Sunday, January 27, 2013

Refresh and Renew: Quilt and Pansies

Dear friends,

I often say, "We're not fancy folk..."  And I mean it.  I'm not into bling.  Just simple and quaint.   I wear very little jewelry (usually just my wedding rings) and very little makeup.

So if I could identify with a lady in a TV commercial, it wouldn't be a Revlon Girl, but one of those gray haired grandmas wearing a straw hat, her vintage bicycle basket filled with flowers that she is about to plant in her cottage garden. Except that I don't even ride a bike.  OK, maybe one in a sloppy bun daubing a canvas with her paintbrush as she extols the healing properties of her new arthritis medicine.  Except that I don't paint anymore. Whatever.  That's still how I see myself.  Eclectic.  Nurturing.  Tender.  Resourceful. Creative.   In my home decorating, I'm funky folksy, but not country cute.  I love old quilts, lace doilies, and baskets, but spare me the wooden geese with bows around their necks.

One of my "old" quilts is not authentically vintage old.  It's one my sister-in-law bought years ago, hand-stitched but not patchwork-pieced, with a soft blue microfiber border.  She passed it along to me with several small holes -- some of them from burns, I would guess from the looks of the curled and blackened edges in the microfiber, which must have a bit of synthetic in it.  

We'd been using it in the cold months only, an extra layer, but I started to like the quirky  dot pattern in its own aesthetic right.  Besides, it's soft and natural, with a backing made of smooth cotton.  Finally, I figured I'd better patch up the holes and prolong its life.


Here we are at last.
A spool of thread, matched at the store 
with a digital photo of the quilt border.
Hundreds of tiny little stitches while listening to my son read Chemistry.
My hands hurt. I need that arthritis cream.  

Not exactly good as new, but it will do.
A happy feeling of accomplishment.
I'm not the most homemaker-y person in the world,
so these little things count big to me.

I'm more like a Black Thumb, with plants or anything else.  This is ironic.  My mother is an excellent gardener.  As a child in San Francisco, under her tutelage, I grew pansies, poppies, petunias in the front yard.  Not just flowers, though.  In the backyard: corn, green beans, pumpkins, blackberries.

But here I am, 50 later this year, always distracted by one thing or another.  I start something and forget to follow through.

The poor purple pansies I bought just before Christmas, gangley enough when I found them on clearance, have been languishing in two planters on my garden walls.  Wilted.  Weedy.  Brown.  Spindly.  Drooping over the edge.  Time for some TLC.  Tender. Loving. Care.

Last week I brought them inside to the dining room table to work on them.   First, I uprooted a prickly and stubborn weed that had rooted deep, taken over a corner. Then I gently pulled each of the dozen or so plants out of the square black pots, separated them, and laid them out.  Could I salvage this one or that?  Is it healthy enough to survive?

-- Meanwhile, a startled black lizard jumped out of one of them and scuttled across the kitchen.  (I'll reckon he finds enough to eat from the crumbs my kids leave out, or a bug or two skittering across the floor in the dark of night.) --

I pulled off the dead flowers, leaves, stems.

I potted a fresh new yellow pansy in the middle of each planter.

I tucked in the ailing sprouts around the edges.

My daughter and I have been watering them, she more than I.  Maybe she will pick up where her Grandma left off in helping me nurture plants.

Still some drooping.  Still some dry spots.  But they are coming along well enough.

I love the friendly faces of the pansies.

I bought some golden poppy seeds recently.  If I can find where I stashed them, they're up next.  Shall I sprout them in a cake pan like we've been doing for the radish seeds in our science experiments?

We'll see if I can recreate the Garden of My Youth.  For now, I'll enjoy my perky pansies and soft polka dot quilt.

My One Word life theme for this year is Refresh.

A time to take something old and worn out,
and make it over again,
almost as good as new.

A time to take an old and worn out Mama.
Lord, make me over again,
maybe even better than new.
There is a beauty in vintage,
a beauty in life experiences,
that broaden and deepen,
even with the pain and scars.


There is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,
 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace.
What does the worker gain from his toil? 
I have seen the burden God has laid on men. 
He has made everything beautiful in its time. 
He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; 
yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 
I know that there is nothing better for men 
than to be happy and do good while they live. 
That everyone may eat and drink, 
and find satisfaction in all his toil
—this is the gift of God.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-13

Or, for a vintage funky musical version....

May you be refreshed and renewed...

Virginia Knowles

P.S. Though I had already planned to post this, the contents were partially inspired by Dan Christensen's blog Diamonds in the Dumpster.

The top photo in this post is my P52 / Sweet Shot Tuesday submission this next week.

You can see my current photo collection here: Sweet Shot 2013.

P52 Sweet Shot Tuesday with Kent Weakley

I also link at these other weekly blog parties...

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Flame Vine

"Flowers appear on the earth;
    the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves 
is heard in our land.
The fig tree forms its early fruit;
   the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise, come, my darling;    
my beautiful one, come with me.”

I see the flame vine on this fence 
nearly every time I drive out of our neighborhood.
I knew I would stop for photographs soon
as it only blooms a certain part of the year.
It is a chilly and gorgeous January day,
and though it had just been spitting rain,
the sky is now a bluest blue.
I had to park around the corner
and walk a bit to get my view up close.
It was worth it.
See the busy bee?
Most of our Florida agriculture
depends on honey bee pollination. 

Look closely again!
Do you see the shadow
of a curly tendril on the leaf?
It almost looks like a word in cursive writing,
but not a word that I know.
No secret message for me this time!
Just a clear reminder of the Creator of Love.

Arise, come, my darling;    
my beautiful one, come with me.
And a long view again.
We need both up close and far away.
Different perspectives.
Same beauty.
Computer drawing by my 11 year old daughter

What will you take the time to stop and see today?

The top photo in this post is my submission this next week.

P52 Sweet Shot Tuesday with Kent Weakley

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Weekend Gratitude: Homeless Outreach in Downtown Orlando

A Saturday night.
Downtown Orlando, across from Lake Eola.
Over 60 volunteers.
About 200 homeless folks.
Hot dinner.  Snacks bags.
Toiletries.  First aid kits.
Clothes.  Blankets.  Sleeping bags.
Love in action.

Tables lined up with all the good stuff!
(Photo edited with the funky HDR-ish option in Picasa)

Side windows at St. George Greek Orthodox Church
(Many church groups use the parking lot for feeding the homeless
We had to move up to an adjacent sidewalk 

since the lot was needed for an event.)
Pillars at the front of St. George Greek Orthodox Church
This is my 
 P52 / Sweet Shot Tuesday photo submission.

Fountain at Lake Eola

a former cocaine addict,
is now a believer in Jesus, 

and feeds the homeless
several times a week in Orlando.
You can find him at

Would your church or organization 

like to help out occasionally?
It takes a bunch to keep this going!
My beautiful daughter Julia publicized the event,
gathered and organized food, toiletries, clothing and bedding,
and recruited a bunch of volunteers from her church.
Many other volunteers came from First Baptist
(they brought the hot meal),
and a few, like me, from other churches.
I'm so glad we could partner with others at a time
when homeless normally come for a meal anyway.
My son-in-law Alex, Michael, Julia, and Allura
(who has been a wonderful ministry mentor to Julia)
Sorry for the lighting problems on this photo!

Michael chatting with a patron at the clothes table --
lots of conversations going on around here!
Folks are starting to line up to eat

In addition to a hot meal and dessert,
we handed out snack bags.
A few camellias from my backyard
to grace the food table --
because Beauty is the handmaiden
of Justice and Mercy.

Bins of toiletries in ziplock bags --
some for men and some for women!

In addition to the toiletries, we also handed
out 60 first aid bags that were assembled
by my home school co-op students.
The supplies were donated by a family friend.
Everyone seemed really thankful for them!
My 11 year old daughter, who is in my co-op class, is on the left.
My 21 year old daughter Rachel joined us, too.
I loved having three of my daughters there!
So good to see them involved in doing good!

Some of the 60 or so volunteers.
On the right, my dear and longtime friend Donna
with her daughter,
who was one of my co-op students a while back!
This dear man was the recipient of many
homeless feedings for years.
Now he loves Jesus and
ministers to the homeless with Michael.
I can't remember his name,
but he is being featured in a documentary
about the homeless that will be shown
at the OLA film festival next month.

Danny, a pastor,
brought a Bible encouragement to the crowd
before the meal, and afterwards, prayed with the volunteers.

I am grateful.
For a home.

For food.
For clothes.
For family.
For friends.
For church.
For Jesus.

How about you?

Virginia Knowles

This post will be linked at...

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Colors of Hope for a Happy New Year!

"Ah," says my artist friend, "all those greens, in their various shades, are just blends of blue and yellow.  There are infinite shades of green, but each is nothing more than a blend."  She goes on to tell me that red, blue, and yellow are the three colors from which all colors derive.  I continue to listen, but behind the curtain of polite attention, my mind has gone theological, as I ponder the complexity of God's laws in Israel; ten commandments, which, in the hands of scholars, became 613 interpretations, which then spawned volumes and volumes of thought.  The complexity of it can get a little overwhelming.  I wish the obtuse and multifaceted nature of what God is calling us toward could, like colors, be reduced down to three "primary colors" from which all God's ethics, and priorities, and plans could be derived.  Then I remember:
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
"All the colors are a blend of these three," my artist friend says, her words calling me back to the present for an instant.  I ponder the reality that marriages healed, wells dug, schools and hospitals built, generosity practiced, weapons laid down in the pursuit of reconciliation, apartheid ended, literacy increased, mentorships begun, homeless folks sheltered, meals cooked, toilets cleaned -- all are various blends of the principles here in Micah 6:8.  Every act of beauty carried out in Christ's name derives from a blend of these, God's three primary colors.

   --- Richard Dahlstrom, The Colors of Hope: Becoming People of Mercy, Justice, and Love

The juxtaposition of justice and beauty has fascinated me for many years, so I'm thrilled to be reading a book calling Christians to "be artists who paint with the colors of hope in a broken world."  I'm looking forward to reading the section on "Creating Art While Life Happens."

I know I'm an amateur at just about everything.  Even after mothering for more than a quarter of a century, I still feel like a kindergartner finger-painting and block-building my way through bringing beauty and justice into my own home.  And even with all of the teaching and writing I do (whether at home, in the classroom, or on-line), I sometimes feel like I'm speaking another language.  I just bought some pencils with the George Bernard Shaw saying, "The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place."  Am I just babbling in even the most heartfelt conversation?

Maybe so.

But I'm going to keep trying in 2013: growing past cynicism into more faith and love, creating a nurturing home for my family, helping my children with their academics and life skills, teaching English in a home school co-op, writing life observations and essays and poems for my blogs, taking and editing pictures to bring message through image.  I will keep musing and then acting on beauty and justice, whether it is just the mundane within my four walls, or something wild and way beyond.

I want to, as Sara Groves sings, "add to the beauty, tell a better story, shine with the light that is burning up inside."

If you can't see the video below, click here:

Please also take a peek about my other musings on justice and beauty.

  • Just Beauty
  • Beauty and Diversity on an Autumn Sunday in Maryland
  • A Note Wedged into the Window on My Van (And a Fresh Advent Poem)
  • Out of Africa and Into My Classroom: Rwanda and Reconciliation
  • "With Literature and Justice for All" Workshop Videos
  • Corpus Christi
  • Do Cry
  • Diary of a Mom's Day in D.C.: Holocaust Museum, Asian Art, Metro Crash
  • "If" by Rudyard Kipling
  • We Live in Deeds, Not Years...
  • Advocating for the Vulnerable Series on Watch the Shepherd Blog

  • Please also visit the New Year's posts at two of my favorite blogs....

    With beauty and justice for all,

    P.S. My 11 year old daughter and I created the tie dye handkerchief at the top of this post, along with several T-shirts, a tote bag, and an apron.  The picture is my contribution to P52 / Sweet Shot Tuesdays.  If you would like to see my pictures from last year, click here: P52 Photos 2012.

    P52 Sweet Shot Tuesday with Kent Weakley

    I love what one of the other Sweet Shot contributors posted here: Welcome 2013 

    My other favorite picture of the week is from roasting marshmallows in our backyard last night for New Year's Eve -- my husband's sweet way of creating warm memories for our children.  Can you see the marshmallow there in the middle of the flame?

    Marshmallow in the Middle

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