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I recently went for a beautiful hike in the Michaux State Forest.  As always I was surrounded by beauty, but this time I noticed something different on the floor of the forest– a wide variety of Fungi.  I don’t think I had realized until that day how many various shapes and colors of mushrooms were in the forest.  I soon began to see a different mushroom around every turn.  Here are just a few:

 

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Unbelievalbe color!!!

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This is more a ‘typical’ color

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BOLD!!

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These little fellas were almost glowing.

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Loving the purple!

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Just plain cute 🙂

 

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I wish the picture was clearer…it was a very ‘fancy’ mushroom.

As I walked along taking pictures of a variety of fungi, I caught sight of my husband ahead of me on the trail and began to chuckle as I thought of the pun…a hike with fungi and a fun guy.  (ok, I’m easily amused. 😉 )

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The ‘fun guy’, my husband 🙂

I guess to be accurate I should say I was hiking with 2 fun guys…one who walked on two legs and one who walked on 4 legs.  Our faithful dog, Denver, was along for the enjoyment.

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It was a day where I was able to appreciate many types of beauty in nature.  Along with the fungi and the fun guys, there were also many other beautiful sights.  I took ALL of them in.

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Just one of the streams we crossed

I LOVE hiking!

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Easter Sunrise

It’s the practice of many churches to have a sunrise service on Easter morning.  There is something symbolic and meaningful to see the dawning of a new day and know that it is the day we are celebrating the resurrection of Christ.

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The sun is just rising above the trees.

This year I had a different type of sunrise service.  It was held on the back porch of our cottage and instead of sitting in a pew I was sitting in a rocking chair.  Instead of being all dressed up I was in my pajamas.  🙂 The porch faces South-East and I was able to enjoy a beautiful view of the sun coming up through the trees.

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It’s now daylight.

I sat quietly listening to the birds singing for a while and then decided to listen to a song that seemed appropriate,  Allegri Misere.   I played it on my laptop so I could see the pictures and the words.  It is sung in Latin, but this particular video shows the words in English as well.

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Getting Brighter

For me there are two things which touch my soul and cause me to worship the Creator  –  the sounds of nature and certain music.  As I listened to this worshipful song which was accompanied by the chirping birds I realized that I was hearing two beautiful things which can help my heart and soul to worship God at the same time.

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My Cathedral in the Forest

There are also two places that I feel closest to the creator–in the woods and in a Cathedral.  ( I know, they are vastly different, but they both have a profound affect on me. ) As I was watching the words on the video and the stunning pictures of cathedrals, I realized I was also seeing two things that bring me into a worshipful place.  I literally had my Cathedral in the middle of a forest.

I may not have gone to any ‘official’ sunrise service, but I was able to worship the risen King in a very real way  –  possibly more than if I’d been in an organized service.

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Can’t you FEEL the emotion on her face?

Plan “B”

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Leaf Trail (aptly named) 

 

Often in life our plans change due to unforeseen circumstances.  It can be difficult to adjust to the new directions we are forced to follow, but once in a while Plan “B” isn’t a bad direction at all.  This past weekend we finally had a spring-like day and my husband and I were anxious to spend time on our mountain bikes on a local trail.  There are a TON of trails near our cottage and we are just beginning to explore them.  While I still prefer road biking, I’m quickly developing a love for riding through the mountain trails.  For me it combines two great loves – hiking and biking.  It’s like hiking on wheels.

 

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Ready to hit the trail

 

 

We rode up a big hill just to get to the trail head and we excitedly started down the trail.  Some of the trail was a very smooth mountain path and other sections were more technical.  (I tend to walk the more difficult sections. – yes, I’m a wimp.  )  We were riding for about 10 minutes and we suddenly found ourselves faced with needing a plan “B”  While going over a large group of rocks my husband’s derailleur completely snapped in half and the bike could no longer be ridden.

 

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The derailleur is the piece that shifts the chain between gears.  (this one is not broken)

 

We then had a decision to make—just walk the bikes back to the cottage or park them by a tree and continue on the path by foot.  We, of course, chose the latter option.  Since we love to hike it was a great alternative.

 

White I was disappointed that our original plans got derailed, (pun intended 🙂 )I realized as I walked that I was able to see things from a totally different perspective on foot than on the bike.  On the bike most of my concentration goes to avoiding obstacles – trees, rocks, roots…..  Much of the surrounding beauty is overlooked due to the necessity of needing to watch the trail directly in front of you.

 

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Ready to enjoy Plan “B”

 

I began to take pictures of things I would have missed if I was still on my bike.  The first was a moss-covered rock.  The bright green just jumped out at me.  With spring just now beginning here in South-Central PA nature is just now starting to sprout green around us.

 

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Gorgeous shad of green

 

At one point I stopped and looked up at the sky.  It was so beautiful to see the sky surrounded by various tree tops.  This was something I definitely couldn’t have done on a bike.  (Try looking up at the sky while riding a bike – not a good idea)

 

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Beautiful spring sky as seen through tree tops

 

We hiked to the end of the trail and began the trek back to pick up our bikes and head to the cottage.  I had passed by this tree going the first direction, but it was an entirely different view from this side.

 

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One funky tree 

 

We eventually reached the spot where our bikes were leaning against a tree and began the process of walking them back.  While it was definitely not fun walking a heavy mountain bike over all of the obstacles on the trail I wouldn’t have given up the chance to simply be out in nature.  All in all it was a wonderful day.

 

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Bikes are a lot more fun to ride than to walk. 😦 

 

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

 

 

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