What Do You See Outside YOUR Open Window Today?

What Do You See Outside YOUR Open Window Today?
Remember: "When God closes a door, He always opens a window!" You never know what might be out there waiting for you!

Friday, October 21, 2016

My "Wild" Life in Review - Friday Foto Friends

For those of you who follow me on Facebook, or on this blog site, you know that I tend to live "on the wild side".  Now, if you are a newcomer to this blog, please don't close this page yet!  Give me a chance to explain!

Ever since we moved to the Ocala National Forest almost five years ago, we have encountered many kinds of wildlife...oftentimes right here in our own front yard...and sometimes as we travel around the area "in search of" anything worthy of our notice...and to feed my "photography bug".   A few years ago my dear brother gave me a digital camera because I was the last one in the universe to still be using a film camera, and he happened to have an old Kodak EasyShare Z650 with a neat little attached zoom lens sitting in his cabinet, (he worked for Kodak) and when he gave that to me it opened up a whole new world!

So, for my Friday Foto Friends, here is a little bit of my "wild life" from just this past week.

We'll start out with our resident "Little Bear", who has been walking through our yard frequently over the past couple of months.  He started out looking much more scraggly and skinny than these pictures taken this afternoon. It appears that he is starting to fatten up as he prepares for winter.  Little Bear is probably just a year or two old, and apparently is an "orphan" bear, out on his own.  Our yard connects to the forest, and we discovered very soon after moving here that the bears claimed our yard as a part of their trail to the woods.  Click HERE for a previous post about our bears.

 I love how Little Bear stopped and posed for us before leaving the yard.  This picture makes him look a lot larger than he is, but it is definitely the same "Little Bear" as above.  He stopped and sniffed the air for a minute or two...trying to figure out where the noise was coming from...(we were INSIDE the house taking these pictures, I can assure you)
 Bye Bye Little Bear!

We also have a wildlife "night camera" that takes pictures of animals walking through our yard at night.  This is a bobcat prowling around.  We often also get pictures of coyotes, foxes, raccoons, deer, and of course, the bears...

If you've kept up with any previous posts recently, you've already seen my deer...but here they were one evening this week...the fawns have really grown up and no longer have any spots.  I've enjoyed watching their antics this past summer.  I pray they and their mother all make it through hunting season, which will be starting soon....(sorry to add a sad thought in the midst of this, but that is the reality of life in the big woods)

Now, this next batch of pictures I must admit was not taken in our yard or neighborhood.  However, we were invited to go play golf (that's another story that I'll explain later) with some friends yesterday, and the golf course proved to be a nature wonderland for me with my camera. (I don't play golf...so guess what I did?)  

Here is a critter that I have been trying to capture on camera for a long time.  This is a Fox Squirrel. (Click HERE for more info on this )  They live in the pine and oak woodlands around the forest, but are rapidly becoming almost extinct because of so much development.  I've seen some along the road near where we live, but by the time we can stop the car and get the camera focused, they are long gone. So you can imagine my joy and excitement as not one, but several fox squirrels showed up to watch us play!  Apparently people feed them and so they don't seem to be too afraid to come near.

When he ran up the tree he spread out on the limb like this and pretended we couldn't see him...

They were so much fun to watch...my friends had to keep reminding me that we had to keep moving on to the next hole on the fairway...

I did actually try to putt when we got to each hole, but I didn't attempt any long shots. We would have spent too much time trying to find the golf balls...

Here's the rest of our group. They were the serious golfers...
I was just along for the ride, and after a while my friend even trusted me to drive the golf cart, which was another first for me:

Well, back to the "Wild Life"....when we got to the 14th hole, (yes, I can't believe we actually played 18 holes...), there was some other interesting "wild life" to keep me entertained while the rest of them tried to hit the golf balls:

Out of the woods came this whole flock of wild turkeys:

 This one was looking at me with a rather disgusted look...and I think someone must have told her that Thanksgiving is coming in a few weeks...
So on that note, I will end this wild tale...and remind us that we ought always to be thankful!  I am very thankful for our home, for the wonderful creatures God has created and that we are privileged to enjoy, and also for good friends and family who brighten our lives and encourage us to step out on the "wild side" and try something new...

In the book of Philippians, chapter 4 verses 4-7, we are given the "secret of the peace of God" (according to the heading in my Bible)

"Rejoice in the Lord always.
Again I will say, rejoice!
Let your gentleness be known to all men.
The Lord is at hand.
Be anxious for nothing,
but in everything by prayer and supplication, 
with Thanksgiving,
let your requests be made known to God;
and the peace of God,
which surpasses all understanding, 
will guard your hearts and minds
through Christ Jesus."

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Bend in the Road

Tonight as I headed down our road for my evening walk I was captivated by the sight before me: 

The further I walked, the more brilliantly the light shone around the bend in the road. I was drawn toward this light and mesmerized by its glowing entreaty.

The refrain kept coming into my mind,
"When you come to the bend in the road",
and so many thoughts persisted as if God were giving me a special message...for me, perhaps...
but also possibly for you.
I am not a poet, so I won't even attempt to write in rhyme or verse.  
And actually, I discovered that Helen Steiner Rice has already written such a lovely poem about this very subject...so I will include that for you at the end of this.

Have you ever come to a place in your life where you felt like you had come to a roadblock...a dead end...a point of no return?  Perhaps a loss of job, financial security, home, marriage, spouse, parent, child, or friendship has left you feeling alone, empty and uncertain about your future...and all you can see is darkness and sorrow ahead.  

Believe it or not, we've all been there at different times in our lives. I've been there...perhaps more often than I'd like to admit or remember. We may each be affected differently by whatever our circumstance may be.  Some may respond with extreme fear and anxiety while others may react in anger and be unable to forgive or reconcile themselves to their changed position in life. There may even be those who respond with an attitude of accelerated activity and charge ahead recklessly without appearing to care at all about themselves or others around them. Others may be so caught up in grief that they cannot even begin to overcome the deep sorrow that engulfs their very souls. 

Regardless of how you appear to respond to the disappointments and challenges that life throws in your pathway, we can all agree that these kinds of events change our lives drastically from the outside in...and from the inside out.  Nothing will ever be the same again.  In some cases that is a bad thing...and perhaps in other cases, it could actually be a good thing. Obviously, that depends upon the severity of the situation as well as the condition of the heart and soul of the one traversing this journey.

What was impressing me about this vision of the bend in the road tonight was the divine light shining forth, beckoning me to continue on in my journey.  Not to give up or give in to defeat, fear, anxiety, sorrow, or even complacency, but to persevere and stay strong in my faith in the One Who was already walking before me, just around the bend,  shining His love-light toward me, guiding my pathway and keeping me headed in the right direction.

"Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, The Holy One of Israel;
Who makes a way in the sea and a path through the mighty waters...
'Do not remember the former things,
nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I will do a new thing,
Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it?
I will even make a road in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.'"
Isaiah 43:14, 16, 18-19

"And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. 
He will be with you,
He will not leave you nor forsake you;
do not fear nor be dismayed."
Deuteronomy 31:8

Needless to say, this little walk tonight had a profound effect on my heart and mind. I couldn't wait to get back home and start putting these thoughts down on "paper" before they drowned in the sea of too many distractions and pressures waiting to overcome me when I got back home. It is my hope that anyone reading this will stop and realize that you are not alone in your present "bend in the road" of life.  That is all that it is...a bend...not an end.  Read what Helen Steiner Rice wrote and be encouraged and blessed...

The End Of The Road Is But A Bend In The Road

by Helen Steiner Rice
When we feel we have nothing left to give
And we are sure that the "song has ended"--
When our day seems over and the shadows fall
And the darkness of night has descended,

Where can we go to find the strength
To valiantly keep on trying,
Where can we find the hand that will dry
The tears that the heart is crying--

There's but one place to go and that is to God
And, dropping all pretense and pride,
We can pour out our problem without restraint
And gain strength with Him at our side--

And together we stand at life's crossroads
And view what we think is the end,
But God has a much bigger vision
And he tells us it's only a bend--

For the road goes on and is smoother,
And the "pause in the song" is a "rest,"
And the part that's unsung and unfinished
Is the sweetest and richest and best--

So rest and relax and grow stronger,
Let go and let God share your load,
Your work is not finished or ended,
You've just come to "a bend in the road."

There really isn't anything else for me to say, except keep moving forward, my friend. God is with you...He's already waiting for you, just around the bend.

Sunday Meditations

"The statutes of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes;

The fear of the Lord is clean,
enduring forever;

The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether,

More to be desired are they than gold,
Yea, than much fine gold;

Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb,

Moreover by them Your servant is warned,
and in keeping them there is great reward.

Psalm 19:8-11

"Let the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in Your sight,
O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer."
Psalm 19:14


May you rejoice in God's Word and His enduring promises today.
Have a blessed Sunday, my friends!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Friday Foto Friends - Lazy Bones Sleepin' in the Sun

Lazybones, sleepin' in the sun....how you spect to get your day's work done?
You can't get your day's work done......sleepin' in the noon day sun.

Lazybones, layin' in the shade....how you gonna get your cornmeal made?
You can't get no cornmeal made....sleepin' in that evening shade

When taters need sprayin', I bet you keep prayin'
The bugs'll fall off of the vine
And when you go fishin' I bet you keep wishin'
Them fish don't grab your line

Lazybones, loafin' all the day.....how you spect to make a dime that way?
You won't make no dime that way.....loafin' in the shade all day
Songwriters: CARMICHAEL, HOAGY / MERCER, JOHNNY  Lazybones lyrics © Peermusic Publishing, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

Howdy Friends! I feel like it's been a long time since we last communicated...but it's really only been a week...It's just that last weekend was such a "wash-out", with Hurricane Matthew passing by and the loss of power, and absolutely no communication with the outside world for 36 hours.   But then I look at what the poor people up in the Carolina's are still suffering...with flooded homes, towns, roads, and many unable to go back to their homes, and I feel a little bit guilty that we were spared so much...but so very, very humbled and thankful. 

Yesterday we met with our family at a restaurant for lunch up on the St. John's River.  It's one of my favorite places to go because we can sit out on the deck overlooking the river while we eat. These "lazybones" baby alligators were totally unaware of the world around them as they snoozed in the noon-day sun.  I say they were unaware, but I am certain they would have sprung to action if someone had jumped in the water nearby...something I was not about to do even if I could have...because you can be assured where there are baby gators, mama gator is probably not far away.

While we enjoyed our lunch on the deck, we couldn't help but notice this houseboat floating by on the river.   I imagine the people on that houseboat are a lot like the baby gators...just "sleepin' in the noon-day sun"...not a care in the world it would seem...enjoying a day on the river...which is a wonderful way to spend a beautiful fall day after the stresses of last weekend's storm.

It has occurred to me that "sleepin' in the noon-day sun" is probably not a bad idea...perhaps not literally in the noon-day sun, but the idea of resting after a week of unusual stress is actually a very good thing.  When we go through the trauma of a bad storm and all the extra work that goes along with the preparation and clean-up afterwards, our bodies suffer more than we realize. Add to that other unexpected issues, whether they be physical, financial, or the environmental stresses and strains...or how about the current political assaults being assailed constantly by the media wherever you look...these are all issues that are overloading and affecting our minds, bodies and spirits.

The Lord gave us a beautiful picture of the rest that He provides for us when we are overwhelmed by the cares of this world. Read along with me:

"The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness 
for His name's sake.

Yea, though I walk through the 
valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, 
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Psalm 23:1-6 NKJV

This tells me that it is okay to take some time out to rest from the stresses of this old world...it's okay to spend some time just "sleepin' in the noon-day sun" when our bodies, minds and spirits are worn out, overwhelmed, or just plain tired.   Jesus told His disciples (including you and me):

"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest."
Matthew 11:28

So, if you are feeling guilty about taking that extra nap, or you find that you feel like just sitting somewhere peaceful and doing absolutely nothing for a spell...DON'T! (Feel guilty, that is).  This is God's way of bringing healing to your soul.  He knows what you need...and He gives you permission to do just that.   
Thank you, Lord!

Linking up with Deb and friends at Friday Foto Friends today.  Hop on over there and see what others are sharing today.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Who Calmed the Storm?

Hurricane Matthew was predicted to hit our state as a category four major hurricane this past weekend.  All of the weather forecasters were predicting an extremely vicious storm, threatening us with severe high winds and rain that would cause major damage to those of us living within sixty miles or more of the Atlantic Coast of Florida.  Our home was right on the borderline of being in the highest hurricane force winds, and it was even recommended that people living in our part of the county should evacuate.  It wasn't mandatory, but highly recommended especially for people living in mobile/manufactured homes.

Thankfully, our house is a solid concrete block home,

so we were not fearful so much for it to be a high risk...but we live in the middle of the Ocala National Forest, and are surrounded by many tall sandpines...which have a very shallow root system and are easily uprooted or snapped in two by any high winds.  So my concern was mainly for what could happen if any of those trees fell on our house.

My other anxiety was the inevitable loss of electricity, because those trees would most likely be falling on power lines throughout the area, disrupting power...and who knows how long it would be before the power company would be able to get around and repair all of the damage and restore our power. Since we also have a well with an electric pump, loss of electricity means loss of water...which creates other interesting complications for living in a house full of people.

So, Thursday night before the storm started I walked around our home and prayed and implored God to build His hedges high around and to give His angels charge over our home and our family, our friends, neighbors, and loved ones, wherever they may be in the path of the storm.  I also boldly prayed that God would blow the storm a little ways to the east, out to sea, away from the coastline, and thus lessen the impact upon our state.  I mean, what is wrong with asking God to move the storm over a few miles, possibly saving hundreds of lives and protecting our homes, property and coastline from severe damage? After all, Who created the wind and the rain to begin with? Was it not God?  And Who commands the stormy winds and seas, and also has the power to still the raging storm at just a word spoken from His mouth?

Psalm 107:23-31 says:

"Those who go down to the sea in ships,
who do business on great waters,
They see the works of the Lord,
and His wonders in the deep.
For He (the Lord) commands and raises the stormy wind,
which lifts up the waves of the sea.  
They mount up to the heavens,
they go down again to the depths;
Their soul melts because of trouble.
They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man,
and are at their wits' end.
Then they cry out to the Lord in their trouble,
And He brings them out of their distresses.
He calms the storm,
so that its waves are still.
Then they are glad because they are quiet;
So He guides them to their desired haven.
Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness,
and for His wonderful works to the children of men!"

And so I prayed...and then after filling the bathtub and various buckets, pots and pans with water, and stuffing extra bags of ice in the refrigerator/freezer, I went to bed and waited to see what the Lord would do.  

When we woke up Friday morning the winds and rains were just barely getting started. The very first event that happened, even before I could get the hot water boiling for my morning cup of tea, the power went off...at 6:30 a.m., just like that! Snap! No power! No lights, no water, no air conditioning, no stove, nada, nothing, zap! I thought to myself, "Lord, that wasn't funny!  I hope you plan to restore the power right away, because I really need my cup of tea, and breakfast, and a shower, and the phone and the computer and the TV so we can watch the weather reports, and, and..."  But apparently He wasn't listening to my plea.  The power did not come back on. Not even a little blink. It was totally O.U.T.!  

So after a cold breakfast of peanut butter and banana sandwiches, (eaten on the front porch before the rain got too bad to sit there)
we settled in for the day of watching the rain and wind and figuring out what all we needed to do to survive the storm.

My hubby and adult sons discovered that not being able to watch the TV or use the computer left them with a whole lot of time to do....?? Well, whatever they could do in the pouring down rain inside a dark house. 

 One son taking a nap on the couch
Another son eating homemade cookies...

Our house tends to be a little dark when there is no sunshine, so the brightest area was our sun-porch, which I claimed so I could sit and read.
 Hubby joined me for a while, but not being such an avid reader as I, he soon resorted to other activities...counting coins by candlelight? He was bored!  Ha!

Throughout the day we heard many trees snapping and popping around us in the woods, and we continued to pray that no harm would come upon our home or anyone we knew.

By supper time it seemed that the storm was abating somewhat, but there was still no sign of electricity being restored, so we dodged the raindrops and cooked hotdogs, beans, and fried potatoes outside on the grill, and ate dinner by candlelight and an oil lamp. I felt much like the Ingalls' family in "Little House on the Prairie". Kind of fun...but thankful it hopefully wasn't going to be a permanent way of life...

Throughout the day we kept expecting the storm to get worse, because the weather predictions had been so dire.  Since we had no means of communication, there was no way for us to know what was really happening with the intensity of or direction the storm was heading. We just continued to pray and watch and wait.

After supper the rain and wind had actually stopped enough for us to go outside and look around. As we walked out onto our road, we saw many trees felled by the wind, blocking the path for vehicles to get through.  So the guys got busy and started cutting up the trees enough so that people could get by.

As we realized that the storm was indeed passing by, and that we had not suffered any serious damage to our property, home, or persons, we truly began to rejoice and give thanks for God's mercy and goodness.  We checked on our immediate neighbors and found that they were also safe and sound, and like us, very thankful to be alive.  Of course, we still didn't have any electricity or water, but we were safe, our homes were intact,  and it was apparent that God had done something special...because this storm was not as bad as it was supposed to have been!

The next morning we still didn't have any power, and hubby and I were both in need of some hot coffee (hubby) and tea (me), and also having a bit of cabin fever, we decided to take a ride and see if there was any place open that had power and coffee!  We noticed the power trucks and tree cutters out doing their jobs...and prayed they would soon have our power restored as well.

Happy Me with my Hot Tea!
Hubby with his paper.

Thankfully, we found a gas station open about 10 miles away and got our hot drinks and headed back home to start the clean up process. We also bought a newspaper, and settled on the sunny front porch to enjoy a cool morning breeze and some fresh air for a few minutes before digging into the work for the day.

As we started reading the paper, my son held up the headlines for me to see:
It said that our county "dodged the bullet"...that the storm was not as bad as it was predicted to be... and, well, read it for yourself:

Do you see what I see? 
 "A simple jog to the east late Thursday, as well as a slight weakening early Friday, was enough to keep the worst of the dangerous Matthew out of Marion County..."

Hmmm..."A simple jog to the EAST late Thursday..."    Yes, that is exactly when I was praying for exactly that to happen...and I found out later that many others were praying for the exact same thing...and well...

"Then they cry out to the Lord in their trouble,
and He brings them out of their distresses.
He calms the storm,
So that it's waves are still."

Can God do this? Does He really hear our cries and answer our prayers??? Does He really have this kind of power over the wind and the sea?  Well, let's see if there is another story that you might recall.  Read Mark 4:35-41 for the whole story, but the most important verses are when Jesus is awakened by His disciples as they feared the boat was going to sink in the great windstorm, 
(verses 39-41)

"Then He arose and rebuked the wind, 
and said to the sea,
And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.
But He said to them,
'Why are you so fearful? 
How is it that you have no faith?'
And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another,
'Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!'"

In Matthew's gospel version of this same story, chapter 8:26, Jesus asks the disciples, "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?".   Interesting...this was in Matthew's gospel...and this event we had was Hurricane Matthew.

Anyway, I believe Jesus is still asking us today this same question...even after we prayed and prayed and asked Him to calm the storm...to drive it further away...we still doubted that it would really happen...and then when it DID happen just as we prayed, I've heard some people say that the weathermen just didn't know what they were talking about when they made all those predictions...their scientific instruments weren't all that accurate if they couldn't even predict where this storm was going...and how soon do we forget that God did exactly what we asked Him to do...and we try to explain it to faulty equipment or false predictions?

I go back to Psalm 107, verse 1-2, which says:

"Oh give thanks to the Lord for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy."

Yes, "Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!"
Praise God! He calmed the storm!
He drove the storm further out to sea and spared many lives.

I know this storm has been very dangerous in other places, and we don't want to forget Haiti, Cuba, The Bahamas, and other parts of the United States eastern seaboard who are still reeling from the ravages of this same storm. I don't understand why they have had such a difficult time and we have been spared.
 But, I do want to go on record as recognizing God's great mercy shown toward us here, and I believe we need to say so.
We do need to pray for those who are still suffering and hurting, and do whatever we are able to do to help.

Oh, and by the way, our power was finally restored 36 hours after it was lost.  We spent 36 hours living off the grid...and survived!  We survived in more ways than just an inconvenience to our comfort.  We survived because God indeed drove the storm further out to sea and changed it's course and intensity as a direct response to many prayers. I firmly believe that...and will continue to give Him the praise and honor He so deserves for hearing and responding to our prayers in such a miraculous way. Yes, our Heavenly Father calmed the storm for us literally.  And He can do that and so much more for you as well...just ask Him!