Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Blessings of Hollyhocks

Last fall, I planted Hollyhocks and I see that they are peeking through the soil! I love old-fashioned flowers and Hollyhocks are one of my favorites. Having graced outbuildings on farmsteads for over a century, these dazzling beauties have also been a favorite in English cottage gardens for hundreds of years. Years ago Hollyhocks were planted next to the outhouse so that refined ladies could just look for them without having to ask, “Where is your privy?” While there isn’t a lot of “sophistication” in my family background, I do remember them growing next to the outhouse at Grandma’s! With some varieties growing up to 9 feet tall, in their rich and delicate colors, standing so majestic and proud, Grandma’s Hollyhocks “marked the spot”!

One of my favorite neighborhood memories is learning to make dolls from Hollyhock blossoms and buds. My friend and neighbor, Amy Pumfrey taught me how. Guess where we found the flowers? Yep; next to their outhouse! While I wasn’t very old, I still remember how to make these pretty dollies! Carefully peeling off the green of a bud, Amy showed me its gleaming white face under an elaborate bee-hive hair do. Breaking off a section of a toothpick and threading it into the base of a blossom with about a quarter inch remaining, we placed the head onto the protruding end of the toothpick. We then gave our dolly arms using more toothpick pieces.

Voila! She was absolutely stunning in her eloquent dress frilled with heart-shaped petals!

Hollyhock dolls love being creative – they like floating in a bowl of water or decorating the top of a cake. They even like being carried on a skewer as a bouquet.

As a young girl, I had no idea that Hollyhocks offer so many blessings.
Not only are they pretty and fun, they also have medicinal properties!

Having a soothing affect on mucous membranes, tea from the blossoms is used for treating:
• coughs and bronchitis
• earaches
• gastrointestinal problems
• bladder infection
• skin inflammation.

Just before they fully bloom, harvest the flowers and air-dry them at 95°F. Pour 1 cup of boiling water over one blossom. Steep 5 minutes. Add a bit of honey and/or lemon if desired. One cup daily is recommended.

Hollyhocks are usually easy to grow. When planning their permanent home consider that they are drought tolerant, but they bloom best in moist soil and full sun. They are heavy feeders and we have plenty of horse poop if you need any! Hollyhocks bloom from the bottom up and pinching off the dead flowers encourages new blooming. Keep in mind, however, that they don’t bloom until the second year!

When the bloom's petals fall off the seed pods are exposed. Resembling an old draw-string coin purse with little coins (seeds) inside, its best to leave the pod undisturbed until it opens by itself. You may then pick the pods and scatter the seeds where you’d like to grow more Hollyhocks or collect them in an envelope and freeze them to kill any potential weevils. Once the pods are spent, trim the plant to about 8 inches and cover with coal ashes to keep the slugs away. While Hollyhocks do best when their roots are undisturbed, you may dig up short side shoots in September and October for transplanting or sharing with a friend.

I can hardly wait until my Hollyhocks bloom. I bet you’ll never guess where I planted them!


P.S. Please feel free to contact me with questions, thoughts, topics you’d like to ponder or to read past articles at: You may also contact me at:
Bonnie Jaeckle
In Search of the Whole-Hearted Life
Diagonal Progress
505 Jefferson St.
Diagonal, IA 50845

The author of this article does not endorse everything represented on/in suggested links, books, etc. Each of us is accountable to God to weigh everything according to His Word.

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Thursday, March 22, 2012


In last week’s article I shared that most of us have been taught that by sacrificing something for Lent we “create within ourselves the desire to do God’s will”. However, according to Romans 8:5, 7, we are not capable of such an accomplishment:

Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure, (Philippians 2:13).

We also learned last week that according to the standard teachings, we make sacrifices during the Lenten season in a effort “To make His kingdom come by making it come first of all in their hearts”. However, if we look closely at Scripture, we’ll discover that this is a false doctrine. Nothing in God’s Word indicates that He is setting up His kingdom in the hearts of men. Instead, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel,’ (Mark 1:14-15). When the Pharisees asked when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus answered, The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you, (Luke 17:20-21). Some interpret this to say, “The Kingdom of God is within you.” I doubt that He would be making such a declaration about the Pharisees! The Messiah had already come! Christ, the King was among them and His miracles were evident appearances that His Kingdom had arrived!

If you are considering “giving-up something for Lent,” may I suggest that rather than conforming to man-made traditions, God’s word is very clear about the sacrifices which please Him:

Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers…. Remember those who are in prison…. and those who are mistreated…. Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled…. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have…. Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings…. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God, (Hebrews 13:1-16).

It is through obedience to such things, not religious rituals, that we experience intimacy with our Lord!

Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
…..for the mouth of the LORD has spoken,

(Isaiah 58:8-9, 14).

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect, (Romans 12:1-8).


Thursday, March 15, 2012


This time of year always reminds me of the Sunday, our son, Jake and I were sitting next to a couple who were “new comers” in our congregation. Neither of them had much of a church-going history, consequently they knew very little about the “standard operating procedures” of a typical Sunday service, the institutional church calendar, etc. As the pastor of that congregation, my husband, Gary announced that it was the season of Lent. Being unfamiliar with anything other than lint from clothes dryers and belly-buttons, the husband of this new couple said quite loudly, “Lent! What’s Lent?” While his wife was busy elbowing the poor fella in the ribs, Jake and I nearly burst into laughter! Recalling this scene cracks me up every time, yet the chap had a good question, “What’s Lent?”

Unlike other “holidays” celebrated by the secular and the religious, the Lenten season seems to be reserved for the “dedicated religious believers”. While we may truly be dedicated, we must seek to understand what Scripture teaches about observing such celebrations rather than following the traditions of man (Mark 7:7-9).

Regardless of our denominational background, Western Christian liturgical calendars are based on the cycle of the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church since this cycle pre-dates the Reformation. Consequently, the Catholic Church is where we should turn to understand the practice of Lent. According to The Catholic Encyclopedia:

Lent is the period of six and one half weeks from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. During Lent, for 40 days, excluding Sundays, fasting is recommended for all Catholics according to the laws of fast. This is reminiscent of the 40 days of our Lord's unbroken fast (Matthew. 4:3-4).

The real aim of Lent is, above all else, to prepare men for the celebration of the death and Resurrection of Christ…the better the preparation the more effective the celebration will be. One can effectively relive the mystery only with purified mind and heart. The purpose of Lent is to provide that purification by weaning men from sin and selfishness through self-denial and prayer, by creating in them the desire to do God’s will and to make His kingdom come by making it come first of all in their hearts.

This explains the common question, “What are you giving-up for Lent?” While “spiritual discipline” may be a good thing, no amount of any form of self-denial makes us clean before God. Instead, Scripture teaches that we are purified by faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:11-14, Acts 15:9).

Do we truly believe that we can adequately prepare ourselves to “relive the mystery” of Christ’s death and resurrection by relinquishing one worldly pleasure or another for 40 days? In fact, if such things are so “bad” that we feel a need to “sacrifice” them for Lent, why are we doing them at all? Isn’t it magical thinking to believe that we can earn favor with God by such practices?

If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world,
why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—
“Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”…
—according to human precepts and teachings?
These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion
and asceticism and severity to the body,
but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh,
(Colossians 2:20-23).

Our heavenly Father certainly doesn’t mince any words regarding His view about such religious practices.

Is such the fast that I choose,
a day for a person to humble himself?
Is it to bow down his head like a reed,
and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
Will you call this a fast,
and a day acceptable to the LORD?
(Isaiah 58:1-5)

Yet, He doesn’t leave us wondering about what He does desire:

Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
(Isaiah 58:6-7)

Rather than a “preparation” for a ceremonial observance, such a lifestyle is actually the result of what Jesus has already accomplished on our behalf!

Stay tuned next week for more on “What’s Lent?”


Thursday, March 8, 2012


As a trauma nurse, I witnessed many unusual things and experienced many unforeseen circumstances.  Like the following, some of those experiences are forever branded in my mind:

It wasn’t uncommon for people to come to the E.R., complaining of one fictitious ailment or another, hoping for their predetermined outcome: drugs, attention, free room and board, etc.  This was particularly common on cold winter nights when the homeless were looking for shelter.  Most of them were in often enough that they were on a first name basis with us!  So that we could make preliminary preparations, when the paramedics radioed in, they would often provide us with gender and initials if they were transporting someone whom we all knew.  Although it isn’t likely today, back in those days, hospitals would often provide a room for the night if it was exceptionally cold outside.  It didn’t take long for word about the hospitals’ unwritten policy to travel the streets and, during really cold spells, the homeless would often relish a long hot shower, delight in a good night’s sleep and savor a decent meal.

One evening the paramedics provided us with information about a female whom they were transporting, but gave no initials.  We prepared for her anticipated needs; however after a brief examination it was evident that she truly didn’t need hospitalization and she was discharged.  She was not a happy camper!

I offered to find her a ride home; the conversation went like this:

“Do you have any relatives or friends whom I can call to come get you?”  She just stared at me.

“What is your address?  I’d be glad to ask the police to take you home.”  She looked right through me!

“Where do you sleep at night?”  “Hardee’s on Harrison,” she responded abruptly!

After spending several nights on a bench at Hardee’s restaurant on Harrison Street, evidently she’d gotten wind of the hospitals’ “standard procedure” and hoped that she’d be granted a room for the night.  She was disappointed that the outcome wasn’t what others seemed to have experienced.

My heart went out to our new E.R. friend.  Her situation reminds me of times in my life when it seemed as though I had no one to call, didn’t know where to turn and that the Provider and Comforter upon whom others had come to depend didn’t seem to be showing up for me:

Where in the universe are You?

What on earth are You doing during these endless dark nights?

Where is the assurance that You’re in the midst of my spiritual hunger and thirst?

Where am I to turn to find rest for my weary body and mind?

For the sake of Jesus, why don’t You show up?

Ever been there?

Not unlike our E.R. friends, when we plead for help, we often have a predetermined outcome in mind and get pretty disturbed when God doesn’t pull through accordingly.

Yet, Father doesn’t abandon us during these trials.  After all, it was our Creator who granted Satan limited power in Job’s life (Job 1:12) and He had an ultimate goal in mind in using “the Accuser” to test Job.  He waits and watches while holding the reins:

  • Will she turn to Me or others?

  • Will she continue to honor Me in the midst of the storm?

  • Will her faith in Me waiver?

  • To the human mind, God’s approach often seems cold and calculating and we’re typically clueless as to what His goal is, yet in due course, Job understood it well:

    Then Job answered the Lord and said,

    “I know that You can do all things,

    and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.”…

    “Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand,

    things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”…

    “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear;

    But now my eye sees You;

    Therefore I retract,

    And I repent in dust and ashes.”

    Job 42:1-6

    Like Job, when we come to the end of our trial actually seeing Him rather than simply knowing about Him, then we will realize that Hardee’s on Harrison is not such a bad place to be.



    Thursday, March 1, 2012


    We recently had visitors from the city who hadn’t been here for a few years.  We were excited about preparing our home for them.  One of our visitors refers to himself as “somewhat of a germ freak,” so country life is a bit of a challenge for him.  While we try to accommodate him as best we can, things don’t always turn out as planned!

    A few hours before they arrived, our neighbor, Robbie, came running across the pasture carrying our momma cat, Missie.  Gasping for air, he announced, “She was at our house and I think something happened to her!”  One look at Missie’s barely attached, mangled paw confirmed Robbie’s concern!  Being predisposed to infection and a prime target for predators, putting her outside was too risky!  Closing Missie in the shower for observation and treatment seemed like a better option.  While zipping through some emergency care, I prayed that she’d do well until we could offer more extended attention.

    Soon our guests arrived.  While Missie seemed to be content in her new protective “cage,” as the minutes passed, her cold paw began to warm-up and the odor of dead flesh began to waft through the house.  We apologized for the smell and explained the situation.  While they were quite concerned for Missie, the “germ freak” became a bit uneasy.  The conversation went something like this:

    Germ freak:  “Where is she?”

    Me:  “In the shower.”

    Germ freak: “The one we normally shower in?”

    Me:  “Yes.”

    Germ freak: silence

    One of our visitors was particularly excited about seeing our Haflinger horses so... we all walked out to the pasture.  The horses came to greet us and our friends oohed and aahed over their beauty.  However, a few days before our guests’ arrival, we noticed that the gelding had rubbed an area on his hip until it was raw.  The conversation went something like this:

    Germ freak:  “Oh my gosh!  What’s wrong with your horse?”

    Me:  “What do you mean?”

    Germ freak:  “That spot on his side!

    Me:  “He’s been rubbing an itch that’s getting better with treatment.”

    Germ freak:  “Why is he doing that?

    Me:  “Probably some type of parasite.”

    Germ Freak:  Oh!  Is it contagious?

    Me:  “Could be.”

    Germ Freak:  silence

    It didn’t take long for the thrill of seeing the horses to wear off and we were on our way back to the house.  After a bit, we suggested taking their belongings to the guest house before dark.  At the front door of our visitors’ quarters we have a lovely mat that reads, “Welcome.”  On the mat lay our 18 year old cat, Smokie.  Under normal circumstances one might think, “How inviting!”  However, Smokie not only would not move, she cried when we touched her!  With a body full of arthritis, Smokie normally whimpered a bit when we handled her, but not like this!  We gently picked her up and lovingly placed her on the cushioned rocking chair on the front porch.  The conversation went something like this:

    Germ freak:  “What’s wrong with your cat?”

    Me:  “She’s old and probably isn’t going to be with us much longer.  We’re surprised she’s made it this long.”

    Germ Freak:  Is she OK?

    Me:  I’m not sure.

    Germ freak: silence

    With everything unloaded, we were blessed with a great time of fellowship.  Time flew and the hour was late when we suggested that we all head to bed.  Gary offered to accompany our guests to their lodging area to double-check that their needs were met.  When they arrived at the front door, Smokie was there to greet them… again.  However this time she didn’t cry when Gary touched her!

    The conversation went something like this:

    Germ freak:  “Is she ok?”

    Gary:  “She’s dead.”

    Germ freak:  “She died on the welcome mat?”

    Gary:  “Yea, I guess so.”

    Germ freak:  silence

    The next afternoon arrived all too quickly, for us anyway, and it was time for our friends to get on the road.  Quite an adventure this visit was for them.  In years past, I would have reflected upon our time together and judged myself as a miserable hostess.  Today I find freedom in knowing that hospitality is an attitude of the heart.  I can honestly say that our hearts read, “WELCOME!” no matter how things might unfold.

    Ya’ll come back now.  Ya hear!



    P.S.  Please feel free to contact me with questions, thoughts, topics you’d like to ponder or to read past articles at:">>.  You may also contact me at:

                 Bonnie Jaeckle

                 In Search of the Whole-Hearted Life

                 Diagonal Progress

                 505 Jefferson St.

                 Diagonal, IA 50845