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Archive for the ‘blessings’ Category

snowy-woodsSnow falls silently in the darkness, covering the ground, piling up on the bushes, coating our little Honda Civic in the driveway. In the morning it still falls, creating a fantasy world of white. On Facebook everyone posts pictures of their yards and streets. Children rush out to build snow people. I walk in our half-acre woods, camera clicking, trying to capture the beauty before it melts or blows from the trees. Snow covers the mud and dead plants of winter. It muffles the sounds of cars and trucks—those few brave enough to venture out onto the slippery roads. Peace flows through me as I drink in the fresh beauty.snowy-street

On the second day, no more snow falls. Skies clear, temperatures dip further below freezing. We walk on our quiet dead end road, enjoying the blue skies and the white fields and yards. I throw out extra sunflower seeds for the birds. My husband chops wood for the fire—at least we can keep our living room warm. Then we settle in to work, relax, and watch the squirrel in the feeder (as does our cat) and the birds fighting over seeds.

squirrel-at-feederThe third, fourth, fifth days… Cold, windy, white—we take our walks, but hurry back in to sit by the fire, watch some football, go online, maybe get some work done. The woodpile diminishes. Where the sun hits the roads, ice melts or gets torn up by tires, only to refreeze later in the day, more slippery than ever. Meetings are canceled. Church is canceled for the second week. My husband’s concert is canceled. The snow becomes dirty near the roads, marred by footprints in the yard. Wind blows it from the trees. Where is that pristine beauty we saw just days before?snow-on-fence

Beauty comes and goes. It flits into the everyday with glittering wings, inviting us to stop and marvel. When it stays too long, the magic is lost and it becomes ordinary—or even an annoyance. How sad—because each day has a little bit of splendor hiding within it. We may have to search, may have to keep our eyes open. It is much easier to see the ugliness and focus on the darkness. But these times of beauty give us hope and keep us moving on, even in dark times.

footprints-in-snow“…Whatever is pure, whatever is lovely…dwell on these things.” (Philippians 4:8 NASB)

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Newport, Oregon, Nye Beach We sit in the comfy chairs on the third floor of the Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport, Oregon, gazing out at the gray sky and the rolling white caps. It’s our 36th anniversary, and we came to celebrate in this wonderful book-filled hotel. But my mouth hurts from the tooth that had to be extracted yesterday, and husband is coughing from the cold he caught recently. In our younger days, this might have ruined our special day.Sylvia Beach Hotel

However 36 years give one a little perspective. Seagulls soar past the windows, pushed by the wind. The sun peeks out briefly to light up the waves. Husband sketches a beach scene; I write these words. The ocean beats a constant rhythm into our souls. We are at peace.

Life needn’t be perfect to be good. So many times our expectations prevent us from enjoying the blessings we receive. We want the perfect job, the perfect wedding, the perfect spouse, house, and kids. But life has more glitches than a new computer system, and perfection is a rare commodity here on earth.

Newport, OR beach with gullsMy husband’s uncle had a stroke. While Uncle John partially recovered, he remained weak on one side and had difficulty speaking. A former outdoorsman, he took up painting with his good hand. He made the most of what he had. And whenever he was asked how he was—or many other questions for that matter—his answer was always “Good enough.”

And what’s so wrong with “good enough?” We all have things that keep our lives from being perfect—whether health issues, money problems, disagreements with family or neighbors, job hassles, whatever. We can spend our days bemoaning our problems, or we can accept what we are given and make the most of it. We can enjoy the blessings we are given.dark clouds at beach

The waves keep pounding onto the sand, an ever-changing, but ever-the-same pattern. Dark clouds promise rain. We sit side-by-side, staring out the window, sharing the beauty of the moment. Thirty-six years. Years filled with smiles and tears, joys and frustrations. Not perfect years, but definitely “good enough.”

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Falls Creek, WAWe’d been camping for three days without cell phone reception. The campground was gorgeous with tall, mossy cedars and maples. A melodic stream rushed past the campsites. Yet I had a hard time adjusting. It took me three days to finally feel comfortable being out-of-touch. And even that acceptance might have been related to the fact that we would be leaving the next day.

Why do I feel such a strong need to be connected? Well, what if our sons needed something? Sure, they’re grown and have moved far away, but still, you never know. What if I have an email waiting, asking me to take on a new work project or a business trip? If I didn’t answer promptly, I could lose out. Someone else might get that trip to Sacramento or San Antonio.Falls Creek Trail, WA

How did we ever manage in the good, old, days? Hubby and I used to take off camping for two or more weeks at a time back before the invention of cell phones. We might call our parents once during the trip to check in, but generally we just sent postcards. One time we returned home to discover that my mother had spent two days in the hospital. Thankfully, she had been released and was doing much better by then, but it gave me a scare. Would we have cut our vacation short had we known? Maybe, maybe not, but we definitely would have called more often. I’m glad we have cell phones now, so the communication is easier.

Hummocks Trail, WAYet sometimes it is good to disconnect. In the stillness of the woods I can relax and feel closer to God, feel more a part of nature, and open myself up to awe and wonder. I can relax from the stress of daily life, including the stress of trying to keep up with my email and text messages. I can just be me. The world of people can somehow manage without me for a few days, and the likelihood I will return home to urgent phone calls and emails is small.

In a way, disconnecting is actually re-connecting. As I step back from the hassles of my daily life into the greenness of towering maples and the enchantment of birdsong, I connect with my soul, I connect with God. An empty well within me fills to overflowing with joy and peace, as the living water pours through me. Pond, Hummocks Trail, WA

How could I forget how much I need the woods?

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Mt. Rainier, river

Our last day at Mt. Rainier was like so many fall days in the Pacific Northwest—wet and gray. Clouds moved in, muting the greens of moss and leaves, the reds and blues of berries, the gold of fall’s last blossoms. I hid my camera in my pack, bringing it out only briefly to capture some quick moment of beauty.

Mt. Rainier, vine maple

raindrops on huckleberry bushes, Mt. RainierWhen the rain stopped for a bit, I ventured out again. Firs towered over me, grown tall in the moist soil. The river rushed by, energized by the added water. And all around me, pictures of nature’s magnificence in miniature beckoned. In the days past we had enjoyed the grand vistas—wide, blue lakes, majestic peaks, hills rising above the fog. Today I focused in on the little things.

Mt. Rainier, lichens

Leaves speckled with raindrops. Oregon grape nestled against a tree trunk. Lacy leaf patterns in the vine maple. Miniscule forests of fungi. Amazing beauty that is so easy to miss in our hurried lives.

Mt. Rainier, Oregon grapeGray days can be depressing. Clouds surround me and the rain beats upon me, forcing my eyes downward. However, if I keep my eyes open, I can still discover those small blessings that make each day special.

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Dad 2011Treasures come in many forms, sometimes quite unexpected. But an old pack of cigarettes?

My father died a couple of months ago, and so I am spending time at his house sorting papers and cleaning out cupboards and drawers, in preparation for an estate sale. The process brings back many memories, as I unearth old photo albums, wall hangings I remember from childhood, and other memorabilia. It can be a bittersweet time.

Yesterday was another day of interesting finds as I began going through his desk. An envelope containing half a dozen two dollar bills. Hmm. Wonder what those are worth today? A drawer full of those address labels that charities send out, hoping you will donate. If Dad had lived another hundred years, he couldn’t have used all of the labels he had there.Galatians 5:1

Then I pulled out something different. An old pack of cigarettes that looked like someone had started to open it and then stopped. Odd. My dad used to smoke. He had tried many times to quit, but never quite succeeded. Until my mother died of lung cancer. Actually it was the kind of cancer usually caused by asbestos exposure, rather than cigarettes, but there was some speculation that secondhand smoke could have played a part. I never saw my father with a cigarette after that.

Now here was this old, yellowed pack of cigarettes. But there was something different about this package. Securely taped to both sides of the pack were Bible verses. On one side: “Galatians 5:7: For freedom did Christ set us free: stand fast therefore, and be not entangled again in a yoke of bondage.” And on the other side: “John 8:32: And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

John 8:32This must have been the last pack of cigarettes my dad ever purchased. I could imagine him picking it up when he felt the urge to smoke, reading the verses, and then placing it back in the desk, gaining strength to resist one more time. How telling of my dad’s character that when he became determined to quit, he turned not to hypnosis or a patch, but to God. And he found what he needed to win the battle.

Treasures come in many forms, but I never expected to find one in an old pack of cigarettes.

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Family is one of the most important things in life. I’ve heard that many times, and I really believe it. But often I get so busy that family gets ignored, particularly family that doesn’t live in the same house. I intend to call or visit, but time flies, while I crawl along, loaded with the chores of everyday.

Last weekend I spent time with family. My brothers, husband, sister-in-law, and I took our father to the beach for two nights to celebrate his upcoming 90th birthday. It was the first time I’d been to the beach with my brothers since we were kids. And it was wonderful!

We spent a lot of time remembering adventures—and misadventures—we’d had when we were little. “You know,” one brother said. “I can’t blame any problems I have on my childhood.” So true! We had a good childhood. Our parents weren’t perfect (although they didn’t make any more mistakes than I did with my kids!), but we always knew we were loved, and that they would be there for us anytime we needed them. That sense of security made childhood a safe place to explore and learn and grow.

We walked on the beach once the sun cleared out some of the clouds—at least all of us did except for my dad. Legs no longer steady enough for beach walking, he sat by the picture window, content to watch the crashing waves and kaleidoscope sky.

If any man fits Paul’s description in Philippians 4:12, it is my dad: “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…” He has been widowed twice, survived four types of cancer, been on three-times-a-week dialysis for years, and yet I rarely hear a word of complaint. “The secret to happiness is not feeling sorry for yourself,” he told me.

I’m so glad we could all spend the weekend together. It’s good to be with people who know and love me just the way I am. Not all families are like that, I hear. I feel so blessed!

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Winter arrived in full force last night, as a snowstorm hit our area. The snow floated down in big, cottony pieces, covering everything in its path. The darkness outside was turned into the kind of white fairyland that decorates Christmas cards and travel magazines. I felt like running outside and tromping through the whiteness, catching snowflakes in my mouth. But it was dark and cold and late, and I had to work in the morning, so I snapped a few pictures from the porch and went to bed.

I woke to the sound of dripping, and my heart sank. Outside rain joined with the wet snow, weighing down bushes, dragging branches to the ground. The delicate pictures of the previous night, with each twig carrying its own little blanket of white, had run like a child’s watercolor. Big globs of snow stuck to the bushes, melting to form lakes in the yard.

By midday most of the trees were bare of snow. The ground still carried a deceptive layer of white. But when I stepped onto it, my boots sank into puddles of water underneath. And even that remaining snow was fast giving way to bare dirt and flattened grass.

How fleeting beauty can be! How important to revel in it when it appears, because we never know how long it might stay. I should have hiked through the snow last night, soaking in the purity of it, laughing like a child as it blew into my face. Perhaps I would have been tired this morning, but it would have been worth it. Rejoice in the moment; it is a blessing from above.

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