Welcome to our December edition. I trust that throughout the year our articles have been relevant as well as enjoyable to read. I have been writing two pages now for over 11 years and have found it an excellent way to communicate what I consider a landscape should be and how it should look. I constantly see “landscapes,” that are a lot of lawn and a repetition of  several plants that typically become overgrown in time. We have become conditioned to believe that is what a landscape should look like. With such a basic pattern there is very little to draw the eye to and once the newness has worn off, because anything is better than just dirt, the landscape becomes more a chore than enjoyment.

 I am also seeing more lava rock used as mulch, as featured in our November’s edition. We use the mocha lava rock when there are mature trees. Bark just will not hold up as well to all the blowing it takes to get the leaves off the property. With mature trees a yearly investment of bark will be needed each spring, but not so with mocha lava rock. It will not blow away, however a potential downside is that it makes the landscape look a bit arid until the plants grow in. For those who do not like bark, or enjoy a more Arizona-type landscape, this is a great option.  Lava rock is the best rock alternative because it doesn’t heat up as the other rock mulches do. 

However, with this being our Christmas edition, we will set aside our normal topics and discuss our title. Foundations are critical to anything being built or designed.  Foundations can be of a home, a building, the foundation of a landscape (amending the soil properly), or the foundation (hard drive) of a computer. We may not use the term “foundation,” but it is “ground zero” of what the object is going too be built upon, and if the foundation is faulty, then the whole endeavor will be compromised.  A solid and properly built foundation is critical, and even we as people have foundations. They are the “nuts and bolts” or the principals and beliefs that hold us together. Without these we would not fare well. Typically though, we are so busy with life that when the day ends we hit the pillow and are asleep before we can reflect on our day. Yet reflection is important so as to consider why we reacted a certain way, or why we didn’t react. Our foundation is so vital that if we do not continue to build upon it, improving it, when a crisis comes we could potentially fold under the pressure, making poor decisions. 

Imagine for a moment that we lived in Houston and our home that we have worked so hard to furnish with nice carpets, nice furniture, pictures of our family etc., was flooded and all these possessions we worked so hard for were ruined. Our “foundation,” or core values (principals and beliefs), will either get us through the crisis, or we will succumb to it.  If we succumb to it, it is because our core values have remained unchallenged being more superficial than being tested by real life struggles.  And the question is not if we are going to go through a crisis, for all do, it is more a question of when and what will be the crisis.  Our true character, which is developed from our core values are revealed in times like these. And in addition to Florida and Texas where flooding was the crisis, what occurred here in Santa Rosa and Napa, an uncontrolled, fast- moving fire that consumed home and landscape changed their reality in moments. After the fire everything that represented home and brought enjoyment was reduced to  ashes. Can you imagine how it must have felt for those families returning back to their homes to find nothing but ashes? Unless your priorities are right, that’s a really hard reality to handle. Not much to show for all the years of labor, sweat and sacrifice. How would you be? How would I be? Do we know? And out of respect for the people who lost their lives in the Las Vegas shooting I make mention of them, this insane crime being the hardest reality of all. 

There are many sayings we have that describe complex emotional feelings. There is one in particular that I have held close “to my vest” and it is this one: “Do I live for work or do I work to live?” Because of my long hours in running a business I am very mindful of being home when I am home. Our girls are grown now having families of their own, but I made a point of hugging both girls before I left for work each day letting them know that I loved them. I wanted them to leave the home with a full cup.  If I didn’t fill it someone else was in the wings to fill it, be it for their own gain, and I knew that. I am very grateful that I did that for struggles and challenges came nonetheless, but having laid that ground work (foundation) helped us through it. And yet things at any time could have been worse, and though living by this saying would not replace a life, it would keep regret and remorse at the front door.  

My foundation, faith based, is what allows me to meet and overcome stresses and struggles in this life. And with owning a business on top of family life, I have many “opportunities” to work on my foundation. Also there are many degrees of faith that we have and different understandings about God. To me God is very personal, loving, kind and accessible. It does not always feel that way, especially when your house has been flooded, or burnt down, or you have been laid off from your job, or have been served divorce papers, or you have a son or daughter that has gone sideways with their life etc.  However, circumstances, be they good or bad do not define God, God defines Himself. In Jeremiah 31:3 He says, “… I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn you.”  Sometimes life does not look like “loving kindness,” however if we always had life our way, we would not need God. Being creatures of habit and “rulers” of our own destinies, we would not be challenged to go outside of our narrow world. Something needs to push us out; to reach outside of our limited resources unto a Source far Greater than ourselves.  My point is sometimes it doesn’t appear that God is in the picture at all, just like you do not see the sun behind the rain, but it’s there, it’s always there, and so is God. He is not the cause of our trials, but He uses them in order to help us realize our need of Him, He paints beauty from the ashes of our life. I will address this in greater detail in Part II of Foundations on my website, however know that a sincere heart will find always find God and sometimes to be truly sincere, our foundations (the things we trust in) need to crumble. Jesus spoke on foundations in Matthew 7:24-28:

                                                        

24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.

26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like an unwise man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall. When Jesus had finished teaching the people the people were astonished for he taught them as someone having authority, not like the scribes.”

 Whether you have a belief in God or not, the illustration clearly speaks about two individuals having two completely opposite ends. The homes looked the same, both large and beautiful, yet they are so completely different from the ground up that when the winds, rains and floods came, the problems in life, the difference became sadly apparent. These homes are allegorists to our lives and in the story Jesus is giving clear directions to having a home (a life) that stands in the face of rains, winds and floods. Do you know without a doubt which home you would be in a crisis? If your treasure is here, then you are susceptible to the “market crashes,” in life, be they natural, financial or emotional. Or have you come to find the permanence, peace and the security of having your treasures in the care of  a Loving Heavenly Father? The choice is ours, it has always been, and it will always be. Your decision to pursue God or ignore Him is the greatest decision you will ever make. I invite you to go to my website, executivecareinc.com, click on publication and look for Foundations Part II. 

Both my daughter, pictured each month with me, and I, plus our company want to wish you and your family a merry, but also a very meaningful Christmas. – Arthur