Living life in the present

I stop everything I am doing, because I choose to live in this moment.

I put aside all my hang ups which creep up in my mind about the activity, choosing to trust my heart rather than my feelings.

I accept everyone and everything around me for who or what they are.

I choose to let go of the things that are not going my way, I choose to lose control over everything.

I drink up all the information my senses offer me at the time and savor them.

I consider the feelings and emotions of those around me and think how I would like to be treated if I were them.

I enjoy the input that I receive even if it is not what I expect.

I have no expectations, but to be pleasantly surprised by the beauty I discover in the scenery, people and animals all around me.

I live,  I am happy and free to live for today!


Spring Fling with my Organic Vege Garden!

Every spring I have a fling with my organic vegetable garden, after a winter that lasted too long, I put on my boots and head for my raised beds. I can’t wait to bite into my first tomato sandwich, or pick some sweet raspberries from my berry patch, but more importantly it is the gardening process that I have looked forward to every year, that process where creativity and passion meet toil and sweat. With the motivation of a basement pantry full of canned, homemade goodness that saves us an exponential amount on our groceries bills, I bravely enter my garden fully excited at the prospect of the unique, educational experience I will have this year.

Gardening has been the most rewarding, adventurous hobbies I have ever experienced and each year I have a love affair with it just when I am truly sick of being stuck indoors.  In my garden I have a place to truly create a masterpiece, to plan a garden and then work your plan, seeing it come to fruition is to have a special walk with the Creator. When you think of gardening you probably just think, “Oh that seems like it will be a lot of work.” Well yes, there is work involved, but it is like a love affair, a  meaningful relationship, you have to work on that love affair to gain the fruit of happiness out of it, don’t you? So it is with gardening, it is on your mind night and day until you have done the work you had in mind to do with it. The garden needs tender loving care daily to give you the rewards that are worth receiving.

I believe gardening is essential to good health, those who have not experienced gardening have a part of themselves waiting to be unearthed. So don’t be afraid, find your block of soil and grow some of your own food, gain that experience that only gardening can give! My garden changes every year as I rotate my crops every season, it has been so long now a part of my year that now it is essentially an extension of who I am. A part of me that has been lost since last fall, a part of me that is bursting to come forth just like all the new life I see around me, I must become one with the earth again!

For the past six years I have been homesteading in rural southern Virginia. The experience has been brought out the best and the worst in me. I always begin with dreams of  grandeur and then I settle for what I have the time to do. The planning and work that go into having a sustainable organic garden are both mentally enriching and character building, I would not trade them for the world!

I begin the process by taking a stroll in the garden, sizing it up for all the work that needs to be done to get it ready for planting. At this point my garden beds seem to me like a blank canvas waiting for me to plan and layout my masterpiece. By now I am tired of visiting my seed and garden tool catalogs and I can hardly wait to begin digging in the soil. I make a mad dash around the yard to scrounge up all the aged compost, aged leaf mold, worm castings, goat manure and any other organic materials I can find. My mission is to get the soil at its peak before sowing my precious seeds. The beds need about a week or two to settle after you add all this organic material in them, add them, mulch well to cover that precious soil and wait to punch holes through the mulch where your little babies will live. This ensures a weed free experience, well almost weed free, you have to be always keeping those weeds in check because they have a way of getting through organic mulch in areas that are not mulched thickly enough.

It is about this time of year that gardeners feel totally in control of the gardening experience as the garden beds have been easily weeded and the garden is very manageable. Just wait until mid-June, if you haven’t had a great strategy to get rid of the weeds, then the weeds have probably won the battle at this point. This year I am very excited at the prospect of the fruits and vegetables that live side by side in my edible paradise. Broccoli, kale, lettuce and collard greens look like they should be ready to harvest anytime soon, the garlic are looking healthy in a bed their own, got to wait until late June till July to harvest garlic though. I have been harvesting asparagus for two weeks now, the strawberry plants are mulched with black plastic and have an effective irrigation system which allows them to get watered right where they need to at the roots, because of this need strategy we have never seen such beautiful plants and they are loaded with flowers. Blueberry, raspberry, and blackberry plants look like they are very promising also, so looks like I will be canning some great jellies come June, can’t wait!

Gardening in southern Virginia has been full of both its challenges, and pleasant surprises from the very first year I begun in the summer of 2006. Utilizing raised beds is a must when you have to work with red clay, I must say thanks to my husband, all that double digging has built his stamina and created a permanent area, my wonderful raised beds which I tenderly call “Don’t you dare, step in here!” areas of the garden. Stepping in the garden soil compacts it and disrupts the soil ability to breathe, so create clear paths that a wheel barrow can pass through on either sides of your beds.
Some years have been very wet while others were very dry, so you have to learn how to deal with all the issues that may develop with these climate changes. You have to become an expert on every vegetable you plant, because they all have different soil and water needs to grow them with their peak nutritional value in mind. Plants are like people, they are each unique! So check to make sure that you plant vegetables, fruits and herbs with companions which have the same nutritional needs.

In an organic garden companion planting is the most effective technique for raising diverse and healthy vegetables. I have found that growing a diverse array of vegetables, herbs and flowers, always makes me come out a winner. We must learn from the woods and forests around us, such a variety of plants coexist here side by side, and the mulch of leaves and twigs are always protecting that precious top soil! I also mulch heavily around each plant with shredded leaves and grass clippings on a layer of newspaper about four pages thick. Never leave your soil exposed is a very important rule, I don’t know about you, but where I live weeds sprout on a daily basis.

Every year I can the extra vegetables from my garden. Canning is most definitely the best use of your time as a gardener, because after all the hard work you have done, you will actually put money in your bank account with every jar of gourmet tomato sauce or dilled green beans. I always tell my friends you will never want stored bought apple sauce again after you taste a can of home-made canned apple sauce. The flavor possibilities are endless, two-years ago I composed a recipe for curried salsa which is absolutely delightful and a can of it comes in handy when I am looking for a delicious snack. You will be delighted at what a great winter kitchen pantry you can create out of some industry through your summer canning experience.

Today I planted my potatoes, it was a fun family excursion to the garden, everyone works together for a great family time of exercise and fun. I want to encourage you to take up that garden hoe and shovel and begin a garden bed that will grow you some nutritious, delicious food this year. I think this year may prove to be my most exciting year yet, so much work to do and so little time! Happy gardening!

Cultivating the Garden of the Heart

Spring has sprung here in Virginia! There is so much to do. Quite a busy time as I watch my seedlings develop and sharpen the tools to be ready for cultivating the soil. Just as we have to wait for the right time, when it is safe to plant, so we have to wait for the right times to plant the seeds in the garden of our hearts.

Last year I visited a friend of mine and while I was strolling through her garden I came across this special little rock in her garden which says: “To cultivate a garden is to walk with God”. This rock caught my attention, because in my own experience I have found this to be true. As I reminisce on the last six years of my life, I realize that being a gardener has changed me. It has brought me physical, spiritual and mental development, far more than any of the other hobbies I have pursued.  Cultivating the garden has taught me more about God and His love than I could ever learn from any book I’ve ever read. The beauty that is gained in a gardening experience show us clearly what God’s character is like, He is truly beautiful. He seeks to place His character in us so that our fruit will be an awesome one and that we will be successful at the work that He has for each of us to do in this life. It has truly been a growing process being a gardener, because I have had to fully depend on God for all the fruit I plucked out of every garden branch.

Every year the gardening experience is different as the summers vary, sometimes the climate is perfect, but other times there is a drought, or a summer that is too wet. I have had to study when the best times for planting would be and then apply myself after to watch the changing whether to make sure I water those babies just the right amount and watch out for weeds and pests too. It takes work and diligent study to be a successful gardener who gets the best out of each growing season. The best pest repellant is the gardeners shadow. It has truly been a journey based faith. Being faithful to all my gardening tasks will lead to a great crop if it is God’s will.

God is the gardener of our heart, He is always planting good seeds of love, practical lessons based of the principles of His word are nourishment for our souls as we consider them daily and ask Him to make our Christian experience authentic. Remember that the word of God states in Matthew 4:4, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” God is always talking to us, are we listening or are we blocking our ears. Every word that proceeds from God’s mouth also includes those experiences that you have every day with your family and friends, when that still small voice tells you to surrender your heart in that moment of crisis, but you hold on to what you feel like saying. Better to take time and surrender your will to His purifying power, He will cleanse your attitude and thoughts and replace the negative with positive if you allow Him. This is why memorizing scripture passages which are empowering God can be so effective. “A soft answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger.” Proverbs 15:1

One garden illustration that has stuck out in my mind and taught me a tremendous spiritual lesson, is that of the potatoes. The crop of potato is only ready to harvest after the beautiful bushy green plant has died and dried up. Then you know it is time to fork up those juicy potatoes. Well this is the same for us as Christians, we only produce proper spiritual fruit when we die to self, surrendering our will to be purified by His power and grace. When we realize that God is to be praised and honored for everything in this life and we are vessels of His glory and power, no greater joy can come, for this is our heart’s desire. The fruit of the harvest is something that we all love to enjoy, but it is truly a miracle of God’s creation! Just to think of the chemical reactions that occurred to make every thing happen and the Great Provider .  He allows just the right amount of rain and sunshine to be added to each plant, to ensure its’ success. Consider that he will take of you in the same way.  In each stage of a plant’s development we see the hand of God who in love sees to the needs of every detail of His creation.

Are you connected to the true Vine? This Vine is Christ Jesus, whom if we are connected to Him we will learn to abide in His presence all through the day moment by moment surrendering our hearts to His loving attitude instead of our own. Have you ever thought about how your heart needs to be fed? What do you think is your heart longs for? How is the garden of your heart getting the nourishment it needs for good fruit? Seek Him with all your heart, for He cares for you! 🙂

Miracle dogs, Clifford and Bud!

Here is a great photo of my collies, Clifford and Bud. Miracle dogs from the start! About 6 years ago we were told by a family friend that collies are exceptional dogs to have because they are so gentle and protective with young children. Those were just the dogs we believed we needed after doing some research on the breed. About two weeks after thinking about buying a pair, something absolutely providential happened, we heard a plea from a dog owner on a local radio station. He stated that he owned two collies that would be free to the first person who had came to pick them up, because he had no time for the dogs.
We were so excited after hearing this, we called him right away to set up a time to pick up the dogs. Things became pretty hairy when we arrived to his home, he came out to greet us with the strong scent of alcohol on his breath. He was also behaving like a severely depressed person, complaining about everything. He told us that he didn’t have time to take care of the animals properly, He had no time to walk them, he said he was hoping to give them to a person who had land for them to run around and children to love them.  We were great candidates because we were blessed with both!
Following the owner to the back of the house,  we were able to gaze upon the most beautiful dogs we ever laid eyes on. Even though they were obviously neglected, their hair matted and their necks bloody and bruised from being tied on a short leash for the past two years, we saw their potential. The man began to cry, he said that he wished he could keep them, but he knew that he couldn’t because they were going to be too much work for him as he was sick. We loaded them up in our jeep and headed home with them. Little did we know that they were going to be our best companions ever! These dogs are brothers from the same litter. They have connected in a special way to our boys, they are their brothers too, just part of the pack. LOL!
The distinct personalities of the dogs are fascinating to us, Clifford is the alpha so he keeps his cool while Bud goes crazy at the snap of a twig. Clifford won’t let  any one get by without petting him, while Bud runs when he thinks you are approaching too quickly. Bud is very nervous, maybe from the mental trauma that Clifford has put him through during his attempts of becoming alpha.
My boys and I enjoy brushing them often, collies are notorious for having matted hair, if not brushed. They especially enjoy being brushed and rubbed on their tummies. They are such gentle dogs around young children, great family choice for a dog.
Today my sons were riding their bicycles up and down our street and the neighbors dogs who are quite aggressive attempted to attack my son’s bicycle, our dogs were very quick to fight off the neighbors dogs before they got too close to biting my son. They also guard my younger son whenever he goes outside to play, they walk on either side of him where ever he goes. They also alerted us of both snakes and deer that were close by on our property. I am so grateful for these two pals of mine. It is awesome to know that no matter what they are always waiting with lots of love right outside my door, to greet me and love me just for who I am. My family has been enriched by their presence and loyalty to us, if you don’t have a dog, seriously think of what they can add to your life, and adopt some. There are many dogs waiting anxiously for another chance to love!

Man can shape circumstances, but circumstances should not be allowed to shape the man.

So where I am going with this title, you may ask. Well the question I am addressing here is how does God truly expect us to live our lives in a world that is so unpredictable and so unpleasant at times. I have come to the conclusion that God expects all who realize the sacredness of their life to live a life full of their best output in any given situation. So where do we get the power to score so high in our journey of life? The key is in the power of the will, will we surrender our wills to God so that He is allowed to shape us the way He wants to follow His principles which are eternal? Or will we we continue to act on our feelings and continually fail in many areas?
Many who are qualified to do excellent work accomplish little because they attempt so little. Do you feel like you keep falling into the same behaviors day after day, and that you are spiraling down hill because the things that you really need to accomplish never get done? The same spirit and principles that you bring into your daily tasks will be brought into the whole life. If we give as little as possible of our physical, mental and moral powers to what we have to do in the day, how can we expect that God will choose us to pour His abundant blessings on? The example of such folks is contagious. Self-interest is the ruling motive. If we are guilty of such, we will never be a success in this life or in life eternal, because Christ manifested energy, integrity and diligence in all He did and expects the same of His followers.
Many people become inefficient and unreliable because they evade responsibilities for fear of failure or for just plain laziness. They don’t realize the great blessing that comes for those who persevere through whatever the circumstance may be, those who make a plan and work that plan till they reach the product are those who will reap the most benefit out of life. Man can shape circumstances, but circumstances should not be allowed to shape man. We should take hold of the circumstances as the instruments which can help build our characters for eternity. We are to master them, but should not permit them to master us.
We have a great purpose for living, that is to realize our greatest potential in whatever work that is placed before us. We should never be satisfied with reaching a low standard. We should aim everyday to diligently pursue whatever is challenging us so that we improve through Christ’s grace. God can work in and by and through us as we surrender our hearts daily to His leading and let go of the reigns of controlling every aspect of our day. Let God guide us and follow His lead as our day unfolds, retain our joy when the things that we had planned don’t happen. Consider that God knows what is best for us, so that the plans that He has for our day are perfect, compared to the plans that we may have had for ourselves. When we do such, a great weight is lifted, we accomplish much more, because we begin to do every task to the glory of God. It is in considering the big picture, that the pieces of the puzzle of life begin to unfold.  For example, as we surrender what may be grumpy attitude for a joyful pleasant one, we reap the benefits of having a happier home, or as we have to deal with life changing circumstances, like an incurable disease or a death, we realize that we have no control over these but we can control how we react to them. We must consider that God says in His word that, “all things work together for good to them that love God.”

How to Listen With Your Heart

Do we truly understand the power of learning to listen with our heart? Well recently this world has been opening up to me.  It is truly amazing! I have been learning to live each moment in heart richness, because life is not promised to us, it is a gift. We are to savor every moment with those we love and with our natural environment. Everything around is always speaking to us…The question is, are we willing to listen, learn and grow from everyone and everything around us?

If we are teachable in this life,  living in day-tight compartments, we can suck up all the joy and happiness of everything  around us and we will have an amazingly meaningful life. We don’t need to wait for things to happen, but we make things happen, bringing  joy and love into every aspect of our lives. The artificial sucks up too much of our time, we think we are happy in busying ourselves in a world of media and artificial knowledge. The media limits us.

I believe man was made for the natural environment. Spending time being still in nature, sometimes journaling events in the natural world, either by just absorbing the atmosphere around us, painting it, writing about it, truly expands our horizons and energizes us. When we link into the environment around us and we connect to it at an emotional level allowing it to touch the deepest part of our being, we are recharged by the exuberant energy it exudes. I spent time petting my dog this morning and the level of joy I got out of the experience touched her too. I could see the joy in her eyes as she was learning to trust me more because of these few charged moments of love that I chose to give to her. She was connecting with me on a heart level, I could just tell.

This connecting is the same for humans as it is for us with our environment and pets. We are in a give and take relationship with everything around us, the more we give the more we get. You will find this true as you enter into this world of heart listening. We must seek to listen to others not just listening to their words, but by contemplating their viewpoint, placing ourselves in their shoes so that we truly listen with our heart, thereby being a vehicle to connect with their deepest needs. Even if they react negatively to us, we might be the tool to brings that person to a  new level.

When we listen with our heart we not only hear the words that someone is saying to us but we try to understand the reasons that they are saying what they are saying. Maybe they are unhappy or frustrated.  Could we be the ones to help them through their emotional crisis? Or are we worsening the crisis by our unintentional negative reactions? These are all important questions that we should ask as heart seekers.  We must think of how our words and actions will win that heart to recovery.

Our happiness is not dependent on how others view us or how others act. It is truly dependent on how we view the world and if we are  internally fulfilled and contented.  Have we accepted things the way they are, and are we and making the most out of every experience life brings, good or bad? There is not much we can truly change in this life except ourselves. Those other elements of life are chock full of surprises. It is what we choose to do with the information that we receive from the heart connections we develop that will truly lead to complete fulfillment as a human being. Then our reactions to people, animals and elements of our environment will have a new freshness as we squeeze the juice out of every moment!