Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Sunsets





I was recently designing some backgrounds to use in multimedia presentations.  A friend of ours was close by and watching. He said "Once you have seen one or two sunsets, you have seen them all. There isn't any point in capturing a photo of a sunset more than twice."  I looked at him, eyebrows raised, and said "You obviously don't watch sunsets! Each sunset is different, a new Masterpiece from our Creator." He laughed and said he obviously didn't look at the world like I did. I joked back and said obviously not, maybe you should begin! We laughed over it, but there is a  lot of truth in examining how we see the world. 


A few weeks ago, I was so busy, I didn't stop to see the cloud formations, the birds, the sunsets, or anything but work. I was grumpy. I realized I needed to grab my camera and go capture some creation. I took an hour. That hour deeply refreshed my soul. I slowed down, took in the beauty of a lake, the mountains, geese, old barns, and I took time to breathe. I needed that time. 


Back to my sunset discussion. Each sunset is unique. Beautiful. Breathtaking. 


Do you stop long enough to notice? Do you put down your phone long enough to see it?
 


Take time to see the beauty. Take time to breathe it  in. Each moment of beauty, each sunset, is a gift.
 
































































Monday, January 18, 2016

Rooted

It was approaching the beginning 2016, and my husband and I decided to do the one word challenge this year.  MY ONE WORD website  One word. Just one word for the year to strive for, live by. One word to transform your life. I prayed about that one word for 10 days. Nothing. I had ideas. As a matter of fact, I have a full page of words I wrote down, but when I went to implement them as my one word for 2016, it felt like God was saying "Nope, that is not the word." Word after word, each a no. I am not a person who likes to wait, so waiting for 10 days felt like a very long time, and I was at a point of thinking maybe I wasn't supposed to have ONE WORD this year.  

Our church is starting a new campus and on day 10 of praying and searching for that word, we were setting up for our second preview service. The day had been so busy with tech set up, I honestly hadn't thought of my word all day. At the end of a very long, but wonderful day, I pulled up the YouVersion Bible app to read a verse our pastor was referencing. 

 As I went to read the screen of my phone, my eyes went up two verses. I hadn't really read any words, but my eyes went to one word. It was as if God made it bolder and expanded it, and said there it is! Rooted. Rooted? But that isn't the word I had thought. I mean I thought my word would be hope, or be present, or patience....Rooted?  I stood and stared at it for a few seconds and said to God, so this is my word? There wasn't any doubt at all. I knew I had my word for the year. Why rooted? I don't know, but there is a reason. 

This is the verse:

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
Ephesians 3:16-19

I was in a study three years back on Colossians, and Colossians 2:6-7 is a key verse, as well. 

"And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow Him. Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught and you will overflow with thankfulness."




A couple years ago was the first time I did the One Word challenge. My word was overcome. Overcome I did. I overcame lifetime fears, hang ups, habits, and attitudes that weighed me down. I walked across a swinging bridge which is a couple hundred feet above a roaring river. I do not like heights, particularly above water and roaring water doesn't help! To increase that fear, add in a bridge made of planks, that swings, that is only wide enough for one person. It took awhile, but I made it. Twice. I overcame a huge fear.  The fear of that task was just one of many things God had me overcome that year. It was a year of deep transformation and victory over things that had me stuck. 

How about you? Do you have a one word? It's not too late to pray about it, and see where that journey takes you over the rest of the year. It's a great way to begin fresh and renew a portion of who you are, how you view life. We all need new beginnings, and they are available to us every day. We just have to take the first step to transform our lives. 


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Sunday, December 20, 2015

A Night of Reflecting



Tonight my mind is flooded with memories of loved ones who are not with us any longer.  Apparently, exhaustion makes ones mind wander. I have been putting in very long hours at work, preparing for Christmas services, and have more to go. I know it will be worth it, but tonight I am a very weary soul. I am also a weepy soul. I saw a photo of almond bark, of all things, and thought of my Gram. She made 3-4 treats a year out of that stuff so the photo made me think of her. Since then, my mind has gone to all my grandparents, my father-in-law, dear friends and family members, and our dog Maddie who left us in April, and I am remembering and reflecting, and shedding tears. I think of friends who have lost both parents since Summer and how their Christmas will be this year. I think of those who have lost their children this year, and how they must be overwhelmed with grief. "It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" came on the radio tonight and I thought how while it is because of Jesus and the gift of His life and love to us, it is also a lonely time of year for many. 

So, be there for others. Look at them, notice them, offer a smile, a helping hand, a listening ear. You don't know what is going on inside that person's soul or what they are facing. Kindness goes a long way, however. Be kind. Be loving. Give the gift of a smile. You never know how your kindness will touch or affect someone. If you know a single parent, give them a hand by either watching their kids, giving them a gift card, or lifting their load in some way. If you know older people who are alone, go spend some time with them, touch their hands, look them in the eye, and listen. If you know someone who has lost a loved one this year, just let them know  you are thinking of them. 

Spread love. Give. Be present. 






And if you need a reminder of what Christmas is all about, here is a reminder:










Monday, December 7, 2015

Oh Christmas Tree


As I decorate our Christmas tree tonight, I am overwhelmed. Our tree isn't an elegant tree.  It isn't a tree that any designer would recommend.  Our Christmas tree would not be featured in any home decorating magazine.  But honestly, I don't care.  Our tree is a memory tree.  It's filled things that fill our hearts and minds.  It's filled with years upon years of memories.  Nearly every ornament we hang on our tree represents someone and something special.

We have handmade ornaments from the years we did youth ministry with 5th and 6th graders.  Perfect, no.  Beautiful and from the heart, yes. As I hung those ornaments on the tree tonight, I remembered the love in the eyes of the kids who gave their special creations to me. Those 'kids' are now in their late 20's. Our tree has precious ornaments from our grandparents. There are handmade ornaments from our parents, and our nieces when they were wee little ones.  Our tree has handpainted ornaments from my husband's dad, who has been gone for nearly fifteen years now.  The ornaments that adorn our tree all have a memory attached to them. 



One Christmas in our early married years, things were pretty tight.  We had a lot of medical bills that year, and wages were very lean. We had many speed bumps in life that year, particularly the latter part of the year.  Three weeks prior to Christmas, the UPS driver showed up at our door with a box.  I hadn't ordered anything, as there wasn't money to order anything, so I did not know what we were receiving. I opened the box and it was a beautiful octagon box that had old time Santa Claus pictures all over it.  I opened the box, and it was filled with twelve beautiful ornaments.  I grabbed the box to see who the sender was, as I knew these ornaments had to be fairly pricey. There was a company's name. I searched the box for a card, but there was not one. When my husband arrived home from work that evening, I showed him the ornaments and asked if he had ordered them. He said no. We called both sets of parents, grandparents, but no one knew anything about them. The following day I called the company listed on the shipping address. The kind customer service lady looked it up and said they had the order, but that the order came from us. I said we didn't order them. She looked a bit more, and said "well, they must be from Santa so just enjoy them, and please keep them." I offered to send them back, but she insisted we keep the ornaments as apparently their company sent them by 'mistake' but it was their mistake, so therefore, it was a gift for us to enjoy.  We did, and twenty years later, we still do.  I think of that hard year every time I pull the box out, and how God knew we needed that little reminder that even in the hard times, the lean times, there are gifts around us, we just need to enjoy and appreciate them. We also need to take the time to see them.


We have one wooden dog bone on the tree that has the name CODY engraved in it.  Cody was our first dog after we got married.  He died a couple weeks before Christmas in 2001, so that ornament brings tears to my eyes as I place it upon our tree.  When I pulled out the bone that says MADDIE, I shed quite a few tears.  14 years ago, Maddie came to warm our hearts and home two days after Christmas.  She left a big hole in our hearts when she left this year, right after Easter.  Both Cody & Maddie LOVED Christmas.  They would get so excited when the Christmas boxes came out.  Maddie would spend every evening sleeping under the tree during the month of December. She was like a little kid.  Our new pup, well, let's just say she needs some work on this whole Christmas thing and not eating her stocking, the tree, or the ornaments on the tree. 





I love our tree. I love the memories that flood our tree. For each ornament, each memory, I am grateful. 




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Monday, November 16, 2015

Giving Thanks

This is one of the first years in many that I have not done 30 days of thanks. Honestly, I have missed it. Whether I did a photo prompt or wrote it out, it would make me stop and pause and be thankful. This season has brought many things that have kept me so busy I have not had much time to just pause. This morning is the first pause I have had in three weeks. I'm not proud of that fact nor is it how I want to live, sometimes life gets very busy. I always try to take at least a partial day to pause, rejuvenate, and have some margin in my life. However these last three weeks have had little time for that. I am thankful that this morning I did not have a schedule, and was able to go at a slower pace, and get some photo time.



Giving thanks. We live in a culture that is not always terribly appreciative and words of thanks often go unspoken. While thank you is a great thing to hear, having an attitude of thankfulness is what's the most important. Thankfulness and gratitude begin in our heart. While it can be taught, and should be, we are responsible for our own actions, words, decisions and we decide what comes out of our mouth and where we allow our hearts and minds to live. Teaching kids how to live this way is a priceless gift, and it come best by modeling a life like this. Giving thanks should be a daily routine that comes naturally out of a heart of gratefulness. Deep gratitude is not about how much stuff we have that clutters our lives, the house we live in, or the cars we drive. Deep gratitude comes from living a life of joy.






I have had many friends who have been to other countries where people have absolutely nothing and are living out of cardboard boxes or 20 people are living inside what we would consider a small bedroom. My friends tell me that these people have such a deep seeded joy and they live a life grateful to be alive, for the people that surround them, and they laugh and sing often. They have little as far as material possessions go, but their hearts are filled with gratefulness and thanksgiving and their lives reflect that by the way they live.
Thankfulness doesn't depend on what we have or don't have. Thankfulness and gratitude begin in our heart. It's up to us to tend to her heart, so that we reap a harvest of deep gratefulness. When we tend to our hearts that way, our lives automatically overflow with thanksgiving and we bless those who encounter us on a daily basis. We smile. We say thank you. We are kind. We help someone in need. We do the mundane, and we don't complain. We love those in our lives deeply and cherish and treasure every moment we have to spend together. When we take care of harvesting gratefulness in our heart, living a life of giving thanks becomes a natural part of our being.


So, while I have missed the daily pause to record my 30 days of thanks of social media, I do pause and say thank you to God for my husband, my family, my home, friends, our church family, ministry, daily provisions, my pup, the beauty that surrounds me, the gift of amazing grace that was freely given to me because of Christ, being able to serve others, and the blessings go on and on. I try to tend my heart and keep it focused on the blessings God gives me daily. Yes, I fail and I can complain, but I don't live in that spot. Oh, I could but I refuse to let bitterness take a deep root in my life, as life is a precious gift, and we are made to live it out in a deep state of gratitude.


This Thanksgiving season, give yourself the gift to allow gratitude to fill your heart, and flow out into your life and touch others. You will be blessed.


Please check out my blog circle's posts on Giving Thanks.



What Marty Sees


Captured Bits of Beauty




















Sunday, November 8, 2015

Blessings


This is a great reminder of how to be present and live out each day. 



Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Autumn Splendor



"Even if something is left undone, everyone must take time to sit still and watch the leaves turn." —Elizabeth Lawrence















How beautifully leaves grow old. How full of light and color are their last days. 
~John Burroughs 























I love autumn, the one season of the year that God seems to have put there just for the beauty of it. ~Lee Maynard













Autumn, the year's last, loveliest smile. ~William Cullen 










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