The Forgiving Tree….a Memorial to My Dad

a family day with our much-loved dad

My anger seemed to rise with each dig of the shovel. How could people be so rude and selfish? The tree was clearly marked as sold and as such was visibly off limits to other customers. I had received a call a few days earlier telling me the tree I had picked out could not be found for delivery, but I felt sure when I described where it was they would find it and my tree would be waiting for me to plant in a few days. Not so.

Three weeks previously our family had been blessed with a cross-country vacation, the first we were all able to take together with both our sons in eight years. It was truly memorable and special to not only see the beautiful sights as we traversed our way from coast to coast, but the time spent together was a gift I’ll treasure forever.

Upon returning home, however, I found myself faced with a different journey of sorts, the journey of slowly saying “goodbye” to my dad.

the mischievous look we all loved

The nurses and staff on the hospital floor where my dad was could only be described as angels. Because he was a fall risk combined with a staffing shortage, my mother, my four siblings and myself were allowed to take turns sitting with my father around the clock…moments that were very special to each of us. The only negative was that his grandchildren and other visitors, with the exception of his pastor, were not allowed. There were a few times I was truly concerned that my sons and others would ever be able to see him this side of heaven again. That very real possiblility was almost unthinkable. Meanwhile, I treasured those moments with my dad, knowing these were some of our last, but also not fully able to comprehend that…how could I.

Before one of my scheduled hospital visits, I stopped by our local nursery to pick out a white pine tree. We had planted many evergreens, but now I wanted a white pine, and what a beautiful one I found. It was the largest available, but also had a beautiful large pinecone adorning the top of the tree, almost as if it were an ornament. I fell in love with it and couldn’t wait to have it home. It was paid for and tagged and pick-up or delivery could come later. I went on to the hospital where my full attention was now on my dad, the tree could wait.

As I sat with my dad during those two-plus weeks, he never ceased to amaze me. Though in pain and at times fearful over the very real struggle to breathe with end-stage COPD, he never lost his sense of humor, very quick wit, nor his concern for those around him or his extreme gratitude for those caring for him, whether staff or family. He would break out in songs of praise be it afternoon or 3 a.m. He was headed “home” and he was ready.

As one of my brothers stated, we could not have written a more perfect script. My dad received all the care the hospital could give to prevent further suffering, and then it was time to be transferred home where he would receive end-of-life care and be able to say his earthly goodbyes to the rest of the family. Specific prayers made were that he would not suffer, that he would be able to see others he loved, and that he would have the chance to meet his first great-granddaughter, as he had his first great-grandson earlier in the spring.

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Meeting first great-grandson with proud parents

Each prayer we prayed was answered, as well as some we had not. God was indeed merciful.

Even when it looked as if he was too far gone to comprehend his great-granddaughter, he rallied to smile at her, hold her little foot and accept a kiss from her as his grandson proudly introduced them. It was the crowning moment of God’s goodness and faithfulness to us all.

The next day we surrounded his bed with songs and love and tearful goodbyes as he stepped from this life into the arms of his waiting Savior.

The tree was planted. Its trunk was crooked. It was at least a foot smaller than the original one I chose, and it was missing not only the beautiful ornamental pinecone, but any pinecone of any size. I was disappointed, angry and hurt. I had decided earlier that the tree I chose would serve as a living memorial to my dad….evergreen as eternal life, with that beautiful pinecone, signifying a new life begun. This other tree delivered fell far short, or had it?

After watering the newly planted tree, I fiddled around in my garden for a bit to simply be alone. At some point in those moments of solitude it hit me. This tree was indeed the perfect tree to honor my dad. I could almost hear my dad, who never held grudges and forgave willingly, urging me to not only forgive the person who took my initial tree but also to pray for them whenever I looked at this crooked little tree that was now ours to nurture. The crookedness at the base of the trunk straightened as it reached upwards, a touching reminder as well of my dad…he would be quick to tell others of his “crookedness” before his new life in Christ, but oh, the beautiful, upright trunk that followed as he reached out with all his heart and life towards the Son.

Dad reciting part of poem TREES by Joyce Kilmer

I will think of you, dad, whenever I look at our little, crooked/straightened pine tree and with gratitude remember the life lessons you taught.

Happy 90th birthday and Father’s day. You are greatly missed, but your legacy lives on.

Until I see you again,

with all my love

Jenner

And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors. Matthew 6:12

Spoiled Soup

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I opened my eyes two days ago to the first snowfall of the year!  What a beautiful sight, indeed, was that first morning glimpse out the window…a Christmas card image come to life. I fixed my coffee and curled up next to kitty on my pink couch to soak in the view… beautiful images of birds flitting, branches lightly dusted with snow, and geese flying in the distance over the creek.  Incredibly, with all that unspoiled beauty before my eyes, my mind’s eye kept returning to spoiled soup!

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Spoiled Soup?! Yes, spoiled soup! I have a bit of an addiction to a particular pumpkin soup recipe a friend from church shared with us…not sweet, but spicy with the addition of red pepper flakes.  I have made this soup more times than I can count, much to my husband’s dismay, but this particular batch I made for the first time with an actual roasted pumpkin, not from a Libby’s can.  Yes, I was quite proud and enjoyed one delicious bowl before putting it away to enjoy even more the next day.  Everyone knows that soup is so much better the next day, when the flavors have really had a chance to meld together.

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And so, when a certain son got it out for a late-night snack before I headed off to bed, I left him with one simple plea…”please, please, don’t forget to put it back so it doesn’t spoil.”  Off to bed I went, and as often happens when I go to bed too early, I lay awake thinking, and all I could think of on this particular night was that pumpkin soup. Did he put it away, should I go check…

Finally I dozed off, forgetting the pumpkin soup… surely he had put it away.

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No doubt, you all know by now that the first thing I saw when my sleepy eyes reached the kitchen early the next morning, was that left-out pot of pumpkin soup.  Oh, coffee, I thought, just take me away!

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Slowly sipping my coffee, doing my usual morning stare, my mind left the pumpkin soup, venturing several weeks ahead to when we would be driving this soup-spoiling son to a college 3-days drive away.  Suddenly, soup really was not that important. Flashes of him as a child now took over my mind, along with the realization that I would take spoiled soup every day for the rest of my life for just one more moment of both my sons’ childhood years back.

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One more sunny day building drip-castles at the beach, one more trip to the zoo, feeding and chasing the geese, one more bicycle ride around a nature trail, one more time their chubby little hands held tightly onto mine, one more invasion into the house with a muddy frog in tow, one more Christmas morning of them running down the steps in their little footie pajamas….

 

 

The list could go on and on.  But, as soup is good for just a little while, so it is with childhood.  Time marches on, like it or not, and so we let go and pray we have done our best, releasing them into God’s hands to guide, direct and bring back safely again.

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unbridled joy racing down a leafy hill

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yearly trip to “Mr. Peppers”

 

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picking blooms for mom

Until next time dear friends,

may you have joy in family moments, and peace when letting go.

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∼ Jen

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Day

Lydia Maria Child

 
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Over the river, and through the wood,
  To grandfather’s house we go;
       The horse knows the way
       To carry the sleigh
  Through the white and drifted snow.

 

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Over the river, and through the wood—
  Oh, how the wind does blow!
       It stings the toes
       And bites the nose
  As over the ground we go.
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Over the river, and through the wood,
  To have a first-rate play.
       Hear the bells ring
       “Ting-a-ling-ding”,
  Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!

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Over the river, and through the wood
  Trot fast, my dapple-gray!
       Spring over the ground,
       Like a hunting-hound!
  For this is Thanksgiving Day.

 

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Over the river, and through the wood,
  And straight through the barn-yard gate.
       We seem to go
       Extremely slow,—
  It is so hard to wait!

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Over the river and through the wood—
  Now grandmother’s cap I spy!
       Hurrah for the fun!
       Is the pudding done?
  Hurrah for the pumpkin-pie!

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Happy Thanksgiving to my wonderful blogging friends!  Whether your country celebrates a day of thanks or not, may you find something to be thankful for each and every day!

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 Until next time,

∼Jen

Snapshots of Fall

“There is no season when such pleasant and sunny spots may be lighted on, and produce so pleasant an effect on
the feelings, as now in October.”
–  Nathaniel Hawthorne

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On the last day of October my youngest son, myself, and a beautiful family girlfriend headed to our local pumpkin patch and then to a nearby state park to immerse ourselves in the ever-fantastic beauty of fall.

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mr. pepper American Flag

I have been navigating this maze since my youngest was a baby; the fun never gets old…

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Our beautiful model showcasing a white pumpkin…

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fall shack:sorgumgreat pumpkin

On to the park for a picnic on the banks of the tranquil pond…

trap pond fall trees

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I nick-named the little cypress below the “Charlie Brown Cypress”

lil cypress by self

Happy fall to one and all!

Until next time,

∼Jen

 

 

Fantastical Frogs!

 

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If I could have only one backyard accessory, decoration, whatever name you want to give it, hands down, it would have to be a pond!  Add little boys into the mix, and there is nothing more fun, delightful and entertaining as a pond.  Why?  Frogs, of course!

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One Mother’s Day weekend we were wandering around Lowes, and when I spotted a small pond I requested it be my Mother’s Day gift.  I had an idea of the fun it would be for the boys, but just how much fun I really could never have imagined!

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 It was definitely  the gift that kept on giving for many years, and hopefully is now delighting the new owners of our home and their small children as well.

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I still remember the time I was applying make-up in my bathroom years ago when my oldest son, the main frog-lover of the house, appeared with a monster-size bullfrog in his hands…

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oldest son with “Bowser”

My sons named that particular bullfrog “Bowser.”  There was also “Lazy Leo,” a leopard frog my son got permission to take from a farm we visited to deposit into our own pond.  Leo earned his name because he would put his front little feet onto a small stick and allow the kids to give him “rides” around the pond.

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southern leopard frog

Even though my little boys are all grown up, I still enjoy the many noises, and there are many, that frogs fill the air with.  Some sound like the banjo we are used to hearing, then there are the burps, squawks, and that other weird noise that can’t even be described.

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resident bullfrog nicknamed “cave frog”

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Living in a mostly wooded area, sticks/branches are always in abundance for an evening fire pit. This spring while enjoying such an evening relaxing by the fire next to our pond, I was treated to the first “croak” of spring!

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I had heard the first of the spring peepers heralding the beginning of spring the previous week, but with the addition of full-fledged frog croaking, spring in my mind was officially here!

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I probably have almost as many frog pictures as I do birds and flowers. They are quite the entertainers and posers, allowing you to get right into their personal space for just the right shot.

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flower petal on nose

Some may even accuse them of being outright exhibitionists, and I would have to agree!

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poor image quality, but still love his statuesque appearance

I can’t imagine a world without frogs and would not have many of the fun memories my sons and I share of their childhood years without these cute little creatures!

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caught in the act of “idol worship!”

I hope this spring, if you have frogs in your area, you too are entertained by their fun antics and enjoy their original tunes, which are sure to put a smile on your face!

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And, if you are looking for a fun, unique Mother’s Day gift, look no further than a small pond.  It is well worth the effort and is sure to provide much entertainment and joy for generations to come!

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∼Jen

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First Kayak Ride of Spring

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Heaven reached down to kiss me yesterday with the convergence of my schedule, my son’s schedule, the tide schedule, and a gorgeous, mild-temperature spring day….all perfect for a mid-afternoon kayak outing.

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The sky was a cloudless blue, the perfect backdrop for the emergence of new leaves budding out next to the evergreens, which brave the winter months gracing us with their beauty  year round…

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My son wanted to head for the nearest little island in the creek, which he and his older brother have enjoyed exploring since we first moved here.  It is a perfect nesting spot for  geese, and evidence was spotted of that before we even disembarked….

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We were fortunate enough to spot the first egg of the clutch, and hopefully not the last.  We’ll come back to check the progress next week and maybe catch mama laying on them as we did a few years back.  The female goose lays eggs about 36 hours apart, and can lay anywhere from two-ten eggs per breeding season.  The incubation period is 28-30 days, so we should certainly get a glimpse of mama at some point during that time.

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The little island is carpeted with luscious, emerald moss decorated with newly fallen red maple buds-mama goose certainly has good taste in homes…

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On our return trip we were treated to “Harold” or perhaps “Henrietta.” Either way, it is always a surprising delight when he or she appears from nowhere, squawking its displeasure at us for daring to enter its domain.

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The houseboat, which appeared at Thanksgiving time two years ago, is still gracing the creek with its presence …

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I would love to get a peek inside this home, and can only imagine how peaceful it must be to live literally on the water.  I am blessed enough, though, to be able to live next to it and am always thankful to be a witness to the wonders of nature the creek brings in all of its seasons.

Until next time, happy spring to those of you in this hemisphere!

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∼Jen

 

A Seaside Winter Walk

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New Year’s Day promised to be a beautiful 60 degrees outside, so my husband, younger son and I decided to head to the beach for a winter’s walk.  We began at our favorite little cafe in Lewis, Olive and Oats, then fortified with a delicious lunch, which included the obligatory black-eyed peas, we headed to the Cape.

 

Below is the beautiful boardwalk towards the beginning of the trail…

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leading to the spectacular scenery just beyond and along the path.

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colorful marsh

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egrets

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gulls and egrets with WWII lookout tower in background

All along the path were the subdued and peaceful colors of winter, and many other friendly New Year’s Day walkers/cyclists as well.

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escaping the crowd

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Before exiting the park, we happened upon the white-tailed deer, always very plentiful here…

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white-tailed deer fawn

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grazing in playing field

One last look at the sea, then back home to a cozy fire and the promise of more winter walks ahead.

Until next time,

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∼ Jen

Thrill of Hope

 

DSC_0953Normally I am not a fan of 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 soon to be 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

Unknown Friends

There are no strangers, only friends we haven’t met…

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My football friend and mentor, Randy 🙂

When  I was growing up, one of the things I remember clearly was going shopping or on any outing with my mom and watching, ok, cringing, as she would engage in conversations or small talk with total strangers.  I simply could not understand why one would start a conversation or even make a comment to someone they had never met.  No place was safe…and the grocery store, especially the check-out line, was the absolute worst.

Fast forward many years to my adulthood, and the apple apparently has not fallen far from the tree!  It is to the point that my husband will jokingly ask me when I get home from shopping at my favorite grocery store, “Well, did you make any friends today?”  Yes, I now know the joy and fun of engaging total strangers on outings, and how nice, even if just for a brief moment, to get to know some of the wonderful people surrounding us in this journey of life.

On a recent day trip with one of my dearest friends to my first pro-football game ever,     I had the absolute pleasure of sitting next to Randy, who hours before was a total stranger. By the end of the game we were posing together for a selfie.  I asked him about a play on the field, and from that question he took it to heart that I knew absolutely nothing about football and proceeded to explain to me every single thing as it was happening in the game from that point onward.  I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I actually understood the very basic concepts, I just allowed him to continue his one-on-one ,play-by-play narration of the game.  It wasn’t just me, the whole section of strangers was high-fiving and sharing laughs and hugs as if we had all known each other for years.  In fact, it was the joy of interacting with total strangers, even more than the game, that took the fun to a whole nother level!

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Early to our section, soon to be filled with lots of “unknown friends!”

I am apparently not alone in my sentiment about interactions with strangers.  I can think of at least two times when just popping into a convenience store I have been stopped by total strangers.  One was a dear old man who had just lost his wife and wanted a friendly face to pour out his heart to, another was a woman who seemed to need to tell someone about the pain of her recent break-up. For me, a trip to the grocery store without engaging strangers is empty indeed.

My apples did not fall far from my tree either.  Both my sons love engaging total strangers in certain scenarios, and thankfully they are old enough that I don’t have to be concerned about their safety…just happy to observe that they see people in a friendly way as well.

In the end, wouldn’t the world be a much nicer place if strangers were seen as possible friends yet unknown…

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Celebrating a birthday after the game and friendship since first grade!

Until next time, go make a “friend!”

∼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