Friday, July 31, 2020

We're Being Changed

I saw this quote and it spoke right to me about 2020:

"Just because something doesn't do what you planned it to do doesn't mean it's useless."
 –Thomas Edison

How many times have you seen and heard from someone else, or said it yourself, how absolutely trash this year has been? I know I've participated in that conversation! 🙋‍♀️ You can be sure I did my fair share of whining and complaining, especially when home became school and I became the teacher. I was a miserable case. Ask my husband and kids. No, don't do that. 🙈

And it's just been one thing after another since. With the virus, the politics, the opinions, the MEDIA. Plus, having to decide what to do for school this year...

I don't know which thread to follow anymore and I kinda just wanna dump 2020.

But listen, friends. We can do this.
Even if 2020 hasn't gone the way we planned, we'll get through it. How many other years have we made it through when things didn't go as planned? The answer is all of them. 

We we made it through them. If we hadn't, we wouldn't have made it here... to the sh*tshow. 🎪😂
(sorry for the language but I know you get it.)

Here's the thing...
Every passing year is important.
Every passing year serves a purpose.
Even 2020.

Every season stretches us and challenges us.
Every season helps us grow.
Even 2020.

This year is not useless. It's doing something. It's waking things up and stirring people. It's stretching us and helping us grow. It's making us stronger, even if we won't notice the new muscles for awhile.

Don't spend the remainder of the year fixated on all the things that have gone wrong.
Don't fall into the trap of thinking nothing good can come out of this.

Stay focused on doing what is right in front of you, to the best of your ability.
Pray about whatever is on your plate.
Help people when you can and accept help when it's given.
Keep stretching and pushing through.

2020 is not useless.
It's just changing us.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

The Only Freedom Worth Having

My family spent the 4th of July together at home. We watched movies, played outside, and grilled out for dinner. When the sun went down, my husband lit up a glorious, thrift store version fireworks show for us and the neighbors next door. He laughed and shook his head the whole time and we all cheered wildly as if we were witnessing the fantastic fireworks display at a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game.

Despite the regulations in place for Covid-19 and little to no large gatherings taking place, our day was spent in joyful celebration, reveling in our freedom the way we always do. The freedom to be at peace amongst ourselves and enjoy another beautiful day on this planet is a blessing. We have that freedom all the time, no matter what is going on in the world and regardless of any twists and turns we’re witnessing in the political realm. We have the freedom to choose happiness and live content, despite our earthly circumstances.

We have that freedom because true freedom comes from Our Creator and no one, not one single person or event, can take that away.

It’s a difficult time for the world right now. There are opinions of every kind flying at us from every angle. No one can seem to agree on anything. If you’ve spoken your mind about something in the last six months, you’ve likely never felt less heard. But I promise you – when you shut down all the noise from the outside and focus on God; when you pray more and talk less about what’s bothering you, you will find the freedom you’re looking for. I'm not saying it's bad to educate yourself and stay current on the issues. As citizens of the country we live in, that's our responsibility. But if we spend all of our time obsessing over what's going on and despairing over everything we can't control, we'll just be overwhelmed and unsatisfied. When we get on board with the fact that God runs the show, we get to experience the only freedom worth having. God-given spiritual freedom. And that freedom covers over every single part of our lives.

Hear me out:

Nothing in your life is new business to God.
None of the current events are a secret to Him.
None of this has caught Him by surprise.

He’s got this. It may not always feel like it. But He does.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. ~2 Corinthians 3:17‭-‬18

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Raising the Future

Nearly every time I go out with my children, I'm told by a stranger in passing that they don’t know how I do it. I’ve given different answers in response, including:

“Lots of Jesus and coffee!”
“Chicken nuggets and prayer”
or my personal favorite, “Very carefully.”
I get a smile in return and we all go on with our day. They don’t usually care to know that I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in years, that I have sixteen loads of laundry waiting for me at home, or that I rage stepped on a toy earlier that day and my foot still hurts. I’ve never once looked the person in the eye and said, “I have no freaking clue. I’m completely overwhelmed.” But that’s how it feels sometimes.
I’m not being critical of the people who ask this question. It’s almost always harmless and 100% not their problem that my kids leave their toys out and I’m bad at laundry.
But I have to admit, it does sometimes leave me feeling strange that I brushed off my role as a parent, such an integral part of my life, with a quip about chicken nuggets.
The truth is, this job is kind of a big deal.
Parents are important. And not just to our own households and the kids inside them.
Parenting is a truly essential thread in the circle of life with an impact that carries over from generation to generation.
Raising tiny humans isn’t just for us. It’s for the world.
And it's a heck of a lot more than just keeping everyone fed and clothed.
It’s about bringing up good, productive, and kind humans to release into the world.
Parents, raising kids means you're raising the future.
If it feels overwhelming, that’s because it is.

It’s making sure that you’re exhibiting good habits and character traits because they’re watching.
It’s filling your home with positive words and good music because they’re listening.
It’s having difficult conversations and giving tough love because they need to learn.
It’s helping them through academic hurdles, talking about world events and politics, and encouraging them to find their voice.
It’s doing your best to teach them everything they need to know in order to not only survive, but to thrive without you.
It’s ensuring that they become productive members of society.
It’s training them up to be good friends, outstanding employees, and helpful co-workers; devoted husbands and wives; excellent parents and so much more.
It's equipping them to know, love, and serve God and to love their neighbor, no matter what.
It’s preparing them for the ugliness they’re bound to face and encouraging them to be a light for other people.
Being a parent is so much more than just providing income, keeping everyone alive, and running the household. It’s more than the playdates, the grocery shopping, the cooking dinner, the LAUNDRY.
It’s the responsibility of sending good people out into the world to change it for the better.
That’s a huge, gigantic responsibility. Rewarding and so worth it. But it's freaking hard.
Don’t sell yourself short. Keep up the great work.
You’re raising the future.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Grow Basil. Make Chicken.

I posted over on the Instablog earlier this week about the basil growing like crazy this year in the garden. We were a little excessive in planting it, throwing it in between all the tomatoes and peppers as a companion herb, because it's such a fun and easy thing to grow.  It germinates really quickly, too, which is nice for impatient little ones who are eager to see the fruits of their labor. Added bonus, baby basil sprouts are super cute. Just saying.

The problem is, now we have so much basil, we can hardly keep up with it. I've been using a little, giving away a lot, and it just keeps coming back up. I prefer to use basil fresh because it has such a rich flavor and adds nice color to so many dishes. But since we have so much, I'm planning on drying some of it and using it in some seasoning blends. I don't have a ton of experience doing this. I don't follow many recipes. Typically, I can be found in the kitchen sprinkling meat with a variety of spices that sound good in the moment. But I do have a seasoning blend I love to keep on hand and it's so good, I figured I'd share it! We use this a lot on chicken and veggies. Just mix everything together and sprinkle!

I don't know how to make fancy recipe cards.

I realize the title of this post might be a bit misleading. This is not a cooking blog so I needed to bridge a gap from what I like talking about (growing basil) into something I would ordinarily not talk about (recipes). For clarification purposes, you do not need to grow basil to make this seasoning blend. 🤣 You'll find the necessary basil in your Italian seasoning of choice. But I promise you, you'll love growing basil. 💚

A disclaimer for your reading entertainment: As I said, this is not a cooking blog. No science has gone into the creation of this "recipe." It might be too salty for your taste or have too much paprika. You might hate it. Please don't hold it against me. 😂 If you do try it and like it, please let me know. Also, I take no credit for this recipe because it's adapted from another recipe I found years ago and I don't need a legal issue haha. I took away a spice, added a different one, and have changed the amounts used over time. I have found similar recipes online but this is what I use.

P.S. I sometimes make my own Italian seasoning from a recipe you can find here. I like this blend much better with it homemade. But it's great with whatever Italian seasoning you can find in store, too.

Obligatory photo of the ingredients looking
pretty in a bowl before mixing them.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Always Gently

Coming at you from the garden today! It's all sunshine, blue skies, and tomatoes out here. Plus cucumbers, carrots, peppers, a bunch of tasty herbs, and even some edible flowers.

I found Pineapple Sage at a local nursery this year, which was exciting. I haven't tasted it yet, but it smells just like pineapple. I'm thinking it will be great to try in a fruit salad or tea! After a little research, I also found out that it flowers at the end of summer and attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. Sounds like a perfect addition to the flower beds for next year, right? It's not well known for doing great as a perennial in our growing zone (6a) but I'm willing to baby it and hope for the best. It's been really happy in the raised beds so far. Growing like crazy and not finicky, so that's a win for us. You can read about pineapple sage here.

We had a learning moment last week in the garden, my daughter and I. The same activity but two different lessons, one for each of us. There are lots of good lessons found in the garden and bringing the kids in to learn with me has been a super rewarding experience for all of us. Life science and hard work, patience and determination are a few of the best things we've gotten from growing things. It's also been a great escape from all the noise in the world lately. Noise that I've been letting myself get a bit too involved in, to be completely honest. I have strong opinions and I know that's a good thing. I stand by all of them. I'm always up for hearing other people out, too. But when I feel like an opposing opinion is being thrown at me super aggressively or when people are being sarcastic and rude about something I think is important, I don't like that at all. 😂 (Who does?) It makes me think Oh my gosh, I hope I haven't been doing that. I don't want to make anyone feel like this. Going back over what I've shared and conversations I've had, I'm confident I haven't. BUT I only stand in my shoes or, as I like to say -- I'm only looking out from my own front porch.
If someone else is looking out from their front porch, wearing their own shoes, have I considered the way I come off to them from where they're standing? Maybe I wouldn't be put off or offended by my thoughts and how I share them (duh, because they're my thoughts), but how do they make others feel?

Have I been kind?
Have I been helpful?
Have I considered other people's situation/argument?
Have I stood in their shoes or tried to imagine the view from their front porch?
Have I said everything with love? That's the most important one.

Because truth gets lost without love. And too much truth, put out harshly when people aren't receptive to it does more damage than good.

This brings me to the lesson. I usually do the first garden watering by myself when I wake up and then the kids help with the evening water. But we'd slept in and I had to run out after the sun was already fully out, which isn't great for the plants. The sun beaming down on wet leaves can be a death sentence.  I already knew we'd have to be careful and since I'm a control freak, the last thing I wanted to do was hand over the hose to my six year old when she asked to help. But it's always a good time to teach, so I gave her the hose and watched her begin spraying the plants.  Very enthusiastically. She soaked a couple tomato plants before I stopped her and showed her how to gently push the branches  aside and water at the base of the plant. It's a little tricky, especially when it comes to those wild and showy tomato plants. But you have to get to the base and avoid soaking the whole plant.
That gave me a thought...

How like the plants we humans are.
We need watering but time and place matters. Being over showered with even the good, life giving stuff at the wrong time can be damaging. And since we can never know what kind of timing it is for another person, our job is to focus on what we can control.
That means choosing to go forward with gentleness and empathy.
That means speaking with love at all times.
Gentleness is key. Empathy is necessary. Love is everything.
Our greatest, most life changing message will fall flat if we go aggressively overboard.
Our carefully researched truth and strong opinion will fail being heard by those who need it most, if we're unkind about it.
Does that mean we stop putting it out? No way. Using our voice to say what moves us, what we're passionate about, is not only empowering and beautiful but a necessary course of action.  But none of us are exempt from doing so with love. I understand that, sometimes, the occasion calls for a little more vibrancy and a serious tone. But if we truly believe someone needs our message and we want them to actually hear us, we must choose to speak with love. Seek to understand. Take the gentle approach.

Keep talking. Keep watering.
But gently. Always gently.
That's how we get the fruit.

Pineapple Sage from Bonnie Plants

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Give Everyone a Chance

Hi, I'm Jheri 
👋🏻 and I'm about to rant. I hope you'll come along.

Racism is everywhere. It happens everyday and in the small day to day activity of human beings, not just when the police are involved and it makes it to the news. It happens everywhere and inside every ethnic culture and color that exists.

My sister has done missionary work in parts of South Africa where white people are the ones who live in fear.
A person reached out to me yesterday after a piece I wrote about my husband, Phil, got shared to Instagram. He said he lives in a small town with a heavy Asian population where he's been spat on and called names by them often.
There are owners of Chinese food establishments that have had to endure heinous treatment and close down permanently because of the ridiculous prejudice during the pandemic.
The list goes on. Just ask someone who doesn't look like you.
Racism knows no ethnic or geographical boundaries and it doesn't play sides.
It doesn't care if you're Republican or Democrat.
And it doesn't care if you have a handful of black friends. Sorry, that doesn't exclude someone from being racially insensitive.

I live on American soil. I'm a proud American. While sensitive to issues around the world and my family does what we can to support the wellbeing of others, as part of the body of Christ, I am here. In America.
This country I live in and where I'm raising my children is my priority. And on this American soil, the poor treatment of black people dominates our society. If you can't see that or fail to look closer, I can't help you.
I do not support rioting and looting. But when a tragedy strikes in the American Black community, and all you are focused on is the small, minute population who let their outrage rule their hearts in violent activity, you are missing the point. If you cannot accept the fact that racism against black people is more prevalent in your American communities and neighborhoods, I pray for your eyes to open.

I've seen the statistics. Yes, police brutality happens to white people.
No one is saying it doesn't.
But here's the difference:
Typically, white people aren't suspected of being trouble makers or suspicious until they have done something troubling or suspicious.
The same is absolutely not true for black people. If you don't get that, I hope you take the time to really try and understand what it's like for them every day, not just when you see them on the news. Please take the time to read my previous post detailing some of the treatment my husband has personally experienced.
Many of you know my husband. You know that he is one of funniest and most friendly people out there. Until he can walk into an establishment, minding his own business and being polite to everyone he encounters, without being followed around by the anti-theft department for no good reason, there is no real, actual equality. That is why they're mad. That is why they are calling for change. That is why they are trying to get our attention.

On the topic of the protests, don't be outraged by the outrage. Seek to understand it. Seek to understand a population of people that continue to be treated unfairly, oftentimes for no reason at all.
Think about the ones who skipped the rioting.
Focus on the ones who are praying and holding their babies tight at home; the ones who are fearful for their lives and the lives of spouses and children on a daily basis because of the tragedy they witness time and time again; the ones who are just as disgusted as you are by the violent activity afterward.
If we are not to judge all cops, based on the activity of a few and we are not to judge white or black people on the activity of some, then don't judge the outraged on the activity of some either. I understand that activity doesn't "help their cause" and it "makes the good ones look bad." Be quiet.
Focus on those good ones.

People of all races do bad things. But the fact is that not all of them are judged fairly from the start. Not all of them have to do a bad thing before they are profiled and dealt with accordingly.
Some of them never get the chance.
Start giving everyone a chance.
Don't be colorblind. That's not the solution.
See color. Delight in all that everyone has to offer, no matter what they look like.

Look at the bigger picture. Turn off the TV and look at the bigger picture.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

This Is My Husband

This is my husband.

He is a good looking, extroverted, laid back, and friendly guy.
He's a Godly man of good character.
He's a loving and faithful husband; a generous lover, a great lay.
He's a patient, fun, and gentle father of five.
He is an imaginative and hilarious story teller.
He is ambitious and strong, an amazing provider.
He's a hard-working man of integrity.
He's an Air Force veteran and a proud, upstanding American citizen.

He shops at all the same places as everyone else.
He fills up at the same gas stations everyone else does.
He innocently walks the same streets everyone else walks.
He drives on all the same roads as everyone else drives on.
He makes all the same kind of mistakes everyone else makes from time to time.

But he is not treated the same as everyone is treated at all times.

He's been avoided walking down grocery aisles and blatantly ignored by a chatty cashier who engaged happily with every white customer before and after him, but spoke not a word to him apart from telling him his total.
He's watched people in the gym make obscene, unmistakable animal jokes about him as he works out.
He's been asked, "Did you have all these kids with the same woman?" as if it was anyone's business but ours.
He's had people call him Obama because he's very well spoken... for a black man.
He's been told, "Our entrees start at $50." as we walked into an upscale restaurant for our anniversary dinner.
He's been told by work colleagues in the past that his name was "too white." They gave him a more appropriate, "black" name that he was referred to as for the next two years.
He's listened to heinous, racial slurs dropped casually on work sites. But don't worry, they apologized to him afterwards. They would never want to offend him.

These are just a few of the blatant things he's experienced. This does not mention the quiet things done in the dark; the things he's not allowed to assume are related to the color of his skin even though they probably are.
And these are mild, compared to the treatment others have received.
Turn on the news and see for yourself.

We're doing something wrong.
Color exists. And it's beautiful.
But racism exists, too. And it's ugly.
Let's be better.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. --MLK