Category Archive: Beauty

Open My Eyes

I looked out the kitchen window and gasped. I grabbed my husband’s arm, almost pulling him over in my excitement.

American Goldfinch


“Look, there, on the fence.”

This little beauty didn’t stay long, but we haven’t seen him before. We have quite a few bird varieties coming for goodies at Don’s birdhouses. We have colorful Grossbeeks, Red and Gold Finches, Junkos, Scrub Jays and Stellar Jays, Nuthatches and Chickadees. Fluorescent tiny green hummingbirds. And, just a few times, we’ve seen a stunning, sharp black and white Ladderback Woodpecker.

But we’d never seen a Goldfinch here before. His breast was almost yellow-orange, stunning in its vibrancy, his head capped by a black forelock, with black wings, orange beak and claws. We delighted in his presence. And then, flit, he was gone.

How often do we miss small moments of joy because we’re busy looking elsewhere, or waiting for the BIG revelation? I love the scripture that says “Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from your law…” Psalm 119:18. And while that speaks of seeing amazing truths in God’s word, I think we can also ask him to open our eyes to see the beauty he has placed around us. Nature in all its beauty, majesty and variety is one way God reveals himself to us.

“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

Romans 1:19-20 ESV

Do you see God in creation? In yellow-orange sunrises, in pinky-mauve sunsets, the multitude of greens in our forests, grasses and shrubs? As one of my friends said, “While you’re looking at creation, don’t forget to look for the Creator.”

photo of snow capped mountain under blue night sky
Photo by Ian Beckley on Pexels.com

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”

John Muir

Tea, Breakfast, and a Falcon

I walked into Lisa’s Tea Treasures at 11:02 to see my sister-in-law, my niece, and two grandnieces I hadn’t seen in about two years. Makenna and Bailey, the two youngest, still wore their “tea” hats. Bailey jumped out of her chair and ran to hug me. Makenna, becoming a young lady, stood and hugged me.

We enjoyed fresh scones and Devonshire double cream, gingerbread cookies with lemon curd, cucumber sandwiches, and salad. Sandwiches were cut in squares, triangles, a heart shape. Crocheted tea cozies covered the pots of steeping tea. The wallpaper had pretty pink roses below the chair-rail. Our cups and saucers were of finest china. Sweet music played in the background as we caught up with each other, then said goodbye until a much-anticipated reunion in Yellowstone next month.

Janae, Sheila, Makenna, and Bailey
With my niece and grandnieces

The girls’ father came to our home for breakfast the next morning. A pastor in Virginia, he was in town to officiate at a wedding. Over Don’s delicious pancakes and fresh fruit, we also caught up. We talked about the church, families, and some difficult emotions we’ve both experienced in the past year–and what’s helped us through that. Counseling, support from a loving few, and medication were all helpful to both of us and we are again functioning as we’d like. Drew quoted someone (sorry, don’t recall the name) who said, “Medication doesn’t change who you are; it frees you to be who you are.” I’ve certainly found that to be true.

Yesterday I needed to prepare for our granddaughter and her boyfriend coming to visit for five days. We haven’t seen Gabrielle in several years and eagerly look forward to this time together.

Outside Petco I met a woman who is a licensed falconer! (She’s also a licensed hawk trainer.) The colorful American Kestrel Falcon on her gloved hand was only seven weeks old and at this point, goes everywhere with her. This is the smallest of the falcons. I learned a bit about training a falcon to hunt for its prey; how many falconers there are in the United States; and that women are becoming more prominent in the field than they used to be.

Wonderful gifts from God, each of these experiences, as well as the brief conversation we had with a homeless man on the side of the road. When my eyes are open to see the joy of interacting with others again–particularly family, but also strangers who have something to teach us–I recognize …

  • The goodness and glory of the God who has led our family in varying paths, to different locations, for His purposes.
  • The privilege of occasionally helping someone in need, and
  • The creativity of the God who holds all things in His hands, including this beautiful falcon.

I wish you and yours a celebratory, joyful Independence Day enjoying the goodness and grace of God!

I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever. Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. …

Psalm 145:1-3

New Life

Spring has arrived in all its glory. Don and I walk through the hilly woods near us and see blue lupen and bright orange California poppies in the fields. Paigey stops to sniff, picking up scents of deer and other wild critters.

Nature illumines my soul. As we begin to emerge from the cocoon of Covid-19 this past year, I feel hope in the new life of all around me. The 12-18″ wild, bright green grasses growing on the hillside. The trees crisscrossing over the dirt road on which we walk, giving us sweet shade beneath the warming sun.

We have a small back yard, but see the breadth and width of the nearby hills, with no houses between. Don and I often enjoy a light lunch as we sit on our patio watching flowers, squirrels, iceplant, and a great variety of birds. And when we look out between the large oak trees to the hills, I feel at peace.

God’s nature, always renewing, refreshing, the darkness of winter superseded by the glories of spring, bringing life and hope to a newly budding world, and heart.

I want to share with you this beautiful rendition of AMAZING GRACE, by a group called Il Divo. AMAZING GRACE was written by John Newton, a former slave trader who met the Master who changed his life and calling. Newton was transformed from a captain of slave ships to an abolitionist and priest of the Anglican parish at Olney, Buckinghamshire, England for two decades.

This song is one of many Newton wrote, but is his most famous, probably because it speaks to the marvelous grace of God that can change a stony heart to soft, a hard heart to one that is open to both receiving, and granting grace.

https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-norton-ext_onb&ei=UTF-8&hsimp=yhs-ext_onb&hspart=norton&param1=0a6ef5af-06c6-4c78-90af-877a4392b851_2020-06-18_cr&param2=ds_nag_may20&param3=ngc_22.20.2.57_wk25_2020&param4=1000&source=nag&p=il+divo&type=cr_ds_may20_wk25_2020#id=3&vid=a8ebd5953f837cb5a8f9bda275712176&action=click

What renews your soul? Is it God’s creativity in nature? Time with family and friends (in person)? Solitary time? Time spent alone with God and his Word? Let’s talk about it.

Like a Tree

As we drove home the other day I saw this striking live oak tree – arms and elbows all akimbo. It struck me as very beautiful.

How did those branches twist and turn as they did?

I read that oak trees don’t usually have a single, straight leader after branching begins, but spread out into several large branches. Given enough room, they tend to be as wide as they are tall, but growing conditions have a larger effect on this than species alone. An oak growing in the forest will be tall and thin like its neighbors, while oaks growing in large, even spacing along a planted row are short and wide.

The reason oak branches are not very straight is because the leading bud rarely grows. Instead, stems grow out around that leading bud in an alternate or spiral pattern, with no two branches coming from the same node. The result – a crooked shape.

Obstacles–those single buds that don’t grow into straight branches. But what those obstacles do is create a shape that is artistic, unique, and quite beautiful.

Isn’t that what God does in our lives? He desires that our roots go deep into the soil of his incomprehensible love; that we trust him in every circumstance of life; and that we continue to bear fruit for his kingdom.

Obstacles change us as we work through or go around them with God’s help. Most of us carry battle scars of one kind or another. But in His love, our God molds us more into His image. He promises that…

They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.

Jeremiah 17:8 NLT

Let’s encourage each other in this time of turmoil. Rather than worrying, let’s trust the God who will always be with us. Let’s continue to bathe our roots in the water of His love and care.

I encourage you to build connections with others who will encourage and strengthen you. Join a small group to study the Bible and pray together (even if on Zoom, as we’re doing!). Find a church with safe options where you can be fed with the rich abundance of God’s Word. These are some of the ways that help us not to be bothered by the heat or worried by drought, and to keep producing good fruit.

I just found a cute children’s song whose lyrics express this well.

I’m gonna be like a tree, planted by the water. Trusting in the Father to keep me strong. I’m gonna be like a tree, planted by the water. Trusting in the name of the Lord.

The deeper the roots grow. The better the fruits grow. The blessings bloom out for all to see. The deeper the roots grow. The more of my life shows That Jesus is the Lord of me, Lord of me.

Integrity Kids

How can I encourage you this week? Pray for you?

Moments

Undulating green hills rose and fell as far as we could see, a soft, lumpy carpet interspersed with jagged rocks thrusting up through the soil and grass at periodic intervals. Here were downed trees. There, moss-covered logs. Cattle and horses stood or laid in the fields. Boulders the size of a small house astounded. The Merced River rippled over rocks on its journey down the mountainside. Mountains that had been burned out now sported short bursts of new growth.

As we drove, granite glowed as sunlight shone on mountain peaks. Fluffy white clouds opened to reflect patches of blue peering through. And next to me was my husband, who loves me better than life.

The CD of a favorite male quartet filled our car and Don and I sang along. The view all around us was pastoral, peaceful. In that moment out on the road I was filled to overflowing with love and praise and worship. 

I looked at Don. “Stunning scenery, the two of us together, going to a place we love, singing along out of tune … it doesn’t get any better than this.

It was a moment.

Isn’t that life? We go along day by day, doing what’s needed, hanging with loved ones, laughing, crying, paying bills, doing dishes … just routine stuff. And suddenly there’s a moment, a precious, soul stirring moment that touches our spirits.

Those moments are priceless. Makes me wonder if some couples separate because they expect a life of continuous moments and don’t treasure the moments they do have. My brother Arnold made a comment in a different context that I think fits here … “Pray for the moments but don’t expect them regularly.”

So here’s to love and marriage, to appreciating the routine of the day to day and delighting in the moments.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

I Corinthians 13:4-7