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.


Facing a Fear of Heights at Snowden, Wales – Queen of Ordinary – December 1, 2014

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There are some things that frighten me, but fear of heights is probably at the top of the list.  These photos were taken on top of Snowden – the tallest mountain in Wales.  We rode a train up, but still had a ways to walk and up a lot of stairs to reach the absolute summit.  As close as I was to the top, I was afraid to make those last 10 – 20 stone stairs, but our travel guide and my travel companions came back for me and I went to the top of the top with them.  I was as tense as a mouse trap, but once I came back down from the last flight of stairs, I was awfully glad I had done it and swallowed my fear.

In my heart I knew that God doesn’t want us to be prisoners of our fears.  I could have just as easily “set it out,” but I was too stubborn to let my fears overcome my faith in God’s ability to help me.

Another place where I had to fight through the fear was the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge which seemed like at least 100 feet above the cliffs and surging ocean below.  I wrote about that experience in a previous post.

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The William Wallace Monument was another challenge with over 250 spiral stairs straight up and then the same coming back down.  The rooftop tour of Penrhyn Castle also required a long climb up spiral stairs to the rooftop and then a view from the top of the castle.

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How did I find the courage to do these terrifying things?  I didn’t want to miss out on any part of our journey or fail to enjoy what the whole group experienced.

My fear of heights didn’t vanish, but I didn’t let that fear paralyze me into not doing what I wanted to do.  I kept quoting a bible verse to myself at the highest points, Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Smailholm Tower – Scottish Borderlands – Queen of Ordinary, 2014

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Smailholm Tower, built in the 1500s was not one of the most impressive structures we saw in our journey through Ireland, Scotland, England, and Wales, but it was beautifully situated and served for inspiration as the backdrop for more than one famous writer.  This type of tower is referred to as a peel tower.  It is located in the Scottish Borderlands and sits atop a crag of Lady Hill, with a wide vista view of surrounding lands.

Sir Walter Scott visited his grandfather there when he was a child and spent a good deal of time at this location when he was young.  This tower provides the setting for Sir Walter Scott’s ballad, The Eve of St. John.    His sketch of the tower was include in Scott’s Poetical Works. 

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Margaret J. Anderson, who wrote the children’s novel In the Keep of Time, used Smailholm Tower as the location for the adventure in which four English children experience time travel both backwards and forwards.

One of the pioneers of photography, Fox Talbot, photographed Smailholm Tower as part of his collection, Sun Pictures in Scotland.

I particularly liked the lay of the land around the tower.  The view was stunning and peaceful looking out in every direction at land that gently rolled away.  I also found a beautiful door to photograph, which made the experience a well rounded one.

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This structure made me realize that inspiration comes from many things for writers, photographers, singers, and artists.  Smailholm was neither grand nor luxurious, but it has made an impact on people through the years.  If we are open to inspiration, it may come to us in places we least expect.

Wood Carvings at St. John’s Cathedral – Oban, Scotland – Queen of Ordinary – November 23, 2014

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St. John’s Cathedral was a beautiful church we visited in Oban, Scotland.  I was struck by the many beautiful carvings at the ends of pews, on seats, on podiums and throughout the church.

How do you know when artistry is at work?  Take something practical and functional, then add incredible detail that doesn’t improve the practicality of the thing, but makes it more aesthetically pleasing and you will see artistry at work through the hands of the one who created it.  Below are some carvings on pews and woodwork we found in this church in Oban, Scotland.

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The intricate carvings in the woodwork were amazing.  They were not necessary by any means, but certainly added beauty, and allowed the artists creative expression in their work.  It is as if the person carving the wood turned each opportunity into a thing of beauty and gave it as an offering unto God.

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Our lives are like these pieces of wood when they were still only lumber.  We can live them out of necessity.  We can exist from day to day and get done what must be done, plain and simple.  Or we can choose to take care of the intricate details of living, and let the Master designer create His images in us to be works of beauty that reflect His attention to detail and His delight in us through the process.  If we all started as a piece of timber side by side, each one of us would turn out differently in the hands of the artist.  I am reminded of a poem I heard many years ago that expresses one person’s influence on another person’s life

I Love You by Roy Croft

I love you, not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you. I love you, not only for what you have made of yourself, but for what you are making of me. I love you, for the part of me that you bring out. I love you, for putting your hand into my heaped-up heart, and passing over all the foolish, weak things that you can’t help dimly seeing there, and for drawing out, into the light, all the beautiful belongings that no one else had looked quite far enough to find. I love you, because you are helping me to make of the lumber of my life, not a tavern, but a temple. Out of the works of my every day, not a reproach, but a song. I love you, because you have done more than any creed could have done to make me good, and more than any fate could have done to make me happy. You have done it without a touch, without a word, without a sign. You have done it by being yourself. Perhaps that is what being a friend means, after all.

Neist Point Lighthouse, Scotland – Queen of Ordinary – November 20, 2014

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I borrowed the lighthouse image of Neist Point because I wasn’t able to make the hike all the way out to the point due to knee issues.  While our group made the lengthy trek, I enjoyed photographing the shore line, sheep, and an incredible ocean view.

I’ve always wanted to do a lighthouse tour of the New England Coast.  It was very frustrating to be so close to a lighthouse and not be able to see it.  However, sometimes common sense should prevail, even when we want to do otherwise.  Down about 100 metal stairs in a howling  wind, rain threatening on the horizon, and at least a mile hike out to the point, I chose to stay behind.

I still had a lovely day.  Give me my camera and turn me loose.  I’ll never be bored.  I followed the sheep paths to the top of the cliffs, walked along a path recently featured in  a Keanu Reeves film, listened foreigners talk about “crazy Americans,” undetected, and had a great time walking and talking with God.

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When I was a student at the Univeristy of the Cumberlands (then Cumberland College), I had a group of friends that formed a gospel group.  They called themselves Young Witness. They were young, extremely handsome, dedicated Christians who loved the Lord back then and I’m happy to say that they are honorable, godly men all of these years later. One of their most requested songs was “I Thank God for the Lighthouse.”

The Lighthouse
By Ronnie Hinson
(c) 1971

There’s a lighthouse on the hillside
That overlooks life’s sea.
When I’m tossed it sends out a light,
Tis a light that I might see.
And the light that shines in darkness now
Will safely lead us o’er.
If it wasn’t for the lighthouse,
My ship would be no more.

And I thank God for the lighthouse,
I owe my life to Him.
For Jesus is the lighthouse
And from the rocks of sin;
He has shone a light around me
That I could clearly see,
If it wasn’t for the lighthouse
Tell me where would this ship be.

Everybody that lives around us
Says tear that lighthouse down.
The big ships don’t sail this way anymore,
There’s no use of it standing around.
Then my mind goes back to that stormy night,
When just in time I saw the light;
Yes the light from that old lighthouse
That stands up there on the hill.

And I thank God for the lighthouse,
I owe my life to Him.
For Jesus is the lighthouse
And from the rocks of sin;
He has shone a light around me
That I could clearly see,
If it wasn’t for the lighthouse
Tell me where would this ship be.

If it wasn’t for the lighthouse,
Tell me, where would this ship be?

McCaig’s Tower – Oban, Scotland – Queen of Ordinary – November 19, 2019

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McCaig’s Tower is located on Oban, Scotland and sits on a hill overlooking the city.  It was built by a wealthy banker in the late 1800s to commemorate his family.  That was it’s purpose, although the view out of every portal is breath taking.  I can imagine that his family must have enjoyed strolling through this beautiful monument and looking out to sea and over the city.

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Mr. McCaig had plans to build a structure within these walls to house an art gallery and statuary of his family, but died before the project was complete.  The walls were already standing when he died and his family chose not to continue building his vision as a memorial to them.

IMG_8961 IMG_8962 IMG_8963 IMG_8964  The view from each portal is completely different.

This monument left by one man to honor himself and his family made me start thinking about what ordinary people leave behind to keep the memory of their family alive.  Photographs?  Diaries?  Letters?  The home place?

Most of us don’t have the means to erect beautiful architectural structures to commemorate those we love.  Yet the legacy we leave behind is as important to our generations as McCaig’s Tower is to his.

I like what author Ray Bradbury quoted from his grandfather, ““Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.

It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”

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“Our days are numbered. One of the primary goals in our lives should be to prepare for our last day. The legacy we leave is not just in our possessions, but in the quality of our lives. What preparations should we be making now? The greatest waste in all of our earth, which cannot be recycled or reclaimed, is our waste of the time that God has given us each day.”   – Billy Graham

“The songs of our ancestors are also the songs of our children.” – Phillip Gomm

“Are we being good ancestors?” – Jonas Salk

Who Believes in The Loch Ness Monster? – Queen of Ordinary – November 19, 2014

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This is a funny photoshopped picture created by Coty Sloan.  We were having a bit of fun teasing each other about the possibility of seeing Nessie while we were at standing on the shore of Loch Ness and he created this photo for a laugh.

Opinions have always been divided about whether there is such a thing as the Loch Ness Monster, Big Foot, or mermaids.  When I was a child, my best friend, Diane Paulk, and I were always working up our imaginations about something.  We had BIG imaginations.

As an adult, I still have an imagination that runs on high throttle, but I believe there have been enough eye witness accounts to take them seriously about Nessie, Big Foot, and Megalodon Shark.  I just don’t think that many people are deliberate liars.  They know that the very moment they tell their tale, they are subjecting themselves to ridicule and scoffers. They must be seeing something they can’t explain.

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Our Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife publicly says there are no black panthers in Kentucky, but I have seen them myself and have heard countless stories from others who have been eye witnesses.  I haven’t seen Mammoth Caves either, but enough other people whom I believe have seen them to make me know they are real.

So, is there a Loch Ness Monster?  People have been trying to figure that question out for decades.  Yet scientific discoveries are unveiling new species all the time.  The most uncharted species live in the depth of the oceans.  Is it possible that some prehistoric life form has survived through the centuries and one such creature has managed to survive in Loch Ness?  I don’t know.  Maybe yes and maybe no.

My friend, Sarah Boggs, requested one thing from my big trip to the UK.  She wanted a photo of Loch Ness and a stone.  We first saw the Loch in the evening light from the roadway across a field, circling around a bend.  I never realized it was such a huge inland body of water.  It was a beautiful place to take a photo for her.

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I’ve spent a lifetime wishing I could see Nessie, if she really exists.  Though we didn’t get a glimpse of anything out of the ordinary this day, I knew I was as close to seeing the Loch Ness Monster as I probably ever would be in my life time.  I stuck my shoes in the water and gathered a few pebbles from the beach for Sarah and Darla, who had asked for them.  I was happy just to have been there and seen a place filled with so many possibilities.

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As mortal men/women, do we really think we know all of what God has created in the depth of the oceans, in the heavens, or in galaxies beyond?  Who can unravel the creative beauty, the diversity of God’s infinite expression, or the countless secrets unknown to man that still reside in the depths of the heart of God?  How foolish are we to try to define an infinite God with our finite minds and limited knowledge.

Genesis 1:21 – “And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly,”

Psalm 104:25 – “There is the sea, great and broad, In which are swarms without number, Animals both small and great.”

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Eilean Donan Castle in the Scottish Highlands – Queen of Ordinary – Nov. 18, 2014

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Eilean Donan Castle is in the Scottish Highlands.  It is reported to be one of the most photographed Scottish castles, and no wonder.  The setting is straight out of a novel and every angle reveals a different aspect of the castle, moat, bridge, lake, and mountains.

As one of the most iconic images of Scotland, Eilean Donan is recognised all around the world. Situated on an island at the point where three great sea lochs meet, and surrounded by some majestic scenery, it is little wonder that the castle is now one of the most visited and important attractions in the Scottish highlands.  (From the Eilean Donan Castle website)

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In color or black and white, this castle is impressive.  The first occupants lived there in the 6th century.  It was added on to and fortified in the 13th century and stood guard over the surrounding lands until the 17th century when part of it was destroyed in a Jacobite uprising.   “Eilean Donan lay in ruins for the best part of 200 years until Lieutenant Colonel John MacRae-Gilstrap bought the island in 1911 and proceeded to restore the castle to its former glory. After 20 years of toil and labour the castle was re-opened in 1932.”

I am still overwhelmed with touching, breathing, feeling history in every pore rather than reading about it in a history book.  Seeing a place with your own eyes draws a person in and enters their footsteps alongside those who loved and lived and breathed there through the centuries.  It is perfectly situated where three lochs come together, a strategic masterpiece over 1400 years old.

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We were there in mid day when the tide was out. I photographed it from as many angles as I could get in a short time.   I would have loved to see it when the water was in.  I’ve also imagined it at sunrise, sunset, in the spring, winter, and late fall.  I’m sure those who have easy access return many times.

So, what did I learn from this beautifully situated castle?  It reminded me of a vision God showed me once about a diamond.  Many people can be looking at the very same stone, but depending on where they are standing and which angle they see, the stone may look very different to one and then another.  The classic round topped solitaire that has graced so many engagement rings looks flat from the top, conical from the side, and spiked from the bottom.  Every facet of a diamond refracts the light in fire and ice, different colors from different directions.  Eilean Donan was like this as well.

In a bigger picture, we are the diamonds that others see through different eyes.  We have many facets and that allow people know us in different capacities during our life.  We are the castles, the temples of God, who change in seasons and lighting, yet we stand solid in the life in which God placed us.

When we look at other people and try to decipher who we think they are, we need to remember that each human being is a multi-faceted beautiful creation, made in the image of God.  There is more than one side, more than one perspective, more than one season in each life.  Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

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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.

The Abbeys of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales – Queen of Ordinary – November 17, 2014

DSCN5209DSCN5214 DSCN5215  The abbeys of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales are amazing.

Even though most of them are now in ruins, the beauty of design, the layout of the structures and the locations compared to the lay of the land are stunning.  Some are more memories than reality, and some are still in tact, but most are somewhere in between.

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I could only imagine what these places were like in their full glory days.  I was fascinated with the stone work, the precision, the beauty, and the endurance of these structures that are hundreds of years old.  The fact that this incredibly beautiful places were built and consecrated to those in ministry who had given their lives to serve God says something about the value set on relationship with God in that time frame.


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Most of these ancient abbeys are currently under historic protection and the grounds are maintained through government programs.  In these photos were The Abbey at Cong, Creevelea, Kylemore, Dryburgh, Jedburgh, and Melrose.  The buildings may be crumbling, but the sense of being in a holy place is still very strong.  But then maybe the buildings put is in such a reverent frame of mind that we were more acutely aware of the Spirit of God within us.