Sunflowers, Roses, and Coincidence

Life is busy, busy, busy, but I had to drop by on my lunch break because I found myself chuckling a little about the coincidence between last week’s Microblog Monday post and an interaction with one of my good friends.

At the end of a birthday dinner she hosted for her husband and other February-born relatives Saturday, my friend gave away the red roses that adorned most of the tables. Only the “kiddie table” held a vase of sunflowers.

She offered me the roses. Then read my face, “You want the sunflowers.”


Lately, more than usual, I need to surround myself with the sunny blossoms and, like them, seek the light…

I don’t think there’s anything on this planet that more trumpets life than the sunflower. For me that’s because of the reason behind its name. Not because it looks like the sun but because it follows the sun. During the course of the day, the head tracks the journey of the sun across the sky. A satellite dish for sunshine. Wherever light is, no matter how weak, these flowers will find it. And that’s such an admirable thing. And such a lesson in life.  –Helen Mirren as Chris in Calendar Girls

Speaking of Sunflowers…

“Chelsey’s Sunflower” Postcard Made by Trang K.

Isn’t this the most adorable piglet “sunning” beneath the brilliant rays of a sunflower? This postcard was beautifully made by the talented Trang K, who sent me a different sunflower few months ago. Trang wrote a long note, sweetly embellished with  flourishes, doodled flowers, hearts, and a butterfly.  She closed the card with, “You are a blessing and a treasure” written in gold. I’m convinced her heart overflows into each card she makes.

My sunflowers bloom all year long, thanks to my penfriends.

“The Sunflowers” by Mary Oliver

Come with me
into the field of sunflowers.
Their faces are burnished disks,
their dry spines

creak like ship masts,
their green leaves,
so heavy and many,
fill all day with the sticky

sugars of the sun.
Come with me
to visit the sunflowers,
they are shy

but want to be friends;
they have wonderful stories
of when they were young –
the important weather,

the wandering crows.
Don’t be afraid
to ask them questions!
Their bright faces,

which follow the sun,
will listen, and all
those rows of seeds –
each one a new life!

hope for a deeper acquaintance;
each of them, though it stands
in a crowd of many,
like a separate universe,

is lonely, the long work
of turning their lives
into a celebration
is not easy. Come

and let us talk with those modest faces,
the simple garments of leaves,
the coarse roots in the earth
so uprightly burning.

Because I Love Sunflowers…

Love Notes participants are a creative bunch, and I always feel the love when someone crafts a card especially for me. That is exactly what Lori K did for the Love Notes 21, Prompt 2. After reading about my ❤ for sunflowers, she created a gorgeous autumn-themed sunflower card for me. Double love!

“Autumn Sunflower,” Card made by Lori K.

Lori sent the card with a long, newsy letter that ended with her response to the prompt, “Your history….”

Your history is what makes you who you are. The things you have gone through, both the good and the bad, have taught you how to be the caring and loving person you are. Enjoy each day and make more of your unique history.

Can we talk about how much this sunflower is saving my sanity?

The last five or six weeks have been challenging for my family. My dad has been in and out of the hospital. Worrying, waiting for news, and trying to figure out what’s going on has been emotionally taxing. He’s back in the hospital today, so this sunflower is a beautiful and much needed reminder to turn my face heavenward and trust that God’s “got this.”

Sunflowers normally find a place on the walls of my home and work offices, but I placed this one in my planner because I need to see it each time I open the planner throughout week.

Over the years, my friends–“in real life” and pen friends–have given me many, many sunflower notecards, postcards, drawings, watercolors, paintings, and photos. I’m grateful for the sunflowers, the beautiful messages all around me, prompting me to dwell in the light and stand tall and strong in the face of adversity.

Thank you, Lori. Your sunflower came at the right moment!

Sunny Inspiration: Look Up!

My neighbor’s sunflowers came in beautifully and I made a few trips to capture them in their various stages. I managed to capture dozens of pics–one is featured in Finding Love Notes, Naturally, posted a couple of weeks ago.

I decided to work with a couple of the photos yesterday–one featuring a sunflower with its “face” turned upward and the other a “downcast” flower leaning away from another that is still full of life. The photos were on my mind and I wanted to combine them with words that speak their language.

The blooms are visual reminders that when the “stuff” of life is coming at us full force, all we have to do is stand firm, “face the Sun,” and rest in the embrace of the One who is always near.

“Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,” Sunflower PhotoArt by Me!

Sometimes, it’s necessary to face our problems “head on,” stare them down, and conquer them. At other times–when things are out of our control and bigger than we could ever imagine–we have to turn away from our struggles and focus our attention on the One who handles the insurmountable and scary situations for us. Otherwise, the worry and stress can affect our health.

“God Is Near the Broken-Hearted,” Sunflowers PhotoArt by Me!

We feel alone in such situations–it seems no one understands, can provide the comfort we need or help us manage our problems. It is imperative to know that we are not alone, that God is near, cradling us in His protective arms, and carrying us through the difficulties.

When we train our focus heavenward, our problems are placed in proper perspective, and we learn to trust the “Lover of our souls” to manage all our concerns so we can go on living and loving without distress.

I prefer to see sunflowers with a sunny disposition, but the sunflower in the second photo communicated so profoundly and beautifully the message of Psalm 34:18 that I had to capture it–even with the photo-bombing bee. The bee might seem a distraction, an annoyance even, but without bees there would be no flowers.

Wishing you a week filled with sunshine and good things…

Photography: Finding Love Notes, Naturally

I’ve been “finding hearts” a lot this summer–when I look up, when I look down, when I’m simply enjoying my surroundings. Here’s a sampling of the hearts I “found” and photographed this summer.

❤ ❤ ❤

After seven years of faithful (and perhaps too much) shooting, my camera died on me late one April afternoon while I was shooting Magnolia blossoms. I was heartbroken. One of my good friends offered to purchase a new camera for me in return for a small favor. I would have done the favor anyway, so I resisted until I read a quote about not denying others the gift of giving to us. It finally convinced me to allow her to bless me in this way.  (And yes, I have amazing friends).

The camera arrived on a quiet Thursday afternoon. I unpacked it, took a shot of it straight out of the box with my phone, then stepped outside to give it a test run. The sun was a bit too much for my eyes, so I decided to shoot the heart I “found” a few months ago–I had to cast my gaze downward, which wasn’t as harsh on my eyes.

But what did I see when my eyes adjusted to the brightness of outdoors? Another heart! The heart affirmed my acceptance of the gift (because “truth be told,” I still had a problem with accepting it).

“Affirmation,” June 2017

❤ ❤ ❤

While my guys and I were walking through Ditto Landing a recent Saturday afternoon, my little one pointed out the heart (below) carved into the pavement–a natural symbol of the love embodied in our little family.

“Etched in Stone,” July 2017

I found a second heart during our walk, but I’m saving that one for another post. 😉

❤ ❤ ❤

My neighbor’s mini sunflower “patch” has been my happy place over the last few weeks. As I fretted over one thing or another one morning, I decided to visit them (again). This sunflower was a double reminder to turn my worries over to God and embrace His all-encompassing love, which will carry me through my difficulties.

“First Visit,” July 2017

❤ ❤ ❤

Just a few days ago, as I was again attempting to declutter and destash, I ran across an envelope filled with “found hearts” I received for a swap some time ago. The sender, Kelly (aka Mugsie), also loves found hearts and she sent several of her original photographs. [Click an image for a closer look]


Kelly finds hearts everywhere. If this small collection doesn’t convince you, take a look at her “naturally found hearts” site where you’ll find many more.

❤ ❤ ❤

It’s always a pleasure finding hearts when I’m out and about and it thrills me to share the hearts with friends and family. The photos serve well–in quick “thinking about you” notes, as “love posts,” and even as Liberate Your Art selections. The hearts “appear” when I need them most and reassure me that my world is okay.

What about you? Do you “find” hearts? Or is there some other symbol you “find” or look for when you need a particular message?

4-4-4: Four Weeks, Four Topics, Four Notes

Building a snail mail relationship through (random) swapping isn’t always easy.  Quite frequently, I receive from or send to a person knowing we won’t hear from each other again until years later when one of us is randomly selected as the other’s partner again. In some cases, never.

A couple of years ago I hosted a four-week, four notes photography swap to deal with this problem.  The swap, called 4-4-4, invited participants to select four topics from a list of 12 and send one photo representing each of the four chosen topics to their partners every week for four weeks. The photo was just one part of the swap.  Swappers also had to make the photo part of a letter, notecard, or postcard in which they explained or provided details about the photo, technique, inspiration, or the story behind the photo.

This was one of the best swaps for me. I really got to know my partners. I learned about their photography styles, their families, their careers, their personal philosophies, and more.

I decided to host the swap again.  This time my partner was Diane of A Focused Journey, Midteacher on swap-bot.  Diane and I communicate regularly through swaps and “random acts of mail,” but I learned a lot more about her life and her creative work.

Diane’s chosen topics were beauty, color, alone, and fragrant.  Take a look:

Week 1: Beauty

Outside of “Beauty” Card by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

“Beauty” by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

The “beauty” photo features a weeping pine that sits outside Diane’s kitchen window. She fell in love with its unusual form when she saw it in a friend’s garden.  She, then, took on additional work at a local nursery to purchase the tree.

She especially loves how the raindrops form on the tips of the needles, so the theme “beauty” is appropriate for the photo.

Diane sent oversize postcards for weeks two and three.

Week 2: Color

“Color” by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

The scan doesn’t capture the colors in this postcard very well.  The postcard features a photo of “clouds in color” that Diane duplicated in the background she created for the photo. She captured the photo one afternoon when the sun was “sending rays of beautiful colors as the clouds were moving across the sky.”  She wrote that she must have taken 30+ shots trying to capture the light and color.

Though I’m sure this was not Diane’s intention, I like how the quote underscores the selection of this photo–it’s not perfect in the eyes of the shooter, but it is a wonderful image.

Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.

Week 3: Alone

“Alone” by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

The theme isn’t obvious on this one.  The yellow tulips hold a dear place in Diane’s heart.  She had a pretty difficult autumn one year.  The school that she loved and where she taught was closed due to budget cuts, and she was sent to a school that was challenging or “hellish,” as she describes it.  Then her son, a marine, was deployed to Afghanistan.  While out shopping and downcast, she found yellow tulip bulbs on clearance.  It was past planting time, but she bought all three bags and planted them.  The following spring, the tulips bloomed beautifully bringing her joy.  Eventually, her son returned home safe and sound.

She writes in sum:

I felt alone that fall, but every spring these tulips remind me otherwise!

Week 4: Fragrant

I  was almost sad when I saw the week four envelope.  It meant our weekly exchange had come to an end, but when I opened the envelope, I smiled from ear to ear. Sunflowers! Such a beautiful and appropriate ending to our swap.

These brightly colored flowers–miniature carnations and sunflowers–posed brilliantly on the island in Diane’s kitchen. The fragrance filled the air and greeted her each morning and as she passed throughout the day.

Diane can’t know how much I appreciate her for sending three different versions of the photo–the original and two edits.  They now have homes on my inspiration wall at home and at work!

As I mentioned many times before, I admire the way Diane works her photos into mixed media art.  Although we have very different approaches to photographic art, she and I share a mutual appreciation for each other’s work and we learn a lot from each other.  We often share tips and ideas, and because of my curiosity about how she crafts her photos, she recently recommended a book on photographic journaling techniques.  It’s on my list for the summer.

Look forward to my “trial and error” mixed media posts in the next few weeks.

Until then…

Have a happy mail day!