Who’s Bugging You? (Angel in the Kitchen)

“Hey, I don’t mind sharing my nectar, but when it comes to ants I draw the line!”

Warm Spring days bring Ruby-throated Hummingbirds to our humble abode in the woods. They arrive by the dozens, and they consume nectar by the gallons! No exaggeration here, we go through at least a quart of sugar water each day. (Hummers need their calories!) We brew our own nectar to keep up with the demand: 1 part sugar, 4 parts water, brought to a boil for two minutes to kill bacteria harmful to the little fellas; and then cooled to room temperature before serving. (Just another recipe for hungry guests at Woodhaven.)

Trouble is, it’s not just the hummingbirds that crave sweet stuff. There are thousands of greedy ants — actually, hundreds of thousands — in the surrounding woods, and they apparently have radar tuned to the aroma of nectar bubbling on the range. These industrious pests will climb a two-story brick wall and work their way through the tiniest crack in a window to get their share, too. And although we scrupulously clean our kitchen counters of every single drop of hummingbird syrup, somehow the ants know that we’re constantly preparing the stuff inside; and they never stop trying to get in.

Imagine the trouble they could make, the hassle of getting rid of them, the loss of our peace of mind … only they AIN’T getting in. They make it up the brick, to the windowsill, but aren’t able to trespass any further, because we periodically spray along the base of the window with ant poison. (Hey, we all have to go sometime.)

The ant spray lays down a line of chemicals these pesky intruders can’t cross. We essentially put up an invisible boundary that tells the ants “This far, and no further!” It’s like an insect News Flash: no, you can’t come into our kitchen and take over!

Ants are vital to the balance of God’s ecology. They control other pests, carry seed, and create healthy soil. But they have no business invading your home. And know what? Sometimes people behave just like ants! They have immense value, but they often try and work their way into areas of our lives where they have no business being!

Oh brother! Can ya believe da nerve of dis guy?

Do you have any “ants” in your life? People who want to intrude and take over? If you do, have you considered establishing some boundaries? We’re not saying people are pests. But they can be pesky at times. And greedy and intrusive and troublesome and hard to get rid of. And they can steal your peace if you allow it. Just saying.

We love people, and we hope you do, too. We also enjoy encouraging and helping them when they need it; but people (until they allow God to FULLY work in their lives and transform them) tend to be selfish and self-centered. If allowed to, some will try to hog your time, abuse your willingness to help and serve, invade your privacy, manipulate your emotions, exploit your gifts — basically control your life! But people, like ants, are a fact of life. Ya just gotta learn how to deal with them. That means setting boundaries. In other words, drawing invisible lines in our lives that say “this far and no further”!

Yes, we are commanded to “Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2 NLT) However, God NEVER intended us to allow others to control us! Just as the problem of beneficial ants is answered with BALANCE, so too is the issue of dealing with people. Balance is key: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4 ESV)

Christian authors Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend explain in their book, Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No, “Just as homeowners set physical property lines around their land, we need to set mental, physical, emotional and spiritual boundaries for our lives to help us distinguish what is our responsibility and what is not.”

We always want to be loving, accepting and helpful, but there are some problems we can’t fix, some needs we cannot or should not meet. And even when we can help solve things, we need to remember that we’re only human and that our time and resources, as well as our physical and emotional energies, are limited. So every time we say YES to something,
we’re automatically saying NO to something else. We also need to learn how to distinguish between people’s “needs” and “desires”! And we need to develop the confidence to JUST SAY NO!

If we fail to set boundaries, someone will always have us jumping at their every whim and cry, and we’ll end up constantly stressed out and frustrated with life. Eventually, we burn out! People, whether unintentionally or not, can keep us from achieving our own everyday goals and, ultimately, fulfilling our dreams. If we fail to set some boundaries, people can even keep us from doing the work God wants us to do!  So, drawing the line is not being selfish. To the contrary, the “…Goal of learning boundaries is to free us up to protect, nurture and develop the lives God has given us stewardship over.” (Boundaries, p. 285)

Stop letting people constantly bug you! Stop allowing them to invade places in your lives where they have no business. Stop letting them eat up all your time and energy. Jesus said, “…You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32 ESV) Let us “spray”!


No Expiration Date! (Angel in the Kitchen)


After a long winter, Spring has at last arrived! And with it, the dozens of hummingbirds that hang out with us every year, from April to around mid-September, to sip nectar from the six feeders we hang outside our windows.

This is also the season for Spring Cleaning, an opportunity to clean up, fix up, and freshen up! Yes, when Spring arrives everything starts looking up! We take the opportunity to also reorganize our kitchen shelves, exchanging our festive Winter place settings, which feature wild birds, for brighter plates depicting song birds. (Yes, we LOVE birds!) We also go through the pantry to check the expiration dates on canned and boxed goods.

We try to use up food items that are close to expiring, and toss anything that’s gone out of date. We hope you, too, frequently check the expiration dates on foods in your kitchen, because one of life’s sad truths is that everything we buy to prepare our families’ meals has a pre-determined shelf life. (You’re gonna love where we’re heading with this analogy, but first….)

Not long ago, we heard a news story about a sweet 77-year-old Italian lady who inadvertantly poisoned her son and three grandchildren, ages 8 to 12, all because she was oblivious to the expiration date on some packets of hot cocoa. Her “victims” fell ill to vomiting and diarrhea, and soon ended up in the emergency room where they were treated for food poisoning! Turns out the cocoa had expired … 25 years ago! But what’s amazing is that we don’t hear about this sort of thing more often.

Life is hectic, and who has time to pay attention to all those tiny dates printed in often obscure places on the labels of the foods we buy? And because it’s generally out of sight, all the stuff hiding in the farthest reaches of our kitchen cabinets, is also generally out of mind. Who knows what evil lurks in the shadows of the cupboard shelves! Flour and bread crumbs can harbor grub worms, jars can lose their vacuum and grow mold. And in the refrigerator … oh, the horrors of out-of-date dairy products! Even the nectar we put out for our hummers has to be changed daily when it’s hot (and the feeders cleaned), or bacteria harmful to the birds will start to grow.

So, unless we want to poison the people we love, we need to check the dates! Unless we want the promise of a comforting mug of hot chocolate to turn into a trip to the doctor, we need to take stock of our shelves at least once a year and the fridge about monthly.

How often should we take stock of God’s promises? Daily is wonderful, because we can all use a daily helping of encouragement. But unlike food, God’s promises don’t come with expiration dates. Our Heavenly Father is into long-term agreements. In fact, His covenants and commitments are “everlasting”! He keeps His promises. Period! “O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you in all of heaven and earth. You keep your covenant and show unfailing love to all who walk before you in wholehearted devotion.” (2 Chronicles 6:14 NLT)

“Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The LORD is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does.” (Psalm 145:13 NIV)

God’s love doesn’t have a limited shelf life. His LOVE, MERCY, and GRACE stay FRESH! “Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.”(Lamentations 3:23 NLT)

“I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.” (Jeremiah 31:3 NLT)

Claim God’s fresh, eternally-lasting promises today! They never get stale or go bad!