Popping in to Say Hello

Just a few life updates (and some pictures that caught my eye) before I get back to the tedium of research.

1. Happy birthday to my baby girl…who’s not a baby anymore! I recently raved about my kids on TNL, so I’ll spare you the schmaltz today. Bethany’s first act on the planet was to pee on the doctor (and after we got his bill, we were glad she did), so I texted her this morning: “Go find a doctor and pee on her…just for old time’s sake.” She works with several doctors right now and texted back, “I know a few doctors I wouldn’t mind peeing on!” And thus our weekend celebration begins. The main party is tomorrow, which is actually my late father’s birthday. I love being a dad.

2. The red and white petunias are doing o.k. Only a few of them didn’t make the transplant. I thought they would grow faster than they are, but that’s probably my impatiens coming out. (See what I did there? LOL.) The petunias in the hanging baskets are doing surprisingly well—much better than last year, but my Zenia’s are just “meh” right now. A little bit of dead-heading produced more buds, but their color is less brilliant than when I first planted them. I’m wondering if the mulch layer in the flower bed is too thick for them. Long story short, everything in the yard looks nice, but I don’t think we’re going to win any awards from BH&G this year. I’m not discouraged as much as I am distracted (per #3).

3. I knew the dissertation would feel like a full-time job, and it does. Alas, this one doesn’t pay! I’m now in the thick of my research, and it’s awfully tedious to pull together. Academic writing can be like that. I have enough material for a 450-pager, but I should be targeting about 275 to 300 pages. That will be a real challenge given my proclivity for pedantry and prolixity (of which this sentence is a case in point). I thoroughly love the project and the subject matter, but the time needed to do it well inflicts a bit of guilt whenever I’m not able to tend to other things. I’m told that I have that “far away” look in my eyes these days, even when I’m not reading and writing. That’s because I’m continually thinking about next steps in the process. I’m sure it’s an INTJ thing. The other downside is that getting immersed in the project has interfered with my workout schedule. Grrrrrr!!! After doing so well in the first quarter of 2021, I have to find a way to reboot again. 

4. Sanity by way of diversion is maintained each night with a streaming binge. I hardly ever watch the news anymore (too depressing), or news analysis shows (too manipulative), or baseball games (too political), which leaves me with a small window to watch something with a storyline. I can now add to my previous binge list: “Halt and Catch Fire” (interesting), “The Hobbit” (classic), “Anne with an E” (adorable, though darker than the Megan Follows version), “Designated Survivor” (thrilling), and “Quantico” (intriguing). Right now, I’m in Season 1 of “House of Cards.” I’m still waiting for more from “Victoria,” “The Crown,” “Warrior Nun,” and “Stranger Things.” I’m assuming the COVID crisis interfered with a lot of production schedules. (As always, I skip the raunchy parts or entire episodes as necessary.) In any event, perhaps we love stories because we’re in the middle of the ultimate Story…and the ultimate Author is developing his characters in his own cosmic page turner. It’s interesting how the word “author” is so closely related to the word “authority.” Whoever we allow to author our own story is our true authority.

5. I am now a track mentor in our seminary’s Th.D. program. Specifically, I’ll be serving in the Next Generation Apologetics track. That means I’ll be taking a handful of students through their own doctoral journey in the coming years, on top of teaching the full cohorts in two of their five core course. Prayers will be appreciated for this new venture!

6. We’ve made the decision to try to get my mother-in-law to the triennial family reunion next month. That’s not going to be easy since it’s a 9-hour drive, and she doesn’t travel well. But given the progression of her disease, we think it may be the last time she will be able to meaningfully interact with her twelve remaining siblings and their families. Our plan is to stay two full days (instead of the whole week) and then come right back so as not to thoroughly disorient her. Yup, prayers appreciated for that challenge, too.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you have a marvelous weekend!

Bunnies Are Cute, Right?

I’ve been wondering for the past several years why the rose bushes in our backyard never flourish. Two days ago I got my answer. The neighborhood bunny thinks they’re a snack. Actually, we have a family of bunnies living under the massive holly tree across from our patio near the property line. These little fur balls are cute, but I’d like to remove their tastebuds during the spring and summer months. 

Usually skittish at my approach, the puffy rascal just kept munching away as I walked toward it. Only at the last moment did it hop away, proud of its larceny and subsequent escape. I’ve since learned that rabbits can safely eat all parts of a rose bush, including the flower petals, stems, leaves, everything. The good news is they haven’t discovered the roses in my front yard.

The rest of our cultivation projects are doing well, including the zinnias, petunias, marigolds, and sundry bushes. Even the garden has started producing. The tomatoes will take another month or two, but the lettuce is ready to go now. I’d happily share some of that with the bunnies in exchange for keeping my roses. 

The post-bunny rose bush.
A bunny-free rose bush in the front yard.
Another variety of rose bush in the front.
These roses are lighter and more delicate than the sultry Lincolns.
Most of the petunias transplanted well.
A white petunia taking hold.
Wave petunias work well in hanging baskets, and they’re a lot cheaper when you plant them yourself rather than buying them pre-assembled.
The daylilies (which aren’t really lilies) are beginning to unfold.
A few of the daylily buds have already opened.
A row of lettuce in the garden box. I’ll exchange some of this with the bunnies to keep my roses.
For a city boy like me, watching food go from the garden to the table is a real delight.
Tomato cages in the garden box.
Peppers in the garden box.
A happy cluster out back by the shed.
The one remaining rose in the backyard that the bunny hasn’t discovered yet. Game on, ya little booger. 🙂

A Good Day in the Flowerbeds

Today was mulching day at our house. Right before that it was trim-back-the-stems day for our numerous perennials (mostly tulips and daffodils), followed by weeding as much as possible before the placement of mulch. I wouldn’t say that my thumb is entirely green, yet, but I’m incredibly happy with how it all turned out.

  • The rose bushes have begun to flower.
  • The rhododendron bush has begun to pop. 
  • The zinnias have adapted after transplant.
  • The petunias (most of them) are doing well.
  • The jacks in the pulpit are now free to spread out.

Alas, one of the azalea bushes needed to be removed because of disease. Additionally, the dogwood tree will probably need to be removed this fall. For the past three years we’ve been trying to nurse it back to health, but it seems to have run its course. A handful of petunias didn’t take root, either, so I’ll be replacing them next week.

The good news is that I’ll probably be getting my Japanese maple this fall, along with another dogwood tree and some new landscaping at the southwest corner of the house. I also saw some geraniums at the seminary golf tournament this past week, and they looked marvelous, so those cuties might have a future in our flowerbeds, too.

Growing up in a city row home never allowed for this kind of cultivation, but I’m digging it now. (Sorry, cheap pun intended.) Seriously, the beauty of creation is inspiring, and Pennsylvania seasons are the best.

Time to Plant the Annuals

Mother’s Day is the calendar marker for planting annuals in the flower beds around our house, so I’ll be getting my hands dirty this week. We’re trying some new things this year, and we’ll see how it goes. Pictures of the real flowers will come later. The ones below are stock photos showing the ideal.

For the front and side flower beds, I got red and yellow Zinnias to plant, with a few lavenders poking through. They stand about 12” tall right now and supposedly do well in the sun. I chose them to match the color and vibrancy of the tulips, which I adored while they were here. Hopefully they’ll do just as well.

In front of the Zinnias will go the shorter red and white petunias. Last year’s impatiens didn’t do very well, so we’re giving these a try. The flowers are a bit larger than the imaptiens, so if they thrive, the beds will look nice when they emerge.

For the hanging baskets (4 on the front porch, 4 on the back patio, and 2 on my mother-in-law’s patio), we’re trying red, white, and purple wave petunias this year. It will take a while for them to start “waving,” but they’re much cheaper when you assemble the baskets yourself. I suppose it will be my lesson in patience this year. Alas, like Veruca Salt in Willy Wonka, “I want it now!”

My mother-in-law will also get a bed of yellow French marigolds. They are her favorites, and we think she may still have enough capacity to putter around and enjoy them this year.

Below are some unrelated pictures that recently caught my eye. The first is my summer home. 🙂 The second is my summer transportation. 🙂 And the third is a brain teaser. Can you tell what it is? (If you get stumped, turn your phone, tablet, or laptop upside down.)

Have a great week!

And Here Come the Azaleas

Here’s a teeny life update with a few extras—for no other reason than that I need a brief diversion from proffing, pastoring, lawyering, dissertating, and websiting. Life is good; it’s just a little thick right now. 

1. The brilliant petals on the tulips in our front yard have finally dropped. They lasted slightly longer than last year, but they’re naturally transient, so I had to bid them farewell. Fortunately, our azalea bushes are now popping. These flowering shrubs are admirably carrying the color torch passed on to them by the tulips. I dig ’em, even though they’re not my absolute favorite. I hope to get a Japanese maple some day, along with a replacement dogwood tree. I also love trees with white bark (see below). The grass in our neighborhood right now is a thick, lush, deep green. Heavenly.

2. I’m thoroughly enjoying my new Ford Edge. I finally learned how to use the display and all its apps. The moonroof is super cool, too. I’ve never had one of those. I can also open the hatch with my foot (as long as I have the key fob on me), which has come in handy several times already. It also closes at the touch of a button. Very convenient. My youth like to pile into it whenever we go for a McDonald’s run during Sunday school. But my cars haven’t always been on the newer side. When I was in high school, I drove a hideous 1973 Mercury Comet. Its color was indecipherable, but it was somewhere on the spectrum between Gulden’s mustard and burnt pumpkin pie. It had 4 doors and a brown vinyl top—a real chick magnet for a teenage boy. But, hey, it had a 302 engine. The only other car I had with that kind of pickup was a Mercury Grand Marquis with an 8-cylinder engine.

3. Our Keurig recently bit the dust, so I had to go get a new one. The upsides of the new unit are that (a) it wasn’t as expensive as I thought it would be, and (b) I like this one even better; it has more cup sizes and a bigger water reservoir. It also looks more stylish. No, I’m not addicted to coffee. I just drink it for the protection of those around me in the morning.

4. Our bathroom renovation project is slowly coming to an end. The list of missteps and mishaps is too long to mention, but soon it will be fully operational. Fortunately, we have two others to use in the interim—which has lasted eight months now instead of one. And these are the professionals doing it! That’s not a bust on them; it would have taken me a decade to do it myself given what they were up against. The latest mishap was their knocking over the medicine cabinet and shattering one of its three glass doors. The good news is that everything they’ve actually done or installed so far looks amazing. 

5. I preached the other week on Psalm 23, so I riffed on the cluelessness of sheep for a bit, underscoring why they (we) so desperately need a good shepherd. This brief video clip makes the point much better than I ever could.

6. This week’s song of the week at TNL, which I post every Monday, is Lauren Daigle and the Hillsong team singing “How Great Thou Art.” Lovely.

7. Charles Wesley’s “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” is required singing on Easter Sunday morning. Here’s a contemporary version with an added bridge. Not bad. 

8. Here’s the best thing you’re likely to see all day. A group of special folks recite Psalm 139 for us. As someone who was unplanned, unwanted, and unloved from the day of my conception until the day of my adoption 22 months later, I have always been moved and encouraged by the words of King David in this beautiful psalm. Charles Spurgeon once said, “Before we ever had a place in this world, we had a place in God’s heart.” Amen.

9. It’s been a long time since I published a “Just between You and Meme” post. I’ve been collecting good stuff, but I haven’t had time to pull it together. So here are just a few clippings that recently made me chuckle. (I’ll save the really good stuff for later.)

10. I’ve been working out at the local YMCA lately (cardio, weights, and swimming). I figured that since we all have to wear masks while on site, the rescue dummy should have to wear one, too. So, yesterday I gave him mine to use while I was in the pool. He didn’t resist. (BTW, that’s my new Batman towel at the bottom of the one picture. My mother-in-law got it for me for my birthday. When I use it, I feel invincible. Haha!)

11. I spent two decades loathing the mainstream media, but I think The Babylon Bee has a better approach. Just mock them mercilessly. Loathing takes too much energy, and it’s all negative energy. Sheesh, why bother? Yes, the Bee crosses the line sometimes, but the national mainstream media try to play us every single day. They’re just contemptible.

12. Supremely encouraged by so many blessings in the last five years. Of course, it helps when your spouse’s kingdom gifts are not only recognized but compensated. The best part is being able to give more. Home renovations are an added benefit. I can’t help thinking of Jenn Johnson’s song, “Goodness of God.” 

13. A former ICL student stopped by yesterday and expressed his appreciation for our ministry to him and also to enroll in seminary. He said thank you with Wilbur Buds. I wanted to say you’re welcome by eating them, but I’m trying to behave right now. Goals and all that. But how “sweet” of him to express his gratitude in that way. As my students have heard me say many times, “Chocolate is proof of God’s existence. Peanut butter is proof of his power. And the two together are proof of his goodness.”

And now…

May the Fourth be with you.

(And also with you. Hehe!)

Have a great week!


UPDATE: Mother’s Day is the time we usually plant impatiens in the front flower bed. Last year we did red and white, but the white ones didn’t do very well. We may try petunias this year. Any other suggestions?

Blooming Boldly

Ralph Walderson Emerson once said, “The earth laughs in flowers.” If that’s true, then my front yard is howling with delight right now. I’m so thrilled with how our red and yellow tulips have flourished this year. I had to take some snaps earlier today since they don’t last very long. Fortunately, new and different blooms will come after the tulips have had their day.

Off to celebrate my son’s birthday. And pretend I can sing. (There’s something magical about a karaoke microphone, right?)

Have a great weekend!