Me, My Selfie, and Someone Else

Me

When I first heard “selfie” was the Oxford Dictionary’s “Word of the Year” for 2013, it struck me as odd. I remember first hearing the word from my tween grand-niece. I grinned and shook my head. Young, beautiful, fit, self-absorbed. Yep, no surprise there. Typical tween.

But the word for the Weekly Photo Challenge? Really? Isn’t selfie reserved for the above? The last thing I want is my façade out there for the world to see! Family and friends is one thing. But the great big internet world? No way!

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You see, I am a grandmother. And has it escaped anyone’s notice the whole-hearted near-absence of grandmother selfies? Think about it. Can you really imagine a group of grandmothers taking selfies and plastering them all over the Internet?

I think it’s partly because we’re a bit more private. But let’s face it. Since most of us do not fit the above adjectives, we remain nearly absent on this self-portraiture that has taken the world by storm. (For heaven’s sake, even world leaders take selfies!)

But, the reality is the young are photogenic and few of us are. At least on the outside we are not. But please understand, we are totally okay with that. Though absent in the selfie realm, trust me—we are not absent.

We are most present. And extremely so.

And Someone Else

Perhaps, more so.

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“To get the full value of joy you must find someone to divide it with.” ~ Mark Twain


Related article:

The Christian Pundit: What a Christian Woman Knows About Beauty

 

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Fleeting Objects of Affection

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Sunsets, like childhood, are viewed with wonder not just because they are beautiful but because they are fleeting. ~ Unknown

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 If you carry your childhood with you, you never become older. ~Tom Stoppard

 Did you know that childhood is the only time in our lives when insanity is not only permitted to us, but expected?  ~Louis de Bernières, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

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Childhood is measured out by sounds and smells and sights, before the dark hour of reason grows.  ~John Betjeman, Summoned by Bells

For this set of photos I invited my dear “like-a-daughter”, Emily Morgan, to share some photos of her children. I’ve known Emily since she was a baby. Her mother is one of my closest friends since college and we spent a good portion of life raising kids together.

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Emily blossomed into a loving mother of four adorable children (ages 6 and under!). She is also a talented photographer. She and husband, Andrew, have settled in Los Angeles, where Emily frequents the Pacific beach with these sweet little ones.

The beautiful photos above, captured in silhouette, drew my attention because they capture those fleeting moments of childhood. I’ll let Emily explain it in her own words.

“Hearing waves crash and children laugh are two of the best sounds in the world. The moment when your 6 year-old and the sunset collide and you happen to have your camera handy and are able to capture that fleeting moment to hold onto forever is truly special. The way I feel behind the lens of camera brings me to life, but the better gift is being able to hold onto that moment forever in a photograph.” ~ Emily Morgan

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I am convinced that God gave childhood, not as moments forgotten or pined for, but to recapture it in our adult years, much as a photograph captures. So we would not forget to live each day with childhood eyes and wonder, to view every moment with passion and exuberance.

But what happened as we grew out of those wonder years? As adulthood seeped in, it gradually pushed out that wonder and we became grown-ups. Pushed by life and all it’s demands, the wonder nudged back and for some it fell off into the throes of deadly cynicism.

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We could never have loved the earth so well if we had had no childhood in it. ~George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss, 1860
Maybe we can’t banter about as children every living moment of the day but can we not view each day with a semblance of wonder? And spend at least some moments of the day smiling, laughing, running, playing, even dancing?

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With what eyes do you see the ocean above? Are they hardened by life’s demands, unable to drink its beauty … old? Can you not see this vast ocean is but one landscape to keep you young and filled with wonder? To heal you of the cynicism, which robs you of life itself.

Let the waters spray you with healing. Climb those rocks and perch up there. Listen to the words of Emily and let yourself collide with the sunset. After all, it hasn’t moved.

But perhaps you have.

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Experience the healing wonder of childhood … everyday.

Peace, Alexandria
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After a hiatus of bearing these four little ones, Emily is resuming her photography. I invite you to view her  portfolio at www.emilymorgan.la
This is in response to the Weekly Photo Challenge with the Theme “Object”. The ocean is the landscape and the silhouettes of children are the objects. True objects of affection. 🙂


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

Bracing the Vortex | Through the Window

Cardinal Weathers the Storm

Sometimes you just need to bow your head, say a prayer and weather the storm.

As the polar vortex slipped over the United States, stores emptied shelves of nearly everything as residents braced for the bitter cold and blizzard conditions. But what about nature? How does nature brace for such a rare phenomenon? Are they caught by surprise, suddenly hapless and helpless, on the brink of consumption by the elements?Prayer Pose

Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm. ~ Abraham Lincoln 

My friend, Sonya, and her husband positioned their bird feeders right in front of their kitchen window so they could enjoy casual close-up bird watching. In the barrage of the storm, their observations unexpectedly turned beyond casual.  As the vortex hovered, Sonya grabbed her camera and captured these lovely creatures right in the midst of this horrendous storm. How would they fare? Would they survive? I think these stunning photos, taken through her window, need little explanation.

Together

A good friend can shield you from the storm. ~ Rhea Olsen

Observe them carefully. Look at their stance, their stillness, their resolve.

Together Again“Be slow to fall into friendship; but when thou art in, continue firm and constant.” ~ Socrates

As Sonya peered through her window, I’m sure she had an inclination to run out and rescue them. But alas, she could not. She provided food, then watched as they used the instinctual abilities God built within them. They were bound together and stood firm against this treacherous storm.

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Make note:  They did not make any attempt to separate from one another. They stood together.

Peace Could this be the same God does with us? Does He watch us weather storms, knowing He can rescue us at any time? Sometimes we wonder why He doesn’t. Didn’t He build into us resources inherent in human nature? Plus, we have His promise that just as He watches over His creatures, He watches over us with even more intensity.

Camaradarie One of His resources is the gift of friendship, so beautifully pictured here. There is a certain camaraderie among the birds. Oh, I’m sure they’ve pecked at each other over many petty things. Haven’t we all observed that? But when the storm hit, they clung together. At Peace Can we not learn a lesson from the birds? Yes, we may bicker and peck at each other from time to time. But just as the birds faced the storm together, so we must see the value of friends when the vortex rolls in.

So, find a friend and be a friend. You will need each other.

Because there will be storms, and you’ll never walk alone. 1500750_10153710169035578_55612301_o

“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” ~ Matthew 6:25-27
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Weekly Photo Challenge: Window
Photo credits: Sonya, a personal friend of mine who will remain anonymous. Thank you, Sonya. 

Thank you to Ms. Sprinkle Sparkles On for featuring this blog post. I encourage all to read this wonderful post that reminds us of how we need each other. It dovetails perfect.

Welcome is My Word|Beginnings

Welcome“Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

“One Word That Will Change Your Life”
The book title sparked my curiosity. One word? Really? The book’s been around awhile and I have to say, I like this idea. Instead of lofty New Year’s resolutions, it holds to a one-word theme for the year. Smaller actions center around that word. The smaller acts compound throughout the year, where the meaning of the word takes root and becomes the impetus for real, long-lasting change.

One word. So simple. And I love anything simple. The author recommends using the entire month of December to choose a word. Mine surfaced immediately.

Welcome.

It was certainly different from some of the other suggested words like joy, health, and patience. But I really liked it. I knew it was mine. And as I thought about it, I realized it was a pretty hefty word. In fact, I started to visualize other words like spokes on a wheel hub. Words like hospitality, cooking, decorating, and gardening. Such fun! I’m liking this! I envisioned thumbing through magazines filled with luscious gardens and yummy recipes. But other ideas surfaced, too. And that’s where it got hard.

Words like housework, unexpected dinner or overnight guests, digging in hard clay dirt, keeping the kitchen and great room cleared of surface clutter, keeping bathrooms presentable. Then there’s my love-hate relationship with the screened-in porch. Ugh! Those cobwebs and outdoor dust cling with a vengeance. And how can I forget the spare bedroom—that extra “space” meant to be space for overnight guests? Sometimes instead of a spare bedroom it turns into a spare-parts room, filled with assorted what-nots that have no particular space yet.

Not that I am a clean-freak, (am I?) But I do find myself filled with excuses for a lack of invitation to anyone outside my grown children and grandchildren because of one simple word–ready. I am not ready, or at least I think I’m not. Well, in my mind it’s more like not ready enough.

But another excuse really gnaws at me–invitation. I do not  invite in an intentional way like I used to. Oh, I’ll throw out a “just drop in whenever”. But “whenever” turns into “never”, which never becomes “when”. Yes, the kids drop by on a continuum, but that even lends to another excuse. “My cup is full and there is no more room.”

Welcome Closer

But there is room. If I make room. You see, welcome is not just for others. It’s for me. And it’s good for me. It’s good for me to reach outside myself and into the world of someone else. To provide a comfy room for weary travelers. Have the neighbors over for dinner. Extend a listening ear. I can get so self-centered and forget that the blessing of my home was not meant just for me and my family. It was meant for others, for the world. I may not change the world, but my welcome may touch a life that will. “Welcome” speaks love and love is not love til it’s given away. May I live generous.

I am ready!

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”~ Maya Angelou
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This is my contribution to the Weekly Photo Challenge with the theme “Beginnings”.  Also, I’m wondering if you noticed the ferns at Christmas? It just happened to be a warm stretch so they got to come outside. Why not? 🙂
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My favorite “manuals” to stay welcome-ready. Time to pick them up again!
Once-A-Month Cooking by Mimi Wilson and Mary Beth Lagerborg
Dwelling: Making the Most of the Space You Call Home by Mary Beth Lagerborg

Joyeaux Noel!

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“I wish we could put up some of the Christmas spirit in jars and open a jar of it every month.”  ~ Harlan Miller

DSC_1514Remember
This December,
That love weighs more than gold!
~ Josephine Dodge Daskam Bacon

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“Instead of being a time of unusual behavior, Christmas is perhaps the only time in the year when people can obey their natural impulses and express their true sentiments without feeling self-conscious and, perhaps, foolish.  Christmas, in short, is about the only chance a man has to be himself.”  ~Francis C. Farley

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“Christmas is for children.  But it is for grown-ups too.  Even if it is a headache, a chore, and nightmare, it is a period of necessary defrosting of chill and hide-bound hearts.” ~ Lenora Mattingly Weber

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“Christmas is a time when you get homesick – even when you’re home.”  ~ Carol Nelson

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“One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day. Don’t clean it up too quickly.” ~ Andy Rooney

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“Fail not to call to mind, in the course of the twenty-fifth of this month, that the Divinest Heart that ever walked the earth was born on that day; and then smile and enjoy yourselves for the rest of it; for mirth is also of Heaven’s making.”  ~ Leigh Hunt

 The Weekly Photo Challenge theme this week is Joy. Need I explain? 🙂
Merry Christmas, everyone.
Peace, Alexandria

Other favorites:
Weekly Photo Challenge: Joy
Merry Christmas in Many Languages, I See Beauty All Around
An Atheist Excerpt, Found
Christmas Favorites, Clicky Chick Creates
Christmas Family Traditions, This Man’s Journey

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.

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“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)

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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

Dreams of Grandeur

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“Surely there is grandeur in knowing that in the realm of thought, at least, you are without a chain;  

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAthat you have the right to explore all heights and depth;

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAthat there are no walls nor fences,

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAnor prohibited places,

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAnor sacred corners

olympus-digital-cameraoriginalin all the vast expanse of thought.”
~ Robert Green Ingersoll

avataralex-original“There is one spectacle grander than the sea. And that is the sky. There is one spectacle grander than the sky. And that is the interior of the soul.” ~ Victor Hugo

There is a vast landscape inside each of us. It is the place of hopes and dreams. It is the place of wonder and dignity.
It is a grandness that is known as you.
Peace, Alexandria
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Weekly Photo Challenge: Grand

Photo locations: Acadia National Park, Maine
Great Smoky Mountains in western North Carolina

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.”  ~ Josemaría 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

November Thoughts | One Last Bling

DSC_1266“Autumn carries more gold in its pocket than all the other seasons.” ~ Jim Bishop

DSC_1018November is the month of my birthday. Which means it’s the time of year I purchase some special things I’ve wished for throughout the year. I usually add a few pieces to my wardrobe, buy a few kitchen gadgets, sometimes add a new piece of jewelry. Overall, it’s my month to do (or not do :-)) and get something special.

DSC_1193I know this sounds crazy but this year I purchased some very sturdy scaffolding. We are do-it-yourselfers and those extension ladders make me dizzy. 

DSC_1036-001Plus, I needed some peace of mind. I am tired of holding my breath and nearly passing out when my husband or son-in-law climb to clean or paint the upper level of our home.

DSC_1192I know. A strange purchase. It was expensive and kind of blew my birthday budget but it’s truly what I wanted.  

DSC_1179However, I still managed to secure some bling—but not the jewelry kind.

November BlingAs autumn progresses in my part of the world, November emerges as the month of gold. It’s the bling I wish and wait for all year-long. It’s as if the trees wish me a big, happy birthday. The celebration goes on as they glitter and glimmer the whole month. It’s a nice, warm welcome to another year of life.

imageSo I’d like to say thank you to my lovely tree friends for all the abundant bling. I feel dressed to the nines another year and now I’m ready to face winter.

DSC_1204November is truly a great month for a birthday.
😉
Alexandria

P.S. I would be remiss if I did not recognize two other “friends” who said good-bye this month. The last hydrangea and yellow rose. Thank you so much for lending your beauty one last time. See you next year!

“In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.” – Albert Camus
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I enjoyed the November Bling at these places, too. Thought I’d share.
http://streetsofasheville.com/2013/11/30/novembers-last-days/
http://letsgolescophotos.com/2013/12/01/wrapping-up-30-days-of-so-much-thanks/
http://haikugesundheit.wordpress.com/2013/11/30/haiku-93-end-of-november-nablopomo-30/
http://johntharding.me/2013/11/26/photo-of-the-day-autumn-dazzler/
http://digger666.com/2013/11/22/leaves-of-summer-past/
http://digger666.com/2013/11/19/hidden-in-autumn-leaves-by-takk-b/
http://thesirenstale.com/2013/11/17/the-years-last-loveliest-smile/
http://kittnoir.wordpress.com/2013/11/11/sunset-on-autumn-gold/
Weekly Photo Challenge: Let There Be Light

Beyond the Imagined | Horizon

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“Never look down to test the ground before taking your next step.

Yep, that would be me.

 Only he who keeps his eye fixed on the far horizon will find the right road.” ~ Dag Hammarskjold

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Water has an endless horizon; there is no limitation when you look out into the water. 

There’s nothing to interfere with the mind’s eye projecting itself as far as it can possibly imagine.

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I suppose it’s the same way people in the Midwest feel about watching amber waves of grain or endless rows of cornfields. There is something exhilarating about it.” ~ Billy Joel

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“We praise the day and and stand in awe of the night. However, sunrise and sunset live as the union of the two–a marriage formed by day and by night, a reminder that even the world was made to come together. Like love, it is something our hearts can experience, while the mind will never fully understand.” ~ Sean M. Smith

When I leave my day job I walk to the top level of a parking garage to get to my car. Usually well into the evening, I’m greeted by a sparkling city-night skyline. After a hard day of work, it’s exhilarating. But there’s something else in the parking lot that greets me as well—a barely noticeable very slight bump in the middle of it. And you know what? Not a night goes by that I don’t trip over that bump. You know why? I can’t take my eyes off that beautiful city skyline. I do it nearly every time.

It reminds me of my life. In my attempts to stay focused on the big picture sometimes I falter and trip. You see, when your eyes are on the horizon that can happen. But if I focused on that bump in the parking lot I’d never look up to see the beauty of the skyline. Horizon is what I chase everyday. Don’t we all?

Few experiences in life exhilarate like the horizon. Whether yours is a city skyline, an expansive ocean, or a sprawling cornfield, the bumps are worth it. Unless you like standing still.

Peace, Alexandria
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Weekly Photo Challenge: Horizon

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

Inside the Thorns

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When life gives you thorns …
“Lift your hands toward the holy place, and praise the Lord.” Psalms 134:2

DSC_0842When life gives you thorns …
“One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.” ~ Dale Carnegie

DSC_0836When life gives you thorns …
“A single rose can be my garden… a single friend, my world.” ~ Leo Buscaglia

DSC_0828When life gives you thorns …
Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns; I am thankful that thorns have roses. ” ~ Alphonse Karr

Lo, How the Rose Enduring

Mystifying, life defying,
Wrapped inside the
deadly piercing.
Delicate, yet
Strong emerging.
Not weathered torn.

But …

Beauty dazzling,
Lightly rising,
Fragile petals,
buds reach praising,
Inside eye
of dreadful storm.

Shall we fare less
inside our thorn?

DSC_0857“When life gives you thorns, grow roses.” ~ Alexandria Sage
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Another contribution for NaPoWriMo 2014.
Poem and photos by Alexandria Sage. Photos taken with Nikon D60 with AF-S Nikkor lens 18-55 mm. Photos have no post-processing, editing, or cropping.  It’s the same rose, different views.
Perspective matters, doesn’t it?
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Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside

Close, Closer | WPC One Shot, Two Ways

Close

“Life consists of a myriad of details that can cloud your vision. To gain a balanced perspective one must overlook some of the minutiae. Details, while very important, are not everything.

You can stand close and still see the big picture.” ~ Alexandria Sage

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This is my contribution to the Weekly Photo Challenge: One Shot, Two Ways. I just returned from a trip to Antigua, Guatemala, a lovely city set in the volcanic mountains of that country. The elevation is around 5000 feet which, combined with the tropical climate, makes for an average everyday temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Built in the early 1700’s, Antigua is filled with Spanish Baroque architecture. Though hit by mild earthquakes and a few large ones, the city retains almost all its original cobblestone streets and buildings. It is absolutely stunning. Many hotels, shops, and restaurants now line its streets. They have done a great work in modernizing this city while retaining the beauty of its originality.
Aside from cropping out cars and slight rotation of the first photo, these photos are unedited. I used iPhone 5.
EnJoy.
Peace, Alexandria
Weekly Photo Challenge: One Shot, Two Ways
Some Favorites:
One Shot, Two Ways by Sph3re
Finding Peace and Tranquility at Hotel Cirilo, Antigua, Quatemala
One Shot, Two Ways by ThirdEyeMom
One Shot, Two Ways by Tina Schell

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.

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“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 Pietà, 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

Be Thou the Rainbow

Moorea

“Be thou the rainbow in the storms of life. The evening beam that smiles the clouds away, and tints tomorrow with prophetic ray.” ~ Lord Byron

I don’t know anything that speaks fresh more than a rainbow after the rain. And I can’t think of a more appropriate photo than this, taken with an iPhone 5. Much thanks to my guest author, Steve, for this photo taken on a recent vacation. When I saw it, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Simply spectacular. But there is something else quite delightful about this photo. If you look across the top third you will see a faint hint of color. There is another rainbow, making it that more rare event of a double rainbow! It’s worth clicking on for a larger view. I’ve asked Steve for a short description:

“We were at our hotel in Moorea and it had been a blustery day with thirty mph winds and a fine, misting rain. Curiously, there were times that it continued to rain even when the sky had minimal clouds or even blue skies. This photo was taken from a bridge as I was walking across the hotel grounds.”

Enjoy.
Peace, Alexandria
{P.S. This photo was taken with an iPhone 5. The only editing done was the “enhance” tool within iPhone, which did little to alter the photo. Nothing else was done. To me, the photo is perfect in every way. I give Steve credit for being fast with the camera and setting up perfect composition.}
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Daily Prompt: Colors

My favorite:
The Colours of Love

You might enjoy some other articles by Steve:
A Tale of Agony
My Thoughts on Aging
Taxes Made Simple
Healthcare: Good, Fast, Cheap. You Only Get Two

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.

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