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, March 31, 2017

Friday Foto Friends-"For Lo, The Winter is Past"

Well Friends, Here it is Friday again! And the last day of March to boot!!! Wow! Where did this month go?  It's been a busy month here in our neck of the woods.  Since it is early in the morning (6:54 a.m.), and I haven't drunk my cup of tea yet,
I'm still a little bit groggy. I'm so un-awake that I'm actually letting you see a picture of my messy desk top, with my cup of tea sitting on top of my Secret Garden Journal.  Yes, that is still a winter Thomas Kinkade mug...I have three of those with different winter scenes on them, and they are my current favorite mug for the morning, as they are tall enough to hold a good long cup of tea...enough to wake me up! I will probably exchange these for something more summery one of these days when I wake up enough in the morning to think about it.  So there!

Now, on to the pictures for Friday Foto Friends! And when you are finished here with me, you can hop on over to visit Deb and our other friends at Breathing In Grace -Friday Foto Friends and see what they've been up to lately!

Since I am still so sleepy, I won't bore you with a lot of talk...(! Ha ), and just get on with the picture show:  This first batch is from our lovely boat ride that we took earlier in the week with our neighbors.  Our ride started at the Salt Springs Run, which led into Lake George, which then led into the St. John's River, and then back again. I have many more pictures than these, but if you are one of my Facebook friends you have already seen them.  So here are a few of my favorites of some of the many beautiful water birds we saw along the way:

The first three pictures are pretty amazing.  These two Giant Blue Herons were building their nest in the tip top of a very tall tree.  The male heron was flying back and forth between two trees, gathering twigs and branches to build the nest. The female patiently waited in the nest for him to bring the supplies so that she could arrange them into a cozy nest for her upcoming family:

This next one is a pelican, sitting up on a post, watching and waiting for a fish to catch...Notice that he has a band on his foot...so apparently someone is watching him!!!

Here is another Giant Blue Heron, with his feathers blowing in the breeze, blending in with the Spanish Moss in the trees that is also blowing in the breeze:

This is a Muscovy Duck ( Click HERE For more info on this)  I thought he was very pretty, but I didn't know they were considered a "nuisance"....He seemed pretty calm and peaceful sitting here on the bank of the river, minding his own business...

This is a Bald Eagle, which kept flying around above us, and finally landed in a tree so that I could get this picture! Thank you, Mr. Eagle!  You are lovely!!!

Here are more pelicans and gulls, lined up on a dock, enjoying a sunny afternoon. Must be break time from fishing!

So now, back to my back yard:

This huge Pileated Woodpecker was having his breakfast in our courtyard one early morning:

This tree is a dead holly tree, and all that is left of it is this trunk that the woodpeckers truly delight in pecking. Must be some really good bugs in there.  We should cut it down before he pecks all the way through it, but I love seeing him come and enjoy himself.

Isn't he magnificent?

And last, but certainly not least, although they certainly are the least in size compared to all the other birds, the Ruby Throated Hummingbirds are back!!!!

This first one is the female...she doesn't have a beautiful ruby red throat like her mate:

And here is the proud male Ruby Throat:   (I'm sorry these are bit fuzzy, as it was dusk, and not good light...plus they are still a little shy around me and won't sit still for long)

I love watching these little beauties.  I have two different feeders, each up close to my windows so I can observe them from inside the house.  Once they get a little more settled in I will be able to get better pictures of them.

This feeder is in the Secret Garden, so I can watch them while sitting in the garden as well as from inside the house!  So lovely!!!!

And this last picture doesn't have anything to do with birds, but I know many of you were disappointed with me that the little freeze we had a couple of weeks ago killed my wisteria blossoms....Well, here's a picture to show you that all was certainly not lost! Every day new luscious blooms appear! It's almost as if the freeze was good for them!!!

So this concludes the tour of the week...I guess you could say this was a week "for the birds"!

Song of Solomon 2:10-12
"My beloved spoke, and said to me:
"Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.
For lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth;
The time of singing has come.
and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land."

Have a blessed and glorious day my friends!!!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Thankful for the Rumble Strips of Life

Have you ever been driving down the road and found yourself drifting off to the sidelines...or perhaps accidentally crossed the center line...and thankfully there were rumble strips or bumpers there to "wake you up" and help you get back on course?

Today we were traveling on a recently repaired highway in our neck of the woods, which takes us north to the next city...and the closest Walmart.  On the way home my husband sort of drifted off to the side a little, and there were rumble strips built into the white sidelines of the road, which quickly made us aware that we were drifting off the road.  We also realized that there were the same rumble strips down the center line of the road, which will alert you to the fact that you are drifting into the oncoming lane.

Now, make no mistake, my husband is a very careful and skilled driver.  He actually used to be a state trooper many moons ago, and has always been an excellent and safe driver.  But even the very best drivers sometimes drift off to the side or across the center line if they become distracted, or to avoid debris in the road or perhaps another not so careful driver.  On this particular road, it is very straight and somewhat boring if you are not totally "awake"...not much out there to keep you alert as there are only woods and more woods to look at for many miles.  So it is much too easy for drivers to begin to "drift" with the monotony of the trip.

I, for one, am very thankful for these rumble strips.  They helped us to stay on the straight and narrow path and not accidentally run off the road or into the path of an oncoming car.  As a matter of fact, I was so thankful, I pulled out my camera and took these pictures above, because I immediately thanked the Lord for the rumble strips, and also began to think about other kinds of "rumble strips" in life....you know, things that keep us on the straight and narrow path and protect us from veering off course.  I mentioned this to my hubby as we continued our journey homeward, and we both tried to think about other kinds of "rumble strips" in life.  Here's some of what we came up with...and perhaps you might think of a few more:

  • The laws of government and highway safety
  • Parents, Grandparents,  and other guardians
  • Teachers and school leaders, coaches, administrators
  • Employers
  • The Bible and the Ten Commandments
  • Preachers and Evangelists, Youth leaders, Sunday School teachers
  • Police, Military
For me, as a Christian, the most important one is the Bible...God's Holy Word.  Without His Word to guide and teach us, we would have no true "rumble strips" to keep us on the straight and narrow path that leads to heaven.  

Jesus taught us in Matthew 7:13-14 about the narrow gate...

13.  "Enter by the narrow gate; 
for wide is the gate and broad is the way 
that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.

14.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which
leads to life, and there are few who find it."

Psalm 1 tells us about two ways and two destinies in life:

1.  "Blessed is the man 
who walks not in the counsel
of the ungodly,
nor stands in the path of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of the scornful;

2.  But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and in His law he meditates day and night.

3.  He shall be like a tree
planted by the rivers of water,
that brings forth its fruit in its season,
whose leaf also shall not wither;
and whatever he does shall prosper.

4.  The ungodly are not so,
but are like the chaff which the wind drives away.

5.  Therefore the ungodly shall not stand
in the congregation of the righteous.

6.  For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the ungodly shall perish."

Yes, I am so thankful for those "rumble strips" that lead us in by the "narrow gate", and helps us to prosper in our lives...spiritually, emotionally,  and physically.  I want to be like that tree by the river of water ...and not like the "chaff which the wind drives away."    

Thank You, Lord, for placing these marvelous "rumble strips" into our pathway to keep us on the right path that leads to life everlasting.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Secret Garden Chronicles-No Turning Back

  1. The other day as I sat in the Secret Garden, it seemed as though several different messages were running around in my head at once.  It was becoming difficult for me to zero in on exactly what the Lord was trying to show me so that it could be shared with you.  

  2. I was troubled about a friend who appeared to be turning back to a life he had left behind...a life that was leading him further and further away from God and a godly life, and my heart was burdened for this very fragile and vulnerable soul.  And as I sat there tossing these thoughts and scripture verses back and forth in my mind, I asked the Lord to help me put it all into perspective and into a cohesive message that would make sense.  I prayed, "Lord, help me to be faithful to report all that YOU instruct me to do, not just for this one person, but for anyone who may be struggling."

And then I looked across the garden toward the woods, and I noticed a tree there in the corner of our lot all bound up with vines, 

and it reminded me of a person bound in sin, unable to breathe or stretch out his/her limbs to embrace the beauty of the new life the Lord wanted to give him/her.

 And I wanted to go set this tree free from it's bondage, but my fear is that it will just be a matter of time before the vines grow back around it again and hold it captive.  Unless the vines are completely torn out and dug up by the roots and destroyed, they will soon take over once again.

Unless a person totally escapes from the sins that bind them, it won't be long until they turn back to folly,  There is only one way that I know of to be set totally free from the bondage of sin.  And that is to let Jesus totally dig it up and out of our hearts and destroy it completely at the roots, and to be washed clean by His precious blood that was shed for each of us on Calvary.  To allow Christ to set us free requires us to repent...turn away from...renounce...the sin that so easily besets us.  To surrender ourselves freely to God and let Him set us free.

  1. And then there can be no turning back!  One of the verses that kept repeating in my mind was when Jesus told His disciples, "Remember Lot's wife!"  (Luke 17:32)  If you recall the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19, you will remember that the Angel of the Lord told Lot and his family  in Genesis 19:17:

  2. "Escape for your life! 
  3. Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain.  
  4. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed."

But as they were escaping, "the Lord rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the Lord out of the heavens." (Genesis 19:24),  and in verse 26 it tells us:

"But his (Lot's) wife looked back behind him, 
and she became a pillar of salt."

The  other verses that kept leaping out at me from God's Word are found in Ephesians 5:6-17...these are words of exhortation to believers...those who have already been loosed from their bondage to sin and have accepted Christ's gift of forgiveness and salvation.  Listen to these words:

6. "Let no one deceive you with empty words..."

7. "....Do not be partakers with them..."

8.  "Walk as children of Light..."

11.  "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them."

12.  "For it is shameful to even speak of those things which are done by them in secret."

14.  "Awake, you who sleep,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will give you light."

15.  "See then that you walk circumspectly, 
not as fools but as wise,

16.  "Redeeming the time, because the days are evil."

17.  "Therefore do not be unwise, 
but understand what the will of the Lord is."

  1. So, my prayer today is not only for my friend who is struggling with unwise choices in his life, but for anyone who may be teetering on the brink of turning back to the life left behind...the lure of the world can be very enchanting...drawing you away from the straight and narrow path that leads to life and heaven.  "Remember Lot's wife!"  Don't look back!  Keep your eyes focused straight ahead on Jesus and the new life He offers you...the freedom from sin and bondage.  Let Him dig up and destroy the roots of sin that seek to entrap you.  

Here's a little song I remember singing way back in my youth, back when I first decided to follow Jesus...and it is a good idea to remember this song and be resolved to continue on this path that leads to heaven..."No turning back, no turning back."

  1. I have decided to follow Jesus;
    I have decided to follow Jesus;
    I have decided to follow Jesus;
    No turning back, no turning back.
  2. Though I may wander, I still will follow;
    Though I may wander, I still will follow;
    Though I may wander, I still will follow;
    No turning back, no turning back.
  3. The world behind me, the cross before me;
    The world behind me, the cross before me;
    The world behind me, the cross before me;
    No turning back, no turning back.
  4. Though none go with me, still I will follow;
    Though none go with me, still I will follow;
    Though none go with me, still I will follow;
    No turning back, no turning back.
  5. Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
    Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
    Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
    No turning back, no turning back.


Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sequel To "It's Demo Day at Our Fixer Upper"

So, if you read about our "Demo Day at Our Fixer Upper" a week or so ago, you saw that we had fun tearing down a portion of our dilapidated fence and gate in our back yard courtyard...and that's where we left off.  Over the past week we have worked at this project a little at a time...so without further adieu, here's the scoop:

Here are the guys putting up the new sections of the fence

Hubby making sure things are "on the level"...

Looks pretty good!  Quite an improvement already!

Next came my project...building the gate!  I thought my son the carpenter was going to do this, but he's been pretty busy with other jobs and really didn't have time to devote to this...and we couldn't let it go without a gate for long...

So here I am marking the slats so we know where to fasten them to the back cross pieces.  We are totally winging this...no pattern...just figuring it out as we go...

Thank goodness hubby knew how to work the drill....
So we got our part done...and now it's back to the sons' turn to install the gate....had to wait a few more days.

Finally tonight they were able to tackle this part of the project.  They had to make a few adjustments to make the gate actually fit in the space allotted....

It took a lot of teamwork, measuring, trimming, measuring, trimming...

And finally, after a lot of adjustments....here is the finished product:

 Not too bad for our first attempt at creating a gate from scratch with no pattern!!!  And it actually opens and closes!!!

And of course, just like on "fixer upper", there are some candid shots...
And some blurred shots...but that's okay...you can't see how dusty and dirty I am if it's a little fuzzy!

All in all, it was a fun family project.  We hope to do more sections of the fence as we can afford to do so.  Thankfully, there is only ONE gate!  The rest is easy peasy!!! (well, almost)

What's the old saying, "A family that prays together, stays together" ?  Well, I totally agree with that, but I'd like to add this: "A Family that works on projects together builds lots of good memories and gets things done!"  Of course, that doesn't rhyme, but I never claimed to be a poet!

So until next time....

"That's All Folks!"

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Secret Garden Chronicles: Waiting and Watching

I bought this beautiful old antique bowl today at the local flea market....

with the idea of using it for a bird bath in the Secret Garden.  So, I've set it up here

And now I'm just sitting here waiting and watching to see if the birds will try it out.  They probably won't while I am sitting here...and where it is placed it can't be seen from the inside of the house...so I may have to rethink this plan.  It is so pretty...I do hope the birds will appreciate it!

Meanwhile, while sitting in the garden my attention was drawn to Lamentations 3:22-26, which speaks a bit about watching and waiting:

22.  "Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed.
Because His compassions fail not.

23.  They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.

24.  'The Lord is my portion,' says my soul,
'Therefore I hope in Him!'

25.  The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
To the soul who seeks Him.

26.  It is good that one should hope and wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord."

What are we waiting for?

We are waiting for God's mercies and compassions...
they are new every morning.
We hope in the Lord..
We wait for His goodness,
because He is good to those who wait for Him...
We wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord...

In verses 40-41, as we sit and wait on the Lord:

40.  "Let us search out and examine our ways,
and turn back to the Lord;
41.  Let us lift our hearts and hands 
to God in heaven."

If we already know the Lord, we have nothing to fear...but it is good to take time to examine our hearts and repent of any lack of trust, lack of faith, and lack of honesty before the Lord. Let Him cleanse our hearts anew and refresh our spirits so that we are able to worship Him in spirit and in truth.

This is a wonderful time...during the Lenten season leading up to Easter...to prepare our hearts for renewal and revival.

I noticed that one of our local churches is having a revival this week...and I wondered in my mind, "Do people still go to revivals?"  And if they do, who goes...the "sinners" or the "saints"?
It's been a long time since I attended a true revival, and it seemed as though only the "saints" were there...but guess what?  A lot of "saints" recognized that they were also "sinners", and there was a lot of soul searching and repenting going on.  So, I guess a revival is a good thing for both the saints and the sinners...we never know when a "lost sheep" will come home to Jesus and be saved...and perhaps there might be some sheep who truly needs to make things right with the Lord as well.
So I'm praying for this church and its revival services. May the Lord do a mighty work that overflows into our whole community, resulting in a true revival where hearts are changed and souls are saved.

While sitting there reflecting on the words of the prophet Jeremiah, the author of Lamentations, 
I couldn't help but start singing this favorite old hymn:

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

1 “Great is Thy faithfulness,” O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

“Great is Thy faithfulness!” “Great is Thy faithfulness!”
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
“Great is Thy faithfulness,” Lord, unto me!

2 Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.


3 Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside



Oh How Great is the faithfulness of our Lord!!! Yes, we who know the Lord are truly blessed with all that we have ever needed...and beyond!  May we watch and wait for Him every day with hope and faith!  

Back to the Secret Garden....after waiting all that time to see if the birds would try out the new bird bath (note the pictures of the birds above...they were all watching and waiting for me to leave)...I decided to go back inside, but I moved the birdbath to a location where it could be observed from inside the house.

And then I came in the house and started writing this into the computer...and it wasn't long before my attention was brought back to the window...

And there was Mr. Catbird...taking a drink from the new bird bath.  I had put a smaller bowl of water inside the large one, which is also filled with water,  in case the birds were fearful of the deep bowl.  After he took a drink from this one, he then flew over to the other smaller birdbath that is in the garden:
And there he sat and took a bath...even though it sits a little cockeyed.  Then Mr. Cardinal also came and drank from this birdbath:

And so I decided to go back out and take out the smaller bowl from the new birdbath and lower the water level a little bit to see if they will try it out that way.
I'll keep watching and waiting!
May your day be filled with the joy and blessing of the Lord!!

For another post on this topic, click HERE

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Secret Garden Chronicles~Love Thy Neighbor

Ahhh, The Secret Garden is so lovely and peaceful today! There's a cool breeze, the birds are singing in the treetops, butterflies are flitting about...it's a beautiful spring day! Oh, and the wisteria is blooming again! Remember how upset I was that the little freeze we had a week ago killed all the blossoms on the wisteria vine?  Well...here it is today:

I was so happy to see them revive!  That brought a smile to my face today!

We had our neighborhood BBQ here last night, and it was such a delightful time getting acquainted with new friends!  I can't believe I didn't even take one picture!  We were having such a good time that I totally forgot!

We ended the evening in the Secret Garden (which everyone now knows isn't really a secret anymore!).  I was sharing the story of how it all began.  It was a beautiful moment...and then everyone enjoyed being scolded by the chickadees as they arrived back at their birdhouse/nest and shooed us all away so they could go in and tend to their babies and/or eggs.  I don't know how far along they are yet as I can't see inside the birdhouse, so I'll just have to wait and see!  Anyway, it was a fun way to end the evening and everyone went home with smiles on their faces and promises to get together more often in the future.

This morning's devotional reading was from Mark 12:28-34, and the verse that stood out especially for me was verse 31, in which Jesus says:

"You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

I mean, how appropriate is that after spending a wonderful evening with our neighbors last night?

But, sometimes neighbors can be difficult to love, although I must say, this group we had here at our house last night was quite "lovable".  However, it hasn't always been so with the whole neighborhood.  We had one set of neighbors (actually, since we've lived here 5 years, there have been several different sets living in the same house, one after another) who were quite difficult to endure.  I won't go into details, but let's just sum it up by saying that no one was unhappy to see these different sets of "tenants" leave the neighborhood.  There were many times over the past few years that I'd find myself praying they'd move away and take all their junk, noisy trucks and screaming inhabitants and give us some peace and quiet.  And then I'd have to pray and ask God to forgive me for not "loving my neighbors as myself"...and ask the Lord to help me try to love them and see them as He saw them...through His eyes.  But I must admit, I was not the most kind-hearted neighbor. I truly just wanted them gone.  So now they are gone, and we have discovered that new people have purchased the house and do not intend to rent it out, and from what I am able to ascertain, they should be a "bit easier to love".

That does NOT let me off the hook, however.  God didn't say that I should only love the lovable neighbor.  He said to "love your neighbor as yourself."  No qualifications included. So all the nice things I may do in the future for my new and/or current neighbors doesn't really excuse my previous dislike for my former neighbors...but it is at least a place to start.

We may not always be able to go back and undo or rework our previous prejudices or uncharitable thoughts and/or actions, but we can strive to do better in the future.  We can pray for forgiveness for our lack of compassion, and move forward with positive intentions and actions in the future.  When we run across difficult neighbors in the future, we can approach them with the love of Christ in our hearts and on our lips.  

As I stood up from the bench in the Secret Garden today, I looked around the neighborhood and prayed for my neighbors, and for me to be a better neighbor. 

One thing I thought about was this gate that stands at the back entrance to our property, blocking entry from anyone coming in from that street. 

 We rarely use that gate as we have another entry on the front side, but this is the only section that directly leads to the street where our neighbors live.  When our neighbors were walking over to our house last night for the BBQ, some were unsure as to whether or not they should come into our yard through this entrance, even though we had opened the gate early in the day to make sure they knew they could enter this way.

Lesson learned for me personally...Open the gate of my heart so that others know they are welcome... My prayer is that my neighbors will know they are welcome anytime...not just to our home, but to us personally.

  As I continued to pray about these thoughts and feelings today, this particular song came to my mind:

Make Me A Blessing

1. Out in the highways and byways of life,
many are weary and sad;
Carry the sunshine where darkness is rife
making the sorrowing glad.

Make me a blessing,
Make me a blessing,
Out of my life
May Jesus shine;
Make me a blessing, O Savior, I pray,
Make me a blessing to someone today.

2. Tell the sweet story of Christ and His love;
Tell of His pow'r to forgive;
Others will trust Him if only you prove
true ev'ry moment you live.


3.  Give as 'twas given to you in your need;
Love as the Master loved you;
Be to the helpless a helper indeed;
Unto your mission be true.


Yes, this is my prayer today...not just for my neighborhood, but wherever I may go:

Make me a blessing,
Make me a blessing,
Out of my life
May Jesus shine;
Make me a blessing, O Savior, I pray,
Make me a blessing to someone today.