Did you ever go to the store to buy one specific item and come home with that item and something more? That’s what happened to me when my oldest nephew and I went to Lowe’s to pick out a grill given to me as birthday gift from my sister and brother-in-law. We did get the grill and I also purchased a bird feeder and bird seed. Now, in addition to grilling fine meats outside my kitchen window, on the veranda (okay, porch), outside my kitchen window, I can watch birds from outside my living room picture window. Also, I have a bird bath filled with seed for my squirrelly friends, Sydney and Ausie (I think squirrels look like tiny kangaroos, especially when they sit smack dab in the middle of the bird path and look straight at me, as they eat the seeds with their two little paws.). They look so cute. I was inspired to get the bird feeder by my dear poet friend Carol, who has one outside her bedroom window. The “squirrel feeder” was my own idea (Squirrels need to eat too.) It’s a very beautiful thing to watch grown-up birds feed their baby birds. In a way, this is how I want to trust God for all that I need.
“Therefore I [Jesus] tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these” (Matthew 6:25-29).
Because I live on a busy street, I don’t see many different kinds of birds, but with the two bird books my friend Pam gave me for my birth-month, I have identified a Tufted Titmouse, Black-capped (or Carolina) Chickadee, Catbird, Morning Doves, Blue Jays, male and female Cardinals, and many Sparrows and their babies and, of course, Robins. In case you’re wondering about the squirrels – Sydney is gray and Ausie has a brown tint to his gray. Pam is gifted in arts and crafts. In addition to the bird books, she has gifted me with four tote bags, one with a baseball theme, one with a football theme, one with a hockey theme and one with a basketball theme. They fit on my wheelchair handles just right and do not rub the back wheels. I am very thankful for Pam’s thoughtfulness and for her sharing her gifting with me and the time it took her to make these perfect bags.
Throughout the month of August, I have treated myself to ice cream. Mt. Tom‘s Ice Cream Shop, in Easthampton, is a must stop throughout the Summer and for “leaf-peepers” in the Autumn, as well as throughout the year. I have also treated myself to Dunkin Donuts dark roast iced coffee, with cream and a TURBO SHOT, or Newman’s own blend iced coffee, with cream (depending on how much money I had at the time). Also, my sister who is a gourmet cook (a mix of Julia Childs and the Swedish Chef on the “Muppets”) prepared many of my favorite dishes throughout my birth-month. When she cooks in my kitchen, I do think about calling “Service Master” (cleaning company) to come clean up the remnants of her enthusiastic “food-flying” creative genius, BUT IT’S ALL WORTH IT and IT‘S ALL GOOD! Here is one of my favorite dishes my sister made for me:
Grilled Pacific Sock-Eyed Salmon with an Orange and Maple Glaze
In bowl: mix equal parts orange marmalade and maple syrup, zest of one lime and its juice and one crushed garlic clove. In small sauce pan: heat ingredients to reduce and slightly thicken. Place salmon, skin side down, on a pre-heated grill that has been pre-treated with cooking spray. Brush the top of the salmon with glaze. After a few minutes, flip salmon and brush with glaze. After a few minutes, flip salmon again and brush with glaze. Flip salmon one more time and brush with remaining glaze.
The salmon is out-of- this-world delicious! We ate it with native corn smothered in pesto butter, asparagus sautéed in garlic butter, baked potato with sour cream and chives, toss salad with a strawberry vinaigrette, complemented by an Oregon Pinot Noir from Montinore Vineyards (one of my favorite domestic Pinot Noirs). My sister may cook in my kitchen anytime she wants! (If you do not like fish, a strip steak rubbed with extra virgin olive oil, garlic and McCormick Montreal Steak Seasoning will also work with the same side dishes and the same wine. That was another meal my sister made for me.) Are you getting hungry yet?
On my official BIRTHDAY, August 16, my sister and two friends, who are also sisters, took me to SHARP HILL VINEYARD in Pomfret, Connecticut. SHARP HILL’S signature wine is the “Ballet of Angels”, a white wine that is a lovely aperitif (wine before the meal to stimulate the taste buds) and is sold in Massachusetts wine shops. You don’t have to drink wine to appreciate and enjoy Sharp Hill’s rustic elegance. I’ll try to explain what I mean, but you will have to go there to see it for yourself. Sharp Hill is a barn converted into a winery and restaurant. Even the restroom has its own ambiance, with little shelves filled with antique knick-knacks and a sink carved out of rock. It’s the most unique restroom I have ever been in. It’s a bit of a squeeze with a wheelchair, but it does have BRASS grab bars and is worth the squeeze.
In the back of the barn is a patio area for outside dining. In the very center of the patio, there is an herb garden where the herbs are picked when you order your meal (talk about fresh!). The wine tasting is done outside beyond the patio area, in a large yard filled with wicker furniture under shade trees and the vineyard in the background. If I didn’t know any better, I would think I stepped into a tiny French village. Needless to say, we had a delicious meal, shared a fine bottle of rosé wine, which was a fine complement to all our meals (scallops, chicken and lamb dishes). It was a very enjoyable time filled with laughter, fellowship with “the Four Sisters,” gorgeous scenery and fine food and drink. This gift did cost a “pretty penny” along with two bottles of wine as birthday gifts and the gas used for the one-and-a-half-hour “road trip” each way. I am very thankful to my generous sister and friends for this extravagant gift. It is a memory I’ll not soon forget. (The photo was taken on August 16, 2011. No one brought a camera this time; probably to protect the “innocent!”).
But wait! There’s more. When we got home, there were birthday cards waiting for me, from friends near and far. We also had more friends and family over for pizza, carrot cake and a yankee vs. RED SOX baseball game at “Fenway West,” my living room (from elegance to baseball and pizza – most “south-paws” have “eclectic“ interests) and more gifts from the fruit of the vine, to share on special occasions.* All in all, it was a great BIRTHDAY, except the RED SOX didn’t get the memo that they were supposed to WIN on my birthday. However, they did make up for it the next day and in the days that followed (I‘m not saying anymore).
“He [God] makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate – bringing food from the earth: wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart” (Psalm 104:14-15).
*“This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).
On the day after my birthday, my friend Joanne made a delicious birthday cake. It tasted as moist as a homemade cake, even though it was made from a box mix. However, Joanne did make the frosting herself. The cake looked like a baseball field and, if you looked at it just right, you’d swear it was Fenway Park. I am very thankful for my friend Joanne and for her kind heart and thoughtfulness in making me a very special birthday cake.
On the last Friday in August, my friend Holly took me to her childhood home, in Becket, Massachusetts, where we stayed overnight. Her parents’ farmhouse is a very peaceful place, surrounded by woodlands. We had a delightful meal and listened to the RED SOX on the radio, on Friday night. The next day, while Holly worked on a few projects to put the farmhouse back together, after a summer filled with family visits, I read a book in the “Sun Room” and looked out at the long dirt drive way leading to and from the house and admired its canopy of tree branches which shaded its way. It was so nice to hear the wind blowing through the trees and leaves scurrying across the ground (something I cannot hear on my busy street). The get-away trip to Becket was a welcomed retreat. I have gone to Becket with Holly many times and I don’t think we’ve ever gone to Becket Center. When I go to Becket, I go to spend time with a dear friend and for the peaceful quiet of the farm house nestled in the woods; a place to hear the wind blow through the trees and a place to listen to God speak. The over-night trip to Becket was a very special birthday present from Holly to me. I thank the Lord for our friendship and for the many close “sister” friendships the Lord has blessed me with throughout the years. These dear sisters in Christ have helped me to hear God’s gentle whispers He speaks into the deep recesses of my soul, during times of quiet refreshment and renewal.
“The LORD said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.’ Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a Voice said to him…” (I Kings 19:11-13).
In the quietness of my soul, God whispers and reminds me that I do not have to know and understand everything, but just to “Be still and know that [He] is God” (Psalm 46:10a).
On the last Saturday in August, when I came home from Becket, my friend Pam was waiting for me. We had arranged to grill steaks and watch the RED SOX game on TV. The grilled steak dinner was another birthday gift from Pam. The steak was grilled just right and the RED SOX won, which was a grand finish to my birth-month!
It is now September and my birth-month escapades are still going strong. My oldest nephew is doing some painting in my house, to touch up the nicks and bruises of the past seventeen years of living in one place. I figured that every seventeen years is a good time to do some painting to spruce up the place. It’s amazing how a little paint can make a room seem brand new. My nephew is doing a superb job. I am so very thankful for being able to live so close to family. My sister and her husband own a duplex and she and her family live on the second floor and my two cats and I live on the first floor. I am so very thankful to the Lord for my loving family. We love each other unconditionally and we are always there for each other. This is truly a gift from God.
I do not know when exactly, my birth-month(s) escapades will end this year. My youngest sister is coming to visit us from Oregon. As long as I keep on thinking of all the good gifts God has blessed me with, maybe it will never end! (If it never ends, does that mean I’ll stay at fifty-eight years old? Just asking…I didn’t think so.)
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the Word of Truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all He created” (James 1:17-18).
Two last things to mention:
1. I again had many typos in my last post. For example: “BITH-MONTH(S)” instead of “BIRTH-MONTH(S)” (I can’t believe I made a typo straight out of the shoot!) It took me a few hours to get over that, but the Lord helped me to let it go, along with many other typos too numerous to mention and are not that important. I’m sure you could decipher what I was trying to get across. The only correction I need to make is the last verse I wrote, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” is from Matthew 19:26b (not Matthew 20:26b). I did edit my last post, so if anyone looks it up on the web, they will see the edited version.
2. I believe that wine is a very special gift from God and should be used as a complement to a meal and, like all good gifts from God, wine should never be abused or taken for granted. I will share more about this in my next post.
*“Do not get drunk with wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:18-20).
*When God tells us what not to do, He often tells us what to do instead.
The Peace of the Lord Be With you all!