Exoskeletons – Are You Wearing One? – Queen of Ordinary – dec. 8, 2104

IMG_1581  Are you wearing an exoskeleton?

I was sitting in church yesterday and had a momentary vision of people with insect shells on their back and chest over top of their clothes with a regular little human heads, arms, and legs.  It was a crazy image until I realized that so many of us are wearing an exoskeleton, trying to protect ourselves from the hurtful things other people say and do to us in life.  There is little protection in life from an exoskeleton.  It doesn’t work in insects and it doesn’t work for us when a big enough predator comes along.

The photo above is from a locust, who shed its exoskeleton on my front porch.   It is the perfect image of the locust, but such a thin and flimsy thing.  If you’ve ever walked through the woods after a locust outbreak, their shed exoskeletons will be all over the ground and sound like walking on potato chips as they break apart beneath your feet.

IMG_1881 (2)  Only an insect needs and exoskeleton.

We are to put on the whole armor of God.

Our human skin is very vulnerable as well as our human hearts.  We are emotionally vulnerable.  Our hearts are easily wounded and usually wounded most by those closest to us.  But the Bible offers a covering that will protect us and help us deflect the fiery darts of the enemy.

Ephesians 6:11-18King James Version (KJV)

11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;

15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:


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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Spiritual Dreams and Their Relevance Today – Queen of Ordinary – November 7, 2014

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Glendaloch Monastic Settlement – Ireland

Have you ever had a dream that haunted you for years?  Have you ever dreamed anything in such vivid color and specific detail that you knew it was significant the moment you woke up?

In our Appalachian culture, dreams are still considered significant.  Not all dreams have a message or deeper meaning, but I am convinced that some definitely do.  I believe that all people probably have dreams in the course of their lifetime that are for warning, instruction, or revelation, but not all people take them seriously.

I saw the tower above in a dream that I will share in this post over THIRTY years ago, but the dream remained with me and vivid ever since.  It has often replayed in my head like a giant movie screen, reminding me of the instructions it held.

The Bible actually has a lot to say about dreams.

Acts 2:17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.”

Amos 3:7 “For the Lord God does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets.”

I Fell in Love with Ireland – Queen of Ordinary – October 30, 2014

DSCF5796 The Castle at Cashel – Ireland

My dream had always been to go to Scotland.  When the trip I was planning on changed to include Ireland, I was happy about it, but it was Scotland I was excited about most.

I didn’t expect to fall in love with Ireland.  I will miss the Irish Sea for the rest of my life.  The people were warm and friendly, full of fun and stories.  I was hooked before I knew it.  The traditional music also grabbed me, but I’ve always loved Celtic melodies.

Isn’t it a wonderful surprise when something we had hoped for turns out far better than we imagined?  That doesn’t happen often.

The photograph is of the Castle at Cashel.  It was the home of the High Kings of Ireland.  It was the first stop on our long journey of 26 days.  We had just gotten off the plane and I had not slept all night.  After racing through the airport with a heavy backpack to catch our connection to Dublin, one knee was killing me.  But even far below my normal self, I was overwhelmed with the reality of standing in the place where Brian Boru reigned and ruled and the High Kings and Queens that followed for centuries.

Standing alone in the courtyard with my camera, I could suddenly hear the creak of leather on saddles, the smell of horses, the sound of children scurrying about and dogs barking.  I could hear the clank of swords and the busy sounds of life when the castle was occupied and full.  I was breathing the air they breathed, touching the stones that provided home and protection for them.  I was right there in the place where the High Kings made battle decisions, married off their daughters as part of treaties and military alliances.  I was there where Queens wept when their sons did not return form battle and old kings were replaced with new.

I know I have a wide open imagination, but every once in a while we have the privilege of glimpsing beyond our time and space.  My first impression of Ireland went deep.

I dropped and broke one of my cameras there – our first stop.  I’m very thankful I had a spare.  I was tired and frustrated because of the accident, but just being there wiped away any remorse about a spare camera being broken.

For the next several days I will write about our journey and the things we saw and people we met. I will also share photos of each place.  If you’ve ever wanted to visit Ireland, Scotland, England, or Wales, I will take you with me on our journey as I revisit our stops along the way.

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Queen of Ordinary Yearns for The Unknown – May 26, 2014

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Sometimes when I’m driving through the countryside, I have the most peculiar thing wash over me.  It is an inexplicable yearning for things  that I know not.  It hits me unexpectedly, perhaps when I see a particularly lovely home that is well situated, or perhaps a rolling field with a barn and animals.

It is almost as if there is a longing inside of me for the life that could have been mine, but wasn’t.  There are so many paths each of us may choose and different forks along the way.  We dream of where we want to end up and do our best to get there, but it doesn’t always work out the way we had hoped.

I often wonder about the people behind the walls of houses in strange neighborhoods.  Are they happy?  What do they do for a living?  Is there love in their household?  How many children do they have?  How do they spend their time?

Sometimes I think the luckiest people in the world are the ones who live at the head of a hollow, or on the edge of some remote lake, or in the wilderness.  The ones they love are close around them, their daily necessities and chores lie before them, and they are happier in the process of daily living than the rest of us – or so it seems.

My dreams and my reality are certainly two very different things at this point, but I haven’t given up dreaming.

The Bible speaks of deep calling unto deep.  I wonder if that feeling applies to my longing for things I cannot put a name to, things that are drawing me that I cannot see.

The melancholy yearnings of my heart most often speak to me of what might have been but was not… of the dreams I dreamed that someone else has taken over… of the unseen places I have yet to discover.

The Bible speaks of yearnings and longings of our soul.

Psalms 63:1 says, “O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water.”

Psalm 143:6 – “I stretch out my hands to You; My soul longs for You, as a parched land.”

Isaiah 26: 9 – “At night my soul longs for You, Indeed, my spirit within me seeks You diligently;”

Psalm 84:2 – “My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.”

Perhaps the yearning that I feel is for eternity, where I will be forever in the presence of God and all things will be put right.  We are, after all, only pilgrims and strangers in this earth, created for a higher destiny than this world has to offer.


Queen of Ordinary – Don’t Lock Yourself In – May 22, 2014

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Have you been hurt in your life by other people?  or by a specific individual?  Have you ever wanted to hide away behind locked doors where no one can ever hurt you again?  Have you built up walls to keep others out?  Have you locked the door to your heart?

I was there many years ago.  I was so hurt and betrayed by someone I loved with all my heart, I felt like I had to protect myself because another wound like that would have mortal consequences.  I didn’t want to have to endure that pain again – ever.

God showed me a vision of myself hoping that someone would break down the wall, see the real me, and come charging in to rescue me from ever being hurt again.  Yet while I was hoping, I was steadily placing one brick with mortar at a time in place to build my wall higher and thicker all the time.

He spoke to my heart, “You may THINK you are building the wall to keep others out, but you are building a prison, one brick at a time, to keep yourself in.”

God never called us to be brick layers that shut ourselves away from the rest of the world.  I also realized that the person who had caused such grievous injury was out in the world carrying on, living large, and could care less what I was going through.

I forgave.  Over and over I chose to forgive, and tear that wall back down one brick at a time.  I wanted to stay safe, but I wanted to be free more than that.

Here are some of my favorite Bible verses about freedom.

II Corinthians 3:17 – Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

John 8: 36 – Whom the Son has made free is free indeed.

Psalm 118:5 – I cried out in my anguish and the Lord heard me and set me free.

Isaiah 61:1 – The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…

Are you a prisoner of your own making?  Have you been hiding out behind your walls of captivity in an effort to keep hurt or harm away?

I urge you to tear down the same walls you built up; unlock the door; and be free.  Forgive.  It is the greatest gift you will ever give yourself.


Queen of Ordinary Knows Heaven is for REAL! May 2, 2014

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I took my mother to the theater last night to watch a movie – Heaven Is for Real.  She probably hadn’t gone to see anything on the big screen since The Ten Commandments.  When we walked out, I asked her if she liked it.

I was surprised when she said she was disappointed.  Of course, considering the last thing she saw in a theater, she probably was expecting a lot more.  She said she wished they had shown more of heaven and what the child said he had actually seen.  She wanted to have a glimpse of what heaven might look like.  At 80, I believe she thinks about that a lot, knowing that her promotion to that place grows closer each day.

I know that it is entirely possible that I won’t be believed, or that others may think I’m “coo-coo-ca-choo” when I say that I have had glimpses of heaven in visions and dreams over the course of my lifetime.  I never thought those things were exceptional.  On the contrary, I figured if those glimpses came to me, they came to every other ordinary person on the planet.

Believe me or not, your prerogative.

Two things in the movie agree with what I’ve seen in my spirit.  Colors are more brilliant than anything we see here.  When Paul said that we currently “see through a glass darkly,” I think he may have been speaking about more than our limited understanding.  He had his own glimpses of heaven.  Not only were the colors of things more brilliant and without names in our dimension, but they seemed to be alive and full of light internally – almost a combination of liquid light and color that moved.

The second thing, which was a surprise to me, was that there were horses in heaven.  In that particular dream/vision, I saw myself running with a herd of wild horses.  Their manes were blowing back behind them as they ran, as swift as the wind, and they whinnied with the pure joy of running.  I was keeping abreast of them, running with the herd, and a wonderful sense of harmony as if they were my friends.  My hair was blowing back, just like their manes, and my head was back, laughing for the pure joy of running with them.

I have never been a great runner.  I’ve never had a pet horse or been especially close to horses, although I admire their beauty.  I have had a total knee replacement and don’t foresee running ever again in my future.  But there, with the herd, I was as strong and free as the horses were with no limitations, no maladies to inhibit my progress.

I Corinthians 2:9 says, “as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”

I don’t believe there is anyone living who has seen it all, but I am certain that if I have had glimpses of heaven, others have also.  In spite of what science might try to say about near death experiences being brought about by chemical changes in the body and brain as the body ceases to function, complete with hallucinations, that doesn’t account for every day ordinary people who get unexpected glimpses of heaven in the course of their daily lives or dreams/visions.

I always tell people that God is not afraid of you or your questions.  We can’t ask anything He can’t answer.  He created us with the intelligence to wonder and question the world around us and the world to come.  Each person has to find the faith to believe – but for me, there is no doubt that heaven is real.

Queen of Ordinary Is Shocked! March 24, 2014

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Sometimes we don’t see answers that are right under our noses because we are too busy looking for them to come in a different package or from a different source.

I’ve been praying about making a trip to Scotland for many, many years.  In my Spirit I heard the instructions, “Stop talking about going to Scotland and start behaving as if you are going.”  That was either at the end of December or the first part of January.

I knew it would take a miracle to come up with the cash to make such a trip, but my mindset changed about the whole thing.  It was no longer a dream or a fantasy, but an appointment.  The waiting had been fulfilled, and I believe God was letting me know that the time had come to make solid plans to go.

I’m still working on raising the cost of the whole trip, but people began to come forward and donate money to this trip in my behalf.  I never expected it.  I thought I’d have to be the one to do all the work, sell my clothes on e-bay, or something drastic.  And I was perfectly willing to do that if it was necessary.  I may still have to do some of that, but not at all like I thought it was going to be.

I’ve been praying for years about making this journey, “If this is the year, Lord, please make a way for me to know the timing is right and have the funds to go.”

God has certainly answered this prayer in ways I didn’t expect.  I thought I had to be my own answer in the finance department.  One friend has volunteered to do photo shoots to add to the fund.  Another one offered to help with a yard sale.  That’s besides friends that have come forward with contributions.

I truly believe this journey is more than a tourist’s outing.  I don’t know what God’s purpose is.  Perhaps I will be forever changed by the experience.  Or perhaps I am going to touch one person’s life for good.  Either way – it certainly feels like a divine appointment.  Even though the trip is months away, I am as excited as ever I have been about a journey.

Queen of Ordinary Hears God Speak – January 22, 2014

FotoSketcher - biltmore - Misc. 068   God speaks to us in many ways.  Do you recognize His voice?

Sometimes I wish God would just speak to me in an audible voice and tell me what to do or what not to do, but the truth is I have heard God speaking to me throughout my lifetime on a variety of occasions.  Usually, it comes when I’m least expecting it.  Most of the time, it is to rebuke me in a loving way or to teach me something.

When my Grandfather Hamlin died, I was in the middle of a personal crisis in my life.  My husband had left me and our 11 month old son for another woman.  I had gone back to college to finish my teaching certificate and try to make a future for my son and I.  I was juggling baby, classes, and jobs.  I was also having a real pity party.  I looked into my Grandfather’s peaceful face in his casket and wished it was me – free from all of the heartache and troubles of life.  God spoke to me as if he was standing right behind me, speaking into my ear.

“Judy!  I have no use for you like this and you have no use for yourself!  It is time for you to come back from the dead and take your place among the living.”

I turned around and no one was anywhere near me.  You can bet that the message jolted me back to reality.  I needed a good swift kick in the pants and I got one.  But at other times, God has spoken to me in very loving and tender words.

I had a vision once of a human hand holding the tiniest little seeds inside.  A voice spoke to me and asked me what I saw.  I replied, “I see a hand holding tiny seeds.”  Instantly the vision changed and I saw a huge rosebush in glorious blooms, laden down with fragrant blossoms.  Again the voice spoke.  “When you look at the seed, you only see a seed.  When God looks at the seed, He sees the rosebush in full bloom.”

You may be at a place in your life where you can only see what is right in front of you – all the heartaches, challenges, and difficulties.  You may doubt that you have the strength to make it.  But when God looks at you, He sees you in your full maturity, beautiful and fruitful because of His potential He has placed within the tiny seed that is you.

Queen of Ordinary Dreams of a Trip to Scotland – January 18, 2014

How do we make our dreams become a reality? I’ve been dreaming of a trip to Scotland, with camera in hand, for years upon years. I want to see the Scottish Highlands and compare them to our Kentucky Highlands. I want to walk the paths of ancient heroes and see the remains of majestic castles.
I know these dreams and visions are what fairy tales are made of, and yet it seems that to me they call across the miles as if they are part of my destiny. If this is true, I will get there because my spirit is willing to answer the call.
I don’t know how I’ll get there, who my traveling companions will be, or how I will ever be able to afford such a journey, but those little hurdles are nothing if I am meant to go.
At the turn of the year from 2013 to 2014 it dawned on me that it was time for me to stop behaving as if Scotland is only a childish dream of my fancy. It became crystal clear that I needed to start behaving as if it is a reality that has already been booked and set down for a future date in history – just as surely as if it is already recorded in a book. By faith, I’ve begun a “Scotland fund.” My brother, God bless him, was the first to contribute to the cause besides my own meager fund.
Now, other people are showing interest in going along and I’m getting wonderful travel suggestions from many travel places. I even found out that one of my Canadian friends does computer travel booking on the side. Where I had no information before, now I have a lot. I wonder if it has happened this way because I spoke of it as if it is a done deal? Did my faith bring it into reality?
Or perhaps it was meant to happen all along and only now is it approaching the right time. I cannot say, but something is different and I am excited! Whether it happens in the next 6 months or must wait until next year, I feel confident that it is really going to happen. My spirit is willing, I believe I have God’s blessing and purpose, my camera is ready, my luggage can be packed in a matter of hours. Adventure is calling and I must go!