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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Location of 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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Our Twenty-fifth year

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

A Friend’s Thanksgiving

Oh! Think Not My Spirits Are Always As Light

…The thread of our life would be dark, Heaven knows
If it were not with friendship and love intertwined;
And I care not how soon I may sink to repose,
When these blessing shall cease to be dear to my mind.

 by Thomas Moore

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Of all the holidays and gatherings, I think Thanksgiving has to be my favorite.  It is a time  set aside to remember all we have been blessed with, giving thanks to God for all the bountiful gifts and blessings He bestows on us in so many different ways.  It is simple, unpretentious, not bogged down in commercialism…just a beautiful season of gratitude, because, in each season of life, we always have things to be thankful for.

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A few year ago I decided I would like to have a “Friends Thanksgiving” to celebrate the wonderful friendships in my life.  I am so grateful to be surrounded by family, and we have our day of celebration on the actual holiday, but during this season I am also reminded of the absolute blessing that real friends bring to our lives.

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Over the weekend we had a gathering of our closest and dearest friends along with their kids who are now treasured friends of our kids…double blessing!  It was a night filled with much laughter, good food, and just plain fun.  Among my dearest friends is one I have known since first grade.  We could spend hours laughing till we cry reminiscing over past memories.  She is my fellow nature lover, photographer, and incredible artist who hasn’t met an artistic medium she can’t conquer.  She is a teacher any parent would love to have for their child because of her caring heart and common-sense approach.  Long ago school days, ice-skating on frozen ponds, hiking through woods, cycling nature trails and kayaking all while solving the world’s problems then laughing hysterically are all cherished memories with this incredible friend.  Knowing my love for plants, she brought me the beautiful rosemary plant pictured below, which Kitty has adopted.

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Another treasured friendship is from my  single, college days.  This is my very practical friend, also a nature/animal lover and the one who taught me all a dog owner ever needed to know about cats.  We call her the cat whisperer as she is the one who first dared hold the wild cats that showed up in our yard that we have since adopted and love…yes the one above was “wild.”  I have so many fun memories of silly things single girls do and then the memories continued as we both went on to get married and have kids within the same few years.  As our kids grew up together we shared play-dates in the park, baseball games, basketball games as the crazy moms on the top bleacher, family cycling days, campfires, beach days, and more recently, hikes through West Virginia.  She gave us all a scare this year with a cancer, but thankfully she is well, and it was another reason to set aside a day and give thanks for her friendship.

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Last, but not least, is a more recent friend made when our kids were older elementary-aged.  She is also practical, but fun-loving and a loyal, trusted friend.  We, too, have shared cycling trips, field trips with our kids, coffee time on our porches, pool days, Easter egg hunts and tears and laughter as we tried to figure out the crazy teen years together!  She is an incredible mom, as are my other dear friends, and I have been blessed with her wisdom and understanding as I navigate through the stages of motherhood.

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As I look at the fading beauty of the mums on my porch, I am reminded that the beauty of true friendships never fade. As I tell my sons, if you have even just one true friend in life, you are blessed- someone you can laugh with, cry with, be yourself with and be loved through the good times and bad…in essence, “family.”

May you treasure the beautiful friendships in your life!

Until next time

∼ Jen

“Almost Heaven” in the Fall

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”
–  Albert Camus
 

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How does a landscape go from beautiful to spectacularly beautiful…..it gets clothed in the magnificent colors of that breathtaking season we call fall.

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In the summer, my son and I were able to enjoy some of the natural beauty the picturesque state of West Virginia has to offer… I shared a post with some of our highlights here.  I was once again able to enjoy its beauty, but this time in its fall glory, on my yearly, girl’s-weekend getaway with a few treasured friends. In this post I’ve gathered some pictures from that trip and also a few from our past fall trips; I hope you enjoy!

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Trails were marked with a kaleidoscope of colors and leaves decorated fern, moss and rocks like nature’s confetti.DSC_0087

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They softened the path as we walked and the ones that didn’t make it to the ground graced the evergreens like natural Christmas ornaments.

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The countryside was decked out in all its splendor…

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while fields of gold nourished the lingering butterflies.

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Dolly Sods was a mosaic of colors resembling nature’s quilt on one side…

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while showing off its grandeur, tinged in autumnal hues, on the mountainside.

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The many waterfalls and creeks in this state are only that much more scenic when fall is in the air…

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Douglas Falls, Thomas WV

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Blackwater Falls, Davis WV

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Mountains, valleys, creeks and rolling pastures, Autumn in West Virginia is simply spectacular!

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A special thanks to our husbands for, once again, manning the “home front” while your wives hiked the trails!

As in the last post, pictures of West Virginia wouldn’t seem complete without its most famous song…enjoy!!

 

∼ Jen

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Stroll Through the Park and Memory Lane

An accumulation of a lifetime of memories does create a musical score that we can assess from an artistic if not scientific perspective. Each happy memory generates a beat of minor joy that when strung together form the musical notes demarking a person’s prosodic inner tune.”
― Kilroy J. Oldster, Dead Toad Scrolls

dsc_0610-black-bird.jpgOne of my favorite places to visit in our area is the local park.  I have taken my sons there since before they could walk and have fond memories from my own childhood visits there.  There were family picnics, outings with my mom and grandmom, racing around the top of the big, brick, circular wall-which is still there-and sledding down its big hill with a send-off from my dad in the wintertime. It has, of course, changed some over the years, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the gift of memories and nature it still provides.

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Boys when young enjoying the same circular area I did as a child…deer statue new

DSC_0599When my sons were young, I made it a habit to turn necessary appointments in the area into fun outings by picking up lunch afterwards and heading to the park to picnic with the geese and ducks.  I have many happy memories of my two little boys feeding bits of their lunches to the geese and then running along side them squealing and playing.

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feeding the geese

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 feeling safer watching from table-top:)

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Those outings, like many things, have sadly ended as my sons have grown, but I managed to squeeze in one more just before school began this year with my youngest.

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As usual, we were greeted by the ducks like long-lost friends. We know better than to be  flattered as we are well aware they are excited about the scent of our curly fries and not so much us. We can no longer feed them, as it is now forbidden, but that doesn’t stop them from coming close to get a whiff and pose for pictures.

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On this particular afternoon the birds seemed to be quite noticeable, so I was able to get many photographs of them as well as the waterfowl…I found this robin very agreeable to a photo session.  I had no idea how different our American robin is from the European robin until I saw one posted on the blog 30daysofwildparenting. For the absolute cutest picture of a robin ever, check out his picture here.  I actually thought it was fake at first glance….it is seriously adorable!

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This cardinal was in a tree just over a path we took, and he was content to sit and preen while I took dozens of pictures.  It’s obvious these birds are used to humans because the cardinals in my yard fly away at the slightest movement.

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Cardinals are one of my favorite birds… besides being beautiful, they are very attentive parents sharing the duties of nest-building, feeding and training their young. They are also very docile at the feeders, unlike mockingbirds and feisty little hummingbirds.

We ate our lunch on a quiet bench in a shaded area with this tree directly in front of us.  If I was in a fantasy world, I would swear this massive, barked image with leaf bangs was watching us…it did bear a striking resemblance to Treebeard!

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After wandering the park for a bit, we ended our outing by the river and enjoyed one last look at the ducks before heading home.

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Another beautiful day to add to the precious memory book of life….

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Until next time…

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∼ Jen

Kindness, Courage, Love

“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” -Mark Twain

In the aftermath of a storm like “Harvey” that my fellow Americans in Texas have recently experienced….the losses, the grief, the pain, one could easily ask, where is the beauty in this?  As with all natural disasters, there is beauty to be found in the kindness, courage, and the love of strangers reaching out to help those in need. That kind of beauty takes precedent over any nature photos I may share this week. I hope you are inspired by the images, reminded to pray for the families affected, and continue to spread kindness and love in your own little corner of the world.♥

 

Love helps the young…

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Man rescues mom with baby

Love helps the elderly, weak and frail….

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Neighbors helping elderly man to safety, photo credit Fox News
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Lady in wheelchair helped to safety

 

Love sees no color…
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Love sees neither male nor female….

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Man rescues lady from home, photo credit CBS News

Love rescues the helpless, human or beast….

And sadly, sometimes love gives the ultimate, one’s own life…

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Police Sgt. Steve Perez 

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Cor. 13:13

∼ Jen

Nest Stirrings…

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Wren with food in beak for young

“A bird is safe in its nest – but that is not what its wings are made for.”
― Amit Ray

So, today’s post was going to be an update on the wren nest, a Little Flying Thieves sequel, but there are rufflings in my own nest, and that has dominated my thoughts for this day.

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Wren building first nest it ousted chickadees from

 

For the second time, my nest has experienced stirrings of things to come. Our youngest began his first day of his senior year…and as I watched him getting in his car, the reality of that and all it signals slowly began to sink in.

I finished my cup of coffee, then, too antsy to stay in the house, I was actually glad there were weeds to pull….I needed something to do with my hands and fresh air to linger in with my thoughts.

As with every milestone reached in our children’s lives, we ask ourselves the question, “Where did the time go?” In the words of a popular song when my oldest was graduating middle school, “it happens in a blink.”

I think of the little wren family-the young have flown their own way.  Mama and Papa wren gave them all they needed to survive and hopefully thrive, and then it is left in the hands of nature.  So too, of course, with our own children.  We give our all, we love them as best we humans are capable of, then we leave it in the hands of a very capable and loving Father, Who, after all, loves them way more than we ever could.

They are His Masterpiece .

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Wren’s final nesting choice, hanging fuchsia
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Ever watchful parent
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Newly hatched wrens

Psalm 139 reminds me that God knew my children before they were ever born, and He has a plan for their lives beyond what I am able to see….

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.

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Photo taken day before wrens left nest

So today, as our journey as parents continues to bring us one step closer to a true “empty nest” I look back over our sons’ lives so far, and I am thankful….thankful that I have been blessed with two sons to call my own; thankful for a husband who supported me in my desire to be a stay-at-home parent; thankful for our homeschooling years and the days they were able to spend in nature doing their lessons; thankful for the teachers who continued those lessons and further impacted their lives; and thankful mostly for knowing they will not walk this road of life alone but will be guided by the One whose “eyes saw their unformed bodies and has all their days written in His book before one of them came to be.”

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Picking Rose of Sharon blooms for me when very young
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summer before senior year

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Eph. 2:10

∼ Jen

Sunday Thoughts…Daily Inspiration

The purpose of this blog is to provide a place of beauty, where one can escape the “craziness” of the world and focus on the beauty our gracious heavenly Father has bestowed on us. This beauty very often can be easily overlooked and overshadowed by daily headlines or personal worries. Though I have been working on a post about a recent trip to West Virginia, a re-post of this seems to be more appropriate given all the recent “activity” in the news of late.

 I sometimes re-read this post for peace and comfort, because it’s not my words, but mostly the words of the only One capable of giving “peace that passes all understanding.”  As someone once said:

“We may not know what tomorrow holds, but we know Who holds tomorrow.”

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Northern flicker

It’s a mild Sunday morning, beautiful 70 degree temperature with a few clouds promising rain later in the day. My husband and I have recently returned home from church, he enjoyed some banana-oat and I some yummy buckwheat pancakes:) We have now settled into our own little writing nooks….he is busily editing a book, and I have been thinking about today’s sermon, which was on worry. It brings many images from the Bible to my mind….some of which point to how God takes care of nature as our example.  I thought I’d add some photos with a few scriptures as my takeaway from a theme that’s good to be reminded of daily.

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Atop an Alpine in Colorado

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Mt. 6:26,27

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Wood thrush

 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.  And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Mt. 10:29-31

 The above picture is of a bird I rescued after it flew into our window.  Every time I hear a thump, which is sadly often, I race to the window to see if I can spot the victim and get to it before my cat does.  I’m amazed at how much I care for these little birds, which I had nothing to do with bringing into the earth, and then, how much more our heavenly Father cares for us!

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Butterfly finding nourishment from the daylilies
” And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?  If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest?
 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” Luke:25-27
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Wild grasses by the bay
If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you…Mt.6:30
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Mother cardinal checking on nest
Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself…Ps.84:3
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. Ps. 91:4
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Female Eastern towhee
A phrase our pastor said that really stuck out to me was…
“To worry is to imagine a time when God will not be with you.”
God has already promised us in Mathew 28:20
“And surely I am with you always, even to the very end of the age.”
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Bleeding Heart

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Phil. 4:6,7

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Eastern Phoebe enjoying a moth

Of all the beauty that our loving, heavenly father created, there is none more precious to Him than us…..

Psalm 8:3-9English Standard Version (ESV)

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
    and the son of man that you care for him?

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings[a]
    and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
    you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
    and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
    whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

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 Happy Sunday!
∼ Jen

Kayaking at Dusk… Carpe Diem!

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The part of the creek I refer to as “Rivendell”… no elf sightings yet though:)

“Why not seize the pleasure at once? — How often is happiness destroyed by preparation, foolish preparation!”
― Jane Austen, Emma

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Finding pathways through the lily pads…

It was 7:30 at night, the after-dinner mess was mostly cleaned up, and I was joining my younger son on the porch for conversation and relaxation.  After that, my big plans for the night were pajamas and maybe an HGTV recording.  Then, out of the blue he asks, “Want to go for a kayak ride?”

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My son with his river companion “creekdog”

That was the last thing I expected to come out of his mouth, and truthfully one of the last things I wanted to do.  It had been a busy day, and my pajamas were calling my name!  I could think of other reasons as well….like dusk was smorgasbord time for mosquitos and, well, I had just downed about 10 ounces of vegetable juice, enough said.

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It took me all of about three seconds, though, to dismiss those thoughts and head for the paddles!  Many of my fondest memories have been spur-of-the-moment ideas with those I love…so many memories I would have missed had I reacted “logically” or dismissed because of not wanting to leave my momentary comfort.

With that in mind, I rounded up Princess-who does love a good paddleboard ride-grabbed the camera, fortified the mosquito spray with extra cedarwood and lavender, and off we went!

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Pure Bliss.

As someone once said, “Spontaneity is the best kind of adventure,” and I, for one, wholeheartedly agree!

∼ Jen

Confessions from the Garden

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Russian sage in front of Black-eyed Susan

It’s said that confession is good for the soul, so here goes…

I am guilty of a crime, and I committed this crime/sin with the full knowledge that what I was about to do could quite possibly kill, or at the very least, temporarily wound the innocent and unsuspecting.  I, however, could not help myself-much like a man armed with a chainsaw can’t stop until every last branch within eyesight is maimed “pruned,” I, too, was on a mission.

My crime? Transplanting a very happy plant in the dead of summer….in fact, in the middle of the worst heat wave so far this year.  What was I thinking….well, that’s just it, I wasn’t.  Much like a spoiled, rebellious, impatient child, I didn’t care about the rules-I simply defied all authority in the transplanting laws of nature. That plant simply was not where it needed to be and I wanted it elsewhere, heat wave or not. Waiting for fall was not an option.

The innocent? The one and only, beautiful beyond words, Russian Sage.

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Russian Sage

This gorgeous plant has been my favorite perennial since I planted my first flower garden way back when.  In my previous garden, I had abundant sunshine and it thrived and returned yearly like a faithful friend.  Because I am still trying to find the right spot for these to thrive at our new home, they lack the abundance of stems seen in the above picture. Mine boasts only several per plant as seen in the first picture.  For that reason, the victimized plant was moved to a much sunnier location where it will hopefully flourish and return next year to let me know all is forgiven and it is loving its new abode.

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My favorite garden picture…my then 3 year-old son, Daniel, chasing butterflies amidst the flowers- Russian Sage in the back.

In spite of the heat, or maybe even because of it, my little Russian Sage looks like it may make it after all:) In the first hour after it was transported away from its buddies, it looked very sad and wilted indeed. I watered it, of course, but then because of the intense heat, upper 90’s to be exact, I watered it two more times that day and three times a day since.

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Little sage is much perkier now with all the extra, tender-loving care, and its bounce back, despite my initial offense, reminds me of a particular verse…love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8

Happy Gardening!

∼ Jen

PS….I have a new temptation in the form of a wayward Autumn Sedum. I am desperately trying to resist, but the promise of rain in the coming days may lure me towards my shovel yet!  😉