Sunday, February 2, 2014

Looking Out the Kitchen Window

            Pretend you’re standing with me in my kitchen right now.  (Ignore the piles of dirty dishes and the crumbs under the cabinets that the boys are somehow blind to every time they sweep.)  We’re at the back of our almost-100-year-old two-story, creamy-yellow house.  Unfortunately, the kitchen walls are a horrible bright yellow (which I intend to paint as soon as we can afford to take care of some necessary repairs first), but there is a window over the sink where I stand at least three times every day doing dishes and staring out into our backyard.
            I love my backyard.  There’s no place I’d rather be than in my backyard with my family. 

The house has many, many problems with it, but the backyard more than makes up for most of them.  At least for me.  (And thank God for that window.  I’d lose my mind staring at a wall or a neighbor’s house.)  The first summer we were here (we’ve been here a total of 3 summers now), we spent so much time in the yard that very little got done in the house.  But it’s been worth it because I’ve been able to accomplish so much outside, putting in gardens that I had dreamed about for 11 years. 
            The yard was basically bare when we moved in, except for an old pool that was filled with thick, brown sludge and two dead raccoons.  We took that down the first spring.  And we had to cut down some trees (especially the giant pine that led the squirrels right up to our roof where they built a nest).  I also cut down a 25-foot-ish tree myself . . .with a tiny, little hand saw . . . because I knew my husband wouldn’t do it and I wanted it down NOW!  (And I’ve paid for it ever since with shoulder problems.  Oh well, live and learn.) 
            But now, on our not-quite-half acre of land, there is a rose bed, a perennial flower/rose bed, a couple wildflower beds, a butterfly garden, patches of herbs, a blueberry bed, a patch of currants and gooseberries, a long strip of rhubarb, an asparagus patch, raspberry beds, strawberry beds, and a huge vegetable garden.  (We are working on getting up the cedar frames around each bed, but it’s expensive.  So we can only frame a bed or two each year out of the twenty 4x8 foot vegetable beds that we have in total.)
            It’s been quite a project, but nothing makes me happier than tinkering in the garden with my husband while the kids play close by.  (Except for the fact that I get insanely tense when they get too close to the plants or when they throw their football into my blueberry bed.  Every muscle in my body tenses.  Isn’t that just wrong?  I had so wanted this to be a wonderful family project, yet I can’t bring myself to even let them breathe on the plants without close supervision.  I’m working on that!)
            Anyway, so here we are standing in the kitchen.  (Pretend it’s summer or all you’d see is snow right now.)  Looking directly out the window, there is a wildflower bed, a rose/perennial flower garden, and some birdfeeders and birdhouses.  All summer and fall while I do dishes, I watch the goldfinches, chickadees, and sparrows (the dandelions of the bird kingdom) flitting to and fro all through the beds.  Chirping, eating seeds, and flying back to their nests up in the trees.  Cardinals, blue jays, nuthatches, cow birds, and red-wing blackbirds have also raided the birdfeeders.  I think a woodpecker even tried once.  
            The robins bounce around the vegetable beds, looking for worms in the freshly turned dirt.  Butterflies float all over the butterfly bushes.  (At least they did before the really dry summer that we had a couple summers ago which decimated their population.  We planted a butterfly garden specifically to help them survive and to draw them in again.)  And dragonflies zoom in very specific, straight lines over head.  (I love dragonflies!)
            And my favorite, hummingbirds come to visit the zinnias sporadically.  I refuse to put up a hummingbird feeder because that artificially-flavored and artificially-colored sugar water can’t be good for them.  So I use real plants, and I thank God every time one shows up.  To me, catching a glimpse of a hummingbird is like catching a glimpse of God’s glory.  It’s so fleeting and unpredictable, and you have to grab it when it comes.  It's like a whisper.  And you have to just pause and listen.  They're little miracles.
            We’ve also been delighted over the years to catch glimpses of falcons, hawks, wood ducks, orioles, blue-gray gnatcatcher, yellow-rumped warbler, kinglets, a snipe (didn’t even know those things really existed), turkey vultures (uuuugly!), and my son saw a bald eagle, which is very uncommon in our area.  And right now, because it’s winter, I’ve been enjoying the sparrows and juncos that have hung around.  It might be bitterly cold, but there those tiny birds are, huddled around the birdfeeder.  This yard has been a real blessing.
            I have to admit, I didn’t always care much for birds.  They were always just . . . there.  Uneventful.  Ordinary.  But as part of a school project, we built a birdfeeder and birdhouse.  And I have been hooked ever since.  Because there is almost nothing more satisfying than seeing something you’ve done add more life to your yard. 
            And that’s why I love gardening so much.  I am taking the wonderful plants that God created and mixing them together until I find a beautiful combination that delights the senses, that provides blessings throughout the year, that draws God’s little critters in, and that just sings of His glory!  It is my hope that my garden makes any visitor realize that we have a wonderful Creator!
            Hidden among the plants are a few stepping stones that testify about the God who made this beautiful world.  “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the earth is His handiwork.”  “By His hand, all things are fed.”  And “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”  I want it to be known that God made all these wonderful plants; I just gave them a place to live. 
            May all visitors to my garden see what an amazing, good, creative God we serve.  May they linger there for a while, feeling close to Him and enjoying His fingerprints on every plant and animal they see.  May they slow down and breathe!