lessons learned: on growth, gardening boots, and grace

As I squatted by the trellis yesterday to plant more sugar snap peas, I looked down at the boots I was wearing.  I’ve had them for a couple of years now, so they are not so colorful anymore, but I fondly remembered that I’d written a couple of posts about them so I’m choosing to reblog one of them today.

I do not understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us. ~Anne Lamott

This weekend, I celebrate being cancer free for two years!  The “story” is quite intricate, but just know, that it was God’s grace that I listened to my body and that my Ob-Gyn listened to me.  If we hadn’t trusted our intuition, each other, or God, my life surely would have taken a different path.

As I have mentioned in other writings, cancer and surgery offered me many gifts–discovering the peace and hope friendship can offer, learning how to let others care for me so that I too could care for myself, and appreciating the importance of rest for body, mind and spirit. It was a time of learning to surrender, a skill that has not only served me well as a person of faith but also as a parent, farmer, gardener, and homesteader.

Recently, I had a young colleague look at me and say, “I don’t know how you can be so laid back about all of this” as we rushed around trying to finish a project within hours of the deadline.  I looked at her and smiled, “Turning 40 and cancer will do that to you!”  She looked at me inquisitively, and I replied, “I was like you several years ago.  I appreciate where you’re coming from, but hitting middle age the same year I was diagnosed rearranged a few of my priorities.”  I can’t say that she understood, but I will note that it was a great affirmation for me to hear those words come out of my mouth.gardening boots final

And so, on my anniversary each year, I have bought a little trinket to remind me of how far I’ve come and how much I’ve grown since the new journey I started in March 2010.  This year, I delighted in purchasing pair of floral gardening boots for tromping around the farm and in the compost pile.  Gardening was a saving grace for me the spring I was diagnosed and couldn’t be as active as I’d wanted.  My new boots remind me how therapeutic and nurturing creation and the Creator were for me during that time. They took me where I was in my journey and changed my life in such a way that I am more fulfilled and at peace.   That’s what I have come to call “grace.”

recipe: growing grace farm’s kale chips

I love to hear my child exclaim “Yay!” when I announce I am making kale chips.  As thin and crispy as regular chips, we love to make these in the summer time.  Different kale will offer you different texture–needless to say, the thinner the kale, the less like a potato chip it will be.  We grow Vates kale and Russian kale for their hardiness, long season, and flavor.  They do make a thinner chip, however, which can almost melt in your mouth.

growing grace farm kale chipskale in dehydrator

ingredients:  raw kale washed and patted dry, olive oil, kosher salt, dehydrator

additional options–garlic salt or garlic powder, Italian or Greek seasoning (sometimes, I use Cavender’s)

In a large bowl, throw in 2-3 large handfuls of kale.  Pour olive oil in the cap or a teaspoon then drizzle over the kale.  Using tossing spoons or hands, toss the kale to distribute the oil.  Take a large pinch of kosher salt and sprinkle on the kale.  Toss again.

Place on dehydrator tray without much overlap (use as many trays as needed based on your dehydrator’s size).  Dry on vegetable setting for length of time that creates a crisp kale chip.  (Temps and times vary based on dehydrators.)

Lenten reflection: bringing the gardens to light

Saturday, I spent my first Spring afternoon doing nothing but tending to the gardens.  After months of working inside the house on many projects that needed my attention, the weather and my (nondriving) teenage daughter’s schedule aligned so that I had 4 hours free to do as I pleased.


If you know anything about gardening, you understand that the first part of the season is less not about planting and harvesting and more about clearing and cleaning.  Beds need to be uncovered from piles of leaves, stray vines must be trimmed back, and dead plants are clipped to make room for new growth.photo-7

By dinner time on Saturday, my body was full of scrapes and scratches and tuckered out.

That evening,however, I enjoyed sitting up on my front porch and surveying all that had been accomplished by my hand.  What a delight~I could feel it way down into the depths of my spirit.

And Sunday morning, I could feel it way down into the depths of my body.  Argh~

At the spiritual retreat last weekend, I was reminded that our souls are like gardens.  We tend to them, we water them, and we expectantly wait for Spring sun to shine down and bring Light into the world.

And yet, gardens also require work.  Hard work, sometimes.  Whether we are wrestling with the thorny wild rose or hoeing in the compost, there are tasks that we’d rather not do–they’re not fun, they leave us tired, and they seemingly don’t contribute to the beauty of the garden.

When we stand back, however, and look at the bigger picture of the full day’s work, we can regain perspective.  We may be spent and have a few tender scratches here and there, but our work is not in vain.  It uncovers new growth and exposes it to light so that the garden is prepared for a new season.

My prayer for us during this Lenten Holy Week is that our reflections on our spiritual “hard work” will open our spirits up to opportunities for growth and new life.


lessons learned: the blessings of watering cans

You spread out a table before me,
    provisions in the midst of attack from my enemies;
You care for all my needs, anointing my head with soothing, fragrant oil,
    filling my cup again and again with Your grace.
Certainly Your faithful protection and loving provision will pursue me
    where I go, always, everywhere.
I will always be with the Eternal,
    in Your house forever.

~Psalm 23: 5-6  (The Voice)

Joy!  Last night marked the first evenin’ I threw on my overalls and worked out in the gardens in the lingering Spring sunshine. Aaaahhhh–a deep breath for my soul.

I began by raking dead leaves and withering plants out of the beds in front of the house.  Some may consider this a tedious chore, but for me it has become akin to unwrapping presents at Christmas time.  The delight of finding what lies underneath certainly outweighs the work involved.

As I made my way over to the water spigot, I spotted green shoots reaching upward.  A handful of volunteers had already peeked through the leaves to greet Springtime.

I realized that their head start was fueled by the water that had spilled out of the watering can last week.  You see, before we left on our Spring Break trip, I had watered all of the early seed starts  in their containers.  Sometimes, I am distracted by chattering birds or our friendly cat, and I let the water overflow beyond the edges of the can.watering can

As a result, these sprigs been nourished and beamed with Life.

If we are fortunate in our lives, we have people who serve as watering cans to our souls.  Their hearts and spirits are so full that the lovingkindness showers those around them, and we flourish.  They are not stingy with the grace they have been offered by the Master Gardener.  Rather, they allow it to spill out without judgment or reserve so that others may experience the same.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to visit a dear friend of mine who is recuperating from a fall.  At 98-years-old, she could have easily been confined to her bed and resting, and yet when I entered the room, she stood up and shuffled over to give me a hug.  During the course of conversation, she sat on the end of her bed sharing stories.  I watched her face and hands as she spoke.  Her eyes danced like those of a giddy child–she was filled with Light and Life, just like those plants under the water spout.

And in those moments, I was blessed by the grace of her sharing it with me.

As we go through our lives, may we not forget that we are all watering cans for the Creator.  When we are touched by God’s healing presence or reap unexpected rewards, we are not called to hold onto those gifts. Rather, we are encouraged to let the blessings spill over to those around us so they can experience Light and Life too.