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Enjoy the Journey

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Quite often in life, I get so focused on where I’m going that I forget to enjoy the beauty along the way.  I become so absorbed with finishing everything on my to-do list that I miss the special moments that occur along the way.

 

Earlier this week I had to make a trip to our cottage for a small task that needed to be done.  I awoke thinking of all the things I needed do as I’m preparing for my Holiday Home Show and had a ton of tasks on my to-do list.  I wasn’t looking forward to taking 1 1/2 hours out of my already busy day to drive the whole way there and back for an errand that would take only 5 minutes to accomplish.

 

That morning as I took my dog out for his morning ‘constitutional’ I was greeted with the sight of a gorgeous morning sky. As I stood looking at it I was reminded that even when life is harried that there are gifts of beauty along the way that are easily overlooked.

 

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As I  drove up the mountain to the cottage I began to notice just how beautiful the scenery was along way.  It’s late-Autumn here in central PA and the leaves are turning amazing colors.  Both sides of the road are lined with trees and it seemed as though each time I drove around a curve in the road the colors were more amazing than the the last.

 

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One section is lined by pine trees.  Even though the bright colors of the deciduous trees are extremely beautiful, the line of green pines has it’s own charm.

 

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As I turned onto a gravel road the scenery changed, but still had a special kind of beauty.

 

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Entering the driveway I felt a sense of peace (as I often do).  This time of year when it’s completely covered by pine needles and leaves even the car was quiet.

 

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Even though the cottage is nothing fancy, to me it’s a beautiful sight.  It’s my ‘piece of heaven on earth’ – a place I can relax and experience a sense of peace that I don’t always feel at our home.  On this day, as I got out of the car and headed to the door, this is what I saw:

 

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My Happy Place 🙂 

 

I couldn’t help but smile as I imagined the sound effect you hear in movies when something has a bright light shining on it – like an angelic chorus. (Click here to hear the sound I heard in my head)  I know that may sound a bit dramatic and a little silly, but in a real way, this little place has been a heavenly gift to me.  It’s where I can slow down enough to focus on the truly important things in life and be able to appreciate all of the beauty that is around me.  On this day, even though I wasn’t able to spend much time there, I did take time to notice the beauty on drive.  I wish I could always have the mind-set to be more aware of special moments along this journey called ‘life’.  I hate to think that I am missing any heavenly gifts along the way.

 

I can’t remember if I finished everything on my list that day, but I do remember feeling grateful for all the beauty around me.

Considering that my last blog post was about an ornate, massive cathedral, this one is going in a slightly different direction.  While the grandeur of a cathedral can lead me to worship, much simpler churches can do the same.

 

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We had the opportunity to attend a very old and tiny church near our cottage this past summer.  It was built in the 1800’s and has been preserved and kept as it was in the past.  There are old, wooden pews, oil lamps, and no heat or air conditioning.  The first time I walked into the church many things took me back to the church I attended as a young girl  (especially the hand-held fans with the picture of Jesus.)

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Everything from the picture of Jesus in the front of the church to the board with the attendance numbers felt very nostalgic to me.  On the back of the pew in front of me were old hymnals and a bible. As I pulled out the hymn book and began to leaf through it, I found this taped in the front.  The words to this song captures what I was feeling at that moment.

 

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If you like old-time music, here’s a link to the song.  

Church in the Valley by the Wild Wood

My eyes filled with tears as I though about how much my Dad would have loved this little church.  He would have enjoyed the old hymns as well as the speakers who really taught scripture.  My Dad passed away shortly after we bought the cottage last year so was never able to attend this little church with us.  Even though I know he is in a place that is better than any cathedral or old brick church, I still miss him.

Feeling nostalgic was touching, but then the service started.  A sweet, older man led us in singing hymns.  He wasn’t as refined and polished as most of the worship leaders are in many modern churches, but you could tell he LOVED singing those old songs an meant every single word–it was a beautiful thing.   As I sang the alto part to hymns that I had sung as a teenager it affected me in a way that it didn’t when I was young.  Having experienced 40+ years of life since singing them, the words had a much deeper meaning.

We actually helped to set a record attendance of 39 one week and as a person who usually attends a VERY large church, it was moving to be a part of such a small congregation.  People had either come because they have a cabin in the area or they were camping at the nearby campground.  Even though we were all strangers, we were united in our faith.

The church is only open from Memorial Day through Labor Day so I will miss that little church until next spring.  😦

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Front Entrance of Cathedral and View of Both Spires

 

One of the attractions in Basel that everyone recommends is the Meunster Cathedral.  I love going into Cathedrals and old churches so this was definitely on our list of things to see.

 

 

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One of the Stained Glass Windows

 

We were able to tour much of the Cathedral, which was absolutely beautiful.  This particular Cathedral has 2 spires and we were able to climb one of them – 250 spiral steps.  We stopped at several points on the way to the top and walked around the spire on a narrow walkway.  The view from the top was breath-taking.

 

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Just starting the climb

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Part way up and looking up at the other spire

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At the very top and looking directly across at the other spire

 

It was amazing to see the entire town of Basel from this vantage point as well as looking straight across at the other spire.  Luckily I have no fear of heights so it was sheer joy and pleasure for me.  The walk down was tricky at times, but we made it back to the main sanctuary safely.

 

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The organ…AMAZING!!!

 

After coming down we discovered there was an organ recital about to start so we took a seat and waited for the organist to begin.  As we waited I noticed an elderly gentleman sitting across the way talking and gesturing to himself and my first thought was that he must be a little senile.  After watching him for 30 seconds I realized that he was praying – having an honest, heart-felt conversation with God.  He was experiencing deep emotion and it was very evident that he does this often.  He didn’t care who was around him or what they thought – he was spending time with his Lord. It was clear that his prayer was very earnest and he was listening as well as talking.

As the organ music began he closed his eyes and I could see that he wasn’t just hearing the music, but he was FEELING the music.  He would lift his hands at times and move them to the music much like a conductor would.  He was still moving his lips at times and putting his hand to his head as if overwhelmed by a thought/emotion.  He was enjoying the music with the one he had come to spend time with.

At the end of the recital people began to clap and he put his hands over his ears.  Only the Lord knows why he did this, but I couldn’t help but think that either the sound of the clapping was interfering with his worship or he was offended that people were giving praise to the organist instead of the Lord.  As everyone began to leave I watched him slowly rise from his chair and walk out of the church holding on to his cane and he was fairly stooped over.  He had a look on his face like he had just had the most wonderful time communing with someone he loved very much—the God of the Universe.  He may be feeble of body, but he has an extremely healthy soul.

 

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Empty chairs after he had left

 

Often just being in a cathedral and sensing the Holiness brings tears to my eyes, but watching that man was more beautiful than any grand tower or stained glass window. I can’t help but think that I’ll never see a sight as beautiful as that no matter how many cathedrals I tour.  I hope to someday have that kind of relationship with God that I can freely worship in whatever way I am moved, regardless of what others think.  I guess when you are staring into the face of someone you truly love everything else fades away.  I’m going to keep praying that God will help me to feel that kind of love for him/her.  I hope you might pray the same.

 

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View of Swiss Alps from top of Mount Pilates

I’ve just started my first trip to Europe and I’ve already seen and experienced many new and exciting things.  We spent a day in Lucerne, Switzerland where we saw breath-taking views of the Alps from the top of Mt. Pilates.  We ascended the mountain on a cog railroad,  walked around the top of the mountain and then descended in a gondola.

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Riding up Mount Pilates on Cog Railroad

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Descending down Mount Pilates in a gondola

While many of these sights were astoundingly beautiful, there was one I will always remember…..the Lion of Lucerne.  The Lion Monument is a giant dying lion carved out of a wall of sandstone rock above a pond at the east end of the medieval town. It was designed as a memorial for the mercenary soldiers from Switzerland who lost their lives while serving the French king Louis XVI during the French Revolution.

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The Lion of Lucerne

While I did find the history of the statue interesting, I had no idea that a piece of stone could evoke such strong emotion.  As I walked up to the lion I was immediately drawn to the details which the artist had been able to render in stone, but when I looked at the lion’s face my heart broke.  The look of pain and agony was so real that tears began to flow out of my eyes.  I found myself wanting to wade through the pond and wrap my arms around the lion.  I know, a bit crazy considering it’s a piece of stone, but the power of the lion’s expression is unbelievable.

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The face of pain

Mark Twain described the Lion of Lucerne with these words:   “the saddest and most moving piece of rock in the world” and  I have to agree with him.  As I stood among a crowd of strangers staring at the lion, I finally had to look away….It just hurt too much to keep staring at that look of pain.

***If you want to know more about the history of the monument, click on this link: Lion of Lucerne

 

 

Small Beauty

Lately I’ve been learning how to enjoy things in nature that I have taken for granted most of my life. Believe it or not, I’m now a bird-watcher.  The one I enjoy the most flies through the air at incredibly fast speeds and only weighs as much as a dime.  They are a gorgeous shade of green with a brilliant red neck.  Yep, I’ve learned to enjoy watching hummingbirds, specifically Ruby Throated  Hummingbirds.

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I’ve mentioned in previous posts that we’ve recently purchased a cottage in the woods and there is a wide variety of wildlife to enjoy and the hummingbird is one of the smallest, yet one of the most fascinating.  When we first began to spend time up here we saw a few hummingbirds darting around and decided to put up some feeders.  What started with 1 feeder has now turned into 8 and I’ve also planted many various flowers that attract Hummingbirds.  When I get in to something I REALLY get in to it. 🙂

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It’s so exciting to be sitting quietly on the porch and suddenly hear that familiar hum.  A hummingbird seems to appear out of nowhere and is sipping nectar from one of the feeders.  It is fascinating to watch them continually dip their slender beak into the feeder and then quickly dart to another feeder.  At times it can be like watching an action-packed movie.  Hummingbirds can be quite territorial about their feeders and they often turn into miniature fighter jets as they dive-bomb each other and chase each other through the trees.

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The colors on the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird are truly breath-taking.  The back of the male is a bright, iridescent green and when he turns his head certain ways his neck almost lights up with the brightest red you can imagine.  The females are also a pretty green, but  as with most other birds, the male steals the show as far as looks.

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We recently put 2 feeders up right on the porch railing so roughly 3-4 feet in front of us.  I LOVE when they come and feed right in front of me.  To watch their little wings beating and see them dipping into the flowers at such close range is a thrill.  I’m hoping to work up to the point where they eat out of a feeder in my hand.

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I know I sound like an old lady, but trust me, you should take time to appreciate the beauty of this tiny bird.  There is so much joy and beauty in the world that you can enjoy if you just take the time to notice it.  I’m totally content with the status of ‘old-lady’ if it means I can appreciate more and more things in my life no matter how small.

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Never Say “Never”

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I can’t even begin to count the times I’ve said I would NEVER do something only to wind up doing exactly what I said I’d “never” do.  

  • I said I’d never live in a white house–I now live in a house with white siding.  
  • I said I’d never ride a bike–I now LOVE riding bicycle.  
  • I said I’d never like eating wings because it was ‘barbaric’.  Well, I now thoroughly enjoy sitting down to a heaping plateful of messy wings and tearing into them like a ravenous dog.
  • plus MANY more……..

 

One thing I said I’d never do was to have any kind of vacation place.  My husband had been talking about it for years and I’ve always said that was something I’d never do.  Well………yep, you guessed it, we now own a cottage in a nearby state forest.  As my husband kept showing me picture after picture of cabins, cottages and homes in the woods I continued to adamantly tell him that it wasn’t something I wanted.  Then, one evening he showed me a picture of a cottage that had recently been listed.  To call it ‘love at first sight’ might be an overstatement, but for some reason my attitude changed and I could immediately see our family spending time at this little cottage in the woods.  Knowing how much our kids loved camping in this area when they were young, I knew they would want to spend time at this little place.  We went to see it with family members and it was unanimous—everyone loved it.  We became happy owners of a little cottage in the woods.

 

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“Fern Gully” (aka Adelaide)

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Even though I loved the place and expected to enjoy it, I had no idea how much I was going to NEED it.  Just the time we began to spend time there things began to happen within our family.  

  • My daughter delivered our granddaughter 4 weeks early after an extremely difficult pregnancy.
  • My father, who had been ill, passed away suddenly.
  • Other things happened within the family that brought sorrow.

 

As all of this was happening, I found that spending time at our peaceful, little cottage enabled me to process some of my emotions.  Many nights were spent sitting on the porch praying and crying while coming to terms with some of the grief and fear.  Sitting on that little porch in the woods, listening to the sounds of the forest as nightfall came filled me with a sense of calm.  My soul began to heal as I rocked, cried, prayed and yes, sipped wine

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The “Special” Porch

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This cottage has been something our entire family needed.  We have had several wonderful weekends at the cottage with the kids/grandkids enjoying many things as a family.  

  • sitting around the fire
  • enjoying dinner together
  • falling asleep under the same roof and then waking up together
  • seeing our first bear
  • working on projects together
  • hiking
  • canoeing
  • etc……

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Nothing beats sitting around a campfire.

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One of our hikes

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When I first looked at the pictures of the cottage, I knew it would be a fun place for our family, but I had no idea how healing it would be.  Even though I didn’t know all those things were about to happen-God did.  He gave me something I needed before the need was even there.   I can’t help but wonder how often God does this and we don’t even realize it.  I hope I can become more and more aware of all the ways I’m cared for by my loving God.  

 

I encourage you to never say ‘never’.  You might be saying no to a special gift that God wants to give to you.  It might be something you never wanted, but turn out being exactly what you need.

 

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A Gift from Above

 

 

Perspective and Perception

 

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It’s amazing how the same thing can be somewhat cute and fun from a certain perspective and terrifying from a different one. I experienced this firsthand a short while ago.

Our family was spending the weekend together at our family cottage and we had a bit of excitement the first morning. As most of us were relaxing in the family room my husband came rushing in from the yard saying ‘BEAR, BEAR, BEAR!!!!” and pointing excitedly out the window. We all rushed to take a look and sure enough, there was a bear leisurely walking through our yard. We, of course were all glued to the windows watching his every move.

From this perspective the adorable, black bear was harmless, fun and exciting. I was happy that my granddaughter was able to see a bear on her first sleepover at the cottage. We have pictures and videos and have enjoyed telling the story to all of our friends.

 

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How my mind saw the bear from the safety of the cottage

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The second time I saw the bear it was from a much different perspective and it had quite a different effect on me.

I was at the cottage alone with my Golden Retriever, Denver. I had been there most of the day cleaning and painting and was preparing to head back to our house. I had Denver ‘do his business’ before loading him in the car and I went back to the cottage to lock up. As I turned around from the door I noticed a movement by our fire pit. (about 20 feet from where I was standing). Yep, it was that same black bear, however, this time I didn’t think of it as adorable and I definitely didn’t stand there gawking at him. Instead I made a beeline for the car where I immediately jumped in, shut all of the doors and windows and tried to still my pounding heart.

 

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How my mind saw the bear when the only thing between us was air

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I know they say not to run from a black bear, but I dare you to put that into practice when you are that close to one and can run to safety. I know that if I could see myself on video it would be hilarious, but it didn’t seem funny at the time.

I haven’t seen the bear since then, but I now take a look around when I walk out the door. I do anticipate seeing him again, but I hope it’s from the inside of the cottage and not face to face.

 

This is a picture of the actual bear. Perspective definitely affects my perception.


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“Buddy” the bear

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