Saturday, January 2, 2016

Year in review (2015)

Beginnings often require a glance back to see from where one has come to help focus on where one wants to go.  The first part of last year was heartbreaking, which was followed by a great revelation of a choice of love.  The night may be filled with tears, but in the morning we can sing for joy!  Psalms 30:5b  Join me for a stroll through last year…. Perhaps there are way too many pictures but how does one choose from the hundreds of photos taken over a year's time?


Although I made this chalk board tile and decorated it this past fall, I am putting it here as we didn't seem to get winter a second time this year.

We started out the year with a good amount of snow.  Lots of free nitrogen for the beds.

A gift from my sister Mary, Paperwhites forced in a cute teacup.


Snow and more snow for February.  It was so gloomy and so was I.  I was struggling with depression, feeling unworthy and questioning who I am and if the God I said that I believed in really could love me.  This struggle will steal one's joy faster than all the gloomy days of winter combined.

Grasses in my front bed decorated with frosting.

The snow did not slow down the large variety of birds who visit my feeders.  This little guy didn't care that I was snapping pictures of him, although he did keep a careful eye on me.

T spent a great deal of time shoveling off the deck and creating paths for Rooper and I to get out to do business.  No, we don't have an outhouse; my business was daily trips to the compost pile.

What to do when stuck inside by cold and snow?  Plan the garden!  I don't do winter outside sports despite living in one of the most perfect states for it.  I like to be warm.  Outside during winter is cold.  Therefore I do not go outside.  Here I am using both the Gardening App T has created and good old paper so I can color code all my garden beds and lists.


All the planning in February means that I am starting seeds in March.

Hopefully this will be the last year I work on the floor as T has plans to build me an indoor potting bench.  We are slowly perfecting our seedling production.  This is probably my favorite part of gardening, well besides the flowers and cool looking plants.  Planting the seeds and watching them come up and transplanting them.  It is new life despite the cold winter which is still lingering.

Beautiful onions bursting through the soil.  My seed is several years old so I planted too much, expecting poor germination.  I'd say germination was great.

The snow on Garden Bed #1 has finally melted to reveal smooshed kale.  It's time to clean up the beds for planting in April.

My birthday is at the end of March and my mom took a couple of sisters and me to paint-a-pot.  This year's creation is the swallow tail shown with a previous year's plate.  I always enjoy going despite being teased for taking FOREVER.  We are making art here people!  Actually, the ribbing is good natured and people seem to enjoy my efforts.

Self imposed tradition:  I must go to Fredrick Meijer Gardens during the Butterflies Are Blooming Event for my birthday.  This year Timothy took me and patiently followed me around as I took hundreds of pictures of all the butterflies and flowers and plants.

One of the gorgeous swallowtails.  I soak in the heat, the smell of green and the humidity.  I am happy in the big greenhouse.

This is a glass sculpture named Lena's Garden created by Dale Chihuly in the Taste of the Garden's Café.  It makes me smile.  It was snowing outside while we were there.  Long winter.


Spring is coming!  Plants are getting big and going into the greenhouse.  My Love has a birthday this month along with my Dad and a late cousin and uncle.  I am still struggling to be happy.  I am a perfectionist and while this is good tendency when one is building an airplane, it is paralyzing to trying anything new for fear of failing.  I was operating under the tremendous weight of a lie that I was not lovable in my current state.  I made the terrible statement to Timothy that my life would be perfect if I were not in it.  My life is so blessed, I have need for nothing yet I was not feeling happy.  I was basing my happiness on my sense of value which was directly correlated with my evaluation of my success at perfection.  I was miserable on the inside but smiled on the outside.  Not everything was horrible though, when I stopped worrying about me and focused on others, life was good.

The love of my life who gets better looking each year….  Yeah, this photo is from later in the year but I think it is my favorite one of him so in honor of his birthday month, here he is.

Dusting of snow and mid 30's in late April, on the 22nd actually.  Winter please go away!

Plants waiting patiently in the greenhouse for it to warm up.  We found that the seedlings grew so much better in the greenhouse than under grow lights.  Also, there wasn't enough room on the light rack for everything so we rotated out the bigger and hardier plants into the green house early.  It worked well and we had lovely sturdy plants.

Planting out Swiss Chard, ashitaba and parsley in the cold.  This is the last photo I have of Rooper before he died.  He usually hangs out with me where ever I am.


Where I live, May is tulip time.  I believe that there are over a million tulips planted in our town which makes for an amazing display, if you want to battle the tourists to go see them.  Personally I prefer the species tulips for their longevity and tendency to multiply.  I am content to see my tulips in my yard along with all the other bulbs I have planted.  May is also the time it starts to be warm enough to go out without a coat on and work in the garden begins in earnest while greens are harvested and babies transplanted.  Our last frost date isn't until the middle of the month and tomatoes and peppers don't go in until the end of the month.

A species tulip called Little Beauty with muscari and mint.

Doesn't everyone own a Dutch costume in Holland regardless of ethnicity? This Middleburg costume hails from my time working at Dutch Village as one of their artists.  My mom and I participated in an attempt to break the Guinness Book of World Records for the most people dancing in klompen (wooden shoes) at one time.  We joined some friends, made new friends while standing around waiting for the organizers to get organized and had a lot of fun.  We didn't have enough people this time, but there are plans to try again Spring 2016.

My second to littlest sister Debbie came over to help me with garden chores for a couple of hours one day and I sent her home with lots of babies for her little yard.  I often wished she was around to keep pushing me later in the season.  She is a hard worker and we got a LOT done that afternoon.

Baby lettuce sprouts with Swiss  Chard transplants in the background in one of the big raised beds.

I have several perennial food plants on our property that are such a blessing.  Not only do they provide food, they are also beautiful.

We have a Jonagold apple tree in our front yard courtesy of the previous owners.  It was given to them and planted in honor of one of their son's birth.  There is a 25 year old or so young man out there to whom I owe this tree.  It was covered with blossoms this spring.  Just gorgeous.

Our blueberry bushes were loaded with blossoms too and we are grateful to all the bumble bees who took their job of pollinating very seriously.  The bushes sounded like they were buzzing all spring.

Our great spring project this year was to redo the strawberry bed.  It was a mess.  This was partly because I had let it go, partly because they need to be renewed every few years and partly because it was poorly designed the first time.  We found that the paths needed to be wider than we originally made them and we couldn't pick the raspberries for fear of tromping on strawberry plants.  We are very happy with the new set up and a bonus was the ability to plant annual flowers all along the terrace edge.

Green house is slowly emptying out despite more seedlings being added.  I grew 5 flats of tomatoes and peppers for the Holland Community Garden that Timothy and I volunteer at weekly.

This plant delighted me.  It is a cactus that is a baby of a larger cactus grown by Mr. Bill, the original owner of Bill's Greenhouse who had obtained it while working for the City of Holland's greenhouses some 25 years ago.  I was gifted it by his son-in-law when it was in bud.  It was fascinating to watch it open slowly and stay like this for several days before the display faded.  My goal is to get it to bloom next spring again which means that I will have to trick it into thinking that it isn't a house plant but that it is growing in the dessert.


June broke my heart.  We had lost Ubu spring of 2014 while I was gone filming dance videos in Texas.  For me, he was just gone and I missed him.  For Timothy, it was more heart rending because he sat up all night with him after Ubu had a stroke and had to be put down.  This time I was present when Rooper had seizures that left him dazed and me crying.  They came in waves that never ended all night and the next morning we took him to put him down at the farm.  I sat there holding my last dog, crying as he seized in my arms and praying that God would just take him so he wasn't in pain.  My heart ached and I finally understood the pain Timothy went through alone the year before.  My guys are both gone and while I don't look for them wondering why they aren't under my feet anymore, I occasionally think, as I'm scraping the plates that, "Boy the dogs would have liked to have gotten this on top of their kibble."
Timothy and I celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary and for the second time in our whole marriage we didn't have our dogs.

Sir Rooper. He was the serious, proper dog in comparison to his brother but he loved to be where ever we were.  The shaggy mutt that took two of us to convince that he was going to get the hair on his face trimmed so he could see and not walk into things.  Bye Buddy.

My very thoughtful and loving sister-in-law Jenna dropped off this plant and card for me.   Many people were loving and supportive despite the fact that to some, the death of a pet isn't that big of a deal.  They aren't a human being after all… but they were my babies and I loved them.  This gift was such a blessing to me and it is still blooming eight months later.

Work can be a great balm for grief.  I am a great collector of well, anything that I think is pretty.  In an attempt to direct and curb my "if one is good, five is better" tendency, I have limited my pot palette to cobalt blue and terra cotta.  This is only part of my collection of blue pots which are here waiting to be filled with annual plants.  Several others had already been planted with perennial plants.  My biggest problem is coming up with enough soil.  I can physically carry all of these filled and planted pots by myself with the exception of my most recent acquisition, the biggest pot in the picture.  Timothy was a good sport and helped me carry it up the hill to its final resting place for the summer.

Planting out my old fashioned petunias in bed eleven.  I put flowers on both sides of the bed this year so I would have something pretty to look at amongst all the green from the greens.

The Jack in the pulpit I rescued from a re-landscaping project.  It is quite happy here under the Japanese Maple.

This is my favorite azalea called Rosea Azalea.  If I could only have one variety, this would be it.  It was planted by the owners before us and I love how it looks like miniature roses and is so sweet.

June is not complete without strawberries.  Despite having been moved earlier in the spring, we still got a decent harvest of beautiful berries.  None of them lasted long enough to be put up though.  I think our plan to add another strawberry bed next spring is a good one.


The middle of the year.  Beach volleyball is in full swing, days are warm, the sun is setting later and later and the garden is beginning to become its usual jungle.  If I keep moving and don't take time to breathe, then I won't think about my dissatisfaction with me.  I go from one deadline to the next, hurrying to outpace my thoughts.  I am so blessed but I don't receive it gratefully, hesitant to embrace the grace because I fear of being rejected as a failure and a phony.  Everything could be gone in a second if I do not measure up.  My impossible yard stick of perfection defeats my joy.  The idea promoted by our now defunct church group that I am a new creature, thus no longer one who sins, is rattling around in my brain declaring that I must not really have salvation because I still sin on a regular basis.  Blatant choices I have made to not do righteously, for everything we do is a choice, are a loud condemning voice adding layers of cement to the heavy load I already carry.  I feel like I must break.

The bountiful harvest of berries from our three kinds of raspberries and the beginning of the blueberries.  Timothy faithfully went out and harvested almost daily for several weeks.  These too never made it into storage as they were eaten quite quickly after harvest.

The tomatoes are beginning to produce while the peas are still hanging on.  Our very late and cool spring has pushed everything back by a couple of weeks.

The gardens are full, the greenhouse emptied and taken down, and the garlic harvested.

Hope is looking up and trusting in something that you cannot prove, cannot see and often don't feel.

My mom and I had a serious conversation about the status of my joy, or rather the lack there of one afternoon.  It was quite by accident, an offhand comment that she zeroed in on.  She asked me if I believed that God loves other people despite whatever flaws and sins they might have.  "Of course He does", I replied.  I base my faith on the fact that Yahweh sent His son to redeem us because He loves us.  "So then does He love you?" was the next question.  My head and mouth said the correct answer but my heart said no, I don't feel like I deserve His love.  That was the problem.  I cannot earn His love, will never earn His love but I was denying that He loved me because of my false criteria.  My mom had me say the words out loud.  "God loves me."  Why is it that we feel stupid saying things out loud sometimes and fight it?  Words have power; they can speak life or death.  These words were the outward sign of an inward choice to believe truth.  "God loves me."  I can be incredibly stubborn, strong willed is a nice way of saying it, and I decided that I was exhausted living or rather existing the way I have been for so long.  If I was going to be stubborn about something, why not it be for life?  I made a choice that day that I was going to live like I really believed that I am loved.  Not for any reason that was a result of who I am, but because of an unexplained, unfathomable, unchanging love that is a fact of my universe.  Who I am is a loved child of the King.  I have value and worth because He gave it to me.  I have joy because He is my joy and my peace.  My heart is overwhelmed by His amazing love for me.  Life is different now.  I am different because my understanding of who I am and who He is has changed.  Up, grow up to the light.


Late nights playing volleyball on the beach, watching the sunset with friends and being fully present in that moment to hang onto it for later when it is cold and you haven't seen the sun for days.  Beautiful, glorious moments to remember.  The garden keeps growing and space between the beds gets tight.  T and I are a part of a small group of people putting together a new Sukkot site, The Rehearsal, Sukkot 2015 in South Dakota. While we have been working on this weekly for over a year, finalizing details and preparations take up more of our time as the date draws closer.  I am choreographing and practicing dances along with the other volunteer work and garden jobs I do.

Beautiful greens ready to eat from bed twelve: Rainbow Swiss chard, Several lettuce varieties, Russian Red Kale, Genovese Basil and Lamb's quarters.

Daily exercise for Timothy, harvesting tomatoes from our 16 cherry tomato plants.  He is so faithful to harvest on a daily basis.  I quite lose interest when we get to this point in the gardening.  Harvesting just means more work in the kitchen for me.  Honestly, I'd rather be doing anything else. We also had 8 "big tomato" plants too but we have found for our purposes, the cherry tomato varieties produce much better.  I use them in salsa and freeze them whole for later use in the kitchen.

Big messy, plant filled green small back yard.  Due to cool temperatures and plentiful rain fall, our grass (or rather a combination of various grass like plants and weeds) is still nice and green.  Personally I don't really care what the lawn looks like… is that bad?

We had a couple of hummingbirds stay in our area this summer and they were so fun to watch.  Occasionally one would do a flyby next to your head.  While taking pictures of the hummingbird's activities, a monarch decided to join him at the Purple Hyacinth Bean.  It seemed that we had many more desirable insects and animals in our yard this year.  From no monarchs in past years, we had several that seemed to stay for a couple of weeks.  Perhaps our commitment to beyond organic practices, no sprays or chemicals (OMRI certified or not), interplanting of crops, intentional beneficial host plants and a more laid back attitude to native habitat is working.

I can't help it, these glads are just so pretty.  I planted a bag of corms several years ago and these are from those original, supposedly non-hardy in my climate plants.  I am grateful for them and next spring I am going to dig them up and spread them out a bit so I get more flowers.  Apparently my little microclimate next to the lowest West terrace bed is perfect for them.

This…. This is what happens when one ignores a garden for several years.  MESS!  It is gorgeous in spring because I seem to plant mostly spring and early summer flowering plants but by the end of summer it is just messy.  A project for next year is to renew and revamp this whole area.  Plants need to be divided, moved and thinned out while some late summer interest is added.  Big job but it will be (hopefully) beautiful when I'm done AND I won't feel like I have to apologize to people when they see this part of the yard. This is something that I have felt guilty about for a long time.  Now, I am choosing to see it as a result of choices I have made to focus on other things rather than allow it to be another negative statement of my unworthiness as a gardener and a human being.  It is a messy garden, period.  The fact that I am showing you this is a huge step for me too towards having grace for myself that while I think is easy to extend to others, is very difficult to give to myself.  I am loved.  The goal is to learn how to live like I am loved.


Harvesting, dancing and organizing a Sukkot feast site with volleyball on the side keeps us busy.  Well T isn't dancing but he is doing everything else with me plus working hard on the Garden Time App. Conversations with a dear friend who I am giving a Ladies' Tea event with while at the feast explore this new mindset of being beloved.  My prayer for this upcoming Sukkot is that people leave different.  For so many years, T and I would make goals and plans on the long drive home (we always seem to go to sites that are 10 plus hours away) and find that the next year, our list is exactly the same.  The change was short lived which means it was all done under our own power and there was no lasting soul change.  This year I desire to end that cycle of hope and failure not just in our lives but also have that Yahweh driven change occur in other people's lives too.

The mammoth Sunflower - I had assumed that mammoth referred to the size of the flower which would then be on a tall stem.  However, the plants that sprouted from our seeds were very tall with lots of flowers.  I like this version better than my assumption.

Morning glory volunteers climbed the very thick sturdy stems of the sunflowers to add another layer of beauty.

Another new resident to our yard.  This little, and I do mean little, fellow was one of a group of five little frogs that lived in our garden.  They were in the pole beans, the water melons, the cantaloupe and the raspberries.  From my searching on the web, the only frogs that matched this picture were Pacific Tree Frogs, which, according to the different articles I read, were only found west of the Rockies.  Um… these guys are a long way from home then…  I wanted to bring them inside to save them from winter but then they got here somehow so I'm sure they survived a winter here before.  We'll see if they come back next year.

My niece Brina and I practicing for a dance presentation at Sukkot.  She was such a calm, sweet blessing to me in the dance circle.

One of the sukkahs or temporary dwellings that was created for our Sukkot celebration.  My friend Mike created this one to have the word Shalom spelled out on both sides.  Shalom means peace in Hebrew and we did have a wonderful peaceful, blessed Sukkot celebration with worship, prayer, dancing, messages, good food, kid's and youth programs, meaningful talks with young people exploring their faith at 2 am and games of bouncy ball soccer at 3 am.  It was amazing and exhausting and I wore myself out.


The beginning of October was spent returning home from South Dakota and recuperating from many nights of not enough sleep.  I tend to get sick with too many physical stressors and I definitely did myself in.  I added a Bible Study to my weekly routine along with a weekly accountability / encouragement phone call with a dear friend.  We help each other with goals, perception and prayer.  It has been such a blessing and I feel like I have accomplished more in the past few months since this inception than I have the past year.  Choosing to think on that which is honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise has completely turned my attitude around.  No, I do not put my head in the sand and emulate the much maligned Pollyanna attitude of willful ignoring of anything bad, I simply take that thought, examine it and ask myself, "Will this bring life to me?"  "Do I want to live here in my brain?"  If the thought does not match the above instructions, I release it and banish it from my head.  Often I pray about or for the subject of that thought if it is needed, but in the end I am choosing to live in a mindset that brings life to me and glory to my Heavenly Father.  Do I find myself in a negative mindset from time to time, for instance when I wake up and don't want to yet?  Yep I do, but when I realize this, it is time for me to engage and fight, fight for me to have life rather than death live in my head.  That fight is hard sometimes and I have found that for me, music and dance are the best ways to clear my head.  Drawing scripture verses and creating beauty is another way to intentionally live.  Not just exist, but to be present and to live, to enjoy this beautiful life, even when you are stuck in a grocery store line for a half hour while waiting for someone to finish.  Every moment is an opportunity to live and in living, to intentionally spread life and joy to those around me.

A scripture verse that after being discussed as very encouraging at Bible Study, I went home and created this illustration of to give to my group the next week.

Blueberry bushes have such a beautiful fall color.

The nights are cold enough to stop our tomatoes production.  Clean up of the beds and pots is the next task in the gardens.

Every year I buy a few bulbs to tuck into already full beds which I never seem to get around to planting until it is a miserable cold and usually rainy November day.  This year I had a plan and followed through on it.  A lovely mid 50's day, over 200 bulbs, a shovel, trowel and some compost will all hopefully cumulate in a lovely display next spring.  Yes, I even purchased the "regular" tulips that don't last very long simply because they are beautiful enough to enjoy for even a short amount of time.  The planting is also crammed full of daffodils and muscari too so when the tulips eventually peter out, there will still be beautiful flowers.


The la nina winter that was predicted was definitely evident this month.  A light dusting of snow and a few hard frosts knocked down everything in the gardens but warm temperatures returned with lots of rain.  I enjoyed going outside with few layers and the furnace had a break too.

Our really only snowfall of note for the end of the year winter lasted barely a day.  It was beautiful while it lasted though.

Salads are commonplace in our home… however, this one struck me as pretty and reminds me of how grateful I am to be blessed to eat such bounty.

My Thanksgiving cactus, a cutting from my sister-in-law's cactus from the year before reminds me to look and see the beauty in the world around me.  To enjoy and be grateful for this amazing world I am privileged to live in.  My life is so blessed and I am blessed to be a part of it.  So different from how I began this year.


It has forgotten to be winter here and I most definitely do not mind.  While the ground is browns, golds and greens, I am not yet at the point where I desire the clean white blanket of snow because that means it would need to be cold.

My kale and parsley bounce back easily from the brief winter weather to produce beautiful leaves for me.  It is December 13 and 60 degrees when I pick kale for a meal.  I am NOT complaining!

Gorgeous leaves.  I love kale, it is a beautiful edible ornamental.

The sun goes down quickly now and I miss the light.  Hanukkah is the celebration of reclaiming the temple and its return to proper use in worshiping our Heavenly Father.  For us, we celebrate our dedication to Him and desire His light to shine more brightly in our lives.  Every night another candle is added, bringing more light to our home and hopefully His light will also increase in us as we share His love to others.

Thank you so much for joining me on my journey through the last year.  I cried and smiled while going through pictures and while I know I chose too many to share with you, I hope that you were encouraged and blessed by my testimony of the work Yahweh has done in my life.  My choice to believe that God loves me, that He cares for me and that my value as a child of the King is beyond value because He placed that value on me is life giving.  May you have life this next year.  I am excited to see what God has in store for us!  Blessings on you and your family in 2016.


  1. This was an utterly amazing post Shanon. :)
    What you shared about you and your Mom blessed me so much.