For the Love of Fire

No, not like pyromania, but I do love fires.  More specifically,  I  love the fire in our wood stove.  Actually, it is a wood stove insert that we put into our former brick fireplace.  Driving down our street and spying the smoke spiraling out the top of our chimney when it is cold outside warms me up before I even get in the house!  And the smell that wafts through the air is oh so nice!

It doesn’t really get that cold in our part of North Carolina most of the winters we have, but it can.  I have seen many a night with temperatures in the single digits and our ice storms can be pretty nasty:  2016 Ice Storm .   Even when it is in the 50s and that cold northern wind screams through any little crack in our house, you need a fire.  Well, I do anyway.

We don’t use our furnace from November until the end of March with very few exceptions.  But, let me tell you what: a wood stove is a lot of work to keep going.  And, of course, it is a constant battle to keep all the scraps and chunks of wood chips that seem to scatter all over the floor, stick to your clothes and somehow onto your sheets!  With a wood stove, spring cleaning takes on a whole new meaning.  Ha ha

The first thing is having plenty of firewood to last the whole season.  We are blessed to have a friend who cuts down trees for a living.  He comes by throughout the year with his big dump truck full of logs and drops the load back in our wood yard.  Usually they will be oak or hickory with an occasional cherry or maple.  And it doesn’t cost us anything.

With all those logs, we need to cut em up into large slices with the chainsaw and then go to splitting those slices with our log splitter.

Splitter

Making firewood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The firewood pile starts out small and then becomes a really big heap.  And this beaut, hubby thought would not last us this winter!

Prepping for Winter

And as you can see, as of yesterday, we still have PLENTY left!

Wood Pile

Of course, once you have the firewood split and in a giant pile, you got to get it close to or in the house.  We have five firewood tote bags and trust me, we need all of them.  Once you fill a bag up, it can weigh up to 35 pounds or more!  It isn’t unusual for me to tote up the steps of the deck and into the house as many as seven or eight per day.  You do the math!  It’s a good thing this old lady stays in shape!  And, that is every single day, weeks on end!

We do have to let the fire go out on occasion to remove the ashes.  Then you start from scratch.  Everyone has their own way of starting a fire.  I like to ball up paper, toss in a few small pieces of shredded cardboard, then top that off with some kindling.  Not bitty branches, but small slivers of firewood.  Once that gets started, I leave the stove door slightly ajar enough to let some air in.  A blaze roars forth.  A few pieces of firewood on top of that and the fire is rocking!  That batch will last a couple, maybe a few hours and then more wood gets tossed in.

Yep, I like to play with fire.  That fire.  Our fire.  It’s warm and toasty.  It crackles and pops.  The flames flicker and lights scatter on the walls.  The ambience it creates is way beyond words I can come up with.   It’s comforting.  It’s beautiful.

God blesses.  Oh, yes, He does!

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Christ’s Saving Grace

It is such a shame that the truth cannot be laid naked, open to all Americans to see. But we have been blinded by false precepts since the beginning. Each side of any protest or confrontation is already full of animosity towards one another especially with the help of all of the “guests” that always appear to ensure violence. When the police step in, that animosity is enhanced by the disdain for authority on both sides. The whole scenario is a match that lights the fire. I cannot fathom with any understanding at all how it is that most Americans are so blind. It’s not that they are naive or ignorant. That would be an excuse or a reason for the behavior. Instead they just don’t care enough or consider it important enough to really look at what is going on and see it for what it is. Regardless of whether any of those in control win, everybody will lose.

I’m so grateful that I have been able to extricate myself from this madness and choose instead to just look away. Away from all of that. I choose to turn my head and look at Father and His Creation that is all around me every single day without fail. In that I trust. In that I draw my strength.  It fills my heart with joy, peace and contentment.  In God I trust, indeed.

The Old Testament helps me to understand what it is that God expected of man. Not in how we humans have expectations of one another, but how He designed us and creation to work in harmony together in adoration  and to the glory  of Him.   It shows how man and most specifically the Israelites failed to meet those expectations. They were His chosen people to whom He gave protection, guidance and wisdom through whom His glory would shine.  They were to show, through their daily discourse and interactions, His Glory to the rest of the world.  Of course there were a few who lived the life of a true follower. But as it is written, most did not and some literally refused to do so.  And so it continues with most of this world’s humankind.

The New Testament shows the results of those failures in the way in which those current day Israelites continued to refuse the teachings of God by fiercely objecting to anything that Jesus had to say. But the blessings of the New Testament are in showing exactly how we can be. How we can actually meet those expectations of God. The New Testament allows us to envision and experience the type of life that we can have by simply following Jesus’s example. It doesn’t matter what version of the Bible you are reading. And you certainly don’t have to pick out certain verses or phrases or chapters and use that as an impetus to prove what you think is true.

The New Testament is an expression of God’s love and desire for us to live a happy and fulfilled life with Him at the center of it, dwelling in our hearts. Jesus as a man lived the perfect example of how we can accomplish this. And the apostles that followed behind him after his death continued to demonstrate this willingness and desire to follow Christ. They themselves did not set precedence. They themselves did not make up new rules. They lived their lives in accordance with what they learned and observed from the life of Jesus himself.  Christ is our example.  Christ is the truth.  It is through His saving grace that we are enabled and gifted to see how we can live.  May He ever live in our hearts!

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Listen to your Heart

Living from your heart is not exactly something that one can do just because one thinks one can do it. You first have to understand what that means and what it doesn’t mean. Most of us learn, then understand, then believe in things that we think about and comprehend inside of our mind. This is something most of us are taught from childhood. We begin to believe that this process is the only means by which we can completely understand something.  As a result, we use what we’ve learned and understood in this manner as a basis for which we live our lives.

Living a heart- led life and having your faith and belief come from within your heart is taking the above notion and tossing it out the window.  Living heart-led is not a natural thing for most people in this generation and society. But it can be done;  that is the way humankind was originally designed by God when he first placed us in the Garden of Eden.

There was no intellectual explanation necessary for the first peoples to know and believe and have faith in God. There was a communion between people and God; a connection from their hearts to Him.  It was not something that had to be learned from birth or gradually dissected, analyzed, and concluded upon in order to be applied. It was just the natural way of life for them.

It is as if you were driving up to the mountains and came up over a rise and what lay before you was an amazing scene of beauty.  Autumn leaves scattered throughout mountainous terrain.  Clouds and blue sky rising up over the high mountain tops. A broad expanse in the valley. And as you gaze upon to it, your breath is taken away. You don’t stop to think about what you’re looking at and analyze it  intellectually. You appreciate it to the point where your whole body glows and your heart leaps and your mind is blown. You are simply responding from a part of you that is as ancient as the beginning of time.

Surely, you have experienced this?  An overwhelming feeling deep inside of you that words just cannot even begin to describe?  This joy, this feeling, this experience comes from your heart, where Father has placed His Spirit to commune with yours.  This is the part of us that communes with nature as we walk about or gaze upon and get that sense of belonging.  For we are part of Creation and it a part of us.  We and He are all one.

Grab on to that.  Build on it.  Capture it and never let it go.  Let it take you away from this world’s notions of what is real.  For this is called being lead by your heart.

Listen to your heart and learn from it.  For God is its guide!

To read more, click here:  Heart Matters   or here:   Heart Happiness  or go to the Search Box at the top of my blog and simply type in “Heart”.

As a part of this experience, I have been blessed with the friendship of like-minded folks who live by the heart-led experience.   We have come together to form an on-line fellowship, called Radix Fidem, currently led by a gentle man, whose blog (see link to Ed Hurst under my blog roll) helps put into words what we believe.  It isn’t a church by today’s definition.  It is a gathering of souls.  You can read more about our beliefs by downloading  ‘Radix Fidem: A Covenant of Faith” here:  Radix Fidem.

You can also get a better understanding of living by the heart-led life by downloading ‘Heart of Faith’ by going here:  Heart of Faith.  This was written by Ed, in collaboration with some of the rest of us.

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Labor of Love

I have had flower beds for as long as I have had a roof over my own head.  The joy and peace it gives me cannot be described with words.  Watching something grow just soothes me.

Since I moved into this house there is one bed right in front of my front porch that I have redone two or three times in the last 20 years. Here is how it looked when I first began.

Happy Flowers

Of course, it has changed as I tried new plantings and different ways of arranging things.

Once we had the fire earlier this year I really didn’t have time to do anything until just recently. The bed had become very overgrown.  I asked hubby if he would mow it down so I could start working in there, which he did.

Place to start

I decided to do something different. I was looking at this 10 by 15 foot piece of beautiful soil. And lately in the last couple of years I have really grown extremely fond of succulents. I am going to build a giant rock garden!

And so I started the middle of this past September. I told myself that I would be done by the end of October. I had about six weeks to complete the task.

Pitchfork in hand, I divided the rectangular area into strips in my mind. The plan was to clear all the wild plant growth one strip at a time and hopefully get a strip done a day. It was hard going with the pitchfork. I would press it into the edge of one of the strips at just a slight angle and then I would lift it up and then I would push it down until as much of the root system that was there could be shaken loose of dirt and put on a pile.

All the rocks that were already in the bed I threw in a couple different piles.  Hubby started collecting giant ones and all sizes from the yard, the creek bed and the woods. Needless to say it was very slow going.

Here’s a clue. I have a few physical conditions that do not prevent me from doing anything but they do limit the amount of time I can spend at a time doing heavy labor. I’m good for about an hour and then I have to stop and take a 20 to 30 minute break. And I can usually do this for about 3 or 4 hours a day.

I went on-line and visited nurseries in the city so I would have some plants once I was ready for them.  As I cleared, I placed some I already had into the dirt to hold until I could give them new homes in the new bed.  Here are some of the ones I bought.

My new babies

Once I had most of everything cleared, a canvas became revealed.

Ready to Start Work!!!!

I started in the rear left corner and made the beginnings of a little rock bed. In went some of the plants and then I decided I had to make it a little bit bigger.

After I had done all that I wanted to so far in that first bed, I thought it would be cool to build up some rock walls and put in a gully.

Gully wash

Next, I started in on the right side of the bed and began another.  This was way too much fun.  Needless to say, it was heavy work because I handpicked each stone/rock and placed it just so (sometimes retrying to make sure it looked “right”).  Here is what I call ‘Bed Two’.

Beginning of Bed Two

I had ordered several different sempervivum, or as most of us call them, ‘hens and chicks’.  So, next on my little agenda was to make them their very own bed in the garden.  I already had plenty in the original beds and pots, so i put them in as well.

Hens ‘n Chicks

Now, i was on a roll!  In the far right back of the garden, i had already planted some comfrey.  They needed mulching and rocks placed along their backside.  Other small rock beds were made or added to.  I made more gullys, filled them with pebbles and covered them with mulch.  I was almost done.

Almost done

I finally wanted to place some little additions.  Little animal figures were tucked in here and there.  Years ago, i had gotten some of hubby’s old work boots and cut holes in them.   I filled them with dirt and tucked little hens n chicks inside.  Moss started to grow and they HAD to have a home in the garden as well.  On the morning of October 31st, after spending two more hours in the garden, I was done!  Here is the finished project.  Right click on these pictures and open in a new tab.  Once you click on the newly opened tab, you can zoom in.  Notice the attention given to every rock in the entire bed.  Each nestles in with the next one.  Some hold/brace others up or are part of a perimeter.  SO MUCH FUN     !!!!!!!!!!

All done!

Left Side

Right Side

Six weeks and hundreds of pounds of pebbles and stones later, my labor of love is done.  I have to admit, the result is way beyond what i had hoped. This old body came through and I really did not end up paying too big of a price in sore muscles.

Now, with maintenance hopefully going to be low, i can spend as much time as i want enjoying the fruits of my labor.

Thank you, Lord, for giving me this gift!

 

 

 

 

 

 

PS I might come back and edit this post more.  I don’t know.  Might have more to say or show.  Tee Hee

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Once Upon a Dark Time

Written at a time in my life when darkness ruled, I found this while digging through stuff I had packed up after the fire.

Every day is another day of an endless stream of constant reminders of the state of mind you’re in with no way out but inward introspection of where you’ve been and where you are not.

Looking out a window that you cannot see through for all the drapes are drawn and only shadows play on the other side if the sun is out and sprays its rays down far enough for them to show themselves.

Looking at the doors that go out to places your feet cannot enter, down paths and roads you cannot tread, to faces and bodies that can now only exist in memories that linger long and hard on your mind.

Finding solace in a bottle or a pill to hide the realities of that which you do not want to see anymore, all the time, giving places and faces to be and touch when nothing can be real enough anyway.

Wanting only to be anywhere else at least so something could be real enough to touch and know that it will not go away, ever.

Listening to songs of another time that surely existed somewhere out there when reality was but is no longer now.

Whispers echo down the hall, telling stories; some with endings, some without. Enchanted tales with princes and fairies and little boys with lots of toys, playing their games with smiles on their faces. Whispers get softer then become echoes then disappear into the darkness leaving silence behind with no one to hear them but loneliness.

Tears have dried on every square on every floor leaving faint stains of sorrow. Footsteps crisscross across them all leaving them hidden from all but those who left them there.

But yet and still a hand reaches through and then an arm and then two to embrace and hold you dear so close to show indeed you are not alone, in the dark. And, that is, in reality, reality.

I am grateful beyond words to Our Father that I don’t find myself in that place anymore, but I must admit I haven’t forgotten it.

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Of Men, Machines, Muck and Mire

My husband, B, loves tools and heavy equipment.  It all started way before I knew him, but his collection since we married over twenty years ago, has expanded to the point of: “Seriously,  you really need that”?

When someone heard he had an old tractor he might want to sell, they offered to trade B an old backhoe.  He couldn’t resist and there went the tractor faster than i could blink or spit.  He still has his grandpa’s, an old Farmall.

Then, early last year,  after being tired of messing with the old one,  we agreed to replace it with a new one.  And though it was expensive, it has turned into a very resourceful tool.  Just about every neighbor of ours has benefited on more than one occasion.

After about a year of being pestered by a neighbor to clean up that dying row of photinias  ( see my post on them:  Photinias  ) between our two properties, B started in down at the back and started working his way forward.  Vines, dead plants, young tree saplings and the like had to be cut out, removed and run through the brush chipper.  It was slow going, but he was making progress.

And then we got a massive amount of rain.  Due to the grade of our yard, all the runoff settles right at the base of the photinia hedgerow.  And, i was wondering why they were dying off……DUH!  All these years of runoff, no wonder they had finally had enough.

Back to the clearing project,  B was working on it the other day and our neighbor asked B to bring the hoe over to his side of the property and clear out some debris over there.  B obliged, of course.

Did i mention it had rained? A lot?  Anyway, it wasn’t but a few minutes later and the hoe got stuck in some muck.  Not evident to B when he drove over there,  it became very clear that uh-oh, we have a problem.  As B tried to drive clear, the hoe started to sink.  Fast.

Stuck in the Muck

 

Oh yeah!

 

 

 

 

 

Seriously sunk….

Several hours went by as B and another equipment experienced neighbor attempted every trick they knew to get the hoe unstuck. And it wasn’t happening and the more they tried, the more it sunk. Oh boy. It started to get dark, so they had to close up shop for the night and wait until the next day.

I’ll tell you what. I sent a lot of prayers up that night!

Early the following morning, after it was late enough so as not to annoy any sleeping neighbors, he went back to work on getting the hoe unstuck. He was very creative as he used the backhoe part to dig into the ground and push down and lift the front end up. Then he would use the bucket flat on the ground and push it down to lift the other end up. As each end was lifting he would slowly turn the wheels. It took a lot of attempts on each end but he finally got the wheels up and out of the mud enough. I didn’t get to actually watch what he did but as he described everything to me I could picture it quite well in my mind.

The hoe was finally back on solid ground. With all the caked and hardened mud on the entire machine he had to get his pressure washer out to get it all off. It didn’t look exactly brand new because after all it’s a machine that does a lot of hard work but it looked mighty good when he was done.

The next thing to do was to fill all the holes in the ground where the hoe had been stuck. Fortunately we have a giant mound of dirt in our yard that we use for a variety of purposes. He filled in all the holes and then used the bucket to scrape and smooth everything out. Now, all our neighbor has to do is get some grass seed and everything should be back to the way it was.

Filling it in

You know the old saying if something can go wrong it will. Fortunately, B knows his equipment very well. His proven ability to figure things out and “gitter done” attitude showed itself again.

I am so proud.  And I am so thankful to the Lord for making all this happen. A lot of times things don’t go the way you plan. A lot of times things can go very wrong. But if you have faith and perseverance and keep on trying you can get unstuck and out of the muck.

 

 

 

 

 

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Two Minutes

You have a phone, right? A cell phone, that is. Smart or not, it has an alarm feature on it, yes? And I have no doubt it has a stopwatch app as well. Do me a favor. Get out that phone and start the stopwatch. As you watch the seconds tick by, look aside at something you can observe for just a moment.  Not your computer or phone or television set. Focus on what is around and about you.  Then look back at the stopwatch and notice; there’s still more time. Look off again.   Do it for two  minutes.

Look around?  At what?  Like a leaf drifting down off of a tree. A bird lifting up and flying into the air. A flag on a pole flapping in the breeze. Children laughing and swinging at the park. A squirrel flicking its tail shouting at the world.  A spider weaving its web.  A butterfly visiting a flower.  Two old folks, holding hands,  walking together in shared silence.  A mother holding her baby in her arms.

See that cloud drifting along, morphing into something else as it goes? Hear that dove cooing in the distance or the train clickety-clacking along the tracks? Feel the cool breeze as it slides over your skin?  Hear the sounds of laughter as friends greet one another?  The sound of a tugboat as it blows its horn?  The roar of a fighter jet as it streaks across the sky?

Two minutes.

If you are at all like me (well, kinda maybe?) while I watched the seconds tick, those two minutes took a while to go by.  And, I noticed a lot.

Taking a sip

Swallowtail on Verbena

 

 

 

 

Six finches. Click, zoom in and see if you can find them all!

 

 

So, he had this GIANT green pine cone in his mouth and buried it!

 

 

 

 

Can you imagine the mycelium network in my yard????

 

 

Autumn Clematis blooming like crazy. And the perfume every night!!!!

 

 

 

 

Think about your typical day and what all you might be doing.  Sitting at your desk, concentrating on your work maybe? Or, lost in some video game that you just can’t quite put down?  Or, deep into a conversation, texting with a friend or on Facebook? Thinking or worrying about events outside of your control?  Trying to get that crazy to do list marked off?

Admittedly, there are quite a few of you that get the “take a minute and smell the roses” thing and actually do stop and smell them. And some of you wouldn’t even think of wasting time with foolish electronics when there are so many real things to spend time on or with. But, I am thinking that many of us just don’t even think about it for lots of reasons.

And this is not a critique of how you live or spend your life.  It is hopefully more of a wakeup call to tap into that inner part of you that is tired of the “hurry up and get it done” way to live.

Two minutes.

And yet, our minutes turn into hours and they into days and do we ever just stop and look around us at something real or outside of ourselves in the moment we are in?

Real.  Not man-made.  God made.  Creation.  The stuff that does not need us.

Outside of our selves.  Something not having anything to do with us.

C’mon. Go get that stopwatch app. Take two minutes. Then, turn it into five or ten. Do it every chance you get.   Every day.

For this is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.  Psalms 118:24

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