Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I was commenting on Lady Lydia's blog, Homeliving.blogspot.com, about how, in perusing information on establishing a more natural back yard, I discovered information on England's hedgerows and the keen interest many people have in preserving them. I went back and found some basic information about them at the website of the borough of Bexley, London, England, from which this illustration and the following information were taken: 

Hedgerows are historical living boundary demarcations, made up of small trees, shrubs and climbers. They act as essential wildlife corridors  

Apart from forming the traditional aesthetic character of the English landscape, they also offer protection from winds, pollution, noise and trespass and afford privacy. Hedgerows prevent soil erosion and water run off, "green up" unsightly urban areas, provide verdant backdrops to developments and cover or prevent graffiti on walls  

Hedgerows support a myriad of species including nesting and feeding hedgerow birds such as whitethroats and chaffinches, bats, butterflies, moths, bees and other insects such as ladybirds, beetles and lacewings. They afford warmth, protection and shelter for small mammals such as dormice and rabbits and their predators, hibernating reptiles (slow worms, grass snakes and lizards) and amphibians (toads and frogs)
  • Bats, also, use hedgerows as safe travel routes between roosting and feeding sites
  • Hedgerows provide colour in the spring, flowers and nectar in the summer and berries/fruit in the autumn
  • "Ancient" hedgerows, which tend to support the greatest diversity of plants and animals, are defined by the UK BAP as "those which were in existence mainly between 1720 and 1840 in Britain"
  • "Species-rich" hedgerows may be taken as those containing five or more native woody species on average in a thirty metre length or those with fewer woody species but a rich basal flora of herbaceous plants.
I have stated that I have begun to establish a natural boundary (a hedgerow of sorts) along the back width of my yard to encourage a more diverse, and ecologically sound outdoor space, and to add some beauty and privacy, too.

I have come, perhaps rather late in life, to respect and appreciate boundaries. The natural one around my yard is also fortified by a six foot wooden stockade fence. It adds structure and precise definition to the boundaries of our land.  That is a primary function of boundaries - to define.

They define where what is mine ends and where what is yours begin, and keep many a mistake from happening. Boundaries protect the vulnerable who reside within them (toddlers and puppy dogs come to mind). They establish the playing field, which gives rise to the orderly rules of play.

I remember Nicky Gumble, the Anglican priest who founded the Alpha course (a very fine Christian formation program) talking about his unfortunate attempt to sub for a tardy referee at his children's football (soccer) game.  Since he didn't know the precise boundaries of the field and wasn't well acquainted with the rules of the game, chaos ensued. Children were upset and getting hurt and things quickly began to get out of control. In the nick of time, the real ref showed up, halted play, and quickly produced a piece of chalk with which he marked off the edges of the playing field. After this most important step, he proceeded to resume play and enforced the rules of the game, much to the relief and gratitude of children and parents alike.

The Lord God has set out His boundaries for us, and happy we are if we safely stay within them. He has set them for our salvation and that we may have life abundant on this earth.  The children in the misbegotten soccer game were not having fun when there were no rules nor discernible lines drawn, but instead were getting upset and even injured. When the referee came and defined the borders and the rules (which are in and of themselves boundaries), the little players began to relax and enjoy themselves again.

I am afraid that as the lines of societal propriety have been crossed, and the ancient hedgerows of faith and purity have been breached and assaulted to their near destruction, we are now suffering the injuries and dismay that such demonic violence has wrought.  Have we not lost our way, and become impoverished madmen, wandering into the paths of destruction?  We hear blasphemy, the most explicit sexual talk, cruelty and depravity spew forth from the television set, and from our own loved ones, and barely wince or make protest. In fact, God help us, those terrible things have begun to come from our own lips.  Think of what you say casually now, thing which you probably gasped at or held in contempt 20 years ago.

It was in the late 80's when, one Sunday, our pastor asked during a sermon, whether anyone had seen an important, recent ball game.  He obviously wanted to tie what happened to the home team into the point of his sermon. So he asked the congregation. A pre-teen boy raised his hand at the back of the church. When asked by the pastor what had happened to our team, the boy loudly replied to the entire congregation,
"They got their butt whipped."

An involuntary gasp came from the congregation as the term the boy had used "got their butt whipped" was not in general usage in polite society and was considered vulgar and crass. I know it seems hard to believe now, but it was.  It  just stuck out there, like the proverbial sore thumb.  Also everyone immediately felt embarrassed for our pastor who now had to respond and we also felt somewhat aghast about the parents, realizing that the child was probably used to hearing this kind of talk at home as a matter of course.

Well now the vast majority of us use this term like honey dripping off the hive, and consider it a mild euphemism for what is normally expressed.  I don't believe many pastors themselves would even notice anything amiss if they themselves used expressions like this in their own sermons.  And in fact, this little vignette is but the mildest of examples of the kind of boundary busting that has and is now occurring in our society and our personal lives.

To be continued.....

Sunday, April 18, 2010


I had been very grumpy today, whining and complaining about how I wanted to start being a little selfish, and do some of the same things I see other people doing. Especially people who are my age, not to mention the majority of younger folks. Things like, go on trips, buy jewelry, get manicures and pedicures and the like.  But after I had spouted off about all that, I felt bad inside.  Because I know that I would have to sweep my young adults, my father-in-law, and the animals out of my life in order to do all those things. And then we could downsize. And stare at each other and the four walls.  Or I could go out there and get a career! 

Wow, what was I thinking??  None of that appeals to me. Especially getting rid of everybody. True, I do want my children to become productive members of society with their own families, and while they are here at home, to help out more and make better choices, but do I want to boot them out onto the sidewalk? No, I really do not. And Grandpa. He is doing very well physically now, but he does not wish to return to his home in another state, because he will be terribly lonely. Do I want to pack him off to stay by himself and be lonely? No, I do not.

And these no-account animals. Do I wish that I would not have to step in hairball throw-up when I come downstairs in the morning, nor have the silly dog run in from the backyard and proceed to track mud all over the house? Of course I would. And I would not like to have to pay so much to keep them. But they are part of the family, and they bring us joy and entertainment, and I would never want something bad to happen to them, just so that I can lessen my work, or go get my hair done professionally. 

In fact tonight I thought the little one (kitty cat) had somehow gotten outside and was lost. This is when my ungrateful attitude came back to haunt me.  I began to pray earnestly that I would find her, and after about 20 minutes of looking high and low, inside and out, I realized that she was curled up on one of the kitchen chairs, obscured by the table cloth. Oh, I was so happy and thankful. And that led me to be thankful for my husband and children, the rest of the family, my home and all the good things in my life. And thankful for all of the bad things that have not happened to us.

Tomorrow is our youngest child's confirmation day. I am so grateful that he and the others have been brought up in the Lord. I am also so very thankful to our Lord for giving me Himself, that I might live forever with Him, and that I might continue to share the good news of Christ's love for us all.  

So may we all lay our heads down on our pillows tonight, counting our myriad and marvelous blessings, and bask in the contentment of knowing that "all things work together for good, to them that love God, and are called according to His purpose.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The word "culture" comes from the Latin and its original meaning dealt with the cultivation of soil for crops. So it is natural to consider that the "culture" of the home is something one must "cultivate" in order for it to exist and thrive.

We who treasure our home lives have an instinctive knowledge of what it takes to make a house a home, and it has very little to do with ticket price, address or stainless steel appliances.  Indeed, the art and let's face it, work of home-culture building is the one-of-a- kind molding that takes place in the space of the minutes and hours which comprise the years of our lives.  Instead of hiring the landscaper to design and implement your garden space, you spend a dollar fifty for a small six-pack of impatiens and plant them lovingly in a little bed in the front yard, and watch them grow and multiply into a charming little mass of cheery color. Next year you add some marigolds or primroses. Or take a doily from a box of things that Grandma left behind, and place it with care on a less than beautiful table.  Add a candle and a little figurine from the dollar store and you have given the eye something lovely and homey to rest upon.  It just takes a little time and thought and very little money, but you have cultivated some warmth and beauty in your home. And if you keep that little area free of clutter and the table cleaned and polished, you have made a tiny patch of heaven, right here on earth!

People will naturally feel relaxed and comforted in your home if you build its culture, because they feel they have entered a place that is full of real life. The best hospitality is when someone goes to the trouble to invite you in, gives you a warm beverage and a cookie, and after drawing you comfortably into their little home circle, they kind of take the focus off you and let you become part of the real life that is happening around you.  A lot of this came naturally in former times, and now we need to re-learn how to build our homes and build into the lives of others whom God puts in our path.

Back in ancient times, like when I was little, women used to drop in on each other and without fuss or thought start working alongside the hostess, snapping string beans, folding laundry or tending to the baby. It was all quite natural as well as quite helpful.  There was a lot more visiting in those days because there was someone home to visit. These were the times that women would use to talk with each other about subjects light or profound as they worked along, and thus be satisfied to welcome their tired husbands home at the end of the day with a good meal, without feeling the need to extract a "discussion" from them, and rake them over the conversational coals.   As a youngster, I loved to sit nearby and listen to the conversations, playing with my dolls and thinking about how great it was to live in the very center of the universe.

Perhaps it was easier then to think about the home as an important place to cultivate, guard and preserve. Back then, we didn't have quite as many entertainment distractions, nor any strident feminists dinging on our mothers' heads about how repressed they were.  We also didn't have a clothes dryer, dishwasher, microwave oven, or even an electric can opener.  In fact our can opener swung out from the wall by the kitchen door, and you just positioned the can up there and turned this crank until it opened.  Best can opener I ever used! The pencil sharpener was mounted in another room, and that was the best and most efficient pencil sharpener ever!   Funny.      

So indeed, manual labor was kind of built into a housewife's day, but so was the satisfaction of being the builder of her home. No two houses were remotely alike, and each family had their own unique way of expressing themselves in their home. The Bernard's had Victorian furniture and a kitty cat clock in their kitchen whose eyes and tail moved to the rhythm of its tick-tock.  Mr. Allen had a huge second yard that was a vegetable garden (complete with greenhouse and asparagus bed), my mother made the best coffee and baked wonderful pies and you could perform surgery in sanitary safety on Mrs. Reinhart's bathroom floor. My father had a workshop in his basement and his mother made wine every Fall in hers.

Perhaps people just need permission once again, to take pride in their home life - which is something different than making sure it is tricked out with all manner of granite and expensive flooring. It has more to do with a man taking joy and satisfaction in getting out there quickly to shovel and scrape that snow off the walk, or a wife touching up his no-iron shirt with, of all things, an iron. Or taking time to arrange some new things on the mantle and standing back to make sure they look just right. Or sitting down when you absolutely do not have time, and rocking that annoying child who is overtired and might just be coming down with something.

These and a million (at least) other small, routine, often repetitive deeds are what build the culture of home. They make memories, they bind hearts together, and forge the future. They keep the embers of love burning just enough to be able to once again be fanned into flame. They will give your children something to lean back on when they are out there someday as scared adults on the battlefields of life.

Right now, you just need to be there. Unplugged and interested. You need to be home.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Surprised by joy would be an understatement.....

"But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

May this Easter season bring you special graces and all the joy of the Resurrection.  May we all come to realize His presence and His concern for us and for His creation. May we be co-laborers with Him in all we say and do. And may the Lord bless us, in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Saturday, April 03, 2010


Julien Dupré
(1851 - 1910)
The Reapers
“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall
reap if we do not lose heart” (Galatians 6:9 NKJV)
You know, sometimes you just pray and pray for God to change people's hearts or change a situation, or change you. But it doesn't happen. You look up to see the heavens are brass.  I remember when my mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, how I prayed. But as I prayed, I knew that I was praying against God's will.  I do not know why I felt this, but I did. I prayed anyways. She lived for an uncharacteristically long time for her diagnosis - six and a half months, and perhaps this was just so we would come to a place where we would be able to let her go.
Then there are times, and I am not making this up, where I have felt the Lord prodding me to name my need, specifically, like when we had very little money and some big debt. I was doing dishes, alone in the kitchen and I was thinking about it. I felt that nudge to just say what I needed. So I figured it out in my head, and said, "Well, Lord, I think $20,000 would take care of absolutely everything."
The next week, a wealthy relative of mine just decided, unsolicited and out of the blue, to give me $20,000. I say, out of the blue, because that money just seemed to fall out of the sky, right from heaven.
But I think that sometimes I have prayed for years without answer for a thing, and persevered, just because the alternative is a dark place that I do not want to go - that place is called despair. And that is a place where we must never go, nor even entertain the thought for a millisecond. Not when we battle in prayer against true evil, or for things that are undeniably right. 
There are other things, insurmountable things in my life, other people's choices and things I cannot control, and for those I must continue to learn acceptance.  That is for the best, and it builds holiness. But there are also things which I cannot quit praying for while I live and those things mostly concern my children. And children in general. 
And ironically, I feel burdened always to pray for those who are discouraged.  When I speak to people or when I write, I always feel myself led to encourage someone, or make people laugh and feel light-hearted. Because I cannot stand for people to be overwhelmed with sadness or fear. Because despair, for me, is always at the door, right there, pushing, pushing. And I do not wish that for anybody.
So with God's help, indeed it is most likely God alone who does it, I push back. Sometimes hard, sometimes barely able to resist, but yet I am still standing. So I would just like to write tonight, on Good Friday, the night the Light of the World lay extinguished in the damp, cold blackness of the tomb, that we must keep on, keep on praying, keep on knocking, keep on seeking God. We will sow our prayers and patiently tend our little fields, the lives He has given us, and wait for the Easter Sunday of answered prayer. We will reap a bountiful harvest if we faint not. We invest our time and our hopes, as the farmer who sows and tends his field. Why? Because as Peter said, "Where else are we going, Lord? You alone have the words of eternal life".
He's the only game in town, as far as I'm concerned, and I've got to trust, and so do you, that even when we don't feel peace or feel we are about to be swallowed up by worry and anxiety, that He is there, He is not surprised, He loves us and He is working everything out for the best. And as regards our loved ones, He does not desire the death of any sinner, but rather that they all turn and be saved. So, therefore, we keep on praying that they'll find their way, along the narrow path lit by our prayers, to the doorstep of their very  home.