Snapshots of Summer: Reminders to Keep You Well
By Connie Pshigoda
It’s summer! Don’t you love it? June 20 marks the official arrival of longer days and shorter nights, with much warmer temperatures. Get ready, for in the next 90-some days, summer’s rhythms will unfold all around you. This is the season of increased activity – in nature as well as in our bodies (our inner gardens). During my childhood days on our family farm, God planted within me a passion for the natural growth process. I appreciated the seasons – the soil, the planting, and the magnificent results. I still do. In those early years, I didn’t realize how much the seasons would affect my adult life. Now that I’m a grown woman, having weathered many life seasons and several big storms, I value the lessons of spring, summer, autumn, and winter.
As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat,
summer and winter, day and night will never cease.
Genesis 8:22 (NIV)
Please join me on a journey through these summer months, and let us savor God’s glorious and gracious gifts in this sizzling season. Pause for a moment and think of your favorite summer activities. Perhaps you look forward to a much-needed vacation or reuniting with long-lost relatives at a family reunion. Maybe you prefer a Fourth of July picnic in your backyard with friends and neighbors. Whatever your summer plans may be, your level of energy and vitality greatly determine your level of enjoyment.
My personal health and wellness planning begins in the garden. I like to meet God in my garden for daily refreshment. Not only do I offer praise and thanksgiving, but I also approach in childlike wonder and awe at the miracles and mysteries of God’s creation. I engage in playful prayer, ever impressed that such small seeds produce such great fruit or dazzling flowers.
National organizations that support heart health and cancer prevention suggest eating a variety of fresh (preferably raw and organic) fruits and vegetables – at least 10 a day (excluding white potatoes). Summer’s garden provides a variety of vivid colors, flavors, and fragrances, making it simpler to attain your recommended daily portions. We are so blessed in Colorado to reap the abundance of another’s harvest when visiting local Farmer’s Markets. Eating freshly picked food ensures vine-ripened flavor usually lost in commercial transit. Some health benefits derived from eating fresh produce include lowered blood pressure, reduced risk of heart disease and strokes, prevention of some cancers, improved digestion and elimination, and balanced blood sugar levels. In addition, nature’s garden gifts are low in calories with no added salt!
God in His wisdom created foods to nourish us in each season. The heat of summer dehydrates our inner gardens (bodies), putting a strain on our hearts. One of the heart’s functions is to maintain the body’s temperature. When we become overheated and dehydrated, this vital organ gets overworked. Most fresh fruits and vegetables are high in water and mineral content, thereby providing a cooling and energizing effect on the body.
Have you heard the expression, “cool as a cucumber,” or wondered how watermelon got its name? These summer foods offer flavor and protection. One of my favorite, simple summer beverages is cucumber-flavored water. I fill a glass pitcher with purified water, then add ice and fresh cucumber slices (with the peeling). The infused cucumber flavor gives instant refreshment on a hot day. Any fresh summer fruit or berry added to water or tea provides a splash of color and flavor as well as valued nutrients. I encourage you to let God be your master gardener and your master chef. You’ll experience a well-balanced energy and vitality for all your summer activities.
The summer season also possesses a bold beauty unlike the other seasons. As much as I enjoy the fruits from a food garden, I find relaxation in a flower garden. The colors and fragrances soothe my soul and lift my spirit. Flowers in summer must be hardy to withstand the heat, wind, dryness, and bugs. One of the many lessons I’ve learned from the garden is to appreciate a similar resoluteness in myself. Enduring life’s elements requires us to be in good condition. I strive to be like the flowers in my garden – enduring and beautiful!
A summer flower I find especially delightful is the Hollyhock. It is an old-fashioned plant not seen in many modern gardens. Imagine my surprise to find that, according to one source, it comes from the Holy Land. Historically, the flower petals were dried and steeped into a refreshing tea that relieved inflammatory conditions. Its name implies fruitfulness. Ancient Chinese gardeners believed the Hollyhock symbolized the passage of time.
Nature teaches many lessons from the garden:
• Cultivate an appreciation for the things of summer in an unhurried way.
• Get lost in the great outdoors: take a walk in the woods or soak in the sensations of a mountain stream.
• Reflect the joys of summer so that others may see that you are rooted in God’s love and promise.
There’s no time like summer to get back to the garden way of life. I pray you will greet this season with fresh eyes and a heart filled with enthusiastic expectation to receive God’s best. Tend your inner garden carefully, my friend, and be well in every season.