Saturday, December 1, 2018

Hanukkah 2018

I forget so easily what is truly important and take for granted the gifts and salvation provided to me.  I see the Biblical feast cycles and celebrations as repeating opportunities used by my Heavenly Father to gently call me back to Himself, to call me to remembrance and rededication, a call to holiness. 

Day 1 of Hanukkah 2017 – Spaghetti and steamed broccoli.

Tomorrow starts the first day of Hanukkah, also known as The Feast of Dedication.  While it is not listed in the Torah in the original list of feast celebrations, we do know that Yeshua attended it in Jerusalem (John 10:22 – 23).  Thus, it is not just a Jewish feast for another people group, but something that my Savior participated in.

Day 2:  Tuna wraps.  I am not a wonderful cook but I tried to make a nice meal each evening to break our fast.

The great miracle that Hanukkah celebrates is not the myth of the oil lasting for 8 days (although I completely agree that Yahweh could absolutely do that) but the fact that a small band of people overthrew a massive oppressive army through sacrifice and multiple miracles.  This victory culminated in the ability to clean out, clean up and reinstate the temple services and openly worship the One True God.  Thus is born the Feast of Dedication – Hanukkah in Hebrew.

Day 3: Roasted vegetables.  We were using up all the extra candles in my stash so they didn’t match every evening.

My celebration of Hanukkah focuses on this aspect, the rededication of my temple.  To clean up and clean out my heart and soul, fact checking my attitude and actions to see if they align with who I say I am.  I am a child of God, bought with a price and saved by my Redeemer.  I am loved not because of who I am, but because of who He is.  Hanukkah is a time that I am reminded to ask a question.  Does my life and heart truly reflect who I say I am?  Do I live a life of holiness, dedicated to my King?

Day 4:  Baked acorn squash stuffed with wild rice mix and roasted seeds.

I wrote an article several years ago based on some research and journaling that I did about Hanukkah.  You can find it here:   In it I share my story of how I came to celebrate Hanukkah, go through the story of the Maccabees as recounted by the historian Josephus, and walk you through the 8 days of prayer and fasting of a meal. 

Day 5: Quesadillas and a fruit bowl

Prayer and fasting are not the traditional way to celebrate this feast but it is the way that I believe honors my King and actually acknowledges what the Maccabee Family and all the other brave Jewish believers fought for – freedom to worship Yahweh openly and have an undefiled temple.  While I currently have the freedom to worship how I choose already, I know I need to seek the rededication of my temple as well.  Life, busyness, grudges, hurts and failures all clutter up my temple.  Things I have watched, read, and put into priority over my devotions need to be swept out and removed.  Relationships can be mended or strengthened and forgiveness requested.  The call to holiness, to be set apart for Him should not be ignored.

Day 6:  Lentil soup, blue corn chips and olives

I will start tomorrow with my 8 day journey of fasting a single meal along with intentional prayers of redemption for different aspects of my life followed by lighting the candles in the hanukkiah.  By the end of the week, my hope is that my heart’s light will match the light of the fully lit hanukkiah.  I will shine bright with His purpose and love.  This will be an excellent place to begin the new calendar year.  Would you like to join me?

Day 7: Pasta and steamed peas

Below is the list of my focus for each day.  If you would like to read more about each one with scripture references, please see the above article link.  If you are lead to pray about different things, please do.  The important thing is that we are rededicating our temple to our King. 
Day 1 Repent of sin - acknowledge the need to clean our temples.
Day 2 Repent for not making God the focus of our life.
Day 3 Repent for lack of faith which is fear.
Day 4 Repent for selfishness and disobedience.
Day 5 Repent for mistakes in our relationships with immediate family, to God first and to individuals as appropriate.
Day 6 Repent for mistakes in our relationships with others outside our immediate family, to God first and to the individuals as appropriate.
Day 7 Repent for not being a good steward with what we have been given - including time, money, talents.
Day 8 Repent of unknown sins - including wrong traditions and teachings. Ask that they be revealed.

Day 8:  Well, all I can see is that we had fresh juice for part of the meal.
We also had just enough candles to finish off with one last lighting of a hanukkiah.

May your light shine bright!

Monday, April 16, 2018

Week 14

Oh it is time for BUTTERFLIES!!!   This year my mom and a nephew and niece went with me.  We went a week after my birthday during the kids’ spring break and there were a LOT of people there.  I took my new camera and had a bit of a learning curve to get used to it.  I wasn’t happy with many of my shots but I learned a lot and enjoyed being warm and with my family. 

My beautiful family.  Yup, Nellie wore a princess costume in her favorite color of pink.

Alright, here is your warning, this blog is going to be long and mostly pictures of pretty things without much commentary.  Scroll through fast or just check out my next blog which will be more garden focused.

We hopscotched our way down the hallway from leaf to leaf under the grand trees that held up the ceiling. 
The olive tree gives me hope for what my little olive tree may someday be as he lives in a pot indoors for half the year too.  The spring plantings in the entry.

The tour of the butterfly exhibit is set up so that you must walk through several other garden rooms before reaching the Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory which is the large greenhouse structure.  We ended up going through the exhibit three times due to a lunch break and a visit to the gift shop.  I am going to take you through the exhibit as if we did it once without repeats.  My first picture onsite was the one of my family.  I thought I’d better make sure I took a picture of the important people before I got caught up in the plants and butterflies.  We started in the Earl and Donnalee Holton Arid Garden, otherwise known as the place of pokey plants.

Arid plants have the most fascinating architectural structure.

These barrel cactuses have the softest looking cushions on top… LIES!

Even in the desert there are beautiful colors.

Off of the Arid Gardens there is a room with the Carnivorous plants.  These amazing plants “eat” or rather dissolve insects (or other living things) that become trapped in them by various nefarious ways depending on the plant.  This talent allows plants in this genus to live in fairly hostile acidic soil conditions with very poor nutrient content.

Giant pitcher plant hanging from a tree. 
I do not have one of these types of plants; maybe Sir T will let me if the flies get too bad?

Mom brought a magnifying glass for the kids to check out tiny things.

Sundew and Venus Fly Trap plants in moss.  Wouldn’t this make a cute terrarium? 

Next was the Grace Jarecki Seasonal Display Greenhouse Caterpillar Room and the Monarch Butterfly exhibit.   I like these rooms as they are planted with things that grow here in Michigan.  They are just a month or three earlier in bloom time for the exhibit.  It makes my outdoor garden heart happy.  There were many butterfly weed plants with monarch caterpillars in various instar stages on them along with chrysalis waiting to hatch.  An instar is kind of like a caterpillar year, it is the interval between molts.  After it hatches it becomes an eating machine and goes through five instars.  It is labeled first instar, second instar etc. depending on the number of molts the caterpillar has undergone.  We saw tiny little guys and big ones who were well on their way to pupating.

Inspecting caterpillars, chrysalis and learning the lifecycle of a monarch butterfly. 

Hungry, hungry caterpillar.  I love the light in this picture.  Where’s Waldo test: 
There is another caterpillar in this picture.  Can you find him?

The two stages of the chrysalis.  It is only in the very last part of the development of the butterfly that the casing turns clear.  It will hatch very soon.

We visited the same clear chrysalis you see above about an hour later and the butterfly had come out.  Gorgeous!  Monarchs are part of the brush footed butterfly family so they appear to only have 4 legs instead of the required 6 that all insects have.

Everyone is still smiling at this point. 

After a break for lunch and two passes through the cactus and monarchs, we were now ready to tackle the jungle and see butterflies from around the world.  There were many, many people here so I found people walking through my shot, apologizing and then being bumped by another.  No one was rude; it was just packed with people.  I also realized that I REALLY should go watch all the videos on how to use my camera.  It took me almost 10 minutes to figure out how to turn off my flash – it is one of the functions on the main selector knob.  I also had to readjust to a camera that actually auto focused again.  It just didn’t always focus on what I wanted it to focus on with my telephoto lens.  It was also hard to see on the small display if I had actually succeeded capturing the tiny butterfly legs or the veins in the butterfly’s wing.  I think I managed to get a few good shots though. 

My first butterfly shot… a little off center but very much in focus.

Peek a boo.  Isn’t that a cool shadow?

Checked out the butterfly release station and found my first blue morpho.  The white one on the left side up high is a white morpho.  I never figured out what the one on the right below the blue morpho was. 

ORCHIDS!!!  Along with the butterflies there are numerous orchids in the exhibit. 

Orchids native to North America are called Ladies’ Slippers for obvious reasons.

I would love to grow some of these in my yard but they are illegal to dig from the wild and are finicky in their needs.  Since it takes seven years to grow a plant from seed, illegal harvesting has devastated wild stands and those who sustainably raise these plants cannot compete with the prices of stolen ones.  Seeds run about $15 a packet and a single plant is over $100.  Perhaps someday if I am able to rescue some plants from construction destruction (the only time it is legal to move them) I will be able to have some.

I realized after I made the collage that I am obviously partial to pink and purple orchids.

A Postman butterfly perfectly coordinated with its orchid perch.

More color coordination – Small Postman with an orange orchid.

Beautiful arch of Phalaenopsis orchid flowers.  I think there are 13 blooms on this one stem.


I like the colors in this one.

There was a large shrub with bright orange flowers that was covered by butterflies. 
I played hide and seek with the butterflies as they tended to stay on the other side of the bush away from all the people.  The top right picture is from a tree that grows all the way to the ceiling.

Tillandsia (air plants) were tucked in trees and on logs around the greenhouse. 
If you don’t know what these are, then you are missing out on the newest plant fad.

The textures, colors and structures of plants are amazing.

Nellie found a Scarlet Mormon butterfly that matched her outfit.  She was so excited!

I did stalk my blue morpho butterfly as usual and I was blessed twice to have an opportunity to get its picture with the wings open.  Early on in our first visit to the greenhouse I changed out my regular lens for my telephoto lens which was cold and it steamed up in the hot humidity.  While I was wiping off the lens a blue morpho landed ON me.  I grinned and stood really still as I became the center of attention for a few moments.  My mom actually got a shot of it with her phone camera which was really cool.  I got this picture off of FB, credit Kathy Slawson.

Kinda hard to take a picture of a butterfly when it is ON my camera!
I took a LOT of pictures of the several blue mophos that I saw in a rare moment of resting with open wings, but learned a couple of hard lessons when I downloaded them on the computer.  First, the reflective blue is hard to focus on and I did a terrible job of doing it. Second, because my camera’s focal length is so specifically narrow, I might have a sliver of the butterfly in focus but the rest is not, making the entire photo unusable.  I have to work on learning how my camera focuses.

This shot was taken with my regular lens and while it is in good focus, it appears very small.
Here is a close up of the same photo but the quality is poor. 
I was able to switch out my lens for the rest of the shots before it flew away.

Here is a perfect example of my very tight focus depth. 
I have the edge of the wing in perfect focus but the larger wing is not and thus the photo looks burry.

This is much better but still not pristine as I just couldn’t get both of those amazing blue wings in focus.

I got it!  Well, part of it.  I just need to make a composite of the two pictures with each part that is in focus.
The fact that I was able to take over 50 pictures total of a blue Morpho with its wings OPEN was a slight miracle considering how many people were there and the short amount of time I had over all.  Enjoy the blue Shannon.  Just enjoy the blue.  I finished taking pictures and came back to find my family sitting on a bench.  Done, they all look done.  It was hot in the greenhouse and crowded and if you weren’t taking pictures, kinda boring.  How many times can you walk around a little circle of plants? 

I think they are melting.  Time to go home.

I was given some birthday money by my aunt (THANK YOU!) and I bought a couple fun things at the gift shop.

I’ll leave you with one more picture and my gratitude for my mom who sponsored this trip and the patience all of them had with me and my clicking.  It was a wonderful birthday present.

I think there is a rule that you have to get your picture taken in the butterfly chair in the entrance.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Week 13

This week had several important days in it.  First my birthday was on Thursday on which I turned 42 years old.  I am happy to be this age for the alternative would be sad.  I don’t know what you are supposed to feel like in your forties, but my brain doesn’t feel old.   I think I’m just starting to get smart and truly appreciate life and my body despite its ah… shape.  I would like to inform you that round is a shape and that roundish people are nice to hug and cuddle with, no bony parts to poke you.  I can look in the mirror and not hate who I see, not because of who I am but because I know that I am loved and that is more than enough.  This idea of knowing that I am loved has helped me choose to live.  I can now say I want to live and that is an amazing feeling.

The other more important dates this week were Passover, which we remembered and celebrated on Thursday evening, and the First Day of Unleavened Bread, which fell on Sabbath.  Traditional preparation for Passover and Unleavened Bread includes removing all food items with leavening (yeast or a rising agent) and spring cleaning to get all the crumbs out too.  It has been suggested that people who practice this in the past have avoided plagues because their houses were too clean for rats to be attracted and thus no infected fleas.

The spiritual understanding of this physical preparation is to clean your heart of leavening (sin) too.  I asked the Heavenly Father to show me where I am lacking, what I need to surrender and then work on what He tells me.  This year I was convicted to apologize to someone I had wronged and to be more encouraging to those around me.  Both mean that I have to humble myself and kick pride out the door along with the crumbs.  Pride definitely puts a damper on my light.

We celebrated Passover with a group of family and friends during which we remember the great deliverance of the Hebrew people and the great sacrifice of my Redeemer.  I wanted to bring a gift to each household that attended that evening that had relevance to what we were doing.  Since I think a plant is the best gift ever, I decided to make a small reminder of the miracle of the Resurrection.  I found cute pansies at Bill’s Greenhouse (along with some cool tillandsias) and had a nice chat with Calvin who is the owner, along with a tour of what he is growing this spring. 

Aren’t they sweet?  It took me awhile to find 2 four packs of plants with a bloom on every plant.

Sir T and I have recently found a yogurt with excellent ingredients that does not bother my insides and I have been saving the cups from them.  They would be perfect for this little project.  I figured out what I wanted to say, designed how it would look and then took up a sharpie and wrote it out eight times.  By the last two cups, my hand was getting a bit shaky from my concentration but I got them all pretty much identical. 

I decided to put drainage holes in the bottom and the first attempt with a corn cob holder didn’t work so well.

Hammer and nail to the rescue and rather appropriate for the season.  Three holes per cup should work well. 
The key is to support the plastic cup while tapping the nail in with the hammer.

My flock of rejoicing pansies ready to be given away in celebration.

I don’t know if you caught it or not, but I bought some plants for me at Bill’s and I needed to give them a cool home.  I had recently bought a neat hanging glass prism terrarium (on sale of course) and needed to fill it so it wasn’t clutter.  I also had a small glass dish with various sea shells, a candle and Florida beach sand given to me by a sister several years ago which sat on top of my toilet tank that I was tired of picking up daily during my swish and swipe cleaning of the bathroom.  I grabbed my assorted plants, the terrarium and the shell and sand dish and created this cool ocean scene.

I love how the colors of the shells match the plants.
Sir T said that the plant in the shell looks like a squid.  He likes it so that is good.

I hung the terrarium from the towel rod over the toilet from a shower curtain clip so there are no worries of it falling off.  I take the plants out once a week and soak them along with the other ones that are scattered around the house.  I just make sure that I don’t get the bases wet when I put them all in a bowl of water.

I’m really happy with how this turned out.
Um, tillandsia are definitely a collector’s hazard.  You just can’t stop at one, kinda like succulents and orchids.  I have six orchids, over twenty-five succulents and now seven tillandsias along with my various other plants and indoor trees.  Maybe I shouldn’t write out that list, Sir T reads my blogs. 

Orchids are so beautiful… never mind the snow, Michigan’s spring program has failed to download.
Rooper’s orchid on its third year of bloom.

So to finish off this blog, I’ll show you a small project I did for a young lady who goes to my parents' church.  She shot her first turkey and is going to mount the tail feathers.  She wanted her name and the year on the wooden mount.  I used chalk to lay out the name and date and then filled it in with a gold sharpie.  I thought it was pretty cool that she is learning to hunt.  Someday I hope to have a crossbow to hunt venison and while I don’t think I will have any heads mounted in my house, I’m sure I’ll take a picture.

This is “easy” for me and it is a blessing to be able to do this to bless other people. 

While we remember and celebrate this week of Unleavened Bread and the sacrifice and resurrection of my Messiah by intentionally eating “flat” bread, I hope that my heart will be purified as well.  I am loved.  I am saved and I am a child of The King.  That is worth celebrating and all my gratitude.

The group that hosted the services for the First Day of Unleavened Bread had gifts for the attendees there. 
I chose this sign which hangs in the dining room next to my plants.