Thursday, November 17, 2011

The First Gardener

I recently read “The First Gardener” by Denise Hildreth Jones. It is a story about loss, love and living. WoW! I cried and laughed...okay, I mostly cried. A LOT!

Sometimes life is hard. Really hard. Mingled amidst moments of joy and thankfulness, life can often be filled with hurt and heartache, too. The unimaginable happens. Disappointments crush our spirits. Life intersects with reality. We find ouselves in the midst of the strangling weeds of imcomprehensible loss or confusion or fear. If you have 'been there', in a struggle with despair/depression, overwhelmed with loss/grief, broken and bruised, I think you might appreciate this poignant read.

A few of my favorite lines/lessons from the book; just bits & pieces.

“God okay if you mad, Miz Mackenzie. Way I figure, he hear evey’thing, so ain’t much we gots to say gon’ shock him. But when you take the heart he gone and placed inside you and shut it all down, well…don’t know if there by anythin’ make him ache more.”

“He wasn’t going to run from his grief any longer. Instead, when the grief showed up, he was going to run into it. He would hold it, feel it, absorb its impact. Then he’d move back into the life that, for whatever reason, he’d been left to live.”

“Father, my baby girl is broken, and I can’t fix her. I see that now. I really do. I’ve done everything I know to do. I’m all out of fixin.”

“But no matter what it pretend to be, pride be such a liar. It make us think we sump’n we ain’t. Make us think we can get by without God.”

“Not around or under. Just through.” This reminds me of Isaiah 43:2 which says, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass throught the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned."

“Forgive me,” she whispered. She spoke it for many reasons. But she spoke it first to herself. She had to in order to live. Finally, she spoke it to heaven. She was coming to realize that heaven had not been holding her prisoner. Yes, God had allowed her to be crushed beneath a weight of grief she didn’t feel anyone should have to carry, but it was she who had imprisoned her own soul. It was self-pity that had held her in a prison of grief. Not that the pain wasn’t real. But somehow it had welded itself to resentment over the fact that real life didn’t match her picture of it. She had assumed she deserved to have the life she wanted, and when that didn’t happen, she had wanted to give up. For that, she told heaven she was sorry.”

“And in that deep place in her soul, where the black pit that had all but swallowed her whole still existed as a reminder of what she could choose, she made a decision.”

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Grizzly Jack's Grand Bear Resort...

My parents both celebrated their 60th birthdays this past year (in March & May) so we decided to schedule some time for family & fun. Not the most simple task when taking into account spring planting, autumn harvest, work schedules and baby due dates (we added two little ones to our family this year!) but it was accomplished & we gathered together at Grizzly Jack's Grand Bear Resort in Utica, IL a couple of weekends ago. So much fun to watch the kids play (and sometimes, fight!) together.

Monday, November 14, 2011

And the Winner Is...


SETH and CASEY: Please send your mailing address to bcstahl01 at and I will drop the certificate in the mail. Thanks for the comments. My prayer for all is that God will strengthen our marriages as we tackle the sometimes hard day-to-dayness of living out relationships which bring glory to Him.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Along the Coastline

During our last day in Oregon, we headed a couple hours west to the coastline. Like the rest of the state we had observed previously...simply beautiful!

We walked thru the art shops, candy stores, etc. of Cannon Beach and snacked on some incredible crepes (i.e. proscuitto, fig and chevre cheese) We drove south along the coast, pulling off at scenic spots along the way before arriving @ the Tillamook Cheese Factory. The cheese was okay. The ice cream, possibly the best I have EvEr had.There is this 'rock structure' along that coast called Haystack Rock. It is a dedicated, protected Marine Garden, rising 235 feet out of the sand and the sea at the low tide line in Cannon Beach, Oregon. We missed low-tide, so perhaps that is part of the reason this landmark, one of the most photographed in the state of Oregon, kind of left me unimpressed. But, after travelling south, we discovered Haystack Rock II and settled in for about 2-hours to watch the sun set over this secondary landmark. Definitely impressive! And a very peaceful end to a fantastic time away.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Driving the Countryside

Part of our trip included some time in Willamette Valley. Being a farm girl @ heart, I really enjoyed driving around the countryside and visiting vineyards, both small farms & larger estates. We met some incredibly genuine & engaging people and had a simply good time. Here are a few rustic images from our treks thru the W.valley.

Switchback? What's That?

Okay. Back to Oregon. It is Sunday evening. We have decided, much to my great pleasure & delight, to spend the following day doing absolutely nothing. Sleeping in. Reading thru the afternoon. Perhaps a nap; okay, definitely a nap! Stepping out for an early dinner @ the Horseradish Cafe just around the corner, etc. I was anticipating a vacation-style day of my dreams.

Fast-forward to Monday morning. I sleepily crawl from beneath the covers (thinking it is early, too early to be considered sleeping in) and see my husband already pacing around our room. Not a good sign. He's munching away at breakfast & already has the coffee brewed. And, it appears he might have already showered. Hmmm...this is NOT looking like a lay-low kind of day. And then he speaks, "So, I was thinking..."

Fast-forward another 30-minutes. I have a mug of hot chocolate in my hands & my camera over my shoulder. We are on our way to an all day hiking adventure in the mountains of OR. much for the nap! :)

After driving for just over an hour, we arrive at the Columbia River Gorge area, park our car and start checking out the trails. After walking for a bit, we see a mass of cars/people down the road and discover that we are at the Multnomah Falls. "We" decide to hike to the top. A fellow hiker/tourist (headed in the opposite direction, nonetheless) non-chalantly mentions the trail has 13 switchbacks. I am unfazed; I have no clue what a switchback is.

Fast-forward another 40-minutes. I am gasping for air. My legs are burning. My knees screaming. The odds of my falling off the edge of the trail are skyrocketing upwards by the moment. By now, I know WHAT a switchback is and cannot believe there are five MORE before we acheive the pinnacle of our hike, the top of the falls. My husband looks over his shoulder and smiles back at me. I level a hard-core glare at him and think, "I am supposed to be napping right about now!"

Sarcasm aside, we did have a fun day! The air was crisp, perfect for hiking, and the beauty around us was pretty awesome. Here is some proof of that.

In case ya'll might be (kindly) assuming my slightly damp hair in the above photograph is from the misting of the waterfall in the background, let me set the record straight. It is soaked! With persperation. The I-just-hiked-up-thirteen-switchbacks-and-am-sorely-out-of-shape kind of sweat :) Just sayin'. Pathetic, I know.

Monday, November 7, 2011

GIVEAWAY: Weekend To Remember

Blake & I have been gifted with a 'ministry partner certificate' to attend Family Life's Weekend to Remember Conference. The certificate entitles a couple to attend a Weekend To Remember of their choice for $39/person. It expires August 31, 2012. Since we cannot use this certificate because our marriage is perfect/flawless (ha! ha! gasp! gasp!), we'd like to give it to a couple who can.

To be eligible to win you must be (a) either engaged or married and (b) make a committment to redeem the certificate prior to its expiration date OR re-gift it to friends who will be able to attend the conference. Check
HERE for details regarding locations & dates for upcoming events.

The Weekend to Remember can help a struggling marriage find hope OR make a good marriage even better. Either way, it's a WIN-WIN.

Pease post a comment by 8AM on Friday, November 11th (11/11/11) to enter the giveaway.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Something to Consider...

The question for us is this, will I do the thing God has asked me to do and trust God to do the part only He can do? Do I have the faith to believe that if I would only ask, God would show up and do His work in my heart & my home?