It’s Good for the Soul

This week’s Welcome to My World blog challenge question is What is your favorite type of scenery?

For those who know me, it’s no secret what outdoor setting I adore.

My fondness for gardens began with my grandmother’s snapdragons that lined the exterior wall of her cinder-block house. Every summer, as a young girl, I’d play puppeteer with the red, pink, orange, and yellow flowers. One gentle squeeze on the side of a blossom and it would open and close like a dragon’s mouth.

Grandma and Grandpa had a large vegetable garden behind the house, past the clothesline. Lush vines, plants, and stalks camouflaged long rows of tilled soil. I’d step over foliage, hunt for oval watermelons and bright red strawberries. Before I reached the house with my treasures, I smelled of fresh-picked berries, and my fingers and lips were stained red.

The Bible tells us in Genesis 1:11 that “God created sprouts, plants yielding seeds, and trees bearing fruit.” Verse 12 says God saw that it was good.

He saw that the scenery was good.

The Garden of Eden must have been exquisite. In my mind, I imagine thousands of textures, hues, various heights, and shapes. The Bible doesn’t tell us, but maybe streams, bubbling creeks, waterfalls, and ponds were part of Eden.

Some years ago, home garden tours were fashionable. I’d buy a ticket and spend the day up-close viewing sceneries graced with overflowing perennials and annuals landscaped in spectacular designs. Low growing white and purple alyssum bordered beds. Large blue Hydrangea clusters reflected their preference for shade. Rose petal droppings sprinkled repurposed hardscape. Moss grew on rocks, stepping stones, and driftwood brought from beaches. Old barn wood and paned windows built into tool sheds and green houses added interest and functionality to many of the home gardens that I toured.

I don’t know about you, but I am always reluctant to leave a garden and return to reality.

Gardens have positive effects on humans. It’s where one can escape on a long leisurely path, smell fragrant blossoms, or sit to meditate. Where hands work the soil, nurture seedlings, prayers unfold, and visions are realized. It’s a place where frowns turn to smiles and hope uplifts hurting hearts.

If I’m happy, I’m cheerier when I enter a garden or see one from a distance.

If I’m sad, my spirit is lifted.

This is why I mention gardens or flowers in each of my books.

God created the Garden of Eden because He saw that it was good for the soul and the body.

Do you find gardens to be a place of healing?

Or do you favor a different scenery?

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The Books We Read

This week’s Welcome to My World blog challenge question is what new thing have you learned this last week?

I learned that crushed eggshells DON’T stop snails.

But this post isn’t about snails or eggshells or my half-eaten sprouts. It’s about…well, I’m guessing you read the title.

I admit to researching—strictly from curiosity—books about my garden foe. There are lots of children’s books with fictional snail characters. But only a few snail books appeared in the adult nonfiction category with titles like, the world of snails and snail farming.

Regardless of age or topic, fiction and nonfiction can entertain and be educational.

My preference is nonfiction. In fact, my interest in real-life accounts began with slick magazines.

Their charming essays, striking captions, and feature stories drew me to the many creative lifestyles and elegant words.

When my monthly issue of Victoria arrived in the mail, I’d plop onto the sofa, recline with my knees pulled up, and then rest the magazine against my legs. I’d turn to the last page, delight in the writer’s childhood memories of summers on the lake, Sundays after church, that last remaining china cup filled with tea, and more.

The essays so inspirited me I wanted to write my own. This is how God began a work in me to become a writer.

I didn’t know at the time that reading essays in Country Living and Victoria magazines was part of God’s plan for my life. I simply enjoyed the lovely stories. It was through these narratives that I related to the musings of Bo Niles. Some of my favorite lines written by her include:

 “While I work, tall grasses whisper to me. I listen to them, and feel good.”

Country Living October 1995

“That is the best thing about traditions. They grow to embrace other traditions, like a tree with many branches.”

Country Living December 1995

“We cannot let the sense of wonder wither and die in our children. It is the key to our humanity.”

Country Living July 1997

At bookstores, I browse the nonfiction section first. I love books about people who accomplished a dream. Who beat the odds and established a hopeful path for others. Who learned to trust God with their careers, hobbies, or personal growth.

I also look through the fiction books offered on display tables. For me, fiction is about the author’s creativity, skill, and compelling characters I love or love to hate. (The latter group sure stirs us up, doesn’t it?) Fiction allows me to get lost in the writer’s make-believe mind and experience extraordinary plots. I can go through a time machine, be a detective, visit fairy lands and make-believe worlds.

At home, I keep my fiction and nonfiction print books on different shelves. They are almost equal in number. But nonfiction wins. On my Nook and Kindle, fiction wins.

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Out of Nowhere an Ordinary Moment can Change within a Second

Week 5 of Welcome to My World blog challenge.

Under the morning form of bright sunlight, I turned on the outdoor faucet, and then held the long-handled watering wand at the base of my potted Zinnias. The leaves wiggled. I moved the wand. A small snake poked its head out from among the leaves.

I jerked back. My heart raced. My mind flipped through what-to-do tips when one encounters a serpent. Then I realized it was a harmless gopher snake.

This hasn’t always been the case.

In my memoir’s WIP (work in progress), I share a dream come true of fleeing life in town for open space with my husband and two young children. Set among breathtaking rolling hills, I tell a tender and sometimes hilarious story. There was a swarm of grasshoppers, an army of frogs, a full-scale vole invasion, and rattlesnakes. Yaks!

But there were wonderful compensations where we found deep satisfaction (and still do) with life in the country.

Today, it’s rare to see rattlers on our property. This hasn’t stopped me from using outdoor precautions. Like Sherlock Holmes inspecting a murder scene, I scan the surfaces surrounding me. I use long-handled wands, and poke an old broom stick in dark places where visibility is nil.

On a recent evening walk with my husband, I spotted a skinny two-foot snake stretched out on the side of the road. “Stop,” I hollered, and then pointed a few feet ahead of us.

The snake froze.

Joe moved to the side to examine its tail.

I cautioned him to stay back.

He moved closer. Oh, the fearless will of my country dude.

He reassured me it didn’t have rattles even though it resembled a rattler. Some gopher snakes have similar splotchy dark markings on their backs, yellow or brownish coloration and large heads.

Like the Queen of Prudence, I insisted we turn back.

Practicing safety measures is something most of us do daily, whether we realize it. While chopping food, we curve our fingertips in toward our palm to avoid cutting them off. We look both ways before crossing the street. We train our children to put their toys away when they’re done playing with them. Have you ever thrust your toe into a Tonka truck or stepped on a Lego®?

Good safety practice is essential.

We know this by our own mess ups…and by the first colossal mistake made by the first human couple, Adam and Eve. What they did (touched and ate of the forbidden fruit) and didn’t do (seek God’s wisdom first) changed humanity.

Every action produces an outcome.

How about you? Are you practicing skills that will help to avoid life-changing ripples or a painful blow to the toe? Do you have some practical, easy tips to share? We’d love to read them in the comments.

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5 Easy Tips to Rest your Soul

Week 4 of Welcome to My World blog challenge.

The wilted stem of a single purple poppy arched over then rested its fading blossom onto the potted primrose’s crown.

Who doesn’t love a place in which to rest?

I love the warmth of my grandma’s orange, green, and gold afghan, the comfort of our sofa pillows, and the coziness of the wicker loveseat that I retrieved from the side of the road. Most of us know that, “ahh, this-feels-so-good” moment when we sink into a comfy cocoon. Without thinking, you expect the same feeling every time.

We can also count on God to be our resting place. On good days, His presence feels like a calming haven. During tough times, His strength is ours to defeat depression, grief, disappointment, lack of direction… anything the enemy throws at us.

God is our everlasting cocoon in which we can receive forgiveness, guidance, and love.

The poppy and the primrose sit on my desk, artistic and graceful. I study the curves and veins of each as sunbeams float through the window, onto the petals. I’m amazed at the details.

There is nothing too simple or too complicated for God, even a worldwide-spread virus like COIVD-19.

He welcomes us to rest on His shoulder every day, at any time.

28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. Matthew 11:28-29 (KJV)

Rest is a promise but not always easy to embrace.

Here are five ways to help you rest on God’s shoulders:

1. Schedule time to talk with Jesus in a manner that is comfortable…on a walk or in a quiet, calming place.

2. Be still and listen.

 3. Genuinely give your worries and reasoning to God.

4. Listen to gospel music to encourage and uplift yourself.

5. Start a gratitude journal for the many blessings in your life, past and present. Note when and how God answers, then review with thankfulness.

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The Best Morning Greeting isn’t my Cellphone

This week’s Welcome to My World blog challenge question is, “What was your first thought when you woke up this morning?”

Before I broke the cellphone addiction:

I’d measure the morning hour by the darkness or light that slipped through the bedroom window covering. Most mornings, it was early when I awakened, 5:00 a.m. or earlier. In a groggy, sleepy state, my first thought was to find my cellphone. I fumbled around under my pillow or the nightstand before locating it. Relieved, I turned it on so I wouldn’t miss my 7:15 a.m. medicine alarm.

My cellphone greeted me with a bright light, power-up tune, and pings. I figured I may as well check my inbox and social media updates.

With one tap, I gold-stared emails in need of a reply, read some and deleted others, then scrolled news feeds and considered whose post to share. Next, I leaped into a mental checklist of domestic chores before jumping out of bed.

Already, the day felt heavy.

My first thought—to turn on the cellphone—didn’t inspire me to rise with an eager heart. Are mornings supposed to be this way? Lamentations 3: 22-23 tell us otherwise.

22 Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
23 They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness. (NKJV)

I had forgotten to greet God first, to speak praise and gratitude prayers, to put self-serving thoughts aside.

But guess what?

I stopped the routine in its tracks through prayer and setting new priorities. Now, after a groggy, Good Morning, Lord, I fumble around for my Bible.

Mornings are no longer heavy.

I still measure wake-up hours by the darkness or light that slips through my bedroom window covering. I still turn on my cellphone, but not until after I’ve experienced the Lord’s new compassions.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not perfect with my endeavor. Sometimes, upon waking, I think of my cellphone. But I know I have a choice. I know God waits for me, and I can’t wait to fill my mind with beautiful moments with Him.

What about you? What is your first thought when waking up? How do you greet the day?


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Whew, Take a Deep Breath. We’re going to Learn about Emotions from a Little Snail.

This week’s “Welcome to my World” blog challenge.

In the early morning light, I spotted a snail crawling on the edge of the birdbath. All night long, the nocturnal creature must have traveled up one of the metal legs.

The distance to the top is two feet. From the ground, the birdbath’s pretty blue underside looks like a beautiful flower.

Oh joy, mealtime. The little snail’s eyes fixated with passion. Its internal GPS nudged him or her forward.

But danger waited.

The warning sign was there: impulsive desire.

 Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that “the heart is deceitful.” Feelings can’t be trusted. They can lead us on an impetuous track to disappointment, anguish, depression, and confusion.

Who hasn’t made a spur of the moment decision only to find themselves in peril?

Fortunately, we can rely on the Holy Spirit’s counsel before we respond to our desires. Without His still small voice, we’d find ourselves alone on a narrow edge, like the little snail forced to gauge every movement to avoid drowning.

The good news for us is that God’s promise is there: He will direct us back to safety.

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” James 1:5 (KJV)


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The Ancient Oak that Needs Healing

Introducing, Welcome to my World, a blog challenge created by author Shirley Corder.

Once a week, Shirley will ask participants to write on a particular question that she will provide or a topic of their choice.

This is a splendid opportunity to get acquainted…and perhaps open our minds to alternative possibilities, so I hope you’ll share your thoughts in the comments.

This week’s question is: What do you see as you look out your window today?

I’ve title mine:

Deep Sighs Taken

My office window faces the perennial garden. It’s a lovely distraction of mature flora where cottontails emerge to nibble on the grasses, and nature’s winged creatures flutter. But it’s the ancient oak tree in the center of the garden that I’m most focused on these days.

I am writing a memoir that in part mentions its grandeur. The oak has been home to thousands of birds, a conversation piece, and a hideaway for a treehouse. I had found shelter beneath its expansive canopy while living with my husband and our two young sons in a fifth wheel. We housed our first flock of chicks under the shadow of oak leaves.

Now, years later, the tree appears strong and healthy. But borers have attacked it.

Deep sigh.

Have you ever sat in a beloved tree? Leaned against its trunk with a delightful book, picnicked with family beneath shaded limbs, or shed tears behind its receiving girth? If so, you know its value.

Trees teach us a great deal about growth, observing, purpose, and determination, delightful flavors of fresh-picked food, construction, design, safety, care, and wisdom. (You can read the latter in Proverbs 3:18.)

Genesis 2:9 says trees are “pleasing to the eye.”

Indeed, the majestic oak outside my office window is picturesque. But it’s more than that. It’s nature’s habitat, a symbol of the past, of present-day spiritual nourishment, and the future.

I can’t imagine glancing outside and not seeing the ancient oak. I pray a tree surgeon can heal it. That the oak will remain for many years, long after I publish my memoir.