Check out my other blog: Arugula Addict! I'll be writing about my journey to becoming a healthier person.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Patch of Garlic

Yesterday, Thursday, I hiked up the hill to the farm, unsure what project we'd be working on that day. I hoped we'd plant some more garlic, maybe finish the 8 rows Rocco wanted to plant in that particular spot, but it was also a particularly hot day and if we did something else I wouldn't be too disappointed. That was one thing I liked about the farm, the variety of tasks we were assigned to one day always differed from the next. Oddly enough, while I like to have a definite sense of order in my life with carefully lined up tasks and scheduled appointments and while the unexpected often throws me off course and upsets my day, I did not find this to be the same up at the farm. Maybe it was because I wasn't working in my area, or maybe it was just because I loved doing all the interesting things we had done so far.

When the concept was first introduced to us about working a couple of hours each day on the farm, I was not too thrilled about it. I figured I had already "put my time in" as a student at the college and why did I need to waste their good money pulling weeds and cleaning out dusty sheds? I must admit I was rather reluctant to throw myself wholeheartedly into this new project and unsure why it should be required. I was also feeling quite overwhelmed with the beginning of the new school year, so I obtained permission from my boss to participate in the work education program only twice a week. About three weeks into the semester, my mind had already changed, however.

Our first project was simple enough: cleaning up the prayer garden, raking, and dumping all the extra pine needles behind the grounds department. Then we spent the next several days up on the farm doing a number of different projects. I was working with Dr. J, one of my old-time good friends, and quickly grew to know students Rebecca and Shaina (Kylee was part of our original group but was transferred to the academy as assistant girls' dean). I found myself looking forward to 3:15 pm when I would slip into my jeans and t-shirt, jam a hat onto my head, and, with a filled water bottle, escape from the rush of life and slip into a calm rhythm. The hearty exercise, the sun's rays generating vitamin D, the companionship, the learning of new skills, and the focused hours of mind-relieving time became my favourite part of the day. I worked hard to finish my projects in the office so I could return to working four afternoons instead of two and was surprised to realize how much I enjoyed that time.

Yesterday we did do one more row of garlic, then spent the rest of the time "shelling" garlic heads, or separating the individual cloves so we could have more seed to plant as we were running low. I'm looking forward to next week already, as we have been promised that we'll get first chance at picking the fall apples and hopefully we'll get to finish planting the garlic.

Like a Spoon

Ummmm, I'm enjoying the most delicious mango right now from Costco, they're super good, and I'm enjoying one of their kiwis too. It might be a little pricier, but it's worth it for the quality of fruit you can get there. Anyhow, that isn't the topic of this particular blog!

Wednesday we were up on the farm expecting to pick apples and found out that we were going to try something different: planting garlic! Now growing up, I didn't have much experience with planting, growing fruits and veggies, and such fun things. My mom tried to grow cabbages in West Africa and succeeded, until she found out that the full grown cabbages were the decorative kind and not for eating! I attempted to grow tomatoes and put about 50 gallons of water into 4 cherry-sized results. My herb pots did not flourish like I had expected and the chives that pushed up eagerly out of the soil first did not last long. And here we were, headed to plant garlic.

I watched Rocco as he pushed a tiller of sorts through the thick clay earth, creating a wide furrow about 6 inches deep. He then turned to us and instructed us to plant the garlic about 3 inches apart, right-side up. Rebecca and I got busy quickly, squatting or bending over to carefully place the garlic in the waiting earth as Shaina came behind covering them with loose dirt. I didn't know that to plant garlic, you have to have a single clove. From that single clove a full head will develop. Last year they planted 10 pounds of garlic and harvested about 100 pounds. This year they're planning to plant 25 pounds.

We soon got into a routine of sorts, bending, planting, moving down a bit, planting more, stopping often to reach into the bucket for another handful of cloves. Leap-frogging each other, we finished our first row 45 minutes later and started down the second. I had shed my sandals early on and Rebecca followed suit, pulling off socks and shoes, to relish in the feeling of wet earth between our toes as we tromped down the rows, soaking up the sun and feeling the gentle fall breeze. Dr. J busied herself pulling euphorbia (a fancy word for a kind of weed) and the time flew by.

At some point in the afternoon, Dr. J came across a spoon of a rather odd shape. Both the front and back thirds of the spoon had been bent inwards so it formed a U-shape of sorts. Recognizing the cafeteria design, we theorized that it had been through the composter, and as Dr. J reached to add the spoon to her collection of scrap metal, PVC pipe, and other things she'd found in the garden, I suddenly said, "I want that spoon!" It just seemed like a cool object to keep and maybe it would come in handy for an illustration one day.

At quitting time we headed back up the hill to the small shed where we would deposit our tools and extra garlic to be planted the next day. We had finished two rows and were pleased with our day's work. After putting my items away, I reached in my pocket and realized I had lost my spoon. I carefully checked my pockets and found my Ipod and keys but no spoon. "I must have lost my spoon, I'll be right back," I called to my teammates and headed back down towards the garlic patch to retrace my steps. As I walked by the row, carefully scanning the ground, I began to despair of finding the spoon. Why did I need it anyway? It was just a silly little used spoon anyway. But I liked to collect odd things, like random stones and branches and the worn lug nut off my tire and bird feathers and burned bits of firewood. So I prayed, knowing that God knew where my spoon was and that He could show me. Sure enough, at the end of the row, I looked up and saw my spoon happily laying there on the ground, just waiting for me to come and find it.

As I was writing, I realized there is a lesson to be learned in something even as simple as this. We're like that spoon. We look kind of funny, maybe are a bit beat up and banged about, but God comes along and sees us and knows there is something amazing about us. That part of us that we are afraid of showing to the world, are ashamed of, embarrassed about, uncertain of, that part of our life experience that we wonder why we had to endure, that unique part about us is exactly what God sees and He thinks, "I can use that!" He picks us up and places us in a safe place so, at the right time, He can use us for the purpose that we were created for. He knows that there will come a time when we will be able to help someone else see their unique beauty and understand why they have gone through their individual experiences.

Then we decide to go our own way. We aren't sure whether we really want to have our experiences shared with the world, whether we can trust this God Whom we are still just getting to know, and whether we are ready for this different experience. Maybe it would be easier to stay where we were, buried in the ground, in a comfortable place, slowly rusting over time. So we quietly slip out the back door and return to our place of familiarity.

God knows we are missing, though, and He is not content to leave us where we would prefer to stay. He returns, and, like the story of the Good Shepherd, keeps looking until He finds us. Or maybe He keeps calling until we realize that we have been found.

Little Prayers Answered

Sunday this week, Rachel, Michael, Joel (Nedley) and I went in to Sacramento for the annual Capitol City Airshow. This year's show featured the Thunderbirds (I actually prefer the Blue Angels!) and we got up super early, finally pulling out the gate just after 7 am. After parking in a free park-and-ride lot, we caught the Light Rail to the Mather Field stop, then boarded a shuttle bus for the last leg of the journey to the Mather Airport. The airshow takes place right on the airfield and you have to bring your own water, chair, snacks, etc. Despite the later-than-planned departure, we still managed to arive 30 minutes early so I sat comfortably in my foldable chair while we waited for them to open the "gates" and let us through. Some helpful people went up and down the lines of people telling us to take our chairs out of their storage bags, to toss water stored in camelbacks, and "if you have pepper spray, please dispose of it now." With strict security being enforced due to the airplanes being showcased that day, we dutifully did the necessary steps to ensure that we could go through the check as quickly as possible. Rachel and I drained our 1-litre REI bottles, Michael downed as much of his 3-litre camelback store as he could handle, and then I remembered. I had a cayenne pepper spray on my keychain. I groaned inwardly, because it was too late to go back to the car now, and if I tried to go through security with it, they would surely confiscate and toss it. After scanning our surroundings, I decided on a plan. I got up and sauntered slowly over to the nearby row of portable toilets, then got out my cell phone and pretended I was listening to someone. With my guise in place, I moved up to the fence and stopped for a moment. Still appearing to be deep in conversation, I leaned my right leg up against the metal post, held the black canister tight against my leg and slowly dropped the spray straight down between the metal stand. I carefully kicked it into place then headed back to our group.

It was an awesome show as we saw the F-22 raptor, the Globemaster, the Patriot Civilians, the 400 mph jet car, a paraplegic glider, and of course the Thunderbirds. After a full day we headed back to the shuttle bus and suddenly I remembered, "I wonder if my spray is still there?" We exited the show and I headed back to the chain link fence behind the portable toilets. I reached the spot where I had placed it, over 8 hours earlier, praying that if God wanted me to keep it that He would protect it. It was still there.

Thursday's blog posted on Friday :)

Something has been up with the internet the past couple of days, which is most frustrating because then I can’t go online at night to read my friends’ statuses on Facebook, update my blog, or watch my favourite movies. Last night I started watching More To Love, and tonight I was planning to catch the next episode of my all-time favourite, ANTM, but unfortunately I’m out of luck. Oh well, tonight I’m super sleepy and if I wanted to watch, I have a wide assortment of DVDs to keep me preoccupied. It’s just kinda irritating, because I already don’t get TV reception down here. . .I think I’m actually too sleepy to write, so I shan’t. But I must not forget to journal next time on the pepper spray who went to the air show, a composted spoon, and lessons in a garlic clove.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Four Hands and a Single Vine

Okay, it's been a while. Life got hectic, everyone knows how that goes, and then stress and all that. But at last it is 9:02 pm and I'm sitting quite comfortably sideways on my bed with my comforter and all my pillows squished up behind my head, laptop on my lap (duh, hence the name!) and feet propped on my four-legged stool, an excellent steal from storage. There are a million things I could be doing right now, such as cleaning my bathroom, tidying my house, doing the dishes, sorting paper bags of miscellaneous belongings, but I'm taking the time to relish in the early hour and to quiet my soul with the luxury of writing. It isn't often that one takes the time to really stop. To stop rushing through the busyness of life and feel calm. I think it's something we all crave, but feel guilty to prioritize. Yet the simplicity of a few quiet moments, like a stained wooden bookshelf whose only decorations are a lace doily, miniature clogs, homemade crayon candle, and purple wooden tulip, can create stillness in the midst of madness.

This shan't be much longer, though, as I was up before the crack of dawn to rush through rush-hour traffic for a dental appointment to replace a chipped crown. This afternoon we were in the prayer garden, raking leaves and snipping ivy, and I had the task of pulling dead leaves out of the ivy that surrounds the large trees. Dr. Jensen had stationed herself at the same tree and was happily pruning the overgrowth to eye level. Several of those branches were rather resilient, however, and when she tried to clip them, they refused to be broken. She asked for my help, but when my "young, strong" hands were unable to make a dent, we decided to attack the stubborn branches a different way. This time Dr. Jensen bent a branch while I sawed at it with the clippers, slowly increasing the pressure until finally it snapped. Together, two sets of hands made it work.

Now I look forward to my time outside, whether it be on the farm, in the garden, picking tomatoes or wildflower seeds, pruning ivy or raking leaves. I find myself waiting for the time to arrive, see the hours fly by, and while I regret it when 5:30 seems to roll around too quickly, I am also content to see a good work completed. In the office sometimes it seems like the paperwork piles up faster than I can make a dent in it, but out in the fresh air, with the fall sun warming the afternoon, all worries seem to melt away as I focus on the task at hand. I never imagined I would treasure those couple of hours each day, but I do, and I'm grateful I have the opportunity.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Cockleburry Bouquets

Today I went cockleburry picking! Finally, after about a week, I got out on the farm for my 2-hour stint and discovered that we were headed down to the pasture in the lowlands to pick weeds. Yay! So we all found a good pair of sturdy gloves and headed, tools in tow, to yank, pull, and heave until we got those sorry suckers loose from the dirt they so tenaciously clung to. We bent our knees, four hands to a vine, and pulled with all our might until the roots sprang forth and we nearly tumbled backwards into prickles and pokes of friendly thistles. We dived amidst drying grasses, rooting around for the little plants, burrs sticking to our hair and grabbing tight to any part of our body they could reach. We crouched low, making sure we were at the base of thick stalks as we lopped the toughest ones right next to the ground. And with each bouquet of weeds that we tossed on an ever-growing pile, the thoughts shook loose into my mind.

I know weeds are compared most often to sin and it was interesting to try to come up with lessons from my experiences today. The team began the project yesterday, and while they thought they had gotten all the plants in one particular section of the field, upon closer inspection today they found more of the pesky things. Often, when you think you've gotten victory over a particular problem, you go back and realize there's just a few more parts of it you overlooked.

Then, only after we pulled the large weeds were we able to see the smaller ones hiding underneath. It's the same in life, the closer you get to Jesus, the more you start to see all the tiny problems that you know you have to work on. You think, "Well, that was a big issue, now I no longer have to deal with it and I can start working on perfection" but as soon as you try doing that, you realize how many tiny issues you have and realize it's a big task yet.

Last summer, Dr. J and some of her friends pulled a huge pile of weeds and left them to dry. This year, new plants grew up aplenty at that same spot, teaching us that it isn't enough to just leave them there to dry out, you have to burn them till all evidence is gone. Enough said.

And finally, my favourite lesson for the day: sometimes it isn't enough to have just one set of hands pulling a weed, sometimes it is too hard and you need a friend with that little bit of extra support and strength. In life, especially as Christians, we start to think that we can fix ourselves all by ourselves. Not only do we need Jesus, though, we also need fellowship with others and good Christian friends who can encourage us with strength and support when we are struggling with an issue. Often, with those four hands pulling hard enough, the weed comes right out, root and all!

A few thoughts to ponder from the garden of life. . .

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Wrinkled Lizards

Wrinkled fingers. That is the worst thing in the world, dishwater-wrinkled-fingers and hands. I began my evening at home with the best of intentions, I was going to make an indent on the mess that insists on putting the 2nd law of thermodynamics to the test and demonstrate that matter, when left to its own devices, will disintegrate. Of course the particular matter that lies around my place happens to have been helped along a little, namely by yours truly, and it could be the 1st law of thermodynamics for all I care, my point was that, oh I can't remember anymore, oh well! Ah yes, I was going to clean up my place! So I started the process by going to my mom's office to hang out and chat, for 30 minutes. Then I exercised (because you can't do vigorous exercise after you eat) and did my Leslie Sansone Walk-at-Home video, for 30 minutes. After that I watched something while I ate my supper, for an hour? I can't remember. Then I washed the dishes, for 30 minutes. Two days' worth, first because I'm lazy and second because it doesn't bother anyone but me if there are dirty dishes in the sink and third because I don't use many dishes at a meal and it's kinda sad to see a lone plate and bowl sitting in the dish rack keeping company with a single knife and spoon. Depressing!!! Now I have a full dish rack which puts a smile on my face! And wrinkled fingers. Now that definitely does not put a smile on my face because wrinkled dishwater fingers are the worst feeling in the world, even worse than all that leftover gunk at the bottom of the dirty dishwater. Well, the ultimate horrible feeling would be washing those wrinkled hands after I've finished wiping down the countertops.

Okay, enough of that!!!

I still haven't done any tidying up (because now I'm blogging!) and now I have a lizard. I'm not exactly sure how he got in, because I keep my windows firmly shut, but he must have slipped in under the door because he can't be more than 5 inches long. I watched him creep across my carpet like a miniature iguana, kinda creepy like. Now I don't mind lizards, too much, except that growing up in Africa I have bad memories of opening up our mosquito nets at night and lizards dropping out of the bundled up net. Thankfully we'd be standing by the bed during this procedure and not lying in the bed, but it was always a dance to get those lizards out of our room. I called home and asked Michael what to do about my lizard and he said to let it be; it would eat my flies and spiders (not that I have any!). So for now, I will let the tiny gremlin share my living quarters as long as he behaves himself!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Someone's Got Issues (and they'd better stand up and admit it!)

"So you grow up thinking everyone is perfect therefore you have to be perfect, and you can’t share your issues because if you do, then everyone else will know immediately what those issues are, and meanwhile no one else has issues but they go around looking for everyone else’s issues to point them out."

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Quotable Quotes

"Ten years of living in heaven does not a saint make."

"Do not require others to live your life, to be convicted of your convictions, or to realize your reality. Only you are in your present, they must walk their own path, and each one's footsteps are spaced differently."

"The ones who are struggling but are open about it, those people I can understand. It's the ones who are perfect, those are the ones I cannot forgive."

"So you tell me I won't be going to heaven because I ate a slice of cheddar cheese today? That's okay, I wouldn't want to live in your heaven anyway."

"Stop short before deciding another's future."

"Mistakes? Difficult choices? Uncertainties? How will you ever learn if all you do is play it safe? I'm not saying you shouldn't try to do the right thing; I'm just saying it's okay if you miss your exit or take a different turn on the pathway of life."

"What happened to love, anyway? Is it hidden under dusty piles of caring, compassion, kindness and concern? Maybe it's been tossed to the side to make room for reformation and revival. Love is, after all, highly overrated."

"Maybe it isn't all about what's wrong with me. Maybe, just maybe, I'm doing something right and maybe all this struggling, this fighting against injustice, is the right person to be."