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some photographic bliss…

It finally happened. After an entire semester with nary a shot fired off on the Leica, I made two exposures on my way to see family for Thanksgiving. I was driving along Friday evening following Thanksgiving Day and saw a couple of nighttime scenes that just stuck in my mind. I have learned to stop and turn around and make the photograph rather than have them haunt my memory. That’s to downside of having a photographic memory. You see things that really get stuck in your head. One of my favorite things ever is going through small towns and little one-lighters and seeing the Christmas decorations made out of tinsel and lights hanging from the telephone poles. It gives me a very nostalgic feeling; the feeling that in some places things aren’t so commercialized and modern to have been turned into cardboard models and LED lights. Anyway, there’s a pretty cool street in a small town north of here that had the decorations up downtown and I couldn’t resist. There are a couple of really cool neon signs down there too, one for a Rexall Drugstore and the other for the City Cafe. I have a couple of versions of this place that I’ll share here. Farther north I saw a photo that I wanted to make that reminded me a little bit of Edward Hopper’s painting Nighthawks. It’s of a restaurant and chocolatier in Hearne. It felt nice to get some images made after so long. It was a very nice opportunity to get some creativity going. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did in making them. Cheers.

 

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on a mission

So, I felt the Lord calling me to missions again this summer. Not just any mission trip to anywhere, but a mission to Africa. I must tell you, I have always been afraid of going to Africa. I’d been afraid that it would be dangerous, afraid of disease, afraid that I wouldn’t be able to connect to the people there. But, the Lord has been softening my heart and changing it. I also realized how closed off I had had been on the previous missions trips I’d been on. I had been afraid of reaching out and actually physically loving on the kids I had been around because I was afraid of getting dirty. I know that sounds horrible, but I let my selfish desire to not get dirty interfere with the opportunity to reach out to the kids I was supposed to be ministering to. I was so wrapped up in going to a cool new place, that I distanced myself from the real reason for being there. I got distracted and I threw away a lot of opportunities. I made it about me, and it makes me really sad to think about now. I’m not saying I didn’t learn things and grow while on those trips, but it could have been a lot different.

So, fast-forward to this summer. The Lord convicted me about the selfishness I’ve held in my heart concerning missions and that began to reach even further into the selfishness I’ve held in life with my friends. It’s so easy for me to hide behind laughter and small talk and not ask people what their life story is and what’s up in their lives. I chicken out on the real-life conversations and keep my distance because it’s safer and I have less of a chance of getting hurt. SO, in the midst of Him revealing this to me, He tells me that I need to go on a mission. To Africa. And work with orphans. To get down on the floor and LOVE on them. I was pretty surprised. Then, last week, I was talking to my boss whose daughter went to Africa this summer on a mission to a town devoted to orphans. It’s called Bulembu. He told me that they may have a trip happening this December and asked if I would be interested in going. OF COURSE! I told him that I would be very interested. I couldn’t believe that the Lord was opening a door to Africa before next summer, but I felt the need to say yes and not hesitate. I am very excited and can’t wait to see how He works it out. I am praying for the Lord to continue to melt my heart for the kids there and incinerate the selfish desires in my heart to close myself off from others. Please be praying that He moves a mountain in my heart that I could not expect!

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tomato news

I heard some good news about the garden from Papa tonight. He told me that the Minnesota Midget melons finally put on some golf ball-sized fruit that was really tasty. He also said that he’d collected a single cayenne pepper from one the prized pepper starts. The ants had been ravaging the okra blooms until, he said, he put some ant killer out. Now, he says they’re doing just fine. Papa also said that he found another very small Cherokee Purple tomato on one of the vines and ate it on his salad yesterday. I was so happy to hear from him and hear how the garden is doing. When I moved I had a terrible sense of feeling as though I had abandoned my first child. I have no children, so I can only suppose that it is something of a similar feeling. I drove away, seeing the paradise of green and zinnias fade away in the rearview mirror and I cried. Actually I bawled. No kidding. Most of that was leaving my grandparents behind and wishing that I didn’t have to. I guess I had developed a sense of responsibility to them and the garden and I felt like I was letting both down. So, in light of that, I felt quite happy to hear how well things had been going since my departure. Papa was very positive and seems to have quite a sense of pride about keeping the garden alive with his careful watering.

He did wonder about the tomatoes though. He asked if he should stop watering them since they’ve quit putting on new blooms and fruit. Meme had put some of the green leafy stems in the dirt to make them take root, so they’ve already started the experimentation process. I told him that I would look some answers up on Google and either call him later, or send them in a letter. Here is what I found…

1) You can start the sucker of tomatoes to propagate new plants – Apparently, one of the most prolific avenues of propagation in indeterminate tomato plants is to pull 2-4 inch suckers off of a maturing plant. A sucker is the little shoot that develops in the crotch joint of two branches. They usually have two little leaves and are easy to pinch off. After you pull of a decent sized sucker (2-4″), plant it in cell packs just like you would with seedlings. I found this little tidbit of info fascinating. I also really want to try it, but have no room (or accessible tomato plants) to take on such a project.

2) You can also propagate tomatoes by taking 6 inch cuttings from the tips of branches. Once you make the cuttings, remove all the leaves from the bottom 4 inches of the cutting. Place them into a 4″ pot of damp potting soil. Make a hole in the soil with a pencil and put the cutting in it, making sure to press dirt in around it covering even the parts of the cutting where you removed some of the leaves.

Keep the cuttings warm, but out of direct sunlight for about a week, making sure to keep them sufficiently moist. Gradually expose them to more sunlight over the course of a week to “harden off” your cuttings. Once you have hardened off the cuttings, they can be planted and given room to grow and make more beautiful tomatoes!

Here’s an excerpt from a book I’m reading called “The Dirty Life” by Kristin Kimball (Scribner 2010):

“The spokesthing for the hot decline of the season was the tomato hornworm. Who knew these creatures existed? Fat as Mark’s thumb and at least as long, they had smooth, soft skin the color of a Granny Smith apple, with white filigree details. Looked at one way, they were beautiful, meticulously drafted as living art; another way, they were horrible, soft, voracious aliens. Either way, I had to admire the camouflage, which was so good I could stare at a damaged plant for ages before I saw the worm, though evidence of its presence was obvious: leaves missing, whole stems consumed, big, wet, clumps of black frass. Sometimes, when I was close but still couldn’t see it, the worm gave itself up with  a faint but menacing clickclickclickclickclick. Mark had told me they bite, so I plucked each one off with my Leatherman and rubbed it into the dirt with my boot. The insides were a bright green jelly; the seven-chambered heart continued to pulse in the dust. I did not dare turn my back on it until it was still.”

This perfectly describes the horrid grossness of the tomato hornworm. I couldn’t have said it any better. If you are looking for an entertaining read about a city girl abandoning the comforts of convenience and turning into a bona-fide farm girl, this is a good one to pick up.

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beauty

“Even to see her walk across the room is a liberal education.”        – C.S. Lewis

There is a beauty to be shared in every woman’s heart. It’s an instinct for us girls to want to be beautiful and share our beauty. Women are created in God’s image to especially demonstrate the beauty of the Lord and the qualities of beauty that He gives us.

 

Why does beauty matter?

Beauty invites us in.

Beauty nourishes us.

Beauty comforts like a mother.

Beauty inspires us.

Beauty is transcendent.

 

All of these things are true for any experience of beauty. They are especially true when we experience the beauty of a woman – her eyes, her form, her voice, her heart, her spirit, her life. (Excerpt taken from Captivating, by Stasi Eldredge).

I have been reading and going through the study guide for Captivating and have been so interested in this concept of godly beauty that we entirely miss so much of the time. As women, I feel like we often carry a burden of feeling that it’s not OK to be beautiful or look pretty. It seems that a lot of times beauty is associated with only the secular world and how disgustingly false an idea of beauty is actually presented there. Often people miss the real reason for the existence of beauty and see it as just something one girl may have more of than another girl. The world looks at the outside of a girl and judges her on appearance. Her true beauty should be judged by her character and her heart. There is such a huge contrast on these two different types of girls. First, there are girls concerned only with the world’s perception of who they are. They may realize their beauty, but try to use it to fill the need to be accepted, loved and to hide their insecurities. Sometimes it seems like in their quest to be different from everyone else, they end up looking exactly the same. Then, there are also girls who are exactly the opposite. They know they are beautiful, but not because of what’s on the outside. They are comfortable in who God made them and exude a confidence that is rare and valuable. They realize that the only thing that will continue on with them in life is not their good looks, but their beautiful hearts and they become more beautiful as they give their needs and insecurities to Jesus. They are hard to find, but it’s truly wonderful when you do. I am so blessed to have girlfriends who possess such true beauty.

For all you girls who may be reading this, I hope that you are encouraged to keep looking at what’s important. The amount you invest in your wardrobe or beauty routine will not satisfy your longing to be feel beautiful. The only way you will be happy is to realize that God made you in His image, and you have a special part to play in revealing the loveliness of God to those around you. Do you realize that woman was created as the piece-de-resistance of creation? The best for last? Remember that God wants to use you in a remarkable way and He has made you just the way you are for a reason.

I have been praying for the Lord to help me be comfortable in exactly who I am in Him at every second. Life is always changing from one moment to the next and I find that I am also growing and changing with it. More and more He gives me little measures of grace to understand more of who He is God is so faithful if we just trust Him and rely on Him.

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the tides of life

Lately I’ve pondered the tides of thought that seem to ebb and flow about relationships, work, and the things in between the serious times in life. I’ve read some interesting things about relationships lately. I’ve also done some serious dreaming about what I want to be doing in five of ten years from now. And as far as the in between times, I recently rediscovered how much fun a see-saw can be, that French is not so scary, and that I would like to add more color to my everyday journal process. Well the journaling hasn’t been quite every day lately, but I am working on it. There is a growing sense of courage developing in me that I have been surprised by. I suppose it is largely caused by changing outlooks on previously intimidating factors in life.

I realize that the whole process and nature of relationships is complicated. It opens us to hurt because we open ourselves and allow ourselves to be emotionally vulnerable with another person. There is no way around possible hurt, because the facts are, everyone will eventually hurt us somehow. We will be disappointed even with our soul mates at some point, even though that doesn’t mean that we don’t love them or that the relationship is over. I am talking about the innate nature of human beings to fail. I must say that from my own perspective, it’s hard not to get a “perfectionistic” idea of relationships from pop culture and chick-flicks. As a woman of course I want to have a man sweep me off my feet, declare his undying love for me, and desire me for who I truly am. What the movies don’t show is the compromise, time, and commitment it takes to continue to build a strong and lasting relationship. The disconnect for me is this nagging fear of settling for less than the best God has for me and that I won’t know when the “right” guy has come along. I realize that this is all part of me learning to trust the Lord more. He is not incompetent in the ways of love and His sole desire is to put just the right man into my life in His perfect timing. I recently read an article about Christians and dating from World Magazine. http://www.worldmag.com/articles/18064 I found it very interesting and it gave me a lot to think about. Maybe more thoughts on that later.

I have also been thinking a lot about work and what I could see myself doing in the next few years. Obviously school is on the agenda. I am excited to accomplish the rest of my formal education, although in my mind I will never stop learning. I have never understood how people can be content to have a question in their mind about something and not go and try to find the answer. It could be anything from how to cook fried green tomatoes to learning how the heat pump works. My thoughts on future plans are still broad sometimes, and there are a lot of things I’d like to do. I think it could be really amazing to some day own an urban farm and teach people what growing is all about. I think it would be awesome to provide fresh food to people and give their taste buds something healthy to crave. I myself have been just recently converted to tomatoes after eating a homegrown one, produced right in my yard.

I rediscovered a childhood playground favorite with my friend Amy Hayward the other day. We decided to go fishing and ended up at the LBJ State Park over toward Stonewall. At the picnic area close beside the river there were two sets of see-saws and a metal, yes metal, slide. She and I were both super excited. Call us juvenile or immature, but when you think back on all the good times you had on an old-school playground, you’d be excited too. We laughed uncontrollably, screamed, and each almost fell off the see-saw at least once. I loved hearing the minor melody that the metal played as we went up and down. The sun and the breeze wrapped us in happiness and we reminisced about the silly things we’d done on playgrounds somewhere in the distant past. Once the fun was over, we went back to being serious adults talking about life and cooking and French.

Peace and Blessings, Ash

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summer newness

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This summer is going to be great. I am already so excited about the garden and eating such yummy veggies! I had a salad this last week that was made up entirely of things from our garden. I am only telling the truth when I say it was the best salad ever. I am also excited about learning to china paint from my Meme. It is difficult, but I think it’s going to be super cool once I get the hang of it. I am also praying about my desire to get a kayak. I’ve wanted one for a really long time, but I think I need to save more money before I really make that decision.

I also was convicted last Sunday about missions. The Lord used a sermon and a friend who just left on a mission trip to reveal this part of my heart that needs to be addressed. I suppose I can share part of it with you. I realized that I have not put my whole heart to the missions trips I’ve been on before. I have allowed the enemy to let me withhold part of the love of Jesus from the people I am ministering to. I was caught off guard in the middle of worship last weekend with this thought going through my head, “You never held one of the least of these.” I was shocked. I realized that in my quest to remain clean and germ-free on the missions trips I have taken (mostly subconsciously), I distanced myself from the very people I was there to serve. It made me sad to think about. The Lord asked me to put myself in their place and asked how much I would long to be hugged and loved on if I were them. I realized my selfishness. I realized that I had gone on missions trips and worked and yes, even come back changed. But, I mostly felt this longing to be changed. I felt a longing to give what I had been withholding. He also placed a particular place on my heart, but I don’t want to mention it here. I need to be praying about it since I don’t want it to be of my desires, but of His.

This summer I hope to spend some time cooking and baking with my friend Amy Hayward. She and Kenny just got married and I am so excited for them. I am also trying to think of ways to make a little extra cash (think kayak on this one). I am also going to be moving to College Station at some point so it won’t be long before I’ll need to be packing up again and moving out. Crazy. I’m not looking forward to math, but it has to be done and it’ll happen one way or another. Only God will be able to give me the brain cells to accomplish that! Anyway, the summer is pretty full. I may try to go see mom and dad. I miss them a lot. Maybe I’ll try to see Aims and Jer too. This may be a train summer. Whoop! Okie dokie, I need to go and get some reading done, but hopefully I’ll be posting here sometime in the near future.

Peace and Blessings, Ash

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dang. red. roses.

Yummy coffee at home…

This last week and a half I’ve just been in a bit of a funk. I was working 10 hour days and then either going to class or studying for midterms. I spent my weekend alone at home staring at government notes. My Meme cut up a quilt she gave me (at least I was pretty sure she did) to make a new cushion cover for her couch. A girl at work got a HUGE bouquet of red roses from some dude who she’s not even dating yet. (I admit, it’s hard not to wish I had someone to send me something nice just because.) The coffee shop closed early while I was trying to get homework done. Then, the owner of the same coffee shop was super rude to me tonight (while I was buying my drink). And, I cried in Wal-Mart. So yeah it’s been a special week.

Honestly, I don’t know why it’s been so hard for me. I can’t figure out what it is exactly that is bugging me so much. Other than being just plain lonely. Which I think sounds bad, because I have made some really cool friends here and I enjoy spending time with my grandparents. I am still getting used to living with Meme and Papa day-in and day-out, and learning all of their little quirks, but they are fun. I’m sure being tired doesn’t help, but lots of people go to college and have jobs and don’t get a lot of sleep. I should be able to hack it too. I don’t like feeling like my spunky side is like a cooling fire that needs more fuel to get it burning again.

Even if this doesn’t make much sense to anyone reading it, writing is therapeutic for me and helps to reset myself sometimes. It’s almost like there are too many thoughts in there all at once and some of them just need to get out in order for them to begin to make sense. What I really feel like doing is pulling an emotional “Tawanda” and just getting out of this weird state I’m in.

Some things I have begun to realize since I moved here:

  • Time is something that has become more precious.
  • I miss my parents more probably than they know or I realize.
  • I wish I could speak up for myself and say what I need to say more often.
  • I am super thankful for the church I have been going to.
  • My new friends are a huge blessing.
  • I am a tiny speck on this world, but God holds me and knows me and cares for me all the same. He has a perfect plan for this time, even if I can’t see it right now.

Well I’m gonna get out of this really awful coffee house. It’s a ripoff and they guy was super rude. Needless to say, I won’t be posting from here ever again and intend on speaking to the chamber of commerce about his terrible service as soon as possible. Sorry to unload about everything, but it needed to get out. Night for now.

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