Nature Photo Challenge Number 5

Rich and I were walking in the Croatan National Forest last month when I watched this beautiful bird fishing in the meadow hay.  It waded in the grass amazingly slowly, but when a minnow came near, the bird struck with lighting speed and perfect accuracy.  During the half hour I watched the quest for food, I don’t think one strike missed it’s mark!  The Croatan National Forest boasts being the only truly coastal forest in the entire United States.  It is a gorgeous place!

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Nature Photo Challenge Number 4

This toad has chosen to make his home in my garden under the shade of my garlic plants.  Here he is peeking out of his little hole.


I took this picture, but credit goes to T for helping learn how to use the camera on my phone to get this shot.

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Sister Campout

One of the great advantages of our move to the Northeast is being close enough to meet up with family.  My two sisters and I decided to have a campout and bring our daughters on a pretty significant hike.


I picked out Sam’s Point at Minnewaska .  They have ice caves there!  How cool is that?  The trail has ladders and suspension bridges and cool rock formations.  I wanted to go.  I wanted to hang with my sisters and my niece in that beautiful place.

Alas!  Just days before our planned event, a forest fire burned two thousand acres and the park closed.  Part of the park did reopen, but not the ice caves and fun ladders, and who wants to hike through burnt out landscape?

Not to be defeated by a measly forest fire, we relocated our sister campout to  Phoenicia, the most centrally located place among the three sisters.  Phoenicia also happens to be where we grew up and where my Dad still lives.  It is a beautiful place – a kind of paradise.


We made reservations at Devil’s Tombstone.  My parents were excited we were doing this.  Dad contributed local firewood to our cause.  We roasted s’mores, laughed in the dark and listened to barred owls calling one another that first night.  Mom sent each girl a travel journal with visions of sketches and poetry by the side of the trail.


The next day, we headed out early under threat of rain.  We hiked the Indian Head Mountain/Twin Mountain trail – nearly nine miles of serious hiking fun with three summits.  This review of the trail says it is not for kids unless your kids are actual, literal mountain goats.  Bah!  Take your girls I say!!  Our girls had a blast.


At lower elevations the subtle woodland wildflowers delighted us.  There were red trilliums and painted trilliums, bobble bush and trout lilies, violets and dutchmen’s britches.


At higher elevations the views thrilled us.  We stood on rock ledges and gazed out.  We looked down on soaring birds.


One sister announced we could call her “Queena” while reclining on this rock throne.  We all burst into laughter at her inside childhood joke.


Our daughters skipped along this rock path …


and wedged themselves into this tight space.


Look at the leaves on this lovely bobble bush.  You see how they come out in pairs?  That’s how I want to explore the world – with a friend, or a sister, or a pair of sisters.


Have you been out investigating God’s big beautiful world with a sister recently?






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Nature Photo Challenge Number 3

There’s been so much rain, you could almost never imagine I walked past this dried up pond in the field by my house a couple of weeks ago.  Among the cracks in the mud, I saw a variety of animal tracks.  One of the hundred million deer that live near us left these prints here.


As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for you, O God. – Psalm 42:1

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Nature Photo Challenge Number 2


A couple of months ago geese were everywhere – in the cornfields and on every little pond.  There were literally thousands of them.  We apparently live in their migration path.  Most of them have moved on now, but a few stragglers remain.  I captured a photo of this fine fellow swimming in the water at Longwood Gardens.

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Nature Photo Challenge Number 1

My friend Debbie encouraged me to put up seven days of nature photographs.  I don’t know if I’ll do seven, but here’s one!


For as long as I can remember, this forget-me-not plant has lived at the place where the side stream runs into the main stream, just a piece up from where the big rock used to be.  If you are one of my brothers or sisters, that sentence has meaning for you, and you know exactly where I took this picture.  If not, you can just know this photo was taken in a place I often played as a girl.

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Beating The February Blues

My friend Annie has a plan for Beating the February Blues.   Aren’t you glad someone does?  Christmas and Valentine’s Day are both behind us,  but spring isn’t quite here yet.  When I run outside  I can tell it’s coming:  the geese are raising raising a ruckus and the world is dripping and flowing as twenty five inches of snow melts.  Still the days feel short and I have to be creative to keep my toes warm.  Thankfully some of Annie’s ideas have brightened our February.

Last night we had a February brightening activity of our own inspired by Compassion International.


We sponsor a child in Rwanda.  I write to her a few times a year, but for the most part I have not found it easy to engage our children in the work of Compassion.  They sort of vaguely know this girl is out there.

People who live below the poverty line have the worst of everything: medical care, education, food, housing.  Living in poverty says things to you.  Things like “You don’t deserve.”   “You don’t belong.”   “Your worth?  Ha!”  Poverty destroys you with a crushing hopelessness.

But, God loves poor people.  He wants us to reserve a little space in our brains to remember that not everyone has what we have.  At the very least we should be aware of contrasts like this:

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To help us be aware, I set out six plates with these five ingredients:
1. three graham crackers (one of them broken)
2. a smear of peanut butter
3. half a banana
4. a small chocolate bar
5. one fruit roll up ( my children were delighted I had purchased the ones with tongue tattoos- I didn’t even know that was a thing.  Did you?  Clearly they knew!)

I set the stage.  Pretend you live in the developing world in need of housing.  You can only build a home out of what you find because you don’t have any money to purchase building supplies, and besides, there is no local Lowe’s or Home Depot.  You have found some cardboard (the graham crackers), some mud (the peanut butter), a little tin (the banana) a couple of boards (the chocolate bar), and a glorious piece of plastic (the fruit roll up).  You now have two minutes to construct your home.  Go!


Well, maybe we should have given a little more than two minutes because several of us were still building when the timer went off.

We had some creative homes (and a delicious dessert)!  For years Rich has dreamed of an octagonal kitchen.  Why was I surprised at his hexagonal home?


This one was set in tin to help prevent earthquake damage.


This home included a plan for sewage in the basement.  Ummm…


How about this one, with wood flooring and tin gutters?


What would your home look like?

I hope you’ve found creative ways to beat the February Blues.  If you’d like more information about sponsoring a child through Compassion International, click here.


Posted in Family Life, Food, Making Things, Theology | 2 Comments