Hope Reflected

Encouragement and Hope from God's Word

nature Archive



February 2018

Hope Reflected | Lessons from the honey bee

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

No matter who you are, and no matter where you are, God can use you. | Lessons from the honey bee | See more at hopereflected.com

Lessons we can learn from the honey bee

Birds, bats, wind, and even water can act as pollinators, but perhaps the most interesting of all the pollinators is the honey bee. Such an intricate creation, the honey bee is small but mighty. The honey bee plays a very important role here on earth!

We can draw many parallels between honey bees and Christians. The honey bee spreads seeds; so do Christians. The honey bee has a mission; so do Christians. The honey bee doesn’t always see the results of what it sows; neither do Christians. Sometimes, only the Lord sees the harvest. We may never know the results of our labours. But does that mean that we should stop working for Him? No!

“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11)

Your words may be awkward. Your prayers may be meager. Your testimony may not be the most dramatic or exciting. No matter who you are, and no matter where you are, God can use you. In fact, sometimes it’s the most ordinary of people that God uses to do the most extraordinary things for His glory!

The honey bee isn’t concerned about whether it’s the strongest flyer, or whether it pollinates the most plants; no, the honey bee concentrates on the job at hand and remains focused. That’s how we need to be in our Christian walk. Keeping our focus always on the Lord.

There are other lessons we can learn from the small but mighty honey bee:

Learn how to adapt. “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 12:2) Just as the honey bee knows how to adapt – honey bees can go for years without hunting by living on their food reserves – we as Christians also need to learn how to adapt to what’s going on in the world around us. Read: I’m not saying we conform to this world, but rather that we “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” (Colossians 2:8) Christians need to learn how to adapt and survive in a world where Christians are being held more and more accountable for what we believe.

Learn how to help others. “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” (Proverbs 27:17) Honey bees are social creatures. They don’t work alone. They help each other. What have you done to help another soul recently? Perhaps you’re working anonymously in the background, giving to causes that assist those in need. Maybe you dedicate your spare hours to volunteering. You could even be serving by encouraging the people in your community. As Christians, we are called to “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)

Learn how to give your life for Christ’s glory. “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 8:35) Honey bees give their life for the hive. The honey bee, by nature, is a defender. And when one honey bee’s stinger detaches from its body, it releases pheromones that inspire other honey bees to do the same and go on defense. I’m not suggesting that Christians should always be on the defensive (but sometimes!), rather I’m suggesting that as Christians we should be completely surrendered to Christ, wherever we are. For some Christians, the idea of giving up your life is quite literal, depending where you live in world. For others, giving up your life for Christ could mean complete and total dedication to serving the Lord. The reality is that we’re all missionaries, right here at home, even if we’re not called to full-time service.

Learning to adapt, helping others, and finding your purpose are all things we can glean from the honey bee. I also love what Ilan Shamir says in his “Advice from a honey bee”: Create a buzz, sip life’s sweet moments, mind your own beeswax, work together, always find your way home, stick close to your honey, bee yourself! “You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of joy in Your presence.” (Acts 2:28)

Originally published as “Lessons we can learn from the honey bee.” Minto Express, Independent Plus, Arthur Enterprise-News, Mount Forest Confederate. December 14, 2017: 7. Print. Web.



June 2017

Gardening | Peonies

Written by , Posted in Gardening

Gardening | Beautiful peonies | Best perennials | Hope Reflected

Our peonies have officially been in bloom for one week! This year, Wes and I really wanted to document the full process of the various plants in our garden and keep a photo journal so we can look back year after year and enjoy our progress.

We’ve got three peony plants in our front yard, and throughout the fleeting weeks of June, we love watching our peony plants grow and blossom.

Gardening | Beautiful peonies | Best perennials | Hope Reflected

For the first time, we opted to use tomato cages around our peony plants to ensure that once at their full maturity for the season, the heavy balls of fluff didn’t just flop over due to their weight. The cages have been relatively successful, however we know for next year that the light pink peonies require the cage to come up just a bit higher (as you can see from these photos).

Gardening | Beautiful peonies | Best perennials | Hope Reflected

Do you have peonies planted in your garden? If so, what are your tips for best practices for the colourful perennials?

Some of our tips for keeping peonies:

  • Early on in the season, use tomato cages to provide support around your peony plants. This will encourage the plants long, thin stems to grow straight, and also provide support for when the peony petals bloom (they’re a top-heavy plant).
  • Let the peony seeds drop if you want a fuller plant year after year. Many people opt to collect their peony seeds before they drop, however if you want your plant to continue to thicken, let the seeds fall naturally.
  • Plant any seeds you do collect in the fall. If you plant peony seeds in the spring, chances are your peonies will not grow and bloom until the following spring. Like garlic, peonies do best if they’re planted in the fall.
  • Don’t forget to enjoy your blooms! The season for peonies is a short one, so don’t forget to cut some of your peony blooms and enjoy them; they work wonders in brightening up a table setting — or someone’s day!

Gardening | Beautiful peonies | Best perennials | Hope Reflected

If you’d like to see pictures of our peonies from last year, check out this post about why I think peonies are some of the best perennials for your garden.

Gardening | Beautiful peonies | Best perennials | Hope Reflected

Gardening | Beautiful peonies | Best perennials | Hope Reflected




February 2017

Best Perennials for your garden | Peonies

Written by , Posted in Gardening

peonies peony plants gardening

“A rare fusion of fluff and majesty, the peony is now coming into bloom.” {Henry Mitchell}

The peony has long been one of my favourite flowers; a relatively low maintenance perennial, peonies look pretty, emit a delicate fragrance, and require relatively little attention (unless you want to trim them and enjoy the peonies from your garden indoors, then you have to deal with ants, which we’ll get to later in this post).

peonies peony plants gardening

If you’re in the midst of planning your spring garden, peonies should definitely be on your list of perennials to include in your garden design.

Looking to include peonies in your garden this year? Here are some gardening tips to consider when planting peonies:

  • Your best bet is plant peonies in the fall. I know, I know, we’re coming in to spring, but this is a very important fact to consider. We transplanted a peony plant year before last in the spring, and it was basically a season behind the other peony plants already in the garden.

peonies peony plants gardening

  • Peonies love full sun. They also require regular watering.
  • Some magazines and websites will tell you that peonies should be planted on their own; we’ve got our cluster planted at the foot of a hybrid lilac tree, and they thrive. No competition there.

peonies peony plants gardening

  • If you’re looking to trim your peonies to enjoy indoors, but run into “ants” tucked away under the peony petals, don’t panic! The ants are actually eating the nectar and have been known to keep peony plants free from disease. A good rule of thumb if you’re looking to trim your peonies and bring them indoors is to prepare a bowl of warm water with Dawn soap (the blue works best) and then dunk each bloom. The ants should come right off in the water, and the Dawn soap won’t hurt your peonies.
  • Popular varieties of the peony plant include the firelight (pale pink blossoms that bloom relatively early), Karl Rosenfield (large dark pink or crimson blossoms that bloom later than the other varieties), and early scouts (magenta/bright red that bloom early in the season).

peonies peony plants gardening



August 2016

Hope’s How-To: Build a Dry Lay Stone Bench

Written by , Posted in Gardening, Hope's How-To

We’ve had several compliments and questions regarding Wes’s masonry style when it comes to the dry lay stone benches he has been creating in our yard. He’s working on the third bench now to round out the project, and I can’t wait until it’s complete!

dry lay stone bench before

The above photo is before things really got started on the dry lay stone bench. Previously, we had a pile of large stones between the garden and slab stone step off our patio. To get the ground ready, Wes raked and levelled out the earth, and put down some gravel.

dry lay stone bench after

If you’re looking to create a DIY dry lay stone bench of your own, you will want to choose the stones for your bench based on their function in the wall system. In the above photo, you can see how Wes has carefully selected larger anchor stones for around the border of the stone bench, and used smaller, filler stones for the centre of the bench.

my husband cutting stones

Choose a stone according to its density. For example, if your DIY bench requires custom stone cutting, ala the photo above, you’ll want to choose limestone to work with it because it cuts more easily than other rock varieties. As you can see above, Wes is cutting a piece of limestone against a blue metamorphic rock (which is extremely dense and does not break easily).

choose rocks for your stone bench

Wes highly recommends laying stones out so you can see them before you get started with your stone bench project. Having a full view of the rocks available for your DIY will greatly assist you as you compose your stone bench. This practice also allows greater ease in experimenting with which stones will work best for the space in which you’re building.

For more advice and photos on how to build your own dry lay stone bench, check out our other completed DIY stone bench projects here, here, and here.



July 2016

Roses: Rosa Hybrid Bolero Floribunda Rose

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roses bolero floribunda rose

Our rose bushes after we first planted.

It’s no secret that I’ve always had a soft spot for roses. This Spring, Wes suggested that we plant some of our own rose bushes to grow some blooms at home. We picked out three varieties — the Bolero Floribunda Rose, the Ten-Ten Hybrid Tea Rose, and the ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ Floribunda Rose — and we planted them in our front garden.

roses bolero floribunda rose

First bloom of our Bolero Floribunda Rose.

We chose our front garden as it gets the majority of sun (6+ hours each day), which is a requirement for successfully growing any plant in the rose family. Most roses do well with lots of sunlight, as well as regular watering.

roses bolero floribunda rose

First blooms from our Bolero Floribunda Roses!

Bolero Floridbunda roses are usually 2-3 inch blooms with seemingly endless layers of petals and a unique fragrance. Their full petals resemble a small peony, and their foliage is typically a very rich green.

roses bolero floribunda rose

Bolero Floribunda Rose

Originally from France (now grown all over, and in Canada), Bolero Floribunda roses are known to be one of the more disease-resistance varieties of roses. Spoken from experience, our Bolero Floribunda roses were the first bush to bloom of the three that we planted in our front garden.

roses bolero floribunda rose

13 blooms at the peak of the Bolero Floribunda Rose.

The blooms have come and gone for this season, and Wes and I have pruned them back. We fertilize every other week, and we’re already starting to see new growth!

roses bolero floribunda rose

Lots of layers in the blooms of the Bolero Floribunda Rose.



June 2016

Hope’s How-To: Build a Robin’s Nest – Part 4 – Robin Fledglings

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Gardening, Hope's How-To

robin fledgling 1

This happened several weeks ago, however lately our lives have been in a constant state of motion, so I’ve not had time to post a robin update until now. The baby robins flew the coup (quite literally)! All four of our baby robin fledglings have left the nest and set out on their journey through… our yard.

baby robin fledgling in nest

Wes and I came home from church a few weeks ago, and I wanted to check on the baby robin fledglings in the nest. As the robins had been living right on our patio by our living area, it was easy to sit out and observe their growth, feedings,  and daily habits. Wes had encouraged me since the robin eggs hatched to keep my distance, and of course this particular Sunday in May I just had to get out there to see them.

Obviously the little guys were developed to the point that they were actually crowding the nest, however when I came out to see them, without being too close, they all fledged from the nest.

At first, I panicked. Wes ran around the yard and rounded them up to put back in the nest (see photo above), however it was clear; the baby robin fledglings were ready to embark on their adventure away from the nest.

baby robin fledglings

Over the past few weeks, a common sight in our yard has been Mama Robin bouncing and flying around the yard, with her young not far behind. While the robin fledglings have grown so much since the time of these photos almost a month ago, what remains of the family still calls our yard and trees home.

Unfortunately, we did lose one of the three robin fledglings — we aren’t sure if a cat got the robin, or the cold — however, three of the young survived (to our knowledge).

baby robin fledglings

While many of our friends and family still have robin fledglings in the nest, our robins have flown the coup! Before they were developed, it was so funny to watch them try to take flight with small wings and no tail. Clearly they’ve grown in the last few weeks, and we’ll try to capture more photos as we go.

Watching the baby robin fledglings in our yard has certainly been an education; when they’re young, robins are defenceless. They’re yet to learn how to fly (we were blessed enough to watch them practice in our yard), they’re dependant on their parents (Dad brings the young to the robin roost at night, while Mama Robin feeds the fledglings by day), and they’re testing their vocal chords (hearing robin fledglings start to exercise their vocal chords is one of the most adorable sounds).

Hint to those who’ve built a robin’s nesting shelf: When your first “family” leaves the nest, be sure to dispose of the robin’s nest, clean and spray off the area. Once abandoned for their real world adventure, robins don’t return to the nest where they were birthed. The old nest can attract lice and mites, so it’s best practice to dispose of it once the robins leave the nest for good.




June 2016

Wednesday Wisdom: Advice from a Tree

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advice from a tree

Advice from a tree:

  • Stand Tall
  • Drink Plenty of Water
  • Be Content with Your Natural Beauty
  • Enjoy the View
  • Remember Your Roots

(Ilan Shamir)

We can learn many things from observing nature, mainly because nature is God’s creation.

The very first verse in the Bible lets us know, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Then later in the Old Testament, Job 12:7-10 tells us, “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.” In John 1:3, we are told that through God all things were made.

Through nature, God can teach us and provide for us.

That’s one reason that I enjoy Ilan Shamir (formerly Scott Alyn) and his daughter Laurel’s reflections on nature. God’s creation can teach us many things. Trees especially are a great picture of strength, resilience, flexibility, authenticity, and beauty.

Here is Ilan’s full poem, Advice from a Tree:

Dear Friend,
Stand Tall and Proud
Sink your roots deeply into the Earth
Reflect the light of a greater source
Think long term
Go out on a limb
Remember your place among all living beings
Embrace with joy the changing seasons
For each yields its own abundance
The Energy and Birth of Spring
The Growth and Contentment of Summer
The Wisdom to let go of leaves in the Fall
The Rest and Quiet Renewal of Winter
Feel the wind and the sun
And delight in their presence
Look up at the moon that shines down upon you
And the mystery of the stars at night.
Seek nourishment from the good things in life
Simple pleasures
Earth, fresh air, light
Be content with your natural beauty
Drink plenty of water
Let your limbs sway and dance in the breezes
Be flexible
Remember your roots
Enjoy the view



April 2016

Hope’s How-To: Build a Robin’s Nesting Shelf

Written by , Posted in Hope's How-To


Spring is always an exciting time of year: The days are getting longer, the sun is shining brighter, and there are signs of new life everywhere. All this to say, we’ve had a less than stable Spring so far, what with fluctuating temperatures and seemingly endless snow. That’s got the returning robins scrambling, looking for a secure place to nest, and also foraging for food.

You’ve likely noticed the beautiful birds by the roadside or out on your lawn, looking for worms, berries, or other items to eat. They’re also deep into scouting season — looking for the best place to settle down, lay their eggs, and raise their young (for a full 13 days).

Being the compassionate person that I am, — save all the animals! — Wes agreed to build me a robin’s nesting shelf (or two!) to see if we could welcome a couple of new feathered friends to our home.

It doesn’t have to be complicated, in fact building a robin’s nesting shelf can be quite simple. You don’t have to use the best wood, and measurements don’t need to be exact. Just remember to include the fundamentals of a sturdy shelf made from non-pressure treated wood, a shelf approximately 8 inches squared (or something in that range), a height of at least 7 feet off the ground.

Here’s how Wes built ours:

  • For building my robin’s nesting shelves, Wes used 4-inch Spruce straps, non-pressure treated. You could use any other kind of wood, permitting it’s not pressure treated. Wes just used Spruce straps since we had them on hand.


  • The platform should be approximately 8 inches squared, and depending on where you plan to install the nesting shelf, it may or may not need a roof (cover). Wes made one for me without a cover for under our covered porch, and one with a cover that’s on a more exposed side of the house.
  • Another key is that you don’t want to have any kind of barrier on the front of the nesting shelf.


  • You’ll also want to be mindful that the nesting shelf is secured in a location where there is no way for cats or squirrels to climb up into the nest.
  • A good rule of thumb for where you’ll locate the nesting shelf, is to find a place close to your home that is between 7 feet tall and tree top height. It should be in a location that gets some sun, but also stays cool and dry.
    • Many people choose to secure a robin’s nesting shelf onto their home (rather than in a tree or on a fence) because predators like cats, squirrels, and even other birds (like Starlings or Crows) are less likely to get too close to your house. (You may have noticed in the past, that sometimes robins will choose to nest above a porch light or on top of a downspout, and this is why.)


  • If your house is made with brick or stone, secure the nesting shelf with a tap-con or a concrete nail. Be sure to pre-drill to the appropriate size for that fastener. If your house is made with siding, before drilling, make sure you’re not compromising the house material or drilling into electrical/plumbing/etc.


  • When the season is over, make sure to dispose of their old nest and clean the nesting shelf. Old nests have the potential to breed lice or mites. Besides this, next year, returning robins will build a fresh nest.
  • If you’re looking to make your nest shelf even more attractive, you could set out some berries or meal worms for the robins.


Robins appearing are a sure sign of Spring. I hope you are able to take some time to get outdoors and appreciate the beauty of God’s creation during this season!

“The bird also has found a house, And the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young…” {Psalm 84:3}