Tomato Bounty

Tomatoes are her favorite fruit. She just can’t get enough.

She hates tomatoes from the store. They’re colorless and tough.

And so she buys some tender plants and puts them in the soil.

Waits patiently ‘til she can see reward for all her toil.

And then one day some blooms appear. She’s happy, awed and pleased.

She looks through cookbooks, Google too, to find new recipes.

She thought the day would never come when she would find one red.

She checked them every single day, but all were green instead.

And then one day her hope picked up.  She saw a hint of red.

She dreamed of rich spaghetti sauce, that night while in her bed.

Within a week her garden peaked.  Tomatoes everywhere!

She picked them morning, noon and night, but still there were more there.

She filled up buckets, tubs and crates. She pawned them off on friends.

She cooked them every way she knew, made sauces, stews and blends.

Her hairdresser, her postman too partook of her excess.

She left some on each neighbor’s porch (at night, she did confess).

At last, she sighs.  They’re finally gone.  Now she can get some rest.

But then she spies her apple tree producing with a zest!

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Rights and Wrongs

At my home workstation, I try to have a place for everything and to have everything in its place.  I like knowing that, without lifting my eyes to search, I can reach up to the shelf above my desk with my left hand and retrieve my calculator, my stapler, or my Scotch tape.  From the same shelf, I can blindly retrieve my three-hole punch with my right hand.

When I have several places to visit on an outing away from my house, I like structuring my trip so that I don’t have to make many left-hand turns off of the highway.  For example, if I need to visit the post office, library, grocery store and gas station, I will organize my stops in a way that requires me to make the fewest possible left-hand turns.

I also like for all of the hangers in my clothes closet to be turned the same direction, and all of my clothes to be organized by type (pants, blouses, sweaters, jackets, etc.) This way of organizing my clothes not only results in a tidy-looking closet but also helps me determine quickly what is and what is not available for me to wear.

I am able to position my stapler at my workstation, choose the route I take when driving, and organize my clothes closet any way I like because those choices do not affect anyone else.  I must not, however, expect to enjoy this same luxury when making choices that involve other people.  I often need to surrender my preferences, maybe even my rights, in order to accommodate the preferences of someone else.

It was Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr’s opinion that “Your right to swing your arms ends just where the other man’s nose begins.”   I must not insist upon having my own way at the expense of another person.

Thus, when another driver cuts in front of me to take a prime parking space, I will simply look for another space.  When four friends and I must crowd into a small booth at a restaurant because a party of two people insisted upon sitting in the only large booth, I will make the best of the situation.  When at a luncheon another woman reaches for the one remaining brownie a split second after I reach for it, I will . . . offer to split it with her.

Common courtesy demands that I sometimes choose to allow the other person to have his or her way at my expense.  Ralph Waldo Emerson said:  No one is too big to be courteous, but some are too little.

I don’t want to be the little person who demands her rights at all costs.  I want rather to be the big person whose actions are governed by the Golden Rule.

AGREEMENT OR OBEDIENCE?

Many years ago I heard a story about a farmer who owned some land that was located a distance from where he lived.  He wanted to make improvements to the land, so he sent one of his sons there to have a well dug.  Before the son left, the father gave clear instructions about where he wanted the well placed.  The son left and eventually returned stating, “I studied the land, Father, and determined that your plan for having a well placed on it was unwise.  Therefore, I did not order that the well be dug.”  The father sent a second son, who went away and came back with the same report.

Finally the father sent a third son.  That son returned, happy to give good news to his father.   He said, “Father, I traveled to the land as you asked me to do.  I studied the property and consulted experts in well digging.  All of my research confirmed the validity of your idea to have the well placed just as you planned, so I have given instructions for that to be done.”

The father was angry and declared, “You no more obeyed me than your older brothers did!  An obedient son would have had the well dug exactly as I instructed, not because it seemed a wise decision to him, but simply because his father demanded it.”

This parable demonstrates a truth that God’s people need to recognize today.  When making decisions about obeying a specific command of God, we must not demand from Him an explanation of its reasonableness or proof of its validity.

God rarely negotiates.  Often He issues commands without explaining His reasons for doing so.  Some of His dictates are difficult to explain according to man’s reasoning.  Thus, many people today call into question some of God’s clear instructions.  Indulging in this kind of questioning, however, leads to disobedience, which then results in disastrous consequences.  A survey of the current condition of the world confirms this truth.

Recently Dan and I visited Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, where General George Washington spent a miserable winter with his Colonial Troops in 1777.   There we saw a statue paying tribute to Baron von Steuben, a Prussian Army general who lent his expertise to General Washington in training soldiers for battle.  Von Steuben was noted for being a strict disciplinarian in Europe and was frustrated with the attitudes demonstrated by Washington’s soldiers.

Regarding his experience in training them, von Steuben made this observation:  “You say to your soldier, ‘Do this’ and he does it. But I am obliged to say to the American, ‘This is why you ought to do this’ and then he does it.”

I wonder if God is likewise frustrated when His people demand to be told “why” some of His laws have been issued.  Is God required to give us an explanation of or reason for His actions?  There is a difference between agreement and obedience.

The Cutest Things

I am old enough to remember a television show hosted by Art Linkletter and called Kids Say the Darndest Things.  Each week Art interviewed children, asked them questions, and played up their unexpected responses for his audience.

That show was entertaining and the kids were cute, but in reality the most entertaining things have been said and done by my children and grandchildren.  Consider these examples and see if you agree.

When our daughter was three, she got a baby brother.  At the time we lived in Edinburgh, Indiana, near Camp Atterbury, where military training took place.  The furniture, windows, and hanging light fixtures in our house often shook as the military personnel blasted noisily away nearby.  Our daughter knew what caused the shaking and was not afraid of it.  However, she was terrified of thunder.  One day during a violent shaking episode, she leaned over her baby brother’s bassinet and consoled him with these words:  “Don’t be afraid of that big noise.  It can’t hurt you.  It’s not thunder.  It’s just bombs.”

Our son often wore hand-me-downs from other little boys when he was a child.  Sometimes the shirts were a little large and the pants a bit long so I often rolled up the cuffs and hems of his outfits.  One day he and I were observing his daddy getting ready for work.  His daddy had temporarily rolled up the hems of his dress pants while he put on his socks and shoes.  As he started to leave the room, I noticed that he had failed to unroll the hem of one of  his pants legs.  I said to our little son, “Honey, go over and fix your daddy’s pants.”  Obediently, he walked over to his daddy, rolled up the hem of the other pants leg, and went happily on his way.

Our two young granddaughters have a new puppy.  This little animal has created lots of noise (and messes) inside their house.  Our little granddaughters are learning how to hold the dog, pet her, and have fun with her without hurting her.  One day the six-year-old was playing with the dog, and her mother noticed her trying to pick up the puppy by her legs.  Her mother said, “Don’t pick up the dog by her legs.  That may hurt her.”  A few minutes later she observed the six-year-old again trying to pick up the puppy in the same way.  She said, “I told you not to pick the dog up by her legs.”  My granddaughter responded, “I’m not picking her up by her legs.  I’m picking her up by her arms.”

One day our two-year-old granddaughter was riding in her car seat as I drove down the highway.  I considered making a stop at the park so she could play for a while but I wanted to make sure she was dressed appropriately and I couldn’t recall exactly what she was wearing that day.  I asked, “Honey, are you wearing shoes?”  From the back seat came her reply, “No, just feet.”

When our daughter was about four years old she was playing hide-and-seek in our back yard with an older neighbor girl.  It was our daughter’s turn to hide while the other girl covered her eyes and counted.  Eventually, she finished her counting and shouted, “Here I come, ready or not!”  Our little girl responded, “No!  Wait!  I’m not behind the shed yet!”

Note to Parents and Grandparents:  Write down the cute things your little ones say and do.  Both you and they will treasure the memories in the years to come.

LET IT RAIN

William Wadsworth Longfellow wrote, “For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is let it rain.”  This advice, of course, echoes the part of the Serenity Prayer that admonishes me to “accept the things I cannot change.”

For a long time I have worked hard to change some things that I cannot change.  I have fought valiantly and believe that right was on my side, but I am conceding defeat in the following areas.

I cannot stop the electric cord on my vacuum cleaner from snagging.  Every time I vacuum a floor, the cord gets caught on a doorknob, a chair leg, or some other item in the room.  I hate the sudden jerk that results, and I also hate having to backtrack to determine where the cord is caught so that I can free it and continue with my work.  The cord knows that I hate these things, and thus it is determined to continue employing its “snag and jerk” attack plan.  I cannot change this, so I say, “Let it snag.”

I cannot keep my grandkids’ toy closet organized.  Being somewhat obsessive-compulsive, I have gone to great lengths to make this a tidy area.  Dolls and doll clothes go into one bin.  Plastic cars, trucks, airplanes, and boats go into another.  All of the Peppa Pig characters, the My Little Pony horses, the Thomas the Train pieces and the Little People Nativity Set figures have been separated into individual, clearly labeled, color-coded plastic boxes with snap-on lids.  Yet, I am continually  distressed to discover Dora the Explorer lying in Baby Jesus’ manger or a Disney princess shoved inside the My Little Pony stable.  Obviously, the toys and/or the grandkids have minds of their own and refuse to comply with my organizational system.  Therefore I say, “Let the toy closet be messy.”

Being a friend to the environment, I want to recycle everything that is eligible for recycling.  At my house this means almost all paper, metal cans, and glass, plus plastic containers that are marked with a number 1 or 2.  I don’t have a problem understanding the recycling rules.  I do have a problem seeing the tiny triangle and number printed in 4-point font on the bottoms of plastic items.  Even if the item is large, like a cat litter tub, the sizes of the recycling symbol and number are as tiny on it as they are on a one-ounce bottle of vanilla extract.  I will no longer pull out a magnifying glass, stand in direct sunlight and squint my eyes in order to determine whether or not an item is recyclable.  If I cannot clearly and quickly see the number, I will say, “Let it go into the trash.”

Now that I have recognized the futility of pursuing impossible goals, I will be able to focus exclusively on achieving my one logical and achievable goal:  getting rid of all the dust inside my house.

On Purpose or on Impulse?

My sister Pam is the most “on purpose” person I know.  She long ago “purposed” to be organized in all areas of her homemaking life.  Every morning she makes a list of the things she wants to accomplish that day, and she accomplishes them.  She has established a routine which she follows when cleaning her house, cooking her meals, tending her flower gardens, and doing her shopping.  Consequently, her home is always company-ready, her yard is tidy, her meals are well prepared, and her pantry is adequately stocked.

Pam visited our home last week and got an up-close demonstration of how the other half lives.  To her credit, she appeared comfortable in the less-than-perfect environment I provided for her.   She serenely worked on her crochet project in my living room (crammed with too much furniture and littered with the grandkids’ toys).  She complimented me on the meals I served (hastily put together and served off the counter).  She praised my outdoor flower beds (weed-plagued and untidy), and she did not reprimand me when I discovered, just as I was about to make biscuits, that the flour canister in my pantry was completely empty.  She is a kind and good person.

At one point in our visit Pam asked me, “So, Debbie, what do you do all day?”  What could I say?  I replied that I clean occasionally, cook a few meals, shop when I absolutely must and work with my flowers when the weather is perfect and I am in the right mood.

I want to be an “on-purpose” homemaker like my sister, but instead I seem to be an “on impulse” person.  As I take the Windex bottle out of the cabinet, I am suddenly struck with an impulse to complete the crossword puzzle that I started the night before.  I reach into the closet to get my vacuum cleaner, but instead I pull out last summer’s vacation pictures and start putting them into an album.  I resolve to do some yard work , but my eyes alight on some magazines that are stacked up for recycling.  I recall that in one of those magazines is a recipe for a Chocolate Lover’s Strawberry Shortcake that I wanted to tear out.  By the time I look through the magazines and find the shortcake recipe, it is too dark outside to do yard work.

At the end of her day, Pam can look at her to-do list and check off every item.  At the end of my day, I can say that I completed a crossword puzzle, put some photos into an album, and tore a recipe out of a magazine.

Resolving to do better, I take out a sheet of paper and start to compose my to-do list for tomorrow.  I write a number 1 at the top of the page.  Then my phone rings.   It is my sister Pam.

“Did you find that shortcake recipe you were looking for?” she asks.

“Yes,” I say.  “It’s right here on my countertop.  I’ll probably whip one up tomorrow in between washing my windows and shampooing the carpets.”

“You’re too good,” Pam tells me.

“I know,” I say.

Your Opinion, Please

Several years ago when our son was a teenager, he walked into our kitchen where I was making dinner and reached around me to tear off a paper towel.  Instantly, he wadded up the offensive thing and threw it into the trash.  “Whoever invented these half-sheet paper towels is an idiot and should be shot!” he said.

Think what you will of half-sheet paper towels, but give my son credit for being decisive.  I, on the other hand, am the poster child for the opinion-less.

One reason that I have trouble with opinions is that, in so many instances, I  don’t have a strong one.  Every time we set out to buy a new (new to us) vehicle, my husband asks, “What would you like to have?”  “I really don’t care,” I say. “As long as I have a reliable car in the driveway, I am happy.”  It is the truth.

I also have trouble with opinions because I am a people-pleaser.  I don’t want my opinion to contradict the opinions of other people.  When friends and I go out to eat,   I let someone else choose the restaurant.

Thirdly, if I do choose to have an opinion, I am afraid it will be the wrong one.  What if I choose this carpet and then a year from now decide that I hate it?

There is a difference between having opinions and being opinionated.  All of us know people who are experts on everything.  They share their opinions with anyone who will listen, defend the positions they have taken and work hard to convert other people to their way of thinking.  I don’t want to be like those people.

On the other hand, people who never have opinions are a nuisance to society.  When the clerk at the grocery store asks me whether I prefer paper bags or plastic, I will cause problems for her and other shoppers if I answer, “I don’t know.”  I don’t want to be like those people.

I want to be a person who forms opinions carefully, states those opinions when asked to do so, and is respectful of other people’s opinions.  That is not an easy goal to accomplish,  but I am going to reach for it.

Generally, when people ask for opinions, they genuinely desire feedback.  Thus, the next time my husband asks me what kind of vehicle I want, maybe I will say, “Something small enough to be easy to park but large enough to accommodate car seats.”  When my friends ask my opinion about which restaurant to choose, perhaps I will say, “Anything is fine for me, except Indian food.”  When I have to choose new carpet, I hope I will say, “This seems to be my best option and I will resolve to live with it.”

Maybe I will actually say those things.  Maybe I won’t.

In a shop recently I saw a tee-shirt that read:  I used to think I was indecisive.  Now I’m not so sure.  I couldn’t decide whether to buy it or not.

 

For friends who share common interests with me and enjoy reading lighthearted, inspirational, and entertaining articles, many with spiritual applications.