Sanctuary

IMG_20170718_161203627_HDROur friend the Barred Owl was back and hunting early today. We missed him yesterday, but had a hawk come to visit us twice in his stead. He landed, as he’s come to do, facing the house and peering our way as if looking for us in the windows. I stepped out on the back porch to take this shot and tell him how handsome he looked and how glad we were to see him back. He seemed to know both of those things already as he remained in place and posed.
Earlier this morning, we had a pale orange cat take up temporary residence under a table near the swing out in the back yard for a few hours…just sitting at ease and appearing to rest while being alert and guarding us from invading squirrels.
“Worshipers never leave church…we carry our sanctuary with us wherever we go.” ~Aiden Wilson Tozer
 Grace and Peace!

Early Spring

Our nation has seemed to descend into a vitriolic winter of the soul over the past few months that has far surpassed any depth I had previously thought possible. The loss of civility even between friends over differences in politics, the outright refusal to acknowledge that it is the right to have our differences that make this nation a place of desired residence for so many, and the apparent lack of willingness to remember that even those who hold polar opposite views can STILL both have  our country’s best interest at heart…well, these things are disturbing to me on many levels. Part of me has wondered if God wasn’t witholding a natural winter from us because we were already treating each other so coldly.

Even in the absence of a “proper” winter I am inordinately cheered by the signs of this early spring. I pray the signs of nature’s new growth will also stimulate a resurgence of kindness, a putting away of offended and offensive spirits, breathe into us a new determination to move forward despite the obstacles, and spur a willingness to find common ground and work from there in an effort to heal the vast breaches we’ve worked so hard to create.

img_20170224_102311867As I wander through my yard viewing the signs of an early spring, I pray for my nation. I pray for her leaders in both parties and ask God to grant them wisdom. I pray for healing and I pray for an abundance of obstinate seeds of hope and reconciliation to survive in all of us. We could all use an early Spring.

Day 18–NCN2016

I rarely watch commercials, so as we were watching a previously recorded show last night and my husband asked if I had seen “that commercial” (as they sped by thanks to the remote control), my answer was a definite “no” regardless of which one he meant.

He paused, backed it up, and we watched the one he wanted. Apparently, he had seen it while on a recent business trip because I’m pretty sure he hasn’t seen it here. We’re both1118160811a-1 fans of the remote control and its fast-forward button. (it gets you back to the game a LOT faster!)

That tiny little interaction has me thinking about life and wondering what else I might have been speeding past…things that are a lot more important than a commercial. What else have I gone “remote control” over and put on hold until I finished this task or that one? What have I outright ignored or just deleted before it finished because I was in a hurry?

1118160811.jpg“You’re spending too much time thinking about crazy stuff!”, you might say and, perhaps you’re right. I’ve been so focused on “getting through until…” lately that I’ve probably missed more than I realized. That changes today. I’m adding another element to my NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER, and you’re welcome to join me in that, too.

In my efforts to “get through” and “get it done”–and not complain about it!–I’ve missed out a little bit. I tend to get so task-focused that I forget to actually “enjoy” sometimes. Am I the only one? I don’t think so. Oh, I’ve taken some time out to have fun this month. I took friends on a picnic and decorated for the season a little bit and I’ve spent more time writing than I have in a while, but I also know that, while I haven’t complained (often!), I also haven’t deliberately enjoyed things as much as I could have, either.

That brings me to this weekend’s challenge: take time to appreciate who and where you are–and who shares life with you! Look for the beauty around you–in nature and in 1118160817.jpgpeople. Take a photo, write a note, drag someone you love out to enjoy it with you or celebrate the beauty all by yourself, but do THAT this weekend instead of remote-controlling your life while you miss out on actually living it.

Thanksgiving is coming up next week and we might as well start practicing for it today!

Grace and Peace! (and NO COMPAINTS!)

*And yes, I did go out and take these pictures while still in my pajamas today just for fun! The colors are even better in person and that late-blooming hydrangea picture had to be taken from my deck because it is higher than my head! (big grin!) Stopping to smell the roses actually happened today and it was worth every single second! 

 

One object, two lessons…

Leaves

My husband and I traded trucks yesterday. His heater wasn’t working and he left early enough to need heat.

The temperature had risen quite a bit before it was time for me to leave the house. The sun was shining and as I walked toward his truck, I noticed that it was completely covered in beautiful golden maple leaves. They looked so pretty against the navy blue paint with the sun shining down on them that I took a moment to marvel at the beauty of what God does just for the fun of it sometimes.

I drove carefully down my drive and began to pick up speed once I entered the highway. That’s when I noticed something else: I was leaving a trail of gold behind me. There were plenty of leaves to shed and share, and as I sped along the Georgia highway on my way to Bible study (because I was just a few minutes late!–all that admiring of God’s handiwork, you know!–NOT! I was running late before I stopped to do that! Honesty is always the best policy!), I was reminded of these verses from Isaiah:


“Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.” Isaiah 58:8

and

 “…and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim…and they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;the whole earth is full of his glory. ” Isaiah 6:1b-3

Right there in the everyday task of riding down the road, God showed up and was just as beautiful as you’d ever expect Him to be.

Lesson 1—Look for God everywhere. He’s already there, but sometimes He likes for us to seek Him out on purpose…especially in the little things…and, by the way, it doesn’t hurt to leave a trail of beauty behind you as you go through life. It’s a choice. Make the right one.

 

After Bible study and lunch at the house, I took the truck in to have the repairman fix the heater. It wasn’t very long before he stuck his head back in the waiting room door to inform me that at least part of the problem was that “there’s about a 55 gallon drum full of leaves clogging your filter, ma’am!”

Leaves, again. This time quite a bit less glorious and quite a bit more problematic and costly.

Oh, God was still there and He was just as beautiful as He’s ever been, but the problem was due to neglect on our part. We’d bought the truck used and it had been garaged the whole time we’ve owned it up until about a year ago, so I know that all of that didn’t really happen on our watch, but the result was still the same.

It got me to thinking about all the other beautiful gifts that God shares with us and how we can get so busy that we fail to take proper care of them or use them for the benefit of others. Marriages, friendships, families…relationships are meant to bring us joy and comfort, but when we take them for granted and neglect to build or maintain them properly, they become problematic and costly, as well.

The same can be said of finances, house maintenance and septic systems. (grin)

Lesson 2—Stewardship is critical. Keep a watch on the blessings in your life. Even beautiful things can decline into decay and cause stress when they aren’t properly maintained. God is still there, even then, but the work of maintenance is meant to be just as much a blessing as the object or relationship. Be intentional in noticing, appreciating, and maintaining your blessings!

(I don’t have a Scripture reference that just pops into mind to back that one up, it’s just something I know to be true…and I’m sharing it for free, so I guess you’re free to do with it what you will! Ha.)

Grace & Peace!

For your weekend…

Today I am grateful. Absolutely My-God-Is-Awesome-and-Amazingly-Great-FULL! I’m grateful for all kinds of things like

  • time spent with my husband
  • peanut-butter and banana sandwiches for lunch (along with a glass of cold milk!)
  • hints of gold peeking through the tree tops as I walked to the shop this morning
  • work to be done
  • hugs
  • the tiny bird nest I found on my way back from the mail box–delicate and strong and empty
  • mail…even the bills today
  • emails from friends far away filled with love and prayers and strength for the battles to be fought
  • silly ring tones on my phone that announce loved ones even before I hear their voices
  • anticipation
  • sunshine through changing leaves on trees in my yard that look like God’s own stained glass up against the sky
  • green pumpkins
  • pomegranates on sale
  • the last of the blue hydrangeas along the back walkway
  • the sound of the screen door as it slams behind me
  • words…to speak and think and write and read and sing
  • colors
  • you…yes, you! (even if I don’t know you, I’m telling God right now what a bang-up job He did creating you and sharing you with the world! And it’s just as I suspected:  He already knows.)1029141353a

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What’s on your gratitude list this weekend? Whatever it is, share it with someone. Share it with me! (grin)

Blessings are too precious to keep all to ourselves.

Grace & Peace!

  “Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” ~William Arthur Ward  

(and it will make you smile a lot more, too!)

Rest, Rescue and Redemption

Well, we did it! We managed to carve time out for our very own Fall Break! In fact, we’re just recently back from it–although that sounds far more high & mighty than it actually was since we did more of a stay-cation on this one. It was an extended (on both ends!) glorified–and glorious!!–weekend of all kinds of fun and relaxation that was even more needed than we had previously realized.

Here’s a little bit of what we found as we explored tiny towns nearby and went down country roads with no traffic and explored “the big city”…(and since I apparently took 505 photos over the break, aren’t you ever so glad I can edit?! HA!–oops! That number didn’t include the ones on my phone!)

SONY DSC china  SONY DSCwhale sharkA dragon fish  SONY DSC  SONY DSC the city of   Angelo's Pizza!SONY DSC

It wasn’t until I was going through all of the photos that I realized that God had given us a “theme vacation” this year:  Rest, Rescue and Redemption. From ancient rescued broken china soon to be gorgeous jewelry to reclaimed lands and rescued creatures, from big city skylines to picnics under the trees in the gardens, from giant whale sharks to tiny dragon fish, and from black bears and white tigers to black sheep–both actually and metaphorically!–we filled our days of break with the knowledge that we are loved by the Creator who makes all things possible…and all things new. And who doesn’t need to be made new again at least once in awhile?

Diva Sue!

The fabulous Diva Sue!

Interspersed among our various outings we also found time for college football, a street party at one of our neighbors’ homes, naps, great food, some light reading and a little painting. In fact, other than running a few loads of laundry, we didn’t do a single thing on the “To Do” chore-list I keep running in my head. It felt good to not be on a set schedule. It also felt ridiculously decadent at times…and we didn’t mind that a bit! (grin)  It gave us some time to slow down and focus on the details. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  We took Matthew 11:28 literally and the reward was exactly what we needed as we head toward the upcoming holiday season and the challenges we already know we’ll face within the next few weeks. Score one for God being right again! (Imagine that!) Rest. In music, as in life, it is the “rest” between the notes that drives the melody.

While we were at the Atlanta Aquarium one of their docents mentioned that the majority of their residents were there because they would be unable to survive and thrive in their natural habitats due to varying defects, damages or naturally occurring physical differences. Additionally, there was a sign at Noah’s Ark that said something along the lines of “all the animals in this area are either physically, emotionally or mentally damaged–pet at your own risk”…and Good Lord, isn’t that all of us at some point? And we wonder why some people react the way they do?  Rescue and Redemption.  We all need this!

A safe place to be and the opportunity to live productive lives…this is Kingdom business whether we’re on vacation or up to our hips in the messy parts of life. God offers all of us the opportunity for Rest, Rescue and Redemption through His Son, Jesus Christ. Seems like the least we can do is share that same grace with those around us.

How will you do that this weekend? this month? today?  It is a choice…and therein lies the challenge.

Grace & Peace!

SONY DSC   Thought I’d share these two just for fun:  We were trying to get a close shot of the blue berries on this tree when we surprised this little one AND is it just me or do the starfish in this photo look like little kids on a playground:  they’re doing a high 5 and climbing up the rock while two more lie out in the middle of the school yard?! HA! I love it when God lets us in on the funny!star fish high five & climbing a rock

One of these things is not like the other ones…

I’m not sure what season it is at your house right now, but it’s officially Autumn here in Georgia.  That “Autumn” designation comes with certain expectations, right? Cooler temperatures, falling leaves, pumpkins, harvest scenes, small town fairs and festivals, fields freshly mown with large bales of hay stacked on the side…and lots of changing colors.  And what colors do we normally think about when it’s time for autumn? Reds, oranges, yellows, browns, darker greens and hot pink.

HOT PINK?!

Yes.  Around here, we like to be a little different.  We like to shake things up a bit and throw in a bit of the unexpected…and hot pink is camelia1most definitely unexpected in the color palette for this time of year…

…unless you’re a hot pink camellia that’s loaded with blooms and more buds than can be counted.

We have one of those.  Actually, we have three of those, but one of them has decided to get her bloom on a bit earlier this year and she is really showing out right now. (Don’t you love how the hot pink really pops against the yellows and greens of the other trees?) She’s been blooming out for almost three weeks already with absolutely no signs of stopping.  I love it!  It’s like having my very own object lesson right out in my front yard every day!

Lessons learned from the camellia, you say?  Absolutely.  camelia3

  • Make people smile when they see you.  Be cheerful…deliberately cheerful! (I mean, seriously, who can be depressed around gorgeous hot pink flowers in abundance?!)
  • Bloom where you’re planted…and when you are supposed to!…whether others think you’re supposed to right then or not.
  • You don’t have to fit in with what everyone around you is doing. Choose to be bold!
  • You were made on purpose by a God who loves you!  He has a plan that is just for you, so your dreams may not look like every one else’s around you. That’s a good thing.
  • It’s ok to be different!  In fact, your differences just might be what someone else needs to see so they’ll have the courage to be who they were created to be, as well.
  • You are more than what you appear to be right now.  You have the potential to bloom more than you’re blooming.  Keep going!
  • You were created by a Master Craftsman–the Ultimate Artist!–and you are beautiful…just as you are.

My other two hot pink camellias are also loaded with buds, but they appear determined to wait a bit longer to begin their blooming. That’s ok, too. In fact, it’s another great lesson to learn:

Sometimes it’s a good thing to allow others to enjoy the spotlight all on their own.   

Grace & Peace!

camelia4 camelia2