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Thursday, March 15, 2018

Inspired by . . . Winter's Growth

I thought it might be a little difficult to continue writing about Winter once Spring started to make her appearance. But then, two noreasters blew through the eastern states and this morning I woke up to 32 degrees and frosty windows! I know that many of you have snow for the first time all winter.

Spring can be a tease and Winter a hard taskmaster. We can experience similar seasons in our spiritual lives. Just when we think we're ready to zoom and bloom, God tells us to slow down and wait.

Unlike snow and ice that gives no thought to what it might destroy in its wake, God's timing is always perfect - - seeking only our good. Rather than be frustrated when God asks us to wait, we should view the time as an opportunity for growing in faith and seeking deeper communion with Him. [click to tweet]

Our culture has taught against this but waiting is a gift, an opportunity to invest our "talents" wisely until the Lord returns. (Matthew 25:18-30)

My flower beds don't look like much right now; brown dirt and dead leaves. 

It's only when I rake away the dead leaves that I can see the growth underneath. During the long wait of winter, the perennials have rested, dormant, waiting. Their growth hidden beneath the ground and decaying leaves.

Our spiritual growth can be like that sometimes. We don't always realize how God is equipping us until the challenge (good or bad) appears. In my own life, I've found that God is often working most profoundly during those times when I feel the weakest - - when I am most unaware. Those slow and restful walks down from the mountaintop experiences prepare us to cross the valleys below. [click to tweet]

It is important to remember that the valleys are not always dry, harsh places of pain and wandering. Often they are valleys of vision. A place where God speaks to us and gives us words and works to share with others. (Eze 3:22) Sometimes they are valleys of strength where God provides rest and refreshment. (Psalm 84:6-7)

No matter which valley you find yourself traveling in today, I hope that this season of spring with its tender shoots of new growth will be a reminder to you that God is working. He's working quietly in our lives and in the world around us. 

His work is a redeeming work of mercy and grace. A work of rendering broken hearts and making them whole again; preparing them to walk in another valley one day. It is a valley wide and deep with little bands of pilgrims scattered here and there. All of them walking beside the river of the water of life. A river that shines as bright as a crystal flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb. (Rev 22)

I hope to see you there.


Sharing inspiration here:
#TellHisStoryFaith On Fire, Grace & Truth,
Inspire Me Monday, #HeartEncouragement,
Thoughtful Thursdays#w2wwordfilledwednesday,
Sitting Among Friends, #Glimpsesofhisbeauty
Counting My Blessings, Grace Moments,
#DanceWithJesus; Imparting Grace

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Inspired by . . . Life thru My Lens 11:52

Texas is known for its unusual weather but even this forecast is a little ridiculous.

The temps have actually cooled again this week. We did have one, very warm day this past weekend and it was enough to encourage this little guy to stop and say hello!

I hope to see more of them soon! 

I haven't been able to confirm any nesting sites yet but there continues to be a lot of activity at the feeders and around the yard.

The gold-fronted woodpeckers love the peanut suet!

A flock of meadowlarks have been hanging around for the last week or so. Finally, finally, I was able to get some decent shots of these elusive, flighty birds!

These were taken in the brightness of the morning sun and were a bit challenging to edit but I think they came out fair enough. Best of all, you can see the bird's beautiful markings.

What are you seeing through your lens this week?

Have a wonder-filled week, friends!

Sharing inspiration here:
Nature Notes, Through My LensBird D’pot,
Saturday’s Critters, Life thru the Lens,
Wild Bird WednesdayOur World Tuesday,
Community Global, Photo Friday, Little Things Thursday

Thursday, March 8, 2018

There were only two Souls walking around the cemetery that day. My Dreamer and me.

Far from being a place of macabre, for me, the cemetery is a place of peace and tranquility. Of shelter and protection.

There is nothing sacred in ashes and bone. Nothing divine or holy resides in this place. Yet, what remains should be kept safe and free from defilement.

The part of us that is sacred, that part that has been set apart and sanctified, does not linger once it is released from the bounds of this earthly body. It immediately seeks its true home, complete in Christ. That which we knew in part has finally become whole.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1Co 13:12)
Some have a different view. They come and speak to the stones. They leave letters and trinkets. Little gifts of remembrance meant to comfort. 

Only the living are comforted. The dead remain.

We came searching for names. Sketching out the half-drawn branches on the family tree. As we walked, we remembered. And our memories brought the dead to life and clothed them in story. Each name fleshed out in a place and time. A blessing. A tragedy. A life well-lived.

Our lives may be just a vapor but they have a purpose. When we live for Christ we leave His divine imprint on every life we touch.

The seeds of faith are planted, or watered, or fertilized.
I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. (1Co 3:6)

Remembering is like stirring the potpourri.  Our words release the scent of blessing again to another generation.

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. (2Ti 1:5)

We honor the dead by telling their stories and in the telling, we bestow a blessing on those who will listen.

Who has left a divine imprint on your life?


Sharing inspiration here:
#TellHisStoryFaith On Fire, Grace & Truth,
Inspire Me Monday, #HeartEncouragement,
Thoughtful Thursdays#w2wwordfilledwednesday,
Sitting Among Friends, #Glimpsesofhisbeauty
Counting My Blessings, Grace Moments,
#DanceWithJesus; Imparting Grace

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Inspired by . . . Life thru My Lens 10:52

The temperatures are edging toward tolerable (for me) and the sun shone a bit more frequently this past week. 

I see more butterflies every day and other insects are on the move as well (though not all are welcome).

Orange Sulphur Butterfly

The pear tree blossoms are already gone by. They didn't last long this year. I hope the bees had their fill!

Speaking of bees, the birds and the bees, that is . . . the nesting craziness has begun!

I was busy this week cleaning out birdhouses and putting the hummingbird feeders out for the first time this year. (no hummer sightings yet!)

The Texas house may have some new tenants. I think they're still measuring for furniture.

Black-crested Titmouse

It's fun to watch the birds pair up. Our cardinal family fed together all winter but some species, like the Carolina Wrens, the Eastern Phoebes, and even the Gold-fronted Woodpeckers seem to pair up only during the nesting season. I'm glad to see them all together again!

Northern Cardial (male and female)
There was a pair of Meadowlarks out front this morning but I didn't get any clear photos. Hopefully, more will be arriving soon on their treck southward. Noticably absent lately have been the mockingbirds. We almost always have one or two in residence but I haven't seen much of them this winter. They should be busy building nests this time of year. 

My front porch got a good cleaning this weekend and I brought my potted plants out of their winter enclosure. It is so good to have them out on the porch again! 

I also cleaned out my flower beds and I'll be heading to the nursery this week for more plants. 

There is always the possibility of a late frost here in the Hill Country but I simply can't wait any longer! My perennials are already starting to sprout, so I'm not the only one who is ready to get growing!

I learned recently that every coral in the sea spawns, all at the same time, every year after the first full moon in November. Who knew?

It makes me wonder what marvels might have been set in motion by last week's full moon.

We had clouds Thursday night but I caught this beauty on the 2nd. I know they all look the same but I never tire of taking pictures of the moon!

What activties mark the change of seasons for you? What are you seeing through your lens this week?

Have a wonder-filled week, friends,

Sharing inspiration here:
Nature Notes, Through My LensBird D’pot,
Saturday’s Critters, Life thru the Lens,
Wild Bird WednesdayOur World Tuesday,
Community Global, Photo Friday, Little Things Thursday

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Inspired by . . .  Winter's Discipline

"When the student is ready, the teacher appears."

I read this on someone's IG account the other day.  My friend wasn't talking about spiritual things but it made me wonder . . .

How many of us, who are waiting for Christ to reveal Himself or His plan for our lives, are still waiting simply because we are not ready to receive all that He has for us?

We like to think we are ready. 

I like to think I am ready.

But the truth is that most of God's purposes for us are realized through trials and suffering. 

Because His power is made perfect in our weakness.

And how many of us really signed on for that?

Well, ahem, we all did. Okay, I did. Maybe now you're not so sure?

Full disclosure:

God's word doesn't read like a modern day sales pitch or TV commercial. It doesn't tell us we are worth it, we deserve it, and everything is going to be perfect when we sign on.

Because, reality check, we're not, we don't, and it isn't.

Truth be told, much of our aversion to suffering has been propagated by the black box that is continuously feeding us these subtle lies about how our lives would be so much better if . . . Which eerily echoes: "Did God really say . . ."

But I digress.

God's word is pretty clear on what we can expect and what we must do.

The world will hate us. (John 15:18-19)

We will be persecuted. (Joh 15:20)

We will have trouble. (John 16:33)

We must deny ourselves and, day after day, take up our cross, and follow Christ. (Matt 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23)

Now before you start wondering why is it all worth it, let us remember two things:

One, suffering is not, in and of itself, good. It is the product of our fallen world. Two, this world is not our home. What we experience here is not our final reality.

God, in His infinite love for us, has determined to use suffering for good. But we have to be careful of our pride.
"To believe in suffering is pride: but to suffer, believing in God, is humility. For pride may tell us that we are strong enough to suffer, that suffering is good for us because we are good. Humility tells us that suffering is an evil which we must always expect to find in our lives because of the evil that is in ourselves. But faith also knows that the mercy of God is given to those who seek Him in suffering and that by His grace we can overcome evil with good. Suffering, then, becomes good by accident, by the good that it enables us to receive more abundantly from the mercy of God. It does not make us good by itself but enables us to make ourselves better than we are. Thus, what we consecrate to God in suffering is not our suffering but our selves." Thomas Merton
To truly follow Christ means to identify with Him in His suffering. His way ended in victory and light but we cannot forget how it began; in obscurity, a meager feeding trough. Or how He lived; the Son of man has no place to lay His head. (Luke 9:58)

Or how He died. 

The Passion that drove Him to the cross can only be realized in our own lives when we die to self. Completely.

It is only through this act of dying that we can live to bring forth fruit; by receiving the purpose and plan He has for our lives.
"Christ's love is so great, it must lift our minds above our little struggles - and any preoccupation with our own salvation - so that we can see the needs of others, and beyond that the greatness of God and His Creation." J. Heinrich Arnold
Here is where the discipline of winter may enter in. Forced to wait in the cold and dark, a bit uncomfortable, our sense of sight diminished. Perhaps now our spirit will be free to hear the One Who speaks quietly below the chaos of our lives.

Maybe the lack of sun and colorless days will bring on the hunger that is necessary for us to be thankful for any scrap of bread that may fall from His table. Perhaps, if we're made to wait long enough, we may finally come to the end of ourselves. To be willing to die to this life so that we may live for His.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ Who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Gal 2:20)

So I ask you, is the student ready?


Sharing inspiration here:
#TellHisStoryFaith On Fire, Grace & Truth,
Inspire Me Monday, #HeartEncouragement,
Thoughtful ThursdaysWord Filled Wednesday,
Sitting Among Friends, #Glimpsesofhisbeauty
Counting My Blessings, Grace Moments,
#DanceWithJesus; Imparting Grace

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Inspired by . . . Life thru My Lens 9:52

Praise Him, sun and moon, praise Him, all you shining stars! (Psa 148:3)

The waxing gibbous moon is doing a good job of drawing attention to my favorite constellation this month; Orion and its Nebula where stars are born. Shift your gaze slightly northwest and you'll have no trouble seeing the Pleiades Star Cluster. Even through binoculars, it is a wondrous thing to behold!

February is the only month this year that doesn't host a full moon. Instead, March will host two full moons, the second of which will be the second (and last) blue moon of 2018!

When enveloped by the heavy scent of this year's pear blossoms it is hard to believe that we are but a mere speck in the universe.

Even if we could count all the bees in the world and all the sand on the seashore we still wouldn't reach the number of stars in the sky. 

Looking up into the night sky can make us feel very small and insignificant indeed. The truth is, we may be small but we are far from insignificant.

We can delight in our surroundings because the earth and everything in it is proof of God's love for us. We are significant because we matter to Him.

10,000 species of birds? 20,000 species of butterflies? Surely, five or six hundred would have been enough. Our Creator God delights in His creation and we are the apple of His eye! 

American Lady Butterfly
Keep me as the apple of Your eye; hide me in the shadow of Your wings, (Psa 17:8)

Pipevine Swallowtail Butterflies

If we listen and observe, God will use nature to reveal things about Himself.
For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.  (Rom 1:20)
Eastern Bluebird

As our hearts awaken to the truth of God's presence we gradually become aware of the great chasm of sin that separates us from Him.
For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Rom 3:22-23)

God in His great love, before time began, had already prepared a way for us to return to Him. 
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.  (Joh 3:16)
Jesus Christ died to pay our debt and His blood washes us clean from the stain of sin.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 6:23)

Carolina Wren

The gift of life, freely given to His beloved children. Given to you.

It doesn't matter what you've done, what you've said or how many times you've rejected God. The past is behind. Today, if you come to Him, He will receive you.

Today. Now. Is all that matters.

Will you open your heart to Him? Admit your sins. Turn away from them, turn to Jesus and confess Him as Lord?
"Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts."  (Heb 4:7)

Sharing inspiration here:
Nature Notes, Through My LensBird D’pot,
Saturday’s Critters, Life thru the Lens,
Wild Bird WednesdayOur World Tuesday,
Community Global, Photo Friday, Little Things Thursday

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Inspired by . . . wrong made right

This was originally posted in June of 2014. I'm reposting today in honor of my dad's birthday. He passed away February 4, 2015.

* * *

My dad has been going through boxes.

Pulling out memories that were tossed between four walls of cardboard. Some now forgotten, some still as fresh as when he laid them inside.

Some are my memories, too.

And I'm surprised to see them when he pulls them out.


I made a chess set once. It was a gift for someone who loved to play.

It was a large set, 16x16, I think. The board was made in four pieces. Ceramic.
It took me forever to clean all those chessmen. Once the glaze was applied, my instructor told me to fill each piece with bb's to weight them down. Then the pieces were fired.

If you've ever done ceramics you know that glazes are dull and almost unnoticeable – until the pieces are put in the kiln. When they emerge from the fire/intense heat they are bright, glossy, and the color shines! {Therein lies a lesson for another day!}


I was so excited about my chess set! It was the perfect gift, and I couldn't wait until Christmas morning.

But the next week when I arrived at the ceramic shop to pick up my set, I found this . . .


Turns out I had purchased copper bb's. Big mistake.

All the white chessmen sported this "marble" effect – my chess set was ruined! It had taken me weeks to make, and with Christmas looming, I didn't have time to make a new set of white chessmen. I had no choice but to wrap them up, marble faces and all.

I was so disappointed.

As you might have guessed, my friend was over-the-moon about the chess set – marble chessmen and all. They said it made the set unique. Special. One of a kind.


I was happy that my friend liked the set, but it took me awhile to get over the disappointment.

When my dad pulled these chess pieces out of his memory box I was surprised. I laughed a little and asked him why he'd kept those. His eyes moistened a bit as he said, "Because it was so good."


I hadn't realized it at the time, but my dad had been impressed by the set I'd made. It really was a beautiful chess set. I was the only one, it seems, that thought less of it because of the copper marbling on the white pieces.

My dad was proud of what his little girl had made.  So years later when the set was damaged, he saved some of the pieces.


There are several lessons here, I think, but what God is speaking most profoundly to my heart is Romans 8:28.

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God-
those whom He has called according to His plan.

We all make mistakes. And those mistakes have consequences. Sometimes life-changing consequences.

But whether it's a little mistake that takes some of the JOY out of a Christmas gift {for the giver} or a big mistake that changes what your Christmas celebrations are like for years to come, God's promise holds true.

He works ALL THINGS.

Some things?


ALL THINGS for the good of those who love Him.

You may never see the good that God works from your mistake. Or you may receive a blessing, as I did when dad showed me the chess pieces he'd saved.  That chess set had meant something to him. It has pleased him, made him proud.


And the gift I'd made wasn't even for him.



I had fun using Bonnie's textures on some of these images.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Inspired by . . . Life thru My Lens 8:52

The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) was this past weekend. Did you participate? 

This is a worldwide event that takes place every February. This year's top checklist submissions came in from the United States, India, Canada, Australia, and Spain. Top-ranked by the number of species reported, Brazil came in at 814 species!

You can find this year's photo submissions here: 2018 Contest

Despite the yucky weather, my personal count came in at 14 species. I counted on Friday and Saturday. The weather both days was poor. In fact, on Saturday I counted from my kitchen window!

All but five of these pictures were taken during the count. They are mostly for documentation and some, like the Eastern Bluebird, were taken from several hundred yards away. Please forgive the poor quality.

From left to right, top to bottom:

Gold-fronted Woodpecker
Black-crested Titmouse
Northern Cardinal
Eastern Bluebird
Cedar Waxwing 
Black Vulture 
Lesser Goldfinch
Carolina Wren
White-winged Dove
Carolina Chickadee
Woodhouse's Scrub Jay
Chipping Sparrow
Eastern Phoebe

What are you seeing through your lens this week?

Have a wonder-filled week, friends,

Sharing inspiration here:
Nature Notes, Through My LensBird D’pot,
Saturday’s Critters, Life thru the Lens,
Wild Bird WednesdayOur World Tuesday,
Community Global, Photo Friday, Little Things Thursday

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Inspired by . . . Winter's Chill

Nearly every place in the world that experiences winter experiences cold temperatures. Like them or not, the cold does have a purpose.

Cold is a nod to nature to begin a cycle of death that will ultimately lead to new life. [click to tweet]

For some things the death is literal, for others, it is only a period of dormancy. Leaves die and fall to the ground as the trees enter a new cycle of life. Bears and some species of butterflies go dormant, their life cycle suspended in an esoteric sleep.

Mostly, cold is hostile. Inhospitable. Severe.

Yet, the deep coldness of winter is when the harsh pruning of self-examination takes place. The irony is that often our self-examination, while good and necessary, often exposes just how self-absorbed we really are.

We become so fixated on discovering what God wants us to do for Him, or on what we're already doing for God, that we fail to realize we've got things turned around.

Perhaps what is really important is what He is doing in us. [click to tweet]

It's a subtle shift but an important one, I think.

This time of year instead of offering Him our food or our social media time let's offer up OURSELVES.

"Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening."

Perhaps He will direct us toward deep self-examination or to giving up a certain luxury or habit. 

But let's allow Him to lead the conversation. Let's allow Him to draw us into Himself. Into His suffering. Into His joy. Into . . .

. . . where ever it is He wishes to lead us.

Let's allow Him to reveal the beauty of His plan. Let's take the time, maybe forty days or so, to sit quietly while He toils in the deep, dormant soil of our souls. Those cold, wintry places.

Then, let us watch in wonder as He sweeps aside the soil and shines His light into the darkness, revealing the growth that has made all things new!


Sharing inspiration here:
Testimony Tuesday, #TellHisStory,
Faith On Fire, Grace & Truth,
Inspire Me Monday, RaRa Link Up, Intentional Tuesday,
#WordswithWinter, Titus 2 Tuesday, Thoughtful Thursdays,
Encourage Me Monday, Wholehearted Wednesday,
Women with Intention Wednesdays, Word Filled Wednesday,
#GiveMeGrace, Sitting Among Friends, #Glimpsesofhisbeauty
Counting My Blessings, Grace Moments, Heart Encouragement