Casting Crowns. I am going to paraphrase him but we’re not writers. Or artists. Or bankers. Or whatever our profession. We’re Christians who write, draw/paint, or work in a bank. In other words, being Christian, serving Christ, should be first. That should be our identity. I like that because it puts us all on the same playing field. We’re all the same in God’s eyes.

So today I am a Christian who writes. And I finally finished the mural I blogged about many months’ ago. I’m also a Christian who paints:

The ultimate symbol of Christ’s sacrifice for us shining down on all of my dreams. I’ve spent a lot of time in holistic health, which tends to have a crossover with New Age beliefs. There’s a lot of talk about manifesting your dreams. In short, in many ways, it is a feeble attempt to superimpose our own wills over God’s. But His plans are greater than any that you or I may have. And, if it is His will, His means of getting there are much more effective. Still, it was rather nice to pour all of my longing into this folk-art rendering of where I hope to be one day.

May God bless you & keep you!

REFERENCES

Hall, M. (n.d.). “Casting Crowns’ Mark Hall Daily Devotional”. YouTube. Retrieved January 5, 2018 from: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL9E60B7BC20898E21

It Comes in Threes

“Three times a year you shall celebrate a pilgrim feast to me” (Exodus 23:14)
“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20)
“Jesus said to him, ‘Amen, I say to you, this very night before the cock crows, you will deny me three times” (Matthew 26:34)

Threes pop up quite a bit in the Bible so I’m running with this old superstition that “things happen” in threes. I blogged about having a cold earlier this week; yesterday, Sargent Feathers’ wattles got hit with frostbite (he’s on the mend but I’m still praying, and crossing fingers and toes that he doesn’t lose them). This morning? The furnace went out. On one of the coldest nights in New England history.

I slept in the easy chair in the living room last night. As the congestion that has plagued me since Saturday eases up, the post-nasal drip triggers both a dry, hacking sort of cough and, oftentimes, an asthma attack or two. Lying flat makes it 10 times worse. So I leaned my head back and went out like a light…

…Until Mom came in, seeing the wood stove burning bright and came to check on me. Her voice startled me awake again. For the rest of the night I simply dozed, woke, checked the fire, replenished when needed and dozed again, never really registering why I felt cold sitting right next to a wood stove with fleece pajamas, a heavy robe, a woolen blanket and two cats piled on me. It wasn’t until morning that I thought to take a look at the thermostat. Though it was set for 68 degrees, the needle on the bottom of the dial was all the way over to the left (i.e. so cold it no longer registered on the thermostat).

Things got a little scary after that as the woodpile dwindled and the temperature outside stayed in the single digits.

I think I’m adding doomsday prepping to my litany of reasons why to homestead. I have not been up to this point (though the present job is certainly preparing me for it in learning how to survive without electricity, refrigeration or central heating). Though I’ve admired the movement, seen the logic of it all–especially as my college minor is environmental science–current circumstances…oh, hell, let’s be brutally, painfully honest here. Most of the time I’m broke; financially-challenged; severely under-employed, etc. “A rose by any other name would still smell so sweet.” (And I’ve probably butchered some Shakespeare now, too, but, c’est la vie!) Doomsday prepping takes time, money and more than a little of this Yankee ingenuity when you’re challenged by the first two. The larder is not well-stocked; ditto for the non-existent wood shed and I’m buying heating oil, wood for the stove and hay for the animals in small quantities (in short, whatever funds allow at the moment).

We’re not out of the woods yet as “they” say (Who are “they”??? They’re worse than that guy, Murphy…) This morning was a painful reminder of how everything has been breaking down, falling behind, constantly struggling to stay afloat. And it’s not my money management skills that are lacking; I’ve had more than one financial expert tell me I’ve taught them a few things about frugality and money management! It’s simply that, despite how much I have whittled everything down to the bare bones, my most basic living expenses still exceed my present income. Though I am striving towards self-sufficiency here at The Herbal Hare Homestead, it may be years before it comes to fruition. For every step I take forward, I take at least three backwards due to time and/or money constraints.

And, of course, this is where I have to remind myself to *thank* God. Because, as the oil company replaced the motor on the furnace tonight, and got us up and running again, that little red guy with the pitchfork is raising my anxiety levels, telling me I can’t afford this; I’ll miss this payment or that trying to pay for this repair; I don’t deserve to earn my keep…or even be warm in the midst of a deep frost; maybe I’m not “meant” to do any of this homesteading thing, etc., tearing away at the self-confidence and filling me with more overwhelm–if I let him.

I don’t.

I will weather this storm, as all the others, by the grace of God. Yes, it may have been a close call but we got through it. He brought us through it. Blessed be the name of the Lord! He also opened my eyes to an area of homesteading that I’ve long been neglecting: emergency preparedness. That’s something else to be thankful for.

And it’s coming. Despite this cold snap, Gaia is telling us as plainly as she can that she’s tired. We’re taxing her too much with our over-consumption of petrol and plastics. All these extreme temperatures, and violent storms, are Mother Earth’s way of righting herself, healing herself. The more violent, more frequent the storms and natural disasters, the harder she’s struggling to heal.

(And I seriously did NOT intend that this post should turn into a rant, or campaign, for climate change awareness but it somehow managed to grow out of it anyway…)

So I will trust in that grace. And I will follow His voice inside my heart, like Joseph–coat of many colors’ Joseph–who helped Pharoah prepare for seven years of famine (Genesis 41:17-36).

Do I believe we are headed for seven years of famine again?

Possibly.

Food scarcity and water shortages are already felt in many parts of the world. As we turn our Midwest into an even bigger desert by mono-cropping, it does seem important to me that, so minute a detail as a failed motor on a furnace, should be a warning to ramp up my efforts to be more self-sufficient…and to urge everyone else to prepare, too.

I’m also praying, as the beloved sound of my ancient furnace kicking on interrupts the silence of a chilly, January night, that this “coming in threes” thing is accurate: a cold, some frostbitten wattles and a broken furnace; it could have been much, much worse. And, if there is anything to this rule of three, then I should be done now…crossing fingers!

May God bless you & keep you!

A-a-a-Achoo!

“Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day. Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord, your God. No work may be done then either by you, or your son or daughter, or your male or female slave, or your beast, or by the alien who lives with you. In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them; but on the seventh He rested. That is why the Lord has blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20: 8-11)

Inevitable, I guess, that I should catch the same head cold as is floating around the museum. Also inevitable that it should be slowly evolving into laryngitis. “Inevitable” because laryngitis seems to be the plague of all singers.

You sing.

You get sick.

You lose your voice.

Granted, I’m not singing “pro” anymore. Or even semi-pro. So this doesn’t really affect me on any professional level. But the vox always takes the hit. Regardless. You’d think, given my voice doesn’t get the same routine workout it received when I sang in bands, that I might avoid the laryngitis once in a while. But, apparently, it doesn’t work that way.

And all of this nonsensical gibberish has nothing to do with the fact that I’m sitting here on the Sabbath using my “other” voice, the voice of a writer…and, technically, WORKING.

It doesn’t feel like work. It feels like fun.

Does that count?

Probably not…

However, I am rejoicing to be back at the keyboard. Blessed be the Name of the Lord. And, while I lament this illness that keeps me away from serving Communion this morning (I am scheduled), I also appreciate that His plan is greater than mine. He knows I have a cold. He knows some part of me is rundown and has been ignoring that “rundown”, stressed out state for quite some time now. He also knows that my heart is rejoicing to be back serving Communion–and Lectoring–again but, I believe in my heart, He is reminding me what happens when we neglect our health–mental, emotional, physical and, yes, spiritual. We get hit with dis-EASE. (You can take the girl out of the holistic health sector but you can’t take the holistic health out of the girl…) Just as each of us is a part of the body of Christ, so, too, does our own physical body have many parts…parts that need care, rest, and respect. When we neglect any part of ourselves, it causes a breakdown on all of these levels. Time constraints, and the current compromises of some core values, have caused this breakdown. It is time to put it right. And come up fighting.

But He says rest for right now. We’ll fight this together…whatever “this” is..in His time.

Not mine.

I think He’s trying to tell me to stop chasing my own tail. Give it all to Him: the financial burdens; the looming debts; the dreams and desires that always seem to get further away instead of closer; the feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, and unworthiness; the perpetual square-peg-in-a-round-hole existence. Give it all to Him. Because, without Him, none of it matters. Those dreams just keep getting further away. And it is more important that He not be pushed further and further away by the pressures of the world.

Because I’ve neglected to put Him first in my day.

Letting go, giving control to anyone–even God–has always been my biggest struggle in life. I grew up in an abusive home–not beaten physically but verbally, mentally, emotionally and sexually abused. Staying tight-fisted, and playing it “safe”, has given me a very false sense of security. Every time I decide to step into the waters of life, take a step out of line, I expect fire and brimstone to rain down upon my head. Such stinking thinking is probably my biggest burden of all. And yet, I let the Adversary lure me with it. I stop just before making that final leap of faith, not trusting that Jesus is there to catch me. Each and every time.

I’m tired of that “standard of living” that “somehow got stuck on survive” (Kilcher, 1998). “We were made to thrive” (Casting Crowns, 2014). And, the only way to do that, is to let go…and trust in Him. All of my own efforts just keep burying me deeper.

These last two months, besides being somewhat of a tedious task in re-reading and editing past posts, have also been a time of reflection. I can almost trace the path of how I got into this human survival mode…instead of a spiritual thriving. I also see where I’ve often shared mostly the positive, the upbeat, the hopes and dreams, but seldom the failures. And He uses the failures, the imperfections. It is the down-trodden that He uses; He lifts them up, performs small (and some not so small) miracles through them. And in them.

To further His kingdom.

I keep chasing my tail, doing the same thing over and again…and expecting a different outcome. They say that’s a definition of insanity. I invite God to take control. Then, when everything is going smoothly, I push away from Him and try to take hold of the reins again. “I’ve got this now.” As if I can do a better job this time than He can. When has that ever proved true?

Definitely a definition of insanity.

He really does work in mysterious ways. I set out on what I thought would be a tedious task, intent only on removing any and all specific mentions of my current employer, so that their brand may not be compromised by anything written in this blog. I’ll confess even to some rebellion in the act: a refusal to give free advertising to that brand as well. More stinking thinking, of course, but He uses even that…and brings it around to more right thinking. No one person, or entity, is right or wrong…or perfect. It is our imperfections that make us whole…and beautiful. That doesn’t mean we quit trying to do right, to make right, or perfect; to alleviate suffering; feed the hungry, etc. But if we take that right or wrong, that imperfection, that suffering and hunger, and place it in His hands, the fight is already won. Sort of appropriate that I should finally complete this “tedious” task, this unexpected reflection and awakening, on New Year’s Eve day. I may have laryngitis but my fingers are singing across this keyboard. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.

What a great way to start a new year.

May God bless you & keep you!

REFERENCES

Casting Crowns (2014). “Thrive.” Thrive. Beach Street/Reunion.

Kilcher, J. (1998). “Deep Water.” Spirit. EMI Music Publishing.

My Apologies for the Delay…

Good morning (or whatever time of day it is in your part of the world…)

In the middle of some major “renovations” here on this blog. As soon as they are completed, I will certainly include more information about them. For the time being, I thank everyone for their patience. New content will be added soon.

In the meantime, keep working towards that faith-filled, sustainable and compassionate future. We CAN be the change we wish to see in the world.

May God bless you & keep you!

When I Am Weak

“You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see you good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” (Matthew 5:13-16)

I snagged the dream job three weeks’ ago. And, yes, it has been that long already. It’s also been that long, I think, since my last blog post. I went into retreat mode once the new job started. For just a moment, that little voice inside that I’d sometimes like to take a machete to, told me I was in over my head. I wasn’t qualified enough. I didn’t know enough. I can’t do this!

Sounds a little like the adversary with his tricks again.

Why do I listen to this voice? God dropped every minor detail into perfect place with this position. He must certainly have a plan. And, surely, the owner of my heart knows much better than that ol’ adversary. He says I can handle it. He says I’m qualified enough. He says I know enough.

I CAN DO THIS!

But, for a few moments this morning, as I realized yet again the size of the carbon footprint I’m wearing on the earth with this commute; as I realized that I sort of had to give up my parish community to accept this job; as I realized I have less time to work on my homestead; as I realized I have much less time to write my blog, the two books I have on the fire, and complete my homework assignments, I felt a little bit of the bottom drop out from under me. These are my core values. These are the things I live for.

I suddenly longed for something familiar, that seemingly “safe” little world where I hid myself for 7 years. A “safe” little world where dinner often came from the local food pantry and robbing Peter to pay Paul became a bigger juggling act when Peter’s pockets turned up empty, too.

And I realized, that some parts of this new routine are familiar…an echo from days gone by.

Back in 2009, before I lost the corporate position, my mornings were always rushed. I kept trying to cram a 28 hour day into a 24 hour one. Of course, it never worked. And, of course, I was trying to do everything at once…perfection being my worst enemy. There’s a lesson there somewhere. It’s called time management. I may not be able to spend 2-4 hours a day writing now; working part-time at the dealership I didn’t always do so even with the time available. I discovered during 2 years of unemployment and 5 more of severe under-employment, that I am not the self-starter. I need structure. If I have too much time on my hands, if I’m only having to fulfill part-time obligations, I slack off…so much so that nothing gets done.

The female dog side of my nature told the whiny ass to shut up and keep driving.

I ran a little behind this morning rushing out the door. About halfway to work, I came up behind a school bus. Back in 2009, I always came up behind the school bus traveling down Harkney Hill Rd. and the demon called Road Rage dogged my every a.m. commute.

I can do better this time.

The early bird catches the worm…I may be back to 3:30 a.m. risings again. Or at least 4:30; that would give me a solid 6 hours’ of sleep. Then I could write a couple of hours before work.

Old habits, die hard…I’m still trying to cram 28 hours into 24. It can’t be done. I believe that’s the definition of insanity.

Eventually, reason crept back in. This is necessary. I have bills to pay off. And, though I love my little fixer-upper, I confess, I’d like to eventually purchase a bigger piece of land. If I’m ever to increase my herd of goats, and add some sheep to the mix, I need pasture. This is my chance to get back on my feet again. If for no other reason, that is the reason to keep going.

The bus stopped again.

I waited.

The bus started moving again. We rode a little further. The bus stopped again.

It may have been a slower pace than I would like to go and yet, we were still moving, still getting where we wanted to go…”we” being the line of cars stopping and traveling, traveling and stopping along with me. There’s a lesson in there, too. Baby steps…

How many times have I had to remind myself of that? One foot in front of the other. I can do this. I even started reviewing in my head the lessons learned from friend, Farnoosh, last winter in the Smart Exit Blueprint Plan. I remembered my blueprint. I mentally adjusted it to include the new, ideal position. Actually, the new, ideal position is part of the SEB plan–I needed work to financially sustain me while I work to develop my homestead (or a future one) into a working herb and fiber farm, and goat dairy. I need full-time work like this to get out of debt so the bigger homestead might become a reality. I need full-time work like this so that my stress levels over bills piling up don’t paralyze me so I can’t write at all. This is necessary!

It’s also fun. And I’ve been doing this as a volunteer since 2012!

Some part of sanity returned as I turned onto the last leg of my commute…if I wasn’t 2 and 1/2 years’ into menopause, I’d swear I had PMS with the crazy squirrel leaps my mind was doing. How did I suddenly turn into this cry baby…well, not actually crying but this feeling of overwhelm and doubt?

In myself.

In God.

The blah kind of mood followed me into the morning check-in point and then back to the herb garden. I really needed a tea. Tuesdays the museum is closed…as are all the cafes. Why didn’t I pack a few tea bags? I’m exhausted. Of course, the caffeine’s not the best thing for me…

Meetings all morning. Meetings with the teachers from the new charter school going up in the main parking lot. Suddenly, as we went around the table introducing ourselves and telling what we do at the museum, and where we’d like to go with the new charter school, I felt a nudge to share some of the ideas I’ve had for the herb garden–an addition of a vernal pool and native plant garden bed. The children from the school could help plan and plant it. They could watch to see what sort of creatures show up. We could study the frogs and salamanders and dragonflies that might move in. In sharing this project, I could teach them the importance of biodiversity and the dangers of introducing foreign species of plants. The master gardener came out to play…maybe I’m not such a lost cause after all. Everyone loved the idea.

It was then that I realized that maybe I am staying true to those core values after all. Won’t that vernal pool and native plant garden benefit the local environment? And won’t working with 5 – 9 year old children, teaching them about the environment, plant a seed (every pun intended) for future generations of environmentalists? If that’s not staying true to my core values, what is? It’s a golden opportunity.

When I am weak, He shows me His Way. He shows me the real hope for the future. Suddenly, I’m not hiding anymore.

I can do this…and, more importantly, I want to.

May God bless you & keep you!