Why Is Your Structure Such?


You fascinate me.

I don’t know you. Don’t know much about you, actually. I know the monarchs; so regal, vibrant. The little yellow ones—fleeting, quick. But I’ve never seen you.

As I chored about the yard, I caught glimpses of you. And I thought, you’re different. What unusual beauty. Such graceful movements.

But…

So dark. Dark as a moonless night. Dark as a storm front. Dark as deep ocean.

But such a comforting dark. There’s a softness about you. Why is your structure such?

When your lovely flight pattern stopped, I moved closer. You didn’t fly away. It looked as if you waited, and actually posed for me. Your dark was then so beautiful. The rust tinge. The white. The astonishing scallops. And then that lovely shade of blueness. Black and blue. Oh, why is your structure such!

Why did God make a black and blue butterfly??

I’m not exactly sure but I thank Him. For because of beautiful creatures like you, I see the blackest of my days and the blueness in my soul are still tinged with color, and pure white, even if there’s a touch of rust around the edges. Like a lot of things in my life.

If I would just be still; and take notice.

You dawned my day with your dark.

And perhaps that is why your structure is such.

Oh, I know you won’t be around for long. Your life is sadly very brief.

And I may never see you again. But I’m glad we’ve met. 

And I’m glad of the structure that is you.


This is my contribution to the Weekly Photo Challenge with the themes “Structure” and “Waiting.” We don’t typically see black swallowtails around here but this year we’ve seen several. These were some of the thoughts that came to me as I observed and enjoyed them. I hope you enjoy as well. 🙂

Peace,
Alexandria

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The Time is Now!

As we celebrate another Christmas, memories of the past are a common thread woven through our countless conversations. We truly are wired to dwell on the past or dream about the future, aren’t we? The photo challenge this week prompts us to think of the “now”, the present. And so I thought I’d share a sweet moment I quickly captured.

After being fenced off from the gifts for an entire week, it was finally time! Now! The blockade was removed and my littlest grandson scurried a quick path straight to a different kind of “present”!

I hope you enjoy your “present”.  And your presents, too!

And finally, may another kind of “present” fill your life.

The presence of Jesus Christ—Emmanuel, which means “God with us.”

Present.

Remember, His time is always “now“.

Peace and Merry Christmas!
Alexandria

 

WRITTEN IN THE SKY – Dec. 24

Once in awhile I come across post that just immerses my attention. And the post below is a reblog of exactly one of those.

Completely fascinating! It’s a topic glossed over in numerous Christmas themes, songs, and carols. It’s form sits atop most of our Christmas trees, yet it’s logic defies all knowledge. And it’s wonder even escapes the most astute true Christian believers.

Skeptics may begin to consider a truth that transcends beyond their usual logical conclusions. And true believers will be filled with an even greater faith in the miracle we call in this modern day, “Christmas”.

I hope you take the time to read this very short post, even watch The Star of Bethlehem video. (It’s currently available via YouTube.)

Enjoy the magnificence!
Peace, Alexandria

A DEVOTED LIFE

“saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”  Matthew 2:2

I love art.
I am a fan, not an expert.

As a fan, I can appreciate the beautiful; marvel at mastery; admire creativity; absorb emotion.  However, the artist’s meaning is often lost in mere fandom.  An artist’s message often flies over my engineering oriented head as I just appreciate the exhibition.

I am greatly assisted by the art experts who explain the symbolism crafted into a piece.  I love the pure joy in reading a work of literature for entertainment.  I also love the delightful astonishment from the revelation of a carefully crafted message imbedded in a work of which I was oblivious.

I often appreciate art in its various forms and know that I am missing a deeper meaning.

This is…

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Change, Certain as the Seasons | Weekly Photo Challenge: Transition

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And so we are deep into Autumn— glittering, majestic autumn. And as I ponder nature’s stunning finish, it’s that time where I do some real hard thinking about the past year. The transition is so rapid from day-to-day that if you wait you’ll miss that particular color or hue. And as fall dozes into winter I think about my soul; how the seasons mirror my own rhythm. The time for reflection is upon me.
Autumn.

imageFall Dozes

And then winter.

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Winter Sleeps

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As nature curls into hibernation, it seems I do the same. The transition into winter begins here with the holidays.

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But once the tree and tinsel are down and tucked away, so am I. Oh, there’s plenty of work to do; my home, family, and job. But with no deadlines or travel my soul goes into a hibernation of sorts; rest. Just pure, glorious rest.

Right now 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. We’re always ready for them, aren’t we?

Spring Sings!

But there’s something else about the seasons that fills me with something bittersweet. Because with those rhythms comes the certainty of change. And I don’t like change. I wish everything to stay as is. But “there is a time for each matter under heaven” and I know God has his hand in every aspect of my life—blessings and difficulties. Difficult times will come, but there are many good things surrounding me, too.

Oh, life–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 and some changes I don’t like, but some I do.

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Summer Shouts!

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As I look at my sweet grandsons I wish so hard they would stay children. But they won’t.

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As I relish their moments of childlike delight I wonder, will they have this much fun next year? I cling a little tighter to these moments and to them, all the while knowing they both slip from my grasp.

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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 and 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? Yes, change is certain.

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

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

First Voice

Though God set into motion seasons of glorious nature, he exempted himself from change. This truth abides. 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.

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Within the unexpected turns of life He knew we needed–I need–a constant something.

Or rather—Someone.

And I’ve never been out of His hand.


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

“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 is my interpretation for the Weekly Photo Challenge with the theme “Transition”. I hope you enjoy. 🙂
Peace, Alexandria

Serenity Lost and Found

Frontal Assault

Serenity Lost

I sought for signs so I could hear
The sound of solace to my ear
To comfort raging heart within
But sound of silence deafened In-

side the corners hid from all
I could not walk but only crawl
Hands clenched tight
So filled with fright,

Moonlight MadnessEndless tossing turning night
Roadblocks loomed, no end in sight.
My breath escaped, my heart did pound
The grief at loss, with nothing found.

Attention!But suddenly I heard a voice
Within the wind, the sea—a choice.
A child’s touch upon my cheek
So soft and warm, my eyes did peek.

Hope's KissAnd clenched hand opened with that touch
Unfolding quiet, in a hush
And fingers joined upward to reach
In prayer position to receive

First VoiceThe grace one needs to live each day
And hear the voice in dawn’s sunray,
In children’s laughter, birds that sing,
Crickets chirp and bells that ring.

DSC_0256Living, loving intertwine
And peace shines forth in rain or shine.
I look for signs and I do miss
The loudness shrieking in my midst.
Ray of HopeFor He is here
And He is not silent.

Serenity Found.


“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.”
~ Psalm 19:1-2

“Wisdom shouts…”
~ Proverbs 1:20a


{Poem and photography by Alexandria Sage}

Two Celebrations (featuring Guest Author, Steve)

Today there were two expectant parents awaiting the arrival of their son.
They both longed to see him. They have three other children and this will be the last. It will complete the family. What a blessing! Their love for him began at conception and for too long they had waited.  He had to mature, it had to be his time, and finally the day had arrived.

dMy father died today.

In the blink of an eye he walked into the gates of heaven into the loving arms of his parents, his siblings, a host of aunts and uncles, and even a granddaughter all waiting to see him. He was literally born again. I’m sure my grandparents couldn’t wait to see him. I expect the anticipation is a lot like the day of his earthly birth.

Was Blind But Now I SeeOur perspective changes based upon our vantage point.
In sports, two people in different parts of an arena can see the same play and come to a different conclusion. To one, with their viewpoint and biases the player clearly scored. To another spectator with their own biases and a different vantage point, the goal was stopped. Both would swear to the correctness of their report.

Only one is correct.

CSo I suspect it is with death.

To those of us left behind, we call it death. It is a terrible separation that rips our loved one from us. We are left with that tremendous empty sensation that has no earthly solution. In contrast, to those in heaven it is a day of rejoicing as their loved one finally “slipped the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God” (January 28, 1986 | President Ronald Reagan). The interpretation of the event is again controlled by ones perspective and vantage point.

Ultimately, the biggest perspective difference is our understanding of what happens to us after death.

It changes everything.

To those who believe that life ends here, death must hold a level of emptiness and pain that I cannot comprehend. For those like me who live in the hope of life eternal, death and its associated separation has less pain. This hope comes with the promise of reunion. Yes, we must endure separation, but ultimately there will be reunion.

SIn 2 Samuel 12:23, King David comments on the death of his son. He says: “But now he has died. Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” King David lived in the promise of life eternal as I do.

Although my father will not return to me, I will go to him and I look forward to our reunion. I suspect for my parents, my earthly death will look like birth from their new vantage point. So when you think about birth and death, unless you precede them in the latter, your parents celebrate both.

Ponder that a bit. It is truly wondrous.

Thoughtfully,
Steve

I Corinthians 15:19 “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.”


Recommended reading:
I Corinthians 15  The Holy Bible, Paul the Apostle
Everyone’s Back Home Once Again, bywordsthatlastforever
The Best Christmas Gifts, by Just Behind the Door
Anticipation: The Art of Mourning, by Pilgrim Out of the Water

EverSpring

The Vernal

“Everything is blooming most recklessly; it it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke

After the darkest, frigid, snowiest, iciest winter I think I’ve ever endured, finally came the day when spring began its gradual, grand entrance.

Vernal

“It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want — oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!” ~ Mark Twain

And it seems one of the most beautiful I can remember. The flowers are abundant, dripping in buds, and more colorful; the grass greener and lusher than I think I’ve seen in years.

Hanging Out

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” ~ Anne Bradstreet

And my soul mirrors the unfolding—my song called hope.

Together

“Spring shows what God can do with a drab and dirty world.” ~ Virgil A. Kraft

I’ve endured many winters. But not just the season called “winter”. There’ve been other types of winter, winters more unbearable than the actual season. They are winters called “heartache”, “loss”, “tragedy”. And when you think about it, these winters can hit at any time.

Raise Me Up

“That God once loved a garden we learn in Holy writ,
And seeing gardens in the Spring I well can credit it.”
~ Winifred Mary Lett

Tragedy knows no season, no night, or day. Blustery winds and downpours rush in with no forecast, no warning. Blizzards can chill your heart any day, any time.

First Rose

First Rose of 2014

“The beautiful spring came; and when nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also.” ~ Harriet Ann Jacobs

But spring reminds us there is always hope, that “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}, and thatGod is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble.” {Psalm 46:1} and “when you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.” {Isaiah 43:2} 

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So welcome spring with its promises of hope. Real hope springs from the Eternal One, and yes, it does take faith to turn to God. But He is the EverSpring that arrives in the midst of every winter. He really does show up.

Peace, Alexandria


This is my contribution to the Weekly Photo Challenge with the theme “Spring”. Though some of my perennials did not survive, others returned with a force so powerful that each day takes my breath away. I’m out taking lots of photos so I’ll be sharing Spring with you the weeks to come, maybe into summer. 🙂

 

Perspectives in Paradise | It’s Snow Fun Without You

Wish You Were Here

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”

“Travel is treacherous. Do not drive unless absolutely necessary.” The words blared from the weather alarm that morning. The pelting snow and ice swooping down in the night continued, unrelenting through the day, swaddling nature tight in a blanket of ice-covered snow. Suddenly, we found ourselves trapped at home. Our narrow, dipping country road gets little help in weather like this. A few brave souls make an attempt, but the few soon dwindle to none. No way in. No way out.

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The next day, the sun burst forth but nothing could melt in the frigid air. Snowed in and unable to travel, I did the next best thing. I went outside to play. I took my four-wheeler out to ever-so-slightly disturb the pristine white and take in the sight. I had two-hundred grand, glorious acres all to myself.

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With my sled strapped on, the ice-covered snow made for a fantastic slick ride down a nice hill. The climb back up tested endurance but the thrill of the ride was so worth it.

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My husband worked away in his shop that borders the property, keeping a watchful eye lest cardiac arrest should befall me. 🙂

After sledding I rode the land and savored every moment. The great snow-covered expanse was breathtaking.

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As I crunched through icy fields the golden hour of sunset seeped in and the snow suddenly appeared as a great sea. With the layer of ice, the light glistened in spectacular array. I snapped photos, trying my best to capture the sparkly dance.

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It all sent chills through me—this magical moment where snow becomes sea and sunlight glints wildly. As I hopped back on the four-wheeler I finally turned around and another sight stopped me dead in my tracks. Literally.

Moonrise at Sunset

Before me was a gorgeous full moon lit up by the remaining rays of sun. My jaw dropped in disbelief. To my right was the sunset. To my left was the moonrise. I must admit it appeared they might be in competition as to who could astound me the most. {Can you imagine how it feels to be pulled in a tug-of-war between the sun and the moon!}

The sun was generous and cast just enough light to capture the moon in brilliant detail. Hmmm … this is not competition. Looks more like a perfect choreographed dance. To make a moment. A moment, perhaps, for me?

Moonrise at Sunset

After a few more photos I sat in total awe, inhaling both scenes before me. Perched between the sun and the moon, the greater and lesser lights of the world shined bright, so it seemed, for me. For me alone. But I couldn’t hoard this all to myself so I hoped someone else on this great big earth was beholding the same sight. My pictures give but a glimpse but I hope you can see.

Sunset on the Moon

With my senses in heightened exhilaration I slowly began to experience one of those rare moments where this sort of wondrous squeeze happens in the heart. You know what I’m talking about. Your eyes begin to well up with tears and there is a tightness in your throat. Your mind is empty of words because there is none to describe.

My faith tells me it’s a touch of heaven—from my Maker. I imagine this is what the Bible means when it speaks of God’s still, small voice. Here, in this moment of wordless void, I think I can finally hear. It is but a whisper. One word.

Moonrise

Comfort. Comfort—that soothing solace tucked within, that there is Someone so great and so amazing who’s brushed the world with a wild beauty that strokes and soothes a weary heart.

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And as the earth spins longer and my earthly days grow shorter I find the greatest treasures are moments like these, when the divine splits my world and reminds me God is surely in this place.

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And if He is in this moment of magnificence, then isn’t He with me in the moment of heartache?

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.” ~ Psalm 19:1
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This is my contribution to the Weekly Photo Challenge with a theme of “Perspective” As you can see, there are several photos that give various perspectives of the landscape, sun, and moon. I’ve done the best I could to share this moment with you. I hope you enjoy and feel a touch from heaven as I did.
Peace, Alexandria

Family | The Forever Constant

Standing Firm

“Like branches on a tree, our lives may grow in different directions yet our roots remain as one.”

1-DSC_0096“In different hours, a man represents each of several of his ancestors, as if there were seven or eight of us rolled up in each man’s skin,—seven or eight ancestors at least, and they constitute the variety of notes for that new piece of music which his life is.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

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“Family quarrels have a total bitterness unmatched by others.  Yet it sometimes happens that they also have a kind of tang, a pleasantness beneath the unpleasantness, based on the tacit understanding that this is not for keeps;

1-DSC_0095 that any limb you climb out on will still be there later for you to climb back.”  ~ Mignon McLaughlin

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“The family.  We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste,

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coveting one another’s desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, 

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and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together.”  ~ Erma Bombeck

As I contemplated the Weekly Photo Challenge theme “Family” I could’ve shared oodles of family photos and memories. However, my fascination for the constant lessons of nature prompted me to use this tree I drive by nearly every day. It’s one of those anomalies of nature you just can’t miss.

Sometimes I take pictures, but other times I just stop, get under it, gaze at its never-ending branches, and admire its breathtaking beauty. But more than that, I admire it’s sheer strength. And if you notice, it’s even a bit lopsided. Its shape is not perfect and to tell you the truth, I’m relieved. It makes me feel more at home. But the tree is massive, solid, stately, so proud–you just have to see it to believe it.

It’s main “branches” are not the usual bending, thinner limbs of a tree. They are the size of trunks, which could be trees in and of themselves. Note the photo in full summer leaf above–it easily shades the entire width of the road and more. But notice the photo of it in barren winter (below). That’s when you really see the way it’s limbs anchor the whole.

I’ve tried to capture it with a camera as best as I can and if you look at its new white fence nearby, perhaps you can get a bit of perspective. It’s probably been there since the Revolutionary War.

I wonder how many generations have passed this tree in its lifetime.

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“One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth forever. The sun also riseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.” ~ Ecclesiastes 1: 4,5

I’ve driven past it in sun, storm, snow, and treacherous winds. Sometimes I’ve wondered if it would survive some of the worst storms. But it’s always there. It possesses a strength unfathomable and survives untouched and unscathed through it all.

I wish I could say the same about myself. 

I try to remind myself that I’m but one of the smaller branches near the ends, still being tested and tried. And that massive, huge trunk at the base is holding on to me.

And believe me, I’m hanging onto it for dear life.

image“Do not remove the ancient landmark that your ancestors set up.” ~ The Bible Proverbs 22:28

Family–the forever constant, stamped indelible. May we branch out high and wear it proud. But when we hit those storms that threaten to snap us away, may we return to the open, loving limbs of home–the place of constants—love, acceptance, shelter, safety, sanity (or a bit of a necessary dose of insanity!).

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“Some family trees have beautiful leaves, and some have just a bunch of nuts. Remember, it is the nuts that make the tree worth shaking.” ~Author Unknown

Family–the forever constant.
The place where you breathe in the comfort and exhale a long sigh,

“Ahhh … there’s no place like home.”

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“The family – that dear octopus from whose tentacles we never quite escape, nor, in our inmost hearts, ever quite wish to.” ~Dodie Smith

The Lesser Light|One Favorite Subject

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“And the sun and the moon sometimes argue over who will tuck me in at night. If you think I am having more fun than anyone on this planet, you are absolutely correct.” ~ Hafez

The theme of the Weekly Photo Challenge is “One”, in which we are to focus on one subject. I chose one of my favorites, the ever elusive moon. In photography light is everything and for outdoor photography the light source is usually the sun. We look for certain times of day, angles, cloud cover, or clear. And the sun takes it from there. In fact, when you combine the best of these factors the sun really does all the work for you. Think sunsets and sunrise, the Golden Hour. An endless array of colors provide astounding results. No skills needed.

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“The moon is friend for the lonesome to talk to.” ~ Carl Sandburg

But the moon is a different challenge altogether. For a great moon shot you have to really work at it. Photographers go through great lengths to capture the immediate presence and stunning glow the moon provides. Even then it is hard to capture the emotion of moment. You just have to “be there” and experience it for yourself.

FullMoon

“The moon is a loyal companion. It never leaves. It’s always there, watching, steadfast, knowing us in our light and dark moments, changing forever just as we do. Every day it’s a different version of itself. Sometimes weak and wan, sometimes strong and full of light. The moon understands what it means to be human. Uncertain. Alone. Cratered by imperfections.” ~ Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me

In the Bible the moon is called the “lesser light” (Genesis 1:16). It is too dim for cameras to mimic exactness, but for the human eye it holds not just brilliant beauty but deep, deep emotion. For some unexplainable reason the moon feels like a faithful friend. It provokes us to stop, quiet our busy minds, take a few deeps breaths and just relax. I don’t know of anyone that can gaze at a brilliant moonlit night and not feel a simultaneous sense of glory and comfort.

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Tell me what you feel in your room when the full moon is shining in upon you and your lamp is dying out, and I will tell you how old you are, and I shall know if you are happy. ~ Henri Frederic Amiel

Perhaps it is the lesser light because of this very thing. We need a constant, unchanging reminder that we are not alone, that there is greatness and majesty tucked in our universe. A reminder of the presence of God through every dark night. And that is this lesser light.

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The lesser light may take second place to the other grand luminary. But perhaps it is this very notion that makes it so human. And in this sense we see that our great God, by giving less, actually gave more.

Peace, Alexandria

N “But even when the moon looks like it’s waning…it’s actually never changing shape. Don’t ever forget that.” ~ Ai Yazawa

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Related Articles:
Wenjie Zhang of LightSlant on how to photograph the moon
Weekly Photo Challenge: The Power of One, Travels and Trifles by Tina Schell
Clicky Chick Creates, Christmas Favorites

What a Community of a Few Can Do | WPC: Community

We meet for prayer

Day One. We arrive in Guatemala. Hungry, Tired, Wet.

Fifteen people. Nine days. That’s all we had.
So few of us, so much to do. “How can we make a difference in nine days?” An oft-repeated murmur: “Wow, we are here for only nine days. Nine days seem so short to do anything.” And the most repeated: “What will we leave when we go?”

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Build What??? With What???

Another time. A similar question. “There are so many and we are so few. And we have only five loaves of bread and two fish. How do you expect us to feed all of these?” (Matthew 14:17)

Crowd waiting for glasses

And this, too? A crowd larger than expected waits for eyeglasses

Why is it we think value in terms of numbers?

“Bring them here to me.” (Matthew 14:18)
Here we are, Lord. Tired. Hungry. Wet.

“Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves.” (Matthew 14:19) That’s how we feel, Lord. Broken. Broken people. How did you do it? How will you do it? Umm…what was that you just did? Gave thanks? With barely enough food for a single family you gave thanks?

“Then he gave them to the disciples and the disciples gave them to the people.” (Matthew 14:19b) And so we began. From sun up to sun down, non-stop, never-ending–we set out to do what seemed impossible. We’re not sure about all this! As the week progressed, our goals loomed far away. But we just pressed on.

New living quarters“They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.” (Matthew 14:20, 21) Note that the number of just men was five-thousand. Add the women and children to that and the number grows.

But everyone was satisfied. And there were even leftovers.
Well, our week finished. Were the people satisfied? We don’t fully know but their countenance reflected joy and thanks. We think they were more than satisfied. And we were delightfully surprised, elated actually. So few of us and so little time, broken humanity, giving thanks, serving. He did the multiplication.

Did we have leftovers? Indeed. This is what we left.

An earthquake-proof rebar-filled foundation for new staff living quarters at a men’s drug and alcohol rehab center—complete with plumbing, electrical, and a smooth concrete floor.

The gift of sight through donated eyeglasses for an entire community and local school.

Lettering the title and logo on the wall entrance.

Also for the school children: their first very-own box of crayons and backpacks. School supplies for their teachers. Their first watercolors ever. Their very first school pictures ever. A colorful mural on a classroom wall. A newly painted gymnasium.

Visiting two orphanages and hearing their stories. Playing with and holding the children.

Family portraits of the community.

Connections made. New relationships started. Longtime friends reunited. And not only that. Three months later, as of this very week, two more orphans have a sponsor to provide their need for a home, family, and education. That sponsor is my sister.

Two children. Let’s see, what was that distant thought breaking the surface of my mind? We only have fifteen people and nine days. Like a pebble cast upon the water, we cast ourselves, adding faith with thanksgiving.

We see but a few ripples, but it is enough. Enough to know that ripples are never-ending. And, by faith, we believe that is enough for now.

Final result“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” ~ Mother Teresa

But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14 NKJV)

“To leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition—to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived—this is to have succeeded.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
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This is my contribution to the Weekly Photo Challenge with a theme of “Community”.
It’s just a bit longer than usual and I’ve had it sitting in the drafts for a while. When I saw the theme this week I thought it fit very well. I hope you do, too. If you ever get a bit jaded or in a rut about life in general, I urge you to take a mission trip to another country. It usually involves a rigorous schedule so be ready. Research the area you’re going, take some good safety measures, learn a little of the local language. I also recommend going with a group that does some sight-seeing. A good blend of work and taking in the sights and culture bring a nice sense of balance to the trip. And be ready to be blessed. It’s a great feeling to step out of your comfort zone and give, expecting nothing in return. You’ll be amazed at the skills you’ll suddenly develop.
How about a few comments from any of you who’ve done it?
Peace, Alexandria

Welcome the Light

I“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.” ~ Hamilton Wright Mabie

Here we go again! Another Christmas. What better way to start off than with a challenge about light. Whether one is a believer in the Christ-child or not, we all must agree—it’s the time of year we lay aside our differences and go all out.

IEveryone’s just a bit more kind as we take in all the wonder. There’s an abundance of generosity in the air. The young can’t contain exuberance. Those older contemplate years gone by, watching children with joy, and become child-like again. The return of Christmas reminds us of how fragile, fleeting, and precious every person and moment is.

As a devout Christian I have said Christmas makes us all believers. Something strange, almost mystical, no–miraculous–occurs.

I“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. ” ~ Norman Vincent Peale

We all celebrate. 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?

IIt’s the celebration of the world—the glimmering earth spins in space, dripping in lavish everything. Is God upon His throne inhaling the wonder as His creation celebrates the greatest event in all of human history—Emmanuel—God with us?

IThat 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.

I“He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree. ” ~ Roy L. Smith

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

“And God said, “Let there be light, and there was light.”” ~ Genesis 1:3

d“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.” ~ John 1:1-4
“And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” ~ John 1:14

DSC_1352-001“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”” ~ John 8:12

This is why I believe. If you find your faith waning this Christmas, why not rekindle it with the Light?

I“God is here. This truth should fill our lives, and every Christmas should be for us a new and special meeting with God, when we allow his light and grace to enter deep into our soul.”  ~ JosemarĂ­a Escrivá, Christ Is Passing by
Peace and joy this Christmas,
Alexandria
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Weekly Photo Challenge: Let There Be Light

Thanksgiving Wish

DSC_1314Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;

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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

Novembrance | Autumn’s Unexpected Gift

DSC_1228“It was one of those perfect English autumnal days which occur more frequently in memory than in life. The rich colours of grass and earth were intensified by the mellow light of a sun almost warm enough for spring.” ~P.D. James

DSC_1118“I like spring, but it is too young. I like summer, but it is too proud. So I like best of all autumn, because its leaves are a little yellow, its tones mellower, its colors richer, 

DSC_1102and it is tinged a little with sorrow. Its golden richness speaks not of the innocence of spring, nor of the power of summer,

DSC_1057but of the mellowness and kindly wisdom of approaching age. It knows the limitation’s of life and is content.” ~Lin Yutang

DSC_1095“The human soul is slow to discover the real excellence of things given to us by a bountiful Creator, and not until the shadows of death begin to gather around the object that we love, do we see its worth and beauty. 

DSC_1069Autumn is the dim shadow that clusters about the sweet, precious things that God has created in the realm of nature.While it robs them of life, it tears away the veil and reveals the golden gem of beauty and sweetness.

DSC_1103Beauty lurks in all the dim old aisles of nature, and we discover it at last.” ~ Northern Advocate

DSC_1154“How beautifully leaves grow old. How full of light and color are their last days.” ~ John Burroughs
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Another autumn nears its end. These very brief, fleeting days find me outside more than any other time of the year. The colors are just breathtaking and I constantly fight this irresistible urge to try to capture the breadth, length, and height of it. As we know, it’s an impossibility. I know autumn means to contemplate, absorb, and enjoy the richness of  its beauty. It’s also a time of remembrance as the year draws to a close and we look back.

Autumn is such a paradox. Brilliant, glimmering. But it is truly a descent into decay and ultimately … death. It is, in essence, a progression into loss. Just like autumn, we’ve all experienced loss in some fashion this year. Perhaps God fashioned autumn so brilliant just so we could see some sort of beauty in loss. But the journey of loss always holds gain as God brings something new to replace what we lost. We won’t know what it is until we look to Him in faith and ask.

As the leaves fall, shrivel, and die some things in our lives must do the same. I’ve endured a couple of deep, unexpected losses this year. As I grieve I look to God and the glorious creation He surrounds me with and try to grasp the new blessings in my life. Just as the inclination is strong to hold and capture every photo of autumn, I cling tight to what is no more. And I have to ask God for even the faith to believe there is something better. There always is. The truth stamped in autumn tells me so. Tells me there is spring.

And it’s not too far from now.

Peace, Alexandria

You might also enjoy:
Autumn Boat (aditixpictures.wordpress.com)
Autumn asks (defeatdespair.wordpress.com)
Autumn Thoughts (princesstheodora.net)
A November Garden Bimble (ramblingratz.wordpress.com)
Weekly Photo Challenge: Unexpected
KellyJGrace

From Mourning to Good Morning

Once I Was BlindIt’s morning. Time to wake up. Time to face another day. You put on a smile. And how easy “good morning” rolls off your lips. But some mornings are not so good.

dInstead of the usual bright, happy sunrise there are those days a heavy fog rolls in. And it rolls in, formidable and gloomy—smothering and treacherous, and giants loom ahead.

POr it looks like the end as you know it, for you cannot seem to see beyond the frightful edge. You think it might be a cliff you’ll plunge over but it’s all blurred and doesn’t make sense. You lay wondering. Wondering what to do. Only one word comes to mind—pray.

BeholdAnd then the gradual emergence of wonder replaces wondering. Just when your heart gives up all hope, the fog starts to lift and transforms from mist to vapor. The clouds break and the dread starts to clear.

I Make All Things NewSuddenly you see beyond—and those cliffs where the world dropped off are gentle rolling fields, verdant with growth.

And what you thought was the end, rolled out for you an expanse of endless sky.

Tree MetaphorsAnd the giants were but the friendly company of trees.

It's a New DawnWhat felt like mourning is now morning and it shouts that it is good. It’s a brand new dawn. The chance to change. To start again.

Good Morning! Wake up! It’s time to rise and walk!
Peace, Alexandria

“Don’t let the agony, regret, or fog of yesterday blind you to the fact that each new day carries with it a plethora of opportunities to move your life into the right direction.” ~ Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

“You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy.” ~ Psalm 30:11
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This is one of many responses to the Weekly Photo Challenge with the theme of “Good Morning

LifeLines | Weekly Photo Challenge: From Lines to Patterns

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“Life forms illogical patterns. It is haphazard and full of beauties which I try to catch as they fly by, for who knows whether any of them will ever return?” ~ Margot Fonteyn

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“Nature uses only the longest threads to weave her patterns, so that each small piece of her fabric reveals the organization of the entire tapestry. ~ Richard P. Feynman

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“It will be very interesting one day to follow the pattern of our life as it is spread out like a beautiful tapestry. As long as we live here we see only the reverse side of the weaving, and very often the pattern, with its threads running wildly, doesn’t seem to make sense. Some day, however, we shall understand. In looking back over the years we can discover how a red thread goes through the pattern of our life: the Will of God.” ~ Maria Augusta von Trapp

The past summer I did some mission work in Guatemala. The facility was neat and clean but fairly simple and slightly barren. The place faced the constant threat of active volcanoes and earthquakes. During a brisk walk to get supplies for my task one day, my eyes were struck by sudden brilliance.

In the midst of stark barrenness, among the scaffolds and rebar, as well as environmental threats, there it rose. A stunning, strong Bird of Paradise in full bloom.
It reminded me that amid the tangles and briars of life, against all odds, God can take any thread in our lives and weave it into a tapestry of hope. Nature continually faces the unpredictable with grace and resilience, and emerges strong and beautiful.

If God does this with His creation, will He do no less with us?
“The way to break a pattern of negativity is to face anything negative with love.” ~ Molly Friedenfeld
Peace, Alexandria

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This is only one of many wonderful photo interpretations of the Weekly Photo Challenge with the theme: From Lines to Patterns

Adventures in Apertures | WPC: Focus

“Why does the eye see a thing more clearly in dreams than the imagination when awake?” ~ Leonardo da Vinci

“Most people have no idea of the giant capacity we can immediately command when we focus all of our resources on mastering a single area of our lives.” ~ Tony Robbins

“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” ~ Mark Twain

DSC_0461 f/4.2 cropped“Never express yourself more clearly than you are able to think.” ~ Niels Bohr ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
These photos are taken with differing apertures using two different lenses. They are collections of the same scene.

As you can see, they each have their advantages and disadvantages. It all depends on, well, what you want to focus on. In photography, it’s important to focus on one thing. That one thing may be the big picture or it may be a small object. There is the shallow depth of field and the large depth of field.

It’s kind of like life, isn’t it? —dynamic arrays of focus. And it can be hard in this modern warp speed we are now immersed in. At every moment we focus on “something”. I don’t juggle it perfectly but I certainly try. I have a few big picture goals in my life that get squeezed out by all the little things that draw my attention.

Some of the little things I love, like an unexpected visit from my grandson or adult children. Or phone calls from faraway friends and family—just visiting or planning time with them. They are definitely worth my focus and relationships with them fall into my “big picture” goals. There are many other good things, too, but I do have to say “no” to a lot of those good things.

I sprinkled a few quotes that help me. What about you? What do you say “yes” and “no” to? Where’s your focus these days?

f/5.6

“Beware of overcommitment. You can’t “yes” to everyone. You must practice saying “no”. Otherwise, you may be at risk of compromising your quality or your integrity.” ~ Stephen Deal
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This is a response to the Weekly Photo Challenge with a theme of “Focus”. It was a lot of fun to experiment and I’m pleased with the results. I hope you are, too. Peace, Alexandria

Other links:
SimplySage: A Return to Organic Photography
Photography 101: Finding Your Focus
Festival of Flowers: Week 12

The Master Speaks | Masterpiece: Eye of the Beholder

Rome Day 3 258-005

“A chief event of life is the day in which we have encountered a mind that startled us.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

No thoughts nor words. Chills. I stood frozen, trying to maintain composure. I stifled a choked lump in my throat, but I couldn’t stop the tears that filled my eyes, then meandered down my cheeks.

DSC_6019

“The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection.” ~ Michelangelo

Still freshly astonished at churches, ancient structures, the Vatican Museum, and Sistine Chapel, I expected more of the same. But nothing prepared me as I stepped through the door of St. Peter’s Basilica. So unexpected. Unimaginable. My breath escaped, and I filled with wonder, How could anyone create beauty of such magnitude? And who were these creators? Even more, why?

Rome Day 3 270

This was greatness of another dimension. For a few moments I became wordless, thoughtless. Then the vacuum that occupied my mind and heart at that moment became filled with a tenderness, a sweet gentility, a touch. A touch of … love.

But it was love unleashed.

Rome Day 3 264

“All the masterpieces of art contain both light and shadow. A happy life is not one filled with only sunshine, but one which uses both light and shadow to produce beauty.” ~ Billy Graham

Grand, spacious love in a pinnacle masterpiece. Love that was enough … for everyone. You could see love–painted, sculpted, flowing, flourishing in every square inch of rock solid marble. But why? The question haunted.

These were masters of another kind.

Rome Day 3 262“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci

I know the history behind the excesses of some of the pope’s as well as how artist’s squabble.  But these artist’s stretched above and beyond any earthly demands or human frailty to something deeper. Isn’t it like God to use imperfect people to magnify Himself? Perhaps even they didn’t understand why. They just unleashed it all.

Rome Day 3 260And this timeless structure was like a soul connection to God Himself—a love intent on touching earth with heaven. They were light-years ahead of their time–visionaries. Could they envision me standing there today, losing my breath, tears streaming down my face, asking the question, “Why?”

DSC_6033

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” ~ Michelangelo

This place was elegant, tasteful, immense, grandiose. As the earth spun gracefully around the sun, the beams cast changing rays in a delightful show of light and shadow. Science and art merged to exquisite perfection. Intentional. This was no cold stone ancient relic.

Rome Day 3 261

It was soft, warm, alive … welcoming. It was as if every stroke, cut, and design were destined way into the future. For today. For everyone. For this day. For me.

DSC00318The place was filled with people, families, children and babies, but there was a hush, a reverence. An awe. All eyes looked up. For in the confines of walls, these masters harnessed but a small glimpse of the Master of all.

Rome Day 3 238 (2)

And I, an honored guest, could hear His voice, whispering soft. “Welcome. Come in. Just enjoy.”

“Every beauty which is seen here by persons of perception resembles more than anything else that celestial source from which we all come.” ~ Michelangelo
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All photography {except #9 (that’s mine with a Cybershot)} is by Dan Pope of Precise Photography, based in Arlington, Texas. These photos are completely unedited, with exception of cropping PietĂ , of which no one can get that close enough to photograph. See Dan’s website and browse a few of his Galleries for a phenomenal portfolio. My husband and I enjoyed a trip to Rome with the Pope’s as we both celebrated anniversaries. Dan has a big heart and an engaging sense of humor and makes friends with everyone he meets, including the Swiss Guard! He teased about how “the Pope” had come to visit Rome. Good thing Italians have a great sense of humor.

Peace, Alexandria

“When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.” ~ John Ruskin
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Some of my favorites on this Challenge:

Sejeong Production
Postcard Photo
Blessings Through Raindrops
Chronicles of Illusion

Am submitting this as well to the Work of Art Photo Challenge from June 2014

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
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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.

Time’s Full Gift | Fleeting

DSC_0033“Our time is rare, short, and wonderful … Our time is short.”
~ Alexandria Sage

DSC_0039“Right words at the right time … Just in time.” ~ Alexandria Sage

Yellow Rose“It is beautiful how God has done everything at the right time. He has put a sense of eternity in people’s minds. Yet, mortals still can’t grasp what God is doing from the beginning to the end of time.” ~ Ecclesiastes 3:11

Time, time, a thousand times over time.
Seconds to minutes to hours to days to years.
Wishes, dreams, hopes–whisked away, or granted.
Family and friends lost, or gained.
A lifetime we are given. Yes, a life of time.
Time to live, the desire to live. Fleeting, yes. But full
… or empty. Spent
… or well-spent.
The choice is ours. The gift is ours.
Time.

Give the gift. Live the gift. And keep on giving, like the rose.
Then time becomes us well,
and time, like the rose,
is a beautiful thing.
~ Alexandria Sage

This is my photography/poetry contribution to the Daily Prompt Theme: Procrastination. It was also on the Weekly Photo Challenge: Fleeting
I wrote a poem to go with the theme and since this Prompt asks us for something on “Time” I thought I’d add this one. It’s another one I return to. I know time can’t be compartmentalized and is ill-defined but it does one great good to understand what we trade time for.

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