Celebrating Independence Day

brosi wedding 243_edited  Our freedom was bought with a price.

Whether we are speaking of being a free citizen of the United States of America, or being free from the wages of sin, someone paid the price for our freedom.

If one person tries to silence the thoughts and convictions of another, they have instantly nullified freedom on both ends.  To ask another person to abandon their personal belief system and their moral compass because they are not popular or make one person (or group) is self defeating.  To force one person to abandon their personal convictions in order to serve the desires of another is the beginning of the end of freedom.

Let us not take lightly the price that was paid  in blood by those who loved us and our nation enough to risk and/or lay down their lives for us.  Let us never forget the sacrifice that Christ made for us that we could be free from sin.

Thank you, FATHER GOD, that we can be free because of Your great love for us and Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for us.

Thank you VETERANS for loving your country and cherishing this nation’s freedoms enough to risk your lives in order to assure our freedom.

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God Has Enough Blessings for Everyone

There are times in all of our lives where we feel like we are doing pretty well and sometimes we feel like the frog waiting to turn into the prince or princess we were meant to be.

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When we are having a particularly tough time it is easy to imagine that other people’s lives are easier than our own or maybe even feel like God loves them better than He loves us.

I once heard that someone said about me, “She was born with a silver spoon in her mouth.”  I was flabbergasted.  I come from an average family, and my life has been riddled with difficulties to overcome.  Where was that person when I was working three part time jobs, taking college classes, and trying to take care of an infant son?

That was only one stage of my life.  I have also been incredibly blessed.  If I dwelt on what I don’t have, I would miss recognizing what I do have.  My life is still filled with challenges and difficulties, but it is a blessed life.

There was a season when I, like so many others, could not understand why some people seem to have so much while others of us seem to do without so many things.  However, I passionately embrace this truth.  “My God shall supply all of my NEEDS according to His riches in glory.”  God never runs out of enough blessings for everyone.

It doesn’t matter who gets to be prince or princess.  It doesn’t matter who gets to live out the greatest love story, or become rich and famous.  MY BLESSINGS from God are totally independent of every other person.  In God’s storehouse, there is enough for Him to bless all others and still have enough to bless me abundantly.

Let us never give in to jealousy. If our trust is in God, He is all we will ever need.  2 Corinthians 9:8 says, ”  And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

Children Say the Sweetest Things – Queen of Ordinary – December 24, 2014

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Children process information with such a sweet innocence, it’s hard to guess what they are going to do or say next.  I have an eighteen month old granddaughter and a three year old grandson.  They are both in awe of the Christmas season, Santa, and Elf on the Shelf (which they have named Jinx).  They are in awe of the Christmas season and all that it entails.  The Grinch, Polar Express, Rudolph, and all the rest are flooding into their little brains.  I can’t help be concerned about the true meaning of Christmas getting crowded out.

A few days ago I was tucking my grandson in and he got my face in both hands and said, “Gran, are you an angel?”  What a notion!  “No, I’m not an angel, but God is my really good friend, and I am His friend.:  This seemed to satisfy him very well.  He is quite “friend” conscious right now.

I told him we could talk to God any time we wanted and God would always hear our prayers.  It was quite an amazing thing to him.  He wanted to pray… three times.  He told God about all of the Christmas festivities at school, his friends, and so on.  After the third time he said, “Gran, I don’t think He’s listening.  I’m talking to Him, but he isn’t talking to me.  I can’t hear Him.”

I assured Him that most of the time God listens and lets us say what is in our heart to Him, but when He has something special to tell us, we will hear Him when He speaks to us.

Isn’t that like an adult?  We talk and talk and talk to God, but the instant we are finished, if we don’t get an immediate response, we think He isn’t listening.

The next night we had a party to attend at his mother’s family.  There were lots of people I didn’t know and most I had only met briefly over the years.  My grandson walked up in the middle of the chatter and said, “GRAN!”  Everyone got silent because he looked like he had something very important to say.  “YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL!” he said with all sincerity.  I scooped him up in hugs and kisses.  Never mind who else was there.

He was seeing me with his heart and THAT was the best Christmas present I could have ever hoped for from him.

In that same way, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to dwell among men, to speak the truth of God, and to see men’s hearts with love.  HE is the best gift the world will ever know, and we can only see Him, truly see Him, with our hearts.

2008_1108WB2Wedding0229 Glory to God in the highest, Peace on Earth, good will to men!

Merry Christmas to all!

Growing Old Together is a Blessing Not All Get to Enjoy – Queen of Ordinary – December 5, 2014

2008_1108WB2Wedding0344  Not everyone has the joy of growing old with their love.

“Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made. Our times are in his hand who saith, ‘A whole I planned, youth shows but half; Trust God: See all, nor be afraid!” – Robert Browning

One of the sweetest things I saw on my trip to Scotland was the way elderly couples walked down the street holding hands.  My mom and dad still do that at age 83 and 81.  I love seeing elderly couples who are still in love.

Some don’t get to experience this because of singleness, widowhood, or divorce.  I’ve been single for a very long time.  I’ve been busy in my single years, but there is part of me that still longs for God to send a precious man into my life to be my friend, my companion, my love and let us grow old together side by side.

Billy Graham and his wife have been a good example of growing old together.  This is what he says about aging.  “When granted many years of life, growing old in age is natural, but growing old with grace is a choice. Growing older with grace is possible for all who will set their hearts and minds on the Giver of grace, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

If you are growing old with someone you love, please know that you are truly blessed.

Death Is But a Pause – Queen of Ordinary – December 3, 2014

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The light is fading now.  I must away.  The distant sound of bagpipes at play.  To sleep I must away.  It was early morning on 22 March, 2000.  She died on an artist’s day.  The sun was shining.  The sky was blue.  A sleep you shall have.  A rest you must take and our parting shall be but a pause.

This tombstone was in a random graveyard along the way of our Celtic tour.  I’m so glad I took a photo of it.  Someone’s love clearly rested beneath.  I loved the line, “Our parting shall be but a pause.”

My aunt, Elsie Hamlin Hensley, was laid to rest today at the age of 91.  She was such a lovely person.  She loved people, loved to cook and make people welcome, and loved to laugh.  She had not been her true self for the last several years due to dementia and resided in a nursing home.  Her hair still had some natural color and she had almost no wrinkles – EVER.  But what I remember most was the sound of her voice and her laughter.

My mother’s family had 16 children, and my father’s 14.  I have a lot of aunts, uncles, and cousins.  Through the years we have lost many, but I am always comforted by the belief that our parting is only temporary.  I plan to spend eternity with them in heaven.

First of all, I must run my own race, finish my course, and fulfill my purpose and destiny on this planet before I get my promotion from this life to the next.  It seems that time accelerates with each passing year.  We are pilgrims and strangers only passing through this life on our way to the next.

John 14:1 – 6  Let not your heart be troubled:  ye believe in God, believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many mansions:  if it were not so, I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.  And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.

Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?

Jesus saith unto him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life:  no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

Clan Cottages in Scotland – Queen of Ordinary – November 18, 2014

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Clan Cottages – Scotland

Sometimes things happen in such an amazing way, it is unprecedented.  I loved the movie Brave Heart when I saw it, but I really never wanted to see it again because it broke my heart.  After visiting the William Wallace Monument in Edinburgh and climbing all the way up the 250+ stairs, seeing the real sword that belonged to William Wallace, and over looking the city from the tower built to honor him, I reconsidered.   I would definitely watch the movie again because it had become personal.  I had been there in the Scottish Highlands, seen the people and lands that he loved and was willing to die for.

We were scheduled to stay in the Clan Cottages after having been to the William Wallace Monument on our first day in Scotland and after driving through the Scottish Highlands.  I had always wanted to stay in a stone cottage with a thatched roof.  Imagine my surprise when we pulled in to our new lodging for three days and it was exactly that!  They were recently built, but in keeping with the landscape and the traditions.

What did we do that first night?  Our tour guide had bought the movie Brave Heart and had it ready for us to watch, on a foggy evening at the foot of a rocky mountain, beside stream that lead to a Loch.  It was mind boggling to be there, having heard the history or William Wallace, seen his actual huge broad sword, and the monument the people erected in his honor.  It was almost as if we could step out the door and into that other place in another time.

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The stay in the clan cottage was a joyous one.  Beyond the Brave Heart experience, it was in a beautiful setting with sheep in the pastures, swans on the lake and sunsets on the loch that would steal your breath away.

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Our stay at the Clan Cottage was one of my favorite parts of Scotland.  From the photos, I hope the reasons are obvious.  It was a place where I could walk at the end of the day or early in the morning before our day’s tour began and talk to God.  I had many questions about why Scotland had been in my heart and prayers for so many years, and why I was there at that particular time.  Scotland had just voted to remain part of the UK – such a parallel event in keeping with William Wallace’s struggle to free Scotland.

Many times among our destinations and activities I felt like the whole thing was a dream.  God’s blessings in my life to bring the trip about were too many to number.  I was sure I was there for a purpose more than to be a tourist and take photographs.  I’m still asking God those questions about having been there, and every day probably for the rest of my life I’ll still be giving thanks for the journey.

Facing the Fear of Heights and More – Queen of Ordinary November 16, 2014

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An Irish View of the Ocean

On this day in Ireland we were heading to Slieve League along the Sky Road and to walk across the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge.  We took a wrong road somewhere, but just look what we found by mistake!

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I don’t know who took the time to write “I love you” with the rocks at the bottom of the cliffs, just beyond the ocean’s reach, but I’m so glad they did.   When I saw it, it felt like it was a message from God to us on our journey.  We thought we had made a wrong turn, but perhaps it was just because God wanted to share this unscheduled beautiful view with us.

We did make it on to our adventure at Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge.  It was one of the toughest things I made myself do on our whole trip.  I have a deep rooted fear of heights.  Just looking at photos of things at a great height make my liver quiver!  Looking over the edge of something, even if I’m behind a railing, makes me woozy.  But I made myself take the long hike out to the rope bridge stretched between two cliffs about 100 feet above the ocean surging against the rocks below, and forced myself to face my fears and walk across anyhow.

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For someone as afraid of heights as I am, it’s a miracle that I ever crossed the bridge in the first place.  I kept saying to myself, “Help, me Lord…” and “Look at her back, and don’t look down,” about the person in front of me from our group.  But on the way back, there had been children jumping up and down to make the bridge sway and bounce, so the fear was doubled.  I had a death grip on the ropes on both sides and was only able to make my feet move about six inches at a time.  I was too afraid to be embarrassed about holding up the people behind me!  I truly thought I had made a mistake by crossing over in the first place.

Our tour guide, Coty Sloan, had crossed way in front of us and positioned himself on a cliff overlooking the bridge to get a group photo of us crossing together.  It surely didn’t happen.  Karen went on ahead of me and left me far behind with blank space, bride, and ocean staring up at me.  Sandy was behind me waving at Coty, and I was too terrified to look anywhere besides at the boards in front of me.

IMG_6606 Coty is the speck on this cliff facing us and no good photo for his trouble!

Sometimes we question the path that we are on and wonder if we are on the wrong one.  At times fear may paralyze us when the gulf between where we are and where we need to be is so great.  But, if we ask Him to go with us, God is there every step of the way across that divide and to the safe place we are heading.

I didn’t think I was going to make it back across that bridge without fainting, but I kept reminding myself of Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me.”

I Have So Many Photos, I Don’t Know What to Do – Queen of Ordinary November 16, 2014

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I have been home one month from our big adventure and I’m still sorting through photos.  I tried to categorize them by date, but my camera went wackydoodle and every time I changed SD cards, it went to some random date from the past.  Complicate that with the fact that I had two cameras going – a small one for shooting out the car window and a bigger one for tours, etc.  Needless to say, I have some issues with getting things in the right place.

Considering that I took over 10,000 photos in the month I was away, I’m doing pretty well with working through them in this length of time.  I’ve already deleted over 2,000 because they were blurred or duplicates.  I think I’ve seen them all, then I discover another little batch with one or two amazing shots in it.  The photos I use in my blog are not necessarily the best ones, but  ones that bring back the feeling or the memories of having been there.  I’ve included a few in this blog from one file – Driving through Scotland.

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Looking at all of these images has burned the experience into my heart and brain.  I know where home is and where my heart is, but Scotland and Ireland have taken root inside of me as well.  I miss the people I traveled with as if they have become part of my family.  A month with strangers has a way of turning them into friends.

This mountain of digital photos I’m still working through will certainly keep the dream and the people alive.  But I want to get them organized, categorized, filed away, and give it a rest.  I have a novel to finish, the holidays to manage, and all the demands of day to day life, so I really need to be able to have peace about all of these images and let them go for a while.  I’m so very thankful for God’s blessings on this journey, for being able to make the trip, and for having the privilege to photograph such a wide variety of beautiful things.  With this in mind, it seems like having this ton of images organized in a way that can be useful is part of my responsibility after having made the journey.

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I’m wondering how other camera crazy people decompress after such a journey and so many photos to work through.  Any good advice is welcomed.

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I’ll Pick Door Number – I Don’t Know! – Queen of Ordinary – November 13, 2014

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Most of us have probably watched the TV game show where the contestant tries to figure out which door has the greatest prize behind it.  Sometimes the door opens to reveal a fabulous trip, a new car, or a brand new kitchen.  At other times behind the door is a giant box of cereal, a donkey, or a broken down bicycle.  A laugh or a thrill was behind every door (as long as we were the viewers and not the receivers).

Wouldn’t it be great if all of the RIGHT doors with the biggest pay offs were  flaming red?  As hard as we might try to make the best choice, sometimes we get the donkey instead of the car!

On our recent trip to Ireland and Scotland, I found the doors fascinating.  Where I live, doors are usually not that notable.  They are metal or wood, usually a drab color, and sometimes dressed up with a wreath.  Not so in those two beautiful countries.  Doors were as many and varied as the landscape.  It made me want to come home and paint my own door some brilliantly cheerful color.  (Which I haven’t done yet.)

There are times in life when it doesn’t matter which door we choose.  They all lead to the same destination from different approaches.  But there are other times when choosing the right door makes all the difference.  Those are the doors I wish were painted red or enhanced with something so ornate it immediately would get our attention.

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Door are symbolic of so many things… as many as our imagination produces.  The Bible has a lot to say about doors.

Revelation 3:8 -“‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with him.

Matthew 6:6

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

John 10:1

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”

Many times we pray after we have opened the wrong door in our lives and desperately trying to go back to the moment before we opened or search diligently for the right door only after we’ve opened the obviously wrong one.  Wouldn’t it be so much better if we learned to pray and seek God’s voice before we open any new door in our lives including new relationships, new business ventures, new job choices, or major purchases?

Father, lead us to the right doors in our lives that no man can shut and only You can open.

“The Quiet Man” – Queen of Ordinary – November 10,, 2014

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One of the best surprised on my recent trip to Ireland was on the day we went to fly falcons at the school of falconry.  We had parked the car and were walking toward the facility where we would work with the falcons when we realized we were standing in the very place where part of The Quiet Man starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara had been filmed.  What a joy!

The Quiet Man has long been one of my favorite movie classics.  I loved the images of Ireland, their customs, lands, and homes portrayed in the movie.  I don’t know if the little lady inside heard my squealing with delight, but she came out of the Danagher’s home and started talking to us.  She is the daughter of the man who owned the cottage when the movie was filmed way back in its day.  John Wayne and her father had become friends.  Maureen O’Hara had been a lovely young woman who was kind to everyone and had returned in recent years to visit this woman’s mother before she passed.DSCN5329 DSCN5318

Every detail was a delight.  She and her family along with community members had been extras in the movie.  Then she took us inside her house!  There was the table where Squire Danagher knocked the dowry money to the floor!  There was the China that Maureen O’Hara had served her brother and works from in the film.  All around the room I saw things I recognized from the movie.  The suitcase John Wayne had carried at the beginning of the movie was sitting on an honored shelf.

She was the sixth consecutive generation to live in the house!  When a door unexplainably opened and closed by itself, as if someone had come into the room with us, she looked, but never missed a beat in her story telling, and never made reference with what had just happened.  Maybe some other family members had dropped in on the fun.

It was all such a blur and we were in a rush to get to our appointment at the School of Falconry that we cut short what I would have loved to lingered with.  BUT I surely didn’t want to miss the lesson in falconry.

My brother had said if he was going with me, the only place he really knew he wanted to see in Ireland was the place where The Quiet Man was filmed.  I had no idea we would be there.  In the village, the bar where the big fight scene took place was still standing.  A statue of John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara was on the square.  A shop was named for the movie.

Our tour guide had not arranged this lovely encounter.  Truly, it was a gift from God – a point of joy for us and for the Danagher daughter.  Sometimes we plead with God for things we think we want and sometimes he just surprises us with a gift because He knows the desires of our hearts.DSCN5289 IMG_5939