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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fall Beauty

It's mid-October, and that means gorgeous fall leaves here in northern Ohio.  Although my allergies are less than pleased with this time of the year, my eyes and soul are soothed by time outside to enjoy all of the beauty.

As I think about the four seasons that we experience here, I believe that I resonate the most with spring and fall because they represent the greatest feelings of change to me.  In October, evidence of summer is fading.  Although the grass is still green, it does not grow as quickly (thank goodness!), and is it speckled with crunchy leaves in hues of brown, yellow, red, and orange.  Even on warmer fall days, there is just a different "feel" to the breeze, and a nagging hint in the mind of colder weather to come.  The sunrises and sunsets are richer, more vivid, and bolder during the fall.  As I look through nature pictures I have taken over the past few years, the most impressive-looking skies are always from this time of the year.  Fall is also a preparation time for family gatherings, and especially as the colder days creep upon us, a reminder of the Holy Season in the months to come.

There is much to be said about the renewal and rebirth of Spring, but I will let those thoughts and inspiration muddle around in my brain until the time comes.  These days, I want to revel in the now, and simply "be" in God's presence, straining to hear all that He is whispering on the autumn wind, as the leaves swirl around the base of the trees.  I also want to be fully present in the gift of my mother's final months - to learn and absorb for future use, her courage, her grace, and her strength.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Yep - I'm Still Here! :)

Wow - cannot believe I have not posted since March!!!!  It is certainly not due to a lack of interest in blogging, but rather, a change in the focus of my life.

Several weeks after my last post, my mother became acutely ill, both mentally and physically.  The past 5.5 months have been a rollercoaster ride of emotions and a flurry of new activity, as I tried to make sense of the "new normal" of our life.  Caring for and supporting my mother during what is likely her final months, have definitely taken their toll on my creative juices, and hence, no posting on this blog.  I have been writing daily, but it has been on my mother's Caring Bridge blog, with the purpose of trying to make sense of it all, and also a desire to keep family and friends updated as to her condition.   

Now, on to the latest Wonder . . . . .

For the past few evenings in a row, we have a seen a very large white water bird sitting on the bank of the creek that runs through our front yard.  We regularly have Canada Geese drop in, as well as hawks,  buzzards, and other large birds.  However, this one is pretty special.  The picture quality is not too good, unfortunately.  I was reluctant to get too close and risk scaring the bird away, so I had to rely on my camera's digital zoom, which is pretty dependent on my holding the camera VERY still to result in a clear image.  At any rate, what you'll see in "blurry vision" below is our lovely friend the crane.  Because he/she has been in the exact same spot each evening, we are guessing that he/she has a nest (or perhaps a family!) nearby.  More on this story as it develops . . . .

Yours in Wonder,

Friday, March 18, 2011

Lenten Exercise for Body and Soul

This week, I finally hit my stride with exercising and made it to the gym three times.  For those of you who are in better shape than I, this is not much of an accomplishment.  However, for a non-exerciser like me, it is a BIG step!  It was tough to go, especially today when I had a busy and stressful morning at work, stayed late to finish something up, and left the church office feeling tired and ready to put my feet up.  It took a great effort of the will to drive to the gym instead of heading home, but I am SO glad I went.  I cannot begin to describe how good I felt afterward, which of course made all the effort worthwhile.

I am also enjoying my Lenten commitment of using my workout as a time to make space for God.  I began by bringing along a card with a few requests written on it.  As I exercised and prayed my way through the list, I found God prompting me to remember many other persons and situations as well.  I quickly realized that I need to always bring more blank cards and a pen!  What I am learning is that the more I pray, the more I feel the need to pray, and the more requests impress themselves on my heart.  This discipline of body and soul is a good one on many levels for me, and I am excited to see how God will use this time to stretch (literally and figuratively!) and challenge me.

Today, I also brought along a devotional book about finding God in the silence, and I read a few pages as I pedaled on the recumbent bike.  As my legs worked feverishly and my heart pounded, my mind was quieting itself.  An amazing sensation. . . .   It made me wonder at how many other points in my day could I listen to God while going about seemingly mundane tasks.  I have a quote on my fridge from St. Ignatius Loyola that sums up how I am feeling today. . . .


"To lift up the hands in prayer gives God glory.
But, a man with a dung fork in his hand,
and a woman with a slop pail
give Him glory too.
God is so great, that all things give Him glory,
if you mean that they should."

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Beginning the Journey Through Lent

Lent has begun. For some, it is the beginning of a season of "giving up" a desired food, activity, or electronic device, as a time of preparation for Easter. While I think Lent certainly encompasses this theme, I have a slightly different take on the season. Let me say first that I have tried (and usually failed) at "giving something up." Perhaps I am just not disciplined enough, or that I'm too weak-willed. Or, maybe it's even that I don't fully understand the intention behind the act. Whatever the reason, my perspective on Lent has undergone some radical changes over the years.

One of the first times I ever tried to participate in the Lenten season, also happens to be my most memorable time of "failure." When I was in high school, one of my best friends was very serious about giving up something meaningful each Lent, so I decided to join her. My beloved item to leave behind was chocolate chip cookies. We had cooks at our high school who made WONDERFUL homemade cookies! I should know because I enjoyed one each day for lunch. Also, we had a vending machine featuring a number of tasty snacks, one of which was also chocolate chip cookies. When I had an after school practice, meeting, or activity, it was not unusual for me to help myself to yet another cookie from the vending machine. So, this giving up of the chocolate chip cookies was a very big deal indeed to me, and I thought, an excellent choice for my experiment in self-denial. It was easy to remember NOT to get a cookie at lunch, I must confess, after the first day or two. It did take some effort to avoid the vending machine after school, but for a time, I did an admirable job at staying away. About halfway through Lent, however, my experiment came to an abrupt end. One day, for no apparent reason and completely without thinking, I helped myself to a cookie from the vending machine. As I was absentmindedly, but happily, munching away, the thought of what I was eating finally entered my brain. I was horrified that I had so easily consumed what I had been so actively trying to avoid. My next thought was, "Oh, well. I tried, but I just couldn't do it. What's the point anyway?"

For many years, I felt discouraged from attempting the discipline again, and I think it was partly due to a lack of understanding of the purpose. I wonder how true this feeling is among others. How many persons go about a Lenten period of denial simply because "that's what you're supposed to do," without fully grasping the deeper meaning?

In recent years, I have come to a much different place in my thinking about Lent. For me, Lent is less about "giving up," and much more about intentionally making space for God in my life. That may mean cutting back or withdrawing from time-wasting activities, which is essentially "giving something up." However, I see it more as a process of ADDING God-honoring books, music, devotional time, etc . . . in places where I previous had other things scheduled.

One of the commitments I began just prior to Lent is to engage (again!) in some form of regular exercise. I have started and quit exercising many times out of frustration. This time, I have joined a local gym and I am having a much better experience. What I believe I am doing right is starting out SLOWLY. I go every other day, and only for a short period of time. My plan is to gradually increase the amount of time I am on the treadmill, stationary bike, and elliptical, and also gradually increase the intensity of the workout. I am hopeful that approaching it at a slow, but steady pace will make for a very different experience and a regular habit of exercise.

One of the other aspects I am including into this Lenten exercise commitment (which I am planning to continue long after Easter is past!) is to use the stretch of time while I am exercising as a space to meet God. I am learning that workouts can be pretty boring mentally, even while my body is physically active. What better use of my "mental down time," than to create a space for prayer, reflection, and communion with God? Updates on this ongoing spiritual and physical discipline in future posts. . . .

I recently read a short prayer by Dr. Ray Pritchard that seems a very fitting final thought.

"Lord, as we begin this Lenten journey, purify our hearts so that we will not be satisfied with anything less than you. Amen."


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Unexpected Joy

This week, we had an ice storm. Schools cancelled. Tree limbs bent down or broken off, heavily laden with ice. Late yesterday afternoon, as the sun was heading lower in the sky, I happened to look out the window and gasped! Every tree and bush in the front yard was absolutely sparkling, as the sun reflected on the ice covered branches. One of the loveliest things I'd ever seen! I hurried outside with my camera, but despite my repeated attempts and messing around with the settings, I could not capture more than a mere hint of the "sparkles" in all their glory. Perhaps you can imagine from the picture what it must have been like to see each individual branch shining. Truly a gift from God. How have you begun to notice the everyday wonder? What gifts have filled you with unexpected joy this week?


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Close Encounters

Please excuse the absence from posting.  I've been battling a cold/allergy/sinus thing and haven't felt up to doing much other than resting during my free time.

At any rate, here are my most recent ramblings . . . . This past week, I've had two "close encounters" with nature that were quite delightful.  I went out to lunch in a nearby town with my husband and one of my girlfriends.  As we were walking down the street, we noticed a cat perched outside a window.  Nothing much unusual about that, right?  Well, what struck us was the fact that it was a second story window of an apartment above a store front.  I happened to have my camera with me, so took a few quick shots of this curious kitty.  You can see the shingles of the first floor store front roof, and also the Christmas lights wound around the balcony railing that the apartment tenant apparently hadn't taken down yet.  I don't know if the cat belonged to the apartment dwellers, or was just peeking in, hopeful they would want to adopt him.  Either way, he was fun to watch!

Then, later in the week, I came home from work one day to a terrific racket.  A large flock of Canada Geese had decided to use the fields which surround our house as a resting spot during their travels.  The honking from these guys was incredible to hear!  I ran inside to get my camera, and returned just in time to catch a few marching in a straight line across our yard to get from one field to another.  Apparently they not only fly in formation, but also parade in a similar fashion.  :)

The 1000 Gifts List continues . . .  . .(have you started yours yet???)

16.  Noticing sunrises are coming a bit earlier.  A sure sign of Spring on the way!
17.  Having lunch with friends
18.  Knowing that people are praying for me
19.  Ability to breathe after being sick
20.  Holding the hand of someone you love


Thursday, February 3, 2011

1000 Gifts List continued . . . . . (11-15)

11.  Snow-covered bunny nibbling on what's left of our hedges
12.  Sunlight sparkling on snow drifts
13.  Playing a board game together on a cold evening
14.  Electric blankets and cozy quilts when the wind is howling outside
15.  Date Night with the man I love

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A New Beginning Toward Grace : The List (1-10)

Today, inspired by the book I've begun reading, One Thousand Gifts:  A Dare To Live Fully Right Where You Are, I am beginning my own list of 1000 Gifts.  Author Ann Voskamp writes that as she took up the challege of consciously looking for gifts in the everyday, she discovered that the frantic pace of her life seemed to slow as she learned to savor each moment.  My prayer is that as I begin to practice the discipline of looking for "whatever is true, noble, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy" (Philippians 4:8), I might more fully understand and live in God's Shalom.  Join me, if you wish, and let's deepen our own sense of wonder in God's world.

Here goes . . . .

1.   Watching snow softly falling
2.   Wrapping up in a blanket for a nap on a cold afternoon
3.   Warm hugs
4.   Vanilla scented lotion
5.   Steaming mug of herbal tea
6.   Delicate and colorful old tableclothes and cloth napkins
7.   Fluffy soft fur of our cat
8.   Smile on a child's face
9.   Hearing the voice of someone you love
10. Being "snowed in" for the evening

To Be Continued . . . .


Thursday, January 20, 2011

An Attitude of Gratitude

One of the habits that I will forever be trying to cultivate is the practice of gratitude.  Simply being thankful.  It's amazing what a difference such an attitude can make, not only on your mood, but on your entire life, and also on the lives of those around you.  Think about it.  Ever notice how quickly one complainer can spread their negativity?  If it's so easy to "bring down the room" with a bad attitude, it stands to reason that it works in reverse as well.  Take babies and young children, for example.  I have rarely met anyone who could stay in presence of a joyful child for very long without smiling.  Perhaps that is part of the reason why Jesus told us to have a "childlike" faith.  Simply being content to be alive in this present moment is truly a gift.

Over the past few years, one of the gifts of encouragement that I have treasured is following writer Ann Voskamp's blog,   I appreciate her attitude of always looking for grace in her family and in her day.  I was thrilled to receive in the mail today my copy of her book, One Thousand Gifts:  A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, and I cannot wait to begin reading!  I'm sure you'll be hearing much more from me as I consider her words, so stay tuned . . . .

Pastor Chuck Swindoll said, " . . . I believe the single most significant decision I can make on a day-to-day basis is my choice of attitude. It is more important than my past, my education, my bankroll, my successes or failures, fame or pain, what other people think of me, or say about me, my circumstances, or my position. The attitude I choose keeps me going or cripples my progress."

Join me in finding the grace, the gifts, the love, and the simple joys in the everyday, won't you?


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Snowed In!

Earlier this week, we had snow.  Not a blizzard, mind you, but still a significant amount.  It snowed ALL day, and as the roads became more and more impassable, every event in the area was cancelled for the evening.  I settled down in my favorite place:  a well-worn recliner, with a hot drink, book, blanket, and my cat curled up on my lap.  I reflected on the snow, and on the cancellations, and decided that I LOVE being "snow in!"  There is just something so cozy about the weather howling outside, and being warm and snug within.  Being snowed in gives a person permission to just snuggle up and enjoy the simple things - good books, a favorite old movie, board games, music.  These are the "stuff of the soul."  These are the things which bring us feelings of comfort and create warm memories.  Yet, these are also the things which too often get pushed to the side because we are too busy.  How very sad!  The very activities we truly enjoy, that bring us much-needed rest, that connect us to our families, are the activities into which we place the least amount of importance.  What is there left to say, but - BRING ON THE SNOW!!!!!!!  :)


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Simple Christmas Joy

I know it's a bit late (or a bit early, depending on how you look at it) for Christmas reflections.  But, as I was looking through the photos we took a few weeks ago, I found some images from Christmas at our home that made me smile. 

                May we carry the December light of home,
                           and the warm glow of time spent together,
                                       and the immeasurable peace of our Savior,
                                                beyond the Christmas season,
                                                           and throughout all of our days.


A bit of Christmas whimsy in the guest bath

Our snoozing kitty among the
packages on Christmas morning,
quite oblivious to all the excitement to come

Dinner lights to welcome The Light of the World

A thrift sale nativity set that I love.
"This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths
and lying in a manger."   (Luke 2:12)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

FINALLY - Blogdom! :)

Good Morning,

(depending on when you're reading this, of course.  Here, it is 6:30am - yes, morning person!)

I have been considering a blog for several years now.  Nothing serious, just a passing thought about it now and then.  I have several blogs that I enjoy following, and I do love writing, so I knew it would come to this eventually.  What finally pushed me over the edge was my new friend Jan, who recently moved to our area from another state, and decided to start a blog about her experiences. (Thanks for the inspiration, Jan!)

I struggled for quite some time with the title.  An imposing task to encapsulate all of your thoughts into a single phrase.  And what direction would I take with this?  Also an important question. . . .  Finally I decided upon "Adventures in Wonder" because I feel it best reflects my personal philosophy.  Life IS an adventure.  Not without some twists, turns, and rough spots, of course, but an Adventure all the same.  And, for me, that sense of Wonder is key, as I wake up groggy and struggle to begin my day with my attitude in check.  I truly enjoy anticipating what God has in store for me.  There's a Contemporary Christian song from a few years back by a husband and wife duo known as "Out of the Grey," that never fails to make me smile.  The chorus and second verse:

"If I know You, You will turn this day, into a perfect surprise.
 If I know You, like I think I do, the worst of times will work out right.

So many hours spent, fearing the hours ahead.
I would do better to remember You.
For in the changing light of day, You always seem to paint the way
In softer hues and brush away my blues."

Anywho . . . . .here's goes . . .  hope you find some enjoyment in my ramblings . . .  Time to eat breakfast, roust the sleepy heads, and begin anew the "Adventure In Wonder" that is my day.

Make it a good one!
Sue :)