Expressive Pics | What Remains

beauty remains smaller text

I have been almost obsessive about photographing the sunflowers a friend gave me a few weeks ago. I’ve been capturing them as petals wilt and drop off one by one. I am struck by the beauty that remains in a sunflower even after the bright petals which initially attract us are gone.

Think […] of the beauty that still remains. –Anne Frank

As I vacillate between grief over my father’s passing and gratitude over his beautifully long life, Anne Frank’s words [above] resonate, so these are the words that came to mind as I positioned my “transforming” sunflowers for pictures.

The madness of the outer world and the turmoil of our inner world can try us in unimaginable ways, but there is always beauty–even after the things of this world have left our souls ravaged and torn. We all need a reminder every now and then to shift our focus not to what is not or no longer but to what is and what endures.

There is always beauty. Always.

Gratitude and Grace | #ThursdayTreeLove | Thank You, Trees

11-16-21 Tree Walk-8

In our recent exchange about one thing in nature we’re grateful for, my bestie was surprised that I did not say sunflowers. We all know how much I love sunflowers [I am indeed grateful for them]. But trees? They save my life! In fact, none of us would be able to live without them…literally.

This fact was underscored in an exchange I had with Elaine V, one of my colleagues, a couple of weeks ago. I was feeling a little under the weather, so I mentioned that maybe some time outdoors in the sun would help. She responded that would be perfect because “trees give off natural negative ions that help boost immunity and kill pathogens.” [Did I mention Elaine is a biologist?] This made me love trees even more! Who knew that was even possible?

11-16-21 Tree Walk-9

I’m sure you learned about the benefits of trees in elementary school—how they pull the yucky stuff like carbon dioxide from the air and replace it with good stuff we need to survive, like oxygen. But there are many, many other things trees provide for human life and for our planet. You can read about the goodness of trees by clicking any (or all) of the links below.

11-16-21 Tree Walk-10

Thank you, trees.

Thank you for the air we breathe, the homes we live in, the fires that keep us warm.

Thank you for the endless creativity you offer in your diversity and thank you for the continuous inspiration.

Thank you for the homes you provide for the animals.

Thank you for teaching us how to reach for the stars while staying true to our roots.

Thank you for teaching us balance.

Thank you for teaching us how to climb, swing, and dangle; thank you for all the good times we’ve shared.  –Michael McMillan, “Giving Thanks to Trees”

It’s a special treat that #ThursdayTreeLove always falls on Thanksgiving. Thank God for trees!

Happy Thanksgiving!


About the Images: The iPhone photos in this post are from one of my mid-November “tree walks” on campus. I escaped my office for a quick break between meetings and to move my body. I was headed back when the bright yellow leaves tree beckoned. I walked past my office and spent about 10 minutes with the tree. Solid tree therapy.

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.

Gratitude and Grace | Start Here

Pumpkin Trio-1

I can’t help thinking no word will ever be as full of life as this world,   
I can’t help thinking of thanks. –Suji Kwock Kim, “Slant”

Since we are in the season of thanksgiving, my bestie enlisted a group of women in her circle to participate in a gratitude challenge this month. She shared a November calendar that offers daily prompts and invites participants to ponder on the things for which they are grateful. 

Indeed, it has been a challenge selecting just one thing daily, but that’s a good thing. It underscores a life overflowing with goodness, and I do not take that for granted.

What I really appreciate about the prompts is that they invite us to focus on experiences instead of material things. I am indeed grateful for the necessities and the creature comforts, but it is experiences, not things, that make a full life.

Thankfulness doesn’t have to begin or end in November, so if you’d like to start a gratitude practice, start with the simple prompts we used: Gratitude Journal Prompts.

Until next time…

World Watercolor Month: 15-21

WWCM19

Whew! The end of a grueling week! We’ve also reached the end of our tour of the photo art collection I shared for World Watercolor Month.

There is incredible truth in the quote paired with my 19th post (above):

The more grateful I am, the more beauty I see. –Mary Davis

Lately, I have been a bit more intentional about walking with gratitude. I have been amazed by how much beauty enters my space; my cameras are overflowing with so much of it that I will not be able to share all of it. 

I am not only meeting beauty in the natural world but I am also discovering incredible beauty in my daily encounters with other humans. Even with difficult people, if I recast my gaze, I find the light and the splendor of their humanity. 

Life can be hard and ugly at times, but there is still much for which to be grateful, much yet to celebrate. [Click an image to see posts 15-18; 20-21].

#ThursdayTreeLove | Giving Thanks with Trees

I’m thanking you, GOD, from a full heart, I’m writing the book on your wonders. I’m whistling, laughing, and jumping for joy; I’m singing your song, High God.
Psalm‬ ‭9:1-2‬ ‭MSG‬‬

Trees are beautiful gifts from God, so it’s fitting that #ThursdayTreeLove falls on Thanksgiving. The Bible verses above perfectly speak my feelings when I’m in the presence of trees. They fill my heart, leaving me light and joyful, singing songs for the Most High.

For today’s tree love I’m sharing photos of the other campus tree I stalk during autumn. I captured these images on a rainy day two weeks ago and could hardly wait to share them. The tree gets much brighter than this, but unfortunately, the cold rainy days kept me away from shooting more. By now, I’m sure, the tree is bare–and that’s another kind of beauty I look forward to sharing.

Enjoy the few images below. [Click an image for a closer look]

 

Last Friday’s post, “Wait and Hope,” featured a preview of the tree. I learned from Sharon of Ink Flarewho commented about her love for gingko leaves, that this is a gingko tree. Thanks, Sharon!

Happy Thanksgiving!


Pardon the one-post interruption of “Sunflower Week,” but #ThursdayTreeLove comes only twice a month, and I cannot resist sharing the trees. No worries. I’ll be back with sunflowers tomorrow and the next day.

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.

Also, linking up with Dawn of The Day After in the Festival of Leaves photo challenge.

Let Us Be Grateful…

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.  –Marcel Proust

Early yesterday morning, I realized that I’d been “unfriended” by an acquaintance on Facebook. It made me feel “some kind of way.” Normally, I couldn’t care less because Facebook is Facebook. People come and people go. I don’t even spend a lot of time on it. But the person is someone I communicate with regularly, so this came as a surprise (and yes, she’s still on FB).  I prayed about it–asking God to free me from the icky feelings that were creeping in–and moved on.

Less than an hour later, when I’d moved on to other matters, I was overcome by an overwhelming appreciation for the wonderful people God has placed in my life–people who have held me together when I was clearly falling apart, people who have provided joy and laughter and deep friendship, people who know me and get me and expect nothing more from me than who I am, people who make much over me and shower me with love and good things, expecting nothing in return, people who make my “soul blossom.”

It was clearly a lesson in “gratitude”–and when it comes to the people in my life, I am more than grateful.

Recently, I received the beautiful card [above] in the mail from Amy, @outofbroken, whom I met via Instagram. I initially encountered her when my Brittany tagged me in one of outofbroken’s “giveaway” posts. [I ended up winning Redefined, a beautiful journal from Well-Watered Women]. Amy’s posts are inspiring, and one evening we had a spirited conversation in which we shared our spiritual struggles and committed to praying for each other.

Some time later, the card came filled with encouragement, blessings, and uplift. Her message ended with one of my favorite phrases–one of my mantras, really–God is faithful.

And He is…and I’m grateful for the people He has placed in my life–for a moment or for a lifetime.

Thankful.

“Thankful” made for the Global Art Swap/heART Exchange by Lori K.

What separates privilege from entitlement is gratitude. –Brene Brown

A couple of posts on Instagram resonated with me this morning. One, I might share another time, but the post by my IG friend, @gallionista, bears repeating today. We live in a world where people feel they are “entitled” to this and that, so her message is timely.

[…] To be content is a privilege and a delicate matter that must be curated and planned and protected.  Show gratitude for all the [stuff] that makes you happy: say thank  you; tell a person; write about it; paint a mural; cook a meal; hug for five seconds longer.  Just show that you understand the complexity of what is temporary, fragile, or gifted.  [Emphasis mine].

When we realize NONE of our comforts are guaranteed–none of them are ours by “right,” that all of them are privilege and fortune and gift and blessing and grace, that “here today, gone tomorrow” is a reality for many and can be for us too–we’ll begin to grasp what it means to be thankful, to be grateful for ALL we have.

Take a moment today and begin a list of all your privileges and whisper a prayer of gratitude for each.and.every.one.

Look for the Gift

Do you remember my student, Chante Marie?

She’s leaving in a week to pursue her music career! Needless to say, I’m so proud of her. I know “just going for it” can be a scary venture, but Chante has a beautiful gift and spirit and she’ll be more than okay.

She and her hubby (they’re such a cute couple) dropped by my office yesterday and brought gifts—a lighthouse postcard, which I’ll share later, and a journal. Chante did not give me a journal to fill with words, but she gave me her very own art journal—filled from cover to cover with her art and brief musings!

Dream: Chante’s Art Book

This is such a precious gift. I am speechless.

During the drive to school and work this morning my son and I talked about the importance of looking for the gift in each day. Life can be, well…life. Something might happen during the course of the day that “knocks the wind” out of us—an injustice, an unkindness, a failure, a disappointment. Some days we’re knocked down before we can recover from the last blow, and sometimes we feel like we can’t “catch a break.”

A page from Chante’s Art book

Even on those days when it’s a struggle to lift our heads, there’s a gift waiting for us.

Sometimes the gift is tangible—a flower, a letter, a beautiful art journal, or a hug when needed. Sometimes, it’s intangible—the beauty of another’s soul, the sighting of a hummingbird, a painted sky, the good feeling that comes from doing well, a phone call that comes just when needed, or the sudden appearance of someone who just crossed your mind.

Actively seeking the gift works to rescue us from slipping into a mundane pattern of doing and getting and merely tolerating life. It saves us from cynicism and from fretting over trifles.

Fly Away: A page from Chante’s art book

Chante’s gift provided that for me yesterday and continues to bless me today. She gave me more than a physical journal; she also gave (part of) her soul journey. The intangible expressed through the tangible makes a very powerful gift.

 

Join me in making a habit of looking for the gift in each day. If you need a little help, check out my penfriend Beckra’s blog: Every Day, One Good Thing.

Be sure to collect a few gifts from Chante’s IG and blog too!

Ciao!

“When Giving Is All We Have”

"I will give thanks to you, Lord with all my heart." Psalm 9:1 Art by Lorelei C. #lovenotesjb

“I will give thanks to you, Lord with all my heart.” Psalm 9:1.  Gratitude Art by Lorelei C. #lovenotesjb

When Giving Is All We Have

One river gives
Its journey to the next.

We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.

We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.

We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—

Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.

Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:

Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.

You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me

What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give—together, we made

Something greater from the difference.

~Alberto Ríos, 1952

Happy Gratitude Day!

Everyday Gifts: Good-bye December. Hello 2015.

"Winter Rose Poinsettia"--I'd never seen one before this year.  It's beautiful (and I hear they last longer than "regular" poinsettias)!

“Winter Rose Poinsettia”–I’d never seen one before this year. It’s beautiful (and I hear they last longer than “regular” poinsettias)!

In typical fashion, I spent the last few days reflecting on 2014, particularly the last weeks of the year.  December was unkind in many ways–filled with lots of grays and pale blues and challenges and setbacks and inconsistencies and not-so-pleasant surprises.

But every day there was something that tickled my spirit or brought a smile to my face–silly and proud moments with my little one; a couple of hours with one of my dearest friends at a conference we both happened to attend; the giddy reaction of the adult audience members as my hubby told a story to children; the frog-hop of excitement my son performed when he opened his Christmas gift and found the robot he wanted.

December gave winter rose poinsettias, festive shop windows, the music, lights, and neon glitz of downtown Nashville, teddy bears, and beautiful photographs from friends. [Click an image for a larger view]

It gave a colleagues’ pink frog with green eyes that is now featured on notecards I made for her.

"Living the Pink Life," Cy's Frog

“Living the Pink Life,” Cy’s Frog

December allowed me to see beautiful dolls (on display in an Asian restaurant my hubby and I visited for the first time in December):

December brightened my mailbox with photos from Patty, known as Cakers to you–the colorful silk fibers postcard made for a “Hobbies Deserve Photos Too” swap:

Untitled 6 3

“A Rainbow of Fibers,” Photo by Patty aka Cakers

And a calming view of the Atlantic Ocean sent in an email while that same someone was spending Christmas vacation in Mexico with her hubby.  I envied her vacation away from the madness, but appreciated her timely gift.

"Cancun for Christmas," Photo by Cakers, December 2014

“Cancun for Christmas,” Photo by Cakers, December 2014

December cheered me with a cuddly teddy bear found in an unexpected place–at an academic conference.

“Bringing You Love,” 2014.  The bear belongs to one of the vendors at a conference I attended. Her boyfriend sent it to keep her company while she was traveling.

December warmed me early one Monday morning when a shuttle driver sang his testimony to a busload of conference attendees as he shuttled us from our hotels to the conference site.   It warmed me again later that day when a country singer serenaded me and even made up a song just for me in an attempt to lure me and a colleague into the saloon where he was performing.

December offered laughter through hilarious ugly sweater modeling and the “Nat King Cole” crooning of a colleague that had the women going wild at the University’s Christmas party.

For these and so much more I am grateful.

I begin the new year looking forward to the gifts hidden in the daily toils, the little things we so often overlook when other matters sap our strength and spirit.  I pray that you, too, will search for and appreciate the tiny, everyday joys that make life bearable and pleasurable.

Happy 2015 to you and yours.