A God of Love

“Those who trust in Him shall understand truth, and the faithful shall abide with Him in love; because grace and mercy are with His holy ones, and His care is with His elect.” (Wisdom 3:9)

Yep. Still continuing on with this theme of God’s love. And why not? What better message can there be but that we are loved beyond our human capacity to comprehend?

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that He loves us when the bills are piling up; we lose a much-needed job; a major repair needs to be taken care of on a shoestring budget; a loved one is sick, injured…or has left us, etc. We tend to expect that, once we start walking with Jesus, it’ll be smooth sailing in our lives forevermore. But bills will still need to be paid; maintenance still needs to be done from time to time; illness, injury and, yes, even death, still exist. They won’t magically go away. This is where the expression “walk by faith” comes in. When these little earthquakes come into our lives, we should praise Him just as much as we are wont to do when life is smoothly sailing along.

That one’s a hard one to swallow…sometimes even for the believer. I remember the first time I read this, I questioned the wisdom of praising Him for the hardship. Wouldn’t praising Him for it mean that He might heap more adversity onto my head? What a horrible image! In essence, it is envisioning a God who sits there toying with us and delighting in our misfortunes. Why would anyone choose to follow such a deity? And more, why would anyone witness to others about such a god?

Maybe for the same reasons that people pick up another bottle of whiskey, snort another line of cocaine, or stay in an abusive and/or toxic relationship. Such a deity, that vision of someone toying with us and delighting in our misfortune, has more in common with the enemy of our souls. And, sadly, we humans have a tendency to gravitate towards the very things that are unhealthy for us, to be taken in by the lure…and the lies. We also tend to avoid like the plague the things that are good for us, such as eating healthier foods, exercising…cultivating a personal relationship with Jesus.

I am guilty as charged. I don’t always eat healthy. I get lazy about exercising. Sometimes I even neglect God.

The beautiful thing is He never neglects me.

Those little earthquakes I mentioned earlier? Oftentimes, they are God’s way of getting our attention, of asking us to realign our focus on Him…instead of the things of the world. They ask us to re-examine the course we are on and ask God to take control. Those little earthquakes–and especially the bigger ones, the hard-to-fathom-why-such-a-horrible-thing-would-happen-to-a-good-and/or-innocent-person–are also what the Adversary uses to try to separate us from God. It questions and challenges our faith. And it is then that the Adversary slips in his little worms of doubt. Sure, God can…and often does…use those little worms of doubt to bring about a greater love and faith in Him. It’s sort of like the worms in our compost bin. They’ll eat at our flesh, if we allow them contact with it for long enough, and cause us pain. But, in the right environment–such as God’s hand–those little worms can be used to create something wonderful and new:

Black gold, rich in nutrients for growing nourishing food for our bodies…or a faith so strong, so enduring, that it forevermore nourishes our soul.

Blessed be the name of the Lord.

May God bless you & keep you!

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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!

Yes, He Does

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through Him.” (John 3:16-17)

God loves you.

Let that message settle into your bones and into your soul. Let it fill your heart and your mind…and chase away every dark and lonely thought the adversary uses to trip us up, to keep us from trusting God.

God

Loves

YOU!

“With age-old love I have loved you; so I have kept my mercy toward you.” (Jeremiah 31:3)

Roma Downey and Della Reese became household names from 1994-2003 with this same message in “Touched by an Angel” every week. It was one of the most popular shows for almost a decade. Why? Because we were starving little people 15+ years’ ago and needed that reassurance. Today? We’re not only starving but thirsty and parched to the point of ridiculous. Sadly, there’s no longer a sweet and lovable angel still reassuring us that He cares (though the re-runs are timeless…). Churches are lucky to be half full…or else they’re closing their doors because not enough people attend their services. We’ve taken prayer out of our schools, our government, every corner of our world. And then wondering why that world is spiraling faster into chaos. As for pop culture? Today the Christian is mocked and ridiculed; the angel, more often than not, portrayed as fallen.

And yes, I know all about how the world will hate us all if we are His. But we’re not being His. We’re pushing Him away, telling Him to mind His business. We’re in control. As if we can do a better job than GOD (!!??!).

“Yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given Himself up for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

God loves you.

Feel it. Taste it. Absorb this fact in every ounce of your being. Accept Him as your Savior, if you haven’t already, and let Him take the reins of this life. If you have accepted Him as Savior, don’t grow lax in your praise of Him. Even in the eye of a storm, praise Him. Never forget how much He loves you. Never forget to tell Him how much you love Him. I promise you…your life will be the richer for it. Maybe not in worldly, material riches but in the things that matter most: faith, hope, love, compassion, truth.

God loves YOU!

There’s hope in that message. And our world needs that hope more than ever.

“And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5)

May God bless you & keep you!

REFERENCES

Williamson, M. (Executive Producer) (1994-2003) “Touched by an Angel.” Moon Water Productions, CBS productions and Caroline Productions.

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

Face: Tomato Red

“Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone in good spirits? He should sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If has committed any sins, he will be forgiven.” (James 5:13-15)

Face: tomato red. No, not from embarrassment but from fever. I thought I was on the mend, went back to work on Wednesday. I’m worse today than I was last week.

Grrr…

I’m not a patient patient. I hate being ill. It seems such a waste of time but, obviously, my body is saying it’s had enough. Now comes the worry and stress to try and make ends meet this month; it’s always something. And, I confess, too, to being tired of the perpetual struggle. I had hoped full-time employment would make a dent in the financial strife and, for the most part, it has. But a week out of work…followed by this relapse…and I’m knocked back down again.

So, as I sit here shivering at the keyboard while the bunnies have their morning playtime, albeit, a little later than usual, I have to take a deep breath and remind myself that He will provide. If He has led me to this, He will lead me through it…one way or the other.

In the meantime, I am grateful this bug, germ, whatever it is, can’t transmit through cyberspace; I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Every inch of my body aches.

Time to go back to bed…

May God bless you & keep you!