CONTEXT: Observations in My Garden #1–Zinnias

IMG_6894 (1)

God sends completely unexpected encouragements in the middle of discouraging messes. 🙂

I haven’t posted to this site for weeks, because my computer crashed and took down with it my wifi, dedicated external hard drives, and network. I tried to fix it, and so did experts, and whenever I just couldn’t deal with it anymore, I gardened: I planted 90 onion sets, rows of four kinds of peppers, two kinds of tomatoes, yellow squash, zucchini, five kinds of herbs, strawberries; a bodacious salad garden of three kinds of lettuce, four kinds of greens, cauliflower and broccoli; and a flower garden of three different heights of zinnias, just like the one that was so spectacular all along the fence last year. Planting two gardens full of so much promise was very hopeful and therapeutic.

Then my husband and I needed to take a trip 600 miles from home for a week. Back home the rains had come and the sun was hot, and I just knew my garden was thriving. Then we had car trouble and our return was delayed almost another week. In June. When the sun is hot and the rains come.

When we got back home, my gardens were lush and green, but only because one particular weed had virtually carpeted them both and grown to about 18″ tall. I had to part paths in the vegetation to find the squash and zucchini plants that had emerged from the seeds I had planted. The shade-loving lettuce was thriving under the umbrellas the weeds formed. The zinnias? Not so much (See photo above). From hundreds of seeds, there were only a few spindly little sprouts a few inches tall.

But when I started clearing those weeds from around the rows of onions down the middle of my vegetable garden, look what was there–one perfect, fully grown zinnia, blooming like crazy! IMG_6893

We might have good ambitions and plans and execute them nearly perfectly, laying the groundwork for future outcomes. Then even while we’re doing good works, the plans might seem to be
overrun by things that are undesirable and out of our control. The exact plan we had anticipated so eagerly is overwhelmed, overruled, dwarfed, minimized, or even dead.

Maybe God just intended for that particular dream to be planted and growing all by itself, in a little different setting with others not one bit like itself, where it can really shine, like my zinnia in the row of onions. He can do that. Sometimes we just have to leave things alone for a little while and allow ourselves to be pleasantly surprised.

CONTEXT: Small Changes

Dogwood red from stairs 4-18-16

Some of us don’t like change–note the “us.” Even accepting small changes can be a challenge. There’s an unnerving sense that something isn’t right.  A subtle disequilibrium persists while you wait for an outcome, even if the answer doesn’t really matter at all in the great scheme of things–like whether my dogwood that has always been pink will forever after be subtly red like it is this year.

The Holy Spirit is designated in the New Testament as the paraclete, the One who helps–the Helper Who comes alongside and counsels as we go. G. Campbell Morgan loved to quote one phrase from Deuteronomy 33:17 in sermons:  “…underneath are the everlasting arms.” Sometimes when things are changing around us and we don’t know how they’re going to turn out, and we think we’re not going anywhere, just waiting, that’s okay, too.  God’s all-powerful arms are there for support, His Spirit has come along side, whether the change is big or small, or the result is temporary or permanent.

I suspect that thinking about the significance (or lack thereof) of the small changes helps us accept them, and more importantly, be less panicked and more willing to wait and see what in the world God is going to do next, when the big changes come.

Are you expecting a change in your life soon?

CONTEXT: The Old and Familiar

Squirrel outside office 3-12-16 My desk in the new upstairs office I’m slowly creating is the mahogany dining room table I knew as a child.  When I sat at it then, it was in the center of the room, and my focus was on what was on it.   When I sit at it now, I’m at eye level with the branches of a massive dogwood tree outside the window and my attention is often drawn to what I can see outside. Today there is a squirrel in that dogwood tree whose “dining room table” has almost certainly been my yard for generations of his family.  And now we’ve made eye contact and surprised each other, me looking out, him looking in.

I think my old mahogany table/desk is to me what that dogwood tree is to him.  Both vantage places offer the security of the familiar, and allow us to feel emboldened to pause and study things we’ll never get to physically explore because they’re too foreign, too dangerous, too far away in distance or time, or simply incomprehensible to us.  The squirrel has no understanding of my desk, and never will, and I can’t climb to the top of a tree, and never will;  but unlike him, my ultimate exploration will be a “forever” instead of a “never.”  The Bible says,”Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man, the things that God has prepared for him.” Someday, the secure support of the old and familiar won’t be needed anymore, and as much as I enjoy it now, I won’t mind at all!

CONTEXT: What’s YOUR Biggest Hat?

People commonly speak of “wearing different hats,” indicating playing different roles in different contexts. I might describe myself as a wife, mother, grandmother, teacher, pianist, retiree, gardener, artist, singer, author, or writer, depending upon what I was doing at the time. My business card says “Research and Writing Consultant.”

Many years ago, I collaborated with someone who had a doctorate in history to write a high school US history textbook for a major publisher.  He resigned from the project before it was finished, and the senior editor combined that man’s contribution and mine, and added a great deal of her own, and published the book with no authors, just herself as editor. I felt slighted at the time, but she was right–for that book, I was a researcher, not the writer. Later, personal experience articles I wrote were published in Guideposts and elsewhere with my tag line, and academic articles were published online and in professional journals; but none of the six or eight books I’ve written has been published–yet.  🙂

So do I have a writer’s hat or an author’s hat? Does it depend on what I’m writing, or if it gets published or not?Red hat 5-7-16

I don’t know, and I don’t know if it matters.  I just need to make sure I show up with the right hat at the right place.  At 11:27 last night, I sent off a 99,968-word manuscript of a novel I wrote, to be considered by a publisher.  At that moment, I felt very much I should go out and get a hot fudge sundae and wear my author’s hat.

But today is Mother’s Day, and I’m happily calling myself a mom. Get out the biggest hat!

What are you doing when you “wear your biggest hat”?

Learning about the differences between right- and left-brain thinking at the conference I described in the last post changed my approach to teaching and parenting.

Experiments in the 80s indicated that the right brain takes on thinking tasks that don’t require words: touch, taste, and smell; art and music; time, space, and distance; mathematics. Right-brain thinkers are musicians and artists and visionaries. They invent things. They tend to view very left-brain dominant people as more rigid, unimaginative, and traditional than they need to be–but they accept them anyway.

The experiments indicated that the left brain deals with sequence, order, cause-and-effect, logic, and particularly words. The left brain likes to name things and  organize the relationships between them. Left-brain thinkers are writers, teachers, leaders in situations in which following rules and order are valued. They tend to think that very right-brain dominant people are too disorganized, illogical, forgetful, and easy-going.

In the photo below, left brainers probably prefer the wallpaper background with a pattern of identical designs in straight rows. Right brainers probably prefer the random colors, sizes, and  arrangement in the tile sample from Lowe’s. What’s your preference?

Backsplash tile Cropped IMG_5839

Now–Imagine a parent or teacher that is a very dominantly right- or left-brain thinker dealing with a child, student, or colleague who is just as strongly the other. Is a situation like that coming to mind? Tell me about it!  I’ll tell you about some of mine in the next post. 

 

CONTEXT: Right Brain/Left Brain Part 1

Many years ago one speaker at a teachers’ conference changed my life. I learned that people tend to think in styles that were initially termed “right brain” and “left brain.” She said that by acknowledging and taking advantage of those tendencies, teachers can help students learn.

The speaker asked for a volunteer, then handed her a book and asked her to read aloud from it. The teacher tried, but she struggled. Then the speaker took the book, turned it upside down, returned it to the woman, and asked her to read aloud from it that way. The volunteer drew back and frowned, but she started reading, upside down–and fluently.

The speaker explained that a dominantly left-brain thinker naturally moves her eyes from left to right.  A dominantly right-brain thinker finds it easier to move them from right to left.  For a very right-brain-dominant thinker, the right-to-left preference is so strong that reading from right to left can be easier than the normal way, even if the words are upside down.  God did not “hard wire” all our brains alike.

Due to great advances in medical science, the ’90s were termed the “decade of the brain,” and a lot more was learned about how we think than the initial, simplified “right and left brain” designations indicated; but that demonstration at the conference was the beginning of my quest to learn more about how people think and learn.  I earned a master’s in educational leadership: curriculum and supervision. I earned a doctorate in teaching and learning; conducted formal research studies and published them, and taught. I also discovered that applying the principles of how we prefer to think and learn can help parents be more effective, workers more collaborative, relationships be more peaceable, and any of us be more willing to accept our own uniqueness.

Do you know what your thinking/learning preference is?

(To be continued in the next post.)

 

 

 

CONTEXT: Waiting Days

House on Cloudy Feb Day 2-22-16 IMG_5846  A sunny day in the 70s in February in the Midwest delivers a mixed message:  it defies knowledge of what winter is supposed to look like based on experience, yet it confirms the expectation that spring must come.  When the dogwood is dressed in deep pink in the spring, green in the summer, or red in the fall, it is beautiful in the moment–but in the winter its bare branches are all about promise and expectation. God gives us some sunny winter days in our lives for that, too.