The Best Prizes Aren’t Found on a Stage

Dear Reader:

Like most people growing up I would dream about what it must feel like to win a National or international award or prize.

Every year I watched them come and go… getting no closer to that coveted dream in my imagination. Like the Pulitzer, Heisman, Oscars, or Nobel Prize.

Then last year I watched the sun filtering through my largest moonflower to date and I suddenly realized I had won a prize for bringing beauty to this earth-with the sun rising -the brilliant moonflower’s time was almost up but wow was it going out in all its glory!

Now it is time to plant the seeds again … opening up new possibilities for more prized moonflower surprises!

This got me thinking… don’t we all get our fair share of God’s coveted prizes in the simple pleasures of everyday life? We all certainly qualify for life’s small pleasures by being children of God.

Archibald Rutledge defined it as ” Life’s Extras. ” Rutledge observes … Creation supplies with only two kinds of things: necessities and extras.

Sunlight, air, water, food, shelter-these are among the bare necessities-with them we can exist.

But moonlight and starlight are distinctly extras; so are music, the perfumes, and flowers. The wind is perhaps a necessity but the song it croons through the morning pines is a different thing.

I decided to recognize many of the tiny delights in my life-extras that far surpass a cold trophy!

Winter fireplaces, my recliner with a book and heating lap blanket, births of my grandchildren-especially Jake’s since it landed on my birthday, the rare snowstorm when Eloise was born, full moons and sunrises/sunsets, Saint Jude’s Chapel of Hope, YaYa retreat on Edisto, friends-past and present… flower gifts from friends

The list is endless-God is so good to us! Let me share a few photos of my favorites

So until tomorrow…

Remember yesterday when I showed you my two containers of hostas that wintered in the woods… how beautiful they were? Look what I discovered yesterday morning…

A ” wacky wabbit” ate my hostas! Talk about losses!

” Today is my favorite day” Winnie the Pooh

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I Never Make the Same Mistake Twice…

Dear Reader:

By now you probably realize that yesterday you got two posts for the high price of one-insanity.

The first one that popped up at six had center stage until about 9:30 am and was titled-God Enters the Doors of Imperfection. After that time the second post grabbed the limelight-entitled -April… The Month of Beauty and Blessings. If you read early yesterday morning you might not have picked up on the mistake-so you have two for the price of one today!

I could try to explain what happened but I won’t- it would take another entire blog for that… let’s just say my fingers went walking in the wrong direction and I definitely am confident that I come from the genealogy of at least one of the ” Walk Away People” who left before God got their brains put in!

So come with me and look at my flowers inside and outside-my way of self-soothing/ healing -embracing the beauty and forgotten blessings around me.

Big Red encouraging me!

I found two hostas blooming in the woods where they wintered and look how pretty now-

Look at my visual blessings right outside my computer window

This is my Happy Place

Fresh flowers on my kitchen table-makes me happy too!

So until tomorrow…When we get down and discouraged find your secret sanctuary, take a deep breath and be thankful for it-it means you are alive and the world is filled with possibilities!

” Today is my ( getting there) favorite day. “😉

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April… The Month of Beauty and Blessings

Dear Reader:

Just saying the word April softly produces a lilting sing-song to my voice… a soft melody.

Sara Teasdale, in her prose on April, expresses it so well. …”I could not be sure of spring-save that it sings in me.”

The word April immediately conjures up delightful visions of flowers, blue skies and fluffy clouds, daisies or diamonds (the birth flower and birthstone) of this dazzling month. April just makes me smile.

April’s Latin root origin means “to open.” Most historians believe it refers to the opening of flowers profusely blooming over meadows, by gates and in gardens… the reawakening or re-opening of spring and spirit.

Susan dropped by Wednesday to walk the garden and as we entered the entrance gate she remarked on the unusual beauty of the white mums sprinkled in brown against the rusty metal sign telling visitors to “Feel free to talk to the plants…they understand.”

I was about to tell her the brown “stains” on the white mums reflect the downward trend from pure white to brown withered signs of slow decay. But somehow I couldn’t… because I agreed with Susan…the speckled mums were simply gorgeous!

Isn’t this true sometimes of the stains on our own tapestry of life?

I read somewhere recently that a psychiatrist, working with a woman who suffered terribly from “perfectionism,” to the point she found herself isolated from family, friends, and work colleagues…came up with an idea to help her break through her self-induced irrational expectations.

She had to wear an outfit to work with a large mustard stain on her blouse. She was not allowed to wash it off or even apologize for it….simply admit, if asked, that she squirted the bottle too hard…a simple mistake and that trying to clean it would just make it worse.

To her surprise…many co-workers offered suggestions on how to clean it, others smiled and shared their embarrassing “stain” stories until the whole office was laughing together. Suddenly she appeared human and vulnerable…and acceptable as as one of the “team”-humanity.

So until tomorrow…stains remind us that we are not perfect but that “hot dog with all the mustard was sure worth it!”

“Today is my favorite day” (Eva Cate with Winnie the Pooh at the Greek gardens at EPCOT)

“Let us remember that it is our imperfections that make us so wonderfully unique!

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God Enters the Doors of Imperfection

Dear Reader:

Don’t we all get down sometimes and think we have made such a “mess” of our lives that we are beyond help? Our career is going down the tubes, our lifestyle is flawed, the house needs more repairs than money allows…we stretch ourselves so thin we feel like a failure constantly…why would God want to help us?

Actually this is when the time is “perfect”… when God most wants to knock on our doors and enter our lives…if we can learn to throw away the fairy tale of perfection and live in the real world. God can not weave in and out of our lives when we set rigid expectations on living the perfect life…in cold perfection.

And speaking of weaving…I love this story about Navajo rugs. Navajo women, weavers, deliberately leave an imperfection or mistake woven into one corner of the rug. It is meant to allow “The Spirit” to move in and out of the rug.

The Navajo weavers understand that if they worry about every tiny stitch and/or making a mistake…they will slow down the completion of the finished product that no buyer would have even recognized the error. The paradox: “Practicing in imperfection allows you to come closer to perfection.”

I have had to learn this lesson the hard way…chastising myself for not picking up on all the new typing techniques and different procedures from “Miss Dell” the desk top computer to the chrome book… my typing is now so slow and I keep hitting the wrong keys that sends parts of sentences spinning off into cyberspace. Believe me…the message today has my name all over it.

So until tomorrow… “Anyone who has never made a mistake…has tried anything new.” – Einstein

“Today is my favorite day” Winnie the Pooh

I decided not to take the wooden cross down quite yet from the bottle tree but wait for the Easter lily Tommy and Kaitlyn gave me to bloom…it is not quite perfection yet with all the blooms but close enough for me!

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Learning in the Great Outdoors

Dear Reader:

The title photo today is on the front of a canvas bag my neighbor Vickie gifted me for watching her cat, Fuzz, over the Easter holidays while visiting her granddaughter. Fuzz is quite a character and we always have fun together.

Vickie told me that as soon as she saw the bag she knew it was me all over….she was right. The words on the front of the bag reads: “Not All Classrooms Have Four Walls.” It has taken me awhile to learn this lesson…but now in my life (Part 2) since the construction of my garden in 2013, I have become exactly what I wanted to be – a lifetime learner!

I am happiest while working in the garden, even though my automated sprinkler is broken right now, and I have had to form a one woman water brigade (volunteer crew unit-me) from my outside spigots to the back and side gardens with two big plastic bottles! Good for the muscles and soul I suppose!

The garden has been my greatest teacher…teaching me science- when to plant what in which season, math- the number of days it will take seeds to appear or plants to bloom, literature- reading stories and books on the history of gardens and different foliage,etc.

Yet my greatest lessons have come in the form of learning patience, becoming a risk-taker, learning about recently discovered hybrids and new varieties of plants. Spiritually…my garden has provided a sanctuary for me to go and simply repose from the world…using all my God-given five senses.

So I was delighted when I discovered a novel movement in education- to use outdoor learning to re-open schools more safely during the pandemic! The National Covid-19 Outdoor Learning Initiative was joined by another co-founder, Green Schoolyards in America….with original sites in California…lead by Berkeley Hall of Science.

After much research they discovered that the risk of virus transmissions is roughly 20 times lower outdoors than in. Outdoor learning is critical to a student’s intellectual, physical, and mental well-being. Sunlight helps reduce the amount of viruses present.

Communities get involved to help build outdoor meeting spaces for students-besides providing funding for simple building material for pavilions used as shelters, tree stumps for seats, boat sails for shade, etc. This early initiative has concentrated on the elementary grades but is looking towards expanding to secondary levels.

The New York Times did a story on one site near Cape Cod watching first graders sit criss-cross applesauce on tree stumps while raising their hands “sky high” to answer a question. Third graders grow class gardens studying foods the explorers used…and fourth graders escape to shelter made from boat sails and learn how to erect them like in times of old.

Math centers use sticks, acorns, rocks, and pine cones to learn basic economics in money exchange. In social studies students compare their outside environment to the ones described in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books. Literacy walks take place as students search for the pages of their assigned story tacked to different trees in the forest. First graders use this same idea for finding sight words.

The vast majority of students exposed to outdoor learning don’t want to return inside again…at least not wholly…many schools have worked up to a 75% amount of time outside while others use less depending on the location and environment. I think it might be a tough job, even when the pandemic has left, to corral children back inside…children and outdoor learning are natural partners!

So until tomorrow….Let’s all remain lifetime learners and let Mother Nature become our teacher again…like she was when we were children playing and learning in her “class.”

“Today is my favorite day” Winnie the Pooh

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Life is About Beginning Again and Again and Again…

Begin Again!

Dear Reader:

From our first lesson in writing a story or doing a book report, we have been taught to make sure we include a beginning, a middle, and an ending.

This “formula” we discovered… applied to everything in life… movies, live theater, books, sermons, essays, letters etc.

I remember one high school English teacher telling the class that the most important part of the “formula” in real life was not the beginning, or ending but the middle … the life we live between birth and death… the “dash” on the tombstone between our dates of birth and death.

Even though I still agree with this assessment-it is not the ” end- all” either. Life is filled with continuous beginnings if we have the courage to start our lives over again as needed.

Think about it… God is not only the God of second chances but third, fourth, fifth, etc… if we are brave and trusting enough to follow God’s lead.

We should never feel embarrassed or despondent about starting over at any stage of our lives because it is never the same.

So until tomorrow…Beginning over can be the best thing that ever happened to us-forcing us to be open to new possibilities!

” Today is my favorite day” Winnie the

* And look at my Gerber Daisy -the first one to come up again this year…right beside the Boo Garden sign without an inch to spare-a new beginning for the third year in a row!

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Having the Courage and Humility to Receive Jesus’ Gift of Life

A Gift Beyond Mortal understanding

Dear Reader:

I am halfway through the book-The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.

In this story a retired man who has never really lived-simply going through the motions and strikes of life – starts walking one day with one vague destination in mind -a self-endured pilgrimage that opens up his eyes, heart, and soul to the secrets of the meaning of life.

He begins giving more of himself to complete strangers than he ever could do with work colleagues and/or even his family.

But he discovers to his surprise that accepting kindness from others is the hardest thing to learn for him-he realizes that ” It was as much of a gift to receive as it is to give, requiring as it did both courage and humility.”

This is what I felt again yesterday-how can mankind accept life-everlasting life-from Christ Who sacrificed His life for ours???

And then the first word that popped up in my head had big blinking neon lights around it-GRACE!

Only by the Grace of God are we saved-not just by words, deeds, or thoughts. We have to find the courage and humility to accept a gift-so mind boggling that we sometimes want to run from it-a free gift that we can’t pay back until we are brave enough to reach out and accept it.

As I happily immersed myself in our Dingle-Turner Easter Family Celebration -the first time we have all been together since Easter 2017-the year before Eloise’s birth- I understood the expression ” My cup Runneth Over. “

” The Gang’s All Here!”
On your mark… Go!
Mandy Outdid Herself
Eloise’s first Hunt
We all had a swinging good time – Rutledge found the prize egg!

So until tomorrow…Stay true to Your Instincts on Who You Really Are Deep Inside-this is the one and only person Jesus saved on the cross!

” Today is my favorite Day” -Winnie the Pooh

* Thank all of you so much for your precious cards, thoughts, and messages! Hope everyone enjoyed Easter Day 2021!

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Easter – “Joyful Sorrow”

Dear Reader:

I remember Grandmother Wilson always describing Easter Sunday as “Joyful Sorrow” while clasping her hands together, closing her eyes and saying a silent prayer. As a small child I never understood this seemingly contradictory description…so I would just nod my head and say nothing. At the age I was… my mind was more on the Easter Bunny and what new dress he would bring me to wear to church.

Today I recognize that Grandmother’s description of Easter was the perfect oxymoron for the occasion!

In fact…the longer I live the more aware I am that life is filled with oxymorons…nothing is exactly as it seems or using an oxymoron…(A contradiction in terms) the “same difference.”

Ponder these examples of oxymorons that we could all fill in the Holy Week stories leading up to Easter and the Resurrection!

“Deafening silence” “Amazingly awful” “Painfully beautiful” “Small crowd”

…And my favorite…”Farewell Reception”….what an original way to describe the death and resurrection of Jesus…all his followers, friends, and family sorrowfully bid him farewell on Good Friday and His reception appearance on Easter Sunday!

This past week was a noisy one….every neighbor on the street, the neighborhood…even the town were outside cutting grass, weed-eating, planting flowers, hosing off pollen…it is the same every year….it is as if we intuitively want our little piece of the universe to be beautiful in honor of the greatest sacrifice ever made for mankind.

*That is why I washed all the bottles on the bottle tree and added a wooden cross for this special Easter Sunday…just having all the family together again is the greatest gift …one that will never be taken lightly again!

So until tomorrow…my last oxymorons…”In death…there is life”…and this Easter Sunday “Never forget…we are always “alone together.” Blessings to all on this holiest of days!

“Today is my favorite day” Winnie the Pooh

Easter Beauty in Simplicity

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“Resurrecting” Easter Memories

Easter 2021

Dear Reader:

Last year right before Easter I had my first pandemic melt-down-an overwhelming sense of loss and sadness swept over me.

For the first time since Eva Cate was born in 2010 there would be no Boo Easter Egg Hunt. It hit me harder than I imagined and suddenly all I wanted was to ” resurrect” the traditional Easter Egg Hunt and have all the family together again!

Besides the religious Easter symbol of Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection… the verbal meaning of to ” resurrect” means to bring into view, attention or use again.

2020 would have no gathering-no Hunt. But I do remember John/ Mandy and family surprised me by dropping off lunch then Jo and Colby stopped by with Winnie the Pooh surprises and Stephanie Ballard brought a box of warm Krispy Kreme donuts-my Easter was saved by love and friendship… and donuts! 🤣

It was only later that I remembered the Easter before the 2020 Pandemic only John, Mandy and the children were here-Walsh and Mollie/family were visiting her family and Tommy and Kaitlyn were in Tennessee visiting her parents-Eva Cate and Jake had lots of eggs that year to Hunt and it was the first church service Jake made it through to the end which he proudly told everyone!

Flowers for the Cross
Jake made it through

I realized, to my surprise that 2018 was the last time everyone was there at my house for Easter-including Eloise who had just joined the family with her birth four months earlier!

So in 2017 the grandchildren consisted of Eva Cate and the boys for Easter!

So until tomorrow…

Resurrected Memories of Christ’s sacrifice for us each Easter Day reminds us we are all God’s family and we have been resurrected by His amazing love for us!

Today is my favorite day-Winnie the Pooh

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Learning to see the “New Now” as an Adventure

Dear Reader:

I wonder why I am so surprised when an old computer, appliance, heating and air conditioning unit, as well as, a half dozen other home apparatus breaks down? Do I forget how long I had it for and how well it served me?

No! I act like I am a victim of the universe and pout. I have certainly lived long enough to understand that nothing is permanent in this world. There should be a blinking neon sign over the top of everything in this life reminding us that Everything and Everyone is temporary…Get Over It!

I am slowly realizing that a “New Now” arrives with each tick of the clock. I need to change my attitude and grab the moment…instead of playing the permanent role of Eeyore!

I came across this quote that made me smile with some added wisdom.

“If you can change it, there is no reason to worry about it…if you can not change it…there’s no reason to worry about it.”

In the title drawing…we see one of the earliest “tech” inventions by mankind…the wheel. Think about the implications of this innovation….now man could pull and later let animals pull essential food supplies to gatherings, rocks and bricks to build pyramids, and armies to battle…for every invention there is a negative…depending on how man is chooses to use thought processes…for good or evil.

Today this is still true…the new technical age can unite the world as one in communication or destroy the world…only man can decide.

Another lesson I have learned going through this transition is that “When God solves our problems we have faith in His abilities; when God doesn’t solve our problems, He has faith in OUR abilities.” (That’s a lot of pressure God…but I am trying.)

So until tomorrow…

I want to be more comfortable being uncomfortable…to be more confident while uncertain. I want to push back to make room between ‘I Can’t and “I Can”… a place called “I WILL!”

“Today is my favorite day” Winnie the Pooh

…And happiness comes with blooms from my first two old-fashion sunflowers

Quite honestly…I can acclimate to any “New Now” world as long as it has cookies in it…and award-winning paintings about cookies a.k.a. Anne Peterson! Congratulations on your “Cookie Love”- winning the Community Choice Award at the Public Works Art Center’s “Love Letters” Exhibition!

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