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clouds and reflections (1 of 1)What is it about the beach? Why does a feeling of peace seep into my entire being as I walk along the shore, coat zipped up against the wind?

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Perhaps it is the pounding of the surf, like the heartbeat of the ocean, secure and constant. Perhaps the open sands stretching out before me, fresh and clean from the outgoing tide. Or the calls of the soaring gulls echoing over my head. Or even the clouds, constantly changing and moving, giving a new perspective with each passing moment. Perhaps it is all of these with a little added magic that draws me in and fills me with joy.

dark beach clouds (1 of 1)My husband and I spent a couple of days at the beach recently, celebrating 40 years of marriage. Our hotel room overlooked the ocean, so its steady beat was ever-present. We were fortunate to have sunshine for a good portion of the visit and enjoyed several walks on the beach. Of course, beach weather can be fickle, and we did get caught in one downpour, thankful we had worn our raincoats when we ventured out into what was then sunshine and mostly clear skies.

bird tracks on beach (1 of 1)The shore has so many aspects, from the vastness of the ocean to the tiny details of pebbles and bird prints in the sand. It opens my eyes to wonder and my soul to God. Nature’s beauty is easy to see, but God’s glory is all around us, even in the most unlikely places—in the city, at work, in our everyday lives. Even in those bundles of contradiction we call people. I pray I can keep my eyes and soul open, wherever I find myself.people walking by water (1 of 1)

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rainbow (1 of 1)Have you ever taken a walk with a rainbow?

Yesterday my husband, Gary, and I went out for a late afternoon walk. The sky overhead was a gloomy, threatening gray. While our weather app said it wouldn’t rain, Gary brought his umbrella just in case. Not for him—he doesn’t mind walking in the rain—but for his fair-weather walking wife. And, as this is an Oregon winter, rain soon began to fall. He handed me the umbrella, and we strode on.over house (1 of 1)

Then, as the rain continued to come down, light burst through from the sinking sun, sparkling off the wet bushes and the growing puddles. I began scanning the skies. Where there is sunshine and rain, there ought to be a rainbow. Sure enough, one started growing in the northeastern sky. It grew brighter and brighter, and I kept pulling out my phone to snap photos. We hadn’t seen such a distinct rainbow for a long time. We could even see a paler double rainbow above the main one.

rainbow2 (1 of 1)“The pot of gold should be right over there,” Gary commented. Yes, one end of the rainbow was adding lines of color to a shrub across the road while the other end colored a tree behind a neighbor’s house. As we kept walking, the rainbow seemed to follow us, as rainbows do. It moved behind other houses, over fields, the elusive pot of gold shifting to different spots. And still the rain kept falling. For nearly half an hour, that colorful arc kept us company as we walked. Even the rain looked dazzling with rays of sunshine lighting it up.rain (1 of 1)

Then the rain slowed to a gradual stop, and the rainbow faded from the sky. We ended our walk, moods brightened by the fresh air and the beauty we had seen. And I wondered, how often have I missed the beauty of the rainbow because I was too busy concentrating on the gray skies and the rain? Rain and sunshine are so intertwined in life, and sometimes it may seem that the clouds will overwhelm us. But God’s light can break through even the darkest of clouds and reveal the beauty that is there, just waiting for our discovery.

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dogwood leaves (1 of 1)Fall has arrived, and change is in the air. The heat of summer has passed, and rain has watered the parched ground. Today the sun is shining. October clouds have cleared away, and the sky is bright blue. An autumn breeze blows through my hair as I walk out to the garden to see what is left.daad bean leaves (1 of 1)

A handful of pole beans. Half a dozen over-ripe ears of corn. Some good-sized almost-ripe tomatoes, along with a generous number of cherry tomatoes—Sweet 100 and Sun Gold. But the bush beans are gone, and the prolific zucchini is dying back. The pumpkins and winter squash have been harvested, and their vines lie brown and shriveled across the dirt. The garden is fading, as it always does this time of year.

grapes (1 of 1)Yet around the garden, golden leaves waft down from the maples. The dogwood is gradually turning from green to red. Brightly-colored leaves stand out against the blue sky. Grape vines still carry batches of purple fruit. There is much beauty in this time of dying. And also much ugliness in this time of beauty.

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For every golden leaf there is a brown, broken one. For every purple grape there is a rotten zucchini. For every blue sky, the remembrance of pouring rain—and more to come. I could look down and focus on the mud, the dead leaves, the empty garden, or I could instead focus on the colorful leaves, the fleeting blue of the sky, the delicious fruits of the season. What will my choice be?

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rising sunOur plane sat on the runway awaiting permission to take off. The eastern sky turned pale orange above the distant hills. Mt. Hood highlighted the skyline, silhouetted against the predawn glow. Slowly the sky grew lighter. A sliver of bright gold glinted above the hills for a moment, and then the burning sun rose, illuminating the scene, sending streams of light across the ground. A new day had dawned.

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As the plane soared high across the land, one new sight after another appeared below. Mountains icy with snow. Lakes sparkling in the sunlight. Scenes of such beauty that it compelled me to pull out my phone and snap photos. I felt like an eagle high above the earth seeing the hills and valleys in a new light—almost like I was looking through God’s eyes. So often I concentrate on the ugliness and hate in this land. From here all of that disappeared; all was fresh and new to my eyes, clean and pure.

2017-12-07 09.55.46This is a new year, awaiting our decisions, our actions, our emotions. And each day springs new from the hand of God. Will we grab it selfishly and use it for our own purposes, casting aside any who look or act different, ignoring our neighbors? Or will we accept it as a precious gift and treat it with gentleness and love? Will we take the hand of someone unfamiliar and try to see through their eyes? Perhaps we might catch a glimpse of a beauty we’ve never seen before. The choice is ours.2017-12-07 09.10.09

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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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