All Wrapped Up in Joy

I woke up this morning with all the “things to do” on my mind and all the uninvited annoyances that entered my sphere days earlier nagging my heart. Before jumping out of bed in a frenzied rush–15 minutes later than I’d intended and an hour later than I should have–I paused and convinced myself to spend my usual first moments of the day in meditation.

I thought about my blogging friend Rev Russ’s query in his post “It’s All Hard”: Is life hard or have we become wimps [not exactly his words]?

I mused for a moment about just how difficult it can be to navigate all the “stuff” that comes our way from day to day, just how hard it is to push past the everyday slights and disappointments, how hard it is to [always?] act and speak with prudence, how hard it is to accept [not tolerate] difficult people, how hard it is to forgive repeat offenders, how hard it is to love ourselves, flaws and all.

The thought of it all made rising from bed a bit challenging, so I asked God, “How can I face the day when I wake up bone-tired? Weary?”

He immediately answered with three doses of His Word, so I wrote them in my journal and determined to let them direct my day.

When things were said or done that had the potential to unsettle me–A person whose desires rest on You, You preserve in perfect peace because [she] trusts in You (Isaiah 26:3).

When a sense of my very present vulnerabilities threatened to overthrow me–My grace is enough for you, for My power is brought to perfection in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). 

When I felt like the tasks were unmanageable, too much, impossible–I can do all things through Him who gives me power (Philippians 4:13). 

Despite the disappointments, the distractions, the conflicting personalities, the tedious work, the “must get done” list, my step was a little lighter today; my mind at ease; my spirit unencumbered.

As I wrote the last scripture in my journal this morning and click-closed the pen, God whispered one more word into my heart–The joy of the Adonai is [my] strength (Nehemiah 8:10). The peace, the grace, the power–all wrapped up in His joy.


Forgive me for the wordy #WordlessWednesday. The image above is an edit of a fallen hyacinth flower. I visited my family in New Orleans last weekend, and the gorgeous and über aromatic hyacinth plant stole the show in my mother’s garden.

All scripture from the Complete Jewish Bible (CJB).

#ThursdayTreeLove | Beauty Remains

Beauty remains in nature, sun, freedom and yourself. If you just look for it, you discover yourself and God, you will stand out. –Anne Frank

My guys and I rediscovered the treasures above in the backyard a windy afternoon two weeks ago. The top photo features the remains of a log that once held a heart in its center.  The log in the bottom photo has been home to many tiny creatures over the years, and though it appears to be reaching its last days, it is still an incredible work of art.

If we “just look for it,” we will discover there is extraordinary beauty in the “remains” of trees.


I am joining Parul Thakur for #ThursdayTreeLove every second and fourth Thursday of the month. If you would like to play along, post a picture of a tree on your blog and link it back to her latest #treelove post.

Self-Kindness and the (Un)Written Plan

Interior of the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington, DC. Digitally altered, of course.

The publicly announced commitments to change and other goals [seem to] have increased significantly for 2020, perhaps, because most perceive the new year as the beginning rather than the end of a decade.

This morning, I had a brief discussion with Paula, an inspirational writer friend, following her (re)posting of a devotional thought she wrote at the beginning of 2018. She commented in our discussion that not much had changed in two years.

That gave me pause for two reasons: (1) From my point of view Paula has made serious strides in recent years. And (2) when I considered what I’d hoped to accomplish the past several years, I confronted the reality that I missed the mark many times, in many ways.

But before I allowed myself to sit in a stew of self-pity and regret, I decided to make a list of all the things I have accomplished over the decade. Sufficiently sated, I stopped at the end of the first long page–with plans to “complete” the list and refer to it whenever feelings of failure and defeat surface.

While writing the list, I focused on the things others can see, things I can list on my curriculum vitae or include in a professional biography. However, there are so many victories, so many successes that would not be included on a CV or in a bio.

By the grace of God, I’ve done some hard things, faced and overcome difficult obstacles. Things that took time. Energy. And left scars. Things no one else will see. Things most will never know. Things for which I will never be publicly honored, recognized, or applauded. Things that firmed up my soul and impacted the lives of others in ways I may never know.

I learned long ago my value does not come from a list of successes (or failures), a title, a bank account, or even the people around me. I also learned what I achieve through and for the Most High is far more critical than anything I do for myself.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s important to make plans and act on them, but I invite you to do so with a little more perspective and self-kindness. Even if you don’t check everything off [the probably overly ambitious] list within the time frame expected, take into consideration the ways in which you slay and conquer that aren’t written into the plan.

Happy 2020!

Into Morning | #WordlessWednesday

Sometimes, it’s necessary to ignore the ice cold temperature and race outdoors at the first sign of light to catch a glimpse of God.

“I Wake Close to Morning”
Mary Oliver

Why do people keep asking to see
God’s identity papers
when the darkness opening into morning
is more than enough?
Certainly any god might turn away in disgust.
Think of Sheba approaching
the kingdom of Solomon.
Do you think she had to ask,
“Is this the place?”

from Felicity, 2015

Sunflowers in the Cosmos!

When I viewed the A New Moon Rises: Views from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera exhibit at the Huntsville Museum of Art in June, I was literally “over the moon” to find sunflowers on the moon!

What? You didn’t know there were sunflowers on the moon? Well, there are!

I shared photos from the exhibit in July, but withheld photographs of one of the craters because, although I didn’t have a date in mind, I knew I wanted to share the crater during “Sunflower Week.”

A Very Young Crater

Obviously, this is not really a sunflower; it is actually a “very young crater.” This is one of the images captured with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC):

Spectacular ejecta surround this very young impact crater about 1,400 meters (4,600 feet) across. Since there are no superimposed impact craters on the ejecta, and the delicate lacy impact spray is still preserved near the rim, this crater formed very recently, perhaps sometime in the past few thousand years.  –from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Isn’t it amazing how very much the crater looks like a sunflower? If you can’t see it, here’s a sunflower edit I did a year and a half ago that might help:

Finding a sunflower on the moon reminded me of the sunspot postcard Love Noter Arielle W sent, which also resembled a sunflower. [It was featured in a blogpost a couple of years ago].

Detail of a Sunspot. Big Bear Solar Observatory, New Jersey Institute of Technology.

These lunar and solar “sunflowers” underscore the reason sunflowers are so meaningful to me. They’re not just bright yellow blooms that look like the sun; they are my constant reminder of the Creator and His Sovereignty. If He can give us sunflowers in outer space, and if He can sustain every single atom and keep order in the Universe, then certainly I can trust Him to be faithful over every single thing that concerns me.


We’ve reached the end of NaBloPoMo 2019 and Sunflower Week 2019. I’m ever grateful to you, my readers, for tolerating my daily posts (and ramblings). I have many more sunflowers, stacks of postcards and other beautiful things to share, but they will have to wait, of course. Life is going to be super-busy with end-of-semester madness and holiday planning, but I’ll be sure to check in a couple of times a week.

Until next time…Have joy!

From the Shadows…Into the Light

I did not come to photography looking for magic. I came looking for a way to speak my pain. In the process of finding images to portray my darkness, I passed through the shadows into light. Now, I am one of photography’s many lovers, devoted to the art of seeing and revealing. […] There’s something holy about this work, something healing about this search for light. Like the pilgrim’s journey, it’s heaven all the way.

–Jan Phillips, God Is at Eye Level

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.

–Mary Oliver, “The Uses of Sorrow”

Through a casual Facebook post featuring some of her favorite books, my pen friend Connie F, introduced me to Jan Phillip’s book, God Is at Eye Level [Thanks, Connie!]. With Amazon [birthday] gift card in hand [Thanks, Tee!], I ordered the book and two others on creative and contemplative photography. 

The photograph of the wilted sunflower is the result of an exercise in God Is at Eye Level that invites readers to use an entire [pretend] 24-exposure roll of film to explore one strong emotion. It is my attempt to capture the tension between the darkness that walks with me as I deal with grief and trauma and the light I feel I need to project.  

But I am learning, day by day, there is value in darkness, particularly if we are using it to move toward Light.

In the quote above, Phillips underscores the usefulness of darkness, its role in our creativity and healing. Darkness is a “gift,” a necessary part of process; therefore, it’s critical that we face the darkness, wrestle with it, deal, so that we might emerge whole, or maybe not as fractured. Running away from it—creating some inauthentic happy place—only imprisons us. The operative word is emerge. Eventually, we “pass through” darkness and into the fullness of Light.

#ThursdayTreeLove | A Study in Contrast

One of the trees I enjoy watching from season to season is the dogwood that sits in the middle of the tree-filled field in the center of “my part” of campus. Year after year, I gaze out my window and watch the tree transform–from summer to autumn, winter to spring.

The tree is gorgeous in all seasons. It has a predictable beauty that can become commonplace to some, but the shape of the tree and the lonely bench that rests beneath its branches always manage to draw my eye.

Many focus on the dogwood’s beauty in spring. They typically point to the the milky blossoms and the illustration of the Crucifixion of Christ the tree provides. For me, the dogwood is just as arresting in autumn. The red-orange blossoms with a hint of gold create a breathtaking scene.

Although I’m convinced these photographs fail to adequately capture the tree’s stunning beauty, I thought you might appreciate the contrast.

I’ll make a note to photograph the tree during the winter and summer for a more complete study of the changes.

The black and white versions of the photographs underscore the seasonal differences of the tree.

Obviously, we’re going to see changes in nature as the seasons transition. I’m [still] awed by those changes–not only for the visual appeal but for what they teach us about our Creator, about His consistency, constancy, and character.


I’m linking up with with Dawn of The Day After in the Festival of Leaves photo challenge. I’m also a week early for the Parul Thakur’s bi-monthly #ThursdayTreeLove because I have a different post planned for next Thursday. No matter. Every day is tree love in my world.