Pruning

Summer is drawing to a close. The months of bright, festive flowers that beckon and sing to the pollinators and picnickers is dwindling down. There will be a few days of heated fury and defiance, where summer rebels just a bit – blazing hot and fierce. Time is almost up, and it knows.

The garden knows, too, and begins the descent into autumn. The spring and summer flowering plants and bushes slow and droop, dropping dried blooms, except for those that flourish and delight in autumn, bringing fresh color and excitement to a waning garden.

With this changing of the guard comes a season of pruning.  Much needs to be done to keep the garden looking loved, cared for and peaceful. Garden shears, trimmers and trowels are still needed.

Upon close inspection, one sees the stems, leaves, vines, and small branches shut down, wither, and die back. The perennials need this season of pruning for survival; they need someone to cut away and remove those areas that are no longer serving them or the garden. At times the pruning seems brutal, harsh, and perhaps cruel as some parts are cut away so severely there is hardly any of the original plant left.  All is cut away that is not actively helping, nurturing, and stimulating growth in the plant. Those dead and dying off parts suck vital nutrients from the healthy stems, branches, and leaves. A good gardener knows that they cannot be left to compete with and deplete the healthy plant.

Bending close to check each branch and stem, the gardener determines where best to trim and cut away. At first glance, a stem or branch may look completely wasted away, yet a closer look reveals tiny, minute new growth attempting to push its way out. The gardener values this new growth, barely visible except to the one who actively seeks and delights in nourishing this fledgling sprout of new life. All that is above it will be removed and tossed away, allowing plenty of room and careful tending to encourage the new life.

Do you see how this imagery of a master gardener lovingly tending his or her garden applies so beautifully to how the Creator loving and intentionally prunes, tends, and cares for each of us?

The pruned plant may look bedraggled and worse for wear, hacked and shorn off, appearing vulnerable and fragile. But this is where the unseen work takes place in the root system below the surface.  With the dead and decaying parts pruned away, the roots are free to prepare and strengthen the fragile plant for the new life waiting for rebirth when the season is just right; when spring comes and the time for its new beginning arrives. The quiet season of strength building is vital for this plant and is vital for us, too. When the Master Gardener deems it is time, new life will burst up, break forth and take its place in the Garden of Life, amid humanity, where the plant and you and I will live out our purpose, delight those meant to encounter us and be deeply nourished from a root system well established and fed by the Master Gardener and His living water.

The pruning season is hard. It hurts and can leave us feeling like there is nothing left of us but stumpy, stick-like nubs that are ugly, barren and have no purpose. But we can’t see with the eyes of the Master Gardener, who sees these shorn off places as a thing of great beauty and Divine Purpose, because He knows what’s coming. He sees the pruned places for what they are; stealers of joy, a heavy weight of bad habits, bitterness and anger, idols we erected in our search for happiness and value, and greedy competitors that robbed precious energy.  I imagine Him smiling and laughing in anticipation of all that He is doing below the surface to the root system of our lives. Every nip, cut, snip and prune hold tremendous value and purpose. So, can we endure for a little while, during the quiet autumn of the pruning season, to see the joy, delight and surprise that will spring forth?

Book Promotion Divine Encounters…

I’m currently running a promotion on my eBook on Amazon, AND If you are a Kindle Unlimited member, please check it out, my eBook is listed as KU book.

If you have read my book in either format, I would absolutely love it if you’d leave a review of it on Amazon. It helps me as an author and it keeps my book from being lost in the sea of algorithms that is Amazon, hahaha! I so appreciate the lovely reviews that have been left so far. It only takes a few minutes 😉

Divine Encounters…is LIVE

Divine Encounters…IS LIVE!! Available on Amazon (Kindle eBook & paperback), Barnes and Noble (Nook), almost finished uploading to Kobo (eBook); available soon in Target.com, Walmart.com...

I’m in happy shock that it is out doing what it was created to do, sent forth with prayers and blessings to accomplish its purpose. This has been such an amazing journey; I hope I get to do it again! 😊 For those of you who supported, prayed, encouraged and gave feedback along the way, you made such a difference to me and I am very grateful. These are things I can hold and treasure up in my heart.

If you purchase and read my book, I would be so thankful if you would leave a review/rating. It helps me grow as an author and it keeps my book from getting lost in the algorithms and bottomless pit of Amazon books, hahahaha!

Ahhh…it’s time to rest my brain a bit now. I can call myself a published author and I still can’t quite believe that’s me.

Cheers!

Melissa

Coming very soon…

Hi everyone! I’m excited! My book is very close to being published; waiting on a proof copy of the paperback to arrive. Once I see it’s just how it should be, Divine Encounters…will go live on Amazon KDP (eBook and paperback), Kobo, Barnes and Noble Press and Google Play Books. Here is a sneak preview of the cover and blurb.

When it is out there and ready I will publish again with the links.

I can’t wait for her to be out in the world, doing what she was meant to do!

Living Blessed

My coffee mug has the word Blessed inscribed across the front. The letters are big and bold, like a confident declaration.

Sitting at my kitchen table, I watch the morning unfold in my garden. There are a variety of birds at the feeders that sing as they jostle for position. They wait their turn, sometimes with nice attitudes and other times, not. Other birds scratch and scritch among the garden debris, ferreting out whatever treasures are hidden in the rich dirt. Watching these birds go about their daily business, I think about the word blessed. The dictionary says it means consecrated; holy; sacred; blissfully happy or contented. These words are beautiful. I want to be these words, feel, and live in these words.

Living and being blessed often seems elusive; like a thought or elevated idea that is difficult to truly capture. As I pondered this idea, I began to see that the word blessed is not a higher thought on a difficult to achieve spiritual plane.

Imagine a typical day – you wake up and grab your coffee in your favorite mug. Perhaps you watch the morning unfold in front of you on the patio with a soft breeze floating past, all kinds of sounds and scents in the air. What if you decided to be grateful that you are alive; able to see, smell and experience nature going about its business in the Divine order of things? Is that not sacred, bringing bliss and contentment? What if you witness a startling and unusual act of kindness causing you to pause, tear up and have your faith in humanity restored, if even for a moment? Is that not holy? Is that intersection of the Divine and the human, not sacred ground? I wonder, if when I’m making dinner, listening to music, or chatting with Jesus on a walk in my neighborhood, those places become sacred, holy, and divine. Blessed.

But… what if the day isn’t full of things that make me blissfully happy? The car accident that totals the car, the child who makes a poor choice and you see no clear way out of it. Maybe cruel words were hurled in the heat of the moment, and they can’t be taken back. Perhaps there is a diagnosis you never saw coming. Is there room here to declare “I am blessed?” Yes.

Some blessings come after the hurt and wounds. The Divine often shows up in miraculous ways, turning devastation into glory, failure into victory, wounding into strength and the impossible into something to be remembered in awe and reverence, because there seemed to be no good ending, yet there was.  To live blessed, we need to be alert and seek it out. It won’t always show up immediately. Blessings may not be dressed up in blissful happiness and a cute outfit. Blessings may come dirty, scuffed up, straggling and a bit off kilter, but will come. I have seen them come in both forms – equally holy, sacred, consecrated. Blessed.

I want to live expecting blessings; bloom where I am planted and thrive, no matter what it looks like. Holy, divine, sacred, and blissful happiness is all around us, waiting with open arms for us to slow down and seek it. What is sought will be found.

Nostalgia

It’s going to be another hot day, so I’m up early.  I head to the patio and warm coffee comes with me. There is a slight chill, oh so slight, but I can feel it on my skin.

There is something vague and wistful in the way the air feels this morning. The hint of the warmth that’s to come, mixed in with that slight chill. It feels so familiar.

It’s the way the light is coming up over the apple tree, shadows from the branches falling just so on the green grass and touching the edges of the 3-tiered fountain. The yellowy-white light pulls at my memory; I’ve seen this light before. I know it.

I hear it in the way the finches, bold blue jays and grey titmouse call and chatter. Fuzzy squirrels scampering and digging in the grass and garden tug at something hovering in my mind.

The scent in the air has a subtle, comforting, reminiscent quality to it that dances on the fringe of memory. It’s happy and calming; stirring up a sentimental longing and wistful affection for something… Is it a specific memory or snippets of various memories stirred up by the sight, sound, scent of this peaceful morning? I wonder…

Sitting here at the pine table I allow my thoughts go where they will.

The scent in the air, the light and the creature sounds call up memories of my grandparents’ house in Lakehead, CA. I loved this place! It was nestled in and around pine trees with squirrels and birds galore! I recall the warm, safe scent of those pine trees, the dusty earth, and bubbling excitement of walking through the wooded area to the little market with my grandma. Exciting!

In the warm afternoons, the blue kiddie pool was set up in the backyard under some shady pine trees. Buckets, cups, Barbies, and various other toys made for a fun and easy afternoon. I think time stood still for a bit. My grandma sat in the shade on her 70’s era lawn chair with a sweating glass of sweet tea and chatted with me. Always the safe, old, lovely scent of warm pine and earth.

I remember the thrill and exhilaration of hurtling down a big hill near their house in my little red wagon with the pine-y wind in my face – what a memory of freedom and adventures. I looked forward to the summer-night strolls to visit neighbors and see a few deer as we walked along. Pleasant and friendly.

The sound of scampering squirrels on my fence reminds me of hearing pattering squirrel feet run over the roof of their house and my grandpa’s garage in the early mornings. The garage was a wonderful place. It was full of gadgets, boxes of nails and rakes, the fishing gear, and all sorts of fun things to play with and examine. It had the distinct smell of cars and a tangy scent of oil and gasoline. Order and routine, everything in its place.

I can smell the fishy, earthy, watery scent of Lake Shasta where my grandpa, my Dad and I spent many hours on his boat fishing and motoring around the lake, stopping in the small, quiet coves to cool off and swim. Even in the summer heat, there was the distinct lake chill that danced above the water. Dinner of fresh caught fish back at the house gave me such a warm, cozy, homey feeling. We sat and ate on the enclosed porch at the picnic table, talking and laughing about the highlights of the day. As the adults talked on into the summer night, I would drowse and day dream.

Yes, these are cherished memories. Interesting how a subtle scent on the air, a ray of sunlight and nature sounds have the power to trigger the mind and bring these memories flooding back.

I wish I could go back to relive those parts of life to recapture the feelings and sensations. Happy memories of pleasant times where life seemed simpler, sweeter, and not so complex. I often feel this way around the holidays as I look at old pictures of my family gathered around a festive table, carving a pumpkin, or sitting by the Christmas tree.  When I look at paintings of the holidays in times past, there is a wistful, yearning feeling of wanting to be there. Nostalgia.

Life can be chaotic and unpredictable. I wonder if our adult brains unconsciously seek out the sights, scents, and sounds of those times where things were ordered, reliable, safe, and predictable. I think God wired us to treasure and preserve those moments. We can pull them from our heart-memories as a comfort and break from the monotony and loneliness of life. Blessings.

I think I will pray that nostalgia visits me often, like an old, dear friend; full of comfort, comradery, and memories to make me smile. What a gift!

Exciting News!

Hi friends! I have some exciting news to share with you – I have written a book called Divine Encounters!

It’s been edited by Pia Edberg at http://www.piaedberg.com and is now in the beginning stages of cover and layout design with Karolina Wudniak at http://www.karolinawudniak.com. This has been a long time coming!

Divine Encounters is Christian/spiritual devotion and prose book. I am a firm believer that people seek and find the Divine in everything from ordinary life to spending time in nature. In times of chaos and confusion there is always hope, redemption and healing waiting to be found. I love how ordinary life, a walk in the park, and every day circumstances become Divine encounters, when we allow our hearts, ears, and eyes to be open to it. The Divine is all around us.

I am passionate about this book and getting it into the hands of those who need the words God’s given me. Everything I have written has personally touched a place in my heart that God knew needed encouragement and joy, as well as hope and healing.  

I will be self-publishing Divine Encounters as an eBook and paperback via KDP and will keep this blog updated as the release date gets closer. An author Facebook page and Instagram account are in the works! I appreciate every one of you who have read my blog, subscribed to it, and encouraged me to keep on writing! Blessings on you!

Cheers!

Melissa

Look to the Clouds

The summer morning is warm with a brilliant, Robin-egg blue sky. The warm dirt under my young back is soft, yet bumpy with divots, small rocks and tamped down grasses. It smells comforting, earthy and old. It feels safe.

The air is warm and a bit close, broken up by the occasional snippet of breeze, that lazily puffs over me in my earthy spot; grasses and wildflowers tossing and bobbing as the breeze slips through them, forcing movement on this indolent summer morning.

I fancy myself a cat; lazy, snooze-y and hidden from view; yet spying and aware of all that is going on around my little nest.

There is a Blue Jay, raucous and naughty, dipping and darting as she looks for her breakfast in the oak trees. She is not afraid of disturbing the more stately Robins and Sparrows that are seeking out their morning meals. The birds do not notice me in my lair and continue about their morning business; or maybe they do…

A variety of ducks and some Canadian geese glide by on the rippled water of the canal just a few feet away from me; blackberry brambles and other sticker bushes guard its banks like stubborn sentries. You can get through to the water, if you dare to pass through them. Brave creatures have carved paths under and through these sentries, to make their way to the water and safety. Their dens are cozy and well protected. Easy access to tiny fish, frogs and maybe crawdads.

Ah! There is the distinctive splash of the muskrat, slipping through the cloudy waters of the canal. His path can be traced by following his bubbles, as he searches below the waters for his breakfast. Routine. Safe. Ordinary.

Looking to the sky from my child-sized hollow in the summer faded grasses, I notice the white, marshmallow-like clouds floating past. They are fascinating! Some are huge and billowy, while others are small, wispy and seem to vanish or meld into bigger clouds nearby; as if swallowed up.

Imagination has free reign while cloud watching. My mind can wander and make up all sorts of fantastical stories. I see one cloud that at first glance, is just big, fluffy and non-descript; but then it emerges; a boat with a crooked, tilted mast and a scraggly, wispy sail. Peeking over the side of the boat, is a horse’s head and strange looking bird. What stories that boat has to tell! Another cloud is almost perfectly round, except for one edge that has a thin, feathery tail wafting off to the right; like a child’s balloon rushing off in the wind on exciting adventures.

Breaking up the daydreams, the sleek, black cat saunters into my grassy hideout, curious and nosey; casually attacking a random leaf, sniffing around my hideaway; demanding pets and chin scratches. Having determined a spot near my head as acceptable, she settles in for a drowsy rest, as the warm morning is becoming a hot, summer afternoon. The shade is moving with the shifting sun, flooding my little earth-nest with a bit too much heat and light. Maybe it’s time to get the sprinklers out, as another dreamy, lazy, hot, Northern California summer day plods along into the next one.

Summer as a child was pleasant and predictable with routine, yet full of adventure by the canal behind my house. Lovely memories of feeding ducks and meeting the new ducklings each summer, picking blackberries and making pies, cobblers and jams, taking long walks along the grassy, wildflower laden paths near the canal bank. It felt joyful, exciting and new; yet familiar and safe in that familiarity. I recapture bits and pieces of those feelings, when as an adult, I revisit the canal and all its creatures, scents and sounds, as I relax and observe from the patio swing or from the lone bench nestled under an old oak, with a blue wind chime tinkling; ducks, geese, river otters and muskrats going about their business. The familiarity soothes and calms. Tilting my head back to feel the sun, I allow the warmth to penetrate and loosen the chilled, hardened, practical places my adult mind has created. Sometimes life forces that on us, just to survive the onslaughts of life. Peering up through the gnarled, old branches of the oak tree, I see clouds. Puffed, billowing, white clouds and I remember my child-self lying in the tall, warm grasses, surrounded by the stout wildflowers and nosey cats. Content and care-free. I remember the day dreams and simple joy of seeing life, nature, and me in the cloud shapes, imagining the Creator with his paintbrush, delighting me with adventures and laughing as each stroke of His brush changed everything. There is peace and contentment for an exhausted, stressed, adult mind, when I simply look to the clouds and allow that child-like joy and imagination to have its way for a bit, and laugh with my Creator as He fills the sky with Himself.

Blessed

My new coffee mug has the word Blessed inscribed across the front of it; letters big and bold, like a confident declaration. When I saw that mug on the shelf, it called out to me. I had to have it; I want to feel blessed and be blessed.

This New Year’s morning, I sat at my favorite spot at my table, where I look outside my slider and watch the morning unfold. There is often a variety of early birds at the feeders who are singing, as they jostle for position, waiting their turn; sometimes with nice attitudes and other times, not. There are the other birds, scratching and scritching among the garden debris, ferreting out whatever treasures are hidden in the rich dirt. Watching these birds go about their daily business, I began to think about the word blessed. The dictionary says it means consecrated; holy; sacred; blissfully happy or contented. These words are beautiful. I do want to be these words, feel these words, live in these words.

I have often thought of living blessed and being blessed as something elusive, more like a thought or an elevated idea, than something I could truly capture, do and live inside of each day. As I pondered my birds and the beauty of a new morning, in a new year, I  began to see that the word blessed is not a higher thought on a difficult to achieve spiritual plane.

Imagine a typical day, in which you wake up and grab your coffee in your favorite mug. Perhaps you watch the morning unfold in front of you on your patio with a soft breeze floating past you; all kinds of sounds and scents in the air. What if during this peaceful time, you began to feel grateful that you are alive; able to see and smell and experience nature going about its business in the Divine order of things? Is that not be sacred and pure; bringing you bliss and contentment? What if during your ordinary day, you witness a startling and unusual act of kindness, that causes you to pause, maybe tear up and have your faith in humanity and goodness restored, if even for a moment? Is that not holy? Is that intersection of the Divine and the human, not sacred ground? Hmmm. I wonder when I’m making dinner, if I play worship music that brings me into the Divine presence of Jesus, or when I pour out my heart to my Father – the good, the terrible, the truth of my heart – on a walk in my neighborhood, if those places become sacred, holy, and divine. Blessed. Blissful happiness, contentment.

But…what if the day isn’t full of things that make me blissfully happy and content? The car accident that totals the car, the child that makes a very poor choice that has lasting ramifications and you see no clear way out of it. Maybe cruel words were hurled in the heat of the moment and they can’t be taken back. Maybe there is a diagnosis you never saw coming. Is there room here to declare “I am blessed?” Yes. Yes, you can declare yourself blessed. Some blessings come after the hurt and wounds. The Divine often shows up in miraculous ways, turning devastation into glory, failure into victory, wounding into strength and the impossible into something to be remembered in awe and reverence, because there seemed to be no good ending, yet there was.  I truly believe that to live blessed, one has to be alert and try to find it. It won’t always show up immediately and may not be dressed up in blissful happiness and a cute outfit. It may come dirty, scuffed up, straggling and a bit off kilter, but I do believe it will come. I have seen it come in both forms and both are equally holy, sacred, consecrated. Blessed.

At this start of 2020, I want to live expecting to be a blessed person. I’m not good at it yet, I confess, but I want to be. I want to bloom where I am planted and thrive there, no matter what it looks like. Maybe we can do this together? I absolutely believe that the holy, divine, sacred and blissful happiness is all around us, waiting with open arms for us to slow down and seek it. What is sought will be found. May we see it, grab hold and never let go!

 

How do you fit?

I wonder, have you been at a church gathering and experienced the uncomfortable feeling of not quite fitting in with the norm when it comes to how you encounter Jesus? Do you feel like the tried and true formula of experiencing His fullness and love doesn’t quite work for you or that you never really arrive; are somehow found lacking? I have; often. You watch everyone nodding in earnest agreement, when the sermon urges you to follow the formula of reading the Word daily, for a specific amount of time, in a certain place, in a specific position, saying specific things and following a proven formula to bring you close to Jesus. However, your Spirit is not connecting with this and your attempts at following these rote formulas fall flat. It must be you, your mind tells you. Everyone else is nodding and looking sagely about them, confirming that yes, this is how it must be done. The closeness you felt to Him as you worshipped just moments ago seeps away, as doubt and failure cloud your thoughts. “Yes,” says Satan, “you don’t fit in the body of Christ; you can’t even follow a simple formula to fill that void. Look at all these others believers. They get it. They are doing it. They succeed, you fail. Maybe you don’t belong.” Lies.

In the teaching series by Larry Osborne, A Contrarian’s Guide to Knowing God – Spirituality for the Rest of Us, one of his comments leaped out at me and brought me to tears. It touched a spot in my heart that has been hurt. Larry says we can’t practice all the spiritual disciplines (Bible reading, time in prayer, memorizing scriptures, worship, thanksgiving, etc) all the time! All disciplines are not good tools for us based on our personalities. There is great value in listening to and obeying God in each season of our lives. He urges us to never allow spiritual tools to turn into rules. The freedom I felt fall over me at these words was incredible.

This is something I have wrestled with for a while. Hearing other people say what we must do to be a good Christian and strong believer is very crippling in our journey with Jesus. When you know in your spirit that you adore Jesus, seek Him and find Him in that soul deep place where He meets with you, but are told it isn’t enough, unless a formula is followed, it wounds and taints something that should be precious, intimate, beautiful and deep. A stench of doubt permeates the very thing I believe Jesus celebrates about us; our uniquely individual personalities, gifts, quirks, responses, that HE CREATED. He made each of us just exactly how He wants us; no one identical, no one better or more loved or more cherished or more valuable. We each have such a specific purpose and that is so beautiful.

I react and buck and kick at being boxed in to a formula for doing anything in life, especially when it comes to journeying with Jesus. I may not always outwardly thrash at the formulas (sometimes I do!), but in my mind and spirit I certainly do.

What Larry Osborne said resonated with me on many levels. Spiritual disciplines are wonderful, necessary and amazing ways we each get to use, as our personality dictates, to become closer to the Father. I love that some of us pour over His word, intently study it and soak it in; others worship, sing and dance to connect with Him; some pray without ceasing; some share Jesus with strangers and others sit silently in His presence for hours, just soaking Him up. Some of us need to be in nature with our senses fully activated, experiencing Him through sights and sounds, movement and the wind in our faces. It’s all good and it’s all ok. All ok.

Listening to God and being who He says we are is freedom.  It feels really good to know that my way of connecting to my Father is good, just right, pleasing to Him and completes me, when I follow how He is prompting me to connect with Him. For me and my personality (introverted, empathetic, discerning, observer), I connect most deeply with Jesus when I’m alone; in nature observing or hiking, biking, gardening, camping, swimming; listening to worship music; observing people and praying for them as He leads me; talking to Him throughout the day; meeting someone’s needs anonymously. This is me, and it may not be you, and that is fabulous!

So get out there and connect with Jesus in the ways He created you to do it. Be free in that and enjoy every second! There is only one you and I believe that Jesus wants you to celebrate that in all its fullness. He sure is!

Zephaniah 3:17

“For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”