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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.

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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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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

 

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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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Forest

The Beauty of the Forest

Being in the woods is something I’ve always loved. I’ve done a good bit of hiking, backpacking and simply enjoying time in nature. Tonight I’m enjoying time in the forest from the comfort of a porch.

I sit on a covered porch surrounded by a white railing with glowing candles along the top. The sun is setting and the night sounds are beginning. It’s light enough that there are still birds chirping even as the night insects begin their chorus. The various insect sounds are particularly clear because there is no wind rustling the trees—it’s completely still. Hummingbirds are still coming to grab an evening snack from the feeders. There are many sounds, yet it is peaceful here.

I see various types of pine trees, a few deciduous trees, ferns and other plants that grow among the trees. The only colors backlit by the darkening sky are green and brown, yet is a beautiful sight. The trees are tall and graceful.

It’s a very simple setting, yet one that nourishes my soul. This is a place that I feel at peace and can allow healing to take place in my heart. There have been many worries and sorrows in my life lately, but time on this porch is one thing that touches my heart.

I’m feeling very thankful for the beautiful creation that God has given to me.

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Screams on a Volcano

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HAPPY Midle-Aged Woman on a Zipline in Haleakaka, Maui

 

My screams could be heard throughout the rain forest which was at 5000 feet on a dormant volcano .  These weren’t screams of terror, but ones of pure joy and excitement.  Something I had dreamed of doing for many years had finally become a reality at age 53.  Anyone who knows me well is aware that I enjoy a certain amount of adventure and even some danger.  One thing I’ve always wanted to do was to ride a zip line.  My husband and I were fortunate enough to be in Maui for a business event and there are a plethora of zip line courses available.  I chose to do one that had 5 different zip lines as well as a rope bridge.

 

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Before ‘zipping’…giving the Shaka hand sign—meaning ‘hang loose’

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My experience began by signing all of the standard waivers one has to sign when doing any kind of activity with risk of injury.  Then I was instructed to sit on a bench while a young man helped me step into a harness which he pulled up to my waist and cinched tight.  Next he attached a heavy clasp and hook and gave me a helmet.  After I was all “geared up” we walked a short distance through a forest of Euculyptus trees to a platform which overlooked a 40 foot ravine.  After some basic instruction  on how to hold on to the harness and how to steer, one of the guide zipped across the ravine to the platform on the other side of the ravine.   (His job is to make sure you get stopped without slamming into a tree. 🙂 ) This line was approximately 150 feet and I would reach a speed of roughly 15 mph.  Then it was my turn to step up onto the platform.

 

I hopped up onto the platform where the guide hooked my harness up to the cable and I looked down into the 40 foot ravine.   I then grasped the strap and handle of the harness and took a running leap off of the platform.  WHAT A RUSH!!!!  It wasn’t  all that scary, but was extremely exhilarating.  Each line after that got a bit longer and faster.  Then we walked across a rope bridge. (while also clipped onto a cable.)

 

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Crossing the rope bridge

 

Finally we got to the 5th and final zipline which was definitely the most exciting.  It was a 750 foot cable stretched over a deep ravine.  It was considered a pendulum line because after flying the entire way to the end of the cable you actually zip back in the other direction and after a few passes through the middle finally stop by one of the guides grabbing your feet.  On this line I reached a speed of approximately 45-50 mph.  As I jumped off of that platform and picked up speed it felt as though I was really flying.  I was hooting, hollering and laughing.  I was having the time of my life.  I loved the feeling when I reached the other end knowing that I was about to begin rushing back the way I had just come.

 

IMG_20150501_132947Feeling very confident before taking the final plunge

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I guess I must be a bit of an adrenaline junky because as the guide was removing my hook from the harness I asked him where the fastest zip line is and he said he thought it was in South Africa and that it went up to 100 mph.  Hmmmm…….

 

When we got back to the station the I was told that they could hear the shrieks of delight from there.  I guess I really let it rip.  🙂

 

PS–before the 5th zip line the guide took a picture where I was supposed to look ‘scared’.  This is the best I could do.

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