•    A Visit to the Matthaei Botanical Gardens   

    A garden filled with purple rocks, spider webs woven together with roping, and miniature huts for creative minds to bask in the sunshine is a garden that welcomes children with open arms. The Matthaei Botanical Gardens of Ann Arbor are filled with spunk and sparkle and a lot of serious garden sense. The Botanical Gardens are comprised of the Gaffield Children’s Garden, miles of walking  trails, and a conservatory that features everything from the driest cactus to the glossy sheen of the tropical pineapple. In addition the the gardens, a farmstead is available for viewing from one of the walking trails, and a new building – MiSo house – Michigan Solar House has recently been relocated the property. MiSo house was designed to use only renewable sources of energy. The house captures solar energy and converts it to electricity, which fuels all appliances, radiant in-floor heating, and lighting within the home.

    The Matthaei Botanical Gardens are a great picnic destination, complete with creative inspiration for every generation, and plenty of inspiration for little gardeners with big dreams. Parking is $5.00 for the day and all exhibits are free. For more information, visit here.

    After our own visit to the botanical gardens, we were inspired to create A Tree By Me, which is a simple project that enlists little arms, hands and fingertips to construct a tree with paint.

    All supplies needed to make A Tree By Me are listed below:

    • Green, yellow, and brown paint (or create brown by mixing green, orange and red)
    • Large sheets of blank paper
    • Paint brush – or happy hands – no brush necessary!
    • Clean hands and arms

    Directions:

    • Paint back of forearm with brown paint to make the trunk and press to the paper to create the stump of the tree.
    • Paint palm of the hand with green paint to create leaves and press to the paper again to create the upper section of the tree, stamping several times.
    • Dip fingertips in green paint to create the grass below the tree, and additional leaves. Add yellow paint or glitter, if desired for extra foliage.

    Exploring nature is a treasure that fuels the spirit, even in small doses, rain or shine. We hope this summer you take the time to create your own adventures in nature, if even in your own backyard. May your hands be happy in the dirt within your reach and your soul be happy in the garden of your dreams.

  •    Growing Towards the Light   

    It was a peaceful and quiet afternoon. My mind had stopped racing from a busy morning of breakfast making, teeth brushing and laundry folding. I was enjoying the laughter of my children and the freedom that comes from a few hours without an agenda when I noticed a spectacular occurrence that had happened right before my eyes, but without me paying a moment’s attention to it. It was something that had happened slowly, day by day, inch by inch, by the large window that faces west in our living room. It was something that I had walked by for months in my own home, but had stopped paying attention to, other than a weekly sprinkling of water. My old ivy that once was neatly balanced and centered atop its terracotta put was now off kilter – it was growing towards the light.

    This struck me as an example of nature’s beauty and God’s encouragement – meeting us where we are, regardless of the circumstance. This plant had the sense to lean, stretch, reach and grow each day, not to remain where I had planted it, but to grow towards the light that it needed. This reminded me of my own existence and the type of life I want to lead. I want to live a  life that mirrors the wisdom of this tender plant – growing towards light and goodness, not to reach a destination of perfection, as that will never happen, but to enjoy life with a spirit of giving to others and growing towards the light that is available in our very own soil. Surrounding ourselves with people and activities that bring out our personal best, or internal light is part of our purpose. Sharing our own light with others who live with darkness is equally part of that purpose.

    My old houseplant did not complain about its circumstances or placement in a somewhat shadowy corner of my living room, it instinctually grew in the direction of the light available just outside the window. This simple plant kept its roots firmly within its rich soil and gracefully leaned into the challenge of meeting its need for the sun. Life without light is nothing. A life filled with light, a healthy dose of moving water and a few storms along the way is a life that is full.

    May today you find the encouragement to share your light with someone who may be stuck in one of life’s darker corners.