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!

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.

Something About the Rain

There’s something lovely about the rain, isn’t there? That moment when the first anticipated drops touch your face, hair, eyes.  Refreshing. It brings joy, despite a fully or partially cloud-hidden sun, trying to peep through. You know it’s there, the sun, but it’s hidden. It’s a bit mysterious to wonder what the sun might be up to up there, veiled from sight.

Or hearing those first drops on the patio cover in the wee morning hours; pattering, plopping; like a sky-song flowing down. So soothing, as I lie in bed. The blankets covering me, I am enveloped in warmth and safety, listening to nature’s lullaby.

Sometimes the dreary sky and rain damp air offers the unmistakable scent of clean; washed and rinsed; a sort of gentle, yet sometimes fierce and unrelenting, opening of the heavens; as if Creator is gifting a new start, a clean slate. All is well, the old is gone and here is the new.  Life giving water. Living water. Ancient and elemental.

The sound of the faithful pattering, dripping and beating of a good steady rain soothes and gentles the spirit and often my hectic mind, with nature’s rhythms; like an intentional chorus put on repeat. Truly one of my favorite sounds and scents.

Something about the rain dredges up childhood memories of wildly exciting, yet terrifying thunder and lightning storms, windows rattling and trembling. Such an electric feeling of exhilaration and fear, joy and safety; intertwining emotions that shouldn’t mix well together, but they do, when nature moves and does her thing. It is deep and wild. I love it.

Memories drift up of hot summer days, when a sudden rain storm cools and refreshes with the unforgettable scent of rain on hot sidewalks. That is childhood.

Something about the rain and wind and the slashing at trees, rose bushes and the apple tree reminds me that not everything in life is predictable and controllable. It’s not tamable and quieted and soothed, but roars and bucks and thrashes at the whim of the One who commands it. There is such beauty and raw power there. It is thrilling and terrifying; beautiful and fierce and unrelenting as it does the Creator’s bidding, yet it draws me in. Nature, all of it, in its pure undiluted elemental form, nourishes my soul like nothing else. It’s a God-gift I treasure and ponder. The mystery of it speaks depth to my soul. I will never get enough of it. There is just something about the rain…

Camping in the Woods

There is nothing quite like the smell of the woods! Earthy and old, all-knowing and rich. Divine creation.

Deep inhalation floods the senses with all sorts of stimulation and primal memories; life, connection, ancient Earth rhythms.  There is something nourishing here that feeds the soul; rejuvenating, expansive, positive, and elemental. Back to our roots.

The canvas camp chair nestled in just the right spot under a giant Redwood beckons – “Come, sit, be!”

The pace of these old, wise trees slows the heart and busy mind; infuses stillness and awareness and a lovely sense of restful calm.

Leaning back and looking up, the eye sees the forever journey upward of these majestic trees; always yearning and following their source of Life – the Light. But not in a helter-skelter, chaotic way. No. The trees are stately, purposeful and fierce in their growth. Some have grown around, over, under or through whatever obstacles keep them from their Source. They know how to get there and do it unwaveringly, without frantic attempts and harebrained scheming.  There is a lesson here in the trees for me. I feel it in my bones.

Life in the woods, on the surface, can seem frenetic, but a deeper, more careful look reveals the opposite. The birds, squirrels, raccoons and other scurriers, big and small, are actually quite organized and methodical in how they go about their Creator-given tasks. Fascinating. Humbling. Teachable. Complete trust.

My Creator has given me a specific task. Am I frantic in the doing? Can I trust that by ever following my Source of Light, I will accomplish my aim? I will be enough?

If one is truly quiet, even for a moment, one can hear Nature growing, doing its nature thing; cracks and snaps of branches bowing under the weight of a naughty, scolding Jay; the tiny rustle of a fern frond, as an invisible creature winds its way on a well- worn path; the sibilant splash of a hidden stream flowing from its source high above – who knows what adventures it experienced on its way down stream.  The imagination can run wild here! That is healing.

Dusk deepens in the woods and Nature’s life sounds change from the busy afternoon.  There is a shift in the light and the night dwellers begin to venture out with different calls and purposes, as the day timers wind down and begin their settling in. Perfect rhythm. All in alignment.

Time for a campfire!

Sticks, old dried leaves and moss from the forest floor, make a perfect bed for the larger sticks and logs to rest upon. Fire!

Slowly it ignites and consumes the small sticks and random pieces of detritus that were thrown in the fire ring.  The fledgling fire is mesmerizing to watch, as flames lick and snap and dart through the wood, finding the best route and igniting all in its path.

The warmth and the crackling, snapping and popping sounds recall happy memories of camping trips gone by; of long hikes and fishing, stories and laughter by the fire late into the night or of simple, quite evenings of lulled conversation and companionable silence, as each one is captivated by the warmth and mystery of fire. 

The forest is just as active at night as it is by day, but one must listen more carefully and purposefully to know it. Nocturnal hunters, prowlers and the curious are all around, going about their business. I wonder what they imagine, as they watch us, undetected, from the dark woods.

Sleep beckons, so off to bed, soothed to sleep by the living forest.

Morning comes very early in the woods. Creatures up early to welcome the new day and begin again their Creator-given work.

Bird calls sound joyful and insistent as day breaks. “Up, up, up!” They seem to shout. Nothing is wasted, every minute important in its own way, because this is survival. This is life.

So again, begins another day camping in the woods. The adventures are endless and so are the lessons.

What will you come back with? Peace? Purpose? A reset spirit? I believe the forest is one of our Creator-given ways to rebalance and reset from our frenzied attempts to create a path we were never meant to travel…

Praise in the Ordinary

What is praise? The dictionary gives it these definitions: the act of expressing approval or admiration; commendation; the offering of grateful homage in words or song, as an act of worship: a hymn of praise to God. What is worship?  Reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power; extravagant respect or admiration for or devotion to.

I have had many opportunities to praise and worship the Lord Jesus Christ over the past several years. There are so many circumstances, health issues, family crises that He alone has brought me and my family through; not unscathed, but scarred, healed, grateful and thankful; forever changed in profound ways because of His intervention and miracles, His perfect timing, extravagant love and omnipotence. Those situations and circumstances will forever be etched into my mind, burned there. Those life situations are now an intimate and intricate part of who I am; they make up a deep part of my relationship with Jesus. Not easily forgotten or minimized, these profound supernatural interventions are part of my personal story, that I get the honor of sharing with others, with the hope of introducing them to Jesus, their savior and deep lover of their souls. These kinds of circumstances and situations are so obviously and wondrously worthy of all praise to God our Father, Jesus Christ our Savior, Holy Spirit our comforter, because we know like we know, like we know, that but for Him, there was no hope.

But what about the ordinary days, when nothing earth shattering happens, no crisis raises its horrible head, no blindsiding tragedy leaves us reeling and completely off balance? What about the days that we can call “good days”? This is something I have been giving a lot of head space to lately. What about those good days? Do I only practice praise when I’ve been delivered from a tragedy? God is worthy of my praise all the time; daily, no matter what that particular day will bring. What do we praise Him for, on a day with no tragedy, no arguments, or close calls? We praise Him for that very thing and everything else.  I want to be so thankful and mindful of Him and all the small, barely discernable ways that He is caring for me, organizing and weaving my life together, that I can’t not praise Him; just for life and another breath; for another day to sit outside on my patio with delicious coffee and the Finches at the birdfeeder, the dogs investigating the yard, the sun or rain, a gentle breeze that stirs my hair or a wild wind that is full of excitement! Praise is never wasted.  Never. I find that when I practice active praise my attitude shifts, I become aware of all He has done for me. It makes me content and happy and at peace.  I praise Him for the ways He directs my path and keeps me from harm that I am completely unaware of. Maybe I am 5 minutes late getting out of the house today, because He timed things perfectly for me to miss a terrible accident.  Absolutely praiseworthy. Maybe I have to run back to the grocery store for a forgotten item, because there is a woman outside the store that needs to feel seen; that I am supposed to smile at, buy her a sandwich and pray for her.  Praise to Him that I could be used by a mighty God to be His hands and feet to a fellow sojourner in need. Praise to God that He created so much natural beauty at the duck pond near my house, that it takes my breath away. Praise to Jesus that if I slow down, I can feel His touch in the sun and breeze on my face. Praise to the Creator who delights in painting beautiful landscapes, sunrises and sunsets, just so He can delight me and bring me joy. Praise to the One who knows me so intimately, who knows that some days I need to just sit by a warm fire, under a blanket, with my purring cat, and just be and He arranges that just for me.  To me, this is praise in the ordinary and I want to be a praising woman. Can you and I look around today with fresh eyes, aware that all around us are wonderful praiseworthy things and amazing praiseworthy people, created just for us by our Father, for our delight and our joy? Can we take a few minutes and praise Him and thank Him for the ordinary blessings He lavishes on us? I think that would delight Him to no end!