Thanksgiving Wish

DSC_1314Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;

DSC_1330
Where there is hatred, let me sow love; 

DSC_1323Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is error, truth; 

DSC_1280Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; And where there is sadness, joy.

DSC_1320O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek To be consoled as to console; To be understood as to understand; To be loved as to love.

DSC_1047-001For it is in giving that we receive; It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
~ prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assissi

DSC_1352-001This is my grown-up Thanksgiving Wish. How about you?
Have a blessed Thanksgiving.

Peace, Alexandria

November Surprise

Be Thou the Rainbow

I saw the lovely arch
Of rainbow span the sky,
The gold sun burning
As the rain swept by.
~ Elizabeth Coatsworth

"Be thou the rainbow in the storms of life." Lord Byron

Ah, November is now upon us. I tried to find some really sweet November quotes on the web, thinking I would find a lot of poetry and quotes depicting the glory of this great month. How shocked and depressing to find literature filled with so much melancholy and gloom.

I suppose in many parts of the world the climate lends itself to melancholy in November. Around here, as October slips quietly into the sunset, November carries on the work of autumn slow and magnificent. And for me personally, November is neatly sandwiched in-between the end of Indian Summer and the bustling holidays. When you think about it, don’t the holidays serve as a huge distraction as the bleakness of winter rolls in? We wake up in January and it’s like, “Wow, it’s winter!”

The other side of the rainbow

But back to November. While I sat perusing the poetry, how fitting a chilling rain should suddenly befall the midst of all the gloom and doom. Great! Dear November, you just confirmed what I’m reading! Stop the madness!

But suddenly, a voice shattered the madness. My husband was off in the back field calling to get my camera and come running. And to my great surprise, what I saw proved those writers and poets dead-wrong. What began my November was this glorious arch spreading over the sky. Yes— a RAINBOW!  Far, far from melancholy. Oh, how I wish you could have been there! Just amazing.

Forever Chasing Rainbows

Rainbows usually conjure images of spring freshness and oh, how writers praise, praise, praise the endless wonder, relieved to the nth degree that all the bleak and blah of winter is finally gone. But just to prove those highbrow writers wrong, nature decided to blast forth this November with a rainbow. No room for gloom this time!

So what do you think about November? Rather than leave it up to famed writers and poets, perhaps it’s now up to the world of everyday bloggers like you and me to change that reputation. Even if your climate is cold, bleak, and cloudy, is there not some glimmer of magnificence? You may not get a rainbow like I did but November holds plenty of surprise. It’s there, to be sure.

I Hope

You might have to do some searching to capture the beauty in the bleak. But even in the worst of times, there is always a place, a space of sanity and glory, that silver lining of hope—possibly even a rainbow. With November ushering winter at our doorstep, together let’s find that surprise. I’m ready. How about you?

A Golden Hour Collection | Weekly Photo Challenge

IMG_2432“Nothing is more beautiful than the loveliness of the woods before sunrise.” ~ George Washington Carver

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“The grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never dried all at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.” ~ John Muir

DSC02872“Two golden hours somewhere between sunrise and sunset. Both are set with 60 diamond minutes.” ~ Horace Mann

DSC_0450“Someday you will find the one who will watch every sunrise with you until the sunset of your life … Just be patient.” ~ Unknown

“I like that time is marked by each sunrise and sunset whether or not you actually see it.” ~ Catherine Opie
Sunrise Bora Bora
“Every sunrise offers renewed hope to carry out the reflection after the sunset of yesterday. A time to let go of yesterday and embrace the new day.” ~ Alexandria Sage

Pain Prescriptions“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness.” ~ Lamentations 3:22-23
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This week’s Photo Challenge theme is “The Golden Hour”, known as the hour of sunrise and sunset. No one can deny the colors and lighting are breathtaking. How many times has this Golden Hour stopped you dead in your tracks and caught your attention? It amazes me how God built into nature two times every single day to get our attention, to bless us with a glorious start and a reflective end. Simply captivating.

Nearly every camera captures them easily. However, it was so nice of WordPress to host the Photography 101 series to help us along. And this week we were given a lesson by one my favorite photographers, Wenjie Zhang of A Certain Slant of Light. I only have one tip to offer about the Golden Hour. Be prepared and don’t hesitate. Get that picture. If you wait even one minute it will be gone.

To end with, when I saw the challenge theme I immediately thought of a song I’ve recently heard and come to love, aptly titled Golden. It is filled with a bittersweet mixture of hope and reality that intertwines the journey of every person— the rhythms of life, the ups and downs, the fickle moments, the grand ones.

Life can become a tangled mess sometimes. But through it all, the resounding truth in the last quote above, from the Bible, offers a hope that holds us firm in the hand of God. Is it not He who chose to shout His love, mercy, and faithfulness through two glorious golden hours of each day? Though the sun sets and the day ends, His mercies never come to an end. And every morning once again He shouts His love to carry us through.

His faithfulness is constant, not because of who we are, but because of who He is.

Peace, Alexandria
Credits: Golden (youtube lyric video. song by Amy Grant).
Guest Author, Stephen Deal, for his sunrise photo.

A World Awash With Color

I wonder if flowers could talk or had human emotion or ability to reason, would they dwell in prejudice against the color of another flower? Would they judge and resent, even hate one another because of the color of their petals? And not just the color differences, but the different varieties?

The hydrangea colors are dependent on soil acidity. The daisies in the photo above have colors that are man-induced. They were “created”. Not the flowers, of course, but the colors. Why did someone do this? Doesn’t it add to their brilliance, bring a smile, and increase joy? They shout “fun”!
Aren’t we awestruck and delighted by the very nature of their differences? Their color and composition is completely at the mercy of their maker. They cannot help what color they are. But do we complain? Do we harbor resentment because of the multitude of color?

Then why do we do this with humanity? It is the stuff of war and crime throughout history and all of us know it is wrong. Yet, hard as we try, we can all find traces of it lurking deep inside. It is our greatest stain deep within—racism. But how did it happen?
Color Collide

My instinctual guess is it was taught and modeled before us. In my own observations it seems children are not born racist. When they are young, watch how they play. I marvel at how they play happily with one another, all strangers, all different skin colors. It is a delight to watch, my five-year-old grandson mixing right in.

DSC01669

But as we grow up things change. And we have a big problem. So why don’t we just admit it? In problem solving, isn’t that what we’re taught? To first admit we have a problem?

M

So what next?
My own resolve is to look beyond skin into the soul. The soul which is a human heart with a universal need of empathy and love. A soul which needs to be heard.

Think of last summer’s Olympics. For a wondrous moment every nation was at peace. We watched the very best athletes parade into the stadium and what a sight it was! Did it not take your breath away to see the vast array of different cultures, different colors both in costume and skin?

Great Britain (Team GB) - Parade of Nations - ...

Did any of us have a racist or prejudiced bone in our body during those wondrous seventeen days? As a believer in God, I theorize the Creator’s original intent may have been what we witnessed at the Olympics. Why else would He be so risky as to create his image-bearers in different colors?

He obviously loves lots of color. Why not color us, too! He created everything and said, “It was good.” And that’s exactly what my different skin color friends have done for me—enriched my life and thinking. It is good—very, very good.

Children Craft Color

So if nature and children teach us to delight in the of the myriad of color, can we not strive to do the same?

After all, it’s all just a matter of a mere .012% melanin.

“I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” ~ Psalm 139:14

“One race, many ethnicities.” ~ S. Michael, aka my son.

“For we are God’s masterpiece … ”~ Ephesians 2:10
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Daily Prompt: Colors

Weekly Photo Challenge: Forward

Tom the Turkey

“All life is an experiment.
The more experiments you make the better.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Do not go where the path may lead,
go instead where there is no path
and leave a trail.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

DSC_0349

A Tale of Agony

“Always do what you are afraid to do.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

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“Our greatest glory is not in never failing,
but in rising up every time we fail.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Yesterday is not ours to recover,
but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.”

~ Lyndon B. Johnson

This is a response to the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge. The theme this week is “Forward”.
I hope you enjoy my contribution. I thought about titling it “Words From Ralph” but I could not leave out the Lyndon Johnson quote.

You can read about the Weekly Photo Challenge and see other interpretations at the following link:
Weekly Photo Challenge
Enjoy.
Alexandria

Change—Certain as the Seasons

Fall Dozes …

The changing of the seasons mirror the rhythm of a soul. There are times of exuberance (summer) and times of reflection (winter). Fall and winter provide reflection and rest needed for the energetic spring and summer. I know this rhythm well.

Winter Sleeps.

I’m so glad I live in a place where seasons change. I lived in the American desert southwest for a brief period. Though it possesses an outrageous and incredible beauty, I missed the changing seasons. Once you get used to those rhythms your soul ever longs for them.

Spring Sings!

The seasons mimic the certainty of change. And as the verse goes, “there is a time for each matter under heaven”, I know God has his hand in every aspect of my life—blessings and difficulties. Difficult times will come are here, but there are many good things surrounding me, too.

This is how life is—the blend of trial and blessing, seasons filled with change. Remembrance of last year fills me now with warm nostalgia. Things have changed this year. Some changes I don’t like, but some I do.

As my sweet grandson and I decorated a gingerbread house yesterday, I wished him so hard to stay five-years-old! But he won’t. As I relished the moment of childlike delight I wondered will he have this much fun next year placing the sugar plums just so? I cling a little tighter to this moment and to him, all the while knowing they both slip from my grasp.

Why do I resist change when I know change is certain? Why does change fill a corner of my heart with an unsettling angst? I cry against it to no avail. It comes anyway. Why can’t I be like nature, welcoming with open arms, and just settle into it quite nicely, ready for the next? Change comes, of that I am certain.

Summer Shouts!!

But there is a certainty of which I’m glad there is no change.

“I the Lord do not change.” ~ Malachi 3:6

Though God set into motion seasons of glorious nature, he exempted himself from change. This truth is abiding and unchanging. This is the certainty I most need. I need his constant grace, mercy, and forgiveness. And he gives all. His love and mercy are the same—when we fall, when we stand. His hand is ever there to walk us through storms or meadows.

Within the unexpected turns of life He knew we needed I need something to remain constant.
Or rather—Someone.

Fashionable Fallacies

And I’ve never been out of his hand.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” ~ Psalm 46:1

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”
~ Ecclesiastes 3:1

“He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” ~ Psalm 103:12

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” ~ Lamentations 3:22-23


Other interpretations of Changing Seasons:
{Note: This is my first time using WordPress new tiled gallery format to display my photos. Click on a photo in each collection above for a beautiful gallery display. Enjoy.}

Christmas Surprise

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’Twas the weekend before Christmas and I was on hospital call.
This weekend is known for “when you think you’ve seen and heard it all” and suddenly there’s another outlandish story. It’s the weekend notorious for the unexpected.
Or rather …

It’s the weekend of expectation. And as part of the call team I prepared myself for any surprise.

But it was not what I anticipated. No nightmarish awakening middle-of-the-night-jump-out-of-bed-race-to-the hospital. We worked hard but no 14-hours-straight-in-a-row-from-the middle-of-the-night-into-day. And I got to sleep all three nights. For the call weekend before Christmas it was pretty routine and, for lack of a better term—kinda boring mundane.

No surprises at all.

D

Wait. What did I just say? Mundane?
How can I speak so bland for what happened—or rather what did not happen
this weekend before Christmas? A weekend like this before Christmas never happens in my universe. How did I miss the miracle and dare to call it mundane?

How many miracles do we miss for mere expectation of other things?

Humming Christmas carols during the commute home I was lost in thought Sunday night as I pulled in the driveway. Nudging the car door open, I could not help but peer skyward. And I lost my breath. There it was.

My surprise.

A quick phone pic but I think you get the idea.

Gazing spellbound as clouds danced, swirling around the moon, I was wonderstruck. I sat in awe for a moment, taking it all in. The majesty of God. And I wondered …

What does earth look like down here from up there at Christmas-time?

Up there, amid blankets of swirling clouds and heavenly lights, stars glimmer and shimmer. But what about down here?
Does heaven gasp as the world wraps itself in Christmas—a spinning ornament studded with lights, glitter, and tinsel—another majesty of sorts—glistening from the most tasteful decor to the gaudy, even overdone? Or simple Charley Brown’s, from rich to poor, overdoing everything from lights to food to drink to family to travel to lavish spending?

It’s a celebration like no other. Smiling, I lugged myself in the door, feeling light as a feather.

Many said I got lucky this weekend. But it was not luck. It was so much more, or rather … so much less. Since much did not happen, I received what is nearly absent during Christmas—REST. I needed rest. Rest for the next night.

One of the most thrilling nights of the yearCandlelight Christmas Eve.

I

This is where I sing. A church filled with people from over eighty countries and all ages. And not just any music.

An orchestra accompanied by a glorious, ancient instrument—a grand organ with pipes from floor to ceiling, horns jutting from the walls. The form casts a breathtaking shadow for all who enter.

Walls of glass echo some of the most magnificent sounds ever heard.
For some it’s all about the music—multi-cultural and multi-generational, classics and contemporary. It is joyous, reverent, energetic, fun.

In the choir loft I have the best seat in the house. I get to feel the bass rumble beneath my feet, hear the horns lift, savor orchestral strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion surrounding sound—see the sanctuary fill with hearts full … or empty … or weary … or broken.

Children’s faces fill with wonder. Babies fuss. Families filling rows. For some people, it’s the first time they’ve entered a church for years. For others, it’s the only time of the year they come. And for some, they have never been at all.

But for all the sounds, lights, and rumbles it is long, hard, exhausting work.
Multiple services, focus, breathing, posture, presentation. I recall months of long practices, memorizing every word, note, count, and dynamic, climbing up and down to the choir room buried deep below to loft above, and I think—rest.

Yes, I needed rest for this night of all nights. To give the very best of myself to everyone. And to take it all in—majesty.

So we are all here tonight.
And so is He.

I

For tonight holds our greatest surprise. It’s the celebration of the world, as the glimmering earth spins in space, dripping in lavish everything.

As I gazed skyward the other night I imagined this eve—bathed in mysterious, glorious candlelight—inhaling the wonder of it all. Is God upon His throne inhaling the wonder as His creation celebrates the greatest event in all of human history—Emmanuel—God with us?

That miraculous moment when the divine intersected humanity.

Skeptics and unbelievers try with all their might to squelch Him, to destroy Him, to snuff Him out. But try as they might, the world, believers and unbelievers celebrate the mystery.
He cannot be silenced.

Just gaze at the stars above and you will see—night after night. Christmas is always there for you and for me.
You just can’t miss it.

I

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” Psalm 19:1-4

Merry Christmas from my home to yours,
Alexandria

Photos of church by family and friends
All other photos by Alexandria Sage

Referring Article’s:
http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/12/21/weekly-photo-challenge-surprise/
http://scottamartin.org/2012/10/30/a-story-worth-telling/
http://eof737.wordpress.com/2012/12/21/weekly-photo-challenge-surprise/

Weekly Photo Challenge: My 2012 in Pictures

The Kaleidoscope Collide

I wonder if flowers could talk or had human emotion or had the ability to reason, would they dwell in prejudice against the color of another flower? Would they judge and resent, even hate one another because of the color of their petals? And not just the color that separates them, but the different varieties?

The hydrangea differs due to differing acidity. The daisies in the photo below have colors that are man-induced. These colors do not naturally occur in nature. They were “created”. Not the flowers but the colors. Why did someone do this? Doesn’t it add to their brilliance, bring a smile to our face, and increase our joy?

Aren’t we awestruck and delighted by the very nature of their differences? Their color and composition is completely at the mercy of their maker. They cannot help what color they are. But do we complain? Do we harbor resentment because of the multitude of color?

Then why do we do this with the greatest stain on humanity?
All of us know deep within our hearts that racism is wrong. Yet, we are all racist. All of us. Just admit it. It was taught and modeled before us. Children are not born racist. They are taught racism.

It’s okay to admit it but we must go further. We must fight it. We must fight it within ourselves and we must fight it outwardly. But how is this done?

Think of the recent Olympics. For a wondrous moment every nation was at peace. We watched the very best athletes parade into the stadium and what a sight it was! Did it not take your breath away to see the vast array of different cultures, different colors both in costume and skin?

Great Britain (Team GB) - Parade of Nations - ...

Did any of us have a racist or prejudiced bone in our body during those wondrous seventeen days? I theorize the Creator’s original intent may have been what we witnessed at the Olympics. Why would He be so risky as to create his image-bearers in different colors? Perhaps it was meant to bring joy, to rejoice, to bring color to the world. Just pure joy.
He created everything and said, “It was good.”

So if nature teaches us to appreciate, even delight in the of the myriad of color, can we not do more to appreciate rather than spurn the different skin colors?
After all, it’s all just a matter of a mere .012% melanin.

This is written in response to the Daily Post Weekly Writing Challenge titled “A Splash of Color”.
http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/10/15/weekly-writing-challenge-a-splash-of-color/

This is also a response for the Story Challenge Letter “R” posted on FlickrComments. “R” for Racism.
http://flickrcomments.wordpress.com/2012/10/30/story-challenge-letter-r/

Photo of Olympics 2012 Parade of Nations courtesy of Zemanta.

Weekly Photo Challenge | Big

There it stands. There it has stood. Stood through rain, storm, tornado, ice. You name it. It has withstood. And it remains. It’s right down the road from me—a real eye-catcher. You can’t miss it. It gets your attention. And gets you to thinking.

Sometimes I wish it could talk, just like the Ents in the Lord of the Rings. What stories would it tell? I ho-hum drive by it all the time, and wonder.

It’s sheer mass may have withstood two wars—the one my country fought to gain its independence from tyranny and tax. But I know it must have been there for the other—the one where my country was so split it set us brother against brother, neighbor against neighbor.

Yes, we came together and united again. But at a very high price. I pray that never happens again but I fear it might. And it breaks my heart. But I must be strong, for the tree bids me be. It sets the bar.

Yes, this tree has stood through history. I’ve driven right by it in the midst of terrible storms and winds I thought would lift me away. Storm after storm I wondered if upon my arrival the tree would be split. Would it still be there? Would its strength withstand ripping winds and ice-laden boughs. Yes, every time it has.
To another part of me it’s become a faithful friend—a wave in the road, a nod of tipped branch, signaling my way home. Sometimes I just have to stop and spend a little time, looking closer.

I remember our first acquaintance of such.
And to my surprise I discovered the secret of its strength. It was not just one trunk bearing all the weight. Upon closer gaze I noted what sprung from its base. It was not just one tree. It branched out to three. For though the tree looked solitary, nothing could be further from the truth. The three massive trees wove into one.

Three huge, strong-beyond-strong, massive trees, intertwined from one expansive foundation.

One large, massive tower of strength. Strength that withstood storm and gale, war and peace, generation to generation. And the tree is one. The three unite, forming a stature rising to the sky, towering above the countryside, providing shade from heat, tenacity through storms, even a home for birds nests. A homethe tree is a home.

I hope my country—my fellow Americans, my neighbors, my family—can take a lesson from the tree.
Because I’m staking something big on it.

For you see, there’s someone else riding below its branches.

Our future.

Peace,
Alexandria

Solitary trees, if they grow at all, grow strong.
~ Winston Churchill

“The whole course of human history may depend on a change of heart in one solitary and even humble individual – for it is in the solitary mind and soul of the individual that the battle between good and evil is waged and ultimately won or lost.”
~ M. Scott Peck

“A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” ~ Ecclesiastes 4:12

Referring article:
http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/weekly-photo-challenge-big/

Other entries for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Big
http://francineinretirement.wordpress.com/
http://esengasvoice.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/weekly-photo-challenge-big/
http://aysabaw.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/big-and-twisted/
http://joyandwoe.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/weekly-photo-challenge-big/
http://imexcited.wordpress.com/2012/10/13/weekly-photo-challenge-big/
http://eof737.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/weekly-photo-challenge-big/
http://chrisbreebaart.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/weekly-photo-challenge-big-1/
http://theretiringsort.com/2012/10/13/so-big/

How Does Your Garden Grow? | Weekly Photo Challenge: Growth

“Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth.”
~ George Washington

The strongest principle of growth lies in the human choice.
~ George Eliot

“We become taller when we bow. We become lowlier when we instruct.”
~ G.K. Chesterton

“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.”
~ Albert Einstein
 
Photos by Katarzyna.
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