Summer’s here!

summer
summer
Image source: Google

Today is the first day of summer (you can get great summer deals today, including a free small blizzard at Dairy Queen), when it’s the longest day of the year in the U.S. and the shortest day of the year for people in Australia and residents south of the equator).

Heather, Andy, and their kids
Heather, Andy, and their kids

Our daughter Heather, her girls, her boyfriend Andy, and his kids, took off fast today for a much-needed break from work and a vacation in Branson, MO. It was a surprise for the kids.

There’s lots to do in Branson, although I joke to Ray that it’s “an old people’s place” with country hick singers and the entertainment shows (he loves it). However, Branson has beautiful scenery at Table Rock State Park and nice shopping and restaurants at Branson Landing.

Heather made a fun scavenger hunt at her house, where the kids looked for clues all over the house, until they got to the last clue which read that they were going on summer vacation in Branson. She is such a fun mom! The kids loved the scavenger hunt!

Me & Leah at our home for Thanksgiving 2017
Me & Leah at our home

Today I went to lunch with our youngest daughter Leah. When she was still living at home, she and I would go to lunch every two weeks when Ray was paid.

This was our mom-daughter special time together. After she moved out, I wanted to continue the tradition. Leah now stays busy working, taking her violin lessons, drawing her art, and doing stuff with her friends. We still try to go out every couple of weeks for our “mom-daughter” time.

A Moment's Pause Art Print
A Moment’s Pause art print
Copyright 2018 Leah Jones

You can follow Leah on Instagram @leah.merae to see the art she’s working on recently from daily prompts. You can also check out and buy her art at her Society 6 online store (Leah Merae).

I try to do lunches with Heather, too, only she lives much further away (an hour), she works more than full-time hours, and she is constantly busy, but we see each other when we possibly can.

Eden & her family
Eden & her family

Our middle daughter Eden stays very busy too, working 3 jobs, but she and Ray regularly text and video chat. We drop by to see them at times, since they and Leah live down the street from us in Butler. 

Heather, Eden, and Leah
Heather, Eden, and Leah

While our three precious daughters stay on the go every day and live their own, busy lives, I’m still trying to adjust to the empty nest. (I digress from the first day of summer, but I’m going with the writing flow for now.)

I’m not going to lie. It’s hard. Real hard. The house feels so empty at times. (My marriage isn’t what it should be yet, though we are in Christian marriage counseling now.)

insomnia
woman with insomnia
Image source: Google

At night when things are often too quiet, I lay down, wrestling with insomnia again, and then the mom guilt attacks me. The regrets. The painful ache in my heart, missing their beautiful, sweet faces and their physical presence here.

The haunting, condemning thoughts of, “I should have done more fun things with them” or “I shouldn’t have yelled at them so much” or “Why was I so focused on a clean house instead of just enjoying my time with them more?” Sometimes I miss them so much.

These days I do stay busy with my speaking and writing books. When I’m in between books, I get so restless, and feel like I’m just going to absolutely come out of my skin from boredom and anxiety. Today at lunch, Leah wisely told me, “You need to find new hobbies, mom.”

burger & fries
burger & fries

“Like what?” I asked her in between bites of a juicy cheeseburger and french fries drowned in ketchup. 

Creative things like painting or playing a musical instrument. For example, right now I’m learning to make origami.

Nancy Wilson of Heart
Nancy Wilson of Heart
Image source: Google

I told her that while origami is cool, I don’t want to do that and that I don’t know how on earth to draw or to play an instrument. The only instrument I’ve ever wanted to learn how to play was piano (which I quit my lessons as a child) and the guitar, so I could pretend to be Heart’s musician Nancy Wilson.  But I wanted to play bass guitar, not rhythm. I never learned how, and now I have no desire to be a rock star.

“What else can I do?” I asked my child who is wise beyond her years.

Whatever I want, she said. And Leah thinks that anyone can learn to draw or to play an instrument, no matter what your age is. It’s not too late to learn something new!

Cliffs of Moher
Cliffs of Moher
Image source: Google

Here are some things I DO want to do–this summer:

  • Spend time with God and our family;
  • Travel somewhere new;
  • Start my walking/jogging routine again (pray for my self-discipline, puh-leeze! I’ve gained all my weight back!)
  • Drink more water and continue healthy eating (cut carbs and sugar dramatically, more salads and fresh veggies);
  • Restore our marriage;
  • Possibly write a children’s book with Leah illustrating the art on the front cover (she’s thinking about it!);
  • De-clutter my office (tame the paper tiger!);
  • Go horseback riding somewhere;
  • Have some much needed down time at the beach, my place of rest and refilling;
  • Visit my family and friends in different states;
  • Go on another train ride;
  • Speak at a women’s conference (several times would be great!);
  • Lead at least one person to Christ, hopefully more;
  • See God moving in our family, drawing us closer to Him and one another;
  • Visit the mountains; 
  • Ride a hot air balloon ride with Ray, drinking champagne;
  • Have roses bloom in my home garden;
  • Grow more Christ-like, in the fruit of the Spirit.
  • Laugh more. 

These are just some of the things I’d love to do. What about you? Share your comments below.

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Mothers’ Day with our beautiful daughters and my flower garden

Abraham Lincoln quote on mother

“I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.”–Abraham Lincoln

I had a great Mother’s Day weekend and hope you did, too. The best part for me was seeing our precious, beautiful daughters Heather and Leah. I went by to see our middle daughter Eden, but she was working late until that night. Hopefully I can see her this week when she is off work. 

Heather bought me a sweet card and beautiful fresh red roses, my favorite flowers–so thoughtful of her!

card & roses from Heather
card & roses from Heather

Heather works full-time, stays constantly busy and on the go, and lives almost an hour away from me here in Butler. So it was a real treat for her to drive here with her girls Annabelle and Violet and take me out to lunch at the Mexican restaurant, El Charro. 

Me & our beautiful daughter, Heather Mothers' Day 2018
Me & our beautiful daughter, Heather
Mothers’ Day 2018

 

Heather opening her card & gift from me The girls watching her Mothers' Day 2018
Heather opening her card & gift from me
The girls watching her
Mothers’ Day 2018

Heather and the girls then stopped by our house to see our black cat with green eyes, Natalya, for the first time. Violet loved her! Natalya is shy, so I was really glad she allowed them to pet and even hold her!

Heather seeing our cat Natalya the first time
Heather seeing our cat Natalya for the first time here

 

Our granddaughters Violet & Annabelle seeing Natalya the 1st time
Our granddaughters Violet and Annabelle seeing Natalya for the 1st time here at our house

Their visit was very short and sweet, because Heather had an errand to run, but I’m so thankful that I was able to see them and spend time with them for this special holiday!

On actual Mother’s Day Sunday, our youngest daughter Leah treated me to lunch at El Charro, too (we both love Mexican and I can never have too much chips and salsa!). Seeing our daughters made my whole weekend!

Me & our precious, beautiful daughter Leah on Mothers' Day 2018
Me & our precious, beautiful daughter Leah on Mothers’ Day 2018

 

Mexican lunch
Mexican lunch

 

I'm addicted to chips & salsa!
I’m addicted to chips & salsa!

The restaurant staff also blessed me with a free dessert for Mothers’ Day: it was a creamy, yummy cake with strawberries!

the yummy dessert: Leah & I shared it!
the yummy cake with chocolate & strawberries: Leah and I shared it!

I’m so thankful that I was able to do this with Leah. It made my whole day.

My husband Ray bought me a beautiful butterfly card (I love butterflies!) and a Chicken Soup for the Soul book, The Empowered Woman. What the card read inside about me being beautiful and what he wrote about me as a mom meant the most to me and deeply touched me.

butterfly card & book
butterfly card & book

To treat myself afterward, I planted some flowers in my flower bed that I’d bought at the Mennonite store in town, the Stoplight Market, where I purchased them last year. All this is a lot of hard work, and I was very sore the next day! I posted a meme on Facebook which read, “My glutes are on FIYAH!”

 

flower bed
my flower bed. I started gardening last year and am happy to have fresh flowers again!

My friend Stephanie urged me to buy mulch for the flower bed, so the rains wouldn’t wash away the petunias. I went the next day to buy the mulch and put it down to protect the flowers.

mulch
mulch

 

petunias
petunias in a variety of colors

 

cute little sign-fairy
cute little sign: fairy crossing

 

yellow daisies
friendly daisies for our back steps

 

purple potted petunias
purple potted petunias

 

gardenias
red gardenias for my sunroom

I love having creamy coffee and drinking it in our sunroom in the morning. It’s a great place to just pray to God and watch the birds, squirrels, butterflies, and bunny rabbits.

coffee in the sunroom
coffee in the sunroom

My mother-in-law Judy bought me this beautiful, little glass table for the sunroom. I love it! It is perfect for my coffee, flowered cactus, and aloe vera plant.

glass table
glass table

Our cat Natalya loves our sunroom as much as I do, but for different reasons. She intently watches the birds and the squirrels, anticipating a kill if she could only get outside (she’s an indoor-only house cat!). 

Natalya watching the birds
Natalya watching the birds

 

Natalya by the sunroom screen
Natalya by the sunroom screen

 

Natalya in the sunroom
Natalya in the sunroom

I bought a few herbs for my sunroom: wonderful-smelling lavender, oregano to use in cooking dishes like spaghetti, and beautiful purple Salvia. I never leave our cat alone in the sunroom with the plants, as some can be toxic. The door stays locked when I’m not in there.

I have the herbs in a big, white crate that was filled with goodies the attendees blessed me with last year, when I spoke at a retreat in Liberty, MO.

herbs: lavender, oregano, and Salvia
herbs: lavender, oregano, and Salvia

 

faith deco in sunroom
faith deco in sunroom

Last year I planted a big butterfly bush to entice butterflies, which I love. It blossomed well, and drew butterflies in my garden. But Missouri can have harsh, cold winters and it’s likely the ice and the snow killed the poor, little plant. I wasn’t able to find a big plant I really liked for that corner, so I bought a Celtic Cross.

I am proclaiming it is a prophetic declaration for me visiting Ireland, one of the things on my bucket list! Irish legend says that Saint Patrick was trying to convert the pagans to Christianity. Some of these pagans worshiped the sun, so it is said that he combined the cross with the circular pattern of the sun as a way to associate light and life with the Christian cross in the mind of his converts. I think it adds a unique touch to the garden.

Celtic Cross
Celtic Cross

I also put new bark mulch around my roses. Last year I planted my first rose garden. Two of the rose bushes look somewhat sad this spring, so they may have to be uprooted and replaced. I’m not sure they survived the winter. The other two rose bushes are doing well, and one is already blooming beautifully.

rose garden
rose garden with stones

 

my roses from this year's garden
my roses from this year’s garden

I bought bags of black sunflower and other little seeds to draw the red cardinals, sparrows, purple finches, blue jays, and other beautiful birds in our yard. I’ve already seen the male and female red cardinals in our yard. The red male cardinal is my special sign of love from God, and it makes me so happy to see one!

I’ve also seen purple finches and mourning doves. Doves make beautiful sounds in the morning and are among my other favorite birds. An interesting fact about doves is that they mate for life. 

red male cardinal Image source: Pinterest
red male cardinal
Image source: Pinterest

 

purple finch
purple finch

Last year my mother-in-law Judy bought me the squirrel-proof feeder on the left in the pic below. The squirrels are greedy, and practically do acrobatics on the feeders, even going upside down, to try to get to the seeds and eat them. 

bird feeders
bird feeders

I also put back out the hummingbird feeder with sugar water, and have already seen hummingbirds at them. I love the hummingbirds; they are so little and cute!

To make safe hummingbird food (there is controversy whether the red dye is safe or toxic to hummingbirds),  mix 1 part sugar with 4 parts water and bring to a boil to kill any bacteria or mold that is present. Cool and fill your feeder. They love it! This morning I saw a big black and yellow bumblebee at the feeder; they like it, too, so be careful. I was stung by a bee on my foot as a child, and my foot was swollen to twice its size, so I’m allergic to bees. 

“Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.”–Ashley Smith

hummingbird feeder
hummingbird feeder

The previous owners of this house had planted two pink peony bushes on the side yard. They are now blooming beautifully. My friend Stephanie said these are her favorite flowers, and that if I take care of them, they can grow as big as saucers.

pink peonies bush
pink peonies bush

 

pink peony
pink peony

I have a few more goals for our yard. One is to get a white trellis for the Wisteria tree, that Ray suggested I buy and plant last year. We put it in the front of our house by the little porch. It is now taking over our house, and friends of mine advised to get a trellis to train its growing “arms,” so it won’t destroy the siding on our home.

Wisteria tree
Wisteria tree

My other planned project is to buy 3 giant rocks at The Grass Pad in Martin City, MO, and make an attractive fairy rock garden on top of it. This is where I bought my stones for my rose garden last year. 

I had a very good Mothers’ Day this year and am so thankful.

Me on Mothers' Day 2018
Me on Mothers’ Day 2018

What did you do for the holiday? Leave your comments below.

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Not called to hate: Bankrupt without love

rusty gate
rusty gate Image source: Google

“If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. 

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.”–1 Corinthians 13:1-3, The Message

What do you think of when you hear the word “love”?

You love Jesus.

You love your spouse, your kids, your sister, and your friends.

You love Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream.

You love your cat.

You love the This is Us TV series.

You don’t love bad hair days, gaining back the 15 pounds you lost last year walking and jogging, new wrinkles showing up in the mirror, catty women, and drama.

iced coffee
iced coffee

As I sit here writing at my laptop with an iced coffee, pondering the meaning of the word love, I realize that I so often fail to hit the mark, God’s way. In fact, much more often I’m like that creaking rusty gate in the above-mentioned passage in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. Squeak, squeak. Rust corrodes and destroys. (Wince.)

Without God’s love in my heart, the Bible says that I’m getting nowhere. Bankrupt. Not a pretty thought.

heart of ice Source: http://timoelliott.com/photos/2013/01/17/a-heart-of-ice/
heart of ice
Source: http://timoelliott.com/photos/2013/01/17/a-heart-of-ice/

Sometimes I think that maybe I have a heart of ice. Ray has sometimes called me la belle dames sans merci–the beautiful woman without mercy. It is the name of an English ballad by poet John Keats, considered a classic with numerous interpretations.

In the poem, there’s a bleak wintry landscape and a broken knight. The beautiful lady is a femme fatale who attracts lovers only to destroy them with her supernatural powers. She destroys because it’s her nature to destroy. Not exactly a compliment from my husband, although I like when he calls me beautiful!

La belle dames sans merci by John William Waterhouse
La belle dames sans merci
by John William Waterhouse

No, I don’t want to be a femme fatale. I don’t want to hate anyone, either. God is love, and I am called by Him to love others, too. (1 John 4:8)

I want to be a woman of love, and yet even as I type this, I think, “Do I really? Am I willing to do what God requires of me to unconditionally love Him and others? Or am I too comfortable in my own skin of apathy, or even worse, of hate?

frustrated woman
frustrated woman

Hate is such an ugly word, isn’t it? Certainly not one with which a Christian–a Christ believer and follower–should be associated. And yet, I confess it out loud, now to the entire world.

I struggle with feeling hatred sometimes. I have for my entire life. I especially struggle with it at times in anger toward my husband Ray (and I can think of a few other people right now, too! And just so you know, Ray has struggled with feeling hatred toward me at times, too!)

Former first lady Barbara Bush recounted a time when Ruth Graham, wife of world-renown evangelist Billy Graham, was asked by a writer if she had ever considered divorce. “Divorce? No. Murder, yes.”

happy woman
happy woman

Maybe you can’t relate to me or Ruth Graham at all. I commend you for having a happy, free heart oozing over with God’s unconditional, reckless love and you having your life way more together than me.

You might even question if I am really a true Christian if I feel hate. Am I the only Christian who battles the sin of hatred?

No. Recently when Ray and I were in a marriage counseling session, the Christian therapist told me about a recent situation where she and a loved one were arguing loudly in her home, and she felt hatred for this family member. 

Did she stay stuck in the sinful stew of hatred in her heart? No. This gifted, anointed Christian therapist decided instead to leave the house, drive off [fast] in her car, and go get a large Diet Coke at Sonic to chill out for awhile. She came back home and they talked about it again more calmly now, reconciling. 

I admit that I felt secretly relieved when she told me this story! So, I’m not alone in this struggle! It’s a human dilemma.

The Bible addresses hatred in many verses. Some examples are:

  • 1 John 4:20
  • 1 John 3:15
  • Leviticus 19:17
  • 1 John 2:9
  • Ephesians 4:31
  • Galatians 5:20
  • Mark 7:21-22

What’s interesting is that the audience for most of these passages are Christian believers!

How do you overcome this evil weapon of hatred if you struggle with it, too?

  • Come to God. God is love. He is the One who can and will teach you how to love others.
  • Repent of the sin of hatred. Satan, who is God’s and our enemy, wants you to hate God, other people, and yourself. Ask God’s forgiveness for the hatred.
  • Ask God to fill you with His agape (unconditional) love and for victory in the situation.
  • Choose to forgive the person for how he or she hurt, angered, or offended you. If needed, ask forgiveness of the person you are struggling with hating if you have sinned against him or her.
  • Spend time daily reading and meditating on the Bible, praying, worshipping, and in fellowship with other Christian believers to help you in your walk. You are not alone.

I’m now writing a new non-fiction book: Metamorphosis: Transformed From Hate to Love, which will be available for sale soon at Amazon as an eBook. If you subscribe to my personal mailing list here at BethJones.net, you’ll be first to hear about its release. This is the beautiful cover for the eBook:

eBook cover
eBook cover

Just sign up at the top of the page on the right-hand side with your name and email, and confirm your subscription. You’ll also get a free gift when you sign up!

You can find the other books I’ve written here at my Amazon Author Page

Have you struggled with hating anyone? Leave your comments below. 

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