Life Lessons from Carrots

After gathering carrots from the garden one rainy August day, I placed them under cool running water in the kitchen sink and began to scrub them clean with my old, stiff veggie brush.  A thought occurred to me in that moment…

Have you ever paid attention to how all the carrots in the grocery store look so long, straight, and perfect?  That’s not the way they all look when they are harvested.

carrots of different sizes and shapes in a stainless steel colander

When I pull them up in my garden, they all look unique:  different sizes, different shapes, different colors.

I’m sure this happens with part of the carrots in commercial farms.  We just never see the unusual ones because, even though they taste exactly the same, the imperfectly-shaped carrots are rejected from grocery shipments and are ground into pet foods or used for other purposes.  Either that, or they are trimmed into matching shapes and sizes to be sold as “baby-cut carrots.”

I realized then that the uniqueness of carrots could be applied to people, as well.

orange carrot split into two roots

Society may use advertising and peer pressure to try to convince us to strive for a certain ideal in our appearance or lifestyle — to fit the mold of what is considered “normal” or “perfect.” Yet, the reality is that we are all unique in our appearance, physically and socially.

Unlike the misshapen carrots, we must never reject people that don’t fit our ideal of physical or social perfection; and we must never try to force them into matching our personal standards.

If we do not all look like Ken and Barbie dolls with the perfect figure and features, perfect skin and hair, perfect height and weight, perfect speech and mannerisms, perfect wealth and status, it doesn’t matter because the reality is that on the inside

long fat orange carrot beside three tiny carrots

we all taste the same.

Oh, wait…maybe I’m mixing my metaphors…but you get the point, right?

pale yellow carrot split into five roots

One of the scribes … asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”

Jesus answered, The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no other commandment greater than these.

~Mark 12:28-31

Do you see what I mean?  The scripture says “love your neighbor as yourself,” not “make your neighbor into yourself.”

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!  Now get out there and show some love!

~~~ ~~~~~~~ ~~~

Let brotherly love continue.

~Hebrews 13:1

My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

~1 John 3:18

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one who loves is born of God, and knows God.

~1 John 4:7

5 Habits of Happy People

How do your habits compare to those described in this concise, thought-provoking post about happiness?

MakeItUltra™

FullSizeRender-1“Most people would rather be certain they’re miserable, than risk being happy.” ~Dr. Robert Anthony

1. Spend money on experience, not things
Happy people tend to spend money on experience more than on things. Of course, there are daily necessities that we need in order to function. But, at the end of the day, it is the quality of our moments that bring us the most joy. If we focus on the next “thing,” a new sport jacket, a designer handbag or a nicer car, we are likely to fall prey to the vicious cycle of not being satisfied with what we have.

2. Don’t neglect the basics
People who are happy tend to manage the basics of self-care better than people who are unhappy. From a behavioral perspective, if a person is not tending to the basics (staying active, eating healthy, making time for self-care, etc.), how can they possibly reap the benefits that a person who is…

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Photogenic Duck Duo

Here’s the friendly ducks I mentioned from our recent photography field trip.  I’ll start with the photo of them frantically flying up the bank toward us, hoping for a handout:

two white ducks rushing up a lake bank with their wings flapping

“Food?! FOOD!”

two white ducks in front of a lake

“Hey, do you see the food? I don’t think they even have any! Why are they here, then?”

two white ducks walking away down a sidewalk in front of a lake

“We don’t have to put up with this. We’re outta’ here!

two white ducks peering into a lake

“Oh! Is that food down there?!”

I’ll insert some random scenery here while the ducks waddle down to the water…the lake was very pretty!

small Arkansas lake surrounded by greenery and dragonflies

I liked the dragonfly who appeared in the corner of this photo. It was boiling hot outside, but a multitude of bugs were buzzing around sampling the wildflowers.

Now, back to the duck duo…

two white ducks splashing among the lily pads in the edge of a lake

“Yes! There’s definitely food here! Hurry up!”

two white ducks dipping their bills in the water, surrounded by lily pads

“Who needs handouts? This is great!”

Just as a side-note — ducks make very strange sounds when they talk with their heads under water!  ha ha

These two hungry characters were an adorable addition to our pleasant morning.  The lake was small but lovely, and full of all kinds of flowers and wildlife.  We may have to go back there for a picnic some day, and bring treats for the ducks!
Matthew 6:25-26 written on a photo of ducks eating in a lake

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Sunny Summer Drive in the Country

My daughter drove me around on a fun photo shoot one sunny summer morning this week, and I thought you might enjoy coming along with us…

chip-sealed country road curving into the woods on a sunny summer day

old, white farmhouse in a field with a cedar-post fence in front

Near this farmhouse, we spotted a tree wearing clothes.  Yes, you read that right.  Soon I hope to share the story of this tree and the farmer who stopped to talk to me while I was photographing it.

macro photo of sharp points on a barbed-wire fence

gravel road lined with mailboxes bending over three hills

A few hills were so steep, I wondered if our poor car would make it to the top.

a crooked tree in dappled sunlight in the woods

I climbed up a ditch bank to take this photo (and the one below). When I returned to the car, my daughter informed me that three deer leaped across the gravel road not far past me. Ooo, missed opportunity! I never even knew they were there!

macro photo of small weeds in the woods

dead tree in field, surrounded by dragonflies

This tree is the reason we went on this journey.  We saw it on a previous drive and wanted to come back when the lighting was better.  If you’re seeing spots, it’s not your imagination — the air was thick with dragonflies!

dead tree on hill above green field on a sunny summer day

I couldn’t decide which angle was best on the last two photos.  Which do you prefer, the ground-eye view or shooting from regular height?

It was so pleasant to ride around, documenting our Creator’s beautiful works.  We also stopped at a small lake and met two very photogenic ducks, but I’ll save those photos for another time.  Thanks for reading this post; I hope it brightened your day!

SCRIPTURE -- Ecclesiastes 3:11 written on the photo of a butterfly on a milkweed flower

This photo is from my garden. If you like images with bible verses, please check out the “SCRIPTURE” page which is full of photos you can use and share.

Moments of Joy: July 2016

In last month’s post, I mentioned the pleasure gained from having a simple family vacation and then coming back home to sleep blissfully in my own bed.  In today’s story — oh, baby! — how I’m reminded that pure love comes in small, sweet packages!

collage of adorable baby girl from birth to four months old

A vehicle pulls up to our house, and I look out the window in surprise.  I step outside with my daughter and call toward the driveway, “Hi!  I didn’t know you were going to come in your police car!”

My friend steps out of the car in full uniform and returns my greeting as he reaches into the back seat.

“Oh, no,” I add, “my neighbor is home.  He’s really going to give me a hard time for seeing your car at my house!  He teases me all the time.”

Pulling a baby carrier out of the seat, my friend stands up and faces me.  “What does he tease you about?”

“Everything!  He has quite a sense of humor!”

The words barely escape my lips before I hear a loud voice behind me slowly calling,  “Haaa!  Haaa!!  Haaa!!  HAAAAH!!!”

I shake my head and look over my shoulder as Mr. Ferguson‘s screen door clicks closed across the street.  My friend and I look at each other with raised eyebrows and burst out laughing before heading into the house.

The cool air conditioning feels refreshing compared to the midday sun outside.  “You can set her carrier on the couch for now, if you want,” I suggest as we cross through the kitchen and into the living room.

As he places the car seat carrier onto the sofa lounger, my daughter and I eagerly crane our necks to peek inside.  The beautiful blue eyes of his four-month-old baby girl look back at us, blinking sleepily.

I, of course, comment on how adorable she is and then begin to chat about her with my daughter.  Suddenly, I realize that my officer friend has grown silent and still.  I look up to see him staring at his tiny girl with a serious expression on his face.

“This is so hard,” he states aloud while continuing to stare at the precious bundle cradled in the car seat.

After a fleeting moment of contemplation, I ask in a surprised voice, “Is this the first time you’ve left her with a babysitter?”

“Yes.”

“Not even family?!”

“No,” he answers, briefly glancing my way before continuing to gaze at his daughter.  (He later explains that they had left her in relatives’ care before, but “not for long” and “we were never more than a block away.”)

I gape at him incredulously.  “Wow, I’m honored! I’m really honored that you trust us to watch her!”

After several cuddles and kisses with his baby daughter, my friend reluctantly leaves to attend a special police training drill for the afternoon.

My daughter and I thoroughly enjoy an hour of entertainment with the now-alert infant.  We watch her explore her wiggly toes, work her gums over on her teething toy, and react to the silly faces we make at her.  She practices her new-found skill of rolling onto her stomach, but becomes more fussy each time she is unable to roll back.  It’s easy to see that nap time is overdue.

Rocking in the recliner fails to lull her to sleep, so my daughter hands her to me to try a different method.  I hold the tired babe against my shoulder as I walk around the room, patting her rhythmically on the back as I had seen her mother do during past visits to our house.

She is such pleasant and quiet girl.  Even her loudest cries seem to be half the volume of most babies I’ve encountered.  Her protests dwindle as I stand near the living room window gently swaying back and forth.  Her sweet smell and warm snuggles send memories flooding back to my mind — memories of dancing my daughter around her room each night while singing “Jesus Loves Me” into her tiny ear.

That bedtime ritual was especially loved by my daughter.  As she got older, she would sometimes ask me to sing to her “like you did when I was little.”  The last few times, she was so tall that her feet nearly dragged the floor when I held her.

I am stirred out of my reverie when I notice a small forehead tapping on my shoulder.  Our young guest is finally losing the fight to stay awake and can successfully be transferred back to my daughter’s arms in the recliner.

My tall teen smiles in pure contentment while studying the sleeping baby on her shoulder, and I get a glimpse of what the future may hold for her in a few short years.  How amazing…where has the time gone?  My heart swells with feelings of love and peace, and perhaps a twinge of nostalgia, too.

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Uninspired (A Summer Photo Gallery)

This seems to be my central theme this summer — uninspired.  For the first time in several years, I have had a slow summer where I’ve had time to relax.  Rather than use that time wisely, I seem to have fallen into a lazy, selfish slump with an “I don’t care” attitude.  How very unusual for me!

My husband claims I am having my midlife crisis.  Lol  I think that claim is merely retribution because I accused him of the same thing last fall when he planned an expensive spur-of-the-moment vacation.  ;)

Regardless of the cause, my blog has been a bit neglected as a result. I simply could not think of a single thing that seemed worth sharing here over the last month.

After looking through my WordPress reader this morning and seeing the blogs listed below, I decided to whip out my old Canon camera and search for inspiration.  If you are interested in great photography, encouraging thoughts, and/or interesting info (about photography, nature, famous landmarks, etc.), check out these blogs:

Dusting off my camera and playing for far too long on PicMonkey.com has enabled me to present you with a summertime photo gallery. I hope you enjoy!

fluffy cloud over a park filled with pink crape myrtle bushes

We’ve been blessed with several pop-up showers this summer. Today the clouds passed us by, and it was too hot for the joggers and the “Pokemon Go” players to fill up the park.

dwarf marigold called "Legion of Honor" (red and yellow blooms)

“Legion of Honor” marigolds are supposedly a dwarf plant, but they are still over knee high!

orange sunflower framed by a fluffy white cloud with bumblebee flying by

Bumblebees and honeybees were buzzing all around my garden, but I only managed to capture one in a photo.

milkweed bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus) nymphs on milkweed seed pod

There were no monarchs in my neighborhood this year, so I let the milkweed bugs take over the plants. The nymphs of these bugs (Oncopeltus fasciatus) love to cuddle in groups on the seed pods of the milkweed plants.

"Suyo Long" cucumbers hanging from a vine on a black trellis

“Suyo Long” cucumbers are wonderful and easy to grow. The cucumbers are burpless, never have bitter skins, and grow to 18 inches long. You can buy seeds for these from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

"Ali Baba" red watermelon shining in the sun surrounded by vines and leaves

Treasures are hidden among the greenery!  To me, eating melons (and sugar snap peas) is the best part of gardening! One of my favorite melons is a honeydew type called “Boule d’Or (Golden Perfection);” seeds for it can also be purchased from rareseeds.com in the link above.

hot, panting chickens in many colors drinking from a water bucket

Our poor chickens are about to melt in the triple-digit temperatures this summer. Can you see the optical illusion of the long-legged hen on the left? It’s actually two chickens!  Let me show you…

white chicken with clump of feathers sticking up on the back of her head

This Leghorn mix got a unique “hairstyle” because of her stubbornness. In 2014, she refused to get out of the older hens’ favorite nest box and got her scalp peeled back by a dominant hen. With a little super glue, raw honey, and several weeks of care, we had her patched up. Unfortunately, the super glue didn’t work long to seal the wound. The skin on her head regrew, complete with new feathers. Strangely, the flap of skin lived as well, forming a unique pom-pom on her head.

dayflower bloom with two blue petals on Commelina weed, front view

I researched this cheerful vine-like weed that grows in the shade around our property. It’s called a dayflower, or Commelina plant.

dayflower bloom with two blue petals on Commelina weed, side view

Here’s another dayflower from the side. The chicken pen has never looked lovelier! ha ha

ant's view of tiny weed in yard, surrounded by moss

Here’s an ant’s-eye view under a bush in the yard. I often find that beautiful things are “hiding” all around me, if I look closely enough.

framed photo of dragonfly resting on a twig

The dragonflies are thick this year! I finally managed to snap a photo of one that paused on a bush.

As you can see, I experimented with framing the photos today. Do you think the frames enhance or take away from the photos?  Are certain ones better than others?  If you wish, you can compare these photos to a spring gallery I did last year without frames.  You can also compare them to an early spring gallery of garden seedlings, which is presented in a tiled format.  Which do you prefer?  Please let me know in the comments below!

Moments of Joy: June 2016

Last month, I retold the story of how my family began an experimental health journey that has had great results for all of us.  This month emphasizes something much more mundane.collage of dark draperies with sunny window in the middle

My husband is going to a conference to accept awards he has won for his performance at work.  Since we have old friends in the area, we contact them to see if we can visit them that day.  Sadly, we find that they are going to be out of town that week.

But, the friends kindly offer their house to us as a place to stay so we don’t have to make the long trip there and back in one day.  My husband decides to take a few days off work and turn it into a mini-vacation.

We spend several days exploring new back roads and towns, visiting art museums and botanical gardens, and generally just taking it easy.  What a relaxing week!

The things that bring me the most joy during the trip are: 1. time with my family, 2. seeing other friends in the area, and 3. coming home to get a long night’s sleep in my DARK bedroom. (Our friends have no curtains at all in their house, and the room we slept in faces the morning sun!  Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to nap or sleep when there is bright light.  I thought I had really slept in late the first morning when I woke up at 5:40 a.m. Lol!).

Family, friends, and sweet sleep — these three blessings are what bring a smile to my tired face today!