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Sunrise through treeThe early morning sun lit up the fog, giving the yard an unearthly aura. I should get out there with my camera, I thought. But I was still eating breakfast, and the grass was wet, and I was feeling lazy. Still, that light was amazing. I finally roused myself from my chair.

red leavesShoes and jacket on, camera dangling from my neck, I headed outside—only to find the dawn even more spectacular that it had appeared through the window. Dew sparkled on green grass. Leaves were lit up like stained glass windows, as light shone through them. The sun, shining through a tree, shot rays of light in all directions, like heavenly beams in the fog. I snapped picture after picture, forgetting all about my damp feet.

And to think I almost missed it! How much beauty have I missed because I was too comfortable to leave my warm house? How many unique experiences have I let pass me by because I was too fearful to change my safe routine or too set in my ways to step outside the little boxes I created for myself? God gives us so many chances to find beauty, to learn, to grow. But sometimes we need to step outside before we can find them.autumn maple leaf

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Busy, Busy, Busy

Cathedral Rock

Cathedral Rock, Sedona, AZ

I can’t believe how busy I have been this year. Work has taken up my time, and I have not visited this page for a long time. I have a post or two written, but I forget where I put that notebook. Could be because we installed new carpeting in the living room–which includes my writing alcove–and not everything is back in place yet. I will eventually find it. In the meantime, I figure I could at least post a few pictures of the pretty places I have seen this year when work slacked a bit.

Bell Rock and Courthouse Rock

Bell Rock and Courthouse Rock, Sedona, AZ

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Deschutes River, OR

 

 

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Lower Lewis River Falls, WA

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Metolius River, OR

And finally, what kept us busy in late July through mid-August. And we just love walking around on it–and have begun a new habit of removing our shoes when we enter the house. (My writing alcove is over to the right, now filled with desk, computer, printer, filing cabinets–and my old piano.)

new carpet

the new carpet

So, what has kept you busy this summer?

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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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Posing at Upper Meadow

Posing at Upper Meadow

Written July 11, 2016

Picturesque lakes, mountain meadows, views of jagged peaks, a forest being reborn after a disastrous fire—all elements of the beautiful Canyon Creek Meadows hike from Jack Lake, not far from Camp Sherman, Oregon.

Getting to the trailhead from our campsite at Smiling River campground on the Metolius River was a bit challenging. Finding the forest road signs to make sure we took the right roads and bouncing along miles of washboard gravel were the main issues. They were quickly forgotten once we hit the trail.

The morning chill didn’t stop a group of school-aged children from splashing in Jack Lake while their teacher/caretaker watched from the shore. It made me shiver—don’t kids feel the cold?

Ghost trees

Ghost trees

We hiked through open pine woods—including several areas of bare “ghost trees” left from a 2003 fire. Small pine and hemlock were growing back, an encouraging sight. Farther along the forest got thicker as we entered unburned regions.

Lower Meadow was a green oasis of merging streams and flower-filled fields, although most of the flowers were yet to bloom. Apparently late July-early August is peak season for blossoms. Still we did see lupine, Indian paintbrush, cat’s ears, and other flowers scattered about.

lunchtime

lunchtime

Crossing a couple of small creeks, we ascended higher (and a bit more steeply) to Upper Meadow, which provided a spectacular view of Three Fingered Jack, still spotted with snow. As we hiked the even steeper trail past Upper Meadow, we had to cross a couple of large patches of snow before reaching the open rock area that led up to a viewpoint. The view was already amazing, and I was hungry and tired, so I wimped out and found a big rock to sit on while we ate lunch. My husband hiked a bit higher to a notch in the rock, but decided that was far enough. While a tricky scramble up a rocky hill will supposedly give views of the other Central Oregon mountains, we never made it there.Canyon Creek Meadows hike view

The hike down was lovely and we took the loop trail from Lower Meadow, which seemed empty of hikers but teeming with mosquitoes. (Could there be a correlation between the two?) Canyon Creek tumbled along next to the first section of the loop, milky with glacier water. More ghost trees stood sentinel around us, poking like needles into the deep blue sky. When we returned to Jack Lake, the group of children was gone, and a serene stillness filled the air.

Jack Lake in the afternoon

Jack Lake in the afternoon

We returned to the Metolius, which was beautiful and remarkably mosquito-free.

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DSC00616Spring is a wonderful time of year. I love all the flowers bursting into bloom in every color imaginable. My own yard hosts pink and white dogwood, red and white and purple rhododendrons, fragrant yellow azaleas, red camellias, violet hyacinths, white apple and plum blossoms, and so much more–not to mention the sunny yellow dandelions that dot our lawn.DSC00678

Spring makes me want to get out and do new things, to see new places, to wander secret trails in the woods. When the sunshine pokes through the Oregon clouds, I want to shout praises to God for the amazing beauty.

Award Seal 2 from CSPALast year my special “new thing” was the publication of my first book, a middle grade novel entitled Picture Imperfect, about photography (Yes, I do like to take pictures!), a wayward cat, an annoying aunt, and a girl trying to find her place in the world and in her family. This year I am so excited to announce that Picture Imperfect was named Book of the Year in the children (8-12) category by the Christian Small Publisher Association. I am so thankful for this honor and so grateful to my friends who have supported and encouraged me in my writing.

Is there something you have always wanted to do? Somewhere you feel God calling you, perhaps. What better time than spring to learn and grow and try something new? Let God grow you in a new direction and see what beautiful blossoms spring forth.DSC00679

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Gulls on the beachBeaches are special places for me. When I was a child, my family spent a week at the beach every summer, and I loved long walks, looking for sand dollars and exploring caves. As I grew up, the coast meant time to get away by myself and talk to God. Now I love to spend time with my husband walking along the sea. And I usually have my camera at hand to catch the various moods of the beach. We just returned from an anniversary celebration in Seaside, Oregon—a lovely time despite rain and a windstorm that doused the lights for a while.

A few of the things I love about the beach in winter:

  1. The ever-changing patterns of the clouds. Clouds change constantly at the beach. White and fluffy one moment, dark and threatening the next. Never the same, but always fun to watch—although I prefer to watch storm clouds from the window of my motel room.clouds 2
  2. Sun through the clouds. Oregon beaches specialize in clouds, and many days are gray and drizzly. So it can be a wondrous delight when the sun slices through the clouds, highlighting the waves and turning wet sand into glitter.sun through clouds
  3. Reflections on the sand. When the sky turns briefly blue, the wet sand reflects its color, reflects the jutting ocean cliffs, even reflects the people walking peacefully down the strand.couple on beach
  4. Small things of beauty. When I can take my eyes off the clouds and focus on the sand, small jewels appear. Rippling patterns in the sand, bright agates, delicate shells. Splendor in miniature.crab shell
  5. Wide open spaces. Low tide pulls the water out, exposing broad expanses of land. The beach stretches out like a wide prairie of sand, seeming to go on forever.DSC00548
  6. Beach grass. As the ever-present sea wind blows, tough ocean grasses sway and bend, rippling in constant movement, an echo to the changing sky, companion of the rolling waves.beach grass
  7. Sea birds. Above my head, the gulls twist and glide with the wind, their raucous calls blending with the ocean’s roar. When I was young, I would pull out my bird book, frantically trying to separate them into species, to determine whether one might be a new addition to my life list. Now I watch quietly, less concerned with their identity and more appreciative of their talent for riding the breeze.Sea gull
  8. Serenity. Winter beaches stretch out wide and free, lacking the crowds of summer. My footprints often fall on virgin sand, as I drink in the open space, the sea sounds, the fresh salt air. I still talk to God in the peace of the beach. Sometimes I even sing praises, my off-key voice thankfully drowned out by the pounding surf. Always I feel peace fill my soul, as the breeze blows away my worries and fears, and the pulse of the ocean brings a peace beyond understanding.beach clouds

What do you love most about the beach?

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Goodreads Giveaway: NEW

Picture Imperfect, a novel for girls ages 8-12

Picture Imperfect, a novel for girls ages 8-12

Goodreads Giveaway for Picture Imperfect: Win an autographed copy of this middle grade novel! A girl, a cat, a camera, an annoying aunt with something to hide. Fun, mystery, and good values! Enter now! (And please share with your friends. The more, the merrier!)

NEW GIVEAWAY: March 11-20, 2016

Enter HERE.

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