Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Farmer Girl

I went to Atlanta for a weekend in a big city.

But I ended up at a farm.

I’m not sure how I keep finding myself taking on the persona of a faux-farmer since I’m really more of a glam-girl. 

The closest I’ve ever come to yearning for country life was during my childhood, when I read about my favorite farmer-girl Laura Ingalls and her adventures in the big woods.

But the appeal wore off as I grew up and discovered lipstick and high heels.

So every year when fall arrives, my sister and I head north to Atlanta, looking for a chill in the air and a few brightly colored leaves, but mostly we go for the shopping, dining and culture of a big city.

A few years ago we thought my niece might enjoy staying at an inn near mid-town that had goats and chickens and turkeys. That was the scene when for the first and only time in my life I held a chicken. 

{You can read about it here, if you’d like.} 

But this trip we stayed at Serenbe, an organic farm village in the Chattahoochee Hills just outside Atlanta that made the other inn look more like a children’s petting zoo. 

The New York Times calls Serenbe a utopian experiment in new urbanism, and it’s certainly a unique community with farm-to-table restaurants, shops and activities.

I ate breakfast at the 1905 farmhouse, strolled around the farmer’s market, visited an organic coffee shop and bakery, and ate dinner cooked by a chef recognized by Food & Wine magazine. 

{Where by the way, I had battered tempura bok choy that was so scrumptious I could have easily eaten another plateful.}

But mostly I met donkeys, pigs, one lone rooster who wouldn't stop digging for bugs to let me take his picture, and some mischievous goats, who were determined to see if I had any snacks for them in my camera bag.

I have to admit that after I met all of these new friends and visited them in their habitats, I sat down on a bench and rested my weary feet in my possibly-too-high-for-a-farm-stroll-heels and let my niece run off to see the rabbits, sheep and llamas. 

{And of course, now I'm sorry I have no photos of the llamas.}

Sometimes you find that where you end up is really where you were supposed to be after all.

Our life's journey might travel over winding roads that seem to be too far from our desired destination. We settle somewhere else and wonder what we’re doing there because we just don’t feel at home.

We wait impatiently to move to a place that’s more our style, that has what we want to do and who we want to do it with. 

We cry hard tears and then cry out to God, asking why we’re in a place that just doesn’t fit us, when really, he’s fitting us for our place in his plans.

We trudge on dusty paths and through barren fields, looking for a harvest, hoping for an open gate, not realizing that God is bringing us into a good land.

He beckons us onward to have a pioneering spirit, blazing trails where we’ve never gone before. 

And he waits for us to get out of the old ruts to respond anew, consider creatively and refute toxic mindsets for an enriched and organic way of life, that puts him at the foundation of our thoughts. 

What if we plow under the crumbling leaves of discouragement? What if we sprinkle the soil with a determination to wait for the ripening of what God is sowing in our lives?

It may take a season, it may take several seasons, but maybe what God matures and brings to fruition is a harvest worth waiting for.

Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior. -Hab. 3:17-18 (NIV)

As it turns out, I actually did find a little luxury in the country. 

We stayed at an apartment called the Nest, next door to the Bakeshop in the community of Serenbe that lived up to its reputation of elegant urban comfortable sophistication. 

I could have easily called it home.

And I did find some fall-ish weather in Atlanta, which was really just Florida fall weather minus the humidity. 

I even saw a few colorful leaves.

Which leads me to believe I could fall for farm life, but only for a weekend or so.

I'm having coffee with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your Heart. Click the image and join me there for more posts from my blogger friends!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Weathering the Storm

There’s nothing like a hurricane warning to send you into frantic mode, bringing your normal everyday routine to a screeching halt. 

You join your fellow neighbors and race around gathering supplies. You ponder what you might want to eat over the next five days that doesn't require cooking or refrigeration.

You wait in line at the gas station to fuel up your car, unearth your flashlights from under the kitchen sink, and buy 67 {or so} packages of batteries in assorted sizes. 

You move every single plant and piece of outdoor furniture into your garage, then carefully park your car in between the dangling legs of the stacked patio chairs, dodge the potted palms {that didn’t look so big until they were in your garage}, and make your way into your house.

You’re ready to hunker down so you turn on the TV to stare at the enormous swirling satellite image of the storm for the next who-knows-how-many-hours and watch reporters yell over the wind and waves at the beach.

You get yourself a drink {but not one of the precious water bottles you’ve managed to procure} and you wait. 

You’ve now got plenty of time on your hands.

I get started on my own personal hurricane preparation that also includes doing laundry and washing my hair. Because I remember the last hurricane {actually three in a row one summer} that swept through Central Florida.

The winds whipped around my just-purchased brand new house after midnight and sent my neighbor’s tree crashing into my yard, taking the power lines down with it. I was without power for a week and without TV or internet for three weeks.

Although I live in a different neighborhood now with buried power lines {with lower odds for a power outage}, I wanted plenty of coffee-comfort on hand, just in case.

I managed to grab the last thermos at SuperTarget since it guaranteed to keep 8 cups of coffee piping hot for 24 hours. 

So at 4:30 am when the winds started howling around my house, I raced downstairs to brew the coffee and poured it into my new supersized thermos. 

I figured since I was awake, I might as well have a cup, grab a scone and keep an eye on the TV reports.

That’s when I heard the news that the storm had wobbled to the east just a smidge and that slight jog would prevent hurricane force winds from coming inland to reach Orlando. 

Rather miraculous, I think.

I realized a storm sure can brew up a host of challenges but it can also wash in a tide of opportunity. 

It calls on us to trust and get a tighter grip on our faith so it won't slip when the waves surge.

It offers us the opportunity to have peace that's beyond our understanding despite the chaos raging around us.

It summons courage from a reservoir we didn't know was filled and ready for us to access, and it calls forth grace that we didn't know we wanted to offer.

And it invites us to begin again.

Because after the storm subsides, we find the wind gusts have blown through our hair and the floodwaters have soaked our shoes, but we're still standing.

Then God cracks open the storm shutters in the midst of the wind and rain and gives us a glimpse of where he might be taking us, and we take a deep breath and plunge ahead.

Our storms have created more space for us to experience and deeply soak in what he's doing. 

For beyond those storms, we catch a little peek at our very own promised land.

It may not look anything like we've imagined and it might be a completely different location than where we originally thought we were heading, but it's there waiting for us to conquer the giants and enter into it.

But not just yet.

The vision isn't very clear yet, but we can see it out there in the distance. 

It's not meant for right now, but for a future time. In God's flawless and impeccable timing, he will bring it to pass.

And that gives us the courage to persevere. 

Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he brought them out of their distress.

He stilled the storm to a whisper;
    the waves of the sea were hushed.

They were glad when it grew calm,
    and he guided them to their desired haven. 

After the worst of the storm passed, I realized I didn’t need the brewed-ahead coffee after all. I never lost power at my house. 

But I wondered if I could depend on the thermos when it counted, so twelve hours after I made it, I poured myself a cup. 

The coffee was still piping hot. Promise kept.

So I’ll just hold onto my giant thermos and {nearly} 67 batteries for next time.

Because when you live in Florida, you know there's probably another fierce tropical storm coming your way in the future. 

But for now, in the aftermath, I'm rejoicing and reveling in the exquisite, delicate and very restful calm that only comes after the storm.

I'm having coffee with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your Heart. Join me there to read posts from my blogger friends!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

What's On Your Canvas?

My sister gave me a French market bag for my birthday. 

It’s a darling little net shopping bag, perfect for filling with a French baguette, some flowers and maybe a few rounds of cheese, if I lived in Paris. 

But I live in Florida and I could have used it today as I shopped for last-minute foodstuffs in case the hurricane headed to the east coast knocks out our power.

I roamed the aisles of SuperTarget and most of the bottled water shelves were already empty. 

I thought I’d pick up some granola bars or trail mix but I ended up with a jar of sun dried tomatoes, a package of cheese tortellini and a jar of basil pesto. 

I guess I can cook it up ahead of time and I really don’t mind eating cold pasta.

I also picked up an extra bag of pumpkin spice coffee too {just in case there’s a pumpkin shortage once the storm passes}. 

And I grabbed another box of cranberry scones to have with my coffee. 

Assuming there's power to turn on my coffeemaker, of course.

These items would have fit nicely in my little French shopping bag, which was from a new restaurant and market in our neighborhood called Canvas, where my sister took me for dinner on my birthday.

With a name like Canvas, I thought there might be large pieces of abstract art hanging on the walls or maybe an unfinished canvas as a painting in progress, but I didn't see any obvious pieces of art. 

Instead the dining room was framed in floor to ceiling windows that offered spectacular views of the lake.

The market was stocked with boutique gifts and vintage items like chandeliers, pillows and chairs. There was even a sandwich counter and a coffee bar.

It seemed it was all part of a larger work of art of community -- a familiarity, a friendly vibe, a place for celebration.

I feel like a work in progress too, but it's hard to see sometimes that I'm part of a bigger story of how God works in all of us. Yet I know what stretches me is what is at work in me.

I start my day with a mug of coffee and my Bible open on the kitchen counter. I pray for those God-breathed words to saturate me and produce a kindness I don't always feel to cloak my words and a grateful perspective to color my conduct. 

Yet I’ve hardly left the parking garage on the walk to my office when someone {anyone really and no one in particular} brushes by the circle of my imaginary boundaries and I feel irritated. Then a task or project or conflict sinks me lower down the stairs of disgruntlement and I wonder where in the world did my best intentions go?

I wonder why progress with what I so desire to change seems impossible. Why is the new path so difficult for me to forge on top of the same old worn down tracks? Why can’t a lifelong demeanor be transformed? 

And then I see it.

Just as the gifts and the food and the people -- even the French market bag --  of the Canvas Restaurant & Market make it all a work of art.

So are we. 

The canvas isn't finished. We are a work in progress, in the hands of God, shaped for his purposes.

Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. - Is. 64:8 
But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. - Jer. 18:4

There will be storms to weather, trials to withstand and challenges to ride out, but we don't do it alone. {Thank goodness.}

So I asked my sister if she had enough gas for the generator and propane for the grill in her outdoor kitchen. She said of course, they were all set since my brother-in-law is always fully prepared. 

The last time there was a hurricane and the entire city was without power, I walked into her house to find my sister and the kids sitting in the living room watching TV with lamps lit and fans blowing. My brother-in-law said he considered turning on the air conditioning for a while but he didn’t want to overload their generator. 

So that’s where you’ll find me if the power goes out {along with the rest of our neighborhood}. 

I know for sure I can make some pumpkin coffee there {courtesy of the generator, of course} and eat my cranberry scones. 

And I can pack them all in my little French shopping bag for the walk over to my sister's house.

I'm having coffee with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your Heart. Click the image to hop over and read more posts from my blogger friends!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A Full Plate

I joined the ranks of vacation visitors to Orlando {for a few hours anyway} when I became a tourist in my own hometown.

My mother, sister and I took a foodie walking tour of the neighborhood of Winter Park, and I asked my sister if she thought we should get a ticket for my niece Devon, who is nine and an extremely finicky eater. 

She said Devon really wanted to go with us and she pledged to try something new at every stop. {Devon later downgraded this optimistic outlook to 40%, worried she had set too ambitious a goal for herself.} 

Our foodie maps in hand to navigate the way to six eateries, we kicked off our tour at a wine bar with mimosas and slices of artisan bread spread with basil pesto, topped with buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes and drizzled with a balsamic reduction.

Devon was served a very tall glass of orange juice {instead of a mimosa, of course} and I immediately thought we might be off to a less than desirable start.

Even though she's never wanted to taste orange juice in her life, she took a sip, shrugged and took another sip.

So far, so good. This might turn out better than I thought.

We moved on to the Ancient Olive, tasting premium olive oils and balsamic vinegars, with exotic flavors like fig, chocolate and lavender. The owner quizzed us on which country we thought made the most olive oil. 

Our group included a well-traveled couple who were also posing as local tourists for the day, but only Devon was brave enough to venture a guess from three choices offered by the shop owner.

She said Spain. 

And she was right.

As we slurped our olive oil samples {as instructed} I wondered how she knew. 

Later she told me after listening to my stories about traveling to Italy, she’d never heard me talk about seeing olives, so she figured there must not be any or I’d have mentioned them. 

That made me laugh.

But it seemed as if all of a sudden I noticed how much of a grown-up Devon was becoming. 

She walked beside our tour guide, chatting about her favorite foods, strawberries and chocolate {eaten separately, of course, never together}. 

She told our fellow tour-goer {who was an airline pilot} about her school project on the Wright brothers.

And when she was a little disappointed to see the chocolate and ice cream stops were the very last on our tour, she waited patiently while we tasted tea at a spice shop and sampled pizza topped with chicken and catupiry. 

{Have you heard of catupiry? I discovered it’s a mild Brazilian cheese developed by an Italian immigrant, which explains its puzzling heritage.}

We finished our pizza and wine and kept on walking to the fudge store, where we sampled apple cobbler ice cream and then made it to our last stop at Peterbrooke Chocolatier.

Finally Devon could enjoy something she liked, chocolate covered popcorn.

I loved how this tour gave me a fresh perspective on all that seemed so familiar. 

And it left me feeling pretty full. But not just with flavorful food and divine drinks.

For a while now I’ve been praying to live my life abundantly, despite what my circumstances might be saying to me.

My prayer is for a life filled with joy, hope and faith. 

Yet, sometimes it seems that what I’m experiencing is the exact opposite of what I’ve been praying for. 

Or is it?

How else could I establish unwavering faith in God’s goodness, unless I find myself believing it despite the little carrot dangling in front of me that's yanked away just when I reach for it?

How else could I expand my narrow definition of what makes me happy unless I determine to find joy even when I'm disappointed?

How else could I redefine what’s hopeful to me unless I see past what’s making me feel downhearted and seems so impossible?

And how else could I get filled up unless I first realized I was empty?

When I feel a little panicky about time or the future or my purpose or place, I'm going to remember these words that were were impressed on my heart by God:

{And maybe you could use them too.}

There’s still plenty of time, but I don’t want you to miss this.

I think my delicious plate right in front of me is already abundantly full.

I'm having coffee with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your Heart. Click the image to visit the posts of my blogger friends!