Tag: Nature

It’s summertime

and the forecast is the same day after day

humidity
heat
rain
repeat

It’s summertime

lawns are green from the rains but I am wilted

from the heat
humidity
in my soul

moisture clings and streaks down our windows like it
steams my lenses
thick
blurs

humidity
heat
rain
repeat

It threatens to steal energy and will
It threatens to rob desire and creative pursuits

Am I battling with the weather?
Does it really threaten me so?

It’s summertime

the crowds are gone
beaches are open wide
paradise is pretty with windows rolled up and the a/c on

Do it give in to its sway?
heat
humidity
rain
repeat

You confound me with your give and take
your bluster and stillness

You rage and you whimper
and I respond in kind

We’ve done this dance before
we’ll do it again
it leads
I lead
let’s slow dance across the sand to the water that refreshes
that puddles around our feet and calms

It’s always the water that
heals
restores
soothes

It’s summertime
and we will dance

hope

Once a year we have our Sunday worship gathering in a park. It’s intentional though started by necessity. It began by needing to vacate our building that shelters a maximum of 100 men for at least six hours while the electricity was turned off to install a generator. The generator is needed in the event of power loss from a hurricane. (Since hurricane season is one of our two seasons in South Florida.)

We’re no dummies here and quickly learned we needed to make this an annual event. We book the largest pavilion in a state park. Our kitchen orders up food for 150 people, fills coolers with drinks on ice, and totes all the parts needed for a picnic lunch.

We take the dominoes, cards, chess game, football and volleyball. All the toys we can gather to play with before and after our time of singing and sharing.

We pick a Sunday in late February or early March. A time when rain and high humidity are less likely. We’ve had two years where we bundled up in our jackets and hoodies and stayed in the sunshine longer as the morning greeted us with 40’s and 50’s. Or, what we call winter. This year the temperature was lovely but the winds a bit fierce keeping swimmers out of the ocean that is just over the dunes.

Always, we’ve enjoyed the sunshine. The literal one shining overhead and a warmth generated by the Son that shines within.

“You don’t get to decide to worship. Everyone worships something. The only choice you get is what to worship.”  – Timothy Keller

Maybe like you, I grew up thinking worship was done inside a church building on Sunday mornings. Even though we had church on Sunday nights and Wednesdays, it was Sunday morning that we worshiped. In my mind and life, worship was defined as singing and praying with others in church.

At some point, I realized worship couldn’t be contained to place or posture. Worship was more than music and prayers. It was just more.

Changing our physical surroundings seems to free the expression of worship. Sitting in the open air we notice the creation and recognize the Creator. The wind blew strong as if God’s spirit was saying, ‘look, I’m here’.

For some, they see their service as worship. Volunteering for Habitat for Humanity or teaching a scouting group is one aspect of their worship, they’re giving to God.

My friend Judi worships with her art. Sometimes she paints during their church gathering but anytime she paints it’s part of her worship. She is praising God with the talents He’s given her.

I believe in the importance of worship together for regularly scheduled gatherings. It builds community among believers. But worship is much more.

The New Oxford Dictionary defines worship as “the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity”.

I want to throw off the confines of my old beliefs and embrace a posture of worship that looks for opportunities to praise God. I want to express reverence to the most high God when I’m at preparing our meals, thankful for abundance. I want to show my adoration for his grace when I hear U2 singing about justice.

As Timothy Keller says, everyone worships something. I want my worship to be focused on Yahweh God because he alone is worthy of this devotion and glory.

faith grace Salvation Army

It’s 8 a.m on a weekday when I go to our patio to soak up the morning sun. The palm trees barely move in the still air but sun is already warm on this February day.

I take my iPad to read, still trying to recover from all manner of yuckiness with a sinus infection. I lean back in the lounge chair to the sounds of morning traffic on the other side of our privacy fence. I see the top of a semi transporting something, a garbage truck rumbles by and a motorcycle loudly speeds on, identified only by sound. The whir of morning commuters doesn’t stop. A lawn service joins the cacophony of sound and the neighbors dogs, inside their house, are barking. And barking.

When we moved in this house nine years ago the street behind our us was a dead end. Our back porch was a place of peace and quiet save for the peacock heard from a nearby county park every now and then.

Then road work began and the street to nowhere became a major east-west road for daily commuters (myself included most days). Add to that, neighbors who moved next door last year with dogs I’ve never seen outside but whose bark can be heard from inside their house to inside our house, windows closed and a/c on.

My husband is the first to notice a crying baby. That’s a sound I’m able to block out. Maybe it’s a mom thing. We know the cry that needs attention and the cry that’s trying to get attention. We can ignore the latter.

More and more of my friends have said lately they’re pulling back from social media because of the political tension that sounds a lot like noise and we just don’t need more noise in the world.

I could choose to stay inside our house blocking out the traffic noise. But sometimes we have to fight through the noise to notice the beauty that’s there.

Inside, I see the tops of a few palm trees but outside on the porch, I see a row of them against a clear blue sky, the breeze picking up a little to make the branches dance. A yellow butterfly floated by and there’s nothing like feeling the suns rays warm this body tired of fighting the stuffiness.

Yes, the political strife is noisy and we should pull back from some of it but lets not forget the beauty of free speech and impassioned hearts. Let’s give thanks for voices fighting to keep these freedoms.

Maybe the loudest noise is within. Sometimes the inner voice is angry. I called myself knucklehead at least three times yesterday. That’s unacceptable. I need to shut that voice up. What’s your inner voice saying to you?

Is that the noise you need to quiet?

There are some things my inner voice says that I don’t want to hear but need to hear. The challenge is in separating the lies from the truth. Yes, I need to get my lazy self up and exercise. No, I’m not fat. (Isn’t that a hard one to believe?)

Maybe I can endure the noise of morning traffic because my soul is craving the peace of nature. Even nature surrounded by machines. What noise do you need to fight through to find peace for your soul? Have you found the peace that is tethered to all that God is?

“The peace of our souls does not have to rise and fall with unpredictable people or situations. Our feelings will shift, of course. People do affect us. But the peace of our souls is tethered to all that God is.” Lysa TerKeurst

faith

I asked friend, and hobbyists photographer, Laura, to share some of the Ordinary Beauty she sees in her life. Laura lives in Atlanta, Georgia enjoys the outdoors. She’s someone who knows about grace and beauty and how sometimes it’s only through grace we see the beauty around us. I’m so happy for her to share with us here and I know you’ll enjoy her gift of beauty. And stop by her blog to view more of her photography and words. Her work is stunning.

street LD

I had a chance to travel this summer. I went to London and Paris. I love Paris! The architecture and food are amazing! I love to go to new places. Experience cultures, architecture and food. But those photos are for another post. Today is about ordinary beauty.

A few weeks ago I went with a family to take their annual family photos. Four years and counting. We went to a very familiar place to me. A beautiful park here in Georgia called Stone Mountain. Stone Mountain is only a couple miles from where I live. After we were done, I stayed and captured some of the natural beauty.

waterWheel LD

coneflower LD

lake LD

stone chimney LD

brick and trees LD

I absolutely love it. There are walking trails. You can climb up Stone Mountain…literally a huge granite rock! You can walk the 5 mile course around the base of the mountain. When you do that you see the beautiful lake. In the morning you can witness the sunrise and the water just glistens. Keep walking and the road goes a little to the right and then to the left. The road goes up, up, up. Your legs are burning waiting for the road to level out. Then the downhill!

There are so many beautiful nooks and crannies and sights and sounds. A place where you can find quiet…right in the middle of this metropolitan city and suburbs we call Atlanta. A place where you can mediate on the beauty that God created for us to enjoy.

You don’t always have to travel to another time zone or country to experience that beauty that surrounds us.

“As as the beauty of nature is constant; so is God who made it.”

photography

Up and down the stretch of I-95, the highway that will take you from Miami to Maine, this stretch of road in our parts is lined with billboards about oranges and alligators. The road is straight and the terrain flat. Palm trees give way to pines but nary a cornfield will you see from this stretch of highway.

FL sign

sunrise over the ocean

But when we cross the state line into Georgia, the land off this busy interstate bears crops. Most I can’t identify but the corn stands tall and this one I know.

It’s an ordinary site throughout our country. The true green in midsummer and the amber color of the stalks after the harvest.

cotton fields
Cotton fields in Georgia

countryside

 

brown stalks

In Virginia recently, we saw some fields plowed over with the chaff left on the ground but most were still standing, dry and turning brown.

The ordinary sights have their own stories. These cornfields tell the story of sustenance and seasons. They provide for us physically. They complete the cycle from seed to food to dust.  In some ways, a reflection of life itself.  And where there is life, even ordinary life, there is beauty.

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.

Romans 12:1 the Message

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It’s amazing how lovely common things become, if one only knows how to look at them.

LOUISA MAY ALCOTT, Marjorie’s Three Gifts

It wasn’t a garden but a patch of dirt beside the asphalt parking lot. There they were, taller than my 5’4″ and showing off their beauty, reflecting the glory of their Maker. These yellow beauties seem rather ordinary in these parts.

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They were mixed with other flowers but the sunflowers command attention. It’s boldness of color and height all seems to scream “look at ME!”

photography

The words have been slow lately. It must be a time to absorb and refill what has been depleted. Our annual week in the North Carolina mountains was one of taking in the beauty of creation in its many forms including people. Lots of people. It has left me short of words and hoping, as Rod Steward sang, that  every picture tells the story.

“What a wildly wonderful world, God! You made it all, with Wisdom at your side, made earth overflow with your wonderful creations.” Psalm 104:24 the Message

These seem to grow everywhere, even in parking lots of diners.

view

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house garden

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stone steps

 

“O God, listen to me! Hear my prayer! 2 For wherever I am, though far away at the ends of the earth, I will cry to you for help. When my heart is faint and overwhelmed, lead me to the mighty, towering Rock of safety. 3 For you are my refuge, a high tower where my enemies can never reach me. 4 I shall live forever in your tabernacle; oh, to be safe beneath the shelter of your wings! 5 For you have heard my vows, O God, to praise[a] you every day, and you have given me the blessings you reserve for those who reverence your name.” Psalm 61:1-5 Living Bible

 

faith

It would seem the transition from the livingingraceland URL to my name has been seamless. At least on this end. Please leave a comment if you’ve experienced any issues on your end.

Now I’m looking for a fresh look for the home page so I’ll be trying out some different themes. Your feedback is most welcome as your view is the one I’m most interested in. With comments running rather low, let me emphasis this, please share some feedback if you find something particularly nice and especially if one is not it at all.

In some ways it feels like I’m learning this blog thing all over again but there is plenty to learn. My mind is rather full from a week of meetings and the upcoming Holy Week so let’s get to some fun stuff. It is the weekend.

Last week was spent in August, Georgia, a place we’ve bypassed in our travels.

It’s a small town and after visiting I think I can say with certainty it would be a blip on the Georgia map were it not for the Masters Golf Tournament held there.

The weather was sunny and pleasant and rainy and cold and then indifferent so we had a mixture.

Our hotel was along the river with South Carolina on the other side. Our room overlooked this river giving us a nice view of spring in this southern town.

Enough words, see for yourself.
historic district

historic district

the view from our hotel room
the view from our hotel room

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bee on blossom

sunrise over the river
sunrise over the river

photography

We’ve arrived in Augusta, GA for a week of meetings with our Organization. This place has spring. I know that sounds silly but South Florida is a place without seasons. I know its enviable to live in a place where temperatures in the 50’s signal winter, and those temperatures rarely last throughout the day.

We love the beach, its natural beauty, its ever-changing color and motion that brings to mind waves of spiritual metaphors. How our feet sink into the sand, not finding it solid purchase to build on and remember the story of the foolish who build their lives on shifting foundations.

No, even when the humidity brings that dewy look…..okay, let’s get real, it brings a full on sweat to even the most delicate of Southern Women just walking to the car. The months of August through October have me hoping for any break to leave this sauna that clings to the house windows taunting you to walk outside.

Our seasons are recognized by lots of rain and not as much rain. Lots of people and not as many people. Hardly a rush of color to be found other than a deepening green of our lawns and the jade green the ocean often is in winter months.

But we’ve found ourselves in a place that knows spring and it’s brilliantly deep colors have welcomed us and reminded us of more of God’s promise. Because, all creation sings his praise.

flowers verse

 

By the way, if you know what this flower is, please share it in the comments as they clearly aren’t a tropical variety so I have no clue 😉

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Memorial Chapel Lake Junaluska, N Carolina
Memorial Chapel Lake Junaluska, N Carolina

It is the day before. Before the stone chapel will be filled with men and women praising and praying, hearing and holding to a God that is both close and still not close enough. Before the schedule starts where there are meeting times posted and the have to’s of being places and trying to digest all the teaching that will be spilled out in an overflowing that can’t possibly be taken in like they expect us too.

It’s the day before, when things are still quiet and the faces unknown. When we have breakfast at Clyde’s and pretend we’re locals then drive to the orchard where our gushing over all the fresh produce and fresh made apple cider donuts prove we’re definitely visitors.

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around the lake

This day makes me not want the next to come. Knowing the next will be good and there will be more of God’s word shared than I can possibly take in at once, but, I want another like today. Today where creation is speaking God’s word and proclaiming “it is good”.

It’s not bad to want another day like this. It’s not terrible to want a do-over of a day that has been so good. Slow good. Laughing good. No pressure good. No schedule good. It’s not bad but it’s not real.

That’s the tension this week holds for me. The tension between sharing it with others and wanting a part of it just to myself, to our family. That part that is now.

How many years has this been, wanting it to stay the day before? And how many years the next has always come. The rest broken by an alarm announcing the day is starting, hurrying to get a place to sit, squeeze in because it will be packed. I don’t like when worship comes this way. But it does.

faith photography