Friday, March 25, 2011

Follow Through Friday - Daffodils and Mulch, Mulch More

My patient, accommodating family. Last night, I was sitting at the computer loading pictures and thinking about this post. The rest of the fam was to my back - on the couches watching the madness of March.

When, out of the blue, I erupted with, "Hey! Pause the game! Listen to this title I just thought of for my Follow Through Friday post!" I was giggling before I even got the words out, and I said the title printed above. I said the first part quickly, because we've all heard that before, and then I slowed down and emphasized, "Mulch, Mulch More!" I paused slightly before I started howling at my own "cleverness" for thinking of such a title. They smiled and a couple even chuckled - more at me than at my attempt at cleverness. Elizabeth then said sweetly, trying to be nice, "Oh, that's good, Mom." When no one else offered any acclamations, I let them off the hook with, "OK, you can un-pause it now." And we all went back to what we were doing before my volcanic moment.

I think they really did like it, and it was fun to share my excitement with those I love over something as small as a blog post title.  My Follow Through Friday's probably generate the most conversation about my blog from my family members - well, that and how much more time I'm spending on the computer. I'm really having to watch that. I don't want my blog to become a god.

But I digress from the subject at hand. To refresh your memory, here's March 18th's stated task:

Next week: The weather looks hit and miss for this next week, but I'm going to try and weed around some of the trees in the front, and get a least one load of mulch down.

Done! By Monday, no less! It helped tremendously that Lou was off and the weather was perfect. It also helped that we had a tree to cut down that he and our friend, Tom Sneed, had planned on taking out.  Dead tree standing was into its second year in front of our house. We were not going to let another season go by with that going on. 
So even though Lou and Tom weren't out there to help me weed and mulch, just their presence - and the entertainment factor of a tree being felled - made what I was doing fun. The guys conquered a tree, and I conquered some weeds!
While I wouldn't say that pulling weeds is my favorite thing to do on the planet,
it is something that gives me great satisfaction. You do something, and you can immediately see the good you've done! In my best moments, I remind myself that God has given Lou and me 2 acres on this planet to make beautiful. I need to celebrate that. It really is quite a gift - a privilege that not everybody has. No whining allowed.

Since squatting makes me feel like I'm 90 years old, I grabbed my gardening stool that David made (but didn't finish painting) many summers ago,
and started dominating some weeds. Slow and steady wins the race here, and yields the desired result.  Spread a little mulch, and voilá!
                                   "Befores" on the left; "afters" on the right.

As you can see, we have lots of daffodils. These flowers are near and dear to my heart. Dear friends, Jim and Cheri Jones & John and Deb Jones, gave us 200 bulbs back in 2004 to plant in memory of my dad. What a thoughtful, hopeful gift. They not only bring beauty to our yard every year, but joy to my heart.

I'm not done by any stretch of the imagination - still lots to do -  but I'm off to a good start. Gardening gloves are ready. Welcome Spring!

Next week: Easter is one month away. Every year, the day after Easter, I tell myself that I'm going to emphasize this holiday more next year.  I have my wreath out (see March 9 post), but otherwise, I have nothing celebratory around the house. And I have no special plans for Easter week. This week, I'm going to work on making the house more Easter centered and I'm going to plan Christ centered activities/readings for Easter week.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


I have no bigger cheerleader in life than my mom.

I've always known that, but it was confirmed again the other day. She called because she'd seen a commercial for a contest she wanted me to enter. She said, "There's a contest about being a 24/7 mom. You're that, and they have some great prizes. You need to enter." She called back later with the website address. Oh dear.

It just feels a little odd entering a contest touting your motherliness. But when I looked at the prizes -a 7 night Mediterranean cruise, or 24 spa treatments, or 24 days of house cleaning - they all sound really nice. And somebody has to win them.  The reality is that you can't win if you don't enter. And I told myself, "You don't have to say you're an amazing mother (though I try to be a good one), you just need to focus on the 24/7 aspect." And, Vitamin C is a good vitamin. I'm for it.  So, Ester-C-The Better Vitamin C 24/7 Mom Contest, here I come.
My options for this contest: a 30 second or less video, or a photo with a 150 word or less essay. I decided the photo/essay was the route for me. When I looked at some of the submissions, I decided I needed something that was a little different from the basic paragraph. A poem, maybe? Now my kids are saying "Oh dear."

Here's the 83 word poem I wrote.

Those souls whose heart beats began in me,
Who God fashioned and carefully framed,
Who I knew and loved before I held,
Before they were even named.

Growing and learning, spreading their wings,
When they fly my heart soars too,
I cheer and pray and cry when they weep.
Moms who love, this is what they do.

The days, the hours, the moments tick by,
22 years of 24/7s.
I’ve loved them hard, loved them soft.
I’ve done my best this side of heaven.

After I wrote this, I had Elizabeth come over and read it.  I wanted to hear what she thought.
After seeing this picture, it won't surprise you that Elizabeth said she liked it, but it was too serious. She then immediately went over to the kitchen table and wrote her own 92 word submission.

Super Mom
By: Elizabeth Harris

With six kids there is always lots to do
My mom cooks, cleans, and gets on to.
In this house, it’s never a bore.
Could she ever love us more?

I could not do half what she does
She’s the queen bee, and with her buzz
she keeps us in line
And still manages to be so fine.

I’m so glad God gave me her.
Without my mom, life would be a blur.
She is by my side when I cry.
She makes my spirit fly sky high.

I thought about entering both of them, but 83+92=175. That's 25 words too many. But you know what I realized after I thought about this for a couple of seconds? Elizabeth's wins, hands down. And I've already won, before I've even entered.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

One of the Things I Learned from My Dad's Death

     March 20, 2004 was a beautiful, warm, sunny Saturday.  I had left Lou at home trimming bushes while Luke and I made a trip to Walmart. We had finished shopping and  were just getting in the car to leave, when my cell phone rang. My parent's names showed up on the caller id: "Hugh and Violet Vaughan." I answered, expecting one of them, but I heard Lou's voice say, "Hey."
     I asked, kind of confused, "What are you doing at Mom and Dad's?"
     He said, "Well, you need to come over.  There's been an event with your dad."
     "Is he dead?" I asked.

On my wedding day, August 1, 1987,  my dad came into the bride's room right before the service to see me.  He told me that there were two days when your life changes just like that - and he snapped his fingers. (I was so happy the photographer caught that moment.)
(1) The day you get married, and (2) the day you become a parent. He neglected to mention a third - the day you lose a parent.  Dad has been gone 7 years now. He was 76 years old. The day he died is frozen in time for me, and I remember my last exchange with him.

Lou and I were working in the yard, and decided another hedge trimmer would be helpful. I called my parents to see if they had one we could use. (Living so close, we were in and out of each other's lives daily.)  Yes, they did. I drove the 1.6 miles to their house to get it. I was on a mission. Needed to get the trimmer and get home. Dad was sitting in a chair on their lanai watching something on TV.
I asked, "Hey, where are those hedge trimmers?"
He told me where they were in the garage and then ended with, "You are gonna love them. They work great."

I said thanks and good-bye, and then I was gone. A couple of hours later, Dad drove to his garden, worked for a while, then drove home. He opened the garage door and pulled into the driveway. My mom, sitting in her chair, heard a horrible noise. She hurried to the garage and found the car crashed into the chest freezer against the back wall, spinning its wheels.  Dad was dead behind the wheel.

I had a great relationship with my dad and have no major regrets. So thankful for that. But there is one thing I wish I'd done differently on that sunny Saturday. I wish I'd really looked at him. I know I saw him. And I talked to him. But I was on such a mission that day. Had to get those trimmers and get back -  that I didn't really look at him.

After that day - because of that day,  I've been making a conscious effort to really look at people. I mean, how busy do I think I am that I can't fully engage with someone and really look at them? My family, my friends, even the checker at the grocery store - all of these are people, created in the image of God, that He has brought into my life.  I don't want to look past them. They are a gift from God right then, right there. Don't want to miss that.

My father taught me many good things while he was alive. (I might have to share some of those in future posts.) And I think it would please him to know that he taught me a very valuable lesson in his death.
Papa Hugh and Mary Grace

Before Dad died, I never knew this is what they did with the flowers after a person's funeral. I wondered then if it was odd that I wanted a picture, but I found it so beautiful, I didn't care. Beauty speaks in the midst of grief.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Follow Through Friday - Family Tree

Today - a short and sweet report on my Follow Through. I reverted back to my old ways, and didn't work on this project until this evening, but it was so much fun, there was really no stress involved. Once again, to refresh your memory, here's what I wrote at the end of my March 11 blog post:

Next week: I saw a Hand-Lettered family tree on a blog that I liked. I want to make a rough draft of one, using my family names.

First, let me give credit where credit is due. Here's the link to the blog. Some of you may see this, and decide you've found your first Christmas present for 2011. (You can thank me later).

I had fun trying to put all the names I have on my tree. Here's my rough draft.

I'm missing some wedding dates, and I'd like a few more names for Lou's branches. Before I attempt something frame worthy, I need to do a little genealogical research. But I must say, I was pleasantly surprised with this.

A couple of names you'll see if you follow my mom's branches are Josephine Stroud (born February 23, 1850) and her father, Willis Stroud. When my parents down-sized, a couple of portraits of them found their way to my house.

Willis Stroud
Josephine Stroud

Never in a million years could they have imagined that their face would one day be available for all the world to see. If she'd known,  I think Josephine would have smiled.

Well, I'm smiling because this project is completed, and I had a great time doing it. I'm also smiling as I think about my heritage. Psalm 16:6 comes to mind.

The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.

Thank you, Lord.

Next week: The weather looks hit and miss for this next week, but I'm going to try and weed around some of the trees in the front, and get a least one load of mulch down. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall...

The mirror doesn't lie. Or so we've been told.

I rarely pass a mirror that I don't glance - just to make sure, I guess, of...I don't really know what I'm making sure of. Maybe I want to make sure I don't have anything embarrassing going on with my face or hair. One day, I glance and think,  "You are looking all right for a 49 year old." Another day - possibly the very next day - it's "Face it, Shelley. You are getting old."

These last couple of days, I've been doing a little more than glancing, though. My doctor husband zapped a few age spots on my face with a powerful little machine at his office. (One of these spots was actually in the shape of the state of Idaho turned upside down. Didn't want their state motto, "Esto Perpetua," coming true on my face.) Before the magic zapping fades some effects of time, though, I'll have a few battle scars evident for all the world to see. So, I keep checking them.

Now, even though I do check them when I pass mirrors, I'm really not obsessing about them. They don't hurt, and I actually forget they are there. So, I'm not expecting people to ask me, "What happened?" After a friend kindly asked me about my spots this morning, I started thinking about the real me, and the real body that the real me has been given. It's done some changing over the years.

And this outside of me will keep changing if I'm given that gift of time. More wrinkles, more spots (too many to zap), more aches, more pains.

Can I thank the Lord for this?

I can. And I say that because of the truth printed in God's word.  2 Corinthians 4:16-18 says:
"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."

Can we possibly grasp this? The real me is being renewed day by day! There is an eternal weight of glory coming that is beyond all comparison! I can hardly sit in my seat as I type. Why me? Why me?

This verse is one of the ones on the sheet I have posted in my bathroom (see February 15 blog entry). It's next to my mirror. So while I'm looking at a reflection of my outer self - which is wasting away - I remind myself and reflect on the truth of what's really happening to me. No comparison. No losing heart.


Friday, March 11, 2011

Follow Through Friday - Mary Grace's Garden

This girl is happy.
She has new gloves, and she's ready to make this garden a reality. My task for this week was worded last Friday like this:
Mary Grace begged last year for a raised garden. We talked about it a lot, but it never happened. She's begging again this year. This time next week, we'll have it planned and materials ordered or bought.

It is planned and materials are bought - for the most part.

Last year, I bought this book.  Let me say that you can't possibly NOT want to garden when you read Mr. Bartholomew. We may just win some gardening awards this summer. And last year, in addition to buying the book, we even went so far as to build the needed 4x4 frame, place it in the perfect spot in the yard and put weed barrier down inside it. That was the extent of it. Our David did comment that he enjoyed mowing and weed-eating around this empty frame all summer long. Once again, I have all kinds of answers for you who might be wondering why we I stopped there. But basically, all lame.

But this is a new year, and I have Follow Through Friday breathing down my neck. I actually spread the joy of this task over a couple of days this week. I started reading through the book again on Monday and took a few notes. On Wednesday, after Mary Grace's violin lesson, she, Lou and I began traversing Springfield for compost.

 With this square foot gardening method, you must fill your frame with Mel's Mix:
                                             1/3 Blended Compost
                                             1/3 Peat Moss
                                             1/3 Coarse Vermiculite
We had no problem purchasing the peat moss and vermiculite in Bolivar. (Shop Bolivar first!) But the compost was another story. Blended is the key word in this recipe. Mel asks you to put 5 different types of compost together for this garden. Bolivar had manure compost (no jokes, please) - but that was it. 

This compost crisis necessitated shopping Springfield.  We let our fingers do the walking first and found what we needed. Ace Hardware on Campbell had 2 different types: Cotton Burr and Mushroom.

And then, a visit to Springfield Seed (65 and Chestnut) completed our compost cache. There we purchased an organic compost (Scotchman's Choice, shown above) and my personal favorite: worm castings.
Or worm poop. Who would have ever dreamed a person could make money from that? Or spend money on that? This, the smallest bag we purchased all day, was the most expensive. I'm expecting great things.

We now have all we need for our box. What we are growing is still a bit up in the air. We will have 16 squares in which to plant our veggies. Mary Grace has some plants she for sure wants and I have a few that I for sure need. Here's what it will look like - except this one needs dirt.
 So, on the first warmish, non-windy day, Mary Grace, Lou and I will be positioning our frame and weed barrier in their appropriate spots, making our Mel's Mix, filling the frame, hammering the grid in place and then planting our seeds. We'll then step back and smile - and tell David he now has a filled 4x4 frame to mow and weed-eat around.

Next week: I saw a Hand-Lettered family tree on a blog that I liked. I want to make a rough draft of one, using my family names.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Today is Ash Wednesday. Being raised in a town that didn't even have a Catholic church, I never saw anyone with ashes on their forehead until I went to college. I can still see the girl walking toward me in the hall of the Learning Resource Center at ORU. I remember feeling a bit embarrassed for her - she obviously didn't realize she had some kind of dirt thing going on on her face.  After she passed, it dawned on me what I was really seeing.

It's kind of funny that my first introduction to such an ancient practice happened at a modern charismatic university. I was definitely getting a feel for all things ecumenical. Also humorous, that from such Catholic ignorant beginnings, I ended up marrying a former Catholic.  In the years since then, I've become more interested in at least a couple of the ancient traditions of the church - Lent being one of them.  Every year I keep trying different ideas to make this season leading up to Easter more meaningful, more powerful. This year, when I was looking around on the internet, I found a helpful site and wanted to pass it on.


God may use something there as a spark to draw you closer to him.

Some of you may also be familiar with Ann Voskamp's blog, A Holy Experience.
If you haven't visited it, quit reading mine and go to hers. She has beautiful, God exalting thoughts. Her words help you love God more. This year I purchased the Advent to Lent Wreath made by her family . You move the candle and carved figure forward a space every day. We are looking forward to using it as a daily reminder during these next 40 days leading up to Easter.

I need all the daily reminders I can get. The chorus to Come Thou Fount says it all.

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love.
Here's my heart. O take and seal it; Seal it for thy courts above.

Offering our heart to God starts today. Not because today is the official beginning of Lent, but because today is what we've been given to live. We can't go back and change the past. We can't live in the future. But we can fully live today. And that journey begins at the heart and the cross.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Follow Through Friday

I have a love-hate relationship with my Follow Through Fridays.

I love them for about 24 hrs after I post my results. My important, but not urgent, project is done! Oh, that feels good. But I hate them the rest of the week. My weekly project is like a phantom backpack that weighs 20 pounds - and I wear it until  the Thursday before my next Follow Through is due. Resolved:  This week I start shedding that weight a little bit every day - starting Saturday. I'll report how it goes.

For all of you who forget from week to week what my follow through is, I decided to remind you what I said last Friday.

Next week: I know this is vague, but I can only say that I have a major loose end to tie up in regard to a project I've been involved with for about 4 years. I'm not really sure how I'll describe the resolution next week, but I need this deadline to overcome my inertia in regards to it.

If there's one Follow Through that I've wondered -"Did I make this too public?" - this is it. It's easier to show a messy cabinet in my house than a messy cabinet of my life. But life cleaning has longer and better ramifications. And what I thought I needed to do to tidy things up, and what really needed to happen, surprised me.

In 2007, I was asked to head up an Intercessory Prayer ministry at my church. I agreed - sensing God's leading and blessing. The name: Pray: Night and Day. The basic plan: An individual signs up to pray 1 hour a week in the prayer room at our church. In the room are 2 notebooks. One contains our church directory and the other contains prayer requests that are submitted to the church. During your designated hour, you divide up that time - praying through the directory and then for the submitted requests. I also stressed the importance of seeing your time in that room as a "mini-retreat" in a person's week.
Our flyer designed by the talented Katy Roweton
It began as most things do - with excitement and enthusiasm. This was not only on my part, but also on the part of the almost 30 people involved. The testimonies from the early days of those hours in that room spoke of sweet communion with our God. I heard those words from people and I spoke them myself. Then, almost imperceptibly, a waning. From me. From others.

I could list reasons -valid reasons, why I think that happened, but in the end, the buck stops with me. When I was in leadership at Bible Study Fellowship, there was a quote that stuck with me: "A leader can only lead people where he (she) is willing to go." I wasn't going where I needed to go - at least in regard to this ministry.  And I haven't been going there. It's been slowly fading to black. And I've been hoping nobody would notice.

But it's been there, in the back of my mind. What once was a source of joy - has become a millstone. And I'm glad that not doing the right thing feels like that to me.  And I guess I'm thankful for this Follow Through Friday. This accountability has brought freedom.

When I posted last week, my goal was to "turn in my card," so to speak. I was going to get all the papers and information I have about PN&D to the staff liaison at church and tell him to run with it. No more millstone for me. I even made the phone call to say I'd be dropping the materials by.  However, after that phone call, the anticipated relief and peace were not there. It simply felt like I'd left something undone. The Holy Spirit, working on my spirit, used a voice from my past to free me. My dad always told us kids:

                  "Leave things better than the way you found them."

I was not leaving PN&D better. It was not going to be easy for the staff liaison to sift through what's left of this ministry. I was to follow through with this - at least to a point of a workable, clear transition to a new leader. When that realization hit me, the anticipated relief came. Freedom. Freedom, the real freedom, always comes when you do what you know is right. James 4:17 speaks to that: "So whoever knows the right thing to do, and fails to do it, for him it is sin."

So, I'll be seeking God anew in regards to this. My prayer, my hope is to honor Him by leading well and finishing well. I want to finish well.

Next week: Mary Grace begged last year for a raised garden. We talked about it a lot, but it never happened. She's begging again this year. This time next week, we'll have it planned and materials ordered or bought.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Broken Brush

There's a reason makeup is the first thing you encounter when you enter major retail stores. Beauty products sell - and they sell well. When I was attending college in Tulsa, Oklahoma, I worked at Sanger Harris (which later became Foley's, which later became Macy's). I was told that makeup sales generate more profit than any other area of a store.

I've contributed to that profit margin over the years, but not excessively.  It's really only been in the last couple of years that I've even worn light foundation.  Mostly, I've stuck to enhancing - or at least trying to enhance - my eyes and slapping a little blush on my cheeks. But with the big 5-0 looming, and age spots and wrinkles screaming at decibels I've never heard before, I've jumped more completely into the world of foundation, and powder. And more recently, the world of specialized powder known as brightener. Seems my face has been dull all this time and I didn't realize it. So, I bought the sales pitch and bought the product.

To apply, one dabs your bristles in the product and then brushes it all over the face. Which brings me to the real point of this post.  Applying this brightener the other day, I broke my brush.

At first blush (pun intended), I was bummed.  The brush was only a cheap Walmart brand, but I still didn't want to spring for a new one. I couldn't get one immediately. I'd just have to use it as is. As is was very short.

But you know what? I liked it. It was lighter, felt better in my hand and was easier to use. I have to hold it a bit tighter, but that just gives me a better feel for using it on my face.
And then, as my physical eyes looked at my physical face in the mirror, my spiritual ears heard a whisper from my Lord.

"You are like that brush, Shelley. Broken. But you're lighter, you feel better in my hands and you are easier to use. I'm holding you tight - getting especially close to your bristles. I'm going to help bring them under control. And with you in my hand, I'll bring you especially close to my face - you'll touch my face. Just let me hold you."
If someone came to my house and looked through my makeup drawer, they would see that broken brush, and probably suggest I throw it away or get a new one. When I see it, I feel loved, and my face brightens.