November, Gold at its Finest

DSC_1036-001 November.

image That golden month.
Shimmery, glittery,

1-image29-e1417103368582Dripping Gold.

imageGold waves flutter against azure sky.

imageSun shatters, splits, scatters light.

imageBlinding good.
Hmmm. And people think real treasure is found in golden coins.

imageThink again!

imageGold‚ÄĒStrong. Malleable. Resilient. Unchanging.
Constant.
Coins and jewelry buried for years, centuries, remain intact. Truth be told, we don’t know how much gold the earth has.

imageIt used to be the standard of finance. No more as we print a non-existent value. Fool’s gold. But November still governs by the gold standard.
Of that, there is no doubt.

Heavenly WalkIt’s said in Heaven we walk on it. November gold holds but a glimpse.

imageOh, and another thing. If you’re into those golden years, smile.

imageNovember wears gold quite well.
So should you! ūüôā

imageAnd one last thing. On cloudy days I notice the gold is more brilliant against the stark, grey sky. It seems I’m surrounded by gold, gold, and more gold.

imageGold everywhere!

So on the cloudy days of life, take heart. Like fire refines to gain pure gold, so you can stand more brilliant against those hovering clouds.
Just like November.

imageSeems I take more pictures in November more than any other time. I’m up runnin’ out early to catch the rays. And with holidays in full swing, how fitting The Weekly Photo Challenge theme is “yellow”. They did that on purpose to contrast the reds and greens of Christmas. For me it’s perfectly fitting as I wasn’t ready to let go of my November gold quite yet!

If you’re all snuggled in from the cold temperatures, how about I bring the “gold” from around “these thar hills” to you!

1-DSC_1042And so I present to you, November gold. The year’s finest achievement. Worthy of honor and distinction. Most valuable of all.

EnJoy!
Alexandria


All photos by yours truly, except the third. I introduce to you, Joshua Burgard, of Shadow Rest Ministries, who took this stunning shot of unexpected snow in early November. For more of Josh’s lovely shots, check out the Shadow Rest Facebook Page.


Other “yellow” posts I liked:
JPicks
Variety of Light
Love in the Spaces, Yellow Light
Still Life with Rubber Gloves

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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: ‚ÄúBut 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

Summer’s Last Stand

Glistening October So it’s October.

GlistenCrisp temperature’s, rust-tinged leaves.

Green BackgroundTime to finally bid summer goodbye.

SpindlyThe flowers, spindly and spent, yawn into a stretch,

1-DSC_0190“Can we finally stop? Isn’t is time for bed???”

Stretch“Sure, summer. Autumn’s arrived. Yep, I think it’s time to call it a day (season).
Goodnight, dear summer. Sleep tight.”

Yet, I was wrong as wrong could be,
As another stretched high her neck, towering above all.

I'm Still HereAnd, what next???

BlinkAnother blinked open her eyes!

GreetingsThen another … and another … and another!
Hmm … you remind me of someone I once knew, way back in time, known as “spring”.
But isn’t it autumn? You’re not supposed to do that!”

Of course, I said it with a wink and a grin. ūüôā

1-DSC_0100“But what is all of this! Why all this!” I still wondered.

Tossing their woolly heads, they mocked, “Why, why, why all these questions!”
With a wink and a grin, of course. ūüôā

So I, expecting more-of-the-same dearest autumn‚Äďmy usual neat, tidy, predictable rows of life‚ÄďI let go of¬†more-of-the-same, and blink my eyes open to the unexpected.

Staring right back at me.

dsc_0107I feel outsmarted, laid bare in my ignorance. I thought I knew the next chapter‚Äďautumn. After all, it’s October! ¬†The calendar says it is autumn, well past September twenty-first it is!

It is autumn!

But it’s never the same, is it? Something is always different.

Rust-TingeNothing ever stays the same, but nothing ever arrives the same either. Every season has the final say and knows exactly when to shut their door and lie down in sleep.

Who am I to order, predict, and explain?

As visitors hearken my harvest-laden porch,

imagethey cannot miss it.

dsc_0046And I hope they can appreciate that as much I tried to make autumn happen,

dsc_0057some things are just completely out of my control.

dsc_0119As is much of life.

But sometimes the unexpected is when joy shows its loveliest face.

Peace,
Alexandria

Inside the Thorns {A Poem for You Today}

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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


I marvel at the rose, how that beauty thrives with the near clutches of thorns. The life of this fluorescent beauty doesn’t just ho-hum grow up. It is pricked by those thorns it’s entire existence, yet it not only thrives, it blooms. Delicate and bold. Tough and tender.
As life pricks us, may we learn to grow‚Äďnot hardened by hardship‚Äďbut strong, malleable, generous, kind, compassionate‚Äďthe qualities of true beauty.
Peace,
Alexandria


Poem by yours truly. ūüôā
Photos taken with Nikon D60 with AF-S Nikkor lens 18-55 mm. No post-processing, editing, or cropping.¬† It’s the same rose, different views.
Perspective matters, doesn’t it?


Related Articles:
Weekly Photo Challenge: Endurance
yi-chin ling: much of enough comes
The Silver Leaf Journal: The Struggle to Endure

On Top of the World!

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‚ÄúAn adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.‚ÄĚ ¬†~¬†G.K. Chesterton

Perched on the balcony I watched all day long. In the morning the boat arrived. The crew worked in a methodical manner to ready the day and after some time the gigantic rainbow sail would finally hoist. Then¬†back and forth across¬†clear blue ocean, sunlight glistening, they’d fly. A beautiful sight. Exhilarating. Peaceful.

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Determined to get away for a few days, our plan was to¬†do nothing … sit on the balcony, stare at the sea, sleep, maybe read. So I lazily sat, sipping coffee, and enjoyed the view. ¬†I brought the camera yet had no great ambition. But I couldn’t resist a few captures of the sight before me.

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Why not hone my telephoto skills a bit? They were a good distance and since doing nothing was pretty much the goal, I had nothing better to do. Zooming in, however, my interest piqued as I watched. I was taken aback at the skill and finesse of the crew, the size of the sail and cables, then how easy they make it look!

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“Flying without feathers is not easy; my wings have no feathers.” ¬†~Titus Maccius Plautus

I couldn’t help notice¬†the¬†grace with which they¬†lifted off, one, two, three at a time. So rhythmic as the sail climbed higher, and higher. So high. Until …

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they were walking on top of the world!

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So the next day I handed the telephoto to my husband. Out the door I scrammed, leaving him a few instructions and Auto Mode. ūüôā

Next thing I know …

1-1-DSC_0661-001“The air up there in the clouds is very pure and fine, bracing and delicious.¬† And why shouldn’t it be? – it is the same the angels breathe.” ~Mark Twain

I’m not only on top of the world.

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“I fly because it releases my mind from the tyranny of petty things.” ¬†~Antoine de Saint-Exupery

I think I went higher!

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‚ÄúThe purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.‚ÄĚ
‚Äē Eleanor Roosevelt

So much for doing NOTHING!

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When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.  ~Leonardo Da Vinci 


Many “mahalo’s” to Randy, Mark, and the crew at Aloha Watersports in Cherry Grove, North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. They are an excellent parasailing crew, also offering banana boat rides, bicycle rental, and surf-related sports. You cannot find a better bunch of folks. Hospitality and professionalism all wrapped up into one. For a regular dose of beach photos and fun click¬†here for their Facebook page. If you’re vacationing or in the area, give them a call! (843) 249-9908. You’ll be glad you did.

As you can see, I’m hooked! I suppose you could call it “love at first flight”. ūüôā

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1-10616717_555528231220352_7869922401485450952_n
Randy with some young visitors.

1-148666_543429229096919_4779159421620850208_nCaptain Mark giving another beautiful ride.


Other adventure posts I liked:

ThreadsandTies
Far Out in Africa 3-2-1 Bungee!!
Invisible Horse

Moon Shadows and Silhouettes

DSC_0036Edit1

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

On a recent trip to the Smoky Mountains my husband woke me from a deep sleep¬†to come look out the window. Both of us being somewhat “moon-chaser’s”, we are always dragging each other to the window when there’s a particularly eye-catching one. No matter how tired, neither of us can usually resist the urge to look.

“You might not want to miss that big yellow moon out there,” he tempted me. I sleepily thought¬†to myself,¬†Oh, stop‚Äďnot tonight!¬†I’m waaayyy too tired to drag the camera and tripod out. I’ll just get up and watch a minute and then drop back in the bed.¬†And so I did. I peered out the window and he was right. I did not want to miss this. But, no pictures tonight. So I watched.

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But not for long.

Unsure if my brain could even function with settings, I quickly grabbed everything and headed out to the balcony. There before me against a silhouette backdrop of mountains,¬†the yellow deepened. Hmmm … Suddenly I¬†woke up! And “click, click, click” away¬†I went. Then, to my sudden surprise, it turned a brilliant orange! As I clicked away for a few minutes another phenomenon happened.

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It turned deep RED!  Then, guess who was dragging the husband back out of bed! Mind you, this took place in a span of only twenty minutes.

It hung there for a just few minutes before the earth’s rotation took it behind the mountains. As I dropped back to bed,¬†I thought to myself,¬†Oh, that was so worth it! Even if I don’t get a good photo it was so amazing!¬†As you can see, I managed a few and each captures the color as it progressed. ¬†It¬†was one of those that felt so close you could touch it!

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But you know what really made this for me? This is the second red moon I’ve seen this year. I saw¬†the real “blood moon” back in February. No, I did not stay up and plan. I was on my usual commute to work and as I made my way over a big hill on our country road, it stole my breath at 5 am.¬†I pulled over for about a minute with my phone.

It’s certainly not a technical masterpiece, but I think the color says it all!

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But with the most recent, what if I hadn’t taken the time? What if I dismissed it as “just another moon” and stayed in bed? Sometimes God has these little surprises for me and I miss them because I’m waiting¬†for some “big thing”.

Isn’t that how life is? Aren’t we usually striving and looking for such¬†big moments that we end up missing the momentary, smaller glories right in our midst? And mine are usually right in my backyard.

Sometimes I just need to keep my eyes open.

Peace,
Alexandria

Happy Birthday, USA. It’s Time to Shine!

1-10259236_10153515755787925_696162760111206077_o“Fireworks had for her a direct and magical appeal.  Their attraction was more complex than that of any other form of art.

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They had pattern and sequence, colour and sound, brilliance and mobility; they had suspense, surprise, and a faint hint of danger;

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above all, they had the supreme quality of transience, which puts the keenest edge on beauty and makes it touch some spring in the heart which more enduring excellences cannot reach.‚ÄĚ ‚Äē Jan StrutherMrs. Miniver

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Yep, that quote would be me. Next to Christmas, the Fourth of July is my absolute favorite holiday. First of all, I love fireworks. Period. But I also love the way it draws my nation together. We have a complex history and a lot of problems, yes. But there is and there never has been a country like ours. Most of us learn and grow from our nation’s mistakes. Though very diverse, there is one thing of which we are in solid agreement: America is great.

If you’ve never visited you won’t understand. And if you live and grew up here, it’s so easy to take for granted. Think about it. In the history of nations, never has a country had freedom and prosperity like ours. Never has a country cared for the world like ours. Never has there been an economy like ours.

I don’t blame anyone for leaving their country of origin to come here. Many go through great peril and cost to do that. As a citizen, I just ask a few things. Please follow our laws and do whatever is necessary to become a citizen. Be honest. Work hard. And learn our history. Take a Civics class to learn how our government works. Be educated on our current events.

Don’t believe everything you read in the media. Investigate the facts. In other words, become a well-informed citizen and think for yourself. Don’t let anyone “spoon-feed” you. America will offer you and your children the best life they could ever have. And don’t ever take that for granted. I don’t know any American that does not welcome you if you do this.

Now, onto the fireworks! I cannot close without drawing attention to these photographs posted on Dan Pope’s Facebook page.  He is a real top-notch photographer and friend of our family and I’ve featured him before. His link is on my sidebar. Dan is a fireworks nut like me. He captured these Friday night. And of all things, he caught this last one with a train rolling through. Nicely done, Dan!

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In closing, I’m posting this link to a  video of the Katy Perry song “Firework”, still an all-time favorite of mine on our Fourth of July. I think the words capture the human spirit quite well.

Shine everyday because‚Äďbaby, you’re a firework!

Love, With a Twist

Morning Walk

When you look at me
What do you see?
Branches random,
Unchosen tandem?
Nothing clever.

Morning Hug

Space distress
Of leaves and mess?
Unlike attraction,
More like distraction!
Whatever!

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Why on earth,
of all the space,
Did God place
you here?
Wish you could just leave,
Whenever!

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But we are stuck.
Like glue, we are stuck!
Perhaps a wind may unabate
And maybe we can separate!
Forever!!

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I am strong
Without you.
I don’t need you.
Never
Will I need you,
Whatsoever.

{And so the big wind
It did come.
And so it did come unabate.
But it did more than separate.}

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Oh nooo!!! Hold tight!!!
Don’t let go!!!!
Please,
Don’t let go.
And don’t go.
Stay.
And don’t go away

Ever!!!

Ever

“Love lives in the myriad of imperfection and thrives because of its ability to prevail despite its inability to prevail perfectly.” ~ Alexandria Sage


Weekly Photo Challenge Theme: Twist¬† I hope you enjoyed my twisted poetry. ūüôā Peace, Alexandria


Other favorites:

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¬†‚ÄĒ 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‚ÄĒmy 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}¬†

Done

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. ūüôā

 

Quiet Street, Busy Land

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Yep, this is what I call “my ‚Äėhood”. ūüôā
Street Life in the Country

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Photos taken with Nikon D60, various lenses, Sony Cybershot, Pentax, iPhone 4 and iPhone 5. Deer photos taken inside through a window‚Äďsheer luck ūüôā
Hope you enjoyed the slideshow format for a change!
(Note: If you’re using the WordPress App Reader the slide show will not work. At least it didn’t for me. Try a regular web page. Good luck!)
Peace,
Alexandria

Dances with Daffodils

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“Awake, thou wintry earth
Fling off thy sadness!

Opening Numbers

Fair vernal flowers,
laugh forth Your ancient gladness!” ~ Thomas Blackburn

Within

“O Love-star of the unbeloved March,
When cold and shrill,

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Forth flows beneath a low, dim-lighted arch
The wind that beats sharp crag and barren hill,

Best Friends Forever

And keeps unfilmed the lately torpid rill!” ~¬†Sir Aubrey de Vere¬†Quotes,¬†Ode to the Daffodil

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“Friendship is a shiny thing, a steady beam of light
A lantern on a lonely street, a song far in the night

Singular Beauty

A smile,  a touch of loving hand,
a quiet moment on a hill
And, oh, what a happy little child bringing home a daffodil.” ~ Unknown

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“She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,

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 And whispered to her neighbor:
“Winter is dead.‚ÄĚ ¬†~ A.A. Milne

Happy

Like many this year, the street views outside my window¬†have been winter barren in the most extreme sense of the word. The branches of my beautiful trees faced me everyday, some days covered with ice, some with snow, days filled with grey. And just when I thought they’d faced the worst, there came more. Storm after storm after storm.

My trees wear beauty¬†in any season, any weather. But this winter, one of the worst ever, tested them. I’d peek out the window everyday and my stately trees stood staring, branches outstretched, as if to say, “When is enough? How long? This seems¬†never-ending.” And me, warm inside, unable to soothe,¬†joined their¬†song of longing. It seemed to linger forever. They bore the stark beauty of winter proud. And we waited as one.¬†Drawn in, still, preparing for the day of green. And then the day came.

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Cold, frozen ground gave way to green, gave way to buds, gave way to these yellow lovelies pushing through, popping up out of the ground.

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Yes, the days remained cold and windy and gray, but one day the sun shone bright. And I could no longer contain myself. Leaving a sink full of dishes, the rays irresistible, I ran out and joined all of them. I threw a blanket on that frigid ground and got under them, over them, and around them in a contortion of child’s play, smiling and laughing among a sea of yellow dancing. And hmmm … was that birdsong I hear? Ahhh … just a little more time, my friends, and we’ll be dancing with the sun on our back and spring in our step!

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“Daffodils that come before the swallow dares, and take the winds of March with beauty … ” ~ William Shakespeare

This is but one view of ¬†life on my¬†street. On the last post I promised you daffodils. As you can see, I kept¬†that promise! I hope you enjoy. ūüôā

Happy Spring! Alexandria

{Photos taken with Nikon D60 with Nikon DX AF-S Nikkor 55-200mm lens, in RAW mode. If you want any metadata you’ll have to contact me. Thought if you clicked on the photos you it might be there, but not so. I recently took another photography class and this is the first roll-out of photos using full manual mode and applying some of the new¬†techniques. As per usual, there is very minimal, if any, post-processing‚Äďnary a crop except¬†the first one. Most are completely untouched. What do you think?}

Other street views I enjoyed:
My Cyber House Rules
Beyond the Brush
Thoughts and Entanglements
Blogagaini
Depth of Feelings
Life in the Foothills
Find Later Photography

 

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. ūüôā

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‚ÄĒthis 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‚ÄĒfrom 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‚ÄĒthat 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

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 fa√ßade 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‚ÄĒwe 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

 

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 Berni√®res,¬†Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

Canon EOS5D Mark iii Focal length 31 F number 5.6 Exposure time 1/200

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. ūüôā


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‚Äôs skin,‚ÄĒseven 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‚Äďyou 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‚Äďit 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‚Äďthe 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‚Äďthe place of constants‚ÄĒlove, 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‚Äďthe 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

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‚ÄĒthat 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‚Äďready. 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‚Äďinvitation. 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!

‚ÄúI’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.‚ÄĚ~¬†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? ūüôā
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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

The Lesser Light|One Favorite Subject

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‚ÄúAnd 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.‚Ä̬†~ 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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‚ÄúThe moon is friend for the lonesome to talk to.‚ÄĚ ~¬†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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‚ÄúThe moon is a loyal companion.¬†It never leaves. It‚Äôs always there, watching, steadfast, knowing us in our light and dark moments, changing forever just as we do. Every day it‚Äôs 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.‚ÄĚ ~¬†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 ‚ÄúBut even when the moon looks like it’s waning…it’s actually never changing shape. Don’t ever forget that.‚ÄĚ ~¬†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.¬†‚ÄúThere 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‚Äďwe 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‚ÄĒcomplete 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‚ÄúNot all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.‚ÄĚ ~ Mother Teresa

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

“To leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition‚ÄĒto know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived‚ÄĒthis 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‚ÄúBlessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.‚ÄĚ ~ 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‚ÄĒit’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‚Äďmiraculous‚Äďoccurs.

I‚ÄúChristmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. ‚ÄĚ ~ Norman Vincent Peale

We all celebrate. Does heaven gasp as the world wraps itself in Christmas‚ÄĒa spinning ornament studded with lights, glitter, and tinsel‚ÄĒanother majesty of sorts‚ÄĒglistening 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‚ÄĒthe 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‚ÄĒEmmanuel‚ÄĒGod 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‚ÄúHe who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree. ‚ÄĚ ~ Roy L. Smith

Just gaze at the stars and sun above and you will see‚ÄĒnight 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.‚ÄĚ ¬†~ Josemar√≠a¬†Escriv√°,¬†Christ Is Passing by
Peace and joy this Christmas,
Alexandria
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Weekly Photo Challenge: Let There Be Light

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