Thrill of Hope

 

DSC_0953Normally I detest the fall season changing of the clocks. It messes with my sleep pattern for what seems like months, and really, who wants darkness in the winter before 5 p.m.?  This year’s “fall-back,” though, has brought a welcome surprise.  I am actually now waking before sunrise on most days…well rested and able to enjoy the peaceful hours of pre-dawn and observe the first glorious rays of the sun as it peeks through the trees and reflects on the creek below.

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reflections on the creek

Today was no exception, and on this morning as I was treated to the first rays of pink and gold, the line from my favorite Christmas carol came to mind so clearly:

…a thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn….

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As I reflected on the familiar Christmas story, I was reminded that it is the hope behind the story that brings the greatest joy.

I love that God didn’t send his only son to be raised by earthly royalty, but… to a blue-collar worker-a carpenter, who by trade takes blank pieces of wood and crafts them into beautiful works for art or service.  As for his mother, a common housewife, who humbly and lovingly spends her days looking to the needs of her family.

 I love that His birth wasn’t in the cold, sterile, marble halls of a palace, but in a stable, where the sweet smell of warm hay mingled with the less desirable smells of nature …bringing him into the world as close to the common earth as it gets.

I love that in his earthly lineage, as recorded in His genealogy by Matthew, is not only nobility but a reformed pagan, Ruth, as well as a prostitute, (gasp!) Rahabforeshadowing the redemptive power of God’s love to even the most looked-down-upon among us.

…long lay the world in sin and error pining, till He appeared, and the soul felt it’s worth…

And finally,  I love that his birth was first announced to common shepherds and not aristocrats ….that a star broke through the darkness signalling not only His birth but the greatest hope into hopelessness the world had ever seen.

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Until next time, may His hope eternal bring you and yours the peace and joy found in this blessed birth.

∼Jen

Life’s Precious Moments…

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Life is full of beautiful gifts, and yesterday morning brought that truth to light in a very special way…

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Wings still very much wet after emerging

It was the birthday of my neighbor across the street, a neighbor I have become very close to in the last several months.  It was also her first birthday since the death of her husband in early April.  When we walked the day before yesterday she told me “…it’s just another day…” but to me, a birthday is to be celebrated-new life is always a blessing to be celebrated.  Knowing it was the first birthday since her husband’s passing, I wanted to make sure I acknowledged it in a special way before she met with her family later to celebrate with them.

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Wings a bit dryer….not much longer now!

In the morning I texted to see if she wanted to take our neighborhood walk, then quickly stuck some breakfast cookies in the oven to take over with a card.  Three minutes before the cookies were due to come out of the oven, I got a text from her: ” A Monarch butterfly has just emerged from its chrysalis, come see!”  Funny, just the day before I noticed all the milkweed in her garden and meant to ask if she had ever seen the Monarchs hatch.

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Good view of chrysalis

The cookies couldn’t come out fast enough, as I was sure the newly emerged butterfly would take flight before I could cross the street!  As it was, I arrived in plenty of time to see the newly transformed Monarch since it was at least another hour or so from taking flight.  My oldest son was off that day so was also able to come enjoy the scene with us, reminding me of the time we watched a newly emerged butterfly take flight when he was young.

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Picked up by neighbor after failed first attempt at flight

As we talked and marvelled at the beauty of nature, I couldn’t help but think what a beautiful gift of new life she had been given on her birthday.  She said she had never witnessed a butterfly emerge till that morning… a touching reminder that life does indeed bring renewed joy after pain.

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Resting on milkweed leaf before attempting flight again

My neighbor sent me off yesterday with Milkweed seedlings to plant in my own yard, and today while gardening I had a little visitor of my own, keeping me company as I worked…

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Until next time, may you experience renewed joy and wonder in your life as well.

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∼ Jen

…Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning  Psalm 30:5

 

Link about butterflies emerging, scientific term: eclosion https://www.reimangardens.com/butterfly/butterfliesmoths-spread-wings-emerging/

Monarch Factshttps://www.monarch-butterfly.com/monarch-butterflies-facts.html

For the Love of …Weeds!

 

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The collected hours of “therapy!”

Yes, that’s right, weeds, and let me tell you, there was a whole lotta love happening in my front garden today!

This has been the rainiest summer I can ever remember in my lifetime.  And when it was not raining of late, the temps soared to the ninetys, when rain was once again a welcome relief.  Given that combination of weather, other things of more importance to be done, throw in an out-of-town trip on top, and my weeds absolutely thrived!

Now, I am surrounded for the most part by neighbors with pristine yards who have an ongoing love affair with Round-Up.  I could spend a whole post on my hatred of that substance, but since this is a blog focused on “beauty” I’ll forgo that soap-box.  On the other side of that scenario, when weeds are pulled by hand, there are those occasions when you are that neighbor.

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Since I really don’t want to be that neighbor, and usually I am not, I apologized before taking off on my trip to my fellow outdoor enthusiast across the street and assured her things would be restored to normal when I returned.  Since she and I have a shared love of gardening and spent many hours chatting across the street as we happily sweat and battled the weeds, she had no cause for concern.

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Halfway there!

The first few days back I had other things to catch up on, so I pulled a Scarlet O’Hara and chanted “tomorrow,” but, today was the day! As I contemplated the task ahead of me, I assure you I was not at all looking forward to it.  After a quick walk down the street in search of the elusive twin fawns, I donned gardening gloves and hat and headed toward my foes.  Or were they?

I had not been pulling for more than a few minutes when the thought occurred to me that this was not at all the horror I expected, and I quickly became thankful for the time of quiet contemplation. Usually alone-time in the morning with a cup of coffee is all that’s needed to start my day, but this day I needed some activity along with my quiet, and my weeds proved to be just the thing.  I know they are considered a cursed nuisance to the garden, but on this morning as I pulled…I prayed, Bible verses came to mind, and I remembered the Creator always has the best answers…sometimes shown through a good patch of weeds!

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Return to normalcy!

Until next time, wishing you your own patch of weeds, if needed!

∼Jen

 

A Tribute to our Sweet Princess

I have long been convinced that of all the animals God created, dogs were especially created to be invaluable friends for mankind…I call them “hairy angels.”

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Our sweet Princess was indeed an angel.  In fact, our vet remarked that usually dogs named “Princess, Angel, Precious, Sweetie….” were anything but, and that our Princess was a nice exception to that rule!

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Indeed, she was!  I have owned and loved many dogs over my lifetime, but never have I owned or met a dog with a sweeter disposition than our dear Princess.

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Captain of our oldest son’s kayak

When we first got Princess, I told myself I would somehow not get attached to her. She would be the kids’ dog and I would take care of her and love on her, but remain unattached to avoid future heartache…yeah, right.

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For thirteen plus years she was our sweet little companion, and up until the last 7 years of her life she shared us with our two other dogs, and, unfortunately, she was at the bottom of the “pecking order.”

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After our oldest dog, Noah, and then her father, Smokey, died, she was our sole dog and the recipient of all of our human love, which she gladly returned a thousand times over.

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As for me, not getting attached just didn’t happen.

 We had to say goodby to our sweet girl, my empty-nest dog, in April, much earlier that I had hoped, and I still miss her more than I can say.  I wrote about Princess’ back-story in a previous post, but if any pet deserved a special goodbye post, it is her.

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Twilight on the creek with youngest son

Two days before she went on, we had our first and only kayak ride together.  She normally rode with one of the boys on their paddle board, but this day it was just she and I, and she left me with sweet memories of a morning together on the creek, searching out an eagle’s nest.

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cooling off after one of our summer-time walks

And so, this dog that I somehow would remain “unattached” to has left me with many precious memories, and a longing for many more morning walks together with my sweet little buddy.

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Thank you, Sweet Princess…you wiggled into our hearts and left your mark on us that will never be erased.  We miss you, the creek will never be the same without you, and we will always love you and remember you with smiles…

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♥ Jen

“When the Man waked up he said, ‘What is Wild Dog doing here?’ And the Woman said, ‘His name is not Wild Dog any more, but the First Friend, because he will be our friend for always and always and always.’”
—Rudyard Kipling (author, The Jungle Book)

Someone sent me the following video…and though many will find it unbelievable, it brought me a lot of joy and comfort… 🙂

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hbjYQ_uors8

Patriarcal Shenanigans

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Daddy Cardinal feeding young

“What do you mean you were the only boy in class to not have your name written on the board for acting up….you’ve got to stop that!”

That was the advice given to my younger son during his first week of middle school, by none other than his grandfather, my father….advice my younger son gladly took to heart and seemed to make his motto throughout the rest of his school career.

Yes, amazing how the advice changes from children to grandchildren…that is a far cry from the way myself and my four siblings were raised. If a call came from school reporting an incident, it was not met with the same attitude doled out to my son, I can assure you!

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My father was one of ten children raised in the city of Baltimore, and from all accounts he was quite the little rascal.  Recently we have been treated to more stories of his youth, specifically his time in the Air Force, where the playful pranks apparently continued.  It occurs to me that the more rascally one is as a child, the more careful an eye they keep on their own children when the time comes…oh, I should have some very well-behaved grandchildren someday!

Growing up on a small farm we were were given more chores than I can remember, but I do remember hating them as a child, certain we were dealt a great injustice.  We were also given plenty of free time, however, when our chores were finished to roam the woods, climb trees, and get lost in our own daydreams or storybooks.  There were also the fun vacations spent at the beach along with the trips to New York City, Philadelphia, a Christmas spent at Disney and camping trips to the mountains.

Still, as with most children, I was sure the grass was somehow greener in my friends’ yards-no farm chores, life growing up in town…where I just knew things had to be more exciting.  And, as with most children, I didn’t appreciate the discipline, chores, or general instruction until grown and a parent myself.

So now that I am a parent, I can certainly appreciate my dad….for loving us enough to give us chores, building in us a strong work ethic and sense of responsibility; discipline when we showed lack of respect to others, especially authority figures; saying “no” to us and setting boundaries for our own protection, despite our anger or resentment at the time, because true love protects, no matter what; and most importantly of all, instilling in us a respect and awe for our loving heavenly Father.

Now that my dad has done his parental duty in raising his kids to be responsible adults, he is free to show his playful side to his grandchildren, and we all get to appreciate that other side we missed growing up. I still smile thinking of he and I in recent years on the back pew of church trying not to be seen laughing at a scene in a movie that no one else seemed to find funny. Dad and I were cracking up and adding years to our life with laughter, then, and many other times besides, both in church and out!

So dad, along with all the good characters you instilled in your children, your sense of humor and love of laughter and harmless mischief has certainly been passed down as well, and for that I am eternally grateful!  Thank you dad, I love you.

Happy Father’s Day,

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∼ Jen

A Mother’s Heart

 

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Last night we were under torrential downpours with lightening strikes all around us and a tornado watch in effect.  Both our sons had not yet returned home for the night, but my husband and I went to bed, saying prayers for their safe return while keeping one ear open, as all parents do, when awaiting their kid’s return.

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Mother and fawn taken in Colorado Rockies

I think of my own mother, how on earth she survived raising five children, and how many nights she and my father must have prayed as they waited for their children to return home each night.

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My mom was not only a terrific mom, she was also my confidant and friend….sticking with me through thick and thin….cheering me on, encouraging me when down, and always believing in me no matter what.

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Mother northern cardinal feeding young

She was and still is a source of inspiration to myself and so many.  One of her greatest accomplishments, which still amazes me, was earning her nursing degree while raising five children.  I can still see her in my mind’s eye sitting at the table doing her homework after we finished dinner, which she had also prepared.

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Mother wood duck leading her young about the creek

Now that I have raised two sons myself, I am even more amazed at her accomplishments and am not sure which is more amazing, earning the degree or raising five children….probably the latter!

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Spectacled bear with cub, part of an effort to prevent their extinction

Eventually our first son came in with a few friends in tow, an hour later our oldest son safely returned home as well.  Both stopped in to give us big hugs before heading off to their own beds, and my mother’s heart could rest peacefully knowing my beloved treasures were back safe and sound, and all was right in my little world.

 

Happy Mother’s Day to my fellow mothers!

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 Until next time,

∼ Jen

Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands. Proverbs 14:1

The Beauty of Stillness

dsc_0112.jpgIt is a quiet Sunday morning as I write this.  The air is cool enough to leave the door cracked just slightly, allowing the sounds of nature to flow inside.  The birds are singing their morning songs as they flit around in their busy springtime activities.  A tufted titmouse pair are continuing their gathering of nest-building material for the box just outside my window, while a hummingbird stops to sip at the nectar feeder just below the future titmouse abode.

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Tufted titmouse gathering nesting material

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Gabby cat is enjoying an early morning walk around, simultaneously keeping a lookout  for possible adventure with one eye and the approach of our neighbor’s dogs with the other…

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Gabby amid the jewel weed

 A squirrel enjoyed an early breakfast of sunflower seeds scattered beneath the feeders before attacking the feeders directly. In due time he was joined by two other squirrels that soon gave him chase before they all raced up a tree, resembling a reverse playing of firemen sliding down a pole.

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The male cardinal is visiting another feeder closer to our pond, and the sounds of the waterfall flowing fills the air with its soothing sounds, in perfect harmony to the music of the wildlife surrounding it.

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The creek is at high-tide and is still and deceptively quiet under a misty haze and overcast sky. In the surrounding trees, the birds and squirrels make up for its silence aided by honking geese in the distance, while cinnamon ferns, jewel-weed, and iris decorate its banks as they continue to spring more to life with each passing day.  Somewhere nearby a wood duck couple are certain to be enjoying its serenity, while playful otters and busy beavers are certain to be disturbing it.

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Wood duck pair 

 At any given moment an eagle is likely to do a fly-by low along the creek, or perch in one of the nearby trees watching for fish and other small creatures to fill its stomach and feed its young.

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Harold, our resident blue heron, has yet to my knowledge made his daily appearance, but that too could happen at any given moment and may even include a sighting of  Henrietta, seen accompanying him of late…tis the season!

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“Harold”

Peaches, the cat of unknown origins, who has unfortunately decided to adopt us, draws my eye away from the creek again as he takes up one of his favorite spots beside the pond…much to the dismay of Gabby, and Bitty as well, who is perched beside me now glaring at him from her window seat.

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The cardinal seen earlier is now perched closer to my window, almost hidden in the lush leaves, until roused by a blue-jay who was earlier hopping up and down on a branch above him and making a general ruckus.  For whatever reason, Mr. Jay felt the need to antagonize the cardinal until deciding to fly off towards the creek with the cardinal giving chase.

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In a break from nest-building duties, Mr. Titmouse flies over to give his wife a morsel on a nearby branch, and the lone squirrel is back posing for a picture.

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Our door is now shut and the fireplace is lit to chase off the chill-enticing kitty with its warmth-as my husband and I enjoy the quiet of early morning.  The wood ducks paddle into view, and all seems right with the world.

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I purposefully laid aside my camera for the most part this morning-deciding to add in older pictures later-and purposed instead to just sit still and enjoy all the sights and sounds outside the lens…

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…because sometimes in our single “focused-ness’ of life we miss the peripheral beauty going on around us, and that is a lesson in and of itself.

Until next time,

∼Jen

 Psalm 46:10  “Be still, and know that I am God…”

Merry Christmas…

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 To my dear friends and treasured acquaintances here in the blogosphere, I wish you a very merry and wonderful Christmas season!

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As I sit here sipping my coffee, watching my cat sleep peacefully by the fire, I can’t help but recall all I have to be thankful for in my life, and I wish this  same peace and joy on all who may read this.

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We know it’s not about the material possessions, status, or any of those other things that have no lasting meaning…peace and happiness come from inside and the relationships we surround ourselves with.

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 One of my most peaceful Christmas seasons came at a time when I didn’t know when my next paycheck was coming…true peace transcends those things.

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And at this time of the year especially, as we celebrate the birth of our savior, we find life’s truest joy…

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I have been reading the last in the Thomas Kinkade’s Cape Light series, this one written by Katherine Spencer, and I loved the way a character in the book summed up the manger scene:

….it is a scene of community, cooperation, a coming together of so many diverse players in this joyful drama.  Characters of high birth and low. A tradesman and his young wife, seeking a new home. A shepherd and a king. A wise man and even an angel. All from different backgrounds, with different perspectives on the world and different opinions, I’m sure. But their differences seemed suddenly trivial, eclipsed by their common experience the awe-inspiring experience that connected them, that brought them to common ground, both literal and spiritually. The recognition and adoration of the baby Jesus.

…finally, I thought of the beautiful, innocent baby in this scene.  A baby who responds the same to the admiration of the shepherd or the king. A baby who doesn’t know the difference between any of the different faces surrounding him.  He reaches toward all of them with equal love. Because that is the way God has created and loves us.  We are all equal in His eyes and all worthy of love, respect, and care.

 

May you each experience this true and lasting joy.

Until next time,

∼Jen

 

 

Because a Song, Needed to be Sung….

 

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Early music days

It all began in a little recording studio where a mutual friend had taken me to cut a demo.  The co-owner was engaged to be married at the time, I became engaged a few months later, at some point we both got un-engaged, and the rest, as they say, is history.

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Lewes, De – First Date

And how can it be we have created twenty-five years of history already….it seems like yesterday, and yet so much has happened in our little lifetimes together. Times of joy, times of tears, new beginnings and new lives…all because a song, needed to be sung.

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We left the altar filled with dreams and hopes of a lifetime together…and we have been blessed.

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First one precious son, then another, and a third child we’ll someday meet in heaven…

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While our sons grew into young men, lines crept onto our faces, and gray, though fiercely fought, invaded our temples…and still we face our days yet to be written, thankfully together.

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  I smile, as the lesson in my Bible study this week just happens to be the love chapter

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Cor. 13:4-7

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I wish I could say I lived up to all those wonderful words of wisdom on love…yet, it is love, along with God’s grace and a good dose of humor, that has seen us through the past and will hopefully grant us many more years in the future…because, a song still needs to be sung.

To my husband, with all my heart,

∼Jen

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

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A Grateful Heart

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17

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Mourning Doves in the fall

Well, today is that glorious day we set aside here in the states to give thanks for the many blessings bestowed upon us from our gracious Heavenly Father.

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A fall walk

It’s usually a day spent with family, enjoying one another’s company,  grateful for each one gathered, while recounting another year of the many things to be thankful for. Our family is fortunate this year that we will all be present and accounted for…with a family of five siblings, that is no small feat!

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Toad trying not to be seen

Usually, I would be scurrying around preparing the corn pudding, baking pumpkin pies and the usual things I contribute to the feast. Today I will be doing those things and a few more at a leisurely pace, as our family will gather tomorrow so that all can be present.

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Purple Finch

 I am reminded this year, as in many past Thanksgivings, of the importance of counting our blessings and truly being grateful for what we have, even in the hard, and sometimes lonely times which we all go through in life.

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In doing so, I usually look back to a trip I took with members of my church to Haiti as a young adult. I vividly remember my first sight of the poverty-stricken country… I wanted to run back to the airport and catch the first flight back.  I had never seen such conditions up close and personal, and it left an impact on me I will never forget.

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A quiet bench in the fall

What impacted me more, though, was the absolute joy and gratitude, and what could only be described as graciousness, from the Christian people we had the opportunity to meet with while there. I recall going to a church out in the country-dirt floor, rough lumber for pews, no electricity-and the absolute spirit of thanks these people had as they
showed off their prize possession. We were also invited into their homes, where they shared enthusiastically from their very meager supplies, meals served with the greatest of hospitality.

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Glen Ellen Farms, upper Maryland

 After experiencing such phenomenal gratefulness in the face of such abject poverty, I remember getting back to the states where hearing complaints for the smallest of things felt like being slapped in the face with an ice-cold cloth.  And, after determining I would never grumble or complain again, sadly, I too, soon fell into my old ways of not always being thankful for even the littlest of blessings in life.

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Geese at Assateague Island, VA

Oh,there are many times I thank God just for hot running water, as there we experienced just a trickle in the shower, while some of the locals were bathing in mud puddles in the street.  And when I take my  first sip of steaming coffee in the morning, I am usually very grateful.

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But, there are those times, when I simply forget and grumble about the smallest of things when I have so, so much to be thankful for….a  loving family, friends, a warm home, food, clean water, books to read and the ability to read them, the love and care of my Heavenly Father… the list could go on all day.

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Squirrel on island of moss

My prayer continues to be that I will always be grateful for even the smallest of blessings and be mindful of those less fortunate than myself.

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Wild turkeys encountered on a cycling trip

Wherever you are, whether celebrating Thanksgiving here in the States or elsewhere in this big, wonderful world, may you celebrate all the things to be thankful for in your life, this day and each day forward.

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Until next time

∼ Jen

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! Psalm 118:1