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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Inspired by . . . Life thru My Lens 26:52

Although I never tire of the view from my front porch, I'm guessing some of you may be weary of hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees. So this week I'm sharing some photos taken a couple of years ago during a trip that my Dreamer and I took to Asheville, North Carolina.

These photos were taken with my little Kodak point-and-shoot, which meant I had a lot of editing to do. Some of the exposures are still pretty blown, but hopefully, you can ignore that and enjoy the journey.

*** ***
Asheville is a vibrant city surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains, and right at its heart sits the 19th-Century Biltmore Estate.

It's a grand house, from a grand time. This marvelous 250-room French Renaissance chateau boasts 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces.

Still owned by the original family, the Vanderbilt's continue to welcome all who visit.

In sorting through my photos, it seems I took pictures of only the left side of the house. It is probably my favorite due to the motion of the windows slanting along the grand staircase.

The view from inside is majestic!

This courtyard seems rather bleak, but I suppose it is left open for grand, outdoor parties.

Notice the beautiful green vines in the picture above? Here is an up close shot of their source. My Dreamer likes to take pictures of me, but what I want you to see in the picture below are the beautiful, gnarly, ancient vines! They must be nearly as old as the estate itself.

There were more vines on the way down to the informal gardens, winding themselves around timeworn concrete columns.

But first, let me give you a taste of the formal gardens, close to the house.

The beauty of the formal and informal gardens can be attributed to landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. If you recognize his name it may be because he also designed New York City's, Central Park.

Here is a view of the rose garden which boasts over 250 varieties.

The garden atrium maintains the sense of grandeur prevalent everywhere throughout the estate.

There is something here for everyone.

There is so much more to this estate than can be testified to by a these few photographs. I would love to return with my Canon and spend some time on the grounds during the golden hour.

If you're interested, you can find the estate history here, which will tell you more about the winery, and the village. 

The tickets are a little pricey, but after experiencing the Biltmore first hand, we felt they were well worth the cost. We would definitely visit again.

If you're wondering why there are no pictures of the interior, it is because they are not allowed. But you know me . . .

. . . I prefer to spend my time in the garden.


Sharing inspiration here:
Nature Notes, Through My Lens, Little Things Thursdays,
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Our World Tuesday, Community Global, Photo Friday

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Inspired by . . . threads of His mercy 

I've been reading through the book of Kings this week, and I'm struck by the enormity of mercy that God has shown His people.

Remember Ahab? The king who married Jezebel. The king of who it is said in v. 25 of 1 Kings 25:
Never was there a man who sold himself to do what is wrong in the Lord's eyes as Ahab did, and all at the prompting of Jezebel his wife.
Ahab was the worst of the worst. Yet when Ahab heard the word of the Lord from the prophet Elijah, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth, and fasted. What was the Lord's response?
"Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before Me? Because he has thus humbled himself, I shall not bring disaster on his house in his own lifetime, but in that of his son."
God poured out His mercy on Ahab, deferring His wrath to the next generation (which, incidentally, was no less guilty). In fact, you can read in 2 Kings 22-23 about King Josiah's reform and of all the shrines and idols that he tore down, dating back to the time of King Solomon. Israel's sin was great indeed.

Yet, time and again we read accounts of God's great mercy toward His people.

Christ's sacrifice didn't do away with our need for God's mercy. There are still consequences to our sin. God still pours out His mercy on His people. I can see the threads of His mercy in my own life, just as I'm sure you can see them in yours.

In today's world I think we are in danger of two things:

Believing that our sin is not that bad, (or worse, believing that we do not sin at all) or
believing that our sin is more than what God will forgive.

Both are lies of the enemy.

The standard we are to hold ourselves to is not our neighbor, or the miscreants we see on TV. The standard is Jesus Christ, Who knew no sin. None. Zero. Zilch.

On our best day we are in need of God's grace.
One person may be a relatively decent sinner and another may be a flagrant sinner, but both are sinners, and God’s law admits no degree of failure. ~ Bridges, Jerry. The Discipline of Grace
On our worst day we are in need of God's grace, and God's mercy.

And on both days we have it, when we repent, humble ourselves before God and accept the gift He has provided; the sacrifice of His Son.

To believe that our sin is more than God will forgive is flat unbelief. God says, "Ask and it will be given you." He doesn't qualify the asking. Take Him at His word.
For by the blood of Christ we are set free, that is, our sins are forgiven. How great is the grace of God, which He gave to us in such large measure! (Eph 1:7-8)
Do you look in the mirror and see the truth of your sinful state? Do you look in the mirror and see a soul worthy of God's love and adoration?

Both are required to receive His mercy and grace. Anything less is believing a lie. 

May you receive the truth of the Gospel today. 

For God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son,
so that everyone who believes in Him may not die
but have eternal life. (Joh 3:16)


Monday, June 20, 2016

Inspired by . . . Life thru My Lens 25:52

Happy first day of summer! and

Happy Birthday to my Mom!

These shots are pure south Texas summer. EnJOY!

Strawberry Moon - watch for it - tonight!

A Northern Cardinal coveting the water fountain.

For everything there is a season.

When the bully won't let you drink from the feeder.

I'm enjoying the bees this year!

Dinner for baby.

Speaking of babies! I finally captured one of our fawns. So cute!

Enjoying a lot of little visitors to the blooms this year. This is some kind of Hairstrike, I think.

Finally, a nice, gentle, soaking rain!

What are you seeing
through your lens this week?


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

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Inspired by . . . Dad

Please forgive me. I just don't have the words today.

Letting the pictures do the talking . . .

Me and Dad, 2013

Dad and his sister, Sylvia, 2014
Me and Dad, circa 1970s
circa 1980s
circa 1980s
Me, my brother and Dad, Easter circa 1970s

Happy Father's Day,

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Inspired by . . . watch, wait, obey

Some of us will live, work, play and die in the same town in which we were born. Others of us will move once, maybe twice, in our lifetime. Still others will move often, maybe yearly, never really settling down until age makes the decision for us. 

Some of us are given our marching orders, while others of us choose when, where and how long to go or stay.

The Israelites didn't have that option. The book of Numbers records their travels from Egypt to the borders of the Promise Land. The very presence of God determined when they would stop, go or stay.

At the command of the LORD they camped, and at the command of the LORD they set out. They kept the charge of the LORD, at the command of the LORD by Moses. (Num 9:23)
They could see God's presence in the form of a cloud over the tabernacle. When the cloud lifted, that was their cue to pick up and move. When the cloud descended they were to stop and set up camp.

They never knew when the cloud would move. They had to watch, wait and obey. I can only imagine the grumbling. 
"This place is hot and we have to walk for miles to find water for the animals. Why can't we move on, already?"
"We've been walking for days. This looks like a peaceful valley, why can't we stop here?"
"Why do we have to move? I like it here. It's comfortable and shady, with plenty of water for the animals."

It must have seemed pointless at times. Moving to a place, painstakingly setting up the camp according to God's specific instructions. Only to take it all down and move again. But God had a purpose in all that He was doing with the Israelites. He was teaching them a way of living that would govern them for hundreds of years. He was slowly, but steadily moving them toward, and preparing them for, the Promise Land.

God's still doing the same for His children today. Right now, in your life, no matter where He's keeping you or sending you, you can be assured that He has a purpose.

We don't see God's physical presence like the Israelites did, but He has given us something better! Himself, His Holy Spirit, alive within us! And by His Spirit He leads us, just as He led the Israelites.

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Rom 8:14)
God goes before us, and directs our steps.

It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed." (Deu 31:8)

And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, "This is the way, walk in it," when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. (Isa 30:21)
These are important truths to remember when we're tempted to grumble. I've been tempted to grumble a bit lately. My Dreamer and I recently made the decision to move out of our little cottage before our new home is ready to be built. It means we'll be displaced for a bit while we're waiting for the next temporary cottage to be available. But someone else needs the cottage more than we do. The decision wasn't a difficult one, but I'm finding it hard to let go.

You see, this cottage welcomed me and gave me a safe place to grieve during a very difficult time in my life. After another move I never expected. It was the first home for my Dreamer and I . . . it holds a special place in our hearts.

God's saying it's time to move. And just like the Israelites, He's moving us one step closer to the Promise Land.

I hope I've learned a lesson from the Israelites. They failed to trust God and ended up wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. I want to be counted with those who trusted and obeyed.

Are you trusting God for your Promise Land?


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Inspired by . . . Life thru My Lens 24:52

My lens is a bit clouded this week in light of the horrific events in Orlando. There is a lot that can be said, and some things that should be said in light of these events. But the bottom line for me is my belief that God is good and just and right. He hates evil.

He weeps with those who mourn.

He understands loss, and pain.

He redeems.

Maybe some of you, like me this week, need to be reminded of His goodness. His magnificent and costly love for us.

Maybe these images will help us to remember.


Sharing inspiration here:
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Our World Tuesday, Community Global, Photo Friday

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Inspired by . . . grit, guts, glory

I can't get over these tenacious little birds that chase down the red-tailed hawk, a bird 10x their size. 

The hawk is attacking the birds family and home. The birds are doing what comes naturally: defending their babies and their nest. They not only chase the hawk away, I've watched them sit for 20 minutes or more "guarding" him on the cell tower. One bird will leave and return to the nest then, eventually, the other will leave.

The scene plays out several times a week now, and I can't help but wonder if there is a lesson here.

We, too, have an Enemy attacking our families and homes. And, just like the hawk, he often soars in silently, looking beautiful and good. By the time his sharp beak and talons appear we're making our bed under his wings.

The enemy attacks in various ways. Sometimes he is like Goliath; an obvious, but seemingly un-surmountable force. Sometimes he comes as an insidious evil, like Jezebel. And he can come quietly, yet consistently. An un-named irritation like a thorn in the side.
...a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. (2Co 12:7)
There are several ways we can fight the enemy of sin in our lives. We can knock it out. A smooth stone straight to center of sin. 
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (Jas 4:7)
Then there are times when we need to flee sin. As Elijah fled from Jezebel. Flee and fight the battle on our knees, trusting God for the outcome. 
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. (1Pe 5:8-9)

And then there are times when we must simply, and completely fall upon His grace. 
Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you. (Jas 4:9-10)
It's important to remember that whenever we fight sin, in any form, we do so in the power of the Lord. There is no command in scripture to engage Satan in an offensive manner. Even David's fight against Goliath was in defense of Israel and done in the name of the Lord.
...but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand,  (1Sa 17:45-46)
Beloved, I don't know what you're facing today. But I know you're facing something. Remember, the safest place on earth is close to our Father. Only His wings will offer you sure and eternal protection.
He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and buckler. (Psa 91:4)

Suit up (Eph 6:11)
seek Him (Mat 6:33)
and trust Him for the battle (1Cor 15:57).


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Thought Provoking Thursday, Grace & Truth, Let Us Walk Worthy,
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