A Word on Thinning

I love the idea of a garden. I get excited about watching plants grow, finding new blooms and picking fresh vegetables. I am so thankful that my father-in-law helped us move into our new home here in Del Rio, TX. He is a master gardener in my opinion. He has a huge, ambitious garden at home and when he saw what we had to work with here there was no stopping him (thank goodness!). Thanks to his efforts, we have tomatoes, onions, green peppers, squash, 2 kinds of cucumbers, green beans and even cantaloupe all starting to grow. We also have sunflowers, zinnias, some mint and basil (though the parsley, thyme and chives that I planted after he left didn’t sprout, we will try again this week).

It’s amazing! The kids are so excited to help. They like to water and John is starting to notice the differences in the different plants. I love how our homeschool “classroom” has just gained a whole new learning environment right in our own backyard.

There is a part of gardening I’m not a huge fan of. Thinning. Thinning is the process where you select the best plants and pull the rest so that those chosen few have the opportunity to flourish to the best of their ability. I look down at our little row of green pepper plants, 15 at least, so full of promise and have to choose at most probably 4 plants that will make it to maturity.

Sometimes the choice is a little easier. This one is smaller than the others, or this one’s leaves are yellowing. But what do you do when you have two or three plants all clustered together and still growing fine. You know that if left alone, eventually the group as a whole will stunt because there isn’t enough space or nutrients to sustain them all. But how do you choose which one to keep!?! It’s a bit silly, I know. Getting all emotionally worked up over a couple plants.

It’s a little like life. At a certain point we need to make choices, we have to thin our lives, so that 1. we don’t go insane, but also 2. so that we can allow ourselves to flourish. When I first started this post I was thinking specifically about our kids and recognizing the fact that though I would love for them to do everything, I also don’t want them to be overwhelmed and overcommitted. Scouts, baseball, piano, swim lessons, gymnastics, dance, soccer, playgroups, storytime, not to mention homeschool. So many wonderful things! We have to make choices, for our sanity and happiness and most especially for theirs.

I am finding that I also need to make some choices, do some thinning as it were, in my own life. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day. Reading, writing, trying to become a better seamstress, cross stitch, baking, crochet, a new desire to learn embroidery, cooking, researching, knitting, and oh wait, I have a husband and 4 children and a home to maintain. So many wonderful things! I can’t do them all at once, I have to make choices.

I think I’ve come up with a system. Recently I shared about how maintaining a planner has greatly improved my organization, both for our family and maintaining our home. It’s going really really well by the way. I’ll have to do a follow-up post sometime in the near future. I think I’m going to put it to work in this area as well. First, I am going to choose three things that are priorities, things that I want to be doing and thinking about all the time.

  1. Reading
  2. Writing
  3. Researching (I have this crazy notion I’m supposed to be working on a book/study/something longer than a series of blog posts. Topic TBD almost, it’s narrowed down to a few ideas, I’ll keep you posted)

Then, on a rotating basis of weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly I haven’t decided yet, I will rotate my crafting. I’m leaning towards bi-weekly. Long enough to get some good work done but not so long that it will be hard to pull away to transition to something else. This is usually how I work anyway. I obsess over one thing for a while, then get tired and move on to something else. Now I’m going to harness that tendency and focus it instead of just flitting from one thing to another like I used to do.

Here’s to hoping, organizing and thinning!

As we enter Holy Week this week, this seems an appropriate topic. What in our life is taking too much of our time? What are we spending too much time thinking about or worrying about? What needs reordering, what should we be prioritizing?

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

Book Review: The Strangers at the Manger

I hope you each have had a good holiday season and are looking forward to a very happy and hopeful New Year’s. We are still very much enjoying the Christmas season in our house. Nativities are still the center of the kids play and the lights of the Christmas tree are glowing while I type this post. It may seem strange, to post a review for a “Christmas” book after Christmas, but I promise it makes sense.

strangers-at-the-manger

Strangers at the Manger by Lisa M. Hendey is the 5th installment of the Chime Travelers series. The series is written for elementary students and early chapter readers. Though my kids are not quite there yet, the pace and word structure make these perfect read-aloud books.

In this Chime Travelers story, it’s Christmas Even and twins Katie and Patrick Brady travel back in time to, you guessed it, the birth of Jesus. This is the first time that Katie and Patrick go back in time together which made this story extra exciting for my kids. After sort-of meeting, more like avoiding, a strange new family , the Perez family, that clearly is not from their town and very much in need of help, the twins are pulled back to just before Mary and Joseph enter Bethlehem.

At first I was a bit surprised that the birth of Jesus happens so early in the story. But, as Katie and Patrick learn, there is more to the Christmas story than just Jesus’ birth. And, most importantly, from start to finish it is a story full of opportunities to interact with strangers.

I enjoyed being able to share Katie and Patrick’s change in perspective regarding first impressions and how to be welcoming to new people. Initially, Katie and Patrick are on guard, a little suspicious and definitely not very open to meeting the Perez family. As the story unfolds, they slowly begin to change their attitude. They see how Mary and Joseph welcomed them. They watch as Mary patiently welcomes each shepherd, young and old alike. They are there to watch as Mary and Joseph share Jesus with Simeon and Anna in the Temple. They also witness the faith of Mary and Joseph as the tables turn and they flee to Egypt, now the strangers hoping for a welcoming smile or helpful hand. Hendey crafts a lovely little phrase that Mary tells the twins:

Strangers are simply new friends, waiting to be loved.

Without giving away the whole story, I’m sure you can guess what kind of change of heart the twins felt toward the Perez family.

What I love about this story is how it takes the classic Christmas themes of peace, love, hope and joy and extends them into practical reality. Mary and Joseph extend hospitality, they offer friendship and they gift each person they meet with their love. The twins pick up on this and begin to replicate it when they return home.

I think I would recommend this book as a Christmas season book, not an Advent book, for a few reasons. 1. There are so many Advent books – wonderful Advent books – but so many! 2. Regardless if you are reading this to your younger children or your kids are reading it on their own, it helps to keep the Christmas season alive beyond Christmas day. 3. Especially in today’s world, what better lesson could you kick off the new year with other than Jesus’ desire for love and peace for each person. So, if you are looking for something new this Christmas season (or any season really), or perhaps a new Christmas season tradition, I highly recommend Strangers at the MangerDaily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

 

December 25, 2016 – Merry Christmas

For unto us a child is born,
Unto us a Son is given…
And His name shall be called
Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father
The Prince of Peace (excerpt from Handel’s Messiah)

Every year in high school (except maybe 1 I think, I blame pregnancy brain for my failing memory) the choir sang Handel’s Messiah. Anyway, these lyrics are some of my top favorite Christmas lyrics and tune. It’s happy, bouncy, almost bell-like and so full of promise.

Jesus’ birth brings forth a new dawn for humanity. He truly is Wonderful, our Counsellor, the Mighty God and the Prince of Peace. The sin of Adam and Eve brought sin, death, anxiety, worry and darkness. One of the curses placed upon Eve specifically is that children are now brought into the world through pain. Through this pain Jesus enters the world.

People approach the holidays, especially Christmas, with a variety of attitudes and memories. For some, Christmas is a time of joy, family, good food and fun memories. For others, perhaps Christmas brings sad memories, painful relationships, and loneliness.

Jesus’ birth is a beautiful juxtaposition of these wide variety of feelings. While the angels are singing “Gloria” and filling the skies with what would be the definition of joyful noise, Mary was experiencing the most explosive pain she had ever felt.

I believe this speaks to God’s love and generosity. God doesn’t swoop in a way that is beyond our comprehension, then give us a bunch of teachings that are challenging to understand and accept, then ultimately save us in a manner that is again, beyond our comprehension. Yes, the Incarnation is most definitely beyond our grasp. However, the pain of childbirth, the joy of seeing your newborn child for the first time, the pride in showing him off to visitors – these are relatable moments. I think this is what is so appealing about Christmas. Even though most of us can’t relate to giving birth in a stable or cave, there isn’t much that could be more fundamentally human than bringing new life into the world.

And now to quote myself (I hope everyone is ok with that), I would like to leave you with the last paragraphs from one of the last prayer experiences….

God continues in His generosity and overabundance. Jesus didn’t simply save the nations from the slavery of sin and death. He also gifted us with His very Body and Blood so that we might continue to be united in communion with Him and one another. He went even further than that. Before ascending into heaven, Jesus promised that His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, would come down upon the apostles and remain with them.

God-with-us isn’t just a historical event. Emmanuel isn’t only in the manger.

Jesus, Emmanuel, is the here and now. Even as we celebrate Jesus’ birth today, do not be fooled into thinking that He isn’t born anew each time you invite Him into your heart.

*** Please feel free to share your experience, thoughts and offer support to one another in the comments, on Twitter with the #DailyGraces or on the Facebook pageDaily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com